Jo in LA
Tuesday 9th June
5 pm Pacific Time
Maddie Moore’s apartment, LA
Jo sat on the leather couch, her legs tucked under the seat, as her hosts watched the girls been called up in their white dresses.
“Joanne Smith…William Smith.” As Jo walked up the steps and received her scroll from Brooke Hutton, Maddie paused the recording.
“Heather must have been so proud Jo?”
“I think she was,” Jo said as she leaned forward and picked up her glass of iced water, “how she kept the traditional silence as the girls were called up I will never know.”
“I heard she got a trifle loud when she found out you’d won Prom Queen.” Emma smiled.
“You might say that.” Jo laughed, “I think the restaurant nearly threw her out she screamed so loudly.”
“Well I think you have to allow for some sisterly pride.”
“That you do Emma my love.” Maddie smiled at her wife-to-be as she started the film again.
“Well,” Jo said, “I have to say everything about Commencement was magical, but by then I think we were all glad the waiting round had ended.”
“I applaud the decision of your school to honour that murdered girl as a graduate Jo, that was so touching to see.” Emma spoke.
“What impressed me was the fact so many girls are going to so many great colleges.” Maddie sipped her coffee.
“You mean like Ally going to Harvard? I think she is still convinced they made a mistake.”
“Well the two famous models as well.”
“Yeah Maggie going to Boston College, Marnie going to Brown.”
“Well anyway we are glad you’ve come out to visit with us Jo.”
“It gives Sandy and Big Sis the chance to go ogle art and antiques in the Medoc Emma, and honestly its great for you guys to put me up. I love your apartment.”
The large main room was furnished in leather and chrome, but somehow they made it work. On the wall were framed LPs of Ladydown, as well as posters of famous concerts, while a large bookcase contained some of Maddie’s books, many leather bound.
“Well its better then you staying in a hotel while you do this shoot and the commercial, and honestly its lovely having a young person round the place.” Maddie smiled again.
“Alright I’m going to start supper…Holler if you need me.” Emma got up and headed towards the kitchen. “I hope your diet allows you the occasional steak, Jo?”
“Medium rare, please,” Jo called back as Maddie stood up. “Come out to the terrace – the view is spectacular.”
She opened the door as Jo went out, the warm air hitting her as she looked out over the city.
“You’re right – it’s quite a view,” she said as Maddie sat at a table.
“Anyway, what is this other piece of work you have lined up as well?” Jo whispered as she sat down next to Maddie.
“It’s a jewelry store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, I think it could provide some excitement and fun while you are out here on vacation.”
Jo nodded. “I could do with some excitement and fun – before the excitement and fun. Did you hear I’d been invited to do the awards show in London?”
“Along with Abby I understand, as well as Maggie and Marnie?”
“And Jeannie, and half the modeling world. Honestly, one ad campaign, one calendar, and suddenly…”
“This from the girl who told me she wasn’t going to be a model?”
“I know, I know,” Jo said quietly, “but I do like doing it. Occasionally.” She looked at her watch and said “I better phone George and tell him and the kids I got here safely…do you mind?”
“Not at all…did he get a nanny by the way?”
“Yes, her name is Orlanda, and she trained at Norland College in London.”
“A Norland Nanny? I’m impressed.”
“Well the kids already love her and she’s fantastic with Jennifer… I do think Heather misses having Jennifer in the house every day though.”
“Sounds like she’s getting broody.”
“Maybe a little.” Jo smiled.
“Do you think she might start to think the same way as Frieda and Annie?”
“I honestly don’t know,” Jo said as she finished her drink.
“Anyway I’ll go out and give Emma a hand while you make your call.”
“Thanks Maddie,” she said as they walked back in, “and once again thank you for putting me up.”
“It’s our pleasure Jo.” Maddie went into the kitchen as Jo picked up the telephone and dialed a number. She heard the ringtone for a few minutes, before she heard a female voice say in a light Irish brogue “Graham residence – how can I help you?”
“Orlanda, it’s Jo Smith. Is George free at the moment?”
“I’m afraid not, but – all right, all right, here you go.”
“Hi Jo,” she heard Sandy say, “we’re flying to Orlando tomorrow.”
“I know – and you’re going to behave for daddy and Orlanda, aren’t you?”
“I always do as I’m told, Jo.”
“No she doesn’t,” Jo head George shout in the background, making her smile.
“Well, tell Daddy that I arrived safely in Los Angeles, and I’ll see you when you get back from your holiday.”
“You have fun as well, Jo – bring us a present!”
“I think your mom and Heather will bring you more presents than I can.”
“DADDY!! It’s Jo!”
“All right, go and get ready for bed,” she heard him say, before she heard “You arrived safely then?”
“Yeah – Maddie Moore sent a car to meet me, and I’m settled in. We’re sightseeing tomorrow, and then doing the shoot Thursday.”
“Well, stay safe, and I’ll make sure the kids have lots of fun.”
“Give Jennifer a kiss from me,” Jo said, “bye for now.”
“Everyone safe,” Emma said as she looked in.
“All safe – that smells good.”
“Baked potatoes – I rub them in a garlic and herb infused oil.”
“That would explain it – can I do anything?”
“Nah, you relax – but some music on.”
Wednesday 10th June
Maddie and Jo walked down the boulevard, Maddie in a grey jacket and skirt with a black camisole underneath, Jo in a pair of tight black trousers and an open necked blouse.
“How can anyone even begin to think of shopping here,” Jo said as she looked through her sunglasses.
“Very rich people with far too much money available to them,” Maddie said, “as opposed to very rich young women who squirrel it all away.”
Jo smiled as they sat at a wine bar, looking across the road at the canopy covered glass doors.
“Mainbocher’s is a Beverley Hills institution Jo, and they boast their store is armed robbery proof.”
“Oh?” Joanne giggled. “That sounds like a challenge to me.”
“I rather thought you might see it that way.” Maddie smiled.
“Well looking at it from out here they look fairly routine. Inner door the doorman has to let you in, then they open the next door from inside the store I presume?”
“Yes, round the back is an alleyway with staff car parking, a commercial entrance, and its all done on visual recognition and electronic locks as well.”
“Well the logical plan is do it pussycat style, seize the first person who opens up each morning, hold them overnight, terrify them, and take over the place early morning.”
“That would be logical except the store is opened by a different member of staff each morning, each notified first thing by the head office in New York, they are the choice for that day. The notified person being sent an encrypted message with that days combination for the security locks.”
“Now why would they do something stupid like that?” Jo rolled her eyes.
“Oh maybe because of the activities of a certain group of ladies based in New York?”
“Those damn pussycats!” Jo giggled again.
“Alright, so unless we could somehow have either foreknowledge of who is going to be selected that day, we just can’t have enough girls to make covering every possibility feasible.”
“Well, in the absence of Heather, unless you know a hundred percent reliable psychic…”
“Alright then,” Jo said with a laugh, “our only solution is take it during business hours.”
“That was my thinking.” Maddie nodded. “Have you ever seen Beverley Hills Cop 2?”
“I’ll put it on when we get back – I think you’ll like it.”
“Well we had better go inside and look round.” Jo checked her makeup in the small mirror she carried. “Do I look rich enough and stylish enough to be shopping on Rodeo Drive?”
“Oh I think you’ll pass.” Maddie smiled again. The two women stood up and crossed the road.
“Good Morning Miss Moore.” The doorman tipped his cap and ushered them into the tiny lobby. A buzzer then alerting him and he opened the inner door.
“Miss Moore, how nice to see you again,” a woman in a white blouse and grey leather skirt said as she came over.
“Hello Elaine – this is Joanne Smith, a friend from New York.”
“Forgive me,” Elaine said, “but are you the face of Fitzstuart Woolens.”
“My reputation precedes me,” Jo said with a laugh. “Maddie said you may have some earrings I may like the look of?”
“Of course - come this way please…”
As they walked over, Jo took note of the cameras, and the layout of the store, memorizing as much as she could.
“So do you have a crew in mind Maddie?” Jo asked as they sat in the kitchen drinking coffee.
“Some of my girls here in the LA office.”
“Are they experienced?”
“By and large.”
“By and large?”
“Two have never done an armed job before.”
Jo grimaced. “Do you think this is a job to take novices on?”
“I’d have ideally liked to import Dominique and Lily, but as you know they are otherwise engaged.”
“How many killers other then you?”
“Well I suppose if they all work for you they must be good enough.”
“I think they are,” Maddie said, whilst thinking, “I HOPE they are.”
“Maybe you should talk to Susan or Penny?”
“Nah – I’ll think about it in the office tomorrow, and then let you see the files. You might be able to advise after that.”
“Fair enough, it’s your call. Now, you said you wanted me to watch a film.”
“Oh yeah,” Maddie said, “Beverley Hills Cop 2. I like the idea of paying homage to films – consider this a trial run, but watch the film first.”
She walked over to the television and switched it on, selecting a DVD and putting it in. Jo settled down and watched, the smile slowly growing on her face as she watched the opening sequence.
“Oh I like this idea,” Jo said quietly, “schematics of the store and the monitoring?”
“In the office – we can review on Friday.”
“Hey,” Emma said as she came in.
“Hey,” Maddie said as she called up the stairs, “how was the classroom today?”
“Better than usual,” her partner said as Jo waved from the balcony.
“She’s talking to the boyfriend.”
Maddie nodded as Jo came back in. “Sorry – pillow talk.”
“Did you guys have a good day shopping?” Emma asked.
“Maddie gave her credit cards a workout.”
“Didn’t you buy anything Jo?”
“Oh just a couple of little things, I’m not a moneybags like Maddie.”
“I’d have thought with your modeling…?”
“That money is to help me get through the year at college Emma, the less I have to rely on Sandy’s generosity the better I will like it.”
“I can understand that.”
“So I looked at a lot of the amazing stores, even tried on a couple of things, but all I ended up buying were a couple of souvenirs for Big Sis and Sandy. Maddie says she knows a place I can pick up something to take home for the kids cheaper.”
“Okay, and changing the subject, when’s your shoot?”
“In the morning, I need be there at seven, so they are sending a car for me at six, I’ll try not to disturb either of you as I get up.”
“You’ll not disturb me,” Emma smiled, “You could detonate a bomb and it wouldn’t wake me up.”
“So what is the shoot for out of interest?” Maddie asked as she came in from the kitchen.
“It’s for one of the national big box chains, advertising their garden centers.”
“That’s not bad exposure for a young model.” Maddie said.
“I know, it’s why I think Missy booked me for it.”
Thursday 11th June
Big Box, outside Beverly Hills
“Thank you, that’s wonderful,” the rather large woman said to the slim blonde, wearing the blue polo shirt, grey cargo pants and apron with the Big Box logo on the front.
“Glad to be of service, ma’am,” the girl said as she watched her walk away, and then shook her head.
“Oh that was wonderful.” Jo shook her head as she walked over towards Miranda Hope, the lady from the advertising agency that was running the shoot. “That woman thought I really worked here and asked my advice on what fertilizer to use to make her roses better.”
“Oh no,” Miranda smiled, “Did you tell her that you are a model?”
“No - luckily I remembered something that the mother of a friend of mine who is a New York florist, and garden designer, once told me, and I directed her to the brand she recommends.”
“Well it proves you look the part at least.”
“Yep.” Jo looked slightly proud of herself. “So what’s the next setup?”
“Would you believe you pretending to recommend a product to another person?”
“How is that for a coinkydink?” Jo laughed.
“Go get your face and hair looked at Jo, and I think start again in say 10 minutes?”
“That suits me.”
Miranda smiled as Jo walked off. She had doubts when Missy Auerbach had suggested this unknown, but she was good – and hard working. After some recent shoots, she was like a breath of fresh air.
Xavier International Offices
Maddie looked at the personnel files scattered over the conference table, humming to herself as she looked at details and pictures.
“Come in,” she said as she heard the knock on the door without looking up. The door opened and closed, before she heard a woman say “you wanted to see me Maddie?”
She stood up and turned to see a red haired woman standing there, wearing a white collarless shirt and beige coloured breeches.
“Tracey – good, you’re just in time. I have selected the other five members of the team for the raid at the weekend. Can you give me your thoughts?”
The woman picked up the files and looked at them. I can see why you have picked three of them,” she said, “but JD and Darlene? They’re fairly new to the organization, untested.”
“Agreed, but they have high proficiency scores in the firearm tests, and Madame wishes to test all hires in the field. If we pair Darlene with Rene, and JD with you, I think Rose and Daisy make a good team.”
“They should – after all, they had three years as home invaders before joining us,” Tracey said as she looked at her boss. “I don’t know though – who’s this specialist who is joining us?”
“You’ll meet her tomorrow – but trust me, she’s what we need to make this first hit a success. Now, the plans?”
Tracey laid out the blueprint of the jewellery store, and picked up a pencil. “Where did you see cameras?”
Taking the pencil, Maddie marked on various points on the plans.
“Thorough. Do you see, however, there is a blind spot, just under the entrance to the store room?”
Looking at the plans, Maddie nodded. “We might be able to use that – the plan is for you six to be granted entry by the service yard, so we could make use of that. Now, have the girls meet here at noon tomorrow for briefing, and then to decamp to the range.”
“How was your shoot Jo?” Emma shouted from the kitchen as Joanne collapsed into an armchair.
“Exhausting,” Jo said as she sighed. “I was warned Graeme Finney was a bit of a perfectionist, but he fussed and twittered over every little thing. As bad as he is supposed to be on bad days I’d take working with Adam Cabot over him any day.”
“That bad eh?” Emma brought them both in a glass of red wine. “Perhaps this will help?”
“Mmmm that’s nice.” Jo sipped her wine, “Where’s that from?”
“A vineyard in France that Shirley owns.”
“It’s good. I’ll have to recommend it to Sandy.”
“Maddie could probably give you a couple of bottles to take back,” Emma said as she sat down. She was wearing a pair of denim shorts and a white t-shirt with Ladydown written across the chest.
“Do you ever miss those days?”
“What, the constant touring and arguments with idiot producers? No not really,” Emma said with a smile, “it’s not the same situation as it would be with Juliette or the others, who can go back to modeling after a break. For one thing, your voice changes over the years.”
“Oh yeah – the Marianne Faithfull experience. Nessa played me both versions of As Time Goes By – so different.”
“Ah – well, in her case it was drink and drugs that caused that change,” Emma said as she shook her head. “Having said that – can you keep a secret?”
“I have managed in the past,” Jo said in reply.
“I’ve been in touch with the other three – they’re all coming to the wedding, and the old band may be coming back together for one night only.”
“That could be fun,” Jo said with a smile as she sat back, and sipped her wine.
“So now you can relax till you shoot the TV commercials?”
“I can, I want to go see a few of the sites, Venice Beach, Sunset Boulevard, the Queen Mary.”
“You’ll need hire a car, Los Angeles SPRAWLS!”
“I know – I saw a car rental place across the road, I might borrow one from there.”
She picked up a book and looked at the picture inside. “Is that you,” she said as she pointed to one of the girls in short ra-ra skirts.
“That’s me – with Belle, Andi and Xandra. It was fun 90% of the time, but when it got to be more drudge than fun, we called it a day.”
“Sounds like a sensible approach – so how are the preparations going?”
“So far so good – venue booked, invitations sent out, now we wait to see who is going to make it. Anyway, Maddie will be back soon – you relax until dinner.”
Jo was checking her messages when she saw the indicator for an incoming video call. Opening the icon, she smiled as she saw Susan sitting in her apartment.
“Hey Susan – bit late for you isn’t it?”
“Someone wanted a feed – I’ll get her changed and get off to bed.”
“Ah the joys of the midnight feed – where’s Clint anyway?”
“Sleeping. So how is LA Jo?” Susan asked.
“Hot, but you lived here long enough to know that.”
“Tell me about it – New York is bad enough in August, but that all year round? One of the good things about moving out here.”
“I need to ask House some time how he copes.”
“Stanford’s a bit further north, not quite so bad. How are they looking after you?”
“I think Emma wants to ruin my modelling career before it really starts.”
“I should have warned you,” Susan smiled, “Emma’s portions do tend to be very generous.”
“I’ll say, and I feel guilty if I leave anything.”
“Well you’ll work it off training. I presume you need to start your pre-freshman training soon?”
“After I get back from London. How are you doing?”
“My figure is coming back gradually. The video Kylie and Marina use is quite good actually.”
“Well April is worth a little extra weight isn’t she?”
“Yes,” Susan beamed as she lifted her little daughter up.
“So now we are just waiting on Tasha?”
“She’s starting to get close.”
“So any goss?”
“Not much, Annie and I have talked a couple of times, she and Cari are having a fantastic time.”
“Cari wrote me.”
“Sandy has shortened the odds on a Klaus/Juliette wedding before the end of the year.”
“That I heard from Big Sis.”
“Apart from that not a lot, most people are out of town.”
“So when do Kylie and Marina fly back?”
“Two weeks time. Kylie sent me a report from the school – she’s done extremely well all things considered.”
“A problem, but she’s getting there. It looks as if they are suggesting English Lit. History and Human Biology as possible majors for next year, and other subjects to GCSE standard.”
“Well, she’ll need the rest then.”
“Oh yes – she said, and I quote ‘I’m fucking knackered, but I’m enjoying every second’.”
Jo laughed before she said “I’ll let you get to your bed – I have to do some prep work, and tomorrow I visit Xavier International here.”
“Business or pleasure?”
“Yes – talk to you soon.”
Friday 12th June
“Right,” Emma said as she drained her glass, and pulled on her linen jacket, “I have to get going. The choir meeting is going to take all day, so why don’t we go out tonight for dinner?”
“Sounds good,” Maddie said as Jo nodded. She was still in a long black nightshirt, her graying red hair pulled back in a ponytail.
“Right, I’ll be back by six,” Emma said as she leaned over and kissed Maddie, then grabbed her car keys, “enjoy your day, both of you.”
They watched as she left the room, and then heard the car drive off, before Maddie wiped her chin. “I think you need to prepare for today’s meeting,” she said as she stood up, “I have some things that should suit you.”
“Oh – what?”
“Go and shower, and I’ll sort them out in your room, give you a chance to prepare before we head off.”
“This look was a nice suggestion Maddie.” Jo redid her lipstick in the sunshields mirror as Maddie drove down the main road.
“Well,” she said with a smile, “I guessed you wouldn’t want my girls to see the real you, and I’d seen the leather on sale.” She had changed into a white jacket and trousers, with a black camisole top underneath, and black heels.
“This skirt is to die for,” Jo ran her hand over the butter soft black leather of the pencil skirt.
“Take it home with you, I’m sure you’ll find a home for it in your wardrobe. Curt will certainly love you in it.”
“Probably, but I think he loves me in anything…”
“Or nothing?” Maddie smiled.
“That’s his and mine little secret.” Jo smiled back.
“Is it going to present difficulties at William Smith that you and he are dating?”
“We hope not. He’s told them and so has Coach Waterman. The school has said that it’s okay as long as I don’t take his classes, and he won’t be teaching the freshman psychology classes I am signed up for.”
“Well as long as they are cool with the idea.”
“Yeah I was worried for a little while.”
“So does he know you go to London when you leave here?”
“Yeah, he wished I was going back to New York, but he’s going to join us up on the North Shore when Sandy and Heather get home.”
“Well that will be nice anyway.”
“Yeah it will be.”
“So, much modeling booked over the summer.”
“A few bits more, I just want to earn enough to cover my expenses during the school year. I’m doing a shoot with Caroline mid-August.”
Maddie shook her head. “You know, of all the changes that have happened over the last year, including Shirley’s transformation, the one that still makes me shake my head is Dominique as Caroline Jameson, model and mother.”
“I remember when I first met her – Susan and Heather had rescued me from… From the man who kidnapped me, and I came home to this big party. Then that night I met this black haired Amazon, who introduced herself as Dominique.”
“She can be a bit disconcerting when you first meet her.”
Jo nodded, and then said “but then there was that business over the summer, and this whole new side came out – and then Caroline appears. Now she’s Ama’s mom and guardian.” Looking at Maddie, she said “do you think Shirley would ever do the same for Maisha?”
“Formally adopt her? No,” Maddie said as she shook her head. “I talked to her about that, but she is happier to act as Maisha’s mentor and guardian in that sense. I know she has obtained the legal status as guardian in the UK, but that’s all.”
“Well, anyway, I have the job with her for Alice, and another shoot with Abs, as well as the show. It should cover this year’s expenses.”
“Seems strange when I know you have millions banked.”
“Yes, but it all comes back to this hiding in plain sight, Jo Smith can only spend what Jo Smith appears to legitimately have. So I’m just like any other student, just trying to make ends meet.”
“It sucks, but I’ve been in the business long enough to know that safety comes first.”
“Yeah,” Jo sighed.
“We are getting close to my offices Jo, you might want to put the dark glasses on.”
“Gotcha.” Jo put the large sunglasses on and checked her reflection in the mirror again. The dark curly wig looked great, the leather jacket over the red top was fine, the skirt she loved, and the dark stockings and huge stilettos completed the look wonderfully.
“You look unrecognizable Jo.” Maddie reassured her as she pulled into the underground parking garage of the office block on Wilshire Boulevard.
“This is a nice location.”
“Yeah a bit modern for Shirley’s taste, but it suits us.”
“I take it a lot of your staff are straight?”
“Yeah, I’ll identify the core workers to you, but yeah most of the people work in the legitimate businesses, the agency, the insurance, the trucking, and the shipping.”
“Talking of the agency, how is the agreement with Norstar working?” Jo asked as they walked to the elevators.
“Very well, it was us who alerted Norstar about this gig you are doing…”
“Well thank you.”
“And a number of our kids have picked up good gigs in New York.”
“Missy said that the little girl in the Veggiegood commercials is one of yours.”
“Yeah Hannah is great in those, and that was a job she wouldn’t have got without Norstar pitching her.”
“Well it is mutually beneficial then.”
“Very…Okay Jo game face on.” Maddie checked her one last time as the elevator doors opened.
Jo looked round the reception area, the words “XAVIER INTERNATIONAL” in large steel letters on the oak paneled wall behind the receptionist. To all intents and purposes, it was a Californian business office, complete with the bleach blonde receptionist at the desk.
“Good morning, Miss Moore,” she said as Maddie and Jo walked over, “your messages.”
“Thank you Barbie,” Maddie said, Jo trying not to laugh. “Miss Cole is here to discuss some future business opportunities with me. Will you issue her a pass please?”
“Certainly – first name please.”
“Cheryl,” Jo said as the young girl typed, and then handed over a visitor’s pass. Maddie meanwhile took her own pass out, and placed it on the side of the glass doors, allowing them to swing open for her. Jo did likewise, entering an open plan office.
“This area is for our shipping and insurance groups,” Maddie said as they walked through. “Rising Stars have their office on the next floor, while Media Services have a small office here and another near the studios. My office is on the third floor.”
They stepped into the glass elevator and rode up, stepping into a carpeted hallway as they walked across.
“Good morning Miss Moore,” a red headed woman said as they walked past, “the morning reports.”
“Thank you Tracey,” Maddie said, “will the project team be available at noon.”
“They will – conference room A,” Tracey said as she looked at Jo.
“Excellent – can you get coffee for two brought in,” Maddie asked.
“I’ll get Hayley to bring it to you,” Tracey said as she walked off, her bottom swaying in the skirt.
“Susan’s replacement,” Maddie said as they went into a large, modern office. “This is my Sanctum Sanctorum,” Maddie said as she put her bag on the chrome and glass table, and hung her jacket up. “What do you think?”
“Very nice,” Jo said as she looked out over the city, and then turned as the door opened and a girl, not much older than herself and wearing a short sleeved blue dress, brought in a coffee pot and cups on a tray.
“Thank you Hayley,” Maddie said as she set the tray down, and then backed out.
“Anyway,” Maddie said as she poured, “let me run through my thoughts for the raid…”
“If we are doing a job like this Maddie, I think we both know we want girls covering our ass who will not hesitate to use their weapons.”
“I know Jo…believe me I spent a long time thinking this out.”
“So you think we can rely on all these girls?”
“I think they might need to spend some time practicing with the semi-automatics, but I’m reasonably confident…” Maddie saw the look on Joanne’s face, “I know that all pussycats are stone cold, but remember most of my girls have come from a burglary background, not armed robbery.”
“I know and appreciate that – so let me put it this way. Are they ready to move to the next level?”
“Yes, they are,” Maddie said as she looked at her watch, “and it’s time to meet them. Come with me.”
Jo followed Maddie to a large meeting room, where Tracey was standing. Five other women were sitting round the table, all dressed in a casual business style.
“Good morning, girls,” Maddie said as she closed the door. “This is a young lady, to be referred to today as Cheryl, who Madame has asked to assist in this endeavor. Cheryl, you met Tracey in passing earlier, but allow me to formally introduce my number two.”
“Pleasure,” Tracey said as she shook Jo’s hand.
“Likewise,” Jo said in a Canadian accent.
“We have with us today Darlene, JD, Rose, Daisy and Rene.”
Each of the girls nodded as they were introduced, before Maddie sat down, Jo and Tracey sitting either side of her.
“As always, no details leave the room,” Maddie said as she looked round. “Tracey?”
“The target,” Tracey said as she started a presentation on the screen, “is Mainbocher of Rodeo Drive. The objective is simple – collect as many jewels as we can in the time available to us, and get out.”
“You make it sound simple,” Darlene said, “but we all know the store – the security is the best there is.”
“I’m better,” Jo said quietly, “and every store has a weak spot. In the case of this one, it’s that very security we exploit.”
The girls looked at each other as Maddie smiled. “Tracey, continue.”
“We meet at a rendezvous to be announced tomorrow at noon,” Tracey said, “and the six of us will travel in a security van we have already procured to the service area.”
“At the same time,” Maddie said, “Cheryl and I will travel to the store. We will be in disguise – Cheryl as my chauffer. We will gain access from the front, but before we can be buzzed through we will ensure the doorman cooperates with us, and locks the front door.”
“And how will you do that?”
“With this,” Jo said as she held up her Mauser. “You will be armed – three with submachine guns, three with baseball bats.”
“JD, Darlene and Rose, you have not past the proficiency laid down for these weapons, so you get the baseball bats.”
The three girls nodded as Tracey continued. “We will approach the service entrance in the back, and wait for the security guard to open the doors. Then we move, hard and fast.”
“Everyone in the building has to get on the floor, nice and compliant,” Jo said quietly, “and if anyone does not comply, they get shot.”
“We are in and out on a time schedule.” Maddie looked up from her notes. “I’ll carry a stop watch and will call time, whatever we don’t already have we leave, do you all understand that?”
“Strict discipline girls, we must have strict discipline.” Jo spoke.
“You work in teams of two, one of you breaks display cases, and the other scoops the stuff up. Once you’ve broken all the cases in your designated area, then number one also go’s for gems.”
“No names, no hints as to your identities girls.”
“Just remember this is big time armed robbery, the reward will be huge…just remember that, it will sooth any consciences if you need to shoot.”
"Maddie and I won't be going in masked," Jo spoke;
we will be relying on wigs, dark glasses and makeup as our disguises. So we
need those security discs, so no one can get lucky showing us on TV at a later
date...do you understand ladies?"
"Yes," there was a nodding of heads.
"We may wear scarves we can pull up to mask our
faces once we are inside, that we haven't worked out yet." Maddie added.
"Next ...the girls with the baseball bats, smash those cases
"That's important." Jo emphasized again, “We
do have limited time.”
"Everyone is face down on the floor," Maddie continued, "Anyone gets stupid, you shoot them. This is a high stakes raid girls. Anyone wants to back out they can do so right now. Any takers?"
"Where do we steal the limo from?" Tracey asked as she looked round. "And Maddie I think we are all in this.”
“Excellent – Tracey, have procurement secure a limousine by eight tonight.”
Tracey made a note as Maddie laid out the floor plan. “JD and Tracey, you get the red zone. Rene and Darlene, Blue zone. Rose and Daisy, Green zone. Study the plans and details carefully. While you work, Cheryl will obtain the security discs and take care of the recording system.”
“We will have fifteen minutes tops folks – when the time goes, you get into the car and go, Maddie and I leave by the limo.”
The girls looked at each other, and then fell to studying the plans with Jo, asking questions as Tracey stood with her boss.
“So just who is the kid?” Tracey asked Maddie.
“If I told you she would kill you,” Maddie whispered, “just know she knows exactly what she’s talking about, and she has Madame’s authorization to do whatever she needs to.”
"You mean she's a..."
"Don't say the name, don't even think it."
Maddie looked sternly.
"Well I know you said we maybe needed to toughen
up a bit, but still..."
"If all works as I hope then this will be the first of several jobs, Tracey, and we can all make a lot of money imitating movies."
“You have some more thoughts?”
“We work in Tinseltown, Tracey – you tell me. Cheryl, thoughts?”
Cheryl walked over as Tracey looked at the others.
"I love this movie idea, it's ironic, when in
Hollywood, act like movie stars." Jo grinned.
"Well I get a crew that can do it as well as you guys do back east, Madame thinks this can be a very profitable addition to our business out here Jo."
She nodded as she said “good move to give the more proficient ones the guns. Have any…”
“Not yet,” Maddie said, “but this is their big chance. They won’t let me or you down. Now, we’ll leave them to work – you need to change before we visit that store you asked about.”
“Until tomorrow ladies,” Jo said, Tracey nodding as she and Maddie left.
“I am never going to get used to this.” Joanne whispered in Maddie’s ear as they entered APCO on Rodeo Drive.
“I take it you mean entering a store and seeing your picture everywhere?”
“Yes.” Jo looked at the pictures of her on the wall. “And come on – wearing jumpers in this place?”
“It gets cold here sometimes as well, you know.”
“Can I help you ladies?” one of the smartly dressed associates came up and asked.
“No thank you, we are just looking.” Maddie smiled.
As they walked round, Jo had the strangest feeling of déjà vu, as the associates started talking to each other.
“I’m not sure – last time I noticed something like this was when Abby got mobbed in London,” Jo whispered.
“This is nice, I was looking at it in New York.” Jo then said as she pointed at a linen dress. She had changed into jeans and a smart polo shirt, her blonde hair now uncovered.
“They are trying to work out if it’s you.” Maddie whispered, and then in a normal voice said, “it’s nice.”
Jo looked at the cluster of assistants behind one of the counters.
“Pardon me,” a middle-aged woman, who Jo judged was probably the manageress, said as she approached them, “I’m sorry if I’m being rude, but is that you?” she pointed at one of the pictures.
“Oh!” the woman’s mouth hung open.
“She’s Joanne Smith the model,” Maddie spoke.
“Well, welcome to our store,” she said, “if there is anything we can help you with, I’m sure we could arrange a discount or something…”
“There are some perks to being a model,” Maddie whispered as Jo said “Could I try this on please?”
Spago, 176 N Canon Drive
“Good evening Miss Cromwell, your table is ready now. This way please.”
Jo looked round the white room as the waiter led the three of them across the restaurant floor. She was wearing the cream linen dress she had bought earlier, while Emma was wearing a white blouse under a dark grey trouser suit. Maddie was in a red wool dress.
“Thank you Bertram,” Emma said as the waiter held her seat, and handed each of them a menu. “A drink while you decide?”
“Three glasses of Chardonnay please.”
He nodded as Jo said “Am I allowed?”
“They won’t ask,” Maddie said quietly. “So do you have your plans for tomorrow sorted out?”
“Yeah – I’ll drive down to Venice Beach and have a walk round, then go into the hills. I’ll be back by five, if I get it right.”
“We’ll expect you by seven then,” Emma said with a laugh.
“Probably,” Jo said as she looked down. “This all looks good – what do you recommend?”
“I will have the corn soup and the lamb,” Emma said.
“Sushi box and the turbot,” Jo said after a moment.
“The BLT-C and the salmon,” Maddie finally said as she handed the menu back.
“Very good ladies,” Bertram said after he looked at Jo. “Welcome to LA, by the way Miss Smith,” he then said before he walked off.
“You told him didn’t you?”
“No,” Maddie said with a smile, “Bertram is old school. He just knows.”
“So why here,” Jo asked as she looked round.
“It’s one of our favourite restaurants,” Emma said with a smile, “and besides, Wolfgang and Emma are catering our wedding.”
“With the compliments of the management,” Bertram said as he left a plate of caviar and accompaniments on the table.
“Is that real caviar?”
“It is – hope your diet allows it,” Maddie said with a smile.
“Just about.” Jo smiled.
“Bertram explain how you knew who Jo was please?” Emma asked.
“I make it my business to know about all up and coming stars, many may claim they know the current stars, but I pride myself on knowing tomorrow’s stars. I saw your face Miss in the APCO advertising and I committed it to memory.”
“I think you impressed her Bertram.” Maddie smiled.
“Is he for real?” Jo whispered as Bertram walked away.
“Very much so,” Emma looked up from the wine list. “His memory is legendary, it’s said that you can go years between visits, but he will still remember you, your drink preferences, and usually what you ate last time you visited.”
“Dear Goddess!” Jo’s jaw dropped.
“As I said he’s old school, I remember reading similar stories about other legendary waiters through history. It’s a real talent and not one to be laughed at.” Maddie ate some of the caviar.
“I guess not.”
“As Wolfgang himself will tell you Jo, the service is as important to the enjoyment of the dining experience as the quality of the food itself.”
“I suppose it is Emma.” Jo tasted some of the caviar. “Oh I’d get killed for saying this, but this is better than even Vanessa Richmond serves.”
“Wolfgang believes emphatically in quality produce of all kinds for his customers.” Emma sipped her wine.
“Heather will say you are spoiling me bringing me here.”
“Well if we can’t spoil friends what’s the point of life?”
“I agree darling.” Emma nodded.
“So how are the wedding preparations going?”
“Really well, our biggest problem might be hotels, just so many people have accepted invitations…”
“And unfortunately we chose a weekend two major conventions are in town.” Maddie finished her partner’s words.
“Well I’m sure we will all find somewhere to rest our heads.”
“Your starters are imminent ladies.” Bertram returned to the table.
“Bertram can I ask something? My friend Jeannie Brewster, she recommended something to me, and I can’t remember what it was…?”
“Miss Brewster enjoyed our orange juice at her last visit, and particularly our grilled veal chop, perhaps it was that?” the waiter smiled, “would Miss like to change her order?”
“No I was just asking Bertram.” Jo shook her head as he walked away to bring their starters. “That man is amazing.”
Saturday 13th June
A warehouse in West Beverly Hills
Tracey looked up as the doors opened and Maddie walked in, accompanied by the woman introduced as Cheryl.
“Welcome, all of you,” Maddie said as she walked over, “Have you had a chance to review the plans again?”
All six women nodded as they looked at their leader, and the specialist. Maddie always commanded their respect, but this new person – something about her was different. They had been talking before the two of them arrived, wondering who she really was. Tracey had only said Cheryl was drafted by Madame to help start this project, and that if Madame trusted her, they should as well.
Still, as she looked at them in her leather trousers and jacket, she was a commander, that much was obvious.
“So, are we ready,” Cheryl said in her Canadian accent, the girls looking at her and nodding.
“Once we leave this place, there is no turning back, no second thoughts,” Maddie said. “Today we are going to make history, by showing that even a place so renowned for their security as Mainbocher is not immune from a group prepared and determined enough.”
“I do love it when class is in session,” Rose said to Daisy, making the others laugh, until they saw the frown on Cheryl’s face.
“Ladies remember they consider themselves robbery proof, and therefore very well may be a trifle off balance.” Maddie paused. “Keep them that way. As other gangs have shown pure terror is the armed robbers best weapon, so we get them scared for their lives and we keep them that way.”
“Now one last look at the layout, remember your respective target zones,” Tracey told them. “We do just what we said, one smashes cases, and the other snatches the bling.”
“You’ve been especially selected for this job girls,” Maddie continued, “and as I’ve said this job is not a one off. Madame has sanctioned the formation of this unit within the Los Angeles division to train as, and become an elite unit of armed robbers…now I’m giving one last chance to back out…anyone?”
“To miss being part of something like this?” Darlene shook her head. “No way I’m backing out.”
“One day I want to retire to my own little Caribbean island.” JD looked up from studying the plan one last time. “This is the best opportunity I’ll ever have to make that dream come true.”
“That’s true.” Jo smiled. “I know you’ve all speculated on my background, let me just say you might not be wrong.”
“We understand Cheryl.” Tracey nodded.
“Utter ruthlessness in carrying out our plan is the only thing that will make this succeed, so those of you who aren’t killers already, mentally prepare yourselves to become so.” Jo looked deeply into each woman’s eyes, trying to judge each ones determination.
“Alright from now on it’s a security operation.” Maddie looked round. “Ladies your overalls, and other things are in these boxes get changed and remember from now on its gloves on at all times.”
“Got it.” Darlene answered.
“Cheryl and I need get changed as well,” Maddie said as she looked to the far side of the warehouse. “I like it,” she said as she looked at the Daimler, “where was it obtained?”
“The car pool at Warner Brothers – the plates have been swapped.”
“Excellent,” Maddie said as she and Cheryl walked to a side room, slipping on a pair of black leather gloves before she opened the door, closing it behind both of them.
Two outfits were laid out on a side table, with a second table set up with make up and wigs. “Looks good,” Maddie said as she stroked her hand down the dress. “Do you think you can get away with your outfit?”
“Oh yes,” Jo said quietly, “I think I can.”
Tracey looked over as the door opened again, and Maddie and Cheryl came out. Cheryl was now wearing a black dress, designed to look like a chauffer’s jacket with two rows of brass buttons, and a high collar that covered her throat. The skirt of the dress barely covered her bottom, her legs in black fishnet stockings and over the knee black leather boots with four inch heels. A pair of black leather gloves, black glasses and a peaked cap on a long auburn wig completed the outfit.
Maddie had transformed herself, starting with a white wig cut in a bob, framing her face with the dark glasses, large pearl drop earrings and red lips. She was wearing a long white coat over a brown silk jersey dress, the neck high up on her throat, dark hose and four inch stiletto heeled mules.
“All ready,” Maddie said, Tracey and the girls taken by surprise as they heard her talk in a Texas accent.
“How on earth did you do that, Maddie?”
“Trade secret, darling,” Jo said in a Cockney accent, smiling as she enjoyed the way Heather’s devices bamboozled them.
“Right,” Tracey said as she tossed the keys to the limousine to Jo, who caught them in one hand, “into the van, you lot. Let’s move out.”
As the girls pulled the balaclavas over their heads and headed to the security van, the other two walked to the long black car.
“Make you comfortable, Madame,” Jo said as she opened the rear door to the limousine, taking the briefcase from Maddie.
The traffic along the street, both motor and human, was a typical Saturday as the black limousine turned the corner and pulled up at the canopy over the doors of Mainbocher. The doorman, dressed in a red coat with brocade and buttons, watched as the thin female chauffer got out of the car, looking at him as she opened the door.
The woman who got out was tall, thin, but exquisitely dressed, smiling as she looked at the young man. The chauffer stood, impassive as she held a briefcase, but he could not take his eye off her legs as the potential customer looked at her.
“If you would be so kind?” Her voice was rich with the sound of Texas, as he smiled and said “of course, Madame – this way please.”
The woman smiled, her red lips taking his attention again as he watched her and the chauffer walk in, and then closing the door behind them. “One moment please,” he said as he walked to the inner door, while the chauffer opened the briefcase and drew something out.
“Say nothing and listen very carefully, shithead,” he heard a woman with a cockney accent say, and then he felt a thin disc press against his back. “I currently have a Walther pressed between your second and third vertebrae. Act normally, and signal for the inner doors to be opened, and I won’t cripple you with one shot. Nod if you understand.”
Jo watched as Maddie took an aerosol can from the briefcase, and sprayed the camera in the vestibule with black paint, while the doorman slowly nodded.
“Very good,” Jo said, “now, the inside doors please.”
The doorman nodded as he pressed a button, one of the assistants inside looking over and smiling as she opened the inner doors. As she did this, Maddie drew an Uzi and dropped the briefcase.
As they walked through, Maddie called out “Attention, shitheads and arsefuckers. This is a robbery – get your far too well fed faces on the floor and leave your hands where we can see them.”
The customers and assistants looked at her in disbelief as Jo made the doorman turn and lock the outer doors, before she pushed him inside. “You were given an order,” she called out as she then fired a shot in the air, “on the floor, NOW ARSEHOLES!”
“Who the hell are…?” The deputy manager, a tall man in his early thirties, barely got two steps before Jo shot him between the eyes, the women screaming as he dropped to the floor.
“I SAID GET DOWN!” Maddie shouted as she fired the Uzi in the air, the customers and staff dropping as Jo pushed the doorman through to the rear of the building.
“Open them,” she growled as they got to the service doors, the doorman nodding as he punched a code into the panel and the doors swung open. He stood back as six women, wearing boiler suits, gloves and balaclava masks, walked quickly in.
“Get back in there,” Jo growled as she pushed the doorman back in, and the dropped to the floor. She smiled as she looked at the staff in their blouses and skirts, and the customers, all sprawled on the floor.
“Go,” Maddie said as she started her stopwatch. Three of the masked women, the ones holding baseball bats, started to smash the display cabinets as the other three started to empty the contents into sacks.
“You,” Jo said as she pulled up a grey haired woman, dressed too smartly to be a customer, “security room. Take me to it.”
“Stop sniveling and take me to it,” Jo snarled as she pulled her by the arm to the rear of the shop floor, the women with the bats breaking all cases before they started to help their partners to fill sacks.
“Just keep your heads down and nobody else needs to get hurt,” Maddie drawled as she walked round the room, and then saw one young man reaching for the counter. She fired her gun, hitting him in the arm as the women screamed again.
“Don’t for one second think we’re shitting you here,” Maddie called out as he held his arm, the blood seeping out, “keep your fucking heads down and…”
She looked over as Tracey dropped her bag, picking up her gun and firing it at one of the customers, hitting him in the back. As she watched, Tracey walked over and kicked him over, taking a gun from the inside of his jacket and tossing it to one side.
“Any more fucking heroes?”
Jo heard the gunfire, but said nothing as she looked at the bank of cameras.
“Take the disks out, put them in this bag,” she said, the assistant trembling as she ejected the silver DVD disks and dropped them in the clear bag Jo was holding. She then was forced to her knees, her hands behind her head as she watched Jo take a small bottle from her pocket.
“Are you going to kill me?”
“No,” Jo said as she opened the bottle and poured the contents over the equipment, smoke pouring from the openings as the acid ate into the equipment, “not unless you want to die. Do you want to die?”
“Good,” Jo said as she hit her in the stomach with her boot, making her crumple to the floor, “then stay there and don’t move a fucking muscle.”
She walked out onto the shop floor as Maddie looked at her watch, holding up the bag as she did so.
“Time – take the bags and leave,” Maddie called out, watching as the six masked women grabbed the holdalls and bags and carried them to the rear of the building.
“Right, you fucking miserable little shits,” she then called out as she looked round, “nobody move a muscle for fifteen minutes. If you do, we may come back – and we won’t be so forgiving next time.”
Jo opened the door as Maddie walked out, pausing to pick up the case and open it to deposit the Uzi and disks inside, before she left first, walking to the limousine and opening it to allow Maddie to sit before she went behind the wheel.
Driving off, she said nothing until they were turning off the drive and heading for the warehouse.
“Holy shit,” she finally said, “it actually worked?”
“So it would appear – back to the warehouse for debrief,” Maddie said with a smile.
Jo drove into the warehouse, Rose and Daisy pulling the doors closed behind them as she stopped the car and got out.
“An exceptionally professional job, lades,” Maddie, said as she got out, and then looked at Tracey. “How are you feeling?”
“You were right – it had to be done,” Tracey said, “for all our protections.”
“Correct,” Jo said, “this is the attitude you all need to have. Maddie, you have the makings of a fine team here – I will watch with interest.”
“Thank you Cheryl,” Maddie said. “Girls, have the jewels bagged for collection, and then everything we used today gets burned – outfits, bats, even the weapons are disposed of. Daisy, we need your friends to deal with the vehicles.”
“They’ll be here in an hour, boss.”
“Then we need to be out in fifty. Change, and Tracey, make sure everything is accounted for. Nothing left behind.”
“Consider it done, boss.”
“Right,” Maddie said as she walked off with Jo, “we change, and then I will take you back to your car. And thanks for the help.”
“No problem, Maddie – any time…”
“Hey – you managed to find your way back,” Emma, said as Jo came back in.
“Thank you GPS,” she said as she put the keys to the hire car on the table. “I had a great day – how was yours?”
“Busy – I’m just doing salad tonight if that’s all right.”
“Great,” Jo said as she sat with Maddie, watching the local news.
“And our top story again, the armed jewelry robbery this afternoon at Mainbocher of Rodeo Drive. Ella Davey is at the site of the robbery –Emma, what can you tell us?”
“Well Jack,” the blonde reporter said as she stood in front of the store, “in the early afternoon today, one of the most famous stores on Rodeo Drive experienced a terrifying armed raid, apparently performed by an all female gang. Two people were killed, and one seriously wounded, and they left with over eighty percent of the stock in the store.”
“And I understand this was a very unusual raid, Ella?”
“That’s right, Jack. The raid according to our sources bore a close resemblance to the opening jewelry store robbery in the movie Beverly Hills Cops 2.” The female reporter on KTLA reported.
“That sounds different?” Emma asked from the kitchen.
“Yeah a gang imitating a movie rather then the other way round.” Jo called back.
“At one this afternoon, a chauffeur driven limo as in the movie pulled up at the front door, and the two women who got out forced the doorman to open the security doors for them. They then forced him to open the rear service access, allowing a gang to come in and smash the display cabinets, taking all they could. The whole event lasted no more than 15 minutes.”
“And what of the shootings?”
“The assistant manager, and an off duty security guard who was visiting the store with his wife, were killed when they tried to interfere. A male shop worker was also shot in the arm, and another worker beaten as she was forced to hand over the security recordings.”
“So what do the police have to say?”
“The gang members who did the actual robbery were masked, but local officers have circulated an image based on witness statements of the two women.”
The screen showed a brunette in a leather jacket, and a white haired woman, both wearing dark glasses.
“Witnesses say one was a Texan, and the other spoke with a Cockney accent. If you see these women…”
“They look dangerous,” Emma said as she looked in. “Come on, dinner is ready.”
Jo and Maddie just looked at each other before they went after Emma.
“I’m going to make arrangements via Susan for Diana to take the team for a weekend of advanced training at her farm.” Maddie looked contented as they watched the city’s lights go on from the balcony.
“I’m sure Diana will happily put them through their paces.”
“They did well though today, well disciplined and focused on the task.”
“That they were. So Maddie, when next?”
“After the honeymoon, I have another jewelry store in mind.”
“And the inspiration?”
“Did you ever see that episode of CSI NY where the three girls…”
“You mean the Holly Golightly bandits?”
“That’s the one.”
“You know I’m almost tempted to say count me in,” Jo laughed a little.
“Well I could?”
“That will clash too much with other things I need do.”
“No not that kind of thing, but I have modeling, and I want to spend as much time with Heather, Sandy, and the kids as I can before I leave for school.”
“Well just know the offer is open.”
“I’ll think on it, and Thank You Maddie.”
“Jo they delivered your script for the commercials,” they heard Emma call from the sitting room.
“Oh Joy,” Jo said as she stretched, “well I guess I had better go and study it.”
“Yes no rest for the wicked.” Maddie winked knowingly as the telephone rang.
“It’s for you,” Emma said as she handed the handset over to Jo.
“Hello? Oh hi Missy,
“An extra day filming? I’d need to rearrange my flights,” she said as she looked at Emma and Maddie.
“Tell her you can stay here until Thursday, and fly from here.”
Jo nodded as she said “All right, can you get the revised e-ticket sent to me?
“Yeah I know, the pain of staying a couple of extra days. See you next weekend, Missy.”
Jo ended the call and looked at her hosts.
“Well, that settles it,” Emma said, “I just have to take you with me on Wednesday.”
“Universal – they want to discuss some rights issues. I’ll get you a tour pass.”
Monday 15th June
“No, it’s been a real pleasure having Jo stay, Shirley,” Maddie said as she looked at the screen, “in more ways than one.”
“A phenomenal talent, that young lady,” Shirley said on the screen. “So, I have heard from Catherine. The total haul was close to twenty five million, so after costs we net a total of sixteen million. I’m authorizing the payment of half to the participants, so one million each will be filtered to the people in due course. Please inform them fo this, and tell Jo hers will be deposited to the trust fund.”
“I shall,” Maddie said with a smile. “So how is the house coming along?”
“Charlotte has finished work, so the move is on for the week after next. The wedding?”
“Nearly there – we’re looking at bussing in from out of town at this rate, but believe me – it will be worth it.”