Sins of the Past – Part 3
Saturday 16th April
5 pm CET
“Oh yes – I think I can make this work,” Jeannie said as she looked at herself in the mirror, the hat perched on her head at a coquettish angle with the little veil as her hair was styled in a bob. She was wearing a fitted jacket and long skirt, her feet in a pair of black kitten heels.
“We’ll have you in a seat with Jean Paul,” Nick said as a tall sandy haired man came over, “admiring the views, but you will be modeling for us as well.”
“Looks as if we will be joining you in the seats, darling,” Mandy said as she, Olivia and Fiona sat with Diana.
“Well at least I will not be the only one,” Diana said with a smile, “and it is marginally better than walking with Juliette and the others.”
“All we have to do is sit in the clothes, and look fabulous,” Fiona said with a smile, “which I hope we can manage.”
“Of course we can darling,” Mandy said with a smile, “so long as we look interested and share some stories as well.”
“So what are the boys doing?”
“The director wants some establishing shots of them coming in…”
7 pm CET
At the corridor outside the salon room, Guy and Nick were standing with one of the male models.
"Stefan dear boy, I
was and am very proud of these suits, but somehow you are making it look like a
cheap rag." Nick tutted as he fretted over the male model.
"It's his shoulders,
he's hunching them." Guy stood and inspected. "He should look like he
thinks he owns the world, and instead he looks like he's apologising for even
"That is true,"
Nick stood back a couple of steps.
"Stefan look like
this," Guy struck a pose, "You will look both confident, and show off
"And a bored, but slightly
amused smile," Nikolai chuckled..."oh yes I remember it well."
"That is better."
"Okay places again
please," the director yelled out, "let's see if we can get this
"That looks a lot better," Juliette observed as the camera panned the audience and stopped on Stefan standing at the bottom of the stairs. He walked over and kissed Mandy on the cheek, before sitting at the table with her.
"I hope up thar in heaven, Audrey Withers forgives ma," Fiona laughed, "because ah feel just like her in this." She was wearing a black jacket and fitted skirt with a floral corsage on the lapel, and heels.
"You were always a favourite of hers," Missy laughed back, "so not a worry. But now from what I heard about her Carmel Snow might be offended by me trying to look like her..." She was wearing a grey jacket and skirt with pearls and a black beret, her glasses on a lanyard round her neck.
"Oh Carmel wasn't as
bad as people make out..." a New York voice spoke from behind the
"I see our technical
advisor arrived at last," Nick grinned.
"Hey Venus," Jeannie said as she reached up to hug Carmen Dell'Orefice.
"Sorry I'm late everyone, but my flight was delayed." Carmen looked round as she took her coat off. "Oh boy does this bring back some memories."
“So are we on track?”
“Oh definitely – Diana my dear, do not tell me they got you involved as well.”
“If it was only that,” Diana said as she stood to embrace the legendary model, “but as you can see, I am not the only du Grechy taking part.
“Guy? Now that is appropriate,” Carmen said with a smile.
9 pm Local Time
“Okay, that’s the copter under wraps,” Razzie Erasmus said as he came in the tent and accepted the coffee.
“Well, it was too late for you to fly back today anyway,” Liz said as she sat back.
"You have this whole
Tac HQ thing down pretty well Charlotte," Razzie smiled his approval as
she came in, "base stores, kitchen, ammunition dump, medical station,
radio and situation room."
"Well,” Charlotte said
as she poured herself a coffee, “over the last year we have learned a bit as a
"Ja, that you
have," Rassie nodded.
"I feel better for us
having a third stick here now," Liz smiled, "they are just stowing
their gear, and I told Aphrodite that she will function as RSM."
"She's proved she is
up to the job for sure." Charlotte nodded.
"And it sounds like
she's already getting things as she wants them." Rassie half-smiled at the
sound of orders being barked out outside the tent.
"I'm sorry Ladies, but
we have a guest," the radio girl said as she came in.
"Oh,” Charlotte asked,
"The Umlimo," the
radio operator bowed respectfully as Karen Khumalo entered the tent.
"Well Sisters of Maisha I bring you news..."
“What has happened,” Charlotte said quietly.
“I had a vision – you stopped an advance party today, yes?”
“That is correct.”
“Well, the man has a snake in his home, and the snake is preparing to ensure he cannot escape. It needs to be caught and milked.”
“I see,” Liz said quietly, “and do you have any idea how we can recognize the snake?”
“Only that it is close to him.”
"What kind of snake
"A black mamba, with extra large fangs, trying to disguise itself as a harmless house snake."
7 pm EST
"So Mary how did
things go with the Maestro in Prague?" Abigail asked as they both sat down
for a moment.
Mary took a sip from her
drink, before she said "well… He
was as rude, fussy, mean, temperamental..."
"Yes, that’s a given -
but how did the pictures look?" Abby interrupted.
California girl beamed.
"Yeah he is the
best...once you get past the crap." Lily Cole said as she joined them.
"I thought working
with Dimitri Amkov in St Petersburg was as good as I could be made to look, but
he raised it up a notch."
"He can do that."
Adam Cabot smiled as he joined them.
“And he does make me look like a calm, measured person.”
"So how are your
stills coming along Adam?" Abby asked.
"Pretty good, and what
is most important Nick likes them."
"That is the main thing,"
Lily looked across the room, "he who pays the piper calls the tune."
"Can someone explain
to me how without her glasses Love Bandit can walk like that?" Mary looked
amazed. "I can never get that fluidity in my walk."
"It's her gift,"
Lily shook her head, "I just wish I was half as good."
"Well at least
Stephanie doesn't have Merlin here today critiquing her walk." Abby spoke.
"Does she do that
still?" Adam looked up from his viewfinder.
"Constantly..." the three models laughed.
“Some things never change,” he said as Carmen walked past with Nick and the director.
"Have you rigged up
that set designed to look like a cabine?" Carmen asked.
"And hired the extras
to play dressers, etc?"
"Yes I have Carmen
"Remember it should
look like a sheer chaos of clothes, girls, dressers...but that each girl
wearing a featured dress must know precisely when she's on camera and showing
your outfit off Nick."
"That is what we are
going to rehearse."
"Oh Boy, the bit I'm
not looking forward to," Marnie took her place at the makeup table as
people crowded in.
"Alright let's do a walk-through people," the assistant director yelled out.
“Places for the audience,” the second assistant called out as Juliette joined Grace at one table, the other members of the audience walking in as the cameras panned over them, Missy and Fiona sat at the front.
“Good, good – excellent, and Fiona, you are first up.”
Fiona walked in, holding her hand in the classic pose as she made her way round the tables, the director talking to the continuity girl as she did so. With her glasses on, she moved gracefully round, and then left as Jo came out in a classic shift dress.
“How are we doing with the cabine,” the director said into his microphone.
“Controlled chaos, but we’re getting the notes right,” the assistant called back as he watched the camera focus in on Abby and Mary.
“Excellent – and cue Diana and Guy.”
He watched as the father and daughter talked to each other, and then looked over to where Carmen was watching, noting each of the girls and whispering directions to them. As they took her advice, she smiled, seeing herself as she walked those same shows as a young girl…
“Good – that’s wonderful,” the director called out as Nick smiled. “Right – get a good night’s sleep, and we meet for the shoot tomorrow at ten.”
“Well done everyone,” Grace said, “get a good night’s sleep.”
“Come on little one,” Klaus said as Judith sat on his lap, “time to go to the hotel now.”
“Good,” she said with a smile as she hugged her teddy.
“Natalya will be very pleased to see you,” Juliette said to Carina as they went to change.
“And I will be pleased to see her,” Carina said, “I am sure that we have a lot to talk about.”
“So what do you think,” Olivia said as she stood with Nick and Carmen, looking at the test footage.
“Not bad – some of the girls need to time their walk a bit better, but we can work with them in the morning. Given the vast majority of them flew in today, sleep is far more important.”
“Tell me about it,” Jo said as she stretched and yawned, “I need my few hours.”
10.30 pm Local Time
The Bavaria Lodge
Mindy woke up as she felt the gentle buzzing next to her head, and took hold of the cell phone, looking at the message before she jumped out of bed. Slipping on a pair of slippers, she put the phone safely away before she opened the door, and walked quietly into the corridor.
The house was in darkness, but as she walked slowly down the corridor she stopped outside each door, listening carefully at each door before she moved on. The message had been clear – and her instincts were telling her that the snake was preparing to strike.
As she stopped outside one door in particular, Mindy listened carefully, a frown crossing her face. She put her hand on the handle, and slowly started to try and turn it – but the door was locked.
Nodding, she walked back to her own room, going in and locking the door behind herself, before she quietly opened the windows and slipped out onto the verandah outside. The night was still and cool, as she edged her way along the wall, and then peered round the corner.
A woman was standing outside, looking round as she spoke into a handset.
“Yes, I heard about the landslide. Regrettable timing, but I am sure it will not take you long to clear it. As for the men, the fall may have caught them.
“The target? He is visiting the latest guests at the lodge – did you receive the detals?
“Are they now – well, they are not due to be moved before midnight Monday, so if your plan is still to arrive tomorrow they will be here still. Is there likely to be a delay?
“Good – they will not expect the two prongs of attack, and when you come, I will be waiting. He does not suspect a thing – in fact, he still feels I am his trusted housekeeper.
“I look forward to your visit – and to seeing the old man again. Inform me when the plan is a go.”
Ending the call, Belle looked across the grounds for a moment, before she said “I can hear you breathing. Come out, little one.”
Mindy slowly walked round, her head down and her hands clasped in front of her as she said “I am sorry Belle – it was a warm night and I needed the air.”
“It is a warm night – I can understand that,” Belle said quietly, “did you hear anything?”
“No, as I said I was merely taking a walk in the cool night.”
“Ah yes, that is what you said,” Belle smiled, “which is why it is such a pity you disappeared from your room.” She reached back to the belt round her waist, and produced a hunting knife.
“Belle,” Mindy said, her eyes wide open, “why do you have a knife like that?”
“To deal with creatures that roam in the night,” Belle said quietly as she turned and looked at Mindy, “I like you, so I will make it quick. You will barely feel a thing.”
“I do not understand – why would you seek to hurt me, and hurt Mister MacLean by hurting me?”
“Because he is a traitor to this country – and I serve the true leader of this country,” Belle said as she walked forward, “who do you serve, Mindy?”
“Do you… Do you really wish me to answer that question, Belle?”
“I do – call it your last words.”
“Very well then,” Mindy said as she looked at Belle, “I serve The Heart and The Strength.”
Belle stopped and looked at Mindy, her head now erect, her stance proud, her eyes clear. “I stand with those who brought down Old Man Kimba, who freed the mothers and daughters of Mologa – and who seek to save others from suffering through tyranny.”
“Then you serve a false god.”
“I do not serve a god, or a man,” Mindy said, “I serve my fellow women.” Belle was taken by surprise by this – and even more so when Mindy suddenly ran towards her, throwing herself forward and planting the sole of her foot squarely in the stomach of the older woman.
Belle fell against the wall, and then felt the side of Mindy’s hands as she used a karate chop on her neck, hitting a nerve bundle and making Belle drop the knife. “Who… How…”
“Answer me this question,” Mindy said as she picked up the knife, and walked forward, pulling Belle’s head back by the hair, “why?”
“I was ordered to – but you will not save him. They are coming, and they will take this ranch, take his guests, take his life.”
“Not without a fight,” Mindy said quietly.
“A fight you will lose.”
“Perhaps – but my sister gave her life for the freedom of others, and I am willing to do so as well. I will pass on the message to Mister MacLean.”
“Your departure,” Mindy said before she drove the knife deep into Belle’s chest, stopping her heart with one thrust as the woman gurgled, and then her body went limp. Looking round, she dragged the dead body out into the bush, and then returned, climbing into Belle’s room and looking round. She collected various items together, and then carried them in a bag to her room.
“Little Mother? You are needed on the radio.”
Charlotte and Liz made their way to the radio set before Charlotte said “this is Little Mother.”
“Greetings Little Mother – is my old friend there?”
“She is – what word?”
“I found the snake – she has been disposed of, but I heard her say they are planning an attack on two fronts tomorrow, midnight.”
The two women looked at each other, before Liz said “and the snake?”
“The wild dogs will feast on her.”
“Very well – make your
preparations. We will talk tomorrow.”
11.30 pm EST
Marriot Champs Elysees, Paris
The door to the room opened quietly, as Carina slipped out. Juliette and Klaus had offered to have Judith sleep in their suite for the night – and Judith had jumped at the chance to do that, saying “I miss Grammy and Grappy” as she sat with Klaus. So Carina had left her bag with her parents, and gone back to her own room.
But she had not changed for bed – instead, she had changed into a pair of black stirrup pants, short boots and a black jumper, and made her way to the service stairs, making her way quickly to the basement.
“Aunt Natalya,” she said quietly as she saw her great-aunt standing there, wearing a similar outfit to hers, “what’s going on?”
“Come with me,” she said as she walked to a car, “Willy is asleep. Judith?”
“With Mom and Pops. Where are we going?”
“I would like you to meet someone – and to have a chat with Mister Breitz…”
“You found him?”
“Actually, with the help of your friend the Hidden Hand, he found me – come, I will drive you to where he is.”
The drive took about twenty minutes, before Natalya pulled up outside a block of apartments in the south of the city. As she and Carina came out, they walked down a set of stairs, Carina waiting as Natalya knocked on the door.
“Let her come out for a while, my dear,” Natalya said, Carina nodding and closing her eyes before she said “Cousin – I sense an ending is coming here?”
“For someone, yes,” Natalya said as the door opened and they both walked in. As the door was closed, Carina turned and looked at the woman who was standing there. She was in her early forties, with long jet black hair, and like them was wearing a black jumper and pants.
As she looked at Carina, she said “my host knows you. Your mother was married recently – to your nephew, cousin.”
“Indeed,” Natalya said, “Carina is my great niece, but she also is a cousin, as you can tell.”
“Indeed – it is good to meet you,” she said as she held a gloved hand out.
“And you,” Carina said quietly, “I also have seen you on…”
“There will be time to talk later,” Natalya said, “where is he?”
“I have him in here,” the woman said as they walked along a corridor, “as you will see, he has been entertained.”
“So I see,” Natalya said as she walked in. Edwin Breitz was strapped into an old fashioned dentist’s chair, his mouth forced open by a large ball gag, his upper body bare – but the two new arrivals could see the marks on his body, where a scalpel had been used to leave a message.
“Good evening, Herr Breitz,” Natalya said in a slightly jovial tone, “my apologies that it has taken so long for me to come back, but I have been busy.”
“Hmggddd,” he mumbled as he looked at Carina, “hwmnnnrthr?”
“Well, I could tell you,” Natalya said with a smile, “but why spoil the moment for you? Having said which, I have to say you have been very unlucky as a family, to meet two – no, sorry, three of us. You should feel honoured, Herr Breitz – it is not often we get together, but you managed it for us.”
Carina watched, smiling as his eyes darted between the three of them.
“I see what you meant about having fun,” Carina said with a smile as she traced her gloved finger over the thin red tracks, “but then, from what I have read about what they found on your computer and that cloud storage area you had, that is exactly what someone would want to do to you.”
“Oh no,” the third woman said with a smile, “none of us did that to you. I know I did not, and if they say the same, I would believe them.”
“On the other hand,” Natalya said as she picked up a riding crop, “I do commend you on your detective skills. So, let me answer a few questions I am sure you will have.”
Breitz watched as Natalya walked over, slapping the crop into her gloved hand. “So, you were wondering if there was a connection between the two deaths in your family. In the sense that the Beast of Belzec was my aunt, then yes, there is a connection.”
“No, I think not,” Natalya said as she brought the crop down on his chest, smiling as Breitz screamed. “Yes, this is something that runs in and across different branches of the family. My young friend here, for example, is my great niece, and she and I share the same passion.”
His eyes darted to Carina, as she said “it is true – did his research go all the way back?”
“No – he focused mainly on me and Brigitte, or he would have known about the history that goes all the way back to Elizabeth Bathory, and of course Hildegard. Sloppy, that,” she said as she struck him again.
“And you, cousin?”
“Related through another branch of the family,” she said quietly.
“Now,” Natalya said as she looked at Carina and the third woman, “you have had a nice gentle time with my cousin here, but now I am here, and so is my family. Can you possibly imagine how much fun we are going to have with all three of us?”
He looked, paralysed now with fear as Carina picked up a scalpel, and walked over, caressing his ball sac as she said “shall we find out?”
“I think we should,” the third woman said as she walked over as well. “I personally have a liking for the Oriental approaches.” She picked up a set of bamboo skewers, Breitz shaking his head as she held his bare feet, and then started to push the skewers under his toenails.
“Personally, I like to remove the nails,” Carina said as she drew a fresh line across his chest, not deep enough to make him hurt, but deep enough to have a thin red line of blood appear. “But I also like to know the people I deal with understand pain. Now these lines – they are drying already, but it is important to make sure they are properly cleaned. After all, infections can be deadly.”
She walked back to the table, and picked up a bottle of clear liquid. Reading the label, she looked at their host, and said “I approve” before pouring the clear wine vinegar over his chest, Breitz squirming and screaming in the dual agonies he was facing.
“And then there is me,” Natalya said quietly as she walked behind him. “I know you have researched the tales, known what I and my ancestors are capable of, but let me tell you, Herr Breitz, that the thing I find most distasteful is the fact that you used the planning for the moment my great nephew was going to be supremely happy to do this research. Now, I know it is your job, but that upsets me. And trust me, Herr Breitz, I have been very unhappy these last few days.
“So unhappy others have noticed – but I want to thank you, because you have the chance to atone for that.”
“Hwww,” Breitz said as he looked at her.
“By allowing me to vent that unhappiness on you,” she said as she caressed his hand, and then walked round as she took from the wall of the room a cat’o’nine tails.
“Sisters, forgive me,” she said as their host drove the last skewer under the fingernails of his right hand, “but I need to do this. Be assured, you may have your fun as well.”
Carina and their host stepped back, as Natalya shook the long strips of cord and leather out, and then started to whip his head, chest and crotch, both of them smiling as the screams continued, and then pouring more of the clear liquid on from time to time.
As the assault continued, Breitz could only take each lash, as his face became a mass of bruises and cuts – but it was the damage between his legs that was the worst, the whip and the acid making it a bloated, red, distorted mass.
Eventually, Natalya stopped and wiped her brow. “That – was most invigorating,” she said with a smile as she hung the whip back up, “and I am most grateful to you for allowing that Herr Breitz – but it is getting late, and we all have appointments tomorrow, so I think it is time we bid you adieu. My cousin here will make sure you are appropriately dealt with – we will not meet again.”
“Gnnkllmmm,” he mumbled.
“Oh I am not going to kill you – neither is my young cousin here. No, I strongly believe my host here will have that honour.”
“And what is your preferred modus,” Carina asked, “I like to kill and burn, and our older cousin here has her own preference. What is yours?”
“Dismemberment – and I thank you for allowing me this pleasure,” their host said as she opened a surgical kit, including a medical saw. “Will you stay and watch?”
“As I say, our hosts have appointments elsewhere – but perhaps, when my young friend here visits with her family, we can all meet then?”
“Let me know the time and place – but for now, I wish you both a good night, cousins.”
“Come,” Natalya said as Breitz screamed again, “let us leave her to her pleasure.”
The two women walked out of the basement, closing the door behind themselves and back to Natalya’s waiting car. Carina closed her eyes, and then said “oh Goddess – I never knew, never suspected...”
“Why would you? You have never met before now, true? But come – it is late, and Herr Breitz is no longer my concern. Your friend made sure all his research ended up in my hands – so stupid of people to rely solely on electronic records, but just in case, his house was burned down today. An electrical fault, I believe.”
The Richmond Mansion
“Okay – the kids are in the main room watching television,” Heather said, “so what did Frieda have to say?”
“Well, it’s not a single drug,” Jan said as she looked at the printout, sipping her drink, “from what she could tell, first off, the drink was 80% proof. As for the other contents – well, she found flunitrazepam and zolpidem, but in a combination she had not seen before.”
“Damn,” Heather said, “both of them?”
“Clue in a concerned mother here,” Sandy said quietly.
“Sorry – Rohypnol and Ambien. What dosage?”
“She reckons about half of the normal dose of each, but cut together. It’s no wonder the three of them lost control last night.”
“That wasn’t all – she said there was something that looked like Diazepam, but a new isomer.”
“A problem because?”
“The most recent isomer of that particular beauty is Temazepam,” Heather said. “Put it this way – two date rape drugs mixed with a high.”
Sandy’s face paled as she went to the door, coming back with Shirley.
“My apologies for dropping in unannounced,” she said, “but I wanted to ask just what happened last night. John and I were talking to the Lardarns, and Maisha and Ama spent the evening with the girls. I did see you leave with some of the younger girls, however.”
“Let me bring you up to speed...”
A few minutes later, Shirley said “is she all right?”
“Looks that way,” Jan said, “but i said she could talk to someone at my place. As for the five young men...”
“Some of us had a word with them,” Heather said. “Me, Carina, Dom, Katy – and Sharon. Did Dom teach her those moves?”
“She had her own moves anyway. There are always young bastards wanting to abuse their social position and wealth," Shirley shook her head.
"True," Sandy poured drinks, "but beyond blacklisting them what else can we do without bringing further trouble and embarrassment down?"
I think I need talk to a certain Mermaid," Shirley mused.
of your people we don't know?"
and she's happier it staying that way."
"Okay. What can she do?"
"A lot. By the way any clue who concocted that substance...and where?"
“No – but we might be able to trace what contacts their parents and guardians have.”
“Give me the names, I will take care of that for you. We can go places even Heather cannot.”
“And if you find out who made it?”
“My problem,” Shirley said quietly, “you take care of this end, I will take care of that.”
Sunday 17th April
7 am Local Time
The light slowly passed over the nets as the sticks swapped their duties, and life started to stir.
"Oh I miss this crisp fresh air when I'm in London," Charlotte said as she peeked out of the tent, "nothing beats daybreak in Africa."
“True,” Liz said as she stretched, “but we have a busy day ahead of us. Before we retired, I sent word to Josias to contact us the moment anyone moved out.”
“Good – have Artemis and Aphrodite join us for breakfast, so that we can lay our plans. And dispatch the first squad to the Bavaria Lodge – tell them to set up a perimeter.”
“Got it,” Liz said, “so you think there is a clear and present danger?”
“I do – damn him,” Charlotte said. “Let’s get some coffee and get started.”
“Where’s Rassie,” Liz said as she saw the empty space.
“He took off early,” the radio operator said. “We got a call from Teacher. He said he would be back by 0900.”
“What’s going on?”
“No idea,” the operator said as Liz and Charlotte looked at each other.
9 am Local Time
“Incoming,” Aphrodite said as the camp heard the sound of the helicopter coming in low. Liz and Charlotte watched as it came down, the rotors stopping as the side door opened and a woman jumped out – a stranger to both of them, with short cut light brown hair, wearing an olive green t-shirt and a pair of combats with army boots.
“Morning ladies,” Rassie said as he got out, “I got a call to bring her to you pronto.”
you are?" Charlotte suspiciously asked the white woman as some of the
Sisters stood round, holding their guns as they watched.
Barb Brookmayer,” she said in an Australian accent, “an old army chum of
any friend of Sunshine's is welcome. But
what brings you to our camp?"
I will come straight to the point,” Barb said as she looked round, “I have an
experimental drone that I want to try out, Sunshine gave me a heads up what you
were doin' and I hopped the plane straight outta Perth."
drone?” Liz looked over as she said, “Do
you have it with you?"
in my chopper," Rassie grimaced, "big little bugger as well."
can it do?" Liz asked.
if you girls let me, I'd rather show you then tell you."
you still in the army Barb?" Charlotte asked.
I'm still officially a Major in the RAEME, but I'm on medical leave, and this
is a private project, something I put together at home on my own time."
Aphrodite whispered to Liz.
Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers."
"Alright Major,” Charlotte said, “if we help, just show us what your little bird can do."
“Four of you, assist Major Brookmayer,” Artemis said as they stepped forward.
“So you’re some of the Sisters of Maisha,” Barb said, “I heard rumours, but to see you actually at work – quite an honour.”
“Naturally, you will not be telling your superiors where you were,” Charlotte said.
“Naturally,” Barb said with a smile, “which reminds me – Shelby MacKay said to say hello.”
“How do you know Shelby?”
“It’s a small world in the ANZAC,” Barb said with a smile.
“And a close knit one, by the sound of it,” Charlotte said as the Sisters unloaded carefully what looked like a small white glider, save for the propellers mounted on the wings and front. Barb took a large silver case from the helicopter and opened it up, revealing a control panel and screen.
“You made this in your own time, you said,” Charlotte said as she looked at the equipment.
“Girl’s got to have a hobby.”
“I heard that before,” Charlotte said with a grin as Barbara fuelled the drone. “Right,” she said as she smiled and put on a headset, “let’s take you for a spin.”
She started the engines, the propellers spinning as she allowed the plane to run out of the covers and then take off into the air, Liz and Charlotte looking at the screen as it circled over the stockade.
“Nice ground cover by the way – so where is the potential target?”
“Ten clicks south west.”
“Okay – let’s head that way,” Barb said as the drone headed in that direction, using the joystick to film as the camera showed the ground underneath.
“Okay – there is Bavaria Lodge, I take it,” she eventually said as they saw the buildings.
“Is that smoke from the lodge,” Liz said.
“Looks like it – does he have guests again?”
“Wouldn’t surprise me,” Charlotte said quietly.
10 am CET
The scene was the same sort of controlled chaos as a show – but this time the nerves were greater, as the group of models playing the audience were fuzzed over, their outfits adjusted their makeup checked.
"Thanks Mum for helping dress me," Jeannie smiled as she buttoned the jacket of the suit she was wearing, clearly inspired by a classic Chanel look.
"Nick has designed some lovely suits for this video show." Barbara stood back.
know, hasn't he just?"
"Yep...” Stepping back, Barbara nodded and said “Alright
- can I have a hand to get Jeannie onto her chair please."
"Let us," two big guys said as they gently lifted Jeannie up and put her down in her assigned place.
“Why thank you boys,” Jeannie said as she checked her hat in the mirror, and then watched the others coming together.
The salon, however, was a scene of calm and serenity compared to the cabine, and the changing area, as Marnie suddenly cursed.
we have a small emergency," Marnie yelled out, "the zipper broke."
can you fix that?" Nick yelled as Marnie took off the heavily embroidered
stockings," a dresser yelled, "who needs stockings?"
do," Mancha Houssein yelled as a set were tossed over.
me," Stephanie called out as well.
hasn't been in hairdressing yet?" Alice Verrebond the hair designer
"Right, in there now."
“Okay – first set of girls for the tracking shots please,” the assistant director called out, Jo Abby and Angel going with Fiona and Maggie.
“Good, good,” the director said as the camera moved round the salon, looking at the models in their outfits, Guy and the other men making small talk with their partners.
we do your close up now please Abigail?" the assistant director asked.
"Your mark is over here in the doorway."
the very tall girl said as she hastened to her spot.
just do exactly what you did in the tracking shot," the director smiled at
her, "and all will be fine."
one rehearsal, and then we film," the a/d shouted.
have to repeat our moves exactly?" Mary whispered to Ju, "I'm not
sure I can remember."
will tell you if you get it wrong," Juliette nodded to a technician
Okay," Mary relaxed, "this is hard work."
"Tell me about it," Abigail yelled as she once again took her starting position.
“And – ACTION!”
Abby walked forward as she had done before, smiling to the camera and stopping as it moved towards her, then walking more as it tracked alongside.
“Good –are we getting this?”
The continuity girl and cameraman nodded as he called out “CUT – thank you Abby. Who’s next?”
“Showtime,” Angel said as she took her mark.
where do you fancy eating tonight everybody...my treat?" Guy called out to
the cast and crew.
I don't have to wear high heels," Caprice Delonne yelled back.
tell him Caprice," Maggie Fife and Ingrid yelled together.
- for the models, somewhere not dressy."
Papa." Diana smiled.
somewhere I can just relax," one of the makeup girls yelled as she worked
"I might know just the place," Guy looked round the room then reached for his telephone.
“Okay – places for the Cabine scene please!”
Noon Local Time
The Bavaria Ranch
“She cannot be found?”
“No sir,” Mindy said as she stood in front of Fergus, “her belongings are all in the room, but she seems to have disappeared.”
“Dammit,” Fergus said quietly, and then he stood up. “Mindy, come with me – I need you to take on some new responsibilities.”
“Of course, sir,” Mindy said as she followed him out into the courtyard, looking up as a white shape flew over, and then along the pathway that led to the lodge.
“It’s me,” Fergus said as he came in, Mindy stopping in the doorway as she recognised the young man sitting there with his family.
“Is everything all right,” he said quietly as he looked at Mindy.
“Everything is fine,” Fergus said, “except my housekeeper has left unexpectedly. This is Mindy – she is now my housekeeper. Mindy, these people are not here, but they are to be given food and drink, understand.”
Mindy looked at the two young girls sitting with their mother, before she said “of course sir – discretely?”
“With all due discretion – and not a word to anyone else in the house.”
“Sir – I will make sure they have all they need,” Mindy said quietly, the young girls smiling as they left.
“May I ask why they are here sir?”
“They will be leaving soon – but other guests will come, for as long as I am here. Now, some coffee please Mindy...”
“Little Mother, this is Little Mouse. Come in, Little Mother!”
“This is Little Mother, Little Mouse – what do you have for me?”
“Bad news – two companies just left the compound. Time to get to work, sisters.”
“Dammit – understood Little Mouse. Anything else?”
“Yeah – we bugged their chatter. A third company is coming from the north.”
Liz turned and left the tent, calling for Barb as Charlotte said “thank you Little Mouse. Get back ASAP.”
12.30 pm CET
“All right everyone – lunch. Back in sixty,” the assistant director called out.
“Thank goodness,” Jeannie said with a sigh, “I am pooped.”
don't know why you are tired BS, all you've done is sit on your arse all day
darling." Mandy said as she smiled her wicked smile.
de Har Har Tufty...Like I've never heard that one before...DARLING!"
Jeannie laughed as she drawled the last word.
"Ouch...I'm wounded," Mandy laughed as she clutched at her chest.
"What are they working on now?" Barbara looked round.
can't you tell how much my darling husband is enjoying it," Mandy said as
she peeped round the curtain, and saw Will looking very uncomfortable in his
the way Mum, have you heard the latest 'bad' Zombie joke?" Jeannie asked.
but I suspect I'm going to groan," Barbara rolled her eyes.
are there no Zombies in Ireland?"
don't know. Why are there no zombies in
there are no brains for them to feed on." Jeannie rocked with laughter.
"Hey BS I heard that," Eve Stone shouted.
“There are always exceptions,” Jeannie said with a laugh.
“So,” Nick and Olivia said, “how are we doing?”
“Very well – I think we’ve got a winner on our hands,” the director said. “I want to do a walk through of the whole fashion show this afternoon, and then we can pick up on any additional shooting.”
“Sounds good – enjoying the experience Missy?”
“Interesting on this side, that much si certain,” Missy said as she handed Fiona some tea.
“You all right, Fiona – you look tired,” Caroline said as she sat with Grace beside her.
“Ach ah’m fine – enjoying the experience...”
“So you return as a family,” Diana said as she stood with Juliette.
“We do indeed – I formally return to work on Tuesday, but we have a teleconference of the Huntingdown board tomorrow.”
“And other matters?”
“Well, I have some ideas,” Juliette said quietly, “but I understand from Carina we may have a more immediate issue to deal with.”
“The young gentlemen from the party? Yes – but we can discuss that more when we return. We also need to inform you of one or two other things – but they can all wait.”
“You mean such as Katy’s little adventure?”
“Well, that – and more. As I say, we can talk tomorrow.”
Juliette nodded as they made their way to a table.
“So what’s next on your calendar,” Carina said as she sat with Jo and Abby.
“Moving Up Day,” Jo said, “on which day we celebrate the award winners of the year, and start the process of moving to the Sophomore year.”
“Sounds fun,” Abby said, “and exams?”
“One week after – so Curt and I miss the Derby, but after that it’s back to the bosom of the family for me.”
“So you’ll be back for my commencement?”
“Oh yes – and to watch from afar as the Senior Angels weave their magic.”
“Oh glorious day,” Cari said with a smile.
“It’s going to be an interesting summer,” Abby said, “before and after my birthday. Which reminds me – Grandpapa has booked the private jumbo now. Worker, Gold Rush!”
“You called sweetly Stick,” Trina and Mary said as they came over.
“June is on – we’ll get details of the gathering to you in time for you to make the arrangements to get to NY.”
“Gotcha,” Trina said, “we’ll coordinate and let you know.”
are you sweating over now mom?" Carina asked as she saw Juliette
scribbling in a note book, "Writing the show up already?"
dearest, this is more for the true crime book...I'm just organising my thoughts
was doing that on our honeymoon," Klaus brought fresh sandwiches.
you disappoint me." Ingrid smiled, "on your honeymoon you were still
know, I now. Tiresome of me isn't it?"
really, if you aren't multi-tasking, I'll know you are dead." Klaus hugged
did you ring the nursery at the hotel?" Juliette asked Cari.
did, and the little one is having fun learning some French words..."
I hope the right kind." Ingy interrupted.
other children? Who knows?"
Ingrid smiled again.
how are we doing schedule wise do you think?" Klaus asked.
"Oh I think it’s running to time so far," Juliette stood up and looked round, "but there is always potential for delay WHENEVER you are filming."
is all this about you missing out on the NCAA Division 3 Nationals by less than
a quarter of a second Greyhound?" Eve Stone asked.
it's true," Jo shook her head, "I got that close to a qualifying
time, but I just couldn't shave that extra fraction off."
Jo said, “but coach says that for a freshman who was moving up from doing 800's
that she thinks I had a great season."
like everything Jo, without targets to achieve, where would we be in
that's a good old Oirish proverb," Stephen sat down with them.
anyway she's pretty certain I'll make the nationals next year, and I do have a
few club events to run in this summer."
if she breaks that qualifying mark doing so, you don't want to be anywhere near
her." Abigail giggled. "She will be in absolute ANGUISH!"
"Probably true," Jo sipped from her water bottle and then went over when Mandy waved to her.
"Are those the proofs for the woolens campaign Mandy?" Jo looked over the Marquess and Marchionesses shoulder.
are the ones Alice likes, and she's asking for our comments darling...Have you
saw the raw shots, not the edited versions."
"Well want to join us and I'll note down your comments as well." Will showed the pad he was scribbling on.
“Okay – are those the ones of Katy and Orion as well...”
“There they are,” Eve said as the door to the restaurant opened, and Nikki entered with Ama. She and Aileen were wearing leather blouson jackets over blouses and jeans, while Kit was wearing a grey jersey dress, and John a short sleeved shirt and jeans.
“Thank you for suggesting we eat here,” Ama said as she and Nikki sat down, wearing their Angels hoodies and jeans. “I know a lot of the older girls come here, but with Mom away it gives me a chance to do so as well.”
“So have you recovered from your party,” Kit said as Nikki took a seat.
“I’ve just about come down,” Nikki said with a smile, “but I’ll be back to normal before school tomorrow. That and I ache from this morning.”
“Anna and Nikki have been in training with a friend for an advert,” Ama said with a grin, “very – strenuous training...”
“Oh? What is the advert for?”
“Magnilash,” Nikki said, “Doc is the face, I’m taking part in the ads, and they had the brilliant idea of doing one based round Ninjas.”
“And you have to look the part,” Kit said with a grin.
“Yeah - so a friend of ours who is a martial artist has been training us,” Nikki said as the waitress came over.
“What will it be?”
“Grill breakfast and black coffee,” Nikki said, “I’m starving...”
“So you go back tonight,” Ama said as her omelette arrived.
“Sadly yes – but it’s been an amazing weekend,” Aileen said.
“And we remembered to bring you this,” John said as he handed over a DVD, “the film of the replay.”
“Ah yes – I look forward to seeing this,” Ama said with a smile.
“Who was the text from?”
“Doc – she wants me to meet up at the studio and see the two adverts we’ve done so far. I said I was with Ama and you.”
“She said to bring you as well – so eat up, we’ll head round.”
4 pm Local Time
Liz and Charlotte watched on the screen as Barb piloted the drone over the low hills.
"And I thought we were dry in WA?" Barb shook her head as the drone flew over the parched grasslands.
"Yeah this drought has not been funny." Charlotte looked closely at the screen.
"Can you get us shots of these places?" Liz pointed to a very detailed land map.
“Let’s see,” Barb said as she veered the drone to the side, and sent it towards some low hills near the main road.
“Yeah – Aphrodite, get Artemis to set up some of her stick on those hills. It has cover from the road they’re coming down on.”
“On it,” the senior NCO said as she got onto the radio, and gave some coordinates.
“Well, shall we have a look for our expected guests?”
“Let’s take this to a safer height, and then head along the road,” Barb said as Aphrodite said “Artemis is on her way with her stick.”
A short while later, Barb said “there they are” as they saw four trucks on the screen, with various men sitting on stones by the side of the road.
they aren't coming quickly..." Barb looked at her screen as the drone
looked down from on high at the parked troop column.
are pissing and drinking Major," Aphrodite added in a serious voice,
"they think they are out for a couple of days on a picnic."
looks like it Sarnt-Major." Barb smiled at the NCO.
"Well we will hopefully make it tougher then they think." Liz started making notes as to numbers of troops and weapons, as Barb took the drone back and forth over the convoy.
“Okay – back along the road,” Charlotte said, as the drone turned and then followed the road. They smiled grimly as they saw the rockfall in the ravine the road ran through, before Liz said “look.”
They saw the thin lines running from the rocks, and then a small group of men working on something.
“Bloody clever – send a squad in advance to clear the road,” Charlotte said as an explosion cleared the rocks from the road – and then they saw the Sisters approach and kill the squad.
“They may have the road,” Liz said, “but they are down six men.”
The Bavaria Lodge
Fergus was looking at a picture as Mindy came into the den. She walked quietly up and waited as he touched the face of the woman in the picture.
“Oh – you never knew Anika,” Fergus said as he showed her the photo.
“Indeed – she stood by me through thick and thin, Mindy – I wonder what she would have done if she was here now?”
“Do you think there is a real danger, sir?”
“Oh yes – I know there is, but we cannot let that stop the work,” Fergus said as he put the framed photo into a briefcase, and closed it. “Our guests have been fed?”
“They have sir.”
“Good - be alert Mindy, I have a bad feeling about today...”
The base camp
would they send in advance to do a job like that,” Charlotte said as she looked
at the scene. "What is your guess
as to where these men come from Liz?"
"I don't know..." Liz paused and reached for a radio. "Artemis do you have a regimental id on the guys killed at the gorge?"
They watched as Artemis looked at one of the bodies.
"Third Combat Group, Fourth Brigade...Fucking Shona trash!" LIz could here the tribal antipathy and venom in the stick commanders voice.
boys are away from home a bit?"
"Artemis keep your cool, this is Little Mother?" Charlotte grabbed the radio, "Is it worthwhile blocking the gorge again?"
“Negative – but they have uncovered the bodies of the scout jeep. That might provide food for thought.
me to put the fear of the gods into them?" Karen Khumalo asked as she
appeared as if from nowhere.
do you do that?" Charlotte shook her head as she spun round. The young dark skinned woman was wearing
jeans and a short sleeved blouse, Barb looking at her with interest.
a talent," the spirit doctor grinned, "and a secret."
its creepy. Effective, but creepy."
I'm Barb," the Aussie said as she extended a hand.
Karen,” she said as they shook hands, “and I'm also the Unlimo, the spirit
medium of my people."
Barb looked impressed.
back to your original question...How?"
me a couple of prisoners, I'll read the innards of one of them, and then you
let the other escape."
his innards?" Barb asked, "how?"
do you think," the Unlimo made a slashing motion across her own stomach.
that will frighten them?"
Karen nodded, "the Shona have infinite respect for my powers, they get
taught stories of the horrors committed by my people at their mothers
I think its worth a try." Charlotte looked up from the map. "Do you need to get prepared?"
got my regalia in my bag...You just get me close to the front line, and two
"Artemis, we need prisoners." Liz reached for the radio.
“Roger that – for interrogation?”
“In a way – let us know when you have two ready.”
Karen,” Charlotte said, “with that talent of yours for appearing out of
nowhere, did you ever consider becoming a models agent?"
what?" the black woman started undressing.
"Don't worry, it's a joke though some of my friends will get, and appreciate" Charlotte giggled.
"But will Miss Auerbach appreciate being compared to me?" The Unlimo left Charlotte slack-jawed as she picked up her clothes and dived into a tent to change.
how the holy fuck did she know...?"
"She's the spirit...never question." Liz put a hand on the petite redheads shoulder.
“So I imagine you are revered amongst your people,” Liz said on the outside of the tent.
"Well, the Smith Regime understood the power of the spirit to both my people and the Shona," Karen carried on the conversation through the tent canvas. "The Rhodesians had a huge bounty on my grandmothers head...dead or alive."
Mugabe and his dogs re-instated it when they tried to suppress my people after
where did she hide?"
plain sight, to all except the initiated she was just a housekeeper on Bavaria
ranch. The MacLean's after the War of Independence gave her a home and
- that explains a lot."
"And I was raised on the ranch, and the MacLeans paid for my schooling at Peterhouse and Cambridge... While they made sure I was educated for this world, she taught me the old ways..." Karen smiled as she emerged in the skins and feathers of her high position, the headdress lifted high, her body reddened with the soil of the land. "So how do I look?"
"Different...VERY different." Rather than the fashionable young woman, she wore leopard skin covering her chest and crotch, leather cuffs, and furs round her legs and ankles.
“Now – show me to my work...”
Media Production Studios, Battery Park
“There you are,” Doc said as she looked up to see Nikki come in, “What kept you?”
“We picked up a couple of critics,” she said as the Irish contingent came in, along with Poppy, Erica and Ama.
“I’ve been at Bones’ place for the weekend,” Poppy said, “so when Ama called and asked if we wanted to come...”
“Say no more,” Doc said with a smile, “gather round, and let’s see how bad it is...”
They sat in front of a television screen as Doc started the player, and watched carefully.
“Well,” Doc eventually said as they looked at her and Nikki.
“Very – persuasive,” Ama said quietly.
“Yeah – I’d hate to be caught by you two and forced to hand over the make up,” Poppy said, looking at Erica before they both burst out laughing.
“Well, we’re not exactly your target audience,” Nikki said, before she burst out laughing as well.
“I think it’ll sell,” John said as Kit nudged him in the ribs, “with the men looking to buy their girls something at least.”
“Oh yeah,” Eve said, “I can just imagine...”
“And – CUT!”
Olivia smiled as the crew looked to the director. Everyone waited with baited breath as he smiled, and then gave the thumbs up.
you ladies and gentlemen, you all worked very hard today." Nick clapped
his hands as the director indicated it was a wrap. “We are done!”
Thirty at night." Juliette shook her head, "what a first day back
after my honeymoon."
can assure you Ju, from what I've seen it's going to be more then worth
it." Nick said as he kissed her on the cheeks.
Buster! That's my wife," Klaus laughed.
as I was not invited to the wedding, I didn't get to kiss her then."
has you there my love,” Juliette said with a smile.
ahm just glad I got to see this awl." Fiona smiled as she stood and
stretched, "It was magical."
brought back a million memories for me." Carmen bent over and touched her
toes. “A genuine walk down memory
lane. Nick, I thank you.”
created a million for me." Mary Clarke did the same. "I just hope
I'll be able to do this when I'm as mature as Carmen."
filled in a wish that I had to do this type of show when I was a kid," Eve
we did just the same too," Grace and Pippa said in sync.
had these old films in the library at school, and we watched them
together," Pippa continued.
were sold on the glamour of the old Dior shows," Grace finished.
“I have to say, it has been magical,” Maggie said as she stretched.
where do we eat?" Carina asked, "I could eat a horse..."
this is France," Jeannie giggled.
"I promise you no horse," the Duc called out, "but I did get our food here...Courtesy of the Ritz." He clapped his hands and waiters appeared as by magic setting up tables and chairs.
“Now that is an idea,” the director said, “if you cannot come to the restaurant, have them come to you. Ladies, time to show the magic of the quick change.”
“I think Missy, Fiona and I will stay as we are,” Carmen said, “with your permission Nick.”
“Of course, dear ladies – I’ll send Missy the cleaning bill if necessary.”
everyone scatters to the four winds," Carina looked at Ingrid who was
gently rocking Judith in her arms.
Ingrid said quietly as Judith smiled, “until the next big event we all reunite
like the idea that Lily and some of the other girls had to take the train,"
with the channel tunnel, they will sleep better then we all will on planes, and
arrive home in time for breakfast."
for Lily, from what she was saying, it’s straight to a board meeting of her
charitable trust." Abby said as she joined them with Jo.
you have school..."
remind me," Abigail yawned, "And unlike you I can't skip class and
have friends take notes. My own joy is
that Jeannie and Grace are in the same position as me."
most of my classes we are just reviewing material ahead of the exams."
Ingrid looked up from looking at Judith.
Coach I fear, not classes and exams...”
Jo shivered as she said “she will run me tough the rest of the week to
make up for what I missed."
you are the athlete by choice Jo." Carina smiled.
I know. Who needs coffee?" Jo said
as she stood up.
me," Abby smiled, "as soon as I'm in my plane seat I want to nod
"I'll take one though Jo." Carina nodded.
“She’s asleep,” Ingrid said as she handed Judith to Klaus.
“Well, she may wake up on the plane – we will see,” Klaus said quietly.
“Diana, a word if I may,” Valeria said as she walked over.
“Of course – I can imagine what it is about. We need to tell her, do we not?”
“We do – on her birthday,” Valeria said quietly, “when she comes for her birthday.”
10 pm Local Time
“All right, make sure the perimeter is marked,” the commanding officer called out as the troops sat round the fire.
“There’s no need – nobody is going to dare to attack us, are they?”
“No – I guess not,” the commander said as he took the bottle of rum and took a long drink from it.
“Not too much – we have a fight tomorrow, remember?”
“Oh come on – an old man and a bunch of women. No resistance at all!”
The troops laughed as the bottle was passed round, the stories getting more and more rude as they laughter increased. To them, this was the night before the fun, a chance to relax before they slept.
“Hey,” the commander said as two of the men stood up, “where are you going?”
“To talk to nature,” one of them said, the other man grinning as they made their way into the surrounding bush, the fire and light dimming as they went further out and behind a small mound.
“That’s better,” he said as he unzipped his pants, “sometimes you just have to go.”
“Tell me about it,” his fellow soldier said as he moved to the side, and started to unzip his own pants.
“Yeah – it’ll be good to...”
He looked to his side, where a moment ago his comrade had been standing, but there was no sign of him. Zipping his pants up, he walked over, saying “hey – where are you?”
Which was when the hood was pulled over his head, and a cloth pulled into his mouth, forcing the hood in as well as it was secured – and the darkness came with the blow to the head.
As he slowly came to, all was dark – and then he felt the pressure on his cheeks lessen and go, before the hood was pulled off his head. He looked to his left, to see his comrade there, kneeling as he was, and with rope holding his wrists behind his back, then running down to his ankles.
“What’s going on,” he whispered as he looked round, and then heard the low chanting.
“I don’t know – who took us?”
A fire suddenly lit up in front of them, and in the light of the dancing flames they saw the six women, standing in their combats, their rifles in front of them.
“You know who these are?”
“I’ve heard the rumours – the she-devil soldiers. They must have taken us – but why?”
As he looked to the side of the fire, he now saw a flat rock that had been laid on top of three smaller ones – and then he heard the chanting, a low him, musical, and yet guttural at the same time.
And then he saw her – dressed in animal skins, silhouetted by the fire as she danced in front of both of them. The stick she was carrying rattled as she moved round, her eyes wild, the chanting continuing.
“Oh fuck – this is their witch woman.”
“What... What are they going to do to us?”
The Unlimo waved her stick over the two men, smiling as she saw the sweat and fear, before she nodded to one of the two girls. She disappeared for a moment, bringing back a pot which Karen waved the stick over, before the lid was removed. Reaching inside with both hands, she took out two large green snakes, and placed them on the shoulders of the two men, before chanting again.
“Do not move,” he said to his companion, “they are green mambas – deadly.”
He watched as the snake wrapped itself round his neck, and then fixed his eyes on the woman as she danced again, and her eyes seemed to glaze over as she went into a trance, moving between the two men. Glancing over, he saw his comrade, paralyzed with fear as the snake moved round his neck, and then slid down his body, dropping to the ground and disappearing into the night.
As it did so, Karen stopped dancing and looked at the second soldier, before nodding. Two of the women came forward, cutting the rope that held his wrists to his ankles before they lifted him up and dragged him over to the flat stone. He could only watch as his wrists and ankles were freed, and then he was laid on his back, the other four female devils binding his wrists and ankles so that he lay spread-eagled on the cold stone.
“What are you doing tmmmmggddd” he called out as a cloth was stuffed into his mouth, and then his shirt ripped open, Karen coming over and painting his chest with what looked like blood to the first soldier. She was definitely in some sort of trance now, as she waved her stick over the bound and silenced captive – and then produced a large knife.
“No,” he whispered as he watched her raise the knife into the sky, the six women chanting now with her as she traced the flat of the knife down the bound soldier’s chest, the man shaking his head all the time – and then screaming as she plunged the blade into his stomach, and pulled it across, the skin and muscle parting as she did so, his guts spilling out.
“No – oh dear god no,” he whispered, afraid of how the snake wrapped round his neck would react, as Karen plunged the knife in again under his ribcage, and dragged it down, chanting all the time as she cut out his liver and spleen, and handed it to the women.
“This is your sacrifice, your reward for your prayers. Cook and gain from his strength.”
They nodded as two of them took it off, and then she watched him pull his former comrade’s guts out, cutting them and then bringing them over to where he was still kneeling, accompanied by the other four she-devils. She lifted the entrails into the air, and then threw them onto the ground, talking in guttural sounds to the women as they listened.
“She says not to fear the men who are coming,” one of them said, “that those who watch have already judged and found them wondering. She says we will have victory.”
“And how will they know this,” one of the others said. All then looked at him, as Karen walked over, her eyes still glazed over as she put her hand on his forehead. He felt what was like an electric shock – and then blacked out.
Monday 18th April
6 am Local Time
When he woke up, he could see the dawn starting to rise on the horizon. He was on his side, unbound, and only two things were left to show the events of the previous night really happened.
One was the burning embers of the fire.
The other was the eviscerated body of his comrade, his eyes staring lifelessly up, the blood dripping onto the ground – and on the horizon, he could see the hyenas coming. So he did the only thing he could do – he ran in the other direction, as fast as he could, not looking back, hoping he would find his colleagues...
8 am Local Time
The officer looked over as the soldier half ran, half stumbled into the camp, the other soldiers gathering round as he collapsed onto his knees.
you need all night to take a piss man?" the officer yelled as the man
looked up at us.
grabbed me...grabbed us...the female devils..." the man was still wild
eyed in his terror.
the officer got angry, "you two had a secret bottle, and you passed out
because you got so drunk."
they captured us... I SWEAR!!!"
two been smokin' some dagga?"
tell you no boss, we got took...the Matabele witchwoman she killed
the officer swore, "where is that good for nothing bastard."
told you, he's dead...the witch split him open then read his guts."
are a lying coward, now where is he?"
dead boss, I keep telling you, and according to her so are we."
"God I've heard some excuses for getting drunk and high....but this is the worst."
They heard the shout from the other soldiers, as Esau’s body was dropped from a height, landing with a thump as the Commander stared at his gutted corpse, and the soldiers screamed.
“SEE! SEE!!! THEY ARE WITCHES!!!!”
“ENOUGH!!!!” The Commander fired his gun into the air and said “mount up. We move out now!”
“Well, that worked like a charm,” Charlotte said with a grin as the drone circled overhead. “Now what?”
“Let’s see what Athena can do,” Liz said quietly.
what did she see in him?" the nervous soldiers whispered as they sat in
the back of the truck while it bumped down the road.
saw death man...” the soldier said as he looked round, “our death."
sure she was real?"
tell she was the real thing, the bitch witch of the Matabele, complete with her
"The Commander says there aint no such thing," the Corporal protected his stripes by taking the official line, even if he was inwardly quaking.
"Didn't your Mama ever tell you bout dem witches?" the soldier who'd been captured looked maniacally at the NCO. "I tell ya, she saids we is walking dead-men."
no such thing," the corporal looked nervously out the back of the truck,
and then felt the charm around his neck. "As the Commander says, it's
all primitive superstition."
I believe," one of the men spoke up, "My ancestor was cursed by one
of their witches and he was dead within a day."
"I heard she uses the snakes to poison your souls." another spoke.
“The snakes,” the captured solider said, “she draped snakes on our necks. Mine stayed, the one on Esau dropped off – so she picked him.”
"They don't pay me enough to do this shit."
"They don't pay us at all recent."
"What was dat?" a soldier looked alarmed as away in the distance a lion roared.
"I tell you man, they is gonna kill us...Kill us all."
11 am Local Time
“I see,” Athena said into the handset, “leave it with us.” As she looked round, she smiled at one of her stick.
you have your bow sister?" Athena asked the soldier under her charge.
how close do you need be to frighten them men with fire-arrows?"
me within 50 yards," the woman grinned, "I'll light them up, just
like they did when they burned down my house."
"Okay all” Athena said, “we are going to work in closer and weave some magic... Complete silence, and just let Chimbuto do her thing."
A number of assents came over the air murmured as Athena and her bow-woman moved closer to the red dirt road.
“How long do you reckon,” Alice Chimbuto said as she stoked the fire, and prepared her arrows.
“They’re on their way now,” Athena said as she looked through her glasses. “If you are ready?”
am ready,” Alice said as the trucks came closer. She careful aimed with her bow, signalled to
Athena to light the arrow, then fired it into the canvas side of one of the
troop trucks. Quickly she fired another, then a third at the lead vehicle,
before Athena signalled they needed to retreat through the long grass.
"Aiieeee!" one of the soldiers shouted as the arrow caught the canvas on fire..."AMBUSH!"
As the men jumped out of the first signal, the driver and his passenger jumped out of the front, watching as the fire spread quickly over the canvas and then the truck exploded.
“Where did the arrows come from,” the commander called out, but the men could not point in different directions. Cursing, he said “into the other two trucks – we press on.”
“Radio ahead,” Athena said quietly, “Let Artemis know they are on their way, and to have the display ready.”
1 pm Local Time
As the two trucks approached the ravine, the commander looked out through the windscreen of the first one.
“At least the advance crew managed to clear the rockslide,” he said, “but they are meant to be here waiting. Where have they got to?”
“The she devils...”
“The next man that mentions that,” he growled, “I will personally gut and leave for the...”
His words were cut short as the body of one of the advance crew hit the windscreen, his eyes bulging and his chest ripped open.
“DRIVE!” he ordered, the driver accelerating forward as a second body fell from the top of the ravine.
“What the heck is going on,” the third driver said as he saw the trucks speed ahead – and then he saw the bodies falling from above, followed by the rocks as the road was blocked behind the first two trucks. Slamming the brakes on, he tried to reverse – only to find a second explosion causing a rock fall behind him.
“They’ve been trapped – the she devils will have them,” the captured soldier said as the lone truck stopped, the drone watching from on high. Between the two rock piles, the men jumped out of the truck, firing up into the ravine in an attempt to kill whoever had done this.
On the other side, they listened as the gunfire continued, and then the road fell silent – before they heard the yelping and the screams. Over the top of the rock fall, three men clambered over and ran towards the remaining truck, looking back with fear.
“They waited until we emptied our rifles, then they attacked – they were naked, covered in the red soil!”
“And you are the only survivors?”
They nodded as he saw the knife marks on their arms. “Get on board,” he said, “we have a job still to do...”
one said it was going to be like this," the most recent soldier to join
the unit looked terrified. "I was told you put on da uniform, you gotta
fire a gun, you gotta drink a lot a beer, you gotta lotta pussy..."
sometimes you also need be a real damn soldier," the commander said
as he kicked the malcontent, "I don't know how they have done this, but we
have a real fight on our hands boy."
you radio Bulawayo?" the commander yelled at the radio operator.
the Commander shouted as he interrupted.
said we was being lazy, cowardly, fools jumping at shadows."
said we were..." the r/o started to repeat.
heard you the first damn time." the Commander snarled, "did you tell
them we have taken casualties?"
"They blamed that batch of bad beer."
"Fucking assholes. All right – we get back in the trucks, but I want two men on top of each one, keeping watch at all times. Move out!"
“Oh this is just getting better and better,” Liz said with a smile, “half of them down already.”
they had any deserters yet Athena?"
escaped the rockfall killing and went the other way, we let them go just as you
said Little Mother."
they are currently?"
speed they were running...maybe halfway back to Bulawayo."
Charlotte laughed, "Their messages to their officers should further
confuse the situation."
"Damn cowards." Liz and Charlotte looked at each other as they heard the anger in Athena’s voice.
"Charlotte this is Karen."
"Hi. You certainly stirred something in them last
"Glad to be of service. Look - have you ever heard the legend of Lobengula's fire spear?"
"No. Tell me more."
"Well it was one of the more unsavory ways my ancestor had of controlling what he considered his Shona dogs... Before attacking a kraal, his men would somehow cause a large flaming spear to appear inside the oppositions defences."
sounds a neat trick. It would certainly
cause more upset."
Karen said quietly, “my grandmother told me how it was done."
"Interesting," Liz said as she grabbed the mike, "and you can do it?"
"Oh yeah," the voice of the Umlimo giggled.
"Go for it then," Charlotte yelled out. “Let’s get them down to one truck if possible. Athena, Artemis – come home. We need to be ready for the final assault if they make it through. Barb, can you fly north of the ranch – see if that other company has turned up.”
“Did I get back in time for the fun,” Josias said as he slipped into the tent.
“Josias Swart, Barb Brookmayer. She’s providing Aerial oversight. Barb, Josias has been causing problems down Bulawayo way for us.”
“Pleasure – any chance of some of that coffee?”
“And here come the first wave,” John said with a smile as he stood with Clint, watching the doors from the customs area open as Grace and Abby came through, followed by Barbara pushing Jeannie, and Maggie walking with Jo and Diana.
“Hello Granddad,” Jeannie said as she yawned, “at least I managed to get some sleep on the plane.”
“Well, I have coffee ready for you and Abby in the car,” John said, “as well as you Grace. I have a bag with your uniforms as well, but I suggest you change when you get there.”
“You can use my room – I’ll head for the gym and have a shower,” Grace said as they walked to the cars.
“Barbara, I’ll take you back to the brownstone, and then take Jo to the Richmond house,” Clint said as he pushed the trolley with the bags on it.
“Good – I can get my head down for a few hours and then head back,” Jo said as she rubbed her head.
“But one hell of a party, eh?” Jeannie said with a grin as John pushed her to the car, lifting her in with Abby and Grace getting into the back as well. “See you guys later,” Barbara said as she and Jo got into Clint’s car with Maggie and Diana.
“I’ll drop you both off on the way as well,” Clint said as they drove off.
“Thanks Clint – I texted Mom and told her I was going to crash out for a few hours as well. Are you going back for the Furstenheim clan?”
“No – John is going back to pick them up after he does the school run. I imagine they will be ready for some real coffee as well.”
“Well, is it just me are they getting easier,” Nikki said as she went into the shower with Doc.
“Nope – in case you hadn’t noticed, Helen has been increasing the repetitions every day.”
“She has? I hadn’t noticed,” Nikki said as she turned the water on.
“Anyone in here?”
“Mrs Brand? What are you doing here?”
“Cleaning myself up after flying on the red eye. You two finished another session?”
“Yeah,” Nikki said, “so are Abby and Jeannie back as well?”
“They are – they’re changing in my room,” Grace said as she stepped into the shower, and started to wash. “But we have a full week ahead of us, so no dawdling girls.”
“Yes Mrs Brand,” Doc said, the two of them grinning as they finished washing.
A few minutes later, they knocked on Mrs Brand’s office door, Abby opening the door as she said “Aha – another joyous session with Helen?”
“Indeed – how was Paris?”
“Magical,” Jeannie said as she put her bag on her lap, and started to wheel herself out, “onwards and upwards!”
“And life gets back to normal,” Doc said as they made their way to the assembly hall.
The Huntingdown Apartment
“I know it’s a cliché,” Juliette said as she walked into the apartment, “but it is so good to be home again.”
“It is indeed,” Klaus said as he put the cases down, the doorman following with the rest, “it is indeed.”
Carina smiled as helped Judith to take her coat off, the young girl walking into the drawing room and shouting “POOKIE!” before coming back, cuddling her stuffed rabbit.
“Right – I think some coffee is in order,” Ingrid said as she headed for the kitchen.
“And I will go and get some pastries,” Klaus said as he went to the front door – only to stop as Jeannie stood there, saying “surprise – pastries?”
“Hey,” Juliette said as her PA came in, “thanks for bringing those.”
“Well, I knew you’d need to get some things as soon as you arrived,” Janine said as Klaus closed the door. “And – welcome back boss.”
“Not quite back yet,” Juliette said as she removed her coat, “but like I said, it is good to be home. When do you girls need to head back?”
“Not until tonight,” Carina said as she sat down, Judith playing on the floor in front of her, “so we have time to look at a few things.”
“This,” Janine said as she put a folder on the low table, “press cuttings and reports on the wedding. Jeanne has also had a DVD of the best bits of the coverage put together for you – it’s in there.”
“I also want to go and visit Jeanne and the new baby later – we have a gift for them,” Klaus said as he brought through cups of Turkish coffee.
“Now this is what is needed – thanks pops,” Carina said as she took a cup and drank from it.
“So what have I missed in the office,” Juliette said as she took a Danish.
“Well, I take it you’ve heard about what happened with Katy Carter?”
“Eventually,” Juliette said with a raised eyebrow.
“Well, she’s recovering now – and the shoot she did with Orion O’Ryan has had rave reviews. Nikki Colman and Anna Carlton are now the MagniLash girls, and Missy brought in a special trainer for them.”
“Oh – who?”
Juliette had been about to take a drink, but slowly put her cup down before she said “and they have survived?”
“Well, it is an experience for them,” Juliette said with a smile, “so, the cuttings?”
5 pm Local Time
The two trucks were moving forward slowly now, the men on the top looking round uneasily as the sun started to lower in the sky.
“All right,” the commander said to the driver of the first truck, “pull in by that waterhole over there. We’ll eat before moving on to the target.”
“Yes sir,” he said as he pulled in, the second truck pulling in alongside as the men got out and dropped to their knees around the watering hole.
“It’s quiet,” the commander said as he looked round, too quiet.”
“Smart man,” Athena said as she stood with Karen, “is everything ready?”
“It is,” she said as she looked at the catapult, and the spear that was loaded into it, an earthenware vessel secured to the front. “This should really upset them.”
“Have you got the elevation and trajectory right?”
“Checked and double checked,” the two women said as they wound back the ropes on the catapult.
“Okay, shall we?”
“Oh yes,” Karen said as Athena picked up an axe.
“Say hello to Hell from us, you Shona scum,” she whispered as she cut the restraining rope, and the spear flew into the air. She watched as the spear flew gracefully through the air, and then slowly tipped to fall down.
At the waterhole, some of the men looked up at the sky as they saw something flying towards them.
“What on earth is that,” the commander said as the object came closer, and then it seemed to burst into flame before it hit one of the trucks.
“NOOOO!!! Lobengula’s flaming spear!!!”
“Get that fire out,” he roared as some of the men grabbed buckets and tied to throw water on the flaming spear, only to scream as the fire intensified and burned brighter. At the sight of this, some of the men turned and ran – then screamed as a tarpaulin covered pit suddenly appeared, the men falling in and then silenced.
“Leave it to burn,” the commander called out as the captive from the previous night walked over to the pit, looking in and then throwing up as he saw the sharpened wooden stakes penetrating through the bodies of his comrades.
“Everyone in the last truck – and let’s hope that other company has made it,” he screamed, the men jumping on as the final truck drove off at high speed.
“It was his flaming spear – the mighty king himself is with them! We are all dead...”
“No – you are,” the commander said as he drew his pistol and shot the soldier in the head. “Anyone else want to make any comment?”
"It's the witch, she has brought his spirit back from the dead to punish us."
"Crap!" the Commander growled.
"What was that?" another soldier looked spooked as Karen blew a deep bass note on a hunting horn.
"I don't know..."
"It was him, that was Lobengula's voice." the soldier dropped his gun and started to run before the Commander shot him in the back.
8 pm Local Time
you monitoring their radio traffic still Zimba?" Liz asked as she came
into the tent.
the radio operator said as she looked up, “their leader sounds less confident
by the minute."
I should imagine morale is pretty low,” Charlotte said, “they thought this
would be a routine eviction, and its turned both deadly, and mystical."
the r/o said with a smile.
"The drone is showing they've slowed practically to a crawl Liz," Barb came into the radio tent.
going on Aphrodite?" Charlotte asked, "we have them going very
think we've mined the road ahead,” the NCO said, “they are poking along with
why may they be thinking it?"
my girls might just have buried some food cans, bottle tops and other metal on
they are doing this because of that?" Charlotte half-laughed.
they are so panicked I could currently start a panic just by shouting
almost tempted to get you to do it."
me to toss a rpg their way?"
"Or we could try out the weapons on my drone?" Barb grinned as she came in again, "give it a little workout?"
“Oh go on – have some fun, what do you have on there anyway?”
“Just a couple of subs – nothing heavy, but it will give them something else to think about in the gloom.”
“Anything,” the Commander said.
“It’s all scrap metal so far,” one of the men said – and then the gunfire started, seemingly out of nowhere in the dimming light, scattering the troops on each side.
“COME OUT YOU COWARDS,” the commander shouted out, “SHOW YOURSELVES!”
“Not a chance – not until the time is right,” a voice called out from nowhere in Shona, before the gunfire started again, the men diving for cover.
“Nice Zimba, very nice,” Liz said with a grin as the drone went high again...
10 pm Local Time
The Bavaria Ranch
“There it is,” the Commander said as he saw the illuminated white walls of the main house, “the fat man’s house.”
“When do the officials from the ESU get here?”
“First light – I know we’ve lost a lot of your comrades,” he said as he looked round, “but we have to do a job, or by the devil I will kill you all myself. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes sir,” the troops said as they made camp – unaware of the two women watching them from the nearby hills.
“Well, what is our next move,” Liz said to Charlotte.
“I’m wondering if Karen knows of the Wind of Death?”
“I’ve heard that one – a squad would infiltrate a camp or area, and kill every third man as they slept, quietly, noiselessly.”
“Exactly,” Charlotte said, “they’re already spooked – so if some of them wake next to the opened up corpses of their comrades...”
“Charlotte, has anyone ever told you you have a devious mind?”
“Piet has commented on it from time to time. Have Aphrodite pick four sisters with very, very sharp knives and excellent eyesight.”
“What about the company threatened from the north?”
“Artemis is watching the horizon – we will get warning...”
The Richmond Mansion
“You look amazing,” Sandy said as she kissed Juliette, “how was the honeymoon?”
“It was amazing – and I did a lot of thinking. Anyway, we can talk about that later – how are Sands and the other girls.”
“Supporting each other – and especially Laura,” Heather said as she sat down.
“And the drug the girls were slipped?”
“Very bespoke, custom made, according to Frieda a blend of low doses of three different drugs,” Heather said as Susan and Jan came into the room.
“Welcome back,” Jan said as she hugged Juliette. “Cari on her way back?”
“She should be back by now – she’ll dial in in a little while, as will Jo.”
“Well, it’s good to see you back,” Susan said as Juliette accepted the coffee. “So, now that you’ve heard about what happened?”
“I would have been less forgiving,” Juliette said as Doc and Katy came through from the kitchen.
“Hey Juliette,” Doc said.
“And how are you coping with the training?”
“Just about – but it’s only for a few more days.”
“No desire to be like Marina and Kylie,” Heather said with a grin.
“Oh no – they are welcome to that,” Doc said as she sat slowly down.
“Hey,” Katy said as Diana and Abby came in, “how’s the jet lag?”
“A good night’s sleep will take care of that,” Abby said as Sandy handed Diana a glass of wine, while Juliette looked through a set of papers.
did an admirable job in imposing a clampdown on gossip about that poor young
girl Janice." Juliette looked at the notes as Caroline came in.
it helped that Katy and her friends are such a tight knit group..."
the boys are hardly going to publicise their own misdeeds further."
do think though further retribution is in order though."
"Oh good I was hoping you would say that." Susan grinned.
we can certainly lay some plans – let me have your thoughts.” Putting
down the file, Juliette took a sip of her wine, and then sat back.
"Now onto other business...I think THAT time is approaching."
Do you have a target in mind Ju?" Heather lifted an eyebrow.
actually have a couple Heather dear...” Juliette sighed as she said “I
sort of want to go out with a big bang."
out Ju?" Sandy looked puzzled.
I think I owe it to Klaus..."
quit crime Diana." Juliette looked downwards.
WHAT?" a series of high-pitched women's voices yelled.
"I want to retire from the Pussycats." Juliette said the words slowly. “Our next job will probably be my last one as a member.”
“Have you told Carina,” Abby asked.
“Not yet – I’m holding off until she comes back from Yale for the long summer, and we won’t move before then, but I felt it best to say it now. I think we can deal with more – immediate discipline first.”
“But you are our leader,” Doc said quietly.
“What will Shirley say?”
“Look,” Juliette said, “let’s put what I plan to do to one side, and plan for the next target. Together as always?”
The New Calabria
Eleanor looked out from the booth, sipping her whiskey as she watched the staff and clientele. There was something about this bar she liked – the couple who owned and ran it were authentic New York, and she counted them as friends now, so they did not think it unusual she would stop there for a drink, and take the quiet booth at the back.
“Good evening Mermaid.”
“Madame,” she said as the red haired woman sat with her, “a different look.”
“Necessary for meeting such as this,” Shirley said as Tommy brought over another whisky and a bourbon, “thank you.”
“Youse welcome,” Tommy said before he went over to help Annie serve again.
“I wanted to thank you for everything you did for Jan and her family,” Shirley said quietly, “you proved to be invaluable in working out who had snatched Katy.”
“Well, it proved two things,” Eleanor said with a smile. “First, it is possible to put differences aside in the aim of a common cause.”
“As we Sisters do,” Shirley said quietly.
“And also,” Eleanor said, “I do like Jan and her family, especially Katy – a very bright and inquisitive young lady.”
“Indeed – or so I am told,” Shirley said, “but I wished to add my own thanks for all you did. I also wished to, in the vernacular, pick your brains.”
“As do I you,” Eleanor said, “I have a couple of names I wish to suggest to approach as Sisters, like me.”
“Indeed? I would be interested to hear your recommendations.”
“You first,” Eleanor said with a smile.
“We have had reports from our field workers,” Shirley said, “of a new drug on the market. Specifically formulated, by the looks of things, for use as a way of making young women more – compliant.”
“A new date rape drug?”
“More a combination of old ones,” Shirley said as she took an envelope from the inside of her jacket, and handed it over. “This is a breakdown we obtained of a sample. Low dosages of flunitrazepam, zolpidem and a new isomer of Diazepam.”
“Shit,” Eleanor said under her breath, “low doses.”
“Indeed – but in combination, it appears to make anyone who takes it very – impressionable.”
“How did you get it?”
“It was used on a minor – and I will say no more than that.”
Eleanor nodded as she said “so you need to know if we’ve had word of it from anywhere. I’ll do some asking round.”
“Thank you,” Shirley said quietly.
“Which I guess means I can mention the first person I wish to recommend as a sister – Veronica Joyce.”
Shirley thought for a moment, and then said “A good suggestion – an ear in the coast guard would prove most useful. I will take that suggestion on – what is the other suggestion.”
“A most talented lady I heard of recently – her name is Helen York, and she works for Huntingdowns in Hong Kong?”
Sitting back, Shirley said “and you suggest her because?”
“I am told she is a formidable martial artist, and skilled with explosives. I do not know if it is feasible...” She then looked at Shirley before she said “you already know her, don’t you?”
“I am afraid I do – and she is a most skilled and formidable woman. But she already has a loyalty and commitment which assists us from time to time.”
“Do I want to know?”
Shirley smiled and leaned forward, as she whispered “Silent Death.”
“Oh... OH! Then no more need be said,” Eleanor whispered, “but Veronica?”
“That I will consider, and get back to you on.”
Tuesday 19th April
2 am Local Time
The Bavaria Lodge
Mindy stood on the veranda, looking out towards the road from Bulawayo and thinking.
“You seem preoccupied.”
“But alert, old friend,” she whispered into the darkness, “they are here, are they not?”
“They are at the gates, and we think more are coming from the north. Does he have any guests resident?”
“In the lodge at the back,” Mindy said quietly, “why do you ask?”
“This comes to a head at dawn, Mindy. We need to make sure the guests are well out of the way. Get the other sisters from the house, and meet me there in ten minutes.”
“I understand,” Mindy said as she slipped inside. Ten minutes later, she and two of the kitchen staff slipped across the courtyard, joining Liz and two others at the entrance.
Mindy opened the door quietly and slipped in, the others following before she and Liz went quietly into the main bedroom. The couple were sleeping on the bed, as Mindy walked over and shook the man. Opening his eyes, he sat up and said “What has happened?”
“Wake your family,” Mindy said quietly, “the ESU are coming at first light, and my sisters are here to escort you and your family to safety.”
“The ESU?” He shook his wife, who sat up at the sight of Mindy and the stranger in the room.
“I come from the Sisters of Maisha,” Liz said, “we have word Mister MacLean is going to be visited by the ESU tomorrow, and we are here to get you out before they arrive.”
“What of Mister MacLean?”
“We will make sure he is got safely out if need be, but it is not safe for you to be here,” Mindy said. “Get up, get dressed and get your children dressed. I will make sure your belongings come later, if at all possible – take only what you can carry.”
“I will wake the girls,” his wife said as he got up and put some clothes on. “I thought the Sisters was a myth,” he said as he dressed quickly.
“We are very real, sir,” Mindy said as the two kitchen workers came in, and packed clothes into cases.
“Papa, what is going on?”
“We are going for a walk,” he said as his wife came in, and put some clothes on.
“Come with me,” Liz said with a smile, “I will show you the stars as we walk.”
“Work quickly,” Mindy said quietly to her friends as she walked out with Liz and the family, the girls staring at the two soldiers.
“They’re here to keep us safe,” Liz said as she looked at Mindy. “Be prepared.”
“I will be – we all will. For the Heart and the Strength.”
“For the Heart and the Strength,” Liz said as the party walked into the bush. Mindy watched as the shadows passed in the house, and then made her way back into the house, closing the door behind herself.
“Did they get away safely?”
Mindy suddenly turned to see Fergus standing at the door to his den, his arms folded as he smiled.
“My friends will make sure they are taken to safety, and from there to their destination,” Mindy said, “with you, the Goddess willing.”
“Hmm – what happened to Belle?”
“She was going to kill you and everyone else here. Does that shock you?”
“No – when friends like John Vosloo tell you to be careful, I am careful. So you are one of these Sisters of Maisha.”
“I am Sir – but I hope you are not offended.”
“No – I’m impressed actually,” Fergus said with a smile. “So – when?”
“We believe at dawn.”
“Then there is much to do,” Fergus said, “before you begin Mindy, bring me some coffee please – I have business that needs to be conducted.”
“Of course Sir,” Mindy said as she made her way to the kitchen.
4.30 am Local Time
The family walked under the bivouac, looking round as Charlotte came out.
“Welcome,” she said as Barb looked over, “please, go with this lady here. We have a place for you to rest, and we will bring food later.”
“You have questions, but we must first ensure Fergus MacLean is safe. After, we will talk. Go – now...”
“Come along, girls,” their mother said, “and don’t be frightened of the guns. I do believe we will be safe here.”
“Little Mother, this is Artemis. Come in Little Mother.”
Charlotte ran to the radio operator, and said “this is Little Mother. Go ahead Artemis.”
“Little Mother, we have company coming from the North. One company by the looks of things.”
“I’m going there now – how far?”
“I reckon ten clicks.”
“Visual confirmation in ten,” Barb said as the drone took off.
“Athena, take your stick and join Artemis.”
“On my way.”
“Aphrodite – how was your expedition during the night?”
“We halved the numbers.”
“Good – leave a guard here with Ximba. We need to get into position – and quickly.”
“All right you lazy good for nothings,” the commander said as he walked out of his tent, “get up and...”
He stared at his company as half of them looked over the eviscerated corpses of their comrades, their eyes staring lifelessly upwards.
“We told you they would kill us all – and you said we should keep going,” one of the men said as they looked at the commander. “We should have turned back, but you forced us on, shot our friends.”
“We have our orders...”
“No more orders,” another of the men said as they surrounded the commander, watching as he feel to his knees, and begged for forgiveness...
“What is going on here!”
The men turned as they saw the trucks pull up, and two men jump out, the other men in the back carrying machetes.
“Oh praise be – your arrival was just in time,” the commander said as he got up, and looked at his men.
“We were promised two companies – what happened?”
“We were attacked mercilessly on the way here, they killed my men in small numbers, and tried to terrify me, but I...”
“Cowered and pleaded for mercy when your men had had enough,” the new arrival said as he looked over. “Listen up – the old man has promised rewards for all who will rid this land of ours of this white devil, and all who are with him. I mourn the deaths of your friends, but you now follow my orders, understand?”
As they nodded, he said “another company is approaching from the north, and we will succeed this day. As for him,” he continued as he looked at the commander, “he will lead the final entry...”
“Looks as if the main party has arrived,” Charlotte said as she looked at the screen.
“Little Mother, this is Artemis – confirmed one company heading from the north. Orders?”
“Delay and remove as much as possible – I have full confidence.”
“Understood Little Mother. May the Goddess be with us.”
“Okay – keep a line open to them on the second set,” Liz said to the radio operator.
ESU chaps are rather tougher then the very average soldiers." Charlotte
remembered the warning Uncle John had given her. "They will not be easily
“True – but they have not met us,” Aphrodite said with a smile, “we move out in ten.”
what advantages do we have?" Charlotte started a quick analysis in her own
mind. "Thanks to Barb's drone we have air superiority, we have had time to
prepare our defences, and at least some of the enemy have had their morale
completely degraded...we could be in worse shape."
look like you are doing the same things in your head as I am." Liz said as
she tapped her on the shoulder.
you mean I was assessing our chances, then you are right...Still Liz you are
the professional soldier, what have we missed out?"
little that I can think of,” Liz said, “though I wish we had one more stick of
battle-trained girls to deploy, a lot of these girls have had little sleep in
know," Charlotte nodded.
the r/o passed Charlotte a mike, "it's Rassie."
know this is a hot contact Major Erasmus?"
do Little Mother, it's why I'm bringing you a few things you might need, and
standing by if needs be to take out civilians and casualties."
the Goddess for Rassie and his choppers." Liz smiled, "for an old
racist, sexist, pig, he still has his uses."
Barb," Charlotte looked over the Australian's shoulder, "give me a
real time battlefield overview please."
"I note the please, that's why its a pleasure working with other Sheila's, and not blokes." Barb replied without her eyes leaving the screen. "Those buggers have no manners."
As they looked at the screen, Charlotte smiled. “So we have the ESU and the reduced force here – they will be expecting the force from the North to mop up anyone trying to escape that way, so we make sure they are neutralised as much as possible.”
“Right then,” Liz said as she passed Charlotte a rifle, “we have about forty minutes to get into position. Right after...”
They listened as the helicopter came in to land, Rassie jumping out as a second copter came in behind him.
“I told you I was bringing something,” he said with a smile as Leader looked out of the copter, her hand on a mounted machine gun.
“I heard some further aerial firepower would be useful,” she said with a grin as a third helicopter came in.
"Three choppers Rassie...Wat de Hel Man?" unconsciously Charlotte had switched to Afrikaans, "Hoe het jy dit regkry?"
"Jou oom John laat my leen hierdie ander een."
a bloody gunship," Barb looked admiringly.
Major, we civilians don't have gunships...remember?"
don't we," Barb ran her hand over one of the forward mounted cannons.
brought us this, and an extra stick of girls." Liz shook her head,
"Rassie you work miracles."
"He does." Charlotte switched back to English. “Four of you girls stay here to guard. The rest with Aphrodite. Rassie, stand by for the word – and Leader?”
“Good shooting,” Charlotte said with a grin.
The Bavaria Lodge
Fergus stood on the stairs as the household staff stood at the bottom, Mindy standing with the others.
“I will make this brief, because we do not have much time,” Fergus said quietly. “Soldiers from the Economic Security Unit are at the gates, and we expect them to come in at dawn. It pains me to say this, my friends, but I fear this is the last time I will speak to you here in this home.
“If you feel you need to leave, this will be your only chance to do so. You will be escorted to a point where you can safely leave, and you may go elsewhere from there, with three months worth of pay, and no questions asked. This is not your fight, unless you wish to stay and fight. If you wish to go, come to the office now.”
Some of the staff nodded as they went forward, the two kitchen workers going with Fergus as Mindy looked round.
“We stay,” another of the maids say, “to protect Sir.”
“I understand – come to the gun room with me.”
5 am Local Time
Outside the Ranch
“So what do you think, sir?”
“I think whoever it is the ESU say have done these things has a lot of experience.” He looked south through his binoculars at the ranch complex, and smiled. His opposite number had chosen his ground well, the major thought.
He, the major, refused to believe this craziness that it was women out there, was hidden behind what were little more than grassed over bumps in the landscape, but the slopes were steep enough to create a downslope on the other side, and a ridge-line his troops were hugging close. Also the clumps of thorn bushes this side of the small slopes meant that his troops to advance had just three choices of route. Along the road, or through one of two gaps in the bushes, each alternative provided for a natural killing zone.
Yes it was a very clever stratagem, but the major was sure of one thing, his men were tough and well-armed, and equally well-trained.
“Bring the first squad forward – I want them to advance through, half on the road, the other split through the gaps. I want to see what we’re going into.”
The lieutenant signalled to a group of eight men, four walking slowly down the road, two to each gap, all wary, all watching the road and the hills. But there was no resistance, no gunfire, as they advanced and met in the centre of the road after the mounds.
“No resistance sir – it’s almost as if...”
The RPG impacted with no warning, taking out the advance squad as the major and the others ducked for cover. He looked out again, at the corpses, and nodded. They were really good – he almost admired them.
“Glad you could make it,” Liz said as she embraced the Leader in the tent. “Coffee?”
“Might help,” she said as she and Rassie took a cup.
“Major Erasmus – well met by dawn,” Josias Swart said as he came in.
“Josias – come to keep these ladies honest?”
“Moi – and this is?”
“I was going to ask as well,” Barb said.
“Oh yeah – Josias Swart, Barb Brookmeyer, Leader is one of our most experienced leaders, and led the assault on the Mologa mine.”
“I know you,” Josias said quietly, “you’re...”
“A Sister,” Liz said quietly, “whatever she is in the outside world.”
“Little Mother, this is Artemis.”
“Go ahead Artemis,” Charlotte said as she came to the radio.
“The company from the North is already here – we took out a squad, but could use some help.”
“Well, the sun is coming up,” Rassie said, “it’s a beautiful morning.”
“Quite,” Charlotte said quietly, “ladies, we are a go. For the Heart and the Strength.”
“Go,” Rassie said to Leader, the tall African woman draining her mug and leaving with one of the pilots.
“Aphrodite, are you in position?”
“In position Little Mother – do we have a go?”
“All units, we have a go. May the Goddess be with all of you.”
5.30 am local time
The sun slowly rose in the Eastern sky, the red rays lighting the soil as the Sisters looked out from their hiding places.
“Stay hidden until I give the word,” Aphrodite said quietly as they checked and re-checked their guns.
“All right,” the ESU leader said as he looked on, “radio the other company, tell them we are moving in. You!”
“Yes sir,” the commander said quietly.
He swallowed hard as he walked along the road to the ranch, nervously looking from side to side as he took one step.
It was on the fourth step that the shot went through his head, killing him on the spot as the others looked on.
“They’re on the move,” Barb said as Charlotte listened to the radio, sipping her coffee.
“You listening Uncle?”
“I am Little Mother – good luck.”
“Approaching the Northern positions now.”
“Here we go then,” Charlotte said quietly.
The larger company moved forward, the outflanks watching the hills carefully as they made their way along the road.
“What’s that noise,” one of the men said as they listened.
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say it was a helicopter,” the Major said, and then he looked on the horizon. “It is a....
“i i chikopokopo - tora kwidibira!”
The company dived to the ground as the helicopter approached – and then opened fire with the forward cannons, cutting some of the men down.
“gunship? va ine fucking gunship? ani ri idzi omanikidza?” The Major turned and shouted “head for those bushes and dive in.”
“What’s happening,” Charlotte shouted over the sounds of the blades and gunshot on the radio. “Leader, what’s happening?”
“We’ve cut some of the company down – others are heading for the cover of the bush, where we have a surprise waiting for them.”
As the men dived for the scrub, the gunship passed over again, Leader shooting the guns from the open side as the men tried to crouch down – and then were dragged down by the waiting sisters, their throats cut open by their blades.
From the south west, the vans followed slowly on as the remaining soldiers moved into the grounds of the ranch, moving slowly, cautiously. From the sky, the drone transmitted the picture back to Charlotte, as she shouted “NOW!”
On either side of the road, the sisters rose from their covered holes, and shot out the tyres of the trucks, then moved back quickly before they could be targeted.
“What the hell,” the ESU leader said, “everyone out and forward on foot, and watch your step!”
“The trucks have been taken out,” Aphrodite said as the Sisters fell back to the next line of defence.
“They have, boss,” one of the women grinned.
“Fall back,” Artemis called out as the two sticks made their way back to the outer perimeter of the ranch, taking up their positions as the Major stood up.
“Squad leaders, report!”
“Sir,” one man said as he came forward, “they’re all dead. We’re doing a count, but we reckon sixty percent casualties.”
“Sixty... Who are they?”
“No idea – but it wasn’t the gunship that caused most of the casualties.”
“No – they knew we would dive for the cover, and they were waiting.”
“Damn – they are good,” he said to himself. “All right – regroup and we move on.”
“Over half the company gone, but they’re pressing on. Very professional.”
“All right – we can...”
The sound of gunfire made Charlotte call out “Who is engaging?”
“Main approach,” she heard Aphrodite call out, “they sent the remaining members of the companies from Bulawayo forward to take us on. We’ve got them pinned down.”
“Do what is necessary,” Charlotte shouted out.
The explosions came over as gunfire started elsewhere.
6.15 am Local Time
“Rassie, get ready – we may need to get you in.”
“Roger that,” John heard his old friend say over the radio as he sat, listening to the set as he sipped his coffee.
“Leader, sit rep on the northern flank.”
“We’ve got the company pinned down, but Artemis and Athena have taken some losses. We’re going to do a strafing run to try and thin things out.”
“Acknowledged,” Charlotte said over the radio as the door opened and he looked over.
are you listening to John?" his wife said as she came into his study
wearing a dressing gown, "it sounds like some dreadful old war movie like
"It's similar." John breathed deeply, "and I do feel like Carroll O'Connor in that film listening 'to the game'."
“Aphrodite, the ESU are trying to outflank on the left.”
“Copy that, Little Mother – we’re taking care of it.”
"My God that's Charlotte's voice," Marianne said as she suddenly sat bolt upright, "what the fuck is going on?"
Vosloo,” Marianne said as she stared at her husband, “if you don't tell me then
you can damn well cook your own breakfast.
Why is Charlotte in a war-zone?"
a long story..."
"Well I have plenty of time," Marianne said as she drew up a chair next to his.
“Okay,” John said with a sigh, “ten second version. When Piet jokes about Charlotte been a spy, he’s actually half right.”
“WHAT! John, she’s not one of your agents, is she?”
“No – I’ll explain later, but right now the group she works with are trying to stop the bastards in Zimbabwe killing Fergus MacLean, and hopefully getting him safely out of there.”
“Fergus? What has he been getting into now?”
“The sort of thing that can only upset the old man in charge,” John said, “so Charlotte is making sure if he does have to go, HE knows he may have someone watching him.”
The Bavaria Lodge
“Is that gunfire,” one of the men said.
“It is,” Fergus said as he checked his hunting rifle again. “Whoever is out there are keeping them away as much as possible – but we must be prepared in case they get through.”
“A pity you will not see them, sir.”
Fergus raised an eyebrow as he saw the man pointing a rifle at him. “So Belle wasn’t the only one, eh? I did wonder why they would only send one.”
“Immaterial – the old man wants you dead, but before I do, where is Belle?”
“I think you’re going to join her.”
The man looked at him, before the rifle fell from his hands, his body dropping to the floor as Mindy removed the knife. “I did wonder as well – are you prepared, Mister MacLean?”
“The financial side has been dealt with, and the mine is bare anyway. Why?”
“There are troops coming from the north,” Mindy said, “my friends have prepared a little surprise for them where the mine runs under the road.”
“Pity – but if anyone would know where to look, it would be her.”
“They must have fallen back sir,” the de facto NCO said to the major as they headed south in the trucks.
“It sounds as if they are fighting on two fronts – so they knew we were coming. How is a question for another day, right now we.... What the...”
As he looked back, the ground seemed to collapse behind him, as the second of the trucks he was using fell into the rapidly expanding hole, along with more of his men. The nco stopped the truck, as he jumped out and looked back.
“Oh I want to meet you now,” he said to himself.
“What happened sir,” the men said as they heard the moans.
“Whoever is in charge must have rigged the old gem mines, detonated it so that they would collapse in on themselves. Come – I sense we will...”
He then watched as a single shot rang out, and the nco fell dead to the ground, before he turned slowly round, the men getting out of the truck and joining him. In front of him were two lines of soldiers, one kneeling and aiming their rifles at the men, the other standing behind with their guns in their arms.
“Women – so the reports from that idiot were accurate. May I know your unit and country?”
“We serve no one country,” one of the two women in the middle called out, “and we serve all. We are from many places, but united in the service of The Heart and The Strength.”
“I see – well,” the major said as he signalled, his men cocking and raising their rifles, “I congratulate you, but this fight ends now. I offer you the chance to surrender and lay down your arms.”
“Funny,” the other woman said, “we were going to say something similar to you. Lay down your arms and turn back, or face your doom.”
“No – but I do applaud your tactics. Shall we be at it?”
The men pointed to the top of the ridge, where the Umlimo was standing in full costume, waving her ceremonial stick at the troops. “I’ve had enough of this,” the
ESU leader said as he took a rifle, aimed and fired – only for the woman to disappear.
“You,” he said to four of his men, “go and make sure her body is carrion food.” They nodded as they ran over, waving their machetes as they went over the ridge – and then silence.
Before they heard the screams, and then saw Karen dancing a short distance in front of them. “SHOOT HER,” he called out, two of the men taking aim and firing – but she disappeared again, and as they turned round two of the ESU men dropped to their knees, the red dot growing brighter on their foreheads before they fell forward.
“Ignore her – forward!”
“So let me get this straight,” Marianne said quietly, “Charlotte effectively commands a private army, who fight to stop the oppression of women and children.”
“Well,” John said as the battle continued, “yes. A few others know, such as Hennie, and that is where Liz went when she resigned.”
“But she is not Leader.”
“No – that is someone entirely different. Marianne, this is one of those secrets that really does need to be kept.”
“Oh I will – but she has some explaining to do when I next see her,” Marianne said as she stood up.
“Where are you going?”
“To make coffee – and some breakfast.”
“Barb, sit rep please?”
“North,” Barb said as she looked round, “the two sticks have engaged the rest of the company in a fight – close quarters. Bayonets and knives.”
“How are we doing?”
Barb looked at the screen. “We have the upper hand.”
“And the main road?”
“The sticks have encircled the men – I think...”
“DAMN – a squad of the ESU bastards have slipped through. They’re about half a click from the compound.”
“Dammit – LIZ!”
“Calling,” Liz said as she took out her cell phone.
“Rassie, get in the air – we need to do an evac from the ranch.”
The Bavaria Lodge
Fergus looked over as Mindy answered her call phone.
“From which direction?
“I understand – we are ready?”
“What’s happening,” he asked as the shooting grew louder.
“Some of the ESU bastards have slipped through – they will be here any minute. It is time.”
The two kitchen workers nodded as they left the room, Mindy looking at Fergus.
“We will protect you to the death – have no fear.”
“Oh I’m not afraid – just sad it came to this. But they will not take me without a fight,” Fergus said as he picked up a shotgun.
“I meant to ask – your wife...”
“I buried her in Scotland – her home,” Fergus said quietly. “I may have to leave here, but I will not abandon her.”
To the north of the ranch, the red soil was redder than usual, as the bodies lay scattered around the ground. Athena and Artemis looked at each other, as their fellow sisters stood round.
“We lost five, and more wounded,” Athena said, “but we prevailed.”
Artemis nodded as she walked over to where the major was lying, staring up as he held his side. “You prevailed,” he said in short pants, “but you will not win the day. We will take this ranch.”
“That is not the objective,” Artemis said, “but you and your men fought bravely. We offer you the boon of a quick death.”
The major nodded, and said “when he does eventually fall, it will be women like you who do it.”
“If it is the will of the Gods, we will take the task gladly. Close your eyes.”
He nodded as Athena raised the machete high, and then brought it down. “Little Mother,” Artemis said into the radio set, “the threat from the North is neutralised. We have five to honour, and wounded to treat.”
“Evac is on the way,” Charlotte said quietly, “we will honour the fallen later, and take them to their place of rest. Show them all due respect.”
Artemis nodded as she looked at the Sisters. “We will collect our dead and prepare them for transport. Good work, sisters...”
The Bavaria Lodge
“All right,” the squad leader said, “two of you make your way to the kitchen door. The rest of us will go to the front.”
“Will the commander join us?”
“If he can, and when he has dealt with whoever has done this to us – we will have the glory. Go.”
The two men crawled over the courtyard, their machetes in their mouths, while the others started to edge their way round to the front door. Slowly, slowly they crawled over, keeping out of the line of sight of the rear windows. As they approached the door, they looked at each other and grinned – and then one of them stopped moving, the side of his head blown away by the bullet that had penetrated his skull and caused the brain to explode out.
The second man looked up to see the face in the window – and then the blinding light as a second bullet took his own life.
“What was that shot?”
“No – two shots.”
“I thought our agents inside were meant to have destroyed the guns?”
“We lost contact with one of them two days ago – as for the other...”
The four then stopped as they saw the body of their agent, hanging down from the upper veranda by the arms. They stared at him, faces blanching, before they stood up and charged forward, kicking the doors of the ranch house open as they ran in.
The first two took the blasts from the shotguns in the face, while the two behind stopped short – and died at the hands of the kitchen staff, using their knifes to kill them.
“Well,” Fergus said, “I think my stay here is most certainly over now...”
“It would appear so,” Mindy said.
“Aphrodite, I need you and the sisters to fall back – let them think they have won and allow them through.”
“Genie in a bottle, Little Mother?”
“Genie in a bottle.”
“And just what is Genie in a Bottle,” Josias said as he looked at Charlotte and Liz.
“It’s where we grant three wishes,” Liz said with a grin – a death’s head grin. “And the first wish is to let them think they have won.”
“SIR! The she-devils have pulled back.”
The ESU officer looked at what remained of both his unit and the Shona company, before he said “let’s move – the advance party must have done their job.”
From the distance, the Sisters watched as the small group of survivors moved on, leaving their dead comrades staring up with lifeless eyes into the morning sun.
“Little Mother, what is the status north?”
“Five sisters fell, others wounded – but the enemy was obliterated. Allow them to move ahead, and then follow them. You will have your day. On your side?”
“Four have fallen. We should inform Teacher, give Xan time to prepare.”
“The message will be sent. For the Heart and the Strength.”
“For the Heart and the Strength.” Aphrodite looked round. “I need two volunteers to make our sisters fit for their return. The others come with me for the final push.” As two of the younger sisters came forward, she said “you have done your part, and done it well. Take care of our own. Sisters – onwards.”
“Barb, circle the ranch, provide air support for the chopper. Rassie – bring them home.”
“Roger that, Little Mother.”
“How is the pickup going North?”
“We have collected the bodies Little Mother,” Leader said.
“Have the pilot bring them home Leader – I want you, Artemis and Athena to take those who are fit and head to the compound. We are planning a surprise.”
“And that would be?”
“Genie in a bottle, Leader.”
She grinned as she said “understood, Little Mother. Leader out.” Turning to the pilot, she said “take them home, and have them greeted with honour. Artemis, Athena – our wounded?”
“They can wait for the next pickup, what do you need?”
“All who can to come with me – we have a party to attend.”
“So this is the Bavaria Lodge,” the officer said as his crew walked into the compound, “the old man will enjoy staying here.”
He walked quickly over to see the two dead men in the ground, and then said “half in the back, the other half in the front door. Go!”
He led his men to the front door of the house, as the other half of the squad burst into the kitchen – only to scream as they stepped on to the flooded floor, and the electric heaters were dropped in by the kitchen staff...
“Open the doors,” the commander said as he stood outside, the men pulling the doors open as they walked in. The first thing they saw was the four dead bodies on the floor.
The second was Fergus MacLean, standing on the stairs with a shotgun in his hand.
The third was Mindy and the other staff, waiting with smiles.
“Good morning gentlemen,” Fergus said as he looked at them, “how may I be of service to you today?”
“Fergus Abercrombie Klaus MacLean,” the officer said, “I have orders to seize this land and all your possessions for the state under the auspices of the Economic Services Unit. You will surrender yourself and this place to us.”
“Oh you’re welcome to the place,” Fergus said as he walked down the stairs, “but I will be leaving with my staff.”
“They will come with us as well.”
“Oh no,” Mindy said as she stepped forward, “I think not.”
“Do you defy the will of the state?”
“I defy the demented desires of the madman who has slowly strangled this country.”
“You dare to insult the leader?”
“I dare to speak the truth, because only by doing so can we be free. After all, you are all that is left, are you not?”
“How do you...”
The men stiffened as they saw the rest of the staff produce guns from behind themselves, and point them at the troops.
“Who are you? Who do you represent?”
“We are the Sisters of Maisha – and Fergus MacLean is under our protection.”
He turned suddenly to see Liz standing behind them, flanked by Aphrodite, Artemis and Athena.
“You are a myth...”
“Oh no – we are very real,” Liz said quietly, “Mister McLean – your transport is outside. These ladies will escort you out, and your staff can bring your luggage.”
“Good – time for a fresh start.” He watched as the staff picked up the cases.
“Come this way – I’m afraid your kitchen is flooded.”
“Thank you,” Fergus said as he and the staff walked out, leaving Mindy as the two other women from the kitchen came in.
“You did well,” Liz said to Mindy, “Aphrodite, ensure all three get a part to play when we leave.”
“Of course,” Aphrodite said with a grin. “This, you bastards, is Genie in a Bottle. The genie grants three wishes. The first was yours – you thought you had won.
“The second,” Liz said as she looked at the commander, and took his gun, “was Mister MacLean’s wish – safe passage for his guests, his staff and himself. They will leave now, never to return.”
“And the third wish,” the commander said quietly. Liz smiled as she walked out, Mindy and the other remaining staff blocking the way out.
“The third wish,” Aphrodite said quietly, “is ours. You are surrounded – we offer you the chance of a death with some honour, or we can just kill you.”
“Lieutenant Egwegwe,” Fergus said as Liz walked over. “My guests?”
“Await you at your first stop. Take them out of here Rassie.”
“Get in MacLean – you will be safe with us.”
“I will see you later,” Liz said as Fergus sat in, strapping himself into the seat as the side door closed, and the helicopter took off. She then looked at Leader and the other two, before saying “Shall we?”
They walked to the front of the house, past some of the ring of Sisters that now surrounded the ranch house. From the window, Fergus watched, and then looked at the others as they moved off.
“Well,” Liz said as she joined Aphrodite.
“They know the rules – Sisters, prepare yourselves...”
She smiled as the door burst open, and the ESU commander ran out, brandishing a machete as others followed...
8.30 am Local Time
The Sister’s Camp
“MISTER MACLEAN!!! MISTER MACLEAN!!!”
As Fergus got out of the helicopter, and was escorted under the nets, the first thing he saw was the two young girls as they ran over and embraced him.
“Hey – are you both all right,” he said as he knelt and looked at them.
“We went for a walk in the moonlight, and these ladies looked after us.”
“Good – your parents?”
“We are here,” their father said as he and his mother came forward. “We are so glad to see you safe as well. Was it bad?”
“Yes – but it was worse for them,” Fergus said as he looked over, and saw a small red haired woman come out of a tent. Walking over, he put her hands on her shoulders and said “You and me need to have a little talk, Charlie.”
“All in good time,” Charlotte said with a smile, “somebody wants to talk to you. Come in here.” They walked back into the tent, and walked over to the radio. “Uncle,” she said into the microphone, “this is Little Mother. I have him safe.”
“Thank you little mother,” Fergus heard a familiar voice say.
“John? Were you listening in?”
“Not just me – and Little Mother, you and Liz are coming to dinner when you get back. Auntie wants to talk to you?”
“Oy,” Charlotte said as she rolled her eyes.
“You as well Fergus – you’re staying with us until you have things arranged for your next move.”
“The offer is gratefully received – my guests?”
“We’ll get them out of the country to safety. Good job, Little Mother – pass my thanks on to the other sisters.”
Outside the tent, Fergus could see the stretchers covered with white cloths. “They paid a heavy price John.”
“I know – and we will mourn them, but they died to keep you and yours safe. We’ll see you soon Fergus – Uncle out.”
Nodding, Fergus turned and looked at Charlotte. “So,” he said with a grin, “the Sisters of Maisha are not an urban legend.”
“No we’re not,” Charlotte said, “but we like our anonymity.”
“Who are they?”
“Women who decided enough was enough, and wanted to fight back. They come from all over, but they all have one thing in common – they want to punish those who would oppress the innocents, and avenge the wrongs they have seen.”
“And you? Where did you learn to do this? Why do you do this?”
As Charlotte sat down, the sound of another helicopter coming in came from outside.
“It started with Old Man Kimba, and the uncovering of his evil. Some of the woman that were rescued from that wanted to help others, and – well, I played a small part in that, so they asked me to help. Dad taught me well Uncle Fergus, and I have contacts in the right places. So, after the Mazengwe shit, and during the Mogola troubles I was actively involved in putting together the Sisters."
“Well, they were as good as any army I had ever seen,” Fergus said as Aphrodite came in with Leader and Liz.
“No survivors,” Aphrodite said, “the others are heading home to help with the evac.”
“Good,” Charlotte said, “Uncle Fergus, I am sorry you had to leave that way, and see that, but...”
“Promise me one thing – you’ll find out how the old man takes the news.
“Oh we have that in hand,” Liz said with a grin.
Looking at Charlotte, Fergus hook his head. "Young Piet always maintains you are a spy."
"No that I'm not," Charlotte laughed, "but I am fortunate enough to have the expertise to help...well sometimes...those who need it most, especially women."
"So you broke the woman rule for me eh?"
"We broke it,” Charlotte said as she walked over and poked him in the chest, “because YOU have been so busy helping the oppressed, especially women Uncle Fergus."
"Well I'm honoured," Fergus said as he looked round, and then stopped. "Itzy Buthelesi? What the hell are you doing here woman?"
"You know each other?"
"Her family stayed as my guests at Bavaria Charlotte."
"Kuyinto enhle ukubona wena malume," Leader said with a smile.
"And it’s good to see you Itzy, Siyakwamukela emuva futhi."
“I am welcome with the Sisters, uncle – this is my home, until my own family are ready to welcome me as I am.”
“Your father was always far too rigid – but I thank you. Why Leader?”
“I led the attack on the infidels who were responsible for the Mologan atrocities.”
Nodding, Fergus said “you did good there – and you Liz. I take it you are here on John’s orders?”
“I’m here because I need to be,” Liz said with a smile.
“Of course you are – we are all here because we need to be.”
"Karen - how can we thank you enough?" Charlotte said as she embraced the holy woman.
"You have done more than enough Charlotte. Fergus – I am glad you are safe to continue your work."
“Thank you for helping as well,” Fergus said as he held Karen’s hands, “your grandmother is very proud.”
“I know,” Karen said with a smile.
"So what will you do?" Charlotte asked.
"I'll merge into the local population for a while. But I know fo you and your work now, so who knows – you may see me again."
"Ngiyabona indodakazi uMzilikazi" Itzy spoke.
"Njengoba ngibona wena indodakazi Mpande." Karen responded.
"You two know each other?" Charlotte asked.
"No we have never met," Karen smiled, "but I think we have heard each other whispered about on the winds."
“Indeed – when we meet again, we will share a drink and talk.”
“I look forward to that day – until then, I will watch over all of you. Oh – and Charlotte?”
“For what,” Charlotte said – and then they realised Karen had gone.
“Okay,” Aphrodite said, “we need to start striking camp.”
“The wounded have been evaced,” Rassie said as he came in, “we’re ready to take the honoured home.”
“I agree,” Charlotte said, “before we start to strike camp, Aphrodite, supervise their departure. Liz, what were our total casualties?”
“Ten dead – all are ready to come home.”
take them home – I’m coming with Fergus and his guests. Liz, supervise the striking of camp – we’ll
send the copters back. And Rassie –
cover our retreat with that gunship of yours.
Word is going to get to Bulawayo sooner rather than later."
As she spoke, Mindy walked into the tent with the other house staff.
“I hoped we would meet,” Charlotte said as she took her hands, “your sister is very proud of you.”
“I serve the Heart and the Strength, as she did – but I wish to visit her.”
“Of course – will you accompany our honoured home?”
“It will be my honour,” Mindy said as she and Aphrodite went outside.
“So where do we go,” Fergus said.
“Well, we’re going to a training camp – then I’ll take you and your guests to a nearby hotel. We can talk more there – and Uncle John is sending transport to collect all of you there tomorrow.”
“Well then – your Sisters have work to do, and i suspect we are in the way. Let us leave as quietly as we can.”
As they stepped outside, they saw the Sisters in two lines, watching and singing quietly as Mindy and Aphrodite stood by one of the helicopters, and the covered stretchers were brought slowly over.
is that song Charlotte?" Fergus asked, the survivors singing their
mournful theme as they reverently lifted their dead sisters onto the
helicopters, "I've never heard it before."
called the Song of Maisha,” Charlotte said, “and we sing it to mourn our
sisters and honour them."
"Yes," Charlotte let tears escape as she too joined in the singing. Fergus watched, the family who had been staying with them bowing their heads as the dead were prepared to go home.
10 am Local Time
The Training Camp
As the second helicopter landed, Charlotte jumped out and helped both the family and Fergus to get out.
“These ladies,” she said as she indicated two of the sisters by a minivan, “will take you to the hotel. Get settled, and relax – I will join you later today. There are things I need to do first.”
“I’ll have a drink waiting,” Fergus said as their bags were carried over, and they got in. Charlotte waved them off, and then walked over to where tje wounded had been taken – before she realised someone was leading a team of nurses, as she went round vehicles the wounded were sat in.
"Okay she can wait...” she said as she looked at one woman nursing a knife wound in the arm. At the next vehicle, she lifted a sheet from one Sister and grimaced slightly. “Prep this one for surgery straight away...”
As two of the other nurses she looked at the next wounded sister, and said “she can wait." She ran from vehicle to vehicle checking the wounded, then smiled as she saw Charlotte walk over.
"Doctor Lucia," Charlotte said as she embraced the Italian, "What are you doing here?"
job Charlotte. I got the call we may be
needed two days ago, and we were brought straight to the camp."
of the wounded we evacuated by chopper?"
news, bad news," the Italian said as she shook her head.
"Oh," Charlotte cried a couple more tears. “How many more?”
“One died on her way here, the other was too gravely wounded. But the others, they will recover. Teacher said if I saw you, they have started to prepare the graves.”
Charlotte nodded as she looked round. “The others should be back soon, but I will leave you to your work. Join us when you are done.”
Lucia nodded as Charlotte made her way over to a covered area, where Helga and Sunburst were standing, looking at the covered stretchers.
“I know they died to ensure others could carry on good work,” Helga said, “and they did so willingly, but it still hurts.”
“Yeah, it does,” Sunburst said quietly, “but the pain would have been much greater. Where are they?”
“On their way to the hotel – I’ll head there later tonight, and be with them when John arrives tomorrow. But before I do that, I will join you in laying them to rest.”
“The graves are been prepared even as we speak – we have had to expand the garden of rest, but it has been done properly. Mindy went over there when the helicopter landed, if you wished to go there.”
Charlotte nodded as she slipped out of the tent, and made her way round to the graveyard. She stopped for a moment to talk to the sisters who were digging, before walking to where Mindy was standing in front of a small wooden cross.
“Hello, sister,” she said quietly as Charlotte stood to one side, “I wanted to come and tell you I did good work today. We saved a man who fights to save those the old bastard wanted dead, and we brought down many who side with him. You would have been proud of those who fought.
“But I know you died to save others as well, so I swear, I will continue the fight. Rest well my beloved sister – and when we meet again, we will share such tales.”
She knelt for a moment and laid a bunch of flowers on the earth, and then stood, bowing her head for a moment.
“Red would have been very proud of what you did to save Fergus’ life, Mindy.”
She turned and smiled as she saw Charlotte standing there. “Hello Little Mother,” she said, “and thank you for the honour of serving.”
“You know she gave her life ensuring many who could not fight back won their freedom.”
“I know – and I pray I can be as brave if my day comes.”
“I think you can be – come, we need to debrief you.”
Mindy nodded as she bowed her head again, and then walked off with Charlotte.