The Disappearance of Joanne Smith
Tuesday 22nd April
Jo was sitting in her bedroom, reading the new book she had bought when she heard Heather calling. Putting the book down, she left her room, walking down the corridor and the staircase into the entrance hall.
“Come in here, will you?”
“We have some news for you,” Heather said as she smiled at her sister. “We’ve dealt with your father – he won’t bother you again.”
“Really? That’s great news, how did you do it?”
“We’ll show you,” Sandy said, and suddenly she felt as if something was pressing against her nose and mouth. She tried to scream, but it was no use, and she saw Sandy and Heather receding into the distance. As they did so, she heard Heather say “Be strong – we’ll find you…”
Jo opened her eyes wide, and immediately regretted it, as the bright ceiling light shone into her eyes. She closed them again, calming herself down as she tried to remember what had happened.
She had gone into the bookstore to buy a copy of On The Road, while the others went to buy some drinks in the café. Getting the book had been no problem, and as she left the store she had seen them in the window – and then…
The headache was starting to ease a little, and she allowed her eyes to open slowly, wondering why her left wrist hurt so much. She also had a mouth that was as dry as the Utah salt flats.
What had happened after she left the bookstore? Jo lay still for a moment, and then remembered – a grey van had pulled up outside the store, and the side door opened. She had then heard someone behind her say “Now” and she had been pushed forward, a hand on her back.
She turned her head to the side and started to focus – she could see her glasses neatly placed on a bedside table, beside an alarm clock. Looking down herself, she was still in the St Angela’s Uniform, but then she looked up – and saw the handcuffs holding her left wrist to the top of the bed.
A sickeningly familiar bed.
Sitting up, she put on her glasses and looked round. The dressing table… The wardrobe… The posters on the wall…
“Goddess,” she said to herself as she looked at the shuttered windows, and then to the door as it slowly opened, and a middle aged balding man came in, carrying a breakfast tray. She stared at him, and remembered – the sweet smelling damp rag, and the voice that had spoken to her as the chloroform got to work.
“Hello, Megan,” Joe Markham said as he closed the door behind him, “Welcome home.”
Monday 21st April
near St Angela’s Academy.
“What the fuck?” Carina shouted as it became clear what had happened.
“Oh my God, OH MY GOD!” Judy looked in shock at the other two.
“Both of you calm down, I need to call Heather.” Abby couldn’t believe she was the one keeping her head. “I’ll call Heather.”
“Shouldn’t you call the police?” Judy wailed the question as she looked down the road.
“I’ll let Heather know first, she’s Jo’s sister.”
Abby reached into her purse for her cell phone. With trembling fingers she concentrated hard to press the right buttons.
“Come on Heather… PICK UP!” Abby shouted as she waited. Finally on the fifth ring Heather answered. “Heather it’s Abby… No I’m great… Yes… Yes… HEATHER CAN YOU SHUT UP!”
Both girls jumped at the tone of Abigail’s voice.
“No I’m not being rude… We think we just saw Jo getting kidnapped… Heather? HEATHER? ... HEATHER ARE YOU THERE?”
“Here let me.” Carina grabbed the phone. “Heather it’s Cari… Heather? … Oh good you are there.” Carina breathed a sigh of relief. “We’re at the café by the school… Okay we’ll wait till you get here. See you soon.”
“Well?” Abby asked as Carina handed back her phone.
“Heather’s on her way.”
“I guessed that.”
“What did she say to do?” Judy asked nervously.
“She said to stay here and wait till she arrives.”
“Cari I’m so worried.” Judy was trembling.
Both Abby and Carina hugged their friend.
“It was probably not what it seemed to be.” Abby tried to sound reassuring.
“Yeah it was probably just some guy she knows.” Carina also sought to calm the situation.
“But it was a KIDNAPPING!” Judy shouted. “We should call the cops.”
“Let’s just see what Heather says first.” Carina said an internal prayer to the Goddess that it was just a prank.
For what seemed an eternity, but what was probably about ten minutes, the girls stood, hugging and trying to keep their cool while they waited. Suddenly an SUV screeched to a halt in front of them, and Heather jumped out from the driver’s side.
“The children are in the car.” Heather hissed the words out. “So keep your voices down so that they don’t hear and get worried.”
“Okay.” All three girls nodded.
“Good,” Heather said as she looked at them. “So tell me just what happened?”
“We were… “ Said Carina.
“She went to… “ Judy spoke.
“She told us… “ Abby said.
“Not all at once please.” Heather tried to remain calm even though her insides were twisted and knotted in panic. “You tell me Carina.”
“Okay… “ Carina paused. “As I was trying to say, we were stopping in here to get some sodas and Jo said she wanted to go to the bookshop over there.” Carina pointed. “Anyway we spotted her coming out, then this grey van obscured our view, then it sped away and Jo was gone.”
“Oh dearest Artemis!” Heather visibly trembled.
“What do we do Heather?” Judy asked the question on each girl’s lips.
“First things first – we need to know if this was a prank. Cari, you and Judi start phoning those you can think of who might do this. Abby, you come with me, I want to ask if anyone in the bookshop saw anything.”
Cari nodded, turning to Judy as she said, “You start with The House, and I’ll start with Tommy.” As they took their phones out, Heather took Abigail’s arm and guided her towards the bookshop.
“Did you see anything you couldn’t tell Judy,” she whispered.
“No – it happened so quickly we were all taken by surprise. All I could tell you about the van was it was a grey panel one.”
Heather nodded as they walked into the shop, and up to the desk. “Sorry to disturb you,” she said to the woman behind the counter, “but my sister was in here earlier to buy a book. A little smaller than me, blonde hair, in a St Angela’s uniform?”
“Oh yes – she bought On The Road. I remember because she was followed out by a man who had come in after her – he put his hand on her shoulder before she got into the van outside.”
Heather took a deep breath before she said “Can you describe this man?”
“He was balding, and middle aged – and he looked as if he was worrying about something. Beyond that, nothing special.”
Abby felt Heather squeeze her hand before she said “Thank you – thank you very much.”
She turned for a moment, and Abigail could see the colour drain from her face. “We don’t have a choice,” she said as she reached for her phone, “I’m going to call Juliette, I want you to call the police. Tell them what happened, and that you immediately called me.”
“But we know…”
“And the one thing we cannot, must not do is tell them we know – if we do, we’re all finished,” Heather said as she dialled a number.
“Jul? It’s Heather. We have a code black.
“No I’m not joking, but I can’t explain here – I’ll bring the girls to the mansion later and explain then.”
As she talked, they walked back to Carina and Judy.
“None,” Judy said as she stared at them.
“Right – then it’s time to call the police,” Abby said as she dialled 911 on her cell phone. “Hello? Police – we think our friend has been taken off in a van…”
It took exactly three minutes for a car from the 20th Precinct to pull up, and two uniformed officers to jump out. “Which of you girls made the call,” one of them said as they walked over.
“I did,” Abby said, the officer looking at her for a moment before he said “You’re the model – Abigail de Ros, aren’t you? All right – why don’t you tell me what happened, in your own words.”
“And you are,” the other officer said as she looked at Heather.
“My name is Heather Smith – Joanne, the girl Abigail and the others say was taken, is my sister.”
“Well, Miss Smith – are these your children,” she said as she pointed to the SUV, George and Sandy looking at them through the window.
“I’m their nanny – when Abby – Abigail called me, I put them in and drove straight here.”
“All right, Miss Smith – we’ll talk to the girls, and then we or another officer will need to talk to you later. Where can we find you?”
Heather gave her address, then waited until the officers had talked to Judy and Cari before saying “Can I take them home now?”
“Sure,” the male officer said as the woman went into the bookstore. “An officer will call to see you as soon as possible, Miss Smith. And don’t worry – nine times out of ten it’s just a prank.”
As he spoke, a black Daimler screeched to a halt at the pavement, Heather watching as Sandy and Diana jumped out. “Juliette’s on her way,” Sandy said as she embraced Heather.
“Forgive me, you are…”
“Alexandra Richmond, officer – and this is Diana de Ros, the mother of the girl who called you. Another of the mothers is on her way here now.”
“All right,” he said as Juliette jumped out of a cab and walked quickly over. “We’ve already talked to the girls, but a detective from the precinct will want to talk to them as well.”
“Judy,” Sandy said quietly, “can you call your mother, and say you’ve been invited to my house to have dinner with the other girls? Don’t tell her why yet – just say we’ll get you home later. Officer, they will all be at my house with Heather for the rest of the evening.”
Judy nodded as the female officer came out. “You need to come and see this,” she said as she motioned to the male officer, “we’ve got security cam footage of the snatch.”
“Sure – take the girls and make sure they are all right,” he said as he walked in, Abby putting her arm round Judy’s shoulders as they walked to Diana’s car with Cari and Juliette.
“See you at my place,” Sandy said as she took Heather’s hand. “Come on – we can do more there than here.”
FBI Field Office, New York
Tom Callaghan was sitting at his desk, looking once more at the file on the recent Greenwich robbery when the door was opened and he looked up.
“We just got something down the wire from the 20th, Tom – a kidnapping near St Angela’s School. A sixteen year old girl, name of Joanne Smith.”
“The security camera at the bookstore it happened outside got most of it – including the plates on the van that they drove off in. No good views of the nabbers, though.”
Tom sat back and ran his fingers through his hair. “Go on – this is where you tell me they’re not NY plates, right?”
“Right first time – Connecticut plates.”
“OH great,” Tom said as he stood up, “Who’s still around?”
“Wynter and Joyner are still around, so are Carter and Ball.”
“Where did this girl live anyway?”
“Apparently her sister is nanny to some rich socialite – Alexandra Richmond.”
As he said this, Janice Carter was passing the door, and stopped, looking in with a coffee mug in her hand.
“Did you just say Alexandra Richmond? We interviewed her over one of the Pussycat Gang raids – what happened?”
“Kidnapping – across state lines possibly, which means it’s ours. Call Captain Falcon at the 20th, find out who’s taking lead, then get over to the Richmond Mansion – you and Ball need to be liaisons on this. Give her the sheet.”
The young agent handed Janice the sheet, watching as she nodded and left the office.
“Yeah,” Adam Ball said as he looked up from his desk.
“Kidnapping – get your jacket,” Carter said as she punched a sequence of numbers in, and then said “Captain Falcon please – this is Agent Carter, FBI.”
The Richmond Mansion
“All right, Miss Smith,” Detective Benson said as he finished writing, “We have the statements from the three girls, and from the staff at the bookstore.”
There was a ring on the doorbell as Sandy stood up, and said “I’ll get it.” She walked to the hallway, watching as Carina and Abigail took the children up to get ready for bed, and opened the front door.
“Agent Carter? Agent Ball?”
“Good evening, Miss Richmond,” Janice said quietly. “We’ve been assigned to work with the police on the disappearance of Joanne. May we come in?”
“Of course,” Sandy said as she stood to one side, closing the door behind them and showing them to the drawing room. As they came in, Detective Benson looked up and said “Janice, Adam – you drew this case?”
“We did,” Adam said, “Miss Smith, we’re sorry that this has happened to you, and we want you to know we’re going to bring Joanne back, safe and sound. Whoever did this will be brought to justice, we guarantee that.”
“Look,” Detective Benson said as he stood up, “I need to talk with my colleagues, so we’ll leave you. An officer will stay outside – if you hear anything, anything, call him or her in.”
Heather nodded slowly as Sandy held her, the detective leaving with the two agents. As they walked into the hallway, Janice saw Juliette coming down the stairs.
“Agent Carter,” she said, “Will you be working on this case as well?”
“I will be, Miss Huntingdown – was your daughter one of those who saw it happen?”
“She was – will you wish to speak to her again?”
“Not tonight no – we’ll be at the school tomorrow, talk to her friends, see if they can offer any suggestions.”
“In the meantime,” Detective Benson said, “Do you know if there have been any unusual incidents recently – someone who seemed to be watching her, for example?”
Juliette looked at the officers, before saying “There have been a few incidents – Jo said she felt she was being followed by someone, but she never saw anyone clearly. But I need to see to my daughter and my friends. I’m sorry…”
“Of course,” Janice said as Juliette showed them out. As she closed the door, the three girls came down.
“We’ll go through to the kitchen – get some pizza,” Abby sad as they walked through, and Diana followed them down. Juliette motioned to the room door as the two of them walked in.
“I don’t know if I can eat anything,” Judy said as Carina put the oven on.
“I know the feeling,” Abby said as she sat on the other side of the breakfast counter, hearing the raised whispers on the other side of the door, “but we need to eat something. If we didn’t, Jo would be having a go at us for acting like models and not teenage girls.”
“Besides, I have to eat for someone else,” Carina said as she looked in the icebox. “Got pepperoni, cheese or veggie.”
“Put them all in – our moms might want some as well.”
“What are they talking about in there,” Judy said as she looked to the door. Abby walked over as Cari put the pizzas in the oven, and heard Heather say “I want to drive up there, right now, and kick his door in, point a gun at him and say ‘Hand her over, now!’”
“Admirable sentiment, Heather, but you know we cannot do that.”
“If you will listen…”
Going back to the table, she sat with Judy and said, “What are you going to tell your mom when she comes?”
“The truth, I saw a girl snatched from the street, and had to talk to the police.”
“Yeah,” Carina said as she looked at the oven, “It just feels different when it’s someone as close as Jo – someone as lovely as her.”
Abby nodded as the doorbell rang again. “I wonder who that is,” she said as Cari took the pizzas out of the oven. Judy went with her as she heard Juliette said “Heather, calm down,,,”
Opening the door, Abigail saw a tall, well built, grey haired man standing there, his back to the door.
“I’m sorry, can I help you,” she said, and then as the man turned she saw the white collar in his shirt.
“Hello Judy,” Alexander Richmond said as he came in, “I hear you’ve had a rough day. Your mother rang and told me, and as Sandy is my niece…” He stopped as he saw the room of the door open and Sandy come out, running over and embracing him as he held her.
“Pizza’s up,” Cari said and then she stopped for a moment. “Hello Father Richmond – I guess you heard?”
He simply nodded as he walked back into the room with Sandy, and the girls want back to the kitchen.
“Are you sure you don’t mind taking Judy back, Uncle Alex,” Sandy said as she walked him and Judy to the front door.
“Of course not, lass,” he said with a smile, “I will say prayers for Heather and her tomorrow morning. Come along Judy – your mother will be getting worried.”
Judy looked at Sandy, her eyes red as she said “I’m so sorry, Miss Richmond.”
“It was not your fault,” Sandy said as she hugged the young girl. “The girls will see you tomorrow.”
She waved as they walked to Alex’s car, and then closed the door, listening to the girls upstairs. Her smile vanishing, she joined Heather, Juliette and Diana in the drawing room.
“He’ll be back to keep me and Heather company tomorrow,” she said as she sat down.
“Okay - the million dollar question Heather. How well will Joanne’s background stand up to checks?” Juliette looked very concerned.
“Well… “ Heather took a deep breath. “As you know we returned home for a few days after Jo joined us. Between us we got into both the hospitals physical and computer records.”
“That’s how we got her a legitimate birth certificate and passport.” Sandy reminded the group.
“Her social security number is also legitimate.”
“So at least the official documentation is good Heather?” Juliette asked another key question.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure it will stand up to scrutiny… but that’s not worries me, it’s if they try contacting people from out of Joanne’s past that worries me.”
“Didn’t your poor uncle and aunt die at just the right times?” Diana asked.
“Yes, bless their spirits, it was an unfortunate coincidence that we were able to use.”
“So they are beyond contact by the FBI.” Diana observed.
“We got into the computer systems and files of the schools she was supposed to have attended over in Binghamton, so they also look clean just as St Angela’s found, but again if they want to talk to her old teachers, classmates, etc.… Well?”
“Ladies let’s be honest, why should the FBI and the cops do that deep a check on the victim?” Juliette mused. “On suspects then yes, but on the victim I think, and I hope, they’ll concentrate on her life here in the city for the last year.”
“We also need to perhaps steer them in the right direction Ju?” Sandy asked.
“And that’s steering them in a dangerous direction.” Juliette’s look of concern returned to her face.
“Yes, we’d all rather that the Megan Markham case never surfaced again.” Sandy stated.
“So how do we play this?” Heather now asked the big question.
“Well we try and avoid panicking,” Juliette shook herself up mentally. “We are one step ahead of the authorities, let’s try and stay there.”
“Agreed.” Diana nodded.
“Heather, would you mind going and getting the girls in here please?” Juliette asked.
“Okay.” Heather left the room for a moment as the others watched.
“So now we talk it out and lay our plans.”
“You think we have options Ju?” Sandy questioned.
“We always have options darling, let’s just explore those that don’t involve us all going to prison for the rest of our lives.” As Juliette said this, Carina and Abigail came in.
“Okay Mom, what are we doing?” Carina flopped onto a sofa as Abigail sat on the floor.
“Well we think that Jo’s official record looks pretty secure and we hope the police won’t dig too deeply.”
“Now though WE must lay our plans for what to do in this crisis.”
“Well first thing we need do is find out if it really is Markham who has her.” Sandy spoke quietly.
“Well it can’t be Abby and me who drive up there.” Carina spoke, “we have to be in school in the morning. I have the feeling the cops and feds will want to talk to all of us.”
“Yeah the feds will be questioning us, we go missing it will look bad.”
“I know that Abby, and Heather and Sandy have to stay here and be the worried relatives.”
“Which we really are Juliette.” Heather observed.
“So that means it’s Diana and me who must drive to Greenwich.” Juliette looked round the room. “Agreed?”
Each woman nodded.
“Okay so we drive up there and try and see if he’s there and where he might be holding Jo.”
“When do you want to leave darling?” Diana glanced at her watch.
“Well we all need a few hours sleep, but I’d like to be underway first thing.”
“What do we tell the authorities?”
“Why will you need to tell them anything Sandy - we are merely the mothers of two of the witnesses, our whereabouts won’t concern the feds, but if anyone asks we both had meetings out of town we couldn’t cancel.”
“Okay Ju.” Sandy nodded. “What do we do once we do confirm it’s Markham has her?”
“An assault by the Pussycat gang would just be too much of a red flag.”
“Well that’s pretty obvious Mom…. Even to me.” Carina smiled.
“So we will have to think very carefully and weigh our options.”
“Meaning what?” Abigail asked slightly rudely.
“Well do we guide, very subtly, the authorities to Markham and let them mount the rescue?”
“Possibilities there if we play our cards right,” Sandy said. “The business last weekend – will the Rocherman girls be willing to tell the police about the green truck?”
“Almost certainly,” Abigail said. “Didn’t you say Pa Markham had been hanging around in London as well?”
Sandy nodded. “John and I talked to him – I’ll get him to be here tomorrow as well. All we need to do is plant the idea in the right way.”
“One problem there, Darling,” Diana said quietly, “the last thing we want is Markham captured alive and telling the cops his theory.”
“I agree with you there Diana.” Juliette nodded.
“I said I should whack him.” Carina reminded the gang.
“I know darling, but hindsight is always twenty twenty, and none of us thought he would strike this fast.” Juliette thought for a second. “Our best option in so many ways would be for the Feds to kill Markham during a rescue attempt.”
“But what are the chances of that happening?” asked Sandy.
“Not great, the FBI and the SWAT…”
“But what if we helped them Mom?” Carina had a twinkle in her eye.
“Help them?” for a moment Juliette looked bemused. “Oh… now I see what you mean Darling.”
“I wish I did.” Abby observed.
“Like we did at the jewellery store.” Carina glanced round.
“Oh now I understand.” Diana smiled, “Just give me a clean line of sight and I can plug him.”
“Well I was thinking of being even more proactive.” said Juliette.
“How so Ju?” asked Sandy.
“Heather, how hard will it be to acquire correct looking SWAT team equipment?”
“Oh Goddess now I see where you are going Mom.” Carina paused, “A couple of us in the assault team could ensure the right outcome.”
“In the helmets, body armour, etc., SWAT team members look the same.” Juliette smiled.
“If we do decide to do that Juliette, then I want to go inside. She is MY sister.” Heather gritted her teeth.
“Well I’ve run every other possible scenario through… “
“The computer?” Sandy made each woman giggle.
“Through my brain… “ Juliette paused, “And that seems like the path that will cause the least damage…. Do you all agree?”
“It would be even better if the house burned down as well you know.” Abigail remarked, “Destroys all that evidence of Jo’s past as Megan.”
“That would be a very desirable extra.” Diana observed.
“I agree.” Juliette nodded. “But it needs to look like an unfortunate side effect of the assault – and that takes careful arrangement.” Juliette closed her eyes and said “Okay - so once we confirm location all our efforts go into guiding the authorities into doing just what we want…. Yes?”
Juliette looked from face to face as each woman in turn agreed.
“Then we’re settled – Cari and Abby, when the authorities go to the school tomorrow, tell the girls to tell them everything they know. Sandy, Heather – do what you have to do. Girls, we need to go now – we have an early start tomorrow.”
Tuesday 22nd April
The Markham house
Joanne pushed herself back against the wall as Joe Markham placed the tray by the bed. “I don’t know who you think I am, Mister,” she said in a quiet voice, “but my name’s not Megan – it’s Joanne, Joanne Smith.”
“You don’t need to lie to me Megan,” Joe said as he handed Jo a glass of orange juice. “I’ve been looking all year for you, and now at last I have found you. “
“You’re scaring me,” Joanne said, “and I don’t want anything you want. I just want to go home.”
“You are home,” Joe said as he held the glass out, “home at last. I don’t know how you ended up with those other girls, but I found you, and I’ve brought you back. Take the juice – you must be thirsty.”
Joanne slowly took the glass and sipped it, as Joe buttered a slice of toast. “I thought you were dead, and now you’re back.”
“Mister,” Joanne said quietly, “I’m Joanne Smith, and I live with my sister in New York, with the woman who employs her. I’m not Megan, whoever she is…”
“Yes you are,” Joe Markham shouted out, slamming the knife down on the plate. “I recognised you in London, and I have been watching you ever since. I know you are, and somehow you’ve forgotten – some sort of amnesia..”
“But that’s crazy – I come from upstate New York. Where am I anyway?”
“Home – and you are going to stay here,” Joe said as he took the glass off her. “Now, I have to go to work, and I want you to stay here and try to remember who you are.”
Taking Joanne’s free wrist, he pulled it to the other side of the bed and fastened one end of a pair of cuffs, the other metal ring fastened to the headboard.
“Mister, this is wrong,” Joanne said as he took a leather belt and lashed her ankles tightly together. “You’ve kidnapped me – my sister will be worried sick about me!”
“Hush,” Joe Markham said as he tore a length of brown sticking plaster from a roll, and pressed it firmly over her mouth, “Just be quiet, stay here, and remember who you are.”
“Bmmjennsmf,” Jo mumbled as her father picked up the tray and left the room, the lock turning after him. She lay there, controlling her breathing, controlling her fear, controlling her rage, and planning how to try to get free.
“Come on, come on,” Diana said as she tapped the steering wheel. When the ringtone of Juliette’s call phone went off, she gave her a sideways glance and then concentrated on the road ahead.
“Hello.” Juliette said as she answered her cell. “Oh Hi Shirley.”
“Shirley?” asked Diana.
“Madame X” Juliette hissed as she listened intently.
“Oh!” Diana looked surprised.
Juliette nodded and then gasped herself. “Oh you heard about poor Joanne?”
“How the hell did she hear that?” Diana asked, “The Police have not released it!”
Juliette shrugged her shoulders.
“Yes it’s a dreadful, dreadful matter… Thank you for that it’s nice to know your thoughts are with us… Yes… Yes… okay what is this other matter?... Hmmm let me think a second and maybe ask Diana’s advice.”
“What advice darling?”
“Madame wants to know if we can accommodate two house guests?”
“GUESTS!” Diana screamed, “At a time like this?”
Juliette smiled, “It’s Madame being subtle Darling, she’s offering us some of her troops as help.”
“Oh now I understand, well then yes, we are stretched VERY thin, with the girls having school.”
Juliette lifted her finger off the phones mouthpiece. “Okay Shirley Diana thinks that’s okay, how many guests can we expect?”…. Two…. Okay we can handle two…. Who’s coming?.... Okay Susan and her friend Dominique… Okay that sounds fine, when should we expect them?..... late this afternoon?.... Yes that’s fine…. Thank you Shirley I’ll pass on your sympathies to Heather and Sandy…. Yes, it will be lovely seeing Susan again…. Bye Shirley and Thank You.”
“Okay I got most of that Cherie. She’s sending us Susan and another girl…. Who is this Dominique?”
“If I remember rightly…. “
“And you usually do darling.” Diana interrupted.
“Then she’s Madame’s head of security.”
“Ah…. A very useful addition to our team.”
“Exactly.” Juliette smiled grimly as she looked on the road.
St Angela’s Academy
“Hey,” Judy said as she saw Abigail and Carina come in, hugging each of them in turn. “Did you get much sleep last night?”
“Not really,” Abby said. “I kept seeing Jo, crying for help somewhere.”
“Yeah,” Judy said quietly, “Father Richmond prayed with mom and me when he dropped me off yesterday. How’s Heather?”
“Beside herself with worry,” Cari said as they walked in. “Sandy’s mother is coming round today to look after the kids, while one of the FBI agents talks to her.”
“Only one – where’s the other?”
“Right here,” Abby said as she saw Agent Carter talking to Miss Tennant.
As the senior girls filed into the hall, they saw Janice Carter sitting on the stage with Miss Tennant at the dais. The other girls from Joanne’s year were also there.
“Good morning ladies,” Miss Tennant said as they sat down. “My apologies for taking you from your first classes today, but there has been – an incident, and we need to make you aware of it. I would like to introduce Agent Janice Carter, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who will explain. Agent Carter?”
“Thank you, Miss Tennant,” Janice said as she stood up, looking at the uniformed girls. “Ladies, it is my sad duty to tell you that yesterday evening, one of your classmates was apparently taken against her will from the nearby bookstore. Joanne Smith…”
The gasp from the room made her pause, as the girls turned to look at Abby and Cari.
“Joanne Smith,” Janice continued, “was leaving the bookstore when she was pushed into a van, which drove off at high speed. We are working with the local police to try and work out who did this, but I would like to talk to each of you briefly today, to see if you may have seen or heard anything that can help us.
“As always at times like this, we ask you to keep Joanne’s family and friends in mind, and in particular not to think something is unimportant. Miss Tennant will have you brought to me in turn – and thank you.”
As she left with Miss Tennant, Ally Rocherman came up to Abby and Cari. “Has this got anything to do with last weekend?”
“We don’t know yet, Ally – but if they ask, tell them everything,” Abby said. “It may be nothing, it may be everything.”
Cari fished into her pocket and took out her cell phone.
“You actually set it to silent?”
“I do sometimes, Abby,” Carina said as she looked at the screen. “Well, that’s a nice surprise – Mom says that Susan is back in town, and she and a friend are going to stop over at our place for a few nights.”
“Well, that’s a very nice surprise,” Abby said as Miss Tennant approached them. “Carina, Agent Carter would like to talk to you.”
Bank of Long Island Sound, Greenwich
“Well, this is a place I thought I would not be visiting for a while,” Sandy said as she and Juliette walked past the bank. The two women were casually dressed, leather jackets over their jumpers while Diana had a black and gold Hermes scarf tied over her hair.
“Agreed,” Juliette said as she looked round, “shall we go in and have a look round?”
The two women walked in, removing their sunglasses as they looed round. The place had been re-decorated from the last time the ladies had been there, Diana looked at the lobby floor, where last year the teller had lain, shot through the head.
But now the bank was operating as always, as the tellers served, and the security guards watched.
“Well, it was good of you to drop in, Dennis - thanks for doing so.”
Diana and Juliette looked at each other as they heard Joe Markham’s voice, and turned to see the middle aged man shaking the hand of a tall, dark haired lady. He was dressed in a suit, ironed shirt and tie, and seemed like your normal bank manager.
“It’s good to see him more like himself,” Diana heard one of the tellers saying to the man next to him. “For a while there, we thought he had totally lost it.”
“Well something’s happened,” the man said as two tall men came in, and approached Joe. He shook their hands, and said “One moment,” leaving them for a moment before he returned and handed them a brown envelope.
Diana nodded to Juliette and followed the two men out, watching as they climbed into the front of a grey panel van. As they drove off, she made a note of the licence number, and sent a text to Heather, as Juliette came out.
“A grey can with Connecticut plates, with a payment by Joe Markham? Hopefully Heather can find out more. Right now, let’s go and get some lunch – the girls recommended a diner on Lewis Street…”
The Richmond Mansion
Vanessa handed her a mug of tea as John sat with Sandy, watching as the older woman sat next to her.
“Thanks,” Heather said as she accepted the mug and took a sip from it. “I just wish there was something I could do.”
“We all wish there was something we could do,” Vanessa said as she put her hand on Heather’s knee. “But all we can do is sit and wait, and answer whenever the police ask us a question.”
“I know,” Heather said as she looked at her cell phone, “but it doesn’t make it any easer.”
“When is Alex coming round,” Vanessa said to Sandy.
“He came earlier, and said if we want him to come at any time, just call.”
Vanessa nodded as Heather stood up. “I need to do something – sitting here waiting is driving me insane. I’ll be doing the washing.” She headed for the utility room, the others watching as she left.
St Angela’s Academy
The refectory was crowded with girls at lunch, all talking about the same thing - Jo’s disappearance.
At their usual centre table a group of girls huddled round Carina, Judy and Abby.
“So it happened just down the street?” a senior named Morgan Woodward asked.
“Yeah, just like the FBI agent told everyone.” Carina acknowledged,
“Poor Jo.” Ally Rocherman shook her head. “I said to Nan we should have rung the police Saturday night. Now I keep thinking…”
“Well we can all think of things maybe we should have done.” Carina shook her head, “but you guys weren’t to know Ally, and if Jo said not to…”
“I still feel a little guilty and responsible. We had the chance to stop it, and now…” Ally started to cry as she sat there.
“You shouldn’t Ally, nor Nell.” Abby put her arms round her old friends shoulders. “There was no way of predicting this stalker might just grab her in broad daylight.”
“Did you tell the Feds what happened?” Carina asked.
“Yeah I gave her all the details I could remember, and she’s going over to the nunnery to talk to Nell this afternoon.”
“Were any of you others able to help the agent?” Judy asked.
“I told them I’d seen the same strange car hanging round outside three times last week.” Katy O’Malley said slowly.
“Yeah I saw the same car.” Charity Fisher remarked.
“I wasn’t that much help with details.” Katy shook her head. “Damn my memory.”
“I’m sure you did your best Katy.” Carina smiled at the other girl.
“I just pray Jo is alright.” Judy shuddered.
“It has to have been some lunatic.” Morgan remarked.
“Let’s just hope to God he doesn’t harm her.” Abby looked skyward.
“Amen” several of the girls spoke at once.
“Listen,” Judy said as she looked round the group, “spread the word to the younger girls now, and if they say anything –ANYTHING – tell them to report it to Miss Tennant.”
“Abigail, could I have a word with you please?”
Abby turned round to see Janice Carter standing behind her.
“Sure,” she said as she stood up, “but I don’t know what more I can tell you than what I shared earlier.”
“I’m not sure either,” Janice said as they headed into the corridor, and then into an empty classroom. “But you and Carina move in different circles from the rest of the girls. I need to know if either of you saw anything unusual when you have been on fashion shoots recently where Joanne was with you.”
“I’m afraid not,” Abigail said, “the main ones were in London a month or so back. Those were open events – a lot of people were watching.”
Janice nodded. “I can understand, but if anything does come to mind…”
“Well, there was one thing – stupid, I know but…”
“Go on,” Janice said as she looked at the tall blonde.
“I did an interview on a television program, and all of us were there. After the show, we went back stage for a party, but Sandy – Alexandra Richmond – and our driver John stayed behind to talk to someone in the audience. When they came back in, they said he was just a man who had thought he recognised someone. They didn’t tell us their name.”
“Okay,” Janice said as she stood up, “Thanks. I’ll let you get back to your class now.”
As she left the room, Carina was waiting. “Well,” she said as they walked away.
“I happened to mention Sandy and John talking to him in London, but that I didn’t get the name.”
“Mainly because they did not tell us,” Cari said as she smiled. “Okay – we’ve done our bit now.”
The Huntingdown apartment
The doorman looked on as the cab drew up, and two women got out. One was a tall, thin woman, with shoulder length black hair, wearing a black leather jacket and a pair of bootleg black jeans, with boots underneath. The other was a few inches smaller, with light brown short hair, and wore a denim jacket over her floral print smock, black leggings and shoes.
“Welcome back Miss Susan,” the doorman of Juliette’s apartment building smiled at the familiar face. “Miss Huntingdown said to expect you and your friend, so go right up… You know the way.”
“Thanks.” Susan smiled happily back.
“Can I help with that?” the doorman glanced at Dominique’s huge suitcase.
“No thanks.” Dominique said with a smile, “It’s got a couple of fragile gifts in it for Susan’s aunt, I’d feel safer looking after it myself.”
“Okay miss…. Not a problem.” He held the door open and watched as they walked through, Susan pressing a button and waiting for the elevator before they both walked in.
Three minutes later, there was a tap on the Huntingdown apartment. Carina uncurled herself from the couch and went to open the door.
“Hey - Hi cousin.” She said as she embraced Susan in the open doorway, “So great to see you again… And you must be Dominique.” She shook the taller woman’s hand.
“Hey Carina.” Susan smiled; genuinely glad to see her friend. She came in, followed by Dominique as they walked past the small teenager.
Once the door closed, Carina’s body language and voice changed completely. “Oh Goddess am I glad to see you Susan, we are in a panic here.”
“Calm down Cari,” Susan deposited her suitcase at the foot of the stairs and indicated for Dominique to do the same. “Let’s all go through to the kitchen and have a coffee.”
Once each woman was sat on a bar stool nursing a steaming mug, Susan brought matters back to business.
“Okay now, Madame heard through even I don’t know what sources that Jo had been kidnapped.”
Carina nodded her head. “Near our school yesterday, right in front of our faces.”
“And the police and the FBI have been called in?” Susan asked.
“Yeah, we had a friend with us, a civilian so to speak, you remember Judy?”
“Yeah I met Judy.” Susan nodded.
“Well with her seeing it we didn’t really have an option.”
Susan nodded to show she understood the reasons why it could not be kept quiet.
“Do you know who snatched her?” Dominique asked directly.
“We think so.” Carina took a sip from her mug and looked at the other two. Susan looked the same, but there was a new confidence about her. Dominique – Dominique impressed Carina. There was something about her that told Cari she knew what the business they were all in was really like.
“Dominique is my supervisor now,” Susan said unprompted, “after the experiences I had with you, she has been helping me to know when and how to use those skills.”
Dominique simply nodded, watching Carina the whole time. The young girl fascinated her – Susan had explained what she was, but it was still a surprise to her
“Why not mount a rescue yourselves, you girls are more than capable.” Susan smiled, remembering the agony she’d had to put her body though when out shooting with Diana.
“It’s not as easy as that Susan.” Carina thought deeply. “Can I maybe wait till mom and the others arrive before I tell you why?”
“Sure.” Susan glanced at Dominique.
you should see the car Mom bought me as a Graduation present," Cari beamed, "It's a Maserati."
nice set of wheels." Dominique whistled.
gonna be so great running round New Haven in it."
heard you were going to Yale."
baby... Dominique." Carina grinned as she patted her stomach gently.
Dominique stared, it was hard reconciling this petite beauty with the fearsome Miss Lynx. How two personalities could live in one body and co-exist fascinated her as an idea.
“Anyway,” Susan smiled, “First things first, is Dominique rooming with me?”
“Yeah, if you girls can share that big bed.”
“I think we safely can.” Dominique smiled
“Well then, you both will want to take your cases up, Mom should be home soon.”
“Good idea – we need to unpack a few things,” Susan said as she and Dominique stood up, and walked to the staircase, lifting their cases and carrying them up to the room.
“Cari, darling – are they here yet?”
Carina looked out of the kitchen as Juliette put her coat on a hanger.
“Yeah – they’re upstairs,” she said, and as if on cue Susan and Dominique walked down the stairs. Juliette hugged Susan, and then looked at the tall, dark haired woman.
“Thank you,” she said as she held her hand out, Dominique grasping it firmly as they nodded to each other.
“It’s our pleasure – when Madame was informed, she felt our presence would be very helpful to you.”
“I do have one question – how did she know? There hasn’t been a public announcement yet.”
“I had the same question when Madame informed us,” Susan said as she looked at Dominique. She had the grace to smile as she said “Madame has contacts in most of the major government and legal organisations – even here. Our contact in the FBI informed her of the kidnapping, based on the address and the names of the initial witnesses.” She looked at Carina, who nodded as she realised what had happened.
“Well, we are in a very delicate situation here,” Juliette said as she rubbed her eyes. “The others will be joining us here for dinner – the police and federal officers know they will be here for a private dinner.”
“So you wish to postpone business until then?”
“It will be best,” Juliette said to Dominique. “In the meantime, I need a drink, and you can tell me what has happened to you Susan.”
The Markham Home
Jo was frustrated and she was worried. Her bastard of a father had for once known what he was doing when he tied her up. She had no choice but to lie there and wait for his return. She’d tried to relax, she had tried to sleep, but the waiting and waiting had fried her nerves. She had tried to gauge the time by the movement of the shadows.
It was now late afternoon by her reckoning, and she found herself hoping and praying he’d return soon. She was hungry, she was thirsty, but above all she hoped she could talk him into making a mistake and giving her the opportunity to get away.
Finally she heard the car pull up outside.
“Thank the Goddess.” She thought to herself.
“Hey Megan I’m home,” she heard his voice from down below.
Jo waited, she heard his footsteps, and she saw the door open.
“Basssstaaaard” she tried screaming into her gag.
“What’s that you said darling?” her father acted as though this was the most usual situation in the world.
“Yoooouuuuccc” Jo screamed again.
“Are you hungry?”
Jo looked angrily at him, but nodded.
“I bet you are thirsty as well?”
Another nod. He seemed to think this was a perfectly acceptable thing to do – and that scared her even more.
“Well let me remove this.” He pulled the Band-Aid away from her mouth.
“You fucking bastard!” Jo screamed. “Let me fucking go.”
“Oh such language Megan, must be those awful kids you hang out with, you never hear your mom or me use such language.”
“Mister I ain’t this Megan… My name is Joanne Smith.”
“Here Megan drink,” he held a glass of water to her lips. Greedily she supped at the liquid.
“Now Megan I’m going to untie one of your wrists so you can feed yourself.”
“MY NAME IS JOANNE!” she screamed the words out.
“Whatever you say Megan.” It suddenly struck her that he was in a world of his own. She watched as he uncuffed her right wrist and placed a McDonald’s bag in front of her.
“Sorry it’s not much, but I think you’ll like it – you always liked the chicken nuggets,” Joe said as he walked over to a drawer, and took out a pair of cotton pyjamas. Her hunger was too great for her to ignore, as Joanne wolfed down the chicken pieces and fries.
“Now,” Joe said quietly, “when you have finished, I want you to go to the bathroom over there, take that uniform off, shower and change into your pyjamas. I think they need a wash, and – well, they’re not really your clothes are they?”
“If I do as you say,” Joanne said quietly as she looked at him, “will you not cuff me to the bed?”
“I don’t intend to – but you will stay in this room,” Joe said quietly. “I don’t think you’re ready to come downstairs yet – not until you accept I was right to bring you home.”
“But this isn’t…. All right, I’ll do what you ask.”
“Good,” Joe said as he released her left wrist, and handed her the clothes. “On you go.”
Joanne grabbed the clothes and went into the bathroom, closing the door behind her. Looking up, she saw the old window had been boarded up from the outside, so she stripped off and relieved herself, before stepping under the shower.
The hot water at least made her feel a little better, and as she stepped out and wrapped a towel round herself she looked along the shelf. There was nothing there she could use to free herself later – no nail files, or clippers. Shaking her head, she put on the white pyjamas, and then looked at herself in the mirror.
“Goddess, I hope that are looking for me,” she said to herself, before she heard Joe say “Come on Megan – I have a treat for you.”
As she walked back in, she saw that he had wheeled in a television set and DVD player, which he had placed at the end of the bed and plugged in. “I bet that feels better,” he said as he looked at her, “Come and sit on the bed. I thought we could watch a movie together.”
“Look, mister, I swear I’m not the girl you think I am. Please, just let me go and I won’t tell the police…”
“Unless you want to be handcuffed again,” Joe said as he showed Joanne a Taser, “or worse, get over here and sit on the bed.”
“All right,” Joanne said as she raised her hands, and walked over, sitting in the centre of the bed with her back to the wall. She watched as Joe picked up a coil of rope from the side, and wrapped it round her stomach several times, before taking it round and tying the end to the leg of the bed.
“You don’t have to tie me up, mister, I’ve done what your said,” Joanne pleaded as Joe took another length of rope and lashed her ankles tightly together.
“I’ve lost you once, Megan,” Joe said as he switched the television on, “I won’t lose you again – ever. Now, let’s watch this – it’s one of your favourites.”
Joanne watched as the film started, thinking all the time of ways to get free as Joe sat on the bed beside her, and placed a bowl of popcorn between them.
The takeout boxes were sitting on the coffee table as the women sat round. “Right – some introductions are in order,” Juliette said as she looked at Dominique. “You know me and Cari, so that leaves Diana, Abigail, Sandy and Heather.”
“A pleasure,” Dominique said as she looked at them, “Susan speaks very highly of you, and I look forward to helping in any way I can.”
“Can I ask the obvious question now?” Susan said as she took some of the chow mein.
“If we are fairly certain of who has Joanne and where she is, why do we not go in ourselves and rescue her?”
Susan nodded, looking at Heather in particular. “After all, she is your sister as well as one of you.”
“Well,” Heather said quietly, “she is more of my adopted sister. How much do you know of our raids?”
“Apart from a few weeks ago, only what is reported,” Dominique said, “On which note, my compliments to you and Susan for the way you treated the younger sons. I believe they have coped extremely well.”
“Well,” Carina said, “What do you know of a raid a year earlier in Greenwich?”
Susan and Dominique looked at each other, before Dominique said “The Long Island Sound bank? If I remember correctly, you held the manager and his family as well as their housekeeper hostage. The wife and housekeeper were found dead in the house after the police were called, and the manager was left with his staff – those that survived – at the bank.
“But there was a daughter – the manager said she was taken away by the Pussycat Gang, and…”
Dominique looked at Susan, who finished the sentence. “… and she is missing, presumed dead. After all, the Gang had taken hostages to the bank with the manager and killed them there before. Only that’s not what happened this time, is it?”
Abigail shook her head. “When we took Megan hostage, we discovered she had a similar passion and longing to us, and she wanted to be one of us. So we decided that Megan Markham died that night, and a few weeks later Joanne Smith arrived in New York, after Heather’s aunt and uncle died.”
Susan sat back in thought. “Let me go out on a limb here, Juliette – it’s a member of Megan’s family you think has her?”
“A very close member,” Diana said, “her father.”
Dominique said nothing, but slowly nodded her head. “Well, that certainly explains why you cannot mount a rescue of your own. Added to the fact you had no choice but to involve the authorities, it does indicate a more circumspect approach. What have you done so far?”
“Juliette and I went up to Greenwich today,” Diana said. “I bumped into her father, Joe Markham, when we were in Greenwich recently. He was a shell of a man.”
“But today,” Juliette said as she picked up a spring roll, “he was approaching normal. One thing – we saw him pay two men, who drove off in a grey van.”
“WHAT!” Carina and Abigail say up.
“I texted Heather the number – Heather?”
“I searched the Connecticut records – took me a while, but I got a registration for them. It was too late to call you and let you know.” Heather took a pad from in front of her and ripped off the page, passing it to Juliette.
“May I see,” Susan said, taking the note from Juliette and looking at it. “Dom, any way of finding out if this matches the partial plate the FBI have?”
“I’ll send a message through,” Dominique said. “Please, ladies, if this is important allow us to follow up on your behalf. We can also go to Greenwich tomorrow – if we can borrow a car – and do some more detailed investigation for you. We came with some surveillance equipment for just such a purpose.”
Juliette looked at the others, who nodded in agreement.
“All right,” Susan said, “Next question. Was there any warning?”
“Yeah – but by the time we realised how he was thinking, it was too late.” Susan looked at Abigail, before saying “You’d better start at the beginning, Abby.”
“Well, when we were in London recently, he saw a picture of us arriving at the airport, and fixated on the idea Joanne was Megan – which she was, but…”
“Yes, I see,” Dominique said as she looked at them. “So he followed you around there?”
“We saw him a few times,” Sandy said, “but then, when we went to do an interview on the Graham Norton show…”
“Oh yes, I saw that one – quite an eventful show.” Dominique looked round the room, and smiled as she said “Sorry – carry on.”
“Well,” Sandy said, “John – our driver and I talked to him after the show – he was in the audience, and the concierge at the Savoy had seem him as well.”
“Jack? I know him. So what happened?”
“He told us his story, and we sympathised, before John escorted him out.”
“The thing is,” Carina said, “ever since then, Jo had the feeling someone was following and watching her. Especially last weekend.”
Heather nodded and explained everything that happened at the Hamptons, Susan and Dominique nodding.
“So, to summarise – you think her father has snatched her back, but if you tell the powers that be, you expose yourselves because they will ask why?”
The women nodded as one. “That is our problem in a nutshell – and also our salvation.”
“Explain,” Dominique said as she sat back.
“We have enough independent witnesses to make the boys at the 20th, and the feds, get onto the scent of Joe Markham. So, we plant the seeds, support what others have said, sit back, and let them figure it out for ourselves,”
“And then, when we know they have found her,” Heather said with a dark look on her face, “two of us join them, and we take care of Markham at the same time as rescuing Joanne.”
“So let me get this straight in my mind Juliette.” Dominique said as she thought hard for a second. “You want to use the cops and FBI to solve your problem with Jo’s background, and in the process get her back?”
Dominique shook her head and laughed lightly. “It’s so off the wall, you know it might just work.”
“It’s what my boyfriend calls a misdirection play.” Abby added.
“We are just adding our own presence to keep Jo safe, and get the outcome we desire.” Juliette said as she looked Dominique straight in the eye. “Has Madame given you the freedom for such an operation?”
“Our orders were to do just what you told us Juliette.” Susan answered.
“Yes.” Dominique nodded.
“Okay then ladies - well we had better put ourselves on alert.” Juliette summed up.
“Madame’s source in the FBI will keep us updated with all they know and are doing.” Dominique told the room.
“We need that SWAT gear urgently Heather.” Juliette reminded her.
“Already on it – I have a bid accepted on eBay for surplus padding and uniforms, at a very reasonable price, but that leaves the question of making sure we are similarly armed.”
“Not this time,” Juliette said as she shook her head. “Is this something you can help with, Susan?”
“We can do that – leave it with me.”
“Good,” Juliette said as she picked up some noodles. “By the way Susan, you never told us what you wanted done with your share?”
“My share? My share of what?”
“Your share of the Greenwich takings – there’s half a million with your name on it.”
Susan held her chopsticks in mid air, as she stared at the others. “Half… Half a million?”
“Yup,” Cari said as she put some Kung Po chicken into her mouth.
“Well, I guess the drinks are on you next time we go out,” Dominique said with a smile.
“No – no that’s too much – and what would Madame say?”
“She’d say well done and spend it wisely.”
Susan shook her head and said “all right – I’ll give you some account details, but I want to make a donation to the Jamie Kirkham fund – twenty per cent.”
“Very generous – as a trustee of the fund, I accept,” Juliette said with a smile.
“Good – then we’re agreed,” Sandy said eventually. “Let’s finish this off and then Heather and I need to head back. Mother will need to leave soon, and Agent Ball is coming first thing in the morning.”
night, Susan sat propped up in bed, waiting for Dominique to slip in the other
what are your impressions now?" she asked.
looked at her as she said "Well they bring a lot of brain power to all
this, I still like them, very thorough, everything is thought through
know," Susan laughed, "Last time I was here all the discussion
disturbed me, but now…."
"You can see that it's how they work things out." Dominique finished the sentence.
Dominique got under the sheets and stretched.
still blows my mind that such a group are the notorious Pussycats." Susan
chuckled, "It really is the perfect cover for one of the most successful
gangs of all time."
leaving Jo's father hanging out there was a mistake." Dominique looked
concerned. "I understand the reasons for not killing him, but once it was
clear he presented a danger…"
agree with Carina then?"
Dominique rolled on her side and tried shaping the pillows how she wanted
is a last resort, that's what I've learned these recent weeks."
Dominique smiled inwardly. "Well in this circumstance, to defend the group, I think Madame might have approved. We need to get some sleep – we have a busy day tomorrow."
FBI Field Office, New York
Janice Carter slumped back into her office chair. It had been a long day interviewing teenagers and basically learning very little except the slang that the wealthy young things of the Upper East Side used to distinguish themselves from lesser mortals. She’d forgotten how many times she’d had to ask a girl what a certain word meant.
“How did it go?” Tom Callaghan said as he pulled up a chair besides her desk.
“Tiring.” Janice sat up and rubbed her eyes.
“Well Joanne herself may not be rich but she moves in pretty exclusive circles thanks to the good will and kindness of her sister’s employer.”
“So is she being held for ransom?”
Janice shook her head. “Maybe, but my guess is not. Her sister could never afford a ransom, and if you wanted to get to the employer you’d kidnap one of her kids, not the nanny’s sister.”
“Okay,” Tom said, “so if we rule out ransom, we are looking for someone with a personal motive.”
“Yup.” Janice nodded.
“Well she and a couple of her friends had a run in with some Latino boys up in the Hamptons on Saturday night, I’ve asked the local cops to try and trace them… “
“A Saturday night teenage thing is pretty thin motive Janice.”
“Well it seems like Joanne beat these boys up pretty good.”
“Yeah seems like Joanne can look after herself.”
Tom smiled. “Well that means we know she’s maybe put up a struggle.”
“I hope so.” Janice stretched out her tired body. “The girls she was with told me she was being followed by another car as well though. After the fight they gave this car the slip, but it sounds to me like that was our kidnapper.
“Her friends also told me she was being followed and bugged by some guy in London on a recent trip… “
“Damn girl,” Tom said as she sat back, “trips to London, weekends in the Hamptons, you are right for a nanny’s sister she does live well.”
“Well it doesn’t seem to have swollen her head, she’s extremely popular with the other girls, on the track team, good academics, going to be one of the school head girls next year… “
“Head Girl?” Callaghan interrupted.
“It’s a senior student acts as a liaison between the staff and the student body, a student leader, she has some disciplinary powers as well.”
Callaghan shook his head, “well she seems almost perfect,’
“Yeah – bottom line, I’m pretty sure it’s no one at her school.”
“One and I hear he’s pretty wild, but no one thinks they’ve had any fights, I’m talking to him when I can, but I’m willing to bet he’s in the clear.”
“Which brings us to just one conclusion.’
“Yep,” Janice said, “looks like this mysterious stalker.”
“Can we get anything on him?”
“I’ll ask Adam to talk to Sandy Richmond and her sister tomorrow – apparently Miss Richmond and someone called John talked to a man. What about that partial on the plates?”
“Still trying to get through the system – it’s too vague to narrow it down too much, so the forensic boys are seeing if they can find anything else about the van from the footage.” Tom looked at Janice before saying “When was the last time you saw Katy?”
“Sunday night – why?”
“Go home Janice – get some rest. Nothing more you can do here tonight – I’ll call you if anything happens.”
“Thanks,” Janice said as she stood up. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
The Markham Residence
Joanne lay back on the bed, thinking over all that had happened that day. She had not protested as they watched the film, before Joe had untied her, and told her to get some sleep. But she could not sleep, even with the sounds outside her window.
She looked round the room, looking at the shadows and assessing her situation –Daddy Dearest had the room secured, but at least she could walk round, and take a pee now. She sat on the edge of the bed weighing up her options. The door was bolted from the outside, she’d listened hard to him shut them, one high up, one down low. There was no way to open those from the inside even with her skills.
The windows were secured and shuttered but they probably offered slightly less resistance then the door. For a moment she contemplated the ceiling and the floor, but putting holes in either would just take too long even if she had the right tools with her. No – if she was going to make a break for it, the windows were her only real chance.
She thought back, remembering the layout of the house. Her room opened out onto the top of the covered porch, with the vine down the side of the house – strong enough for her to climb up and down on it. It was an old plant, and chances were her father would not have touched it. If she could get down it, then she had a chance of getting to another house and raising the alarm.
Inwardly she prayed to the Goddess that somehow she could get a message to Heather, Sandy, and the rest. She knew they were probably scouring Connecticut for her, she just wished she could pass on the message that in his lunacy, her old man had acquired some fiendish cunning. It was almost as if someone had advised him, someone had helped him.
She stood up and turned the bedside light on, hoping the old bastard wasn’t outside watching for a sliver of light under the door. Sitting still, she listened for any sound of anyone coming to the door, but after a while she relaxed – that one at least had worked.
Walking across the room, she went and stood by the window, feeling round the edges. She could feel the wires around the frame, and her fingers touched what was almost certainly a pressure pad - it was wired with an alarm. “Where the fuck did he get this smart from,” she whispered to herself.
She traced the wiring gently with her fingers, looking for somewhere she could cut or pull it out, but it was useless - there was no way she was going out of one of the windows without it triggering. At best she could get a few seconds advantage, but that might be enough - she’d been working out on the track team at school and she was pretty sure she was fitter and faster than her father.
“Okay Joanne it’s a breakout and run like hell,” she whispered again to herself. Going to the chest of drawers, she pulled out a pair of socks and slipped them on, then opened the wardrobe. All her old clothes were there, but more importantly there was a pair of baseball boots, which she quickly laced onto her feet.
Going back to the window, he looked at the locks, and smiled as she worked a nail loose from the frame. “Just a few minutes,” she said to herself as she worked on the lock, eventually managing to force it to an open position. She then looked at the shutter through the glass.
“One good kick and that’s gone,” she said to herself as she pulled a stool over and stood on it. “In three… One… Two… Three!”
She pulled the windows open and hit the shutter in the centre with the sole of her boot, the bar breaking as the shutters flew open. She could hear a bell ringing somewhere, but ignored it as she jumped out of the window and landed on a roof.
The cool night air hit her as she ran along the roof, only to stop as she saw that there was no ivy – on fact, there was nothing by an eight foot drop to the ground. Cursing slightly, Joanne took a couple of steps back and ran, jumping off the roof and rolling as she landed on the ground.
It was as she stood up and looked round she realised she was not in Cos Cob – in fact, wherever she was, it was in a forest, and she was surrounded by trees.
“Shit,” Joanne said to herself, and then she felt the sharp pinprick in her leg. As she turned, she saw her father’s car through her rapidly closing eyes, and then she fell to the ground, as her father stood over her.
“I’m sorry, Megan,” he said as he picked her up, “but I told you you were never leaving me again…”
Wednesday 23rd April
The Markham House
As Joanne slowly opened her eyes, the first thing she felt was the ache in her arms and legs, as if they had lead weights attached to them and pulling them down.
There was also something pulling on the skin around her mouth, and as she looked to her side she could see her arm stretched put, held in place somehow – she could not raise her arm.
As she peered, she soon realised why – her wrist was tied to something on the side of the bed, and as she slowly turned her head she saw her other arm held in the same way.
“Whthhpnnd,” she heard herself mumble, and she realised with a sickening feeling what it was pulling on the skin around her mouth.
“You were a very naughty girl last night. Megan,” she heard Joe Markham say, “I had to make sure you slept so that you would appreciate today why I am doing this.”
“LTmgmgubstrd” she screamed through the fabric over her mouth, pulling hard on whatever was holding her arms in the crucifix position.
“Listen very carefully,” Joe said as he stepped forward, and wiped her brow. “I am going to untie you and remove the gag, and you will go, wash and change into the clothes that are laid out for you. IF you try anything – anything – I will drug you again and you won’t wake up until tomorrow. Understand?”
There was a fire in his eye, which made Joanne incredibly nervous as she nodded. She watched as he untied her wrists, and then sat up, rubbing them as she saw the rope holding her ankles apart.
Joe removed those bonds, as she looked to the window – now with boards nailed over where she had broken out the night before.
Joe nodded as she reached up and pulled the tape away. “I just want to go home, mister,” she said quietly, “you can’t keep me locked away like this.”
“Go and wash Megan – your breakfast will be ready when you come out.”
Joanne slowly walked over to the bathroom, and looked at herself in the mirror. She had a graze from where she had fallen the night before, and her arms and hands were covered in dust.
“Wherever you are, girls, get here soon,” she said to herself before she stripped and got into the shower.
As she towelled herself off, she looked at the clothes. There was a black Def Leppard t-shirt, a pair of denim shorts, black leggings and socks. Joanne slowly put them on, and then walked back into the room.
“Sit down,” Joe Markham said, as he indicated a wooden chair. As she sat herself down, Joanne watched as he knelt and taped her ankles and legs to the wooden front legs of the chair.
“Can I have my glasses please mister – I need them to be able to see,” she said as Joe placed the television in front of her. Joe looked at her, and then handed her the pair of spectacles, watching Jo as she put them on before handing her a glass of orange juice and some pastries.
“Thank you,” Joanne whispered as she consumed her breakfast, and then said “My sister must be going out of her mind. Please, can I at least tell her I’m all right?”
“Don’t be silly Megan – you don’t have a sister,” Joe Markham said as he taped her to the chair, the band around her stomach and the chair back. “Now, I need to get to work, so can I trust you to keep quiet?”
Joanne nodded slowly as Joe looked at her. “I don’t believe you,” he said as he picked up a long white scarf, “Open your mouth.”
“But I swear, I’ll be quieetmsmsdtrrrrr,” she said as he pulled the cloth into her mouth, running tit round her head twice and tying it off before he taped her wrists to the chair back. He then placed a metal plate under each foot..
“If you move your feet more than a millimetre,” he said as he looked at her, “this will set off an alarm and I will know – and you will suffer when I return. So sit still, and enjoy the television.” He turned the television on, selecting a channel, and then left Joanne, staring at him as he closed and bolted the door.
“Got everything you need?”
Dominique nodded as she picked up the duffle bag from the bed. “Think you can find your way there?”
“No problem,” Susan said as she zipped up her leather jacket. The two women walked down the stairs to find Diana waiting for them.
“Keys to Carina’s Toyota, nice and anonymous vehicle” she said as she tossed them to Susan. “Do we have any word on the weapons?”
“They will be available at lunchtime – we need a delivery point and time.”
Diana took a leather bound diary from her bag and checked it. “I can be at the farm for three o’clock – can you collect with Susan and bring them there?”
“No problem,” Susan said as she looked at Diana, “we’d better get going. See you later?”
Diana nodded as they left the apartment, climbing into the Toyota and setting off to join the I-95 North.
Susan nodded as they got onto the interstate. “You’ll like it – discrete, out of the way, nobody to disturb you. So where to first?”
“Can you get us near to the bank? I’d like to see if this Joe Markham is in today, and if so have a good look at him.”
Susan punched a zip code into the sat nav, and looked at the map. “About an hour – see if you can find a rock station or something.”
“I sort of hoped I’d never be going back there.” Susan looked round and checked the mirror before passing the car ahead.
“I thought we’d got you past the nightmares Susan?” Dominique looked concerned as they passed a huge oil truck.
“Well I’m not seeing that scene every night any more, but it’s still not easy when I remember I killed someone.” Susan cut back in, the horn of the truck filling the air.
“Juliette remarked to me how much more poised you seemed last night.”
“Well I think I have a better understanding of our ‘profession’ now.” Susan paused, “I know that in this line of work I may face a similar situation again…. I think that thanks to you I’m better prepared now.”
Dominique smiled to herself, Susan had grown up a lot in the last few weeks, and she was no longer a kid who played at crime. Now she fully understood what the business was all about.
“So where do we try first? This guy’s bank? Or his home?”
“I think the bank, check he’s at work then we can go look at the house.”
Susan nodded in agreement.
“Are you carrying Susan?”
“Yeah Carina gave me a .38 it’s in my purse.”
“Now there’s a big difference then before.” Dominique smiled, “You’re the one packing heat… not me.”
Susan blushed, “Well this guy sounds Cuckoo for Cocoa Pops, I thought we maybe needed a little protection.”
Suddenly Susan swerved round a slow moving pickup.
“But who’s going to protect me from your driving?”
Susan laughed, “Hey I’m not that bad.”
“Honestly sweetie…. You are.” Dominique laughed. “Glad we borrowed the Toyota, I’d hate to see you drive the Maserati.”
“I’ve seen you drive a Maserati – no way I can compete with that,” Susan said as she looked at the overhead signs. “Two more exits – let’s see what this town has to offer us today.”
“This is it,” Susan said as she pulled into the lot and parked the car, “West Elm Street.”
They got out of the car, Dominique hoisting a large black bag over her shoulder, and walked into the bank itself.
As they stood
in the lobby of the bank, Dominique tried to imagine the scene a year before.
She kept a professional interest in the crimes of others, keeping up
to date on major heists round the world. The place must have looked like a
bad horror movie, but she had to admit the tactics of using fear as a weapon
coupled with the use of deadly violence when needed certainly paid off.
him" Susan asked quietly as she looked at a middle aged balding man.
"Looks like the picture from Juliette's file yes." Dominique hoisted her bag onto her shoulder, the hidden camera filming him as he talked to clients, and then to some of the staff.
Taking a cheque book from her bag, Susan walked up to the counter and smiled at the teller. “I wonder if it would be possible for me to cash a cheque here – I’ve run short, and my bank does not have a branch here.”
“How much for, Madame?”
“Three hundred dollars?”
“One moment, I need to check with the manager. Mister Markham?”
“Yes Carol,” the manager said as he came forward.
“This woman has asked to cash a cheque for three hundred dollars.”
Susan watched as Joe Markham looked at the cheque. “Do you have some sort of ID,” he said as he looked at Susan.
“Of course,” she said as she took out a driver’s licence and showed it to him.
“That seems to be in order – cash the cheque for her, Carol,”
“Yes Mister Markham,” Carol said as she counted out the money.
“He seems a happy manager,” Carol said as she took the money.
“Yeah – he’s had a rough time over the last year, but he’s much more his old self now. Will that be all?”
“Yes, thank you,” Susan said as she put the money in her pocket book, and returned to Dominique.
“Got what you need?”
“For now – where’s a good place to eat around here?”
The Richmond Mansion
“How are you feeling, Heather,” John asked as he came in, after he had given Sandy a hug.
“In desperate need of a good night’s sleep, and my arms around my sister,” Heather said, a small smile on her face.
“I take it you have heard of the plan for 4 o’clock today?”
Heather nodded. “I intend to be there – if I get finished here in time.”
The doorbell rang, and Sandy left for a moment, returning with Agents Ball and Carter.
“Agents Carter and Ball, this is John Balden, my mother’s chauffer.”
“A pleasure – Adam Ball,” Agent Ball said as he offered his hand, “and this is Janice Carter.”
“An honour,” John said as he shook Janice’s hand, and Sandy brought some mugs of coffee in. “I don’t know how much help I can be, but I’ll do anything I can.”
“Well,” Janice said as she sat down, “We talked to a lot of the girls yesterday, and got a lot of information, but there do seem to have been a lot of sightings of a car near the school. There was also an incident last weekend, I believe?”
“That’s right,” Sandy said, “A small altercation with some boys, but Joanne also said she thought a van had followed her all night.”
“That wasn’t the only time.”
“Forgive me – Joanne asked me not to mention it, but on Saturday morning she felt as if she was being followed as well. She found me in a florist’s in Greenport, and I got the shop assistant to call the local police.”
“We’ll look into that,” Adam Ball said as he made a note. “But what we really want to talk about is what happened in London. Abigail mentioned someone had appeared to be following you there?”
“There was, but it was a minor thing,” Sandy said, “a nuisance more than anything.”
“To be honest I was more concerned with Abigail’s, sorry I mean Miss de Ros’, security.” John looked at the two agents as he said this.
“We both saw the crowd scenes on television.” Adam Ball nodded, “It looked at times as if she needed a Secret Service security detail.”
“She did,” John smiled, “well anyway this man showed up in a couple of places, but well - because it was Joanne he was interested in rather than Miss de Ros, he sort of ranked a bit low on the list of concerns.”
“He was there at the taping of the Graham Norton show?” Janice asked.
“John and I both spoke to him after the show.” Sandy spoke. “He seemed a rather pathetic figure, not dangerous at all.”
“He’d got it in his mind that Joanne was his missing daughter.” John added.
“Missing daughter?” suddenly Janice sat straight at attention.
“Yes, and this is going to sound very weird, but I remember he said she’d been taken in a bank robbery a year ago and given up for dead.”
“Yes John’s right - with all that has happened, it had slipped my mind till just now…. I’m sorry we’ve all been under such pressure.” Sandy started to sob what she hoped were realistic tears.
“Now Ms. Richmond, Mister Balden. this is very important.” Janice looked hard at both witnesses, “do you remember the man’s name?”
“Joe something…. “ Sandy tried to check her sobs.
“That’s right Miss Alexandra, it was Joe, Joe Markham. I remember because he was in Greenport last week on holiday – I spoke to him after the Easter Mass.”
“Are you sure his name was Markham?” Janice asked urgently.
“Yes definitely Agent Carter, his name was Joe Markham.” John looked concerned. “I’m sorry as well, what had happened in London had slipped my mind as well, so much else going on, my daughter and granddaughter are…”
Adam Ball interrupted him, “Janice? Wasn’t Markham the bank manager’s name in the Bank of Long Island Sound job?”
Janice nodded, “his daughter’s name was Megan, and she was taken and presumed killed by our old friends the Pussycats.”
Sandy and John looked perplexed at each other.
“Joanne though is Heather’s sister, I’ve known her since Heather came to work with me.” Sandy tried hard to sound convincing.
“That’s just what we told Markham in London.” John added.
Janice thought hard for a second, “I think the man is delusional, yes there is a very, very, superficial resemblance, but Joanne is blonde and wears glasses.”
“It sounds like maybe Markham’s brain has snapped?” Ball looked at his partner.
“Worth investigating further,” Janice said as she stood up. “Thank you both – you’ve been a great help.”
“I’ll show you out,” Sandy said as she followed them to the door.
“What do you think, Heather – could it be this Joe Markham?”
“No idea, John – but I pray they find out quickly,” Heather said. “Thanks – just for sharing that.”
climbed into their car Janice sighed. "Sounds like we can chalk up another
victim to them."
nodded. "Sounds like the poor bastard’s mind has
gone, he's focussing on a girl looks a little like his daughter and in his
obsession has kidnapped her."
plausible to me Janice," Adam said.
“I’ll call Greenport and talk to the local police.”
kid must be terrified."
let's just hope we get to her in time before he does realize she's not his
maybe kills her?"
Janice nodded sadly. “Any news on the plate?”
“Not yet – I’ll check when we get back. What are you going to do?”
“You deal with the Hampton’s – I’ll call Greenwich PD, see what Markham is up to now.”
“Well,” Susan said as she pulled up outside the house, “this is the listed address for Joe Markham. Looks quiet enough.”
“As you well know, Susan, looks can be deceptive,” Dominique said as she took out a camera from her bag. “You go and have a word with the neighbours, and I’ll see what I can find out.”
Susan nodded as the two women got out of the car, looking at the non descript house.
“Hard to imagine what happened in there,” Dominique said as she looked at the porch.
“Not really – not for me anyway,” Susan said as she took a pad and pen from her handbag. “I’ll lay some fears to rest with the woman walking over to us now.” She turned and walked towards the blonde haired, middle aged woman who had come out of the house.
“Hello there,” she said as she came over, “My name’s Suzanne Fletcher, from the New York Times.”
“Oh,” the woman said as she looked at her, “doing an article on poor Joe, are you?”
“That’s right – it’s been a year since the tragedy here, and we wanted to do an article to see fi any fresh evidence can be dug up. Can I take a few minutes of your time, ask you a few questions?”
“Sure – why not,” the woman said as she turned and walked back with Susan, Dominique walking round the house and taking some pictures.
Half an hour later, Dominique was sitting in the car, looking at the screen of her camera as Susan joined her.
“Concerned neighbour – Pappa Markham apparently had some sort of nervous breakdown a few months ago.”
“I would not be surprised,” Dominique said quietly, “but now?”
“Apparently, over the last month or two he has become much more his old self. Still, according to her, she’s seen him leaving the house early and returning late the last few days.”
Dominique nodded. “Yeah, I figured as much.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Look at the thermal images,” she said as she handed Susan the camera. As she moved through the shots, Susan started to frown.
“Everywhere – including the cellar. Wherever it is he is holding her, it’s not in this house.”
Before Dominique could answer, her cell phone rang. Taking it out, she looked at the caller and then put it on loudspeaker.
“Good afternoon, Susan, Dominique,” a cultured and deep English female voice said.
“Good evening Madame,” Susan replied. “We have taken delivery and will deliver in a short while.”
“Excellent – and how do things progress?”
“We are cooperating fully with Juliette’s proposed plan,” Dominique said quietly. “We have identified the likely nabbed, but caution is required.”
“I understand – continue with your mission ladies. I have one further piece of information for you – my contact in the FBI tells me they have identified the owners of the van. Where are you currently?”
“Greenwich, Connecticut,” Susan replied.
“Excellent – you have about twenty minutes to get to this address…”
Conde Nast Publishers
While her body may have been in the Complete Style offices, Juliette’s mind was elsewhere; her worries about Joanne, and the careful planning of the rescue operation were foremost in her mind. Lost in deep concentration she didn’t hear Janine entering her office.
“Ummmm Miss Huntingdown… sorry I mean Juliette…”
“Oh!” Juliette almost leapt out of her chair with surprise. Looking at the startled young woman, in her black pinafore dress and white blouse, she quickly collected herself.
“You okay Miss….”
“Janine what have I said?” Juliette interrupted.
“Sorry…. Juliette…. They are asking for you in the layout room for the July edition.”
“Thank you Janine.” Juliette got up and mentally pulled herself together as she walked through the maze of corridors towards the sound of raised voices, and heated argument.
“Lovely,” she thought to herself as she listened to the blend of Welsh, broad Scots and New York, “this is going to be fun.” Steeling herself, she took the step forward.
Poking her head through the doorway she discovered Fiona, Mary and Anna looking at a long line of photos laid out on a bench. Each was pointing at something they liked, and then something they didn’t. The raised voices indicated the heat of the disagreement.
“Knock Knock,” Juliette said to announce her presence. All three women fell silent and turned to look at her.
“Good.” Mary came over, grabbed her, and pulled towards the bench. “Someone sane who actually understands fashion.”
“Okay.” Juliette looked perplexed, “why am I getting dragged into this?”
“Because Mary has lost her mind…. AGAIN!” Anna stood with one hand on her hip, pointing with the other at some pictures. “Honestly, Ju, there is no way we can go ahead with this.”
“Just look lass.” Fiona glared at Mary.
Slowly Juliette put on her glasses, then equally slowly worked her way down the line-up of pictures carefully looking at each one. The style was dramatic, to say the least – the tall dark haired woman with her hair pulled back in a pigtail, and her high prominent forehead glistening, in her leather jacket, trousers and high boots, dominating the man sitting in the chair.
“Well?” Mary asked.
“Well what?.... They look amazing.”
“Told you.” Mary turned and gloated at the two editors.
“I’ll nae run them in mah edition.” Fiona glared back.
“Can someone please tell me what all this is about?”
“Didn’t you look properly Ju?” Mary asked.
Juliette picked up another picture. In this one, the woman was wearing a black leather corset and seamed stockings, with a studded collar around her neck. Her legs were encased in a pair of tight thigh high leather boots, and a pair of opera gloves adorned her arms. She stood with her legs apart, the male model face down between them.
“Yeah it’s Vicky Beckham.”
“And wahts she doin’ Juliette?” Fiona added a question.
“She’s playing a kidnapper, she has the male model tied… Oh I see.” Juliette looked at the man in the first picture she had picked up, bound to the chair as Mrs Beckham ran the leather thong across his head.
“I think they are in poor taste at this moment in time.” Anna looked hard at Mary.
“Ah agree.” Fiona nodded.
“By the time this comes out though, all this mess with poor Joanne will have been settled and forgotten.” Mary paused. “If this was hitting the streets tomorrow I’d agree, but by mid June when this comes out?”
“We have committed to the idea that fetish leather is going to go mainstream this year…” Juliette mused. Another photo caught her eye – Victoria was in a black leather bra and wrap round skirt, fishnet tights and six inch heels, her arms wrapped round the male model who was blindfolded and his head turned to one side as she licked his ear.
“See.” Mary looked triumphant.
“And these photos are amazing.”
Mary beamed a smile at her old friend.
“They don’t offend you darling?” Anna asked.
“Not really.” Juliette shook her head. “Look girls we run a fashion magazine, not a newspaper, yes I’m petrified for poor Jo right now, but I’m sure she’d be the first to say her situation shouldn’t influence the magazine.”
“Still,” Fiona said shaking her head, “if we ran these in oor edition, than we’d be top shelf for certain – and Complete Style is no N.U.T.S. in oor country.”
“My country as well,” Mary said as she looked at the red headed Scot.
“Look,” Juliette said as she took her glasses off, “the authorities seem to think they have a lead on who took Joanne, and with any luck she will be safe back tomorrow. I say we go with these – Fiona, you don’t have to use them for the UK edition. Can we get a Wimbledon based shoot together quickly?”
“Ah’ll tell ye wha,” Fiona said, “if the wee lass is safe back by Friday, I’ll drop my objections, aw reet?”
“All right,” Juliette said. “While I’ve got you all here, then, the proposed Mother and Daughter shoot.”
“Yes,” Mary said, “don’t tell me Diana has cold feet?”
“No – but there is an issue in getting Jeanie over here. School holidays, I believe.”
Fiona nodded,. “Aye – sae it’s Whit week?”
“Last week in May,” Mary told Anne, “which we can work with. So her mother is in?”
“Yup – she says it might be a nice break from form filling and school negotiations.”
“Ah, the joy of moving,” Mary said with a smile, “I remember it well. So let’s focus on that next, all right?”
The two editors agreed as Juliette smiled.
“Impressive,” Dominique said as Susan drove into the yard of the main farmhouse. “Remote, discrete – a good choice. Which of them owns this place?”
“She does,” Susan said as Diana stepped out from the house, watching and shaking his head as she screeched to a halt.
“Welcome,” Diana said as they got out of the car, “have you had a productive day?”
“Yes – and no. We’ll explain later,” Susan said, “Would you care to examine the merchandise?”
“Of course,” Diana said as Susan opened the trunk, watching as the French noblewoman took out the rifle and checked the sights.
“Excellent – let’s get them inside,” Diana said, the other two donning leather gloves as they helped to carry the arms and ammunition into the main house, placing it on the wooden table.
“Where did Madame get these from?”
“All I will say is that, if all goes well, they go back in the Federal Armoury within twenty four hours of the hit, fully accounted for,” Dominique said with a smile. “These are standard issue for the Connecticut PD SWAT team.”
“So she is in Connecticut?”
“The van has been traced – we got the address, but as we approached we saw police cars coming, so we took the valiant and prudent approach.”
“You mean you stayed out of the way? Excellent. This is our base of operations when we get to work, normally, so we will store them here.”
“I know where they go,” Susan said. As she checked the equipment, Diana and Dominique slipped outside into the rear yard, sitting in two recliners to enjoy some of the mid-afternoon spring sun.
“Susan says you are a weapons expert?” Dominique asked.
“Well,” Diana said with her eyes closed, “I’d not claim to be an expert.”
“That sounds like false modesty to me Diana.”
“Well,” Diana smiled, “let us just say my father did not know how to raise a daughter and he taught me some interesting things.”
Dominique shook her head, “some very interesting things from what I can gather.”
“And you Cherie, I’m sure that you didn’t become Madame’s security chief without learning a few things yourself?”
Dominique reflected on her own life, “True - can we also say I knew people who didn’t know what to do with a girl who kept following her nose into places she probably shouldn’t have been.”
“That sounds very enigmatic darling?”
“Not really,” Dominique closed her eyes against the glare of the sun. “I just got myself into some trouble I maybe should have walked away from.”
“That sounds like my husband.”
“Yes he was trouble I should have walked away from myself.” Diane looked at the other woman. “Have you ever been married Dominique?”
“If I told you I’d…”
“Have to kill me.” Diana laughed as she finished the sentence.
Dominique looked relaxed, as she enjoyed the little respite.
“I apologize if I’ve been prying.”
“That’s cool Diana, I think we are all curious about each other. Women aren’t that common in our line of work, let alone at the top levels.”
“So I’d been keeping an eye on the Pussycats work for a while.” Dominique spoke slowly. “It was intriguing, it was interesting, and I was a fan.”
“A fan,” Diana replied quietly, “I’ve never thought of gangs having fans.”
“Well I was one.” Dominique laughed lightly.
“You know, when this is over, we need to go out shooting together Dominique.” Diana said – an invitation to the taller woman.
“I’d like that.” Dominique nodded her acceptance. “From what Susan told me you have a great setup here.”
“We like to keep our skills well honed,” Diana said with a smile.
“Right – they’re stashed,” Susan said as she came out. “When are we expected back?”
“Not until seven – the girls are at a prayer vigil, and Heather is collecting some other equipment.”
“Good,” she said, “got any beer in the place?”
Dominique opened her eyes and looked at Susan. “How about some Long Island Iced Tea – and I’ll drive back.”
St Martha’s Church
“In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.”
“As you sit, offer your prayers to our Holy Father, and he will hear them.”
Alexander Richmond looked at his congregation, and smiled at Heather as she sat in the front row. There were about 40 girls in their school uniforms and a couple of older women, he guessed teachers from St Angela’s.
He’d not made an announcement, but somehow they’d all found their way to the church when school let out. It had turned into an informal prayer service for the safety of Joanne as her friends hoped for a happy outcome to the disappearance.
All of them sat and knelt with their eyes closed, offering prayers n their own way. Bobbi Morse had her hands clenched in two balls under her chin, while at the organ Judy McNally leaned forward, staring at the sheet music as she whispered to herself.
Suddenly at the back of the church he heard the doors open, shattering the period of silent prayers. The girls stopped praying and looked round to see who was coming.
From the back a little group of girls in Sacred Heart uniforms walked down the nave, dropping and crossing themselves as they approached the altar.
For a second Father Richmond tensed up, well aware of the animosity between the two sets of girls. He saw Abigail rise from her pew though and go forward to tearfully embrace a Sacred Heart girl.
“Thanks for coming Nell… Thank you all…” she murmured the words.
Spontaneously other girls with tears in their eyes rose and hugged girls from their rival school. To Father Richmond it reminded him of a feuding family finally settling its differences in a moment of shared worry. “Be grateful for small blessings,” he said to himself as he stepped forward.
“Thank you for coming to our little informal prayer session.” Alexander welcomed the newcomers with what he hoped was a reassuring smile. The girls took their places in the pews as he stood at the front.
“At this moment can I invite anyone who might wish to say something to come up here?”
Slowly an attractive blonde girl in a Sacred Heart uniform rose and came to the front of the congregation. Reaching into her purse she retrieved, then put on, a pair of glasses.
“Ummm I think I know most of you, those I don’t my name is Holly Berryman.” She looked intently at the faces in front of her. “I don’t know Jo very well, we’ve only met a couple of times, but I’ve known her friends like Carina and Judy all my life. At the weekend Jo was at a…. ummmm…. event shall we call it.”
In the congregation a few girls laughed lightly.
“She, Ally, and Nell had the sense to get out before the real fireworks started.”
That brought further laughs from the girls.
“Well anyway out there we bury our school rivalries, and a few of us decided this afternoon when we heard Nell was coming here to come and show our solidarity with our St Angela’s ‘sisters’. She fought to help both our groups – we wish to share in supporting you.”
Carina rose from her seat in the front pew and walked forward to embrace Holly.
“Hol, I know we haven’t always got along in recent times, but thank you so much.”
Both girls then started to cry.
“Let us join together,” Alexander said as he saw Heather dab her eyes, “in thanks, and in continued prayer for our sister Joanne…”
The Richmond Mansion
Little George and Sandy were in heaven – it was Burger King for supper, and they loved the Chicken Royales and fries with milk shakes.
“All right you two,” Abby said as she looked at them, the others eating their burgers, “why don’t you show me your homework tonight?”
“Can we show it to Jo when she gets back as well?”
“Of course you can,” she said as she took them by the hand and led them out of the drawing room. As the door closed, the others looked at Diana.
“I dropped them off at your apartment, Juliette darling – they said they needed to check some things they had found out for today. They’ll bring you up to speed, but they are convinced Markham is the man. They also know the van has been traced, but could not get to them this evening before they had to return.”
Juliette nodded. “Well, there’s not a lot else any of us can do without drawing attention to ourselves, so we’ll just have to cope for another night.”
“Just let 'em get the stuff on, hand me a gun, and point me in the right direction,” Heather said as she had some more of her drink.
“I understand your desire and passion,” Sandy said as she hugged Heather, “but keep a clear mind.”
“Funny – I thought I was the one who usually kept you in check,” Heather said as she gave Sandy a peck on the cheek. “Thanks.”
“We need to manage you very carefully,” Juliette said as she looked at Heather. “You need to be contactable if anything does happen.”
“Got it covered – if and when we move, I will be trying to get away from it by hitting a mall. The agent will have my cell number – which will be on answerphone for the duration. Damned bad habit it has of cutting out in the mall.”
The group laughed at that thought, even Diana allowing herself a smile.
“Mom one thing we haven’t discussed.” Carina said as she ate her last fry. “Who else is going inside with Heather?”
“Well it isn’t going to be you darling,” Juliette said, “not with a baby on board.”
“Mom this is kinda my job.”
“You Mom’s right,” Heather spoke softly, “normal circumstances it would be you, but you got to look after that baby.”
“So who then?” Carina looked slightly aggrieved, “who else has the skills needed?”
“Not me.” Sandy shook her head, “If I’m honest I’m not good enough.”
“Can’t be Diana either,” Juliette spoke “I want her outside with that sniper rifle of hers just in case.”
“I’d take Jo, but she’s not here.” Heather attempted a moment of humour.
“Then it’s one of the Brits.” Carina summed up.
“Logically Dominique.” Sandy looked at Juliette.
“Logically… yes,” Juliette thought hard for a second, “but I need a second sniper covering from the opposite side to Diana.”
“Well that only leaves Susan?” Heather observed.
“She’s had less experience then me.” Sandy added.
“I understand Dominique has had her in training.” Juliette paused. “I’ll not send her in there unless Dominique agrees, but I think maybe she’ll have to be your partner Heather.”
“Find out when you get back,” Diana said quietly. “I have faith in her ability, but it is her experience that needs to be ascertained.”
FBI Field Office
“Markham? Joseph Theodore Markham?”
Tom Callaghan looked at Janice and Adam, and then shook his head. “We deal with the immediate aftermath, clean the crap up, and then we forget some people are just left to fend for themselves. Take me through it again.”
Adam Ball flipped through the file. “Three months ago, the higher management at his bank ordered Joe Markham to take a month’s leave – they had reports he was heading for a mental breakdown, so like any good corporate entity, they swept it under the carpet.”
“So tell me something new,” Tom said quietly. “So he’s ordered to take a holiday, however reluctantly. He decided to visit the UK?”
“That’s right,” Janice, said, “he flew out for a month at the end of February, and for the first three weeks nothing unusual. We talked to the manager of the hotel he stayed at – quiet, ate alone. Then the de Ros party flies into London, and he sees the pictures in the paper – with Joanne Smith in the background.”
“All right, so he sees her, thinks it’s Megan back from the dead, and starts following her?”
Adam nodded. “According to the de Ros girl, she saw him hanging round a few times. So did the concierge at the Savoy, where they were staying – he was the one who told Miss Richmond and Mister Balden about him. The studio security for the chat show Abigail de Ros appeared at also confirm a man with his description in the audience – they’re sending the film through.”
Tom rubbed his eyes and thought for a moment. “Right – so Balden and Richmond talk to him, he tells his story, and they think they’ve convinced him he made a mistake. He flies back the next day, they return twenty four hours later.”
“All except Countess de Ros – she stayed to go and visit her father, and flew back on the 1st of April. It’s just after that we get the first reports of someone following Joanne.”
Tom looked at the two agents. “Talked to the Greenwich PD?”
“Yeah – apparently Markham was in a real state when he returned, and a waitress at a local café remembers him coming in and mistaking another girl for Megan. They’ve been keeping an eye on him, and then suddenly he appears at his bank the following Monday, back to normal and ready to work.”
“That was just over two weeks ago?”
Janice nodded. “His bank told us he had a business meeting in New York last Tuesday.”
Janice looked at her sheet. “He arrived at a hotel in Greenport – near the home of Miss Richmond’s ex-husband – on Friday afternoon, and stayed for two nights. He was driving a grey Toyota, but – and this is the interesting bit – a green pick-up truck was stolen the same day.”
“The owner reported seeing two men taking the truck from his yard. We have a description of them from the local police. Joe Markham was stopped by the police on the Saturday in Greenport, but they accepted his explanation that he was trying to find a particular store.”
Tom Callaghan looked at the two agents. “Please, tell me you have Joseph Theodore Markham under surveillance now?”
“The Greenwich PD are watching the bank and his home. He left the bank at five thirty, and presumably is home by now.”
“Right – I want you two up there first thing in the morning to co-ordinate. One other thing.”
“The number plate finally came up – Benson will come with you tomorrow, and while he works with the local force you check this out.” Callaghan handed the two agents a sheet of paper.
“I’m calling Benson – I want to go up there tonight.”
Callaghan nodded. “Do it – and keep me posted.”
The Markham Residence
Joanne slowly opened her eyes as she heard the bolts being drawn back on the bedroom door. She had spent the day carefully examining anything she could see, when the boredom of daytime soaps had got too much, and imaging new and inventive ways she could kill her father with.
“Ah good – you were a good girl Megan,” Joe said as he wheeled in a trolley, and left it in the room. “Your mom wants to come in and see if you are alright – you don’t mind do you?”
Joanne stared wide eyed at him. “Memffrsded,” she mumbled through the cloth, which was now heavy with saliva and grey along her lips.
“I’m sorry, Megan, I didn’t catch that,” Joe said as he untied the gag and removed it, Joanne coughing as she caught her breath.
“My mother…” she said in a dry voice, “my mother and father are dead. I told you, mister, my name is Joanne Smith, and I live with my sister…”
“Now that’s not very nice Megan – look, I’ll cut you loose, and by the time you’ve been to the toilet your mom will be here.” He took a large knife and cut the tape from Joanne’s body, watching as she slowly stretched her arms and legs out.
“Hurry up now – you mom will be so pleased to see you.”
Joanne stood up and walked to the bathroom, taking time first to scoop some water into her mouth with her hands. As she looked at herself in the mirror, she said to herself “Goddess, he really has gone over the edge.”
In her psychology class, she had heard of a condition where extreme grief triggers a personality change in someone. Not like Carina – that was something else entirely, but it turns someone into a completely different person inside.
“IF only he hadn’t come to London,” she whispered as she heard him say “Hurry up Megan – your mom is here.”
Quickly doing the toilet and flushing the waste away, Joanne left the bathroom – and almost screamed as she saw a shop dummy, dressed in the same style of clothes her mother had been wearing the last time she saw her, a brunette wig on the plastic head and a scarf tied in a band over it.
“See Beverley,” Joe said with a smile, “I told you Megan had come home. Now we can be a happy family again.”
Joanne was speechless, as Joe said “Say hello to your mother Megan.”
“He really has gone over the edge,” she thought to herself, and then she saw the knife on the trolley, the gleam in Joe Markham’s eye, and realised if she was going to get through this, she had only one choice.
“All right mister, I’ll play along,” she said before turning to the dummy and saying “Hi Mom – I’m back.”
“Fantastic,” Joe said as he took the covers off the food. “Bring your chair over Megan – we’ll all eat together.”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“She’s not at the house?”
Dominique shook her head. “We have the most advanced thermal imaging equipment available – no heat signature anywhere. In fact, I’d be amazed if he is even eating and sleeping there. I suspect he just appears for show to the neighbours.”
“So where is he?”
“Good question Carina,” Susan said as she sat back in the seat, crossing her legs. “If we had been able to get to the men today, we may have found out. As it is – we have to wait and see.”
“Are those the Italian stilettos I recommended Susan?” Juliette looked at the 4 inch heel pumps the younger woman was wearing.
“Yep, after wearing those others you had me sold, nice high heel, and yet SO comfortable.”
“I’d wear them for school if I could.” Carina commented.
“The goddess in old jeans and sneakers, who complains that I don’t know how to relax, would wear heels to school?” her Mother teased.
“Just so I didn’t look like an ant next to Abs.” Carina giggled. “My own Mom towers over me, so does my best friend, now even Dominique….”
The rest of Carina’s rant was brought to a sudden halt by Susan’s phone going off.
“Welcome to my world,” she said as she looked at the caller id. “One moment.” Susan spoke into her phone, “Yes Madame, we delivered and stored the equipment this afternoon…. Yes…. Okay…. Yes… I’ll tell them…. Yes…. No…. Thank you Madame.”
“Tell us what,” Carina asked urgently.
“The feds are on to Markham and are deploying a field team to Greenwich.”
Juliette nodded, “Okay Susan, we better do the same – you, Dominique and Diane had better run up there, find a motel and watch and listen, we can be there in an hour if we are needed.”
“A little longer Mom, we’d need to hit the farm and pick that stuff up.”
“Okay 90 minutes then.”
“Well, unless their SWAT team Is ridiculously fast, they’ll need a couple of hours to set up – so that should be enough time,” Susan said.
“Carina can you lend me something clean?” Dominique asked.
“How much stopping power?”
“Better be heavy duty.”
“I gotta a .44 magnum Colt Anaconda I’ve been hanging onto for something special…. That do?”
“Perfect.” Again the tall Brit looked amazed at the petite blonde.
“I’ll call Diana to come collect you girls while Carina gets the weapon.” Juliette stood up.
“Thanks Juliette.” Susan shouted as she ran upstairs to pack an overnight bag for herself and Dominique.
“This way,” Carina said as she indicated to Dominique to follow her. She took her into the utility room, and watched as she moved boxes out of the way. There was a small crack in the brickwork, and as Dominique watched Carina used a thin piece of metal to feed into the crack, and ease a hidden panel out.
“Here we go,” Cari said as she fished out a black leather wrapped package, and handed it to Dominique. She took the parcel and opened it, taking out the pistol and holding the wooden handle as she tested the action.
Cari reached back into the exposed closet and took out a box of bullets, handing it to Dominique and watching as she opened the barrel, fitted six rounds and closed it in a fluid motion.
“Just what else have you got hidden in there?”
“Girl’s got to have some secrets,” Cari said as she closed the cover. Dominique nodded – she had more than most, but whatever she was at this moment in time, Carina Diana Huntingdown was one smart cookie.
Coming back into the drawing room, Dominique tucked the pistol into her jacket pocket, and threw the box of rounds to Susan, who pushed them into her bag.
“Diana will be downstairs with the Daimler in ten minutes,” Juliette said as she handed Dominique an old radio. “Something from the old days – we used them to monitor the police bands.”
“New – fresh sets in Susan’s bag. Before you go – we were talking about who should accompany Heather when we go in. IT has to be one of you two – but we also need someone to cover Diana.”
“Then Susan goes in,” Dominique said without hesitation. “She is a good shot, but I am a better long range marksman.”
“Want a bet?”
“Not on this one Susan – and I’m talking as your supervisor now.”
“Discuss it with Diana. Go – and the Goddess go with you.”
“We’ll be in touch,” Susan said as the two women left the apartment, Carina and Juliette hugging each other as they left.
Crossing the lobby, they saw Diana standing by the Daimler.
“Hi Susan, Bye Susan,” Abby said as she passed them with an overnight bag, and got into the lift.
“You drive, Dominique,” she said as she threw the keys to the tall woman, “I know how to tune those monstrosities.” She climbed into the back of the car with Susan as Dominique gunned the engine and they drove off.
“Let me see… Let me see…” Diana said as she slowly turned the knob, and then was rewarded with the sound of the police band.
“Is it absolutely necessary we stay in a motel? I am not exactly fond of them,” Diana said as Dominique headed north.
“We need to be local, and inconspicuous – so a motel it is I’m afraid. Don’t worry – I’ll pick a nice one.”
“OH joy,” Diana said as she listened to the police radio, “Joanne is going to have to pay me back for this.”
“We do this right,” Dominique said, “She’ll pay you back forever.”
The Markham Residence
Joanne had seen some very strange things, but a dinner with her completely mad father, and a mannequin dressed like her dead mother, had to be right there at the top of the list.
“Can I ask a question,” she said as Joe cleared away the dinner plates.
“Of course you can Megan?”
“Where are we?”
“We’re in our home Megan,” Joe said as he put the plates on the trolley. “Why, aren’t you glad to be home?”
“It’s just – mister, I really am not…” She stopped herself as she saw Markham stiffen and his hand reach instinctively for the knife. “It’s just I’m not really sure where home was.”
“We moved – the old house had too many bad memories for me and your mother. Isn’t that right Bev,” he said as he looked at the dummy. “Now, if you promise to behave, you can sit with your mother and watch television while I wash up.”
“I’ll sit with Mom,” Joanne said quietly as she got onto the bed, next to the dummy.
“Good – you two have a lot to talk about,” Joe said quietly as he wheeled the trolley out, bolting the door behind himself. Joanne was up like a flash and looking at the windows. Her thoughts of a repeat of yesterday were stopped by the low hum she could hear and the wires than ran around and across the frame.
“He’s wired them, the bastard,” Joanne thought as she returned to the bed, and sat next to the dummy. “This is not going well,” she said to herself as she watched the television, “not going well at all.”
A short while later, Joe Markham returned, carrying a pair of blue pyjamas and two pairs of sports socks. “Bedtime,” he said to Joanne, “but I can’t have you running round like last night, so get changed and put these on your feet and hands. Mom’s going to spend the night in your room in case you get the wanderlust again.”
“But if Mom’s watching me, why do you have to make sure I don’t try anything?”
“Because I need to be sure. On you go now – it’s getting late.”
Joanne took her glasses off and put them on the bedside table, going into the bathroom and returning a few minutes later, as her father laid several lengths of rope out on the bed.
“I’m doing this for your own good, Megan,” he said as he walked behind Joanne, crossed her wrists and tied them tightly together. “I looked up how to do this on the web – amazing what you can find.”
“I believe you,” Joanne said as she felt the rope through the cotton socks, and then watched as he lashed her arms to her sides, the rope sitting above and below her chest as he pulled it tighter with each pass.
“Lie down, Megan,” Joe said, and as Joanne sat on the bed she watched him cross and bind her ankles tightly together, then her legs below her knees, and finally her thighs.
“Now then,” Joe said as he picked up a sock and folded it, “Time of quiet. Open wide.”
Joanne slowly opened her mouth, accepting the stuffing and watching a she tore more tape off the roll and smoothed it over her mouth. She then slid down the bed and allowed him to turn her onto her side, watching the dummy a she pulled her ankles back and secured them to her chest.
“Look after her Bev,” he said as he turned the light off and closed the door, the bolts slamming closed as Joanne tried to get comfortable…
The Super 8 motel
I-95, near Harrison
“Well,” Diana said as she brushed her hand over the sink, “I suppose it could have been worse.”
“I think I’ve got the right frequency,” Susan said as she turned the knob
“Confirm that, base – lights out at the Markham house. Looks like papa Bear has gone to bed.”
“Well, keep a watchful eye Wyatt – the feds just rode into town, and some hot shot NYPD detective as well. Check in every hour.”
“I do so love the provincial forces,” Diana said with a smile.
“All right – four hour monitoring shifts. I’ll take the first, Susan you take over, then Diana.”
“Agreed,” Susan said to Dominique, Diana nodding her assertion.
“So,” Dominique said as she took the Colt from her jacket and examined it, “”Juliette asked about the operation. I suggest Susan goes in with Heather – and I provide backup to you.”
Diana raised an eyebrow at that. “How good are you Dominique?”
“Good enough to be able to tell you how you pulled the shots earlier this year when that Maroni business happened. You aimed to wound the FBI and police, and to kill otherwise, correct?”
“Correct,” Diana said, “they were not our enemy that day – Maroni was.”
Dominique nodded as she examined the gun in her hand. “Well, good as Susan is at skeet shooting – and she is very good – Heather needs the support of someone she knows. She does not know me, so my role is best played elsewhere.”
“A very pragmatic view,” Diana said with a smile.
“An honest one – Susan, you’ll need to keep Heather in check, make sure she does not let her heart rule her head.”
Susan nodded as she sat on the bed.
“Is it true you normally dispose of all your weapons after a raid?”
“Yes – less chance of them being retrieved, and we can afford it.”
“Still, Cari had her Colt – I bet you all have your own choice weapons as well.”
“That is true – I brought Bess with me and her sister Terri for when they are needed.”
“Bess and Terri?”
“My M40 and XM21 – they are in the bag in the car trunk.”
“Bess and Terri – why doesn’t it surprise me you named them?”
“An old aristocratic tradition,” Diana said with a raised eyebrow. “Is it any more strange than naming your car?”
“Nope,” Dominique said.
“I often wonder if you had the same gun laws as they had in the UK, would there be less gun related crime?”
“A difficult one,” Dominique said. “In the short term, possibly, but it ignores the fact a gun is just a tool. If not a gun, it could be a knife, or a garrotte, or something worse. Like any tool, it can be used or misused.”
“Still, you do wonder sometimes,” Susan said quietly. “What do you think, Diana?”
“You are asking the wrong person darling,” Diana said quietly, “trust me about that.”
“What was it?”
“What was what?”
“The rifle you killed your husband with.”
Diana looked at Dominique, and then said “A Moisin 1891 30mm.”
“Beautiful gun – I can see your taste in that,” Dominique said. “You two get some sleep – I’ll wake you if I hear anything.”
Thursday 24th April
The Markham Residence
Jo opened her eyes suddenly. She had been dreaming of her and the others in the Wild West, and she had been taken captive by a raiding party. She had been staked out under the hot desert sun, but at the last moment Heather and Carina had ridden to the rescue, cutting her loose and carrying her away…
Sadly, the first thing she saw was the dummy dressed as her mother, sitting on the bed next to her.
Her arms and legs ached, but there was nothing she could do except wait until her father, mad as he was, came back and untied her, and told her what he had planned for her today.
Soon enough, the door opened and Joe Markham came in, carrying the breakfast tree.
“Did our daughter behave herself, Bev,” he said to the dummy, listening before he said “Good – them we can allow her a little more latitude today.” He walked round and untied Joanne, allowing her to sit up and remove the socks from her hands before she peeled the tape away from her mouth and spat the soaking wet sock out.
“I really need to go to the toilet,” she said with her head bowed.
“Of course,” Joe said as he handed her a bag. “Put these on once you have cleaned yourself up.”
“Thank you,” Jo said as she took the bag and walked into the bathroom. Sitting on the toilet seat, she put her face into her hands and allowed herself a moment to cry, venting her fears and anger as quietly as she could while the water ran from the shower.
Once she was cleaned up and dried off, Joanne looked in the bag. It contained a pair of jeans, and a grey sweatshirt with an old white t-shirt. No socks, no shoes. Putting the clothes on, she walked back in and sat on the bed while Joe gave her some fruit, orange juice and pastries for breakfast.
“Mister,” she said quietly, “I’m really sorry I’m not your daughter, but my friends and family are going to be worried sick. Is there no way I can call them, let them know I am here?”
“We’ve been over this Megan – you’re back with your family now, and your friends will find out soon enough. Trust me – I know what I’m doing. Now, have you finished?”
Joanne slowly nodded, and watched as Joe Markham passed a lasso of rope over her head and pulled her arms tightly into her side. He then ran the rope down and tied her wrists together in front of her, then her legs above her knees, and then her ankles.
“Now get comfy,” he said as he turned the television on, and put the remote in her hands, “you can choose the program today for being such a good girl.”
“Please,” she said as she watched him pick up the roll of tape, “don’t gag me again. I promise, I’ll be quiet.”
Joe looked at her, before saying “All right – but I want you to be here when I get home, all right?”
“All right Mister.” Jo said as she settled on the bed, her ‘mother’ next to her as Joe Markham tied more rope from her ankles to the bottom of the bed. He left the room, bolting the door closed on the other side. Jo tried bending her arms and legs, but with little success, so she chose a cartoon channel and decided to at least have some fun.
The Super 8 motel
“Diana? Time for your shift.”
Diana slowly opened her eyes and looked at Susan.
“What time is it?”
“Eight o’clock – Dominique has gone to find some coffee and breakfast. Well, something resembling coffee at any rate.”
“I take the point,” Diana said as she stretched and stood up. “Any word?”
“Only chatter – the squad car just reported Markham leaving and heading to work. I imagine our friends in the FBI will be talking to the local police right now.”
“What about the van?”
“Nothing – which makes me think they have held off for the moment. We’ll hear when they move – I think Dominique would like to observe.”
“Did someone mention my name,” Dominique said as she came in, carrying a tray with coffee and a bag from McDonald’s.
“Any port in a storm,” Diana said as she took a cup. “What have you got?”
“Breakfast rolls and muffins – as you say, any port in a storm. Let’s see what the morning news has to bring…”
“That’s me,” the tall grey haired man said, “Detective Benson?”
“Pleasure – Agents Carter and Ball, FBI. Any word on Markham?”
“He just left home for the bank. I can’t believe you really suspect him of this – after everything he’s been through…”
“Lieutenant,” Janice Carter said as he sat down, “Agent Ball and I know more about the people the Pussycat Gang have met than anyone, and what happened to them. It pains me to say it, but this may be exactly what he would do if he thinks this girl is Megan.”
“Still – I’ve known Joe for years…”
“Lieutenant Barnes,” Adam said quietly, “there is the life of a young girl at stake here. We all have to put our personal feelings aside. Now, this van that was used – we’ve traced it to a Dominic Walker. Where can we find him at this time of day?”
“Dom Walker? With his brother at the diner, most likely.”
“Have a car swing by, and if they’re there we’ll go to them. I want this cleared up, fast.”
“Agreed – what about Markham?”
“Keep him under surveillance – we don’t move until we know where Joanne Smith is.”
The Super 8 motel
“Now isn’t that interesting?”
“What is?” Susan was towelling her hair as she came in from the bathroom.
“Squad car just rolled past a diner, said the Walker boys were inside.”
“Walker? That’s the name the van was registered to. Want to see fi we can listen?”
“I’ll go,” Dominique said as she stood up. “I’ll call Susan if I hear anything.” She walked out of the room, the two other women listening intently to the radio.
Pop’s Coffee Shop, Lewis Street
As Janice and Adam walked in, the grey haired waitress looked at them and smiled.
“Two coffees please,” Janice said as they slowly sat on the stools, looking round. Her attention was focused on the two men witting in a booth by the window, both dressed in grey overalls and demolishing their breakfasts.
“Not from around here are you,” she said as she poured the coffees.
“No we’re not,” Adam said as he flashed his badge. “Those the Walker brothers?” he then whispered. The waitress nodded and then slipped out the back, as Adam walked over, Janice following him.
“Morning boys,” he said quietly, “You Dom and Charlie Walker?”
“Who wants to know,” the older of the two said.
“We do – FBI,” Janice said as she showed them her badge. The two men looked at each other, and then the one who had spoken threw his plate at Adam, as the other tried to jump over the seats.
“Freeze, boys,” Barnes Sid as he and Benson levelled their weapons at them. “You two are in a shitload of trouble already – don’t be stupid and make it worse.”
The Walkers looked at each other, and then raised their hands as Ball and Carter went behind them, cuffing their wrists together behind their backs.
“What are we meant to have done,” the older one said.
“Try kidnapping, Dom” Benson said, “unless you tell us what happened last Monday when you boys went to New York…”
“What the fuck…”
“Let’s go,” Carter said as she pushed Charlie Walker in front of her, Ball putting some bills on the counter.
“That should cover them and us,” he said as he followed them out.
Outside, Dominique watched from behind the wheel of the Daimler, as the two brothers were pushed into the back of a waiting patrol car. Starting the engine, she followed the convoy, smiling all the time.
The Richmond Mansion
Vanessa embraced Sandy and Heather as she came in.
“Any word yet?”
“All they will tell us is they have a solid lead – someone called Markham, who may think Joanne is his dead daughter. They’ve asked us to be patient.”
“So they think they can rescue her?”
“We hope so,” Sandy said as they sat down, her hand on Heather’s. “Is Uncle Alex coming today?”
“Once morning mass is done, he’ll come over. How are you feeling Heather?”
“Strung out and wishing the nightmare was over,” Heather said. “I just pray she is unhurt and can get over this…”
“Right,” Adam Ball said as he sat in the interview room with Detective Benson, looking at Dominic Walker, “You, my friend, are in it so deep you’re having trouble breathing.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Walker said as he sneered back at them.
“Let’s backtrack,” Adam said. “Where were you last Friday, at about 5 pm?”
“Visiting friends,” Walker snapped back.
“In the Hamptons?” Benson put a photo of Walker and his brother stealing a green truck in front of him. Walker looked to the side, and then said “what about it? So we borrowed a truck – what about it?”
“The same truck was spotted several times that night, following a jeep with three young girls and a young man in it – want to comment on that?”
“Plenty of green trucks out there.”
“True – but one of those girls beat up three locals.”
Walker couldn’t stop himself from smiling – he’s enjoyed watching that – but then he looked at them and said “Poor boys – I bet they never live it down.”
“They won’t,” Ball said. “Now, Monday – you drove into the city with your brother – why?”
“Had some business to take care of there.”
“Buying some books perhaps?”
“Education broadens the mind, agent.”
“Maybe – but then explain this,” Benson said as he showed Walker the security footage of the kidnapping, and the grey van heading off.
“Note the licence plate,” Benson said as he froze the frame. “We traced it to you, and we collected the grey van from the yard of your house this morning. I’m willing to bet we find DNA evidence of the girl inside, what do you think?”
Walker looked at both men, before saying “look, he told us it was getting his daughter back from some cult. We know what that’s like – our Marlene fell in with those Moonies – and he said if we helped him, the mortgage on our place would be paid off.”
“The bank manager – Markham.”
From behind a one way window, Janice Markham said “shit – I was hoping we were wrong.”
In the car parked outside, Dominique sat, the long range microphone pointing at the building, and slowly nodded as she sent a text message.
“What happened,” Diana said as she looked over from the radio.
“Dominique – we were right, which leaves one question. Where the hell has he hidden her?”
“You have one chance, and one chance only Walker,” Benson said as he leaned over the table, “Tell us everything. If your brother backs you up, we can get the charge down to aiding and abetting, and we’ll put a word in with the DA.”
Walker looked at both of them, before he said “all right – Markham approached us a couple of weeks ago, and asked if we would go with him to the Hamptons for the weekend. He’d been following this girl around, and he told us it was his daughter, who had run away from home.”
“Do you guys never read the papers?”
“We don’t know how to read – no television either.”
Carter let out another exclamation behind the glass. “Damn – he picked the right pair for this one,” she muttered to the lieutenant.
“So he told you his daughter had run away – why follow her at the Hamptons?”
“He wanted us to keep an eye on her that night, that’s all – he said the police had stopped him that day, and he didn’t want to get into more trouble. Then on the Sunday, just before we left, he told us to meet him at this address in New York, at about four.”
“Outside the bookstore?”
“That’s right – we waited until we saw this girl come out, and Markham behind her. Charlie opened the side door; he pushed her in and jumped in after her, and then held a cloth to her nose and mouth. She fell asleep after that, and didn’t wake up until we stopped.”
“At his house,” Ball said as he leaned forward.
“Nope – at the parking lot at Pemberwick Park. He carried her to his car, and then drove off.”
“Did he give you the deeds?”
“Yeah – Tuesday morning.”
“Take him back to his cell,” Benson said as the officer helped Walker to stand up. “Was it his daughter,” he asked Ball.
“No – his daughter’s dead. It was an innocent, scared kid.”
Walker looked horrified as he was led off, and Ball looked at the mirror.
“I want a warrant to search Markham’s house,” Carter said quietly.
“Way ahead of you,” Barnes said as he picked up the telephone.
Outside, Dominique switched off the directional microphone, and moved off, heading to the motel.
The Huntingdown apartment
Juliette looked up as Carina and Abigail came in.
“No classes this afternoon?”
“Cancelled – which may be a blessing in disguise,” Abigail said as she sat down. “Any word?”
“Not yet,” Juliette said, but as she spoke her cell phone rang.
“Hello? Diana,” she said as she looked at the other two, “what news?
“Really? We must ask how to get that some time – so the van driver confirmed it was Markham?”
“He’s a dead man,” Carina said as Juliette waved her hand at her to be quiet.
“Right… Right… And they’re sending a car with Carter and Ball to his house now?
“Yes, I know Dominique said it was empty – let’s hope they manage to find something. Keep me posted. ‘Bye.”
“So now they know as well,” Cari said quietly. “The endgame is coming.”
“Agreed,” Juliette said as she stood up. “Go and get changed – we need to be able to move out at a moment’s notice.”
“Not to the Farm yet?”
Juliette shook her head. “No – too soon. Less suspicion the better.”
Cos Cob, the Markham house
Carter and Ball got out of the car, their FBI jackets on as they walked up to the front door, and knocked loudly.
“He’s at work,” the neighbour said. Janice nodded at Adam, who signalled to the other car, the two officers getting out and carrying a battering ram with them.
“Do it,” Ball said, and they stood back as the two officers broke the front door down.
“Move,” Ball said as he drew his weapon, Carter following suit as they entered the house. The front room was a mess, with papers scattered everywhere, and as they checked the kitchen it was obvious nobody had lived there for weeks.
“Check upstairs,” Ball said, the two police officers running up as Carter made her way to the cellar door. Throwing it open, she switched on the light and moved slowly down, taking care not to be seen until she reached the bottom.
The cellar was empty, and as she came back up the two officers came down, shaking their heads.
“Where the hell is she,” Carter said as she looked at Ball. Looking at the kitchen table, she saw some maps of the local area, with some parts circled.
“Could be,” Ball said as they holstered their guns. He sniffed the air, and said “My god – are the drains blocked up or something?”
Carter sniffed as well. “Something smells off – as if it was decomposing. Boys, take a look through the papers on the floor there.”
The two officers stepped forward, but one of them stopped as they heard a click from under his shoe.
“What was that,” Ball said as he walked over, and used a pen to lift the paper the officer had stood on. “Fuck,” he said as he sniffed again, “that’s not decomposing – that’s ammonia, and the papers are soaked with…” He looked at the red glow under the papers, and shouted “Everyone – out. NOW!!!”
The four officers ran out of the building, before they were thrown to the ground by the windows of the Markham house blowing out, flames licking up the inside of the front room.
“He booby trapped his own house?” Carter sat up and watched as the house was rapidly alight, the flames licking up the sides.
Ball nodded. “Petrol soaked paper, and an electric fuse set off by the shoe. Fucking hell – we’ll lose everything.”
“Not everything,” Carter said, as she held up the map from the kitchen table. “Not everything.”
The Super 8 Motel
“Shit,” Susan said as Dominique and Diana looked at her.
“Fire engines on their way to Cos Cob – the Markham house is burning.”
“Hmmm – I’ll let Juliette know. She had an idea for Abby and Cari to take care of that – very considerate of Markham to take care of it.”
“But it means Markham may know they are on to him – especially if he has some sort of alarm set up,” Dominique said quietly.
“Feds agree – Carter has told the local PD to watch Markham, and she’s given them a number of locations to monitor.”
Diana looked at both of them, before saying “I think it’s time. Have we accessed their secure lines?”
“I’ll get onto it now – what are you going to do?”
“Get them to the Farm, and ready,” Diana said as she dialled a number.
The Richmond Mansion.
Heather almost jumped out of her skin as her cell phone rang.
“Agent Carter – any news?
“Right – I understand. We’ll be there as soon as we can.”
Sandy, Vanessa and Alex looked at her as she ended the call, clasped the phone in her hands and offered up a silent prayer.
“They have a breakthrough – they want me with them as fast as possible.”
“I’m driving you,” Sandy said as she jumped up. “Mother, can you collect the children from school, and then watch them?”
“We both will,” Alex said as he hugged them both. “Let us know as soon as you hear anything.”
“We will,” Heather said as they ran out of the house, and jumped into Sandy’s car.
“The Farm – and bugger the speed traps,” Heather screamed as Sandy screeched away.
The Huntingdown Mansion
Carina and Abigail were sitting at the breakfast bar when the phone rang.
“Diana? Got it – we’re on our way.”
The two girls looked at their mother as she ended the call.
“We’re going to the Farm – now. And I have a little job for you two.”
“Torch his house?”
“No need – he’s already done that. No, I want you to set something else in flames – but I’ll tell you when we get up there.”
Greenwich, the Long Island Sound Bank.
“Is everything all right, Mister Markham?”
The clerks looked at Joe Markham as he emerged from his office.
“No, not really – there’s a fire at my house. I need to get back – can you lock up tonight Tony?”
“Sure thing,” The assistant manager said as Joe left the bank, and got into his car. As he drove off, the officer watching called in.
“Bravo zero, this is bravo two. Mark is on the move. Heading north.”
“Roger that, bravo two, follow at a distance and report route.”
At the police station, Carter and Ball followed the route on a map.
“Well he’s not heading home. We have cars at all the locations on that map?”
Barnes nodded as they listened to the chatter on the radio.
“On standby – they’ll need time to get to wherever he is, but so will we. I presume you want the softly softly approach first?”
Janice nodded as she looked at the others. “He’s gone mad, but he needs help if he will accept it.”
“Well,” Diana said as she slowly moved the pointer on Google Map, “He’s heading north. Wherever it is, it cannot be that far from Cos Cob or the bank.”
Susan nodded as she listened with one ear, and read text messages with the other. “They’ve set up surveillance at various points…”
Dominique looked at her cell phone as it rang. “Juliette?”
“Yeah – we’re at the farm. Sandy and Heather have the gear loaded into a van, and I’m sending Cari and Abby to tie up a loose end. What happened at the bank?”
“Markham left – the branch is due to close at six, why?”
“Better you don’t know – how are we doing on a location?”
“They’re knocking them off one by one – stand by.”
“Come on, Markham, where are you heading to…”
Ball glanced at the clock – it was nearly four thirty, and still no sign of him stopping…
“Bravo zero, this is Bravo Two. Mark has stopped, I repeat, mark has stopped.”
“Roger that Bravo two. State location.”
“West Fork Pond – he went up a side lane and I’m parked across the road now. Sending co-ordinates by secure text.”
Barnes looked at his phone, and then at the map. “There,” he said as he pointed to the north shore of a lake. “Someone get Google Earth up and show me a picture.”
As Carter worked on her laptop, she zoomed in on the co-ordinates. “There’s the road – and there, in the trees one house, with nothing else for miles around.”
“Bravo two, this is bravo zero – proceed on foot and investigate, report back in fifteen. We are on stand by.”
The Super 8 Motel.
“Got it,” Diana said as she looked at her laptop. “Dominique, come and look with me.”
Dominique looked at the picture on the screen.
“Hmmm – in a clearing, with one road up. Any idea where the SWAT team are congregating?”
“Outskirts of Greenwich – I have the rendezvous point,” Susan said as she continued to monitor the texts.
“Then it’s time we moved as well,” Diana said. “Send the message to Ju – we meet a mile from the SWAT team.”
“There’s a car park we can use,” Susan said as she typed a message.
“There – and there,” Dominique said as she pointed to two points on the screen.
Diana looked, and nodded. “Make a note – we need to drive now.”
“All right,” Juliette said as she looked at them, “you know what you have to do?”
The four other women nodded. Cari and Abby were dressed for a night on the town, while Heather was already in her SWAT padded outfit. Sandy was wearing a Greenwich PD uniform.
“Put these on,” Juliette said as she handed each of them an earpiece and mike. “They’re tuned to a frequency I’m monitoring, so you can talk to me and me to you. Heather, give Susan one when you meet up.”
The women nodded as they put on the headsets, and then looked at each other.
“Then let’s go to it – Girls, you take the two cars. Ladies, we meet with the others in fifteen minutes. Good luck, and good hunting.”
Abby and Cari went out and climbed into their cars, checking the two pistols they had brought, and then headed towards the town centre, while Sandy drove a van in the opposite direction…
The Markham Residence
Joanne looked at the door as it was unbolted, and Joe Markham came in, smiling broadly as he removed his tie.
“Had a good day, Megan,” he said as he leaned over and kissed “Bev” on her lips, and then kissed Joanne’s forehead.
“Boring – I really want to go home,” Joanne said, but as she did so she noticed her captor was more agitated than usual. “Is something wrong?”
“Wrong? No no – nothing wrong, but there is a possibility we may have some visitors calling, and I want to make sure we are ready if they do come,” Joe said as he checked the windows. “I’m afraid dinner may have to wait until they have gone if they come.”
“But I think it’s nice that people might come and visit,” Joanne said quietly, realising why he may be so nervous. “Mom likes to talk to people as well, doesn’t she?”
“Yes, yes she does,” Joe said quietly as he walked to the chest of drawers, “but these visitors may want to talk to me, and I’m going to make sure they can only talk to me. Open your mouth Megan.”
“No – no you don’t have to do this, mister, they may want to talk to mmssswwlll.”
“I can’t allow that,” Joe said as he stuffed a sock into Joanne’s mouth, and then wound the white tape tightly round her head. “Just sit quietly, there’s a good girl.”
Joanne could only watch, more and more afraid as Markham nervously paced the floor.
North Shore, West Fork Pond
“Well,” Adam Ball said as they got out of the car.
“It’s the place all right,” the office replied, “Markham’s car is parked outside, and the upper windows are al shuttered and boarded over. There are lights on, and I can hear talking, but I came back as ordered.”
“Good man,” Carter said. “Guard this road – only authorised personnel in. Ball, Benson, Barnes – let’s go. You four,” she said as she pointed to the officers that came in the second car, “Back up. When I radio you, get the SWAT team here as fast as possible.”
In an isolated car park, Diana drew up alongside the white van.
“Location confirmed,” she said to Juliette as they got out, and she popped the trunk. “Dominique and I are going in by foot – we can be there in fifteen if we go across country.”
“Go,” Juliette said as she handed them each a headset, “and the Goddess go with you.”
Diana nodded as she handed Dominique a rifle bag, and the two of them set off across country.
“Susan – in the back now,” Heather said, and as Susan climbed in the back of the van Juliette placed her hand to her ear.
“This is team alpha – we’re in position.”
“All right team alpha – do what you have to do, and then head back to the Farm.”
“Just bring her out safely,” she heard in her ear as Sandy climbed out. “Get them to the SWAT team, and then make your way to the road to the house. Tell them you’re there to co-ordinate the clean up teams.”
Sandy nodded as she got behind the wheel and drove off, Juliette sitting in the car with the monitors and watching the messages as they went past.
Long Island Sound bank, Greenwich.
“Ready for this?”
Carina nodded as they stepped out of the Mercedes and looked round. Both girls were wearing black fur jackets and tight leather micro mini skirts, dark tights, heels and gloves, while auburn bob cut wigs covered their hair. Dark glasses completed the outfit, as they walked into the bank and looked round.
“NOBODY FUCKIN” MOVE!!” Cari shouted in a West Coast accent as Abby drew her pistol from her handbag and fired a shot into the air, “THIS IS A ROBBERY. EVERYONE, FACE DOWN ON THE FUCKIN” FLOOR, HANDS WHERE WE CAN SEE THEM.”
“Touch that silent alarm,” Abby said as she looked at Tony the assistant manager, his hand under the counter, “and you die. Your choice.”
“Yours too, hero,” Cari said as she pointed her pistol at the security guard, “just toss that gun over here, real careful.”
She watched as the young man took his pistol out, and tossed it across the floor.
“Very nice – now everyone face down on the floor – except you handsome,” Cari said as she threw a bag at Tony, “fill that up – all the money from the shelves.”
Abby went round the counter and moved into the back, looking at the two clerks as she said “I thought we told you to get on the fuckin’ floor?”
They both lay down as Tony filled the sack, and Abby went into Markham’s office. Putting her gun down, she took several phials from her pocket, and opened the drawers of the filing cabinet, pouring the contents of one of each of the phials into the papers and watching as the strong acid got to work.
She then forced open the desk drawers and poured more acid in, before placing a small metal box next to the computer. Pressing a button on the side, she stood back and watched as a humming sound built up, and then small wisps of smoke appeared from the ventilation vents on the computer.
“How are we doing,” she said in a California drawl as she came out, pocketing the metal box as she did so.
“Not bad,” Cari said as she forced Tony to lie on the floor as well. “Take care of business?”
“Sure did – let’s go.”
“Who the hell are you,” Tony said as he looked up.
“Us – we rob banks. Have a nice day, y’all,” Abby said as they ran out, and climbed into the car, setting off at speed.
“This is team alpha – mission accomplished. See you on the flipside.”
They drove for about four minutes, before pulling into the parking lot they had visited earlier. Taking the bags from the old Merc, they put them in the trunk of the Toyota and then headed off again, towards the farm.
At the car park, Juliette nodded as she also heard Sandy say “This is team beta – packages have been delivered.”
In the woods on the north shore of the lake, Dominique and Diana crouched and looked at the house in the clearing, and the four people walking up to it. Nodding to each other, they split up, heading in opposite directions.
Dominique made her way to the far side of the clearing, and took up position, looking at the house as she checked her rifle.
“Listen up everyone,” she heard Juliette say, “Bank has been dealt with. What’s happening?”
“This is gamma one,” she then heard Diana say, “Agents have got to the front door. I think she’s going to try and talk him round first – we’re in position.”
In the staging area, Susan and Heather sat with the real SWAT team, helmets on, goggles raised, listening to their conversation while listening to Juliette at the same time.
“Listen up,” the unit commander called out, “the FBI agents are at the door. Move out!”
“Are you sure you want to do this,” Benson said as he looked at Carter and Ball.
“We don’t have a choice,” she said as she opened the door and walked in, Adam Ball following. “Mister Markham,” she called out as they closed the door behind themselves, “It’s Janice Carter. We met last year after the robbery, remember.”
There was no reply, as they walked into the downstairs area. It was furnished exactly like the Markham house in Cos Cob, right down to the carpet.
“Joe, we know you are in here, and you can hear us. We just want to talk to you, find a way to get you out of this mess you’re in.”
“We’re fine, and we don’t need you running our lives again,” they heard Markham call down from upstairs. Ball motioned to the two police officers, who went either side of the stairway.
“Joe,” Janice called up, “We know you’re hurting, but the girl you have up there is not your daughter. She looks like her, but I look like a young Diane Keaton. That’s all it is – a superficial similarity.”
Joanne watched from the bed as Joe Markham stood in the doorway, shouting his replies down the stairs as he cradled an old shotgun in his hands. “I found Megan, and you’re not going to take her away from us again.”
“Joe,” she heard the agent reply, “That’s not Megan. Her name is Joanne Smith, and her family are very worried about her. Let her come down, and then we can talk, try to figure out how we can help you.”
“Plslssllssnthr,” Joanne mumbled through the cotton and tape.
“Keep quiet, Megan, this is between me and the home wrecker,” Markham said to her.
Carter heard the comment, and whispered to Ball “She’s up there with him. SWAT team?”
“Moving into position now,” Ball whispered back.
“Joe,” Janice said as she started to climb the stairs, “I just want to help you to get better. What happened was a tragedy, but taking this girl has caused even more pain and heartache. You don’t want that, do you?”
“Stay away,” Markham called out, “I’m armed. You won’t get to me the way you did last time.”
“What did I do last time, Joe.”
Joe Markham stared wide eyed at Joanne, before saying “You took my darling Megan, Miss fucking Panther – and you won’t do it again.”
“Joe,” Janice said as she climbed two more steps, “I’m coming up just to talk to you.”
“Stay away,” Markham called out as he slammed the door shut, and then wedged a chair under the door handle.
“Have you got a signature?”
“Roger that commander,” the surveillance unit said, “two warm bodies, upstairs bedroom. Access possible by roof.”
“You four, take up positions,” he said as he motioned with his hands, the four SWAT team members moving silently and carefully to the side of the house, and onto the roof of the porch. They crouched down, as one of them started to cut the wires round the window.
“This is gamma two,” Dominique said from her vantage point, “SWAT team are in position to storm the second floor if need be. I see them cutting wires. Four more at rear of building.”
Juliette put her hands together, and said “Sandy, you’re up.”
Sandy nodded as she got out of the van and walked over to the officer.
“Hey – you’re new aren’t you?”
“Just started this week,” Sandy said as she watched the pathway.
Adam stood at the top of the stairs as Janice slowly approached the door.
“Joe, this is Janice Carter speaking…”
“You’re not fooling me Panther – you and your friends split this family apart once, and I won’t let you do it again.”
“Look, Joe – I’m slipping my ID under the door,” Janice said as she leaned down and pushed the card under.
“That proves nothing – you could have killed her and stolen it.”
“Joe, you have to trust me…”
“No fucking way, bitch – my daughter and my wife were ripped from me, and now we’re back together again.”
“Joe, I know it is hard to accept, but that is not your daughter.”
“YES IT IS!” Markham screamed as Carter ducked – a scream echoed inside as a round of shot was fired through the door, narrowly missing her.
“Gamma one, Gamma two, report!”
“Looks like they’re going in,” Diana said as she watched the group of men and women moved round.
“Shit,” Carter mumbled under her breath, and she then signalled to Ball.
“Tactical team one – go,” he said.
“You heard the man,” the squad leader said, the four now six, as he forced open the shutters and fired a round of tear gas in, before the six went in.
The room was filled with acrid smoke, as they saw Joe Markham standing the doorway – and Joanne sitting on the bed, bound and gagged.
Joe Markham started to fire shot after shot at the windows, as the SWAT team came in, shouting out “Police!! Drop Your Weapons!!”
“YOU’LL NOT TAKE HER AGAIN!”
Joanne screamed and shut her eyes as Joe Markham turned the gun on her, and a single shot rang out. As she opened them again, she saw one of the SWAT team standing over him, his lifeless eyes looking up as a red spot grew darker in the centre of his head.
“Target down, I repeat target down,” she heard the officer say, in a voice that sounded strangely familiar. As two of the team went and opened the door, the other came over and looked at Joanne.
“It’s all right now, it’s over,” one of them said – in a British accent? Joanne stared at the officer, who nodded as the tape was cut away from her mouth and the sock eased out.
She looked up and nodded as Janice Carter looked at her.
“Who took the kill shot?”
The SWAT officer raised the weapon in acknowledgment.
Carter nodded as Ball came in. “Get an ambulance up here,” she said as she started to untie Joanne, the SWAT team moving out to secure the rest of the house – leaving the one who had shot Markham and the other accented officer with them.
“Is it over,” Joanne said in a quiet voice.
“It’s over Joanne,” Janice Carter said with a smile as she removed the ropes, “it’s over.”
“This is gamma one – mark is down and removed. They did it – we’re coming back to you.”
Dominique watched as Joanne was led out of the house to the newly arrived ambulance, the two SWAT officers leaving her with the paramedic before they joined the other team members. Smiling, she holstered the rifle and started to walk back.
Sandy smiled and nodded as she slipped away from the stream of traffic heading to the house, returning to the van before she drove off.
And at the Farm, Cari and Abby hugged each other, glad that their sister was coming home.
The Richmond Mansion
Alex looked at Vanessa as the telephone rang. Walking over, he picked up the receiver and said “Richmond residence?
“Oh thank you,” he said as he looked at Vanessa and nodded, “Indeed, I give thanks and rejoice. We’ll hear from you soon.”
“She’s safe and free,” Alex said as he put the handset down. “Heather is on her way to Greenwich Hospital to see her now. They’ll call later.”
Vanessa sank into the chair, weeping openly as Alex sat and held her…
The McNally residence.
Judy looked at her cell phone, and let out a loud yelp as she jumped to her feet, dialling as she did so.
“Ally? Spread the word – they found Jo, and she’s safe.”
“Where is she?”
The receptionist looked up as Heather came running in, Sandy behind her.
“I’m sorry Miss…”
“Smith – Heather Smith. Where’s my sister?”
“Heather – over here.”
Both women turned to see Janice Carter standing in the entrance to the treatment area. They walked over and joined her as she led them to an examination room, and opened the door.
“JO!!!” Heather ran over and embraced the teenager, who was sitting in a hospital gown on the edge of the bed.
“Hey – good to see you as well,” Jo said as she hugged Heather back, “Sorry I…”
“Shut up,” Heather said quietly, “Just shut up and let me hold you.”
“Where is everyone else,” she finally said as Heather put her hands on her shoulders and looked at her.
“Waiting to see you,” Sandy said, “we have been worried sick. I’ve told them to wait until tomorrow – this is time for you and Heather.”
“And you,” Jo said as she held an arm out, “you’re part of the family too after all.”
The three women hugged each other as Janice watched. “We need to get a statement from Joanne, and she needs to stay in all night for observation, but she should be able to go home tomorrow.”
“We’re staying too – if that’s all right,” Heather said, “and thank you – thank you for bringing her back to us.”
“Just doing our job,” Janice said, turning to hide her own tears.
“Ladies,” Juliette said as she popped the champagne, “I think a little celebration is in order, just between ourselves.”
She poured the champagne into six glasses, and handed them round, Dominique smiling as she accepted hers.
“It is not often I am glad I did not need to do something,” she said as she sat down, “bur on this occasion, I am happy. It was a masterful stroke, Juliette – my congratulations.”
“All we did was step in and give things a little nudge,” Diana said as she sat with Abby and Cari, “really, all the hard work was done by Agent Carter and her team.”
“Sandy and Heather should be here as well,” Abby said as she sipped from her glass.
“We will celebrate with them – all of them – tomorrow,” Juliette said. “But I must ask – was it Heather who made the kill shot?”
Susan nodded. “She did it to defend Joanne – Markham had gone totally insane, and was pointing a shotgun at her. It was quick, clean and merciful – more than he deserved for how he treated her.”
Diana shook her head. “If it had been me, it would have been painful. Still, it is at an end.”
“Agreed,” Dominique said, “as I believe is our role here.”
“No,” Juliette said, “Stay for the weekend. At the least, I want you both there when Joanne comes home.”
“Very well,” Dominique said as she looked at Susan, “We accept.”
Friday 25th April
“I’m not sure how much more I can tell you, Agent Carter,” Joanne said as she sat up in bed, “I was pushed into the van, put to sleep, and woke up in that place. The man kept me tied up and gagged most of the time – the one time he didn’t, I tried to escape, but he still caught me.”
Janice sat by the bed, Adam Ball standing against the wall, and took a few notes.
“Well, from what we managed to recover from the place you were kept, he had indeed been watching you for some time, Joanne – but it’s over now. Joe Markham was killed last night, and he cannot hurt you or anyone else anymore.”
“I still don’t understand why he chose me,” Joanne said as she looked at the bruises on her wrists.
“I think you were just very unlucky,” Janice said with a smile as Heather and Sandy came in.
“The doctor says you’re free to go whenever you want,” Heather said as she put a bag on the bed. “Always assuming your rescuer from last night is in agreement.”
“Totally,” Janice said as she stood up, “We know where to find you, but I honestly think the best thing we can do is let you go home, and put this behind you.”
“Thanks – again,” Joanne said as Carter and Ball left the room.
“I hope you don’t mind,” Sandy said, “but there’s a party waiting for you when you get home.”
“So long as I’m with my family, I don’t mind,” Joanne said as she looked at them. “But there is one question you need to answer before we do anything else.”
“What’s that,” Heather said as she opened the bag.
“Why was Susan there last night? And was she the only one?”
Heather turned and looked at Joanne. “I’ll answer your questions later, in private. For now, however, put these on.” She took out a set of clothes and laid them out. “You’re coming home.”
Half an hour later, Joanne slowly walked out of the reception, wearing a black hoodie and a pair of jeans with sneakers.
“So where are we going – the Farm,” she said as she sat in the back of Sandy’s car.
“Nope – back to the city,” Heather said as she held Joanne’s hand. “We have something to show you.”
“Oh great – what could it be, I wonder?”
“Wait and see,” Sandy said as she set off, “Wait and see.”
The Richmond Mansion
“Home sweet home,” Sandy said as she pulled up outside. Jo got out of the car and took a deep breath, smiling for the first time in a week.
“It feels so good to be back,” she said quietly as Heather collected some bags from the trunk of the car. “Give me a hand with these, will you Jo,” she said as she held two of them out.
“Some things never change, do they,” Joanne said as she took the bags, and followed Sandy into the hallway.
Jo looked at the hand painted banner, saying “WELCOME HOME JOANNE” as Carina and Abigail grabbed her from the sides, giving her the biggest of bear hugs.
“We made this for you,” Little George and Sandy said as they stood at the bottom of the stairs, all smiles as Joanne came over and hugged both of them.
“You know what – I think I missed you two most of all,” she said as she hugged and kissed both of them.
“Ugh – she kissed me,” Little George said as he wiped Jo’s lipstick off. The young boy looked embarrassed, but he still hugged her back.
“Welcome back,” Juliette said as she came out and hugged Joanne, closely followed by Diana.
“Thanks,” Joanne said quietly, “I knew you guys would come for me.”
“We’ll talk about that later,” Diana said, “for now – others are waiting inside.”
“There you are child,” Alex said as he and Vanessa came out, adding to the number of hugs she had received. “How are you feeling?”
“Hugged to death,” Joanne said, “but it’s good to see you again, Alex. You too, Vanessa.”
“I’m just glad you came back safe to us, child,” Vanessa said as she hugged Joanne as well. “All our prayers have been answered.”
“Talking of which,” Heather said, you never looked to see what was in the bag.”
“I presumed it was my uniform,” Joanne said as she looked in, and then drew out a handbag. “Is this a Vuitton?”
“A gift from Mary, Anne and Fiona at the office,” Juliette said, “but you need to look inside.”
Startled, Joanne looked in and drew out a set of car keys.
“What on earth are these for,” Jo said as she looked at the others. Heather said nothing, but guided Jo to the front door, and said “Look down there.”
Jo looked at the cars parked outside, including a brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee. She then looked at the keys, before she said “no…”
“Yes,” Carina said with a smile, “a welcome home present. We all chipped in – Alexander, Vanessa – Abby and I even contributed.”
“But there’s no way you can afford that!”
“Yes well, we had a little help,” Sandy said as she looked at Heather.
Pussy…. I mean Patricia." Heather laughed, "heard that we were
pooling our cash to get you a car, she came and gave me a check for $10.000 and
said if we needed any more then she'd make up the difference.”
wow!" Jo looked amazed.
"So between us all we got you this as a welcome home present little sister."
“I don’t know what to say…”
“Say you’re driving us all to the beach this weekend.”
“JUDY!!” Joanne turned and hugged her friend, lifting her off the ground. “I am so so sorry you saw me being taken…”
“You’re safe back – that’s what matters, right Angels?”
Joanne looked past her to see most of her school friends, and Ally amongst others, standing in the hallway.
“Come on,” Cari said as she took Jo by the hand, “we have a party to go to, right here, and it’s in your honour.”
happened while I was away?" Jo eagerly asked her friends.
had a prayer service for you at church, Nell and a few Nuns actually
came." Judy replied.
Holly Berryman…." Abby reported.
mean you and Holly were in the same room and didn't
scratch each other’s eyes out?" Jo looked quizzically at Carina.
of buried the hatchet." Carina looked a little embarrassed.
in each other’s head." Judy giggled.
“A miracle by all reports.”
Joanne laughed it was good to be home again with her friends.
As she joined the others, Judy pulled Cari and Bobbi to one side. “Hey – that thing we discussed. Still think we can do it?”
“Possibly,” Cari said quietly, “We’ll talk about it tomorrow…”
FBI Field Office, New York
Tom Callahan finished reading the field report, and then looked at Janice and Adam as they sat on the other side of his desk.
“A real tragedy,” he said as he closed the file, “but you brought it to the best conclusion possible. Markham died, but you got Joanne Smith out alive, and to me that’s a win.”
Janice nodded. “I know, and we get precious few of them where those women have been, but it is a win this time. The SWAT officer took him down before he became a murderer.”
“Well, Benson and the other officers aid you were both invaluable – especially after that booby trap at his house yesterday. Pity that happened – and the bank robbery?”
“Yeah – and this is going to sound awful, but it was his bank. A pair of women – NOT the pussycats – stole the cash from the clerks, and destroyed the computers inside. Just a pair of teenagers according to the deputy manager.”
“You know what,” Janice said, “I’m leaving that one to someone else. I need to get home.”
“I agree,” Tom said, “someone else does as well.”
Janice turned and smiled as a ten year old girl came in.
“Hey there sweetie,” she said as she went over and picked up the girl, “what are you doing here?”
“Granny said we could go to the park – can we mommy?”
Janice kissed the little girl and then looked at Tom and Adam.
“Get out of here,” Callahan said with a smile, “I’ll see you on Monday, God willing.”
“Come on Katy,” Janice said as she put the girl down, “where’s granny?”
“Waiting at your desk.”
“Well, let’s go and get my bag – we can eat out tonight and you can pick.”
“Can we have burgers?”
“If that’s what you want, it shall be,” Janice said as they walked down the office.
The Huntingdown Apartment
Joanne stepped into the apartment with Carina and Abigail, shaking her head.
“I can’t believe I helped engineer a truce, however inadvertently,” she said as Carina closed the door. “How long is it likely to last?”
“Until the summer break – but they will look to you and the other two next year to guide after that.”
“And I don’t believe that either – me, a Head Girl?”
“Hey – you’ve earned it.”
“Susan,” Joanne said as she went over and hugged the young Brit, “Thank you – thank you more than I can say. I still do not understand how you came to be there, though.”
“We were sent to help – my friend Dominique. Dom, this is Joanne Smith.”
“The pleasure is mine,” Dominique said as she stepped forward, Jo shaking her hand as she looked up at her.
“Just out of interest, how often has Cari said she’s been overshadowed these last few days?”
“No comment,” Cari said as the others laughed.
“Where are Juliette and the others?”
“They’re coming,” Abby said as they went into the drawing room.
“So when is somebody going to tell me what happened, and why Susan was in the room?”
“Let me ask a question first,” Dominique said as she looked at Joanne, “How did you feel when you saw your father fall?”
Jo looked at the others, as Cari said “She knows – we had to tell them.”
“My family is here,” Joanne said quietly. “As I told him the whole week, my name is Joanne Smith, not Megan Markham. He was going to kill me – and I’m sorry, but I’m glad he’s dead.”
“So say all of us,” Juliette said as she came in, followed by Diana, Sandy and Heather.
“All right – so how come it took so long?”
“Mainly because Joe Markham had us over a barrel,” Juliette said as she sat down, “if we had come in and rescued you, he would have been proven right. We had to let the powers that be be the ones to find you.”
“But Susan and Dominique?”
“Madame asked us to help,” Susan said, “and we were delighted to do so. When it was clear they were close to finding you, Diana came with us and helped to set things up.”
“If by some fluke Markham had tried to escape,” Dominique said quietly, “Diana and I were ready to stop him. But we did not bring him down.”
“No,” Heather said quietly, “I swore I would be the one, and I was.”
“Goddess,” Joanne said, “you AND Susan were in the SWAT team?”
“Yeah – they got all the fun. We just got to rob the bank again and destroy all their computer records.”
“With your old home burning down, it’s over,” Sandy said, “finally.”
“Good,” Joanne said, “he really had gone totally mad. Did you two see the Mom dummy?”
“I did,” Heather said, “and that was bad enough.”
“I knew you would be looking for me,” Joanne said quietly, “and that kept me going. Thank you – thank you all.”
“It was our pleasure,” Dominique said with a smile.
“Which reminds me,” Juliette said with a smile, “Heather?”
"Dominique, on behalf of the other girls I'd like to present you with a little present." Heather held out a small gift wrapped item.
"Oh!" Dominique choked with emotion.
it." Carina giggled as the tall woman took the packet from Heather.
"Alright." Dominique slowly peeled the wrapping paper away and inside found a small jewellery box.
"Look inside." Heather urged.
Opening the box, the tall Englishwoman found a small jewelled cat.
"Oh ladies, you shouldn't have…. Thank you!" Dominique looked at it intensely.
Civet, Susan is already a Pussycat, and we'd like you to accept the title ‘Miss
Civet’ with all our thanks." Heather said as she hugged Dominique.
"Thank you." Jo also came and hugged the now tearful Englishwoman. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
“I… I genuinely do not know what to say.”
“Good – get dressed,” Juliette said, “we’re going out for dinner.”
“Sounds good to me,” Jo said as Susan and Dominique left the room.
“There is one more piece of news we need to tell you,” Carina said with a smile, “Mom and I visited Doctor Reichmann this morning – and we’ve got something to show you.”
She took a small brown envelope from her bag and removed a black and white photo, which she passed round.
“Oh my,” Sandy said as she and Heather looked at the picture, and then passed it to Diana.
“Une si belle image,” she said as she showed it to Abigail, who shared it with Joanne.
“Oh my,” Joanne said as she looked at the little clenched fist, “so do you know?”
“We do,” Juliette said as she hugged Cari. “Ladies, the colour for the autumn this year will be pink…”
9 pm Daniel, East 65th St
The group of nine were sat at a round table, talking and laughing quietly amongst themselves. Juliette wore a long yellow silk gown with a halter neck and jewelled front panel, while Diana was in a crimson gown with a faux wrap as part of the off the shoulder top.
Heather and Sandy were wearing dresses of the same design – a wrap style top, with rose details at the front, a sash around the waist in a deeper colour and a wrap style skirt. The only difference was Sandy wore a purple dress, and Heather a red one.
Susan had donned a pale yellow Grecian style dress, while Dominique wore a black strapless dress with a skirt slit up one side, allowing the men nearby to see her legs as she walked.
As for the girls, Joanne was wearing a black strapless evening dress, with a see through jacket on top, and Abigail a white dress with shoulder straps that had gold clasps on the top.
Carina wore a dark blue dress, gathered under her slight bump, with a mid-length skirt. All the women wore pearls and jewellery to their taste, as they sat round a table, eating, drinking and talking.
“So,” Dominique said as she put her glass down, “When would you care to go for that afternoon we discussed, Diana?”
“How about Sunday?”
“Okay I’ll confirm the flights home for Monday.”
Susan laughed as she said, “Yes Dom, you’ll need Sunday night to recover.”
“Cherie my sessions aren’t THAT tough.”
Every woman at the table looked accusingly at Diana.
“Okay,” she laughed, “maybe they are a little bit strenuous at times. Good thing though, it helped Heather and Susan look and behave like convincing SWAT officers.”
“That’s true,” Joanne acknowledged, “I never picked them out until Susan spoke as she released me.”
“Maybe I need to send my people to spend time at the farm with you Diana?” Dominique mused.
“That’s maybe more people knowing about us then I’m comfortable with.” Juliette stated.
Dominique nodded as she said “Well, I was thinking we would bus them in blindfolded, and Diana and anyone else wears a mask at all times.”
“That might work Juliette.” Diana acknowledged.
“I’ll think on it Dominique, we do owe you a favour. Tell you what - after you go out with Diana on Sunday tell me if you still think there’s value in bringing your girls to work with her, I can talk it over with Madame then.”
“That suits me Juliette.”
“So how do we score such a great table in a place like this Juliette.” Susan asked changing the subject.
“Yeah I read it was impossible to book a table at Daniel unless you book weeks ahead.” Dominique said.
“I dropped Abby’s name.” Juliette laughed, “Used to be my name worked, now I have to exploit hers.”
Susan and the others laughed.
“Well I know people who are green with envy that I know Abby.” Susan remarked proudly.
“Well I’m proud I know you Susan.” Abigail smiled at her friend.
“So what plans Susan?” Juliette asked. “Back to California for you?”
“Well it’s only tentative but I might be moving to New York.”
“Madame’s thinking of reopening a New York office.” Dominique explained quietly.
“Indeed - I just need to get Clint round to the idea – he’s a true West Coast boy.”
“My husband – he is one of Maddy’s drivers.”
“Oh that’d be amazing.” Carina exclaimed. “Maybe we can help get Clint a job out here – John must have some contacts.”
“Well either of you is welcome to stay at my place while it’s being set up.” Juliette said warmly.
“Have you any ‘work’ scheduled Juliette?” Dominique said in a low tone.
“I have one or two ideas,” Juliette said as she looked towards a table at the far side of the floor. A middle aged couple were sitting there, their two daughters making rude gestures and abusing the waiters. “Nothing definite as of yet – we need to factor in Carina’s pregnancy for now.”
“Well, if you ever need an extra pair of hands…”
Juliette looked at the tall woman, before saying “Why, would you like to come work with us?”
“Very much.” Dominique acknowledged. “As I said I’m a big fan.”
“Well if Madame approved, I’m sure we can work something out.” Juliette smiled.
“Joanne, mah wee dahlin, it is so guid tae see yae!”
The group looked over as Fiona walked over to them, in her red velvet skirt, silk blouse and wrap.
“Are ye feeling aw right, lass,” she said as she embraced Joanne and kissed her.
“I’m fine, honestly Fiona,” Jo said, “just a bit stiff and sore. Thank you for the lovely gift, though.”
“Ye’re welcome lassie – I jest wanted to come and say hi.” She looked round the table, and said “Friends, Ju?”
“A British relative, Fiona. This is my niece Susan and her friend Dominique.”
“A reel pleasure,” she said as she looked at both of them, especially at Dominique. “Ye remind me aw somwan – hae ye ever been a model?”
“I’m afraid not, no,” Dominique said quietly, “but thank you for the compliment.”
“Ay well – I gae back taemarraw, so I’ll see ye for the family shoot. Stay safe, all aw ye,” she said as she walked away.
“That was interesting,” Juliette said as she looked at Dominique, “Fiona has almost as good a memory as Mary. Is there something you wish to share, dear?”
“Not here,” Dominique said quietly, “perhaps later.”
The Huntingdown Apartment
Juliette, Carina, Susan and Dominique were sitting in the drawing room of the apartment, with mugs of hot chocolate and dressed in nightwear, as Carina said, “So why might Fiona think she knew you?”
“Very possibly,” Dominique said quietly, “because she knew my mother.”
“My mother – Stella Jameson.”
Juliette stared hard at Dominique for a moment, before she said quietly “You’re Stella’s daughter? Oh my dear, if I had known…”
“It’s all right – very few people do know, and I prefer it that way. I trust to your discretion on that.”
Carina and Susan were looking at both of them. “I’ve heard the name – she was a model in the 80’s right?”
“One of the top ones from 1985 to about 1994,”Juliette said, “but she died in 1996 of a drugs overdose. I knew she had a daughter, but she was meant to have lived with her father.”
“Well, I did until I was 13” Dominique said, “and then I ran away from home and joined Mum in 1995. She was well on the slide down then – no thanks to the maniac she was living with at the time.”
“Now him I remember,” Juliette said, “because I ran into him when I started out – a greaseball named Johnny McCabe, right?”
“That’s him,” Dominique said, “low level east end gangster who mixed with the right people. He fed my mother’s habit, for her money. When I turned up, I was the nuisance, and was told to stay out of the way. So naturally, I was curious. Unfortunately, I found out he was about to promote himself in the field with a little light gold bullion theft.”
“He found out, and forced me to act as lookout while they forced one of the guards to do their work – kidnapped his family at gunpoint. I have to admit, the adrenaline rush was exhilarating, but he terrified me.”
“So when your mother died…”
“I stayed with Johnny – at his insistence. I learned a lot from him, and then he tried to attack me when he was drunk one night. I was sixteen.”
“I killed him – shot him with his own gun. I then went underground in Soho for a few years – a mixture of working in the local home industries, and a sideline in cat burglary.”
“So how did you become Madame’s head of security?”
“She recruited me about six years ago – I had come to her attention, having pulled myself out of the gutter and left my old life behind. By then I was one of the best cat burglars around. Anyway, she brought me into her organisation, and then spotted my talent for enforcement. A couple of years after that, I helped rescue Penny’s brother from the police, and Madame appointed me her head of security and chief enforcer.”
“So where did you learn to shoot?”
“I knew how to handle a shotgun before, and I developed those skills with practice,” Dominique said with a smile. “Practice, as they say, makes perfect.”
“And what about you Susan,” Cari said as she turned to the smaller woman.
“Nothing so dramatic I’m afraid. I used to run around with a street gang, and did a few petty thefts. Then one day I tried to rob the wrong woman – a woman called Sandy.
“It was Sandy that recruited you? A woman who knows talent when she sees it,” Dominique said as she held her mug.
“Sandy? As in Sandra… Madame’s friend?”
“Exactly – she saw something in me, and recommended me to Madame. I worked my way up in her organisation, and was one of her hit squads within a year. I was then one of the groups involved in something you may have heard of – Case X.”
“Oh yeah – we found the speech Madame X gave on that raid. Where were you?”
“The hairdressers – I worked as an assistant for her for three months. But afterwards, it was obvious I was the weak link – so Madame sent me out here to work with Madeline, and I flourished.”
“Indeed,” Juliette said, “you have flourished. I hope you do come out to live and work here – I think you will like it here. What of you, Dominique?”
“No – I go where I am needed. But I will return, hopefully – indeed, certainly if you wish me.”
“Darlings you are both more then welcome here anytime.”