Lady C

 

 

 

Some years ago

 

“Get a move on – we’re on a tight schedule here.”

 

“All right – just let me finish up here.”

 

She watched from her position lying on the table as her sister’s legs were pulled together by the rope that was passed around her legs, above her knees.  They had been surprised when they returned home by the masked gang, who had forced them into the office and proceeded to bind her wrists together behind her back while her sister watched.

 

She was wearing a sliver grey silk blouse and a dark skirt, and offered no resistance as she was forced to sit on the mahogany desk and watch one of the intruders bind her ankles and legs, quickly yet tightly, with the rope passing between her legs to further tighten it.  As he was doing this, another of the gang was talking to her sister, making her recite the combination to the safe forwards and backwards.  She was a couple of years younger, and wore horn rimmed glasses that complemented the chestnut hair they both had.

 

As the knotted cloth was pulled into her mouth, forcing her to stay quiet, her sister was sat in a chair next to her and her wrists pulled behind the back.  This made the buttons on her yellow blouse strain as her breasts were pushed out by the action of tying her wrists together, and she grunted to show she was still looking after her.

 

As the masked man stood up and pulled another white cloth into her sister’s mouth, she turned her head and watched the four at work.  She had realised two were male and two were female – both by the build and by the way one of the females spoke.  She was obviously the one in charge – as the safe door swung open; she examined the contents carefully and only took certain items of jewellery, leaving the paperwork behind.

 

Hearing her sister grunt, she turned and looked up at her.  The two exchanged glances, nodding and communicating without speaking while the gang went about their business.  This continued for about half an hour, all the time with her looking between her sister, the gang and the room, taking in all the details even if she could not see their faces.

 

Eventually, the woman who was leading them came over and stroked both of their heads.  “Thank you for co-operating,” she said in a deep smooth toned voice, before the four left and turned the lights off, leaving the two captives to struggle and think….

 

 

 

Three months ago

 

“Please, we’ll do as you ask us, just don’t hurt us!”

 

Mel stood in the centre of the room, her hands on her head, as the masked man took hold of Jenny’s hands and pulled them behind her back.  Two other men were searching the room, pulling drawers out and emptying the contents on the floor.

 

She watched as the intruder pulled a length of rope from his pocket, and quickly tied Jenny’s wrists together.  The two had been having a quiet night in when the doorbell rang, and this nightmare started.  As he tied the rope off, Jenny looked over her shoulder, her long brown hair moving as she did so.  She watched as he pulled a long length of rope out, doubled it up and passed it around her arms and chest below her breasts, passed it below and above several times, and finished off by taking it around her neck and under her armpits before tying the ends off in the small of her back.  The rope made her chest push out, stretching the pink wool of her jumper as it did so.

 

“Your turn sweetie,” a voice whispered in Mel’s ear, and she felt her own wrists been pulled behind her back.  She was wearing a red v-neck sweater and cream coloured mini-skirt, and offered no resistance as she was bound in a similar manner.  As this was taking place, the first intruder was tying a knot in the middle of a length of white cloth.

 

“Aren’t you going to fight back,” Jenny pleaded as the man moved back behind her.

 

“Stay calm, Jenny – my insurance will take care of this,” Mel said as her friend was tightly gagged, then made to sit on the floor.  This made her short black skirt ride up slightly, shoeing the tops of her stockings as her ankles were crossed and lashed together.  More rope was then passed around her legs above her knees.

 

“I’ve found the safe,” the third man shouted as Jenny was sat down.  While one intruder crossed her ankles and started to tie them together, the other made her give up the combination, which she did with no fuss.  “Good girl,” the man said as the gag was pulled into her mouth, Jenny watching the whole time.  As the three men made their way into the other room, she turned and looked at her friend, who was testing the ropes around her.

 

“Whtr u plyng y?”

 

To Jenny’s surprise, Mel just smiled over her gag.  The reason for her smile became clear as a shout of “what the f…” came from the other room, followed by the sound of some sort of gas.  The two girls sat there for ten minutes, before the door opened and three women in boiler suits came in.

 

“Thank you,” Mel said as the gag was removed from her mouth.

 

“Just doing our job, M’am,” the woman said as the sound of police sirens came closer.

 

 

 

One month ago

 

“How much do you think they will pay for these three?”

 

The man watched as his companion slowly unbuttoned the blue blouse that was been worn by the centre of the row of three women.  The first was dark haired, of medium build and struggling on the chair which she had been placed on.  Her blue checked blouse was sat on the floor, and her bar breasts were encircled in lengths of white rope that passed around her arms and chest.  There were also ropes around legs and ankles, as she raised her stocking feet in frustration.

 

She had brought her two friends to the trade show as a business trip, but all three had been lured into this storeroom with the promise of a private show of goods.  Instead, they had been grabbed and forced to submit to the current situation.  At the end, the youngest of the three women looked on.  She was wearing a black sweater over a white blouse, a dark skirt and white stockings, and a white scarf over her mouth was holding in place a great deal of mouth packing.  Her wrists were also bound behind her back, and her ankles and legs tied, but unlike her boss the rope had merely been passed around her arms and waist.

 

In the centre was a dark skinned woman with copper coloured hair.  She was struggling like mad as her blouse was pulled down, and a long length of rope passed around her chest and arms.  She was already bound at the wrists, ankles, calves, thighs and waist, and red tape was wound around her lower jaw and neck several times.

 

“Just sit still, ladies, and you’ll be just fine.”  The second man walked round and looked at the three captives alongside his friend.

 

“Have you managed to get through to the collection team yet?”

 

“Nah – the signal’s gone dead on my mobile.”

 

The younger woman stopped struggling and looked at the two men, a steely glint in her eye.  They stared back, wondering what she was thinking, not noticing the smoke canister until it started to distribute its contents around the room.  As the men started coughing, the three women were dragged backwards out of the room in their chairs, and found themselves facing a group of women in boiler suits.

 

“Thank you,” the youngest one said, “I wasn’t sure you got the message.”

 

“We got it, M’am – all part of the service.  Let us deal with these two now.”

 

 

 

Now

 

The group of men looked around as the speaker sat down.

 

“How often has this happened now?”

 

“More and more frequently over the last three months.  We thought that when members 215, 378 and 602 were captured, it was a silent alarm that they had missed.  But the more recent ones suggest….”

 

“Well?”  The chairman of the Burglars Association leaned over.

 

“Someone or somebody seems to be offering a new type of security package – one that seems to outthink us.”

 

“I see.”  The chairman sat back.  “And it is not a resurgence of The Hellhounds?”

 

“No, of that we are quite sure.  They are still…. Indisposed thanks to the actions of member 001.  Besides, the latest incident indicates it could not be them.”

 

“Why?”

 

In response, the board member touched a button.  “Show member 481 in.”

 

The door opened and a tall, blonde haired man came in and sat down.

 

“Tell the board about last night,” the member said.  The man took a deep breath and started.

 

“I had joined up with two other members to raid the house of the sister of one of the senior Hellhounds.  Well, we thought it would be safe to do so after all this time….

 

“When we got in, we found her in bed with her partner – a lovely looking blonde haired woman in a dark pink slip.  We pointed our guns at them, told them to shut the hell up and do as they were told, and made them both lie face down on the bed.

 

“The main target is known to all of you – six foot, dark haired and beautiful as well.  She was wearing floral print short gown, and not a lot else.  We made them both put their hands behind their back, and bound their wrist to their elbows in a box before securing their forearms together.  Turning them over, we then tied their ankles and their legs together, before gagging them – the primary target with a purple bandana, the partner with a cream and gold Hermes scarf.  Naturally, both were rolled into bands and knotted for maximum silence.

 

“To further ensure their co-operation, my colleague pulled open the target’s robe and left her bare, while her partner had her breasts exposed.  Satisfied they would be no problem, we started to search the house.

 

“About a half hour later, I was passing the room they had left them in when I happened to notice the primary target had managed to sit up, and seemed to be tapping against the bed post.  Her partner seemed to be encouraging this, and something seemed wrong.  I shouted to my colleagues to get out, and sprinted for the door we had got out of.

 

I barely made it to cover before two jeeps pull up, and a squad of women in boiler suits jump out.  I watched from the cover as they dragged my colleagues out of the house, with hoods over their heads, and then drove off.  Fearing the worst, I made straight for here and told 035 what had happened.”

 

“Thank you – you may step outside now,” the board member said.  As the door closed behind the speaker, he turned to the chairman.

 

“Someone with a lot of talent and brains is providing security cover, and we need to stop her.”

 

The chairman nodded.  “I agree – but we need to do this outside the organisation.  Actually, if there is indeed someone clever behind this, we need to ask the best for help.”

 

“The Plumbers?”

 

“No – I need to talk to someone very special.  I will report back soon – keep me posted.”

 

 

 

 

She sat at the desk, looking out over the lawns of her house and enjoying the sunshine.  A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts.

 

“Come in.”

 

An Asian woman walked in and handed her a folder.  “The latest reports and incomes, my lady.”

 

She opened the folder and scanned the contents.  “Excellent – we need to prepare for the next stage of our business plan.”

 

“So soon, my lady?”

 

“If my calculations are correct, a very important player is about to join the field, and we must be ready.  Call a meeting for tomorrow morning.”

 

“Very good, my lady.”  The woman bowed and left the room, leaving her to turn back to the lawn and her thoughts.

 

 

 

The lift door slid open, and as he adjusted his tie the man walked into the penthouse flat.  He was met by a young woman, not too tall, with chestnut hair and dressed in an Armani suit.

 

“Good morning.  I am Penelope, Madame’s personal assistant.  Will you come with me?”

 

He walked with her to a conference room, and as he entered he saw a tall, dark haired woman sat at the table.  She was wearing a red silk top under a black dress that wrapped around her waist, and as she stood and walked round to greet him her voice washed over him like warm chocolate.

 

“Mister Chairman, it is indeed a pleasure to welcome you.  Please, take a seat.”

 

Madame X indicated one of the plush leather chairs, and as she sat with Penelope by her side he took a seat.

 

“We never got a chance to formally thank you over that business with our member – may I start by saying once again how grateful we were?”

 

“No thanks are necessary,” Madame X said with a smile, “we had a personal involvement in this as well.  So, how can we be of assistance to the Burglars Association?”

 

“I presume you have heard about the incidents over the last few months?”

 

“Penelope?”

 

Opening a folder she had in front of her, Penelope scanned the list.  “We are aware of thirty incidents where some form of security force has intervened in operations.  Very well trained, highly skilled and obviously privately funded.  SO far, we have been fortunate, but as you will be aware…”

 

“Madame only deals in very special operations.  Nevertheless, we think that someone is organising this security, and for the sake of all of us we need to see if it can be stopped.  The question is, Madame, is there anything you can do to help us?”

 

Madame X sat back, her fingers to her chin.  “If there are indeed one or more persons behind this, they show exceptional foresight, not to mention knowledge of the way some of these teams operate.  Are you sure there is not a leak in your organisation?”

 

“I have considered that, and we are doing a review of our central support staff.  Can you help us?”

 

Madame stood.  “I will give it due consideration.  It may be this security force interferes eventually with my own plans, and I cannot allow that to happen.  We will be in touch if we learn anything.  Will that be sufficient for now?”

 

“For now,” the chairman said as he rose.  “Thank you for the meeting.”

 

“My pleasure.  Penelope, will you please escort our guest out.”

 

As Penelope escorted the man out, Madame sat back down and looked at the folder.  Penelope quickly returned and sat with her mentor.

 

“You didn’t tell him?”

 

“That we had already had a similar encounter?  No – that would be counterproductive at the moment.”

 

The incident had happened a week earlier.  The intention had been to take hostage the daughter of the chairman of Logan’s Bank, in return for certain financial services.  The strike team had gained access to the flat the daughter stayed in, and were waiting as she walked in.

 

She was wearing a metallic blue blouse with a grey leather skirt and jacket, and heels.  The team forced her to remove the jacket and skirt, and one of the male members had pushed her into the bedroom, to make it look as if it was a robbery.  He had then pushed a wadded up cloth into her mouth, and tied the brown patterned scarf she had been wearing in her mouth, pushing the wadding back and holding her long black hair in place.

 

It was as he was finishing tying her wrists together that the message came through.  The watchmen two streets away had heard the sound of tyres, and saw two jeeps driving at speed towards the apartment block.  The team had quickly removed themselves, taking their equipment with them, and watched from a distance as the group of women ran into the flat.

 

“We had a lucky escape.”

 

“No,” Madame replied, “More that I had heard the rumours, and employed our usual foresight.  Whoever this person is, however, does indeed show remarkable foresight and planning.  We do have one clue, however.”

 

Penelope sat up.  “And that is?”

 

“In our routine check on the target’s finances, we noticed a monthly payment to a firm called LC Securities.  They only started trading a year ago, and I know very little of them.  I have, however, decided to learn more.”

 

Madame smiled, and sat back.  “We must be patient, but we will soon discover who is behind this.   I have already started the process of testing LC Securities, and we will see if my suspicions are correct before taking further action.”

 

 

 

“Well, we have reviewed your applications, and I am pleased to say that you are a perfect fit for the client profile of LC Securities.”

 

The representative laid her folder down on the table, and looked at Denise as she sat there.  The woman was in her early forties, with bleached blonde hair cropped short and wearing a dark suit.  Denise had been in the office of LC Securities for the last two hours, filling out forms and questionnaires, and was eager to have her questions answered.  Pulling up her cloth boots, she asked “Does this mean you can do the same for me as you did for Mel?”

 

“I believe we can.  For the monthly payment we stated, we will provide 24 hour security cover for you, your home and possessions, and anyone else who may stay there.  Guaranteed rapid response.”

 

“Why?”

 

“I beg your pardon?”

 

“I said why – why do this?”

 

“Our founder once had a traumatic experience at the hands of criminals, and wants to ensure that never happens again.”

 

“I see – well, if you have the documents?”

 

The blonde haired woman touched a button, and her dark haired secretary brought in a sheaf of forms.

 

“If you would sign where indicated, the cover will start as soon as our technicians have visited your house.”

 

 

Several days later, Denise was at home with her friend Joy having a drink when the front doorbell rang.

 

Opening it, Denise greeted the young woman standing there.

 

“Come in, Penny.”

 

“Thanks,” Penelope said as she walked in and deposited a large holdall on the floor.  “What did our tech team find?”

 

“Very sophisticated installation indeed.  You won’t see it – it took hours – but it stays silent until the trigger is pulled.”

 

“Where did they install the trigger?”

 

“In the safe – if the door opens and it is not my fingerprints on the sensor, the team comes.”

 

“Very well.  Are you and Joy ready?”

 

“We will be in a few minutes.  Come and have a cup of tea first.”

 

Joy stood up as Penelope walked in.  She was wearing a white ribbed blouse and light grey skirt, as opposed to the white long sleeved top under a lurid pink t-shirt and white trousers that Denise was dressed in.

 

“Madame wishes to thank you both for agreeing to this,” Penelope said as she accepted a cup from Denise.  “Consider it part of your training, and it will give us valuable information about LC Securities.  What can you tell me of the office?”

 

“Four women – three work in the main office, and one in the outer reception.  The inner office is lock controlled – only opened from the inside – so I think we need to go through the outer receptionist.  After I left, Joy followed her home.  You will find the address in my notebook when you take it.”

 

“Excellent,” Penelope said as she sipped her tea.  “Let me go and get my bag – which of you wants to be first?”

 

 

 

The two jeeps drove up at speed to the house, squealing on the brakes as they stopped.  The team sprang out, entering the house through the front door, and made their way to where they could hear the sounds of muffled calling.

 

Joy and Denise looked over their shoulders as the team entered the main room.  Both women were sat on the floor, their wrists crossed and bound behind their back with coarse rope.  Their arms were also bound at the elbows, and ropes held them to their chests around the waist and upper body, tied so that their breasts were forced to stick out.

 

Their legs were stretched out in front of them, with their ankles crossed and ropes around their ankles, thighs and calves.  Finally, both had red ball gags tightly strapped into their mouths.

 

“What happened?” the leader said as she removed the gag from Denise’s mouth.

 

“Two men – they jumped us, tied us up, and then tried to open the safe.  I guess the alarm worked.”

 

“It did – I presume they ran away.”

 

“They did – I wish I’d gone for the sleeping gas option now.”

 

“Never mind – let’s get you untied.”

 

 

 

She sat reviewing the security tape captured by the device in the team leader’s hat.  As they untied both Denise and Joy, she looked closely at their faces when they were in full view.  Smiling, she pressed a button on her intercom.

 

“My lady?”

 

“Will you come in please, Cho?”

 

The door opened and the Asian assistant walked in.

 

“Does either of these women look familiar to you?”

 

“I cannot say that they do, my lady.”

 

She taped on the keyboard, and two identity card pictures came on the screen.  They showed the faces of Denise and Joy, as well as their employment records.

 

“I see you point, my lady.  What are your orders?”

 

“Inform the office that they can expect a visit, and they will be compensated.  Also, prepare the files for retrieval.”

 

“Very good, my lady.”

 

 

 

Clare looked at herself in the mirror, frowning as she pulled her blonde hair back in a rough bowtie.  She had received the letter yesterday, and was wondering what was going to happen next.

 

That was answered when a gloved hand was clamped over her hand, and female voice whispered in her ear “Stay quiet and do nothing we do not tell you to do.  We need to have a little chat about your workplace.”

 

Clare allowed herself to be marched into her front room, where there were two other masked and armed women dressed in boiler suits and with balaclava over their heads.  She was pushed onto a chair, and turned to see a similarly dressed woman pointing a very large gun at her.

 

“Now, you are going to tell us how to access the inner office at LC Securities, and then you are going to do exactly what we tell you.  Understand?”

 

Clare nodded, her eyes fixed on the gun and the lengths of black rope the other gang members were producing from holdalls.  “All right,” she said, “just don’t hurt me.  What do you want to know?”

 

 

“I understand Clare – you come back in tomorrow.  I will ask Melinda to mind the front desk today.”

 

Susannah put the receiver down and looked at Melinda as she sat opposite her.  The office manager, she was dressed that day in a red blouse and white skirt, with knee length red boots.  Melinda was wearing an electric blue silk blouse and black leather skirt, with dark tights and short black leather boots.

 

“Time?”  She said as she stood up.

 

“I believe so.  Is everything ready?”

 

“Just as instructed by my lady.”

 

“Excellent.  Then we just have to wait.”

 

 

 

“You have been very helpful, Clare.  Well done.”

 

Clare turned her head and glared at her captors.  They had pulled her wrists behind her back, and secured them with the black rope, before pulling more around her chest, arms and breasts, making them strain against the white cloth of her blouse.  Having secured her legs in the same manner, the rope pulling the fabric of her khaki trousers around her ankles, they had then pulled a red silk scarf into her mouth to silence her.

 

“One of us will stay here to make sure you do not try to raise the alarm.  Have a nice day.”  The leader motioned as she and one of the gang left, while the other sat down and watched Clare staring at her.

 

 

 

“Can I help you, gentlemen?”

 

Melinda looked up at the two men in black as they stood in front of the reception desk.

 

“Yes, I believe you can.  Stand up, turn around and put your hands behind your back.”

 

“I beg your pardon?”

 

“I said,” the man replied as he drew a pistol and levelled it at Melinda’s face, “stand up, turn around and put your hands behind your back.”

 

“I see,” Melinda replied as she slowly stood and turned around.  “Just what do you want from me?”

 

“Not you,” the mans aid as he put the gun on the table, walked round and grabbed Melinda’s wrists, passing a length of cord around them as he did so.  “Your firm.  Lock the front door, and then come over here.”

 

As his companion turned and locked the door with “LC Securities” on the glass, Melinda felt her wrists been tightly; bound together, the roughness of the rope passing around and between her wrists as the binding took place.  Satisfied with his work, the man turned Melinda round and pushed her into the seat.

 

“Get onto that intercom and get them to open the door,” he demanded, pressing the gun barrel to her head.   Looking back at him, Melinda leaned over and spoke into the machine as he pressed the button.

 

“Susannah, I have two customers for you to consider.  Get Yvonne to open the door, will you?”

 

The second man stood to one side as the door opened and young blonde haired woman looked in.  She was wearing a white blouse with the sleeves rolled up, a short black skirt, tights and heels.

 

“Can you please… oh my,” she squealed as she was grabbed and pushed back in, followed by Melinda as the armed man dragged her into the inner office.  Susannah stood and watched as the inner door was firmly closed behind them.

 

“What is the meaning of this,” Susannah demanded as the unarmed man forced Yvonne to stand against the wall and pulled her hands behind her back.

 

“This is a raid,” the armed man said as he pushed Melinda to the floor.  “Do as you are told and nobody gets hurt.  Do you run this office?”

 

“Yes I do,” Susannah replied.  She was watching as Yvonne was forced to sit on the floor and her ankles quickly tied together.

 

“Open your filing cabinets – all of them – then come here and lie face down on the floor.  Cooperate or your colleagues get hurt.”

 

“No – I’ll do as you ask,” Susannah said as she stood up and walked over to the cabinets.  The armed man turned to Melinda, laid her on her side and started to tie her ankles together.

 

“There,” Susannah replied as she lay down on the floor.  “What else do you want?”

 

“Your hands behind your back,” the man said as he finished smoothing a length of black tape over Melinda’s mouth.  Standing up, he walked over and began to tie her wrists behind her back, while the other man began to take file after file out of the cabinet and photograph the details.

 

“What are you interested in,” Susannah asked as she was turned over.  Forcing herself to sit up, she watched as the rope was passed around her ankles.

 

“Your clients and your corporate structure,” the man said as he tied the rope off.  “Apart from, that, one other thing.”

 

“What?”

 

“Your silence,” he said as he gagged her with black tape.  The three women watched as the cupboards were emptied.

 

 

 

“Excellent work, George.”

 

“Thank you, Madame.”  The two men stood in Madame X’s office as she reviewed the documents.  “Is there anything else we can do for you?”

 

“No thank you.  You may go.”

 

As the men left, Penelope walked in and sat down.

 

“According to the company records, the sole director of LC Securities is one Louise Carlson.  I have an address for her.”

 

“Excellent – I believe we shall pay Mrs Carson a visit and discuss what she is doing. Only one director?”

 

“That is registered.  Why?”

 

“Something is not right – one person could not possibly be this organised and efficient, not without a team and backing.  We need to have a long chat with this lady.  In the meantime, contact the BA and forward them the list of clients we have recovered.  They would do well to avoid those targets.”

 

“Some were on our list.”

 

“I know – start an internal investigation to find out how those names were uncovered.”

 

 

 

The house was in the suburbs, quiet and respectable.  As Louise drove up the driveway to the front door, she was reflecting on the meeting she had just had.  She knew her sponsor was a calculating woman, but after the raid on their offices she had just smiled and said she was ready for the next stage.  She also said one other thing.

 

“You may have an unexpected visitor soon,” she had said as they sipped tea on the patio.  “If that is the case, make sure they come here.”

 

“What about you,” Louise had replied.

 

“I will be elsewhere – but I will leave a message.”

 

Stopping the car, she stepped out and smoother the purple linen of her skirt down.  A brisk walk, the heels of her short boots crunching in the gravel, and she was inside the house.

 

“Carol, are you home yet?” she called out, but there was no response.  Frowning slightly, she walked into the room to be greeted by three women.  Her daughter, Carol, was sat on the long recliner.  She was dressed as she had been this morning, in a brown checked long sleeved blouse, a faded denim skirt and knee length scuffed brown leather boots.  What she had not been wearing that morning was the white rope around her ankles, or around her armpits as it led to the binding around her wrists behind her back.  She had also not been wearing the small black ball in her mouth, which was strapped tightly into place.

 

The second woman was shorter than Carol, with chestnut hair and wearing a black leather jacket and trousers.  She had dark glasses on, and a gun pointing at Louise’s daughter.

 

The third woman stood up as Louise entered the room.  She was tall, with long black hair, and dressed in a long brown fur coat.  “You are Louise Carson?” she asked with a rich deep voice.

 

“Who wants to know?”

 

“I am known as Madame X.  Perhaps you have heard of me?”

 

Louise sat down in a chair.  “So it was you behind the raid on my offices?”

 

Madame X inclined her head in response.  “You and your company have caused a great deal of trouble to my clients, Mrs Carson.  You have also caused me a great deal of trouble, and this has to stop.”

 

Louise smiled.  “She said I may have a visitor.”

 

Penelope looked up.  “She?”

 

“My backer.  Financially and otherwise.”

 

Carol looked at her mother, grunting “nnnn”

 

“I see,” Madame X said.  “I would very much like to meet this woman.”

 

“I won’t tell you where she is.”

 

“Then I am afraid my friend here may have to be – unpleasant to your daughter.  Continue.”

 

Penelope smiled as she reached over to start to unbutton Carol’s blouse.  She moved back, trying to avoid Penelope’s touch, when…..”

 

“All right – her address is in my Rolodex in my office.”

 

“Excellent.  Please, see that Mrs Carson and her daughter are comfortable together while I retrieve the information.”

 

Some time later, Madame X returned as Penelope stood up.  Louise and her daughter were lying on the floor, both hogtied and a large red ball gag in Louise’s mouth.  Her jacket had come undone during the binding, revealing a black satin camisole top.  Madame knelt down and looked at her.

 

“Pray that our paths never cross again,” she said as she stood back up, leaving the room with Penelope by her side.

 

“Where to now?” Penelope asked as they sat in the back of the limousine.

 

“This address, Gerald,” she said as she handed a slip of paper to the chauffer.  “It is time we put a stop to this person.”

 

 

The car swept up to the door of an impressive mansion in the Surrey countryside.  Madame X and Penelope alighted, and made their way to the ornate oak door.  Pulling the bell chain, the door was opened by an Asian woman, with long dark hair, dressed in a black and white patterned dress with black waist and front trim.

 

“Can I help you?” she asked in a clear English accent as Madame and Penelope walked in.

 

“Is you mistress home at present?”

 

“I am afraid my lady is not at home at the moment, nor will she be for some considerable time.  Can either of us help you?”

 

She had been joined by another woman, wearing a pale blue slip dress.  Penelope noticed that both women seemed unsurprised at the visit.

 

“That is most unfortunate,” Madame said with a hint of irritation in your voice, “I have some urgent business with her.”

 

Cho spoke out.  “Would it be impolite to ask if I am speaking to Madame X?”

 

“I am indeed,” she replied with surprise.

 

“My lady said you might call.  I have been asked to tell you that she has left a message for you on the computer in the main office – it is already switched on – and that we are to offer our full co-operation.”

 

“I see,” Madame quietly answered.  “Penelope, why don’t you take care of these wonderfully polite young ladies while I take this message?  They have been helpful, so be gentle.”

 

“As you wish, Madame,” Penelope replied as she turned to Cho.  “You do know what is coming?”

 

“Both I and Anna here do,” Cho replied with her head bowed.  “You will find sufficient supplies in that bureau there.”  She indicated a large chest to her right.

 

 

Madame entered the office, and admired the view over the lawns from the large windows.  Eventually, she sat down and moved the mouse.  The computer screen filled with a large player window, and she pressed the icon to start.

 

The picture showed a woman, but the back lighting made it difficult to see who it was.  Madame recognised the fittings of the room she was in, and sat back.

 

“If this is playing, then it can mean only one thing – which is that my calculations were correct and I am now talking to the renowned Madame X, of international repute.

 

“We have actually met, some years ago, but I understand perfectly if you do not remember.  After all, you were masked and I was bound, but that is all in the past.  I wanted to say before I start that you have been an inspiration to me since that day – an inspiration to stop you and people like you from ever profiting from such actions.

 

“From that time on, I have studied, evaluated and planned the actions of you and others, and formulated a way of identifying those people most at risk from you.  I built a company – actually, several companies, but LC Securities was the most public – to provide a service that, while it may not prevent the crimes starting, would surely provide an unexpected end.

 

“I did more, however.  I also employed very special skills to gain entry to the systems of organisations such as yours, the BA and others.  No, don’t look surprised – it helps to know your enemies.  You will not be able to trace how we did it – the trails have been wiped clean, for one reason.

 

“I knew that someday, somehow, you would try to stop me.  I did not expect it quirt so soon – the buffoons that run the BA usually use someone like The Plumbers, but they got smart and asked you to investigate.  I therefore laid my plans accordingly.

 

“I acknowledge, however, that having two of your staff take out a policy with LC Securities was a master stroke, and I applaud you for it.  It was only when I reviewed the tapes of the event – yes, I tape everyone – that I realised you were after me, and I had to move quickly.

 

“The files you retrieved from my offices were only partial – I have other clients, and you will not discover until it is too late who they are.  As for myself, I have decided to, in the vernacular, ‘lie low’ for a while and leave my house.  Neither Cho nor Anna know where I am, so please be gentle with them.

 

“If what I have learnt since we first met of you is true, then I believe you will appreciate that this time you may have met your match.  I will be watching you, Madame, and I will be waiting.”

 

Madame X had been thinking as she heard this, and a smile started to cross her lips.  “Well played, a worthy adversary at last,” she said, “but surely I will trace you through the ownership of this house.”

 

“Oh,” the shadowed woman said, “before I forget.  The house is under a false name, so please do not try and find me in that way.  Before I finish,” she said as she raised a glass, “May I offer you a drink?  I recommend the Amontillado in the decanter beside you.”

 

Madame X looked over, and poured a glass of the bury liquid.  Turning back, she raised her glass in response to the woman on the screen.

 

“I, Lady C, salute Madame X, and look forward to our next encounter.”

 

“As do I,” Madame replied as she drained the glass.  The screen went black as she stood and walked out of the room.

 

Penelope turned as she entered the hallway.  Cho and Anna were in the corner opposite the main door.  Both had their wrists bound behind their back, and rope around their arms and chest, with silver duct tape over their mouths.  Anan was sat on the floor, while Cho was stood against a door.

 

Madame knelt and checked the ropes around their ankles before standing and looking at Cho.

 

“If you should see your lady again, tell her I acknowledge and respect her, and look forward to our next encounter.  Do you understand?”

 

Cho nodded as she watched Madame and Penelope leaving.  As they sat in the car, Penelope watched as Madame X did something she had never done in her presence before.

 

She laughed.

 

“Are you all right, Madame,” Penelope asked with a look of concern.

 

“Oh yes – forgive me Penelope, but I do believe I have found something I never expected to find.”

 

“What is that?”

 

“A Holmes to my Moriarty.  I look forward to the pleasure of meeting Lady C again some day.”

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