Dancing in the Dark – Part 5








Sunday 4th December

9 am GMT



“So they did bug the apartment,” Shirley said as she sat in her study.


“They did, Madame,” George said, “not very well either – I removed them under the guise of a full sweep.  My contacts at the precinct house tell me they are claiming to be opportunist thieves.”


“And I am the queen of Sheba,” Shirley said quietly.  “You have informed Caroline?”


“Indeed - she is due back tomorrow, and we will talk then.  Juliette also knows.”


“Very well – maintain a watching brief, George, and we will talk with Caroline tomorrow.”


“Madame,” George said as he ended the call, Shirley looking for a moment at a photo on her screen.  She then dialled a number.


“Cat?  Can you meet me in the office at six tonight?  I think I may have a way to scratch an itch for both of us…”




11 am CET



As she sat at the roadside table, Andrea smiled at the woman who walked to join her.


“You know,” she said as her sister sat down, “we should establish if it is going to be Lucia or Giovanna.”


“As we discussed, when it is just us or family, I am happy to be Giovanna – but the world at large knows me as Lucia, so there it should be that.”


“I guess that must be the case, but still…  Lucia, may I ask a question?”


“You may ask, and I will answer – if I can.  Two cappuccinos please.”


The waiter nodded and walked off as Andrea shook her head.  “You said when we met you worked with a group, that Peter’s other wife was involved with.  As a Doctor?”


Lucia nodded as she said “do you remember the slave girl story last year in San Francisco?”


“I read the story of their liberation – oh my, were you?”


“Tangentially, yes – I know the women who freed them, and was asked to provide medical support.  I then – well, let us just say I have seen combat as well.”


Nodding, Andrea said “and you say you feel you have achieved nothing?”


“Perhaps…  Perhaps I am changing my opinion,” Lucia said with a smile, “but that is where my calling is.”


“I feel…  I feel as if there is something I should do to atone…”


“There is no need for you to atone for anything,” Lucia said as she put her hand on her sister’s, “no need at all.”


“Still – after the wedding, perhaps…”


“There is a shelter where some of the girls still stay – and they need volunteers.  I can put you in touch with someone.”


“Thank you,” Andrea said with a smile as the coffees were placed down in front of them. 


“So what is happening with his body?”


“I am having him cremated here – and then I will have someone in South Africa take care of them.  I just want him out of my life completely…”



Noon Local Time



John Vosloo looked at the monitor and smiled before he pressed a button, walking to the front door of his house as the car drew up, and Henrik Botha got out.


“Hennie – this is a rare privilege,” John said as he looked at his former boss, wearing a black blazer over a white shirt and grey pants, “and in civvies yet.  Can I offer you a drink?”


“Ja,” Henrik said as he walked into the house, “is Marianne here?”


“No – she went to the ranch to see how the first guests are settling in,” John said as they went into the study, and he poured some whisky into two glasses.  Handing one to Hennie, he said “so what does bring you here?”


“I thought I would tell you in person – they’re putting me out to pasture.”


“They are,” John said as he raised an eyebrow, “why?”


“After that business in America, I was on thin ice anyway, but – have you heard about Peter Green?”


“No,” John said as he indicated the armchairs, “I knew he was on gardening leave, but that was all.”


“Well, apparently he got it into his head the Marchesa had hidden his wife, and decided to try and force the issue by kidnapping her daughter.”


“Kidnapping Charlotte?  So what happened?”


“He was killed by the Carabinieri, when they tried to stop him.  His squad are dead, under arrest in one case – or missing.”  Sitting forward, Hennie said “the Sisters…”


“If they thought Charlotte was threatened, they would defend her,” John said quietly.


“That’s what I thought – so, I am now in the retirement program.”


“What are you going to do with yourself?”


“I have a few irons in the fire…”



Noon GMT

The McAdam Apartment

Bayswater Road


“Mum – you have visitors?”


“Oh – and who is it,” Agnes said as she came out of the drawing room, to see Laura standing with two young woman – one brunette, the other blonde – both wearing leather jackets over woollen dresses.


“Good lord,” Agnes said with a smile, “What on earth are you doing here?”


“Surprise!  Hello Aunt Aggie,” the brunette said.


“Hello Liz, it’s been a while,” Agnes smiled as she came over and hugged the new arrival.  “Laura, this is my goddaughter, Liz Paterson.  Liz, this is my daughter Laura.”


“I heard you had adopted two girls – it’s a real pleasure to meet you, Laura.”


“Well, come through – Laura, you and Miley need to be ready in an hour to go to lunch.”


“Yes Mum – MILEY!”  As Laura went into the bedroom, Agnes took the two visitors into the front room.


“So, what brings you to my doorstep?” she asked as she closed the door.


“Well, first, this is my roommate from back home,” the blonde gestured to the dark haired woman with her.  “Kirsten Rucker, please meet Dr. Agnes McAdam.”


“Hello Kirsten,” Agnes smiled as she kissed the blonde on the cheek.  “I know both your parents, John of course, but particularly Katy.”


“So they said.  When I told them we were meeting you both my parents told me to say hello.”


“So what can I do for you girls?” Aggie invited them both to sit.


“Well Kirsten is doing a diploma in counselling,” Liz said as she sat with her legs to the side, “and I said that some of my contacts over here might be prepared to talk to her about the craft as she works on her theses.”


“Oh?” Agnes lifted an eyebrow.


“Particularly you Aunt Aggie.”


“Why me Kirsten? I’m no longer active in that world…  Your own mother is a far better Domme then I ever dreamed of being, and the psychology of dominance is her academic specialty”


“Because I want this to be my own work and research,” Kirsten said with a smile, “so no one says I merely regurgitated her views.”

“Can’t Liz help? She’s not exactly a bad Domme herself you know?”


Kirsten shook her head.  “Well, I know most of her friends. What I’m seeking are couples especially whose marriages were effected in some way by involvement with, or contact with, the BDSM community. And I need them to be strangers so I have no preconceived ideas about them.”


“Can you help line some people up for her to meet?” Liz asked.


“Actually I might be able to,” Agnes thought hard, “but in return there is a famous Russian model and her ex-husband, who I hope you will break ethics and tell me what they say to you if they will speak to you.”


“Oh?  Am I allowed to know why?”


“Let us say – it will help inform a situation that could turn nasty.  How long are you in town?”


“A few things – why?”


“Let’s meet for lunch Tuesday – I fly to the US for a wedding on Thursday…”


“Speaking of weddings,” Liz said with a smile, “do I get an invite to yours?”


“Of course you do…”


“Thank you,” Liz said with a smile, “by the way, Alex asked me to say hello to you as well.”


“Oh, really?  I heard she met with a friend of mine recently – Juliette von Furstenheim?”


“Yeah – she’s working on a new book about female academics, and she wanted to tap her for information about her ancestor, Jane Huntingdown.”


“Yeah – I understand her book is coming out soon,” Agnes said with a smile.  "I'm just sorry that I missed Alex's wedding Liz, but at the time I was still barred from the US.  I hope she understood?”

"She understood,” Liz said with a smile, “and she hopes that  if you are going to go see Cress Adams next time you are in the States, that you'll have dinner with her and RJ."

"I'll try," Agnes smiled again, "although it will not be this visit.  Incidentally, I hear Cressy finally has got over her jealousy of Anita?"

"Yes, I think she now understands why it seemed Aunt Katy favored Mom over her."

"Good.  By the way I was shocked to hear that Anita was actually Alexandra's mother as well."

"No more shocked then she and I were, I assure you.   What a tangled web we weave at times…"

"Is Alex sill your Mistress Liz?"

"Oh just occasionally, RJ lets me submit to her," Liz laughed, "but I'm 95% Domme nowadays, far less of a Switch."  Looking over, she said “do you miss those days?”


“No – now I have my life and Donald back, and the girls, I don’t.  Also, the school keeps me busy.”


“The school?”


“Agnes runs a school that supports street kids in London,” Liz said as she looked at Kirsten.   “It’s one of the best kept secrets of the city.”



1 pm GMT

Benenden School




The young girl turned and smiled as she said “Eve – what’s wrong?”


“You’ve got a visitor – reception desk.”


“I have?”  Olga made her way to the entrance lobby and stopped when she saw th tall woman standing there in a trouser suit and blouse.”


“Mummy?  What brings you down here?”


Tatiana looked at her daughter, in her short sleeved blouse and jeans, and said “I wanted to spend some time with you.  Are you busy?”


“Nothing that cannot wait – why don’t we go for a walk in the grounds?  I haven’t got a pass out today.”


“Sounds wonderful,” Tatiana said as they made their way out and started to walk across the lawns.


“So, Mummy,” Olga said as they walked down a hill, “Why are you really here?”


“Always a cynic…  How did things go with your father Olga?”


“Pretty much as usual,” the girl smiled as they walked along, “we talked but somehow managed not to tell each other anything personal or important.”


Tatiana laughed as she shook her head.  “Yes… He said you were asking questions.”


“Yes, and he was not answering them anymore then you do Mummy.” Olga took a deep breath, “Look - I’m not a little girl anymore you know, isn’t it about time you both told me what happened?”


“Probably,” Tatiana paused to think. “Put simply your father found someone else to fall in love with, I found out and confronted him, he didn’t deny it and I threw him out.”


Looking at her mother, seeing the tear in her eye, Olga simply nodded.  “Did he…  Did he never explain or say sorry?”


“No, I gave him opportunities, but he just communicated through his solicitors, and since then we have only really talked about you darling.”


“Who is this woman, he never mentions her?”


“I don’t know,” Tatiana said as they sat on a bench, “but I heard it didn’t last anyway, and that he’s not seen anyone since he went back to Moscow.”


“Nor have you Mummy,” Olga tried to look in her Mothers eyes for answers.


“Oh there have been a few…”


“Don’t lie Mummy, you’ve been as celibate as an nun.”




“My sex life is irrelevant,” Olga giggled, “we are talking about you.”


“Olga,” Tatiana said quietly, “I still have feelings for your father, but trust – that trust has gone, and I am not sure we could ever rebuild it.”


“Not as it was,” Olga said, “but you need to talk this out, and perhaps something else will grow again.”


“When did you become so wise, little one?”


Olga threw her head back and laughed as she said “well, I am being educated at the best school in England.”





She watched from a distance – first her father, now her mother?  She needed to report this…





“I have to return,” Tatiana said as they stood up, “I will see you in three weeks for the holidays.”


“Of course – and thank you for telling me Mummy,” Olga said as they hugged and then walked back to the car, the young girl smiling as she drove off.


A mile down the road, Tatiana pulled her car over in the lay-by and turned the engine off.  She had just told Olga a lie. No her trust in Yuri wasn’t gone. If only he would tell her exactly what had happened she knew that she still loved him so much that she would believe him implicitly.


Olga would probably not understand that, how she craved an explanation so that she could do what she really wanted to do, and that was throw herself in Yuri’s arms and tell him just how much she loved him.


“Oh that it was that simple and easy,” she whispered to herself.  “WE could talk ti through, work things out…”


But it wasn’t, Tatiana wasn’t stupid, in her head she knew that more was going on than a man and a woman falling in love, then suddenly parting. Somehow politics and power had intruded on what had been her perfect life. It was the other thing she knew that she trusted Yuri about even now. Whatever was happening he was still looking out for her and Olga.


“Oh God Yuri,” she said to herself before she drove off, the black car starting again a moment later…



9 pm GMT

Golder’s Green


Illyana smiled as she watched the end of the film – She enjoyed having her weekends to herself these days, and besides – her guaranteed income meant she could take long weekends.


She stood up and stretched her thin body, the white silk blouse sticking to her body and the tight leather pants hugging her legs.  The four inch stiletto shoes were held on by the thinnest of ankle straps, but she did not care.  Illyana may be approaching that time they called middle age, but she had no intention of going into that good night without a fight.


Walking to the bathroom, she closed the door – even though she was the only person in the house, she still valued her privacy.  It was when she stepped out, having done all she needed to do, that she realised she was no longer alone.


The first clue was the sudden pressure in the small of the back, like a small pipe had been pressed against it.  The second was the woman standing in front of her, dressed from head to foot in black, only her eyes and lips showing – the eyes heavy with black eye shadow, the lips bright red.


“Good evening, bitch,” she said, her voice with an Irish Brogue, “do me a favour – scream.  I would so love to hit you right now.”


“Who are you,” Illyana said quietly.


“You may call me My Lady – is that not right, Madame?”


“It is,” a second female voice said form behind her, this one with a tinge of a French accent, “so be respectful.”


“I will not be respectful to a pair of dyke intruders, sooooffff…”  The wind was driven from her by the blow of the gloved clenched fist into her stomach, My Lady smiling as she said “that was – impolite.  Such actions will be punished – Madame?”


The pressure was taken from her back – and then Illyana felt the blow to the back of her legs, making her knees bend as she fell hard onto the floor, then felt the riding crop as it was pulled back against her throat.


“So,” My Lady whispered as she looked down, “will you be sensible, and tell us where your valuables are, or do we have to persuade you.”  She smiled as there was no response, before she said “good – I need some exercise.  Madame?”


Illyana looked up to see the second woman stare down at her, her green eyes shaded by the dark eyeshadow, her lips black, smiling as she said “do scream – it would give me great pleasure to make sure you never make any sound ever again.”  She then took the crop away and pulled the woman’s wrists behind her back, before there was a rasping sound and the feel of the thin nylon strip digging into her flesh as her wrists were secured together.


She heard the rasping sound again as her ankles were forced together, My Lady kneeling down and stroking her gloved hand down Illyana’s cheek as she said “I’ll ask again – where are your valuables?”


“Go to hell.”


The slap stung her as it came, suddenly, without warning, before she saw the red rubber ball in Madame’s hand in front of her mouth.  Illyana clamped her mouth shut, determined not to allow them to silence her in that way.


“Oh that’s cute – you think you can do that and breathe.”


Illyana stared at them, defiant, prepared – for anything except the short, heavy smack on her bottom, but she managed to control herself – and then she felt the slap on her cheek again.


Still she remained defiant – even when Madame reached round and ripped her blouse open, the buttons flying in all directions asshe pulled it down her arms, and then pulled her bra off.  It was when the gloved hands started to squeeze and massage her breasts that she started to struggle – and then scream as her nipples were pinched.


A scream that was silenced as the ball was shoved past her teeth, and her mouth covered with white tape that sealed the ball into place.  She stared at the woman called My Lady as she threw the roll of tape to the side, and knelt down, smiling as she said “I had hoped you would cooperate – I see now we have to make sure you cannot raise the alarm, and make sure you are – suitably distracted.”


“Duurhwhrsstt,” she mumbled – and then groaned as My Lady began to grope her chest, the leather gloved fingers sinking into her breasts as she tried to fight the feelings of what might happen.


She was aware of the other one – Madame – passing rope around her body as the groping continued, her arms being forced into her sides so that she could not move them away, and ten around her upper arms.  With each pass, it was pulled tighter, the bands pressing down on her bare breasts – which meant they were more open to the assault on them by the gloved hands, as Illyana closed her eyes and groaned.  Memories of past events were flooding back into her mind…





Her eyes shot open as My Lady fastened the metal clips onto her nipples, the pain and the burning shooting through her as Madame fed the rope under one arm, up and around the back of her neck, and then under the other arm. 


“Now,” My Lady said as she looked into Illyana’s eyes, “the combination to your safe.”




“Oh dear,” My Lady said as she looked up, and Illyana heard the footsteps behind her.  “If Madame finds you do have a safe, trust me – you will regret it.”


Illyana merely stared back, defiant despite the pain that was shooting through her while My Lady looked over her shoulder, smiling before she looked back into the bound woman’s eyes.


“Oh dear…”


The pain suddenly increased as My Lady pulled down sharply on the chain that hung between her nipples, while at the same time she felt a pair of hands pulling down her leggings, leaving her panties exposed.


“What is the combination to the safe?”


“Gtthhll….   Hmghdd…”  Illyana was confused now, the pain making her ache – but something else.  How long had it been since she had worked in that place, before she had been called to service – how much had she done this to men, and some women – and why had she not realised the way it can make you feel…


She felt the cold metal at her hips, and then felt the material of her panties give way, as she tried to resist – but then she heard the click, and saw the flame as My Lady held the lighter under the metal chain.  At first it was a slow, warming feeling – and then the metal got hotter and hotter, burning her nipples, searing her breasts, getting more and more intolerable…





My Lady nodded as she took the flame away, the pain still burning as the tape was ripped from her mouth and the red ball fell out, droll running down her cheek.


“The combination.”


Illyana glared at the masked woman, and then gave a sequence of numbers.


“Now backwards.”


As she said the sequence in reverse, a gloved hand came over her shoulder, handing My Lady her panties – cut at the side, darker and damper in the middle, and for a moment she wondered why.


Then she found out as a gloved hand stroked up between her legs, My Lady smiling as she said “see – cooperate and you’ll be rewarded.”


“You…  You have no idea who the hell you’re fucking with here…”


“Interesting choice of words,” My Lady said quietly, and then Illyana’s eyes closed as she felt the gloved finger ease past her petals, into her passage, and she felt the sweetest of sensations.


Because it was a woman, it felt different – but the effect was the same, as she felt the dampness suddenly increase, and then she groaned.  Even more so when My Lady groaned as well – and then she felt the dildo as it was thrust into her.


From behind, and not where the finger was.  She opened her eyes – and her scream was cut off as her panties were stuffed into her mouth, and the tape wound tightly round her head.




“I have her valuables,” the voice behind her said as she felt the device move to and fro, making her shake, “but i found other things – documents, and so on, that prove she was working to the detriment of our fine country.”


Illyana opened her eyes wide as her body began to shake – how did she know?


“I see – how unfortunate,” Mt Lady said as Illyana felt the orgasm build inside her, the vibrations in her rear and the motion in her front passage making her feel giddy, delirious – and then her whole body shake as she screamed.


And then screamed again as the clamps were removed – along with her nipples, My Lady holding the scalpel before Madame brought the riding crop down on her bare back and shoulders.


She looked through tear filled eyes at My Lady, the metal hanging from her gloved hand before she let it drop on the floor, and then hit her with the clenched gloved fists as the crop came down time and again on her face and head, the dildo in her rear passage still vibrating as both women continued to assault her.


As the blows rained down, Illyana asked one question.





“Why?” It was a question that a whole group of friends were asking themselves across the world.


In London Tatiana Ulyanova was asking it about Yuri her ex-husband. Across town the Marchesa di Cambrello was asking it about her meeting with Yuri Makarov the next morning.


In New York both Juliette and Klaus were trying hard not to think what was going to happen in London…and failing. Elsewhere in the metropolis, Missy Auerbach was trying to distract herself by thinking instead about her new model discoveries, Mel and Krys.


“Why did they bring in Yuri?” the question would not leave Juliette’s brain.


Others had different preoccupations going on. Tommy Boynton was buying things in for Krys’s new apartment, and dreaming of the future. John and Shirley were deep in wedding thoughts, while Kylie Mitchell sweated on last second adjustments to the brides dress.


As always Mary Thomas was juggling a dozen things at once, while teachers and students at St Angela’s spent Sunday getting prepared for the new school week.


Meanwhile in Moscow a gathering of rich and powerful men were meeting over a fine late meal to discuss the questions and answers that no one else did.


“So,” the dark haired man said as he looked across the table at Oleg Byushin, “as fine as your food and entertainment has been, we do need to discuss certain matters.”


“Indeed,” Byushin said as he sat back, the vodka glass in his hand.  “So allow me to ask of you first – how does our glorious leader feel about how things have gone in the United States?”


“He is totally unaware of anything that may have happened recently, or of any possibility of any groups he may have responsibility for having any involvement in the recent elections.”


Byushin nodded as the man continued “having said which, I think he is surprised and delighted with the way things have turned out.  It is certainly true that the President Elect will be more – amenable to our suggestions.”


“I can imagine,” Oleg laughed, “after all, it is a total vindication of the words of Phineas T Barnum, no?”


“I think we can look forward to some very profitable years ahead,” the man said with a smile.  “The heads of the local families are also happy to support our leaders, given it may profit them so much.”


“From past experience, I can imagine he is looking forward to similar opportunities as well – did you meet his sons and son in law?”


“I did not, but I am aware of the meetings in New York – if they ever become public knowledge….  Let me put it this way, in my own opinion?”


“But of course.”


“His sons are fools, but they are not idiots.  They know they need his protection – let us hope they never truly upset him.”


Oleg nodded, before he said “and soon, I hope to help him to meet some new friends as well.”


“What of Melania?”


“She understands,” Oleg said quietly.


“It is his daughter you need to watch.”


“She is not like them.”


“No – but she is of their family.  But to talk of your exploits – I understand your plans may have hit a snag?”


“In a way – I had not appreciated that the von Fursteinheim family would care so much about this company.”


“Even though Her Serene Highness is one of their top models?”


“True – but we make slow progress.”


The man shook his head.  “There is a reason we offered the services of Makarov to you – you are going to hit strong opposition, in our opinion.”


“The Marchesa?”


“Indeed – our files on her are – revealing.  But the gains if you succeed.  Not only a way of establishing new contacts, but to reward those who have done work for us.”


“But why Makarov?”


“Because we say so – is that a problem?”


Oleg Byushin shook his head – he knew he had strayed to the line.  “No – I welcome his input.”


“One thing  - the visit of your New York representative to their offices.”


“He has been – disciplined.”


“Good – tread softly, and keep us informed…”




7 pm PT

Oakland Hills


“We’re back,” Mary Clark announced as she carried the bags into the apartment, Allison and Vicky following her in.




“In here,” they heard their father call out as they walked into the man room, Suzie and the boys waiting for them.


“So how did it go?” Dave asked as the girls kissed him and their siblings.


“I think they discovered just how hard and tiring this work can be,” Mary looked contentedly at the youngsters, “but they both did excellent jobs.”


“That’s what is important,” Dave looked proudly at his daughters.


“What did the catalog people have to say?’ David asked.


“Oh they seemed pleased,” Vicky smiled. “And not just with us, but with Mel as well.”


“Mel was fun to work with,” Allison paused for a second, “the photographer thought we worked well as a team.”


“She’s so fit,” Vicky looked thoughtful, “she could do poses that there was no way I could do, I need work on improving.”


“Well not tonight,” Dave smiled, “big family dinner, then bed…you have school tomorrow remember?”


“We know,” the youngsters groaned.


“Go and unpack,” Mary said with a smile, “who’s cooking?”


“You know what, we’ll order in…”



Monday 5th December

8 am GMT

The Dorchester Hotel


Looking out of the window, Yuri Makarov nodded as he surveyed Park Lane.  He did love this city, and as he sipped from his coffee cup he smiled.  This was going to be a good day.


For a moment, the talks he had taken part in over the weekend made him think – and then the call he got last night came back to mind.  Shaking his head, he put his cup down on the side table and walked to where some papers were collated in a manila file on the long recliner.


“Alright know thy enemy,” Yuri whispered as he looked at the file on the Marchesa. “What does all this tell me?” he said to himself as he quickly read the reports.


Ex Naval Intelligence, heiress to a vast fortune, daughter, granddaughter, hobbies include sailing and horse-racing. All that he was already aware of, of course, but it seemed to be only surface detail.


“What don’t I know?” he asked himself as he looked at the papers.


“I suppose her service background, and family business explain why she specializes in maritime and commercial law,” he whispered. Certainly the briefs she had already filed in this matter were textbook perfect.


“Are all those who suspect La Bionda Idiota was merely a cover right, or had she indeed recovered her mental health after being reunited with her daughter?” That was an intriguing question, if irrelevant to his current work. That she had become a close friend of Klaus and Juliette’s made him smile, even though it was a smile tinged with sadness. He hated that what had happened had cost him some friends he truly loved as well as his wife and daughter.


“No use crying though,” he told himself aloud. “What happened happened, and I must live with the consequences.”


This business was going to be tricky, that much was obvious.  Sigrid von Manschen was a formidable intellect, but she was right to have recused herself – only to be replaced by an equally formidable opponent.  He was fully aware of who he was working for, and he knew all too well the depth of feeling others had expressed.  He wished he could pull out, tell them this was not going to work -  but the stakes and consequences of his doing so were too frightening to contemplate. No, he knew that at least the Marchesa  was an opponent was worthy of his brains, and in that he could take comfort.


Standing up, he went to put on his jacket.  Breakfast, and then his minder would take him to Lancaster Gate…



10 am GMT

Lancaster Place


As the car drew up outside the townhouse, Yuri looked out of the rear window.  It was a perfect location – fitting with the surroundings, discrete, and yet perfect.


“Do you need me to come in with you?”


“No,” he said to the driver, “but keep watch out here.  I suspect this will be cordial, but I will alert you if that is not the case.”


“You know, they speak of the Marchesa di Cambrello in my former employment – she is rumoured to have been a specialist in – tricky works.”


“Perhaps – but equally, she is the appointed legal contact, and I must be about my work.”


The driver nodded as he stepped out and opened the door, Yuri getting out and holding his briefcase as he walked up the stone steps.  He noticed the plaque on the wall.


“Di Cambrello Consultants.”


Nodding, he pressed the doorbell and waited, then smiled as the door was opened by an older woman wearing a grey coat dress.  “Good morning,” he said with a smile, “Yuri Makarov – I have an appointment with the Marchesa di Cambrello.”


“You are expected, sir,” the woman said as she stood to the side, “if you will come with me?”


Yuri nodded as he walked in, waiting for the door to close before the woman took her to an outer office.  The young woman who was typing looked up, as she said “Mister Makarov?”


Yuri nodded as she stood up.  “If you will come this way – Mrs Harris, can you arrange some coffee please?”


“Of course,” the older woman said as the assistant knocked on the door. 




“Mister Yuri Makarov, Marchesa,” she said as she opened the door, Yuri walking in.  He saw the tall, blonde haired woman standing by the desk, wearing a designer jacket and skirt with a white camisole underneath, and next to her a second woman, darker skinned, wearing a white blouse and tan pants.


“Mister Makarov, thank you for calling today – Peri, is coffee being prepared?”


“Mrs Harris will bring it in presently.”


“Good – Hannah, that looks fine, have the papers prepared for my signature later today.  Please, take a seat.”


“I thank you,” Yuri said as he sat on one side of the large mahgonay desk, the other two women leaving as Mrs Harris brought a tray with two cups and a coffee pot on it.  Setting it on the desk, he watched the Marchesa as she poured some coffee.”


“Cream and sugar?”


“No – thank you,” he said as he put his case ont eh floor, and accepted the proferred cup.  He looked round – professional, and well laid out as an office.


“So, Mister Makarov…”


“I prefer Yuri, if that is acceptable.”


“Francesca – I would prefer that, at least for these meetings, we keep the tone as informal as possible, given the reason we are meeting.”  She had already impressed him, as she sat and said “you understand why I have been asked to act as the legal representative?”


“I do indeed – as the Baroness von Manschen is a member of the family who is a major shareholder in NorStar SA, there is a natural conflict of interest.”


“What I do not understand,” Francesca said with a smile, “is why you rather than a Byushin attorney are handling this discussion?  It would make more sense normally to discuss directly with them.”


Yuri raised an eyebrow, before putting his cup down and saying “shall we say, I was asked to act as an intermediary, given my experience in – difficult negotiations?”


“True – but, and forgive me if this is a delicate question – is not the fact your former wife is a model represented by NorStar also a conflict of interest.”


Smiling, Yuri said “the key word in that statement is former, Marchesa – my divorce arrangement with her includes clauses that mean I take no part in any of her business dealings.”


“Not even when it involves your daughter?”


“There, you may go into an area I cannot discuss,” Yuri said quietly, Francesca nodding as she said “forgive me if I overstepped the mark, Yuri.  So, what do you have for me?”


“My client received a formal notification from your office, informing him he had to make a formal announcement of his intentions to buy Norstar?”


“That is correct,” Francesca said as she picked up her cup, and took a sip, “we felt this behind the scenes enquiring was straying into the field of unwanted intrusion.  For example – a visit paid by a representative of Mister Byushin to the office of NorStar in New York?”


“Ah yes,” Yuri said as he nodded, “an unfortunate incident performed by someone without authority who over stepped the mark.  The gentleman in question has been – relieved of his post, as it was told to me.”


Francesca raised an eyebrow again as Yuri picked his case up, opened it, and drew out a manila envelope.


“I have been asked by Mister Byushin to apologise, and to give his assurance such things will not happen again.  In the meantime, as you have asked, this is the formal notification of a bid to take over NorStar SA.  Copies will be lodged with the appropriate authorities in Geneva, London and New York, and sent to the shareholders.”


Francesca nodded as she pressed a button on her intercom.  “Hannah, would you come in a minute?”


The door opened as the tall young woman came in, Francesca looking at her.  “My legal associate – Hannah, will you take the document Mister Makarov is holding, log it, and ensure copies are circulated to the Baroness von Manschen, their Royal Highnesses, and Miss Auerbach prior to our meeting?”


“Of course,” she said as she took the envelope, Yuri noting the South African accent as she left.


“I am empowered to say, on behalf of the shareholders I mentioned, that they thank you for the formal notification, and will respond in due course.  Unofficially, I am also empowered to say none are interested in selling at this time.”


Yuri nodded – the reputation of the Marchesa was well deserved.  He put his cup down and said “I understand, but I must tell you my client is determined.”


“Then I look forward to the battle,” Francesca said as she stood up.  “We will be in touch in due course, but if I should need to discuss matters with you?”


“My card,” Yuri said as he handed it over, “I will be in London for the next few weeks to oversee the bid process.”


“Then allow me to show you out,” Francesca said as she walked to the door.  Yuri smiled as he walked out, and then caught sight of the newspaper on the desk where Peri was working.


The name caught his eye immediately, as he said “may I?”


“Of course,” Peri said as he looked at the text.  “I noticed it was a Russian woman – I hope you did not know her?”


“I know a few women with that name,” he said quietly as Francesca looked at him.  She was sure he had recognised the name, but she knew better that to push him on this one.


Not yet, anyway.  She would, however, make a call later…







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