The Best Laid Plans – Part 1







Saturday 21st May

2 pm

The Huntingdon Apartment


“Come in Katy,” Juliette said as she held the door open, “Sands is in the guest bedroom at the top of the stairs.”


“Thanks, Aunt Juliette,” Katy said as she took her coat off and hung it up.  “Gran says she’ll be around in an hour or so.”


“Well, we’ll be going to see the babies when she comes – she’s agreed to watch both of you for a couple of hours.  Doc will be round to take you both bowling later.”


“Is it all right if I get a couple of cokes to take up?”


“Go right ahead,” Juliette said as Katy went to the kitchen, took two bottles from the icebox, and then headed up the stairs, knocking and going in.


“Hey – the new jeans?”


“Yeah,” Sands said as she looked up from the bed, “very comfy.  So, what’s the game plan?”


“Mom and Gran are discussing strategies.  But I need to know – just how do you feel about Uncle Fergus and Holly?”


"I think I love them both...In a way," Sands smiled shyly.


"Yes,” Sands said as she sat on the bed, her legs crossed.  “Holly is who I want to be when I grow up fully, and I adore being with her..."

"Making love to her?"

"Yes," Sands blushed deeply.

"And Uncle Fergus?"

"He's such a lovely man, but I think also a very lonely man,” Sands said quietly.  “I think he's genuinely loved having two women in his life to add spice and interest..."

"Even though it’s cost him a fortune?"

"Yes," again Sands blushed, "but he's loved making love to us, and I think we've both come to love how tender and considerate a lover he really is.”

"You don't want to see him damaged anymore?"

"No… Above all I want to make things right with him...and with Holly...But once we have nailed that scum Romanov."


“Okay then – have a coke, and let’s talk about tonight…”


2.30 pm

West Central Park


“There you go,” Janice said as she passed Eleanor a mug of coffee, “we’ve got the place to ourselves.  So, how are we going to end this?”


“The Sands issue?”  Eleanor took a drink and said “I need to talk to you about something first.”


“Oh?  And that is?”


“Janice,” Eleanor said quietly, “I've been told by Shirley Xavier that given the Romanov emergency that I'm authorized to reveal something to you."

"And what is that Eleanor," Jan said as she looked over the coffee table.

"Well… That I was recruited by the Sisters and that I am codenamed Mermaid."

"The Sisters?"

"Jan,” Eleanor said with a smile, “please don't play dumb, I know you were recruited at the time of the freeing of the slaves. Juliette confirmed it, so did Shirley."

"Alright you got me Eleanor,” Jan said quietly, “what are you going to do with that information?"

"What can I do?" Eleanor smiled, "I'm a sister too, we both believe that some crimes require extra-judicial means to solve and punish them," Eleanor paused, "in a way I am extremely proud of you being a sister as well."

"And that I have to keep it a secret?"

"Jan I've lived in the murky world of spying for far too long to not know certain secrets you take to your grave."

"Well I hope that includes me?"

"It does Jan." Eleanor smiled again.

"Now,” Jan said as she leaned forward, “just why did Shirley out me to you?"

"When she authorized me if we can't legally catch Romanov and bring him to the courts, that I must remedy the situation by other means..."

"Meaning you've been told you can kill him if you need to."


"Well it would spare the US a lot of time and money trying him, then holding him in prison for the rest of his miserable life."

"My saying I'd kill him hasn't shocked you one bit...Has it Jan?"

"Eleanor I'm not an innocent, and as you say I've been a sister a while now." Jan paused, "enough said?"

"Yes." Eleanor nodded. "So now we go see Juliette and your young undercover asset."


“What are we going to do?”


“Ever read the old testament?  We’re going to set up a sacrificial lamb…”


“Oh god Eleanor, not Sands?”


“No – something else…”



3 pm

New Hampshire Motor Speedway


"Mon Dieu, I never thought that I would miss turning right," Toni Marais said as he voice came over the com.

"Just take it steady Toni," Henri came on, "we are second, and they have to do a tire change very shortly, that should put you in the lead."

"And don't get too relaxed out there Toni," Tonia came on, “the 42 and 86 cars are having a private fight half a lap ahead of you, and it’s starting to look nasty, be prepped to hear me say they've wrecked."

"Okay Tonia,” they heard Toni say “you just tell me if and when."

"How are our readouts looking Heather?" Henri said as he walked over.

"Fine to me,” Heather said as she looked at the screen, “but Denice says we might have to keep an eye on these brake temperatures."

Denice nodded as she looked at a second screen.  "Henri, they looks as if they are getting towards our upper tolerance."

"Okay Denice you watch them closely," Henri thought for a second, "Clint can we change brake pads if needed?"

"It will cost us a few laps,” Clint said, “but yeah I'll get things ready in case."

"Copy that Clint." Henri spoke again.

"BREAK TONI!" Tonia yelled, "They fuckin' wrecked in Turn 3."

"I can see it Tonia," Antoinette said as she slowed and neatly avoided the wreck.

"That's going to take time to clear up, when they open the pits Toni, we'll put Sandy into drive, and we will change those brake pads."

"Roger Uncle Henri."


“All right guys,” Clint called out, “prepare for driver change and brake pad replacement.”


3.30 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment


“Hello Eleanor,” Klaus said as he let Eleanor Ball and Janice into the apartment, “thanks for agreeing to sit in for a couple of hours.”


“Well, you all have two beautiful babies to go and welcome to their new home,” Jan said as they took their coats off.


“Sands and Katy are upstairs,” Juliette said as she put her coat on, “but I’m sure they will emerge once we have gone.”


“Come on Moms,” Ingrid said as she came out with Sigi and Dieter, “we need to adore two babies.”


“Go figure – see you later,” Juliette said as they made their way out, Jan closing the door as Eleanor looked round.


“Katy, Sands,” she then called up the stairs, “you can come down now.”


Eleanor went into the drawing room and sat down, smiling as the two young girls came in.


“Hey Gran,” Katy said as she looked at her “come to teach us stories of the old days?”


“Enough of that young lady,” Eleanor said, “I need both of you to be focused for the moment.  Alexandra, you have spoken to Holly?”


“I have – we’re going to meet at the club at nine, and join Fergus there.  This is going to be the last time?”


“Yes – Grace will be at the club, and will talk to both of them in the morning.  I think you should talk to them after that, but that’s not the focus of tonight.”


“Okay,” Katy said, “so what is the focus?”


“Romanov – what is the arrangement Alexandra?”


“I do prefer Sands, you know,” she said as she looked over.


“As I was saying, Alexandra, what is the arrangement?”


“I’m meant to ditch them at the club at about ten, and go home with him.  Doc is going to pick both of us up, and keep an eye on us there.”


“Okay – as soon as you get there, Katy, you are to ring me.  I’ll be waiting at his apartment.   You call me when they leave again.”


“Gotcha – what will you be doing?”


“Not your concern – when they leave, call me, and get to the apartment with young Anna.  You’ll be told what to do then.”


Both girls looked at each other, before Sands said “and while I entertain him?”


“I do my job.  Janice?”


“Take this as a charm on your bracelet,” Jan said as she handed Sands a small pearl.  “If you get into any trouble, press it – it’s an emergency alarm, and someone will come to get you.”


"Changing the subject for a moment Gran,” Katy said, “Sands and I were watching a really interesting movie while we were waiting."

"Oh what was it about?" Eleanor replied though she was only half-listening.

"It was a about this one legged nun in the wild west."

"Sounds interesting," Eleanor said quietly, “what was it called?"

"Hopalong Chastity," Sands broke into giggles."

"Someone kick her before I do," Eleanor groaned. "That pun was AWFUL!"


“But at least you heard it,” Jan said with a smile.


6.15 pm

New Hampshire Motor Speedway





“WE WON!!”


Toni, Jeanne and Sandy clapped as Janine popped the champagne, and then poured it into the glasses.


"Let's be honest, we got lucky being able to change those brake pads while the race was under caution," Henri said as he sipped some champagne from a glass.

"True, but the girls did drive a very patient race and let the others destroy themselves." Clint smiled as he sat on the discarded tires.

"And we won by 10 clear laps Papa." Jeanne grinned.

"Yes but don't get cocky, this is the weakest field we have faced all season in our regional series."

"Yes, a lot of the other drivers don't like oval racing." Sandy sat down and relaxed. "But look at the bright side – it’s points in the bag for us towards qualifying for the final."

"Well done Denice." Clint said as he stood up and passed her a glass of fizz, “you were just so right interpreting those brake readouts, another 10 laps and we'd have been in very real trouble."

"Oui," Henri smiled, "all kudos to Denice tonight."


"I didn't ask but how is your steam engine coming along Denice?" Clint asked.

"Her what?" Tonia asked.

"It's my senior project at Columbia Ton," Denice grinned, "I found this old book on the work British locomotive builders were doing in the thirties on increasingly efficient engines. They were getting amazing compression ratios. I'm trying to see if I can replicate some of those figures in a scale model engine."

"Ian Nelson is letting her use some of his workshop equipment after hours," Clint explained.

"Well whatever turns you on I guess," Tonia grinned, "but you lose me when you start talking about ratios."

"I guessed that Ton, but you don't have the soul of an engineer." Denice laughed.


“So, we celebrate, we pac, and then the drive back,” Henri said with a grin.


7.30 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment


“Hey,” Doc said as she stood in the doorway, “the girls ready to go?”


“They are indeed,” Jan said as she looked over her shoulder, “what’s in the bag?”


“My gym stuff,” Doc said as the girls appeared, and Jan said, “don’t be too late back girls.”


“Yes Mum,” Katy said as she and Sands followed Anna out, and towards the lift.  Getting in, Doc said “have you got your keys Sands?”


“Yup – let’s go,” she said as they left the apartment block, got in a cab, and headed to the apartment.


“Right – we need to be on our way before the others get back,” Eleanor said as she put her coat on, “got a lot to do.”



8.30 pm

Holly and Sands’ Apartment


“What’s going to happen to this place,” Doc said as she put her earrings in, then checked herself in the mirror, admiring the way the gold bustier dress hugged her body.


“No idea – I know Sands intends to repay every penny, but after that…  How do I look?”


“Scarily as old as me,” Doc said as she looked at Katy.  The thirteen year old looked five years older, the tight blue lurex hugging her figure as she adjusted the fit on her chest.


“And me?”


“Goddess,” Doc whispered as she looked at Sands.  She was wearing a skin tight black dress, split at the hip to allow her to walk, the long opera gloves that covered her arms adorned on both wrists with diamond bracelets.  A large diamond necklace hung round her neck, and a fox stole covered her shoulders.  With her dark brown hair up, the dark eye shadow, the deep red lipstick, she was a true maneater.


“Okay, one last time for Laura,” Sands said as she collected her purse.  “I’m meeting Holly downstairs – you girls follow in ten minutes.  See you there…”


“You look lost in thought,” Holly said as they drove down the road.  “Penny for them?”


"Holly when did you? Well you know? For the first time?"

"I was 14 Sands,” Holly said quietly, “his name was Billy Mitten, and I'd stolen him away from Carina. I had sex with him to ensure he stayed with me."

"Did he?"

"No the bastard went and fell for Buffy McGeorge, and she gave him blow jobs as well as letting him fuck her, both Carina and I lost out."

"But she's a year younger then you guys?"

"Yeah she was a very hot thirteen year old...reminds me a lot of you darling." Holly leant across and kissed her girlfriend while they waited for the light to turn green.

"Mmmm being kissed in a little sports car...Heaven," Sands smiled.



9 pm

The Elysee Club


Fergus saw Holly walk in first, a red wig on her head, the deep red strapless dress moving like a second skin as she walked, the four inch heels adding to her height.  Then he started to break into a sweat as Sands walked over, looking and smelling spectacular.


“Hello Fergus DARLING,” she said as she came over and kissed him, “I hope you are in a good mood tonight – we both need your undivided attention.”


“Suuuure,” Fergus stammered as he signalled to the waitress.  As they sat down, the two blondes walked in and sat at the bar.


“Okay, Sands and the others are in place,” Doc whispered as Katy ordered two drinks.  “Romanov?”


“Just walking in,” Katy whispered as she saw the large man walk in, “no escorts this time.”


“Better let her know,” Doc said, Katy nodding as she sent a text.




“The player is in place,” Eleanor said as she checked her phone, then looked at Jan.  “Watch the entrance for me?”


“Sure – what are you going to do?”


“What I do well,” Eleanor said as she slipped out of the car, and walked over to the apartment block…




“Come on now,” Holly said as she dragged Fergus onto the dance floor, Sands smiling as she saw Romanov looking across at her.


“So far so good,” Katy said as a brunette wearing a tight gold dress walked in, a tall thin man on her arm as they looked round.  The brunette looked round, and for a moment Katy thought she was looking at them before they made their way to a table.


"Oh Crap," Doc started to almost imperceptibly sweat. "That's Buffy McGeorge just coming in.”

"Who? The obvious 'professional' on that old guys arm?"

"Yes,” Doc said as Katy glanced round, “she's wearing a wig, but I've done it enough times I remember faces not hairstyles."

"Did you know she was a prostitute Doc?"

"I heard rumours while in the business one time I thought of recruiting her for Angelic Escorts."

"Will she recognize any of us?"


“Who can say – but if she has recognised me, she won’t say anything here.  We just have to pray she hasn’t…”


“With the compliments of the gentleman over there,” the waiter said as he left the drink in front of Sands.  She looked over at Romanov and smiled as he nodded, before raising the glass.


Katy nodded as Doc picked her purse up and made her way to the Ladies Lounge, trying not to look round as she did so.  At the same time, Buffy watched with a mild detachment as Holly went back to Sands with Fergus.


“Have some more champagne darling,” she said as she poured the bubbly into the other two glasses, “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”


As she walked to the rest room, Holly leaned over and kissed Fergus hard, her hand slipping between his legs as he groaned quietly.   Romanov looked over and smiled – she was too old for him, but she worked well.


“I’ll be right back,” Holly said as Sands returned, kissing and groping Fergus quietly while she went to the restroom.  Finding a stall, she let herself in…


When she emerged a few minutes later, however, Buffy McGeorge was standing there, her arms folded and a smile on her face.




“Dammit,” Holly said quietly, “are we alone in here?”  Both checked the stalls were empty, before they looked at each other.


"What the hell are you doing here with that guy Hol?" Buffy hissed after they'd both looked.

"Something similar to you I suspect," Holly giggled, "though I don't charge by the hour."

Shaking her head, Buffy whispered "You always could be a bitch Holly."

"Well takes one to know one Buff."

"And for your information,” Buffy said, “I don't charge by the hour, it's a flat rate Five hundred."

"Well,” Holly said as she looked in the mirror, “my guy just knows how to look after his 'girlfriends'."

"Yeah I'd noticed the dresses and the bling...  By the way, who's the other whore with you?"

"Names Buff?"

"Look however you slice it Hol we are both getting a reward for doing this, makes us all whores."

"True I guess.  She’s a girl I know from college – no names, no pack drill.”


“You know she’s been scoped out by another guy?”


“The big bald gangster?  Yup – I think she’s dated him as well.  Wouldn’t surprise me if she went with him later – leaving me with our lover.”


“What the hell happened to you Holly?”


“I don’t know – but I like it.”


“Remember Kerry?”


Holly turned and looked at Buffy.  “Of course I do – I’m not her, Buffy.  But I now know why she did what she did – and I’m damn careful.”


“I hope so – I don’t want you to get hurt, Holly.”


Holly nodded, and said “enjoy your evening” as she headed out of the restroom.





The apartment was in darkness, until a thin sliver of light appeared, and then disappeared as Eleanor closed the main door gently to.  Pressing herself flat up against the wall, she edged carefully along until she found a control panel, and then placed a silver plate on the front, carefully fixing it into position and then pressing a switch at the side.


She waited for a second while a red light blinked on the side, and then turned green, before she relaxed and walked carefully down the corridor.  She had examined the plans for this particular apartment that afternoon, thanks to the intel Sands had provided, and as she opened a cupboard door she saw the video recorders, smiling as she inserted a USB stick.


“Okay, video loop is on,” she said to herself as she closed the door again, “time to get to work.”  She walked quickly to the bedroom, opening drawers and helping herself to rings and other gold jewellery to provide a cover.


As she turned round, she noticed something strange in the mirror, and had a close look before she went into the room next door – and found the video cameras with the stacks of discs neatly arranged.


“Shit – glad I saw the blinking light,” she said as she removed the disk from the recorder and pocketed it – and then saw some disks laid on a table.  Putting one in a player, she grimaced as she saw Romanov in bed with two clearly underage girls, their eyes slightly glazed, their movements sluggish.


Shaking her head, she left the room and moved to the main room, staring at the tasteless nude picture.  Feeling along the edge, she found the switch and swung the picture out, smiling as she saw the old fashioned safe.


“Now, this takes me back,” she said to herself as she placed a device with a wide cup at one end, and an earpiece at the other, listening carefully as she turned the tumblers, and then smiling as she opened the safe.


Looking to one side, she saw a laptop, but decided first to take the canvas bag she had and empty the contents of the safe in – ledgers, notebooks, money, and records.  It was as she looked in the last of the ledgers that she felt a chill, and then heard the noise.


It was faint, like a mouse scratching, but it was persistent, and as Eleanor moved round the room, it seemed to become louder as she stood at the opposite wall.  She looked along it for a moment, and then felt with her fingers around a set of shelves, before she heard a click and the shelves swung out.




The two young girls looked back at her, eyes wide and the mascara stains running down their cheeks as they stood in their dirty dresses, arms and legs stretched out wide as they were secured to the St Andrews crosses, the large red ball gags glistening with their saliva.  Eleanor stared at them for the moment, before she said “It’s all right girls, I’m here to free you.  Give me a minute.”


Taking out her cell phone, she tapped her foot before she said “Jan?  I need you to call Shirley’s rep in the city, and get her to come over here alone.  Then get up here – I need your help.”


She walked back over and reached round, unstrapping the ball gag from the first girl and easing it out.  “Oh thank god,” she croaked, “we thought…”


“It’s all right,” Eleanor said quietly as she unstrapped her from the cross, and then helped her to sit down, “what’s your name?”




“How old are you Nikita…”


“Thirteen – Please, where am I…”


“What’s your friend’s name?”


“Veronika.  Please, who are you…”


“All right Veronika,” Eleanor said as she walked over and released her, “I’m going to get you out of here.”


“How…  He’ll be back…”


“Are you the police,” Nikita asked.


“No – but I will deal with him.  Where are you from?”


“I am from Moscow – Veronika Bucharest.  Where are we…”


“Tell me what you remember…”


Eleanor listened, and then said “wait here” as she heard the tap on the door, and went to see who it was.


“It’s me – we’re both here,” Janice said, Eleanor opening the door to see Susan there as well.


“What’s going on?”


“Come and see,” she said as they went back to the front room, Janice and Susan staring at the two girls.


"Who are they?" Susan eventually asked.

"Well from what I can get one is Russian the other Romanian, and they were both kidnapped off the street back home. Then they passed through the hands of two or three men who treated them reasonably...but then they were bundled into a packing crate, drugged, and 24 hours later they woke up here." Eleanor spoke grimly. "It seems he's not only into straight sex, but he's a sadist as well."


“Goddess,” Jan whispered quietly.


“Can you get them out of here,” Eleanor said quietly as she picked up the laptop and handed it over, “and make sure they get medical attention discretely?”


“Leave it to me,” Susan said as she looked at the two girls.


“This is my friend,” Eleanor said quietly, “in a moment, she is going to take you to meet another friend.  They will take you to a safe place, and someone will come and treat your wounds.  They will make sure nobody ever hurts you again.  Someone needs to crack this laptop, see what they can find.”


"How widespread do you think this girl trafficking is Eleanor?" Jan asked quietly.

"I don't know, but I'm going to find out..."

"Look,” Susan said quietly, “I know a very famous criminal...who kills for fun, but on the way she extracts a lot of information, do I need call her?"

"It sounds like you have some 'interesting' friends Susan," Eleanor looked at her closely. "But would she come?"

"Masked, but yeah as long as her identity was protected she would." Susan laughed, "Romanov would die begging for the ending of his life if we let her work on him."

"Sounds like someone after my own heart," Eleanor smiled.  “How long do you need?”


“A couple of hours.  You?”


“Enough time to do what I need to do here.  Get them out of here, both of you, then call me when you are back – I’ll be waiting.”



“Who is this guy she’s dancing with,” Fergus whispered into Holly’s ear as they watched Sands dancing with Romanov.


“Some local gangster, I think,” Holly said, “jealous?”


“Yeah – but I’m not dumb enough to go against a gangster…”


"I will miss this power over men," Sands thought to herself as she danced close to Romanov and felt his engorged penis rubbing up against her. "This guy is SO's like shooting fish in a barrel."

"Enjoying yourself?" Romanov asked.

"What do you think darling?" 

"I think you are the HOTTEST young lady it’s ever been my pleasure to meet."

"Well he seems to like me," Sands surreptitiously rubbed her gloved hand over his pants front.

"What about your 'boyfriend'?"

"He has my partner to take back to 'our' apartment...I don't think he will mind too badly."

"Do you and she...?"

"Yes," Sands let out an amused giggle, "We both swing both ways...Why want a threesome?"

"No she's too'll do for me."

"Oh I'll do a lot for you darling," Sands nibbled on his ear as he held her really tight.

"Yep, it's like shooting fish in a barrel," Sands thought as she felt his cock jump up against her. "How will I ever be able to go back to being the real me?" she thought further, "can I go back to being 'Miss Innocent' now I've experienced so much?"

"You look deep in thought?"

"Oh just trying to work out the best way to leave 'him' with my partner."


10 pm


“Well, at least they are settled in now,” Juliette said as they came in, Klaus carrying Judith.  “We’ll put her to bed.”


“Thanks – I need to check something,” Cari said as she went into the library, and switched on her laptop.  As she held the keyfob to her eye, the screen moved to the undernet, as she started to read the reports.


“Hmmm – Susan and Heather?” She clicked on the screen and typed "Hi Susan, how are you tonight?  Oh - and hi Heather I heard the race went very well?"

"It did,” Heather typed in, “we just got home."

"Look ladies,” Susan typed, “I need you the Hidden Hand and as Miss..."

"Why Susan?" Heather jumped in.

"Well I have a laptop and we want to know what secrets it contains, and a gangster from the old Soviet Union we want interrogating. We knew he was in drug smuggling, but seems he also has done some girl smuggling as well."

"When and where?" Carina's voice suddenly got deadly serious.


“An hour – I’ll drive by and pick you both up.  Cari – come prepared.”


“Perfect end to a perfect day,” Cari typed, “I’ll be in the lobby.”  Closing the laptop, she stood up and left to go to the kitchen.


“Mom,” she said as she saw Juliette making some coffee, “I need to slip out for an hour or so later.  I’ll come back quietly.”


“Something I need to worry about?”


“Susan needs my – skills.  That’s all I know – except it may be linked to the drug problem.”


“Okay,” Juliette said quietly, “good luck.”


11 pm

The Elysee Club


“Fergus darling,” Sands said as she walked over, “the kind gentleman has offered to take me for a drive.  Will you be able to keep him company, Holly?  I will make it up to both of you later.”


“Are you sure,” Holly said as she looked at Romanov.


“I am – have fun,” she said as she walked off, her hips swaying as Romanov followed her.


“Make the call,” Doc said as she headed to the restroom, Katy nodding as she dialled a number.


“The birds are coming home to roost.”


“Acknowledged – you two get out of there and return to your homes.  I’ll take care of Sands later.”


“Okay,” Katy said as she ended the call – and then saw Buffy McGeorge standing next to her.


“Do I know you,” she said with a smile.


“I don’t think I’ve ever had the pleasure,” Katy said with a smile as Doc walked over.  “There you are darling – the car is waiting outside.”


“That sounds divine – a new friend?”


“We were just talking until you came back,” Katy said with a smile, “enjoy your evening.”


As they walked off, Buffy watched them closely, and then shook her head as she returned to her own date for the evening.


“Why don’t we head back to my place,” Holly purred as she stood up and took Fergus by the hand, nodding to Buffy as they went to collect their coats.



Xavier International


“Boss,” Pamela said as she got out of her car, “what’s the problem?”


“I need you to get these ladies to our medic,” Susan said as she opened the back of her car, Pamela looking in and seeing the two Eastern European girls staring back at her.


“Jesus,” she said quietly, “how old are they?”


“Not old enough – they need complete medicals, and rest.  Call Security and get someone to meet you there – I want them put in a safe house and under protection.”


“Got it – do I want to know?”


“Not yet you don’t,” Susan said.  “Take my car – I need to draw one from the pool.  Bring it back for deep clean.”


“Got it boss,” Pamela said as she got her cell phone out, and dialled a number.  “This is an emergency call, two minors coming in for full examination and treatment.  Arrival in fifteen.”


“You will be safe with her – I have to return to deal with your tormentor.”


“thank you,” Nikita said as Susan closed the door, and they drove off.  Walking to a cupboard, she collected a set of keys and got behind the wheel of a second car, heading out of the garage.



Sunday 22nd May



“Here we are,” Romanov said as he opened the door to his apartment, and showed Sands in, “would you like a drink?”


“Well, since you’re offering,” Sands said as they walked into the front room, slipping her fur off as she sat down and crossed her legs.  She watched as Romanov walked to the drinks cabinet and poured a drink, before passing one to her.


“Your very good health,” he said as he raised his glass, and then looked past her.


“Is something wrong Roberto?”


“Hmm – would you excuse me a moment, Vanessa?”


“Sure – take your time,” she said as Romanov smiled, and went out of the room.  Walking quickly to the bedroom, he looked round, and snarled as he reached under the pillows on his bed.


To find nothing.


“Are you looking for this, Bakhushin?”


He turned suddenly, to see a grey haired woman dressed in a leather jacket and pants, looking at him and smiling.


“I don’t believe I’ve ever had the pleasure?”


“No, we haven’t – but I was there when Rey died, and we have a mutual friend – one with a love of fish.”  She looked at the Magnum, and said “we’re not going to need this, but we have a long night ahead of us, so I wish to say only one word for the moment.”


“And that is?”


“Sleep.”  She raised a second gun and fired at Romanov, the darts penetrating his chest as he looked at her, and then slumped to the ground.


Eleanor smiled as she walked over and checked his pulse, before she walked into the room.


“Mrs Ball?  That’s a new look for you…”


“Thank you Sands,” Eleanor said with a smile, “but it’s time for you to step back.  I assure you, he will pay for what he has done. Come with me.”


Taking Sands by the hand, he walked her down to the lobby, where Jan was waiting.  “Will you take Sands home please?  I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”


“Good luck,” Jan said as she took Sands out of the building, Eleanor sighing and rubbing her head.


“Captain Ball?”


She turned to see Susan standing with a tall blonde, wearing a leather jacket fastened to her chin, a leather microskirt, stockings and high heels, her face covered by a veil, her eyes covered by dark glasses underneath.  Susan nodded and turned, leaving the building for a moment.


“The Hidden Hand – how did you know I needed your help?”


“We have mutual friends – I am led to believe there is a laptop you need interrogating?”


“Yes – it was left in an apartment upstairs.”


“We can go in a moment – I merely need us to wait for – ah.”


“Sorry about that,” Susan said as she came back in.  “This is the friend I was telling you about.”


Eleanor looked at the woman next to her, standing in a black leather catsuit, a full head mask disguising her save for her red lips and blue eyes.


“Good evening Captain Ball,” she purred, “there is someone you wish me to talk to?”


“Yeah – come with me, all of you…”



She took them up to the Boronov apartment, the masked woman smiling as she saw him unconscious on the floor.


“What did you use on him,” she asked in her deep voice as she looked at Eleanor.


“Standard narcotic – I reckon he will be out for another hour.”


“Very well then – will you help me to take him into the bedroom?  My friends will remain in here and see if there is anything to gain from the laptop.”


She bent down, the leather creaking as she took his shoulders, and Eleanor his feet, while Susan cleared some room on the dining table and handed the Hand the laptop.


“Now then,” she purred as she opened and booted up the machine, “let us see what we can find out…”




As they lifted him onto the bed, Eleanor looked at the other woman.  “Susan tells me you are a skilled interrogator – but that you are also…”


“I am many things,” she said, her California accent clear, “but yes, I can get information from the most – reticent of talkers.”


“Are you…”


“No – but I have helped on occasion, particularly during the Mazengwean child slave scandal.  It was there I first met Susan and Madame.  But we all have our secrets – even you Captain Ball.”


“True – so what do you want to do?”


“Strip him to his boxers,” the masked woman said as she left the room for a moment, and returned with a small leather bag, like a one a doctor would carry.  “Then we need to see if we can find something to make sure he stays on the bed.”


“I know exactly what to use,” Eleanor said as she saw the woman take from the bag a leather pack, unrolling it on the bedsit table and selecting one of a variety of scalpels.  As she left the room, the masked woman started to hum to herself as she unbuttoned his shirt.


“Who is she,” Eleanor asked Susan as she passed her in the main room.


“No comment – but she will do the job.  How are you doing?”


“He has a large set of encrypted files,” the Hand smiled under the veil, “but it should not prove a problem.  As for him, I should warn you our mutual friend can be – disturbing.”


“It would take a lot to upset me any more tonight,” Eleanor said as she went to the hidden alcove, opened it and brought out four sets of manacles, her face grim as she went back into the bedroom.


“Excellent,” the woman said as she looked round, the unconscious Boronov now down to his boxer shorts.  Taking two of the sets of manacles, she used them to fix his wrists to the top of the bed, Eleanor doing the same to his ankles so that he lay spread-eagled.  She then watched as the woman traced along the fish-shaped scar with her gloved finger.


“I have heard of Il Pesce Diavolo,” she said quietly, “but never seen the mark of her work.  It is indeed the signature of a true artist – do you know her Captain Ball?”


“Let us say she and I have crossed paths in the past, in a professional capacity.”


The woman nodded as she said “I feel it fair to warn you, once I have started, it can be very messy and very disturbing.  I offer you the opportunity now to leave me to my work, should you not wish to observe.”


“I consulted with her before undertaking this task,” Eleanor said quietly, “her advice was to ‘Finish the Job’.  I always carry through on my commitments, no matter what may happen.”


“As you wish,” she said with a smile as a low groan came from the bed.  “If you would be so good as to close the door – something tells me he has this room sound proofed.”


“Why would you say that?”


“From what little our friend was able to tell me of your discoveries,” she said as she glanced at the wall mounted mirror, “I would say it is highly probable. And so, to work.”


Eleanor nodded as she closed the door, then watched as Boronov slowly opened his eyes.  He pulled on his arms and legs, and then raised his head.


“You!  Who are you?   I demand you tell me before I kill you!”


“Oh I have no problem with that,” Eleanor said with a smile, “my name is Eleanor Ball, and I have a message for you from an old friend.”


“Where is Vanessa?”


“The young girl you came in with?  An associate of mine is looking after her – and after the two young ladies I found hidden away in your apartment.”  Eleanor walked over and looked into his eyes as she said “for the record, I and my associates were responsible for what happened to Monsieur Rey in Marseilles, and dismantling the operation there and in New York.  And now, the time has come to deal with you, for your crimes against the innocent and the young.”


“You would have me arrested for dating women?”


“No – for trading in underage sex slaves, for supplying date rape drugs, and for ruining the lives of Yahweh knows how many innocent young lives.  My message is from Il Pesce Diavolo.  She says goodbye.”


She could see the fear in his eyes, as he said “who are you?  CIA?  FBI?  Interpol?”


“None of the above,” Eleanor said quietly, “now, this is your one and only chance to tell me everything.”


“Go to hell.”


“Oh I wouldn’t worry about that, as far as you are concerned – you are already there.”


Boronov snapped his head round as he heard the West Coast accent, and looked at the leather clad and masked woman.


“And who the hell are you?”


“Well, for tonight you may refer to me as Mistress,” she purred.  “I have been called in by Eleanor and her associates to ask you a few questions, and I expect full and honest answers.”


“You?  How can a girl like you hurt me?”


“Huh,” the masked woman said with a smile.  “You know, a lot of people say that when they meet me.  Shall I name some of them?  Don Moroni…  Madame Chen…  Dominic Rice…  StJohn Stevens, oh sorry, Steve Johnson…  Shall I go on?”


Boronov looked at her as she continued “so, what shall I call you?  Roberto?  Romanov?  Bakhushin?  Or Bastard?”


“You have no right to…”


The slap across his face took him by surprise as the masked woman looked at him.  “That was impolite – and any answer I do not like, or anything like that, will be punished.  So, bastard it is.”  She walked to the bedside table and returned, holding a scalpel in her hand which glinted in the light.  “Let us start with a test question – who were the two girls Eleanor discovered earlier this evening.”




Boronov screamed as she slowly drew the scalpel down his chest, a thin red line appearing.  “I should tell you, bastard, you will only ever hear the absolute truth from me.  So, the two girls?”


He looked at her, panting before he let rip with some choice words.


“I’m sorry, my language skills are not up to this,” she said as she caressed his ball sac in her gloved hand, “so new rule – English only.”


“Or else what, bitch?”


“Or else this,” she said as she suddenly squeezed, her hand like a vice as he grimaced.  “Not nice when a woman fights back, is it?”


“Do your worst, bitch – I’m saying nothing.”


She looked at Eleanor, and then said “well, since you asked so nicely…”  She walked back to the satchel, returning with a pair of silver nutcrackers.   “Let’s try this a different way – where are the two girls from?”




He cried out as she crushed the knuckles on the little finger of his left hand, and said “where are the two girls from?”




“Where are they from?”




“Did you just hear something,” Susan said as she looked at Heather. 


“A cry – guess she was right about the room been soundproofed, and it’s probably just as well,” Heather said as she looked at the computer.  “Right – first find.  Looks like a list of contacts in the ring that supplied the girls she found.”


“Okay – we can take that and run with it,” Susan said, “but what else is in there?”


“His personal diary – I’m not sure I want to look at that right now, so we’ll download it…”






Boronov slowly raised his head and looked at the mangled mess that had been the fingers on his left hand, before he said “all right, all right – I…  I had them delivered?”


“From whom?”


He looked over as the masked woman stood on the other side of the bed, holding his right hand with the nutcrackers over his thumb.


“From whom, bastard?”


He stayed silent, then as he felt the knuckles disenegrate he screamed “NO!  I’ll tell you?”


From the side of the room, Eleanor stood and watched, making notes on her pad as the questions and answers continued.  She could see the sheer pleasure in the eyes of this woman, and it was obvious to her this was something arousing and sexual, but at the same time there was no doubting she was getting the information.


“Names, bastard, we need names,” she said as she crushed his fourth finger, “who else in this city is involved in this vile trade?”


As she worked her way down his other hand, Robonov gave a series of names, Eleanor shaking her head as she wrote them down.  Eventually, she heard his short pants as the masked interrogator walked to the table, and put the nutcrackers down.


“Now then, bastard,” she said as she looked at him,” let us set aside your personal little predilections for the moment, and get to the reason I have been asked to talk to you.”


“What…  What is it you want to know,” he gasped through his mist-covered eyes.”


“As Captain Ball said earlier, she and others have dismantled the production and supply line for a particularly nasty drug you were circulating – and I may as well admit, they were also responsible for closing the supply line in this city.  My compliments on that, Captain Ball.”


Eleanor inclined her head as she saw the woman open a bottle of water, and take a drink.  “But, as is always the case with a hydra, cut off one head and three shall appear.  So, bastard, let us discuss your new supply chain in this city.  I want names, and I want them now.”


“Or what,” Boronov snarled as he looked at her.


“Or else,” she said with a smile as she picked up a pair of pliers, “we discover just how sensitive the skin under your toenails is…”


“What do you…”  Boronov grimaced in pain, his eyes closed as with one movement she removed the nail from his big toe, and gently ran her gloved finger over the bloody nail bed.


“Names, little slug, give us names…”



“Dear god,” Heather whispered as she finished downloading the information from the laptop, “every time you think you’ve cleared a pile of shit up…”


“Another one appears,” Susan said.  “Have you got everything?”


Heather nodded as she turned off the laptop.  “What are you going to do with this?”


“For this country, we’ll get Jan to feed it through her system – a gift from you.  UK, I’ll inform Shirley and she can take it from there.  The rest can go through Charlotte – this is something the Sisters will want to deal with.”


“She’s in Naples, isn’t she?”


“Yeah – but I’ll get it to her anyway,” Susan said quietly.




Eleanor was almost beginning to feel sorry for him, as he started to shake, the masked woman removing the last of his toenails before she walked back to the table.  She picked up a second scalpel, and for a moment Eleanor wondered what she was going to do next – until she took a fresh lemon from the bag, sliced it in half, and then squeezed it into her water bottle.


One half of it – and as she took a drink, she looked over and said “Would you care for some?”


“Go to hell…”


“I thought we’d established that for you, Hell was here,” she said as she walked back over with the other half of the lemon in her hand.  “But I see you need a little reminder.”


The screams as she squeezed the lemon juice over the raw, weeping flesh made the battle hardened Eleanor feel upset – and then she saw the grin on the mouth of the masked woman as she said “Now, are there any manufacturing facilities in this country?”


“NO – no, there are not?”


“And you have given us all the import routes?”


As he slowly nodded, the masked woman turned and looked at Eleanor.  “Captain Ball, it may be that you wish to take a break for a few minutes.”  She picked up the scalpel and sliced through the boxers, pulling them away as she said “I desire a few moments private conversation, and then you may return.”


As she nodded and left the room, the masked woman waited for her to close the door, before she stuffed the boxers into Boronov’s mouth.  “Right, you stupid little fucker,” she whispered, “as a mother, I feel it is time I showed you the true extent of my contempt and disgust for you.  I hope you enjoy the experience.”


His eyes went wide as she started to massage his cock, and slid the blade of the scalpel across his abdomen, making a grid with thin red lines…




“How is it progressing in there, Captain,” the Hand asked as Eleanor came back in.


“Your summary of your friend rather underestimated her skills,” Eleanor said as she looked at Susan, “but her methods are effective.  I have the names and contacts for his network in the US for both aspects.  You?”


“His laptop was a challenge,” the Hand said as she held up a USB stick, “but this contains the information for the rest of the world.  I leave you a copy, and my friend here will ensure Madame is fully informed.”


“I’ll cross check against the notes I have, make sure we all have the complete list,” Eleanor said quietly.  “I thought I knew some tough interrogators, but she – she revels in it, doesn’t she?”


“I regret to say she does,” the Hand purred as she stood up.  “I believe my work here is done.  A pleasure to see both of you again.”


“I’ll show you out,” Susan said as they left, Eleanor pouring herself a glass of whisky and downing it in one.


“I’ve seen her at work,” Susan said as she came back, “it can be disturbing.”


“Remind me to take the bottle and glass when we go,” Eleanor said quietly, “but as I say, I’ve seen worse.  He mentioned some teenagers…”


“The sons of his last set of distributors – they’ve been charged with possession and statutory rape.  We’re keeping an eye on them – and if we feel Justice is not served, then we will move.”


Nodding, Eleanor put the glass down.  “Can you give me a hand?  We need to remove the recordings he’s made in that side room.”


The two women walked down the corridor and went into the second room.  As Eleanor looked through the glass, she saw the masked woman carving something into Boronov’s chest, his screams muted by the cloth in his mouth, and turned away as she and Susan started to put the disks into a black bag.




“Captain Ball?”


Both women turned to see the interrogator standing there, smiling as she looked over.


“I have completed my work – it is time.”


“Excuse me a moment,” Eleanor said as she went back into the room, and saw Boronov looking at her, his toenails red and bleeding, his chest a mass of red lines from the scalpel cuts, the soles of his feet bleeding as a blood matted belt lay on the floor.


“If I believed in the power of the courts,” she said as she picked up his Magnum and walked to the side of the bed, “I would have you arrested now… but in your case, it would not.  You have had a foretaste of what is coming.”


“Plsssdett,” he mumbled as he looked up at her.  Nodding, Eleanor took a pillow and put it over his head, then fired three rounds into it, feathers flying out as his body went limp.


She wiped the gun down and threw it on the floor, before she went out to where Susan and the masked woman were waiting.  “We’re finished,” she said quietly.


“Come,” Susan said, “we’ll go back to my place and have a drink.  Can we drop you somewhere?”


“A few blocks away – somewhere quiet and dark,” the masked woman said as she held her bag, “and thank you for allowing me to assist tonight.”


Eleanor nodded as they turned the lights off, and they all made their way out.



2 am

Xavier International


“Here,” Susan said as she poured some whisky into two glasses, and handed one to Eleanor.  “I just heard from my contact – the girls are in a safe house, and the doctor’s checked them over.  Some bruises, and they’ve been given some antibiotics, but rest and care are what they need now.”


“That woman…”


“What about her,” Susan said as she sat down.


"She's obviously insane," Eleanor sipped from the drink Susan gave her, "but she gets answers, and she gets them quick."

"Yes."  Susan took a drink and held her glass in both hands.

"Do you know her real identity?"

"No,” Susan said as she shook her head, “and I'm not sure it would be safe for me and my family if I did know it."

"I'm guessing that she has rather deadly friends as well?"

"Captain Ball,” Susan said as she leaned forward, “you are asking too many questions."

"I know, sorry it comes from all my years working intelligence."

"Just take it from me it will be better if you forget you ever met her."


Eleanor nodded, and finished her drink.  “I need to head back to my hotel room,” she said quietly, “and tomorrow have a word with the interested parties.  Thank you for your help.”


“For the Heart and the Strength.”


“For the Heart and the Strength,” Eleanor said as Susan showed her out.


2 am

The Huntingdown Apartment


As she let herself in, Cari was surprised to see a light on behind a door.


"Hey Mom I thought you'd be in bed," Carina smiled as she found her Mother sitting in the kitchen.

"No I thought I'd wait up till you got in...”  She walked to the stove and started to warm some milk, saying “Did it go well?"

"If you mean did I extract the information that Susan and Captain Ball were seeking, then yes."

"Did you...?"

"No...Eleanor did the actual honors."

"Did she watch?"

"Most of it, very convenient he had his own sound-proofed room, and she didn't ralph up her guts as I did my work."

Juliette nodded as she poured some cocoa into a mug and handed it over.  "Did you dispose of whatever you wore?"

"I put it in the furnace down stairs...I hate having to get rid of such beautiful leathers."

"Better then it being used in evidence against you darling."

"True," Cari smiled as she sipped some cocoa.

"Is she sated?"

"Yes and no, she would have liked to slit his throat, but she can wait for her next kill I think."


“Good – and now comes the really tricky part.”


“What’s that?”


“Trust me – you do not want to know…”



10 am

The Village


As Grace walked slowly down the stairs, she took a deep breath and then opened the door, to see Fergus standing there, wearing a tweed jacket over a white shirt and black trousers.


“Good morning Grace,” he said with a smile, “so what can I do for you this morning?”


“Come on in Fergus – you look tired,” she said as she stood to one side.


“Late night,” he said as they walked up, “where are your flatmates?”


“Sarah and Harriet?  They went out for the morning – I asked them to, because I need to talk to you about something.”


“That sounds serious.”


“Well, sit down,” Grace said as she watched Fergus sit in the chair.


“Okay – what’s up?”


"Fergus,” Grace spoke slowly as she sat down, “you have to forgive me and a lot of other people because we have shamelessly misused you in recent times."

"Misused me?”  Fergus looked at her and said “how?"

Taking a deep breath, Grace said "Did you read of the grizzly murder of that gangster from Georgia?"

"I did, funny thing is I'd seen him earlier last night, he took...well no names...home with him...”  Fergus suddenly looked at Grace, as he whispered “oh my god!...DID SHE?"

"No the young lady didn't,” Grace said, “but others who were in on this did.”  Leaning forward, she said “Sands was safely home in her own bed."

Fergus sat back, and said "Now I'm confused do you know all this?"

"I was told to mention the Sisters of Maisha to you when we spoke, and tell you that no I'm not a Sister myself."

"Alright this just gets even more puzzling,” Fergus said, “what do THEY have to do with this?"

"Look Fergus let me get you a stiff drink, and I'll try to explain."  She stood up and walked to the bureau, pouring some whisky into two glasses and walking back as she handed one to him.


“Okay – start talking…”


“Fergus, you’ve met this group haven’t you?”


As he nodded, he said “yeah – they got me out of Zim, and I know some of them.  But what have they got to do with what happened last night?”


“Well, all they told me through their contact – and no, I won’t name them – is that they had also been tracking this gangster.  The whole scheme was to get to Roberto Romanov," Grace took a sip of her own drink. "The FBI knew that he had supplied originally a date rape drug that saw a young girl raped outside a party, and they had evidence the drug had been used elsewhere for the same purpose."

"Alright...go on Grace."

"Well, certain people – these Sisters - decided it was time to take the law into their own hands, and that Romanov needed to be investigated and if need be punished."


“So they took the law into their own hands – but how does that involve what’s been going on with me…”

"Apparently they contacted Janice Carter, and she approached me with a mad crazy scheme, and… Well, it looked like the only thing that might work, and she asked me to be…  Well, the responsible adult."


Fergus looked at his glass, and took a drink before he said “and this scheme was?”


“To get someone close enough to him that they could find out where he may have information on his operations, and then let the Sisters do what they do.  But to so that, it was necessary to get his attention.”


Fergus stared at Grace, before he said “Hold on a minute…  Grace, are you saying…”

"They approached Alexandra Richmond, and as a close friend of the girl who was raped she volunteered to be that person.  And, regretfully, to do that she decided to..."

"Seduce me?" Fergus smiled a very nasty smile.

"Yes...”  Grace put her glass down before saying “and forgive us Fergus, but it was important that she established herself as a young, promiscuous, very bad girl, if she was to get to Romanov."

"So you all used me,” Fergus said quietly, “I was just a pawn in a game?"

"Yes...I mean no...Look Fergus let me explain more."


“Oh I can’t wait to hear this one,” Fergus laughed bitterly.


“Yes, her idea was to use you to get to him, but it went – well, it went out of control Fergus.  And it’s not as if you’re snow white in this area after all.”


“That was a long time ago, Grace,” Fergus said quietly, “I’m not that man anymore.”


“I know – but I thought you could cope, and if we told you, then I was told it would look false…”


“Still,” Fergus said quietly, “do you know just what she did?”


“I think I do,” Grace said quietly as the doorbell rang, “which is why I asked her to come round as well.”


Fergus sat quietly as Grace went to the door, returning with a very different Sands from the previous evening.  “Thank you Aunt Grace,” Sands said as she took her coat off and stood in front of Fergus, a look of regret in her eyes.


“Grace has told me a very interesting story,” Fergus said quietly, "Alexandra can you explain what has been going on please?" He looked at the girl looking very, very young with no makeup on and dressed in just a tee shirt and jeans.

"In a minute Uncle Fergus,” Sands said quietly, “can I first say that I will pay you back out of my trust every cent you paid out on Holly and myself."


“Which raises a question – was Holly in on all this?”


“No,” Sands said quietly, “although I have some – very strong feelings for her, which I did take advantage of – and I need to clear the air to her as well.”


“Okay,” Fergus said quietly, “so you volunteered to do this, to get revenge for your friend…”


“I did,” Sands said quietly.  "When I was told I could help get the bastard who had contributed to Laura getting raped, I swore to myself that I'd do whatever was needed to get the bad guy..."

"And that included seducing and blackmailing me?"

"Yes," Sands looked down at her feet.

"So I'm right,” Fergus said as he stood up, “I was just a piece in a game."

"No,” Sands said as she looked up, “you were a lot more than that Uncle Fergus."

"Alexandra,” Fergus said quietly, “after what we've done I think you can again dispense with Uncle."


“Well – I had my sights on him true, but I have very real, very strong feelings for you.  Despite everything, you were my first lover – and I can never forget that.  But I know I have hurt you a great deal, and for that I am sorry.  All I can say was, I did it to get to him – and now…”


“He’s dead Sands – the women who asked you to do this killed him.  How does that make you feel?”


“Honestly?  Sad that he died, but I am glad he paid the price for hurting my friend.”  She was tall now, standing erect, and as Fergus looked at her he allowed himself a little smile.


“Does your mother and Heather know?”


“No – but I will have to tell them, so that you can have back what is yours.”


“And Holly?”


“I don’t know – but I had the courage to face you.  I think I have the courage to face her.”


Fergus looked at her, and then at Grace.  “You were playing a very dangerous game, young lady.  Have you learned your lesson?”


“I can only say how sorry I am, Fergus, and promise to make reparations.”


“This man – he hurt your friend?”


“Ultimately,” Sands said quietly, “yes.”


Grace looked at them both, and said “Fergus, can you ever forgive us for what we did?”


“Maybe – but now the lies stop.  I’m not going to talk to your mother Alexandra – because you are.”



2 pm

The Richmond Mansion


“Hi Jan,” Heather said as she opened the door, “thanks for picking up Sands for us.”


“Yes, well,” she said as she came in, Sands and Katy behind her, “we need to talk to you and Sandy – or rather, Sands does and we need to be there when she talks to you.”


“Oh?  Something we need to be aware of?”


“Yes,” Sands said quietly, “and I need to tell you without George knowing.”


“Okay then,” Heather said as she looked at her young charge.  “Your mother is in here.”


Sandy looked up as they came in, and said “hey Princess – had a good weekend.”


“Mom,” Sands said quietly, “I need to tell you something, and I need you and Heather to let me finish before you say anything.”


“Oh?  What about sweetheart?”


“You know when those boys did…  Well, when they did what they did to Louise?”


“Yes,” Heather said as she sat down next to Sandy.


“Well, Aunty Jan here, as well as Aunty Juliette, asked if I would do something for them, so that the man who was behind everything could pay for what he had done.”


Sandy and Heather looked at Jan, who rubbed the back of her head as she said “I know, we should have told you as well, but for this to work, we needed to keep what was going on a secret.”


“Hmmm…”  Heather looked at Sands, and then said “oh Goddess – Fergus, Holly…  You were using them to get to someone?”


“Yes,” Sands said as she stood with her head bowed, “and I know it was wrong to do so, but I wanted the man behind those drugs to pay.”


“And has he paid?”


“He has,” Heather said as she looked at Sandy.  “I read in the paper this morning a gangster called Boronov was found dead in his apartment.  That was him, wasn’t it?”


“He’s dead?”


“I’m afraid so,” Jan said as Sands looked at her.


“Good – he deserved everything he got them, for what he did to Louise and others.”


“Princess,” Sandy said quietly, “What exactly happened with Fergus and Holly?  And why did Katy know?”


“I wheedled it out of Sands,” Katy said, “but when she told me why, I was sworn to secrecy as well.”




“Mom, I’m not an innocent,” Sands said quietly, “and I do love Holly – and Fergus in a way.  I spoke to him this morning – and offered to pay him back for what he did for both of us.”


“Okay,” Sandy said quietly, “we can discuss that later – or rather, I will with Fergus.  I’m actually proud you would do that for a friend Sands – Princess – but it stays a secret between all of us, understood?”


“And what about Holly,” Heather said quietly.


“Can you help me with that Heather?  I don’t want to lose what we have, but I need to say sorry to her as well.”


Heather nodded as Sandy stood up, walked over and hugged her daughter.  “Juliette and I need to have a chat about keeping secrets,” she said quietly, “but you are a very brave girl for telling us.”


“Thanks Mom,” Sands said with a little smile, “but if we are talking secrets…”


“Oh no – what else have you done,” Katy said as she looked at her friend.


“You’re not the only one who keeps them bestie,” Sands said as he looked at her, “I know.”


“You know what?  Our end of year report grades?  Heather’s recipe for chocolate brownies?”


“No way – I’m taking that to the grave,” Heather said with a laugh.


“No, not that,” Sands said as she shook her head, “I know you’re more than just friends and family.”


“Princess,” Sandy said quietly as she put her hands on her daughter’s shoulders, “what are you talking about?”


“I don’t know who you are,” Sands said quietly, “but I know you’re all pussycats.  I’ve known since you let Katy join you.”


Heather stood up as Jan and Katy stared at Sands.  Sandy remained silent, before she said “how…”


“I overheard part of when you were talking after the series finale last year - about whether or not Katy should take part in something.  Then the Pussycat Gang raided that warehouse in Montreal, while all of you were away…”


Sandy looked at the other three, before Sands said “Don’t worry – I’m not going to tell anyone, I don’t want my family and friends locked away for the rest of my life.  Nor do I want to be one – but you need to know I know.”




“Hey,” Sands said as she smiled at Katy, “you’re not the only one who listens at keyholes.”


“Okay,” Sandy said quietly, “okay, we’ll talk about this later, but – you’re right, Princess, and you need to know we do not hurt family.”


“I know that Mom – and thanks.  I love you.”  She hugged Sandy and Heather, then Katy and Jan.


“So, I’ll make some coffee, Katy you come and get some drinks – and then we’ll talk…”


Monday 23rd May

9 am

Xavier International


“Good morning Angela,” Shirley said as she stepped out of the lift, “how are you today?”


“Very well, thank you Madame,” her secretary said as she stood up, “Penelope has returned this morning, and wishes to see you as soon as possible.”


“Excellent – let her know I am here, and if she wishes to bring in the morning report I will review it.  And fetch two coffees please.”


“Of course, Madame,” Angela said as Shirley went into her office, and Peri came out of the lift, taking off her coat to reveal a grey jersey dress and heels.  “Morning Angela,” she said with a smile, “Anyone in yet?”


“Hannah arrived a few minutes ago, but no sign of Francesca yet – you’ve got time to set things up,” she said as she went to the coffee maker.


“Great – thanks,” Peri said as she went to her office, Angela smiling as she picked up the telephone.


“Penny?  She’s here – if you can bring the morning report?”


She replaced the handset, and brushed the lint off her straight knee length black skirt, before she poured coffee into two cups.  As she did this, Penny came in, wearing a red jumper and black pants.


“That smells good,” she said as she closed the door, “do I go straight in?”


“Yeah – she’s expecting you,” Angela said as Penny knocked and then opened the door.  Shirley was looking out of the window, wearing a grey trouser suit and a black camisole top.


“Good morning Madame – the morning report,” Penny said as she placed the sheets on Shirley’s table, and Angela brought the coffees in.


“Thank you Angela,” Shirley said as her secretary closed the door.  “So, I understand all is well between you and Helen now?”


“It is indeed Shirley,” Penny said with a smile.  “We have, in a way, moved to the next level.”


“Oh?  Should I expect a wedding invite?”


“No – but she will stay with me when we are together, and I with her.  I hear other things have been happening while I have been away?”


“Indeed – Francesca and Charlotte were in Naples over the weekend, and I look forward to hearing from them in due course.  Now, what have you for me today?”


“I draw your attention to this,” Penny said as she indicated some highlighted paragraphs on the first page.


“Ah – so it is indeed over?”


“It is, Madame, but there will be some clearing up to do...”



10 am


“Hey – welcome back,” Lily said as Penny came out of Shirley’s office.  “How was Hong Kong?”


“Amazing – and your lodger?”


“Hannah?  Been busy all weekend for Francesca,” Lily said as the lift doors opened, and they saw Francesca and Charlotte come out.  Francesca was wearing a blue blazer over a white dress, while Charlotte was wearing a dark green top over a pair of grey pants.


“I’ll let you know as soon as I hear anything,” Francesca said as she walked to the door of her office suite, and opened it as she said “Good morning Peri – some coffee please.”


“Welcome back Charlotte,” Angela said, “your messages.”


“Thank you,” Charlotte said as she looked at her friends.  “What?”


“Get some coffees Lily,” Penny said as she took Charlotte by the arm, “come with me, little one – we have much to discuss.”


“Yeah, we do – is everything cool with you and Helen now?”


“Oh yes – and we would be honoured to be your maids of honour,” Penny said as she held the door open, and Lily carried a tray with three mugs of coffee in.  “We do kind of need to know the when and the where however?”


“Well, with luck we’ll know the when later today,” Charlotte said as they sat round a coffee table, “but the where?  Naples.”


“Naples?  I thought there was a small problem with you marrying where your parents married,” Lily said.


“There is – is there a Presbyterian church in Naples?”


“Well, it’s going to be a bit complicated,” Charlotte said.


“What isn’t with your family?  So where will you marry?”


“Well, stage 1 will be at the Mayor’s office I imagine.  Stage 2 and 3 at the Santa Chiara.”


“Three stages?”  Lily smiled and said “why – two religious ceremonies.”


“Yeah – my grandmother arranged for a private chapel in the grounds to be consecrated as a Presbyterian and Protestant church, so Piet and I will have our wedding there for family and friends – then we go to the main church for a Catholic blessing.”


“Your grandmother…  Good grief,” Lily said with a laugh, “has Piet caught up yet?”


“Francesca,” Shirley said as she saw the Marchesa come into her office, “I am glad to see you made it back safely.”


“Well, it made for an interesting end to an interesting weekend,” Francesca said with a smile as she sat down.  “So, we discovered Mama’s secret.”


“An ecumenical chapel in the centre of the basilica where the di Cambrello family have wed for centuries?  Remarkable foresight and planning – I have the feeling I would have liked your mother.”


“I know she would have found you fascinating,” Francesca said as Angela brought some coffee in.  "Well Shirley - have you had any further thoughts on our security after I had to play games escaping from the press yesterday?"

"I had a long chat with Caroline in New York yesterday,” Shirley said as she sipped her coffee, “and frankly knowing of the reputation of the Italian media, this is going to be quite a challenge Francesca."

"So ideas?"

"My initial one?  Send all three of you to the Sisters camp in Botswana..."

"That might work for me and Carlotta, but it would leave Piet asking even harder questions then the press will," Francesca laughed as she interrupted.

"Well other than that,” Shirley said with a smile, “Caroline thought that maybe Charlotte needs to move into the Savoy as well. We can control access better there then at her flat."

"That sounds practical, it's more or less only a walk across the street to get here. What else Shirley?"

"Piet probably needs go somewhere in Africa for real."

"But you know he won’t leave Carlotta alone to face all this." Francesca nodded.

"I know, so we all still have our thinking caps on." Shirley buzzed her secretary, "but while Angela gets us another coffee, tell me how you outsmarted the press at your doorstep yesterday?"


“Oh that – well, we got word on the Saturday night, and managed to smuggle Father Albert out.  That was easy – but we had to get out on the Sunday, to allow me to take Charlotte, Piet and Alex on a tour of the city before we headed back to Rome.  So we needed to get the press off our scent, to allow us to make a more – discrete exit.”


“You have a secret passage?”


“Indeed – so first, I asked Alex to drive out of the main gates with Luisa in a blonde wig.  I figured he had the courage and fortitude to deal with it – and I am pleased to say he had.”


“And in the meantime?”


“Claudio carried our bags as we went for the rear entrance, and were picked up in a nice non-descript SUV with smoked windows.  We then went for a drive round the city and the bay, and met up with Alex and Luisa at the Ristorante President – the Gramaglio family are old friends, and they arranged a private dining room for us.”


“And from there straight back to Rome?”





"So how was Naples Charlotte?"

"Not quite like anything else I've ever experienced Penny.  To stand on the veranda at Mama’s home, and see the blue water, the majesty of Vesuvius…"

"Hong Kong and Macao were like that for me,” Penny said, “coming in like that…”

"Great," Charlotte smiled and paused. "I hope this isn't going to sound silly because when I've read it in books I've dismissed it as pure fiction, but I genuinely felt I found a missing part of myself in Naples."

"Somehow it made you feel more whole?"

"Exactly Lily...Am I being stupid?"

"Not in my opinion?" Lily finished her coffee, "I think I get it."

"Well I can't say anything," Penny sipped her coffee, "I've said more than once that finding Helen made me a whole person again, and I was there when Caroline Jameson re-emerged."

"So what was Sunday like?”  Lily put her cup down and said “After all that drama Saturday."

"Well… Piet scuttled back to his own bed at six, so Luisa wouldn't catch him in mine."

"So Francesca maintains a full time staff even when she's not there?" asked Lily.

"At all four of her main homes in Italy."

"Damn Charlotte the things you can do when you own billions," Lily shook her head.

"I know it’s wasteful,” Charlotte laughed, “but Mama says it’s nice to know that wherever she is, then she has servants who are also old friends to look after her.  I’ve met her new housekeeper for her London home – she’s cut from the same cloth as Luisa."

"I love the way you are calling her Mama now," Lily grinned.

"Yeah it’s cute," Penny grinned as well, "but changing subjects when will you hear from this Father Albert on prospective wedding dates?"

"Sometime around lunch...Then Mama, Piet and I have to choose one."

“Well,” Penny said with a smile, “we can get free anytime."

"I know Penny, and it’s going to mean so much having you and Helen with me on that day."




“I will tell her this later, but Maisha is delighted to act as one of the bridesmaids with Ama,” Shirley said.  “I also hear Penny and her partner Helen have agreed to be the Maids of Honour.”


“Leaving Piet’s nieces as the flower girls,” Francesca said as Angela brought in a sheet of paper.  Looking at it, she said “tell Peri to tell Sigrid I will call her at two my time.”


As Angela left, Shirley said “there is one thing that has been suggested to me through – other channels.  The Sisters have offered to send a group to act as discrete watchers – and to run interference.”


“It would be a useful line of defence,” Francesca said, “and we have the added advantage they are protecting their leader.  That makes them even more alert.”





“So is Father Richmond staying in Rome Charlotte?"

"Yes his friend Cardinal Kelly is putting him up in his apartments Lily."

"So what did Alex make of Father Bettega?"

"I think the same as Mama, Piet, and I did - that even with severe Alzheimer's, and being well into his nineties, that you can tell that he's lived an interesting life, and that his compassion for his fellow humans is boundless."

"He sounds someone who I'd love to meet," Penny smiled.

"Well he's promised me he will dance at my wedding, and I wouldn't bet against him doing so.  You can meet him then."

"What did Alex make of your cloak and dagger escape from Naples Charlotte?" Lily asked, "I couldn't believe it when you phoned me."

"Well I think he thought it was hilarious that we had to resort to doing something like that to merely escape a few local reporters,” Charlotte laughed before she wet serious for a moment.  “What we will all do while the Italian media is chasing us I wish I knew."

"And you think they might resort to following us, because we are your friends?"

"So Mama thinks Lily."

"Well just as long as this doesn't muck up Juliette's planned operation."

"Amen to that Penny," Charlotte nodded.





"So how come you don't get trouble flying Francesca?"

"Well,” Francesca said with a smile, “Alitalia look after me very well, I own quite a chunk of their shares via my holdings in one of the companies that formally owns them...That gets me absolute security, secrecy, and comfort when I fly. So when I rang ahead and asked the people at Rome to take us straight through to First Class, they were more than willing."

"Why not just buy yourself a private jet? I use ours an awful lot."

"I suppose I should Shirley,” Francesca mused.  “It’s just one of those things I need to think of. What with being able to fly on military planes, and the wonderful service from Alitalia, I just never got round to it."

"Do you hold a pilot’s license?"

"Yes Papa insisted one summer while I was still at school in Lausanne that I study for and do the hours in the air, to get one."

“Well you should get your own plane then."

"Maybe later in the summer," Francesca looked at her watch.

"Looking at that won’t make the call come in any quicker you know?"

"I know, I know,” Francesca said, “but I can't concentrate on the law till we have set a date, and I can start inviting people."




“Here’s those amended papers to type up,” Hannah said as she handed Peri some documents, and then they both looked to the inner door.


"The boss has hardly been in her office," Peri looked at Hannah.

"She can't concentrate, they are awaiting a call from Naples so that they can set a date for Charlotte's wedding."




"Who will you ask to design your wedding dress? Alice McKinnon I know has another royal wedding dress being made by her."

"Well without insulting Alice,” Charlotte laughed, “I'd rather like to keep it in the family and get Kylie to do it for me Penny."

"She'd like that, but you really ought to ring her today and start discussing designs, she will need time to get it made."

"Mama made noises about redoing her dress, but then I pointed out I'm six inches shorter then she is, and have nowhere near her great figure. I think she saw that it was impractical."

"It would be." Lily nodded.

"Also remember you need to order bridesmaid’s dresses Charlotte."

"I know," Charlotte rolled her eyes.




“Forgive me Madame,” Angela said as she looked in, “Peri says you have a call from Naples, Francesca.”


“Thank you – if you will excuse me?”


“Go,” Shirley said as Francesca left the office, Charlotte seeing her go past from her office and following her.


“She is just coming now Father,” Peri said as they both walked past.  “Line 2, Francesca.”


“Thank you,” Francesca said as she and Charlotte went in, and closed the door.


In the corridor outside, Lily and Penny joined Shirley as she said “I suspect no work is going to be done until we know this, are we?”


“Nope,” Lily said as they watched Francesca’s door.  A few minutes later, Charlotte came out, saying “That’s the available days Piet – we can decide tonight.  Love you.”


“And the word is?”


“To allow time to set everything up, they are suggesting the 20th, 21st or 28th of July.  I’ll tell you for certain tomorrow once we have talked with the South Africa contingent.  Remind me, how far ahead of us is Hong Kong?”


“Eight hours – why?”


“Just time to call her,” Charlotte said as she went into her office.




“Kylie is about to get an offer she dare not refuse,” Lily said with a giggle.


“All right ladies – work to do…”


9 pm Local time

Hong Kong – Catherine Lu’s Apartment


“Well, I think that is the arrangements for the June Ball concluded, darlings,” Kylie said as she stretched her arms up and yawned.


“And have you decided who you are going with yet,” Marina said as she looked over.


“I am going to sleep on it,” Kylie said with a smile before she noticed the incoming call alert on her laptop.  As she accepted the call, she saw Charlotte’s face appearing on the chat window.


“Charlotte, darling, this is an unexpected pleasure – I presume Penny has returned safely?”


“She is back at work, Kylie – as am I, but this is a professional call.”


“On…  Ah,” Kylie said as she stopped herself for a moment.  “Is there a piece of design work you wish me to undertake for you – for the christening robe, possibly?”


“No, I need your help for something before that – is Helen there?”


“No, she’s accompanying Catherine at a meeting,” Marina said as she came over, “what do you need Kylie to do?”


“Design a wedding dress?”


The two young women looked at each other, before Kylie said “I am flattered, Charlotte, but I have never done anything more than a ball gown before.  Is there a particular style you have in mind?”


“Let me put it this way, Kylie – part of the wedding will be held at the Basilica di Santa Chiara, in Naples.  That’s what I need the gown for.”


“Naples?  Well now, that does present some opportunities,” Kylie said as she made some notes in her little book.  “But is that not a Catholic church?”


“I’ll explain another time – can you help out with this, and the bridesmaid dresses?”


“I know you have asked Penny and Helen, darling – who else?”


“Ama and Maisha, and then my nieces to be, Britt and Evi.”


“Okay – so I presume a summer wedding?”


“Late July – I think you may rack up the frequent flyer miles that month kiddo.”


“Right then – the crucial question Charlotte darling?  How are you feeling, and what do you have in mind?”


"Kylie,” Charlotte said, “after this weekend – heck, this month, I feel like one of the heroines in a Barbara Cartland or Georgette Heyer Regency romance novel."

"So darling?"

"Well I'm a sucker for films and TV shows like Pride and Prejudice as well..."

"Aren't we all darling," Kylie laughed..."Mmmm Colin Firth can swim across a lake to me any day he chooses."

"With all that I love Piet...Mine too," Charlotte giggled, "but what I was getting at was..."

"I'm already ahead of you darling," Kylie interrupted, "you'd like something with an Empire Line?"

"Yes...Is that possible Kylie?"

"I've already drawn a rough shape on my pad here." Kylie smiled, "and for the bridesmaids?"

"Something similarly inspired."

"Alright darling give me 48 hours to work on some sketches and then we can start getting this to be the perfect dress for you."


“Thank you Kylie – I’ll be able to confirm the date tomorrow.  One other thing – sooner or later, the secret of who I am is going to come out, and there is a real chance the press may start to take an interest in all my friends.”


“Forewarned is prepared,” Marina said, “we’ll let Catherine know.”


“Thanks – I’ll talk to you in a couple of days,” Charlotte said as the call ended.


“Well, kiddo – two wedding dresses in a month.”


“I know Marina – let me go and make some coffee…”



3 pm BST

Xavier International


“Well now – I here you had a most eventful weekend,” Caroline said as she appeared on Charlotte’s screen.


“Slight understatement – how is the apartment with the two new residents?”


Caroline smiled as she said “Why do you think I’m calling from the office?  When I left, Kelly Rochermann and Rachel McNally were round having a coffee and baby admiration session with Annie.”


“Fair point – and the babies?”


“You’ll love them at first sight.  Anyway, we need to discuss…”


"Caroline, before we start talking about security,” Charlotte said, “can I ask you a favour?"

"Go ahead Charlotte, what can I do?"

"Well,” Charlotte said quietly, “would you be my witness for the civil ceremony?"

"Oh I'd love to," Charlotte could hear the pleasure in her friend’s voice.

"Well I know I didn't ask you to be a bridesmaid, but you really sort of mentored me within Xavier's, and you are part of the climbing group..."

"Charlotte I already accepted, you don't need to explain." Caroline laughed.


“Good – so, we’re going to decide the date tonight, send the invites out – Father Albert reckoned that meant we had two weeks before the flying guano hits the spinning object.  What can we do?”


“That depends on how much you want to hide,” Caroline said.  “I take it Shirley told you of our chat yesterday?”


“Yeah – we need a way I can go about my business in London without the press making my life a living hell.  And no, I refuse to go into hiding – if Mama can do it, so can I?”


“Mama?  Naples really has got under your skin, hasn’t it?  Okay then – I’m going to fly over next week, set some stuff up in your flat.  Luckily, Penny and Lily’s places are already fairly secure.  We’re also getting some additional help – I’m not going to say what, but there will be other eyes and ears around.”


“Shirley apparently suggested we should move into the Savoy – not a chance Caroline.”


“Good – well, we’re going to do all we can.  Honest truth, I’d send George over, but he has this slight problem with the UK.”


“That he’s still a wanted man?”


“Precisely – so I’m putting someone in charge.  I hear we’re looking at the latter half of July?”


“Yeah – why?”


“Good – ties in nicely with her own timings.  You’ll get a knock on your door – now.”


Charlotte looked up as there was a knock on her door, and it opened to let Tracy and Bev in.  “Watcha boss,” Beverley said, “Natalie and Caroline have delegated us to you for the next few weeks.”


“Good choice,” Charlotte said with a smile.


8 pm BST

Charlotte and Piet’s flat, Knightsbridge


Piet poured the wine into the glasses and passed them round as he said “so, these three dates – my boss has no problem with that time.”


"Well the President of Italy would favour this date?" Francesca pointed to the paper, "but the Prime Minister would prefer this date," again she pointed, "though he can change his schedule and try for the day the President can be free."

"What about the family so to speak Mama?"

"If you mean Uncle Claudio, he says he will go along with whatever we chose."

"Well that helps," Piet nodded.

"The Carabinieri, and my old friends at La Cittadella, need just know which day and who is coming, so they can work out protection."

"What about your family Piet my love?"


“They would prefer the earlier two dates to the last one – there’s a couple of conferences they can’t get out of unless they have to.”


“Very well then – I think we know which date we are looking at then,” Charlotte said as she looked round.  “Are we agreed?”


“Does that allow enough time for your dressmaker, Carlotta?”


“Oh Kylie can work very fast if need be – the real problem is she is moving to New York at the start of July, and then will travel for this.  But it is manageable.  So – we are agreed?”


“Thursday, 21st of July – I will inform Father Albert.  Now, we need to prepare for the coming storm.  I understand you spoke to Caroline, darling?”


“I did – she has asked Beverly and her friend Tracy to organise the additional security here.”


“Bev and Tracy?”  Piet smiled as he said “good – I like them both.”


“I have met Beverly of course, and I look forward to meeting Tracy,” Francesca said.  "Your Uncle John will have a word with Piet's parents about upping their security and that they will have to expect media interest in who Piet is darling."

"Good, and your paper Piet?"

"My editor and a couple of others have been let in on the secret Roo. He joked it’s a good thing that we aren't the Sun or The Daily Mail."

"Oy," Charlotte laughed, "if you worked for them then the secret would already have been blabbed across the front page."


“It will be eventually,” Francesca said, “but we have time to prepare.”





Tuesday 24th May

3 pm Local Time

Catherine Lu’s apartment, Hong Kong


As she came into the main room, Catherine smiled at the sight of both Kylie and Marina deep in the joys of their appointed task.


"Alright this is something I definitely know I wouldn't have seen just one year ago," she said as she smiled and sat down, "Kylie reading her beloved Jane Austen, and Marina reading Tolstoy - in the original Russian yet.”

"I know darling, it's amazing what a year under your influence can do for a girl," Kylie looked up and smiled.

"So what are you reading Marina?"

"War and Peace..."

"And believe it or not this is fashion work," Kylie broke in.

"Yes,” Marina said as she rolled her eyes, “we are getting hints that might help Kylie with Charlotte's wedding dress design."

"I'm also waiting for Jeannie to scan and send me some regency fashion plates that she has in her collection, so I can look at them in detail."

"Well,” Catherine said as she sat back, “it sounds like you have most of your research in hand."

"I think we do Mistress." Marina rubbed her eyes.

"Have you also been doing your prep for the Brasenose reunion Marina?"

"I have,” the redhead said as she stood up, “and I can't believe that people are actually e-mailing me saying it will be good to see me again. For the Goddess’ sake, I was never actually there!"

"Ah but we made people believe you were, and like all fake news once you get a few people to believe it, then others fall into line." Catherine smiled, "politicians use the trick all the time."


“It is one of the few things Goebbels was right about, Marina darling,” Kylie said, “tell the lie often enough and people stop questioning.  I very much fear our new home country is experiencing that at the moment.”

"Well be that as it may,” Marina said, “I'm learning the bios, reading the profiles and putting names to faces."

"Well just remember you were the geeky girl reading Russian,” Catherine said, “they will remember you put in a lot of time studying, not socialising."

"I know Mistress. I'm also learning the geography of Oxford on Google maps, and reading about the boat races and varsity rugby games on my era...I just hope I pass the test.”

"Oh you will Marina darling, you will."  Standing up, she said “I shall make some tea – will you join me in a cup?”


“Thank you, Darling,” Kylie said with a smile, “it will be just the thing before we meet Helen.”



9 am BST

Xavier International, London


“So,” Shirley said as she sat in the conference room with Charlotte and Francesca, “the 21st of July in Naples?  I must ensure John and I have our diaries clear.”


“I hope you can,” Charlotte said, “because Piet is meeting John at lunchtime to ask him to take the photographs.”


Smiling, Shirley said “He’ll love that.  The invitations?”


“They will get sent out once we have the practical details sorted,” Francesca said, “but I have already informed the Basilica and the relevant authorities in Rome.”


“The dresses?”


“Kylie has agreed to send some ideas over later,” Charlotte said with a smile.


“Which brings us to the next question,” Natasha said as she crossed her legs.


“Indeed,” Shirley said as she pressed the speaker button on the phone.  “Ask them to come in now please.”


As the door opened, Charlotte smiled as the blonde haired Natalya Kosolov came in, followed by Tracy and Beverly.


“Good morning Madame, Charlotte, Marchesa,” she said as she bowed to each of them in turn, “and my congratulations as well.  Shall we discuss my thoughts on the enhanced security for here?”


“Of course – go ahead Natalya.”


“We have three areas – here, your personal privacy at home Charlotte, and any journeys in between or for business purposes.  We have divided them between us, and have some ideas.”


“Forgive me Madame,” Angela said as she looked in, “your 9.30 has arrived.”


“Ah – forgive me,” Shirley said as she stood up, “I will join you for coffee later.  I need to meet this one personally.”


She made her way to the lift, humming to herself as she travelled down to the reception area, and smiled as she saw the two women waiting.


“Cassandra, JD – welcome to our head office,” she said as she embraced Cassandra Stone and JD.  “Come through – we’ll talk in my office.”


“It’s good of you to invite us, Shirley,” Cassandra said as they walked out of the lift and into her office.


“Well, the reviews in the Sunday papers were most illuminating and positive,” Shirley said as she closed the door, “and JD is one of my employees after all, so I felt it only right I invited you both to drop in.  Besides, I felt there was another reason I should talk to both of you.”


“Oh,” JD said, “and what is that, Shirley?”


“One moment,” Shirley said as Angela brought in the coffee, and then left the room, before Shirley pressed a button on her desk.  “Now, the room is secure.  I felt it was time you were informed of one or two things, JD, given you and Cassandra will be working together soon.”


“Of course – but what do I need to know,” JD said as she accepted a coffee.  Shirley nodded to Cassandra, who smiled as she said in a soft Irish Brogue “JD, I believe I should be saying sorry to you.”


JD slowly turned her head and looked at Cassandra, and then at Shirley before she said “Oookay – forgive me Madame, but I had no idea.”


“I am aware of that, JD, and I would ask you keep this knowledge to yourself,” Shirley said, “but both of you will be helping with an upcoming enterprise in this city, so it’s important you know this.”


7.45 am

West Central Park


“Katy – have you brushed your teeth?”


“Yes Mom – I’m getting my stuff now,” Jan heard her daughter say as she heard the knock on the front door.  Walking to it, she looked through the spyhole, and then opened it to see Missy standing there, in her trouser suit and camisole top, looking a little harassed.


"And to what do we owe a visit this early in the morning Missy?" Jan said as she stood in the door, her coat half on and half off.

"Oh good,” the agent said with a smile, “I caught you before the school run.  Good, good…"

"Hey Missy." Katy came out of her room.  “What are you doing here?”

"Katy,” Missy said with a smile, “just the beautiful young lady I wanted to see..."

"Ohh Oh...When she starts being nice Mom I need dive for cover don't I?"

"So everyone says.  Missy?"

"Okay, okay…”  Missy smiled and said “look, you know Fractures daughter don't you?"

"Which one? I've met Alexa, but not..."

"Well its Sailor I want to talk to you about," Missy interrupted.

"Okay,” Katy said as she put her blazer on, “Sailor I've never met."

"Well…  Would you be up to flying to Baltimore today after school to do a double with her for Eighteen?"

"When?" Jan asked.

"Tonight..." Missy let the word drop in the air.

"TONIGHT!" Jan exploded.  “Fly to Baltimore on a school night Missy?"

"She'd get the last plane home and be in bed..."

"By when?"

"Say three thirty," Missy winced.

"ON A SCHOOL NIGHT!"  That shout brought Katherine out from the kitchen, as she dried a mug with a dish towel.

"Look Jan,” Missy said, “this is a VERY big deal for Katy…  Sailor is getting very hot as well…  This could be a huge extra boost to both their careers."

"Mom I'd like to do it...PLEASE?" Katy whispered.


“I’ll go with her,” Katherine said, “I have a meeting with Tom and the others this afternoon, but I’ll be back by three.”


“Okay, okay – it’s just as well we get your report today,” Jan said as she put her coat on.  “Where and when do you need them?”


“I can pick them both up from Sandy’s later to get to the airport.  And thank you – she won’t regret it.”


“No – but I might…”



8.40 am

St Angela’s


"So how is the planning for Rio?" Doc asked as Jeannie lowered herself from the van.

"Amazing...  hard work...  but just the thought of the long weekend in the sun down there...  oh I'll tell you all about it at lunch," Jeans grinned.  “But yeah, we’re ready.  How about your trip to the windy city?”


“All set – and we both get out of the sports day as well!”


“See – some good does come from it,” Jeans said as they made their way into the assembly room, Abby sitting with Letty at the back.


“So – going round for the signatures today,” she whispered as the hall filled up.


“Yeah – what about you?”


“Later – I need to meet with Tennant and Jeannie today to discuss my continued patronage of the Kirkham fund.”


“You’re happy to do that?”


“Of course I am – and then I need to go shopping.”


“You do?  What for?”


“I still need to buy a dress for Saturday – I just haven’t had time yet…”



10 am

The Village


"Klaus, have you come to see the children?" Caroline smiled as she answered the door.

"And to see Annie,” Klaus said “if that's not too much trouble?"

"Not at all...”  Caroline stood to one side as she said “come on upstairs, she's just finished feeding them."


“Thank you,” Klaus said as he headed up the stairs, to See Annie in a tracksuit, carrying her daughter as she walked to the crib.

"Hello Klaus, come to check up on how good a Mom I'm being?" Annie talked softly as she lay Mags down next to her brother.

"Not at all...”  He smiled as he looked into the crib, before saying “and how are they doing?"

"Mags is great,” Annie said as Caroline went to the kitchen, “but Rudi lets us all know in no uncertain terms when he wants feeding."

"Oh Dear."  Klaus smiled as he sat down and said “but you are getting enough sleep?”


“Between feeds, yes – and these two are getting used to the change in the atmosphere.”


“She means that literally,” Caroline said as she brought through two coffees.  “You’ll have to forgive me Klaus – I have a meeting with Sharon and George in half an hour at the office.”


“Go,” Annie said, “Diana is coming round later.”


“See you,” Annie said as she sipped her coffee.  "Anyway other than coming to dote on your grandchildren, Cari said you had some papers regarding the children that I needed to look at?"

"Yes,” Klaus said as he opened the slim case he had with him, and took out some papers, “regarding their legal status as von Furstenheim's."

"Alright.  Let me have a look, but I made a promise, so I’m happy to sign them."

"I also want to raise a delicate question Annie..."

She looked up from the papers, before saying "And what might that be?"

"That I think, for the sake of the babies, you and my daughter should get married."


Smiling, she put the papers down and said “Klaus, I can understand why you ask that, but isn’t that something Cari needs to ask me?”


“Well,” Klaus said as he took a drink, “let me put it this way.  I feel it would cement the family as a whole.”


Nodding, Annie said “I will be honest with you Klaus – if Cari was to ask me, I would say Yes with all my heart – but you have to remember for the next two years, we would be spending most of our time apart.  We plan to spend as much time as possible together – but we would not be a true family, in the sense of living together all the time, until two years from now.”


“I know – and I thank you for your honesty,” Klaus said with a smile, “but promise me you will at least discuss it with her?”


“Have you talked to Cari?”


“I intend to – but I have said what is on my heart.  Let us leave it there for now.”







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