Wednesday 19th February
10 am, an abandoned underground car park, Long Island
Tommy the Fish was not a happy man, as he leaned back against the hood of his van and ran his good hand through his greying hair. The lady facing him stood impassively, the red scarf around her neck a contrast to the grey pinstripe of her tailored jacket and skirt, which came down to her knees. Her legs, standing in those well buffed high heeled shoes, were encased in dark sheer hose – possibly the same type that covered her head, pressing down her dark hair. A gold brooch in the shape of a panther was on the jacket lapel.
“But lady d’ja have to pop a cop?”
Miss Panther purred back her reply with a smile. “Well, the silly girl was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. We had to defend ourselves Tommy.”
Under the stocking mask, Juliette was not a happy woman. She resented that for the first time Tommy had summoned her to a meeting, rather than her calling him. The shock as she read the invitation in the personals still rankled with her.
“Well lady the law is gone nutso, and when they go crazy a lot of guys I do bizniz with go crazy too.” Tommy paused and looked hard at the tall stocking masked woman. “Ma’am a few people on both sides I hear are starting to put two and two together and cummin’ up with my name as the answer.”
“Oh,” Miss Panther said quietly, “and why is that?”
“Cos you ladies use a lotta hardware, no gun ever gets used again. People notice tings like dat, certain folks who shall remain nameless are beginning to ask where you buy from.”
“Oh.” That fact hit Juliette like a slap round the face. She had been so careful to cover their tracks and to keep Tommy in line – but they had been very active recently.
“Now,” Tommy said as he paced up and down, “I aint one to blab as you damn well know ma’am, but can I suggest you ladies lie very low for a period and wait till people forget ya, until they start concentratin’ on udder matters? I’m not just talking about the blues here – the feds are knocking on doors as well, and Maroni…”
“What of Maroni?”
“Let me put it this way, lady – he hasn’t forgotten the wiping out of his number one man and his family, if you catch my drift. He’s looking for someone to lay that on – and he may decide to kill two bags of cats with one drop in the river.”
Juliette looked at him – he was genuinely worried, and not just for himself – for them as well. Or at least some of them.
“I’ll have to consider it Tommy.”
“Please do lady, some nasty people might cum knockin’ at my door, and while I might not wanna give, they have ways of extractin’ answers.”
A million and one thoughts ran through Juliette’s brain. The right thing to do would be to kill Tommy right here and now and sever the only connection that might lead to the Pussycats. But then what? Would they ever find a dealer as good or as reliable? Besides she knew some of the girls had grown very fond of Tommy, would they sanction her whacking him?
Miss Panther said quietly “I need to consult Tommy. We act as one, of course.”
“Sure ting lady.”
“You remember the place where I unfortunately had to remind you who we are?”
Tommy touched his twisted finger and winced visibly.
“Meet me there in 24 hours please?”
“Why oh why did this have to happen now?” Juliette thought to herself. With all Carina’s problems to sort out she needed another crisis like she needed a hole in the head. But from the way Tommy was talking, some people may think that was a viable option if they found out who they were.
“Okay 24 hours Lady.” Tommy climbed into his van. “I’ll see ya there.”
Juliette waited until she saw Tommy drive out of the abandoned car park, and then walked slowly back to her car, pulling the stocking off when she got behind the wheel and then the wig. She sat still for a moment, taking the time to calm herself, and then started the engine, her mind going back to the previous Saturday night…
Saturday 15th February
9.15 pm, the de Ros Mansion
“Two minutes,” Juliette said in reply to Abby as they looked to the doorway, holding their breaths. The phone rang, and Diana went out to answer it.
“Sandy – we’ll call her once we know.” Diana resumed her seat and waited anxiously.
Eventually, the door opened and Carina walked slowly out, holding the pale blue tester in her hand.
“Well? Are you or aren’t you?”
Abby, Diana and Jo watched as Carina handed her mother the device, and hugged her, sobbing into her chest as Juliette looked at the clear window.
The two vertical lines told her all she needed to know.
“Oh my,” she said quietly, and then she held Carina, whispering “It’s all right, baby, it’s all right” as the others stood up. She looked over to them, eyes red as the tears started, and slowly nodded.
“Oh my Goddess,” Abby said as she looked at Joanne, and then the two girls walked over and embraced Carina. “What am I going to do,” she said quietly as she walked off with them, while Diana walked up to Juliette.
“She’s right,” Juliette said, “What are we going to do?”
“Well, the first thing we do is tell her we’re with her, whatever she decides,” Diana said, “and then we get her in to see your doctor on Monday, discretely, and get the results confirmed. We should just be grateful you don’t have to kill and skin a rabbit these days.”
Juliette looked at Diana, and then did something totally unexpected - she burst out laughing.
“What’s so funny?”
“Sorry – I just had a vision of me and Carina on the cover of Complete Style under the heading ‘Grandma can be modish too.’ Does that make me a bad person?”
Diana sat down and hugged her sister, as the laughter turned to tears.
“I can’t believe it,” Abby said as she shook her head, “You really are pregnant.”
“Yeah – looks that way,” Carina said quietly, before she turned and looked at Joanne. “Do you think they’ll still take me at Yale if I have a baby with me?”
“I’m sure they do,” Abby said as she put her hand on Carina’s, “but we’re a mile away from that yet. Let’s take this one step at a time, all right?”
“Yeah,” Joanne said as she lay back on the bed, “It need not be the end of the world, there are – alternative options.”
Carina looked over at Jo. “No,” she said quietly, “I will not have that done to me.”
“I’m just saying it’s an option – a few of the girls Megan knew had similar situations, and that was the path they took.” She sat up again and said, “Look, it’s your decision Cari, but at least hear out the choices you have. Even if you keep the baby, these days it’s no bar to a college degree. Yale has a student nursery, after all.”
“Yeah,” Joanne said as she looked through some leaflets on Cari’s desk. “Here it is – the Edith B Jackson Centre. Takes from babies to school age.”
“What will St Angela’s say? What will the other girls say?”
“Well you graduate in May, you’ll barely be showing by then.” Jo said practically.
“And you can retreat to the North Shore for the summer,” added Abby. “No one in New York need even know.”
“You can always defer Yale for a year you know? Wait till you have had the baby and then go to New Haven next year.” Jo thought aloud.
“But what about you guys…What about the Pussycats?”
“Well till we’ve worked out the options…” Jo thought and paused. “I guess I just don’t know.”
“There’s also adoption you know,” Abby said as she swung her legs, “but you know what I think?”
“What,” Cari said as she looked at her best friend.
“I think this baby, if you keep it, will have five of the best aunts and the greatest granny any baby could ask for.”
“Thanks,” Carina said as she wiped her eyes and hugged them both. “But I need to talk to Mom now. Can you guys give us some space?”
“Sure – we’ll wait here,” Abby said as Carina stood up, ran her fingers through her hair, and then walked back into the drawing room.
“Mom the girls were talking about some ideas, but there’s one question I think I need ask only you.”
“Should I go?” Diana asked.
“No please stay Aunt Diana.”
“What’s the question darling.”
“Mom…” Carina took a huge breath, “How is ‘she’ going to handle this?”
“She?” Juliette looked perplexed.
“She..It…The Demon…whatever you want to call her. That creature who lives in me. How is she going to deal with being pregnant?”
Juliette shook her head, then stood up and hugged her daughter.
“I don’t know sweetie,” she whispered. “I just don’t know.”
"Neither do I Momma," Cari said as she started crying again, "and that really scares me."
"Listen," Juliette said as she sat down with Carina, "After the incident, and I discovered I was pregnant, everyone wanted to give me advice, tell me what to do, who to see - I even got a couple of offers to adopt you before you were even born."
Carina looked at her mother, then said "but you kept me, you brought me up. Who..."
"Mary - who else could it be? I remember her sitting in this very chair, telling me it would be all right, telling me it was not the end of the world, and she knew I would find a way to cope." Taking her daughter's hands, Carina looked into her eyes and said "So I'm telling you the same thing now. It is not the end of the world, darling, and whatever your decision is - and only you can make that decision - we are behind you every step of the way. Me, your Aunt Diana, Sandy, Heather, the girls - all of us."
Carina nodded, and whispered "Thanks" as Diana and Juliette hugged her. After a few minutes, she dried her eyes and said "What now?"
"We tell Sandy and Heather, but nobody else unless you say so - and you and I go to see Dr Maitland Monday after school. I'll get us in for a 5.30 consultation. Then, and only then, we discuss options and decide."
"And - her?"
"We'll watch for her, and when she calls, we'll discuss it then, all right?"
Carina nodded and put her head on Juliette's chest, while Diana went to the phone.
Heading onto the main road, Juliette shook her head. The shock then was bad enough, but then on Monday…
Monday 17th February
7 am, the Huntingdown apartment.
Carina rushed to the bathroom and just got her head over the lavatory in time.
“Mmmmuuuuuurrrrrrhhhhhhhh!” The vomit and bile that she’d woken with came pouring out.
“Oh my Goddess…what the fuck?”
Her stomach was cramping, she felt awful. Dare she get her head out of the bowl long enough to see how she looked?” She lifted her head but then it came back again.
Thank the Goddess not as much that time.
Carina had been waking for a few days feeling slightly yucky, but she’d not put it together that this was the morning sickness she’d been reading about.
“Oh damn there’s no way I’m ever going to survive over a month of this.” She wailed inside as she flushed the mess away.
For several minutes she just knelt there, vomiting twice more as she did. Eventually she thought it might be safe to try moving. Slowly she stood and turned to look at herself in the mirror.
“Oh Goddess I look like crap,” she said aloud, as a taste of bile appeared in her mouth again. Instinctively she reached for her hairbrush and started brushing her hair out.
“Mmmuuurrrhhh” She threw up in the sink.
“Carina are you okay?” She heard Juliette banging on the bathroom door. “Can I come in?”
Juliette opened the door anyway.
“Oh no…” she took the scene in.
“I think they call it morning sickness.” Carina made a half-hearted attempt to smile.
“Yes they do” Juliette tried to hug her daughter.
“Ummm Mom I’d stay pretty clear if you don’t want me to spoil that lovely suit. No hugs please, my guts hurt too much.”
“Mine was never bad.” Juliette remembered.
“Well if I have to do this every morning…oh damn…what if it happens at school…what will I tell everyone?”
“I guess you’ll have to say you have a stomach virus.”
“You think anyone will buy that? Thanks to Judy half the school already knows I thought I might be knocked up.”
“Well you can’t just skip school.”
“I know…just give me a few, I’ll be okay.”
“Mmmmmmmuuuuurrrrhhhhhhh” Carina got her head over the toilet bowl in the nick of time.
“Well I guess I better go prepare our breakfast.”
As she retreated out of the bathroom Juliette now knew what they meant by the expression ‘if looks could kill’.
Outside the Richmond House, 5th Avenue, New York City. 8.25 am.
“Hey,” both Abigail and Joanne sang out brightly as they climbed into the back of Julianne’s Lincoln for their lift to school.
“How are you feeling Cari?” Abby asked.
“How do I look?”
“A bit like death warmed up.” Jo blurted out.
“Well does that tell you how I feel?” Cari looked daggers at Abby.
“Morning sickness.” Julianne turned her head as she pulled up at a light. “Don’t take anything personally while she’s like this girls.”
“Was it bad?” Abby couldn’t stop herself enquiring, and wished she hadn’t when she saw Cari’s expression.
All three girls lapsed into silence as Juliette twiddled the radio dial trying to find a channel to change the mood.
“And both the NYPD and FBI repeated a pledge today to bring the murderers of Officer Kathryn Berry on Saturday afternoon to justice. Officer Berry was shot during a holdup by the notorious…”
Juliette quickly changed to a station playing classic rock. The fallout from the Pussycat’s piece of work was a business none of them wanted to think about.
“Remember we have a doctor’s appointment tonight.” Julianne got out the car and hugged Carina as the girls got out in front of St Angela’s Academy.
“I know Mom…I don’t need reminding.” Carina gave her mother a peck on the cheek as she turned and followed her two friends threw the school gates.
Juliette shook her head as she restarted her car and headed downtown towards her office. She didn’t know how her daughters alter ego would cope being with being pregnant, but it couldn’t be much worse than ‘normal’ Carina was doing today.
All Angels shuffled into school assembly nervously. On Friday night they’d won both the basketball game, and the riot, but the headlines in the newspapers talking about upper class female hooligans, and schoolgirl vandals on the rampage, meant they knew the whole school was due for a dressing down this morning.
Miss Tennant limped to the podium, the dressing on her head visible, both things the consequence of her being knocked over and spiked with a high heel during the melee.
“School,” she paused for effect, “I will not say young ladies,” another pause, “in all my years as an educator I have never, ever, witnessed scenes as deplorable as those of Friday night.” She sniffed and looked down at her prepared notes, “by your actions you have dragged the fine name of this school through the mud. Your conduct, your language, your demeanour, was not what I hope for, or expect from St Angela’s girls. I have consulted with both the Board of Trustees, and with various parents groups, and we have agreed the following punishments and sanctions.”
Judy McNally rolled her eyes at Abby in comment.
“First this coming Saturday, the entire school will report to an assigned charitable group, the lists will be posted later, and you will do not just 8 hours work, then, but for the next three Saturday’s as well.”
A gasp went up from her audience.
“Secondly each girl will pay a $5 fine to her home room teacher by Friday to help pay for the cleanup whether they were at the game or not.”
A louder gasp.
“And finally the entire remaining varsity basketball season is cancelled, and we have agreed to forfeit all wins gained to this point.”
“No” a collective noise rose from the girls as they looked round at each other in shock.
“Perhaps these punishments will cause you all maybe to think about ending this absurd rivalry with Sacred Heart.” The Principal closed her notes. “Good Morning.” She turned on her heels and walked out of the room followed by the staff and leaving a hall full of stunned young women.
“It’s not the money,” July said to the seniors around her, “It’s the principle of the thing. What are the Nuns having to do?”
“We’ll find out,” Buffy said, “and if it’s less than us…”
“Then we show we’re better than them,” Carina said, “and we take our punishment like ladies.”
“Are my ears deceiving me,” Bobbi Morse said, “you’re giving in?”
“Nope,” Carina said with a smile, “this requires a suitable retaliation – one we should plan carefully…”
The Surgery of Dr. Maitland
Juliette and Carina looked at Carol Maitland typed on her computer, then sat back and put her fingers together under her chin.
“All right, Carina, I’ll know the results of the tests within 24 hours, but it does look very much like you are expecting. My job now is to make sure you and the unborn child are kept healthy and well, and to go over timings and options with you. So first question – scared?”
“Oh yes,” Carina said quietly.
“Good – perfectly natural thing to be in your situation. Second question – and I apologise for asking this – can we count on any support from the father?”
Carina shook her head, as Juliette said “Apparently, he got word of what had happened, and left the city. We have no intentions of following him.”
“Okay,” Dr Maitland said, “I’m sorry, but if he was going to support you, he should be part of the discussions. So it’s you and your mom – and your friends?”
“Yes,” Carina said quietly.
“Right then – from what you’ve told me already, I suspect you’ll come to term – be ready to give birth – second half of September. We can confirm that later, but I’m going to refer you now to a gynaecologist who will provide the medical advice you need for the pregnancy.” She paused for a moment, and then said “Forgive me, Carina, but will you be keeping the baby?”
Carina looked at her mom, gripping her hand as she said quietly “Yes – but I don’t want the school or others to know.”
“That’s between you, your mother and your school,” the doctor said quietly, but kindly. “Right now, what I will do is the referral, set up some regular check-ups with you, and suggest you start taking some vitamin supplements. Otherwise, you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, so no problems or family history to worry about. Come back and see me on Wednesday, all right?”
“Thank you,” Juliette said as she and Carina stood up, and left the offices, returning to their apartment in silence.
“So what now,” Carina said as she sat down, having changed into a jogging top and pants.
“We see the gynaecologist, and we take care of you,” Juliette said.
“I meant about college.”
“When do you hear?”
Carina looked through a file she had brought down from her room. “Not until the beginning of April, and I get a month to decide.”
“Well, that’s five weeks and then another four. Don’t worry about it just now, darling – by then we’ll know the timings, and if you’re successful we can request a deferment by a year. Your grades should allow that. Right now, however, we look after you…”
“Mom maybe it might be better if I stayed here in the city and went to either Columbia or NYU?
“But you have your heart set on Yale?”
“But if I stay here in town, you’ll be here to help…”
“With the baby darling?”
“In part…but also with me. I’m frightened I’ll lose control when I’m on my own and doing something stupid again.” Carina paused, “Mom what will happen to the baby if I’m imprisoned or killed?”
“I’m not just thinking of Carina now, I have to think for the baby as well.” Suddenly Carina burst out crying. “I…or we…well we have to know our weaknesses. Mom it’s going to be such a balancing act.”
“Darling it’s not that far a drive to New Haven. You can come home weekends, your friends and me can come visit, and we can help.”
Juliette got up and hugged her daughter.
Carina looked up tearfully into her mother’s eyes. “Thank you Momma.”
“And now this,” Juliette thought as she went over the bridge. “Maybe we do need to take a break – but what about Tommy…”
Wednesday 19th February
12 pm, The Calabria Club.
“Give me a beer, Annie, and a whisky chaser.”
“You look like you’ve had a rough day, Tommy,” the barmaid said as she poured the bar and set it in front of him, adding the shot glass as she poured the amber nectar in.
“Youse can say that again,” Tommy said as he picked up the glass, “Your very good health, Annie.” Throwing the shot of alcohol down his mouth, he let out a gasp and then picked up his beer.
“Are you Tommy Morgan?”
“Who wants to know,” Tommy said as he looked to the side. Two people were standing there, one a man with short dark hair, the other a younger woman with shoulder length blonde hair. Both wore dark suits, well tailored, but he could see the bulge under their jackets.
“Agent Ball, Agent Carter, Federal Bureau of Investigation,” the man said as they flashed their badges at him. “Are you Tommy Morgan?”
Tommy glanced over at Annie, before saying “Yeah, I’m Tommy Morgan. What can do for youse?”
“Just a few questions,” Ball said as he nodded towards a booth. “Let’s talk over there.”
Tommy glanced round – a few regulars, and two guys drinking at the far side of the bar, wearing leather jackets. “Sure,” he said as he picked up his glass, “but I don’t know what you think I can help you with.”
“Well, word is you know a bit of what’s going down in the street,” Ball said as he and Carter sat opposite him. “Who the movers and shakers are.”
“Only when it comes to the fish market,” Tommy said with a grin. Ball and Carter smiled back, before Ball said “Come on Tommy – you’re not in any trouble yet.”
“Well, that’s good,” Tommy said as he drank his beer, “because if I was, I’d be less inclined to drink.”
“Having said that,” Carter said, “if you were to know anything that would be of use to the authorities, you would tell them, wouldn’t you?”
“Depends,” Tommy said, “there’s a lot of bad fish gets through the market – maybe I should call the FDA or someone.”
“Joker,” Ball said as he sat back, “I like it, and I like you Tommy, so would you mind if I gave you a little advice?”
“Go right ahead.”
“Ever hear of the Pussycat Gang?”
“Only what I hear in the papers – real sick bitches by all account, no offence ma’am.”
“None taken,” Carter said, “because they are, and we’re going to take them down.”
“And when that happens,” Ball said, “we’re going to take down whoever it is that supplies them with their arms – not that you would know anything about that, do you Tommy?”
“No I don’t,” Tommy said, “and I resent the way youse are implying I would know.”
“Just some good friendly advice, Tommy,” Ball said as he and Carter stood up. “After all, only one of the main gun runners in the city would supply someone like them, and the way things are right now, I’m sure they will be closing ranks to end the uproar.”
He took Tommy’s glass and took a good, long drink from it. “Good beer – I might spend a bit more time here,” Ball said quietly, before he and Carter walked out of the bar. Tommy sat there, looking into the glass as the other two men stood up and walked out.
“Set them up – I need a few more drinks now. And I need to borrow your phone a minute.”
“The two guys who walked out are Maroni’s men – I expect he’ll want to talk to me next.” Dialling a number, he waited and said “Lenny? Tommy. I’m calling in that favour – be at my place for four tonight.”
“Lenny the Loon? Why do you need him?”
“He owes me,” Tommy said, “he owes me…”
The de Ros Mansion, New York City. 8.00 pm.
“And that ladies is the crux of our problem.” Juliette looked round the group sitting at the dining table after her explanation of her meeting with Tommy earlier.
“Seems like we really did upset people this time.” Heather looked very worried.
“The logical thing to do is whack Tommy and sever the connection.” Julianne put it baldly.
“Even he cannot identify us though.” Diana mused. “We are always so careful.”
“But are we prepared to take the risk?”
“Aunt Ju he was awful good to me and Jo while we were looking for those bitches. I’d hate we had to kill him.” Abby said quietly.
“Me too.” Joanne added.
“Point is can we trust him not to say anything that might be of use to the authorities?” Julianne looked to the group for guidance. “I’m seeing him tomorrow and I need to know what you want me to do.”
“Speaking for myself.” Diana took a gulp of air, “I don’t think we can afford to be sentimental, we all have far too much to lose in our real lives.”
“I said he was getting too familiar,” added Heather.
“What are our alternatives Juliette?” Sandy spoke for the first time.
“I’m not sure.”
“The cops have to play by the rules, they need evidence, we cut off links to Tommy, they’ll have no trails to follow.” Sandy offered a suggestion.
“The Mafia doesn’t though.” Diana reminded her. “They can be as ruthless as we are in extracting information.”
“Can we fight the Mafia to protect Uncle…ummmm….I mean Tommy? Abby asked.
“Why should we take the risk?” Diana declared. “I say we kill him and retire for a while. At least until Carina has had her baby.”
“We whack Tommy we are telling the world yes it was him that was supplying the pussycats, we defend him, we are telling the world he supplies the pussycats. I think our only solution is shut things down and go quiet.” Sandy added her opinion.
“Well there is a common theme there that we get out of the heist business for a while.” Juliette summarised. “And besides when Carina is a little further into pregnancy we won’t be able to take her on jobs anyway.”
“Does anyone want to know my opinion?” Carina at last opened her mouth.
“Of course darling” Diana threw her arms up in a Gallic gesture.
“I’m…” Carina paused as she collected her thoughts. “Ummm I’m pretty sure that I’m going to need release her one more time before I settle down to impending motherhood.”
“And that means?” her mother asked.
“If I don’t get to do something nasty and violent in the next few weeks then she might just do something crazy like she did on Christmas Eve and got us both in this state.”
“So you think…” Juliette was interrupted by her daughter.
“Either we organise something as Pussycats or I’m going to have to cruise skid row and kill some bums.” Carina looked round. “It’s as simple as that, I can’t go all those months without doing something truly evil, it’s just not possible.”
“Is that her speaking or the normal Carina?”
“It’s both of us Mom, we know what we are, we both want the baby desperately, we both want to go to Yale, but she needs some carefully time tabled releases else she will go insane.”
“I thought she already…”
The whole gang glared at Abby.
“All I’m saying Mom is that maybe shutting down the Pussycats will not work for me.”
“Do you need to do things as Miss Lynx?” Jo asked carefully.
“If I don’t we are back to the bums and me going out on my own again.”
“So darling your thoughts are?” Juliette spoke.
“Hit Maroni if he’s the danger before he hits us.”
“Mon Dieu!” Diana gasped. “Carina are you insane?”
“I thought we’d all decided I was already.” Carina giggled and broke the tension. “My point is that if he’s the real danger we do what we’ve always done as Pussycats…. we eliminate the problem.”
“House always says the best offence is a great defence.” Abby said quietly. “I agree with Cari, let’s get him first. We have the advantage, we know who he is, and he doesn’t know who we are.”
Diana shook her head. “It’s crazy.” She looked round the table, “but I guess if it’s what you all think I’ll go with the group.”
“But what do I tell Tommy tomorrow?”
“Only one thing you can Mom, tell him he needs protect himself. Just tell him if we need him or he needs us he needs just call.”
“I better get him another pager.” Juliette thought aloud. “Are we all agreed?”
The six nodded as Juliette stood up. “It’s going to be a rough few weeks, I suspect, but we need to do some planning. We need to find out all we can about Maroni – public and private side, but let’s start with the public side. What do we know about him between us?”
Sandy put her elbows on the table and rested her chin on her hands. “Publically, he’s the face of a number of charities in the city – I have seen him at functions, but always avoided him. There’s something about him that would frighten me, even if I didn’t know who he was.”
Diana got up and walked to a table, returning with a copy of the New York Times and opening it to the society pages. “He helped organise a benefit for the fire-fighters last night – so his picture is in the paper with his family.”
Juliette looked at the photo in the centre of the page. Vince Maroni was a big man – about six two, she’d guess – and broad shouldered, as he smiled at the camera. His suit was tailored, and his brown hair was starting to grey at the temples.
“He’d be in his early fifties, at a guess?”
“I’d say so,” Diana said, “his wife’s a couple of years younger.” Sophia Maroni stood next to him, in a dark dress that Juliette guessed was made of satin. A fur throw was over her shoulders, and a very expensive looking diamond necklace round her neck.
Next to them were his two daughters, Louisa and Donatella. Louisa was nineteen, and dressed in a Versace pantsuit with a camisole top underneath. Donatella was seventeen, and wore a low cut black dress with a short skirt.
“Do they know what he does for a living?”
“Who knows these days,” Juliette said to Joanne, “but I see what you mean about the look. He may be smiling, but those eyes are those of a killer.” She closed her eyes for a second, and then said “Sandy, find out what your charity contacts know of him. Diana, can you ask around your contacts – see if any of them know him in other capacities.”
“I know that look,” Sandy said, “You’ve got an idea, haven’t you?”
“A very small one – let’s chew it over, and I’ll talk to Tommy tomorrow.”
Thursday 20th May,
10 am, Long Island
Tommy the Fish had vowed to himself that so long as he lived, he would never enter this building again. And yet, here he was, standing outside the abandoned office block as he tried to suppress a shiver, and rubbed his damaged finger.
Memoires were coming back unbidden to him…
“I’m sorry, Tommy, what did you say?”
“I swear on my life, ladies, I HAAAAAAAASSSHHHIITTTT…”
“Please, for da love of god, it was pure chance – I had other business this way, I swear I wasn’t AAAAARGGHHHHH.”
The third bone cracking had been the clincher, as he pleaded with them, and somehow they had believed him – but he had feared them from that day on, and it was only the fact he feared some people even more that had brought him here.
“Well, here goes nutin’,” he said to himself as he opened the old doors and walked in.
There they were – Miss Panther and Miss Leopard. “Hello Tommy,” Miss Panther said, “thank you for coming.”
“Not a probem,” he said as he came in, “I need ta say sumfink first – I’m sorry if I spoke outta line yesterday.”
“No need to apologise Tommy,” Miss Leopard said, “We understand your concerns, and you were right to warn us. For that reason, we wanted to tell you that we will be, in your words, laying low for a while, until things calm down.”
“But,” Miss Panther said, “we still wish to secure your services. You’re very good at your job, Tommy, and we appreciate such skills. On the other hand, we can’t be seen to have any dealings with you in the foreseeable future – you understand, don’t you?”
“Yea – yeah, I understand,” Tommy said. “So what happens next?”
“We go our separate ways, but it occurs to us that there is still a risk to you, and we may have a common enemy.” Miss Panther picked up a satchel bag and threw it over. Tommy picked it up, looked inside and said “What’s this for?”
“Compensation – there is something else in there.”
Tommy took out the small square device. “A new pager? Why?”
“Because we want you to come out of this safe, Tommy. If you ever, ever need help, press the button. We’ll come and help. In return, if you hear anything concerning us…”
“I’ll call ya – gotcha,” Tommy said as he closed the bag. “So you’re not gonna whack me?”
“Not today, Tommy,” Miss Panther said as Miss Leopard smiled at him. “Stay safe, Tommy.”
“You too, ladies,” he said as he walked out. Somehow, Lord alone knows how, he felt safer, and at the same time he wondered what they meant about a common enemy…
“Now,” Diana said, “we go to war.”
Tommy locked the door of the van and pulled his collar up, trying in vain to keep out the cold wind that was blowing down the street. The fact they had decided to let him live gave him some relief, but he was silently praying that nothing else was going to go wrong that day…
He looked up to see two men standing in front of him – one he recognised from the bar yesterday. The other he knew too well – Charlie Gabettti, Maroni’s right hand man.
“Afternoon Charlie,” Tommy said quietly, “what brings you down this neck of the woods.”
“Business, Tommy – let’s walk,” Charlie said as he indicated the park opposite. The two men walked slowly over, the third man walking a short distance behind with his hands in his pocket.
“We’ve been keeping an eye on you, Tommy,” Charlie said as they moved onto the tree lined path, “and we see some people talking to you that interests us.”
“what, you mean the two feds yesterday? Don’t worry Charlie – they got nothing from me, and they won’t.”
“I know, Tommy, I know you are a man of your word, but it’s not me you need to convince.”
“No,” Tommy said as they approached a limousine.
“Nah,” Charlie said as he opened the door, “it’s him. Get in.”
Tommy swallowed as he got in and sat on a leather seat, looking at the man opposite him.
“Good afternoon, Tommy.”
“Good afternoon, Don Maroni,” Tommy said quietly, “To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?”
“It’s not pleasure, Tommy – it’s business. What did those two agents want with you yesterday?”
“They thought I might have been selling stolen firearms – I pled my innocence, and I think they believed me.”
“Very good, Tommy, very clever – because if you were, to anyone other than me, you would tell me, wouldn’t you?”
“Of course I would,” Tommy said as he rubbed his finger.
“Funny thing about you Tommy,” Maroni said as he lit a cigar, “Word is you do very well, and you have a long list of clients, including me.”
“That may be true, Don Maroni, but I never supply those who may take arms against you. I respect you too much for that.”
“I am glad to hear that, Tommy,” Maroni said as a cloud of smoke was blown in Tommy’s direction. “After all, if you did, I would be forced to – terminate our business arrangement. You understand, don’t you, Tommy the Fish.”
“Yeah – yeah I understand,” Tommy said as he rubbed his finger.
“Good – well, it was a pleasure to see you Tommy. I’m having a party at the house a week Friday – why don’t you come, bring a couple of friends with you?”
“Very kind of you to invite me, Don Maroni, but…”
“I insist,” Maroni said as the door opened, “be ready with the guests at seven.”
“Of course, Don Maroni, I will see you then,” Tommy said as he got out.
“Yes, Don Maroni?”
“There was that girl you used to know – Roxy, was that her name?”
“Roxy – yeah, she moved to be near her family. Why?”
“Oh no reason – I wanted a chat with her. I’ll be seeing you Tommy.”
Charlie smiled as he got in and drove off, leaving Tommy in a cold sweat. Taking out his cell phone, he dialled a number.
“Lenny? Stay where you are – I’m going to be delayed, and I am going to need your help. Look in my diary and get a number for Roxy – call her and see if you get an answer…”
St Angela’s Academy
“Thank you for seeing me at such short notice Principal Tennant.” Juliette shook the older woman’s hand.
“Not a problem it’s never too much of a problem to see the mother of one of our star students, and a major benefactor of the school Miss Huntingdown. Please sit,” she paused while Juliette eased her long elegant frame into a chair. “Now what can I do for you?”
Juliette took a deep breath. “Well Carina has an appointment to see Doctor Reichmann tomorrow at one and I was wondering if I could collect her early from school?”
“Well as you know we prefer parents to schedule doctor’s appointments outside school hours, but in this case I think we can…” she paused in thought.
“We can what?” Juliette prompted.
“Would that be Doctor Helen Reichmann?”
“Yes, do you know her?” Juliette asked with a smile. “She comes very highly recommended by our GP.”
“But she’s an OBGYN isn’t she?”
“I believe so.”
The principal closed her eyes, a pained expression crossing her face. “Can this week get any worse?” she thought to herself.
“Is Carina pregnant?”
“Well our doctor says she is.”
The principal again closed her eyes, she’d been receiving a barrage of complaints from prominent alumnae regarding cancelling the rest of the basketball season, but she’d expected that, the news that Carina Huntingdown of all students was pregnant though was a total bombshell.
“How far is she gone?”
“About 8 weeks.”
The principal did some quick calculations.
“So she’s due in September?”
“Well thank God for that.” The words came involuntarily, as she looked at the smiling woman opposite her.
“Yes she’ll no longer be a student here.” Juliette said with a malicious edge. “It will hopefully be Yale’s problem, not St Angela’s.”
“Oh so she still hopes to go to Yale?”
“Well you agreed in your letter of recommendation she was an ideal candidate.”
“Well yes.” The Principal answered weakly.
“Well any way may I pick her up early tomorrow?”
“Oh…. Oh of course.” Principal Tennant looked harassed.
“Thank you…I hope I’ll be seeing you soon.” Juliette stood up and swept out of the principal’s office.
The Richmond Mansion
“All right you two,” Heather said to little Sandy and George, “get your homework done while I see who is at the door.”
She wiped her hands and adjusted her blouse as it fell over her jeans, and then walked to the front door, opening it and saying “Yes – can I help you?”
“Agent Ball, Agent Carter, FBI,” the tall well dressed man said as he held his badge up. “We wondered if we could talk to Miss Alexandra Richmond?”
“Well,” Heather said as she looked at the badge, “she is in a business call at the moment. Why don’t you come in and wait in the den, and I will tell her you are here?”
“Thank you,” he said as they walked in, Heather closing the door behind the blonde haired woman and showing them into the room. “Can I get you some tea or coffee?”
“Coffee would be nice, thank you,” Agent Carter said.
“Very well, wait here please,” Heather said as she went to start a fresh pot of coffee, and then walked into Sandy’s office. She was seated at her drawing table, looking at a plan.
“What do you think, lover – fuchsia or lime?”
“Decide later,” Heather whispered, “You have visitors. FBI.”
“Ah,” Sandy said as she put her pen down, “watch the children for a few minutes will you?” She stood up, smoothed down her dress, and walked into the den, taking a deep breath before she walked in, inwardly shaking with fear…
“Agent Ball, Agent Carter,” she said as she shook the hands of both agents and indicated they should sit down, “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“I suspect you have heard about the latest robbery and killings by the Pussycat gang Ma’am?”
“Yes I read about it in the Times, dreadful, simply dreadful.”
“Yes it was.” Agent Carter shook her head.
“How can I help with that?” Sandy asked very carefully not sure if she wanted to know the answer.
Agent Ball smiled, “We are just re-interviewing past witnesses in the hope you might have remembered something…”
“Anything…” Carter interrupted.
“That might us help us catch these bitches…Pardon my French Ma’am.”
“Agent Ball.” Sandy smiled, “I have three teenage girls use my kitchen as a clubhouse, I can assure you I hear far worse than that.”
Both FBI agents laughed lightly at the little joke.
“As for the dreadful events of that night, apart from the odd nightmare I’m afraid I can tell you very little I didn’t tell you at the time.”
“The only thing, and I don’t know how important this is, but I think, just maybe think I heard them talking to each other in Italian.”
“Oh…” Ball sat forward on the edge of his chair. “Are you sure? How did you know it was Italian?”
“Well I know enough Italian to just about order from a menu, and I just caught the odd word…why is that significant?”
“Just maybe Ma’am.” Carter smoothed her skirt as she stood up. “If you remember anything more Ms Richmond please phone us.” She handed Sandy her card as they went towards the door.
“Thank you again for your help.” Agent Carter shook her hand as she opened the door.
“Heather…Heather!” Sandy screamed as she closed the door behind them. "Where is my mobile?"
“Yes,” Heather came back into the drawing room carrying it.” It’s where you left it in your office as always.” Heather paused, “What did the feds….”
“I’ll tell you later Darling, but first I need phone Ju.”
Sandy stood shaking as she pressed the keypad.
stretched out her long manicured fingers to answer the phone.
interviewed by who?…Oh my Goddess that's what I
thought you said."
with trepidation before asking "What did they want to talk to you
huh…okay…so it wasn't a hostile interview?"
they were only after clues that you might have forgotten?"
being careful, in these days you never knew who was
listening in on a call.
I'll tell Carina to expect a visit as well.”
smiled weakly, not sure what her daughter in her current state might make of a
visit from the FBI.
"Okay Kiss Kiss see you soon darling….Bye."
“Who was that, Mom,” Carina said as she same in.
“Sandy – she called to say she had a visit from the FBI, asking if she remembered anything else?”
“She may have mentioned they spoke Italian.”
Carina nodded. “Want me to reinforce it?”
“Only subtly – we’re building a trap here, and it takes care.
“By the way, Missy called – she says you have a slot for Friday, if you’re interested?”
“Really –you bet I am. Wearing what?”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Agent Carter, Agent Ball before I let you talk to Carina there is something I must tell you first. My daughter recently found out she’s pregnant, she’s very up and down emotionally, and I better warn you she’s a bit snappy and hostile to the world in general at the moment, so please don’t take anything she might say too personally.”
Agent Carter smiled, “I understand perfectly Miss Huntingdown - I was the same early in my first pregnancy.”
“Okay as long as you know.”
Juliette led the two agents into her drawing room where they found Carina curled up on a sofa reading.
“Hello Carina it’s nice to see you looking so well, the last time I saw you, you were hooked up to all medical devices.” Agent Carter smiled. “Anyway you spoke to some colleagues of ours I believe? I’m Janice Carter and this is Adam Ball, we are special agents with the FBI on the Pussycat Gang taskforce.”
“Please sit.” Juliette gestured the two agents towards armchairs.
“Thank you Ma’am.” Carter spoke softly.
“Carina I understand that maybe congratulations are in order from your Mother.” Janice Carter tried to open up a rapport.
“Well if you mean I’m having a baby…”
“Carina,” her mother warned.
“I know this isn’t easy Carina.” Janice tried to ask soothingly, “but have you remembered anything from that dreadful night which might help us the women who shot you?”
“You mean other than the blast of a shotgun that wakes me up at night? Little things like that?”
Carter fidgeted awkwardly in her seat.
“Was there anything about the women that you noticed, any little thing that has come to your mind since the shooting?”
Carina looked Janice Carter straight in the eye. She was a good looking woman, under other circumstances Carina might have had “fun” with her, but she remembered she was supposed to play nice.
“Not really other than one cursed in Italian as I stood up to her.”
“In Italian…are you sure of that, “ Agent Carter asked urgently.
“Yes…I know a lot of swear words in Italian, do you want to hear them agent Carter?”
“Ummm no thank you.”
“Apart from that no everything happened very quickly, all I saw was the masks, the guns, then I got shot.”
“Are you sure Carina?” Agent Ball leaned forward.
“Isn’t that enough? I’m just glad I didn’t have the baby then…maybe then he or she might have been able to say something.” Carina looked sulky and petulant.
“Ummmm” Juliette gestured to the agents.
“Okay well thank you Carina.” Janice Carter stood up. “I hope all goes well with the baby.”
“I’m sorry about Carina, I must apologize,” Juliette whispered as she ushered the agents to the door of the apartment.
“Don’t worry Ma’am we understand perfectly.” Ball shook her hand.
“Just keep an eye on her and keep her and the baby safe.” Janice smiled; from what I hear it’s a miracle Carina is even alive. Her child will have a remarkable mother.
Juliette smiled with genuine pride as she closed the door behind the two FBI people.
Friday 21st February
The entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art was a sea of lights. New York's great and good, loved to the chance to mingle with the celebrities of the fashion world. Flashes popped as photographers worked the red carpet of arriving guests. Television interviewers grabbed well known faces trying to get a few words from them.
for the delay Miss Vanessa,” John said as he gave the windshield another go
with the wipers, “We seem to be caught in a holding pattern – ah, here we
are.” He drove off Fifth Avenue into the
John pulled the limousine up finally in front of the red carpet, and stepped smartly round to open the door. Vanessa Richmond took his arm and emerged. Lights flashed as she stood up.
“As you can see, the cream of New York society have turned out for the annual Fashion for Food event,” the reporter said as Vanessa walked past, “such as Vanessa Richmond. Doesn’t she look gorgeous in a white silk dress with that necklace?
“And here comes Juliette Huntingdown, the fashion queen of Complete Style. Juliette, is it true your daughter will be taking part tonight? Will she be following in your footsteps?”
“You’ll have to wait and see,” Juliette said with as she waved and entered the museum, hugging and kissing Vanessa as she did so.
“So Carina is here already, my dear?”
“Some time ago – ah, Sandy’s here.” She walked out a little to welcome Sandy as she walked in.
Heather and Jo stood at the end of the red carpet, no interviewer would want to grab them, they were both nobodies, but the dresses that Sandy had given them both as presents made them feel very special indeed. Neither of them wanted to know how Sandy had got hold of two pieces of Chanel couture, how much it had cost, or how she’d got the fittings and alterations done without their knowledge, but in the gowns they both felt like someone even if they weren’t.
They both stood in the background as Jeanne Beckmann grabbed Sandy and Juliette for an interview on FTV just taking in the atmosphere.
“This is Jeanne Beckman at the annual Complete Style Fashion for Food event, and I’m joined by former model and current Head Fashion Writer at Complete Style, Juliette Huntingdown, and well known designer and decorator Alexandra Richmond. Ladies, what does this night mean to both of you?”
“It’s a chance for those of us who work in the Fashion world to show we do care about those less fortunate, Jeanne,” Juliette said, “and also to raise as much money as we can to support those who are struggling today.”
“What do you say to that, Alexandra?”
“I support this work one hundred percent,” Sandy said as she smiled at the camera, “In fact, the Richmond Foundation has already pledged five thousand dollars from our charitable fund to this cause, and we hope others will give as generously.”
Sandy was wearing a long grey silk coatdress, with a pair of 5 inch heel suede pumps underneath.
“That’s incredible, Alexandra – let’s hope others are as generous as you. Enjoy the show ladies.”
Juliette and Sandy smiled and waved as they went in to join Vanessa.
“Did you tell her in advance?” Juliette whispered as they approached Sandy’s mother.
“Must have slipped my mind – mother dearest, thank you for coming,” Sandy said as she embraced her mother and kissed her on both cheeks.
“Well, I’m glad I bought a check,” Vanessa replied with a smile. “And where are my grandchildren, dear?”
“They’re with their father and Allison in the main room,” Sandy said as she kissed her mother. “Have you seen Diana?”
“Excuse me,” Juliette said as she walked over and embraced Missy and Mary.
Sandy knelt down and hugged her children as they ran up to her, and George and Allison walked up behind. Allison was wearing an Aztec print smock top over her grey leggings, with a pair of grey suede boots over her lower legs, and smiled at everyone as she came up.
“Hey,” George said quietly, “Thanks for inviting us.”
“Why wouldn’t we? After all Allison handles one of the largest charitable trusts the city has ever seen. It would be churlish for Juliette not to have invited you.”
“We saw Abby – she looks very pretty,” little Sandy said as she held Heather’s hand.
“I am sure she does,” Sandy said quietly, before looking at Allison. “I had a visit the other day from the FBI – have you had one yet?”
George and Allison looked at each other, before Allison said “yes – they came last night. Just asked me more questions about what I remember of that night at Mother and Father’s, and then last Halloween. You?”
“The same – well, about last August anyway. I wasn’t able to add much, beyond the fact they seemed when they tied me up to be talking in Italian accents.”
“You never mentioned it before?”
“Probably because I was been tied by two armed psychopaths, and it didn’t occur to me at the time to say it,” Sandy said as she stared at George, her eyes cold and harsh.
“George, that was out of line,” Allison said quietly. “I’m sorry – he’s so worried about the baby he frets over everything. I understand, Sandy – something like that can terrify you, and you got off lucky. You didn’t have a gun pressed against your stomach.”
Sandy looked at Allison for a moment, and then smiled, her eyes softening as she said “You’re right – I’m sorry George, we should not fight in front of the children.”
“No – no we shouldn’t and I’m sorry, Sandy – I wasn’t thinking straight,” George said as he shook his head. “There’s Mister Harkness, Allison – we should go and say hello to him.”
“Easy lover,” Heather said as they watched the couple walk off, “you almost had that look in your eyes again.”
“The one where I had to stop you from blowing her away last August,” Heather said in a whisper. Come on – we need to get the kids to their seats.”
As they walked into the main hallway, however, there was a little kerfuffle going on as some seats were moved and four more added around an additional table.
“What’s going on,” Sandy said to Juliette as she walked up with Diana and Josie.
“We had to squeeze four people in at the last minute,” Juliette said, “and here they come.”
The group watched as Vince Maroni walked in, accompanied by his wife and daughters, and took their seat by the side of the walkway. Vince was a man mountain, in a fitted suit, shirt and tie, while his wife was stunning in a shimmering evening gown, with a fur throw over her shoulders. Juliette noticed the grey in her hair, despite her young age.
The two girls were wearing designer pantsuits and camisoles, looking round the room with a sense of awe. Again, Juliette wondered if they knew their father’s real line of work.
“My idea,” Diana said quietly, “if you’re going to stalk a wild animal, learn from it in their natural habitat. Let’s sit down – the show’s about to start…”
“I believe we have you to thank for our invitations to this event.” Sophia Maroni came over to Juliette’s table. “Thank you so much Miss Huntingdown, I can’t tell you what a thrill this is for me and my family.”
“Well Mrs. Maroni, given your husband’s status in the Italian American community it was an oversight you weren’t on the original guest list.” Juliette smiled sweetly. “It really is nice you could make it and can I say you and your daughters look lovely?”
Sophia Maroni glowed; praise from such an esteemed person flattered her sense of self worth.
Sophia Maroni made her way back to her table and scowled. Her damn husband was fingering his collar and sweating. Every effort she had made to make him more than just a mobster he had always met her with resistance. Yes he was now happy enough posing for pictures at charity events, etc., but she knew that in his heart he’d still rather be eating his momma’s lasagne and sitting round the kitchen table talking ‘business’.
Sophia looked round checking out faces. She was used to meeting some pretty fancy people by now but this was la crème de la crème and even she thought pride that they had finally ‘arrived’ by getting invited to such an event.
Juliette glanced round as well, professional matters mixed with Pussycat affairs in her head. These galas were an organizational nightmare; Anna had been fussing over seating charts, menus, flower arrangements for weeks, if not months. When you were hoping to raise the amount they hoped to raise tonight not offending people was the primary objective. Complete Style staff might find themselves occupying the tables next to the entrance to the powder rooms, but woe betide say a Mrs. Nickson, or a Mr. Huys, was relegated to such a demeaning location. No the idea was to flatter them, wine them, dine them, entertain them with a first rate fashion show and then just wait for the big dollar checks to start rolling in.
Juliette cast her eyes towards the entrance to the backstage area, she knew Mary was probably in her element back there, fussing, shouting, and abusing poor unfortunate assistants who were doing things less than perfectly. The show was very much her baby and she was just so happy she and Missy had found a way to let Carina walk tonight; it had cheered her petulant daughter up immensely.
Mary was never really happy ‘front of house’ - it meant she had to dress up and smile and be nice to everyone, her Celtic temper made her uncomfortable schmoozing people.
Anna though was in her element, cruising from table to table in a vintage Versace gown laughing and smiling, working the crowd on behalf of the charity. Juliette knew she probably ought be doing the same, but she saw that plenty of her fellow editors and writers were doing their duty; she could at least rest her feet a few more moments.
Abby and Carina sat waiting, their makeup done, their hair up in curlers, sitting in robes waiting to be helped into their outfits. It was really their first moment of peace since John had dropped them off in late afternoon. Mary had conducted a full rehearsal yelling at the top of her lungs to point out each little mistake a model made. Abby had heard girls grumbling that this was the hardest show of the year to walk simply because there was perfection, then ‘Mary Thomas Perfection’. Mary had had her walk up and down the catwalk a dozen times before she was happy, and she had reduced at least two other girls to tears.
Carina had grown up backstage and she seemed to know everyone from the makeup girls to the highest paid supermodels, all of who were donating their time and efforts for free this evening. For Abby though it was still a little daunting. She’d walked Fashion Week but she still felt like a newcomer, a newbie. Her instant stardom didn’t suit her natural temperament and she still remained nervous round models whose pictures she’d been admiring in the glossy magazines for years.
“Are you okay Carina?” Missy Auerbach squatted in front of the two girls.
“Yes Missy.” Carina grinned, “me and baby doing good.”
“And you Abby?”
“Ummm…yes…I think so.” Abby nodded as Missy answered a shout from cross the room.
“Honestly Abs which of us is the professional model?” Cary smiled at her best friends nerves.
“It’s easy for you to say,” Abby whispered quietly, as a tall woman walked over and said “Good Luck Abby.”
“Thanks, Miss Moss,” Abby said, as Carina looked on.
“You don’t remember me do you?”
Abby looked perplexed pretty sure she’d remember Kate Moss, if she’d met her before.
“I used to babysit both of you, long, long time ago.”
“You babysat us?” Carina asked unbelievingly.
“Ask your Mum Cari Bear.” Kate laughed as she used Carina’s baby name.
“Oh Goddess!” both Carina and Abby’s jaw dropped.
“Anyway good luck girls…you are both making feel so old.”
“Miss Moss it’s time,” one of Mary’s assistants fussed.
“I can’t believe it.” Abby shook her head.
“Yeah Kate Moss just said good luck to you?” Carina laughed, “and you realise she probably changed your diapers…”
“Yeah,” Abby said as she stood up and shook her head, “it’s show time….”
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Kate Moss said as she stood at the lectern, the spotlight singing on her as she looked across the auditorium, “thank you all so much for attending this event, and supporting Complete Style Magazine in their annual fight to ensure no child in this great city goes hungry!”
There was a ripple of applause, as Kate said “Complete Style wish to thank all those designers, workers and collectors who have given so generously of their time in arranging this night. And so, without further ado, let us begin!”
Abby stood impatiently awaiting her turn to walk down the catwalk. The Dior gown she had on was magnificent, she just wished she’d be allowed to touch her ‘trust fund’ and buy it for herself. Long, black, and figure hugging, the embroidery on the bodice alone must have cost a fortune to create.
“Okay Abigail,” she started talking to herself quietly, “nice and slowly, plenty of hips, and don’t trip on these heels.”
As the line in front of her reduced she started taking deep breaths, two girls, one girl, “Now Abigail.” The stage manager cued her up. Abby smiled, if she forgot that smile she knew Mary would give her a tongue lashing, she walked the few steps to the end of the runway, paused, took a breath, then started that seemingly interminable walk to the end.
“Stop, pause, pose.” Abby went through her mental checkpoints, heard the applause, saw the flashes go off, then turned and walked slowly back down the catwalk. “Don’t walk into one of the other girls,” she told herself as she reached the end of the runway, turned posed again, walked slowly off stage, then started running when she was out of sight of the crowd to get to her next change of outfit.
“So far so good,” Juliette said to the ladies as they sat round the table, “the audience are getting exactly what they want.”
“I can see that,” Sandy said as she looked over at her mother, “It even looks as if she might get her check book out again.”
“What about the special guests?”
Juliette looked at the Maroni family. The girls were loving each and every minute of the show, taking in the gowns and the looks of the models as a lot of young girls did. Sophia Maroni was also enraptured, turning and talking to the girls from time to time. Only the father seemed uncomfortable, sipping his wine with a look that clearly said he did not want to be here.
“Papa Maroni does not look happy,” Joanne said as she sipped her coke.
“He’s outside his natural habitat,” Diana said as she studied the man. “Put him in a pool hall in the Bronx, and he’s as happy as Larry. Here, he’s not sure what to do except smile and wave.”
“So we need to see him at home as well?”
Juliette nodded – not sure what the right approach would be.
“By the way,” Heather said as she looked at Jo, “Where do you three need to be tomorrow?”
“The homeless centre at St Jude’s – the three of us managed to get on the same roster, thanks to the Goddess.”
Carina purred as they eased her into the black velvet Marilyn Monroe dress. She’d been looking at pictures of it since Missy had asked if she wanted to walk the show. She thanked in her mind the collector who was allowing it to be worn in the show; it was incredible to think she was getting to wear such a famous garment.
Slowly she smoothed the black velvet opera gloves up her arms as one of Mary’s assistants buttoned the wrists and fixed the diamond bracelet on her left arm. Even with her curves the dress was that tiny bit too big in places, but Mary had looked appraisingly and decided it looked fine. This was one occasion where the model did not need be a tall beanpole; Cari chuckled to herself and posed giggling.
“Okay Carina”, one of Mary’s assistants grabbed her; “you close the show so make it great.”
“You okay Darling?” Mary asked as Cari stood at the back of the queue waiting to go on.
“Okay do a twirl for me,” Mary pursed her lips, as Cari turned round.
“You look gorgeous love, Marilyn herself didn’t wear the dress better.” Mary hugged he, “now go out there and knock ‘em dead. “
Carina took a deep breath and took the walk she’d done for fun so many countless times when she was a child. Flashes popped, the crowd stood and she could barely hear the hostess describing both dress and model.
At the end of runway she stood and did a Marilyn pose, winking at her mother and friends, then turned and wiggled her way back.
“Oh my Goddess.” She flung herself into Mary’s arms when she came off. “Thank you so so much Aunt Mary.”
“Back of the line, back of the line,” Mary smiled as she screamed, “all girls on stage remember.”
Carina saw Abby take her place a few models ahead of her. Abby turned and smiled her approval at her friend.
A couple of minutes later it was over and all the girls were back stage, undressing and relaxing, but for Carina the magic of the moment she walked the catwalk would be in her brain forever.
“All right girls,” Mary said as she walked in, “You were all fantastic tonight – thank you, thank you, and thank YOU,” she said as she pointed at Carina, “for finishing things off so beautifully.”
Carina blushed as everyone turned and clapped, while Abby gave her the biggest hug possible.
“Now for the hard bit – go out there, mix with those lovely rich guests, and persuade them to give, give, give! Once again, many thanks, and enjoy the evening!”
“Do we have to?” Carina said as she looked at her friend.
“Yes, we do,” Abby said as she helped Carina to out on a strapless black silk dress, fastening it up the back and checking the hang of the skirt before she took her own gown off the hanger.
Carina sat down and strapped on the four inch heel shoes, looking at Abby as she slipped the satin gown on, the material flowing over her like milk as she pulled the shoulder straps on, and adjusted the plunging neckline. The skirt was split at the sides, allowing her to put on the silver three inch heeled sandals.
“Smile and be nice,” Abby said as they stood at the doorway, and walked out.
Abby and Carina walked out into the hallway, arm in arm as they were greeted and applauded by the people sitting round. “Thank you,” Abby said, as Carina just nodded and smiled, stopping from table to table as they listened to the praises, and spoke eloquently in favour of large donations.
After an hour or so, they eventually got to their table, everyone standing and applauding them.
“You were beautiful,” little Sandy said as the two girls sat down.
“Thank you Sandy – from you that means a lot,” Abby said as she hugged the young girl.
“Ms de Ros?”
Abby turned to see Louisa and Donatella Maroni standing behind them, their programs in their hands as they stared at her.
“It’s Abby,” she finally said once she got over the original shock, “What can I do for you?”
“Could we have your autograph please,” Donatella sad as she held her program and a pen out, “We love your work, and the fact a girl who’s just like us can become a model.”
“Thanks,” Abby said as she signed the programs for both of them, “but I still find it scary. Did you enjoy the show?”
“Oh yes,” Louisa said, “although I think Papa would rather have stayed at home.” She looked across the room where Sophia and her husband were talking to the police commissioner.
“And I’m sorry about last Friday,” Donatella said as she took the program back.
“Last Friday – do you attend Sacred Heart?”
“I do – but I was not there at the game. Father does not like us out at nights. He says it’s dangerous out there.”
“Well, it’s nice of you to say so,” Abby said as Carina and Joanne looked on, smiling. “It’s just a pity we all got so badly punished for it.”
“You did? I heard the worst that a Sacred Heart girl got was a week’s suspension,” Louisa said. “Well, thank you again.”
“A week’s suspension?” Cari and Jo looked at Abby as Juliette said “Not here, not now. Relax, smile, enjoy the evening.”
“For we have met the enemy, and they are ours,” Diana said quietly as she sipped her wine.
Tommy the Fish’s apartment
Lenny Harper had worked with Tommy on the boats, but while Timmy had moved on to gun supplies, Lenny had earned a reputation as a fearless bodyguard and enforcer, hence the nickname Lenny the Loon. Tommy had saved his life a couple of times, and now Lenny was house-sitting with him, acting as his personal bodyguard,
he called out as he came into his apartment, breathing a sigh of relief as he
saw the six foot ten African American look out of his front room.
"Any luck finding Roxy?"
"Nah, sorry," Lenny said, but a moment later Tommy's phone rang. He picked it up said "Tommy, talk."
"Tommy? Thank god..."
"Roxy? Where the hell are you babe?"
"I had to get out, Tommy - someone's following me, can you can come get me?"
"Where are you?"
"Grand Central station, I...."
There was a strangled sound, and then the line went dead.
“Shit,” Tommy said as he put the phone down.
“Could be,” Tommy said as he rubbed his chin. “That was her, but I have a horrible feeling someone else has got hold of her before I could collect her. I tell you, Lenny, it’s getting a bit sticky for me.”
“Whatcha talking ‘bout Tommy? You’ve got outta worse than this?”
“Yeah – yeah you’re right. Still – I hope she’s not in trouble.”
“Tommy the Fish, are you going soft in your old age?”
Metropolitan Museum of Art
“You know it’s hard seeing them all dressed up like this,” Sandy whispered in Juliette and Diana’s ears, “to remember these are the same teenagers who clutter up my kitchen waiting for a ride to school each morning.”
“They are growing up.” Juliette looked on proudly as Abby and Carina roped Jo in to pose for some photos.
“They are becoming young ladies.” Diana interjected.
“Yes but they will still leave my kitchen looking like a war zone in just five minutes Monday morning.”
“And you’d not have it any other way Lover,” Heather joined in the conversation.
“How are you feeling…here?” Sandy asked Heather quietly.
“Well I know you once had ambitions to work here.”
“Oh!” Juliette and Diana said together suddenly feeling a trifle uncomfortable.
“It’s okay ladies, I’m very happy as the Richmond family nanny.” Heather smiled. “Yes I did dream of this place, but I found love…”
Heather’s words were left incomplete as Abby grabbed her to join in a picture.
“Can we go home now Mommy,” George said as he tugged on his mother’s sleeve, “I’m awfully tired?”
“Of course we can – Mother, can you ask John to give me and Heather a lift back with the children?”
Vanessa nodded as she fetched a cell phone out, and dialled a number. “Five minutes dear,” she called over as she put the phone away.
“Come on kids,” Heather said as she took their hands, “We’ll get your coats from the cloakroom and meet your mother outside.”
“I’ll come with you,” Jo said as she followed them, “see you two at the coalface tomorrow?”
“Sure,” Abby said as she looked at her mother. “Endure,” Diana said, “We need to get through this. Can I give you a lift back, Juliette?”
“Thank you,” Juliette said as she looked at Carina yawning, “I think we would both appreciate that.”
Saturday 22nd February
The Church of St Jude
“Well, from one extreme to the other,” Joanne sighed as Heather dropped the three girls off at the door to the mission centre.
All three were wearing St Angela’s hoodies and jeans, Abby wearing a red bandana over her long hair as they looked at the large double doors. “Inside,” the teacher said as she opened the door, allowing the three of them to walk inside and join their schoolmates.
“Welcome to Purgatory,” Judy McNally said as the three of them came in.
“That will be quite enough, Miss McNally,” the teacher said as she closed the door. “All right – McNally, de Ros, Huntingdown, Morse and Smith, report to the kitchen – you’re helping to prepare the lunch today. Next group…”
“What can be so bad about preparing lunch,” Bobbi said as they walked into the kitchen, only to be met by the sight of a large, angry looking woman staring at them.
“So you’re my help, hmmm? Which one of you is Smith?”
Joanne raised her hand as the cook said “You’re with me – do what I tell you. The other four – start peeling.” She pointed to two large sacks of potatoes, and four chars, each with a small knife on it. A large pot of water stood between the chairs.
“Last night, I was treading the catwalk, today I peel spuds,” Abby said as she sat down, picked a potato out of the sack and started to peel it.
“Welcome to the real world,” the cook called over her shoulder before she said “Right, Smith – you get the onions.”
“Heh – I think we got off lucky,” Judy said as she picked up the peeler. “So what was it like last night, you two?”
“It was fantastic – I can’t believe what happened,” Carina said as she dropped the white potato into the pot and picked up another one. “I met so many people.”
“Yeah – saw your photo in the Times today,” Bobbi said as she picked up another potato. “You looked amazing Cari.”
“Thanks,” Carina said as she kept working on the vegetables. “The only thing that spoilt it was learning what happened to the Nuns?”
“Oh? How did you manage that?”
“We met a loose lipped Nun Senior,” Abby said, “she told us the most they got was a week’s suspension from school. No fines, no community service, and they still get to play basketball.” She threw the white vegetable into the pot and picked up another.
Judy and Bobbi looked at the pair of them, and said “You are JOKING! Is that what really happened?”
“It confirms what I’ve been told,” Bobbi said quietly, “that they think they won the war, even if they lost the battle.”
“Well,” Abby said in a low voice, “they haven’t fucking won yet. We need to come up with a way to show them we hold them equally responsible, and show then we’re still on top.”
“Yeah – but how? If we try anything – ANYTHING – Tennant will have the entire senior class in front of her, and the guns ready to fire…None of us will get to graduate this spring.”
“So we don’t use the Seniors – in fact, we don’t use any of the girls.”
The other three stopped and looked at Abby. “Miss Abigail de Ros, are you suggesting what I think you are suggesting?”
“I am indeed, Miss Judith McNally,” Abby said with an evil grin, “we hit them where it hurts – in their ego. And we get some of the boys to do it.”
“No way you’re going to get The House involved in something like that,” Cari said as she looked at her.
“No way I’d ask him,” Abby said with a sweet smile. “Tommy and Kevin, on the other hand…”
She picked up a larger potato and peeled the skin off, saying “we get the Senior Nuns to come to one place, next Saturday when we are all busy here, and they get the flour bombing of a lifetime. We’re in the clear, and they get the message.”
Bobbi and Judy looked at each other, and then said “and we thought you were such an innocent…”
“That’s Cari,” Abby said with an innocent smile. “So, when we get together for lunch, let’s put it to the girls, see if we can get some more volunteers…”
“By the way, who was the model in the wheelchair?”
Abby smiled as she peeled yet another potato. “You mean Danielle – Dr Danielle Sheypuk? Mary met her at Fashion week – she’s a clinical psychologist, but when she did the catwalk for Carrie Hammer Mary persuaded her to come last night as well.”
“She was good,” Cari said as another potato went into the pot, “and very interesting to talk to backstage as well.”
“You girls are doing good work there,” the cook said as she came over, “Once that’s done, you can help me set up the tables for the lunch crowd.”
Roxy blinked as the hood that covered her head was finally pulled off, and she got her first glance at where she had been taken. She had tried to get Tommy to collect her, but was soon as she had called him someone had grabbed her from behind, and she must have fainted from the shock.
Yeah, that was it – she fainted. But as she looked round the bare room, and found her wrist and arms were taped to the side of the chair she was sitting in, her blood began to run cold.
Looking down, she saw they had removed her boots, but her legs were taped to the front legs of the chair at her ankles and knees. She hadn’t been gagged, but that made her even more afraid as she called out “Hey! Anybody there?”
Her blood ran cold as she heard the voice, the heavy footsteps, and then saw Vince Maroni walk in front of her, Charlie Gabetti next to him.
“Mister Maroni,” Roxy said quietly.
“Good, you know who I am,” Maroni said as he smiled at her, a smile of malice, “then we can skip the introductions. I heard you had left town, Roxy – very kind of you to come back and see me.”
“Mister Maroni,” Roxy said as she tried to shrink back in the chair, “I haven’t done anything to upset you, honest…”
“I believe you, Roxy,” he said as he stroked his large hand over her hair, “but the thing is, someone you know may have hurt me, and I need to know if my suspicions are correct or not.”
“Please, Mister Maroni…”
“Listen up, bitch,” Maroni said as he yanked her hair back, making her scream out, “I have some questions, and if I don’t like the answers then trust me, this pain is going to feel like a little headache.”
“But I don’t know anything…”
“Oh dear,” he said as he let go of her head. “Charlie?”
The other man signalled to someone behind her, and Roxy saw a pair of rubber gloved hands come round and rip her blouse open, pulling down the bra cups as he started to roughly grope her chest. She was unable to stop her body responding, before he clamped a pair of bulldog clips over her nipples, her screams unheeded as Maroni looked at her.
“Who told you to leave town, Roxy?”
“I went of my aaAAAAAAAA.” The shock through her body made her convulse, and she could feel herself getting wet between her legs.
“Let’s try again,” Maroni said, “who told you to leave town?”
The five girls looked around the room, and saw Ally Rochermann clearing some plates away from one of the tables. “Follow my lead,” Carina said as they approached the young girl.
“Hey,” Ally said as she turned to see all five of the girls standing there, smiling as they looked at her.
“Ally,” Abby said with a smile, “we hate to do this, but can you maybe tell a lie to Nell?”
Ally Rochermann pondered for a second, “Well she’s barely talked to me since the game.”
“Yeah but you guys are twins.”
“Do I see her cleaning tables?”
“Yeah but I’ve known you both since kindergarten, you’ve always been so close.”
“So?” Ally looked at the other girls, “She’s a Nun nowadays.”
Abby looked pleased, it was the response all the girls were hoping for. “Excellent,” she said as she put her arm round Ally’s shoulders, “then you’ll have no problem in helping us out with a little plan. Here’s what we want you to do – not yet, but sometime this week…”
Ally listened, a broad smile growing on her face as she heard the outline of the plan.
“Pppppp… please, I’ve told you everything I know…”
“I know you have, Roxy,” Maroni said as he lifted her red and bloody face, “now I need you to deliver a message for me…”
“I don’t like this, Lenny, I don’t like this at all.”
Tommy the Fish was pacing the floor, Lenny watching from his seat as the Knicks game played out on the television.
“Relax, Tommy – if the guys you thinks were really out to get ya, you’d know by now.”
“Yeah – and that’s what’s scaring the crap outta me, Lenny,” Tommy said as he turned and looked at his friend. “I shoulda heard by…”
The ring on his doorbell took him by surprise – it was consistent, as if someone was leaning against it and not moving. Lenny stood up, removing the gun from his holster as he waved Tommy back. He stood to one side of the door, looking through the small peep hole, before he took hold of the door handle and suddenly pulled it in.
“Sweet Mary Jesus,” he called out, “Tommy, get the hell over here.”
Tommy walked over to see Lenny cradling Roxy in his arms. Her face was battered and bruised, and he could see her left eye was bruised as she tried to look up at him. The coat she was wearing had opened as she fell, and Tommy had to stop himself from being sick as he saw her chest.
“Oh shit, Roxy,” he said as he knelt down and stroked her blood matted hair away from her face, “who did this to you baby?”
“He…. He said to give you a message.”
“Don’t talk baby, we’re gonna get you to a doc as quickly as we can. Lenny, carry her to the van – I’ll drive.”
Lenny lifted Roxy as if she was a child, and carried her out of the door, Tommy grabbing his van keys and the pager before he ran out.
The Richmond mansion
“Well – just how bad was it?”
“It was hell – but we survived. One week down, three to go,” Joanne said as she collapsed into a chair. “I never want to see another onion again.”
“Good – you can do the potatoes next week,” Abby said as she flexed the fingers of her hands. “I never knew you could get so much dirt on your hands.”
“Really,” Carina said, “you surprise me.”
“All right you three,” Heather said as she sat down next to them, “you’re a quarter of the way through, so let’s not worry about it.” She looked out of the window as the snow began to fall again. “Great – a New York blizzard on the way as well. You girls order some pizza – I need to fix dinner for the kids.”
“At your mother’s place – talking strategy,” Heather called back to Carina as she walked to the kitchen.
St Barnabas Hospital
Tommy and Lenny were pacing the floor of the ER reception when the doctor came out.
“She’s stable now – lost some blood, but someone gave her a hell of a beating and…”
“Spill it kid,” Tommy said as he looked at the young woman.
“She had burns on her chest, consistent with an electrical current. Which one of you is Tommy?”
“That’s me kid, what of it?”
“She wants to see you before we take you up – come with me.” She went back through the swing doors, Tommy following her as she went into a curtained off area. As he went in, he saw Roxy lying there, her left eye bandaged and a robe covering her.
“Can you give us a coupla minutes alone Doc – I won’t do anyfing.”
The doctor nodded as he sat by her side and took her hand. “Hey Kid,” he said quietly, “I’m real sorry this happened to you, but you should have stayed away.”
“I know that now,” Roxy whispered, “but I was so scared, and I thought of the one man who did me good recently.”
Tommy smiled, and then said “who did this, Roxy?”
“Maroni,” she whispered, “he said if I saw you, to tell you he knows about the kitty cats, and you have twenty four hours.”
Tommy nodded as he patted her hand. “all right kid – get better, and when this is done I’ll stand you a drink at the bar. I don’t think he’ll bother you again.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah – because I won’t let him,” Tommy said quietly, “I’ll give Jenny a call – let her know where you are. She’ll make sure you’re taken care of.”
“Stay alive – if Maroni is after you…”
“I know, Roxy, I know,” he said as he leaned over and kissed her forehead. “Rest now – I’ll get Jenny here as quick as a flash.”
Walking out of the cubicle, he said to the doctor “Listen Doc – I’m gonna call a friend of hers to come and look after her. Make sure she’s not alone until then, alright?”
The doctor nodded as Tommy walked out, his hand closing over the pager as he did so. “Give me ten, Lenny – private call,” he said as he went outside the hospital, looking both ways and wiping his eyes before he pressed the button.
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Well, it was a huge success last night,” Juliette said as she poured the wine, “but we need to turn our mind to more urgent business – namely how we are going to start to take down Maroni.”
“I’ve been thinking about that,” Diana said, “I think we need to scout out his own places of work. We know something of the way he works from taking out the fake Pussycats, and his right hand man, but not a lot more than that. What we really need is Tommy’s input.”
“I know,” Sandy said, “pity we had to shut down that link temp…”
She stopped talking as they heard a buzzing sound. Juliette stood up and walked to a nearby dresser, and picked up the small blue device there, before she took out a cell phone and put it on loudspeaker.
“Tommy,” she said quietly, “I was hoping in a way you would not use that pager.”
“Yeah, well,” Tommy the Fish replied over the speaker, “that was before Maroni hurt a friend of mine just because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“Oh,” Juliette said as she looked at the other two, “I am sorry to hear that, but…”
“He hurt her in ways you never would,” Tommy said quietly, “and I want to see him die for this. More to the point, however, he knows about you now, and I think he’s coming for me next. So I want to hurt him before he gets a chance to try and take me out.”
“Are you sure, Tommy? If you are suggesting what I think you are suggesting?”
“You want to know his plans?”
Juliette looked at the others, before saying “Talk to me Tommy.”
“If I tells ya, what will ya do for me?”
“You’re under our protection Tommy – we will do everything we can.”
“Good – you can’t go for Maroni without taking out the underpins. His number two is best, but you need to work to him, so I’ll tell you where the guy I know hurt my friend can be found. Youse can have a nice quiet chat with him.”
“I see – very well, Tommy, tell us what we need to know – and we will do what we can. What about your friend?”
“Taken care of – and thanks ladies. I know you don’t hafta do this.”
“We will be in touch Tommy,” Juliette said as she picked up a pad and pen, “now talk to us…”
“So the girls will stay with you tonight, Heather – we’ll meet up again in the morning.”
Sandy ended the call and looked at the other two. “Right – let’s go to work.”
W 13th Street
“I’m not joking – she squealed like a little pig every time he sent a shock through her. I’m amazed she survived it.”
The two leather jacketed men were walking down the street, talking as the other said “Do you think the stinker will get the message?”
“Tommy? He’s old school – we’ll probably have to off him. Pity – I like the guy he’s got real class. Still, cross Maroni…”
“Yeah – what about the she-bitches?”
“Oh he’s going to have to tell us about them as well – wonder who they really are?”
“Who the fuck cares – so long as they scream when we ice them.”
As they passed a dark alley, they didn’t see the pant suited woman step out or notice the car pull up beside them. As the window came down, a dark haired woman wearing dark glasses said “excuse me – I seem to be lost. Can you help us?”
“Sure, toots,” one of the man said as he looked in, and saw another dark haired woman sitting beside her. He noticed the cut of their jackets, and the smell of perfume as he said “What can I do for you?”
“You can shut the fuck up and go to sleep.”
He stared at the pistol levelled at him, before he felt the sharp jab in his leg, and then crumpled to the ground next to his partner. Miss Puma got out and popped the trunk, then helped Miss Leopard to load the two unconscious men into the space and closed the lid over them, both women getting in as Miss Panther drove into the night.
Sunday 23rd February
1 am, Long Island
The man woke with a start and looked round.
“Yeah,” he heard a voice say behind him, and looking to the side he saw his partner sitting in a chair, tied tightly to it with rope and his legs spread apart, his ankles tied to the rear legs of the chair. Louie was stark naked, and with a shock he realised he was in the same condition.
“Christ, Jimmy, what happened? The last thing I remember is looking at the car, and then I woke up here.”
“Good – you’re awake.”
A light flicked on above them, creating a circle of light around them, and the two men watched as three women walked slowly in, dress identically in dark jackets and knee length skirts, their legs enclosed in sheer hose as their feet sat in high heeled shoes. Each had a blue scarf tied round their neck, hiding the bottom of the stockings that covered their heads, pressing their dark hair down over their heads. Each also had a distinctive brooch on their lapel, as Jimmy quietly said “shit.”
“Allow me to make the introductions – I am Miss Panther, this is Miss Puma, and this is Miss Leopard. I believe you may have heard of us?”
“Yeah – yeah we heard of you,” Louie said with real venom in his voice, “”So what of it?”
“Well,” Miss Panther said as she walked over, stroking her leather gloved hand down Louie’s cheek, “we felt it was time we had a little chat. We have a desire to learn from you, and I suspect you – you have a desire to live.”
“You don’t scare me, you bitch.”
“No – but darling you should be scared. You know what we’re capable of doing, and yet you don’t wish to admit it…Miss Leopard?”
The tallest of the three women reached inside her jacket, and produced a pair of silver metal nutcrackers. “I’m going to ask you some questions,” Miss Panther said as the other two women walked behind Louie and Jimmy, Miss Puma putting the business end of a snub nosed pistol against Jimmy’s head as Louie looked straight at the masked woman.
“Why is Maroni so keen to put us out of business?”
“Go to hell, bitch,” Louie said as he spat at Miss Panther.
“You silly little man,” Miss Panther said as Miss Leopard knelt behind Louie, “You’re already there.” The scream from him as Miss Leopard tightened the nutcracker around the first knuckle of the index finger of his left hand filled the room.
“Why is Maroni so keen to put us out of business?” Miss Panther asked again, Miss Leopard breaking the second knuckle as Louie refused to answer.
“Fuck, you bitches really are crazy,” Jimmy said a she heard bone after bone crunch under the pressure of the steel jaws, before Louie said “All right – SHHIIIJEESSUSCHRISSTTT I’ll talk.”
“Better,” Miss Panther said, “Why?”
“He thinks you ladies iced his second in command, and that business last week with the cop – you’ve caused him a great deal of pain.”
“And we will cause him a great deal more,” Miss Puma said as she knelt in front of Jimmy, caressing his ball sac in her gloved hand before she squeezed it tight. “Now, if you want me to let go, start explaining his set up to us – starting with his number two. Tell us – everything…”
“No – he’ll kill us,” Louie panted out.
“You’re dead anyway, after what you did to a friend of ours,” Miss Panther said, “the only question is quick – or slow.”
“Go to HHHEEELLLLLLLLLL” Jimmy said as Miss Puma squeezed harder.
“Oh dear – the nutcrackers please Miss Leopard.”
Jimmy watched as Miss Puma took the nutcrackers, and slowly closed them between his legs.
Two hours later, Miss Panther smiled and said “Thank you.”
Louie looked at her as Jimmy slowly bled, and said “what now?”
“Now you die.”
The shot went through his skull from the back and out of his forehead, as Jimmy also was shot dead, before their bodies were wrapped in plastic and carried out…
“Hey Mom,” Carina said as she came in with Abby and Jo, “long night?”
“Yes, but very productive,” she said quietly before yawning. “Tommy called last night – things are moving, and I need you three to do a job for me today – if you don’t mind?”
“Sure – what sort of job?”
“Keeping an eye on him – go and get changed, I’ll explain on the way.”
The Maroni residence
Vince Maroni got up from his comfortable armchair and answered the phone.
“Boss, it’s Charlie. I got bad news.”
“What sorta bad news?”
“I just got a call from the cops – they fished Louie Mancini and Jimmy the Shock out of the East River at 9 this morning.”
Vince looked to see if the family could hear him, and then said quietly “What happened to them?”
“Shot through the head, but someone gave them a real good working over first – Louie’s fingers were smashed, and – well, he got off light according to my snitch.”
Vince hit the table with his fist, before saying “Pick me up in ten with a couple a the boys – we need to pay Tommy a visit.”
West 62nd Street
Standing on the corner, she looked any one of the various “Ladies of the night” who were known to operate in the area. She certainly looked the part, standing against the wall with her hands thrust deep into the pockets of her brown fake fur jacket, the four inch heels of her ankle boots adding to her height as the leopard spot leggings hugged her legs. She had curly brown hair, and her eyes were hidden behind a pair of dark glasses, despite the light rain.
For Carina, however, she was in her element. Juliette had dropped her there with orders to watch for Tommy the Fish, and then taken Jo and Abby to the bar. Now, she was watching, looking, assessing the scene.
Carina had always been fascinated with the nasty seamy side of life well away from her privileged existence. The gritty harshness of the underbelly of the city awakened that thing in her, that entity that needed to experience and practice acts of depravity and cruelty.
She’d never told anyone how she used to hide in Central Park when she was aged about 11 or 12 and secretly watch the muggers, the drug pushers, the hobos, and the other forms of low life that hid behind the screen of ordinary everyday life.
One day she had seen a couple of men rape a woman and it hadn’t revolted her, in fact it had had the opposite effect. Carina hadn’t wanted to go cry for help, she had found herself wanting to help, to participate as the men held a knife to the woman’s throat. She’d had her first sexual experience touching herself through her jeans as she heard the woman’s cries of pain. She had orgasmed as the men invaded the woman’s body; she had had another as they cut the woman’s throat.
Carina had waited till things had gone quiet and the men had left before she had crawled out of her hiding place. She’d gone and looked at the dead body. It didn’t frighten her, it didn’t scare her, and she knew what she was feeling was wrong, but she couldn’t help herself it seemed.
For days she didn’t dare go back into the park, but she had followed the case in the newspapers. She knew she probably should go tell the police she had witnessed it all, but how would she explain her reaction, how would she explain that she hadn’t tried to intervene?
For a couple of months Carina had tried putting it all behind her, to bury and forget that it had ever happened, but her dreams had got more and more vivid, she found herself dreaming it was she who had cut the woman’s throat, she woke with moisture between her legs.
She’s thought of trying to talk to her mother, or one of her aunts, but in her young mind she was sure that dire consequences would stem from doing so.
She knew she carried a sickness in her, an evil; she fantasized about doing the most horrible things and found sexual pleasure in those fantasies.
For two or more years she had kept that demon at bay, but the discovery that her own mother was mixed up in a plot to carry out an armed robbery had finally given her the chance to do something to carry out her secret desires.
Now over two years later she understood a bit better the nature of her sickness, but she still got the same visceral pleasure from carrying out the most horrific and sadistic deeds that she had in her dreams back then.
But now she had two to look out for – and in her recent dreams, she had a conversation with her other self, where they had seemed to come to an accord. They both knew what was happening to her, and wanted only to know both the best in life and the worst, for as long as possible. That was why sometimes she got upset with Abby – she knew the struggle she had to go through when the beast rose in her.
Her thoughts were interrupted as a large black car drew up, and two men got out. She didn’t recognise the smaller of the two, but the bulk of Vince Maroni she remembered from the previous night. As the other man walked into the bar, she sauntered over the road and went up to him.
“Hey,” she said in a deep voice, “Wanna show a girl a good time?”
“How old are ya kid, seventeen,” Vince said as he looked down at her.
“Old enough to know what I’m doing,” she said as she stood with her heel against the car.
Vince was going to say something when the other man came out. “Not seen here today, boss – who’s this?”
Vince looked at her and said “A source of relief. Call Joey – tell him to move at his end.” Opening the car door, he said “Get in girl – you may be of use to me after all.”
Tommy the Fish locked the door of his van, looking carefully round as he checked for anyone hanging about, and then walked across the road. As soon as he reached the other side, he realised his mistake, as a tall bald headed man came out of the alleyway towards him.
“Mister Maroni sends his regards, Tommy.”
“Joey? What’s the problem man – I got no beef with you or Maroni?”
As they spoke, two girls walked past. One, the smaller of the two, was wearing a black leather jacket pulled up to keep the cold out, a leather skirt that had no chance of keeping the cold out, and thigh high black suede boots. The other wore a long grey coat, and a pair of grey leather boots with four-inch heels. They glanced at the two men through dark glasses, and walked on as if they had seen nothing.
“Sorry, Tommy – I got my orders. Two of our guys got fished out of the river this morning, and Maroni thinks you had something to do with it.”
“Joey, come on…”
“Don’t make this hard on yourself, Tommy,” Joey said as he took Tommy’s arm and led him down the alley, stopping in front of a stack of empty boxes.
“On your knees, Tommy, and say your goodbyes.”
“Shit, shit, shit,” Tommy said as he dropped to his knees, and bowed his head, thinking of Annie, last Saturday, and the fun they had had. As he waited for the end, he hoped whoever was waiting would not be too harsh on him.
The soft phut of a silenced gun he definitely heard, but there was no pain, no white light, just the feel of the rain on his face. Opening his eyes, Tommy turned his head to see Joey dropping to his knees, a single hole on his forehead.
Standing up, he turned to see the taller of the two women put something in her coat, and then walk away. He looked at Joey, and thought to himself “Fuck – they are watching me.” Offering up a prayer, he walked as quickly as he could out of the alley and back to his apartment.
Charlie Gambetti’s Apartment
“Nice place you got,” Carina said as she took her jacket off, revealing a black waistcoat that barely covered her chest, “Real classy.”
“It belongs to my friend,” Vince said as Charlie poured drinks. “What’s your poison?”
“Coca Cola – I’m allergic to alcohol.”
“Tough break,” Charlie said as he handed Cari a can. “So, been on the game long?”
“Long enough to know who the key players are, Mister Maroni,” Cari said as she crossed her legs and looked at him. “I know I’m a bit forward, but I want to make my name – work my way up.”
“You’re ambitious,” Vince said as he sat next to her, his large hand on her leg, “I like that in someone. And you’ve got guts – not many would walk up to me and introduce themselves the way you do.”
“Well, like I say, I got plans,” Cari said as she leaned back, running her hand through her hair. “And I understand to go places in this part of town, you need to know the right people.”
“That’s very true,” Vince said as he stroked her face, “and you need to know what pleases the right people. Are you ready to do that?”
“Depends,” Cari whispered, “what are you thinking of?”
“Well,” Vince said as he put his glass down, “the first thing I’d want you to know is that walking up to my in the street is a shit stupid thing to do, you little fucking tart – because it means I get to do what I want.”
Cari was unable to stop Maroni as he grabbed her round the throat, lifting her off the couch as he stood up. “Shit, are they breeding them that fucking stupid now? Charlie, remind me to get someone down there to replace Sofia. We’ve let things slip down here too long.”
“Please,” Carina whispered, “I only wanted to make a name for myself.”
“Well you’re doing that just fine,” Maroni said as his fist hit Carina in the stomach, sending her flying back onto the couch, “You’re about to be the latest little fucker to feel Vince Maroni’s gift.”
Cari coughed, unable to stop the man mountain as he knelt across her stomach, and slapped her hard in the face. “Shut up, bitch,” he said as he ripped open her waistcoat, and grabbed her chest, stuffing a hankie into Cari’s mouth as he squeezed hard.
“If you’re a good little fuck, I might even let you live,” he growled as he pulled her leggings down, and Cari felt his hand between her legs, her eyes widening as he started to unfasten his belt. She struggled under him – only to be hit again in the stomach as he growled obscenities, and pulled his pants down.
“Charlie,” Maroni said, “You had better have an incredibly good…”
“Joey’s dead – someone shot him in the back of the head.”
Cari gasped as Vince jumped off her, and said “what the fuck? Charlie, get this bitch out of my sight, and you – I never want to see you again!”
“Take my advice, babe,” Charlie said as Cari slowly sat up and accepted her jacket, “get out of town and don’t come back. Where can I drop you?”
“Cen… Central Park,” Cari stammered as she held her stomach, praying to the Goddess nothing had been damaged…
West 62nd Street
“Where the hell is she?”
Abby and Jo looked up and down the street, wondering where Carina had got to.
“Mom’s going to be here in a minute, and she will be so mad…”
Abby stopped talking as her mother’s Daimler came round the corner and screeched to a halt. They looked at each other and got in the back, Diana driving off without a word.
“What about Cari, Mom,” Abby asked.
“Cari’s home – she’s had a damn close call,” was all Diana said as she headed for Juliette’s apartment building.
As they walked in, they saw Dr Maitland coming out of Cari's room with Juliette. “She’s had a lucky escape,” they heard the older woman say, “if the muggers had hit her harder and lower, we may have had a real tragedy. Tell her to rest for a couple of days, and she should be right as rain. I think you should see Dr Reichmann tomorrow, however, just to be sure.”
“Thanks, Carol,” Juliette said as they watched the doctor put on her heavy coat, and Juliette walked her out. “Muggers?” Joanne said as she looked at Diana.
“It was Maroni – Carina apparently tried to get on his good side. Turns out he doesn’t have one. She was dropped in Central Park, and called Heather from there. She brought her home - Go in and see her.”
The two girls walked into the room, where Heather was sitting with Cari. “Hey,” she said as she took the steak from her eye, “how was your afternoon?”
“Someone tried to assassinate Tommy – we got there first. You?”
“Close encounter of the thuggish kind,” Cari said as she pointed to her eye, and then groaned. “I don’t think I’ll complain about morning sickness again though.”
“That’s it,” Abby said quietly, “Maroni is toast. Nobody does this to my friend and gets away with it.”
“No, they don’t,” Cari, said as she tried to sit up, only for Heather to push her gently back down. “No,” she said quietly, “you stay there tonight. Let your mother start to plan things. You did give us one good thing, though – where his number two lives. Rest – that’s your job for now.”
Monday 24th February
11 am, the surgery of Dr Reichmann
“You can put your clothes back on now, Carina – I’m done with the examination.”
Helen Reichmann came round from behind the screen and joined Juliette at her desk, Carina coming a few minutes later as she adjusted the sweatshirt.
“Well, I concur with Dr Maitland – no damage to the baby, and you are a very lucky young woman. What did the police say?”
“A random mugging – nothing more.”
Helen nodded as she looked at her screen. “Curious,” she said finally, “I see you’re AB positive, Carina, and you Juliette are O positive, correct?”
“That’s right – Carina must have got her blood type from her father. Why bring this up now?”
“I had a note from Carol – she took some swabs from you yesterday to make sure of no infections. You say you’ve never seen your father?”
Carina shook her head as Helen said “Well, Carol found trace of AB positive blood on the swabs, but when she did a DNA pass on it, it only matched half your chromosomes.” Looking at both of them, she said “which means, Carina, whoever helped you yesterday was a blood relative on one side.”
Carina looked at her mother, who had gone pale to the point of appearing white.
“Forgive me, Helen,” Juliette said as she got up, “Carina and I have to be at another appointment. We will see you next week?”
“Of course – and thanks for dropping in.” Juliette hurried her daughter out of the surgery and home as fast as possible, not saying a word.
“Mom,” Cari said as they got into the apartment, “what’s going on?”
“Maroni – what did he say to you when he… When he attacked you.”
“He said… He said shut up bitch, and then he said if I was a good little fuck he might let me live. Why?”
Juliette stood up and walked to the table, where some shots from the fashion night were laid out. Glancing through them, she found one of Maroni and his family, and stared hard at him.
“Mom, you’re scaring me – and that takes something. What’s wrong?”
Trembling, Juliette put the flat of her hand over the picture of Maroni, covering the face and allowing only the eyes to show. “Oh… My…. Fucking GODDESS!!! IT’S HIM!!!”
“Vince Maroni – Cari, he’s your father.”
Carina looked at her mother, then at the picture, before her eyes went hard and cold. “He’s the monster, the one who did those things to you?”
Juliette slowly nodded before saying “That’s it – he’s going down. I want to see him suffer, and then I want to see him dead, and I know exactly how to do it.”
Tuesday 25th February,
FBI New York Field Office, 26 Federal Plaza
“Ladies and Gentlemen…hmmmm…. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!” Tom Callaghan the FBI supervisor in charge had to raise his voice to be heard above the chatter and call the meeting to order.
Agent Callaghan cast his eyes round the room at the familiar faces, colleagues, in some case friends, they’d been battling it seemed like forever to solve the riddle of the pussycat.
“Okay Adam, Janice, want to fill everyone in what you have, and what you guys have surmised.”
“Well,” Janice Carter looked round the room, “from what two different women suggested that at last some of the perps may be either Italian, or of Italian extraction, Ball and I went back over as much evidence as we could trying to look at it with a fresh eye.”
“And you found Janice?” Inspector Ron Mercio of the NYPD asked.
“Well Ron, we have always assumed the Pussycats started out as amateurs.”
“They learned damn fast.” Jane Smithers, the liaison from the Justice Department added as she frowned.
“Well what if they weren’t real amateurs at all? Just inexperienced when they started out?” Janice threw the suggestion out there.
“Meaning?” Smithers asked.
“What if the Pussycats come from within Mafia families? Ball and I looked at the evidence - and you know, if you operate on that assumption, things that made no sense to us suddenly make a whole lotta sense.”
“Like what?” Tom Callaghan sensed that just maybe the team had made a break through.
“We’ve been putting pressure on one “Tommy the Fish” Morgan recently.” Adam Ball took over speaking, “we’re pretty sure ‘The Fish’ is the dealer the Pussycats have been buying their weapons from. The problem in my mind was how had amateurs have established a connection with Tommy in the first place? It can’t be easy for complete amateurs to just somehow gain the trust and services of an old bird like Morgan.”
“So what if they were simply the distaff side of a family that’s been buying from Morgan for years?” Carter posed the question.
Inspector Mercio thought aloud, “It’d make a lot of sense, also explain their incredible intelligence gathering. The mob as we all know knows secrets of virtually everything going on in this city…explains the never ending supply of clean weapons, explains how they fenced some very hot bonds and bling in the past.”
“But why do our snitches within the mob hear nothing? Hate to burst your balloon guys, but the mob leaks.” Detective Phil English of the NYPD spoke with the voice of time spent undercover in the mob.
“It’s highly compartmentalized within one of the five families.” Jane Smithers mused. “Their ladies are out working, lot of ballsy Italians not going to either like it or be willing to spread it round.”
“Women’s Lib finally hits the mob…” Callaghan paused. “I have to admit while it opens up fresh questions it does answer certain old ones.”
“If we run with that assumption,” English said, “we can rule out two of the families. Nether Montessori or Caponeson have any female relatives in the city.”
“That leaves Maroni, Prossi and the Vito. Any of those have internal troubles recently?”
Callaghan looked at Mercio, who nodding. “Maroni – he’s been making more of a public face recently, but he lost his number one before Christmas – Bartello and his entire household were killed, and his daughter is missing, presumed dead.”
“Sofia Bartello?” English rubbed his shin, and said, “She certainly has the temperament to be one of the she devils. IS it possible she killed them and faked her own disappearance?”
“If so, then Maroni is our main suspect. We need all we can get on him – and fast. We meet again this time tomorrow – start digging people.”
The Inn on the Park, Central Park
Charity luncheons were among Diana’s least favourite things; they ranked down with visits to her dentist, and getting her legs waxed. This one though was the perfect excuse to study Sophia Maroni up close, so she’d discreetly arranged an invite for the mobster’s wife.
Sitting at a table with Sandy she watched the bitch arrive. No class, no chic, like so many women who’d not been brought up the right way she overdressed and talked too loudly. It was painful trying to see her ingratiate herself with the women sitting at her table. Diana knew she was a snob, but really people did have a natural station in this life, and Sophia Maroni was definitely not a woman bred to this lifestyle.
“Where’s Ju?” Sandy whispered in her ear, “she’s missing the floor show, and besides it was her idea we take another look at the Maroni bitch.”
“You’re just pissed because this is cutting into your ‘Heather’ time,” Diana whispered cattily back into her friend’s ear, “We all know why you take your phones off the hook after lunch.”
“Darling... Moi... As if I would?” Sandy recoiled in mock horror.
“Yes you darling…”
Sandy laughed…”well stop trying to phone me at this time…oh and Diana phones are no longer on hooks, honestly you are so far behind the times…”
Suddenly Juliette appeared as if from nowhere, shaking snowflakes from her jacket as she kissed both Diana and Sandy on both cheeks.
“So did I miss anything?”
“Only a lesson in how NOT to social climb.” Diana sighed as she sipped her glass of wine.”
“The woman is bad.”
“She tries too hard…. that’s all.” Sandy tried to sound less judgmental then her friend.
“What kept you anyway?” Diana glanced at her discreet Cartier watch. “You’re 30 minutes late.”
Juliette rolled her eyes…”Mary has a new idea…”
Diana caught the meaningful look in her friends’ eye. “Why do I think I’m not going to like this?”
“Because you won’t.”
“Well spill.” Sandy asked more than just interestedly, “What has the Welsh Wizard dreamed up this time?”
“Did you catch the Bonnie and Clyde mini-series last month?”
“Yeah Heather and I watched it together in bed…”
“Darling you know I never watch television.” Diana intervened.
“Well Mary has this crazy idea for a shoot with Abigail as a tall Clyde, and Carina as her diminutive Bonnie.”
“A girl Clyde?”
Juliette sighed and nodded, before saying “complete with machine guns, and even she was suggesting the two girls kissing.”
“It would be very sexy…” Sandy started to say tentatively.
“No!” Diana shouted aloud drawing looks from women on other tables. “No, no, no,” she lowered her voice to a whisper. “I’m drawing a line in the sand…no…. my daughter is not doing a lesbian shoot…”
“And what is wrong with lesbianism?” Sandy gave her friend an angry look.
“Blame Kate.” Juliette whispered trying to restore some decorum, “she saw the girls at the show and planted the idea in Mary’s head.”
“Jo told Heather that they couldn’t believe Kate used to be their babysitter.” Sandy tried to quickly change the topic as she spotted Sophia Maroni coming towards them. “Still, you must admit that - oh good afternoon Mrs Maroni.”
“Please, call me Sophia,” she said as she stood there, “May I join you?”
“Of course,” Diana said in her most pleasant of voices, “Please, be seated.”
“Thank you,” Sophia said as she sat, her bracelets rattling a little as she did so. “So this is what New York high society do of an afternoon, is it?”
“When we’re not working,” Juliette said with a smile. “So tell me, Sophia, where is your darling husband today?”
“Vince? Oh he’s dealing with his business matters, I’m sure – I tend not to pay any attention to that. So long as bills get paid, and we have enough money, I don’t mind him working so hard.”
“What line of business is he in anyway,” Sandy asked, “I’m always looking for possible new contacts for interior design.”
“Well, I’m afraid he’s into import/export, but I could do with a re-fitted kitchen and bedroom. Would you be interested?”
“I tell you what,” Sandy said in her most pleasant voice, “I have some time spare tomorrow at two. Give me your address, and I’ll pop round and have a quick look, see what I can advise.”
“Oh I don’t know,” Sophia said quietly, “Vince likes visitors to be sorted out a couple of days in advance…”
“Well, if you’re not interested…”
Diana watched as Sophia said “Oh all right – here.” She took out a small notebook and pen, scribbled down the address and said “Just tell Billy when you arrive I invited you. It’ll be a nice surprise for Vince if I sort this out.”
“Two o’clock it is then,” Sandy said as she accepted the sheet of paper and slipped it into her handbag. Juliette and Diana looked at each other, as Sandy stifled a slight yawn.
“Oh dear, am I boring you?”
“No, no Sophia – I was up all night nursing my son. He has a cold, and you know how they can cause problems.”
“Oh yes,” Sophia said with her loud laugh, “I remember Louisa and Donna at that time. Thank goodness they are becoming such lovely young ladies.
“Oh – you must excuse me, I see Mrs van Dyke, and she promised me at the show she would talk to me about her jeweller. Ciao for now.”
The three ladies smiled and waved as Sophia stood up and walked off. “It will give me the greatest of pleasure to pump one into her head,” Diana said through gritted teeth.
“Patience, Diana,” Juliette said quietly, “we have Sandy to thank for her quick thinking. She can work out the layout of the Maroni residence.”
“Because,” she said quietly, “that idea of a plan is becoming more solid…”
“You haven’t told us what you’re thinking of,” Sandy whispered.
“Soon,” Juliette said, “We’re going to need Tommy’s help…”
The Calabria Club
“Hello, Tommy. Keeping well?”
Tommy looked up from the bar to see Agent Ball and Agent Carter standing either side of him at the bar. “Well, if it isn’t my friends,” Tommy said in a sarcastic tone, “what are you drinking?”
“Just what you tell us Tommy.”
“Got nothing to tell you, sorry and all that.”
“Funny thing Tommy – we hear there’s been a lot of deaths recently, of people who work for Maroni. You ever had any dealings with him?”
From the corner of his eye, Tommy saw the two women he had seen on the previous Sunday, drinking at the other side of the bar. “Nope, not me,” Tommy said as he drank some more of his beer. “Why would I? I’m a legit businessman.”
“So is Vince Maroni,” Agent Carter said. “You ever met his wife?”
“Mrs Maroni? Nah – they move in a different world from me, don’t they?”
“What about Sofia Bartello?”
“The she hag? She went outta town I heard. What brought her to mind?”
“Oh just some rumours we heard. That’s all.”
“Well, rumours are just that…rumours. Want a drink now?”
“Nah Tommy – we’ll pass. But if you hear anything, remember us.” The two agents left the bar, the two girls following them. Tommy downed his beer, and said “I’m outta here, Annie – seeya tomorrow.”
“Stay safe Tommy,” she said as Tommy walked out, pulling the collar of his greatcoat up against the coat.
“Got a light sugah?”
Tommy turned to see the smaller of the two women standing there, holding a cigarette.
“These ain’t any good for ya, kid,” Tommy said as he lit a match.
“No,” she said as she drew on the cigarette, the end glowing red, “but it is better than a bullet in the head.”
The brunette nodded a she said “Miss Panther said we would keep an eye on you, Tommy – pleased to see us?”
“More than I can say,” Tommy whispered as he took the proffered arm. “So you and Miss Tigress are my guardian angels?”
“We take turns, it’s ours tonight,” Miss Bobcat said as she took a draw on the cigarette. “Let’s walk – it’s dry at the moment.”
“So what have you been doing – apart from killing hitmen to keep me safe?”
Miss Bobcat drew on the cigarette again, before saying “We have a plan, Tommy, to kill several birds with one stone. Our job, right now, is to keep you alive – and so far, we’re managing.”
“What do youse mean, so far?” Miss Bobcat directed Tommy’s view to a car which had crashed into a lamppost, the driver and passenger lying on the ground with their faces covered.
“We saw them lining you up on your way to the bar – Maroni must be really pissed at you, Tommy.”
“Yeah – maybe I need to get outta town for a while. What about Roxy?”
“One of us is keeping an eye on her as well – and the police are talking to her too. Don’t worry – she won’t talk. So where’s your place?”
“Just around da corner. Hang on a sec.” Tommy took out his mobile phone and dialled a number, frowning as he put the set to his head.
“No answer – Lenny should be answering.”
“A friend, lady – and if he’s not answering…”
A short time later, Tommy fished his keys from his pocket, watching as Miss Bobcat slipped a .38 from her jacket pocket. Nodding, she watched as he opened the door and said “Lenny? You there?”
Silence greeted him as he walked in, Miss Bobcat coming behind him and then moving in front, checking doors as they edged forward. Looking in the front room, she turned and said “Lenny – big man, broad chested, dark skinned?”
“Yeah, that’s him – why?”
Miss Bobcat shook her head and indicated over her shoulder with her finger, Tommy edging forward to see. Lenny was sat in a chair, staring forward with a large red gash across his throat, the blood stains running down his shirt as the knife handle stuck out from his neck.
“Oh goddamit Lenny,” Tommy said as he looked to the floor, and saw the other man, his eyes vacant and the hole in his chest, “you hadda go and do it all, didn’t ya?”
As he walked forward, Miss Bobcat caught a movement in the corner of her eye, and swung, shooting at the leg of the man who was attempting to run off. He crumpled to the floor, screaming as the blood flowed from the back of his knee, the screams increasing as Miss Bobcat walked over and dug the heel of her shoe into his other knee.
“You get one chance, mother fucker,” she growled as she placed her gun against his head. “Why?”
“Orders, bitch,” he screamed in pain, “him and his lady friend.”
“My lady? – Shit, ANNIE,” Tommy shouted as he ran out of the apartment.
“You get to live and explain to the cops,” Miss Bobcat said as she knocked the hit man out, grabbing her cell phone as she shouted “Tommy – wait up!”
“If that bastard Maroni lays one finger on the hair of her head…” Tommy screamed as he ran down the street, Miss Bobcat barely keeping up with him. He got to the corner of 60th and turned south, before stopping and saying “Shit – fucking stitch.”
“Tommy – don’t go in half cocked. It might be a trap.”
“I left her there, and if she gets…”
“Tommy, dahlin, for the love of all will ya let me…”
The sound of the explosion made them both turn and look past the next intersection, at the orange fireball that exploded in their line of sight. Tommy said quietly “no” and walked as if in a dream, Miss Bobcat behind him as they turned into W 62nd Street, and saw the fire coming out of the windows of the Calabria Club.
“Annie – oh sweet Jesus not Annie,” he cried out as he sank into his knees in the snow, staring at the fire as sirens came from the distance.
“Unless you have a miracle up your sleeve lady, leave me alone right now.”
“I don’t – but my friend does.”
Tommy turned slowly to see the tall form of Miss Tigress, her coat over the shoulders of Annie as they walked slowly towards them. “Tommy,” Annie said in a hoarse voice, “what the hell is going on? Two minutes ago I’m in the back of the bar, this girl runs in, pulls me out of the back and up the alley, and then…”
Looking across the road, she saw the flames rising, as Miss Bobcat answered her cell phone. “We need to get out of here,” she said as Tommy embraced Annie, “get you two to a safe house.”
“Tommy, who are these two?”
“Annie,” Tommy said as he held her head in his hands and looked in her face, “right now, they’re fucking angels, and they’re right – we need to go underground for a few days. Can we get her some things?”
“Both of you,” Miss Bobcat said as they walked down an alley, “are safe, and we will keep you safe until this is over, believe that.”
“What do ya ladies need from me,” Tommy said as a black car pulled up.
“Two phone calls, Tommy – and for both of you to put these blindfolds on for now.”
Wednesday 26th February
W 62nd Street, the remains of the Calabria
Agent Ball bent down and shuffled the ashes of what had been a seat with a pencil, while Agent Carter talked to the fire chief.
“It was a bomb all right – we found three bodies, but have not been able to identify them yet.”
“Shit,” Ball said as he stood up, “The poor bastards never stood a chance. I want Maroni done for this.”
“We’ve no proof it was him.”
“We’ll find it – and if he knows who the Pussycats are, he will pay with them as well.”
Complete Style offices, 10 am
There was a light tapping on the door.
Juliette lifted her head from the computer. “Come in girls, “she called out. “I’m only in here with my lover.”
“Your lover?” Missy Auerbach peeked in and looked round in case she needed to leave in a hurry.
“Whoops…Sorry Missy…Office joke, I thought you were Anna and Mary.” She closed her computer, “and what can I do for you darling?” she asked as she stood up and gave her former agent a peck on each cheek.
“Well….” Missy began hesitantly as she eased herself into a chair. “You know we’ve always said Carina is too short to model?”
“Yes, no way my daughter could do catwalk…”
“Well hold that thought…” Missy paused, “she was a big hit at you guys show.”
“I know.” Juliette smiled proudly; she’d read the comments in the trade press.
“Well…ummm…I’ve received a few calls from photographers. They thought she was a pro and that I represented her.”
“Well seems that while Carina might not be an all around model, plenty of shutter pressers noticed last Friday just how stunning she is.”
“Mary was making noises about using her on a shoot…”
“And your point is Missy?”
“If she wants to try to do photographic work, Norstar and particularly me will take her on.”
“Ummm darling you are forgetting two teeny things, first she’s going to Yale in the fall, and secondly she’s pregnant.”
“I forgot neither. Carina’s never going to work full time, but I can find her bits of work if she wants, and by the comments I was getting photographers are both prepared to pay a premium to get her and wait if needs be.”
“I’ll have to ask her?”
“Please do.” Missy swept up her purse and headed out the door. “And tell your lover he can come out of hiding.” She laughed as she called back over her shoulder.
Juliette smiled, and then opened her computer again, looking at Vince Maroni and at the target she had selected.
“Perfect,” she said as she picked up the phone. “Diana – meet tonight at the farm. Time for you all to know the plan.”
The Maroni Residence
There were times her life when Vince’s lack of sophistication and class tried Sophia Maroni’s patience almost breaking point. When she’d tried to explain that Alexandra Richmond…. THE Alexandra Richmond…would be dropping by to give her thoughts on redecorating their house it had fallen on deaf, ignorant ears.
”I like things da way day are, why do we need some frozen ass society bitch come in and tell us what to do?”
“Because Vicente Maroni you dumb fuckin’ peasant aint ya noticed that in recent days somehow we gone up a rung or two in da world. Some of the people we’re assocatin’ wid now I’d be ashamed to invite into a place like dis.”
“Used to be plenty good enough for your udder classy friends.”
“Well dere’s class and dere’s REAL class, and these people we were meeting now dumb paisan, they expect better than this from their friends.” Sophia made a conscious effort to speak good English. “Miss Alexandra Richmond doesn’t work for just anyone, if she takes us on it’s a real feather in our caps Vince.”
Two hours later Sophia sat entertaining Sandy on her own. Vince had promised he’d stay home, but surprise surprise he’d found some excuse to be elsewhere.
“Just call me Sandy please…everyone does you know.”
Sophia made a mental note if everyone, meaning the highest of New York’s high society did then she would.
“Okay Sandy.” Sophia smiled a smile of pleasure.
“And this is Heather,” Sandy gestured towards the other woman she’d brought with her. “Heather is one of the rarest of creatures on earth, not only is she my children’s nanny, but she holds a degree in art history from Yale, and is invaluable equally as my personal assistant in my design business.”
Sophia had turned off for a second at the word nanny, but nannies with Yale degrees were rare, it was clear Heather was as superior a personage as her employer.
“Sophia,” Sandy said with a smile, “would you mind giving us a guided tour and Heather and I can make notes and sketches, and maybe at our next meeting we can present some ideas to you.”
Sophia took a deep breath. “There are certain rooms my husband claims as HIS and we won’t be able to go in, but I hope there’s enough other rooms to pique your interest.” She stood up, brushed some crumbs from her skirt, and said “Let’s start out here.
“Well this is the hallway.” Sophia gestured to the large vaulted ceiling and the very flashy marble staircase to the second floor.
Sandy and Kate stood taking notes and doing some little sketches, what Sophia failed to recognize was the fact they were jotting down the location of doors, windows, etc.…as well as using expert eyes to check out and note the extent of the alarm system.
“And through here’s our living room?” Sophia gestured to a large room.
Sandy quickly noted the concealed gun rack and the some of the less tasteful decorations. Everything was expensive, but it was flashy, it looked new.
It was a pattern Sandy noted everywhere in the house, it was like the woman, everything about the house just tried a bit too hard.
A few minutes later in the dining room Sophia left them alone for a few minutes.
“Well lover?” she whispered in Heather’s ear as she stared intently at a painting. “It’s pretty much as I expected, and I’d kill to be allowed to look in those off limits rooms.”
“Hmmmmm” Heather answered as though she was in another world.
“Okay lover what’s so fascinating about this picture.” She dug Heather lightly in the ribs.
“Oh” Heather jumped as though she’d been in a trance. “Sorry…”
Sandy put on her glasses and looked closely at the picture. “Well I don’t see anything special.”
“Haven’t you noticed throughout the house most of the art work is cheap copies or prints, but THIS is the real thing…I’d stake my reputation on it.”
“It is?” Sandy now inspected the picture very closely.
“I’d also stake my reputation on the fact this should be hanging in a gallery in Rotterdam from which it got stolen last year.”
“You mean he’s hanging HOT art?” Sandy screeched in her lover’s ear.
“Looks like it to me.”
“Oh my Goddess.”
At that point Sophia Maroni rejoined them.
“I was just saying to Sandy that you have exquisite taste in art,” Heather said with a smile, “We would have to ensure that all our ideas took those into account, wasn’t that right?”
“Indeed,” Sandy said with a smile. “Well, I think we have all we need for now. I’ll go and make some preliminary sketches, draw up a proposal, and submit it for your approval. I will be in touch within seven days, and you can decide then whether or not to proceed.”
“Wonderful,” Sophia said, “I cannot tell you how excited I will be to see you again.”
“Neither can I,” Sandy said as she kissed Sophia on both cheeks, and then left with Heather.
“I think so – now to see what Juliette is planning.”
“Ally! Hold up!”
Ally Rochermann turned to see Abby and Jo walking up to her.
“Hey,” she said, “is it time?”
“It most assuredly is,” Joanne said with a smile. “Tell your sister that you’ve heard the Senior Angels are congregating on Saturday at 10 in the school gymnasium, to protest the punishments. Then leave the rest to us.”
“Do you think they will come?”
“If you tell them there will be nobody else here, I don’t think they will be able to resist. Good luck, Ally.”
As the junior nodded and walked off, Jo whispered “now that’s done, let’s find out what’s going on…”
Tommy the Fish had no idea where he and Annie had been taken – only that the blindfolds had been removed and they had found themselves in a large sitting room, with a bedroom leading off. Miss Bobcat had given Annie a set of nightclothes, and Tommy had let her keep the bed.
“We’ll bring fresh clothes and food in the morning,” Miss Bobcat had said, “but you will have to stay in these rooms for your own protection. The windows are shuttered and barred, but you are not our prisoners – you are our guests.”
When Annie had woken up that morning, Tommy had done as much explaining as he could – that Maroni had put a contract on him, but his nieces had found somewhere safe for them to lay low until it was ‘sorted’ as he put it. Eventually, Annie had agreed, and they had spent the afternoon watching a Sopranos box set.
When the door opened, and Tommy saw a gloved hand indicate he should come, he told Annie he’d be back in a minute and went out.
“Miss Leopard – thanks again.”
“How is she?”
“Scared, but I’ll keep her quiet. What canna I does for ya?”
“Do you want Maroni dead?”
“I want to pull the fucking trigger myself.”
“Good – tomorrow, Miss Panther will ask you to make two calls. After that, relax – your part is done, save if you wish to be there at the end.”
“You bet your…. I mean, I do, lady,” Tommy the Fish said quietly. “this is vendetta now.”
“Good – dinner,” Miss Leopard said as she handed Tommy a pack of takeaway and some bottles of beer. “I’m sorry it’s not much, but…”
“It’s manna, lady, manna,” Tommy said as he stepped back into the room, the door locking behind him.
“Who was that,” Annie said as Tommy put the Chinese takeout on a table in front of them.
“One of the angels,” Tommy said. He sat back, thinking of last night – and the one he knew as Miss Tigress, with the blonde hair showing where her wig had slipped…
“How are they?”
“As well as can be expected,” Diana said as she came into the room. “So, what’s going on?”
“It’s perfectly simple, really,” Juliette said with a smile, “we’re going to take Maroni down, and do it in a way that will take the focus off us for a while. By the time we’re done, the feds and the police will have their ounce of flesh – and so will I.”
Sandy and Heather looked at Juliette, before Sandy said “Come again?”
“Vince Maroni is my father.”
“What the fuck?” Joanne and Abby looked at Carina, and then at Juliette as the other three stood up.
“He’s the one who…”
“That’s right – I’ve wondered for years what I was going to do if I ever tracked down that bastard, and here he is – the one we need to deal with anyway. Karma, if I believed in such things.”
“Then we should kill him, now, like the wild dog he is,” Diana said as she stood up.
“No. He must suffer for everything he has done – both known and unknown. Goddess alone knows how many he must have made suffer that we do not know about – no, he must know full and proper retribution, and lose everything.”
“So just what are you planning?” Heather said quietly.
“To give them what they are thinking about – some of the Pussycat Gang killed while carrying out a raid. Only it won’t be us.”
“Who do you – oh,” Sandy said. “Good thing I haven’t started work on those sketches yet then. I’ll just have to find another piece of work.”
Abby looked at her mother, before saying “We’re going to kill his wife and the girls?”
“Nope – either the police or Maroni’s own men are.” Juliette laid out a set of photos and gathered the girls round.
“Thanks to Sandy and Cari, the idea has been planted that the Pussycats have an Italian connection, and thanks to our work in October the suspicion is hopefully falling on the Bartello bitch, and by implication any other females connected to Maroni. Tomorrow, Tommy is going to tip off the police that the Pussycats have bought more arms from him, and are planning to hit a jewellers – he heard the name Mancini.”
“Mancini’s? The store on E 50th?”
“That’s the one,” Juliette said in reply to Heather. “At the same time, Maroni is going to get the word that the Pussycats have a hit planned on his back door – from the same source. Tommy the Fish.”
“So we’re playing each of them against each other? And we?”
“Oh we’re going to be there – or at least four of us are, with three imposters. Sophia, Donatella and Louisa Maroni. Heather, we’re going to need one hell of a fast car, for four, and another for three.”
“I’ll go shopping with Sandy and Diana in the morning,” Heather said quietly, “and then?”
“We watch Maroni – I’m betting once he gets the word, he’s going to call a war council, so we’ll time it so that he gets it late at night. If he goes according to what we know, he’ll go to his office – leaving the house to us.”
“So we go in, nab them, take them to Mancini’s, and then…”
“And then the fire fight starts – with some help from you two,” Juliette said as she looked at Diana and Joanne. “Is she as good as you thought she would be?”
“Oh yes – where will we be?”
“I’ll tell you that later – but we’re going to have a hostage situation, in which three of the Cats are going to try and escape out front.”
“That’s part two of the plan. Once he finds out what has happened, he’s going to panic – and we’ll be waiting for him. Now, we’re going to need the three spare outfits, and you three to be in school tomorrow. We’re going to time the hit for late Friday, and we need to be done in time for you girls to be at St Jude’s on Saturday, so timing is critical. Sandy?”
“Lift from John on Friday to your place? Got it. I’ll ask Mom to watch the kids – tell her Heather and I have a call to make. Heather, you need to watch them tomorrow, though.”
“No problem – you have all you need for the house.” The women listened as Sandy explained what they had discovered, Juliette planning all the time…
“Will you have any qualms about killing the Maroni girls?” Jo looked long and hard at Carina.
“Because I guess that they are your sisters…half-sisters true…but still sisters.”
”Hey with Donna being a Nun, does that mean technically you come from a mixed family?” Abby tried to lighten the situation.
“Bad joke Abs.” Carina smiled a hard, sadistic smile. “You guys are my only real sisters, they only relate to me because their fuckin’ bastard father raped my mother.”
“They’ll be collateral damage from Moms plan, but their bastard papa dies hard, he dies slow, and I get to enjoy every second.”
Both Jo and Abby shook inwardly at the look on Carina’s face. And then they saw it reflected on Juliette as she said “Right – this is what we’ll do.”
“We do this right ladies we can have the Feds chasing Sofia Bartello for ever and a day.” Juliette remarked carefully.
“And only we know she’s lying with her feet in concrete at the bottom of Long Island Sound,” Heather giggled.
“We need all evidence leading back to Sofia, “ Diana nodded.
“So somehow the name Sofia gets overheard by a witness?” Heather speculated.
“That’s the right sort of idea.” Juliette paused and closed her eyes in thought.
“Did someone just turn the computer on?” Sandy giggled.
Juliette sighed, that joke really was getting old.
“I think maybe the feds hear from an independent source that Sofia is the mastermind of the Pussycat Gang.”
“Maybe Tommy knows a snitch he can plant that information with knowing it will get passed on darling?” Diana asked.
“You know that’s not such a bad idea, the more they hear the name Sofia Bartello the more the feds might grab for the easy option.”
“Shall I ask him Aunt Ju?” Abby volunteered. “I think he feels a touch of gratitude towards me for what happened at the Calabria Club.”
“You were very foolish doing that.” Diana shuddered at the thought of her daughter perishing in an explosion.
“Well my orders were to protect her…seemed the right thing to do.” Abby shrugged her shoulders.
“Very well, dear,” Diana said with a sigh, “get dressed, then go and see them.”
“Tommy you wouldn’t lie to me would you?” Annie looked his straight in the eye.
“I’d try not to kid.”
“Are those women the Pussycat Gang?”
“No lies Tommy.”
“Well yeah I
guess you could say they are.”
“But everyone says they are the biggest fuckin’ bitches on this earth, and yet they seem…”
“Yeah I guess so…Nice…Why the fuck have they been behaving like the Guardian Angels towards us?”
“Because despite what you’ve heard and know Babe, those ladies have a code of honour, a sense of what is right and wrong.”
Annie thought on that, “But they are all stone cold killers, they iced that cop, they…”
“Yeah but they look after their friends…remember the Lions head pin?”
“The Cartier thing…oh my god not a gift from them?”
“Just two, those kids…and yeah you look closely they are only kids…those two who got me safe last night and pulled you out of dat bar.”
“Yeah those two young ladies gave me that present after I helped dem with a nudder matter.”
“Yeah ladies, look at ‘em watch ‘em dese aint no street kids, they’re real ladies and I’m just glad they are on our side.”
“Jesus, Tommy – you have a strange idea of what a lady is.”
“Not really,” Tommy said as he looked at Annie. “After all, you are a lady as well Annie – and they are keeping us safe, giving us a future.”
“You sound as if you want a future for both of us.”
Tommy shook his head. “Yeah, I guess I do – I need to think of that. The question is, would you look at it with me, Annie, even after this?”
Annie shook her head, and smiled. “Fish, you are one strange man – but yeah, I could look at it wif…”
The conversation was interrupted by a knock on the door, as Miss Tigress entered, wearing the stocking over her head as she walked in. Tommy watched as she stood in front of them, and said “Tommy, Annie, we need to ask a favour of you.”
“I got something to say first,” Annie said as she stood up, and looked the young woman in the eye. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” Miss Tigress said.
Annie could have sworn under her mask she blushed.
Miss Tigress took a breath, “we need a name to be currency in the world tomorrow, one that will help bring Maroni to his knees. Know any people who can spread that name round?”
“Might do,” Tommy said as he looked keenly at the young woman, “What’s the name?”
“But she’s disappeared.”
“Exactly – and we want people to think she’s our leader.”
Miss Tigress looked at Annie and said “no comment – but can you do it?”
“I’ll need a phone.”
Miss Tigress tossed him a cheap cell phone and said “Go right ahead – and then I’ll leave you two alone.”
Thursday 27th February
FBI Field Office, New York
The phone ringing on the desk of Janice Carter was nothing unusual, as she reached over without looking at it and picked it up.
“Afternoon Agent Carter – betcha you thought you’d never hear from me.”
“Morgan,” Janice Carter said as Adam Ball looked up. “Where the hell are you? We thought you were in the bar when it went up.”
“Nahhh – take mare than that to get me, Agent, but it was a close thing, so I’m laying low.”
“Tell us where you are, Morgan, we can bring you in.”
“No deal, agent – you can’t protect me from Maroni.”
“Maroni? So it was him who blew the club up.”
“Listen, Carter – I like youse, so I’m cutting you a break. I heard on the grapevine the bitch cats are going to do a hit tomorrow – Mancinis.”
“Late – about seven. That’s all I know, but I believe it. You do what you want with it.”
The line went dead, as Carter looked at Ball. “Do you believe him?”
“No reason not to – he hates Maroni as much as we do now. Let’s get over there – no reason why we should not be prepared.”
The Maroni Residence
“I’m telling ya, Vince, there’s been no sign of him since the bomb went up. He’s either dead or he’s gone for good.”
Maroni looked at Charlie Gabetti and nodded. “Yeah – hopefully dead. Save me finding him and ripping his fucking head off.” They were seated in his office at home, drinking whisky as they looked over some papers concerning business that week.
The sound of a cell phone ringing made Charlie reach into his jacket and open it.
“Tommy the Fish? Why the hell are you…
“Yeah – yeah, he’s here, hang on.” Charlie looked at Vince, who was standing up, his fists on the table, and put the speaker on his phone on.
“Hey Maroni. Surprised to hear me?”
“You could say that, Morgan. Why are you still alive?”
“You’re gonna be glad I am, Maroni. I know where the she-bitches are gonna hit next.”
Maroni looked at Charlie, then said “I’m listening.”
“Mancini, the jeweller. Tomorrow, about seven.” The line went dead, as the two men looked at each other.
“Think he’s telling the truth.”
“Let’s find out,” Maroni said as he grabbed his jacket. “Charlie, call the council together. And get the word out – I want to know if this is on the level or not.”
As the two men went out, Sophia Maroni came down the corridor, wearing a pair of leather pants and a white blouse.
“And where da hell do ya think you’re going at this time of night?”
“Business – don’t wait up,” Maroni called back as they went out, slamming the door as they did so. Shaking her head, Sophia walked into the lounge, where Louisa was sitting on a leather chair, her legs tucked under her as she watched the news. Donatella was sitting at a table, finishing her homework.
“Dad out late again,” Louisa said as her mother sat down.
“Yeah – I don’t think he’ll be back tonight, knowing him,” Sophia said with a sigh. “I guess we’d better lock up for the night. Louisa, will you go and make sure the outer door is locked?”
“Sure, ma,” Louisa said as she stretched out and stood up, her skirt falling down to her knees as she pulled her crop top down over her chest. Walking slowly out of the room, she made her way to the front door, yawning a little as she opened the inner door.
“Don’t say a fucking word, bitch,” the black haired and masked woman said as she put the business end of a sawn-off shotgun into Louisa’s mouth, forcing the young woman back against the wall as four more women came in. All five were wearing red jackets and skirts, with scarves tied over their necks in various styles, dark stockings and high heeled shoes.
That wasn’t what Louisa was looking at, however – she was looking at the heavily rouged lips, the well made up face, and the nylon stocking pulled down tight over her head, flattening her black hair underneath. The light glistened off her cat shaped brooch, which held her scarf at the front of her neck.
“Miss Cheetah, disable the alarms,” one of the other four women said, as the woman holding Louisa at gunpoint smiled.
“If you would be so kind, dahlin,” another said in a soft Southern accent, “step forward and put your hands behind your back.”
“Go on,” the tall woman said, Louisa looking at her well formed body “or would you rather I killed you now.”
“Patience, Miss Tigress, patience. Secure her, Miss Bobcat.”
Louisa felt her wrists being crossed behind her back, and then a plastic zip tie pulled tightly around them the strip biting into her skin, but she dared not move a muscle.
“All secured, Miss Leopard,” the woman behind Louisa said, as she began to feel sick at the metal in her mouth.
“Excellent,” Miss Leopard said as she pumped the barrel of her gun. “Let’s go and talk to Mommy. Move, fucker.”
Louisa felt a hand push her forward, as she stepped in time with the armed and masked woman, walking backwards to the lounge.
“Don’t move a fucking inch bitches,” Miss Leopard said as she walked into the lounge, firing into the air as Sophia and Donatella jumped up. Instinctively, Sophia started to move to the gun cabinet, only for Miss Tigress to say “Go ahead, cocksucker – if you want your daughter to die right now.”
Sophia stopped, and then said “Who the hell are you?”
“We’re the people your husband is anxious to talk to – we’re the Pussycat Gang.”
“Oh hell,” Donatella said, “You killed Suzanne.”
“That’s right,” Miss Leopard said as Miss Cheetah and Miss Puma walked behind the two women, and secured their wrists behind their back with zip ties, “so you know we don’t fuck around. Now, you’re going to do exactly what we tell you, right shitheads?”
“Do you have any idea who my husband is?”
“Lady,” Miss Leopard said as she walked over and looked her in the eye, “we know exactly who your bastard husband is. That’s why we’re here. Hood them.”
The Maroni women had no time to think as black hoods were pulled over their heads, and then thick cloths pulled into their mouths, forcing the sack into their mouths as well. “Move them out, and if they squeal, kill them,” Miss Leopard said as Miss Puma, Miss Tigress and Miss Bobcat marched them out of the room.
Miss Cheetah went to the dining room, and removed the painting from the wall, carrying it under her arm as the two of them left, turning off the lights behind themselves…
Sophia twisted round as she was forced to lie on her stomach, feeling the rope encircle her ankles and force them tightly together, then her legs below her knees, and then her thighs. Whoever was doing this was strong, as she felt her legs being bent back and then her ankles forced against her bottom, held in place with more rope.
Before she had been forced down, she had felt her arms pinned to her sides as well – and through all of this she had heard her daughters whimpering, as something was done to them. What eluded her – until the gag was removed from her mouth, and the hood pulled off.
Louisa and Donatella were kneeling on the floor in front of her, naked and tied tightly together face to face. Rope encircled every part of their bodies, as they turned and looked at their mother, tears running down their faces over the wide strips of silver tape that covered their mouths.
What was worse were the two loops of rope that sat around their necks, and the bar that went from between Louisa’s legs to between her sisters – a bar Sophia knew was more, from the humming sound she could hear.
“Sweet Mary mother of Jesus,” Sophia called out, “they’re bloody virgins.”
“Well, one of them is,” a calm, quiet voice said as Miss Panther walked into view. “My apologies that I did not come to meet you in person,” she said as she stood in front of Sophia, dressed identically to the other women. “But we felt you should enjoy tonight – all of you.”
“What do you mean, one of them,” Sophia said as she looked at her daughters, her eyes wide as Donatella tried not to look at her.
“At any rate, feel free to talk,” Miss Panther said as she walked off, “Nobody can hear you here…”
Friday 28th February
FBI Field Office
“So this is a credible plot,” Tom Callaghan said as he looked round the table.
“Seems that way,” Janice Carter said, “Morgan is pissed as hell at Maroni, and wants him out of the picture.”
“Add to that the rumours that Sofia Bartello is back in town, and the chatter is strong,” Ron Mercio said, Phil English nodding in support.
“Fits their profile as well – although the owner and their family are out of town this week. Maybe they’re trying to do a low profile job this time.”
“Not these bitches,” Adam Ball snorted. “But it does look credible – I say we lay a trap for them. Can we get anyone inside?”
The men turned and looked at Janice, who just sighed and said “All right – let me get ready.”
Maroni’s Business Office
“You’re kidding me? Bartello’s kid?”
“That’s what I’m hearing,” Charlie Gabetti said as he sat with Maroni and his lieutenants. “She must have been the one that iced her old man last year.”
“Gotta admire the girl,” Maroni said with a grin, “She has class, but she’s going to be as dead as her dumbass father. Get the boys – we’re going hunting.”
“Good afternoon – sleep well?”
“Fkuufkngbshhh” Sophia scowled through the dirty rags that filled her mouth, and the tape that covered her lips. She’d been gagged after six hours of trying to calm her girls down, as wave after wave of orgasm had eventually made them fall unconscious – but their bodies ached now as the dual vibrators had continued their work.
“Take the youngest one,” Miss Panther said to Miss Tigress and Miss Bobcat, “Clean her up, get her ready. Miss Lynx, Miss Cheetah, take care of the older daughter. Miss Puma, Miss Leopard – you get Momma dearest. And make sure they look ready to go to work – I want no mistakes.”
Sophia watched as her daughters were separated, their pussys dripping wet and red as they were hauled off, and then one of the other two she-bitches covered her with a shotgun as she was untied.
Once she was able to remove the gag, she said quietly “What’s going to happen to us?”
“You’re all going for a ride,” Miss Leopard, “but first – get changed into that.”
Sophia looked at the outfit that was hanging from Miss Puma’s hand, and swallowed hard…
E 50th Street
“Janice, how are things inside?”
Janice Carter looked up from the counter, dressed in a white blouse and knee length skirt, and said “All clear so far. Only me and the manager in – you owe him a lot of drinks afterwards.”
“We get this right, and we’re all going to drink champagne,” Adam Ball said as he looked from his car, parked in the street outside the jewellers. “What about cover?”
“We’re in place,” a voice called out over his earpiece, as Agent Ball looked up from the car to a nearby building.
“All right everyone, be on watch, be alert.”
“Where is everyone?”
“Relax boss,” Charlie Gambetti said as he sat beside Maroni, “we got men covering every corner and every way into and out of the building. If the bitches show up, we nail them and you get to sleep well tonight.”
“Yeah – if the harpie at home allows me,” Maroni said, Charlie laughing alongside him.
Miss Panther looked over at Sophia Maroni as Miss Leopard drove the Lincoln onto the island, Miss Bob cat beside her.
“Now, my dear Mrs Maroni,” she said quietly as she looked over, her eyes covered by dark glasses, “We will be dropped behind the jewellery store, and wait there for my friends to bring your daughters. You will say nothing, you will do nothing, because if you do, it’s two corpses that come out of the car, understand?”
Sophia Maroni could only nod, as she sat, the jacket and skirt fitting her like the gloves on her hands. She stared straight ahead, unable to contemplate what she had been told.
The car stopped at the rear of the building, Miss Panther and Sophia getting out as the car drove off again. “we have a few minutes,” Miss Panther said as she checked a pocket watch, “Any questions?”
“I don’t understand, why do this?”
“Oh, I wish I could tell you all the reasons,” Miss Panther said, “but seriously, you would not believe me.”
“I met your husband, many years ago Sophia. He did things to me – unspeakable things. Do you know about them?”
Sophia looked at the masked woman, and nodded silently.
“But you are the good wife, you support him.” They stood in silence for a moment.
“Have you ever thought of the kicks your old man his pals get from doing crimes Sophia?” Miss Panther asked a question.
“No I was brought up to believe business was men only.”
“Oh Sophia darling you have missed out on SO much.” Miss Panther laughed lightly.
“Yes darling…. you’ve missed so much, but today you get to learn just how sexy crime is. You’ll get the feeling of power standing over someone with a gun as you rob them, the wetness in your panties caused by the anticipation as you mask up…Mmmm,” Miss Panther stood in front of Sophia simulating an orgasm as she outlined the sensual side of crime.
“My god,” Sophia said, and then she smiled. “I can understand that.”
“Good – a pity we could not be friends.”
“Stand by, Carter – we may have something.”
Ball watched as the large SUV drove by, and the side window came down, offering a glimpse of a woman wearing dark glasses, her red lips visible as it turned the corner.
“All units stand by, await my mark.”
The car stopped behind the store and five women got out, all dressed in fitted black jackets and knee length skirts, their feet in high heeled leather shoes and stockings covering their legs – and their heads. All had black hair, and had scarves tied round their necks. Two were black, the same as one of the two women they joined at the rear entrance. The others wore different colours, but all had a brooch of gold and diamonds on the lapels of their jackets.
Miss Panther nodded as they all took sawn off shotguns in their hands, and said “Let’s go to work. Miss Puma?”
Miss Puma nodded as she took aim and blasted the lock from the rear entrance, the seven moving in as one as Miss Panther shouted out “Nobody fucking move – we are the Pussycat Gang, and this is a robbery.” Miss Tigress fired a shot into the air with her gun, making the two shop assistants drop to the floor.
“Now then,” Miss Panther said as she forced the man to stand, “Open the fucking safe, or I drop you where you stand.”
“Boss – they’re in!”
“Go,” Maroni shouted as three cars screeched into the street.
“GO GO GO!!!”
Agent Ball jumped out of the car as three more screeched in from the far end of the street, only to halt as they met the ones coming from the other side.
“FBI!! PUT DOWN YOUR WEAPONS!!” he called out as Charlie and the other men got out of the other cars, aiming their guns and shotguns at the federal agents and police officers.
“Miss Panther,” Miss Puma said as she looked out of the window, “We have company.”
“Shit,” Miss Panther said as she turned to the three women in black scarves, “you promised me this was an easy job, Bartello.”
The taller of the three shook her head as the others pumped their guns – giving Agent Carter the chance to pull her own pistol and shout “FBI - DROP YOUR WEAPONS!”
“Like hell,” One of the other women said as she pistol whipped Carter, sending her sprawling to the ground. “No fucking bitch is going to tell me when to give up.”
“Is there something you wish to do, Miss Lynx,” Miss Panther said as she looked at the masked woman.
“Yeah – I want to pop a pig, but I’ll settle for this,” she said as she pointed the gun at Carter, and fired a shot into her leg. “Now shut the fuck up,” she said as Carter grabbed her leg, the blood oozing out.
“Back down, you men,” Agent Ball said as he looked at Charlie, “you are interfering in a federal investigation.”
“Stand down yourself, feds,” Charlie said as he aimed his shotgun at them, “this is family business.”
“I’m going to count to three,” Ball said. “One… Two… Th….”
The shot from across the street hit Agent Ball in the shoulder, making him drop to the ground. “Who the fuck fired that,” Charlie called out, only to see one of his men fall dead as a shot came from the other side of the street.
“Hold your fire,” Mercio shouted out as another shot went through the windscreen of the car, and at the same time a second shot hit Charlie in the neck, killing him instantly.
“Take them down,” Mercio ordered as both sides started to fire at each other.
From inside the jewellers, Miss Panther watched the fire fight begin. “This is our opportunity, Sofia,” she called out, “You three take this way, we’ll head out the back.”
The three women in black shook their heads, before Miss Lynx and Miss Tigress grabbed two of them and marched them to the door. “We’ll provide covering fire,” she said as she pumped her shotgun, the third coming over to join them, “with luck, you get to the other side.”
One of them shook her head, but it was too late, as Miss Tigress opened the front door and Miss Lynx fired several shots into the air.
“They’re making a break for it,” Mercio called out as three of the well dressed and armed women sprinted across the road, “STOP OR WE’LL SHOOT!”
The three women held their arms up, only to be cut down in a hail of fire from Maroni’s men, as Mercio looked on. The two smaller women fell first, the taller one turning and firing at their killers, felling two before she herself was cut down.
“CEASE FIRE” came the call from both sides as Mercio walked out into the street, kneeling next to the three women and reaching down to move the stocking mask off the one who had died last. “Fuck,” he said as he recognised the face, the eyes staring blankly out, “It was Maroni’s family.”
From his vantage point at the end of the street, Maroni himself was watching through binoculars, unable to believe what he was hearing as Mercio called out “Stand down – it’s Maroni’s wife and kids.”
“Sophia? Girls?” He watched as some of his men ran past, looking at him with haunted eyes as they did so. “Merciful…” He then jumped into a car and sped off, as Mercio and other armed officers stormed into the jewellers.
“Agent Carter,” he said as he saw the wounded agent on the floor, the manager unconscious beside her. “Out the back,” she called out, “One of them’s Bartello!”
Mercio ran out in time to see the dark SUV screaming away, the number plates unclear as it sped off.
“Good choice Miss Cheetah,” Miss Panther said as they made their way around the block.
Heather had not found it hard to go ‘shopping’ for cars for the robbery. Women out in the suburbs got very casual with high-powered vehicles, leaving them so easy to steal. Heather in a way regarded it as insult, she’d taught herself how to become a first-rate professional car thief, but where was the challenge if some bitch left her keys in the ignition for you.
She stopped for a moment, allowing Miss Panther and Miss Bobcat to come in. “Good shooting ladies,” Miss Panther said as they drove off, “now to collect the main prize.”
The Maroni residence
Vincenzo Maroni may be a brute, but he was a smart one, and knew that if his family – his fucking family, for chrissakes – had worked with the Bartello bitch and were the Pussycat gang, he was a dead man.
He opened the safe in his office and started to throw bound piles of banknotes into a bag, not taking care where they went in. All he knew was he had to get out of town, before…
“Don’t move a fucking inch, asswipe – actually, move an inch. I could do with an excuse to blow your fucking face to kingdom come.”
He felt the cold ring at the back of his head, and slowly stood up, turning to see the stocking masked woman looking at him, her red lips masked by the black stocking pulled down over her face. She wasn’t alone – three other identically dressed masked women stood behind her, smiling at him.
“All right, Sofia,” Maroni said quietly, “I know it’s you. You’ve had your pound of fucking flesh – you’ve taken my kids from me, what the fuck else do you want?”
“Sofia? You think one of us is Sofia Bartello?” Maroni watched as the woman who had spoken laughed, the other three joining in. He then saw three more standing in the doorway, and quietly said “Shit – the whole fucking set of you are still alive. Then my wife and kids…”
“Were no more Pussycats than Sofia Bartello – although to be sure, she tried to be one, but she failed the audition. No, Maroni, I am Miss Panther, and these are Miss Cheetah, Miss Puma, Miss Leopard, Miss Tigress, Miss Lynx and Miss Bobcat. We’re the fucking Pussycat Gang – and your ass is mine.”
“Like fuck it is, bitches,” Maroni screamed as he ran forward, only for Miss Lynx to hit him across the back of the legs, making him fall to the ground as Miss Tigress kicked him between the legs.
The wind knocked out of his sails, he was powerless to stop them securing his hands behind him with zipties, and a dark hood pulled over his face, pulled tight round his neck.
“Get this miserable little shitbag out of here,” Miss Panther said, “we may have company soon.”
“NYPD! We have a warrant to search these premises!”
Mercio indicated which way the officer should go, as they searched the house, only to report the house was empty.
Detective English went into one room, and called back “Chief In here!” As Mercio walked in he saw Maroni’s filing cabinets and safe open.
“Get this lot bagged,” he said quietly, “at least we get something out of today.”
Tommy and Annie looked up as the door opened and Miss Panther came in. “I came to tell you we have brought Maroni here, and made sure he is going nowhere. I also need to tell you that, by this time tomorrow, he will be dead.”
“Why not kill the bastard now?”
Miss Panther smiled as she looked at Annie. “Believe me, my dear, I would like nothing better to kill him now, but he must be made to suffer, so tonight we watch him. I need to ask a favour of you Annie – you do not have to do this, but I think you would like to be part of the end.”
“I won’t kill him.”
“I am not asking you to – but we need someone to guard him before we begin, and I wondered if you would like to take a turn – become one of us for an hour.”
“And then you leave him to us. I ask a lot, and I know you have only my word that this is all we ask, but will you do this for us?”
She saw a smile appear on Annie’s face as she said “sure – I’ll watch the fucking piece of dog shit for you.”
“Thank you,” Miss Panther said as she turned to leave, only to stop as Tommy said “I want to be there too – before the end. I don’t care what the fuck you do to him, but I want me to be the last person he sees.”
Miss Panther turned her head, and nodded before she left and closed the door.
Saturday 1st March
Maroni blinked as the hood was pulled off his head and the bright lights hit his eyes. He’d expected to see the pack of bitches, and there they were, standing in front of him in their sharp suits, and their masks and their identical hair. One of them was holding a shotgun as she smiled at him.
“Well, you got me where you want me,” Maroni said as he struggled in the ropes that held his naked body fast to the chair. “Now which of you fucking bitches is the one in charge – Miss Panther, or whatever shit stirring name she uses.”
“Oh she’s coming,” the Pussycat with the shotgun said, “I just got the word. I drew the last guard duty, but I wanted you to see something first.”
Slowly the woman pulled the edge of the mask up over her face.
“Hey – you’re that dumb bitch that kept bar at the Calabria. Tommy’s little bit of skirt.” Vince shook his head in surprise as Annie removed both stocking mask and wig then shook her own hair out. “You’re a damn fuckin’ Pussycat?”
“Nope Mister Maroni,” Annie said as she stood in front of him, “as you say, I’m just some dumb bitch keeps bar. These ladies though…” she gestured with her hand, “they ARE Pussycats, the real thing. I just did a turn standing guard over you so they had an extra person to use elsewhere.”
“Fuckin’ bitch!” Maroni literally spat the words at her.
“Mister Maroni Sir,” Annie said as she looked at him, her head to one side and a smile on her lips, “I’d keep a civil tongue in your mouth, my new friends don’t like bad manners.”
“What’s so funny Cunt?”
Annie stepped forward and slapped him with a gloved hand, Maroni wincing at the sudden pain.
“God I’ve wanted to do something like that for so long…” Annie paused, “You killed three good customers of mine with that fuckin’ bomb…no….not just customers, three friends of mine…Mister Maroni I may have only played a small part in this, but you know what? Knowing what’s gonna happen to you makes this the happiest day of my life.”
“It’s time,” Miss Tigress said as she took Annie’s arm, and they walked past him one by one, staring him right in the eye. The last one stopped and looked at him, as if she was memorising her face, before she left.
The room feel silent, as Maroni said “Come on you fucking little shit of a cat, where the hell are you? Too scared to stare me in the face.”
“No – but I want to savour this moment,” he heard a voice say from behind him, as he heard the sound of heels clicking on the stone floor.
She walked past and looked at him – not masked, not in black, but in a grey jumper and slacks. She was tall, thin, and a little younger than Maroni, with long blonde hair.
“Sofia Bartello knelt here, with the fake Pussycats, last October – just before we killed them,” she said as she looked at Maroni, “and now here you are, waiting for history to repeat itself. Good morning asshole.”
The tall blonde with the elegant walk passed out of his sight as he felt her go behind him and check his ties were still secure.
“Yeah might be a good mornin’ for youse bitch. What the fuck makes you think I’m having one.”
“I never said you were,” she replied as she pulled up a chair and sat across it, leaning on the back as she stared into his face. There was something about her he recognised, but in the pale light he couldn’t remember exactly what it was.
Her smile – it was annoying him, it made her look as if she was in control, and he wasn’t – and he didn’t like that arrangement.
“You’re thinking, where have I seen her before? Perhaps if you read some of your wife – sorry, your late wife’s magazines, you would not be perplexed. She died a good death – she knew what was happening, she made her peace. And she went out fighting. I admire that. You, however, you useless piece of shit wipe, You’re an entirely different matter.”
Juliette smiled at the anger in his eyes, before saying “Yeah, we’ve met in the great big world out there, Don Vincenzo Maroni. Do you remember the Fashion Gala at the Met a few days ago?”
Maroni nodded, before saying “Hey – you’re dat writer broad got Sophia and me invited? You’re one of the fucking Pussycats?”
“That’s right Vince, it gave me a great chance to study you and your lovely family, and then to set all this up. But that’s not the first time we’ve met – we go back a lot longer that that, you and I. And you know what - if it hadn’t been for a chance remark from my daughter’s doctor I would never have known so.”
“We did bitch?” Maroni spat out the words.
“All in good time Vince darling…I hope you don’t mind me calling you darling, but you knew me intimately at one time. I think that gives us the right to be informal as we talk, don’t you?”
Maroni squirmed as he looked at her; this bitch was trying to play mind games. He didn’t mind playing games if he knew what all the pieces were, but she knew things that gave her command of the game totally. It was a feeling he wasn’t used to. It was a feeling he didn’t like.
“By the way,” Juliette said as she stood up in front of him, her arms folded, “how did you learn to control those urges inside after you moved back east?”
“What urges Miss Fuck for Brains? Right now the only urge I got is to rip your fucking head off your shoulders.”
“Well, those urges for starters,” Juliette said as she walked round him, her heels clicking, “but they go further than that, don’t they Vince? I’m talking about the urge to wear a full balaclava – or don’t you need that, now that you are a Capote? You must think you’ve been untouchable all these years.”
“What the fuck are you…”
“The urge to hurt and rape women…It was my understanding bastards like you never gave up, how come there hasn’t been years of unsolved rapes in New York City?”
Vince stared at her, thinking “Okay how the fuck did she know about that? How the hell did this bitch know all that?”
“Or have there been and you’ve simply been efficient at disposing of the evidence? After all, lot of people go missing in New York – it’s a big city…”
“Nun of your fuckin’ business Bitch,” Maroni shouted back. “What the fuck has my private life got to do with ya anyway?”
Juliette leaned over, staring at him as she whispered “Well, if you had lost the urges, we wouldn’t be having this conversation and you’d already be dead Vince, so thank whichever deity you pray to, because that urge to rape has kept you alive a few extra hours.”
She then walked back, turning and smiling “Coming back to you yet, Vince? Well never mind – let’s discuss more recent days. Last weekend in fact. You remember the hooker you ‘parked’ in Central Park then?”
“How the hell do you know ‘bout dat?”
Juliette ignored his outburst as she then said “Do you remember at the fashion show the blonde at the end in the Marilyn Monroe dress?”
“Yeah – yeah, my wife said it was your daughter.”
“Yes, it was. She was also the young lady you tried to force your attentions upon, before as I said parking her in Central Park. Which is part of the reason I know who the fuck you are, and part of the reason we’re having this chat.”
“Oh fuck!” Vince knew this was getting a bit personal.
“And do you know something, Vincenzi? You really ought to have been more careful in hitting her that way – you left a little of yourself on her.”
“Why? She was a stupid little bitch who…” Maroni snarled defiantly.
“Because she’s YOUR fucking daughter Vince…” Juliette screamed the words into his face. Maroni paled as he looked into her cold, angry blue eyes and whispered “Mine bitch? You’re crazier than I thought you were…”
“You don’t even fucking remember, do you bastard.” Juliette shook with rage. “Los Angeles, eighteen fucking years ago, a hotel, a young model…coming back to you now asshole?”
Maroni laughed, a deep evil laugh as he remembered that one. “You were a good fuck bitch. I remember now – and I left something of me in you as well, didn’t I?”
Juliette slapped his face hard, before pulling it back as she stared closely at him.
“You raped me, you sick bastard. You humiliated me, you nearly killed me, and I still carry the scars on my body. The only good thing to come from that night was her, your beautiful blonde daughter who you tried to hurt and rape as well you fucking animal. How does that feel, you psycho?”
Maroni merely smiled and said “Yeah I’ve read about some of the things you’ve done as well bitch, you aint no fuckin’ saint. You have my family’s blood on your hands as well.”
Juliette shook her head as her tears caused her makeup to melt and run, smearing her beautiful features.
“Whatever I’ve done, it’s a fraction of the evil of a man trying to rape and kill his own daughter…It’s a fraction of the evil that you have visited on so many over the years.”
“You’re a sadistic murdering, bitch…” Maroni spat the words at her.
“Yeah maybe I am, but you ever considered your part in making me that way?”
Juliette smiled and regained her composure briefly, “Oh and by the way Maroni, Carina is pregnant, and you nearly killed your own grandchild hitting her in that way.”
Maroni suddenly looked up. “Pregnant?”
“That’s right,” a voice said from behind him. He watched as a young girl, barely seventeen, walked in front of him, dressed in a pair of jeans and a school sweatshirt. “Hello Daddy – nice to finally meet you face to face.”
“This is Carina, Maroni. Carina, this is your father. Do you have anything to say to him?”
“Yes I do, Mother,” Carina said as she stepped forward, slipping a pair of brass knuckles onto her hands. “I want to give him a kiss.”
“By all means do so, my dear.”
Maroni let out a gasp of air as the metal collided with his abdomen, driven with a force he barely believed a girl that small could deliver. Blow after blow rained down on his body and head, as Carina screamed “This is for all the fucking women you’ve killed and maimed and treated like shit, you fucking demented ass hole.”
As she finally stopped, and removed the metal rings, she heard Maroni laugh and say “Heh – takes after me, does she?”
“You have no fucking idea, have you,” she screamed as she drove her hand between his legs and squeezed hard, making him groan. “Different when a bitch does it to the whelp, isn’t it Maroni? Your kids showed more decorum last night – at least their last night on this planet was passed in pleasure.”
“Yeah,” Maroni sneered back, “well, do your worst.”
Carina smiled at him as she took a pair of metal pliers from her pocket, and shone them in front of his face. “I owe you that for hitting me,” she said quietly, but the rest of this is purely for my pleasure.” Kneeling down in front of him, Maroni could only guess what she was going to do – as she put the pliers on the mail of his big toe and pulled.
“OH YOU FUCKING LITTLE CUNT” he screamed out as he felt the nail slowly part from his flesh, Carina grinning as she held it up. One by one she worked her way along his toes, the pain shooting through him as she removed each nail in turn, leaving the red raw skin underneath.
“There,” she said as she stood up, and walked to a nearby bench, “that’s better – nice clean raw flesh, and you know what does wonders for that, Daddy?”
Maroni looked at her as she picked up a small bottle, and said “Lemon juice.”
“You wouldn’t dare…”
“Yes, I would, I’m your daughter,” Carina said as she unscrewed the top, and slowly dripped the yellow liquid onto Maroni’s uncovered toes, laughing and giggling as he screamed again and again.
“Oh, and I have so many letters I wish I had written to you,” Carina said as she picked up a small knife, and moved it in the light, Maroni looking at her and laughing.
“Don’t fucking laugh at me,” Carina said as she slapped him hard on the cheek, and then sliced into his chest, Maroni biting his tongue as she carved some shapes into his belly.
“There,” she said as she stood up, and looked at Maroni, “now everyone knows what you are.”
Maroni looked down to see “RAPIST” carved into his chest, then screamed out again as she poured lemon juice over the cuts as well.
“Now, Tommy the Fish – who, by the way, is our gun supplier – asked if I would do something for him.”
“What did that bastard want you to do, bitch?” He spat blood at Juliette, missing her as she stepped back.
“This,” she said as she knelt behind him, and Maroni felt the knuckle of his pinkie crack under the pressure from a pair of nutcrackers. Another went, then another, then another, as Juliette said “Eighteen years – eighteen fucking years of hurt, of pain, of never once letting anyone control my life the way you did – and I want to pay you back for every sweet little moment of it. I hope you’re enjoying this as much as I am Maroni.”
“Keep – FUCKINGSHITHELLLL – I can take anything you do bitch.”
Only when all the fingers on his hands were broken did Juliette stand up, and walk round, hitting Maroni in the head with her hand.
“We’ve taken all you have Maroni – your family, your life, your body – there’s only one thing we need to take from you now. Carina, darling?”
“What the fuck else can you do to me, you she bitches?”
“Let me show you,” Cari said as she produced a pair of secateurs, and put them between her father’s legs, closing the blades over the base of his penis as he screamed out in pain.
“There,” she said as she stood back, “That stops you inflicting that on anyone ever again.”
“Heh – you really are my daughter,” Maroni grunted through the waves of pain. “Nice job raising her bitch.”
“Goodbye, Maroni,” Juliette said as she took Carina’s hand, and walked out of the room.
Maroni waited until he heard the door close, before he said “Fuck” and screamed out in pain.
“Jesus H Christ – Remind me really never to get on the wrong side of dese ladies. All they did was broke two fingers in my hand.”
“Morgan, you little fucker,” Maroni said as he looked at Tommy the Fish, “come to gloat as well.”
“Nah,” Tommy said as he produced a gun from his pocket and looked at Maroni, “I came to say goodbye, and to show you how I felt about the last few days.”
Pulling the safety back, he fired one shot into Maroni’s left knee, shattering the bone as he said “that’s for Lenny the Loon.”
A second shot rang out, shattering Maroni’s other knee as Tommy said, “that’s for the three from the Calabria.” He put the gun down, looked at Maroni and said “Goodbye, you fucking psycho bastard.”
“What’s the matter, Morgan,” Maroni shouted out, “too scared to pull the trigger yourself.”
“No,” a voice behind him said “he leaves the wild animals to me.” It was the last thing Maroni heard before the blinding pain, and the white light.
“Is it over?”
“It is over,” Diana said as she joined the others round the breakfast table. “Girls, finish your breakfast, and head back to town with Heather – you do not wish to be late today. Sandy and I will tidy things here, before we take our guests back to New York.”
“Are you all right, Mum?” Cari put her hand on Juliette’s arm, who placed her own hand on her daughters and nodded.
St Angela’s Gymnasium
The Senior Nuns walked in, talking quietly amongst themselves.
“Hey – where’s Maroni?”
“Who cares,” another Nun said, “where the fuck are the Angels?”
Her question only got one answer, as a rain of flour bombs descended onto the gathered group, Kevin and Tommy directing the boys…
“Hey – you girls all right?”
Bobbi looked at Abby and Joanne as they helped Cari carry plates to the table.
“Never better,” Carina said with a smile, “never better.”
W 62nd Street
“This is where you get out,” Miss Leopard said as she helped Tommy and Annie to get out of the car, and then removed their blindfolds.
“Oh, before I forget,” Miss Cheetah said from the front passenger seat, “it seems there was a rather substantial reward for a painting that was found at Maroni’s place. It has been delivered to the Metropolitan, eventually it will return home to Rotterdam, with the name and address of the woman who found it in a dealer’s in the Village.”
“Oh yeah,” Tommy said, “and who was the lucky broad?”
Miss Cheetah just smiled, and said “you’ve been in hiding until the announcement on Monday, Annie – enjoy the reward. I understand it runs to six figures.” The car drove off, leaving a stunned Annie and Tommy the Fish shaking his head, as he looked up at a billboard, showing a picture of that blonde kid Abigail de Ros and the tagline “Complete Style thanks New York.”
“Yeah – yeah I’m fine. What about you?”
“What did she mean, six figures?”
“Tellya what, Annie,” Tommy said as he put his arm round her shoulders, “lemme buy you lunch, and then if you don’t mind, I’d like to crash at your place while mine is fumigated. It’s a new day, Annie, a new day…”
Friday 21st March
FBI Field Office, New York
Adam Ball and Janice Carter walked in on crutches, to a round of applause from Tom Callaghan and the rest of the team.
“The job’s only half done – we still need to get the rest of the she bitches,” Carter said as she sat in a chair in the conference room, the rest of the task force looking at her.
“Perhaps – but we found enough evidence at Maroni’s place to implicate he was bankrolling Bartello, and he had no idea his family were involved. We also found evidence that suggested a lot of unsolved crimes can now be closed.”
English looked over at Mercio, who said “His body washed up on the Jersey shore yesterday. Not only had he been shot in the back of the head, and not only had the word rapist been carved into his torso – well, someone had sliced his dick off.”
“Poetic justice,” Callaghan said, “we think he may have been responsible for a whole string of rapes and assaults, going back decades.”
“Ever get the feeling we will never know what this was all ever really about? And that we got used?” Janice Carter mused. “Someone was very careful that we only knew what they wanted us to know, someone in this game had a secret agenda.”
“Don’t forget several guys on our side got hurt Janice.” Callaghan tried to focus the discussion.
“Hurt but not killed, given the fact this was the Pussycats that not strike you as strange?”
“Still whatever was going on they made sure Maroni and his mob met their well deserved fate.” Ball rocked back and forward in his chair. “I still think the good guys had a major win.”
“And the Pussycat Gang?”
“Not a word. With luck, the nightmare is over.”
“I hope so,” Carter said, “I really hope so.”
W 62nd Street
Annie stood on the street, her arms folded as she looked at the banner that Tommy and another man were hanging over the front of the building.
OPENING SOON – THE NEW CALABRIA CLUB.
“I like the sound of that Tommy,” Annie said as he climbed down and rubbed his finger. “Feels good to be my own boss.”
“Feels good to be your silent partner,” Tommy said with a smile.
“Think we’ll ever see them again?”
“Up to them – but if I do, I’ll say hi.” Tommy hugged Annie again, as he looked into her eyes.
Tommy Morgan knew how to keep his mouth shut. The Fish would be eternally grateful to the women who had saved his and Annie’s life. They might be the most dangerous women God ever put on this earth, but they lived with a code of decency towards some people and he was lucky enough to be one of those people.
Tommy the Fish would go to his grave before he gave up the secrets he knew. His mouth would never open to utter the things he’d worked out and surmised.
His mouth would never reveal that he’d finally worked out why Miss Tigress looked so familiar.
He’d never reveal that with that information he’d been able to make a few other well informed guesses. Even Annie would never know what he’d worked out.
More importantly though, ‘they’d’ never know what he knew, and not just because he was scared of the consequences, they’d never know because they wanted to keep it a secret and his gratitude for the fact that they’d been prepared to put their lives on the line to protect his knew no bounds.
So yeah Tommy Morgan did know how to keep his mouth shut and he always would.
Conde Nast – the offices of Complete Style Magazine.
Juliette sat and looked at her computer crying soft tears. She’d missed Fashion Week in both London and Paris for the first time in years, but it was worth it. To have finally punished her attacker, the rapist who had changed her life forever gave her an amazing feeling of inner peace. From now onwards her life would be different, and not just because she’d be a Grandmother in the fall. The memories, the pain, the shame, could all now be finally dealt with and got over.
For the first time in 18 years she felt something like the girl she had once been. She felt ‘happy’ and it felt like a slap in the face to realize just how depressed and unhappy inside she had been all these years.
Maybe to make up for fashion week she’d treat all the girls to a vacation in London over Spring Break…”Hey that might be fun, ” she thought to herself. “I’ll maybe spring it on everyone tomorrow.”