Happy Families – Part 2
Monday 25th January
7 am Local Time
Catherine Lu’s apartment
“Good morning, mistress,” Kylie said as she came in, and laid several pieces of paper on the breakfast table.
"So how is it going Kylie?" Catherine asked. “Making progress on Mary Clarke’s request?”
"Not badly at all mistress." Kylie bowed before she sat down.
"How good was her
"It was excellent
and with some of the themes I borrowed from what was worn at the Golden Globe
awards ceremony, then I hope I'm giving her some viable options."
"These are really
nice," Catherine smiled as she looked at the sketches.
"Well I hope Mary
thinks so, individually designing for a top model is a new challenge for
"Oh I'm sure she
will adore them."
"Fingers crossed. I will scan and send them before going to school, and get her feedback later tonight."
“Kylie,” Catherine said as she poured a coffee and handed it over, “I believe it would still be your intention to return to London after this?”
“It is mistress – unless you and Madame have other plans?”
“We are not sure,” Catherine said.
“Not sure of what,” Marina said as she came in, bowed and sat down.
“Well... You remember the letter I received from Anna Mitchell, Marina?”
“I do – why?”
“It appears she has asked others about you,” Catherine said as she handed Marina a mug of coffee, “and Juliette confirmed that Anna is going to be taking on a new role with Complete Style – Global Editor.”
“That sounds a challenge,” Marina said as she took the cup to her lips, “but why would she...”
Kylie and Catherine watched as Marina stopped, put the mug down and said “oh. Now I can see why.”
“Nothing has been said, nothing has been asked formally,” Catherine said, “but you should prepare yourself for the possibility she will call you – and what your response may be.”
“My first response would be to be guided by you, Helen and Madame,” Marina said quietly.
“And when and if the time comes, we will be there for you – both of you. For now, prepare for your day.”
The Burton Apartment
“Have you finished researching that cup and saucer that you found at the thrift store Mom?” Erica looked up from her math book as Denice came in.
“I have, it’s genuine Swansea, I think the condition is excellent, and I got it for a fraction of its worth.” Denice looked elated.
“Good for you.” Erica held up her hand for a high five.
“I have to say that I think this is going to be fun collecting pottery.”
“Well it certainly is different from car engines.”
“So looking forward to your last week as an employee and your first as a student again?”
“Yeah, it was good of Columbia to adjust my notice period like this.”
“And your new company to pay for you to finish your degree.”
“Yeah I still can’t quite get over that.” Denice shook her head.
“Have you enjoyed your company visits so far?”
“Oh yes…especially to the workshops, so much fabulous equipment, your Grandpa would have been in heaven just watching them stress components.”
“I so wish I’d met him.”
“Oh he’d have adored you darling, and so would Mom if she’d lived longer.”
“I wish I had had them in my life, but Aunt Mary is a sort of honorary Gran.”
“That she is.”
“Have you heard from her?”
“She called earlier while you were out – she’s flying back Wednesday, and she would like us to come to dinner on Thursday.”
“I hope you said yes.”
“Of course I did, my little one – how could I refuse?”
Niagara on the Lake
Natalya sat at the lakeside cafe, looking out over the water with a smile as she sipped on her soda water.
“Drink before the work?”
“Oh no – merely relaxing before we meet and prepare,” she said as the tall dark haired woman sat next to her, and the waitress brought her a coffee. “It is good to see you again Dom.”
“And you Natalya. Is everything in place?”
“It is – Jill has fed the information through the appropriate channels, and we will make our move at one this morning – suitably advertised. What else is happening?”
“Our FBI contact is also in position, to observe and step in at the appropriate moment in tonight’s play. I presume all will be suitably protected?”
“Of course,” Natalya said quietly, “you will lead the second team?”
“I’m going to see her now,” Dominique said as she stood up, “good hunting Natalya.”
“And to you my friend,” Natalya said as she watched the water...
4th Avenue – the Ashley apartment
“Hey Mom, are you still up?” Poppy said as she stretched her arms up and wandered towards the kitchen.
“Yeah, doing my homework on Complete Style…” Pippa stood up and arched her back. “If I’d known you were awake I’d have brought you a drink in.”
“No worries,” Poppy came back from the kitchen carrying a glass of milk and slumped into an armchair.
“Having made the final three in the selection process, I at least want to make a good show of it.”
“You will Mom.” Poppy both yawned and smiled.
“Your homework all done?”
“Much earlier, I even got time to chat with the girls online.”
“Anyone saying anything interesting?”
“Erica was raving about their new apartment.”
“I’d heard from Denice saying how wonderful it is.”
“Other than that,” Poppy said, “it was Jess talking about this indoor soccer thing she has going on, and bits about the jazz band…”
“And about boys?”
“A little Mom.” Poppy smiled.
“And when it comes to you?”
Poppy smiled even more and drank her milk.
As Heather drove along, she saw a familiar face standing on the corner, wearing a black jacket over her outfit, the skirt barely coming below her waist.
“Hey,” she said as she pulled up, “want a lift?”
“Thank the goddess,” Anna said as she opened the door, “I thought I was stuck here for ages.”
“So what were you doing standing on a street corner like that Doc?” Heather asked as the youngster smoothed down her skirt after climbing into the car.
“I’d been babysitting, and boy couldn’t I get a cab…”
“Babysitting?” Heather lifted an eyebrow.
“Yes babysitting, and it’s the real thing Heather so don’t worry.”
“So why the short skirt?”
“I went straight from doing a shoot this evening, I didn’t get home in time to change.”
“You sound busy?”
“Yes, and by the way thanks for giving me this lift.”
“We are a large family remember, though I will admit I was suspicious you out on the streets dressed like that.”
“No need,” Doc smiled, “my word is good, I’m an ex whore till I’m told by Juliette I can do it.”
“Do you miss it?”
“A little,” Doc sighed, “and with Katy putting the pressure on for me to take her out, certain old desires have been awakened…but as I’ve said before I’m a woman of my word.”
“Is Katy still going on about hooking?”
“Yes,” Doc sighed, “she’s insatiable for thrills, I really worry about her at times.”
“I know Janice does.”
“What is the word on her?”
“Ask me that in the morning,” Heather said, “I need to talk to Jo later.”
Humbert Street, Geneva
“Nice house,” Jo said as she looked at the white wooden building. The lights were off, and the street was quiet, with a few lights on outside.
She’d parked her jeep outside a bar a few streets away and walked here, the collar of her black leather jacket pulled up to keep the chill out. She’d deliberately picked a pair of boots with no grip on the sole – all the better to hide who had called.
She looked at the alarm box on the wall, and shook her head. “That’s a falsie Ms Anderson,” she said to herself, “but you’re a cop, so there is a system somewhere. Let’s see what you have at the rear of the house.”
As she looked down, she saw a cat curling round her legs. “Hey Kitty,” she said as she picked the cat up and stroked it, “come with me a minute, will you?”
Walking round the side of the house, Jo looked out at the darkened yard, and then let the cat free. She watched as the cat walked slowly across the snow, and then screeched as the blinding light shone down on it.
“There you are,” Jo said as she walked over and sprayed black latex over the sensors, moving under the light and hitting the other sensor before the light went off. She then examined carefully the sill of the door, before she took from her knapsack a small silver box with two bulldog clips. Attaching them either side of a wire, she took her lockpicks out of her pocket and worked on the door.
“And there we are,” Jo said as the door opened in, and she walked in, standing in the doorway as she sprayed some smoke across the floor. Looking at the red lines, she moved quickly across the floor, reaching the alarm box and quickly disabling it.
“That’s better,” she said as she went back and closed the door, “let’s see what we have here.”
Putting on a pair of glasses, she smiled as she said “You getting this Sis?”
“Loud and clear,” she heard Heather say, “and we’re recording. Let’s start with the main room.”
As she walked through, she saw the framed photo of Rochelle Anderson in a police uniform, standing with a commanding officer as they shook hands.
“Well, I think that establishes she’s a woman,” Jo said as she looked, “and a decorated cop as well.”
“Okay, that tallies both with Ju’s photo and what I dug up,” Heather said, “anything else?”
“Not much that I can see here,” Jo said as she looked round, “let me leave her a little present on her phone, and I’ll head upstairs.”
“Roger that – can you leave some presents in the room first and a baffler?”
Jo left some bugs and then slowly crept up the stairs, looking in the bedrooms and then in a small office.
“Must be her home away from home – want me to start her laptop up?”
“Be careful – it may be alarmed.”
“Copy that,” Jo said as she opened the computer, and plugged a small box into the side, the red box blinking as it started to copy the hard drive.
“Okay, I’ve got remote access now,” Heather said, “I’m scanning e-mail and other accounts. What else have you got?”
“Does he look familiar to you sis,” Jo said as she looked at a picture of Rochelle with another man.
“Oh yes – that’s Robert Harkness. We think he’s their contact in the Buffalo PD – possibly one of them as well.”
“Hence the interest,” Jo said as she looked round. “She has good taste – these are APCO originals. She even has a Fitzstuart sweater.”
“On a state police salary?”
“My point exactly,” Jo said as the box pinged. “You got all you need?”
“I do – time you weren’t there Jo. Haven’t you got an 8 am tomorrow anyway?”
“Oh yeah – and it’s Psych 102. Time I left this place.”
Taking the box and putting it back into her rucksack, Jo left two more bugs, and went to leave the house.
“Hey Sis – before you go, look in the other bedroom, will you?”
Jo opened the door to the other room and looked in the wardrobe.
“Looks like more clothes to me.”
“Check the sizes.”
“Damn,” Jo said softly, “these are too big for Ms Anderson, but they’re exquisite. Whose are they?”
“Got a theory on that – now get out of there.”
“Copy that,” Jo said as she walked quickly down the stairs, removing the block from the alarm and running across the floor before she left, making sure the door was locked behind her. She then removed the circuit breaker from the door frame, before spraying a chemical on the light sensors, retreating before the latex dissolved.
“Made sure I left something else,” Jo said quietly as she slipped from the side of the house, and started to walk down the street. “I’ll get the stuff sent on the secure link later.”
“Good work Sis – anyone would think you’d been practising.”
“Who Moi? I want a hot bath and a decent sleep – signing off for the night.”
Monday 25th January
The Richmond Mansion
“Sleep well, Jo,” Heather said as she watched the live link end.
“So Jo can sleep now,” Sandy said as she placed a mug of coffee next to Heather.
“At least she can,”
Heather said quietly, "I'm running the communications as always lover, so
it might be a late night."
"Well I can at
least keep you topped up with coffee." Sandy put her arm round her girlfriend.
"It sounds by the way like a good thing that you did need go to Caroline's
and pick up that device."
"Well it was for
Doc, saved her getting propositioned by passing curb crawlers."
"Teach her to
always pack jeans to change into after a shoot."
“So when’s the off?”
“The ladies should be meeting up now,” Heather said, “I’m waiting for the nod.”
Niagara on the Lake
“Okay ladies,” Jan said as she stood in the room,”do you have the Kevlar vests on ladies?"
"We do Jan." The girls nodded as they donned the FBI jackets. “Madame has told us to follow your lead as the expert.”
“All right, Miss Panther,” Jan said quietly, “you have the floor.”
"Thank you,” Juliette said from the side of the room, her head veiled as she stood in a leather jacket and jeans. “Ladies, take no risks with these people, they kill indiscriminately, opponents and bystanders."
"This is going to be combat ladies, so keep those heads down," a South African accented voice spoke.
"Charlotte?" Juliette asked, "is that you?"
"Yes, I'm on the
north side of the border, Madame inserted me in case things spill over."
"She could have
"I guess I'm the secret backup, I can control any escapees this direction."
“Fair choice,” Jan said as she put on her vest. “Remember, all of you are FBI agents – tell them to stop first, then shoot if you have to.”
The girls nodded as Juliette smiled under the veil. “We thank you for your help in this ladies.”
“We cure several wrongs with this,” one of the girls said, “it is our pleasure to assist in this.”
“Good – control, what’s happening at the other end?”
“Dom, you in place?”
“I am, as is Natalya. Charlotte, you didn’t say you were coming over?”
“Surprise, my dear friend.”
"I take it you are
staked out Charlotte?" Dom asked.
"Ja, and I have
the coolest piece of old Russian weaponry keeping me company."
"Well you are a
first rate sniper Charlotte."
"Ja, and this
night scope is pretty amazing, from my possie I can pick off anyone I need to
"How far out are
"Allow for a
slight swirling wind."
"I can see the
flags Dom so I've calibrated for it."
“Time to move out – good luck everyone,” Natalya said, Dom watching as the girls got into the panel van and drove off.
She watched as a second van drove off, and then whispered “they fell for the bait, Control – positions everyone. I need to go and take delivery of some flour.”
Queenston Heights Park
Jan sat in the panel van, waiting nervously as she saw the car driving into the park and stopping on the roundabout.
“Any signs of company Control?”
“Negative – I’ve got an aerial view. Doesn’t mean they’re not there, but no sign yet.”
“Well, here we go,” Jan whispered as a second car pulled up, “eyes and ear open girls.”
The two women got out of the car as Dominique stepped out of her car, the driver also leaving as the first car flashed the headlights. Walking slowly over, she smiled as the two people got out of the car, and said “you got the merchandise?”
“Course we have – why would we let Mr Sporetti down,” Natalya said as the other one placed a suitcase on the bonnet of the car. Dominique waited as she opened the case, and then took out a knife, flicking it open as she cut into one of the black plastic bags and dipped a finger in.
“Heads up people – I got four people walking quickly your way.”
“Roger that Control,” Dom whispered, “Jan, got your team in position?”
“All right, the stuff is good,” Dom said out loud as she nodded to her driver. The woman opened the rear door and brought a suitcase over, putting it next to the first case and opening it as Natalya looked in.
“So is Sporetti reduced to sending women to do his work?”
The four women turned and looked at the new arrivals. All four were wearing impeccably cut trouser suits, with dark jumpers underneath, and heels – as well as stockings pulled down over their heads, and Hecklers in their gloved hands.
“And you would be?”
“They call me Miss Panther,” the tallest of the four said as she aimed her semi-automatic at them, “so get on your fucking knees and pray I let you all live.”
The other three watched, expecting the women to do as they say, so there was surprise on their faces when Natalya said “I think we have the right to know the names of all those who seek to rob us.”
“Well, you have balls, I’ll give you that,” Miss Panther said, “This is Miss Puma, Miss Leopard and Miss Cheetah. Now, unless you want a hole in your head, get on the ground...”
The deep voice took Miss Panther by surprise, as she turned round to see a single woman walk forward. She wore a dark blue blazer and skirt, and even in the dark Miss Panther could see the shine on her patent leather shoes with the four inch heels. She also wore black leather gloves, and a black stocking over her head pressed down her short black hair. The other thing she noticed was the brooch on the lapel of her jacket.
“And who the fuck are you,” one of the other women said.
“You would be?”
“Well, Miss fucking shitcopy Puma,” the woman said as she came close, “I’m Miss Panther. So what does that make you, dipshit?”
Miss Panther stared at the new arrival, before she saw her quickly raise the sawnoff shotgun and point it at her.
“Your move asshole.”
“FBI – NOBODY MOVE!!”
“What the fuck?”
The new arrival span and fired her shotgun at the headlights which has suddenly come on, while at the same time Dominique and Natalya produced guns and started to fire at the faux Pussycats. They dived for cover behind Dom’s car as Jan’s team came out, firing at the group.
“Holy crap,” Heather said as she watched the bursts of gunfire, the flashes from the Hecklers and the single blasts from the other guns.
“It’s a fucking setup,” Miss Puma snarled to Miss Panther as they hid behind the car.
“Don’t point out the fucking obvious,” Miss Panther shouted as she looked round and fired a burst off, watching as two of the FBI team hit the ground. “We need to split up – two of us...”
They suddenly looked up as they heard the tinkle, and all four dived for cover in the trees as the grenade exploded in the car.
“For fuck’s sake,” Miss Cheetah said, “who the hell are these women?”
“We need to split up,” Miss Panther said, “Miss Puma, we head back to the car and get back to Buffalo. Miss Cheetah, Miss Leopard, head back to Niagara, get our gear and get back as fast as you can.”
The other two women nodded as they took deep breaths, and then stood up, running along the north bound driveway as they fired their hecklers in all directions, the other women diving for cover as they returned fire.
Miss Panther and Miss Puma ran for their car, before they heard the blast from the shotgun and Miss Puma fell, blood pouring from one leg.
“Don’t think you can run, dipshits,” Miss Panther snarled as her doppelganger helped Miss Puma up, “I will find you, and I will kill you.”
“Or I kill you first,” the faux Miss Panther said as she raised her gun, but Miss Panther herself had disappeared into the trees. Cursing under her breath, she pulled her partner into the car and then screeched off.
“Who the hell are these women,” Miss Cheetah said as she and Miss Leopard ran for the north of the park.
“I have no fu...”
The single shot sounded in the dark, as Miss Cheetah dropped to the ground, the red dot spreading on her forehead. Miss Leopard stared at her, before she felt the searing pain as a bullet passed through her arm, making her drop the weapon. She ran up the path, clutching her arm as the gunfire died down.
“I took one down, the other is winged – arm wound.”
“Excellent – Jan?”
“I’ll go and look in a minute – Miss Panther?”
“I got their Miss Puma in the leg. Control, there were only four here?”
“I heard from Louise,” Heather said, “the other three suspects are at the Speakeasy still.”
“Okay – we killed one, wounded two. We need to find out who the one is. Natalya, on our side?”
“Two wounded, none serious. One thing’s for certain now – they know Sporetti has brought in heavyweight support. Jan?”
“I’m with the one we killed now,” Jan said as she leaned down, and pulled the stocking mask up, removing the wig as well as she looked at the close cropped grey hair.
“I’d need to get a positive ID,” she said as she started to hear police sirens. “Let’s get out of here – the office knows I’m here, I may get called on.”
Sensing the movement behind her, she suddenly turned and fired a shot, hearing the grunt as Miss Leopard fell forward, her eyes open.
“I’ll confirm it for you – Miss Leopard is down as well.”
“Jan,” she heard Dom say, “we’re coming to get you. We have maybe two minutes before the first cops get here. You can deal with this later.”
Jan nodded as the car pulled up and she jumped in, heading off with the headlights off as the police cars pulled up.
“What the fuck – we got signs of a gun battle here, and two dead.”
“Any idea who?”
“None – but they’re men dressed as women...”
Niagara on the Lake
“Jill, any word?”
Dominique looked at her laptop as Jan and Natalya sat with her.
“Well, you’ve created a hornet’s nest and no mistake,” Jill Huspeth said. “The two you killed have been identified by the local police as Dominic O’Dade, a known gun runner for the local mob. Never worked for Sporetti, however.”
“And the other one?”
“Buffalo PD Detective Robert Harkness – let’s just say a lot of excrement is going to be flying down there tomorrow.”
“That might not be all – I need to find out if anyone’s been treated for a gunshot wound to the leg.”
In the next room, Juliette was on the telephone.
“Mister Sporetti – thank you for taking my call at so late an hour.”
“Youse promised me news, Miss Panther.”
“We have killed two of the imposters – I am sure you will find out their identities in due course. A third has been wounded – you may wish to use your contacts to find if any gunshot wounds to the leg have been treated, but if you do, I request you pass the information to us. If our suspicions are correct, it is someone that needs to be dealt with – in a particular manner.”
“Well, I see the reports now,” Sporetti said, “youse is as good as your word. When do I meet the one responsible?”
“Soon – for now, remain vigilant and on guard. She has been wounded – she may try something stupid.”
“I’se ready, Miss – and thanks.”
Ending the call, Juliette lay back and looked at the clock. A few hours sleep, and then back to work...
“Another Monday, another first period Math,” Erica said as she and Poppy collected their books.
“Don’t pretend you don’t enjoy it,” Jess said as the girls passed the Sophomores at their lockers.
“At least most of you get Wednesday afternoon off after we troop down to the cathedral for the Founders Day Mass.” Jeannie complained, “Some of us who work for a living have agents who have us booked to walk a show that afternoon.”
“Agent, singular,” Doc said as she fumbled with her padlock.
“If I didn’t know just how much you love modelling Jeannie, I’d take that complaint as genuine.” Grace Gresham butted into the girl’s conversation. “Spare a thought for those of us doomed to sherry and small talk with the Archbishop and the other dignitaries that afternoon.”
“You’d rather be modelling Miss?”
“Any day of the week Nicola.” Grace sighed. “But right after that, i go to England for a party – not one I’m exactly looking forward to.”
“Abs are you working the show Wednesday?” Jeannie asked the tall girl.
“For my sins…” Abby collected her books before saying “and I’m supposed to be tutoring Mary Clarke while I do so. It’s her first runway show.”
“Mary will probably be as nervous as hell…I know I am.” Doc opened her locker.
“Runway is easy.”
“It might be for you in that chair Jeans.” Abby laughed, “but some of us are known to trip up and fall.”
“Don’t remind me.” Doc looked pained, “I have the bruises from practicing on Saturday.”
“Will Merlin be back in time Miss?” Jeannie asked Grace.
“As far as I know she will…Now hurry up girls, you all have your first period classes to get to.”
“We know Miss.”
“Well hurry along then.” As they moved along, Grace slowly shook her head. She would much rather be working than on a plane to her family.
Niagara on the Lake
“There you are,” Olivia said as she and Fiona looked up, “you look terrible, Pelican.”
“Sorry – was up most of the night with an upset stomach,” Juliette said as she sat down, “so what’s happening?”
“Seems like we all slept through a scene from a Peckinpah movie,” Olivia said as she looked at her friend. “There was some sort of gangland gunfight south of here last night – two dead according to the staff.”
“Sorry – black coffee and Eggs Benedict,” Juliette said as the waitress poured some orange juice. “A gun battle? Well, I’m glad we were all here then.”
“So am I,” Fiona said quietly. “By the way, you should tell Juliette about what happened in New York on Saturday night, mum.”
“You mean the Bachelor’s night? Diana told me when I called her last night – Abby was not pleased with Tony.” As her breakfast arrived, she smiled and said “well, back in NY tonight...”
“Hello,” Abby said as she took her phone out of her blazer pocket.
“Mama – you have news?”
“They are all back safely, save for Juliette – and I have spoken to her.”
Abigail breathed a sigh of relief after hearing her mother say the words on the phone.
“That’s a huge relief Mama, I’ll tell Ama, Doc, and Annie.”
“Please do - I’m sure they’ll be relieved.”
“Especially after the reports online Mama. Was it as nasty as it sounds?”
“So your Aunt Juliette said, and I heard Charlotte say it reminded her of Africa.”
“Yuck, I’m glad we weren’t there.”
“Exactly.” Diana sounded happier.
“Let me go find people, and Mama pass on my congratulations please.”
“Well we won a battle, only time will tell if we won the war.”
Ending the call, Abby smiled as she made her way to the refectory – only to find Doc coming in the other direction.
“Did you hear?” Abby and Doc asked each other at the same time.
“Yes, and how did you?”
“Katy phoned me as soon as she heard from her Mom.” Doc beamed.
“Have you told Ama yet?”
“No,” Doc said as she looked over to where Ama was standing, “but judging by that expression on her face that’s Caroline she is talking to at this very minute.”
“Did you hear?” Ama said as she put her phone away and ran over.
“A couple of minutes ahead of you.” Abigail smiled.
“My prayers to St Angela helped keep Mom safe.”
“Well they would have helped.” Doc grinned.
“Someone needs to tell Annie…”
“I’ll do it Ama, I need to see her anyway.” Abigail nodded and made eye contact with Annie sitting at the staff table, nodding to indicate all was well as she did so.
“Excuse me a moment,” Annie said as she stood up and came over. “All is well,” she whispered.
“All is well – we’re going to meet tonight, after training and once Ju is back.”
“You still good to come and take some photos?”
“Yeah – but I have a fitting tomorrow night for Venice. I think Thursday is the last one I can guarantee getting to.”
“The joys of a Debs life,” Annie said with a smile. “I’ll see you later.”
As they drove along, Carina was listening to a new style of music.
Bull-dog! Bull-dog! Bow, wow, wow,
Bull-dog! Bull-dog! Bow, wow, wow,
Our team can never fail.
When the sons of Eli break through the line,
That is the sign we hail,
Bull-dog! Bull-dog! Bow, wow, wow,
"Did you learn that song today darling?" Carina asked as Judith rather tunelessly tried to sing the famous words and tune, composed by Cole Porter when he was still a Yale undergraduate.
"We did, but its difficwult." Judith looked serious.
"Well Uncle David knows that song,” Carina said as she looked at her daughter, “maybe he can teach you it as well."
"Would he?" Judith cocked her head.
"I'm sure he'd enjoy it," Cari laughed as her hands free phone rang. “Carina Huntingdown here...”
"Carina it's your Mom, can we talk."
"Yeah it's only me and Judith in the car...I take it all has worked out?"
"Well I was half asleep during the shoot, but we’re back home now... And by the way what is that noise?"
"Oh that? It's your granddaughter trying to sing Bulldog, they learned it at nursery this morning."
"Oh is that what it is...Judith can you stop singing so Gramma and Mama can talk please?"
"She's nodding her head Mom."
"Alright we made a dent in their operation, but you know the saying about a wounded tiger?"
"I do. I take it we all need take precautions?"
"Yeah just in case darling. We took two of them down, and wounded a third – something Jan is following up on later tonight. I’ve also put Louise on high alert."
“So what’s on your agenda for tonight? I have a German essay to finish.”
“A hot bath, a drink and an early night – I got word Anna wants to see me in the morning.”
“Anna? Is this about Marina?”
“Could be – I’ll find out then.”
FBI Field Office, Buffalo
Edie Corben picked up her phone and said “FBI, Agent Corben speaking.”
“Edie, it’s Jan. Can you talk?”
“Yeah,” Edie said as she looked around, “I’m the only one here at the moment.”
“Did you hear on the wire about the big shootout near Niagara last night?”
“Hear about it? The local PD are going apeshit,” Edie whispered. “Is it true one of their own was killed there?”
“You’d know more about that than I would,” Jan said. “Has Peter said anything?”
“He hasn’t been in today – apparently, he hurt his leg over the weekend.
“Sorry Edie – can you get down to NY tomorrow? We need to talk.”
“Jan, is there something you’re not telling me?”
“Yes, Edie – but get here, and get someone to look after your mother. Someone you trust.”
Looking at the door, she saw Sarah looking at her.
“Phone call for you – want to take it out here?”
“Yeah – I need a break anyway,” Grace said as she looked at the case on her bed, and then walked out.
"Grace it's Diana. Is everything okay for Wednesday?"
"Yes. I’ve got the speech ready and everything."
"Alright Cherie,” she heard the French woman say, “as long as you are alright, but Abigail said you seemed worried."
Day no, about flying home to see my family after all these years then I'm as
worried as hell Countess."
"Oh is that it?"
"Yes,” Grace said
as she looked round, “and any suggestions how to deal with this would be
"Well knowing why
you dropped off the grid as our American friends say, then I fully understand.
Just hope they understand similarly."
"I feel guilty
about it as well Diana."
"You did what you
needed to protect yourself Grace dear."
"As long as they realise that it wasn't any of their fault."
“I’m sure it won’t be as bad as you think, Grace.”
“We’ll see – I gotta go and eat Diana. I’ll see you Wednesday.”
“Dinner’s not ready yet,” Helen said from the kitchen as Grace put the phone down.
“I know – let me know when it is,” Grace said as she went back to her room.
4th Avenue – the Ashley Apartment
“Hello,” Poppy said as she picked up the telephone.
"Poppy can I speak
to your Mama please, tell her it's Diana de Ros."
Diana...Mom it's Dian de Ros!" she yelled out.
“You go and finish your supper,” Pippa said as she put down the paper she was reading.
“Okay Mom,” Poppy said as she went back to the table.
"To what do I owe
this call Diana?" Pippa smiled as she took the phone.
Philippa,” she heard Diana say, “she seemed worried to Abby at school, and I
just rang her."
about this visit back to England."
"To see her family?'
"I guess she would be. What can I do?"
"Maybe drop over and see her, I think she needs an old friend to talk to."
“Well – I could use the break from homework anyway. Let me finish me meal, and then I’ll drop in on her.”
“Thank you Pippa – and good luck with the interview.”
“Thanks – I’ll need it...”
"Carina you owe me
for telling Judith I'd teach her Bulldog." David shook his head as he
joined the girls in the kitchen area.
"Just look on it
as doing penance for Saturday night." Judy laughed
what I thought," Cari looked up from the stove.
"Hey this is far
worse torture than anything." David complained.
Judy laughed again.
"Sing Bulldog wiv
me again Unca David." Judith tottered into the kitchen area.
"Remember she likes the Bow Wow Wow's especially David." Cari giggled.
“The things I do to absolve my sins... All right Judith darling, let’s go and sing it again while your Mom finishes your dinner. Ready?”
“Pippa,” Harriet said as she opened the door, “what brings you out here tonight?”
“I wondered if I could disturb Grace for a few minutes,” Pippa said as she came in.
“Should be all right – she’s in her room if you want to go through.”
“Thanks,” Pippa said as she came up, taking he rcoat off and hanging it up. “Where’s Sarah?”
“At the athletics training, helping out – right through there. Forgive me, bu it’ve got some prep to do for tomorrow.”
“Of course,” Pippa said as she walked to the closed door, and knocked quietly.
“Grace, it’s Pippa – can I come in?”
“Yeah – if you don’t mind a mess.”
“Take me back to the days at the school then,” she said with a smile as she went in, and saw the clothes scattered on Grace’s bed.
“Yeah – it does look like packing for the breaks, doesn’t it,” Grace said. “What brings you round tonight Pips?”
“Honestly? A little bird told me you were a little bit worried about this weekend.”
Grace turned and looked at her old friend. “A French bird?”
“Might have been – so how are you really feeling about this weekend?”
“Honestly – fancy some wine?”
“Yeah – why?”
“Come on – let’s go and get a drink.”
As they walked out, Harriet looked at them and smiled, before they made their way down to a local wine bar.
“How,” Grace said as she poured the wine into two glasses, “can something so simple be so absolutely terrifying?”
“Well, your uncle Charlie will be there, right?”
“Yeah – but he’s the reasonable one in the family.”
“That’s true – so that’s three friendly faces. It’s the rest of them – I’m not sure I’m ready for the questions...”
“So get in first,” Pippa said. “Hey everyone – I’m really sorry I haven’t been in touch, but it wasn’t your fault. I just needed to find me – and it took a little longer than expected. Sorry.”
Grace looked at Pippa, and then burst out laughing.
“Much better thanks – any chance I can get Maggie to keep doing that to me when I get there in Thursday morning?”
“Already on it,” Pippa said as she took a drink. “Now, while I’ve got you here – Christian’s idea.”
“Oh yes – well, I’m up for it if you are?”
“I may need to give it thought – if I don’t get this job at CS, it may be time to move on to a new challenge anyway.”
“When’s the interview?”
“Next Monday – a whole day, just me. No idea when the other two are coming in.”
“Fun for the whole family,” Grace said with a smile. “Come over with Poppy for dinner that night – you can tell me all about it, and I’ll tell you about canapés and family secrets. Deal?”
The Speakeasy, Buffalo
“Something up with the boss and her friends tonight?”
Stella looked over with Louise to where the owner was sitting with her younger friends, staring out into space.
“Yes,” she said as she looked at the manageress.
“Take this bottle of whisky and the glasses over to the table – and don’t hang around. I don’t know what’s got her in such a foul mood, but best give her a wide berth for the rest of the night.”
Louise nodded as she walked over, her silver beaded dress moving with her, and placed the tray on the table. Walking away, she whispered “bug placed Boss.”
“Take me through it one more time,” Miss Lynx said in a low whisper as she looked at the boss.
“The four of us moved in – it looked like a standard handover, so we treated it cool, told them who we were, and then SHE showed up.”
“The genuine, 100% real Miss Panther.”
“Shit,” Miss Tigress said, “what’s she like?”
“Tall, elegant, and lethal – she almost took Miss Puma’s leg off with her sawn off shotgun. But the whole thing... The whole bloody thing was a setup, and we walked right into it!”
“But the intel, right from the Ontario police...”
“I know,” Miss Panther whispered as she swallowed her drink, and poured another one, “which means whoever planned this is very, very good and very, very influential.”
“What the hell happened?”
The four of them looked up to see Rochelle Anderson standing in front of them, wearing a black coat and with a face like thunder.
“Rochelle... I am truly sorry for your loss...”
“Save it,” she said as she sat down, poured a whisky and swallowed it, “what happened?”
“We were ambushed. The drug deal was the honey trap, and then a bunch of women claiming to be FBI officers showed up and opened fire. I sent Miss Leopard and Miss Cheetah one way, we took the other. From what I gather, one of them was killed by a sniper’s bullet, the other a handgun – single shot in the head for both.”
Miss Panther looked at Rochelle and said “the handgun.”
Nodding, Rochelle looked at the other three. “where’s the other one?”
“Resting at home – I got her leg treated. Who the hell has Sporetti called in?”
“I don’t know,” Rochelle said, “but I’m taking Miss Leopard’s place.”
“My chief questioned me – I’ve packed all the outfits and put them in my attic for the moment.”
Nodding, Miss Panther said “I want to know everything you hear.”
“and Miss Puma?”
“Let me worry about that – what happened to Carter?”
“Went back to New York this morning.”
Nodding, Miss Panther said “she hurt us – we hurt her back...”
"So how is the
team looking for the Vanderbilt Annie?"
Harriet," Annie sat in an armchair as Sarah hung up their coats. "I
wish though I was able to run with them, I get a better look running alongside
then merely sitting on the side with a stop watch."
"Well I did run
with them, and they damn well impressed me," Sarah sat on the floor,
"they are super fit girls."
"They have worked
hard all winter."
"It's about more
than your distance runners though Annie, how do the rest look?"
"Well Letty has
improved so much, she should win the high jump handily, but we will miss the
certainty of points from Sheryl that she gave us in the sprints and long jump
"Oh she has a great chance, but she's not the certainty that Sheryl was."
Tuesday 26th January
“Okay girls, I think that’s everything for now,” Juliette said as there was a knock on her door.
“Am I interrupting,” Anna Mitchell said as she put her head round the door.
“No, we’re just finishing. Alexis, finalise the details for tomorrow, and Janine you meet Mary off her flight, make sure she’s safely delivered to the hotel.”
“On it, boss,” Janine said as she and Alexis left, closing the door behind them.
“So how is the hunt for your successor coming along,” Juliette said as Anna took a seat.
“Marie on Friday, Pippa on Monday – speaking of which...”
Juliette watched as Anna did something unexpected – she looked at her and said nothing.
"Sorry – Ju, can I
ask a question please?"
"Go ahead please
said as she leaned forward, “I will come right out with this, would young
Marina be open to coming to work for me as one of my PA's?"
"Marina? Am I the right person to ask Anna,” Juliette
said with a smile, “shouldn't you be asking her, or Shirley, remember she's
technically only on secondment to me from Xavier's."
"As and when I
decide to offer her the job I'll do that Ju,” Anna said, “but I just wanted
your opinion, as you know her quite well.
I’ve already sounded out some of her contacts here."
"It's not easy to
say, if truth be told. I know she feels a tremendous sense of loyalty to
Shirley, and I know she respects the hell out of Catherine and Helen."
"She also respects
"I suppose she
does," Juliette started to clean her glasses. "But I'm probably the
last person she needs permission from to take a fresh job if she really wants
"I believe that
Kylie's position also factors in?"
"It does, and I
think Kylie wants to go to school back in London."
Anna nodded. "True, but I hear that she might be
persuaded to go to St Angela's with a lot of her friends, if Marina was offered
the position and accepted."
Juliette finished cleaning her glasses. "Look Anna why Marina?"
"Because while I
speak French and Italian,” Anna said as she sat back, “I know a handful of
words in Russian, and absolutely no Chinese.
Wise leaders know their shortcomings."
smiled. "Look Ju I've seen her, the girl is a very efficient PA, she has a
degree from one of the world’s best universities, and she speaks the languages
that these new editions will be in... I
think she's an all but perfect fit."
"I even spoke to
her old tutor at Oxford who praised her in the highest terms."
"Oh?" Ju looked surprised wondering how that had been rigged.
“So the question remains – would she be open to an approach?”
Sighing, Juliette put her glasses back on. “I think the only person who can really answer that is Marina herself – but will you allow me the courtesy of informing both Shirley and Cathy that you have talked to me, and that you will talk to them as well before making an approach?”
“Can’t say fairer than that,” Anna said as she got up and left the room. Ju sat for a moment, before picking up the phone.
“Shirley? Juliette. Are you busy tonight?
“No, not Buffalo – you and I need to talk to Cathy.
8 am Pacific Time
“It’s good of you to stay up late and go over this with me Kylie,” Mary Clarke said as she looked at the screen.
“Not a problem darling,” Kylie drawled as she smiled in the window, “so your thoughts?”
"I would love to
have the one with the split like Jennifer Lopez wore to the Golden Globe's
Kylie, but even I know that isn't really what I should wear to a ball."
Mary...So what about the other ideas?"
"Well I'm sorta in
love with this one." Mary held up a drawing as Kylie looked at it.
"I thought you
"I was thinking
only that we add a little bolero jacket that I can take off after I get
"That isn't a
problem,” Kylie said as she tapped her mouth with the end of her pencil, “and I
maybe should have thought of that myself darling."
"No fault on you
Kylie - I only thought of it after one of my sisters suggested it."
this?" Kylie held up something she'd quickly sketched on her pad.
that," Mary beamed, "you know Kylie you are pretty amazing at
"Thank you darling," Kylie drawled as she smiled back, "all compliments are gratefully received."
“Blue silk I think. So I will send this design to Juliette, she’ll get it made up, and it can be fitted while you are in New York.”
“But I fly there today – can it be done that quickly?”
“Juliette has some very quick workers, and Mary can do any adjustments. Trust me darling – you will look sensational...”
11 am GMT
The Savoy Hotel
Mary looked up and smiled as Fiona Mackenzie walked in, sitting herself down as she looked across the table.
“Well, you’re looking a lot better today lass,” she said with a smile as she looked at her old friend. Fiona was wearing a grey jumper under a black jacket and skirt, her legs in black tights and flat shoes, and a grey scarf over her head, but she was not as grey as the previous week, and she smiled as she said “goin inta work always makes me feel better lassie.”
“I thought it might – tea for two please,” Mary said as she talked to the waitress.
“So what are ye goin back tae?”
“A fashion show tomorrow – no involvement, I want to see some of the new girls as they walk it.”
“Ach tha sounds like fun – as wish ah could come ower...”
“Fiona,” Mary said as she put her hand on her friend’s “your job is to rest and recover. I want you, laughing and dancing, in Munich in April, and that is an order, you hear me?”
“Awl riht, awl riht – I know when I’m beaten,” Fiona said with a laugh. “Tak ma luv bak tae awl o’ them, and wish wee Abby all the best for next week, awl riht?”
“Awl riht... I mean, all right. Shall I pour?”
Saks, 5th Avenue
“Okay,” Pepsi said as she and Katy walked into the show department, “why am I here with you rather than your mom?”
“Because I have a little money to spend,” Katy said, “and i want to spend it. Can you wait here a few minutes – I need to visit the rest room.”
“Okay – don’t be long,” Pepsi said as she looked at some of the ankle boots, while some of the other shoppers walked round.
She turned round, her mouth opening as she saw Katy standing there. She was wearing a tight white jumper, the cowl neck hanging loosely, skintight black pants and high heels.
“What the hell, sis...”
“I’m looking for one particular thing,” Katy said quietly, “and no way would they even let me try them on in my school uniform. I’ll change once I’ve found what I’m looking for, all right?”
Pepsi shook her head as she followed Katy into the boots section, waiting as she looked round before Katy said “that’s what I’ve been looking for.”
“Whoa momma,” Pepsi said as she saw Katy look at a pair of thigh length black leather boots, “No way Mom is going to let you get them!”
“She’ll never know,” Katy whispered as she asked an assistant if she had them in her size. Sitting down, she smiled as she slipped off her heels, and wriggled her stocking covered feet.
“Katy, you are beginning to scare me again,” Pepsi said as she sat next to her, “what on earth do you want a pair of boots like that for?”
“To keep George happy – and I’m thinking of Ama’s party. They’d go well with this Pop Art dress I picked up at the flea market,” Katy said, smiling as the assistant brought back a pair of boots. She ran her hand over the leather and then slowly pulled them up her legs, standing and walking slowly on the four inch heels as Pepsi watched.
“Oh yes, perfect, and very reasonable too – I’ll take them.”
“Cash or charge Miss.”
“Cash – thank you.”
“How did you...”
“Some money from my modelling,” Katy said as she slipped her shoes back on, and walked back to the counter, taking some notes from her purse and handing them over.
“Would you hold these while I go and put my uniform back on,” Katy said as she handed her sister the boot box, Pepsi watching as the thin, leggy blonde woman went in, and Katy the schoolgirl came back out.
“Now for the joy of Math – let’s go home,” Katy said as Pepsi wondered what she had just done...
The de Ros Mansion
"What do you think
Mama?" Abigail called her mother over to look at the screen of her
pointed at a group picture.
"Oh yes,” Diana
said, “is that the formal team picture for the Vanderbilt Cup program?"
"It is...All my
own work," Abby smiled proudly.
"Well I think it
"Yeah,” Abby said with a smile, “I think the girls will like it as well."
"You will miss being there won't you?"
"A little,” her
daughter said, “but Cari made Vienna sound so wonderful I really am looking
forward to it."
"Well in a way I
regret having skipped the Opernball myself, but I am happy you have chosen to
do it, and I know the extended family are."
"Yeah, they are certainly going to turn out in numbers to support me."
“Right – you need to go and change. Alice will be here in half an hour for the fitting, then supper, and Juliette is expecting us.”
The Waldorf Astoria
“Here we go,” Janine said as she paid the porter, and Mary put her coat over the back of a chair. “This must be becoming like a second home to you.”
“It still doesn’t feel right – but thanks for meeting me,” Mary said as she looked round. “Can i get you a drink?”
“No thanks – I need to get going, but the car will be here at eight tomorrow to take you to the rehearsal, and Abby will join you there later in the morning.”
“Okay – thanks again Janine,” Mary said as she hugged the older girl, and started to unpack from her new case. Placing the clothes in the drawers and wardrobe, she looked out of the window, and then picked up the phone as it rang.
“Oh hi Carmelita – you got my message?
“Great – let me do something, and I’ll be right down.”
A few minutes later, the lift doors opened and Mary got out, walking across the lobby in her blue blouse and jeans. It looked to everyone else as if she was heading for the bar, but instead she slipped through a side door, looking round as she walked down the corridor and then through two swing doors.
“Here she is,” Carmelita said as she stood up at the table, “folks, Mary Clarke, our model!”
Mary blushed as the other staff members applauded, and she sat next to the maid.
“Thanks for letting me do this,” she said with a smile, “I needed to call home and let them know I’d arrived, but doing something like this keeps me grounded. I’m not going to get you into trouble, am I?”
“No no – I’m on my long break anyway. CARLOS!!!”
“Here you go ladies,” the chef said as he wheeled in two domed plates, placing them in front of Mary and Carmelita and removing the cloches to reveal two burgers and fries, then placing two glasses of Pepsi next to them, “bon appétit!”
“Thank you so much,” Mary said as she ate a French fry. “So, tell me the gossip...”
West Central Park
“Okay Katy,” Doc said as she came into the young girl’s bedroom, “what’s so important that I had to come down here and WHOA NELLY!”
“How do I look,” Katy said as she smiled and walked round the room, wearing a silver boob tube, a black leather skirt that barely covered her bottom, and the new boots. She was wearing heavy makeup, dark mascara around her eyes, deep red lipstick, her hair pulled back.
“How do you look? You look like a slutty streetwalker Katy.”
“Good,” Katy said with a smile, “just what I wanted to look like Doc.”
“Goddess,” Doc said as she sat on the bed, “I think you got the wrong idea of what kind of whore I was.”
“No I never turned tricks on the street,” Doc said as she removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes, “I was at all times an expensive lay.”
“What did you charge? A Hundred bucks?”
“Katy darling,” Doc said as she looked up, “straight sex with me started at five hundred, the client wanted extra he paid even more than that.”
“WOW!” Katy looked in sheer admiration at her friend. “Five hundred a fuck?”
“Oh my Goddess, I want to experience that…”
“You know very well that both your Mom and then Juliette will skin me alive if you even attempt to become a prostitute.”
“Isn’t that part of the fun though of what we do…breaking all the rules and laws?”
“Yes,” Doc sighed, “but I gave my word, and that is also part of being one of us…keeping our promises to each other.”
“Spoilsport.” Katy stuck her tongue out.
“You can maybe wear that outfit for George, and the boots you can wear at parties, etc,” Doc said as she stood up, “but just get it in your skull Katy, you are a good girl, not some cheap whore selling yourself for drug money.”
“Well I at least agree on drugs, those I will never do, but selling my body…”
“KATY CARTER!” Doc lost her temper, “You will never, NEVER, be a whore if I have anything to do with it.”
“As if you could stop me Anna Carlton.” Katy’s temper flared. “What’s to stop me heading downtown right now, dressed like this, and just go try my luck?”
“First I’d hit you, and second I’d ring your Mom…I think she’d put a stop to such madness straight away. Third, you’d have Ju on your back – and take it from someone who knows, that is not something you want to experience.”
“Katy, are you and Anna all right in there? I heard raised voices.”
“We’re fine Gran,” Katy said as she looked at Doc. “All right, I get the message – for now.”
“Good – now show me the dress you got for Ama’s do. I want to see if those boots go with it.”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Well, I’m glad to hear that worked,” Heather said, “right down to the tutor eulogising Marina’s performance on her course.
Juliette handed a glass of wine to Heather, and then asked the killer question.
"So how did you do
"Easy Ju,” Heather
said with a smile, “I've been in and out of the Oxford University and Brasenose
College computers for months. I created a whole back story for Marina, and
using various little means I planted her into the consciousness both of staff
and former students."
"Alright now you've lost me, how do you convince people to remember someone who was never even there?"
“Well,” Heather said as she put her glass down, “if you are honest with yourself, outside of close friends like Diana and Cathy, how many people do you remember from your course?”
Juliette sat back for a moment, and then said “Well, mainly those who have done something or who were known for something at the college.”
“That’s how I played it with Marina – slipped into the records her marks in exams, some scanned copies of essays and the papers, and into the tutor’s records his notes from their tutorials. Most academics don’t remember any of their students without going back to them – so i made sure she was solid, with some good points.”
“And they would be too embarrassed by their fuzzy memory to admit they do not know?”
“Precisely,” Heather said with a smile. “Same thing worked when I was building Caroline’s online profile.”
“Well, i can see how that works...”
"And Cathy helped
by announcing that a fellow Brasenose student was working for her in Hong Kong
now." Heather smiled, "As well a couple of little snippets about
Kylie have appeared in their Alumni magazine."
that Marina was a geek reading Russian, how few students applying themselves
hard enough to a subject like that to get a first, are well known generally...I
also did the same thing with her London private day school."
incredible at times you know Heather."
"So I'm led to believe," Heather giggled, "especially by Sandy."
“Good evening,” Shirley said as she joined them, “am I interrupting something?”
“Nope – we were just talking about Marina, and how Heather set up her back story.”
“Yes – she may be mildly amused to find she has a first in Russian Studies from Brasenose,” Shirley said with a smile. “Heather, would you excuse Juliette and I for a few minutes?”
“Got it,” Heather said as she left the library, and Juliette opened up a Skype window.
“Good morning, Catherine.”
“Good evening, Juliette, Shirley,” Cathy Lu replied from her office in Hong Kong. “How may I be of assistance to you today?”
“Thanks for taking the call,” Juliette said as she sat back. “I had an interesting conversation with Anna Mitchell this morning.”
“Did you now? And this concerned Marina?”
“It did – she is going to offer her the chance to join her team when she takes the promotion. She asked for my thoughts on it, and I said really it’s Marina’s call – but I would let you both know.”
“It would appear,” Shirley said with a smile, “we have indeed created a magnificent and valuable worker.”
“One who it appears is in demand,” Cathy said. “I suspected this would be the subject of our discussion, and I have talked with Helen, but I have not informed either Marina or Kylie of this conversation we are having now.”
“Shirley – your thoughts?”
“Well, the intention was for Marina to return to London with Kylie at the end of the summer – and Kylie to attend school there. The question is, if Marina took this job, would Kylie be happy to remain in New York?”
“Well,” Juliette said, “if it comes down to a question of schooling, I imagine St Angela’s would take her, but it depends on what sort of qualifications she was looking for. She certainly has enough friends here, and Anna knows that. But she had her heart set on returning...”
“As for Marina,” Shirley said, “my intention was she would continue to work as a liaison with you and some of my other contacts, and continue her training under Natalya. On the training question, Susan could cover that, and I have to admit from what Juliette has said the job is very similar to what she would be doing for me.”
“So it comes down to this,” Juliette said, “how open do we believe Marina and Kylie would be to a course change?”
The three women looked at each other, before Catherine said “it is the New Year vacation from the 7th of February. I suggest the four of us make arrangements to visit. Shirley, will you still be in the city?”
“For the first week, yes. I must return to London that Friday for business reasons. I can let Susan know to expect the girls.”
“Good – Juliette, can you make discrete enquiries. Nothing firm, but what would happen if a new pupil joined St Angela’s as a Junior, and wished to study for the international A-level?”
“Find things out, and when they’re over talk to them?”
“Exactly – I think we can find a way to allow Marina to expand her horizons and feel she is repaying any debt she may owe us.”
The Speakeasy, Buffalo
“Want some drinks brought up Boss?”
“In a while,” Miss Panther said as she sat in the room, “I’ll ring down when we’re ready.” She watched as the other women came in, Miss Puma walking with the help of a crutch, and sat round the table.
“First things first ladies – meet our new Miss Leopard,” Miss Panther said as she indicated Rochelle.
“Pleasure to join you – I want these bitches to pay for what happened.”
“What about a new Miss Cheetah?”
“In time, Miss Lynx – i know you want revenge, we all do, but we first need to figure out who we are dealing with. If that was the real Miss Panther – and I think it was – she has behind her far more firepower and skills than any of us may have realised.”
“I concur,” Miss Puma said as she grimaced, and held her plastered leg, “that bitch nearly took my leg off.”
“Have either of you...”
“Miss Puma has been placed on sick leave,” Miss Panther said. “I have – I need to make sure nothing comes back from your late, lamented relative to us.”
“The local PD are not happy,” Rochelle said, “and neither are my bosses. I’ve been told not to interfere, and I won’t – officially.”
“So who the hell planted the story, got us sucked in...”
“I’m still trying to trace that – our contacts in Ontario tried to find the man who gave them the tip, but he’s vanished into thin air. Whoever they were, however, had a hell of a lot of firepower – the four of us never stood a chance, even with the Hecklers.”
“So someone major has turned their eye to us,” Miss Panther said. “That’s why I asked you to do some digging while you were resting up Miss Puma.”
“You’re not going to like what I found out,” the brunette said. “Where do you want to start?”
"Well - I'm hearing a whisper from my contacts, based on the ballistics, that the shooter was South African special forces."
Miss Bobcat put her
bottle down and looked at her. "What
the fuck was a South African doing there?"
"That is the interesting question Miss Bobcat. Deeper digging, and some bribery, got me a closely guarded fact.”
“There are those who
believe the Pussycats operate in conjunction with a shadowy military group
called the Daughters of Maisha, and that the whole grouping has semi-official
ties with well placed military, police, and intelligence people round the
"Yes,” Miss Puma
grunted, “it seems that our desperate criminals might be fund raisers for these
shadowy people of various kinds."
"Now let me get my
head round this,” Miss Panther said. “The
most evil, nasty group of armed robbers maybe ever, might just be a front for
"That's the scuttlebutt boss – at last in part, they support this group. It’s never been proven, but it’s thought they provide funding as well as their own takes."
Miss Tigress and Miss Lynx looked at each other. “Remember that double bank robbery in New York summer before last? Two gangs claiming to be Pussycats emptied two vaults of tens of millions.”
“Enough money to start a private army...”
“Fuck,” Miss Lynx said. “what about the FBI person who was snooping about?”
Miss Puma shook her
head. "Janice Carter does not have
"Well apparently she has enough intelligence to be an operative for a different group other then the FBI," Miss Panther interrupted. "It seems we kicked a hornets’ nest, and that a lot of people have decided they don't like us impersonating the Pussycat Gang."
Miss Tigress shook her head. "Who has this power? The CIA?"
said, “but I bet these people have a dozen heads they can pop up all round the
"Yeah no shit,” Rochelle said. “I tried running some research through a black Russian website, Story is they took down a big, nasty, Russian mafia outfit last year, that had tentacles they cut off on three continents."
"And let me get this straight,” Miss Lynx said, “the real Pussycat Gang might just be real life good guys, raising cash with robbery and murder?"
"Given the evidence of last night, it seems a fair assumption."
Rochelle shook her
head. "Oh I'd love to know what
certain superiors of mine would make of this theory."
be as stunned as we are."
Panther said, “we thought we were impersonating a group of psycho bitches. It’s looking more like this is an
international clandestine operation that is far bigger then a group of bank
robbers, and we’ve pissed them off."
"Yes,” Miss Puma said, “and I for one aren't overly happy, we could have enemies anywhere and have no clue who they are."
“Last night was a warning shot then,” Miss Panther said, “and I’m not going down without a fight.” Picking up the phone, she said “Have Louise bring the drinks up.”
“What about Sporetti?”
“We got bigger fish to fry now – we also need to recruit. Any thoughts?”
“I may have one,” Miss Lynx said.
There was a knock on the door, as Louise came in with the drinks, Miss Lynx watching as she held the door open.
Miss Lynx nodded as she closed the door again, and sat back down...
Wednesday 27th January
Hobart William Smith
“Jo – have you got a minute?”
“Sure,” Jo said as she stopped in the corridor, smiling at Clint as he walked over, “what’s up?”
“You don’t have any plans for Saturday night do you?”
“Well, the race is at one, but I should be back by six. Why?”
“My parents are in town, and they want to meet you – join us for dinner.”
“Well, it had to happen at some point,” Jo said with a smile, “I’d love to. Just let me know where and when.”
“Great – now get moving. Your class starts in a minute.”
St Mark’s Cathedral
The pews were filled by the students of St Angela’s, all in their full school uniforms, Jeannie sitting in the central aisle next to Pepsi as they watched Ama at the lectern.
“I’m glad the girls from the Nunnery owned up to the vandalism,” Pepsi whispered to Doc, “it saved Ama and the others a day from hell.”
“Left it to the last minute though, didn’t they? I heard Miss Gresham was in the car with them when the call came through.”
“The reading is from the eighteenth chapter of the gospel of Luke,” Ama said into the microphone, smiling as she looked at Annie sitting with the faculty, and Caroline next to Juliette in a pew further back.
“And they brought to him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, and said, Suffer little children to come to me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, Whoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.”
“Let us pray.”
The congregation as one bowed their heads as Grace looked round.
“Father, we give thanks to you for the live of Angela Merici, who as your most devoted servant sought to ensure that girls were educated and knew of your great love for them and for all. We rejoice that she is now in your company of saints, and that every day our prayers to her are answered as we all grow in wisdom and knowledge.
“We ask that her grace falls upon us each and every day, and that through her protection you will shine through us, and your light will be a beacon on this world. Grant us your peace, in your and her name, in this we pray,
The girls and congregation crossed themselves as Grace took some notes from her jacket.
"Your Eminence,” Grace nodded towards the Cardinal-Archbishop. “Honoured Guests, Friends, Students, we are gathered today to celebrate the foundation of St Angela's Academy for Young Ladies." Grace paused and looked round the Cathedral interior.
"In the relatively short time that I have been lucky enough to have been Dean of St Angela's I have discovered both what a wonderful institution it is, but also how incredible the staff, alumnae, Parents, but most especially the students are.
"As an outsider I had the rare privilege of seeing this school in the same way as a Freshman does, learning alongside them, seeing the diversity and the range of both formal and informal subjects available. I have seen them forge new friendships in those opening days, and begin to become the strong, confident young women they will grow to be – and I have also done this, forging new friendships and new ways of working together.
“As a result, I know you can all be proud of St Angela’s as a school, as a student body, and as a family – because that is what we are, and that is what we strive to be. So I thank you for the opportunity to be your Dean, and I thank the founders for setting the principles that still guide us today.
“Oh my,” Mary said as she walked into the marquee that had been erected outside the museum, and saw the hustle and bustle of what was going on, “this is certainly not how I thought it would look.”
“Excuse me,” she heard a voice behind her say, and as she stepped out of the way she saw two men pulling a rack of lights across the floor.
As she walked slowly down, she looked at the long raised wooden catwalk, jutting out between the rows of chairs.
“Scary as anything, isn’t it?”
She turned and smiled at the sound of the Welsh voice, as Mary Thomas hugged her. “Don’t worry, lass – everyone is nervous their first time. And that’s fine – some of them get nervous every time.”
“Abigail, Jo – and you’re not the only catwalk starter here tonight,” Mary said as she took the young girl’s arm. “Now, as I understand it, Abby is your chaperone and teacher today, but she’s going to be late, so I’ll show you round and tell you where everything is...”
“All right – walk forward, and smile...”
Mary Clarke took a deep breath and walked slowly forward, looking down and round every so often until she reached the other end, turned – and nearly tripped over.
"Mary you look
like you've never really walked in heels." Merlin stood by the side of the
catwalk, her arms folded.
"I don't very
often, and I told everyone that," Mary looked down at her feet.
"Well let me show
you how I do it,” Mary said as she walked up the steps, “and maybe we can
improve this by tonight."
"Not if you don't
have a positive attitude Mary."
positive...” Mary looked round and added
“that I look like an idiot compared to the other girls."
yourself down girl." Mary Thomas smiled. "You have the basics down - it's
just co-ordinating them you are making look bad."
"Please tell me
how I do that, the others make it look effortless."
"Oh it’s never
effortless Mary. This is an art form, and some girls just never get it
right," Merlin looked across the stage at Stephanie, "no matter how
long and successful their careers are."
"Well I know that I need to put one foot in front of another..."
"That's always a good start, but you need to achieve a fluid rhythm as you do so." Mary Thomas walked slowly, "see I swing my hips, my torso stays upright...and I look straight forward, not downwards like you do sometimes."
"I feel like I
need check where my feet are."
"Look stand up,
take deep breaths, then relax."
"Keep your chin up
Mary, we build a great catwalk walk from the top down, not from the feet
“Now – imagine your brothers and sisters are watching, and you want them to see you at your best. Take it slow, and head off.”
Mary smiled as she saw Abby walk into the room, followed by a younger girl, and took a deep breath as she started to walk, swaying her hips as she watched her.
“Good timing, lass,” Merlin said with a smile as the other models watched, “that’s just what she needed – much better Mary, come down a minute. STEPHANIE!”
“Come over here,” Abby said as Mary walked down. “Mary, this is Anna Carlton, another first timer. Anna, Mary Clarke from San Francisco.”
“Call me Doc,” the younger girl said as they shook hands. “Are you as nervous as I am?”
Mary nodded as Abby took off her blazer. “Right – water first, then to work. Both of you, with me...”
"How does Merlin
make it look so easy?" Mary asked as they sat in the changing area.
"By years of
practice, and because she has trained herself to smile and look relaxed even if
the world is coming to an end." Abigail started changing her shoes.
"She must have the
best walk in the world" Mary sighed as yet again Mary Thomas and Stephanie
started arguing about walks.
"No - that is just arriving." Abby looked up. "Have you met Fiona's mother? Because that's her and Mandy just arriving."
“No I haven’t,” Mary
"Well Olivia Savage is usually considered to have the finest catwalk walk in history." Abby held up a hand in greeting as the two older women walked over.
"Now what lies are
you telling these girls Abigail?"
"Only the truth
about your walk Bandit."
"Oh that is a myth..."
"Like hell it is darling." Mandy broke in. "You are easily the best ever."
“Mary, I’d like you to meet Mandy Carrow. Mandy, Olivia, this is Mary Clarke.”
“A pleasure, darling,” Mandy said in her slow drawl, “first time?”
Mary nodded slowly as Olivia said “don’t worry – you’ll be fine.”
“TUFTY! We need you and Bandit in hair!”
“Once more unto the breach dear friends, once more...”
Abby looked at Mary, and said “penny for them?”
"So why do most of the models call each other by nicknames Abigail?" Mary asked the question. "For example who the hell is BS?"
“Oh I know who she is,” Doc said as she put her shoes on, “the one model here tonight who never, ever has to worry about Merlin criticising her walk.”
“Did I hear someone mention my name?”
Mary turned and watched as Jeannie wheeled herself in. “Hey Doc, Stick – and this is?”
“Mary Clarke, Jeannie Brewster – Baby Supermodel, or BS for short.”
“Don’t ask,” Jeannie said as she and Mary shook hands. “Nice to meet you – I saw the Russia and New Faces shoots. Nicely done.”
“Most of us have a nickname so that we can talk about each other without others know who we’re talking about – it’s like a sorority for us. For example, Mandy is Tufty, Olivia the Love Bandit, Alice MacKinnon who runs APCO is Bats, and Mother is...”
“Walking into the room right now,” Maggie Fife said as she looked out of the curtains.
Karen Boyd said as she sat on the edge of the stage.
looked over and smiled as she said "Hey Sweets."
"Come to look at
the fresh talent?"
"No,” Mother said as Karen stood up, “like you I've been conned into walking."
"Well it is in support of a wonderful charity."
"I know, and I
know it’s one you support personally Sweets."
"Well,” Karen said
quietly, “I know the horrors of addiction."
"Yes you do,"
a very posh sounding English voice with just the tiniest hint of Ireland spoke
from behind them.
"Eve what the hell
are you doing here?" Linda smiled as she turned round.
"I ran into Merlin
at the hospital in London while she was there with Fiona and she told me about
this gig, I flew over in case I could be of use."
"Well I'm sure
they can find something for you Neanderthal." Mother started changing
shoes. "How is Stephen?"
"He's stable Mother,
and thanks for asking, we were there seeing his specialist, and the doctor
"Beware of we doctors when we do that." Karen laughed.
“I know I know – Cassandra is also in town, and she says if you need someone to speak as an introduction, she’d be honoured.”
"Where is the
Palomino, I thought she'd be here?"
through security at JFK outbound as we speak Body." Abby looked at her
scene?" Elle asked quizzically.
"No she'd far
rather be here,” Abby said, “but she has a family event back in
the Australian looked a trifle sad, "she has to settle with them
“How is she feeling about it?”
“Worried, scared – all of that...”
“Thank you Mrs Brand,” the BA steward said as he handed Grace back her passport and ticket, “I hope you enjoy your return.”
“I hope so as well,” Grace said with a smile as she entered the lounge, stopping to pour herself a glass of wine. Sitting down, she opened her purse, and took out a card. Removing it from the envelope, she smiled as she saw “Good luck at Momford Place. Sarah and Harriet.”
“I’m going to need it,” she said with a smile as she sipped her wine...
"So an evaluation
Juliette?" Madame as she ushered her friend into her study.
"Two dead, a third
badly wounded - We hurt them, but we can expect them to strike back."
"And where are we
the most vulnerable?"
"Janice, it would
take an idiot not to link Janice's presence to what happened."
"She, Katy, and
Katherine will need a 24 hour watch starting right now from your best
surveillance people Shirley."
"You thought of it
as well?" Ju interrupted.
"No Susan did, and
she put the measures into effect herself."
"Top grades to
"Yes," Shirley paused, “she really does know her job. They’ll be discrete, but constantly vigilant."
As her telephone rang, Shirley nodded as she pocked up the handset.
"Hello Sandy, what
can I do for you?"
"Just ringing to
say that you can send someone over to collect the keys for the vacant apartment
in the Carter's block."
"Thank you, it
means the surveillance team will have a base."
"Well I'm just
glad I could help."
"In the meanwhile how is Heather doing with further Intelligence gathering?"
“We think we know one of the new recruits – the woman Jo visited has been in Buffalo. They also may be putting feelers out to Louise – she contacted Heather to seek advice on what to do.”
“Okay then – we need to keep monitoring her, let Louise know to be open to offers – Dom?”
“She’s walking the show tonight – but Natalya is there as her guest, as well as to keep an eye on the Carters.
“One other thing,” Juliette said as she looked through her glasses, “Cari told me today she’s planning a girls night out for her and a few friends this weekend.”
“I don’t want to know which friends, do I?”
“Probably not,” Juliette said, “but I’m watching Judith, and they’re heading to Buffalo. Any thoughts?”
“I’ll let you know,” Shirley said with a smile...
"Am I being a
total ignoramus if I admit that I don't know who most of these women are?"
Mary asked as she and Doc stood waiting their turn with the hairdressers.
seems to know everybody else..."
Behati Prinsloo high fived the youngster.
"See they even
"Oh that's just
Behati, she's a friend of Abigail's."
"Yes, but she knows who you are and you know her...I feel such a stranger."
“Then we need to fix that,” Doc said. “Behati, meet my new friend Mary, Mary, Behati.”
“Oh yeah – the new West Coast find with Trina. I’ve seen some prints of your work in Russia with Pelican, Face and Elmore.”
Mary looked blank, as Doc said “Juliette, Caroline and Carina – that’s their model nicknames.”
“Oh – how long does it take to learn them?”
“No comment – I usually remember the friends, but I still have no idea who Fractures is...”
“Okay girls – final break before you get ready.”
“I need this,” Mary said as she sat down, and accepted the drink of water from Doc, “I never knew it could be so tiring.”
“It can be, especially at first,” Maggie said as she sat next to her, “but trust me – it gets easier with practice. You actually did very well out there – despite what you may have heard Merlin say.”
“You were right, though Abby – if I think of the girls watching me, it works... Which reminds me, Fiona?”
“Yes, Mary,” Fi said as she sat with them.
“I know it sounds like I’m asking for me, but my sisters would love the chance to get your brother’s autograph when you’re over in a few weeks.”
“I’ll go one better – he has to do a charity gig out there, for reasons I don’t want to go into. Let me see if i can slip you some tickets to that – you might even get them backstage.”
“Oh no, that’s too much to ask for...”
“Leave it with me,” Fi said as she stood up, and walked to where her mother was talking to Linda.
“One day, i will wake up, and this will all be a dream,” Mary whispered, and then yelped as Abby pinched her.
“Got news for you, it’s not a dream,” she said with a smile, “let’s go for it.”