Comings and Goings – Part 3
7.30 pm Local Time
“There she is,” Helen said as she pointed out the blonde to Marina
“Hello Helen.” Natalya smiled genuinely as the assassin and her companion came into the arrivals lounge.
“Hi!” Helen hugged the Russian, “It’s been a few months.”
“Okay, Natalya can I introduce my apprentice Marina?”
“Hi Marina,” Natalya shook the Englishwoman’s hand.
“So where do you have us booked in?”
“Same hotel as me.”
“And I have a cab outside waiting.”
“That sounds even better.”
“From what we saw as our plane came in, this is one hell of a city.” Marina spoke for the first time.
“It is - the bits I’ve seen since I have been here are pretty wonderful.”
“So it hasn’t been all work?” Helen asked.
“So,” Helen said as she settled into the cab with Marina and Helen, “who do people think we are?”
“The hotel thinks you are two Hong Kong businesswomen on a fashion buying trip…”
“And your people?” Marina asked.
“Know only that Silent Death and her apprentice are in town. At all times please keep your faces covered when interacting with people involved in all this.”
“And talk just in Cantonese?” offered Marina.
“That might preserve your real identities.”
“We can do that.” Helen smiled. “So the situation?”
“Yoshimi has effectively declared open war by killing his contact on the Chinese government, and our surveillance of his home shows our contact and her friend are effectively under siege. To further undermine him, it is necessary to make it seem as if the Chinese can strike at him anywhere.”
“Hence the kidnapping – just them at this stage, I take it?”
“We will institute a recovery of their effects using other people after they have been removed.”
“Then we had better begin by studying the location,” Marina said quietly.
“All ready for you in my suite – tell me Helen, have you encountered Tamiko Tanaka?”
“Not personally, but I know of her reputation. Be assured I will show all due caution.”
Bishop Walden School
“Your makeup looks amazing Katy.” Shawnee spoke as the group of girls sat on the wall outside Bishop Walden School enjoying the early fall sun.
“Thanks,” Katy said with a smile, “Pepsi showed me how to do it this way the other night.”
“That was nice of her,” Shawnee said as she kicked her legs up, her white socks falling down her legs as she lowered them.
“So all ready for George’s dance?” Lizzie asked.
“I think so…I’ve been practicing dancing in high heels.”
“So have I been.” Lizzie smiled shyly.
“Oh don’t say that Rick did actually ask you?” Shawnee grinned.
Lizzie blushed as she nodded and said “he did…”
“He does know you wear a padded bra doesn’t he?”
Katy giggled as Lizzie pretended to hit her.
“Well I don’t know what all the fuss is about.” Sandy pouted. “It’s just a stupid dance, and they are just stupid boys.”
Katy, Shawnee, and Lizzie all turned and looked hard at the other three girls. Their little group of six was splitting in half currently, and Sandy, Cassie and Laura, were seemingly outsiders as the other three discussed, boys, makeup, bras and dances.
“We cancelled a sleepover just so you three could go to a damn silly dance?” Laura asked.
“I know I don’t understand it either.” Cassie spoke.
“Why would you prefer to go out with boys rather than hanging out together and watching movies anyway?”
“Give it a little while, then you’ll understand Sandy.” Lizzie hugged her friend.
“Never!” Sandy looked crossly at her friend.
“Anyway,” Katy said, “we didn’t cancel – we shifted it to tomorrow at my place. What if we promise to make it a boy free zone – no talk about them whatsoever? Would that be better?”
“Only if you promise there will be plenty of popcorn.”
“Deal,” Katy said as they hugged each other.
The Richmond Mansion
“Oh it’s good to be back in the Friday afternoon routine.” Heather smiled as she poured coffee for her friends.
“I know, I missed all of you all damn summer.” April smiled.
“Here here,” Barbara said as she came in with Denice, the coloured woman looking around her as she did so.
“Yes we all thought the same thing,” Emma Carlton said as they both sat down round the table.
“Well before we start the important business of the afternoon…”
“Gossiping.” Barbara laughed.
“Let me welcome Denice to our little group.”
Each of the women smiled, and applauded.
“Thank you.” Denice blushed. “Just tell me what I’m doing here please?”
“Having some coffee,” Heather said as she passed Denice a mug. “I’m Heather, the nanny of the house, and Sandy is the owner and my partner. You know Barbara, Emma, Caroline and April – which leaves Elaine and Jan when they get here.”
“So how has the first week been going?” Emma Carlton asked.
“The school run has been a lot easier to fit in then I thought it might be.” Caroline drank her coffee.
“That’s because you run your own company Caroline.” Heather spoke. “You just need to start and end a little later.”
“Touché,” Caroline said as she raised a mug.
“Well I’m just so grateful to Abby for taking Jeannie back and forth most days.” Barbara said as she took a cookie from the plate.
“Letty has helped me out so much,” Emma said, “in fact, she has helped me all but kick Anna out of bed two mornings this week.”
“How late are you letting Anna study to Em?” asked April.
“Till midnight…then I make sure her lights are out.”
“I have the same problem with Erica.” Denice nodded.
“Listen to you two, probably the only mothers in New York City who have to set curfews on their daughters studying.” Sandy laughed as she came through from her office, and poured herself a coffee.
“They are growing girls, they need their sleep.” Emma picked up a biscuit.
“Denice, meet Sandy Richmond, my boss, partner, and owner of this little pad.”
“Hi,” Sandy said as she raised her mug.
“It’s so quiet here at the moment,” Elaine Colman said as she sat down. “How’s Jo doing, Heather?”
“Enjoyed her first week, even if she has her first project – I think she did the first class of her elective today.”
“So, the calm before the storm…”
“Give it a little while – especially once the kids get back,” Heather said, “and especially tonight.”
“It is the night of George’s school dance – and he’s taking Katy Carter with him.”
“Oh-OH,” Emma said, “and Sandy is not happy?”
“Sandy is wondering what’s going on – give it time, she’ll work it out.”
“On which note,” Sandy said as the door opened and closed, and George came in.
“Hi,” he said as he looked in the door, “I need to get my assignments done, Mom. I’ll be in my room.”
“Getting studious,” Emma said as she looked at Sandy.
“More like keeping out of the way, I think,” Sandy said with a raised eyebrow, as Little Sandy and Katy came in.
“Do you two want a drink,” Heather said as she went back into the kitchen.
“Yeah – before Katy and George go off to their dance,” Little Sandy said as she stuck her tongue out at Katy.
“Sticks and stones, Sandy, sticks and stones,” Katy said as Jan came in.
“Please – and sorry. Denice, this is Elaine Colman and Jan Carter – Katy is Jan’s daughter, and Nikki is Elaine’s.”
“Right – I’m slowly putting names to faces,” Denice said with a smile.
“Do I detect a sense of Sandy been upset,” Jan said as she sat down.
“I know this may sound nosy,” Denice said, “but I know what Barbara does for a living. What about the rest of you?”
“I run a florist in the village,” April said, “and do a bit of landscape design on the side.”
“Receptionist and housewife,” Emma said.
“Real estate,” Elaine said as she sipped her coffee.
“Security and some modeling,” Caroline said with a smile.
“And I do interior design,” Sandy said, “as well as a few other things around the place.”
“See,” Barbara said, “all nice ordinary working people. Which reminds me – about Halloween this year…”
The Teachers Lounge
“Oh I’m glad the week is over.” Harriet said as she slumped into an armchair.
“Disillusioned already?” asked Kate Hardisty as she poured a coffee.
“No…just looking forward to a weekend where I get time to regroup and do some thinking.”
“About Anna Carlton?” asked Grace as she came in.
“She’s one of the subjects. I never realized they made 15 year olds that bright.”
“Well at least Chaucer is giving her a few problems.” Sarah said as she came in wearing her tracksuit.
“For how long?” asked Tom Brady.
“That’s what worries me.” Sarah laughed.
“How do I set Anna work that will stretch her, and yet keep her integrated in the class?”
“That was the problem I had with her last year.” Annie poured herself a coffee. “This year she’s doing AP and it at least is more the level she’s at.”
“She can’t do AP chemistry though till next year.” Harriet spoke again.
“You know the way she’s going she will have most of the required subjects for her first two years at Harvard finished before she even gets there.” Grace said as she put her feet up.
“It will give her room to do a lot more electives.” Kate smiled.
“Seriously she’s academically ready for college already.” Grace sipped her drink.
“Her family though wants her to have her four full years here to develop socially…”
“So I can look forward to nearly three years of Anna headaches?” Harriet interrupted.
“Fraid so.” Kate shook her head.
“Oh deep joy – although…”
“Oh I know that look,” Grace said, “you’ve got an idea, haven’t you?”
Harriet just smiled and sipped her coffee…
The Richmond Mansion
“So you’re willing to host the party this year, Barbara?”
“Yeah – we can’t do a huge affair, but we can try…”
“I hear your parties are legendary,” Letty said as she sipped her drink.
“Well, we do like to have a good time,” Heather said with a laugh.
what about skiing trips?" asked Letty. "I hear that your place up in
Stowe is amazing."
has been boasting." Sandy smiled.
group has access to a few cabins, if you want to come?" Heather asked Denice.
Denice looked stunned.
"God what kind of people are you really?" Denice asked open mouthed.
“Friends – that’s all, good friends who like to spend time together,” Jan said as she stood up. “But I have to go now – Madame here will want to get ready, and I have them over for a sleepover tomorrow.”
“Oh joy – have fun,” Sandy said as she waved Jan and Katy off.
“Mum, what can I do tonight,” Sandy said as she stood by her mother.
“Tell you what – girl’s night in. You, me and Heather – sound good?”
Sandy nodded as she went off to change.
“You really own some lodges up there? I mean, Erica would love the opportunity, but how can we afford it?”
“You don’t have to – another friend of ours owns them through her company.”
“And she is?”
“Juliette Huntingdown – and that tears it. Who’s free next Tuesday night?”
The women looked at each other and all nodded.
“Right – group night out, moms – and nannies – only. I’ll text you all the details.”
Saturday 5th September
11 am Local Time
“Good morning,” Tamiko said as she came into the hotel lobby, wearing a blue dress and short boots, “I trust we are in for an educational day?”
“I believe so,” Jill said as she and Niki stood up. Jill was wearing a dark blue jacket and knee length skirt, with a white blouse underneath, while Niki wore a white roll neck sweater and leather pants. “What I do not quite understand is why Natalya asked us to wait down here this morning?”
“My apologies for that,” Natalya said as she approached from the lifts, the heels of her knee length black suede boots clicking on the floor, “but additional security was of paramount importance today.”
Tamiko looked at the tall Russian, her blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, and her black jeans and jumper completing her outfit, before she said “The time is coming to deliver the death blow from this end, correct?”
Natalya nodded, and said “come with me.” The three women stepped into the lift with her, watching as the lift ascended to her floor. Walking with her to the door of her suite, they waited as Natalya tapped a few times on her door, only entering when the door was opened from the inside.
“Come,” she said quietly as the three women followed her, only to stop when they saw who was waiting for them in the lounge area. It was a woman, about five ten tall, dressed in black and with a hood covering her head, only her eyes visible over the black scarf that covered her mouth.
As the door closed, Niki turned to see a second woman, dressed identically, standing guard, her arms folded.
“Tamiko Tanaka, Jill Hudspeth, Niki Abata,” Natalya said as she indicated each of the woman in turn, the silent woman nodding in acknowledgement, “You are in a rare and privileged position. You have met Silent Death – and lived.”
Tamiko instantly bowed in respect, the masked woman bowing in response.
“My father wishes to convey his welcome to our country, and wishes you good fortune,” she said before bowing again, Niki and Jill bowing this time as well.
“Silent Death and her assistant,” Natalya said, “have come for the precise purpose of extracting our contact and her companion from the apartment, in preparation for the final assault. They will work alone, they will require no assistance – save for the assurance that, with my help, certain other items are removed from the apartment after them.”
The two women remained motionless as Niki kept looking at them.
“Wèishéme tā yīzhí kànzhe wǒmen ne?”
“Yěxǔ tā shì pà wǒmen huì shāle tāmen?”
“Wǒ juédé tā gèng kěnéng zhì wǒmen yú sǐdì, rúguǒ tā zhīdàole zhēnxiàng.”
“Shìshí shàng - dàn tāmen méiyǒu shuō zhè zhǒng yǔyán, wǒmen shì ānquán de.”
“They do not speak English do they,” Jill said as she looked at Natalya.
“No – but they have studied the plans, and already surveyed the target site. Yashimi has called a council of war – it meets at six in his business office. He needs to leave at five to make that meeting – so we move at six.”
She held six fingers up to Silent Death, the woman nodding then looking at her assistant who nodded in response.
“What about the third one – the one who is in hospital?”
“We have a guard in place on her, and will watch her constantly. Come with me.”
Natalya bowed again to the two silent women, who nodded as she took her three companions into the bedroom, where one of the monitors was sat.
“That they’re sitting there bored out of their minds? Oh yes.”
“Good – they’ll have some excitement later.”
A knock on the door made Natalya turn and leave, Jill looking at the now empty room as the waitress brought some lunch in.
“Where did they…”
“She is not Silent Death for nothing,” Natalya said with a smile.
2 pm local time
“Oh the looks on their faces,” Marina said as she checked her supplies, “they really looked as if we were about to kill them.”
“It was mildly amusing,” Helen said as she laid out her weapons, “but we must now focus on the mission at hand. Natalya is going to take us to the vicinity of the target for five, and allow us to do final scouting before we move in.”
“This service elevator,” Marina said as she looked at the blueprint, “still appears our best way in and out, but we need to be able to control it.”
“Natalya tells me she has something that will help with that – she will wait in the service area with the van as we execute the snatch. From there, we bring them both to the safe house Jill Hudspeth has arranged – it is in a quiet district, but will be guarded for the next few days by both our people and Tanaka’s, until the final blow falls.”
“And do we not do that?”
“It is a matter of honour,” Helen said quietly, “the elders of the Yakuza wish to share their displeasure with Yoshimi, so it must fall to them.”
Marina nodded as she checked a garrote. “Very well then – we move quickly and silently, and get them out. No witnesses?”
“No witnesses – that is the blow we will strike here,” Helen said with a nod.
5.45 pm Local Time
The Yoshimi Apartment
Louise watched as Victoria paced up and down in front of her. The young girl was wearing a silk blouse with a bow tie neck, and tan trousers with a pair of four-inch soft leather heels.
“This is getting ridiculous,” she finally said as she sat down and looked at Louise, “we haven’t been out since that evening, and Taki has not been here all day.”
“Relax, darling,” Louise said as she sat up, uncrossing her legs as the long silk skirt covered them, “I am sure whatever the problem is, it will soon blow over.”
“And what about Charlotte? I have not seen her for days – I worry about her?”
“As do I darling,” Louise said as she leaned forward and put her hand on Victoria’s, “but she looked so much better when we last saw her, and if anything had happened, I am sure Taki would have told us.”
“Yes – yes you’re right, Louise,” the young woman said with a smile, “you have been a tower of strength these last few days.”
“Hey – I’m just looking out for both of us,” Louise said as she stood up, “now how about a nice cold drink?”
“Sounds good,” Victoria said as Louise stood up and walked to the kitchen, nodding to the two tall, strong and very well armed men in the corridor – one at the front door, the other halfway along the corridor. She knew there were two more in the apartment – one on the balcony outside, the other by the rear of the complex.
Opening the icebox, she took out a bottle of white wine, and two glasses, before walking back into the main area.
“A glass of chardonnay will make everything seem much better,” she said as she put the bottle and glasses down, and then looked round.
There was no reply, and no sign of her friend. Walking to the other side of the room, she went down the corridor and tapped on the door.
“Hey – you in there,” she said before she opened the door, but there was no one inside. Closing the door, Louise failed to see the guard on the floor, the blood flowing from the thin red line around his neck.
“Vicky, this is not funny,” she called out as she walked back into the main room, only to stop as she saw her friend, her eyes wide over the black gloved hand that covered her mouth, and the glint of light on the steel blade against her throat.
“What the fuck,” Louise breathed before she heard a thump behind her, and turning slowly she saw the second guard fall into the room through the door to the balcony, as a second black clad figure came in, looking at her and Victoria over a scarf, the hood mainly obscuring what little of her face she could see.
“MISS LOUISE!!! GET DOWN!!!”
It all seemed to happen in a blur – Louise dropping to the floor, the remaining two guards drawing guns from their holsters, the black clad woman reaching behind her back and sending something through the air. She lay on the ground, covering her head with her hands as she heard Victoria’s muffled screams – then opened her eyes as she saw the two guards staring at her, the small hefts of the knifes on their throats.
“Victoria,” she said as she stood up, her hands raised, “just do whatever they tell you to do. It is not worth dying over.”
The other girl nodded slowly as her captor produced from somewhere a length of rope, and then pulled her arms behind her back, folding them so that her forearms were parallel before she started to secure them together and her arms to her body.
“Oh my god – they killed them without a second thought,” Victoria whispered, “so why haven’t they killed us.”
“I don’t know – maybe we’re to be ransomed,” Louise said quietly, her mind racing as she felt her own arms being secured. “They’re killers – I can see that in their eyes.”
“Why don’t they say anything,” Victoria said as the ropes were pulled tighter around her.
“Rúhé fènnù, nǐ rènwéi tāmen huì, dāng tāmen fāxiàn?”
“Fēicháng, dàn tāmen huì lǐjiě de. Chénmòle tā.”
“That’s not Japanese,” Victoria said quietly as the woman knelt and bound her legs together below her knees, allowing a short length between them.
“I think it’s Chinese,” Louise said, her lower lip trembling as the other women moved her skirt and tied her legs in the same way, before both produced black scarves, and pulled them over the mouths of both women.
“Hmswwtlrrdd,” Victoria said as the two women pushed them towards the door to the apartment, opening it and revealing a squad of six people dressed in black with balaclavas over their heads.
The two silent women nodded as they went past, and then pushed both Victoria and Louise down the corridor, and into a waiting lift. As the doors closed, the two women looked at each other, eyes wide open as the lift descended, and then opened into an underground car park.
A black van was there, the rear doors opened, and the two women were forced to climb inside, sitting on an old rug on the floor as one of the two kidnappers slammed the doors shut. As they moved off, black hoods were pulled over their heads, both mewling as they felt the floor vibrate under them.
7 pm local time
Louise grunted as she was pushed onto a bed, and she felt her ankles been secured together with what felt like more rope. She could hear Victoria complaining as she was taken away, and then the sound of more people moving in the room.
“Whthllsgngggnnn,” she called out as she wriggled on the bed, wondering what the hell was going on, and who had snatched them. Was it someone who worked with the two men who had appeared the previous night? Taki had said nothing about them since that night, but still…
She felt a pair of strong hands move her into a sitting position, and then the hood was pulled off her head. She blinked for a few minutes, before she saw a number of cases in the room – and her Jameson bag on the bed next to her.
Louise turned her head, blinked several times, and then said “Mgnnkllyyuuuu.”
“Probably,” Natalya said as she untied and removed the scarf from her mouth. “And you’d be fully entitled to, but we had to get you out in a way that fits the plans.”
“Yeah, I get that,” Louise said as she looked at the ropes around her, “and I had to be as scared as Victoria, but who the hell were they?”
“Associates – very skilled and specialized associates. We’ll introduce you to them one day – for now, I’m going to untie you, and then we need to fill your friend in on everything that has happened.”
“You got all our clothes out as well?”
“For all three of you – we’re watching Charlotte, and we’ll bring her here as soon as possible.”
“And here is?”
“A safe house,” Niki said as she stood in the doorway. “We’ve informed Rhenia that you’re out and safe.”
As they untied Louise, she moved her arms round and rubbed her wrists, before she said “I need to see Victoria.”
“She’s in the next room – we figured you needed to be the one who talked to her first,” Natalya said, “before we explain what’s really going on.”
Nodding, Louise followed Natalya and Niki into the next room, where Victoria was lying on the bed, quietly sobbing, her belongings in bags next to the bed. Sitting down beside her, Louise placed a hand on her arm and said “Hey – don’t be alarmed, don’t panic. Do you trust me?”
Victoria turned her head, then slowly nodded as Louise helped her to sit up, and slowly untied her arms and legs.
“I’m going to take the hood and gag away in a minute,” she said as she coiled the last length of rope, “and I really need you to stay quiet, and listen to what I say. I was as scared as you were, I had no idea what was happening, but now I do know. So stay calm, and keep quiet for the moment, all right?”
Victoria nodded as Louise carefully removed the hood, and then the gag, waiting a moment as her friend looked at her before saying “Where are we?”
“We’re in a safe house – Victoria, there are some things I and my friends here need to tell you, about Taki and about the things he has been doing. Please, for the sake of the friendship we have, listen to what we have to say before you say or do anything.”
Victoria looked at the three women, and then at the bags, before she whispered “What’s going on?”
“Well,” Louise said, “to start with, let’s talk about who and what Taki is…”
The Carlton Home
Anna was having the sort of dream she really liked – the sort where Chet was with her, and nobody else – but there was a fly buzzing around, and it seemed to be getting louder and louder.
“Shoo fly don’t bother me,” Anna whispered – and then she realized it was her cell phone going off, as she slowly opened her eyes.
“Yeah,” she said with a yawn as she brought it under her duvet.
“Anna, it’s Heather,” the voice on the other end said – and not in a happy way.
“What is it Heather?” Doc yawned again as she held the phone to her head. “What can I do for you this bright and early on a Saturday morning?”
“Anna you promised…No more of it.”
“No more of what?”
“Heather that isn’t funny you know I gave that up.” Anna was suddenly sitting up and alert.
“Oh,” Heather said, “then why is Angelic Escorts back in business?”
“It is…” Anna rubbed her head and said “Look Heather, explain this to me in simple terms please, even geniuses like us need time for their brains to start working.”
“I had left an alarm buried in case you ever started again…This morning it went off.”
“Well,” Anna said as she got out of bed, switched on her laptop, and then held the fob of her key ring to her eye, “I can assure you it wasn’t me.”
“Don’t ask me…a copycat? We were spectacularly successful there for a while you know?”
“Well I don’t recognize any of the girls…”
“Heather send me the link and let me look please?”
“Okay on its way Anna.”
Anna tapped at her desk as the message came through, and she clicked on the links
“No these are none of my girls…” Anna looked quickly at the pictures of the escorts.
“Well someone has put together a nice little stable.”
“I can see…”
“Anna? You up darling?”
“Just coming Mom,” Anna called down, before she said “look Heather my mom is calling me for breakfast, can you do your magic and trace back what you can from there. I’ll get a cab and I should be there in an hour.”
“Okay, but you know I need to tell Juliette?”
“I know.” Anna grimaced. “Look it really isn’t me, so let’s get this site buried today please.”
“All right, I’ll see you later,” Heather said as she ended the call, and Anna stared at the screen.
“Damn – who the hell are you?”
The Richmond Mansion
“I don’t get it – I scrubbed everything, and Jan got the only other copy I had,” Doc said as she sat with Heather.
“Anything strike you about these models?”
“These ladies are a couple of years older then mine were?” Doc remarked as she and Heather both looked at computer screens.
“That’s my guess.”
“None of them are…”
“No – none of them are Tricia, I’d lay my last dollar on that. I can call if you want?”
“No - as far as she knows, you disappeared.”
“Well, they’re all strangers to me then.”
“Okay I’ll run some recognition software through the databases of all local colleges, see if that generates some real names.”
“This site though is virtually identical to my old one though, right down to the font size.”
“Why do you think I thought you were back in the sin business?”
“Oh I can see why,” Doc said with a hint of anger, “but some bastard is trying to capitalize on the good name we built up.”
“Whores can get a good name?”
“Hey,” Doc said quietly, “escorting isn’t just about sex you know.”
“I guess so.”
“Look I’ll ring Nell at Harvard, see what she can spot.”
“That’s a good idea Doc. In the meantime, let’s get that software rolling.”
Nell looked over at her cell phone as she pulled her t-shirt down over her body.
“Nell here,” she said as she put it on loudspeaker, and sat on the bed to pull her jeans on, “what’s up?”
“Nell, it’s Doc. You on your own?”
“Yeah – my fitness fanatic roomie has gone for a run, and Ally hasn’t surfaced yet. What can I do for you?”
“Take your phone off speaker – this is private.”
Picking up the phone, Nell took it off the speaker and said “what’s up?”
“Put your laptop on, and check the old site address.”
“Our site address,” Nell said as she opened her laptop and logged in, “why would I want to oh dear lord what the hell is going on here?”
“Exactly what I said when I was told this morning.”
“Not important – Nell, do you recognize any of them?”
Nell moved down the page, and then said “Nope – not one.”
“Obvious question – Kerry?”
“She went to UTSA – and this is local to you. I’ll call her to confirm, but I can’t see how it can be her. What are you doing?”
“Trying to find out who this is and shut them down before we get hurt again. In the meantime…”
“I know – you tell the others,” Nell said as Ally knocked on the door and came in, “I’ll call you later.”
“What’s up – oh Christ, Nell, you haven’t…”
“No I haven’t – none of us have as far as I know, but somebody else has.”
The Richmond Mansion
“Hey sleepy head how was last night?” Heather smiled as George came in.
“Amazing,” George said as he smiled shyly.
“According to your mom you were with the most beautiful girl in the room?”
“Katy did look nice…”
“I hear a but or a question here George?”
“Well,” George said as he sat down, “at the end I sort of kissed Katy, and then she put her tongue in my mouth.”
“Oh dear.” Heather smiled. “Did it feel good?”
“I guess so…I…I…I had something happen.”
“Ah.” Heather smiled and rubbed his head. “George sweetie you don’t need to say, but do I need explain some things to you? Or do you wanna ring your Dad?”
“No offence, Heather, but I think I need to talk to Dad about this one. I’ll call him tonight, while Sandy’s out. And please, don’t tell her…”
“Oh hi George – how was the dance?”
“Fun – I’m gonna go get washed,” George said as he left Doc and Heather in the room.
“Did I say something?”
“It’s all right – he discovered the real joy of kissing last night,” Heather said with a smile. “Well?”
“Nell doesn’t recognize any of them – but she’s fairly certain it’s not Kelly. She’s in San Antonio.”
“Well, at least that is good news.”
Doc and Heather looked up to see Sandy in the doorway. “Heather told me – No ideas?”
“Not one – yet, but I’m not going to give up. The last thing any of us need is this raising its ugly head again.”
2 pm local time
“Keep working – we are doing well,” the call went round as the group slowly cleared the area designated as a landing for the helicopters. Although the work was hard, they worked as one – including the Leader.
She looked up as one of the radio operators rushed over to where she was cutting away brush and undergrowth.
“Leader,” she panted as she got closer, “the scouts report activity at the mine,”
Putting down her scythe, she mopped her brow and said “Oh?”
“Five of the sliteyes were taken out into the centre of the area, all work stopped and everyone had to watch while these men were beheaded.”
“Good,” Leader smiled, “the fight between them has spread to here.”
“They have resumed work though…”
“Yes, I expect they would, but we need to rejoice at the demise of at least some of our enemies. Good work – return to your duties.”
Leader started to sing the Song of Maisha as she resumed work, the other women round her joining in as news of what had happened to the Japanese spread across the clearing.
“What is this place,” Pepsi said as Jan drove onto the wide tarmac covered area.
“It’s a disused airfield,” Jan said as she turned the engine off, “a lot of kids in my class learned to drive on here – prefect for getting used to the idea of being behind the wheel of a car.”
“All right,” Pepsi said eagerly, “so how do I start?”
“You start,” Jan said as she unbuckled, “by swapping places with me, and sitting behind the wheel of the car for a few minutes.”
She opened the car door and got out, watching as Pepsi walked round and sat herself in the driver’s seat.
“Right – basic driver’s ed. How do you need to be sitting?”
“So that I can reach the pedals and the steering wheel comfortably and without stretching?”
Nodding, Jan said “Whenever you get into a car for the first time, you need to adjust the seat position and height so that is the case. You’re growing, so it will change over time – make it a habit whenever you get behind the wheel.”
“Okay,” Pepsi said as she moved Jan’s seat, and then sat, her hands placed at ten to two.
“You’ve moved the seat – what else do you need to do?”
“Check mirrors,” Pepsi said as she adjusted the rear and wing mirrors.
“One tip for you – until you get your license, have the rear mirror so you need to move your head very slightly to see properly. Showing you are using your mirrors is important. Once you have that license, you can get it in the best position.”
“Gotcha,” Pepsi said as she moved it very slightly.
“Right – got your seat in the right position?”
Pepsi nodded as Jan walked round and got into the passenger seat. “Take me through the dashboard,” she said quietly, listening to the young girl as she worked her way through the controls.
“Good – now, before you start the engine, you need to bear one thing in mind – this is a big heavy lump of metal, and by getting behind the wheel you are in control of it. So take some deep breaths, then take me through starting the engine.”
The Richmond Mansion
“That was Doc – Kelly’s in the clear, and she says thanks for the warning.”
“Right,” Heather said as she sat with Sandy, “Ju’s trusting us to deal with this.”
“Any idea who’s behind this then?”
“Not yet –
but whoever is doing this is trying to point suspicion at Doc Lover?"
clues point back to the original Madame Angel."
how do you know for sure it isn't Anna yanking our chain?"
one update happened just when she was sitting next to me...no way she could
have done it."
at Heather, before saying “so what about tracing back the computer?"
not proving easy, and nor is tracing the money. Whoever is behind this knows
both how to launder cash, and how to hide their tracks."
from the Hidden Hand?"
"Not if I devoted a lot of time and effort to it, but Doc wants this done quickly."
“So what do we do?”
“Doc has an idea – but I don’t think you’re going to like it.”
“If you’re saying I won’t like it that worries me. What is it?”
“She’s sorting something out – but she’ll tell you when she gets back in an hour.”
Pepsi stopped the car, shifted in neutral and put on the hand brake, before turning the engine off and looking at Janice.
“And your opinion is Mom?”
Jan looked at her, then handed her a can before saying “well, that you are a typical teenage driver.”
“Is that good or bad?”
“Both.” Jan laughed as they drank their soft drinks.
“Darling,” Jan said quietly, “driving in the city is as much about avoiding getting hit by other traffic as anything else. You need to be constantly aware of what is going on round you?”
“So nix the music…”
“And the cellphone.”
“Alright,” Pepsi nodded. “But otherwise?”
“You aren’t too bad.”
“Thank You.” Nicola hugged her birth mother.
“By the way,” Jan said, “Your mom wants to know if you have any ideas where you want your birthday party?”
“Yes she asked me to enquire.”
“Well,” Pepsi said quietly, “I do have an idea…”
“And that is?”
“The clubhouse at the drivers club you belong too?”
“It’s a long way out of town Pepsi?”
“I know, but it’s so cool, I really enjoyed myself when you took me there to watch you race.”
“Well - I can make enquiries I suppose…”
“Thank you Mom.” Pepsi hugged Janice.
“I will try.” Janice laughed. “I can’t promise though.”
“I know you will.” The young girl beamed. “By the way, something I have always meant to ask, the age difference between me and Katy, you had her in college?”
“I skipped Fourth Grade,” Janice smiled again, “I was only really just 17 when I entered college.”
“Okay that explains it. So next weekend for another lesson?”
“Two weeks – but keep up with driver ed at school. Right – I’ll drive you back, and then I have every mom’s nightmare.”
“Worse – the sleepover…”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Drink grappy,” Judith said as she held her cup up to Klaus’ mouth.
“Thank you Judith,” he said as he pretended to take a sip, and then laughed as Judith slipped off his knee to sit on the floor, happily drinking her juice.
“I take it Jack is feeling better today,” he said as he looked at Juliette, who was reading a book, the tome resting on the legs of her black trousers.
“Oh you heard? It passed – I’m sure Cari and Ingy will be fine.”
The knock on the apartment door took Juliette by surprise, as she went and checked the spy-hole and then opening it.
“Hello Missy,” she said as Missy Auerbach came in, wearing her usual grey trouser suit and blouse, “come away through.”
“Thanks – hello Klaus,” she said as she came into the drawing room.
“And to what do we owe this pleasure of seeing you on a Saturday afternoon Missy?” Klaus asked.
“Can’t I pay a social call on friends?” Missy sat down and smiled as she looked at Judith.
“You can, but you rarely do.” Juliette smiled. “So what can we do for you?”
“Well,” Missy said as she accepted a drink, “I was doing the rounds of the Saturday shoots…”
“I hear half your board is working today?” Juliette interrupted.
“Yeah, Abigail is criss crossing 7th Avenue today, she has three different shoots. Grace and Jeans are doing two each…But getting back to my story, I was looking in on the girls when I got an urgent summons to the office…”
“On a Saturday?” Juliette queried.
“Yeah it’s not common.” Missy took a sip and laid her glass down. “Well, to cut a story short Simon and Simone want to retire back to Paris, and they are offering me first refusal on their 51% of Norstar.”
“Goddess that is huge news…Can you afford it Missy?”
“Not on my own Ju, but…?”
“That is why you are here?”
Missy nodded as she said “would Huntingdown’s want to invest in the agency Ju?”
“Hmmmm.” Juliette sat back and closed her eyes for a moment.
“Damn Huntingdown’s I’m interested Missy.”
“You are Klaus?”
“Why not? What European prince hasn’t dreamed of his own model agency, stocked with so many beautiful…”
“Ahhemm.” Juliette stared hard at her boyfriend, “And you need other models…why?”
“Missy,” Juliette said as she sat forward, “you have been Norstar’s top booker for so long, it’s maybe time you took over the agency. Tell S and S that I must talk with my partners…and the playboy here…but that subject to everything looking as good as I hope it does, you have the backing to buy them out.”
“Thank you Ju…” she hugged her old friend. “And you Klaus,” she hugged the Prince.
“Yes, and a hug for you as well little one,” Missy said as she picked up Judith and hugged her. “Right – back to the runaround.”
“Let me show you out,” Klaus said as he walked Missy to the door, looking at Juliette as he came back.
“You’re not turning into Guy are you?”
forbid,” Klaus said with a grin.
The Richmond Mansion
“Not yet – I have tracer on the site, but the server is routed through various locations. I’ll get there in the end.”
“And in the meantime?”
“I happen to know that four of the ladies will be at the Altama tonight.”
“So we can trace them from there?”
“Actually, I think we need to talk to them.”
at Doc and Heather, before she said "So how did you find out that the
girls are going to be at the Altama tonight?"
we booked them to be." Doc giggled. "They are going to be stood up
though, and while they wait, we will make their acquaintance as a pair of
hookers working the bar."
"It's a plan, but I don't like it one bit." Sandy looked hard at Anna.
“I know, but it’s all we’ve got. Heather?”
“I’ll run Sandy over to Jan’s and then get ready. Doc?”
“To quote Al Pacino – they keep pulling me back in,” Anna said with a sigh. “I’ve got what I need here.”
9 pm Local Time
The Training Camp
“Well Shelby?” Helga asked as the Kiwi came into the School Room.
“Well,” the specialist said as she rubbed her eyes, “it’s not totally state of the art, but it’s adequate to our needs, and there is plenty of it. We will need those extra generators though if Liz can work her contacts in Pretoria.”
“I’ll get her to phone…Anything else?”
“It might help if she could find us a couple of techs to help as well.”
“On that I will consult Little Mother…she might come herself.”
“She would? Why?”
“Charlotte in her real life is an IT specialist.”
“Well I admit that would help.” Shelby poured herself a coffee. “You know this must be the only guerilla training camp in the world that serves real Turkish coffee?”
“I know,” Teacher smiled, “It’s our one extravagant luxury.”
“Practical as well though, this stuff is so strong it can keep you awake for hours.”
“It does have that benefit.”
“Teacher - Leader just reported that they have reports the Chinese just executed all the Japanese at the mine.” A radio operator came in.
“Did she now? This starts to get very interesting. Did leader give a time…?”
“She estimates 36 hours.”
“I’m on my way,” the New Zealander finished her coffee. “I’ll prioritise what goes first and then arrange a delivery schedule.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Teacher finished her coffee, “I’ll see about the tech support and the generators.”
The Richmond Mansion
“Doc I am going to kill you.” Sandy cursed as she finished Heather’s makeup.
“Look, the only way these girls will chat is if they think they are talking to other working girls.”
“I get that, they’d be suspicious of cops, but Heather might need to turn actual tricks?”
“Lover if we need establish my bona fides, yes I’ll do it.”
“But we need find this damn new Madame Angel and shut her down….QUICK!” Doc smiled as the old image of the expensive hooker looked back at her from the mirror, although with auburn hair this time. “And I will try to avoid either of us actually picking up a client.”
“I hope so – I’ll hail a cab outside, and call me if you need help.”
“Right – let’s go on the hunt,” Doc said as she and Heather walked out.
As she watched, she was surprised to see George pull up and get out of the car.
“Hey – what are you doing here,” she said as he came up the stairs.
“George called – he wanted to talk about something that happened last night.”
“Ah – the Father-Son chat.”
“Yeah – the time has come. Where is he?”
“In his room I think – go on up. Sandy’s at a sleepover.”
“Right – I’ll knock when I’m done,” George said as he walked up the stairs.
West Central Park
“Right then – who’s for food?”
“We are,” the six girls said as Pepsi came into the front room.
“It was nice of your mom to let you stay over tonight Pepsi.” Katy said as she smiled at her sister.
“It certainly eases the pressure on me.” Janice spoke as she brought a tray of pizza into the sitting room. “I’d forgotten all about Mother’s Broadway outing with the Daughters of Erin when we rearranged this.”
“I’m just glad I can help,” Pepsi said as she curled up in the chair after passing round cans of soft drink. “It’s not like I haven’t done sleepovers before, after all.”
“So what movies do we have to chose from?” Lizzie asked.
“I put a few on the little table by the TV Lizzie.”
“Thank you Miss Carter,” she said as she went over to have a look. While Pepsi and Jan were still wearing jeans and sweatshirts, the younger girls were all in their sleepwear.
“You do know the topic of boys is banned?” Sandy narrowed her eyes and looked at Pepsi.
“So I was warned…” Pepsi looked at Jan and rolled her eyes before grabbing a slice of pizza.
“Is that what you talk about at your groups sleepovers?” Shawnee asked.
“Pretty much, we watch horror movies or romantic ones, eat pizza, try on clothes, but yeah sooner or later boys become the main topic of conversation.”
“Is it true you actually got to go to France on your own to spend two weeks with your boyfriend Pepsi?” Lizzie asked as she looked at the DVD’s.
“Wow, I wonder if my mum will ever be that cool?” Katy asked.
“Take it from me…I won’t be.” Janice said as she started eating a slice of pizza.
“Spoilsport.” Katy giggled.
“I thought we said NO BOYS!” Sandy said petulantly.
“Well you won’t want to watch this then?” Lizzie held up the DVD of ‘My Sister’s Boyfriend’.
“I’ve met Cassandra Stone, she’s brilliant.” Pepsi said.
“Mom has as well.”
“It was Cassie who gave me that DVD, she signed the box.” Jan finished her pizza slice.
“Whoa you are so lucky.” Lizzie looked at the autograph, “and this is such a romantic movie.”
“Can’t we put on ‘The Little Mermaid’?” asked Laura.
“We always watch that…” Shawnee complained.
“I thought it was all of ours favourite movie?” Cassie asked.
“It’s a kids movie,” Katy spoke.
“We are kids.” Sandy muttered as she glared at her best friend.
“Well play Mermaid first, then the love movie.” Janice made a decision. If this kept up it was going to be a long night.
“Besides,” Pepsi said as Lizzie put the disc into the player, “aren’t all Disney Princess films about meeting Mister Right?”
Katy stuck her tongue out at Sandy as she looked at Pepsi, before she said “Yeah, I guess so” and sat back to watch with the others.
The Richmond Mansion
“The way I heard it, you and young Katy Carter were the couple of the dance,” George said as he sat with his son.
“Yeah – she was really pretty, Dad, and she looked fantastic in the dress. I was so proud she came with me, and even happier that she kissed me before we left.”
“Oh – how did she kiss you?”
He smiled as he saw Little George blush before he said “She put her tongue in my mouth, and it felt really different – on lots of ways. My body… well, it went all hard, and it took me by surprise.”
“Ah,” George said as he sat next to Little George, “so, what was it you wanted to ask me about?”
George said quietly, “why did I get all big and hard like that when Katy kissed
they told you about this at school George?"
"We did SexEd, and I guess I understand the principles, but why just then?"
George said as he out his arm round his son. "You really like Katy, don't
Little George nodded as he looked at his dad.
"Okay. When you really like a girl, sometimes your body responds in - well, like you did when Katy kissed you like that. It's not something to be afraid of, but take my advice. Smile and say thank you. When you're older then something else can happen, but for now, just accept it as a sign of how much you like her."
“All right – but what if it happens again?”
“Well,” his dad said as he stood up, ”don’t tell your sister or your friends or you will never live it down. Just enjoy how it feels – and if you need to talk about it again, call me, all right?”
“Okay – thanks Dad.”
George smiled as he said “Good – now, get ready for bed,” before he left Little George and walked down the stairs, standing in the doorway as he looked at Sandy.
“Hey – how is he,” she said as she stood up.
“Growing up,” George said with a smile. “I had to do the first version of the talk.”
Sandy shook her head and said “I forget how much they’re both growing up. Want a drink?”
“If you’re offering,” George said as he sat down. “Orlanda will be settling Jennifer anyway. So how is Sandy taking this little friendship?”
“She’s confused,” Sandy said as she handed George a drink. “Give her time – she’ll come round eventually.”
“I’m sure she will – they’re both turning out as good kids, despite everything,” George said as he sipped his drink. “Where’s Heather?”
“Out with the girls.”
“Must be quiet here without Jo as well. I hear she’s settling in?”
“She is – but we’re going up to see her in a few weeks. Both of them want to see how she lives now.”
“Should be fun,” George said with a smile. “By the way, we’re coming to your race next Sunday.”
“The kids will like that as well,” Sandy said with a smile.
The Altama Hotel
“Are you sure you can do this?” Doc whispered to Heather as they stepped into the hotel lobby.
“Anna I’ve done sexy before…a few times in fact.”
“Yes, but looking this good, you know that men are going to hit on you?”
“I know.” Heather swallowed.
“Alright then, I warned you…Showtime!”
Both women fixed smiles on their faces and started to wiggle their hips as they walked from the door to the bar. Each hoisting herself onto a stool, and hiking up her skirt to show even more leg.
“Not bad.” Anna whispered into Heather’s ear. “We certainly attracted attention.”
“I noticed.” Heather whispered back.
“A Martini…and for my friend, a Bloody Mary.” Anna ordered their drinks.
“Coming up,” the young man said as he mixed the drinks.
“Perfect.” Heather smiled at the bartender as she sipped her drink after he brought them.
“They’ve made some changes since I was last in here.” Doc looked casually round the room. “And if this was the old days I’d also be saying there are plenty of fish in here as well.”
“Doc!” Heather hissed as she saw her friend making eye contact with several men. “We are not here for that.”
“I know, but it must at least look like we are…and the girls are here by the way, over in that back booth.”
“I had spotted them.” Heather nodded.
“So,” Anna said as she looked to the barman, “busy night?”
“So far – although that group over there have been a while.”
He nodded to the group as one of them walked over.
“Same again for our group,” she said as she put a fifty down.
“Girls night out,” Anna said as she looked at the young brunette.
“Something like that – you two?”
“Waiting to see what the night brings,” Anna said quietly, “you?”
“Hoping our dates will be here soon,” she said as she walked back over.
“Fat chance,” Anna whispered as she turned back to Heather.
“Well hello – can I buy you a drink?”
Heather turned to see a man in his early thirties standing there, casually but smartly dressed, smiling as he held a glass in his hand.
“I’m not sure,” Heather purred as she rubbed her finger around the rim of her glass, “what do you have in mind?”
“A drink, a chat – after that, well who knows?”
Heather smiled, her sweetest smile, before she looked at him and said “Well, a drink would be nice, but I don’t think you would like what comes afterwards.”
“Well, I’m not sure.”
“Tell me,” Heather said as she looked at him, “are you into ropes? And hot wax? On you?”
The man visibly paled as she walked away, Anna shaking her head and chuckling as she said “same again barman.”
“That might keep a lot of them off you,” Doc said as a middle aged man came over and said “So, all alone tonight?”
“No, I’m here with my big sister,” Anna said quietly, “why?”
“Pity – perhaps the two of you?”
“Oh no,” Heather said, “we’re good little Mormon girls – do you have the right apparel on?”
They both laughed out as he walked off shaking his head…
The Huntingdown Apartment
Judith was sitting on the floor, playing with her aunt as Carina sat in the chair.
“Missy came and saw us this afternoon.” Juliette spoke as she came in with the coffees.
“We know - she came and talked to us while we were shooting.” Ingrid looked up from where she was playing with Judith on the floor.
“This young lady… If she doesn’t soon start yawning and I can put her back to bed… I’m going to spike her juice.” Carina shook her head.
“But coming back to Missy,” Ju smiled, “Your father and I are prepared to back Missy in buying the agency.”
“It will be a good investment.” Ingrid nodded.
“Missy will take 10% of the shares, the rest we will split evenly between Huntingdown’s... if the girls okay it.”
“And our family trust, if Sigi and the others agree.” Klaus lifted his granddaughter up on his lap.
“That sounds fair…and how the hell do you do that Pops?” Carina shook her head as Judith immediately fell asleep in his arms.
“It’s a knack.” Klaus smiled as he stroked his granddaughter’s hair.
“Because Norstar here is, technically, just a subsidiary of a Swiss holding company, we are going to need your Aunt Sigi to handle the legal work, etc, in Europe.”
“A problem Mom?”
“I don’t think so, but I do want to see the balance sheets.”
“Let’s be honest,” Klaus said, “the companies biggest asset is Missy, the board of models she books generate huge revenue, without her there is no Norstar, so I guess it’s really her we are buying when you get down to basics.”
“Agreed Darling.” Juliette nodded at Klaus.
“Come on little lady. Off to bed with you,” Carina said as she lifted Judith and took her to the bedroom.
The Altama Hotel
The woman nodded as Heather and Anna looked at the brunette.
“Yeah – someone is not going to be happy?”
“Oh – that sort of stood up?”
The brunette looked at them and said “You two?”
“Same here,” Heather purred, “want to share sob stories?”
“Yeah – come on over,” she said as she walked to the booth, Heather and Anna following.
“They got stiffed as well,” she said as she sat down, “Annabella, Gwendoline, Suzanna, meet…”
“Zoe and Clarissa,” Anna said, indicating Heather with the second name, “and you’re?”
“Tracey. So, you come here often?”
“No,” Heather said, “we normally work uptown, but tonight we were asked to come here for a client. No problem - our boss will deal with him in the end.”
“Looks out for you, does he?”
“Yeah,” Anna said as she sipped her drink, “how about you?”
“Well, we don’t see Angel…”
“Yeah,” Suzanna said, “we work for a web based house – Angelic Escorts. Angel does the bookings, and calls us – I guess she’ll track down who stiffed us tonight?”
“So you’ve never met her?”
“None of us have – she advertised, we answered, and she treats us right. So I think we’ll still get compensated for the no-show.”
“Sounds like a good overseer,” Heather said quietly, “maybe we need to think of trading up?”
“Maybe – especially given the way he’s looked at us recently.”
Annabelle looked at them, and then took a card from her pocket. “Give her a call,” she said as she handed it over, “maybe she can help you out as well.”
“Maybe we will,” Anna said with a smile. “So are you going to hang around?”
“No – you?”
“I don’t think so – you agree Clarissa?”
As they stood up, Tracey said “Hey – maybe we can see each other again?”
“Maybe,” Anna said as she looked at them, “good luck, all of you.”
As they walked out, and Anna hailed a cab, Heather stayed quiet, until they got in.
“Thank god,” she said quietly.
“I know – and thanks. Will this help?”
“Yeah – and from what they said, Angel stays in the background. So time to put the pressure on.”
Upper West Side
“Right – comfort break before the next film,” Janice said as Laura and Cassie went to the toilet, and Katy took Shawnee and Lizzie to get more snacks.
Pepsi looked at Sandy as she sat on the floor, her knees drawn up to her knees and deep in thought.
can I ask you a question?"
The young girl looked at Pepsi and nodded.
"What's upsetting you more - the fact Katy has gone out with a boy or that it was George?"
Sandy thought for a moment and said "both I think. I don't want to lose my friend."
Pepsi nodded. “I can understand that, actually. But just because she’s going out with a boy doesn’t mean she stops being your friend.”
she's older than me."
10 months Katy." Pepsi smiled.
"But why has she suddenly gone from hugging her teddy bear in bed, to kissing a picture of my stupid brother goodnight?"
Pepsi said "how do you know she doesn't do both?
"You're all growing up Sandy. That brings changes for all of us in different ways. I know it's confusing but trust me - she's still Katy."
“Maybe, but I don’t want her to change.”
“We can’t remain little girls forever – come on – let’s get another drink, and then see what you think of the other film.”
As they spoke, Katy had taken Shawnee and Lizzie into a place of wonder – her mother’s room.
“And what are you doing in here,” Jan said as she looked in a few minutes later.
“You have some amazing things Miss Carter.” Shawnee said as she looked in Jan’s closet.
”Can I try these on?” Lizzie asked as she held up a pair of Jan’s five-inch heeled Italian leather shoes.
“Thank you Shawnee, and have you ever worn heels that high Lizzie?”
“The biggest my mom has let me have so far are two inches.”
“Well be VERY careful then.”
“You are lucky Liz, she won’t let me try those yet.” Katy smiled as her friend sat on the bed.
“Well Lizzie has bigger feet then you darling, they are more her size.”
“You know I like it when you called me Liz Katy, it sounds more grown up then Lizzie.’
“It does.” Shawnee nodded.
“Alright,” she said with a nod, “from now on it’s Liz, not Lizzie anymore.”
“Can you stand up in those?” Jan asked.
“I’m going to try,” Liz smiled. Slowly the tween stood up, adjusting her posture to take account of the huge stilettos.
“They look amazing on you Lizzie…I mean Liz,” Katy said more then slightly in awe.
“Do they hurt?” Shawnee asked.
“A bit, but as good as these make my legs look…I can put up with it.” Liz looked at herself in a mirror.
“That settles it Mom, I have to have higher heels for Pepsi’s party.”
“I need a tight dress as well.” Shawnee laughed as Liz tried walking and wiggling her hips.
“Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up,” Sandy said with a laugh. “You’d better take them off now, before…”
“What are you doing in there?” Sandy shouted from the living room.
“COMING,” Katy called out as the three girls giggled, Liz taking the shoes off before they grabbed the snacks and walked in.
“Right – see what you think of this now,” Katy said as she put the Cassandra Stone film on.
“While it’s on, we can do make-up,” Pepsi said as she opened her bag, and Jan poured herself a drink.
The Richmond Mansion
“Well,” Sandy said as Heather and Doc walked in.
“Relax lover – nothing happened,” Heather said as she walked behind Sandy and put her arms round her.
“And this Angel?”
“Keeps behind the scenes – recruited them on line and such like,” Doc said, “but we have a contact number and e-mail addy.”
“So let us go and get changed,” Heather said, “and if you can make some coffee, the games can begin…”
Upper West Side
“Your turn,” Shawnee said as she came out of the toilet, allowing Pepsi and Katy to go into her bathroom.
“I gave George an erection by the way.” Katy laughed as she and Pepsi removed their makeup while looking in her mirror.
Pepsi looked at her and said “You did what?”
“You heard.” Katy laughed some more. “As we were kissing I put my tongue in his mouth and suddenly I felt him getting all hard.”
“Do NOT tell your mother that little sister.” Pepsi giggled. “She’d have a fit.”
“So what made you do it?”
“Well I’d read about it in a book, I just wanted to try it.”
“And it felt?”
“BRILLIANT!” Katy laughed again.
“Well don’t be in a rush Kates, I’m not sure George is ready for that yet.”
“I know, but it was fun seeing him get all flustered and bothered like that.”
“Are you sure you are my little sister and not Docs?”
“Pretty sure.” Katy giggled.
“Right you lot,” Pepsi said as they came out, and Katy slipped into her sleeping bag, “Lights out, and keep the noise down all right?”
“Yes, Miss,” Sandy said in a mocking tone, Pepsi shaking her head as she came out.
“How has it been,” Katherine said as she took her coat off.
“Typical sleepover – girly talk,” Jan said as she curled up with a mug of chocolate. “I just made it if you two want some.”
“So Sandy and Katy?”
Jan looked at Pepsi, who said “They’ll be fine – just give Sandy time to get used to what’s happening.”
Sunday 6th September
10 am Local Time
Natalya looked at the screen as Yoshimi was screaming at what was left of his leadership team.
“He’s more than just a little bit angry that his girlfriends have been kidnapped,” laughed Niki.
“I’d translate what he has been saying,” Jill looked up, “but I’m too much of a lady to use such words.”
“Oh I can use my imagination Jill.”
“So is Tamiko briefing her father and the other Yakuza overlords?” asked Niki.
“This is when we need be at our most cautious, for all her smiles I still do not trust Tamiko one inch.”
Jill looked over from where she sat and said “You think they may try and pull something?”
“I don’t know Jill, but I’m not taking any chances.”
“I have our own security here in the hotel.” Niki half turned away from the screen to speak.
“And I have my friends in the Japanese Internal Security Service, covering the Yakuza’s meeting, and our perimeter here.”
“Well hopefully nothing will happen, but I’m not taking chances.” Natalya nodded. “I have something else in reserve, just in case.”
“How was young Veronica this morning?”
“Still in a bit of shock,” Niki said. “Louise was cooking her breakfast, and keeping her calm.”
“I’m going round to see them,” Natalya said as she grabbed her jacket, “keep me posted.”
11 am local time
The Training Centre
Helga, Liz and Sunburst watched as Shelby watched a group loading another of the crates onto the chopper.
“How are the laden weights looking?” Liz screamed at Shelby.
“He says we are okay.” Shelby screamed back pointing at the pilot.
“I bloody well hope so, we can’t afford to lose any of these choppers.”
“I will fly in with this stuff, can you then supervise the shipments as I planned them out Liz?”
“Cando!” Liz laughed as the pilot cut the motor and everyone looked round at her shouting.
“Shelby…Charlotte says she will here by tomorrow, and she will fly into the Firebase to help.”
“Thanks Sunburst, a really good tech will save me so much time.”
“Well just be bloody sure not to go tread on any damn mines like me Kiwi.”
“I’ll bloody try not to.” Shelby laughed.
“Rassie you know you have to skim the bloody trees man to keep under their radar.” Liz talked to the pilot.
“Ja like the old days in Angola,” he grinned back at her.
“Don’t I remember hearing you crashed twice and were shot down as well?”
“Hey Liz, that taught me what NOT to do.”
“God I hope you are right.” Liz said a silent prayer.
“In and out quick.” Helga reminded the pilot, “We need to get supplies and fresh people in as quick as possible.”
“Well I told my guys we are running a taxi service eh?”
“One bloody way of putting it.” Sunburst shook her head. “Taxi cabs don’t get shot at…”
“They don’t…What was the last time you were in Joburg Captain?”
“Okay point taken.” Sunburst laughed.
“Just assure me you get Shelby and her stuff in safely please Major Erasmus?” Helga asked seriously.
“I promise Teacher, and besides – remember, we have a dinner date sometime, how can I take you out if I get shot down.”
“You damn well can’t, SO TAKE CARE.” Helga grinned at the pilot.
“Good luck, and tell Leader the time is near.”
“Thanks – all right, let’s get this show on the road.”
“Goddess be with you,” Helga said as Shelby closed the side of the copter, the group stepping back as it took off and headed into the distance.
“Right – I want the next load ready in two hours,” Liz called out, “and the first set of new fighters packed and ready to go.”
Noon local time
“Incoming,” Red called out to Leader as they heard the helicopter fly in low over the trees, and then settle in the clearing.
“All right,” Red and Blue called out to their squads, “we want the contents unloaded in a hour.”
As the doors opened, Shelby jumped out walked towards the tall South African.
As she nodded, Shelby said “Captain Shelby McKay – I’m led to understand you need my help?”
“And it is most warmly welcomed,” Leader said as they clasped hands, “come – I will brief you as the supplies are stored.”
As they walked from the copter, Shelby looked at the groups of women going about their business.
“Teacher says to tell you the time is near, and she hopes Little Mother will join you tomorrow.”
“Little Mother will be with us? Sisters, Little Mother will be here – redouble your efforts.”
As they went to work with renewed vigour, Shelby heard the song they sang.
“Is that the Song of Maisha? I heard about it at the training camp.”
“Indeed – so, what have you bought?”
“The most important things of all – portable radar stations. It is time we ended their supremacy of the air. The next flight will bring the first new fighters, and surface to air missile capability.”
“This is news indeed,” Leader said as she clapped Shelby on the back. “Let us discuss your thoughts, once you have surveyed our land…”
'Rassie' Erasmus, was a tall sunburned and tanned man, who carried his just
over 60 years rather gracefully. A living legend in his field, he walked with a
slight limp courtesy of some Cuban shrapnel from the Angola War, but the walk
was still of a man with total confidence in himself and his abilities.
His team of pilots were all men with similar stories, retired military with lots of combat experience. John Vosloo had chosen them well, good men, solid men, men who disliked oppression.
And as he watched these ladies unloading the crates, acting as efficiently as any unit he had ever seen, he knew he was in the right place at the right time.
“All clear, Sir,” the woman said an hour later, “good flying.”
He saluted as the blades started up, and headed up, flying just above the trees and returning to the base.
Upper West Side
“There you are,” Katherine said as the six girls came into the kitchen, “sit yourselves down, and I’ll cook you all some breakfast.”
“Thanks Gran,” Katy said as they took their seats, “no sign of Jan and Pepsi yet?”
“They will be up in their own good time,” Katherine said as they helped themselves to some cereal and milk, “did you all enjoy the films last night?”
“Yeah – even the grown up soppy one,” Laura said as she scooped a spoonful of cereal into her mouth.
“It wasn’t that bad,” Sandy said, “for a kissy kissy film.”
“Told you,” Katy said with a smile.
“Oh come on now,” Katherine said, “who wants some scrambled egg?”
All six raised their hands as Pepsi walked in, rubbing her eyes.
“Can I have some coffee please, Katherine,” she said as she sat at the table.
“Sure,” Katherine said as she handed the young teenager a mug. “Sleep well?”
“Not too bad – once the chatter died down,” Pepsi said as she looked at the others.
“When did we stop talking,” Shawnee said innocently.
“I think you know,” Pepsi said as she sipped her coffee, and took a pastry.
your play Katherine?"
bad, a bit risqué for one or two of our more sheltered members, but we all
laughed a lot."
tell my folks, they were thinking of going."
“Will your English teacher approve?”
“She’ll consider it extra curricular study,” Pepsi said with a smile.
did driving go?"
"Not too bad," Pepsi giggled, "Once I turned the music and my electronics off."
“Ah – the distractions. When Jan was learning, she always had to be reminded to take her iPlayer earbuds out…”
“That was then, this is now,” Jan said as she came in, “so you girls eat up, and then you need to get dressed – your mothers will be coming to collect you at ten.”
“Okay Miss Carter,” they called in unison as Katy smiled.
6 pm local time
“Here,” Natalya said as she sat with Louise, and handed Victoria a drink, “so how was the meal?”
“Good – but I’m still trying to process what you told me,” she said quietly. “He really is into slavery?”
“I showed you the evidence,” Louise said, “that’s why I joined you – to help them get into a position where they could stop him. But believe me, I have never done anything to hurt you – they surprised me as well.”
“I get that – there was this girl when I joined Charlene, Denice. She argued with him, and then one day – gone. Did he?”
Natalya nodded as she said “I’m afraid so.”
“So where do I go now – where does Charlene go now?”
“We will take care of her,” Jill said, “as for you, we are arranging papers to get you to the USA. From there, we’ll help you go anywhere you want – and all your possessions go with you.”
Nodding Victoria said “Good – I can’t go home. Maybe the US can hold some possibilities?”
“Think it over – we’ll get you there,” Natalya said as she stood up.
Waiting until they walked out, Louise took the hand of her friend.
are you a transvestite or TS?" Louise asked quietly.
never been sure...why?"
price for this is the operation, I get to become for real the girl I've always
known inside that I am."
"Darling I am pretty sure they will do the same for you if that is what you want?
“Something to think about,” Victoria said with a smile.
“I’ll have the papers ready tomorrow,” Jill said as the three of them got into the car.
“So, you’ve seen the transcript of the meeting?”
"Tamiko doesn't know we bugged her earrings does she?"
"She doesn't Jill,” Natalya said as she drove off, “so for once we are listening to what she really thinks."
"Well it hardly surprises she wants the Death Dragons brothels as her prize for her role in all this." Niki smiled. "The vice queen of the Orient naturally wants to expand her empire."
“So long as that is all she wants – and she treats them better than he ever did.”
“We can but hope,” Natalya said quietly.
6 pm local time
The Training Compound
“I have to admit, it was a complete surprise to meet you in Jo’burg,” Charlotte said to the tall dark haired woman sitting next to her.
“Well, when the work had got to a suitable stage, I offered the services of me and my colleagues – and it is an honour to meet you. Shirley spoke very highly of you when we spoke.”
“Well, we could certainly use your talents,” Charlotte said as she slowed down and hailed the two women pushing the cart along. “May we offer assistance, sister?”
“No – but the offer is well received. They are expecting you, Little Mother.”
Nodding, Charlotte drove up to the compound, pulling up as Helga came out of the schoolhouse.
have you bought now?" Helga said as Charlotte left the jeep
"Unexpected help. This is Lucia - she and her team are medics.”
as the five women got out, and started unloading supplies.
"And they are coming to the Firebase with Liz and me."
Helga nodded and said "welcome - how did you..."
"We treated Marigold and her fellow captives. It was only right we followed her."
“The ones that were rescued in Canada?”
Charlotte nodded as she said “Our contacts heard that they wished to come and help, and they were waiting for me. I had time to take your call, and then bring them out.
“Well, there will be no more flights today, so tonight you rest here. I’ll get you out there first thing in the morning.”
“How does the shipping go?”
“Radar and missiles are there now. Leader called to say Shelby has already began work.”
“Liz and Poison are inside, preparing supper. Come – we need to inform them of six more mouths to feed.”
“Right – April’s having a nap,” Susan said as she sat in the leather seat, “so thank you all for coming round today.”
“Pleasure as always,” George said as he sat with Dom and Annie, “so what can I do for you Susan?”
“I have an itch that needs scratching,” Susan said quietly, “and…”
The apartment bell went off, Clint standing up and returning with Abby. “Hey – what’s this about,” she said as she sat down.
“Susan’s got an itch,” Annie said, “and it looks like we may be the scratching post.”
“In a way,” Susan said with a smile. “It’s been a while since I went out in the field, and I think it’s time I got back to work in that way. Ju has nothing in particular planned, but I was wondering…”
She looked at George, who smiled and said “well, I may have a couple of possibilities – just promise me this time, no set-ups, please?”
9 pm local time
“All supplies are stored, and the new arrivals are been briefed,” Green said as she sat with the Leader and the other officers. “We need to decide on the fuel – we do not have too much, but more is coming.”
“All fuel goes to generate the power for the absolutely necessary electronics.” Leader made a decision.
“It’s a pity we can’t hijack some of their fuel deliveries.” Red opined.
“Even if we could do it, how would we get in in here without leaving a track a mile wide?” Leader asked.
“I talked to Teacher, and she’s going to talk to our friends, we must get more in here somehow.” The Leader spoke.
“Well till they can, we run on as little as we absolutely can.”
“Agreed Leader.” Blue nodded.
“So how is Shelby doing?”
“She has one of her radars erected, they are getting the other to the other hill.”
“Green and Yellow are providing cover.” Red spoke again.
“How are things at the mine?”
“Marigold should be returning soon Leader.”
“Alright we will know more then.”
Monday 7th September
7 am local time
“Of course Catherine – we will be there on time as requested,” Helen said as she ended the call, and then looked at Marina, still sleeping under the covers.
“Out of bed sleepy head,” Helen said as she rocked Marina gently.
“Urrr wots up?” Marina’s old accent came out as she came out of her sleep.
“Catherine phoned, we have some business to do…”
“Oh who?” Marina interrupted.
“Not that kind of business,” Helen laughed, “our legitimate business, Catherine needs to buy a shipment of top quality Japanese Kimono silks. She wants us to go to the factory, make selections and seal the deal.”
“That’s a hell of a transition, from assassin to textile buyer.” Marina laughed as she sat up and stretched.
“It’s the nature of our business, we need to be equally good at both things.”
“I know…Did you give Natalya the heads up where we would be?”
“Just about to, and I’m making coffee.”
“Okay I’ll just dive in the shower.” As she got up and walked to the toilet, Helen dialed another number.
“Natalya? Marina and I will be conducting some business for Huntingdown’s today, but will be available later if you need us.
“I understand – I’ll call when we are finished.”
She listened to Marina singing in the shower, happy her protégé was taking pride and joy in her work. She reminded Helen of herself when she was a younger woman, but more relaxed at times.
Making a mental note to visit London soon, she went and poured the coffee.
11 am local time
“Truly exquisite,” Helen said as she looked at the Japanese vendor, “will you allow my assistant and I to examine and consider our options?”
“Of course,” he said as he bowed and left the room. Both women were wearing grey jackets and skirts – Marina wearing a white blouse under the jacket, and Helen a grey sweater.
“How do we decide? These are all so beautiful.” Marina whispered as she and Helen inspected the samples.
“Well,” Helen said quietly, “we eliminate some, as beautiful as they, are on grounds of price, they are just too expensive for Huntingdown’s to make a profit using.”
As she moved some samples to the side, Marina nodded and said “alright - that cuts down the number, but it still leaves us a lot to choose from.”
“My mother taught me that one of the secrets in shopping was to feel the material, let your fingers touch the fabric.”
“My mother used to go shopping using her hands too,” Marina said quietly, “she’d touch things and stuff them inside her jacket to avoid paying.”
“We aren’t talking about shoplifting.” Helen smiled as she looked at a sample dyed deep purple. “Feel this, doesn’t it feel lovely, as well as look gorgeous?”
“Well then,” Helen said quietly as she laid the sample to the opposite side, “I think we just found one of our fabrics.”
“Ah I understand I think.” Marina nodded, “use our other senses to help make a decision.”
“Precisely,” Helen said as she looked at another sample, and felt it in her fingers.
“One or two of these you know assault the eyes a little.”
“Yes, probably a little too loud and bright, so we put them aside.”
“Alright, now I get what we are doing.” Marina smiled. Helen was teaching her a lesson that was well outside the realm of martial arts.
Eventually, she smiled and said “I think we have our choice,” as the vendor came in. “Shall we discuss terms?”
4 pm local time
“Can you come in here please Kylie?” Catherine called out as Kylie took off her school blazer and hung it up.
“Certainly darling, is there anything I can do for you?” Kylie drawled as she came into the office, Catherine sitting at her desk.
“I had a phone call from Alice MacKinnon today,” Catherine said as she looked at Kylie, her fingers under her chin.
“Oh? How is she?”
“She’s doing very well.” Catherine smiled. “She had something she wanted me to ask you…”
“Ask me?” Kylie looked puzzled as she sat down.
“Mary Thomas showed her a couple of your sketches…”
“Oh how embarrassing! Those were really just doodles” Kylie whispered as she looked pained.
“Actually you shouldn’t be Kylie,” Catherine said as she stood up. “Alice was so impressed that she wants to actually have two of the designs put into production for APCO.”
“WHAT?” Kylie looked stunned.
“As I said, it seems she was rather impressed.”
“Oh dear Goddess!”
“She will give you full designer credit and a percentage of the royalties.”
“Damn – forgive me Catherine, but I don’t know what to say.” Kylie shook her head as she sat in the chair.
“If I was you, I’d say Thank You darling, and look on it as a huge compliment,” Catherine smiled.
“Of course – shall I call her later?”
“It would be the correct thing to do,” Catherine said as she put her arm round Kylie. “Now come – let us discuss your day as we prepare some food.”
10 am local time
The tall woman looked over as the woman said “first chopper of the day on the way – you wanted to meet it?”
“I did,” she said as she came out, watching the craft as it came in over the tree line, and landed in the clearing. As the side door opened, Leader grinned as she came forward to meet the two women who jumped out.
“Welcome,” she said as she embraced Liz and Charlotte, “today is indeed a good day. Sisters, greet Little Mother and her friends.”
“Time later, get the supplies unloaded,” Charlotte called as the other five women came out.
“Thank you for the welcome Leader,” Liz said, “but I am a sister now, and under your command.”
“Nonsense – we are equals here. Who are they Little Mother?” Leader asked.
“Lucia is a surgeon, she’s from Canada, the nurses are also from there. They were part of the team that nursed Marigold and the others back to health. They volunteered to come in and set up a field hospital.”
“Well,” she said as Marigold appeared, “I think we will all be happy to welcome then.”
“Marigold? Is that really you?”
“Doctor Lucia.” Marigold rushed and hugged the Italian. “How are my fellow travelers?”
“They are all better, and send their greetings. You certainly look a lot healthier Marigold.” Lucia smiled.
“Hey Charlotte.” Shelby came over and hugged her.
“I got here as soon as I could.”
“Good I can do with an assistant.”
“Tell me what I need to do.” Charlotte shouted as the unloaded helicopter fired up and took off.
“Come,” Leader said to the others, “the sisters will take care of what you bring. Let me offer you refreshment, such as it is.”
10.30 am local time
SAIS headquarters, Pretoria
“Vosloo,” John said as he answered his phone.
“You don’t say eh?” he chuckled very lightly after a few minutes. “Alright I’ll alert everyone here, and good job Andrew getting me the info that quick.”
Ending the call, John punched another number into the telephone.
“Hennie,” he spoke quickly as his c/o answered his phone, “Our man in Mogola just said that 15 minutes ago the Mogolan Minister of Mines and two of his principle aides were blown up in his car…No I don’t think it’s coincidence either…I’ll put our resources to work and alert the sisters…can you brief the old man?”
John listened for a couple of minutes.
“Alright I’ll do that, and I will be in touch shortly Sir.”
John hung up and paused a second. “Liz!...I mean Abel!” he screamed, he still sometimes forgot it wasn’t Liz in that outside office. “Get in here damn quick.”
“Sir,” the tall male officer said.
“We need to get word to our contacts on the firebase. Use the special frequency - let me know when you have contact.”
“Sir. May I ask…”
“No you may not,” John said quietly, “when you have that, get me the team watching that port on the radio.”
“Yes sir,” he said as he smartly turned and walked out, John shaking his head.
11 am local time
Liz and Charlotte sat in the back as the Leader heard the reports.
“We laid a trail for them to follow well to the east of here.” Orange, one of the new squad leaders, reported. “Let them find one of our abandoned camps.”
“I defy even Zan to have tracked us once we left,” one of the other girls laughed.
Liz and Charlotte smiled as the tall South African looked over. “That man could track a mouse across concrete, so don’t get cocky.” Leader offered a slight rebuke.
“Well I don’t think they have a tracker in his class.” Orange defended her girl.
“Now you are back, you can help erect the cover nets for the hospital.”
“It’s important we get that set up, Doctor Lucia and the nurses need to get ready for any casualties.”
“Understood Leader.” Orange nodded.
“Alright,” Charlotte said as the leaders gathered round the table with the maps laid out on it. “It’s time we ratchet up the pressure.”
“The blockade we talked about?” Leader asked.
“Exactly – from now on, nothing either gets into that camp along that road, or gets out.”
“Do we have enough fighters?” Red asked, “We are already spread pretty damn thin.”
“I’ve called up 50 of our trained reservists, most of them should be on their way to the training base already.”
“Well they would certainly help.” Leader nodded.
“How are things inside the mine Little Teacher?” Charlotte looked at Marigold, who smiled at her new title.
“Well they have seemingly had a few little accidents, and machines are breaking down more then usual. I think you can say it’s getting pretty tense in there.”
“They do know we are going to increase the pressure?”
“They do, but even just the knowledge someone out here is trying to help has caused their morale to increase.”
“When this is done, I pray many of them survive, and that we get the opportunity to show them the honour they deserve. Shelby?”
“We have the two radar units working now – so we’ll get more warning of approaching gunships. What I need now are volunteers for SAM duty.”
“What do you need?”
“Women capable of reading a screen, and who know when to pull the trigger.”
“One thing – if any survive these missiles, Doctor and their friends will be honour bound to treat them.”
“Better that none survive,” Leader said grimly. “Let us get to work.”
“That’s better,” Jude said as she pushed her plate away, “I always feel better after a good lunch.”
“Amen to that,” Carina said as Judith toddled round the floor of the rooms. “And it leads me to consider matters meta physical.”
“Such as,” Judy said as she cleared the plates away.
“Life and the choices we make. So what was the best decision you’ve made since we came to Yale Jude?”
“Other than letting David ask me out?”
“Yes, other than that.”
“Probably switching my major from literature to music.” Judy bent down and hugged little Judith. “I can still do some of the lit classes that attracted me in the first place, but the more I study early music the more fascinated I become.”
“It’s good you’ve found something you feel so passionate about Jude.” Carina smiled.
“And what about you Cari? What’s your best decision?”
“Oh,” Carina said as she watched Judith walk on the floor to her teddy bear, “I think to accept who I am.”
“A princess? A lesbian? A wonderful mother?”
“All of those I guess.” Carina laughed, “but I’m thinking more, to accept that I’m not some transient spirit just floating through this life. I have roots, I have a history, I have a wonderful daughter who will be here after me.”
“That’s rather deep thinking.”
“Well you asked Jude.”
“Yeah, I guess I did,” Jude said with a smile.
4 pm local time
The Training Compound
“I really do not like these buggers.” Sunburst for once was not smiling as they loaded the land mines onto the chopper.
“I can understand that.” Helga nodded, “but as a way of tightening the noose round the mine, laying these along the road unfortunately makes sense.”
“Let’s just hope and pray for no innocent casualties…”
“Amen to that Poison.” Rassie nodded. “I never liked these damn things either. I had a good friend put a chopper down right on one of these bastards.”
“Not funny.” Sunburst shook her head.
“Well our girls are under strict orders to plot exactly where they lay these so when it’s all over we can go back and remove them.”
“Which is also not a nice job Helga.” Rassie shook his head. “Y’know, they’re fighting the good fight, but what sort of a world are we in where these are needed?”
“One worth fighting for,” Sunburst said with a smile. “And one where abominations like this are a historical artifact.”
4.30 pm local time
“All right, Teacher, what have you got for me tonight,” Charlotte said as she sat by the radio.
“Charlotte I got the analysis from Hong Kong on those Chinese troops.”
“What does it say Helga?”
“Most of them are farm boys from the southern provinces, well disciplined, well trained, but underneath it all probably still rather unsophisticated peasants.”
“Is that what you wanted to hear?”
“It was exactly what I wanted to hear Teacher.”
“Psyops Helga. Put yourself in the shoes of these boys, they are thousands of miles from home, in the middle of the jungle, they are about to be cut off by road from their base…”
“You think they will get nervous?”
“I think they will start remembering every little bit of legend and misinformation they ever heard about Africa…We nudge them and we can soon have them thinking that every shadow hides a wild animal, or some barbaric African cannibal.”
“And how do we start to convince them of that?”
“Oh let us just say their patrols will start finding some gruesome sights, after that I think we can start relying of word in the barracks to spreading the news.”
“Sounds like you’re enjoying this?”
“Wrong words – I want them to suffer. We’ll speak in the morning – tell them to be damn careful with that first transport.”
“I’m not sure,” Leader shook her head, “but I get the same feeling - we have forgotten something as well.”
“Shelby,” Liz said as the Kiwi walked over, “fire control. Look round – what have we forgotten to take care of?”
Ticking off in her mind the areas of the camp, Shelby thought for a second, and then said “Landing area?”
“Landing area,” both the other officers said as they burst out laughing.
“Leader,” Marigold said as she came over, “we have visitors. The Oracle and the Elders are approaching.”
“She and the elders lead the locals who have helped us – if she has come, it is important,” Leader said as she, Shelby and Liz followed Marigold, Charlotte joining them.
They came as a group – the Oracle followed by her three attendants, and the elders, with some of the refugees, one of whom was leading a young goat with them.
The groups stopped as Leader and Charlotte bowed.
“Please welcome them on our behalf,” Charlotte said to Marigold as the sisters gathered, “and tell them we are honored she has chosen to visit our humble camp.”
As Marigold spoke, the team watched and listened to the reply.
“The Oracle thanks you for the greeting, and wishes to invoke the spirits of our ancestors to protect this camp and all of us as well.” Marigold translated.
“Thank her.” Charlotte smiled. “Tell her we welcome the blessing and protection she offers.”
“You don’t believe in all this really do you Charlotte?” Shelby whispered as Marigold talked.
“Shelby,” Charlotte whispered, “I’m African born and bred, I used to be a true sceptic, but over the years I’ve seen enough things that I’m at least broad-minded enough now to accept that even if it’s just in people’s minds, something happens.”
“I went to a very good girls’ school in the UK run by the Church of England,” Leader smiled, “but in my mind I still combine some elements of my peoples beliefs in the power of the spirits with my belief in Jesus.”
“And you don’t think Sunburst never invokes the Aboriginal beliefs she was taught as a child?” Charlotte asked.
“I suppose so.”
“The Oracle will sacrifice the goat to feed the souls of the ancestors.” Marigold whispered as a knife was handed to the Oracle. She lifted her head up and began to sing, the people around her joining in as the rest stood in respectful silence.
The stroke when it came was swift, her young assistants collecting the blood in earthenware bowls before they spread out, using branches of the bush to sprinkle the area with blood.
“She asks for a fire to cook the meat, and for us to join her in the meal.”
“Tell her we would be honoured,” Leader said. “Red, Blue – provide fuel for our guests, and ensure they have all they need.”
“Leader,” the two troop leaders said as they talked with Marigold.
The Brewster Brownstone
“What’s so funny Dad?” Barbara asked as she walked into the sitting room, carrying a pit of tea and two cups on a tray.
“I got a letter from Rose…you know Susan’s mum?” He held up some sheets fo paper, saying “she was telling me what she’s been getting up to.”
“The way you are laughing it must be hilarious.” Barbara poured them both a cup of tea and then sat down.
“Oh Rose has a dry Irish wit.” John chuckled again. “She was saying how frightened she was initially when she started teaching, and how she couldn’t believe the respect the students showed her.”
“Well I suppose Rose for years has seen herself at the bottom of the pile?”
“That’s part of it,” John said as he looked at one sheet, “but what she finds hilarious is the way a couple of the gay men have attached themselves to her. She said she’s not sure whether to see it as a compliment she can still attract guys, or as a problem because they are poofs as she puts it?”
“Politically incorrect.” Barbara laughed, “but I get her meaning.”
“She was also telling me about her Chinese private students calling her ‘Honoured Mistress’ and treating her with such respect.”
“They are Catherine’s people, she insists on great manners I suspect.”
“She says that Maeve says they pay so much attention to everything Rose says, that if Rose told ‘em to streak naked through Enfield Market on a Saturday they’d probably do so.”
“Oh dear.” Barbara laughed. “Perhaps she should suggest it?”
“Nah – they’ve promised to take her and Maeve to Chinatown one day for dinner.”
“The real place, not the tourist traps?”
“Yup,” John said with a smile as Jeannie came in.
“How was school, dear?”
“He cast his
eye upon Emelya,
And therwithal he bleynte, and cryede 'A!'”
Jeannie nodded as she wheeled herself over and hugged her grandfather. “I could get the hang of it – eventually.”
“Preferably before Christmas,” Barbara said with a smile. “So much homework tonight?”
“Thankfully no – I need to prepare for the shoot this weekend,” Jeannie said as she took the tea.
“Thank you,” Juliette said as she accepted the drink from Shirley, “So where’s John?”
“Meeting Jack and Alex for a men’s night out,” Shirley said as she sat down. “I hear that Missy had agreed in principle a buyout of Norstar?”
“Well, in principle, but the major backers will be Huntingdowns and the Furstenheim family trust,” Juliette said with a smile. “I am sure Maddie will be informed in due course.”
“The world of business,” Shirley said as she swirled her drink round, “ever changing and shifting.”
“Indeed,” Juliette said as she looked at her friend.
“Penny for them, Juliette?”
“Shirley,” Juliette said as she sat back, “I’ve never asked you this, but I know about your legitimate businesses, and I know about things like robbery, and that you are probably the world’s biggest fence, but what else do you have interests in? And what won’t you do?”
“Do you really want an answer Juliette?”
“In a way,” Juliette said, “I know that people trafficking, drugs, and prostitution are no-no’s, but what else do you get up to maintain such a large group?”
“Well,” Shirley took a breath, “It’s not a nice business, but my father was a kidnapper, and we have always sort of engaged in that. We only take those who can afford it, but our UK farm has a special wing for that purpose. The ladies who hurt Jeannie were the first visitors.”
“Extortion I guess is the correct word for something else we do. We make sure that we get a very large share of concrete contracts in London, Los Angeles, and now here in New York. People buy from us or they start having accidents. Again that’s not pretty, but it is a good stream of revenue.”
“Oh we are known to do a bit of that.” Shirley smiled.
“Not from honest tradesmen, but the shady side pay for our good will.”
“We leave gambling and loan-sharking alone, they are both more trouble than they are worth. Does this shock you?”
“Not really – I mean, I’m a psychotic bank robber,” Juliette said, “and you do care for your workers, so in a sense you’re not like some of the others out there.”
“Well, I try to maintain a good working relationship with both sides,” Shirley said with a smile.
“So you really do encourage some of the younger investigators?”
“One or two – I’ll tell you about them some day,” Shirley said with a smile.
“Hey,” Clint said as Susan came back into the apartment, “how was the class tonight?”
“Interesting – a look at the way we manage staff through times of crisis,” Susan said as she sat in the chair.
“I’ll go and make us some cocoa,” Clint said as he stood up. “Oh – George dropped something off for you earlier. The envelope on the coffee table.”
Susan picked up the envelope and looked inside. “It’s his notes on the target bank – I’ll look in the morning,” she said as she put it back down. “How’s April?”
“Fed, changed and sleeping,” Clint called through. “So relax – you’ve earned it tonight.”
“Thanks,” Susan said as she took the mug from him. “How was the training for you today?”
“Certainly more efficient – we’re getting more of the drivers to stay now, which is a step in the right direction.”
Tuesday 8th September
11 am local time
“So if your business is concluded, I imagine you will both be returning home soon,” Natalya said as she sat with Marina and Helen.
“Unless something happens to require our assistance, we will fly back later tonight, after we sign the deal,” Helen said as she sipped her coffee.
“Well, so far Yashimi seems to be bunkered, so with any luck…”
Natalya took her cell phone out, and looked at the caller ID, before answering the call.
“Niki? What’s up?”
“Turn on the television, local news,” she said quietly as she looked at Louise consoling Victoria.
Natalya stood up and looked at the television, seeing the outside of the hospital where Charlene had been taken.
“What the hell’s going on – I see police, and a mood of panic, but my Japanese is less than useless.”
“I’ll make it easy – three armed men burst into the hospital today, and took at gunpoint a woman recuperating from a recent shooting incident.”
“Oh shit – Charlene?”
“We think so – Jill’s trying to confirm, but we think it’s some of Tanaka’s people.”
“She says to trust her on this.”
Nodding, Natalya looked over at Helen and Marina. “Right – stay where you are, get Jill to call me – I need to talk to Miss Tanaka.”
“Roger that,” Niki said as Natalya ended the call, and looked at the two visitors.
“I think I should inform Catherine we have been detained,” Helen said quietly.
“Please – I think you may have to pay a visit to Miss Tanaka on my behalf.”
Noon local time
“Take great care,” Liz said as the sisters slowly unloaded the mines and placed them on the wagon, each nestled on straw.
“That is the last one,” the sister said as she jumped off, and closed the helicopter door, signaling to the pilot as he started to take off.
“You have your orders,” Leader said to the unit, “go carefully, and note where every mine is placed. The Heart and The Strength go with you.”
Red and Green nodded as they moved out, pulling the trolley with them.
“I hope they make it,” Liz said as she and Shelby watched them set off.
“So do I,” Leader said quietly. “Has Marigold departed?”
Liz nodded. “Hopefully, she will be back in the morning.”
“All right, girls, let me have your ideas,” Grace said as she sat with the organizing committee.
“I have an idea about the theme,” Poppy said as she looked at the other girls.
“Go ahead, Poppy.”
“Well, I was thinking that if 2015 was memorable for its beautiful and talented girls, then as the class of 2019 maybe we ought to try and go down as the most stylish and fashionable class in school history.” Poppy smiled.
“You are only saying that because your Mom is a fashion editor and you have access to some amazing things.” Dawn replied.
“It’s not exactly fair to every girl in the class to aim that highly Poppy.” Grace spoke.
“But I thought you said that Angels should always aim to be the very best Miss?” Poppy spoke sweetly.
“I was thinking about more academic matters Poppy…”
“But surely it applies in all aspects of life? Doesn’t it Miss?”
“Hmmmm…” for a few seconds Grace was lost for a thought.
“Miss, a lot of us either can’t afford, or have parents who won’t let us have, special designer clothes.”
“I understand that Avril.”
“But why should those of us who can achieve excellence be held back by those who can’t?” Poppy asked.
“Because it will make other girls feel bad about themselves.” Dawn replied a little angrily.
“But we aren’t taught that in the classroom are we? Girls who lag behind are encouraged to catch up…I can offer special fashion tutoring to anyone you know.”
“Where you can rub it in how much better then you are then us all.” Avril complained.
“But aren’t Angels supposed to help each other?” Poppy looked like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.
“All right – there are other avenues we can explore to help, if that is the theme you wish to pursue,” Grace said quietly. “Poppy, may I suggest that the Freshmen year have a number of avenues they can explore – I am sure Abby and Jeannie can offer advice as well.”
Poppy had to nod as she said “Of course, Miss. But we can pursue that theme?”
Grace looked to see if there was any disagreement, before saying “Right – we need to decide on someone to provide music.”
“I can help with that Miss,” Dawn said, “I’d like to propose the new Jazz Band make their debut at the dance, as well as a DJ.”
“That’s a good idea,” Avril said as she looked at Poppy, “add a real touch of class to the event, wouldn’t you agree Poppy?”
“I’ll talk to Mrs Craig, see if she thinks you will be ready, but thank you Dawn,” Grace said with a smile. “Right – go and get your lunch, we meet again next week.”
As they filed out, Kate Hardisty looked in. “Progress?”
“Somewhat – can you get a message to Jeannie Brewster and Abby de Ros, ask them to meet me in my office after classes?”
“A High Fashion dance? Might as well send my apologies now,” Erica said as she sat with Dawn, Lynn and Jess in the refectory.
“Never say never, fellow Kirkham Scholar,” Doc said as she sat with them, “I have a few dresses that you can borrow, if needs be, and I hear Abby and Jeannie are ready to help out as well.”
“Still, it might create a schism we don’t need.”
“Not if I have anything to say about it,” Doc said as she looked at Poppy and her group.
“Talk about inclusion – not,” Jeannie said as she sat in her wheelchair. “I mean, the concept is good, but the way she’s gone about it…”
“I agree,” Grace said, “but she sideswiped me with the ‘that’s what you say in the classroom’ line, and next thing I know it was agreed. Do you think Merlin can help out?”
“I think we can all help out in one way or another,” Abby said as she played with her fingers.
“No – Poppy just reminds me of a former pupil here I had a few issues with. Listen – let me talk to Mary, see what we can sort out. In the meantime, we spread the word not to worry about clothing, but to decide whether or not to come. I’ll talk to the head girls, makes sure they get accentuate the positive out as the message.”
“Thanks, both of you – oh and before I forget,” Grace said as she opened a drawer, “the flyers for the Night with Eve Stone have been approved. They will be circulated to the girls tomorrow.”
Abby and Jeannie looked at the leaflet, with Eve lying on a recliner and looking straight ahead, and smiled. “Excellent – that should get them in,” Abby said, “May I take one to show mother?”
“Of course,” Grace said as she took the rest back. “Now, on you go – I have a management team meeting.”
As Abby wheeled Jeannie out, she said “She bothers you as well, doesn’t she?”
“More than I can say,” Abby said quietly, “come on – the others will be waiting.”
The Principal’s Office
“I hear the organizing committee for the Freshmen Dance is proving problematic,” Wilhelmina said as Grace came in.
“A clash of personalities – we’ll work it out with the help of the older girls,” Grace said as she sat down.
“Thank you.” Grace watched as Wilhelmina poured three glasses, and laid them on the low table, handing one to Grace before she sat down.
“How long have you known Pippa Ashley, Grace?” Wilhelmina asked as they waited for Kate.
“Oh more years then I care to remember,” Grace said as she sat back, “we were once best friends you know?”
“Yes back when we were at school, and yes that is how far we go back.”
“And you fell out over a photographer?”
“Yes,” Grace said with a sigh, “Christian was dating us both, but somehow Pippa got it in her mind I’d stolen him.”
“That must have been tough, losing your friend in that way?”
“It was. I suppose though it was inevitable. We had had a few other rows before that, a split was coming I suspect, Christian or not.”
“Sherry Kate?” Wilhelmina offered as the deputy principal entered.
“Please.” She nodded, “and what were you talking about?”
“How long I’ve known Poppy Ashley’s mother.”
“I take it that it has been a long while?”
“Since we both entered Wycombe Abbey.”
“A convent? Kate raised an eyebrow.
“No,” Grace smiled, “It’s a boarding school north of London, we roomed together.”
“You have known her a long while then?”
“Yes, and it’s thanks to Pippa I guess that I became a model, she had already been in the business a year when her agent came to visit, well she took one look at me and insisted that I should model as well.”
“Is that how it happened?” Wilhelmina asked.
“It was,” Grace said as she set her glass down, “and… Well it also started the problems since my career took off big time, while she never really became a star, and she ended up going into journalism after Poppy was born.”
“I don’t suppose you know the great mystery of who Poppy’s father is do you?” Kate asked.
“Actually I do,” Grace said, “but Pippa doesn’t know I know, and I’m still enough of a lady to never reveal what I know.”
“Pity, we could do with some good gossip.” Wilhelmina uttered a rare chuckle as she finished her sherry. “So, what do we need to discuss tonight…”
The de Ros Mansion
“Dinner is ready Madame.”
“Thank you Edith,” Diana said as Abby came in.
“Mama do we still have those Venetian porcelain masks?”
“I think so…why darling?”
“I was thinking that maybe the Ashley family needs a visit from the China Doll Gang.”
“Darling - remember that helped drive Allison insane.”
“Yes,” Abby said, “but little Miss Poppy needs taking down a bit from her high horse, and I was thinking a visit from Heather, Doc and me, might do wonders.”
“Abigail mon chere, just be careful when you try this.”
“I will consult with Heather first – shall we eat?”
Wednesday 9th September
11 am local time
“Noted the position?”
“Noted, Red,” one of the sisters said as as the mine was covered over.
“How many more do we have?”
“One more,” Green called out.
She looked at the sister further down the path, who was waving frantically. She signaled to the troop as they merged into the bush, watching carefully as they heard the approaching footsteps.
There were six of them, young Chinese men armed with semi-automatic rifles, looking nervous as they walked down the road. Blue watched them carefully, then cursed quietly as she saw the wagon by the side of the road with the mine nestling in the straw.
“Damn,” she said quietly, and then signaled to the sisters either side of her to spread out. As they did so, however, there was the sound of a twig breaking, and one o fthe soldiers turned, his gun aimed at the bush.
The first shot came from behind him, cutting him down as the leader shouted orders – but there was no time, as Blue shouted “NOW” and the troop opened fire from the bush, cutting the patrol down before they had a chance to shoot back.
“Shall we move them into the bush,” Green said as the sisters came out.
“Yes – but it is time to start the next stage of the operation as well. String them up to the trees – and give me a hunting knife.”
5 pm local time
“You are bunking down with us tonight, Rassie,” Liz said as the veteran pilto walked with her.
“If you have a spare bunk – the sky is darkening early tonight, and it’s not safe to fly now. I only did the extra flight to bring you the fuel.”
“And the reservists?”
“Arriving Charlotte,” Rassie said with a smile, “I think you’ll have many more here over the next few days.”
“Good,” she said quietly, “we’re going to…”
“Little Mother, I need to speak with you and Liz.”
“Little Teacher has returned – and she brings disturbing news. I would appreciate your input as well as a pilot.”
“Of course,” Rassie said as they headed for the main tent.
7 pm local time
Leader looked round the table, as her troop leaders stood with Liz, Rassie, Charlotte and Shelby, Marigold beside her.
“Alright ladies, I am sure you have heard the news. Mining has stopped in the camp and they are starting to clear more land here.” Leader pointed to the map. “Ideas?”
“They think there is gold to be found there?” Purple answered.
“It’s a possibility.”
“But that land is flat, not a hillside.” Marigold pointed out.
“Also,” Marigold continued, “the old women were telling me that the Chinese are raiding north towards the great river trying to ensnare more workers.”
“That was what worried me Little Teacher.” Liz spoke. “We were hoping they might be frightened into closing down, not expanding.”
“So what is going on?” Charlotte asked.
“I have a thought.” Green spoke for the first time. “Just as we have built here as a base where we can get air support, what if they are creating an airstrip?”
“Then they would have a way of breaking our blockade before we have even really started.” Leader looked down at the map.
“What aircraft if available would you use if you were the Chinese?” Charlotte looked at Rassie.
“Old Antonov AN-72’s, they can carry 52 passengers, 10 tonnes of cargo, and they can fly out of rough 650 metre long strips.”
“Aren’t they getting a little ancient?” Shelby asked.
“A little, but if I was the Chinese I bet I know where I can lay my hands on 6 operational planes rather quickly.”
“This all seems so very logical.” Leader looked up from the map.
“If it was a poker game I think we’d say the Chinese are doubling down.” Charlotte said softly.
“Can we disrupt the building of the landing strip?” Green asked.
“Not easily,” the Leader mused, “our girls would take 36 hours to work their way to that place if they needed take a wide sweep around the patrols.”
“And besides we barely have enough fighters for what we are already trying to do.” Liz reminded the meeting.
“I really can’t think just what to do.” Leader said in a low voice.
Well as Poison says, “why do we not sleep on it, and then talk again afterwards?”
“That might be the best advice.” Leader managed a smile.
“Yes,” Charlotte said as she looked to the entrance to the tent.
“Charlotte, Mags is on the radio from Karobu.”
“Okay I’m coming.” She walked quickly over the compound.
“Alright Blondie Little Mother is here,” Charlotte heard the radio operator speaking as she entered the communications tent.
“How are you Margaretha?” Charlotte picked up the device.
“Probably more comfortable then you are,” the Swedish accented voice replied.
“Yes I bet your hotel is slightly more comfortable then our accommodations here.” Charlotte laughed for a second. “So what news from the capital?”
“The whole place is still in a state of shock, after the news of the Minister of Mines getting blown up like that.”
“Yeah, that’s not an everyday occurrence in a place like Karobu.”
“I took the river road, and drove out for a reconnaissance, plenty of military checkpoints, lots of slightly jumpy young soldiers with their fingers on triggers.”
“That’s to be expected. What else was going on?”
“I saw a convoy of trucks get through a checkpoint with a considerable wedge of money being exchanged for the clear passage.”
“Our Oriental friends?”
“I saw a distinctly Chinese face peek out of the back of one of the trucks so I’m guessing so.”
“And supplies as well I’m thinking Charlotte.”
“When did you see this?”
“About 1400 hours.”
“So we can expect them to be getting close late tomorrow afternoon?”
“Yes, unless they get held up along the way.”
“Okay I’ll alert Leader and the others to this…What else do you have to report?”
“I was out at the airport chasing up my missing piece of luggage, and I spent a couple of hours just watching as well as listening.”
“Sounds a way to kill time.”
“I saw a couple of old Russian transport planes arrive and get parked, what piqued my interest was hearing a local say something about the damn sliteyes thinking they owned the airport.”
“Shit, that confirms something we worked out Mags.”
“I reasoned they were building an airstrip.”
“Looks pretty certain now. We need to plan, and plan fast. In the meantime, let’s start a real panic – I’ll have our friends in South Africa shut their port down, control things at that end.”
“So we cut off the lines of supply? That might backfire on the workers in the camp.”
“I know – we will consult. Keep me posted, Blondie.”
“Keep safe, Little Mother.”
As she stepped out, she saw the Leader, Liz and Shelby standing there.
“Convoy coming tomorrow – make your preparations Leader. Shelby, we’ll have two more techs tomorrow. Marigold – we need to ask our friends inside the camp to move to the vehicles they use to clear the land – and we need them to know we appreciate this may mean a sacrifice for them.”