Sunday 15th February
"Well my analysis of unsolved homicides, and missing persons reports in places where I can certainly place your Great Aunt Natalia suggest to me she's been pretty prolific herself Cari." Heather typed.
"Okay how prolific?" Carina typed in her reply
as she looked at the books in front of her.
"At least 12 murders, probably twice that amount,
but remember I can't always pinpoint her from computer records, so it could be
"When she was 12, a stable boy from the estate
just disappears without a trace from the historical record."
"Well that tallies with something she told me." Carina wondered what exactly she had done with the riding crop – and what else she had used.
"She's been very good at hiding her tracks, and I suspect the bodies." Heather typed again. “From what you’ve told me, you and she are not going to get on well at all.”
“Well, mutual distrust can be a powerful tool,” Carina said as she rubbed her eyes. “All right, on to the $64,000 question.”
“Sigi and Ingrid?”
“No – nothing suggests that they have this in their lives. There have been occasions when you might think it.”
“There was a fire at Ingrid’s school near Geneva – killed some of her students, and it was investigated. But Ingrid was on a 24 hour pass with Klaus – and Natalia was visiting the area as well.”
“And Aunt Sigi?”
“Absolutely nothing – I’m no geneticist, but other family traits do skip generations. Maybe this is one of them?”
“I really hope so,” Carina typed.
“Want me to keep digging?”
“On Great Aunt Natalia, yeah – and let Mom and Diana see what you’ve found so far. But not the others – I’m satisfied.”
“What do you know I don’t?”
“She knew about Natalia on sight – it wasn’t that with Sigi or Ingrid. I’ve learned to trust the Beast’s instincts on these things – it probably warned me about StJohn as well.”
"Yeah – right, I’ll do as you ask, and we’ll talk
"Okay Hugs to Sandy and Jo."
Carina signed off, walked across the room and looked at Judith in her crib, "Oh dear Artemis I hope you aren't as well," she whispered as she stroked her cheek.
Monday 16th February
As the girls made their way into the hall to start the morning, the Vanderbilt cup took pride of place on a table on the stage, the maroon and gold ribbons tied to the two handles.
The excited buzz as the girls looked on barely dissipated as Miss Tennant came to the front, and said “Well, Friday night proved to be a memorable and exciting night, didn’t it?
“As you can see, Coaches Kelly and Harper have between them produced a team that has secured for us the premier inter-collegiate athletics championship in the city, and I think they, Sheryl and Joanne, and the entire team need to be congratulated again, right here, don’t you agree?”
The girls and faculty certainly did agree, as they cheered, clapped, stamped their feet and made Alicia, Annie and everyone else blush.
“To mark the occasion,” Miss Tennant said as the noise finally died down, “we will be holding a party on Friday afternoon, in place of classes, to which parents will be invited by a letter going out today. Your room leaders will give you more information later.
“That is all – you may go to your classes now.”
The junior turned slowly to see Jo and Sheryl standing there.
“How are you,” Jo asked.
“Better – the doc says they’ll heal over the next few weeks, so long as I keep them strapped up and don’t do anything strenuous – like the high jump.”
“How did you manage to break three ribs though – I heard about the car crash, but…”
“I guess I was hurt worse than I thought.”
“Anyway, so long as you’re all right,” Sheryl said as Letty walked off.
“I swear she said she was in the back of the car – no way a little shunt could cause that sort of injury.”
“I know,” Jo said quietly, “I know.” She watched Letty as she slowly walked off – something was not right there at all.
Complete Style Magazine
“Welcome back boss,” Janine said as Juliette walked into the office, “how was the trip?”
“Divine,” Juliette said as she put a small bag on her PA’s desk, “A present from Vienna.”
“Why Juliette, anyone would think you were spoiling – oh,” she said as she looked at the chocolates, “you are spoiling me.”
“Enough – messages?”
“On your desk, and Alice MacKinnon wants you to call her.”
“Makes the call for me, will you,” she said as she went into her office, and then pressed the speaker button.
“Good morning Bats.”
“Pelican, you wonderful wonderful woman, I could kiss you right now – but you’re there, so I can’t.”
“So you like the pictures?”
“I had a colleague in Vienna tape the show and send it over – Carina was amazing, and I’ve already had enquiries from a number of European stores about supplying them with that design.”
“And as for the little thing you ran up for me?”
“Klaus likey very much – but you know what I mean?”
“Quite a few inquiries as well – listen, I gotta go, but let’s do lunch when I’m down later this week.”
“I’d love to,” Juliette said as there was a knock on the door, and Mary came in, “talk to you soon Alice.”
“Well now, returned to the fold to do some work, have we?”
“Oh shut up Mary – I had a wonderful evening, thank you for asking, and Carina was incandescent.”
“So I gathered from the film I’ve seen – the van Roons put up film of little Blair on YouTube, but I could see Carina all right.”
“Oh the humanity,” Juliette said with a laugh, “but I have the rehearsal film.”
“Ah good – blackmail material,” Mary said with a smile. “So how did you spend yesterday?”
“I drove mom and baby back up to New Haven, and took her and Jude out to dinner with baby,” Juliette said with a smile. “Anyway, how are things here?”
“It’s Fashion week – what do you think,” Mary said with a smile. “Come on – editorial meeting.”
They made their way to the conference room where Anna and the rest of the team were waiting.
“Right – let’s have some ideas people. It’s Fashion Week – you must have some ideas?”
pitch this so I guess I better." Mary took a breath, "We really ought
do an article on Alice MacKinnon. Her designs, and the APCO brand are red
agree." George Barbera the deputy editor nodded.
too." Anna nodded, “I also understand Juliette's possible conflicts of
interest with Alice being such a close friend, so how about Liz writes, and
Amanda styles the shoot?"
good to me." Juliette said without looking up.
course, it frees Juliette up to model…"
bitch Anna…" Juliette laughed, "Okay I'll model for it."
As they left the room, Juliette said "You set that up Merlin, you and Anna knew all along you wanted me to model."
"That we did,” Mary admitted, “but we needed to catch you with your guard down."
"Yes she did, after you and Carina in Vienna she thinks you are magnificent."
“Good morning, Dominique,” Shirley said as she came in, “Thanks for dropping by.”
“Not a problem,” she said as she looked round, “Susan says you’re heading back later this week.”
“I need to – the grand opening of our London office is next Monday, and from there I go on to Hong Kong. I hope to be back for Easter however.”
“Well, as always I shall miss seeing you.”
“And I you – please sit.”
“So what do you wish me to do,” Dominique said as she sat in the leather chair.
“I want you to keep me briefed on young Anna – Lily is talking to Janice today, and I have asked her to see you after that.”
“Of course – George is staying out here for the foreseeable future, and I will be sure to make use of his talents if necessary. Is John heading back as well?”
“He returns with me – he has some engagements over the next few weeks in London and Europe.”
“Well, at least you will have some company over – all right, I withdraw that remark,” Dom laughed as Shirley looked at her.
“Yes – yes I will,” she said with a smile. “I understand you will be coming over in a few weeks time?”
“That’s right – I have some shows in my calendar, and I have business of a personal and professional nature to take care of.”
“Well, we will meet then. For now, I wanted to ask you about something else…”
FBI Field Office
“I’m going to miss having Jeanne in the office you know.” Janice sighed.
“I think a lot of people are.” Tom Callaghan replied, “But with all our leads turning up dead ends I guess her superiors thought she’d be better deployed back home in Paris.”
“So what do you want me and Adam to work on Tom?”
“Just keep chasing down every little idea and clue that comes to you Janice, you are the one person who seems to be able to think like one of them, put yourself in their places and try and out think them.”
“It could be months before they strike again Tom.”
‘I know, but just maybe something will occur to you, like with that penny ante convenience store stickup last year, you were the only person who saw its significance.”
“Well I’ll just see what I can see.” Janice stood up and made her exit, giving Tom a fine look at her ass wiggling in her tight skirt.
“Damn she gets sexier by the day.” Callaghan thought to himself.
“Hey,” Jeanne said as Janice got back to her desk, “Tom told you then?”
“Yeah – when do you leave?”
“Well, officially I’m on leave all week, so I fly back on Saturday night – give myself a chance to recover before reporting to the office on Monday.”
“So what did Tom say?”
“Keep digging – did anything ever come of the lead on the source?”
“Nah – Boston office say nothing’s come up, and the local – ladies all confirm they never saw him.”
“Well, Tom just wants us to work on anything that might be a lead. Fancy a drink?”
“The New Calabria?”
“Why not – care to join us after work Jeanne?”
“Once I move some stuff in the apartment – the happy couple are returning tonight and move to their new house next week.”
“We’ll see you there at six then,” Janice said.
“So what are you doing for lunch, sexy?” Adam said as Jeanne walked away.
“Sorry Adam – got a lunch date. But some dinner tonight?”
“Sounds good,” Adam said as he looked at her.
“Good luck with the babysitting,” Doc said to the girls as they peeled off, before Pepsi and Ama came over with Jeannie.
“Hey you three,” Pepsi said to Doc, Nikki and Becca, “so how do you feel about a party Friday afternoon?”
“I’ll be ready for it,” Nikki said as she stretched and yawned, “this homework’s been keeping me up all night.”
“So how did the first detention go with the office,” Jeannie asked as she put the brakes on and put her lunch on the table.
“Not bad – we should have it all up and running by the end of the week,” Doc said with a smile. “I hear you have your first game next week, Ama.”
“Indeed - and we are looking forward to it,” she said as she smiled at Pepsi.
“Me too – if I can make it,” Abby said as she sat down.
“Did you see you got your picture in the papers again Stick?” Jeannie spoke.
“I did? … Oh you mean the one with Letty in the Times, they didn’t even identify me. I’m not sure whether to be happy or disappointed.”
“Be happy, it gave Letty her time in the sunshine.”
“Well you ready for the onslaught Baby S?”
“You mean my second fashion week?”
“Yep.” Abigail nodded.
“Yeah, I’m doing some great shows, and Granddad and our Mums as always are there as our support team.”
“Yeah, they really do an amazing job getting us from event to event.”
“And of course having school help out just a little, delaying our assignments helps big time.”
“You know it.” Abby smiled happily.
“Now I wonder if you’ll be smiling like that on the last day Stick?”
“Oh I know, by then I’ll be exhausted.”
“I need to go to the restroom,” Anna said as she stood up and walked off, checking the stalls before she took out the cell phone.
“Angelic Escorts – how may I help you?”
“Good afternoon Angel – I do hope I am not interrupting anything important.”
The British accent made her check outside, before she said “Mister Burton – I believe I made my answer to your request very clear before when we met.”
“Now Angel, is that any way to talk to someone who wants to help you? I told you I would be back in touch, and – well, here I am.”
“And my answer remains no – I will not share privileged client information with you.”
“I see – tell me, how would it be if I was to send some photographs to you I found recently. Perhaps to your school, or your mother – Anna.”
“As I said before, Mister Burton, My name is not Anna, it is Angel.”
“Well, I know differently, and you know differently. I want to meet you, tomorrow night, at the Altamont, or I blow your little secret – and to show I mean what I say, you might want to check your mailbox when you get home.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Angel.”
The line went dead, and Anna looked at the display, unaware of how much she was shaking until she dropped the cell phone.
“Tom wants me to try thinking like a pussycat Sandy.” Janice whispered while they ate their hotdogs.
“Oh if only he knew.” Sandy laughed.
“Well he doesn’t and I’m quite happy about that.”
The two women sat at a bench and watched the men setting up a marquee.
“Are you going to any of the shows?”
“I got Juliette to get me tickets for a few, they are really though Sinners nights out.”
“Yeah Heather and I are coming to a couple.”
“So where is Heather today?”
“Glued to her damn computer, Carina came home with something she needed researching.”
“Oh anything I need to be involved in?”
“No something I’d stay a million miles away from if I was you.”
“That sounds dire.”
“Turns out Carina may not be alone in having a beast inside her, her Great-Aunt and she had a little chat and turns out Great Auntie has been a naughty girl most of her life.”
“Oh Crap, all in Europe I hope, and so none of my business?”
“Heather is still digging, but yes it looks like Cari is not the only sadistic killer in the family.” Sandy bit a bit of her sausage off, “And yes thank heavens there seems no cases here in the US.”
“Hey – mind if I join you?”
“Hey Lily – grab a pew. I hear you’re heading home soon as well?”
“At the weekend,” Lily said as she put her hot dog down. “Shirley asked me to see if you managed to dig up anything on our hack.”
“There was a British journalist hanging round the fashion show – Dom challenged him, and he admitted he was interested in digging up dirt on the Morse family.”
“Sorry, nothing on him,” Janice said, “I’ll have a look again when I get back.”
“Cheers – see you tonight at Shirley’s?”
“Sorry – going for a drink with Adam. I’ll catch up with you tomorrow.”
“Got it,” Lily said as she walked off.
“I’ll get some coffees,” Janice said as she went to the booth, Sandy looking at a dark haired man as he watched her walk back.
“So,” Janice said as she stirred her drink, ”what plans for this afternoon Sandy?”
“I’m collecting April and we are driving into the wilds of New Jersey to go quote on a combine patio and garden job.”
“Nice to see April picking up some work.”
“She’s good at it, she just never had the opportunities before.” Sandy shielded her eyes from the sun, “So do you reckon this is an early spring, or does the Goddess have another cold snap and storm in mind?”
“I hope not, been a rough winter, and I have some lovely clothes I’d like to take out in public.”
“That guy over there has been checking you out you know.”
“And how do you know it isn’t your legs he’s admiring?”
“Because when I went and got the fresh drinks, his eyes never left you.”
Janice looked over to see the man stand up and walk off.
“Wonder who he is,” she said as she looked at him.
Dick Burton looked back for a moment and smiled. So this was the infamous sinner called Janice Carter? He had never seen her face to face before, but she certainly had a style – and a great pair of legs.
He also knew she was an FBI agent, and feared they would cross paths sooner or later. Seeing her with the socialite Alexandra Richmond showed other possible avenues to explore…
The Carlton House
“Thanks, Abby,” Doc said as she closed the car door, and walked to the front of her house. As she walked up, she saw the flag on their mailbox down, and looked inside, retrieving a brown envelope addressed to “Miss Anna Carlton.”
Looking round, she walked into the house and closed the door.
“That you Anna?”
“Yeah Mom – I need to go and get changed,” she called as she ran upstairs, and closed the door to her bedroom. Taking a deep breath, she opened the envelope and took out a set of photographs – photographs of her and the girls, in their escort clothes, smiling as they talked with the older men.
There was also a note.
“Altamont Hotel, 7.30 tomorrow Anna. Don’t want you to be late out on a school night.”
“Shit,” she said to herself as she lay on her bed. She needed to do something about this – something serious.
Tuesday 17th February
“Oh joy, History,” Jo said as she walked down the corridor with Ally.
“Hey, come on - it could be ethics,” Ally said.
“Ethics I like,” Jo replied, but before she could say another word Annie appeared in her door.
“My apologies Ally, I need to talk to Joanne,” she said as she grabbed Jo and literally pulled her into the room, closing the door behind her.
“Hey, I promise, it was not me who made the crack about you and Cari last night!”
“It’s not that Jo - something is worrying Anna to death!”
“How can you tell?”
“Look at her homework!”
Jo glanced down at the paper, “Wow seems pretty amazing to me, and I wish I was that strong in Math.”
“Jo she got an answer wrong…”
“So one answer wrong in all those.”
“She also got an answer wrong in class.’
“Again I’ll say…so?”
“So two mistakes, Anna hasn’t got a question wrong all year.”
“Is this work harder?”
“No Jo, and she seemed distant, like she wasn’t concentrating.”
“Okay I see your point,” Jo said, “I’m running her home tonight, I’ll see what she’s willing to say.”
“Thanks – because I’ve got a horrible feeling the bovine excrement is about to hit the spinning object.”
As she stepped out Jo took her cell phone out and dialed a number.
“Hey Sis – busy?”
“You’re asking me if I’m busy – what’s up?”
“I’ll tell you when I get home, but right now, can you check traffic on Anna’s site?”
“What sort of traffic?”
“The unauthorized type.”
The line was quiet for a moment, before Heather said “Why?”
“Gut feeling – I’ll explain later.”
“Are you all right, Doc? You’re hardly touching your food.”
“Sorry,” Doc said with a weak smile, “I must have a stomach bug or something. I’m going to go back and work on the website instead.”
Nikki and Becca looked at each other as Doc walked off, taking out her cell phone.
“Nell? I need Annabelle to meet me tonight at the Altamont, seven fifteen.
“No, not a client – I need two people to watch my back.”
The New Calabria
“Agent Carter,” Annie said as she looked round, “what brings youse here again two days inna row?”
“My fault, Annie - I think I left my jumper here last night?”
“Red Cashmere? Very nice,” Annie said as she went under the bar for a minute, and handed over a brown paper parcel.
“Thanks – something up?”
“Youse on a case at the moment, Agent?”
“Apart from the pussycats? Nothing special – why?”
“’Cos that guy was in here last night as well – second booth by the wall.”
“Hmm – any chance you can get me a snap?”
Annie walked into the back office, returning a few minutes later with a printout, which she handed to Janice.
“Thanks,” she said as she folded the sheet and put it in her purse, “how’s junior?”
“Seven months now – beginning to kick like crazy again.”
“See you Annie,” Janice said as she walked out, sitting in her car as she looked at the man.
“So why are you so interested in me – and who are you,” Janice said as she looked at him.
“Wassat Carter,” Tommy said as he came in.
“Yeah – just wanted her jumper and the name of the guy who just followed her out.”
“Idiot – don wanna be in his shoes when she turns…”
“Adam, can you get an ID and address for someone for me?”
“Not sure – scan this and see if anything comes up will you.”
Adam put the sheet in the scanner and enlarged the face, before starting a facial recognition program.
“That was quick,” he said five minutes later.
“You got a match?”
“Immigration – his name’s Richard Burton, and he’s a journalist on assignment here for a British paper. Why do you think he’s involved?”
“I’m not sure – let me do some digging on him will you? I’ll update you tomorrow.”
“Knock yourself out,” Adam said as he printed off the details and handed them to Janice.
“So you’re Dick Burton,” Janice said to herself, “now why the hell are you interested in me?”
“Just me with you tonight Jo?”
“Yup – the others have an after school thing,” Jo said as she drove off, looking at Doc as she stared out of the window.
“Penny for them?”
“Anna, is everything all right?”
“Why wouldn’t it be,” Doc said as she looked round.
“Miss Kelly told me this morning you seemed a little distracted in Math class.”
As she turned a corner, Jo said “Anna, I know I’ve come down hard on you recently, but you do know if something’s wrong you can talk to me, right?”
“I know – and I appreciate the offer, but I’m all right.”
Jo pulled up outside her house, and said “Well, just remember the offer’s still there.”
“Thanks,” Anna said as she got out and walked to her front door. Jo waited a few minutes, and was about to drive off when her cell phone rang.
“Jo, its Janice – are you free later tonight?”
“How much later?”
“After ten – I need you to come with me for a little illegal entry.”
The Astoria Waldorf
"Well darling your first professional catwalk
show…big milestone." Mandy said as she hugged her daughter.
"It wasn't too bad,” Angel said with a smile, “and
I liked the clothes."
"Well Emily being British but largely raised here
in New York has an interesting take on fashion, I thought it might be a good
show for your debut."
"So where was Jeannie rushing off too, I was
hoping to talk, it wasn't something I said was it?"
"No she's doing Nicole Miller's show.'
"A lot of girls walk two, sometimes three shows
in a day."
"That sounds hard." Angel shook her head.
"Well I'm walking two tomorrow, morning and
"What about my show?"
"Don't worry Diana will chaperone you, Abby is doing it too. Jeannie is doing the show I'm doing so hopefully I get limousine service." Mandy smiled.
A few blocks away, Jeannie took out her cell phone and said “hey!”
"So how was Emily's show Jeans?"
"Not bad, one or two things I might wear in real
"What's her brand again?"
"I'll check it out online later." Abigail said.
"So what made you do a small show like that?"
"I went to hold Angel's hand, Tufty asked me if I
would, and I wasn't booked so I said yes."
"Brownie points to you."
"I'll see you at the Nicole Miller show
"Yeah I'm in the car with Granddad right
"Mama and i are just arriving, catch you inside."
The Altamont Hotel
Tricia looked up as Angel and Annabelle walked in, Angel in a yellow halter neck dress that barely covered her bottom, Annabelle in a grey strapless dress.
“Usual girls,” Tricia said, Angel nodding as she looked round.
“Do you want to tell me what’s going on,” Annabelle said as she sipped her drink.
“I need to meet someone, and I need an insurance policy,” Angel said as she saw Burton walk in and sit at a booth.
“Him again,” Tricia said as she looked over. “I haven’t seen you like this since – him.”
Angel nodded, and said “I’m going to talk to him. Please, watch us – and if he looks as if he’s going to do anything, step in.”
The two girls nodded as Angel slipped off the stool and walked over.
“Mister Burton,” she said as she sat down, “you invitation was most – persuasive.”
“I thought it might be,” he said, smiling as he looked at her. “So, Anna….”
“My name is Angel.”
“So, Angel,” he said quietly, “are you ready to listen to my request?”
“What exactly is it you want of me, MISTER Burton?”
“I want,” Dick said as he leaned over, “your records of the men your ladies have paid to be with. All of them. Simple as that.”
“And if I refuse?”
“Then not only will I reveal you, but your friend Rebecca Morse will have to explain to her parents what she has been doing – and why she has cost her father the Senate race. Both candidates in fact.”
Dick sipped his drink and said “Rape is such an ugly word, but that is what this man has done – so many of your ladies’ been under seventeen, after all.”
Angel leaned over, smiling sweetly, and said “And what if I ruined you first?”
“You could try, but if anything happens to me, copies of the photos you got go to your school, your parents, and the FBI. Now, I’m a generous man – I’ll give you forty eight hours and then call you again to collect the information. Here.”
He threw five hundred dollar bills on the table and said “Don’t want this to be a wasted night for you” before he stood and walked off.
Angel sat there, staring at the table and the notes, before she heard Annabelle say “Angel, what’s the matter?”
“Have you got your car here?”
“No, I took a cab, why?”
“I need to go,” Angel suddenly said as she stood up grabbing her purse as she ran out. Annabelle picked up the five hundred dollars, and looked at Tricia, both of them wondering what had happened.
The Richmond Mansion
“Come on you two – bath,” Heather said as she walked past, and then looked into Jo’s room.
“What are you doing,” she asked as she watched Jo sorting some clothes.
“I need to pop out later – Jan’s coming to pick me up at ten. I’ll try not to be back too late.”
“Where are you going?”
“All I know is she needs my help with checking a place.”
“Listen – Anna’s site?”
“Someone has tried to hack it – I’m trying to trace who now. Jo, is something happening?”
“I don’t know,” Jo said, “but as soon as I do, I’ll let you know.”
“That is the washing up done,” Annie said as she came in and sat on the couch, “so we have the rest of the night to do whatever we want to do.”
“Well, we could watch a movie,” Ama said, “or perhaps play a…”
The ringing on the doorbell made Dominique look up. “Are you expecting anyone?”
“No,” Annie said as the doorbell kept ringing, “want me to answer it?”
“Please,” Dominique said as she picked up her blonde wig and put it on, adjusting it as she checked herself in the mirror.
“”Anna? What… Goddess, girl are you all right?”
“No, no I’m not,” she heard Anna say, “is Caroline in?”
“Come on up,” she called out as Ama stood up. They watched as Anna appeared, mascara running down her cheeks and her eyes red.
“Anna? What happened?”
“Caroline,” she sobbed as she looked at the tall blonde, eyes wide in fear, “Caroline, I need your help.”
“Ama, would you fetch Anna a drink please,” Caroline said as Annie came back up, and sat with her. As Ama went into the kitchen, Annie said “It’s all right Anna – let it out.”
“Oh god oh god oh god what have I done what have I done…”
She suddenly buried her head in Annie’s chest, sobbing as the two women looked at each other.
“The drink,” Ama said as she laid it on the coffee table, “shall I?”
“Please – we’ll let you know when you’re needed,” Caroline said as she held Anna’s hand. Ama nodded as she went to her room, closing the door as Caroline said “all right, Anna – what’s happened?”
As she gathered her thoughts, Anna looked at her teacher and said “I’m so sorry Miss Kelly – I never thought I was hurting anyone, and now I may have ruined it for everyone.”
“Just tell us what’s happened – I’ll make the first step easy. I know about Angelic Escorts – Caroline told me.”
Anna looked at both of them, and then nodded as she said “There’s this man – a journalist. He’s threatened to expose me if I don’t give him all the client details – and worse still, he’s threatened to expose Becca. It will ruin her, and her father, never mind me…”
She started sobbing again as she said “Dear god, how did I let this go so far…”
“All right Anna,” Caroline said, “stop crying, and dry your eyes.”
She handed Anna a tissue and waited as she dried her eyes. “Now, you need to listen to me and listen carefully. Did this man have a name?”
“Burton – he said his name was Dick Burton.”
Annie watched as Caroline stood up and went to a drawer, taking out a security pass and showing it to Anna.
“That’s him – where did you get that?”
“Not important – Anna, you need to listen very carefully now. I am going to do all in my power to sort this mess out for you, but in return, you have to accept that Angelic Escorts is no more. You have to tell me the names of all the girls, so that I can make sure they are protected as well, but my first priority has to be you and Becca.”
“But what can you do?”
“Let me worry about that – I want you to go and have a shower, take those clothes off. I’ll ask Ama to loan you a pair of joggers and some clothes. What did you tell your parents?”
“I… I was going to the movies with Nell and Ally Rochermann.”
“Good – go and have your shower, I need to make a few phone calls, all right?” She brushed the young girl’s blonde hair out of the way and said “go – leave this with me.”
“This way,” Annie said as she led Doc to the bathroom, Caroline looking at the pass for a few minutes. She then picked up her cell phone and dialed a number.
“Ally? It’s Caroline Jameson. Are you and Nell at home tonight?
“Just you? All right, I need you to tell one little white lie for me. If Anna Carlton’s mother asks, you and Nell went with her to the movies tonight – and tell Nell the same.
“I can’t explain just now – please, trust me. And thanks.”
Ending the call, Caroline walked to the table, opening her laptop as she dialed another number.
“Lily? It’s me- tell Madame that the Carlton situation just went critical, she will understand. I’ll brief her fully in the morning.”
“You heard, didn’t you,” Caroline said as he looked up to see Ama holding some spare clothes.
“Will you tell me what is happening?”
“Of course I will, but I regret to say it will have to wait until later – and I have to count on your discretion when I do tell you.”
“Good – take those to the bathroom, and then come and sit with me.”
Ama went to the bathroom, returning with Annie.
“Annie, when Anna gets out of the bathroom I need you to run her home, and then come back here.”
“Where are we going?”
“To pay a visit on a slug.”
W 105th Street
The two women sat in the front of the Lincoln, looking up at the second floor.
"Is this car hot Jan?" Jo asked as she
adjusted her leather gloves.
"No but it should officially be in the NYPD
Impound lot." Janice smiled, "I sort of borrowed it."
"Well I'm glad you warned me to wear
gloves." Both women were wearing
black jumpers under leather jackets, jeans and trainers.
"So why again are we here?" Jo turned to look at her friend.
"This Brit Journalist was following me this
afternoon…I want to have a look in his apartment and see why."
"Easier ways to do that,” Jo said, “just invite
him to meet The Beast…"
"No, I want to do this quietly and discreetly."
"Can I steal anything Jan."
"No I don't want him to know we were even
"Oh great yet another virgin break in, I oughta turn in my guild membership, I haven't done a decent burglary in such a long time.”
“Get Annie to take you out one night – you could do the apartment block challenge.”
“What, every apartment in a block?”
“Yup – sort of thing that might appeal to you,” Jan
said as she looked up. "Okay I'm
pretty sure he's asleep, that lights been out for over 30 minutes."
The two women got out of the car and walked over to
the front door. "I should make you
pick the lock." Jo said as pulled her little packet from her jacket
pocket. "Did you bring a stocking?"
"Well pull it on," Jo smiled as she inched the door wide, taking one from her own pocket and pulling it over her head before they both slipped in.
“How does a gutter snipe journalist afford the rent on a place like this,” Janice whispered as she shone her penlight round the reasonably well furnished room.
“Maybe they pay more for good dirt,” Jo whispered as she looked at a chest of drawers. “You search over there, see if you can see anything.” Taking her pouch out, she unlocked the top drawer and started to look through.
Janice looked round the room, checking carefully a large bookcase and looking behind each one, before she found a laptop on a table and switched it on.
“Jo, can you hack this?”
“Give me a minute, big sis taught me a thing or two,” Jo said as she turned the machine on, and worked on the keyboard. As she did this, Jan went through the dividing space and looked in the kitchen. Finding nothing, she opened what she thought was a cupboard door, only to find a small office.
She shone the light over the pictures pinned to the boards, stopping herself from swearing as she looked at them.
“Fuck,” she eventually said as she walked back in. “Jo, how’s the hack going?”
“I’m in, and getting a copy of the hard disk,” she said as a small box blinked at the side, “takes about five minutes. What’s up?”
“You need to come and see this,” Janice said as Jo followed her back into the office.
“Goddess,”Jo whispered, “that’s Tom and Clare with the girls – and that’s Brooks, the Republican candidate with…”
“Tell me that’s not Becca Morse trying to look much older.”
Janice looked at Jo, before saying “I need to talk to you and Heather about this – all of this. Because what I see here is Anna Carlton, Nikki Colman, Nell Rochermann and others – oh Goddess, Pepsi…”
“Is not involved at all.”
“Involved in what.”
Jo looked through the papers on the desk. “He’s putting together a dossier – Jan, we need to get out of here. This confirms my – our worst fears about something.”
“Jo, by the Goddess, I swear if you don’t tell me…”
“I will, but not here. Come on – we need to go.”
They walked back into the front room, stopping only for Jo to disconnect the external drive and slip it into her pocket before returning the laptop, and then slipped out of the house, Jo quietly closing the door behind her and making sure it was locked.
Jo suddenly turned round, her hand drawing out her gun, before she realized Dominique and Annie were standing with Janice. They were also dressed in black, the main difference the woolen hats they both were wearing.
“Don’t do that,” Jo hissed as she pulled her stocking mask off, “you nearly gave me a heart attack.”
“Don’t want that, do we,” Annie said as she looked up. “So, why are you visiting Mister Burton?”
“I found out he’d been following me for two days, and I wanted to know why,” Jan said as they stood in a huddle. “What we found, however – he’s stalking Tom, Clare and the girls, but there’s more.”
“He’s got photographic evidence of the babysitting club,” Jo said.
“Quiet Jan – you’ll wake the neighbours.”
“Never mind that – what are you two doing here?”
Annie and Dom looked at each other, before Dominique said “because our friend in there is blackmailing Anna Carlton.”
“Okay,” Jan said as she held her hands up, “does someone want to tell me what’s going on here?”
“Yeah – can we go to your place Jo? Call Heather and make sure she’s still up – we need to tell Jan everything.”
“Oh she’s going to love this,” Jo said as she took out her cell phone. “Sis? Make coffee please – we have a story to tell.”
As the two cars drove off, a young girl stepped out from the alley, her hand returning the 9mm to her jacket pocket.
“Now what the fuck was that all about,” Doc said as she watched them drive off, and then looked up at the dark window. After Miss Kelly had dropped her at her home, she had sat with her parents for a while, but the things that had happened that night kept running through her mind.
Eventually, she’d gone to her room, but she felt as if she had to do something, to protect the others as well as herself. So she had dressed in the black clothing she had worn to visit Sacred Heart, checked her gun, and taken the subway to his home. His address had not been that hard to find.
But when she had got there, she had seen someone else at work…
As she turned and walked back to the subway, Doc was thinking hard. She'd intended to break in and kill the bastard, but now her mind was racing. Had she or hadn't seen what she thought she had?
Had Jo picked the lock, and broken in with Janice? Had Caroline and Miss Kelly not been lurking outside looking as though they had intended to do just the same thing?
Questions, her mind was full of questions.
What was it that Miss Huntingdown had said when she offered to kill StJohn Stevens “There are others who can do it better.” Then he had turned up dead and the newspapers implied mutilated.
Had Juliette Huntingdown got someone to kill him? Had she done it herself?
Caroline had said she would do all in her power – but did that include breaking and entering? And why was Janice there? A FBI Agent helping a break-in? Surely that was the stuff of bad movies?
Approaching the station, she decided that there were too many questions to leave hanging – she needed to talk to Jo, and in a way that ensured answers.
Wednesday 18th February
The Richmond Mansion.
Heather looked up from the kitchen table as Jo opened the back door, followed by Janice, Dominique and Annie.
“Coffee’s fresh,” she said as she looked over her laptop, and removed her glasses. “Pour yourselves a cup and sit down – I think we all need to compare notes.”
“You think?” Janice took off her jacket and sat down, looking at them before she said “I have the feeling you kept me out of this for a reason – want to spill now?”
“You go first,” Heather said as she sat back.
“All right – I’m in the Calabria today to collect something I left behind last night, when Annie told me this guy had been following me then and now. She gave me a printout, and I identified him as Richard Burton – the same guy Lily asked me to see if there was anything on file about.
“Naturally, I’m curious as to why a British journalist is following me, so I asked Jo to help me do a little unofficial information gathering tonight. We break into his house…”
“Which, by the way, is far too expensive for him,” Jo added.
“What she said – and while she copied the contents of his laptop hard drive, I had a look around.”
Jo withdrew the external drive from her pocket and handed it to Heather, who nodded as Janice said “What we found was a wall of photographs of Tom and Clare Morse with the girls – but also Brooks with an escort. An escort who looked too much like Becca Morse for my liking. There were other photos, Anna, Nikki, others – all dressed to the nines and with much older men.”
“Virgin break in?”
Jo nodded. “Sorry – your device means I took a copy of the hard drive with no traces, but that’s all we could get. I saw the pictures too though – it was them.”
“So we left – only to run into you two,” Janice said. “So why were you planning to break into this guy’s house?”
“Show her, Heather.”
Jan stared at the website for Angelic Escorts as Heather turned the laptop round, and then clicked on the “Ladies” page, stifling a gasp as she recognized some of the faces. The four watched as she stood up, and looked out onto the dark rear garden.
"The first question I want answered before we
proceed is what role does my daughter play in all this?" Jan asked as she
turned round, her hands on her hips.
"Katy, none at all, she's far too young."
Annie answered in surprise.
"She doesn't mean Katy, she means Nicola,"
Heather spoke quietly.
"Pepsi." Jan's eyes flashed.
"Pepsi is YOUR daughter Jan?"
“Yeah – April and Grant adopted her, and this is not the time or place for that story. What part does she have to play in this?”
“None,” Heather said emphatically. “I’ve kept complete copies of all the records, and her name has not been mentioned once. I can only speculate, but I think they kept her out for one very important reason.”
“And that reason is?”
“You,” Dominique said. “Heather says Anna is almost as good with computers as her – she must have found out.”
Janice nodded and sat down, letting out a sigh of relief. “Good – because if she had been, I would have come down on that stupid, idiotic little girl so hard…”
“Whatever she is, Jan, she’s no idiot – she set this up in all the right ways, bar one. The age of the girls.”
“Okay – bad choice of words,” Jan said. “So why were you two there tonight? You said this Burton character is blackmailing her? How long have you known about this?”
“For a while – Jo, Annie and I have all been trying in our own ways to get her to stop, but she is a very determined young lady.” Dominique rubbed her eyes before she said “However, matters came to a head tonight, when this Burton slug said that if she did not hand over all her client records, he would publicly expose not only her, but her friends as well – especially Becca.”
“Just so I’m clear on this,” Janice said quietly, “fifteen year old Anna Carlton, the Jamie Kirkham scholar and one of the smartest girls I have ever met, has set up and run an escort agency, involved a number of her school friends and others, and as a result the younger daughter of the Deputy Mayor has been a frequent escort to his opponent in the upcoming House special election?”
She looked round as the others nodded, before continuing “and now a scumbag has threatened to ruin not just her life and prospects, but also those of the entire Morse family, and others besides – Emma, Kelly, and Goddess alone knows how many others?”
“Essentially, yes – but there are other questions,” Dominique said, “our primary concern now has to be protecting the girls, and stopping him from carrying out his threat.”
“So how do you know what happened?”
“Jan, I told Anna to come to me if anything happened – I used the fact you guys were asking about prostitutes that may have met the manager in the last job. Then she called at our place and told us everything that she did tonight. I got her to shower and change, Annie drove her home and came back, and we went to his house – where we met you.”
“Ama knows something is wrong – she’s probably suspected for a while knowing her, but said nothing. I will tell her some of this later – she won’t tell anyone, and she can keep an eye on Anna and the others over the next few days along with Annie.”
Janice drained her mug and handed it to Jo. “Who else knows what’s going on?”
“Honestly? All of us, as well as Shirley. The only reason we didn’t tell you, Jan, was to protect you and also because we hoped and prayed we could persuade her otherwise. Those prayers have not been answered.”
Jan looked again at the photos. “Most of these girls are under seventeen – any of the clients who may have wanted more than an escort run the risk of a rape charge, you know that?”
“She’s not the first, is she?”
Heather and Jan looked at Annie, who was frowning.
“You said there is no way a visiting journalist could afford that house, and we know he is blackmailing Anna. What if she’s not the first?”
“He was involved in a phone hacking scandal in the UK…”
“Right,” Janice said as she looked round, “you’re right, and I know why you kept me out of the loop, but I’m in now. Heather, the hard drive contents?”
“I’ll get on to them later, see what I can find.”
“Dom, we need to find out what your contacts in London know of this guy – all of them.”
“I’ll make the calls later this morning, and get Susan working on it as well.”
“Annie, Jo, you need to keep an eye on Anna for the next few days. Anyone who can set up something like this has the intellect and drive to attempt anything – and I mean anything.”
“You think she might try to take matters into her own hands?”
“I do – and we can’t allow that. We already know he’s following me, so I have a legitimate excuse to call the UK agencies up and find out what they know.”
“In the meantime, I’m going to be asking a few questions of my own,” Dominique said, “starting at the Altamont hotel.”
“When do we inform the others?”
“Tomorrow night – we should have more information by then. Anna said he’s given her forty eight hours – let’s use what we can.”
Standing up, Dom stretched and said “Annie, we need to get back – we can’t do a lot more tonight, and Ama will be waiting.”
“I need to return the car,” Jan said as she stood up, “and thanks.”
“For keeping you out of the loop?”
“For protecting them,” she said as the three of them left.
“I hate to say this,” Jo said as she closed and locked the door, “but we need to keep Abby and Jeannie out of this for the moment.”
“I agree,” Sandy said as she came in, “sorry, I woke up and saw you were still down here, but I heard everything. It’s Guano flying time, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Heather said, “Sandy, anyone on the social circuit being a little more circumspect lately?”
“The blackmail angle? We can gossip, see if anyone has been lying low recently. After the slavery thing however, it may be difficult to tell.”
“Maybe this will help,” Heather said as she held up the slim drive. “Right now, let’s all get some sleep – tomorrow is another day.”
“I need to be gone,” Annie said as she finished her coffee. “Who’s picking you up today Ama?”
“It is meant to be Joanne,” Ama said as she collected her things. “She is giving me and Pepsi a lift. Annie?”
“I presume you wish me to be there for Doc today?”
“If she will allow you, yes – but keep a discrete eye on her anyway. She is very scared at the moment, and we need to protect her from herself.”
“I understand – I will do as you and Mom have asked.”
“Thank you Ama,” Annie said as she grabbed her bag and ran out. Ama put her bag on the chair and poured herself some milk, as Dominique came out.
“How are you this morning,” she said as she looked at Ama.
“Worried for Anna – is she in real trouble?”
“Not if we can help it,” Dom said as she poured some coffee. “I know it’s asking a lot of you to keep a secret like this Ama.”
“I keep all your secrets, Mom – you should know that by now,” Ama said as she hugged Dominique. As she heard the doorbell, she went down and returned with Pepsi.
“Hi Caroline – not ready for work yet?”
“I need to go and see a client today Pepsi, so I’ll get ready once you two have…”
The car horn outside made both girls grab their bags and head out, as Caroline looked out of the window. Joanne looked up and acknowledged Dom before she drove off, and picked up her cell phone.
“I will be at the office at ten, Madame – but yes, we need to help.”
As Doc took her seat, all the questions from the previous night were still running through her head. She was convinced it had been the four of them – her teacher, one of the head girls, an FBI agent and a security expert – all dressed for a break in and all outside his house.
“That concludes the announcements for today,” Miss Tennant said, “you may proceed to your first class.”
As they filed out, she saw Jo talking with the other seniors. She had to speak to her today – but when?
“Hey – what’s up Anna?”
She turned and smiled at Jeannie. “Oh nothing – just curious about something in the movie last night.”
“It was Colonel Mustard, in the conservatory with the lead piping.”
It took a few moments for Doc to start laughing, as Ally came by and said “what’s so funny?”
“Doc said she was thinking about the movie she saw with you last night.”
“Oh yeah – I hate to spoil it for you, Jeans, but Tom Cruise is really, really bad in it.”
“I knew it,” Jeannie said as she went ahead, Ally taking Doc’s arm and whispering “I’ve got your back on this and so has Nell – are you all right?”
“I will be,” Doc said, “I will be.”
“Good morning Madame, Susan,” Dominique said as she entered the conference room.
“Fresh coffee over there,” Susan said as she pointed to the machine, “something tells me you need it.”
“Yeah,” Dominique said as she sat down. “The balloon has gone up, and all other suitable similes, but so far we’re managing to contain it. We don’t have much time, however.”
“I’ve already got a call in to London to chase up records on this guy, and I’m waiting for a call back from an old friend in the trade, see what they know.”
“So what exactly is the situation, Dominique?”
“Anna has something like thirty four hours to hand over records of all the contacts her agency has handled, or face public exposure for both her and Becca Morse.”
“Obviously there is no honour amongst thieves,” Madame said quietly. “What steps are you taking?”
“Information gathering today – there’s only one of the ladies I can get to during school hours, and she’s next on my list of places to visit. We need as much as we can get on Dick Burton.”
“I am having lunch today with Mandy and Juliette – I’ll see if they know anything of him from their contacts. What else?”
“Jo managed to get a copy of the contents of his laptop hard disk – Heather is working on that this morning, so once I’ve paid my visit I’ll go round and see her. One more thing – Jan is fully in on this now, and is working from her end.”
“How does she feel?”
“Relieved they kept Pepsi out of it, but I think she wants words of serious import with Anna once all this is cleaned up.”
“I think she may have to face a Brains Trust,” Madame said to herself. “Good – keep me informed. I will be here all day.”
“Madame, Susan,” Dominique said as she stood up and made her way out.
“With luck, we can clear this up before I leave,” Madame said as she sat back. “I wonder if John knows anything about him?”
“May be worth asking - he moves in the right sort of circles.”
“I’m seeing him later today – I’ll bring it up in conversation then.”
The Altamont Hotel
Tricia looked over to the bar entrance as the tall blonde haired woman walked in, wearing a designer trouser suit with a white blouse underneath. Walking over to the bar, she smiled as she sat down and said “Coffee please.”
“Coming up,” Tricia said as she poured a cup and handed it over.
“Thanks – you wouldn’t be Tricia would you?”
“You read the name tag?”
The woman smiled and said “Sorry – my name’s Caroline – Caroline Jameson.”
“Have I seen you around here before?”
“Possibly – I come in from time to time. Listen, you got a minute to talk?”
“Sure – what’s wrong?”
“It’s a private matter – can we sit over there?”
“Ger, I’m taking ten,” Tricia said as she followed Caroline over to a side booth.
“So what can I do for you, Caroline?”
“Forgive me if I am a little blunt, but time is important here. Would I be right in saying you know a lady called Angel who runs an agency called Angelic Escorts?” Dominique quizzed Tricia.
“No,” Tricia said as she fidgeted a little, “should I?”
“Please don’t play dumb with me Tricia, we both know you do. I’ve seen the website and I recognize you from the photograph on it.”
Tricia looked round and then said in a low whisper “Are you a cop?”
“No,” Caroline said, “I’m just a friend trying to help her out of a spot.”
“Yeah,” Tricia finally said, “I know Angel.”
“Has she seemed upset recently?”
“Not overly…wait when she saw that potential client last night - that guy spooked her - she looked both frightened and upset.”
“Yeah some English guy… He talked to her last night, and then he walked out, followed a minute or two later by her – and she was upset about something, I can tell you.”
Caroline took a photograph out of her inside jacket pocket and showed it to Tricia. “Is this the man?”
“Yeah that’s him…” Tricia paused for thought, “Is Angel in real trouble?”
“She might be…Tricia if this guy comes in can you ring me?”
“Sure.” She took the business card from Caroline and put it in her blouse pocket.
“Thanks – and will you take a word of advice from an older woman?”
“Sweetie, be careful on your dates – the money is not worth the risk.”
Caroline stood up and walked out, Tricia watching as she left the bar. “That is a commanding woman,” she said to herself as she returned to the bar.
“Friend of yours?”
“I hope so Ger – what can I get you, sir?”
“All right,” Doc said as she looked at the other two, “I think that’s everything set up and ready to go. Want to give it a test run?”
“Let’s see what we can do,” Becca said as she typed a command into the web address bar, and pressed enter. As the screen came up, Miss Tennant and Mrs. Hardisty looked on.
“It looks impressive, Anna – allow us to do some testing on it, and we will get back to you.”
“Can we go then Miss Tennant?”
“No – Joanne has asked if you finish early for you to report to Miss Kelly’s room. I believe she may have some work for you to do there as well.”
“Great – come on then,” Doc said as the three of them made their way down to the Math room. Opening the door, they were surprised to see Jo there as well.
“Ah good,” Annie said, “the organizing committee for Friday.”
The Richmond Mansion
“Hey,” Heather said as Dominique came in, “what’s the word?”
“Not much yet – how are things at this end?”
“A lot of encrypted files,” Heather said as she tapped the drive, “and clear evidence he keeps copies elsewhere. I’m working on both the encryption and the storage paths.”
“So he’s very careful,” Dominique said. “Which means he has something to hide. What else?”
“Really we need input from Jan and London. Jan’s checking his work permit, and Shirley is checking with the ladies for lunch.”
“Damn, I hate this part,” Dom said, “the waiting for the clues to be checked out.”
“Imagine how Anna’s feeling.”
“She’s got you organizing Friday?”
“Yeah – keeps us busy I suppose,” Becca said as she ate her lunch.
“Not hungry Doc,” Pepsi said as she looked at her friend.
“It must still be the stomach upset you had yesterday,” Ama said quietly as she looked at the blonde.
“Yeah,” Doc said as she looked over at Jo, talking to Abby and Ally. “Upset stomach – will you girls excuse me a minute?”
She stood up and walked over to where the older girls were sitting.
“Hi Doc – Bye Doc,” Abby said as she got up, “show to go to.”
“I need to go too,” Ally said, “Catch you later.”
“Jo, have you got a minute?”
“Sure,” Jo said as Ama watched, and she gave a little nod, “what’s up?”
“Jo, I’ve got a problem. Can I pose a hypothetical to you?”
“Sure – go on.”
“Suppose I knew a girl who had been, for some time, doing something she should not have, and this girl found herself as a result facing a great deal of trouble.”
“Sounds to me like this girl should seek some help if that is the case – hypothetically speaking, of course.”
“Of course. Well, let us suppose this girl did indeed tell her troubles to someone who said they would do all they could to help them. Would it be safe to assume the person who said they would help may ask for help themselves?”
“Possibly, if they felt it would take more than one person to solve the problem.”
Doc nodded, and then said “Suppose the girl who was in trouble found out other people were helping, but she had no idea they could help in that way. What would you advise that girl to do – hypothetically speaking of course?”
Jo looked long and hard at Anna, and said “hypothetically speaking, I’d tell the girl to trust the person she asked for help to get the job done, and perhaps to save any other questions for after the problem was sorted. Then she would have time to consider whether to not it is the right thing to thank those others, and what to thank them for. Does that help with your hypothetical problem?”
“Yeah – yeah it does.”
Jo smiled and said “of course, hypothetically speaking, those other people may want to discuss matters with the person when they are settled. That would be the best time.
“Now, get to class – I’m driving you round to Annie’s tonight for dinner. She’ll clear it with your mother.”
Doc nodded and left, Jo watching her carefully as Ama went after her. She also saw Pepsi watching them as they walked off.
“Still no word from London – is that good or bad?”
“Where Penny’s concerned, a little bit of both,” Lily said as Shirley came in.
"Dominique, I had lunch with Jane Molloy and some of the girls. Jane asked me if I'd heard any rumors as to the sex lives of the Morse family, and that of Tom's opponent." Madame slipped off her brown leather gloves.
"Crap,” Dominique said, “if Jane is hearing whispers we need to cauterize this now. Scandal mongers like Burton are one thing, but Jane is a whole different class of journalist."
“Agreed – I have called Juliette, and we gather at her apartment at eight tonight. Tell Annie, will you?”
The Richmond Mansion
"Hey Penny, Hey Charlotte, I wasn't expecting to
hear from you guys." Heather smiled at the video images on her computer
"Lily told us to call if anything turned up this
"And has it?"
"Yeah,” Charlotte said, “thanks to George's
contacts we were able to get intros to some old time Fleet Streeters. People who know what’s really going on."
"They have anything interesting to say?"
"Yeah," Penny laughed, "Dick Burton is
famous not for what he does write, but rather what he doesn't write."
Charlotte continued, "He'll spend weeks on a
story, tantalizing editors with tidbits, but 75% of the time he pulls a story
claiming the evidence doesn't pan out, what keeps him employed though is the
stories he does publish are usually blockbuster scandals involving the rich and
"How does that make sense?" Heather thought
deeply. "If he's that good at muckraking why pull stories?"
"Because he's getting a pay-off not to."
Sandy looked over Heather's shoulder, “he's a blackmailer, he takes a pay-off
not to proceed.”
"No wonder Jo said he was living in a house
beyond his means."
"His financials Heather…"
"I'm on it, let's see if there are any traces of who has paid him off?"
“Listen, we’re sending you something from a mutual friend – might help with the work.”
“Got it – and thanks again girls.”
“So he is a backstabbing slug,” Sandy said, “how long until you have something?”
“Let’s start with his bank account here and work from that…”
FBI Field Office.
“There is a Nicola Broadhurst to see you at the reception desk." one of her colleagues said as she stood by Jan’s desk.
“Nicola Broadhurst? Right,” Jan said, “I’ll see what she wants.”
Her legs shaking slightly, Janice walked outside the office, remembering to smile.
"Hello Pepsi,” she said, “and what brings you
Pepsi looked at her, her jacket over her uniform, and
said "I think we need to have a chat Aunt Janice."
"Oh - about what?'
"Oh just a couple of family things I want to ask
you about…I can come back later if needs be."
"No I'm free. Joanne, is that office free? Can you tell Tom I'm in there please?"
“Will do,” the receptionist said as Jan showed the young girl into the side office.
"Now, what can I really do for you Pepsi?" Jan asked as she sat down with the schoolgirl.
"Well…I think before we start I maybe need to tell
you what I know."
"Oh and that is?"
"I know you’re my Mom Janice - my birth mother, I
think I knew before you did."
The calm look in Pepsi’s eyes took her complete by surprise. "Can I ask how?" Janice fought to stay calm herself.
"The close resemblance – everyone remarked on it,
so I got Doc to see if you were a cousin or something, instead she found the
"Does that worry you?" Jan spoke slowly,
trying to make each word just right.
"No when I saw the details, how old you were, I
knew why you'd given me up for adoption."
"Well Grant and your Mom are wonderful
"I know," Nicola smiled.
"So why come to see me? Why Now?"
"Well,” Pepsi said, “Anna's in a mess and I heard
scuttlebutt you were trying to help her and the others."
"And if I was?"
"Janice they aren't going to talk to adults and
outsiders, if you have questions I'll ask them for you."
"You'd do that Pepsi?"
"To help my friends and family, what do you
She nodded slowly before saying "Well I'll think
on it, you run on and I'll maybe ring later.”
“Thanks,” Pepsi said, and then "oh - one last
thing though mom, what is my real name?"
"It's Nicola sweetie, just like your parents call
"No I mean my real name, the one YOU gave
“What makes you think I…"
"Well if you don't want to tell." Pepsi
stood up to leave.
"It's Kimberley," Janice stood up with tears
in her eyes. "I… I named you Kimberley before the nuns came."
Suddenly mother and daughter hugged and cried.
“Listen – I know Doc is going round to Ama’s tonight. Go and talk to her there, see if she will tell you what happened. Don’t feel you have to tell me everything – just what you think is important. I trust you can do that?”
“Yeah, I can do that – mom,” Pepsi said as she picked up her bag and left.
“Are you all right Jan,” Adam said as he looked in.
Taking a deep breath, Janice wiped her eyes and turned round. “Yeah – any word on Burton?”
“You might say that – come on, I’ll brief you and Tom together.”
“Hey,” Tom said as they came in, “what’s the problem?”
“Put simply,” Adam said, "Jan’s been followed by a journalist over the last two days.”
“Price of being known as Nick and Nora,” Tom said with a smile.
“Except this guy makes the National Enquirer look like the Washington Post.”
“A muck raker? Why is he following you?”
“I spoke to Caroline Jameson – she had to eject him from the recent charity Dior show because she discovered he was following Tom Morse and his family.”
“And he thinks he can find something by following Janice? He doesn’t know her, does he Jan?”
Janice shook her head, and took a deep breath before saying “I need to tell you something.”
“And that is?”
”Guys The Hidden Hand is doing some work for me."
"You asked a crook for help Jan?" Adam
"The Hand can do things that none of us can, none
of our people can."
"That's accepted, but why ask Jan?" Tom sat
on the edge of his desk.
"Because I'm hearing Burton is a blackmailer and
he's digging into my affairs as well as those of a lot of Adam's and my
"Shit - that's his crap is it? Well we know enough dirt that people would not
want to come out, up to and including Tom Morse." Adam shook his head.
"Sex, scandal, even a little insider trading," Janice looked directly at Adam. "It could be a gold mine if someone was ruthless enough."
“So we need to find out what he knows, without him knowing,” Tom said. “I don’t like it, but you’re right – he is the one to find out.”
"The Hand can investigate where he stashes his ill-gotten, and his evidence. I know what the Hand will do is not legal, I prefer to think of it more as justice." Jan looked at her two male colleagues.
“The worst thing about people like him is they think they’re untouchable,” Adam said quietly, “bring him down.”
“If the Hand finds anything we can use, they will pass it on. They said, and I quote ‘you are owed that much.’”
“Thanks for inviting me round,” Doc said as she sat with Ama on the seats, “I’m not sure what I would do otherwise. Where’s Caroline?”
“Out – she should be back soon though,” Annie called through from the kitchen.
“How are you feeling now Doc,” Ama said quietly.
“Scared as anything – but also happy someone else knows. Does that sound weird?”
“No, I believe I understand,” Ama said. “The first day I was free of my bondage, I felt as if I could do nothing – but I trusted the people who rescued me to make sure I was safe and put things right. If I could trust them, perhaps you can trust Caroline to do the same for you.”
Annie watched from the kitchen as Anna nodded slowly, then looked to the stairs as Caroline came up.
“Hey, what’s cooking?”
“Tuna pasta bake – how was your day?”
“Long.” Caroline said as she looked at Anna. “Two things I need to tell you before I do anything. First, I spoke to Tricia – she is going to call me if Burton shows up at the Altamont, and she’s worried about you as well.”
“I’m worried about me – but thanks. What about the others?”
“Ally is keeping an eye on Nell, the others know nothing of what’s happened yet.” Caroline sat down and accepted a mug of coffee. “The other thing is Jane Morrow has heard rumours – we’re taking steps to try and squash them, but it means we need to deal with Burton once and for all by this time tomorrow.”
“Ama says I should trust you – and she’s not the only one.”
“Please, trust me – we’re going to sort this out. Now, after dinner, Annie and I need to go out for a while, so you stay here with Ama.”
“Pepsi called – she’s going to come around as well. She also said to tell you she went to see Janice this afternoon.”
“Did she now,” Caroline said. “Good – Anna, can you call your mom and say I’ll run you back later tonight. I want to talk to you when we come back in. We may have to ask you to do something very brave tomorrow – but if we do, it will be to end this, cleanly, once and for all.”
“I’ll do anything to keep the others safe,” Doc said, as Caroline saw the fire in her eyes.
“Good – now, why don’t we relax for a while until dinner’s ready. Ama – I feel the need for stupidity. Can we watch And Now For Something Completely Different?”
The Astoria Waldorf
"Angel darling," Diana embraced her old
"Hey Angel I heard you did the Fashion Kollektiv
show this morning." Abby waved a hand as the hairdresser put her long
blonde hair up into curlers.
"Yeah, Missy phoned, a girl pulled out at the
"Well that's a great way to boost your
reputation, showing up when someone else doesn't." Abby smiled at her own
"Okay into the chair," another hairdresser
beckoned Angel, "And you sweetie," The tall redhead turned round.
"Hey Maggie," both the other young models
smiled, "Your first show?"
"Yes and my butterflies are huge, It’s nice to
see your two friendly faces though."
"It's probably why Missy booked you for here, so you’d have moral support round you."
The Huntingdown Apartment
“You’re kidding me? He’d stoop to threatening a kid to get what he needed?”
"He's probably trawling through all our lives now, looking for bits that link us to Doc, bits that he thinks we might pay to have suppressed." Juliette talked to her daughter on the screen.
"He has to go and so do his files." Carina looked serious, "I’ll make sure he disappears as soon as Heather is sure we haven't missed anything."
"No darling one of us will do the job, but it will be someone remote from his gaze and who can't possibly be implicated."
“Who do you have in mind?”
“I have a couple of ideas, but I don’t want to say anything until – hold on.”
From New Haven, Carina watched as her mother went for a moment, and then returned with Janice.
“Hey Carina – your mom told you what’s going on?”
“The bare bones – I’m waiting to hear from the others.”
“Diana and Abby can’t make it – they have Mandy and Angel at a show – but Diana knows what’s happened, and is ready to go with whatever we decide.”
“I presume we’re keeping Abby out of this one?”
Juliette nodded. “She needs to be told later, but not yet – she needs to be the supermodel this week, not Miss Tigress.”
Jan disappeared for a minute, returning with Jo, Sandy and Heather.
“How did your digging go,” Janice said.
“Very fruitful, I’ll explain when the others get here.”
“I’ll let them in,” Jo said as she went to the door, returning with Annie and Dom.
“Hi lover – sorry to drag you away from work,” Annie said as she looked at Carina on the screen.
“I was packing a bag for tomorrow anyway – I may have to include some extra things,” Carina said quietly.
“First, we need to collect what we know – Hi Shirley.”
“Good evening,” Shirley said in her rich voice as she came in. “I hope I’m not too late?”
“Nope – we’ll get started in a minute.” Juliette handed round some drinks, before Shirley said “How is Anna Dominique?”
“Scared – but very calm. It’s as if someone – no several people told her to trust me.”
“Ama is with her.”
“And Pepsi – she called and said she was coming.”
“My doing – she came to see me at the office today.”
Heather looked at Janice, who said quietly “she knows – Doc found out and told her.”
“Goddess, how are you?”
“I’m good – but she said she may be able to get more than any of us could. Hopefully, between her and Ama, we can find out what she hasn’t told us already.”
“Like why she did it?”
Janice nodded. “So what do we know?”
“Oh Burton’s a blackmailer all right,” she said quietly. “I finally cracked his encryption, and the files are full of all sorts of tasty secrets of a lot of famous people. Some of which – well, let’s just say royalty is in there.”
“You’re not going to tell?”
“Nope - not my place or my style. I did find his secure storage dump however, and there are no other copies I know of. I have a couple of little surprises waiting for correct application, both to his laptop and his store.”
“Scorched earth.” She handed Janice and Shirley two lists. “These are the people on the files – once this is done, someone should tell them the threat has been lifted.”
“There are ways we can do this, “ Shirley said.
“From our viewpoint, when whatever happens happens, I can say the Hand gave us this information and we can make discrete enquiries.”
“The same Scorched Earth policy needs to apply to his house,” Heather said as she looked at Juliette.
“Leave that to Susan and my team,” Shirley said, “once we have access, we can go and strip a place in an hour.”
“Which leaves the question of Mister Burton himself,” Juliette said. “I think we’re all agreed he has to be taken out?”
She looked round, nobody dissenting.
“Mom has pointed out it can’t be one of us – he may already have looked into our lives.”
The group looked at Shirley. “I’m far enough removed – and we pitch it that he has stumbled through his grubby little digging into my secret. It would not be the first time someone has disappeared looking into the affairs of Madame X.”
“But you’re not a real killer Shirley.”
“I don’t need to be – Dom, will Anna help?”
“I believe she will.”
“Good – let us talk this through…”
Eventually, Juliette said “that will work – we just need to get him.”
“Then let’s do it – we need a go signal.”
"It's good you didn't book a show to walk these
last two nights Dom."
"I know, but I'm doing the Pamela Rolland show
tomorrow evening, so everyone needs to remember that."
"Carina's in town tomorrow to do the Betsey Johnson
Show…so she'll be free if we need her particular skills.”
"Most of our group so to speak is either working or watching the DKNY show tomorrow at 1.00 maybe we can co-ordinate round that?" Dominique asked.
“Agreed – we meet after the show and confirm timings.”
“Here,” Ama said as she handed Pepsi and Anna a bottle, and sat with one herself.
“Thanks,” Anna said as she sat with the bottle in her hands.
“Anna, can I ask a blunt question?”
“Yeah – I can guess what it is, but go on.”
“What the hell have you got yourself into, girl?”
“Oh god, Pepsi, you really don’t want to know…”
“Anna, you’re my friend – I want to help if I can but if you won’t tell me…”
“Well,” Doc said as she started to cry, “I’ve been whoring since that night with Caroline, when we all did it. And I’m not the only one – Becca, Nikki, Nell Rochermann, others – we’ve all been doing it.”
Pepsi looked at Ama, who was sitting saying
nothing. "Why Anna?" Pepsi
whispered, "I understood for a few kicks and to earn some extra money for
Christmas presents…but why go on?"
"Because it's powerful, the mix of sex and money,
and trying to outwit the system…"
"But the risks?” Ama said as she sipped her drink.
"I thought I could handle them, I thought I was smart enough to manage the risk factor. That’s why I set up the agency."
“Doc is talking about Angelic Escorts,” Ama said, and as Doc turned to look at her Ama said “Caroline told me last night – she felt it important that I understood. Do not be mad at her, Anna – Pepsi is right that we cannot help if we do not know.”
“Yeah – I get that now,” Anna said as she took the tissue from Pepsi and dried her eyes. “I guess I just got so into it, the power it gave me that I didn’t see the risks I was running. You’d think that business with Stevens would have taught me a lesson.”
“What business with Stevens?” Pepsi looked at Ama, who shook her head and said “a story for another time, Pepsi. Doc, you need to tell Pepsi what happened last night.”
Nodding, Doc told Pepsi about Burton, the threats and the information he wanted.
“Good god,” Pepsi finally said as she held Doc’s hand, “no wonder you’ve not been yourself. Do the other girls know?”
“No – wait, Caroline spoke to the barmaid at the Altamont, so she knows something is up, but not exactly what. I haven’t told any of the others – especially Becca. I can’t tell her what he wants with the information about her.”
“Becca? Why Becca?”
“She’s been spending a lot of time lately escorting Albert Brooks.”
“Albert Brooks? The guy standing against her dad in the election? He hasn’t recognized her when they met?”
“Would you if she was dolled up? I swear, if he did anything to hurt her or her family…”
“I can understand that feeling for revenge,” Ama said quietly, “but it can consume and destroy. Trust me – I also felt the same way about those who brought me here, but others stepped in.”
"A couple of times I've thought the solution
might lie in this." Anna got her gun from her bag.
"And what the hell kind of solution is killing
yourself?" Pepsi asked in a panic.
"No, not killing me, killing that bastard
"That is a solution Anna, but have you thought
out all the consequences?" Ama asked carefully.
"How do you know where his evidence is? Has he already
shared it? I can think of other questions." Pepsi spoke gravely.
"I know - it's when I worked that out that I
walked away." Doc didn’t mention
the other people she had seen as well – that was a question for later, but as
she looked at Ama, she suspected she knew a lot more as well.
"And how the hell have you got a gun
anyway?" Pepsi look befuddled.
brought it in a pawn shop using my false id."
"You passed the background checks?" Ama
"With the amount of flesh I was flashing, I think
he waived doing any real check." Doc giggled at the memory. "Men
really can be led round by their balls you know."
"You are incorrigible." both Ama and Pepsi
“I know – but you see why I was drawn in? To know I could have that power over any man without really trying?”
“Oh I see the temptation,” Pepsi said. “I just think there are alternatives – and hopefully you are beginning to see that as well.”
“Yeah – I just hope it’s not too late,” Doc said as she sat back.
"You realize that Caroline and Janice are taking
a lot of risks to save you?" Ama asked.
"I know." suddenly Doc looked serious.
"They obviously have resources I never dreamed of."
"Well don't let them down, tell them honestly what's been going on and why." Pepsi spoke. "I told Mom Janice that you might talk to me, are there any things I should know and be telling her?"
“We need to protect Becca – I can tell her all the times she went out with Brooks, and hope she can close that side of things. If she wants the records, I’ll voluntarily give them to her, but she must keep Becca safe. I’ll take whatever’s coming.”
“Nothing will be coming your way, Anna,” Ama said quietly. “Whatever you may have done, you are the victim here – and we need to protect you as well.
“And we will, with all we have. On this you have my word.”
Doc looked at Ama, and nodded as the three girls hugged each other.
“I need to go a place – want another drink when I come out?”
“Please,” Ama said as Pepsi headed for the bathroom.
“Ama – while she’s out of the room, I need to ask you a question. You don’t have to answer it, but I have to ask it.”
“Do you know why your mom and Annie would have wanted to break into Burton’s house, or why Janice and Jo would have beaten them to it?”
Ama smiled, and said “If I did know, and I do not say I do, then I would not say, because I would wish to protect mom.”
“Yeah – somehow I figured you would say that,” Doc said quietly as Pepsi came back.
“We’re back,” Caroline said as she and Annie came in.
“Hey mom,” Ama said as she stood up, “I’ll clear things up.”
“I need to get home,” Pepsi said as she stood up.
“Thanks,” Doc said as she hugged Pepsi, “for listening.”
“Hey, that’s what friends are for,” she said as she grabbed her coat and headed out.
“Doc, before we take you home, earlier I said we may need to ask you to do something very brave. Would you be willing to do that for us still?”
“What do you want me to do?”
“We need Angel to make one more appearance, and then to disappear forever. I’ll tell you more tomorrow, but if you do this for us, it will be over by this time tomorrow.”
Doc nodded as she looked at the two women. How on earth would a security consultant and part-time model, never mind a math teacher, bring this to an end where everyone was kept clean and out of it?
“Good – I’ll drive you home now, so get your coat – and try to get some sleep tonight.”
“Hey – have a good time at Ama’s?”
“Yeah,” Pepsi said as she looked at her parents, “but I need to get to bed. I’ll see you in the morning.”
As she went to her room, Pepsi sat on her bed for a moment, before she dialed a number on her cell phone.
“Aunt Janice, it’s Pepsi.”
“I hoped you would call – how is Doc?”
“Scared – for others more than herself, I think. She told me everything that has happened – and she said to tell you her main concern is for Becca.”
“I can understand that – anything else?”
“She’s willing to give you dates and times for when Becca met Brooks – and she’ll take whatever’s coming.”
“Pepsi, when you see her tomorrow, say thanks – and she’s not in trouble in that way. Well done.”
“Thanks – mom.”
She ended the call and started to get changed, hoping she had done the right thing.
Thursday 19th February
“Ready for school Ama?”
“Yes, mom,” Ama said as she grabbed her bag, and then stopped.
“Mom, Doc said last night if I knew why you, Annie, Joanne and Janice would be at the house this Burton person lives in.”
Dominique put down her muffin and said “what did you say?”
“I said even if I knew, I would not say so.”
“Okay,” Dom said, “Thanks for telling me. It may be we have to let young Anna in on a few secrets – just be ready for that.”
“Got it,” Ama said as a car horn sounded, “see you later.”
“I knew she was a bright kid,” Dom thought to herself before heading to the bathroom.
FBI Field Office
“Hey,” Adam said as Janice came in, “you look dressed to impress today?”
“I have a lunchtime fashion show to attend, but I need to nip this Burton thing in the bud. The Hand came through.”
“In what way?”
“I received a list of names from them that Burton has apparently blackmailed. Most are UK based, but there are a few in the US – I’m going to have a word with Jane Morrow later this morning to see if she has heard any rumours about them.”
“See if we have anything to move on. What about financial records?”
“The Hand says they will be forthcoming.”
“Maybe we should just pay him a visit?”
“No, Adam – you may end up losing your temper. We need to play this quiet.”
Adam slowly nodded as Jan’s telephone rang. “Great – can you tell him I’ll be there at ten please?”
“The Hand has told me one very particular thing that I need to deal with. Trust me on this one Adam – you’re well out of it.”
Doc took out her cell phone and looked at the message.
“7 pm tonight, Altamont, or else. Burton.”
“Is it from him,” Ama whispered as Doc put the phone away. She nodded in response before Mrs. Mueller began to teach about verbs.
The Richmond Mansion
“He’s just contacted her,” Heather said as she checked her laptop.
“Contacted who,” April said as she came in with Sandy.
“Curt – Jo said she would send a message if he confirmed he was coming this weekend,” Heather said as she closed her laptop.
“We’re just going to grab some coffee and then head to the study,” Sandy said as she went to the machine, “want a fresh pot?”
“Please,” Heather said with a smile. “So who’s minding the shop today April?”
“Believe it or not, I’ve taken on two assistants. The extra work with Sandy is bringing in enough to do that, never mind the extra orders we’ve had.”
“Glad to hear it,” Heather said as Sandy handed April a mug.
“Come on – let’s discuss the ideas,” Sandy said as they left the kitchen, and Heather opened her laptop again.
Brooks Campaign HQ
“Mister Brooks? Janice Carter to see you.”
“Show her in,” Albert Brooks said as Jan was shown in. He looked at her, her long ash blonde hair falling over her leather blouson jacket, itself over a tight red dress, and her red high heels.
“Thank you for seeing me this morning Mister Brooks, I appreciate it.”
“Not at all Agent Carter – I hope this is not a formal visit?”
“Not at all – I just wanted to check a few facts with you about something we’re working on. Of course, if you would rather have your attorney present, we can postpone until then…”
“No, I don’t think I have anything to hide, how can I help you?”
“Well – I am afraid this question may seem a little personal, but the people carrying out the vetting on you have concerns about a young lady you have been seen with recently. They asked me to call and get an assurance from you that there was nothing untoward in the relationship.”
“I can assure you there is not – why, has a question being raised?”
“Against you? No – but there have been reports that a number of agencies in the city may have inadvertently been using women who are under the legal age of consent. You know how difficult it can be to tell at times?”
Janice smiled as she saw Brooks blanch slightly, before he regained his composure and said “I know – it can be very difficult to tell. However, the young lady in question and I have parted on good terms, and I can assure you nothing untoward happened.”
“Well, I am sure the agency will be pleased to hear me report that back. They may wish to talk to her however – do you have a contact number for her?”
She watched as Brooks scribbled a number on a piece of paper and handed it to her. “Thank you Mister Brooks – I will let you know if…”
“No – no that won’t be necessary. I can be assured that if she confirms my story, nothing more need be said about it?”
“You have my personal guarantee, Mister Brooks.”
“Good – and tell her I wish her all the best for the future.”
“I’ll pass that message on. Thank you again for the time, Mister Brooks, and good luck in the election.”
Janice shook his hand and walked out, as his aide walked in.
“Everything all right, sir?”
“Yeah,” he said as he wiped his brow, “I think it is anyway. What’s next?”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Hi mom,” Carina said as she came in, placing Judith on the floor in front of the couch as she waved her arms round.
“Good timing,” Juliette said as she came through, “we just have time to grab a coffee before we go to the DKNY show.” She sat down and played with her granddaughter while Carina went to fetch the coffee.
“So what’s the word?”
“Jan is working the Jane Malloy angle, and also taking care of half the Becca problem. Doc is giving her what she needs to clean that up. As for Burton – Heather has just about identified everything.”
“What’s she planning?”
“Well, I’m told she was sore tempted to flood his laptop with stuff the police would find interesting, but Shirley talked her out of it. Instead, we’re going to do something a little riskier, but just as interesting with Shirley’s help.”
“And do I get a say in the matter?”
“Not this time – and besides, you’re forgetting that Klaus and Ingrid fly in today. He’s already booked dinner for us.”
“So all of us he could possibly have something on are busy today and tonight.”
“Yup – but he will still get what’s coming, with a little help from some friends.” Juliette stood up as the doorman rang, saying “send her up” in reply.
“Hey Holly,” Carina said as her friend came in, “ready for some fun this afternoon?”
The New Calabria Bar
“Hi Jane,” Janice said as Jane Malloy came in, “thanks for meeting me here.”
“Any time,” Jane said as Annie brought over two coffees. “So what can I do for you?”
“Well,” Janice said, “I was visiting Shirley last night, and she said you had been asking her and the others if they had heard anything about Tom and Clare Morse?”
“Oh it’s just a silly thing,” Jane said, “I heard on the grapevine that someone was digging around the Morse family, trying to dig up dirt.”
“Well,” Janice said, “in confidence, the Bureau has been informed that someone who has been suspected of blackmailing prominent figures has been digging around, trying to find something. There is nothing – both Tom and his opponent have been vetted – but that doesn’t seem to stop some people.”
“Really? Anyone I know?”
“No comment,” Janice said, “but the Hand has asked me to inform you that they may pass some information in the near future, should it prove to be true what has been communicated to us. Information you are free to follow up at your leisure.”
“In return for spiking the story?”
“In return for spiking the story.”
“Well, I hoped it wasn’t true anyway,” Jane said with a smile, “I like Tom and Clare.”
“Thanks,” Jan said as Tommy slipped into the back office, and opened his laptop.
“Good morning Tommy, this is Miss Lioness,” he read on the screen as he went on the secure net.
“Good morning Miss Lioness, how may I help you today?”
“I wish to ask a small favour of you Tommy – off the books as it were. Are you free tonight for an hour or so?”
The DKNY show
“Abigail de Ros and Lily Cole both are wearing…”
The audience clapped as Abby and Lily walked up and down the catwalk, Shirley sitting with Susan and Lily in the front row, Diana with Missy and others on the other side.
“It was good of Tennant to give the girls time off today,” Missy said to Diana.
“Well, it’s in return for you giving them tomorrow afternoon off to attend the party,” Diana whispered back as they left the stage.
“Hey – they worked their socks off this week, they deserve down time,” Missy said with a smile. “Besides, I’m talking to Ingrid tomorrow.”
“That should be fun,” Carina said as she pointed to the stage for Judith, who was wearing a new sun dress. “Look – there’s Aunty Kate now.”
“How was your morning,” Sandy whispered as Janice slipped in beside her.
“Productive – hopefully I’ve scared Brooks into quiet, and I’ve headed Jane off with a promise of a bigger story.”
“Well done,” Heather whispered from the other side.
“How about your end?”
“I’ll tell you over lunch – Shirley has invited us all to a private dining room.”
“Sounds good to me,” Janice said as they watched the show.
“I have to tell Donna this collection is amazing.” Sandy whispered in Shirley’s ear.
“Do you think she could make me up the dress Juliette is modeling in that fabric I was admiring earlier?”
“You can but try.”
“I must admit I put a note against the dress Caroline wore,” Janice spoke, “I think my legs are good enough to wear that skirt length.”
“More then good enough.” Carina smiled.
“Now that is nice.” Shirley watched as a model came down the runway in a tailored
suit in aubergine…”Oh is that young Angel modeling it?”
“It is…and I want that suit as well.” Carina made a note on her programme.
“Not many shows you see mother and daughter walking.” Sandy smiled.
“I just wish Aunt Donna had invited me to walk, would have made it two pairs.”
“Tall enough…” Carina rolled her eyes and said “please don’t rub it in Sandy.”
“I can’t thank you enough for inviting me,” Holly said. “Gives me some ideas for later.”
“Betsey wants different – but it does give you a good idea.”
“That suit is very similar, I love the forest green.” Shirley made another note.
“That’s Mags wearing it, that practice with Mary has paid off, she has a great walk.” Sandy looked intently.
"Okay Jeannie, the pose we rehearsed." The
show manager said as he ushered Jeannie onto stage.
"Showtime" Jeannie whispered as she wheeled
"She has amazing legs."
"Nigel I'll tell Colin on you." Abby
chastised the man.
"Bitch…" he grinned, "Even I'm allowed
to at least admire."
"Of course you are Nigel."
"Alright you are on darling."
"Wish me luck." Abigail walked out, stopped then started walking slowly down the catwalk, high fiving Jeannie as they passed.
"Well I hope my husband is having a good month
because when Donna's collection goes on sale I'm buying virtually
everything." Tonia laughed as she sat down.
"Someone ring Roy and tell him to cancel her
credit cards." Sandy grinned.
"Well I saw a few things I liked." Shirley
eased into her chair. "It was the best show I've seen this week."
"I like the fact she designs for the woman who
can afford her clothes, not just teenagers." Pussy sat down next to her
"Well I predict the suits, the aubergine and
green ones will be big hits." Heather glanced up from her cell phone.
"For sure." Kelly Rochermann nodded.
"I want that blue dress to wear election
night." Clare Morse spoke.
"Party colors Clare?" Tonia smiled again.
"I guess so."
"So how is electioneering going?" asked
"Tiring as always…getting nasty as well, people
starting to ask questions about my family."
"Oh?" Sandy's ears shot up.
"Tom read the riot act to the girls online this morning, warning them they need behave spotlessly."
“Did you ever doubt they would?”
“No – but he’s very sensitive. Even Bobbi is keeping a low profile. Doesn’t help that Brooks is playing the mom and apple pie family line.”
“Well, if I could vote, he would have mine,” Shirley said with a smile.
"You looked amazing girls." Karen sat with a
few friends as they relaxed backstage.
"Hey I didn't know you were here Sweets."
Juliette kissed her.
"I slipped in backstage."
"So why are you in New York."
"I came down for my monthly check-up with Helen."
"At my age, first baby, and well you know my history of substance abuse, I'm taking no chances."
"So nothing wrong?"
"Touch wood…baby is doing fine."
"What did you make of the clothes Darling?" Mandy
asked with her English aristocratic drawl.
"Well up to Donna's standards, I wish I'd been
able to join you all out there."
"So what do you make of my daughter?"
"She's learning fast, I thought she looked poised
"On the outside darling, inside she was a ball of
"Bats take very good care of this lady."
Juliette hugged Karen.
"I know. No busting the speed limits as I drive
home." Alice looked proudly at her best friend.
"Did you enjoy yourself?" Abigail asked.
"Yeah, I always did love walking Donna's shows, and I know she knows that I'm professional enough to separate myself as model and designer."
“All right,” Shirley said as the women gathered in a quiet room, “report.”
“I think I’ve tracked down where everything has gone, but I need confirmation,” Heather said. “Much as I wish it were not necessary, Cari…”
“Say no more – I’ll head to the farm and prepare after the show.”
“I have however, traced his accounts and confirmed when large payments were made and how. All cash, but it seems to match dates of spiked stories.”
“If we take him down?”
“The accounts get mysteriously drained and large donations to several charities.”
Shirley nodded and said “Janice?”
“I saw Brooks – I think he got the message. I’ve also promised Jane a favour in return for not pursuing the Morse line.”
“Good – Dom?”
“Anna’s ready – I just haven’t told her everything that is going to happen.”
“Good – we need that look on her face. Once the plan is in motion, Susan has a team ready to clear his house.”
“We need everything packed and catalogued, Susan.”
“Don’t worry – we have a crack team on it,” Susan said.
“What about the girls?”
“I’m leaving that to Jo – right, I think we are ready to do what needs to be done. Cari, I wish you to take someone with you as well.”
“Who? And do they need blindfolded?”
“No – I’ll explain privately.”
"There is one thing we haven't thought
about," Heather said quietly. "While we are trying to decipher Doc's
activities, what odds she's not doing the same in reverse."
"I know it had occurred to me as well."
“Ama told me today she saw Annie and me outside the house the other night,” Caroline said quietly.
“Which is why we need to do what we’re doing. I think we need to be prepared to answer some of her questions – but I want it to be me who does it.”
“Are you sure you want this, Shirley?”
“Before we talk to the other girls, yes.”
“All right – but Jo and I need to talk to her tomorrow as well.”
"I was thinking about it as I was being got ready
at the show." Juliette spoke quietly. "Anna is a game player. She
likes to calculate ways to beat the system for her own pleasure and
"She likes playing chess, but with real live
"Exactly Shirley, all the Nuns she recruited as
whores, were really just pawns to move round the board."
"Do you think she really cares about
people?" Caroline asked.
"If I didn't I wouldn't be going to such efforts
to save her, but she has the recklessness of youth." Shirley smiled
"She needs an apprenticeship in crime where she
gets used to both taking orders occasionally and learning to be a team
"As always Juliette gets to the heart of the matter." Madame looked round.
“Then it is time to start bringing her in?”
“Agreed, Dom – now let’s get back to the others. And good luck to all of you.”
The Carlton Home
Anna went up to her room and sat at her desk, thinking over the questions she still had. Grabbing a pen, she opened her pad to a fresh page and tried to clear her mind.
"Okay let me think this out logically - who links
Anna started making notes on her pad.
"I know that Jo, Miss Kelly, Caroline, and Janice are linked," she thought aloud, as she wrote their names on the pad.
"Who else?" She paused. "Well, Ama and Pepsi link in through their mom's and each knows more than she's telling me."
She wrote Ama and Pepsi’s name down and drew lines from them to Caroline.
“Right - Jo is so close to her sister, who is Miss Richmond's girlfriend…No way she keeps secrets from them I think." She wrote Heather Smith and Sandy Richmond on the pad next to Jo and drew lines to her and each other.
"So who do they lead to? Well, Miss Kelly is linked to Caroline and Jo, and she teaches all of us – nah, none of the others fit, so scratch that. Janice is linked to Pepsi, but not to the other three – not directly.
“On the other hand – Jo is friends with Abby, and Abby’s mother links back to Sandy Richmond.”
So she added Abby and Diana de Ros to the pad and linked them to Jo and Sandy.
“Now, Caroline does security work for Juliette, but she also knows some of the people who work for Shirley Xavier – Susan in particular. So we add her – and through her Shirley Xavier.”
She added those names and lines, and then sat back.
“Let’s see – if we have Jo, and we have Abby, what about the third member of the trio, as Ally puts it – Cari Huntingdown, who is going out with Annie as well.”
She added Carina’s name, and then Juliette’s, adding lines from them to everyone else.
“And Adam, Janice’s partner, is a godparent to Judith, as is Judy and Mary Thomas.”
She added their names in, and then looked at the pad.
“No – I cannot see Jude and Mary being involved in anything like this, I just can’t.”
Scratching their names out, she then thought some more.
“What about Ally? She gives us lifts, and is Nell’s sister, but… Better in than out,” she said as she added Nell’s name and the links.
“Okay – I know there’s a myriad of social links,” Doc said to herself, “but I think I’ve got the core here. Am I missing any links?”
She drew more lines on the page, linking names to names, until she had what resembled a spider web on the page.
“What am I missing when I look at this,” she mumbled to herself as there was a knock on the door.
“Anna? Joanne Smith is on the phone for you. Can you come down please?”
“Okay mom,” Anna said as she put her pad into a drawer and locked it, before she came down and took the receiver.
“Hey Jo – what’s up?”
“Hi Doc – I just wanted to remind you I’m picking you up at six, before I pick up the other girls for the bowling night. Your mum said you forgot to tell her.”
“Yeah – sorry mom,” Anna said as she looked at her mother.
“Will you be late back?”
“Jo, will I be late back?”
“Tell your mom I’ll get you back safely.”
“All right – you’d better get changed and get something to eat.”
“Thanks mom,” Anna said, and then she whispered “Is this for Caroline?”
“It is – she told me what you’re going to do, so I’m going to get you there. She’ll be watching.”
“All right, I’ll be ready,” Anna said as she replaced the receiver. Jo was at the centre of this, of that Doc was certain – but what of the others?
Anna waved to her mother as she got into Jo’s jeep, her shoulder bag by her side.
“So what happens now?” she asked as she put her seatbelt on.
“I’m going to take you to Caroline’s to get ready – are you?”
“Yeah – I want this over and done with.”
“Good – just follow Caroline’s instructions, and you’ll be just fine.”
“Do you trust her as well?”
“Implicitly,” Jo said as they drove off.
The Altamont Hotel
Tricia looked up as Dick Burton walked in, wearing a grey suit and an open collared shirt. Walking up to the bar, he said “whisky neat.”
“Coming up,” Tricia said as she poured the drink, and placed it in front of him. “Planning a quiet evening tonight?”
“No – I hope to be very busy later,” Burton said with a smile before he took the drink to a corner, not noticing as Tricia took out a cell phone.
“Miss Jameson? This is Tricia at the Altamont, you said to call when he came in?
“Well, he just arrived.
“All right – I’ll do what you ask.”
She ended the call and served another customer, watching to see what happened next.
“It’s time,” Caroline said, “and I need to go first. Jo, are you ready?”
Jo nodded as she looked at Anna. “You ready?”
“I am,” Anna said as she adjusted her halter neck, and smoothed down her skirt.
“Then remember – do as I said, and trust us. I will see you later.”
As Caroline left, Jo put her hand on Anna’s shoulder.
“Let’s do this,” she said, Ama watching as they left.
Tricia looked to the door as Angel walked in, smiling as she approached the bar.
“My usual please Tricia,” she said as she sat on a bar stool. Watching as Tricia mixed the martini and handed it over, she smiled as she sipped the drink.
“Wonderful as always Tricia,” she purred. “Time to go to work, however. Thank you – for this and for everything.”
“Angel,” Tricia said quietly, “what’s going on?”
“It’s better you don’t know – but as I said, thank you
Slipping off the stool, she walked over to where Dick Burton was sitting.
“Good evening Mister Burton – I am here as requested.”
“So I see, Angel – I trust you have come to a decision?”
“I have – and I am not prepared to put my friends and their families at risk, so I will give you what you want.”
“That’s a good girl,” Burton said with a smile, “so where are they?”
“I have the files in a room upstairs – why don’t you come with me, now, and you can collect them before getting the hell out of my life. Angelic Escorts has ceased trading.”
“Fair enough,” Burton said as he drained his drink. “Show me.”
Angel finished her drink and waited for Burton to stand up, before they walked out of the bar, Angel turning and smiling at Tricia as they headed for the lifts. She pressed the lift button, smiling at Burton before she felt a hand grabbing her arm, and a cold disk against her back.
“Don’t make a sound, dear,” a male voice with a British accent said, “you and Mister Burton here are going to come with us, so step into the lift and press for Basement level 2.”
She turned to see a grey haired man, dressed in a smart suit, holding Burton’s arm, and caught a glimpse of a gun in his hand pressed into the man’s side.
“What the hell is this about,” Burton said as they were marched into the lift, and turned round. Glancing to her side, she saw a second man, this one with graying hair and wearing dark glasses.
“You should have listened to my employer when he warned you not to mess with him,” the man said as the lift went down, “now he wants to talk to you.”
“Look, I have no idea what you want with him,” Angel said, “but you don’t need me.”
“Oh you’re coming too – can’t have anyone asking where he’s gone,” the man said, as Burton stared at him.
“Simpson? George Simpson? What the hell are you doing in the US?”
“Working,” George said as they walked out of the lift into the car park, where a black car was waiting. Angel saw a woman with short dark hair, wearing a pair of glasses and dressed in a dark skirt and jacket with a white blouse, staring straight ahead by the door.
“Hands behind your back,” George said, “now.” As Angel did this, she felt a plastic strip forcing her wrists together, and then she was turned round and a strip of plaster pressed firmly over her mouth. She barely had time to see Burton being secured and gagged as well before a black hood was pulled over her head, and she felt herself being lifted up, and laid in what she presumed was the trunk of the car before her ankles were pulled together.
The thump told her the trunk had been shut, before she heard more commotion, and then felt the car move off. “What the hell just happened,” she said, unable to do much except pray this was part of the plan.
“Miss Lioness said to give you her thanks,” George said as he shook the other man’s hand. “All will be well now.”
“Not a problem,” Tommy said, “what will happen to da gurl?”
“Nothing – it was necessary, and all will be explained to her. Can I buy youse – sorry, you a drink?”
“Why not,” Tommy said as he and George walked back to the lift.
The Huntingdown Apartment
“A pity Carina is not able to join us,” Klaus said as he say with Ingrid and Juliette, ”but I understand perfectly. After being away so much in the last few weeks, her tutors are going to start to insist she attends such things as evening focus groups.”
“I know – but at least she will be here tomorrow first thing,” Juliette said with a smile. “Did you have a pleasant flight over?”
“It was acceptable – perhaps I should be like Shirley and buy a private jet?”
“Can you afford such an extravagance?”
“Of course not,” Ingrid said, “but at times, especially when going through Frankfurt…”
“Well, you get to relax after talking to Missy tomorrow,” Juliette said, “so focus on surviving that first.”
Doc felt the car stop, and kept still as she heard whatever she was in open, and then felt her ankles separate. She was helped to stand and made to walk, hearing the crunch of dirt and stones under her feet, and then the click of her heels on wood before she was made to sit down.
“Hrrmmee,” she mumbled, feeling the tape pulling on the skin around her lips as she heard feet receding, and then a door closing. She sat still, wondering what was going on, before the hood was pulled off her head and she blinked in the strong light.
“I’m sorry we had to do that, Anna – but it was absolutely essential you reacted as if you had no idea what was going on.”
She stared at Jo, still wearing her jeans and sweater, and then at Janice as she stood there in a skirt and blouse, before they looked at each other. She then yelped as Janice pulled the tape away, while Jo went behind her and cut the zip tie away from her wrists.
“Wh… You knew this was going to happen Jo? And where the hell am I?”
She looked round the kitchen she had found herself in, before staring back at the other two.
“Not important,” Jo said as she passed Doc a bottle of water, “what is important is that you did what Caroline asked, and as a result Janice, I and others can deal with the problem you had, once and for all.”
“Who… Who were the two men?”
“Friends of Caroline,” Janice said, “and be grateful they did what they did. I know they probably terrified you, but perhaps – just perhaps – the fright will do you some good.”
Doc felt the slight dampness between her legs, but said nothing as she said “so the whole thing was staged to get Burton – but why?”
“He’d started asking questions about some people we know,” Jo said, “and we have a lot of evidence to suggest you are not the first he has blackmailed. All in all, we felt inviting him for a little chat was the best way forward.”
“A little chat? With who…”
Doc stared as a small, well built woman dressed in a black leather cat suit, and wearing a full head leather mask, walked past, nodding to all three of them but not saying a word as she walked out.
“Let me put it this way,” Janice said, “Dick Burton will never hurt or bother you or anyone else again. Beyond that – and think carefully on this – do you want to know any more?”
Doc looked at both of them, and then said “no – no, I don’t think I want to.”
“Good – now, we need you to go back to Caroline’s place, where she is waiting to talk to you.”
“Are… Are you going to take me?”
“No – but Janice and I will see you tomorrow, and someone will talk to all the girls except Tricia – on which point?”
Jan handed Doc her purse, waiting as she opened it and handed her a stick.
“Is this everything? I will know if you lie.”
“Yes – that’s everything.”
“Good – Annie?”
Doc stood up and turned as the dark haired woman came in and smiled.
“We need to blindfold you, Anna, but that is all.”
“I knew it – I knew I saw all four of you. What’s really going on?”
“Never mind for now, Anna – let Annie blindfold you and drive you back to the village. I’ll see you at school tomorrow morning.”
Anna nodded and allowed Annie to tie a scarf over her eyes, before she was led out.
“Let me help you,” Annie said as she eased Anna into the car seat, and then fastened the seat belt around her, before closing the door and walking round the car.
“Miss Kelly, what just happened?”
“We saved you, Becca and the others Doc, now sit back and enjoy the drive.”
As they drove off, Burton was sitting in a chair in a large barn, struggling against the ropes that held him tight to the back and seat.
“WHrrmmeee? Whtsggnnnn?” he shouted out, only to blink as the hood was removed and a bright white light shone into his eyes.
“Good evening, Mister Burton,” a soft English voice said, and as he focused he saw a small woman standing before him, her head covered in a leather hood that only allowed her eyes and mouth to show, and a leather cat suit hugging her well built body.
“Thank you for accepting our invitation,” she said as she reached over and yanked the tape away from his mouth.
“Who the fuck are you? Where’s Simpson?”
“Simpson? Oh you mean the men who brought you here? They are no longer in the building – their job was simply to deliver you to my tender care.”
She smiled as she walked forward and said “Mister Burton, I have been hired to ensure you tell my client everything that you have done to hurt them and others. Where the information is stored, everything.”
“And if I don’t talk?”
“Not an option,” the masked woman said as she slapped him, and then grabbed his scrotum, squeezing in an iron grip as Burton grimaced.
“Let me make one thing very clear, Mister Burton – you will talk. The only real question is, how much pain you can take before you say where your information is stored.”
“Who… Who the fuck are you?”
“I said it’s not important – let’s start with those files on your laptop. Where are the backup copies?”
“Go to hell.”
“You know, a lot of people I meet say that when we start talking,” the woman said as she stroked Burton’s cheek with her gloved hand, “and I say the same thing to you I say to them.
“You’re… Already… There.”
He saw the pliers in her hand as he walked round, and then screamed as he felt his little finger on his left hand break.
“Where did you send the backups…?"
“We’re here,” Annie said as she stopped the car, “you may remove the blindfold.”
Anna reached up and removed the scarf, blinking as she realized she was outside their apartment.
“Come on up,” Annie said as she got out of the car, “you and I need to get changed, and a couple of people wish to talk to you.”
“Come on up,” Annie said, waiting for Anna to get out before she opened the door and walked up to the front room.
“Ah good – I am pleased to see you are unharmed, Anna.”
“Miss Xavier? What are you doing here?”
“Waiting for you,” Shirley said, her rich voice somehow making Anna happier as she sat back down.
“For me? I don’t understand.”
“I think, given your experience tonight, a beer may be allowable, Annie.”
“I agree,” Annie said as she went to the icebox, took out a Bud and handed it to Anna.
“Sit – Caroline should be back soon, and I wanted to talk before you change and head home.”
“I need to get changed, however,” Annie said as she headed to her bedroom.
“I still don’t understand – what happened tonight?”
“What happened,” Shirley said quietly as she leaned forward, “is that we have gone to great lengths to rescue you from the quagmire you managed to create – a thank you would be in order, I believe.”
“Sorry – thank you,” Doc whispered as the front door opened and closed, looking over to see Caroline come in.
“I take it that it was a success.”
“It was indeed,” Shirley said, “and I was just explaining to young Anna that we have hopefully cleared this completely.”
“I… I don’t know what to say, except thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” Caroline said as she took her coat off, “because tomorrow, you and I are going to explain to Becca and Nikki that this is over – finis, no more. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” Doc said with a nod.
“Good,” Caroline said as she sat down. “In return, we want to offer you – well, shall we say a training opportunity.”
“You have some definite talents and skills, Anna – but they need a focus, something to help you develop them in the right way. I think Shirley and I, in conjunction with others, can help you find that focus and path, if you want us to. It will also be a lot safer than selling yourself.”
“Why – why would you do this?”
“Because I appreciate talent – and you have it,” Shirley said as Anna stood up. “Think about what I have said, and if you wish to know more, talk to Caroline.”
Doc nodded as Annie came out, wearing a track suit and trainers. “Go and get changed Anna – I’ll call your mother and tell her you are on your way back.”
As Anna stood up and walked to the bedroom, Caroline said "There is an innocent involved in this I'd like to help."
"And who might that be?" Shirley looked up.
"Tricia the bartender,” Caroline said as she
rubbed her eyes. “She’s a junior at CCNY and is working two jobs as well as
taking a full college load of classes…she isn't hooking to make extra cash when
she already has plenty, or for kicks, she's hooking to help herself survive.”
"That doesn't sound an easy life." Annie
"I was thinking maybe we could find a way of
helping her out anonymously so she's not forced to prostitute herself, and she can
work on her studies full time?"
"I'll think on that Caroline." Madame made a note for herself.
“Oh I think she is ready, but she needs to realize that herself.” Shirley stood up and turned round. “I’d like to see her again before I leave on Saturday. Arrange for her to call round tomorrow night, will you Caroline?”
Caroline nodded as Annie showed Shirley out, Caroline opening her laptop and logging in.
“How goes it, Heather?”
“The accounts have been emptied, once I have confirmation of all the dumps I’ll alert Susan and we can begin clear up.”
“Excellent,” she said as Annie came up, and Doc reappeared, putting her glasses on.
“Good,” Caroline said – “now Annie will drive you back home. I will see you before the party tomorrow. Don’t worry – it won’t be for long.”
Doc nodded as Annie put her arm round her shoulder, and whispered “it’s all going to be all right now” as they walked down the stairs.
“Like most bullies, the moment he came up against someone with balls, he lost his,” Jo said as she watched Burton telling all in the other room.
“Yeah,” Janice said, “so far it looks like we had all bar one base covered. Heather?”
“Taken care of it,” Heather said over the link on the laptop, “Sneaky, but I wiped it.”
“Looks like things are over here,” Jo said quietly, “she’s not going to be happy she didn’t get her fun.”
“Nah, she’ll be all right – Shirley made the parameters clear this time,” Janice said as she dialed a number. “Susan? Jan – go.”
“Copy that,” Susan said as she looked at the door to Burton’s house.
“All right people – you know what we need to do. I want the house sanitized of any and all material that does not consist of everyday furniture and sustenance. Everything bagged and catalogued, and leave no stone unturned.”
The six women nodded before they left the rear of the van, opening the front door with no problem as they entered.
“Well, I think that’s everything Mister Burton,” the masked woman said, “I’ll leave you alone for a few minutes.”
“What… What happens now?”
“Now? My associates are busy wiping all your records Mister Burton, and my client as well as a lot of other people will sleep more easily tonight. Your career is over.”
“What about the girl…”
“Oh, the latest person you tried to blackmail? Don’t worry – you’re going to join her soon enough.”
“What does that mean…?"Burton raised his head and looked round as the leather clad woman left the room. He barely had time to collect his thoughts before his head was pulled back, the last thing he felt the knife as it sliced through his jugular vein and then his neck.
“Done,” Carina said as she removed the hood. “Heather?”
“Accounts cleaned out, back-up copies wiped, and Susan is cleaning his house out. Mister Burton will never more bother someone.”
“Indeed – anyone who threatens my savior will meet my wrath.”
“I don’t understand,” Jo said quietly, “why did Shirley say you had to do it in the end?”
“To protect those he may have investigated,” Maisha said as she removed her gloves. “It was vital it was someone not known who administered the final blow – which is why she invited Tommy and George to be the ones to collect him.”
“She’s right, and the Beast agrees,” Carina said quietly. “Better this way. Clean, neat – I even went light on him. The coward didn’t deserve anymore.”
“Well, that ties this problem up,” Jan said quietly, “but now we need to clean up the rest of the mess. You two go and shower – Diana said she would come and clean up after the show.”
Anna Carlton’s bedroom
"No way I'm going to sleep tonight," Doc
told herself as she climbed into bed. They had driven for less than an hour
both ways, so assuming they drove a straight line, then she was taken somewhere
in the outer suburbs.
Quickly she climbed out of bed, undid her bureau drawer,
and took out her chart.
Two anonymous men, she wrote the words and linked them
Small masked woman, she linked that to the four she knew were definitely involved.
"Who did she know who was that short?"
Plenty of girls from school, but only three who were
on her chart, Ama, Pepsi and Carina.
She was clearly not meant to see the girls face, hence the mask, so it must be someone she knew, she reasoned. She added “Masked woman” and drew lines to the suspects.
“What am I missing,” she said to herself, “it’s staring me in the face, I can feel it.”
Angrily, she let the pad drop to the floor and lay back. “If only I hadn’t agreed to that damn stupid trip to Greenwich,” she said to herself, “then I might…”
Suddenly she sat up. Caroline had asked them to go, to test security – and by all reports been very successful. She’d reported faithfully back about the managers, especially the one who was robbed a few weeks ago…
The one she’d spoken to, the one Caroline warned had let it out he had been with a whore, the one the FBI were talking to the contacts of – that was her, and she suddenly realized Caroline had known all along.
“Oh my god,” she whispered, “Caroline’s one of them – she’s a Pussycat, and if she is…”
She stared at the spider web on her pad, a chill running through her as she went to each one in turn…
Could it be possible? Were these people the Pussycat Gang? Were these the women she had fantasized about so often and with so much pleasure? And if so, which ones – the core team was seven.
But Caroline had only arrived a few months back – they had operated for years before that, and at first there were five, then six, then seven. No, she was one, but not one of the originals. So who were the originals?
Friday 20th February
“Anna? Anna darling it’s time to wake up.”
Doc opened her eyes and looked round – the exhaustion had made her fall asleep without realizing. Standing up, she locked her pad in the drawer and looked at herself in the mirror.
“Okay,” she finally said to herself, “I have questions, and I want answers, so let’s see what today brings.”
“Hey,” Nikki said as Doc got out of Ally’s jeep, “I need to talk to you.”
“I need to talk to you – and Becca – but later, not now,” Doc said.
“No, now – I went to the Altamont last night, and Tricia said you left with someone – and never came back. What happened?”
“Honestly, Nikki,” Doc said as she saw Ama and Pepsi get out of Jo’s jeep, “I’ll tell you both later. But not now.” She watched as the girls walked over, Ama looking at her as she said quietly “How are you?”
“Recovered from last night anyway,” Doc said as she smiled at Jo, “but I need to ask you some questions as well.”
“I am sure you do – but after school, once Janice and Caroline have spoken to the others with you.”
Doc nodded as Jo walked over. “Morning,” she said, “come on, everyone inside – the sooner the morning has passed, the sooner the party can begin.”
FBI Field Office
“Highway patrol just called in – they found the journalist, Burton, at the side of a country road this morning. He’s dead.”
“You’re joking,” Adam said as he sat with Janice, “who did it?
“They don’t know – someone broke all his fingers, and then sliced his neck open. We’re sending a team round to his address now; see if there are any clues there. We do, however, have a ready made list of suspects – the one the Hand gave to us. I’ve asked local PDs to interview them to check where they were last night.”
“Slit his throat – not a way I’d want anyone to die?”
“Compared to some of the people we’ve seen, Adam – it’s clean and quick.”
“Gallows humour, Jan?” Tom shook his head and said “Well, anyway, let’s see if anyone does know anything. Just so I know, why was he following you?”
“We think it’s because I know the Morse’s socially – see if I knew any dirt on them. Even if I did, I wouldn’t tell them.”
“Okay then – get started on the NY names on the list, see if they know anything.”
“Do you know anything, Adam,” Jan said as they looked at each other.
“Nope – complete mystery to me,” he said with a smile.
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Hey,” Carina said as she came in, “anyone home?”
“Hello sis,” Ingrid said as she came through and hugged her, “Everything go all right last night?”
“Boring, but at least I get the credit for it,” Carina said as she took the travel suit off Judith, and laid her in her playpen. “Where’s mom and dad?”
“They slipped out for a few minutes – they should be back soon.”
“Good – hey baby, do you need a diaper change already?”
Judith gurgled and laughed as the two girls played with her, not noticing Klaus and Juliette as they came in.
“There you are – how was the road,” Juliette said as she took her gloves off.
“Clear for once – I hear there’s a party at St Angela’s today.”
“Yes there is – but these two have to see Missy, and you need to come with me to the office. Something we need to discuss.”
“Okay,” Carina said as Ingrid asked “How did the show go yesterday?”
How the hell at age 72 can she still do cartwheels?" Carina shook her head as she remembered the
end of the show.
"With Betsey don't ask, underneath she still
thinks she's a teenager." Juliette laughed at the memories she had of
working for the designer over the years.
"I want the beaded dress I walked."
"I guessed you might, I’ve already spoken to Lulu
"It was twenties, it was sixties, and it was
"Let’s be honest - it was pure Betsey
"It was." Carina smiled a true smile of satisfaction.
“All right – what happened last night,” Becca said as she and Nikki walked with Doc to Miss Kelly’s room.
“I swear, I will tell you, but not now,” Doc said as she opened the door.
“Actually, Doc, now is a very good time.”
The three girls were surprised to see Caroline standing in the room with Annie and Jo.
“I’ll see you later,” Jo said as she walked out, putting her hand on Anna’s shoulder as she did so.
“Sit down, please,” Annie said as she walked to the door, looked both ways outside and then closed it, locking it behind her. “This won’t take long.”
“Listen you two,” Anna said quietly, “I need to tell you something, and I need you to promise not to be mad at me.”
“Why would we be mad at you,” Becca said quietly.
“Because,” Doc said as she sat down, “I very nearly ruined all of us, as well as your parents. A reporter found out I was running Angelic Escorts, and… And…”
“Doc, what happened,” Nikki said as her friend started crying.
“And this reporter threatened to expose Anna, Becca – all of you if she did not hand over all the records she had of the people you met,” Caroline said as Annie held the young student. “She came to ask me to help her a few days ago – and I have, but there is a price.”
“He… HE WHAT!” Becca stood up and looked at Caroline and Annie. “But I was…”
“I know – Anna gave me the records and wiped them from her computer.”
Doc looked at Caroline, who simply nodded before she said “Rebecca, you were really playing with fire. I understand your father spoke to you and Roberta yesterday about press rumours? What if they had found out about this?”
“I was only trying to find out what Dad’s opponent was saying…”
“And earn some extra money?”
Becca nodded, Nikki doing so as well.
“The price is this,” Caroline continued. “It stops, completely and totally, as of now. You need to know that I had to get Janice Carter to help.”
Both girls looked at Doc, who nodded and said “she won’t do anything if we stop.”
“Well,” Nikki said, “I saved most of my earnings, but I guess we have no choice.”
“We won’t tell your parents either,” Annie said, “unless we hear of this happening again. If we do, all bets are off.”
“What about the other girls?”
“I’m seeing them with Ally and Nell later,” Caroline said, “but do I have your solemn word?”
Becca and Nikki both nodded as Doc dried her eyes. “I’m really sorry I got you both in this mess,” she said quietly.
“Hey, it’s all right – we can get into different messes,” Becca said as they hugged each other.
“Good – right, on to your last classes, all three of you, and no more will be said.”
“Yes, Miss Kelly,” the three girls said as they headed off.
“Two down,” Caroline said as she rubbed her eyes, “Nine to go.”
“Ladies of St Angela’s, I give you – the Vanderbilt Cup!”
The assembled student body clapped and cheered as Sheryl and Jo carried in the large trophy, placing it on the table at one side as the athletics team gathered around it.
“Big smiles please,” Abby said as she took a group photo, and then Miss Tennant said “And a huge cheer for the coaches, Miss Kelly and Miss Harper!”
Annie and Alicia blushed as the girls cheered them. Eventually, Miss Tennant said “And now, let the celebration begin!”
“So how does it feel to be the toast of the school,” Heather said as she hugged Jo.
“I’m not – we all are together,” Jo said as the team moved out amongst the girls. “But yeah, it’s a nice feeling.”
In one corner, Caroline was talking quietly to Ally.
“So you want me to get Nell to get all the girls on this list into a room at the school at the end of the day? Caroline, is there something I need to know?”
“It’s over,” Caroline said as she looked at Ama and the other girls, “and I need to talk to all of them. Can you call her now and sort that out?”
“Yeah – yeah I can, and thanks,” Ally said as she slipped off, and Caroline walked over to join Diana and Heather.
“Have you talked to them?”
“I have – now what they need is the support of each other. I’ll deal with the Nuns later – and Lily is taking care of the last one right now.”
The Altamont Hotel.
“Good afternoon – I wonder if I could speak to Tricia please?”
“I’m Tricia,” the barmaid said as she looked at the woman who spoke with an English accent. She was about the same height as her, her blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, and wore a dusky pick jacket and dress over a black camisole top.
“Ah good – I am an associate of Caroline Jameson. I wonder if we could talk privately for a few minutes?”
“Sure – over here,” Tricia said as they went to a side booth. As the blonde laid her case down, she handed Tricia a business card.
“Lily Harmon, Xavier Holdings? I’ve heard of the firm,” Tricia said.
“Indeed – first, Miss Jameson has asked me to tell you that Angel is safe and well, but that she has decided to close down Angelic Escorts.”
Tricia looked at the woman, before saying “I’m glad she’s safe, but the extra money came in handy…”
“Indeed – I understand you are a student at City College. May I ask what your major is?”
“Journalism – why?”
“In that case, I have an offer to make, at Miss Jameson’s suggestion. One of the things our company handles involves management of a number of academic scholarships – private ones, given to the most deserving of causes. One of them is for a person who is interested in Journalism.”
“Go on,” Tricia said.
“Miss Jameson, having met you, felt that this particular fund is one you may be a worthy recipient of. It would cover your tuition fees for the remainder of your course, as well as a modest living allowance, and should you be successful in obtaining a position in journalism for a period of two years, it will also cover all outstanding student fees and loans.”
Tricia stared at the woman as she handed over a document. “I think this will give you all the salient details,” she said as Tricia glanced over it.
“This… This is incredibly generous,” Tricia said, “what’s the catch?”
“Actually, as you put it, there are two catches. The beneficiary is of an old Methodist background, and believes in high moral values. Put simply, the first condition is that you stop selling yourself.”
Tricia nodded and said “the second condition?”
“The New York Times runs a number of activities and clubs at weekends and holidays for underprivileged children. We will require you to talk to Jane Malloy of the Times, and volunteer your services as and when possible.”
Looking round the bar, Tricia said “It means I could quit here.”
“I appreciate you may wish time to consider the conditions, but if you could…”
“I accept – with grateful thanks,” Tricia said, “where do I sign?”
Taking a pen from the case, Miss Harmon said “Where indicated. We will send the full details on validation to your home address. Now,” she said as Tricia signed, “May I buy you a drink?”
“Come,” Madame said as she sat at her desk, smiling as the NY office head came in.
“What news of your mother Susan?”
“She’s doing a lot better thank you Madame.” Susan replied as she closed the door. “The briefing.” She put the folder on the desk.
“I’m going to miss this you know,” Shirley picked up her glasses and started to read.
“So am I, it’s been great having you here while we got this up and running.”
“Well next we need to get the London and LA offices working the same way.”
“Well hopefully we’ve sorted a few of the bugs out.”
“You’ve worked hard Susan,” Madame smiled, “I can see the legitimate businesses being very profitable here.”
“Talking of which can I point out this.” Susan came round the table to point to an item.
“The Prince of Siam ruby, we’ve been asked to quote on the insurance for its US tour,” Madame smiled, “that would be a big premium.”
“I know, and good business for Dominique working on its security if we are successful.”
“Well you are clearly doing something right Susan if we are being asked to quote…well done.”
“Thank you Madame.” Susan basked in the praise.
“I see the exchange of memoranda with Norstar’s lawyers over a formal alliance is coming to fruition.”
“Yes I think Maddie’s charms sold them firmly on the idea.”
“Good…now this is more troubling.”
“The Siberian furs hijacking.”
“That’s Penny’s area, no doubt she will tell you more next week if you should wish, but no - losing one of our legitimate shipments like that was not good news.”
“I tend to take it rather personally when we get robbed.” Madame though for a moment, “Can you get…?”
“Penny on the line, she’s been hanging on since I came in, line 4 Madame.”
“Susan you are getting VERY good at this job.” Shirley smiled. She pressed the button and said “Good morning Penelope.”
“Good afternoon Madame – I believe you wish to discuss the theft?”
“Indeed – what do you know…?”
“Listen,” Doc said as she sat with the others, “you have my full permission to kick me up the backside and tell me if I’m doing anything stupid, ever again.”
“Can I have that in writing,” Pepsi said, which at least made the others laugh as Jeannie wheeled herself over.
“Hey, what’s so funny?”
“Nothing Jeans – we just got permission to tell Doc when she does something stupid.”
“I thought we had that anyway – talking of which, Doc, Jo was looking for you.”
“Yeah, I thought she might be,” Anna said as she stood up. “Keep my stuff here – I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
As she looked round the refectory, it took some time to locate Jo, talking to Letty in one corner.
“Look, if you ever want to talk,” she heard Jo say as she came over.
“Thanks – but I’m all right, honest,” she said as she walked off, Jo shaking her head as she turned to face Anna.
“I hear you’re looking for me.”
“Yeah – can you come with me for a minute,” Jo said as she walked Anna into a classroom, and then closed the door.
“Okay – you got questions, ask them.”
“Oh I have questions all right,” Doc said quietly, “but I’m not sure thus is the best place to ask them. I would like to ask one right now however, and others later.”
“Probably wise – but go on, what question do you want to ask?”
Doc took a deep breath, and said "How did you
learn a deep south accent Jo?"
"Jo I'm not stupid, I've put some of this
together at least."
"Look we are alone Jo, drop the pretense, how did
you learn the accent?"
"I still have no clue what you are talking
"Do I really need to say more, Miss Bobcat."
Jo rolled her eyes.
No the kid wasn't dumb, but she had an unhealthy way of calculating the
hardest of problems and coming up with the right answer.
"From television if you must know," she eventually hissed, “and before you say anything else, this is most definitely not the place and time. You girls are coming back to Sandy’s place after this party – we will talk then, and not before. Do I make myself absolutely crystal clear on that, Anna Carlton?”
Anna nodded slowly as Jo relaxed. “Good – now, go and rejoin the others. I’ll see you later.”
Anna almost floated out of the classroom as Abby looked in.
“What’s up with her? She looks like the cat that got the cream.”
“Yeah – you’d better come in and close the door Abby. I need to tell you something.”
Missy looked across her desk, watching carefully as Klaus and Ingrid looked back. This was slightly new territory for her, and she was thinking carefully of what to say.
“I think we need to establish first,” Klaus said, “that my daughter has no need to model if she does not wish Miss Auerbach, she has both a considerable personal fortune and her income from my family trust, so money is not an issue.”
“That I understand Klaus,” Missy said quietly, “and I’m hoping that though this is a business, not a social setting, I may still call you that?”
“Please do,” he smiled.
“Ingrid is a beautiful girl, and her mother was a top model. If - and it’s a big if - she does want to model I think I can offer her both the career path, and the compensation that she might enjoy.”
“My mother was a Ford girl, why shouldn’t I sign with them?” Ingrid spoke for the first time.
“No reason at all, they are a wonderful agency, but…”
“There is that crucial word.” Klaus interrupted.
“I was going to say, but you belong to a fairly intimate social circle, that includes many models I represent. Now they may swear at me and curse me out to my face, but I like to think we are almost like a family.”
“I must admit that the fact you represent both Juliette and my sister is the reason we are sitting here.” Ingrid nodded.
“I’ve built my reputation by being a hard negotiating bitch who looks out for her clients interests 24/7. I can be tough, nasty, and very pushy, but you’ll not find one girl who will ever say I advised her to do something that was degrading or sleazy, or that wasn’t in her long term interest.”
“We know, we talked this out with Juliette.” Klaus smiled again at Missy’s frank description of herself.
Ingrid leaned forward and said “I’m probably going to Princeton, they have provisionally accepted me as an international applicant.”
“I can help make sure you get the right visa and work card…I presume telling me that does mean you want to model in New York?”
“Yes, I do have a few little problems though. The first is my college workload, I’ll be majoring in economics, and entering as a sophomore because of what I studied at school in Switzerland, so you’ll need to work round their schedule they set me.”
“That’s taken for granted, and congratulations on getting into Princeton.”
“Thank you…The next problem is I have large family and social obligations that we also need to work round.”
“Again,” Missy said, “if you let me know well ahead of time I can work with that.”
“My third worry you addressed already, I will not do porn.”
“That’s totally agreed.”
“And finally I want a decent long vacation in summer to spend getting my head together at home.”
“That’s harder, but I’ll try… Now Klaus any questions from you?”
The Richmond Mansion
“Well, you lot seem happy tonight,” April said as the girls came in.
“Very much so,” Pepsi said as she hugged her mother, Doc watching as she did so and Jo closed the door.
“Right,” she said, ”that book you asked to borrow from me is upstairs. Can you come up now and get it Anna?”
“Sure,” Anna said as she followed Jo up the stairs and into her bedroom – only to stop when she saw Abby waiting inside for her.
“All right then,” Jo said as she closed the door, “let’s hear it Doc.”
“Oh my goodness,” Doc said quietly, “I was right – you’re one of them as well.”
“Well, she wins a kewpie doll,” Abby said as she stood there, her arms folded. “So tell me how you fingered Jo as Miss Bobcat.”
“Timing – she first appeared as one of the gang a few weeks before Jo arrived to stay with her sister – I sneaked a look at the school records. So whoever Miss Bobcat was had to be someone who joined the group at or around that time. Mind you, it was seeing you with Caroline, Janice and Annie that got me suspicious in the first place.”
Anna looked closely at Abby, and then said “I’ve already fingered Caroline as one – are Janice and Annie?”
“No,” Jo said, “but as you’ve figured me out, I think it’s time you met another one.”
“Hi,” Abby said, “my name’s Miss Tigress, and I’m a member of the Pussycat Gang.”
Doc sat down on Jo’s bed with a thump as the two older girls stood over her.
“We’ve been talking about you for quite some time, Doc,” Abby said, “and wondering how we were going to get you back on the straight and narrow. Only now, it’s if we can get you on a different path.”
“We’ve heard about how you fantasize about us,” Jo said, “but we need to ask you a question.”
“What… What is the question?”
“It’s a question Abby asked me – Do you want to be a Pussycat?”
Doc looked at both of them, and thought for a nanosecond. “Yeah – yeah I do, if you’ll have me.”
“Ah, now that is the next part of the question,” Jo said as there was a knock on the door. Opening it, Doc watched as Heather came in, closing the door behind her.
“We have a potential pupil, so we need to set up the test.”
“Holy… I thought you were in on this as well, Heather.”
“Oh you have no idea,” Heather said. “For starters, I’ve wiped all traces of the existence of your agency from the records. The Babysitting club stays – doesn’t pay as much, but gets the…”
“You’ve wiped the records – all the files? How did you get past my firewalls?”
Heather looked at Jo, who said “Tell her later. Doc, go down and tell your mom you’ve been invited to stay for dinner. I’ll call the others – you have a test to sit, Miss Carlton.”
Anna went to the door, then stopped and turned. “I need to know first – the other girls, especially Pepsi and Ama.”
“No – but Ama is a special case. Go talk to your mother.”
“What’s this about Nell,” Kerry said as the group sat round the room.
“All I know is we’ve been asked to meet here and…”
“Are they all here Nell?”
They turned to see Caroline coming in the doorway.
“Yeah, they’re all here – Caroline, why did you ask to meet us?”
“I’m going to get straight to the point – for those of you who do not know me, my name is Caroline Jameson. You may recognize me as a model, but I also work as a security consultant, and that’s why I asked to meet all of you today.”
“Why? Is there a problem we can help with?”
“No – in some ways, you nine are the problem. All of you have recently worked for a group known as Angelic Escorts.”
The girls looked at each other, Nell looking down as Caroline leaned against a desk. “Look, I’m not going to go into the rights and wrongs and morality of the situation. Here’s the deal – Angel got into some very real and present danger as a result of the agency, and called me in to help her. This I have done, but part of the condition is that the agency shuts down.
The nine girls looked at each other, as Nell said “what sort of trouble?”
“The kind that would have ruined all of you if it had not been stopped. Look – Nell knows this, but I have walked the streets in the past, so I know the buzz it gives and the feeling of power. But I also know the dangers, and I have seen far too many girls harmed or killed in the pursuit of the thrill.
“I have the records for the company, and they will stay secure with me. I need your word, right now, that you will not do this again – or else the details are passed on to the principle. And I need to remind some of you, it’s statutory rape to have intercourse with an under 17.”
The girls stared at Caroline, then Nell as she said “It’s been a good run, but it’s over. You trust me, and I trust Caroline – take the offer.”
She looked round as the girls nodded one by one, Kerry last of all.
“Good – what you earned you keep. And trust me – I will hear if something happens. Nell, a word please.”
Caroline left the room, Nell following and surprised to see Ally outside.
“You two need each other,” Caroline said, “so forgive, or whatever, and then work together, not apart, all right? Now, I have a meeting to go to – Nell, you’re my point here on this. Understand?”
Nell nodded and then hugged Ally as Caroline walked off.
“How are the others?”
“Caroline read the riot act to them this morning. Sis, promise me please – never again?”
“All right,” Nell said, “come on, before any more seniors see you around.”
The Richmond Mansion
“All right you two – up those stairs,” Heather said as she and Jo took little George and Sandy up for their baths.
“They’re lovely kids,” Doc said as she sat with Heather and Sandy.
“Yes they are,” Heather said as the doorbell rang. “Excuse me a moment,” she said as she went out, and then returned with Carina and Juliette.
“Hello Anna,” Juliette said as she sat down, “I believe you wished to talk to me?”
“I don’t understand, Miss Huntingdown, why would I…” The spider diagram in her locked drawer suddenly came to mind, as she quietly said “oh.”
“Oh indeed – you have caused me and the others quite a bit of soul searching, Anna – but I am pleased we were able in some small way to help you out.
“The question is, how far do you want to go?”
“All the way,” Anna said quietly, “I wish to go all the way.”
“Very well,” Juliette said as Sandy came in, “let us start with the test. Carina?”
“Come with me,” the small ash blonde said as she stood up, “we need to get changed into these outfits.”
As they left the room, Juliette took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. “Lily called – the last of the ladies has accepted a most generous offer to stop.”
“Good – so do you think she’ll do it?”
“Yes, I do – and then the fun really begins.”
Twenty minutes later, Doc and Cari came back in, dressed in black.
“Wow – this feels good,” she said as she admired the smug fit of the leather pants over her ass. “So what is this test I'm going to do?"
"We need to see how good your nerve is Anna, so you are going to take down a convenience store with Carina and Sandy." Juliette smiled.
"I'll do the driving,” Sandy said, “you and Carina just go in, she'll see to the customers, you handle the clerk and the till."
"Just like that? … No preparation?"
"No time to get nerves." Carina zipped up
her leather jacket.
"Do you want to be a Pussycat?" Juliette
looked her straight in the face as she held a gun in her hand.
"This tell you?" Anna took the gun and made sure there was a slug in the chamber.
“Good – you have five minutes. Sandy will be waiting outside.”
"I presume Sandy will be driving a stolen
car?" Anna asked calmly as she tied her long blonde hair in a ponytail.
"Of course, lesson number one is never do
anything stupid like take your own car on a job." Carina said as she fixed
her own hair.
"Seems obvious enough."
"Lesson two is fingerprints, nasty incriminating things, ALWAYS wear your gloves."
"That I know as well." Anna admired the
leather gloves on her hands.
"Lesson Three is that a gun is not a toy, we
don't want to kill anyone…"
"But I will if I need to." Anna smiled coolly.
“Not tonight – we go in, do the job, get out. Ready?”
Doc nodded as she walked out of the door with Carina.
“Diana sends her apologies, but she’ll touch base with you tomorrow.”
“Good – let’s meet here for coffee tomorrow, and compare notes. I’m heading over to Shirley’s – with luck, I’ll see her there.”
Sandy pulled up outside the 7-11 and looked up and down the street.
“Right – mask up, and I’ll wait out here,” Sandy said, watching as Carina and Doc pulled the stockings down over their heads.
“Ready,” Doc said as they got out of the back of the car and walked to the door, Doc feeling the gun in her hand as she controlled her breathing.
Carina smiled as she opened the door, allowing the younger girl to walk in first.
"Okay this is a fuckin' robbery." Anna yelled the words out, trying to sound as threatening as she could. "Do as we fuckin' tellya and you won't get a fuckin' bullet in the head."
There were four customers in the store – a middle aged couple and two female students, as well as a twenty year old boy behind the counter, who visibly paled as Carina closed the door. The two new arrivals wore leather jackets zipped closed, leather pants and heels, and had both stockings over their heads and guns in their hands.
“You head the lady, you fuckers,” she called out, “your people, on the floor, hands behind your heads.”
She walked over and pushed the two students to the ground, while Doc pointed the gun at the couple and said “If you want to live through tonight, do as you’re told and get on the fucking floor!”
“All right, all right,” the man said as he helped his wife down, “don’t hurt us.”
“Then don’t tempt us,” Carina said as she smiled under her stocking, the kid wasn't bad. “Get fucking down and keep fucking quiet.”
“Right, lover boy,” Doc purred as she walked over to the counter, “contents of the till, in the bag, now – and don’t you fucking dare reaching for that alarm, or you get a red hole in the head.”
“Suuuuuuuurrr Sure, lady,” he said as he opened the till, and stuffed the notes into a brown bag.
“That’s a good boy,” Doc said as she took the bag, “now round here and on the floor with the other fuckers.”
Carina watched as the young lad came and lay on the floor, Doc standing over them.
“Now nobody fucking moves for ten minutes – got it?”
The quintet said nothing as Cari and Doc left the store, walking quickly to the car and getting in the car.
“Well,” Sandy said as she drove off.
“That was fucking AMAZING,” Doc shouted out, “and best of all nothing on camera.”
“How do you know?”
“The lights were out on the lens – it wasn’t working. You can see a reflection if it does.”
“Take the stocking off,” Carina said as she removed her own, “we’ll count the takings later.”
“So do I pass?”
“We’ll discuss that when we get to where we’re going.”
“We’re not going back to Sandy’s place?”
“No,” Sandy said, “someone else wants to talk to you tonight.”
"So do you think you hit home over at Sacred
Heart?" Annie asked Dominique as they sat, nursing a drink each.
"I do…I hope so anyway."
"Will probably be as big a slut as ever, but
she'll revert to amateurism."
"And the others?"
"I think they'll be alright, the mixture of sex and money is a pretty potent cocktail, but I think without Doc's brain they'll just revert to being over-sexed schoolgirls."
“Good – then we’ve cleaned everything up?”
“With luck,” Susan said as she came in. “Some of the stuff he had on file – Madame is preparing to either discretely return or destroy it.”
"Can I ask when you lost your virginity
Annie?" Caroline spoke softly.
"My sophomore year at Brown, and I had to get
myself drunk to do it."
"I sense a story?"
"Not really, there was this discus thrower I had
a big thing for, but he was going out with another girl."
"To give myself courage I got drunk at a party,
then propositioned him."
"And did you get him into bed?"
"No…but this scrawny little trainer with the team
overheard me and next thing I know, I'm in his bed in his frat house regretting
that I let the little weasel touch me."
"Ouch. Not fun."
“Tell me about it,” Annie said as the doorbell went. Susan excused herself and went to answer it.
“Ah Anna – welcome,” she said as the trio came in, “we’ve been expecting you.”
“You’ve been expecting me – just how many Pussycats are there?” Doc said as Susan closed the door.
“Time enough for that later,” Juliette said as she appeared from a door, “how did it go?”
“No problem,” Carina said as she held up the bag.
“Very well – go and count the takings in the kitchen, and then come and see us please Carina.”
“Is there any chance of a drink – I’m thirsty.”
“In here,” Susan said as they went into the kitchen, and emptied the sack, counting the notes quickly.
“Over two thousand – that good?”
“For a 7-11, acceptable,” Carina said with a smile. “This is for you tonight, Anna – spend it slowly and wisely.”
“Would you come with me into the drawing room, Anna,” Susan said as she opened the door, “while Carina and I talk with Juliette.”
As she opened the door, Anna smiled at Annie and Caroline.
“She s busy tonight,” Caroline said as they sat down. “But I suspect you have questions for us as well.”
“I worked out you were involved with the Pussycats,” Doc said as she held her drink, “but how? How did you become a criminal Miss Kelly? Was it when you started dating Carina? And is Ama a Pussycat as well?”
“Slow down,” Annie said. “Last one first – no Ama is not a Pussycat, but she knows a lot about me and Caroline, and what we do.”
“Because we rescued her,” Caroline said, “let me tell you the story, it may illustrate a few things about the life we lead to you.”
"So your opinion Carina?" Shirley asked.
Carina put her beer down and looked at the other three. "She’s good, no question about it. Nerves of steel, but she's a bit of a know-it-all – she spotted the camera was not working just by looking at it.”
“So good basic knowledge but needs to learn a lot.”
Carina nodded. “In my opinion she needs a good weekend in Diana's tender care to teach her some humility."
"I was thinking the same thing." Juliette nodded. “Diana transformed Jo in time – two days with her will teach young Anna a thing or two.”
Shirley nodded as she swirled the brandy in her glass. “Agreed – I would appreciate it if you kept me informed.”
"I'll help Diana run the course Madame."
"Oh yes, you are bringing over that young girl
Susan nodded, "She's very rough around the edges, but I think with a weekend at Diana's, followed by a couple of days of me talking to her, I can set her on the right path."
“Provided she survives both days,” Carina said with a smile.
"It will mean you and Diana need to wear masks at all times, so will Anna and your protégé."
"I know, just in case she's a washout - we don't
need her knowing anything really."
"I think she reminds you of yourself Susan."
"Pretty much Madame, just a tosser of a Mum, no Dad, living most of the time in a squat with the Vipers, but Kylie isn't dumb, if I can get to her, she'd be an asset in the long term."
“Well, we can but see,” Shirley said as she walked over and opened the door to the drawing room. “Anna, would you come in a moment please?”
As she walked in, Anna looked at Juliette and Carina, then at Susan and Shirley.
“Please, sit Anna,” Shirley said as she closed the door. “How do you feel?”
“Exalted, amazed, confused – Caroline and Annie just told me the truth of how they first met Ama. I heard the news stories, but never knew the full horror…”
“Tell me, how do you feel about both of them now you have heard this?”
“I’m proud of them – the part they played in that business. But what part did you play, Shirley?”
“Anna, you helped test the security for this place – why did you think they went to such lengths?”
“I presume because of your wealth and position.”
“Quite right, but that was half the reason. Would you like to know who designed the security system?”
“Very much so.”
“It was Heather and Jo,” Carina said, “and you almost beat them. Almost, but not quite.”
“Heather and Jo? I thought I was clever, but…”
“You are,” Shirley said, “which is why we saved you from the situation you were in, but you still have much to learn.” She looked over at Juliette and said “Well?”
“As Shirley said, you have a lot to learn, but you have potential,” Juliette said. “I asked you earlier tonight if you wanted to be a Pussycat, Anna – have you changed your mind?”
“Forgive the language, but hell no.”
“Well then,” Carina said, “you have been invited to spend the weekend next Friday with Ama. Your mother will be able to contact you through Annie or Caroline.”
“Where will I really be?”
“You’ll find out next Saturday. We’re not going to tell you anything.”
“When do I start learning?”
“You started tonight,” Carina said, “and your first earnings are ready.”
“One more thing, Anna,” Shirley said, “by taking this path, you have earned the right to know certain other things.
“Susan, Caroline, and others work for me – but I am not a Pussycat. I go by a different title in this world, one you may have heard of.”
“Anna Carlton,” Susan said, “May I introduce you to Madame X.”
Anna’s eyes widened as she gave a small curtsey.
“Oh – forgive me, Aunt Shirley, I did not know you had company.”
“That is all right Maisha – Anna was just learning who I am.”
“Maisha? You too?”
“I owe Madame my life and liberty, and I am sworn to serve her,” Maisha said, “but I am glad you know now. Ama will be able to share more with you while I return to England.”
“You are leaving?”
“For a while – I will return for Easter, with Maisha, but I will be kept appraised of your progress. I will watch your progress, Doc – welcome to an interesting life.”
“I think we need to get her home,” Sandy said as she came in.
“I agree – I’ll take her back to your place, Sandy, and Jo can take her home once she has changed.”
“Thank you – thank you all,” she said as Annie handed Doc the brown bag, and escorted her out of the apartment.
“You did not tell her what I did, Madame,” Maisha said quietly.
“No – she has other things to learn first, my dear.”
The Carlton home
Anna lay in her bed, trying to process the day. She had suspected many things, but to know the truth – to know not only who the Pussycats were, but who Annie and Caroline were, who Shirley was…
She resolved to burn the pad sheet in the morning – that had to be the first thing. As she lay there, she began to relive in her mind the raid on the convenience store, the look of fear on the faces of the clerk and customers, the thrill that ran through her as she ordered them round.
Her fingers slipped between her legs as she imagined herself, this time in the jacket and skirt, the scarf hanging round her neck, the way they looked at her as she took the money.
The dampness came as a welcome thing, as she slowly began to tease herself, but quickly she found herself moaning and stifling the scream as she saw the clerk’s face, and imagined her forcing him to strip, to do what she ordered him to as she presented herself to him…
“OHMYGODDESS!!” she screamed out as without warning the orgasm hit, harder than she had ever experienced before, more powerful and stronger than anyone had ever achieved before. She closed her eyes and bucked as the sensations ran through her, and then collapsed exhausted on the bed, taking her fingers to her mouth and tasting them.
As she lay there, panting, her eyes closing, she realized she had a new way to drive herself…