The Mousetrap – Part 4
Saturday 5th November
8.30 am PT
The Beverley Hills Forum
“No, she didn’t just leave us the ranch,” Gale whispered, “turns out there was a second property which was beign managed on her behalf by a mining firm, and I need to meet with them informally later today.”
“Mined? What for?”
“Something called Niobium,” Tom said, “so we have to meet with someone called Culver at the meet this afternoon…”
“It never fails,” April said as she and Pepsi sat next to Grant, “the day of a race and he’s fretting away.”
“Can you blame me, love? I mean, this is literally the biggest race he has ever faced,” Grant said as he looked across the table, “and as much as I admire Sir William, to have him next to us…”
“Pops, you know the drill by now,” Pepsi said with a smile, “you’re going to fret and worry until race time – so why not just get it all out of the way now, and enjoy the day with us?”
“Oh I will – and for once that’s not what I’m interested in?”
“It’s not – then what is?”
“There’s a young colt running in one of the earlier races I want to have a look at…”
“How are you feeling this morning,” Heather said as she and Sandy sat next to Diana.
“As always, a little better than yesterday,” Diana said with a smile after she had patted her lips. “Where are George and Sands?”
“At the buffet table with their father,” Sandy said with a smile, and then she continued “Good morning – and you are?”
“An old friend of Diana,” a male voice replied behind the French woman, both Sandy and Heather noticing the redness in her cheeks as she said “indeed he is – I did not realise you were staying in this hotel Henri.”
“Life is full of such surprises – will you introduce me to these charming ladies?”
“Of course – Henri, allow me to introduce my good friend Alexandra Richmond and her partner, Heather Smith. Sandy, Heather, this is Henri de Roi, an old friend from my days in Paris.”
“A true pleasure to meet you,” Henri said as he kissed the hand of both of them, “did I see Juliette Huntingdown yesterday as well?”
“You did – but she is staying at a friend’s house with her family.”
“I saw the wedding report – I have to admit, Klaus carries the years well,” Henri said with a smile.
“Well, unless you have other plans for this afternoon,” Diana said, “perhaps you can join us at the track for the race?”
“I would be honoured – until then,” Henri said as he smiled and inclined his head, and then went off, Diana turning and looking at her friends.
“Goddess,” Heather said quietly, “did we just see a totally different Diana?”
As she smiled, Diana said “more one who is taking the advice of her brother seriously…”
“Grant, I swear, if you do not stop looking at that guide…”
As Grant looked up, he saw both April and Pepsi looking intently at him, as well as Roy, George and Guy, all with ironic smiles.
“Okay, okay, I get the message,” he finally said as he closed the book and put it t the side of his chair, Pepsi lifting it and handing ti to Jack, who walked quickly over to where his parents were sitting.
“Today is a most auspicious day, true,” Guy said with a smile, “and I know we always say this, but truly – there is nothing we can do today, Grant my friend, except enjoy the event…”
“Good morning,” Kay said as she sat down with Eleanor and Francesca, “and what is the word this morning?”
“I am not entirely sure,” Francesca said quietly as she put her coffee cup down, “I have not seen Alex this morning, or Peter, which worries me.”
“I can answer for Alex,” Eleanor said, “I saw her going out with Marianne Vosloo.”
“Who is just coming in,” Francesca said as she stood to greet her friend. “Good walk?”
“Informative – and it gave me an appetite. John not down yet?”
“No – and where’s Alex?”
“Gone to put her purse in her room…”
As John Vosloo stepped out of his room, he heard a familiar voice say “John, we need to talk.”
“Hennie,” he said quietly as he turned round and smiled, “I was wondering when you were going to approach me.”
“Do you have any idea what has been going down over the last twenty four hours? Of whom we may have unmasked?”
“Based on the reaction of Francesca and certain whispered conversations – yeah, I’ve got an idea,” John said as he rubbed his eyes, “so out of respect for your position and our past, let me head this off at the pass Hennie. If you are right, and you or Peter are going to make any sort of move, I’m not going to interfere.”
“But,” John said as he looked round, “it’s not me you’re going to have to worry about. If it is Alex Green, then others here will already have laid plans, and they will implement them. And believe me, they are not people we want against us. Beyond that, I am going to enjoy the day.”
“Remember when Francesca was released from the service, I told you I only wanted to know as an academic exercise? That’s still true, so the only other advice I could give is this.
“Leave this one to lie, please.” John put his hand on Hennie’s shoulder and then walked off, his former commander shaking his head behind him.
“Ah there you are,” Peter Green said as he came out of the bathroom to see Alex standing there, “good walk?”
“Yeah, cleared my mind a bit,” she said with a smile. “So, breakfa… Peter, why are you packing?”
“We’re returning to South Africa tonight,” Peter said with a smile, “and we’re going to spend the day together.”
“That’s rather sudden,” Alex said with a smile, “why the change of plan?”
“We caught a mouse on the office.” He turned and looked at Alex, smiling as he put his hand on her cheek – and then smacked it hard. She rubbed it as he said “say goodbye to your friends today, Alex – you’re not going to see them again…”
“Charlotte my dear,” Francesca said as she looked at her daughter, “What is it?”
“Can you come with me for a few minutes? Shirley wants to talk to us about something…”
“Of course – I will see you in a few minutes,” Francesca said as she stood and followed Charlotte to a private dining room, Shirley smiling and standing as they came in.
“Francesca,” she said as Charlotte closed the door, “I have news. Charlotte met with Alex Green this morning, and extended the hand of sisterhood. A hand that has been accepted.”
“I hope she lives to make use of it.”
“What has happened, Mama,” Charlotte asked as they sat down.
“I think I know – her cover has been blown, has it not?”
“I fear so,” Francesca said as she rubbed her eyes, “Carlotta, Alex Green is Alexandra Verdi – Mouse.”
“She is… She’s the one you said went dormant? Then she si indeed an asset – but you said she was no longer operational.”
“She isn’t – but a few years ago, she and I rescued the daughter of a friend of my father in Rome – from Peter Green and our Arab horse owner friend. They’re all here, as is Hennie – so yes, I think her cover has been blown. Shirley and I have been discussing, and I have talked with others, about getting her out, but I fear we need to move fast.”
“You think they will try to get her out, by diplomatic bag?”
“Not Peter Hope’s style – he’ll bring her today, and she’ll disappear tonight. Shirley, I need to make some calls, but we need to get her out of here.”
“IS that going to be enough? If she was as highly placed as you say, they aren’t going to stop looking for her even if you do get her away safely Francesca.”
“I’m well aware of that Shirley,” Francesca almost shouted, “but at least in Italy we can give her a large degree of protection.”
“I know an organization that can do it better,” Charlotte spoke softly.
“Better then La Citadella darling? Who are these paragons?”
“I think she means ‘us’ Francesca.” Shirley stood up and started to pace.
“Us? You mean the Sisters?”
“I have more in mind my personal people.”
“That’s what I was thinking,” Charlotte took a sip of coffee. “We do have a proven track record in creating new identities for people and keeping them out of harm’s way.”
“Well I know that Shirley as Madame X has access to a lot of talent that even intelligence services don’t have,” Francesca said quietly, “but I still think this might be best left to the professionals.”
“Mamma you still don’t quite get it do you?” Charlotte smiled and shook her head. “We ARE the professionals.”
“So what do we do?”
“You call your contacts, Francesca,” Shirley said. “Charlotte, gather Dominique and Agnes, as well as Cat – and get Madeline over here. We need to talk…”
“Of course,” Charlotte said as she left the room, Francesca nodding as she went to the side and took her cell phone out, dialling a number and waiting.
“Good afternoon, may I speak to Dr Allesandro Riva please?”
“May I ask who is calling?”
“The Marchesa di Cambrello.”
“One moment please,” the female voice said as Vivaldi started to play, and then a strong male voice said “Francesca – this is an unexpected pleasure. I trust you are enjoying life as a grandmother?”
“I am indeed, but I need a favour. Sandro - do you have your mothers number?” Francesca whispered into her phone.
“Of course I do Francesca darling,” the doctor laughed, “but why do you need it?”
“Look I wish I could tell you, but can you just accept my word that I wouldn’t be disturbing her in her retirement if this wasn’t of the gravest importance?”
“Darling,” he said quietly, “you know her health is a little fragile?”
“I do,” Francesca said quietly, “and believe me this is the very last thing I wish to do, but events that she had a small part in 25 years or more ago have suddenly become relevant again and I desperately need her advice.”
There was a moment’s silence, before the reply came.
“Does this relate to the fact that both you and she were spies?”
“That we were what?”
“Oh come off it Francesca my love,” the plastic surgeon laughed gently, “I’m very aware that for a lot of her career my Mother was a senior official within La Citadella, and I’m not dumb enough that I never guessed that La Bionda Idiota was some sort of cover that you kept up while you were still in the navy.”
“You know I can’t confirm or deny any of that,” Francesca whispered the words.
“I know, but if I do let you have Mamma’s phone number just promise me that you’ll try not to stress her out?”
“I promise you, and I thank you Sandro,” Francesca said quietly as she ended the call, then looked at the text massage before she pressed another button and waited.
“Buon pomeriggio, residenza Riva. Come posso aiutarti?”
“Questa è la Marchesa di Cambrello. Posso parlare con la signora Maria?”
“Vedrò se è disponibile”
Francesca waited for a few minutes, before she heard a familiar voice say “Hello?”
“Aunt Maria, its Francesca, how are you?”
“Well, I’d be a whole lot better if I didn’t have your uncle and Sandro constantly fretting and worrying darling,” Francesca smiled as she heard the familiar little laugh. “What can I do for you?”
“What makes you think this isn’t anything other than a call to enquire after your health Aunt?”
"Well is it?"
“Yes it is…” Francesca said quietly, “mainly.”
“Ah mainly is such an important word,” the older woman laughed again, “Anyway let’s get the health thing out of the way shall we? I’m fine. Now do you want to tell me what is going on in California with regards to The Mouse?”
“Francesca darling cut the crap please, I’m still kept a little in the loop by my former colleagues, especially when it concerns people I had dealings with.”
“THEY phoned you already?”
“No,” another burst of laughter came out of the phone, “I’m more up to date then that darling. They texted me. So, what has happened?”
“Well I think her cover is finally blown after all these years.”
“What has led you to that conclusion?”
“Do you remember the unfortunate business with Andrea di Matteo?”
“I do – I understand she lives in America now.”
“She does – I met her yesterday, and her son. A son who bears a striking physical resemblance to one Peter Hope.”
“I see – and?”
“And if I tell you she is here with her husband, and yesterday I met not only him, but also Mohammed al Salim – and that Henrick Botha arrived unexpectedly last night?”
“Then I would understand you concerns. So, you want to extract her?”
“Francesca, I can offer some support, if you can get her out of the country or to an embassy, but the rest…”
“Is up to me – would you wish to know the method of extraction?”
“We are both retired, Francesca,” Maria laughed, “why on earth would I want, or need, to know. Just get her safely out.”
“I understand – I will visit soon.”
“I look forward to it,” Francesca said as she ended the call.
“You wished to see us, Shirley,” Dominique said as she came into the room with Catriona, Madeline and Agnes, Charlotte closing the door behind them.
“Indeed, a situation has arisen, and I wanted to sound you out on possible actions – but time is of the essence, so here are the details…”
“So Dominique?” Shirley asked as she finished, looking at the other women.
“It’s not an easy problem Madame,” the tall woman paused and thought, “even if we can get her out she’s going to spend the rest of her life looking over her shoulder. The South Africans will always think she was a traitor and be coming after her.”
“Might we be better off leaving this to the Intelligence services?” Madeline asked. “She is after all one of their own.”
“Possibly, but there would be a political mess if that route is taken…”
“Might I venture an opinion?”
“Please Agnes,” Shirley looked her old friend straight in the eye.
“What might be the consequences,” Agnes said as she looked round the room, “if today we kill Alex Green?”
“Kill her?” Madeline raised her voice. “I thought we were trying to save her?”
“We are,” Agnes’s eyes twinkled, “but can you think of a better way of getting the South African’s off her tail then them believing she’s dead?”
“Ah I see where you are going,” Dom smiled as she sat down.
“Well I wish I did,” Maddie looked bemused.
“We do it right and we can clear up several loose ends,” Shirley sipped her coffee.
“The American’s aren’t going to like it if they think foreign spies have turned LA into a shooting gallery,” Catriona finally spoke.
“But what if they think it had very little to do with the intelligence people present?”
“Agnes I can sense a devious plan swirling in your head darling. What is it please?”
“Oh nothing too complicated darling,” Agnes grinned, “what might happen if everyone believes that this agent was murdered by the Pussycat Gang?”
The other women looked at each other, before one voice spoke out.
“Aggie darling I think you may just have lost your senses,” Cat shook her head, “how the hell can it be made to look like this Mouse was killed by criminals?”
“By doing something I hate the very idea of, but we must deceive not only the South Africans, but also Kay and her people at the same time.”
“Do we tell Francesca and Charlotte what we are doing?”
“That I leave to you to decide Dominique.” Agnes finished drinking her coffee.
“You know it’s just crazy enough it might work.” Madame said as she started to pace the room. The door opened and Francesca walked in, looking round before she said “okay – this room I can tell. La Citadella offer sanctuary, but I’m on my own in terms of getting her out of this. What have you come up with?”
Five minutes later, Francesca looked at them all, before he said “you’ve all lost your mind. I know you have contact with them, but can this be done?”
“That is what we were discussing when you came in,” Shirley said quietly.
“Well I have a major problem with this that I wonder if any of you have thought of?” Maddie looked at faces, “you do realize how short time is. This is all supposed to go down today.”
asked Kay and MI6 to help extract Mouse Shirley, if I switch plans on her Kay
will not be best pleased."
"I know that
Francesca, and given what I know of the Commander she might get downright
angry, but if we don't tell her then she will provide us with a great
distraction so that the South Africans never see what is really going
worry about Kay, she's one of my oldest friends," Agnes spoke quietly,
"I'll sooth her ruffled feathers after the event and hopefully she will
"If the South Africans and the British both think that this was something that went bad due to the inadvertent activities of a third party neither of them will be suspicious that it was us lifted your friend the Mouse," Dominique stood up.
“Okay, okay – so how do we see if this is feasible.”
“Give me thirty minutes…”
Beverley Hills Forum
“Have you completely lost your mind,” Juliette said as she sat in the room with the other ladies.
"Ju darling is it really too much for me to ask you and the ladies to murder one little spy for me?" Madame giggled.
"I know, I know," Shirley continued to giggle, "but can you think of a neater and more elegant solution?"
"No, and if we had time to plan this out I'd say fine,” Juliette said as she sat down, “but you want this done almost instantly, and I'm not sure even we are that good."
"And I want it done without collateral damage," Madame was suddenly serious, "I want it to look like this all happened, but I actually want everyone to be safe."
want it all to be a huge illusion?"
make a suggestion?" Heather spoke.
"We are in
the world capital of illusion you know."
what lover?" Sandy asked.
"This is Hollywood, bring in Cassandra and with her help we make it 'look' like a Pussycat gang murder and robbery occurs this afternoon."
“It’s a thought,” Juliette said quietly.
it's not like we never speculated about robbing a race track," Diana
whispered as she and the others looked at each other.
"I for one
have always thought it might be fun," Carina looked up from feeding Mags
from her bottle.
"If we had time then I agree it might be an interesting idea," Juliette paused, "but we don't even have the beginnings of a plan."
"Who says we don't?" Heather smiled broadly.
you lover never had the foresight to plan this out," Sandy groaned
"Darling you underestimate me," Heather reached for her laptop. "I thought this out as a theoretical exercise weeks ago."
“I can see several obvious problems Heather,” Juliette closed her eyes to think after Heather had finished, “and most of them are going to be hard to overcome.”
“I couldn’t even dream of participating,” Diana sighed, “much as I’d like to I’m just not up to doing most of what you have in mind yet.”
“Well that goes without saying darling,” Juliette opened her eyes again, “but if you are right Heather and this is the only feasible time to do it then how do you expect most of us to take part when you know very well we must be seen elsewhere at the same time?”
“My plan will have to be modified I know, but at least it gives us a basis to build on.”
“It does lover,” Sandy paused to collect her thoughts. “How do we pull a Pussycat Gang robbery if most of the Pussycats can’t take part?”
“We don’t,” Jo said quietly. “We turn it over to Maddie’s team from here in LA and have them pose as us.”
“But my plan needs at least 10 women,” Heather looked at her sister.
“Then we augment Madeline’s crew with people who won’t be missed if they aren’t in the grandstand watching the races.”
“Like who Ju?” Annie asked.
“Well, let’s walk it through. We have Maddie and her crew – Tracey, Rose, Darlene, Daisy, JD and Rene.”
“Suppose Maddie has to take a meeting with Cassandra about the film…”
“So Miss Sidhe – that’s eight. Who else…”
“I can think of two others… Heather, call Maddie, tell her the plan and let her get started. I’ll talk to the others…”
Beverley Hills Forum
As they left the room, Juliette saw Janice waiting for them.
“Jan – just the person,” she said as she took her into a corner.
"Okay Ju I
know you well enough to know this wasn't something that was planned,"
Janice said as she stood with a hand on her hip. "What has happened to
suddenly trigger this?"
can't tell you Jan..."
we had no secrets?" Janice broke in.
"I know," Juliette sighed, "look just accept my explanation that we are doing this to help a friend of a friend please."
"Well I don't like it, and I know Eleanor and Katy won't, but I guess I need trust you."
"So what is it you want us to do?"
“Well, let me borrow Katy for a few hours this afternoon, and Eleanor will be with her…”
“How is your father doing this morning Pepsi?” Eleanor asked as she came into the breakfast room.
“Don’t ask Aunt Eleanor,” the young woman rolled her eyes.
“Oh that well eh?”
“He’s driving Mom crazy”
“So you decided to get out the way,” a voice with the faintest of Italian accents spoke.
“I did Francesca,” Pepsi turned and kissed the Italian woman. “Are you as bad as when it’s one of your horses running?”
“Not quite as bad as your Papa does I hope.”
“Want some breakfast Peps?” Katy asked as she stood up. “I’m going to try the buffet.”
“I think I’ll join you.”
“Good that gives me the chance to say something to you old friend,” the Marchesa whispered as the two young women walked away.
“Oh, and what do you want to tell me?” Eleanor whispered back.
“We need to get Alex out today – or she’s going to disappear. So don’t shout when I ask a favour of you.”
“And that is?”
“Be a Pussycat for a few hours…”
“Tracy I need you and ‘the team’ in my office within the next 20 minutes,” Madeline spoke into the speakerphone as she stood in the office.
“Understood,” the other voice answered.
“So what do you think?’ Maddie turned to ask JD.
“Well I’m intrigued that I actually get to play a Pussycat for real, not just in a movie.”
“I thought that might appeal,” the Englishwoman smiled.
“Who else is coming in?”
“Three more – and you need to act on one of them as well…”