Second Strike









Wednesday 20th August

10 am

The Listening Post of Madame X


The group of four women was looking intently at the screens, listening to a number of conversations, when one of them turned and looked at the small brunette standing at the side of the room.




She came over and picked up a set of earphones, listening as she watched Dominic Rice at his desk in his home.


“Yes, I am aware of the regretful incident at our French friend’s apartment.  Be assured, if we ever locate this Black Cat, she will know just how upset Angel and Francois were.”


“I will be speaking to them personally,” a deep male voice said, but to Susan’s ear it sounded distorted.


“I truly believe we have been unlucky – but we have many ways of bringing payment in, and the latest consignment is coming by diplomatic pouch directly to me today.  I will store them here, and only move them when it is time for payment.”


“And your security?”




“The incident last week?”


“An unfortunate lapse by my maid – she was chastised sufficiently by the intruder, and they did not discover my safe.”


There was a low chuckle, as the voice said “I can imagine.  My friends will await the word.”


“We will talk soon, Walrus – until then.”


As the line went dead, Susan looked at the young woman.


“Can we trace?”


“Negative – the line was bounced several times across the world.  The voice was also electronically altered.”


“I thought as much,” Susan said.  “I want full transcripts of all recordings from the Rice devices for the last 24 hours, and also from the UN recorders, on Charlotte’s desk.  Inform Dominique as well.”


“As you wish,” the woman said as she went to work.


The Huntingdown Apartment


“All right,” Carina finally said, “I think that’s them all sorted out.  All those clothes go into the marked boxes for storage for the moment, and these come with us for the next three months, baby?”


Judith looked up from her baby chair and waved her arm round as Carina looked round the room.  “Judith, you are the luckiest and most loved girl in the world, but I don’t think they thought through the storage requirements.”


“Having fun?”


“Hey Sandy,” Carina said as the older woman came in, “Well, I have achieved something in getting Judith’s clothes for the next three months sorted.  Now I can start to decide what I’m taking.”


“Two days to go – how are you feeling?”


“Not quite as nervous as Mom,” Carina said with a smile.  “She’s running some of the baby furniture up today, so that we don’t have to take it in the car on Friday.”


“I’m glad they allowed you to do that,” Sandy said as she looked at the clothes.  “Here – let me get these packed into a case, and you concentrate on sorting yours out.”


“Thanks,” Carina said, “I wanted to get this done today so I can spend tomorrow with the girls.”


“Yes, I overheard Jo talking to Abby on the telephone today.  Should be quite a day.  But you will be back for weekends?”


“Oh yes – half the baby clothes are staying here.  And we have the christening in a month’s time – we have the 21st booked for it.”


“Well then, let’s get this sorted out,” Carina said with a smile.



3 pm

The Waldorf Hotel


Madame read through the summary provided by Susan and Charlotte, and then sat back in her chair, Dominique watching from the other side of the desk.


"Well I think the information on Rice is actionable Dominique." Madame thought carefully. "Do you have a plan as yet?"

"The beginnings of one, but I'm open to guidance Madame."

"We need to make it look like a random criminal act – a raid on his house."

"I agree Madame - as yet we know from our intercepts they are ascribing the losses to bad luck, but we can be sure that sooner or later they will start to see a pattern develop."

"Confusing ones enemy is always good strategy."

Dominique nodded.


“I also feel we need to have a chat with Mister Rice – see if he can provide any further information.”


“Are you suggesting a kidnapping associated with the raid?  What about his maid?”


“I have considered that as well.  If she is truly loyal to him, then I think she will serve as an excellent witness to say what had happened – but, with regret, we need to make sure she is as secured as anyone else in the house.”


“What other staff have been seen?”


Dominique looked at Susan’s report.  “A housekeeper and a secretary – Thoughts?”


“I would be prepared to accept the possibility one of them is a bodyguard, placed there to protect Rice.”


“I concur – so you must make your plans accordingly, as we may need to move during the daytime.  With that in mind, your thoughts?”


Dominique sat back, her fingers under her chin, before she said “a team of five – we make it an armed robbery.  The film shows Rice has a fine collection of coins – that will provide some cover.”


Madame nodded.  "Dominique, I presume a safe will present no problems to you?"

"No Madame."

"And your backup team?"

"Well if we do a two way entry, then Charlotte and Annie do the climbing.  They can secure anyone on the upper floor before proceeding down"

"That sounds sensible."

"For the ground team can you ask Juliette if we can borrow Diana, I'd feel happier knowing it was her behind a gun in there."


"With all due respect to Susan she's not a stone cold killer, Diana is.  If we are right about the bodyguard, she is the person I want."

"You think you may run into trouble?"

"I hope not, but I want the right person in the right place."

"That I understand Dominique… So Susan's role?"

"Driver and carrying a gun inside, but not our prime enforcer."

"Very well I think I better phone Juliette then." Madame gestured for Dominique to leave.


“I will make the preparations, Madame,” Dominique said as she stood up and left, Madame taking her cell phone out.



3.30 pm
Branford College, Yale


“I cannot thank you enough for allowing me to do this, Dr Curran.”


“Please, its Alex Mrs. Huntingdown,” Alexandra Curran said as she watched John carry the changing table into the room.


“Well, it’s Juliette – and I need to thank you once more for smoothing things with the board.”


“Carina is not the first young mother here,” Alex said as they left the room, “although admittedly, two weeks old is a new record.  But she is an exceptional candidate, and we have managed to arrange things.”


Juliette smiled as her cell phone rang.   “Excuse me – I need to take this.”


“No problem – drop by my office before you go,” Alex said as she walked off, and Juliette answered the call.


“Shirley – what can I do for you?


“I see – well, she is free tomorrow, so if I ask her I am sure she will help.  Is there anything else?


“Hmmm – well, she does come here on Friday, but if it is tomorrow night, then I think she will enjoy the chance to exercise before she comes here.  Again, let me talk to her and call you back.


“Talk to you soon – bye,” she said as the call ended, and John came out.


“All done, Juliette – ready to go?”


“I need to stop at Dr Curran’s office, and then we’re good,” she said as they walked down the corridor…




7 pm
The de Ros Mansion



“Hmmm – of course I would be willing to help out, and I am pleased Dominique has such confidence in my abilities,” Diana said with a smile.  “I will have to be back in the city on Friday to welcome Natasha, but one day should be all right.”


“There will be the necessity to bring someone to the Farm – possibly more than one.”


“Oh – why?”


“Madame needs some information from this Rice gentlemen, which means giving him over to the tender affections of Carina for a while.”


“I see – I must ensure I take some blindfolds with me then,” Diana said quietly.  “At least with the girls otherwise occupied tomorrow, my absence will not be missed.”


“Where is Abigail tonight anyway?”


“I believe she is out with Judy and Tony, before he flies back – I understand he starts back at college next week.”


“Jeannie’s going to miss him.”


“Oh, you noticed as well, did you,” Diana said with a smile.





7 pm
The Rice residence.


Dominic Rice smiled as he walked up the stairs to his front door, his diplomatic bag in hand.  He had met with Legault, and obtained the payment to be passed on – now he had the evening to himself.


As he walked in, a young African lady came out of the front room and said “Good evening sir.”


“Good evening, Becca,” Dominic said with a smile, “when will dinner be ready?”


“In an hour, sir. Shall I fix you your drink?”


“Thank you, yes – I will be in the office,” he said as he walked that way.  He looked stereotypically Australian – tall, blonde haired, broad shouldered.  What the body hid was a calculating mind, and a man who had the right contacts for large arms shipments.


Putting his bag down, he looked round the room before stepping up to a landscape portrait of Sydney.  Feeling round the edge of the frame, he pressed on a hidden switch and stood back as the portrait swung out, revealing a large metal door with a small electronic panel on it.


Smiling, he pressed his thumb to the panel, and then placed his eye over a scanner, before the door itself swung silently out.


Dominic walked back to the desk and opened the bag, reaching in and taking out three velvet sacks which he weighed in his hands.  Returning to the safe, he placed them inside, closed both the door and the portrait, and then went back to his desk, sitting behind it as he started to sift through the mail that had been left there.




Dominic looked up to see a thin dark haired man standing in the doorway.


“Paul – I trust the arrangements are in place for the weekend?”


“They are sir – I have made the reservations, and everything will be in place when you get there.  How was your day?”


“Eventful – sit and we will bring each other up to speed.”


In the kitchen, Becca was sitting talking to the grey haired housekeeper.


“I hope he’s in the mood for steak tonight,” the woman said as she bashed a piece of fillet with a tenderizer.


“He looks happy tonight – hopefully he has forgiven me now for last week, Maria.”


“Oh come on lass – that was hardly your fault,” Maria said as she put the gas ring on under a griddle.  “If Paul or I had been here, it might have been different.”


“Still, I feel I failed him.”


“No you didn’t” Maria said as she pointed the wooden mallet at the young girl.  “Never think that, lass, never think that.”


Becca smiled – she was very fond of her master, although that had not been the case when she had first arrived.  She had been scared, alone – but he and Maria had treated her kindly, and she had since come to think of them as the family she had lost.


Sometimes, she thought of the others, and she prayed they were as happy as her.  As for herself, she was content.


“Right,” Maria said as she slapped the steak on the griddle, “get about your work girl – we’ll eat after him.”




Thursday 21st August

9 am

The Richmond Mansion



“Good morning, Diana,” Sandy said as her friend walked in with Abigail, “and how are you today?”


“I have no cause for complaint,” Diana replied as she adjusted the sleeve of her cream colored jacket.  Sitting down, she accepted the coffee handed to her as Abigail headed for the kitchen.


“Hey there,” Joanne said as she looked up from the breakfast bar, “all set for today?”


“I am, as soon as Cari gets here we go and collect Jeannie, and then we head for the park.  Mary is expecting us for lunch, and then we catch a movie in the afternoon.”


“Pity we can’t make a complete day of it,” Jo said with a smile.  Like Abby, she had on an Angles hoodie over a pair of jeans and sneakers.


“Yeah, I’m sorry too,” Carina said as she came in, dressed the same way, “but I need to head to the Farm tonight for something, and then Mom’s taking me out to dinner.  On which note, Heather, thanks for looking after Baby today.”


“No problem,” Heather said as she took the car seat and changing bag from Carina.  “Milk?”


“You have a couple of bottles in there to warm up,” Carina said with a smile.  “I should be back in time for the evening feed.”


“All right then,” Jo said as she stood up, “Let’s go and collect the latest Angel and have some fun.”


“See you later,” Heather said as the girls went out.


“So when are you meeting them,” Sandy said as Heather brought the sleeping Judith in.


Diana glanced at her watch.  “In an hour, I have time to finish my coffee and still make it.”


“You should try the blend Madame drinks,” Heather said with a smile, “she likes what she calls authentic coffee.”


“Why am I not surprised,” Sandy said with a smile.




10.30 am
The Waldorf Hotel


“This way please, Countess,” the blonde haired woman said as she showed Diana into a waiting room.


“Diana,” Dominique said as she stepped forward, “a pleasure to see you again.”


“Likewise,” Diana said as they embraced and kissed each other on the cheek.  “Thank you for asking me to join you today.”


The door to the room opened, and Diana smiled as Susan came in with Annie.


“Madame will join us shortly,” Susan said as they sat down. 


“Will this be the team,” Diana said quietly.


“There is one other, but as she is unaware of who you are, I felt it prudent to brief her outside of here.  She will be with Annie for this visit.”


Diana nodded in approval as Madame X walked into the room.  “A pleasure to meet you, Countess,” she said as she extended her hands in greeting, “et puis je dis que c'est un honneur est ainsi.”


“Le plaisir et l'honneur sont les miens, madame - et je vous félicite pour votre français?”


J'ai appris il ya quelques années - il s'agit d'une rare occasion de pratiquer ces compétences.”


“How good is your French,” Annie whispered to Susan as the two women talked to each other.


“Well, shall we begin,” Madame said as they sat down, “Dominique?”


“We already know from our surveillance that Rice has the blood diamonds in his safe, and that he always works from his home office on a Thursday.  Susan?”


“When I left, he was having morning coffee with his secretary, Paul de Vries.”


“If he sticks to his plan, he will be in his office from 1 until 4 – we plan to strike at 4 precisely.”


Dominique laid out a floor plan of the building Rice lived in for the others to see.


“I propose a two pronged approach.  Annie and the other team member will go to the rear of the building, and scale the fire escape to the second floor.  They can gain entry by the window to the master bedroom.


“Susan, Diana and I go in the front – fast, hard, and determined.”


“We are not working as Pussycats here,” Diana said quietly, “and you do not wish to tip your hand as to who you are as of yet, so who shall we be?”


“Tell me,” Madame said with a smile, “have you ever heard of Gravitas?”


Diana looked at her and Dominique, before saying “Rumours only – nothing more.  What do you know of them?”


“A lot,” Dominique said with a smile, “because we are Gravitas – in a way.”


“The idea was created to provide a cover story for another issue, but the word was spread of Gravitas – a global network, very well connected, very well supplied and armed, who only strike where there is a reason to.  It has served us well in the past, and will serve us well here – this time only.”


 “I hope you can work in baggy boiler suits,” Susan said, “because that and ski masks are the order of the day today.”


“Intriguing – I hope the street will be clear when we go in?”


“Arrangements have been made,” Madame said with a smile.


“Very well then,” Diana said quietly, “the people?”


Dominique placed some photographs on the table and started to talk…




11 am
FBI Offices, New York


“”Hey Tom – not a lot happening?  No Pussycat sightings?”


“Well Janice the fact that they've gone quiet has at least helped you get some things organized for you and Katy." Tom Callaghan smiled as Janice sat down in his office.

"Well I can't believe that Sandy was able to move things so quickly." Janice said as she smoothed her skirt out. "She got the school to both accept Katy for this semester and to approve a financial aid package that I can afford."

"Does Katy like the idea of a new school?"

"Yes." Janice smiled, "she and little Sandy have become as thick as thieves.  It’s good she has a friend her own age.”

"It's nice she has a real friend, nice for you too.'

"For me?"

"We've all noticed," Callaghan spoke happily, "The difference in you now that you've made friends with the Richmond’s and the other ladies. There's a spring in your step and a smile on your face."

"All work and no play were making Janice a very dull girl." Adam Ball observed as he entered the office carrying a computer printout.

"Is that what I asked you for Ball?" Tom asked.

"Yeah it's an analysis of the when's for the Pussycats."

"Oh and what does it show?" Janice enquired.

"A definite slowing during the school summer breaks."

"So our Pussycats are probably Mom's?" Callaghan observed.

"Is that surprising?" Janice asked, "the profilers have always said they are probably very ordinary women in real life, that they hide in the open."

"No." Callaghan paused, "It's not surprising, but I'm just trying to use this quiet time to get as much evidence put together as I can.  If – well, if they start becoming active again, it never hurts to know what we can."

"Well speaking as a working Mom, I'm glad they probably are as well, meant Katy and I got a proper vacation for the first time in God knows how long."

"Also allowed you to develop your taste in champagne, Janice." Adam said as he smiled.

"Yes it did." Janice agreed, “but it’s been good for all of us.  They’re just normal people like you and me.  Incredibly rich, but normal people.”

"Did you talk to your Mom about that Richmond Trust apartment Sandy mentioned?"

"Yeah she's not sure about moving into the city, but she agrees it might be good for Katy."

"Also let you see more of your friends." Adam said as he looked round.

"If all you two have to talk about are your social lives, get out of here." Callaghan started looking at the computer printout, "some of us actually have work to do."


“Yes, Boss,” Janice said as she stood up and followed Adam out of the office.



12.30 pm
The Waldorf Hotel.


“Well, that seems a sensible plan,” Diana said as she sat back.  “Weapons and equipment?”


“The van will be waiting downstairs with me and the other associate,” Susan said as she stood up. 


“Diana, will you do me the honour of joining me for lunch?  I have a special matter I wish to discuss.”


“I would be honoured,” Diana said as she stood up.


“Good – would you mind stepping out with Dominique for a moment?  There is a secondary matter I wish to discuss with Annie.”


“Certainly,” Diana said as she and Dominique left.  “I have to return to the school for a staff meeting, but I will be back for three,” Annie said as the door closed.


“Good, but that is not the matter I wish to discuss with you.  Sir down, Annie.”


“Am I in some sort of trouble,” Annie said as she looked at Madame and Susan.


“No,” Susan said quietly, “but we have to ask you to undertake an additional task today, and we need to make sure you are happy with it.”


"Annie,” Madame asked slowly, “would you be able to stomach being my representative at an interrogation conducted by Carina?"

"Sure, it would be interesting to… "  Annie suddenly stopped as she realized what they had said.  "By Carina? Is what Dominique and Susan have said about her true?"

"That she's a psychopath?”  Madame nodded slowly and said, “ Yes I'm led to believe that's true."

Annie swallowed hard as she said, “Who is she going to interrogate?  And where?”


“Dominic Rice,” Susan said quietly, “and as to where, you will be taken there, but you will be blindfolded for the journey there and back again.”


"I would usually abhor such things,” Madame said as she sat back, “but we need further intelligence fast, and as messy as Carina's methods may be, she has a proven record for extracting the truth from people."

"You don't have to this if you don't wish Annie." Susan stated.

"You would need a strong stomach though." Madame added.

“How strong?”


“Let us say that the reports say Carina can be very messy.”


Annie thought for a moment, and then said “after what I've seen these bastards do, I'm not sure Carina will really worry me while she works.  I just wish it was Twining."


“Good – I will let Diana know over lunch,” Madame said as she stood up.  “We meet again at 3.”



1 pm
FBI Field Office


“No lunch with the girls today Janice?” Adam Ball sat down opposite his partner in the FBI cafeteria.


“No, everyone is busy, Diana has a meeting, and Juliette and Cari are preparing for Yale.”


“Well,” Adam said as he poked at his lasagna, “I know the food here isn’t up to the standards you are getting used to.”


“That’s true,” Janice looked disgustedly at what passed for a Waldorf salad. “Do you want the rest of this?”


“No thanks,” Ball smiled, “that stuff can rot your guts.”  He put some of the pasta into his mouth and grimaced slightly.


“And it’s not always fancy places we eat. Juliette knows the best hot dog stand in Central Park.”


“Ms. Huntingdown eats hot dogs?” Adam laughed out loud, “I bet the Countess doesn’t.”


“Yeah not quite Diana’s taste or style.”  Janice pushed her plate away and settled for a drink from her bottle of water.


“Well one thing I’ve found out since I’ve been hanging round these people,” Adam said as he looked under a sheet of pasta, “and that’s how the rich stay rich.”


“And how’s that.”


“Gossip, pure and simple gossip.”


“Oh come on Adam.”


“It’s true, if I acted on half the gossip I’ve heard at events recently I could have made myself a nice killing in the market.”


“But that’s insider trading.”


“Yeah and your friends are probably not that crass or stupid, but I bet three quarters of them tweaked their portfolios after hearing that thing about all the new city construction projects that were announced Monday, ahead of time from our deputy mayor.”


“As you say Ball I guess that’s how the rich stay that, while the likes of us eat this.” Janice held up a terrible looking piece of lettuce on her fork.


“Well good luck proving it in a court of law.” Ball nodded, “and in the interests of honesty, yeah I did actually call my broker and made a few thou.”


“Adam,” Janice looked reproachful, “We’re supposed to uphold the law.”


“Sue me.”


“So,” Janice said as she leaned forward, “do you think they’re planning to strike again?”


“Who knows,” Adam said quietly.  “Knowing those bitches, it will be when we least expect it.  After the business with the pawnbroker, the trail went cold.  Tell you what – fancy a beer later?”


“Where are you thinking of going?”


“I thought we might drop in on Tommy the Fish – see if he’s heard anything.”


“Hmm – I thought he was getting married this week?”


“Well let’s take him a wedding present – what do you say?”



3.40 pm

The Rice Residence


The grey panel van pulled up on the deserted street, Susan looking at the entrance to the house.


“How did Madame get the street closed off,” Diana said as she pulled on a pair of leather gloves.


“Better not to ask,” Annie said as she adjusted the rolled up ski mask on her head.  “Ready Charlotte?”


Diana looked at the small redhead.  She already had her ski mask on, as did Dominique, who had introduced her to Charlotte as a security specialist who needed to remain unidentified.  She was impressed the young girl had accepted the situation – it spoke much of the discipline and loyalty Madame generated.


“You two had better get going,” Susan, said, “you have fifteen minutes and then we go.”


Annie and Charlotte nodded as they got out of the van, carrying two rucksacks with them as they walked round the building and into the back alley.  They stood for a moment and looked up the wall, examining the pipework and the windows.


“There,” Annie said as she pointed up, “bedroom window, by the look of it.”


“Shall we?”


The two women pulled the woolen hats down to cover their heads, and fastened their rucksacks on, before they started to climb the pipes, making short work of the hand and foot holds before Annie slipped into the window and helped Charlotte in.  They both stopped for a moment, slipping their revolvers out of their boiler suits before they zipped them up again, and Annie slowly opened the door.


“All clear,” she said as Charlotte nodded, and then spoke into her phone.


“In position – go.”



In the van, Susan nodded and dialed a second number.


“Go with the scramble.”


In the monitoring room, one of the women typed some commands into a console, as the cameras in the Rice residence showed the housekeeper in the kitchen, the maid tidying the living area, and Rice in his office.




“Showtime ladies,” Susan said as she got out of the van, and walked up to the front door, ringing the doorbell before she pulled her ski mask down.





“Now who can that be,” Becca said as she put the magazines neatly on the coffee table, and walked towards the hallway.


“It looks like a delivery,” Maria said as she walked to the front door, and opened it.


“Hello, can I…”


“Don’t say a word,” the tall masked woman said as she pushed Maria back in, holding her against the wall as two more women came in.  All three were dressed in boiler suits, as well as wearing black gloves and boots, and they had ski masks pulled over their heads, only their eyes and red lips showing.


Becca saw what was happening, and turned, running up the stairs in the hope she would be able to get into her room and lock the door.  She was therefore shocked as she ran into two more masked women standing at the top of the stairs, one of them pointing a gun at her as the second grabbed her arm.


“We speak for Gravitas,” Charlotte said as Annie frog marched the young woman downstairs, “where is your master?”


“What the hell is going on out…


Dominic Rice came out of his office to see his housekeeper and maid held at gunpoint, before he felt a sawnoff shotgun pressed into his back.


“We are Gravitas,” Dominique said quietly, “and you will do as you are told, Mister Rice.”


“What the fuck…”


“Into the office, all of you,” Dominique said, Annie pushing Becca and Maria in front of them as Charlotte watched the door.


“Kneel,” Dominique said, the three of them falling to the floor as Annie and Susan started to bind the wrists of all three behind their backs.


“What the hell do Gravitas want with me,” Rice said as he looked at the other two.


“It is not your place to question why Gravitas does what it does, but to do as Gravitas say,” Dominique said as she looked at the two women.  “Fear not – we merely need to restrain you while we go about our business.”


“I am not afraid,” Becca said as she looked at the masked women.  “I fear only my master’s displeasure.”


“Do as they say,” Dominic said as he looked at them, “their business is with me, obviously, and it is better you stay out of this.”


Maria grunted as she felt her ankles been bound together, the rope biting into the skin on her legs.  “What the hell gives you the right to do this to us,” she said as Diana looked at her.


“This,” Diana replied quietly as she held her shotgun in her hands, “and we speak for Gravitas.”


Becca stared ahead as her arms were pulled into her sides, the rope going above and below her chest.  Looking to her side, she saw the same thing happening to Maria, and smiled to try and encourage her.


“Where is your secretary, Mister Rice,” Dominique said as she stood in front of Dominique.


“He went out on business,” Dominic replied as he stared up at them.  Dominique looked over at Susan, who nodded and stood up, leaving the room as Annie joined Charlotte at the side of the room.


“Now Mister Rice,” Dominique said as she forced Dominique to his feet, “Gravitas requires your coin collection, so you will open your safe.”


“Or what?”


“You are not in a position to refuse Gravitas, Mister Rice,” Dominique said as she nodded to Annie and Charlotte.  Both women stood behind Becca and Maria, and placed their guns to the back of their heads.


“No,” Maria whispered as she closed her eyes, while Becca looked at Dominic.


“All right – over there,” he said as he nodded to the painting of Sydney. 


“Complete the securing of them,” Dominique said as she walked the man over to the picture, feeling along the edge until it swung open.  As she examined the metal panel, Dominique smiled and said “Gravitas offers their compliments, Mister Rice – a truly remarkable safe.  Open it.”





Susan came out of the last room on the upstairs landing, thinking hard.  There was no sign of the secretary in any of the rooms, but she was fairly certain he had not left the house.  That made Paul de Vries a loose end – and she did not like loose ends.


Walking slowly down the corridor, she did not hear the door open behind her, or see Paul stepping out – the first hint she got was when the edge of his hand hit her on the neck, and she fell to the floor.


Paul looked down at her, and stepped over her unconscious body, feeling the heft of the gun in his hand as he slowly walked down the stairs.




“Go to hell, bitch.”


“Such language, Mister Rice,” Dominique said slowly, “will not work with Gravitas.  I will ask again – will you open the safe, or do we have to provide further encouragement?”


Becca and Maria were now sat on the floor against the wall, their legs bound below their knees and then bent and bound to their bodies, while strips of white tape covered the sponges Annie and Charlotte had pushed into their mouths.


They stared at the two masked women as Dominique said “Start with the younger one – every time Mister Rice refuses to do as I ask, hit her.”


Charlotte nodded as she put her gun down, and then cracked her knuckles before lifting Becca’s face to look into her eyes.


“This gives me no pleasure,” she said as she lifted her hand…


“NO – no, I’ll do it, but I need my hands free,” Dominic shouted out.


“Better,” Dominique said as she released his hands, and then leveled the shotgun at him.  Proceed – one wrong move and you die.  We can always use your retina and fingerprints after that.”


Nodding, Dominic turned and looked at the steel door.  He saw the blurred reflection of the entrance from the hallway, and smiled as he placed his eye to the scanner, and then his finger.


Dominique smiled as she heard the safe door open, and then pulled Dominic back to allow it to swing open fully, placing her gun on the desk as she began to bind her wrists again.


While all this was going on, Diana had been standing guard, intently watching all the others.  She was beginning to wonder where Susan had got to, when instinct kicked in, and she gripped the shotgun.


“Empty the safe,” Dominique said to Annie, who walked over and removed a canvas bag from her boiler suit.  As she started to empty the contents of the safe into the bag, Charlotte watched the two women, while Dominique bound Dominic’s arms to his sides.


From the hallway, Paul looked through the door.  He could see the two women with Dominic Rice by the safe, and could hear Becca and Maria inside.  The other one was still upstairs, and he knew what he had to do.  Pulling back the safety on his gun, he took a deep breath and stepped into the room, aiming at Annie.


The shot made both Dominique and Annie turn round, as they saw Paul standing there, the red stain growing on his shirt as he dropped to his knees, and Diana raised her shotgun, the smoke oozing from the barrel.




“Fucking hell,” Dominic said as the dead body of his secretary fell to the floor, and he turned to look at Dominique.


“Gravitas take a dim view of people who lie to them, Mister Rice,” she said as Annie put the cases of coins into the sack, as well as the velvet bags and any money she could find.  “Find our friend.”


Dominique nodded and walked quickly out, looking up the staircase to see Susan holding the back of her head at the top.


“What happened,” she whispered as she came down and joined Diana.


“The secretary was indeed a bodyguard – I dealt with him.”


Susan nodded as she walked into the room, looking at the body on the floor and then at the two women, whimpering as they sat there.


“You will come with us, and answer for this,” Dominique said as she spun Rice round, pressing a tape gag over his mouth and then pulling a black silk hood over his head, pulling the cords so it sat around his neck.  “Do we have everything?”


“We do,” Annie said as she looked at the empty safe.


“Very well – we speak for Gravitas!”


“For Gravitas!”  The five women left, Dominique and Diana dragging Rice between them as Becca and Maria stared at the dead Paul.


Stopping at the door, Susan removed her balaclava and looked round, before running down and opening the side door of the van.  She then climbed into the driver’s seat, as the other four walked down and into the van, making Rice sit on the floor as Diana closed the door behind them.


“Drive,” she said to Susan, who set off down the street while Dominique dialed a number on her cell phone, watching as the others removed their ski masks.


“This is Dominique – initiate scorched earth policy on the Rice surveillance.”




“You two,” she said as she looked at Annie and Charlotte, “put these on.”  She handed them two blindfolds.




“Security – the driver knows where we are going, and you three do not.”


“Agreed,” Dominique said as she pulled one over her own eyes, followed by the other two.  Diana sat with the gun over her knees, watching Rice as they moved along…



6.30 pm
The Farm


“Well, at least the clothes packing is all done now,” Juliette said as she sat opposite Carina, Judith taking her evening feed.  “It means we can make an early start with the others in the morning.”


“I’m glad you’re coming with me,” Carina said as she looked at Judith, “I’m just sorry Jeannie could not make it.”


“Well, with Barbara starting her new job next week, and Jeannie at school on Friday next week, they still have a lot to do,” Juliette said as Judith finally detached, a smile on her lips.


“That’s better isn’t it,” Carina said as she tickled her baby's nose, and then adjusted her top.  “By the way Missy rang me in Central Park today.”


“Oh – what was she wanting?”


"Apparently my ILUXX glasses commercials finally start running next week, and she wanted to know how much weight I had lost already."

"That's Missy." Juliette laughed, "She wanted me to do a bikini shoot just three weeks after I had you, I don't think she sees having a baby as a reason for interrupting work."

"I told her modeling comes firmly down my list of priorities, but she still wants me to look at some offers for my services."


“Studies and baby come first, but no harm in having a look,” Juliette said as she raised her mug, and then put it down again as she heard a vehicle outside.  Standing up, she walked over and looked through the drapes, before saying “they’re here.  You finish here and I’ll bring them in.”


Walking into the yard, she smiled at Susan and Diana as they got out.  Opening the side door, Juliette then motioned to Annie to follow her into the farmhouse, while Dominique and Susan followed Diana to one of the barns, forcing the hooded Dominic Rice to walk between them.


“Welcome to our home away from home,” Juliette said as Anne sat with Carina.


“Ready for the trip to New Haven,” Annie said as she tickled Judith’s chin.


“As ready as I’ll ever be – but I’m looking forward to a bit of fun today as well,” Carina said with a smile.  “Any particular things you need to ask?”


“Susan has the details – she’ll give them to me before she, Dom and Diana head off,” Annie said.


“How did it go?”


“One dead – he was aiming to kill me and Dominique.”


Juliette nodded, and said “How does that make you feel?”


“She did it to save me – and I am grateful, but I will not do that.”


“And are you ready for tonight?”


Annie nodded.  “I actually feel sorry for him – if half of what I hear is true, he may not like it.”


“He exploits children,” Carina said quietly, “and while I may only now be a mother, I can feel that pain, so however nice he may be – he deserves my attention.”


“He’s secured,” Diana said as the three of them came in.  “When will you get started?”


“I need to change first,” Carina said as she handed Judith to Diana.  “Annie?”


“I need to stay like this,” Annie said quietly.


“No,” Carina said, “come with me.  We need to look professional for this.”


“Go with her,” Juliette said as Annie followed Carina up the stairs.


“Right,” she said as she looked in a wardrobe, “I think I can get into this now, if you can give me a hand.”


She took out a pair of leather trousers and a leather bustier, and placed them on the bed, before handing Annie a black latex cat suit and saying “I think this will fit you.”


“Why this,” Annie said as she looked at it.


“Much of this work is about the image,” Carina said as she stripped out of her sweats and started to ease the trousers on, sighing as she managed to fasten them.  She then picked up the bustier, and said “Can you fasten this round me please.”


“This has got to be the strangest evening I have spent recently,” Annie said as she fastened the leather thongs, pulling the article round Carina as it lifted her bust up.


“Not too bad,” she said as she looked at herself in the mirror.  “Come on Annie – get into that and you’ll feel a million dollars.”


As Annie slipped into the latex outfit, Carina fastened a pair of knee length lace up boots with four-inch heels onto her lower legs, and then handed a pair to Annie.  As she laced them up, Carina pulled her hair back into a ponytail and sat at the table to apply her makeup.


“Can I ask a question,” Annie said as she tottered over.


“Sure,” Carina said as she handed Annie a lipstick.


“Who am I talking to now?”


Carina turned and looked at her former teacher.


“The others told me that there is another Carina – the one who relishes this sort of thing.  So which one am I talking to now?”


Smiling, Carina said “the latter – I’m glad you were told, it makes things easier.”


“And is this Carina who kills?”


“It’s a mistake to think of us as two separate people, Annie – we’re the same person, but different sides of the coin, different phases of the moon, call it what you will.  We have the same tastes, the same desire to protect our family and friends – I just stay hidden most of the time.”


Nodding, Annie said, “so what is the plan for tonight?”


"Humiliate him, emasculate him, degrade him, and once he tells all, kill him." Carina stated bluntly.

"Oh dear God." Annie put her hand to her mouth.

"Don't worry I'll do the killing, you just play along with everything Miss Kelly." Carina laughed, "Maybe I'll teach you a few things tonight."


"Here put this on." Carina said as she passed Annie a black Catwoman style eye mask.

"More part of the illusion?"

"Yeah, you catch on fast." Carina giggled.


She took Annie’s hand and led her out of the room…


As they walked downstairs, Annie asked "How come I had no idea this Carina existed, after all I taught you for two years and I never even dreamed… "

"Because I hide inside her, so called normal Carina is just that, she's cute, nice, and loved. I'm just the side of her that loves cruelty and horror."

Annie shook her head. It was hard to comprehend the nature of Carina's dual personality.


Dominique turned as they came down, looking at the two dominatrices as they walked across the kitchen.  She caught the look of apprehension in Annie’s eye, and said quietly “Good luck.”




Dominic Rice twisted his head from side to side, wondering where the hell he was now.  He had been brought in here, wherever here was, and it felt as if he was in a wooden seat.  His arms were certainly resting on wooden boards, but his wrist and elbow were strapped down with some sort of leather belt.  A wider belt held his body to the chair, and his ankles and legs were also tightly strapped in place.


He heard the footsteps first, the click of heels on stone as they approached.  By the sound of the steps there were at least two of them.  The sound of the steps was different as well – not the heavy work boots, but finer, refined – stilettos, possibly?


The hood was suddenly pulled from his head, and as his eyes adjusted he saw he was in some sort of barn.  What really surprised him, however, were the two women standing in front of him, dressed in leather and latex and looking at him with the sternest of eyes through their masks.


“Good evening, Mister Rice,” Carina said as she smiled at him, “Doubtless, you’re wondering why we invited you here tonight.”


“Who the hell are you bitches,” he spat back at them, only to wince as Carina brought the back of her hand across his cheek.


“First rule, Mister Rice – you speak when you are spoken to and asked a question, otherwise you remain silent and you listen.  Now, I want you to pay very careful attention.


“My friend and I have some questions to ask of you, and we expect you to answer fully and honestly.  Answer well, and there will be reward.  Answer wrongly, and – well, it will not be pleasurable.


“For you.”


Anne watched as Carina walked over to a table, and opened a small leather bag, taking various instruments out.  She held them up, Rice breaking into a cold sweat when he saw some of them.


“Be assured,” Carina said with a smile, “we will get the answers we require, one thing or another.  The only real question is how long you can hold out – and I have to confess, I look forward to finding out.”


As Carina laid her instruments out, Annie sat on Dominic’s lap and stroked his face.


“Mr. Rice, I’d like to plead with you to answer all our questions and maybe we can negotiate a way of releasing you.”


Dominic stared at her, before saying “What is this - you the good cop, she’s the bad?”


“Oh no – I’m the bad cop.  As for her, I’m led to believe that she’s more than bad, that she’s in fact positively evil.”


Rice stared at the smiling girl in leather.  “A little girl like her?”


“Mr. Rice,” Annie said as she lifted his chin and looked into his eyes, “that little girl is a psychopath who has killed 30 people, I’ve never seen her work, and I’m not sure I have a mind to, but I’m told the last person she had in here begged to be allowed to die.”


Yer bloody kidding me.”


Annie smiled and said, “Do you remember when they fished Vince Maroni’s body out on the Jersey Shore?  What his killer did to him?”


Dominic nodded, and then said “Oh shit – her?  You have got to be fucking joking!”


“I wish I was, but everything you hear in here will be by her rules only the truth, she expects you to do us the same courtesy.”


“And if I don’t.”


“Then I’m told she can get quite creative.”


Yer not frightening me bitch!”


Annie frowned and shook her head.  “Oh dear - well then, I’ve absolved my conscience, just one more final time.  I will ask you if you will answer all our questions quietly.”


“No fuckin’ way bitch.”


“Well,” Annie stood up, “You will never leave this room alive, and I believe the pain you are going to feel will be excruciating.” She looked over at Carina, “but you were warned, what happens now is your own choice.”


“I presume he is not willing to talk,” Carina said as she walked over, smiling as she looked at him.


“I’m afraid for him he will not,” Annie said quietly, “so we must begin.  Is your name Dominic Rice?”


“Of course it fucking is,” he said as he watched Carina take hold of his hand.


“Good,” she said with a smile, “and are you a lying little gun runner with a thing for African girl slaves?”


“Fuck yourself.”


“Wrong,” Carina said as she produced the nutcrackers, and swiftly crushed the first knuckle of the index finger of Rice’s left hand.




“Let’s try a different question,” Annie said as she walked forward, “Does the name Francois Legault mean anything to you?”


“I…  I know him from the UN – why?”


“Do you do business with him?”


“No – SHITTFUCKHELL” he screamed as the next knuckle was cracked.


“Try again,” Carina said with a smile, “do you do business with Francois Legault?”


“And what the hell is it to you if I do?”


“Well, your contacts are of great interest to me, Mister Rice,” Carina said with a smile.  “You have some fairly high placed contacts, and we know you move in high diplomatic circles.”


“We also know,” Annie, said as she stroked his head, “that you mix with people who have much in common, such as your choice of domestic staff.”


“What do you meSHIT!


Another knuckle gave way as Carina closed the blades.  “The divine maid you have – where did you employ her from?”


“An agency – why?”


“We are intrigued, and wish to know more – tell us the name of the agency.”


“I can’t!”


“Which finger will be next then,” Annie said as she ran her gloved hand between the fingers of Rice's right hand.


“Maybe his thumb – people don’t realize how useful they can be.”


“You can break them all for all I care,” Rice said with a grimace, “I won’t say anything.”


“Oh the big strong Australian wants to play the macho man,” Annie said as she looked at Carina.  She reached between his legs, and sighed as she said “Well he is certainly a man.”


“We’ll put this to the test later,” Carina said, “but we have a way to go first.  Let us discuss the agency that found your maid first – where is it based?”


“No comment.”


Carina smiled as she walked to the table and picked up a knife, coming back and cutting the buttons away from Dominic’s shirt.  “We already know the maid was smuggled into this country from Mazengwe, Mister Rice, along with other children.  I have been told you have treated her well and with dignity, which is why you are still alive for the moment.  Twining, Chen, Cohen – they will not be so lucky.”


Dominic stared at her – how the hell did she know about them?


“So my question is simple – where did you fetch her from?”


“Fetch who,” Dominic said as he felt Carina’s hand on his chest, pulling the shirt open.


“Mister Rice, I thought we established what would happen if you lied,” Annie said quietly as she slipped her hand between his legs, “We know your maid is an illegal child slave, so where did you collect her from?”


“I can’t tell you.”


“Really,” Annie said as she closed her hand over his ball sac.




“I may kill you anyway,” Carina said as she slid the knife across his chest, leaving a thin red line.  “Where did you collect her?”


“AWWFUCKKKKKK All right, I’ll tell you – a warehouse on the east side.  Pier twelve.”


“Very good,” Carina said as she stood up.  “Now, let us move on to other matters – who else is in this group who claim staff from there?  We know of Twining, Chen, Cohen, Legault – who else?”


“I don’t know…”  Rice gritted his teeth again as Carina sliced along his sternum.


“Names, Mister Rice, we want names.”


Despite her attempts to remain cool and calm, the scene was beginning to create ripples throughout Annie's body. She could feel her nipples had hardened and that moisture had appeared between her legs. Frankly she was being sexually aroused by participating in the torture of this man, and Cari wasn't helping by looking so blatantly sexy.

Suddenly on an impulse Annie walked up to Carina and pulled her to her, planting a long kiss on her former students deep red lips.

"Oh Goddess." she heard Carina whisper, "Do you know how long I've dreamed of kissing you?"

"Oh Fuck you're a lesbian as well as a sadist," Annie whispered.

"No just open and bi… just like you." Carina pulled Annie in for another long kiss.

"Now don't you wish it was me kissing you." Annie giggled evilly as she turned and smiled seductively at Rice.


“Sorry, bitches,” Rice grinned back at them, “not my type, but I like what you’re doing.”


“Really?  Poor Becca – she really has a thing for you, you know.  And you lead her on like that?”  Annie put her foot on Rice’s chest and pushed hard, forcing him to topple backwards in the chair and land with his head on the floor.


“Take his shoes off,” Annie said to Carina as she walked to the table, and picked up a leather crop.  She walked back as Cari pulled his shoes and socks off, bringing the crop down on her gloved hand.


“Names, Mister Rice, start talking.”




Annie smiled as she brought the crop down on his foot, making him scream out.


“I approve,” Carina said as she picked up a bamboo cane.  “Names Mister Rice.”




The cane came down on his foot, followed by the crop.


“Well, Mister Rice?”


“All right, I’ll talk,” Rice, screamed as he gave names, each one followed by a strike to his foot, Carina and Annie grinning as they took turns.


Eventually, Rice cried out “No More.”  He looked up to see the two women embracing and kissing, before they turned and looked at him.


“Oh my dear,” Annie said with a smile as she touched his bleeding feet, “they look as if they need cooling down.”


“Be a darling,” Carina said, “and fetch some ice in a bowl for me.”  As Annie walked off, she grinned at Rice and said, “my friends from Gravitas found something very interesting alongside your coin collection – sacks of diamonds.  Now why would an Australian diplomat have so many uncut diamonds in his personal safe, hmm?”


“None…  None of your business,” Dominic said as he grimaced.


“”Oh but it is my business,” Carina said with a smile as she unstrapped his legs from the chair legs, only to bind his ankles tightly together with a leather belt.  “You see, these diamonds fascinate me – what were they intended for?”


“Go to hell!”


“Funny – I was going to say that to you,” Carina said with a smile as Annie carried over a washing bowl filled with ice.  Placing it one the floor, she joined Carina on each side of his chair, reaching down and taking it upright again as his feet were forced into the ice.




He tried to pull his feet out, only for Carina to push his legs back down again.  “The sensation will pass,” she whispered, “and besides, it will clean the wounds.  Now, who were the diamonds meant for, and for what purpose did you have them?”


SHHhhhhhhh  payment – payment for goods received.”


“Who from?”


“Someone far bigger and scarier than you, little bitch.”


“Mister Rice,” Annie said as she unzipped his pants and pulled them down, “that wasn’t very nice.  Allow me to show how unnice that was.”


Dominic was sweating from the pain and the cold, as he felt her hand on his ball sac again, and then felt her squeeze it tighter than a vice.


“I’m teliing  the  truth…” he gasped out, “they’ll kill me if I talk.”


“Tell me,” Carina said as she walked over, “are you Jewish Mister Rice?”


“No I’m not fucking Jewish.”


“Then you won’t recognize these,” she said with a smile as she held up a steel object that looked like a stapler with a circular rod on it.


“This,” she said quietly, “is called a Gomco clamp.  Do you know what it is used for?”


“No,” Dominic whispered.


“Let me show you,” she said as she pulled his penis out, and started to massage it, engorging it as he closed his eyes, only to open them again in shock as the device was placed over his member, and the foreskin pulled through the hole before it was clamped off.


“What the fuck are you doing,” he said as Carina nodded to Annie.  The other girl walked behind her and held his head as Carina produced a scalpel.


“Who were the gems destined for?”


“No – no you wouldn’t…”  He closed his eyes and nearly bit his tongue off as he felt the scalpel remove his foreskin, the blood dripping as Carina released the clamp.


“She did,” Annie said quietly, “who were the gems intended to be delivered to?”


“I’ll tell you…” Carina took note of what he said, before smiling and putting the device and the book down.


“Well, Mister Rice,” she said as she kissed his forehead, “thank you for being so cooperative.  Now, two last questions.  First, where did you get the gems from?”


LegaultLegault passed them to me today.  What are they?”


“Oh these?  Don’t worry about them,” Carina said as she attached two electrodes either side of his ball sac with tape, and then ran the wires to the table nearby.  “And where did Legault get them from?”




“I’m sorry,” Carina, said as she attached the wires to a metal box, “we ask the questions.”


“I need to know why you want to know?


“Well, where shall we start,” Carina said as she opened the cover on a switch.  “First, there is the fact you have involved yourself in the smuggling of child slave labour – shocking.”


The current hit him hard, as he tensed and arched his back, the smell of his pubic hair singing rising from between his legs.


“And then there are the diamonds to be used to buy arms, to be used doubtlessly in the civil war in the same country these girls come from.”


Another shock ran through him as Annie looked on.


“And then, just to top it all off, you piss me off with your lies and deliberate threats.”


“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  The third shock made him shake as a streak of blood and piss ran down his leg.


“So, Mister Rice, answer me one question, and this can end now – who is The Walrus?”


“I don’t know – I swear to God I don’t know.”


“Is he Kimba?”


Dominic shook his head.  “No – I have been in the room with Kimba when The Walrus has called him.”


“If you’re lying,” Annie said as Carina reached for the switch.




“I think he’s telling the truth,” Annie said as she looked at him.


“I think he is as well,” Carina said quietly.  “Will you give us a few minutes alone, my dear?”


Annie nodded and walked out of the barn, feeling between her legs as she listened to the screams coming from inside.  She had never thought she would be so aroused by doing this, and yet she knew this made her feel – well wonderful.


She stroked herself, the latex squeaking as she sought to give herself relief as well, not noticing as the barn fell silent. 


When she turned her head, she saw Carina standing at the door, taking deep breaths.


“It’s over,” she said as she held up her notebook, “come on.”



The three women stood up as the door opened.


“Well did you find out all the information that Madame requested?” Juliette asked as the two tired girls came into the farmhouse.


“We did.” Carina passed her notebook to her Mother, who flipped through.

“Oh my dear Goddess so many names.”  She passed it to Dominique and Susan, whose eyes widened as they looked at the names.


“This is a very big thing Mom.  I didn’t realize how big until tonight.”


“What of the arms dealer?”


“The details are there – but he didn’t know who this Walrus was.  I believed him?”


“So did I.”


“How are you feeling Annie?” Juliette asked as she looked at the teacher.


“Tired and a wee bit dazed.”


“Extracting information can be hard work.” Carina nodded.


“Was it bad?” Juliette looked at the girls’ blood splattered leathers.


“No worse than I’d steeled myself that it might be.  I actually felt sorry for the poor bastard at the end.”


“You’d better undress down here Annie.” Juliette told her, “I’ll burn your clothes… Darling, yours too.”


“I need a long hot shower.” Annie said as she squatted to start undoing her boots.



“Annie I’m back to me now, if there’s anything you want to talk about, maybe we need to discuss it?”


Annie looked at Carina as she unfastened her bodice, and said, “Let me get washed and dressed first, and then – yeah, I think we need to talk.”


“I’ll have some soup ready for you,” Juliette said as she went to the kitchen.


“We need to get this to Madame as soon as possible – what about Rice?”


“I will take care of him,” Diana said, “Annie, Carina, cleanse yourselves and change.  And thank you – I know it was not pleasant.”


“I’ll run Annie back with me when she is ready,” Juliette said as the two young women headed up the stairs, and Juliette put their clothes and boots into an incinerator bag.


At the top of the stairs, Annie stopped at the entrance to the bathroom and looked at Carina.


"Did you mean it when you said you'd dreamed of kissing me, or was that just 'her' speaking?"

"Annie,” Carina said with a laugh, “I'm bi-sexual, I get attracted primarily to guys, but yeah I sometimes get a thing about other women, and she was speaking for both of us."

"I'm not sure what to make of this." Annie looked extremely confused.

"Well say what you are thinking."

"I'm thinking that I'm highly attracted to you, but that doesn't stop you being my former student, or you being…"

"A complete psychopath." Carina interrupted.


"I was going to say only 18 years old, and just about to go away to college."

"I'm not looking for a relationship right now Annie, I've got Yale and Judith to think about first, but there's always a place in my heart for you, and if you do ever want to do something about it I'm always here for you."


Annie nodded.  “I might like that, and you just looked so sexy in that leather." As she removed her bra, she said "Mind if I get in the shower first?"

"Mind if I join you?" Carina asked with a smile on her face as she too removed her bra.

"Are you sure Ca " The rest of Annie's words were lost as Carina kissed her again.  Annie pulled Carina into the bathroom, shutting the door behind both of them…




Forty minutes later Carina and Annie returned downstairs, their hair covered with towels, clad only in bathrobes and slippers, their faces cleansed of blood and makeup, each looking very young as they came into the kitchen holding hands.


“I’ve cooked a boeuf bourgignon,” Diana called over her shoulder from the range. “I hope you are both hungry?”


“I think we’ve managed to work up an appetite.” Annie giggled.


“Oh yeah, I’m starving,” Carina said as she sat down, Juliette looking at both of them.


“You both look one hundred percent better then you did when you came in from the barn,” she said with a smile, looking at both of them.


“Well I think we needed to relax.” This time Carina giggled.


“Oh – and how exactly did you relax,” Juliette said as she sat back.  “After all, I only heard the shower run once.”


This time both girls started laughing as Diana stopped the stirring.


“Oh no - not you two as well.” Diana groaned as she turned round and looked at the younger women holding hands as they sat.  “Don’t we get enough of this from Sandy and Heather?”


“From Sandy and Heather?” Annie looked bemused.


“Didn’t you ever cotton on they were lovers?” Carina asked.


Annie sat for a moment, and then shook her head.  “No, I must be dumber than I thought.”


Annie looked round and then kissed Carina gently.


“So is this going to be a thing? Should I ask what your intentions are towards my daughter Miss Kelly?” Juliette asked.


“Mom!” Carina hushed her mother.


“Juliette we have talked it out.” Annie paused, “We are both very attracted to each other, but neither of us is ready for a relationship.”


“Mom I’m going to New Haven, Annie will be in New York, she’s free to date whoever she likes, I’m free to date whoever I like, no jealousy, no commitment.”


“That sounds right to me.” Juliette inside was relieved. “You both have your own lives to lead. I knew Cari was bi Annie, but I never suspected you were.”


“I’m not sure that I really knew till today.” Annie said with a smile as Diana started serving supper. “But then, until recently I had no idea you were all part of this country’s most notorious gang.”


“She’s a little slow at times.” Cari laughed.


“Hey I was the one who kissed you.”


“Yeah but you were getting turned on by the torture.”


“Was not.”


“Was too.” Carina stuck her tongue out.


“Ladies, Ladies.” Juliette laughed.  “Look, it’s been a long day, Let’s just enjoy the food.”


“Well it’s nice to see you both happy.” Diana sat down after dishing up.


“Good French food.” Carina said as she started to tuck in.


“So how tough was he?” Juliette asked quietly.


“Pretty tough.” Carina suddenly became serious. “These people think they can do anything.”


“Well to be fair so do we.” Diana reminded her goddaughter.


“But we are the bad guys, these are supposed to be the good guys.”


“I think Madame will be pleased we got more names.” Annie remembered what the purpose of the interrogation had been.


“I’ll drive you back into town later Annie.” Diana spoke. “When do you see her?”




“While we take baby to New Haven.” Juliette reminded Carina.


“How can I forget – we’ll drive back later as well.”  Juliette put her fork down and looked at her daughter.


“I still can’t quite believe this is happening.”


“You’re not the only one,” Carina said quietly.  “Talking of which, where is baby?”


“Asleep in her cot upstairs,” Diana said quietly.


“And him,” Annie said as she looked to the door.


“Taken care of – don’t let him worry you,” Diana said, “there are others who deserve your attention now.”



Friday 22nd August
10 am
Branford College, Yale


The space outside the college entrance was a mass of young faces looking up as their parents carried in cases and boxes.  Judy McNally was just one of those faces, as she and Rachel walked into the entrance hall.


“Welcome to Branford,” the young woman behind the desk said, “Can I have your name please?”


“It’s McNally – Judith McNally.”


“Oh yes – your roommate hasn’t arrived yet, but if you go with this young man here, he’ll take you to your room.”


“This way,” he said as Judy and Rachel followed him down the corridors, and then into a large suite.


“Oh my,” Rachel said as she looked round, “this is nice.”


“Yeah – but we mustn’t forget the reason why,” Judy said as she looked over at the small cot and changing table.  Rachel gently rocked it, and said “I wonder how Cari feels today?”


“About as nervous as you do.”


The two of them turned to see Carina carrying Judith in her arms, while Juliette, Joanne and Heather were carrying her bags.


“Wow – this really is a nice room,  Cari said as she laid Judith down in the cot.


“I’ll say – better than my one,” Heather said as she and Joanne put the cases on the bed, while Juliette laid a large canvas bag she was carrying next to the cot.


“I didn’t know Branford was your college, Heather?”


“Oh yeah,” Heather said as she looked at Rachel, “I’ve already told these two all they need to know to survive here.”


“Rule one of which is come to me if they have a problem.”


“ALEX!!”  Heather hugged her old friend as Carina and Judy looked on.


“Welcome, finally, to Branford girls,” Alex said as she looked at them.  “I do the formal introduction session at 7 tonight in the main room, but until then, I suggest you take time to get used to the place.”


“Why don’t we go for a walk round the campus, then go and grab lunch somewhere?”


“Sounds good, Jude,” Carina said, “you guys go ahead, I’ll get Baby into the sling and bring her with me.”


“I’ll help,” Heather said as the others left, then she turned to Carina.  “I have a present for you,” she said as she opened the canvas bag and opened a slim leather case.


"Okay Carina I've set you up a lap top that can function on two levels." Heather handed the dull silver device over to the new Yalie.

"It looks cool." Cari observed.

"Well it is a perfectly ordinary computer, but with added security features to keep Judy out of Pussycat business. I've built in a special protocol that will let you access our secure communications net."

"Any danger of Judy finding it accidentally?"

"Not unless she has one of your eyes." Heather held up a tiny retina scanner. "You use this as your key."


“Neat,” Carina said with a smile.  Putting the baby sling over her shoulder, she watched as Heather carefully placed Judith inside, and then picked up the changing bag.


“Come on,” she said, “Let’s join the others.”


11 am
The Waldorf Hotel


“From the surveillance last night, it appears our friends are in a slight state of confusion as to what is happening,” Charlotte said as she sat opposite Madame X and Susan.  “Cohen has had several very irate conversations with the arms suppliers, and Legault looks as if he is about to lose his life, the way he is acting.”


“I am not surprised,” Madame said quietly, “given the information Carina kindly obtained for us last night.  Susan?”


“Clint has been told he will be on assignment to the Mazengwean delegation for the next fortnight – apparently, Vice President Kimba is coming to visit again.”


“It would appear Gravitas has somewhat unfortunately caused a slight commotion,” Susan said as she smiled at Charlotte.  “The intel?”


“Incredible, vast and scary,” Charlotte said quietly.  “We knew this was a big operation, but just how big was unknown.  It will take some time to assess it.  We have some quick hits – the arms suppliers will be getting a visit from the FBI in the next two hours, and at least one of the girls is free now.”


“Police monitoring suggests Becca is being taken in by Maria – there is nothing to connect her with the others.  As for his secretary, it appears he was a mercenary, hired by Rice as a bodyguard.”


“I see – well, the Australian Consulate may have a few things to say on the matter, when the time comes.  Has Annie arrived yet?”


“Dominique is waiting for her downstairs…”




Dominique looked up as Annie walked into the lobby, the heels of her Italian leather shoes clicking on the marble.


“Hey – what are you doing down here,” she said as she joined her mentor.


“Waiting for you – I was concerned after last night.”


“I’m fine – it was a shock, but I expected it.”


“Well, I thought you did remarkable well yesterday.  Come – she is expecting you.”


They travelled up in the lift together, entering the suite and Madame’s office as Susan said “The one who seems really upset is Chen – ah, there you are.”


“Annie,” Madame said as she stood up and walked over, “I trust it was not too harrowing last night.”


“It was tough to watch, but I believe we got the information you needed,” Annie said as she sat down.


“More than we had expected,” Susan said quietly.  “We’ve uncovered a huge number of people here, some of them very prominent.  This will require more planning.”


“I still wish to see this through to the end,” Annie said quietly.


“Good – there is something I wish for you to do for me in a professional capacity, Annie, while we continue to assess the information and collate more.  Dominique?”


“Can you come with me a moment, Annie,” Dominique said as she stood up, and led her to another bedroom.  “You know Ama of course,” she said as the young African girl turned and smiled at them.


“Of course,” Annie said with a smile.  “How are you?”


“Have we met,” Ama replied.


“Sorry – I had a wig on before.  I’m Annie – so what can I do for her Dominique?”


“You can assess her learning capability – it is my wish for her to start learning more, but we need to have a baseline.”


“Sensible,” Annie said as she sat down.  “I can bring some tests over tomorrow, but for now Ama, tell me what you have learned in the past…”


An hour later, Annie returned to the room.  “Very bright young lady, but I’ll need to run the tests tomorrow,” she said as she sat down.


Madame X was deep in thought, considering all she had learned.


"We will need to add to our surveillance grid." Madame spoke at last.

"More break ins?" Annie asked.

"Lots." Dominique looked at her younger friend.

"I better find more cameras etc." Susan thought aloud.

"We will need to train more monitors." Charlotte thought aloud as well.

"It's a good thing then that I asked Penelope to fly in with some of the girls from London already then." Madame smiled.

"As always you are one step ahead of us Madame." Susan smiled.

"Well I try Susan, but I will admit it's getting harder, you girls are all very good at your jobs."

"Thank you Madame." Charlotte blushed.

"So in your opinion Dominique what is THEIR next move?"

"Madame they must soon get that this is a co-ordinated attack on them." Dominique paused for thought. "If I was them I'd be searching hard for a mole in their group and looking for surveillance and bugs."

"Those were my thoughts as well Dominique." Madame looked pensive. "We have to assume from now on our enemies will be on their guard, so any mistakes now could be fatal."

"Agreed." Dominique nodded.


“I wonder,” Susan said quietly, “if we could not guide them in their search for a mole.  There is one person in their organization who has been extraordinarily unlucky, after all.”


“You are considering using Legault to divert attention,” Madame said as she looked at Susan.


“It has potential, if we are careful,” Dominique said carefully.  “Some carefully planted hints to the right people.”


“Any suggestions who?”


“Yes,” Annie said, “his partner.”


“Angel Xantu?  Why?”


“I suspect she is higher placed than we had been led to believe,” Charlotte said, “so if she was to get the idea Legault had betrayed them…”


“Hmm – proceed,” Madame said as she stood up.  “In the meantime, make arrangements for more visits – Penelope arrives tomorrow.”


"Madame,” Susan said quietly, “May I ask a question?”


As Dominique and Charlotte left with Annie, Madame X looked at her associate.  “Of course – speak freely.”


“I need to know who should I report to from now on, you or Penny?"

"Why do you ask Susan," Madame said as she looked at her.

"Well,” Susan said quietly, “isn't Penelope my superior?  If she is here, she will naturally assume command of the field office, and…"



Susan looked at Madame X.


"No Susan." Madame laughed her cultured little laugh, "As head of operations in New York you are Penelope's equal, as is Madeline."

"Oh." Susan felt a little stunned by that information.  “I naturally assumed…”

"Just because she is my number two does not mean you are not at the same level of seniority,” Madame said quietly.  “You will report directly to me just as she does.  I have every confidence in your abilities Susan.  Now, is there anything else?"


“No Madame – and thank you.”


Madame X smiled as she watched Susan walk out, and then returned to the papers she was reading.


2 pm
Anna Liffey’s, Whitney Avenue

New Haven


“I think I was right, we maybe need to ship your bike up here Judy, it will help you get round.” Rachel McNally slipped into her chair and removed her shoes to try and help them stop aching.


“It certainly is a big campus.” Juliette agreed. “Do we need get to you and baby a modified bike as well Cari?”


Carina held Judith in her arms and put the sling on the floor.  “Well it will be more practical then my Maserati for getting round on.”


“And what can I get you ladies to drink?” a waitress said as she came up to the table.


“Something long and cool.” Juliette smiled at her. “My friends and I seem to have been walking forever.”


“I see.” The waitress said as she looked at them, “Can I suggest lemonades all round?”


“That sounds heavenly.” Juliette smiled.


“So what type of food do they serve here Heather?” Judy asked.


“They boast about their steaks, but that’s to attract the jocks in.” Heather glanced round. “The secret is their Irish Stew, it’s cheap, filling, and really the best I’ve ever had.”


“Hi, I’m Andrew and I’ll be your server, your drinks are on the way, do I need give you more time with the menus?”


“Well we’ve just had a ringing endorsement of your Irish stew young man.” Juliette smiled at him, “Can we order six bowls please?”


“With added thick slices of your home baked bread.” Heather added.


“Okay 6 Irish, extra bread.” The waiter tapped the orders into his small machine.


“This is nice Heather, thanks for bringing us, I get the feeling Judy and I will be back regularly.” Carina followed Judy’s eyes as she looked carefully at a couple of guys, obviously football players at an adjacent table.


“Oh yeah we’ll DEFINITELY be coming back.” Judy giggled.


“Young lady we aren’t paying for you to come here just for fun.” Rachel looked to see what her daughter was staring at, while Joanne smiled.


“Mom I’m going to behave.” Judy laughed, “And besides between studies, baby, and playing the organ in chapel, what spare time am I going to have?”


“Oh you’ll find a way to make some.” Heather smiled knowingly.


“Are there many people you already know here?” Juliette asked.


“A few,” her daughter answered, “There are several Old Angels in other classes, plus the odd Nun who’s up here and it’s not verboten to know now.”


“Plus girls and guys we know from the city anyway.” Judy finished.


“You’re not in the position I was when I arrived.” Heather cast her mind back. “I was a hick from the back of beyond, I knew no one. It was days till Pussy took pity on me and someone actually spoke to me.”


“That must have been hard.” Carina looked at her friend as the drinks arrived.


“The first few nights I cried myself to sleep I was so lonely.” Heather remembered sadly. “Meeting Pussy though soon made me friends, she seemed to know everyone.”


“That looks like our stew.” Juliette spotted the waiter heading their way.


“Wow you were right this looks great.” Judy spoke as he set the bowl down in front of her.


“It smells like my Grandmother Prendergast’s,” Rachel sniffed.


“Now why don’t I really see you eating Irish Stew Mom?” Judy smiled slyly at her parent.


“Yes, not quite your usual fare Rachel.” Juliette laughed.


“Changing the subject.” Rachel changed the topic. “Remember to tell your advisers you’ll be coming out in the New Year.”


“Yuck!” Carina grimaced, “I know already that I’m going to be the worst debutante of all time.”


“Nonsense you’ll both be fine.” Rachel smiled, “And yes this stew is divine Heather.”


“Well, at least you’re going to eat well,” Jo said as she looked at Cari.  “Here – I’ll take Judith while you have your food.”


“Thanks,” Carina said.  “I’m starving.  So do you have to be in next Friday, Jo?”


“Yeah, she does,” Judy said with a smile.  “The head girls have to speak to the freshmen on the first day, as well as host a lunch for them.”


“Don’t remind me,” Jo groaned.  “The thought of Abby still been off while I have to wear the jacket…”


“Well, it’s only for a couple of days,” Carina, said as she ate some of the lamb.  “And I’ll be back that weekend for the long holiday.”


“I don’t know – a week of classes and then the day off,” Heather said as she shook her head.


“And then solid until Christmas – and if it helps, I have 8 am classes three days a week.”


“That helps a bit,” Joanne said with a smile.  “The thought of you having a lecture while I drive to school…”


“Oh by the way,” Judy said as she wiped her chin, “did Tennant tell you about the dance?”


“Dance?  What dance?”


“The floral dance you have to do for the freshmen…”


Carina burst out laughing as she shook her head.  “She’s kidding you, Jo – you don’t have to a floral dance for the freshmen.”


“Thank the goddess for that.”


“It’s during the Christmas party.”


Carina narrowly avoided the chunk of bread Jo threw at her, as the others chuckled.



4 pm
Terminal B, Newark Airport


“Well,” Abigail said as she looked at the arrivals board, “flight AF3634 landed on time, so it’s just a case of how long she takes to clear customs.”


She was wearing a grey sweatshirt and jeans, her blonde hair pulled back and her glasses on, while Diana wore a grey leather jacket over a white jumper and trousers.


“I am sure she will not be much longer,” Diana said as she sat down, “we must just be patient and…”


“Diana!!  Abigail!!”


It took them both a few moments to recognize Natasha, the transformation was amazing to see as she walked towards them in her designer jeans with five inch heels on her boots, her very Parisian black leather jacket, and with her chic newly cut hair glowing and her full makeup, she was totally different to the Natasha who'd accompanied her mother on her last visit to New York. 


“Natasha mon ange vous regardez absolument incroyable." Diana spoke as she kissed her sister-in-law.


"Tante Natasha je suis tellement jalouse." Abby breathed as she too kissed the new arrival.


"Je le dois tous à vous et les autres pour le tournage de Mama."


“No, she just needed to have reality explained to her,” Diana said as she took her sister-in-law’s case.  “Come, the car is waiting.”


“Are you sure it is all right for me to stay with you until my apartment is ready?”


“Of course it is,” Diana said as they approached her car, “so long as you don’t mind the others being around half the time – well, not Carina and Judith, they went to Yale today, but they will be back the weekend after this one.”


“You make us sound like rowdy teenagers,” Abby said as she loaded the case into the car.  Diana merely raised an eyebrow as they set off, negotiating the internal roads and heading north along Brewster Road before going east along the I-98.


“We’re coming in from the other side of the island,” Abby said as Natasha looked out from the car window.


“Less scenic, but closer,” Diana said as she turned onto the New Jersey turnpike.


“You are not joking,” Natasha said as they passed through the industrial area, and then crossed over the Passaic River.  “But this is nicer,” she said as they drove through parkland.


“New York, the city of contrast,” Abby said as they drove along and then over the causeway that divided the river, then past Laurel Hill Park on the left.


Turning onto the 495, they headed under the city, as Natasha said “how long?”


“Long enough,” Diana said, “until we do the Lincoln Tunnel.  Could be worse, though – you could be in Boston.”


Eventually, they emerged onto W 40th Street, and Natasha smiled as she saw the buildings arise on each side.


“Oh my,” she said as they turned up 8th Avenue, gazing at the buildings either side.  Going round Columbus Circus, and onto Central Park West.


Halfway along the road, they pulled in front of the de Ros Mansion, Natasha spreading her arms as she got out.


“Welcome, Miss Natasha,” Edith said as they went in.  “I have your room ready, and dinner will be at seven.”


“Thank you,” Natasha said as Diana closed the door.  “If you do not mind, Diana, I will refresh myself and join you in a few minutes.”


“Let me help you,” Abigail said as the telephone rang.  Edith answered, and then said “Miss Carina for you, Miss Abigail.”





“So did your Mother go and see Papa in Paris as she said she would?” Diana asked as she and Natasha shared aperitifs before dinner.


“She did, and I think she actually enjoyed herself.” Natasha sipped her drink. “I don’t think she actually realized before that your father is such an expert on wine.”


“Well, he likes to think he is.”


“Well according to Mama he’s both an expert and a connoisseur.”


Diana raised an eyebrow.  “Coming from your mother that is the highest of praise. Did you tell her about you and my brother yet?”


“No, but Willy did, he went and asked for my hand in marriage, all very formal.”


“My brother Guillaume did THAT?” Diana looked astounded.


“He did.” Natasha smiled. “Mother frankly surprised him though in being both open and welcoming. She only imposed one condition and that was that we keep it a secret for a few more months till she can throw us a real engagement party at the chateau… So I can’t wear it, but I do have my ring.” Natasha reached into her handbag and pulled out a simple but very tasteful ring with two large diamonds in a platinum setting.


“Guillaume always did have good taste.” Diana smiled happily.


“Is that your engagement ring Aunt Natasha?” Abigail asked as she entered. “Sorry I’m late - Cari rang and wanted to tell me all about her day.”


“Yes it is darling.” Natasha let her niece look at the jewelery.


“Wow that’s a pretty cool ring.”


“So how are Carina and Judy doing?” Diana asked.


“Pretty good… they have meetings and orientation tonight, but they’ve unpacked and little Judith seems to be content in her new home as well.”


“Dinner is ready Madame.” Edith said as she came into the drawing room.


“Thank you Edith.” Diana answered as she rose from her chair.


“Don’t forget your drink.” Natasha reminded her.


“Oh of course.” Diana picked up her glass.


“So tell me all about your trip to Los Beccaes?” Natasha asked Abigail as they walked.


“It’s a long story.” Abigail giggled.


“Good then we’ll have plenty to talk about over dinner then.” Natasha led the way into the dining room.





After their meal all three women returned to the drawing room, Natasha and Diana sipping brandy, while Abigail nursed her glass of wine that her mother permitted her after a meal.


“So when do you report to the legation darling?” Diana asked Natasha.


“Next week, I’m allowed a few days to get settled and get my feet on the ground.”


“Oh,” Diana said quietly, “I’d suspected they’d want you earlier with the continuing crisis in the Ukraine.”


“That’s a higher level thing then I’m at.” Natasha smiled. “I’m basically a glorified secretary who gets to talk with a lot of other glorified secretaries, we simply prepare all the documents, etc. that our betters will talk about when they meet.”


“That still sounds interesting work.” Abigail spoke. “Seeing all those documents, editing and translating them.”


“I suppose it will be.” Natasha thought seriously for a few moments. “I know I had to be thoroughly vetted by our security people before I was appointed.”


“Well you must have passed since you got the job.” Diana sipped her brandy.


“I suppose so.” Natasha smiled, “But I’d rather think about what you girls are up to, modeling is so glamorous in comparison to my job.”


“You’d not have thought that if you’d seen me and Jeannie sweating under those lights in LA.”


“It was not a pretty sight.” Diana said with a smile.  “There were some times when I thought Jeannie would wilt, and then that car journey after the show…”




“We literally had an hour to get from the studio to the airport for our flight home,” Abby said as she sat back, “so naturally the approach to the airport was blocked.  The driver the studio supplied knew some back roads, but – well, let us just say she would have coped with Paris extremely well.”


“She sounds interesting.”


“She was,” Diana said with a laugh.  “At any rate, we were glad to be back.”


“So do you have any plans for the weekend?”


“Some little pieces of business, but nothing major,” Diana said with a smile.  “Plenty of time to spend showing you the real sights of the city.”


Saturday 23rd August
The New Calabria Bar, W 62nd Street

10 am


“I look ridiculous like this,” Tommy the Fish said as he ran his finger under his collar, while standing at the bar.  He was wearing a new Italian suit and blue silk shirt, with a matching silk tie, and his shoes were so highly polished they shone in the bar light.


“Well, I think you look the most handsome man in the room, Mister Morgan,” Annie said as she handed him a glass of champagne.


“Why, thank you, Mrs Morgan,” Tommy said as he leaned over and kissed his new wife, the bar cheering as he did so.


“All right youse guys,” Tommy said as he looked round, “drinks on da house!”


“Does that include us, Tommy?”


“Well if it isn’t my favourite agents,” Tommy said as he saw Janice Carter and Adam Ball come in.  “Come to wish us a happy future?”


“We brought a present for you, Tommy,” Adam said as he handed Annie a small box.  “And we came to wish you, indeed, the best for the future.”


“Well, youse are always welcome here,” Tommy said with a grin.


“So, keeping busy,” Janice said as she accepted a glass of champagne.


“Hey – dis place keeps me real busy,” Tommy said with a smile.  “Why?  Worried about the company I keeps?”


“We always worry about you Tommy,” Janice said as she toasted the happy couple.  “But if you need our help, you know where to find us?”


“He don’t need your help, agents,” Annie said as she put her arms round Tommy’s neck, “he’s got me watching over him now.”


“Well, keep a close eye on him, Annie,” Adam said as he put his glass down.  “We don’t want either of you coming to any harm.”


“Oh I intend to, agent.”


“Well, enjoy the rest of your day,” Janice said as she put her glass down, “we’ll be in touch.”


As they walked out Tommy turned to Annie and said, “She seems happier somehow.”


“Yeah, well, I’m just glad she didn’t see this,” Annie said as she handed Tommy a card.  “It just came by hand.”


Tommy opened it and saw the vouchers, whistling as he read the accompanying message.


“To Uncle Tommy and Aunty Annie on your special day.


Your loving nieces.”




Gotta be,” Tommy said with a smile, “gotta be…”


The Waldorf Hotel
10 am


Dominique walked into Madame’s office as she was reading her morning report,  and sipping her coffee.


“Good morning, Dominique,” she said as she looked round, “Is Annie with Ama?”


“Yes – they are doing the assessments now,” Dominique said as Susan came in after her.


“Charlotte sends her apologies, Madame, but it has been a hectic morning.”


“Oh,” Madame X said as she sat down, and crossed her legs, “do explain.”


“Firstly, you should know that police have found Dominic Rice’s house empty.  The contents have been removed, and both his housekeeper and maid have disappeared.”




Dominique and Susan both looked at Madame.  “I asked Madeline to offer them both jobs on the west coast, with immediate effect.  They flew out last night, on one way tickets paid for by their new employers.  The emptying of the house, however, was not our doing.  Any indications as to who may have ordered it?”


“Phone conversations between Chan and Twining indicate they believe it is the work of this character they call The Walrus.  From the surveillance cameras, we have good news for Heather.”


“They did not find our cameras?”


Susan smiled as she nodded in agreement.  “Having said which, they did find bugs – plenty of other bugs.  It would appear our belief other agencies were keeping tabs on them were correct.   So much so they have taken to using scrambled secure lines.”


“Which naturally we can listen in on.”


“Of course.  The monitoring devices Heather insisted on have been more than capable.  If she was not in her current position, I would seriously consider taking her on as a consultant.


“But to the point - between the two of them, they suspect a mole in the organization, and I have to say their suspicion is already falling towards our French friend.”


“How unfortunate for Legault,” Dominique said as she looked at her watch.  “I have some information that the cleaner may just leave at the Chinese delegation offices.”


“A cleaner?  I know you take care of our messes, Dom, but cleaning toilets?”


“Welcome, Penelope,” Madame said as she stood up and embraced the brunette.  “How was the flight?”


“Tiring – Lillian sends her regards, and thanks you for the temporary promotion.  And as for you, Susan – congratulations.”


“Thanks,” Susan said as they embraced.  “So where are the other girls?”


“Checking in – I wanted to come up and check in with you before I got my room.  From what I can gather, things have expanded their scope somewhat.”


“Indeed,” Dominique said, “but I’m glad you’re here now.  I just have time to present these.”  She opened a box and handed laptops to each of them.


“Heather had these delivered yesterday – they come with a dual level operating system, both the public face, and a direct link to their secure communications net with these as the keys.”


“Retinal scanners?”  Susan held up the small device Dominique had handed her.


“Indeed – she will call later to calibrate the one for each of you, and will arrange with Annie later.  Mine is already programmed.  Forgive me, Madame, but my shift starts in two hours, and I have to prepare.”


“Go with my blessing,” Madame said as Dominique left, passing Charlotte in the door.


“The latest transcripts Madame – Penny, when did you get in?”


“Literally just now,” Penny said as she removed her red leather jacket and sat down. “Got any decent coffee?”


“Allow me,” Susan said as Madame perused the transcripts.


“Hmmm – I see Legault is welcoming a new liaison officer on Tuesday.  A name that may be familiar to some of you.”  She passed the relevant sheet to Susan and Penny.


“My my – a relation?”


“Possibly – but she will not know of Diana’s activities.  I will trust to her judgment on this.  On a related matter, Penelope, did you send the message I requested?”


“I did,” Penny said as she accepted the cup from Susan.  “She has replied to say she will offer any assistance wished for in, and I quote ‘ridding the world of this one menace’.”


“Lady C?”


“Indeed – we may be opposites in many ways, but in this we are allies.  Now, Penelope, tell me of home…”







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