Memories – Part 1
Sunday 23rd October
“Good morning – I’m Jeanne Beckmann, and this is the Beckmann Report”
For once, the opening music and credits did not play, as Jeanne sat in the studio, wearing a black trouser suit and looking sombre.
“As you will have heard, this week we sadly lost an icon of the fashion industry, suddenly, without warning, and today we pay tribute to that person, looking back on their life, their achievements, and talking to those who knew them as a true and close friend. We start with this review of their career…”
Monday 26th September
4 am Local Time
The Training Camp for the Sisters of Maisha
As Maisha slowly opened her eyes, she wondered what was happening. Why could she see Aunt Shirley looking at her, and Teacher standing on the other side? And why did her leg feel so warm?
“Hush,” Teacher said as she poured some water into a glass, and helped Maisha to sit up, “you had us worried there for a while, little one.” Handing the glass to Maisha, she waited as the young woman took a sip, then saw the bandage round her leg.
“Aunt Shirley,” she finally said, “what are you doing here? I thought…”
“I was worried about you,” Shirley said quietly as she brushed Maisha’s hair from her face. “I know you had to do this, but when you were bitten…”
“The bite – what happened to me?”
“Ah,” Teacher said as she looked at Maisha, “the tick that bit you can lead to an infection. You were lucky on two counts – I recognised the type, so I knew it was not a dangerous infection normally, but given you were already under some stress and fatigue from the Long Walk, it was more serious than usual.”
“And the second count?”
“Xan – he had seen this before, and knew which plants to collect to make a poultice to draw out the infection. He has changed it once, and indicated you have been cleansed now.”
“The others – I remember walking in with them…”
“And then the infection and the fatigue made you faint,” Shirley said as she held Maisha’s hand. “Teacher tells me they have sat with you until just before I arrived, and they were ordered to rest.”
“So, we all have done what is required.”
“Indeed – we still have one group due in later today, but tonight you, they, and all the others will take the oath.”
“Good,” Maisha said quietly as she looked at her leg.
“For now, you rest here,” Teacher said as she stood up, “I’ll leave you alone to talk.”
As she left the room, Maisha looked at Shirley and smiled. “Now I can truly call myself a sister, Aunt Shirley.”
“Well,” Shirley said quietly, “I want to talk to you about something. While you were here, both John and I have had regular updates, and I could not be prouder of you than I am now. But we both realised, Maisha, that to us you have become a daughter.”
“Have I really?”
“Yes, you have,” Shirley said quietly, “Maisha, I have never asked, but I know that you did ask the Sisters to trace your family. Did you ever get an answer?”
Maisha looked at Shirley, and then nodded as she said “my father was killed in the uprisings. I mourned him, but I have kept that to myself for far too long…” As she started to cry quietly, Shirley reached out and held her head to her shoulder.
“Thank you Aunt Shirley,” Maisha said as she eventually stopped crying and looked at her.
“Maisha,” Shirley said quietly, “that makes what I want to ask you all the more important. I have been your guardian, and I have come to love you – as both John and I realised – as if you truly were my daughter. And now – as we are going to be man and wife by the end of the year – we both think it is time we really were a family.”
“Aunt Shirley,” Maisha said as she started to cry again, “are you saying…”
Shirley nodded as she said “when we go back, I want to start the process of formally adopting you with Catriona – to have you call me Mum and John Dad. But I want to ask you if you want that as well…”
Maisha just nodded as they embraced, the tears flowing again as Teacher watched from the doorway…
9 am BST
Inns of Court, London
Catriona Cuthbertson smiled as she put the telephone down, and then took out her mobile phone to dial a number.
“Sue, it’s Catriona – can you put me through to Agnes please?”
“Hold the line a moment,” she heard Sue say, and then Agnes in her soft Scottish voice saying “Cat – a little early for you isn’t it?”
“And your excuse is?”
“The girls are coming back later today – Donald wanted them to stay for something this morning. Anyway, what can I do for you?”
“Alright - I owe you fifty quid Agnes,” Catriona smiled to herself as she spoke into the phone.
“You do? Which of our bets have I won?”
“That Shirley and John would end up adopting Maisha. She just rang from Botswana to ask me to prepare the paperwork.”
“Why is Shirley in Botswana?” Aggie’s tone reflected genuine concern.
“Because Maisha got bitten by a tick doing the survival exercise part of that outdoor training thing she was on, and like any other Mother who could Shirley got out there as quickly as possible.”
“Is Maisha okay?”
“Well she insisted that she finish the exercise, but once she and the girls she was with made it back to camp she got it treated.”
“Yes - according to Shirley it was potentially highly dangerous, but the girls in her group saved the insect, and though there was already some infection, they were able to recognize just what had bitten her and treat it properly.”
“They had it under control, but Shirley reacted just as you would have if it was Lizzie, or how I would have if it was Laura or Miley, and she rushed to be with her,” Agnes also smiled to herself.
“You’ve known Shirl a long while as well Aggie, for all these years since she escaped Paris she’s dedicated her life to maintaining control, and making sure she couldn’t be hurt ever again.”
“But now she has both a man she loves, and a young girl who she loves with all her heart, and she’s relearning that you can’t always be in control, and that loving and caring for others can cause worries and panic.”
“Exactly,” Catriona paused, “anyway she’s bringing Maisha home, and as I said you win that bet.”
“Well, you can pay me later – when are they getting back?”
“Tomorrow afternoon – apparently tonight they have a ceremony for those who have completed the course…”
1 pm BST
“So yes – as well as John and Shirley marrying, they are going to formally adopt Maisha,” Agnes said as she sat back.
“Do you know something,” Mandy drawled as they sat in the inner bar, while George reviewed Mandy’s proposal.
“No – what?”
“I personally think that we need to throw a party for both your girls Aggie darling, and for Maisha,” Mandy sipped her drink as they sat in the inner bar at George’s club.
“What kind of party?”
“Well nothing like this burlesque night,” Mandy giggled. “Make it something where they can invite a lot of their friends and members of their newfound families.”
“It’s a definite idea,” Agnes said as she ate a piece of food.
“Most of our parties are tailored to the adults, make this one all about the girls darling.”
“Okay - I’ll talk to Shirley and see what she says.”
“And can I make a suggestion?”
Mandy sat back, smiled and said “Get your niece to help plan it.”
“Because she likes taking charge and organising things…The Knight loves all that if you hadn’t noticed.”
“That’s true,” Agnes laughed, “Alright if Shirley agrees then I’ll ring Christine at school and get her in on this.”
“Meanwhile if I can break in to your conversation ladies,” George sat down, “I’ve been looking at your plans Lady Ordford…”
“Call me Mandy darling,” she drawled.
“Alright Mandy, can I say I think it should be fantastic, and I’ll definitely make the club available for that date.”
“And can we look forward to seeing you do a striptease George?” Agnes asked.
“Let’s just say I’m considering it.”
“Girls? Are you back?”
“We’re in the front room,” Laura called out as Agnes came in to see her sat at the table, working on an assignment while Miley played with Tippy-Toes.
“Well, you both look as if you have had fun,” Agnes said as she took her coat off.
“Mum,” Laura said as she looked over, “we were talking on the train back, and we want to ask you something?”
“Oh,” Agnes said as she headed for the kitchen, “and what is that?”
“Can we both learn to play golf?”
“You both want what?” Agnes turned round, and for a few seconds looked absolutely stunned.
“Can we have golf lessons please Mum?” Miley grinned.
“Where the hell did that idea come from?”
“Miss Fenwick was saying that we will have to play sport when we start school, and we looked at the list, and to be honest golf was the only one we both fancied,” Laura answered.
“Well your father won’t mind, Donald is an excellent player…”
“What about you Mum?”
“I can play a little, but I’ve never been any good.”
“We probably won’t be,” Miley laughed, “but we both love walking in the countryside, and that’s a large part of it.”
“Plus neither of us really wants to play hockey,” Laura added.
“So can we have lessons?”
“I guess so,” Agnes paused, “but are you sure you wouldn’t prefer tennis lesson?”
“Too much running round and sweating,” Laura was the one to grin this time.
“That I understand…alright let me make some enquiries and talk to your Father, but yes I think we can do this.”
“Thanks Mum,” Laura said as she stood up, “let me get you a cup of tea.”
The Tavern on the Green
“Well did you believe that crap last night?” Sandy said as she sat down and shook her head. “Can people seriously see him as our next president?”
“I doubt very few people that we know can darling,” Juliette said as she put down her copy of the New York Times, “but out there in the heartland, away from the places and people we know…”
“And amongst people who’ve been conditioned to hate Hilary,” Caroline broke in.
“Then all that probably played very well, and they what they saw was him standing up to the evil witch, and her coming off like some kind of supercilious bitch.”
“Oh come on people aren’t that dumb Ju…are they?”
Shrugging her shoulders, Juliette said “I guess we will know come November.”
“Why am I suddenly very glad that I’m British, and that if needs be I can always move me and Ama back to London?”
“Now you are over exaggerating Caroline,” Sandy laughed, “it will never come to that.”
“I wonder how many French aristocrats thought just that as the revolution started,” Juliette mused.
“Anyway Caroline is London the haven of sanity it once was?”
“Goddess I hope so Sandy,” the tall blonde shook her head, “because if it isn’t then the whole world is in deep, deep, trouble.”
“Talking of French aristocrats…”
“I know she went into surgery this morning, but nothing more than that,” Juliette said, “Guy said he would call when they knew anything…”
“Do me a favour ladies,” Claire Morse said as she sat down, “make this a politics free zone for an hour or so.”
“Did you see it?”
“No – we were all at a rally last night, but Tom was talking to the team today about how to deal with the fallout from it. Kelly – any news?”
“Helen won’t say anything to me – we’ll find out when everyone else does,” Kelly Rochermann said as she sat down. “Politics off the table?”
As the others nodded, she said “good – want to know the theme for the Halloween party this year?”
“Go on,” Sandy said, “what have you plumped for?”
Kelly sat back, a smile on her face, as she said “Heroes and Villains…”
Abby looked up to see Blair standing by the table, her tray in her hands.
“Mind if I join you?”
“Of course not,” Abby said with a smile, “I was miles away, sorry…”
“I’m not surprised,” Blair said as she sat down. “Is she in now?”
Abby nodded as she poked at her food. “Helen was taking her in at ten this morning. It’s going to be early evening before we hear, and we have already been told to let her rest tonight.”
Blair put her hand on Abby’s, and said “your mother is one of this world’s true fighters. She’ll be all right.”
“Goddess, I hope so…”
“Dad wasn’t exactly complimentary this morning, let me tell you,” Becca said as she took a drink from her bottle. “And that was only the first one. It could be much worse next time.”
“In what way,” Nikki asked.
“It’s a town hall format – the rules are different…”
“You mean he could be worse?”
“From what Mom says, much worse…”
“Poppy Ashley, you are a rat fink!”
Jess and Dawn shook their heads and laughed as Erica looked at Poppy.
“You snooze, you lose,” Poppy said with a wide grin. “So how much harder does that make it to find a theme for your party?”
“Oh I’ll think of something – eventually,” Erica said with a grin. “So – ready to do battle with Chaucer?”
“Oh don’t remind me…”
The de Ros Mansion
“Good afternoon Miss Abigail,” Edith said as Abby came in the front door, “Your grandparents are in the drawing room, and The Duc and Duchess are due to call.”
“Thank you Edith – has there been any word?”
“As of yet, no – do you wish some coffee?”
“Please,” Abby said as she went into the drawing room, Guy and Valeria standing as she came in.
“Have you had a good day, my dear,” Valeria asked as Abby sat down. The young girl was in a hoodie and jeans, while Valeria wore a blue dress, and Guy a blazer and slacks with an open necked shirt.
“Well, I had an interesting discussion in my lighting class, but my mind was elsewhere,” Abby said quietly as Edith brought some coffee in, setting it down on the low table. “There has been no news?”
“No,” Guy said as he sat down, “and I take comfort in that. We would have heard if something had gone wrong.”
Abby nodded as she slowly sipped some coffee, when the front doorbell rang. A few minutes later, Edith opened the door and said “Master Anthony”.
“Tony – what are you doing down here?”
“Jo called me today – why didn’t you tell me Abby?”
“I… I did not want you to worry as well?”
“Lame excuse,” Tony said as he hugged her, “but understandable. I had no late lectures today, so I came to be by your side.”
“And we are grateful you came,” Valeria said with a smile. “Will you take some coffee?”
“Please,” Tony said as Edith appeared.
“Monsieur le Duc, your son Alain is on the telephone.”
“Excuse me a moment,” Guy said as he stepped out, Tony sitting with Abby as Valeria passed him the coffee cup.
“So – how are you really?”
“Scared,” Abby said quietly, “but hopeful. I just want to hear she is out of theatre…”
“Alain is going to fly over this weekend,” Guy said as he came back in, followed by Natasha.
“Willy is sitting with Adam,” she said as she sat down and put her hand on Abby’s. “No word yet?”
“No – but I pray, and I live in hope,” Abby said quietly as Edith came in.
“Dr Reichmann for you, Miss Abigail.”
Abby slowly stood up as Valeria said “stay until she comes back in Edith.”
“Of course, Countess,” Edith said as they watched her walk to the hallway, and then speak on the telephone.
“Helen – how is Mama?
“I see – how did the operation go?
“Of course – and she is awake now?
“I understand – but she is comfortable?
“Of course – please, look after her, and I will call in the morning.”
As they heard the handset go down, all of them stood and watched as Abigail came back in.
“Well,” Guy said quietly as she closed the door.
“They have done all they needed to do,” she said as she looked round the room, “but she is not in a position to receive visitors tonight. Helen says they need to monitor her overnight, but everything looks good so far. We will be able to visit her tomorrow. Tony, can you…”
“I’ll be more than glad to stay until tomorrow morning,” Tony said as he embraced her.
“I will go and prepare dinner,” Edith said, crossing herself and looking heavenwards as she left the room.
“Grandpa, would you call Juliette and let her know please – I suddenly feel very tired,” Abby said as she sat down.
9 pm Local Time
The Training Compound
The sisters watched as the sixteen came forward in their groups of four, Blessing smiling as she limped over to stand with Anouska, Kiri and Amber in the circle around the campfire.
“How are you feeling,” Anouska whispered as they stood there.
“Better – the medicine has drawn the infection out, and the sleep revived me, but I will need to rest when I return home,” Blessing whispered, while Shirley sat with Liz, Leader and Poison amongst the gathered sisters.
“I feel like I’m intruding on this,” Shirley whispered, but Leader shook her head and said “no – you may not have done the Long Walk, but you are one of the most important of the Sisters, and we are honoured you are here for this.”
The gathered sisters began to sing the Song of Maisha, slowly, lilting in the darkening night air, before Helga walked through the circle and stood in front of the fire, walking slowly round the circle as she looked at each one of those who had completed the course.
As Shirley watched, Helga smiled as she continued walking, and said “All of you have learned from us, shared with us, and now you are ready to carry on the fight for us. I could not be prouder of you – all of you – and of what you have become. The time has now come for you to speak the oath, as all before you have done, and all who come after you will do. As I have done, and as the first did.”
Blessing closed her eyes, drinking in the atmosphere as the camp watched in silence.
Helga paused for a moment, and then continued “when she addressed those who were freed, the Strength told them that they would be supported by the women who freed them, and they should trust them. Do you now swear to be supported by your sisters, to support each other, and to trust them and each other?”
“We do so swear,” the group said as one, Anouska taking Blessing’s left hand as Amber took her right, and Kiri’s left.
“She told them that the women who had freed her and The Heart from their bondage did this from a sense of natural justice, so do you now swear to show that same sense of natural justice?”
“We do so swear.”
“She also told them that she had slain the tyrant who had caused her to suffer, and told them to tell their daughters and their daughters’ daughters. So do you swear to spread that message to your daughters, and their daughters and all those who need to hear?”
“We do so swear.”
Helga nodded as she said “Will you swear to seek out those who will threaten the innocents, and bring them to the same justice the Strength demonstrated?”
“We do so swear.”
“And to you who watch,” she said as she looked outside the inner circle, “will you also follow in their footsteps?”
“WE WILL” the others called out together, Shirley as loudly as the others.
“Then,” Helga said with a smile, “in the name of The Heart and The Strength, I charge you to go forth, fight alongside your fellow sisters, and protect those who cannot fight back. May you know success, and may you know peace as you do your work.”
There was a cheer as Helga hugged each of them, whispering “well done” into Blessing’s ear before she stood back.
“You return now to your homes, and we charge you to remain vigilant and ready. When we meet, greet each other in the name of the Sisterhood, and may the Goddess grant you victory in all you do.”
“We did it,” Anouska said as she hugged Blessing, the young African girl returning the embrace before she hugged the other two while the sisters started singing and dancing.
“Anouska,” Helga said as she joined them, “would you four please come with me for a moment? You may join the others at the party after that.”
“Of course, Teacher,” Anouska said as they walked out of the circle with her, over to where Shirley was standing with Leader.
“Well done,” Shirley said as she embraced Blessing, “and these are the sisters who walked with you?”
“Indeed – Anouska, Kiri, Amber, may I first offer you a small apology – and also introduce you to my – my mother, Shirley Xavier.”
The three looked at Blessing, as Leader and Teacher looked at Shirley, before Anouska said “your mother?”
“I am afraid I am guilty of telling one lie while I have been here,” Blessing said quietly, “and I ask your forgiveness. My name is not Blessing – I am Maisha, daughter of Mashima, of Mazengwe – and I am The Strength.”
Anouska swallowed before she said “but we just swore in your name…”
“As did I – we are… You are my sisters, but I have never been able to fully say that unless I truly had shared in your life, which I have now done.”
“I must ask you to keep this secret to yourself,” Teacher said “Let us celebrate that you are all now, fully, sisters.”
The others smiled as Blessing said “Anouska, we must ask a special favour of you. Will you delay your return to the Ukraine for a few days?”
“Am I needed elsewhere?”
“You are,” Shirley said quietly, “in New York. Mai… Blessing returns with me later. Will you come with us, and I will explain as we travel?”
“I serve the Heart – and the Strength,” Anouska said with a smile as she nodded, Kiri and Amber nodding as well.
“Good,” Leader said as they heard the Song of Maisha, “then let us celebrate together.”
Tuesday 27th September
John opened the door and stood in the doorway as the car drew up, walking down the stairs as the driver opened the door, Maisha stepping out and looking round in her hooded top and joggers.
“Welcome home darling,” John said as he hugged Maisha.
“Thank you Uncle John,” Maisha said quietly, “or can I say Dad yet?”
“Oh I think Dad, or Father will do,” John smiled hugely.
“Thank you,” she answered as she kissed him on the cheek.
“You’ve lost weight,” John said as he looked at her, “are you sure you are okay?”
“I am now,” Maisha grinned as he put his arm round her, and they walked back into the house. “I proved a lot to myself doing that, but now I’m so glad to be home.”
“And we are so glad to have you home, aren’t we Shirley.”
“More than glad,” Shirley looked up from supervising the driver after he brought the luggage in.
“Welcome home,” John said as he kissed his wife-to-be and gave her a huge hug.
“Thank you darling.”
“So I know what I did,” Maisha grinned again, “but what did I miss back here?”
“Oh not much – I was watching a recording of the Presidential Debate last night, and remembering the wise words of P T Barnum.”
“And they were?”
“Nobody ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American public,” Shirley said quietly. “Is that fresh coffee I smell?”
“Yeah – let me get that and some lunch for both of you,” John said as he went to the kitchen.
“Anouska is staying at a hotel – we will meet with her tomorrow to explain what we want her to do,” Shirley said as she sat down, “and Catriona is preparing the adoption papers.”
“It seems strange, to think you will be my mother and father now – but strange in a nice way,” Maisha said as she rubbed her leg.
“Does it still hurt?”
“No – it feels fine.”
“Here we go,” John said as he put mugs of fresh coffee down, “I’ll sort some soup out later. So come on – what did they have you doing?”
“Some bushwork, learning about the local plants and animals, and the overnight hike – that is where I was bitten,” Maisha said with a smile. “My instructors said I did very well.”
think anyone ever assumed you wouldn't," John added. "You are too
like Shirley Maisha, you will always give more than 100%, and failure isn't in
"Well I know that I can fail, but I do try hard not to," Maisha blushed.
John shook his head before he took a drink from his mug. "A couple of your friends from the tennis club phoned to check if you were alright."
"They did?" Maisha genuinely looked surprised at that.
"And a lot of the girls at work were also concerned," Shirley sat down.
“Agnes and Catriona have been checking in daily to see what we have heard of you, and the Gaunt girls say you had to call them when you were safely back.”
“I’ll make sure to call them all later – have you seen anything of Laura and Miley?”
“Indeed – they and Agnes will call round tomorrow…”
The London Hub
“Alright what the hell am I doing?” Kay asked herself as she looked out of her office window. “I’m running an operation that is so far off the books that only the DG and I within London Centre even have a clue what is going on. It’s an operation so secret that even the policy committee aren’t going to be told what is going on.”
For a few seconds Kay contemplated the meaning of that. On the one hand that she should be in on something so high grade, and potentially so important, thrilled her. On the other hand it frightened the life out of her that she was in receipt of information so private, but likely to be so toxic if this all ever came out. Kay worried not just for herself, and her career, but what might be the consequences for her family if this all went belly-up?
She had seen the careers of others ruined on such presumptions – sometimes it was unexpected, sometimes they could see it coming, and they took the hit with the thanks, and quiet support, of a grateful nation. But would she have the courage for either scenario?
What had her most worried though was not that the professionals, even the retired ones, might end up leaking all this. No, what worried her most was this amazing talent that the American press and politicians had for first finding out then blabbing, things they really should not be talking about. Sometimes she was glad she was a British agent operating in the UK. Even today it was far easier for the SIS to both approach politicians, and the media, and with a few persuasive words, or an official warning, to shut them up.
“Okay,” she finally thought to herself as she sat down, “if I’m going to keep this to myself, but still work it as an active investigation, what do I need to do?”
Inwardly Kay answered herself. She knew very well that something like this was just far too big for her to handle alone. But it was pretty clear that if she was going to seek help then it needed to be people she trusted implicitly, but who weren’t part of London Centre.
“Alright who do I know and trust that the DG is not going to have a heart attack when I tell him their names?”
“If only Aggie?” she whispered the words, and then intuitively answered herself, “why not Agnes?” Her discretion was legendary, after all. But then the memory of what had happened all those years ago came back, and she shook herself. Maybe she could recommend someone, however…
Looking at her diary for the day, Kay sipped on her coffee. She had an early afternoon call to New York – then she could raise the other concern in her mind…
“I understand your concern Kay,” Francesca said as she looked round the table, “we have come to a similar conclusion, but all we can do is watch and offer advice. In that way, we are most certainly aligned.”
“In that way yes, but – Admiral, I have a serious question.”
“There is one great question that I think we all need to ask ourselves - what if this is all a huge game being played by the Russians, not to effect the electoral process, but get the intelligence services chasing their own tails?” Kay spoke into the secured phone line.
“To what eventual end Kay?” Eleanor asked.
“So that they can after a period go public with it, and use all of this to discredit us both as impartial evidence gatherers, and then to accuse us of political biases.”
“Oh that sounds too convoluted even for them darling.” Francesca spoke.
“Can you imagine though the carnage if it eventually came out that we were doing these kinds on investigations? He is already paranoid and sees enemies everywhere…”
“As do a lot of his followers,” Hannah whispered quietly.
“Just imagine the reactions if he wins and it comes out the depth to which intelligence groups, both US and foreign, bot official and unofficial, were looking at matters.”
“I do – constantly,” Eleanor said, “and I admit, it is a worry. But does that mean we should not do this, or we take all the steps we can to ensure this does not go out? We can trust to our Russian friends, if any of them are arrested, not to say anything publically in that way.”
“I pray you’re right Eleanor.”
“At any rate, Kay, we thank you, and we will be in touch,” Francesca said as she ended the call. “So – fallout from last Friday?”
“Dancer did meet with his contact, Admiral,” Caroline said as she looked at her pad, “we have a partial transcript, and we think he has a new job. Some papers were delivered by hand to his apartment yesterday.”
“I have had word,” Francesca said, “of a new person who will join us in the next few days, and may prove an invaluable asset in watching Dancer at work. More to come on that. Commander?”
“There is something with the suggestion to look at the cab drivers, but as of yet I do not have a clear handle on it. Sorry, Admiral – we’ll keep working on that…”
Helen Reichmann came into the room, smiling at Guy and Valeria as they stood up.
“Sorry I’m late,” she said as she indicated they should sit down, “a case conference that overran. So…”
“How is Diana this morning, Helen,” Guy asked quietly.
“Well, as comfortable as can be expected – she’s able to have visitors now, and I’ll take you there in a moment, but you should be aware she is still hooked up to monitors and there is a drainage tube in place.”
“Of course,” Valeria said as she looked at Helen, “but how is she?”
“We have done as much as we could,” Helen said quietly, “more than that, I really cannot say at the moment, but Diana is going to need to rest for some time once we have released her. And I mean total rest – something I know will be difficult for her.”
“We may have the required persuasive tools to hand,” Guy said with a smile, “but may we see her now?”
“Of course – if you will follow me?”
Helen stood, Guy and Valeria watching as they walked down the corridor, and then into a private room. As they both walked in, they saw Diana in the bed, tubes running from her body to collection bottles hanging by the side.
“Mon dieu,” Valeria said as she walked over and took her daughter in law’s hand, “Diana, are you truly all right?”
As she looked up, Diana smiled and said “I have endured worse, Valeria – and I know this is transitory. I admit, I have looked better, but…”
“We understand,” Guy said as he put his hand on Valeria’s shoulder. “The important thing is, they have managed to do all they could.”
Diana nodded, grimacing slightly as she said “indeed – Helen assures me I will make a full recovery. How is Abigail?”
“Worried about you – she will call after her classes today. Do you feel up to other visitors?”
“I should be all right, if they do not stay too long,” Diana said as she looked at them. “Have you heard from Shirley at all?”
“Apparently, she and Maisha have returned safely today – and there is other news in that area, but we can discuss that later,” Valeria said with a smile. “For now, rest, and we will let others know you are recovering.”
“I think some already know,” Helen said as a nurse came in with a bunch of flowers. Diana looked at them, and then opened the card and read it.
“They are from Roger and the family – very kind of them…”
“Indeed,” Valeria said as Diana tried to sit up properly, Helen helping her to make sure she was supported. “Has Helen told you I need to stay here for a few days?”
“She has – you stay for as long as is needed,” Guy said quietly.
"You okay Veronica?" Eleanor said as her friend looked tired, putting her tray down as she sat down in the dining room.
"Just very tired,” Veronica said quietly. “We are getting in so much raw intelligence and its taxing even my brain sorting out what is rubbish from what we need right now, and into stuff that I want to take with me when I finally return to my daytime job."
"Some juicy bits on the Russian mob?" Eleanor asked as she bit into her wrap.
"More than just juicy Eleanor,” Veronica whispered, “this is stuff that under any other circumstances would have me so excited that I'd be bouncing off the walls."
remember that given the sources, and the means by which it’s been gathered,
very little of that is usable as evidence in court."
"I know," Veronica picked up her drink, “but it gives me insights that will enable me to open up dozens of new files that can be marked as needing investigating."
"But returning to our current work?"
beginning to get a very clear picture as to how so many people are both compromised,
and being controlled."
"I know, Francesca showed me your latest interim report, we now just need decide on our priority targets, and just how we are going to play them."
“When I was undergoing training in Rome Carlotta darling, I was taught that in the name of national security, that links with the underworld, and specifically the Mafia and the Camorra were often unavoidable, and that while I might never be able to trust these people, finding a commonality of interest could often work to the benefit of both parties.”
“Meaning what Mama? You know very well that I have deep links into organised crime”
“I do,” the older woman sipped her drink slowly, “I think what I’m trying to get at is why did you chose to join Shirley’s people?”
Charlotte sat back, before she said “I guess because when Madame approached me and she outlined what I’d be expected to do, I saw it as a way of truly helping the people that Dad had died trying to aid.”
“So your motives weren’t financial?”
“Not really, though I’d be lying if I said that the money side wasn’t appealing. I joined Madame X’s organisation really because I thought working outside the constraints of the law was the only way I might help make a significant contribution.”
“I can see the logic of that.”
“Oh - and of course when I decided to live a life of crime thanks to Dad and you not talking all those years, I had no way of knowing that I was actually significantly rich.”
“Well, there is that…”
6 pm BST
“We’ll start to get dinner ready,” Laura said as she and Miley left the room, closing the door and leaving Kay with Agnes.
“What do criminals, journalists and spies all have in common?” Agnes asked as she looked at the papers that Kay had asked her to read.
“Wasn’t that a question that we debated while we were students Aggie?”
“It is,” Agnes said as she frowned, “but I wonder if time means we have changed our perspective. I don’t think I have, at least personally,” she continued as she put down the papers on the coffee table and sat back. “I still think all of them know that to achieve their aims and objectives they often have to suppress their inner moral sense of what is right and wrong.”
“Or as I think I said, reaching the objective justifies the means.”
“I seem to remember that,” Agnes said as she shook her head, “or at least very similar words.”
“What we do in the pursuit of personal gain, or in the service of what we see as the greater good, has to be, and can only be justified if we believe that the ‘rules’ don’t apply to every person, or in every situation.”
“I know many people who would agree with you on that Kay,” Agnes smiled.
“I guessed you might.”
“And if I can leap ahead to where I think you are trying to take this conversation darling, then I think you must set aside all your inner doubts about some of the people you are working with on this.”
“Even though I know several must be murderous criminals?”
“Which is the greater evil? And does stopping what is going on justify holding your own nose Kay? I’m sure that you’ve faced this dilemma more than once.”
“I have Aggie,” Kay said, “but each time I do I find myself having this same internal argument with myself.”
“Listen – and you did not hear this from me – but when that Mazengwe scandal broke in the US, the rumour was it was a mixture of law enforcement and criminals who brought them down.”
“I know we were asked, at the time, and denied all knowledge.”
“As you would,” Agnes said with a wry grin, “and no, I really don’t want to know. But look what arose from that – the sisters and the work they are doing.”
“If I was to ask you Agnes…”
“But you won’t Kay – you know that, I know that, and I’ll put a grand down you won’t tell your bosses what and who you know either. Look, if you need a sounding post, I’m here, but keep my name out of this, all right?”
“Acceptable,” Kay said as she sat back and smiled. “So, the girls think you’re wonderful, don’t they?”
“Well, I was a saviour to them long before I started the adoption process,” Agnes said with a smile. “Stay for dinner?”
“I can’t, the boys are expecting me,” Kay said as she stood up, “and thanks again Agnes.”
“So,” Charlotte said as she looked round the table, “I need to thank you all for dropping in at short notice.”
“Well, it takes my mind off other things,” Jo said quietly through a slightly numb mouth.
“Look girls the broad outline of why we need this guy’s business records is that if we know just who their main fixer if fixing, then hopefully we can use that knowledge to turn them so they both tell us everything they know…”
“And also do just what you tell them Charlotte,” Jan interrupted, “the idea isn’t that complicated.”
“Ideally Jo I want this to be one of your trademarked ‘virgin’ break-ins. Get Doc in his offices and help her download as much as she can without him ever knowing you were there.”
“We can but try,” Jo said as she fingered her slightly aching jaw.
“Katy, you are there purely and simply to provide protection just in case anything does go wrong.”
“I worked that out,” Katy shook her head.
“Janice you get them there safely, you get them away safely…right?”
“Right,” Janice nodded.
“Just hopefully this will all go terribly smoothly and nothing bad happens.”
“But we take precautions,” Jo started to look at the plans in detail.
“Fingers crossed,” Katy giggled.
“Oh now why did he have to have that particular alarm system?”
“A problem Jo?”
“Not really, it will just mean I need take one of Big Sis’s gizmos along to scramble the alarms computer chip from a few minutes.”
“Well I will leave that all to you,” Charlotte smiled, “you know far more about that crap then I do.”
“You’re the tech geek, right?”
“And I bow to a superior knowledge. At any rate, let me know how soon you can move on this.”
Temple Hill Hospital
As Abby came into the room, she looked round at the bunches of flowers, smiling as Diana opened her eyes and saw her.
“Abigail – was I asleep?”
“You were Mama – how do you feel,” Abigail said as she walked in.
“Sore, tired – and I cannot move very easily, but I am as well as I expected to be.” She smiled as she held her hand out, Abby grasping it as she sat down by her bedside. “Do not worry, my little one – I look as bad as I feel, but it will heal, and I will recover.”
“Is it all right if we come in?”
“Of course it is,” Diana smiled as Juliette and Sandy came in, Sandy carrying a large bunch of flowers.
“I see others have sent gifts as well?”
“Indeed – at least the room is fragrant. May I ask about last Friday?”
“It went well – but Dom was really concerned about something she found. I haven’t had a chance to talk to her yet about it.”
“Still, it was successful?”
“The trust funds grew,” Juliette said with a smile. “Never mind that for now, however – how are you?”
“I am – sore, but happy it is over with. Now, we wait and pray to the Goddess all has gone well…”
“I think this will meet your needs for tonight, Jan.”
hot is this car Heather?" Janice asked as she looked at the Lincoln MKX in
the underground parking area.
actually had it a while Jan, so don't worry. Everything has been cleaned, the
plates changed, just drive carefully and don't get pulled over by the cops and
you'll be fine."
I'll work out how someone like you can have stealing cars as her hobby,"
Jan shook her head.
day I'll explain," Heather laughed.
long will the girls be?"
Sis said give them 10 more minutes..."
actually about half an hour?"
"That sounds about right."
“Okay then – time to grab some coffee then…”
“I make this look good,” Katy said as she adjusted the roll neck collar of her jumper.
“Black jumpers make anyone look good,” Jo said as she touched up her lipstick. “Doc, the equipment all packed?”
“Triple checking now,” Doc said as she packed the duffle bag with the electronic equipment.
“Okay then – let’s check you out,” Katy said as she pulled her gloves on, and then picked up the Koch.
hopefully that's a degree of firepower that you won't need Katy," Doc
looked over as the younger woman loaded the semi-automatic weapon.
but don't you feel safer knowing that me and this baby are covering your
weapon is there? Then yes. That it's you carrying....Not so much," Doc
laughed at the expression on the younger woman's face.
"Hey I can always get Mom to drive me home if you want someone else."
“No time,” Jo said as she put the woollen hat on her head. “Let’s go – Jan is waiting in the garage.”
"Okay to go over Charlotte's request," Janice looked round before she started the car.
"She wants whatever computer files I can download, encrypted or not," Doc spoke.
take pictures of all the paper that I can see," Jo added.
Jan said as they left the parking lot, “it’s not a robbery, just an information
they do that Mom I act as lookout and guard to make sure they don't get disturbed."
"Just don't get jumpy darling, unless it’s a clear and obvious threat, try and just stay quiet and out of sight."
“Gotcha – so where are we going?”
“This is the place,” Jan said as they stopped in the back alley, the other three getting out and looking at the office block.
climb the fire escape job?" Katy looked upwards, "and up six
hardly a major climb," Jo laughed, "and it’s up ladders, it's not
like you are really climbing."
really my thing."
"Well before we start let me find that alarm box and scramble its brains."
“I’d better stow this,” Katy said as she slipped the gun into a small back pack and put it over her shoulders, Doc handing Jo a tablet as she walked over to the wall, and examined a number of junction boxes.
Opening one up, she attached some wires from the tablet to the internal wiring, and then typed on the screen. “Okay – we’re good. Let’s get climbing…”
“That – was not fun,” Doc whispered as Jo slowly opened the window, and the trio slipped inside, Katy shining a torch round at the banks of filing cabinets and computers.
“Doc – you start there, I’ll start on the filing cabinets. Katy?”
“I know – stand back and keep watch,” she said as she slipped over to the door, looking out of the glass panel in the wood as the other two got to work.
Doc sat at the computer, switching it on and typing on the screen. “Their cyber security is not what it should be,” she mumbled as she managed to gain access, and plugged in a small hard drive, downloading all the documents she could find.
Jo carefully opened a filing cabinet, looking through the papers and takin gout any with personal information, photographing and replacing them as she went along. Katy watched them at work checking the door from time to time, and then walked quickly over to the window.
“What is it,” Jo whispered.
“Not sure – I thought I heard something…”
Jan was watching the side of the building, not realising anyone else was around until she heard the thump on the bonnet of her car. She looked out of the windshield to see a young man standing there, looking at her, with eyes that she could see were glazed over.
“Hey pretty lady,” he said in a slurred voice, “you looking for someone in particular? My friend and I saw you there.”
“Oh shit,” she whispered to herself as she saw a second man at her door, wearing dark clothing, leering at her through the glass. Jan took a deep breath as she didn’t answer, reaching instead to the door pocket as the first man walked to the passenger door.
“Maybe we should let ourselves in, what do you say bro?”
Katy watched from the window and whispered “shit – mom…” when the two men opened the car doors – then fell backwards and lay still on the ground as Jan reached out and closed the doors again.
“Everything good out there,” Doc said as she looked over.
“Yeah – yeah everything’s good,” Katy said quietly, “how much longer?”
“Twenty minutes – Jo?”
“Getting what I can…”
As they jumped off the last ladder and walked over to the car, Jo looked at the two men, the red dot in their foreheads drying, and shook her head as they got in.
“You all right Jan?”
“I’m cool – let’s get you home. School day for both of you tomorrow…”
Wednesday 28th September
10 am BST
The Babbage home
Sherry smiled as she filled in the final clue on the crossword, and glanced up at the clock – then at the door as she heard the knocking.
“I’m not expecting a delivery,” she said quietly to herself as she walked into the corridor, looking through the frosted glass front at the figure, and then opening the door.
“Sorry to drop in unannounced Sherry,” Kay said with a smile, “but I have apple Danishes, and I know you’ll have some coffee to have with them.”
“Well come in, come in,” Sherry said as she stood to the side, looking at Kay in her designer jacket and skirt and then at her own sweatshirt and joggers. “If I’d known you were coming, I’d have…”
“Baked a cake?”
“Or at least dressed for your visit – I feel positively shabby like this.”
“It’s not a problem Sherry – so, the kitchen?”
“Yeah,” Sherry said as she walked in, Kay sitting at the table and looking at the crossword as Sherry put some coffee on.
“How long today?”
“Just over five minutes,” Sherry said as she looked round.
“How many of your friends know you were a finalist in the Times Crossword Competition when we were in our final year at Oxford?”
“About as many as know I am Desdemona,” Sherry said as she poured the coffee into two mugs. “What did you think of today’s Telegraph puzzle?”
“Fiendish – truly fiendish,” Kay said as she opened the box, Sherry bringing the mugs over before she sat at the opposite side. “What does Mike say about your little sideline?”
“He just curses the fact I can do the Times faster than him,” Sherry said with a smile as she held her mug. “So – what brings you here this morning, apart from the chance for coffee, cake and chat?”
“What on earth makes you think I had an ulterior motive?”
“It’s mid-morning, and you don’t have an official car outside,” Sherry said quietly. “So spill – what is this all about?”
“Okay,” Kay said quietly, “I want to tell you something, but I want you to listen, and not fly off the handle until I am finished.”
“When was the last time we argued, Kay?”
Sherry’s brow furrowed as she said “so this is semi-official?”
“But off the books – Shelly, I need to tell you what I told Agnes yesterday…”
“Aggie? Sounds like you want Kay’s Angels to get back together again?” Sherry looked at Kay before she whispered “you do want us to work together? Kay, I’m a housewife, a mother, Mike does that sort of work…”
“But this… Sherry this is so off the books it’s my neck and my neck alone on the line. I need the finest analytical minds to bounce ideas off – and who better than a brilliant economist and someone with a first in Mathematics and Analytical Methods?”
“Kay,” Sherry said quietly, “I know you do important, vital work, but my views on how that work is carried out in other areas hasn’t changed in twenty years.”
“I know, I appreciate that – but this needs your view, uncredited, unofficial – and if anything I show you gives you concerns, tell me and forget it.”
Sherry sat for a minute, lost in thought as Kay looked on, and then said “all right – this once. Has this anything to do with recent events in London?”
“No – so be assured of that. Let me start at the beginning…”
Kay finished her coffee as Sherry ran her eye over the pages she had laid out in front of her, and then sat back, rubbing her eyes as she did so.
"Okay,” she finally said, “you are taxing my brain with this Kay..."
"And if believe that then I also believe there must be fairies at the bottom of your garden Sherry," the brunette interrupted.
Sherry replied with a rueful look, “lets simply say my brain isn't used to
doing this kind of thing shall we?"
I'm inclined to disbelieve," Kay chuckled.
as it may, I'd maybe need to do a whole lot of analysis of these figures before
I could give you a definitive statement."
instant reaction is?"
"Well, that all this would seemingly indicate a steady, if hidden, pattern of money laundering."
Sherry fidgeted in her chair. "The flows I think are being hidden in these
statements of perfectly legal transactions.
It would need something like a Cusum chart of
balance shifts over the period, and then maybe a more thorough time series
analysis taking into account the various sources, but the pattern is there in
"If I had access to the right computers, and the right software. And we’d need time to input this, because something tells me this is paper based, not electronic."
“Now why would you say that?” Kay asked with an amused smile.
“Instinct – and the fact that if you had it electronically, you would not have schlepped complete record of six months of transactions over to me.”
"You always were able to marry both the mathematics and the economics of International banking better than anyone I ever met darling.” Kay stood up, took the coffee mugs and refilled them, before saying “You'd have been such an asset to the service."
"Kay,” Sherry said quietly, “you know very well why I turned all that down."
“I know – but I can still imagine what you would have done. I could see you in a senior position at Cheltenham, or if you had gone into finance you might have been one of those that saw the crash coming.”
“I did see the Crash coming – two years beforehand – but it had the same inevitability as the Civil Service not realising how angry the British electorate can be,” Sherry said as she took the mug. “And besides, I value my sanity too much to have spent time working at Canary Wharf.”
the end you opted to marry Mike, and neither the Intelligence world, nor the
banking sector, got the benefit of your expertise in all this." Kay took a
deep breath, "do you ever regret the path not taken Sherry?"
Sherry said as she put her mug down, “I have a wonderful husband, three amazing
isn't answering my question."
"I know it isn't darling,” Sherry said with a smile, “but I'm not sure how, if at all, I can actually answer you."
"Sherry I'm a mother and wife myself, but I need the fulfilment I get from my work as well."
"Mike and I talked it out at the time..."
"And during said conversation he basically talked you out of a career. Right?"
wasn't like that Kay.” Sherry leaned
over and smiled as she said “We basically both agreed that we wanted to start a
family as quickly as possible, and that children grew up more stable in a home
where the mother was a constant presence."
"I always knew Mike was a closet male chauvinist."
“Not really,” Sherry said, “after all, I got the gig as one of the Telegraph crossword compilers, and I have helped the kids be the best they could be. Funny thing though…”
Mike was talking about us as 'the Somerville triplets' over breakfast?"
triplets, you know that takes me back," Kay smiled. "I know everyone
thought of us as a group, but I always thought I was slightly the
you were a Viscount's daughter, Aggie's father was a Scottish laird, you'd both
been to top public schools, and I was just a middle-class grammar school girl
Sherry laughed out loud at that. "It's never seemed to hold you back Kay."
"You think? Even today, and despite my Oxford background, I still think that a lot of the public school types in London Centre look down on me."
“Good old Civil Service snobbery – you would think after the Gang of Four, they would know better.”
“You could say that of the whole service, Kay. I would have thought they would have moved on a little from that, though.”
"Not a chance. I've had not only to be twice as good as them because I'm a woman, but three times as good because I'm not 'one of them'."
"Well look at where you are in the service Kay,” Sherry said as she collected the mugs, “you've taken them on and beaten them at their own game."
what Ray always tells me."
it wasn't so I'm sure he'd have heard."
Cabinet Office still gossip central for the entire civil service?" Sherry
"It is," Kay laughed as well, "and I'll give you that one."
Sherry said, “before we get totally off subject, why exactly read me in on all
"Because it’s the sort of thing that no one in London Centre wants even to hear a hint about. This all blows up, and it’s a career destroyer."
"And since I don't have a career to destroy..."
Kay broke in. "In the Byzantine world of the SIS this is the sort of thing
that any good office politician wants nothing to do with."
you are right then its vitally important work for both us and the
"Yes," Kay nodded.
“What does Aggie say about this?”
“She’s looking into something else for this,” Kay said as Sherry looked over. “Sherry, forget who I work for – I need your help for this.”
Rubbing her forehead, Sherry said “I’ll need a dedicated, encrypted laptop, with SAS installed on it – and a couple of days to do some training to get me up to speed on one or two things.”
“Thank you,” Kay said as she stood up, “you take care of the latter, I’ll get someone to arrange a laptop and then bring it personally.”
1 pm BST
As Kay walked past the café, she smiled as she saw Agnes sitting on a bench, looking out over the water as groups of swans swam past.
“Hey,” she said as she swallowed some of her sandwich, “I was over at Lancaster Gate, passing some info on to Peri, so this seemed good neutral ground.”
“Very true,” Kay said as she sat next to the redhead, her brown coat wrapped round her to keep the cool autumn air out. “I’ve had a – productive morning.”
“It sounded interesting when you called. So - you asked Sherry for your help, and I take it she eventually agreed?" Agnes asked as they sat on the bench looking at the birds on the Serpentine.
"After practically pleading that her brains weren't good enough to do any of this," Kay shook her head. "When did Sherry get so modest about herself?"
"I guess when she realised that men neither like, nor trust, women with huge intellects.” Agnes smiled as two girls walked by and waved at her. “Face it Kay - how often in your life have you pretended to dumb yourself down so that your male bosses can continue to both feel superior, and pat you on the head as they take all the credit for your work?"
"I know," Kay sighed. "Ray and Donald do their best, and they've always tried hard, not to patronise us. In Sherry's case though she willingly took on the role of wife and homemaker, and I guess unwittingly Mike has forgotten that while he only got a 2.2 in history, she got a brilliant first."
“I think he
just doesn’t bring it up,” Agnes said with a smile. "So, what got you so upset and worried
that you asked for us to chat out here in the open here in Hyde Park Kay?"
Germans it seems aren't happy that I'm asking questions that they in truth
really don't even want to know the answers to themselves, about one of their
very biggest banks, and what role it may be playing in cleaning up, and
facilitating, the transfer of money westwards out of Russia and certain other
heard whispers about that for a long while darling. Since the Swiss had to stop
been the clearing house for the dark economy, they have become the go to
people. The Germans will probably try
and sit on it, and just hope that with time the potential scandal will simply
have had messages from both the Treasury, and the FO, basically asking why am I
poking my nose into that bank."
it to an old case that is already out there."
throw then off track?"
"Are you going to brief Francesca and the Americans?"
“I did before coming here. Come on – I’ll buy you a coffee before you head back.”
To the other residents, it looked as if Francesca and Charlotte were reviewing business papers – which, in a way, was true. As she looked over the table, Francesca noticed a look in her daughter’s eyes.
"Is that something from last night Carlotta darling? It looks like it’s amusing you."
"It does?" Charlotte grinned slightly. "It's love notes from him to his secretary, it would seem they are having a highly steamy, and also rather kinky, love affair."
Francesca lifted an eyebrow.
Charlotte said as she closed the folder, “it would seem that on top of the sex,
our man has a taste for the sort of 'services' that Agnes used to provide in
know you read Russian darling?"
this is all in plain old fashioned Anglo-Saxon," Charlotte grinned even
more. "I'll bet you a thousand dollars that his wife doesn't do all this
a bet worth taking darling, you are almost certainly right. From the report I
read she's actually rather heavily religious, and more than a touch
wouldn't approve of all this for definite," Charlotte put the papers down
on the breakfast table.
get anything yet on what's in all the information about his financials."
tiny bit as yet, but one thing is of interest, he's put most of the legitimate businesses
in his wife's name."
Now that might be something we can use..."
see a distinct chance we can blackmail him into working for us by holding the
details of this affair of his over his head."
"We control the guy who fixes the fixers." Charlotte whistled, "If we can do it then it certainly gets us further into all this mess."
“We’ll discuss it at senior staff this morning…”
“Okay, well this is all useful,” Eleanor said as she looked at Veronica. “So while we start to see what we can shake out of people over on this side of the Atlantic…”
“Kay and friends will try and investigate the flow of money through the banks and see if they can put pressure on the financial institutions involved in all this mess to spit out just what they know Captain.”
“Sounds like a plan to me Admiral.”
“Because all that is being done outside of the US then they aren’t under the same legal restrictions that we are in the US,” Veronica looked up.
“Exactly Commander,” Hannah spoke, “I’ve written a legal brief out that I will circulate this morning stating where the legal lines are that we shouldn’t cross so that the material we pass on to Admiral Preminger isn’t compromised.”
“Well not too badly compromised,” Caroline laughed.
“Returning to the work Kay Cornwall is doing,” Francesca paused a couple of seconds, “I’ve told her to contact Sigrid von Mannschen and key her in on what is being discovered.”
Veronica looked at Francesca, a little surprised as she said “Why, may I ask?”
“Because Commander, Sigi knows all the right people in the German establishment to ensure that the wrong doing will hopefully uncovered, and that as a consequence the Germans investigate, and prosecute just the right people.”
“Speaking personally, can I say that when this all does totally unravel in the fullness of time, it will be the smoking guns found in the information held, and records of, the German banks, that will provide the definitive proof.”
“That’s an interesting theory,” Eleanor looked at her old friend trying to assess what Francesca knew but wasn’t sharing.
“At any rate, let us discuss how we execute this.”
“Do we have any contacts in the local area that we could use to turn him?”
“I don’t think so,” Charlotte said, “not without tipping our hand, but I have made a suggestion to Madame…”
3 pm BST
“I have something for you to look at Penelope.”
Penelope placed the afternoon report on Shirley’s desk, before saying “And what might that be Madame?”
“This,” Shirley laid the file down in front of her principal assistant. “Some friends of ours came across this material as part of a routine information gathering burglary in New York, and they forwarded it to us for our comments.”
“Well I’m not sure what we can add…” suddenly Penny sat at attention as she read some of the things that the Russian taxi king had written to his secretary/lover.
“I thought that might catch your attention,” Shirley laughed, “especially given your own background in ‘the craft’.”
“A lot of this is very hard core S&M Madame,” Penny paused, “if the woman has the skills to cater to this then she must be a pretty good Domme.”
“If you read further you’ll see that maybe she isn’t up to some of it Penelope.”
“Okay I can see that bit now.”
“It seems that this man has a highly religious wife, and that his businesses are largely in her name. Francesca thinks he may be a prime target for blackmail.”
“I think I’d have to agree.” Penny put the file down, “I’m sure it’s an operation they can do on their own, why send this to us to look at?”
“I would guess Francesca wants even more control over this guy then even this would give us.”
“Meaning what?” Penny looked puzzled.
“That my friend the Marchesa knows something that Agnes always says…”
“Which is what?”
“That you Penelope are probably the greatest, and most skilled, dominatrix of all time.”
“Aggie is too kind,” Penny smiled for a couple of seconds till the penny dropped. “SHIT!”
“I think you know what I’m going to say.”
“That you want me in New York to close a honey trap on this guy?”
“Those are almost the exact words that Francesca used.”
“Madame you do know that the reason I gave all that up because I’m afraid I will kill a sub?” Penny looked extremely worried. “What good will this guy be if I torture him to death?”
“I am aware Penelope, but I ask you to take that risk. I am sure you can find a way to manage the passion.”
Nodding, Penny said “when do you wish me to leave?”
“Angela has your ticket for the first flight tomorrow. In the meantime, study the file…”
“So how are you finding Chaucer,” Melinda said as she sat with Poppy and Erica, eating her lunch.
“I look in the book, and there it is,” Erica said with a sigh. “I’m told Anna found it tough last year, and I can see why.”
“Gotta admit, it’s a challenge,” Poppy said with a smile. “Anyway – any thoughts yet on my birthday?”
“I’d have to watch the recent series,” Melinda said with a smile.
“You… You haven’t seen it,” Erica asked, her mouth open.
“Nope – why?”
“This needs to be rectified – starting tonight!”
“But I have assignments…”
“So do I – but your education is incomplete. You will not be able to resist…”
“Resist what,” Dawn said as she, Jess and Lynn sat with them.
“Bugs does not know what Doctor Who is.”
“I never said that – I said I had not seen the newer series…”
“Oh lord,” Jess said as she shook her head, “here we go…”
“So, future Lady Ordford,” Becca said as they sat at their table, “spill – what are your plans?”
“Seriously – I think just a meal out or something, why?”
There was a stunned silence around the table, before Niki said "Just a meal out?"
Pepsi took a drink from her bottle, and said "Why not?"
"Because dear Pepsi,” Ama said with a smile, “something that simple is just not how things are done at St Angela's."
right, we can't let your birthday pass without doing something mega."
looked at the girls. "We have
Halloween coming up, we have a fresh round of Sweet Sixteens,
I'm sure nobody is going to notice if my birthday just sort of slides by."
her," Nikki shook her head.
"I've been to so many parties this past year that I'm actually looking forward to just enjoying my birthday with all my family and friends, but minus all the fuss."
"Do all old, engaged, women, suddenly become no fun like this?"
haven't heard that Nell has suddenly quit the party scene," Jeans shook
saying I'm quitting parties," Pepsi rolled her eyes, "I'm just saying
that celebrating quietly this year will be nice."
running a fever Doc?"
"Let me feel," Anna put her hand on her friends forehead. “Nope – she is actually quite chilled.”
“Okay – okay, a nice quiet dinner with family and friends, that’s what you want? Fine – you win,” Nikki said, the others looking at her as she winked at them.
FBI New York Field Office
"Who was the phone call from Jan?" Jeanne asked as they both stood by the water cooler.
"One of my eldest daughters best friends telling me that Pepsi is insisting that she wants a rather low key dinner party to celebrate her birthday this year."
said "that actually sounds quite nice...
if I could get someone to watch Adam for a night…"
"If you are our age," Janice shook her head, "but when you are 17 I think you can still safely have a fairly wild party with your friends."
"I guess so," Jeanne smiled, "because she's so mature I tend to forget she's still not quite 17."
"Well I think I'll drop over and see April on my way home,” Jan said with a smile, “and see if we can maybe devise something a little livelier than just taking Pepsi and her friends out to dinner."
"Sounds like a plan, but in the meantime I have that list of potential buyers of the Russian manuscripts, etc, at last come through from Paris."
"And the list of potential fences." Jan asked as they started to walk back to their desks.
course it’s headed by Madame X?"
else?" Jeanne smiled slightly.
"Okay what does Katy want?" Janice looked down as her phone rang. “Katy – what’s the problem?
“Oh lord – when?
“Well, I should have seen it coming – let me talk to Tom and I’ll let your teacher know, all right?
“Fine – and don’t be late tonight. Missy’s coming to talk to us about something.”
As she ended the call, Jeanne asked “what happened?”
“Oh the humanity,” Jan said as she sat down.
“Jan, what’s wrong?”
“One of the greatest horrors known to mankind?”
“Worse than the Pussycats?”
“Oh yeah – Bring your Parent to School day…”