The Walrus and the Pussycats








Monday 29th September

7.30 am

The Farm.


“We’ve got company,” Dominique said as she looked out of the window.  Diana walked over to see Carina pull up in her Maserati, before taking Judith out of the passenger seat and walking in.


“Change of plan,” she said as she came in.  “Penny needed to stay in the city, so Heather asked if I’d come over and help out while you got back to the city, Aunt Diana.”


“Thank you dear,” Diana said, “I just need to change – your outfit is upstairs when you have a chance.”


Dominique was playing with Judith, smiling as the baby reached out and grabbed her finger.


“So what’s happening out there, Carina,” Dominique said as Diana headed upstairs.  “With Janice talking to Cohen in the next room, we haven’t heard anything.”


“I was listening to the radio on the way here,” Carina said.  “It sounds as if there are pitched battles in Mazengwe, and a warrant had been issued for the arrest of Kimba.  More locally, they found Morris and Boyd dead in a burned out car.”


“An accident?  Suicide?”


“That’s what they want them to think,” Carina said, “but we watched Kimba’s two friends strangle them in the Legault apartment.  They knew too much.”


“So an exciting night,” Dominique said quietly, “what else?”


“Over sixty African girls freed from brothels all across the city, and rumours a high ranking Chinese diplomat was arrested in the act of forcing minors to commit a sexual act.”


“So things are boiling?”


“And about to spill over.”


“Why,” Diana said quietly as she came back in.


“The Walrus is coming to town today.”


“Then the endgame is coming,” Diana said as she picked up her car keys.  “I had best join the others, is your mother back Cari?”


“She called – she’s on her way there already.”


“I will see you later then,” she said as she walked out, Carina heading upstairs.



9.30 am

The Waldorf Hotel


“Miss Charlotte, have you seen Dominique today?”


Charlotte turned and smiled at Ama.  “She will be back later, Ama – she had to go and help some of our other friends at very short notice last night.”


“It is just,” Ama, said quietly, “I saw the news programs this morning.  They say there is fighting in the streets of my home country – what has happened?”


“Ama,” Charlotte said as she put her hands on the young girl’s shoulders, “you must be brave.  While you and Maisha slept, events happened which mean Kimba is now a wanted man, and your president is trying to ensure Kimba’s influence is removed from your homeland.”


“Good,” Ama said, “and we have helped with that?”


“You have helped enormously, and continue to help us.  While this is happening, we are beginning to make plans to bring those in the country that have hurt you to justice.”


“Dominique told me about Master,” Ama said, “I am sorry to say I was happy he had died.”


“There is nothing wrong in thinking that, Ama – but we still have Mistress and the others to deal with.  I must go and talk to my friends now – when I know something more, or Dominique returns, I will let you know.”


“Thank you,” Ama said as she walked off, and went back to her room.  Charlotte shook her head and then entered the meeting room.


“Good morning, Charlotte,” Madame X said from her place at the conference table, “what news from Mazengwe?”


“I heard from Piet a moment ago.  The government has managed to hold onto the radio and television station, and is showing the video of the interview with Ama and Maisha.  Reports are coming in from the north of the country of locals rising against the local officials.”


“I see – and in the local consulate?”


“NYPD have placed a guard around the building, and there are protests by human rights groups as well as calls for…”


“Good morning,” Juliette said as she came in, showered and changed out of her travelling clothes.  “What has happened with the inner circle?”


“Susan and Penelope will be along to brief us presently,” Madame said.  “Have you had some coffee yet?”


“I could do with the real thing,” Juliette said as she went to pour a cup.  “It appears you had a more exciting night than I did.”


“It is not over yet – as we speak, Janice is interviewing Oliver Cohen, who has agreed to give evidence against his fellow inner circle.  I would imagine Adam Ball and the others are having some fun watching the live feed we set up.”


“Good morning, Madame,” Penny and Susan said as they came in. 


“Have any of you actually managed to get some sleep,” Juliette said as she looked at them.


“You are, of course, joking,” Susan said.  “What time did you leave Paris?”


“Five in the morning their time, but I got a few hours sleep on the plane.  It meant I missed the news coverage – I understand Jane Molloy has been on the news channels?”


“Oh yes – and she has promised more to come,” Penny said as she sat down.


“Dominique sends her apologies,” Diana said as she came in, “she remains with Carina until the interview is finished.  She will then help Janice to deliver Cohen safely to her field office, to be reunited with his family.”


As she walked over to help herself to some coffee, Sandy and Heather came in.


“I have an alert set up for when the interview finishes – Cohen really is spilling the beans,” Heather said as she hugged Diana.  “Thanks for stepping up,” Heather said.  “I told Abby you’d be home by tonight.”


“I will be,” Diana said, “so perhaps we can discuss how things currently stand.”


“Be seated,” Madame said as the women selected their seats.  “Charlotte, you were explaining the current situation in Mazengwe.”


Charlotte briefly recapped the unrest that had been reported, as the others listened.


“Now, we are in a position to help the people there in one way – by informing those who need to know of Kimba’s real location and position.  Charlotte?”


“I am in continuous contact with Piet van der Byl,” Charlotte said, “and feeding him the information we have as well as Jane Molloy.  Beyond that, it’s up to them.”


“So we concentrate on the here and now,” Juliette said.


“Indeed – Kimba and his lady friends are currently at the Legault residence, as the guests of Angel Xantu.  One or two of the consulate staff have joined him there, and he is talking to his supporters – chats we are recording and passing on to his opponents via Piet.”


“Excellent,” Madame said, “that contains them, and we know where Cohen is.  The unfortunate Madame Chen?”


“Still in the custody of the FBI,” Susan said, “but I suspect she will be out soon.  We are monitoring her home, office and the restaurant – either her superiors will show their displeasure, or else she will go to one of those places.  In any place, we are ready to monitor.”


“Which leaves Twining,” Madame said.  “Penelope?”


“Back home – we traced the call they placed to the mysterious Walrus and we may have a name.  If I may Madame?”


“Please,” Madame said as Penelope pressed a button on the telephone.


“Good afternoon, Lillian.”


“Good morning, Penny,” a young British woman said, “Is the line secure?”


“It is, Lillian,” Madame said, “I have Susan and Charlotte with me, and our American Associates.  What news from the UK?”


“Firstly, the story is front page news in the evening editions, and the BBC and Sky have covered it and the unrest in some detail.  Secondly, your esteemed friend Lady C has sent her congratulations, and stands ready to assist as required.”


“Lady C,” Diana said.


“The Holmes to my Moriarty – it was her who informed the Australian authorities.  Lillian, The Walrus?”


“The number was traced to Stonemark Hall, Madame.  I have had a surveillance team there since you called, and they inform me someone has left for Heathrow.”


“Indeed?  Who?”


“Viscount Gerald Stonemark.”


“Ah,” Madame said as she sat back, “I was afraid of that.  I thought I had recognized the voice, but I prayed I was wrong.  Do we know which flight and when?”


“All we have ascertained is British Airways, due in JFK around five this afternoon.  Sorry, Madame.”


“Do not apologise Lillian, that is excellent work.  We will take it from here.  Kindly inform my friend I will contact her shortly.”


“Of course, Madame,” the voice said before the line went dead.


“I was under the impression Viscount Stonemark was an active campaigner against blood diamonds?”


“Sadly, Penelope,” Madame said as she sat back, “I fear we have what is rapidly becoming known as Jimmy Saville syndrome here – he thinks he is untouchable.  But he has never had to deal with me.


“I see two priorities – dealing with Twining and his guest, and dealing with Kimba in his stronghold.  When Dominique returns, Susan, draw up initial thoughts for a visit to there.  You should factor in the probability of lethal force.”


As Susan nodded, Madame turned to Juliette.  “I offer you Twining to plan for Juliette.  I want him and The Walrus alive, otherwise…”


“Let us discuss and inform you later,” Juliette said as she looked at the others.  “What of Chen?”


“Penelope, inform me the moment we know what has happened to her.  I think I wish to talk to her myself.”


“Of course, Madame,” Penelope said as she stood up.  “Charlotte, come with me, I wish to talk to Maisha.”


10.30 am

The Farm


“We’ll take a fifteen minute break,” Janice said as she looked at Cohen, then at the masked woman who entered the room.  “Interview suspended 10.30 am.”


“Can I get a drink,” Cohen said, taking the bottle of water the masked woman offered him as Janice left the room, walking the short distance to the kitchen.


As she approached the kitchen, Janice could smell the coffee, and walked in saying “that was…”


"Coffee Janice?" Carina asked as the FBI agent came into the kitchen.

"Oh hi Carina, where did…?"  She saw she was wearing the same outfit as Diana, as well as a black wig, and the stocking lay on the table.

"Big pow wow at Madame's. I see he's spilling his guts." Carina pointed to her open laptop on the table.

"Yeah,” Janice said as she mopped her brow, “it's amazing that all this fucking crap was going on underneath our noses… And yeah I'll take my coffee black, no sugar please."

"Here,” Carina said as she passed her a mug.

"So how is Judith?"

"Asleep in the parlor in her bassinet."

"Oh that's good." Janice sipped her drink and stretched.

"It's been a long night?"

"It has Cari.  But hopefully we’re seeing the beginning of the end now."


Janice heard her phone go off, and looked at the caller id.  “Better keep quiet a minute,” she said as she answered the call.


“Jan?  Bloody hell girl, you’re doing an amazing job there.”


“Good – are you getting everything down Adam?”


“Every little drop.  Brooks is here as well, and says to keep up the good work.”


“Good,” Jan said as she gave a thumbs up to Carina.


“Look, I’m sorry about the tracer – how did you find it?”


“Never mind Adam – Once this is done, we’ll bring him in.  How is his family?”


“In shock – Mrs. Cohen is telling what she knows, and his daughter knows nothing.  The maid is telling all she can.”


“Good – well, I’ll call when I am on my way back.”


Ending the call, she said “Want to bring me up to speed?”


“Civil war averted in Mazengwe, police everywhere, and I got a sneak peek at the next thing on the website – Maisha’s interview.”


“Well,” Janice said as she finished her drink, “let’s get this done with.  Back to the questioning.”



11 pm

The Waldorf Hotel


"You know Stonemark is Mandy's cousin?" Juliette asked.

"No, I didn't know that," Madame said.

"Her father as you remember was the late Earl of Fairhaven, his sister Lady Patricia Bamber married Stonemark's father.”

"We may need to factor that in Juliette." Madame spoke.


“Well, if she got some advance warning of what may be about to happen.”


“Are you all doing the shoot tomorrow?”


“Yeah – I’ll ask her view of him then.  Mandy used her mother’s maiden name for modeling." Juliette smiled.

"Hence why she was Mandy Carrow?" Susan remarked.


"Yeah Lady Amanda Bamber, her real name didn't quite have the right punk image." Juliette smiled. "She and Stella Tennant were always being ribbed for being as posh as they both actually were."


“If there is nothing else we need to do at this time,” Diana said, “we have a luncheon appointment, which we all need to attend.”


“And I need to go to the office before that,” Juliette said.  “We will leave you to your work, and call later once we have talked.”


“I’m going to stay and help them for a while,” Heather said, “I’ll be back to pick the kids up.”


“All right,” Sandy said as she kissed Heather and left with the other two.



12.30 pm

Tavern on the Green


“There you are - sorry I’m late girls.” Kelly Rochermann said as she squeezed herself into a booth, “But the traffic is horrendous.”


“I know Kelly - the cops are everywhere, they have streets blocked off.” Juliette smiled as she complained.  “I had to walk here for once.


“Well I suppose it’s all from Jane’s story this morning in The Times.” Claire Morse glanced up from looking at the menu. I was hoping Jan might make lunch and fill us in.”


“I guess she’s probably run off her feet.” Kelly picked up a menu. “Now what looks good today?”


“I’m thinking about the Turkey Breast club – after a long weekend of French food, I want some good old fashioned American fare.”


“Oh yeah – how was the fashion week?”


“Good actually, Kelly.  I got a lot done.  So, what catches your eye?”


“The yellowfin tuna, I think.  Claire?”


“Hmmm – oh the salad.”


“Will you allow us a few minutes – we’re expecting two others,” Juliette said as the waitress nodded.


“My husband won’t tell me a thing,” Claire continued, “What is the use of being married to a deputy mayor if I can’t get him to spill his guts?”


“Try the corset and the black stockings.” Juliette laughed.


“I already did, at breakfast.”


“And?” Kelly asked.


“He spotted a ladder in my stockings, kissed me on the forehead, grabbed some toast and ran.”


“Cowardice, Pure cowardice.” Kelly laughed.


“Sorry I’m late.” Diana arrived looking flustered. She kissed each of her three friends on the cheek, before sitting down and looking over the menu.


“Well have you heard any news that we haven’t?” Kelly asked.


“No,” Diana said quickly, “Should I have?  I think I’ll have the mushroom soup.”


“No I guess not.” Claire thought, “We really need Jan here.”


“I’m sure she’d not tell us anything anyway.” Diana smiled. “She’s a good FBI agent, they keep secrets.”


“And I don’t think the corset and black stockings would work on her either.” Juliette laughed.


“No, dear Janice is totally straight.” Claire laughed, “Now Adam Ball… seducing him for information would be fun, not work.”


“Listen to Mata Hari here.” Kelly spoke as all the women laughed.


“And don’t let Janice hear you saying that either.” Sandy arrived, running. “Sorry I’m late girls.”


“We know… the traffic.” Kelly laughed again.


“Well what info do you have Sandy darling?” Claire asked.


“Only that all this crap has probably cost me two commissions.”  The waitress took the other orders as Sandy looked down the menu, before ordering the Ham and Gruyere baguette.


“Oh?” Kelly asked.


“Yes I was supposed to be working on both our late and unlamented Senator’s home and office.”


“Oh Crap.” Claire exclaimed as she dropped her menu. “You’ve been to his home?”


“Yes.” Sandy nodded.


“Any views of his slaves?” Kelly asked.


“Not a one. I had totally no clue what a bastard he was.”


“I don’t think anyone did.” Juliette shook her head as she said this, and then sipped the wine as it was poured.


“So did you manage to see papa,” Diana said as she looked at Juliette.


“Not just your father, your brother as well.”


“Guillaume?  Do not tell me they were discussing wedding arrangements?”


“Actually, they would not tell me.  So, I hear a real scandal had blown up?”


“Hush, Ju,” Sandy said as the food came, “let’s just eat our lunch first.”


For the next twenty minutes, the conversation turned to some of the upcoming social events, before the coffee arrived.


“I’m just amazed all this was going on in our city and we didn’t know about it.” Kelly mused as she stirred her coffee.


“Why’s that Kel?” Sandy asked.


“Well it was according to Jane a big thing, politicians, society, diplomats, celebrities… between the five of us we pretty much hit all those groups and none of us knew?”


“Unless someone has been keeping huge secrets from the group.” Claire looked round the table.


“Not me,” Juliette smiled. “I’ve been run of my feet with work as you all know.”


“Nor me.” Diana smiled.


“Well I was never invited to a slave auction, but I had met a few of the parties involved socially.” Sandy commented.


“I think we all knew someone involved darlings, it’s what makes it so shocking.” Kelly sipped her coffee.


“Question is,” Claire said, “what do we say if we see them.  ‘Hey – do you really have an African maid who is a slave?’”


“I hear they may be the lucky ones,” Sandy said.  “Apparently a whole group were found in brothels around the city.”


“Oh my,” Claire said as she looked at Sandy.


“Girls, you’ll have to forgive me,” Juliette said as she stood up, “I need to head off to another meeting.”  She left some money on the table and headed out, leaving the others to talk.



1.30 pm

FBI Field Office


“All right, Mister Cohen, you may remove the blindfold.”


Oliver Cohen reached up and removed the mask from his face.  “Where are we,” he said as he looked round the parking lot.


“FBI Field Office, New York,” Janice said as she got out, and then walked round, opening the door as Cohen got out.  Taking his arm, she walked him to the lift, standing by him as they travelled to the upper floors.


“Good afternoon, Mr. Cohen,” Tom Callaghan said as they stepped out.  “Thank you for agreeing to work with us.”


“My family…”


“We’ll take you to them after we take care of some paperwork,” Callaghan said as he beckoned two agents forward.  “Take him to an interview room,” he said, and then he turned to Janice.


“You,” he said quietly, “come with me please.”


Janice looked at the others as she walked into Tom’s office, to find Adam and Brooks waiting for her.


“So, am I up on a charge,” she said as Tom closed the door.


“Nope,” Brooks said, “more like a commendation.  Brilliant work Agent – and whoever your confederates are get bonus points for Chen.  Pity we may have to let her go soon – damned tricky thing, diplomatic immunity.


“I need to go and placate her – we’ll talk soon, Tom.”


As he left the office, Tom and Adam both looked at Janice.


“Have either of you been to bed yet?” Janice asked as she slumped into the spare chair in Callaghan’s office.


“What do you think?” Tom asked.


“That was a pretty dramatic interview Jan.” Adam smiled.


“I know, and by the way I told you both to trust me.”


“Okay we blew it initially.” Callaghan admitted, “We shouldn’t have put the tracer on.”


“Well good thing my friends noticed it.  They were able to lead you somewhere else.”


“So where to now Jan?” Adam asked quietly.


“Home to bed and to see Katy and my Mother.”


“Your Mom was ringing.” Adam noted.


“I know I rang her on my way back here.”


“Good – go home, we’ll see you tomorrow.”


2 pm

The Waldorf Hotel


As Juliette entered the suite, she saw Dominique coming down the corridor.


“Good work last night, Dom.”


“Thanks – nice to know I can still do it,” Dominique said with a smile, as Juliette looked at the towel wrapped round her head.


“The dye?”


“Yes – but I have things to do still.  I understand you know this Stonemark?”


“Only in passing, and many years ago.  But Mandy is his cousin, and I want her kept from the worst of this.”




"Mandy's suite is on another floor." Juliette paused. "Should I go see her now?"

"Better not." Dom smiled, "But when I know she's out I'll slip a couple of monitors in there just in case he visits."


“Fair enough,” she said as Heather appeared.


"Dom can I have a word for a minute," she said as Juliette went to see Madame.

"Sure Heather, something about all this shit?"

"No something far more mundane,” Heather said with a smile, “are you still looking for an apartment?"

"Yeah, why do you know of a good one?"

"Not yet, but Annie is also looking, I sorta thought it might make sense if you doubled up. When you are away on business she'd be there with Ama."

Dominique paused and thought. "You know that makes a lot of sense."


“Good – I’ll ask Sandy if…”


They both stopped and turned as Susan came out of the room.


“Dom, we need you.”




“Madame Chen was just released and has been driven to her restaurant.  Madame has requested we invite her to have a chat – before her superiors get to her.”


“Forgive me Heather,” Dominique said as she pulled the towel off, revealing her blonde dyed hair, “let me know what Annie and Sandy say.  Susan, find Penny and meet me downstairs.”


2.30 pm

The Peacock Inn.


Madame Chen swept in, past the surprised staff and made her way straight to the office at the back. 


“Madame,” the manager said as she swept in, “we were not expect…”


“Out – all of you,” she said in a commanding voice, watching as they emptied the room.  Sitting behind the desk, she felt underneath and retrieved a key that was taped to the underside, and then she stood, walking to a bookcase.


“I need to go before they come to collect me,” she said to herself as she opened a hidden safe, and unlocked it, taking various papers out and placing them in a briefcase.


“Good afternoon, Madame Chen.”


The older Chinese women turned to see three women standing in the door, all pointing guns at her.  The tallest one had shoulder length blonde hair that fell over her black clothing, the other two were dressed in office clothes, but their eyes were like stone, and their faces set.


“Who are you and what are you doing here,” Madame Chen said as she looked at them. 


“Introductions in due course, Madame – we are taking you with us.  Secure her.”


The other two women walked forward as Madame Chen stared at the blonde, unaware at first of her wrists being secured behind her back.


“I know you,” she eventually said as she twisted her bound arms.


“No, you only think you do – silence her.”


Chen’s eyes widened as a strip of brown sticking plaster was pressed firmly over her lips.


“We have been monitoring you, Madame Chen,” Dominique said.  “We, and others, are the ones who have been causing you and your friends so much trouble, and the time has come to make you pay for your crimes against so many innocents.”




“Hush,” Dominique said as she punched Chen in the stomach, making her double over.  “You are no longer the queen bitch.  Now, what shall we do with you before my employer speaks to you?”


"Given Madame Chen's own rather peculiar tastes maybe we ought to indulge her and turn her over to Carina?" Susan questioned.

"Oh that would be rather fitting." Penelope giggled.

"Bitch you are going to pay a visit to the biggest and baddest bitch of them all." Dom lifted the Chinese woman's face and stared into her eyes, "And in consideration of what you have done I can't think of a more suitable punishment."


Chen merely stared back in silence as the black hood was placed over her head, and she was walked out, past her staff.  “We thank you for not interfering,” Dominique said to the manager.  “Inform your superiors Madame Chen will no longer be a problem to them.”


“I understand,” the man said as he bowed and the three women walked out.


“How on earth did you pull that off,” Susan said as she looked at Dominique.


“I do have some contacts in China – so I called in a favour.  I figured the restaurant would have a couple of plants – so I took a gamble when I spoke Cantonese on our entry.”


Pushing Madame Chen into the back, Penny sat next to her as Dominique dialed a number.


“Madame?  We have her, and are heading for the secure facility.  We will see you there.”



2.45 pm

The Waldorf Hotel


“Understood,” Madame said, “we are arranging the interrogation now.”  She looked over at Juliette, who was talking to Carina on the secure link.


"Darling can you come back to the Farm later?" Juliette asked.

"Why Mom? I skipped class this morning you know?"


"I heard, and I am grateful.  I merely thought the beast might like a little outing."

Suddenly Carina sat up, giving her mother her full attention.


"Madame Chen."

"The sadist?"


"Oh Goddess that will be fun tearing down a bitch like that." Carina laughed evilly.

"So can I expect you when she gets there?"

"Mom do you think I'd miss an opportunity like this? … Really?"

"I guess not." Juliette smiled.

"Will you need anything?"

"Can you ask Annie if she'll join me? We made a good team last time."

"Will do.  Madame and I are coming as well, so we can bring her and take her back. Anything else?"

"Can you ask Merlin if she has some fetish leather, size 4 petite and 2 regular."

"Oh." Juliette laughed, "Will CS get it back?"

"Probably not Mom, it might just get a few stains."

"Okay I'll see what I can do." Juliette turned the secure video link off.


“I’ll inform Charlotte as to what is happening – if you can call Annie and get her to meet us outside the school?”


“I’ll text Jo,” Juliette said as she took her phone out.



3 pm

St Angela’s


As she walked to her locker from Study Hall, Jo took her cell phone out and looked at the text.


“Hmm,” she said as she looked at the message, and then made her way to Annie’s classroom.


“Forgive me Miss Kelly,” she said as she went into the room, “but I have been asked to pass a message on to you.”


“Oh,” Annie said as she looked over from her desk, “and what is that Joanne?”


“Can you please contact your vet – there is a problem with your cat.”


“I see – could you watch the class for ten minutes Joanne,” Annie said as she walked to the door, Jo sitting at the front.


As she stepped into the corridor, Annie took her phone and sent by text “Juliette - how can I help you?”


“Not me – Carina.  She wishes you to come and see her tonight at the country club.”


"Carina wants me to join her?" Annie typed the words in. "Is she sure Juliette?"

"Well she reckoned you worked well together last time."

"She does remember we ended up making love in the shower?"

I think she does… lol"

"Well I'm game if she is."

"How long till you can drive out here."

"Can she give me an hour, traffic will be terrible."

"I think so, look forward to seeing you shortly then."

"Bye." Annie typed and turned off her cell phone.  Smiling, she walked in and said, “All right – thank you Joanne, you may go now.”


“We need to stop by the office,” Juliette said as Madame came back, “and then we can be on our way.”




4 pm

West Central Park




“Hello darling,” Janice said as she sat up and hugged Katy, her daughter literally jumping into her arms.  “Had a good day?”



“Yes Mommy – you look tired.”


“I am, sweetheart – why don’t we just phone out for pizza and watch a movie, all three of us?




“Welcome home dear,” her mother said as she brought a beer in, and handed it to Janice.  “Long day?”


“You have no idea, mom – no idea…”




5 pm

The Farm


Chen was forced to sit in the chair, her legs lashed to the front legs of the heavy wooden chair at her ankles and knees, and her upper body lashed to the chair.


“Watch her,” Dominique said, Penny nodding and taking a seat as Dom and Charlotte walked to the main farmhouse.


“Hey,” Carina said as she looked up from the couch, Judith feeding from her breast.  “Where is the guest of honour?”


“Awaiting your pleasure,” Susan said.  “Others on their way.”


“Annie will be here shortly,” Juliette said as she came in and embraced her daughter.  “Here – these may be what you need.”


“I’ll look in a minute,” Carina said as she tickled Judith under the chin, and then sighed as the baby let go and smiled.


“There now, all filled up again, little one?  You go and see Grandma for a minute, while Mommy has a look at the presents she brought.”


“Come here, baby,” Juliette said as she took the child, and watched Carina opening the bags.  “Perfect Mom,” she said as she looked over.


“Hey – am I in time?”


“Oh yes,” Carina said as she looked at Annie.  “Come on – we need to get ready.”


Cari, time is of the essence…”


"Mom I refuse to ruin this experience by rushing it, Everything has to be right, our makeup, our costumes, this will be a mind-blowing experience for me, degrading and despoiling a fellow dominatrix, it's something I've dreamed about doing."


“All right – we’ll prepare some food,” Juliette said as she and Madame headed for the kitchen, Annie and Carina heading upstairs.


“Oh my,” Annie said as she opened the clothes bags, “this is going to be an interesting night isn’t it?”


“Oh I really think so,” Carina said as she took off her top, “you can use the makeup table first…”



6.30 pm


“Oh my,” Dominique said as Annie and Carina walked down the stairs, their bodies enclosed in grey furs with matching hats, the veils covering their eyes.  From the bottom of their coats, she could see the tight black leather boots with four inch heels.


Their faces were made up with great care, the brown wigs flowing from under their hats and their lips rouged with no marks.  They both had long red fingernails as well, as they walked across the kitchen floor.


“Holy shit, Annie,” Susan said, “you look hot in that.”


“Wait until you see what is coming,” Annie said with a wink as they walked out and across the yard.


Penny turned as they walked in, her mouth open as she heard their heels clicking on the stone floor.  Madame Chen could hear them as well, as she turned her head in the direction of the footsteps.


“Thank you, dear,” Carina said as she looked at the hooded woman in the chair.  “We can take it from here.  Would you inform our other guest that she will have a chance to talk to this lady in a few moments?”


“Of course, my lady,” Penny said with a wink as she walked out, Annie standing behind Madame Chen and placing her hands on her shoulders.


“Welcome,” she purred as Madame Chen turned her head, “we’re so glad you accepted our invitation to come and play, aren’t we?”


“Of course we are,” Carina said with a smile, “but we are forgetting our manners.  Please, remove her hood.”


Madame Chen felt the hood loosen and then blinked as it was pulled off, her eyes widening as she saw the small woman dressed in furs in front of her.


“You may remove the gag as well, my dear,” she purred, “nobody is going to hear her except us.”


She winced as the plaster was pulled off, and then said “you have made a grievous error, whoever you are.  I am a diplomat, and have full diplomatic immunity.  When my superiors hear of this…”


“From what I have been told,” Carina said as Annie came round to join her, “your superiors are more than happy for us to have this – conversation.  You have embarrassed them, Madame Chen, and they do not like being embarrassed, do they?”


“You know nothing of what I do…”


“We know you condemned at least sixty young girls, and Goddess alone knows how many before them, to a life of cruelty and pain,” Carina said slowly.  “We know you condemned many, many others to a life of servitude, for no other reason than personal pain and gratification.  We know you have fermented war, for personal profit.  Shall I continue?”


“I am merely a humble servant of the People’s Republic of China…”


“No you are not,” Annie said as she stroked Chen’s cheek.  “I should know – I visited your apartment and planted the listening devices we have used to monitor your every move for the last few weeks.  We filmed you at the auction some weeks ago.  We informed the authorities of your main supplier of arms.  We emptied the cash from the two private vaults.”


“How do…”


“Because,” Carina said quietly, “the last person my friend and I played with was Dominic Rice.  He sat where you sit now, and he told us a very entertaining history.  And now – it is your turn.”


“We have dedicated ourselves to bringing you and your friends to justice,” Annie said as she stepped back.


Madame Chen looked at both of them.  “And what can you do to threaten me,” she eventually said with a sneer.



“Well Madame Chen I hear we share common tastes in administering pain to others.” Carina ran her long red nail across the woman’s lips.


“My friend and I think that maybe you’d enjoy being on the other end for once.” Annie smiled.


“Just give us a few minutes to go get changed darling, these furs are a little hot, and too expensive to replace if we get your blood all over them.”


Annie pulled Carina close and kissed her deep red lips passionately, slipping her hand inside her fur coat to caress her lover’s breasts through her dress.


Mmmm.” Carrie relaxed, “I can already tell this is going to be a fabulous evening.  Don’t you agree, Chen?”


“Who the hell are you people,” she screamed.


“Well, since you ask so nicely,” Carina said, “we will invite the person in charge to come and say hello.  Don’t go anywhere.”


The two women walked off as Chen tried to free herself, screaming and cursing all the time.


“I think she would like to meet you,” Carina said to Madame as she came back in, before she and Annie went back upstairs.


“If you will accompany me, Dominique,” Madame said as Penny and Susan looked on.


“Dinner will be ready soon,” Juliette said as she looked at them.


“What are they going to do now,” Susan said as she looked at Penny.


“Something tells me I don’t want to know…”



7 pm
The Waldorf Hotel.


“Good evening Sir, and welcome to the Astoria Waldorf,” the receptionist said as the tall, slightly portly grey haired man approached.


“Good evening,” he said in a plumy accent, “you have a suite reserved in the name of Stonemark.”


“Gerry – what the hell are you doing here?”


He turned and smiled as Mandy Carrow came in, her husband just behind.


“Amanda my dear,” he said as they embraced and Mandy kissed him on both cheeks, “this is an unexpected pleasure.  I did not know you were staying here, more amazing still, you brought Will with you?”


He shook the hand of Lord Ordford as Will said “I thought you hated travelling, Gerald – what brings you all the way over here?”


“Some business matters I need to clear up – a trivial affair, but it requires my attention.


Mandy smiled as she said “perhaps we can meet for dinner tomorrow?”


“I would like that very much – but you must excuse me for now.  It has been a long flight.  Until tomorrow then?”


“Viscount Stonemark, we have your suite ready – if you will just sign here?”


Gerald smiled as he watched Will and Mandy walk to the lifts – they would provide a welcome distraction from the grim task ahead.


He followed the porter to the lift, saying nothing until he was shown into the suite and paid the tip.  He then took out a cell phone and dialed a number.


“Twining?  I’ve taken a suite at the Waldorf – be here in fifteen minutes.”



7 pm

The Farm


“Good evening, Madame Chen – I am glad we had the opportunity to meet.”


Chen turned her head as she heard the deep, mellow, female voice, watching Madame as she walked in front of her.  The tall blonde with her stood to the side and watched, her face a mask as she folded her arms.


As she sat down, Chen studied the new arrival.  Long dark hair, designer label dress, high heels with the uppers made of soft leather.  There was something about her bearing, her manner as she sat, that told her she had met a formidable lady.


“I understand I have you to thank for some of my recent troubles,” Chen finally said, “May I at least know the name of my worthy opponent?”


“Of course,” Madame said with a smile.  “The world at large refers to me by a simple title, that of Madame X.”


Chen’s eyes widened as she looked at her, and then she nodded.  “Ah – then I did indeed meet a worthy opponent.  I have heard of you – but I would know why you involved yourself in my affairs?”


“Well,” Madame said as she crossed her legs and sat back, “Once I learned of the extent of your trade, I am afraid I felt honour bound to intervene.   You crossed a number of my personal boundaries, with your trade in blood diamonds and your putting innocents at risk – but if I must cite any reason, it would be the trade in child slaves.”


“My my,” Chen said, “the great lady of crime, one of the most revered criminals of our time, and she has a moral centre?  This is indeed a first – I expected more fortitude from one with your reputation.”


“If you truly understood my reputation, Madame Chen, you would know I never war on innocents, and I detest when they are exploited.  Tell me, do you know a lady by the name of Angel Simpson?”


Madame Chen thought for a moment, and then said “The Albino?  I have met her before – why?”


“She too was involved in a trade in child slavery I took an interest in.  You may have heard of it?”


“I did,” Chen said as she nodded, “most amusing, but she is small scale compared to what I can bring to bear against you?”


“Oh I quite agree – at least in the position you were in twenty four hours ago,” Madame said.  “But since then, we have executed the next phase of our plan to bring you down.  Your time, Madame Chen, is over, and I suggest you make your peace with your gods.”


“Do you think I fear a slip of a girl like that?”  She heard Dominique laugh, and retorted “I fail to see what is amusing.”


“Sorry,” Dominique said as she shook her head, “but I think tonight, you will know terror such as you have never faced.”  Looking over to the door to the barn, she then said “It is time Madame.”


“Farewell, Madame Chen,” Madame X said as she stood up.  “You were a worthy opponent, and I shall mourn your passing.”


“As I shall mourn yours,” Chen replied.  “You have never faced The Walrus?”


“And he has never faced me,” she said as she walked out, Dominique following before Chen heard the click of heels on the floor.  She looked up as Annie walked back in front of her, but no longer dressed in furs.


Her blonde hair was slicked back, and she wore a black sheath leather dress, covering her body from the high collar to her ankles.  Her leather gloves came halfway to her elbows, while the six inch stiletto heeled boots were just visible on her feet.


“I trust you have prepared yourself, Chen,” Annie said as she slapped the riding crop she was carrying into the gloved palm of her hand, “for the play is about to start.”


“I do not fear you, woman,” Chen said, only to cry out as Annie brought the riding crop down on her cheek, leaving a cut as her head was tilted up.


“It’s not me you need to fear,” Annie said quietly, “it’s her.”


Chen heard the click of the heels on the stone floor, as Annie stood back and smiled.  Turning her head, she saw Carina walk in, her jaw falling at the outfit she was wearing.


“I meant to compliment you on your outfit earlier,” Carina said as she ran her gloved hand down Chen’s chest, “I trust you approve of mine?”


The petite mother was dressed in a black leather catsuit, the front open to reveal the top of her breasts, and the back bare save for two crossed straps and the collar.   She wore a pair of elbow length soft leather gloves, and knee length stiletto heeled boots with straps that crisscrossed up the legs.  A black eye mask covered her eyes, the tips extending above her hairline.


“You know,” Carina said as she ran her gloved hand under Chen’s chin, “I have often dreamt of the possibility of playing with someone like you.  I feel you will not disappoint.”


“Do you expect me to plead for mercy?”


“No,” Carina said quietly, “I expect you to scream in pleasure.  Oh – I see my friend had given you a nasty cut.  We must make sure that is properly cared for.”


Walking to a nearby cupboard, Carian took out a pad and a bottle of clear liquid, puring some onto the cloth as she walked back.  “Now this is going to sting a bit,” she said as she pressed the damp cloth to the cut.


“SSHHHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTTTTTTTTT” Madame Chen screamed as the vinegar was pressed onto the wound.


“There,” Carina said as she wiped the wound down, and smiled, “that should clean that up nicely.  Of course, I will make sure all such wounds are properly cared for – it’s so important to do that, isn’t it?”


“Oh yes,” Annie said as she stepped forward and walked behind the captive,” I do so agree.  I’m going to untie your arms and hands – please, do resist.  I would love an excuse to break every bone in your arms as a good start to this evening.”


She pushed Chen forward, Carina holding the Chinese woman’s head in her gloved hands as Annie untied her wrists, and then pulled her arms to the sides, pulling her back with her arm around her throat while Carina strapped her arms to the wooden arms of the chair.


“I must say,” Carina said as she stroked Chen’s fingers with her gloved hands, while Annie walked back behind her and reached down, caressing the woman’s chest with her hands, “whoever does your manicures is truly brilliant.  Would you give me her number please?”


“Go to hell.”


“You’re already here – that’s what we said when Rice said that,” Annie giggled as she looked at Carina.


“Where is Rice anyway?”


“Dead – but he got quite a show before he left.  It was a real shock to us when he died – but you, Madame Chen, I think you will appreciate some of the more traditional methods.”


“What do you want from me, little girl.”


“Another scream,” Carina said as she suddenly broke the pinkie of Chen’s left hand, Annie groping the smaller woman as she grimaced and bit her tongue.


“I…  I will not give you the satisfaction,” Chen grunted, then she bit her lip again as Carina broke her second finger.


“Just one tiny little scream,” Carina said as she leaned over, and kissed Chen on the lips, muffling her call as the index finger was broken.


“I want a piece of that,” Annie said as she looked on, leaning over to kiss Chen as Carina broke her left index finger.


“Is that…. Is that all you have,” she panted through gritted teeth as she looked at both of them.


“Oh no,” Carina said with a smile, “I’m only just starting to get warmed up.”  Annie smiled as she began to roughly grope the smaller woman’s chest, feeling the warmth in herself as she began to massage Chen’s breasts.


“What the fuck are you doing, woman?”


“Getting you nice and ready,” Annie said as she slowly pulled down the front of Chen’s catsuit, her chest exploding out from the leather as it moved to the sides.


“Oh, lovely,” Carina said as she leaned over and started to kiss her chest, while Annie massaged her breasts, roughly groping her chest as Chen started to moan, before she clamped her mouth shut.


“Just one tiny little scream,” Carina whispered, before she sucked a shard as she could.  Chen thought her mind was going to explode at the sensations that ran through her body as she did this, while Annie held her breasts underneath.


“Oh god, yes, yes, keep it up, yssssSHIITTINNNNNNNNNNNNNN


The metal clamps bit into her hard nipples, the pain shooting through her as Annie let go, then walked in front and grabbed Carina, kissing her hungrily as she groped her friend.  Chen looked up through pain filled eyes as she said “Fffff Finished yet?”


“Oh no,” Carina said, “That was merely the appetizer.  Now, sit quietly while we take a short break…”



“What are they doing in there,” Madame said as she sipped her coffee.


“Getting warmed up,” Juliette said as the phone rang.


“Hello?  Ah hello Cathy – you got my message?


“Excellent – I’ll see you within the hour, and thank you again for coming out tonight.  I promise you it will be worthwhile.”


“Cathy,” Dominique said as Juliette ended the call, “Cathy who?”


“Catherine Lu – she is my Hong Kong manager, but more importantly she does some dealing for me, supplies the outfits – and has contacts with all the right people.”


“How very intriguing,” Madame said, “and she is coming here?”


“To pay her respects,” Juliette said quietly.


“I see – are you by any chance recording the proceedings in the barn, Juliette.”


“Purely for evidence to present to the Chinese authorities – on both sides of the curtain.”


8 pm

The Waldorf Hotel


“Welcome to New York,” Twining said as he came into the suite, “did you have a good flight?”


“Pleasant enough, as these things go,” Stonemark said.  “I apologise for not taking you up on your kind offer, but I felt it would be better to sit outside all four of you.”


“Three of us.”


“I beg your pardon?”


“Someone snatched Chen from the restaurant tonight, after she was freed.  Kimba and Xantu are in a siege mentality now, so I think I’m the only one you are going to see unless you go to them.”


“I see,” Stonemark said as he offered Twining a drink.  “So how much worse could it get?”


“Who knows?  Unless you have internet access in this room.”


“I do – why?”


“Let us see what the New York Times has to offer tonight,” Twining said as he used the television first to connect, and then to bring up the on-line edition.







“Oh dear god,” Twining said as they started one of the embedded videos, and saw young Maisha tell her story through an interpreter to Jane Molloy.


“Well, we do have a fairly big mess to clear up, don’t we,” Stonemark said as he looked at the latest reports from Mazengwe, showing the government forces making advances on groups loyal to Kimba.


“Who the hell is doing this to us?”


“That is the question, Twining.  For now, go home and say nothing.  I need to talk to some people about getting you, Kimba and Angel safely out of here.


“By the way, who did you arrange to supply the arms?”


“Guy called Willy – Angel has the contact details.”


“Very well then – I will talk to you in the morning Twining.  Leave me now.”


Draining his glass, Twining left the suite, Stonemark watching him walk out before he picked up the telephone.


“This is The Walrus – meet me at my suite at midnight.  I have a job for you.”


9 pm

The Farm


Chen bit down on her tongue again as the last nail was removed from her right hand, Annie smiling as she held up the blood stained item.


“There now, Madame,” she said, “I told you you should have told me who your manicurist was.  Now I have to find out for myself.  So are we ready to scream yet?”


“I can take all you’ve got,” she said as she looked at the small woman, while her tall friend dripped lemon juice on the exposed flesh, making her gasp as she controlled her screams.


“Still no scream?  Well, we have time on our hands.  Perhaps you just need to be warmed up a little.  Would you oblige, my dear?”


Annie nodded as she picked up the candle, holding it as the flame brightened, and then putting it under the chain between the clamps on Chen’s nipples.  She watched as the metal started to glow, and Chen felt the metal start to heat and sear her flesh.


“I am strong, you cannotttttt…..”


Chen’s eyes opened wide as she started to groan, the pain she was in driving her over the edge as she had a massive orgasm, her eyes closing as she shook and the others watched.  She then opened her eyes, looking at Carina and saying “You are skilled, my dear – I wish I had seen you before.”


Annie and Carina looked at each other, and then retreated into a corner.


"She's as tough as Maroni was." Carina smiled, "This is going to be PURE PLEASURE breaking her down piece by piece."

"How do we do it?" Annie asked.  “I mean, you do not want to know how hot this is making me…”

"Well, what I’ve got in mind might cure both problems.”


Annie looked at Carina as a smile spread across her face.  “We force her to do the very things she has always done to others."

"Meaning what?"

"Well for starters I'd like to see how well the little bitch eats pussy."

"Oh no you aren't thinking what I think you're thinking Cari?"

"Oh I'm thinking it… You go get her flat on the floor and then start to turn her on Annie.  Let’s see if we can make her a slave before she dies, not a mistress."

"Well here goes nothing." Annie turned and smiled at Chen.


“Comfy, lady?”


“Very – why?”


“Because I think a change of position is called for,” Annie said as she ran her riding crop across Chen’s throat.  Walking in front of her, she unbuckled her arms, Chen screaming as her hands were brought together and a set of manacles attached to her wrists.


“Hold her,” she said to Carina, the masked blonde holding Chen’s shoulders as Annie untied her legs, and then the two of them forced her onto her back, Carina taking her hands above her and chaining them to a hook in the wall, Annie removing her boots before she fastened a set of leg irons around her ankles.


“My my my,” she purred as her hand stroked over Chen’s body, “you really are hot, aren’t you?  I could eat you right now.”  She started to kiss Chen’s belly and neck as her hands caressed the Chinese woman’s breasts.


“Wha….Wha are you doeeennnnnnn,” Chen said as she felt the clamps on her nipples being pulled by the chain between them. 


“Discovering if the reason you enjoy inflicting pain so much is because you have never known the delights of love,” Carina said as she knelt next to Chen.  “Or perhaps it is because you fear intimacy – what do you think?”


“I fear…” Chen said before she felt Annie’s tongue over her nipples, and she gave an involuntary moan.  “What are you…?”


Shhh,” Carina said as she knelt across Chen’s chest, her gloved hands stroking her cheeks, “I want you to do something for me.”




Carina slowly unfastened the front of her pants and looked into the woman’s eyes.


“Eat it.”


“No, no I will not…”


“So how did you train your slaves, bitch – did you force them to eat pussy in fear of their lives?”


“You can do nothing to – what did you just do?”


“I just put an electric cattle prod between your legs,” Annie said with a smile, “and if you do not do as she tells you, I will shove it in and turn it on.  You have not felt pain yet – give me a reason to teach you that.”


“You would not AAAAAAAAAAAAAA” Chen called out as she felt the electric shock on her wet pussy.


“Ah, there’s my scream,” Carina said as she got on her knees, and moved over Chen’s head.  “Now make me happy, you little bitch.”


Chen panted slightly before she raised her head and started to kiss Carina’s pussy, a gasp exiting her lips as she closed her eyes.


“See, not so difficult is it,” Carina said as she wrapped her hands behind Chen’s head, holding it in place as she pressed her clit against the other woman’s mouth.  “Now make me cum Bitch – show me how skilled you are that you can teach others to do the same.”


Chen felt the prod as it was pushed into her, and started to work on Carina, kissing and licking her as her head was kept in place by the surprisingly strong grip.  “Oh yes, keep going,” Carina moaned as she pressed Chen’s mouth against her, Annie felling hotter and hotter as she watched their captive slowly turn Carina on, using her tongue and lips to excite her more and more.


Annie could feel the dampness between her legs as well, and wished it was Carina’s lips on there instead.  The one drawback of her dress was that it was next to impossible to do anything to seek relief, as she moaned in response to Carina’s scream of delight.


“That’s better,” she said as she stood up and refastened her pants, smiling at the resigned look in Chen’s eyes.  “Rest for a moment.”


Turning suddenly, she pressed against Annie, massaging her chest as she gave her a long, passionate, searching kiss.


“Later, I will do that for you,” she whispered, Annie nodding in understanding.


10 pm

The Richmond Mansion


“Night night,” Sandy whispered as she closed the door on her daughter, and slowly walked down the stairs.


“Hey,” Joanne said as she passed the kitchen, “I’m making some hot chocolate.  You two want some?”


“No thanks,” Sandy said as she went into the front room.


“Tired?” Sandy slipped an arm round her lover as she sat on the sofa looking intently at her computer screen.


“Very tired.” Heather replied, “But last night and today have been pretty damn intense.”


“I know,” Sandy said quietly, “but there’s nothing you can do now, Chen is in Carina’s gentle care, the other rats are in their holes, the best thing you can do for now is rest and sleep.”


“I know, but…”


“But nothing lover.”


“What would I do without you?” Heather asked as she turned and kissed her partner.


“I’ve no doubt you’d find some trouble or another to get into.”


“Probably.” Heather giggled.


“Now can I close this down and take you to our bed?”


“Just let me save what I’ve been working on.”  Heather finished typing and looked at Sandy.


“So you said earlier you had a question to ask me lover?”


“I did?” Heather had to think for a second. “Oh yeah I remember, it’s no biggie, but does the trust have any more apartments available at a friend and family rate?”


“I don’t know, I’d need to ask Mother. Why - who’s it for?”


“Dominique, Annie and Ama.”


Sandy raised an eyebrow.  “Dom and Annie want to be roomies?”


“Well it’s my idea.” Heather smiled, “They are both looking for a place, and it makes sense if you think that Annie can look after Ama while Dom is away.”


“You know, I never thought I would see Dominique as a mother.”


“Guardian, as she puts it.  But yeah – we will be seeing more of her.”


“Well, it makes perfect sense… Okay I’ll ask Mother tomorrow if she can help.”


“Okay all saved.” Heather stood up and stretched. “Now lead me to my bed Lover.”


“Your wish is my command.” Sandy smiled as she led her partner by the hand towards the stairs.


Jo smiled as she watched from the kitchen, and then went into the front room.  From her rucksack, she took out the prospectuses and started to look over them, drinking from her mug from time to time.


10.30 pm

The Farm


“This is exquisite,” Catherine Lu said as she viewed the information on Juliette’s laptop.  “Chen is not exactly the flavor of the month with the State Council at the moment, and the chair of the Supreme People’s court would love to have her head on a platter.”


“Would this convince them of her part in all this?”


“With the film of the auction, and the transcripts, yes they would.”


“And the Triads,” Madame said.


“Be assured, Honorable Madame X, your word of authentication is sufficient for them.  I will ensure those who need to will receive copies.”


“And what of the unlamented Madame Chen herself?”


Juliette switched to a video window, which showed Madame Chen bent over a wooden beam, her arms stretched out and tied to the ends of the beam, and her legs spread and tied to the supports.  Cathy watched as the two leather clad women took turns in whipping her bare back, the cats o’ nine tails ripping into her flesh.


“I do not recognize the taller woman,” Cathy said, “but is that Carina?”


“It is,” Dominique said, “a woman of many talents is Juliette’s daughter.”


“Forgive me,” Juliette said as she turned away, “but I never watch Carina at work.  You may continue to watch if you desire.”


“NO MORE,” Chen called out in pain.  She was dripping blood from her back, the red fluid running down her bare legs, mixing with the fluids that had been pouring from between her legs.


“I beg your pardon,” Carina said as she brought the leather thongs down again.


“No more, Mistress,” Chen said as she hung her head in shame.


“And what do you say to me,” Annie said as she walked round and lifted her head with the riding crop.


“Please, stop, Mistress,” Chen said slowly.


“And what are you,” Carina said as she stroked the leather across the red raw back.




“Say it,” Annie whispered as she pulled on the clamps.


“I am your willing and obedient slave, mistresses.”


“Good – a word, my friend.”


The two blondes walked over to the corner as Chen began to cry.


"Annie,” Carina whispered, “I have something I want to try."

"Oh,” Annie whispered, “what now Cari?"


"Do you need a piss?"

"Actually I do… why?"

"Get that jug and piss in it." Cari pointed.


"Because I want to see the bitch drink it."

Cari that is just perverted." Annie shook her head.

"Isn't it just." the little blonde grinned.  Annie nodded as she walked over and put the jar under her skirt, the tinkling sound as she filled it making Carina smile.


“You will do everything we say?”


“Yes Mistress,” Chen said as she kept her head down.


“Good – drink what my friend gives you.”


Chen looked at the jug, and as it was placed under her head she smelled the urine.  Once, she would have killed anyone who suggested it – but now she was broken, and she meekly drank from the jug as Carina held her head up.


“All of it,” she whispered, watching as she drank the hot liquid and then said “thank you mistress.”


“Good, slave – now, you will answer our questions, won’t you?”


“Yes Mistress.”


“Let us begin with how you met Twining…”


As Chen answered the questions, Carina took notes, Annie providing encouragement and chastisement as and when needed.  Some time later, Carina said “Three more questions, slave.  Firstly, how many girls did you sell into sexual slavery?”


“I… I do not know Mistresses.  Hundreds.”


Annie grimaced in anger as Carina said “Secondly, who was responsible for the murder of Francois Legault?”


“Mistresses, I tried to save his life…” she felt the riding crop against her welts, and said “Forgive me mistress – it was Xantu who administered the drug.”


“Finally, slave – do you willingly give all you are to us?  Do you freely give yourself to our decision on your future?”


“I freely do, mistress – I am yours to command.”


Carina looked at Annie, who said quietly “You have openly admitted to selling hundreds of young innocents into slavery of the most base and degrading manner – and you say you are ours to command?  Very well then – apologise.”


“I apologise, mistress.”


“Not enough,” Annie said quietly.  “I will give the same mercy I will show your co-conspirators.”


Carina watched as Annie picked up a .45, primed it and placed it to the back of Chen’s head.  “Rot in hell,” she growled as she pulled the trigger, watching as Chen slumped forward.


Walking forward, Carina took the pistol from Annie’s hand, and held her close, before taking her hand and leading her out of the barn. 





"So I take it Cathy has ties everywhere Ju?" Madame asked.

"She does."

"And she is the soul of discretion I'm guessing."

"In her role she has to be." Juliette smiled, "Her word is her bond, and she will carry secrets to her grave.  I have total faith in her, and she in me."

“She's a useful contact to have," Madame said as she studied the elegant Chinese lady.

"Madame,” Cathy said as she stood up, “I believe you knew my father."

"Did I? What was his name?"

"Lu Wen."

"Oh yes," Madame smiled, "I did have the pleasure of knowing your father, a lovely and astute businessman.  I was sad to hear of his passing – and I am pleased to see you have taken his place so capably."


Cathy made a deep bow as the door to the yard opened, and Annie and Carina came in.


Dominique and Madame watched as the two women walked across the kitchen, and looked at them all.


“Is it over,” Juliette said quietly.


“It is – Madame Chen has paid the price for her crimes,” Carina said with a smile.


“And she told all.”


“She told all – it was Xantu who killed Legault.”


“And who…”


“I did it,” Annie said as she looked at Madame and Dominique.  “I killed the bitch, in the name of Ama and Maisha, and all the other girls whose lives she has ruined.”


“Take the clothes off,” Juliette said as she fetched a black bag from the kitchen, “I’ll need to burn them.”


“Annie,” Dominique said as her friend removed the gloves and dress, “I need to know – how do you feel?”


“If you mean am I ashamed, then no,” Annie said as she sat down and removed her boots.  “She deserved it, Twining deserves it – they all deserve it.  At least I got to deal with one of them.”


Carina pulled off her boots and then stepped out of her catsuit, putting it with Annie’s clothes in the bag.  She then put the gun into a clear bag, which Juliette sealed.


“I’ll burn the clothes and dispose of the gun,” she said as Carina took Annie by the hand and walked up stairs.  Looking back, Carina said “Hello Cathy – please, excuse us for a few moments.  We’ll come down for supper and to give Baby her nighttime feed soon.”




The blonde turned and looked at Dominique.


“We will talk tomorrow.”


She nodded and started to walk up the stairs, As they walked up, Dominique said quietly “God help Twining if she ever gets her hands on him.”


“One thing I do not understand.” Cathy said, “why is Twining still free?”


“The Britannic Majesty’s Government at it’s finest,” Madame said, “they will not revoke his diplomatic immunity unless the proof comes through the correct channels – we just have to watch him and make sure nobody tries to kill him before we do.”


In the bathroom, Carina slowly started to stroke Annie as she kissed her chest.


“How do you feel,” she said as she looked into her eyes.


Annie said nothing, instead grabbing Carina and caressing her chest and neck with kisses, her hand plunging between Carina’s legs and forcing her to respond…


“So what will happen to the body,” Madame said quietly.


“Diana will come up tomorrow and clean up.  I suspect she will be found washed up on the Long Island shore in due course.”


“I will call certain friends of mine,” Cathy said.  “They will take control of the majority of Chen’s business interests – I would hate to see her restaurant in particular close.  It is so difficult to get proper Cantonese food in this city.”


“I agree,” Dominique said, “but which businesses will they not pick up?”


“The brothels – they detest that idea.  I trust you approve?”


“I do,” Dominique said as she smiled and nodded.  “Forgive me, Madame, but we must return to the city.”


“Of course,” Madame said as she stood up.  “Cathy, would you do me the honour of visiting me at my suite at the Waldorf tomorrow?  We can talk of your father.”


“I would be honoured, Madame,” Cathy said as she bowed, Madame and Dominique bowing in response before they left.


“You have a powerful friend and ally there, Juliette,” Cathy said as Juliette downloaded the documents and records onto a stick.


“I shall,” she said as she handed Cathy the stick.  “We will see you soon?  I think we may need to fly out for more fittings – Abigail has grown so much.”


“I look forward to seeing you then,” Cathy said as she bowed and left.  Juliette listened to the sounds of laughter and other things from the bathroom, and then looked at Judith as she started to stir.


“Supper time soon baby” she said as she went to the kitchen.



An hour later, Annie and Carina same back down, wearing dressing gowns as Juliette held her granddaughter.


“She needs feeding – I’ve got some drinks and sandwiches made up,” she said as her daughter took Judith, and sat down with her, allowing her to start feeding as Juliette handed her a plate.


“Thanks,” Annie said as she accepted a plate, and sat down.


“How are you feeling, Annie?”


“I’m not quite sure,” the teacher said, “I still feel no remorse for giving her what she deserved – is that wrong?”


“Do you feel anything else?”


“Relief, now,” she said as she smiled at Carina.  “Does this make me a stone killer?”


“No,” Carina said as she looked over, “I saw your eyes, you did it from a sense of justice, not joy.  Relax – you’re not me, teach.”


“So what happens now?”


“You both sleep here tonight, and so will I.  We get up early and get back to our work.  I have this shoot tomorrow, as did Dom.”


“Dom – she is going to be so disappointed in me, after all my talk of never killing…”


“She asked me to ask you to join her for a coffee after you finish tomorrow – don’t worry, she probably just wants to make sure you are all right.”


“By the way, did Sandy tell you the twist for tomorrow?”


“Twist?  What twist?”


“You five were not the only ones who got their arms twisted at the christening – Mary managed to persuade Alex to take part as well.”


“Alex Richmond?”


“Yup – he’s giving his fee to the Markham fund.”


“Well, at least Dom won’t be the tallest person there.”


Judith gave a little burp as she let go of Carina’s breast.  “All right you,” she said, “change and then off to bed for all of us.”


“Here – I’ll change her, you finish your food.”




“Yeah Annie?”


“Will you hold me tonight?”


Cari nodded as she sipped her warm drink, and then looked at her child.


“I have an eight thirty class, so Baby and I need to be gone by half seven.  You?”


“I need to be at St Angela’s for eight thirty – so let’s look to go by seven,” Annie said as she stood up, “coming?”



Tuesday 30th September

10 am

Vanessa Richmond’s Apartment


Ju can you re-tie the halter on this dress for me?” Karen asked as she sat at the makeup desk.


“I can.” Juliette said as she reached under her old friend’s hair to fix the halter on the ice blue gown she was wearing. “You know Karen that colour is amazing on you.”


“Thank you darling.” Karen smiled as she checked her reflection in a mirror.  “It does look good on me doesn’t it?  I wonder if the designer would let me buy it.”


“Could you afford it on a Obstetrician’s salary?”


“I do have some money left from modeling you know, it didn’t all go in my arm” Karen said as she looked at Juliette.


“You know I’ve always admired this apartment so much.” Juliette looked round. “Vanessa has such impeccable taste.”


“I know,” Mandy joined them, “this place puts our humble little castle to shame.”


Vanessa had offered them the run of her “little retirement place” for the shoot, and the women were sat in her library, the room lined with oak panels and high bookcases.


“It’s the perfect location.” Karen looked round as she slipped on her long white kid gloves. “How the hell did Merlin persuade her to let us shoot here?”


“Complete Style is making a substantial donation to Vanessa’s favourite charity.”


“Oh that explains it Ju.” Karen nodded as a fair haired man in an open necked shirt and slacks came in.


“Ladies - how long until you are all ready for the first setup?” Jack Linklater the photographer came over and asked.


“Just waiting while they finish doing Alice and Caroline’s hair,” Juliette said as she looked to where Caroline and Alice were sitting, their bodies covered as the two assistants worked on their hair.


“Well can you hurry them along,” Jack said as he looked over his shoulder, “Mary is making me nervous.”


“She only wants the shots to be perfect Jack.” Karen laughed.


“Well she frightens the life out of me.”


“Think what she does to poor models.” Juliette grinned.


“Well do I look okay?” Caroline asked as the hairdresser removed the last of the rollers from her hair, and started spraying it to hold it in place.


“You look amazing.” Juliette smiled as Caroline stood up, and stood to be inspected.

Her long blonde hair framed her face perfectly as it fell below her shoulders in gentle curls. Her black evening dress with the sequined motif perfectly clinging to her curves.


“Your mother would be so proud.” Karen breathed, trying her utmost not to cry.


“You look fabulous.” Mandy smiled.


“Okay Father are you ready?” Jack called out.


“I am young man.” Alex spoke as he came into the room wearing an impeccably tailored dinner suit.


“Alex you know you are wasted as a priest.” Karen laughed.


“Well,” Alex said with a smile, “I wasn’t going to turn down an opportunity to be photographed with five such beautiful ladies, being a priest or not.”


“I remember watching you play for Notre Dame Father,” Jack shook his hand, “What are you five pounds only off your playing weight still?”


“About that, and after that revelation Jack perhaps I shouldn’t be calling you young man?”


“I was a mere babe in arms.” Jack laughed.


“Well it’s lovely to have a man around that I can look straight in the eye, even in these heels.” Caroline measured herself up against the priest.


“Well Jack will he do?” Mary came over and asked.


“I think so, former star footballer, war hero, priest, now male model, I think I can photograph him.” Jack smiled.


“What did I miss?” Alice asked as she emerged from getting her hair done.


“Nothing Bats, Jack’s just getting the first setup right.”


“Alright girls time to earn those big fat fees,” Mary clapped her hands.


10.30 am

The Richmond Mansion


“So what exactly were you working on last night lover?” Sandy looked at her partner as she took her coffee.


Heather held her own mug and said “Contingency plans for Madame.”




“Yeah - the floor plans for the buildings they are hiding in, suggestions how maybe to do an assault.”


“Shouldn’t we be leaving that to the FBI now?”


“Yes,” Heather said with a smile, “but I wanted her to have options just in case.”


“Well all we can do now is await developments.” Sandy said before she changed subjects and asked, “How was Jan when you went to collect Katy?”


“In bed still. Mrs. C said she came home last night near collapse and fell asleep watching TV, before her Mom hurried her off to bed.”


“Janice had a big night Sunday.”


“I think we all did.” Heather smiled.


“How is Jo doing? She seemed preoccupied last night.”


“I glanced in her bag, she had a load of college catalogs in there.”


“So big sister was concerned as well?”


“Yeah I was wondering if seeing those girls Saturday night had disturbed her, but no it’s just that event that hits so many 17 year olds, ‘where do I want to go to college?’.”


“And her likely answer will be?” Sandy finished her coffee.


“Somewhere reasonably small, but with a great Psych major.”


“How good are her grades now?”


“Probably good enough to get her into some Ivy League schools.” Heather smiled proudly, “her SAT’s will probably be excellent… “


“I bet she’d never have been in this position as Megan.”


“Probably not, but anyway she also wants to keep running in college, so she’s looking for a school where she might get that chance as well.”


“So did you look at any of them?”


“Well, I did see she had William Smith in there – perhaps she’s attracted by their Athletics program?”


“Just be there to help her,” Sandy said with a smile.


10.45 am

Vanessa’s apartment



“Ladies while the good father sits sipping his brandy in the chair, can you all work round him?”


“We can try.” Juliette fixed her maroon gloves that perfectly matched the strapless fishtail gown she was wearing.


“Do I get a real brandy?” Alex asked hopefully.


“Sorry just flat ginger ale.” Jack passed him the glass.


“Yuck.” Alex contemplated the drink as Juliette and Karen sat on the arms, while Alice sat on the floor and the other two girls posed standing behind the armchair.


“We’ll have a real drink later,” Juliette whispered, “I presume you know where Vanessa keeps her wine?”


“Are you suggesting I break a commandment, Juliette?”


“No – merely exercise some brotherly privileges.”


“Okay girls start showing me why you are still supermodels.” Jack started clicking as the girls started posing, Alex smiling as he held the glass and began to enjoy the experience.


Caroline was enjoying it as well, as Jack got her and Karen to pose with Alex, his arms round their waists, and then with the other three women as well.


“Absolutely wonderful,” Jack eventually said, “All right ladies into your next outfit.  Father, you get to relax for a few minutes.”


As the five women walked off, Alex went and joined Mary at the side of the dining room.


“So, happy so far?”


“Oh yes,” Mary said quietly, “I just cannot believe we have Caroline taking part in this.  I was thinking of the last time I saw her mother.”


“Oh,” Alex said, “when was that?”


“It was about a year before she died – she’d come over here to do a shoot, and even then you could tell she was in real trouble.  I think Caroline’s dad had just left her, and taken Caroline with him, and she was losing herself in the drugs and booze.”


“Did nobody try to stop her?”


“I tried, Charity, sorry I mean Karen, tried harder then anyone, but she wasn’t going to listen to me or anyone.  Don’t get me wrong – she did her job, and it was a wonderful shoot, but she kept disappearing for short periods of time, and everyone knew where she was going.  I guess we just hoped and prayed for the best – and there were far too many like her at that time.”


Alex shook his head, and said “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting…”


“But a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised?”  Mary looked at Alex, and then said “and do these five women not look beautiful to you?”


“Oh yes they do,” Alex said with a smile, “but the Lord above tends to take a long term view of things.”


11.15 am

The Waldorf Hotel


“Miss Catherine Lo.” Charlotte said as she ushered Cathy into Madame’s sitting room.  The young Chinese woman was wearing a light blue jacket and skirt with a white camisole top, and black shoes.


“Welcome Cathy.” Madame stood up and bowed slightly, her grey silk dress rippling as she did so.


“Thank you for inviting me Madame.” Cathy returned the bow.


“Can I interest you in tea, or coffee?”


“Coffee would be fine.”


“Two cups please Charlotte.” Madame indicated for Cathy to join her on the couch as Charlotte left the room.


“So, how long have you known Juliette Cathy?”


“I met her when I was studying at the Sorbonne.”


“Oh so you’ve known her many years?”


“Yes.” Cathy smiled. “I was working on the same diploma in International Trade Policy and Practices that she had taken, my lecturer set up a meeting since she had worked on some of the same material earlier.”


“You became friends?”


“Yes we did. Sometime later Juliette rang me in Hong Kong because she’d had an idea about importing superior quality silks into the US. Together we set up a small business.”


“And that business has grown?”


“It has substantially. I suspect very few people realise Juliette is a very astute businesswoman, as well as all the other things she does. My father always regarded her abilities very highly.”


“Your father was a most able man himself.”  Madame leaned back and smiled.  “I came in contact with Lu Wen on several occasions and he was probably one of the toughest negotiators I ever met.”


Charlotte tapped on the door and brought in a tray with a coffee pot and two cups.


“How do you like your coffee Cathy?” Madame asked as Charlotte discretely left the room.


“Black with just the tiniest amount of sugar please.”


Madame smiled as she poured the coffee. “I’ve never been able to give up sugar totally either.”


“Father always thought it was my one weakness.”


“He was a man of strong convictions and opinions.”


“Yes,” Cathy said as she sipped her coffee and smiled, “the activities of Madame Chen for example would have horrified him.”


“That’s true, he was a man of honour.”


“We’ve always prided ourselves that our workers are well paid, well housed and well fed.”


“I know, I believe that was why so many people both in legitimate and maybe not so legitimate business, as well as both Communists and the Nationalists all trusted him.”


“He bridged a lot of worlds.”


“As you do yourself, Cathy.  From what Juliette was saying, you continue in his tradition.”


“Thank you Madame for what I regard as the greatest of all compliments, being compared to him.”


“Cathy would you be open to handling some business from me?” Madame asked.


“I’d consider it an honour to do so.”


“Well we need talk over what I have in mind.”




“I guess we better leave them till they finish,” Charlotte came back from putting her head round the door.


“I guess so too.” Susan said as she looked at the latest transcripts.



11.45 am

Vanessa’s Apartment


“All right, Father, can we move to the Dining Room now please?”


“The master calls,” Alex said as he and Mary went through, and he saw the other five standing there.  They were now wearing silk evening gowns, their hair held up on their heads as they stood there, Caroline and Juliette in white gowns that had a golden girdle, Karen and Alice in green long sleeved dresses with a deep neckline, and Mary in a red strapless dress.


“If you will stand in the middle, Father,” Jack said, “I will take a group shot, and then we’ll take some pictures around the dining table.”


Mary smiled and watched as Jack went to work, taking the group photos and then taking shots of Alex as he posed with the ladies, one or two at a time, sometimes standing as they sat in a chair, or leaning over as they looked at a book Jack had placed on the table.


Eventually, Jack smiled and said “All right, folks – we’ll take a lunch break there.  When we come back, we’re going to do some shots outside in the limousine.”


“Which is where I guess I come in,” John said as he appeared in the room.  He was dressed in his full chauffer’s uniform, complete with peaked cap.


“Ah, I see Jeannie got to you,” Mary said with a smile.


“Well, someone had to come and collect the food,” John said.  “It’s in the kitchen when you’re ready Juliette.”


“Just let us get out of these and we’ll be with you John,” Juliette said as Alex removed his jacket and bow tie.  “Much easier for us mere mortals,” he said as he and John accompanied Mary to the food.


Ten minutes later, Juliette led the others in, dressed in silk dressing gowns and slippers as they each took a salad box.


“Are you enjoying yourself so far, Caroline,” Mary said as she sat with her.


“I am actually – it makes a nice change from reviewing camera set-ups and protection details,” Caroline said with a smile.


“So did you see the Times this morning,” Alice said as she unscrewed the top from a water bottle and took a careful sip, “the interview with that poor girl?”


“I did read it,” Karen said quietly, “I cannot believe such a thing can go on right under everyone’s noses.”


“There are more things under heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy, Horatio,” Mandy said.  “Sorry – we did an open air Shakespeare at the castle over the summer, and that just came to mind.”


“Well,” Alex said, “what is apparent is that there has been a very great evil carried out in this city, and I for one am glad to see it brought to the light, however painful it might be.”


“What about those two senators, Alex – I wish they had been brought to trial as well.”


“Well, as a priest I am called on not to judge,” Alex said, “but as a man, as an uncle, as a great uncle – I would like to have seen them face trial as well.  As it is, they face a far more just and judging court than any on this earth.”


“Is that the priest talking or the soldier, Alex,” Alice said.


“It’s the man talking,” Alex said as he rubbed the back of his head.  “I’ll need to apologize for this later in prayer, but if I had the opportunity to meet whoever is behind this, the chances are the soldier would reappear.


“I cannot bear to see innocents suffer, and when I read of how many innocent young girls have been ripped from their families and forced into slavery, then I despair for the world we’re in.”


“At least they have been rescued – but how many more are out there?”


“I am sure they will all be found and accounted for,” Alex said, “or at least, their fate will be accounted for.  What I do not wish to say is some sort of mob mentality baying for blood.  Our concern must in the first instance be for these poor innocents.”


“Did you read that Cohen has admitted to involvement in all this?  I can’t believe such a man would do such a thing.”


“Sadly, what we see of a man or a woman is not what they really are,” Alex said, “but he has confessed, he will face judgment of a sort.  At least he showed some remorse in the end.  It is the others he will name, those who have shown no remorse that must face the ultimate judgment – and I for one am glad I do not have to make it.”


“Why Alex?”


“Because, Mary, as I say the soldier will take over, and they will be dead at my hands.”


Juliette and Caroline looked at each other, as Mary said “so what will you do instead Alex?”


“Pray for those who have been released, for those still to be released – and for those responsible to show remorse.  Ultimately, however, we must trust on God to make something good come from this evil.”


“Amen to that,” Juliette said.  “When I think of the possibility of Judith or Carina, or any of the girls being forced to live through that…”


“What happened to the boys?”


“I’m sorry,” Alex said as he looked at Mandy.


“The reports on NBC said both girls and boys were taken.  What happened to the boys?”


“According to the interview Jane did, the boys were taken to work in diamond mines.”


“That’s awful,” Caroline said as she took a drink.


“Indeed – we have seen here the things that have been done to the young girls, but the young men of these villages forced to work in the mines – is it any wonder there is such unrest now in that country?  I fear His Excellency Vice President Kimba is in very very hot water.”


“I heard he was trying to find sanctuary somewhere,” Karen said, “possibly even in England.”


“Good luck with that,” Mandy said with a snort, “we’ve had enough trouble dealing with our own child exploiters thank you very much.”


“Well, I agree with you,” Alex said, “but as a wise man once said, never underestimate the capacity of politicians to do something incredibly stupid.”


“Oh,” Caroline said with a smile, “who said that?”


“Me, just now,” Alex said as Jack came in.


“All right, girls, into the gowns and furs, and then we’ll go outside and do the limo shoot.  Time for you to put on the business suit, Father.”


“Forgive me ladies, Mammon calls,” Alex said as he stood up and followed Jack out of the room.


1.30 pm

E 57th Street


Jan waved at Heather as she walked into the diner, wearing a soft red leather jacket and skirt with a white roll necked sweater.  Heather smiled as she walked over and stood at the bar.  She herself had a blue cardigan on over an old blue dress with a sunflower print.

"Hey Heather, I'm sorry I'm late,” she said as she reached the nanny.  “Thanks for coming over and picking up Katy this morning."

"No problems Jan." Heather smiled.  “Your mom said you were absolutely exhausted – when did you wake up?”


“Eleven – At first I wondered what had happened, it was so quiet.  So who am I having lunch with - Heather the nanny, or the Hidden Hand?"

"How about both?"

"We had better get a quiet booth then."

Heather nodded as they made their way to a booth at the back of the diner, with no other tables around.

"So which first, business or pleasure?" Janice asked as they were seated.

"Business." Heather whispered. "I have something for you in my car."

"Oh what?"

"It's a new laptop, same make as your old one, but with a hidden set of programs built in."

"I can see where that might be useful,” Jan said with a smile.

"I will set it so the hidden suite can only be opened by you with a retinal scan Janice." Heather paused as the waitress brought water to the table, "Once inside you'll have access to our secure communications net."

"Okay, that sounds good to me.  No more mysterious phone calls or texts?"


“Eventually no – but while this is ongoing, I am afraid the Hidden Hand will still invade your phone and laptop from time to time.”  Heather fell silent as the waiter came over.

"Drinks ladies?"

"A coke for me." Heather answered.

"A diet coke for me please." Janice smiled at the waiter, amused by his reaction as she crossed her long legs.

"Janice,” Heather laughed as the waiter walked off,  you are having WAY too much fun with this new image."

"I know," Jan giggled, "But it's such a kick men noticing me suddenly."


“Well, if we’re talking business, what news on Cohen?”


“He is singing like a bird – he has given us names, places, details.  Much of it confirms what you told us already, but we can really move on it now.  A lot of people are going to get early morning wake up calls over the next few days.”


The two fell silent as the waiter brought their drinks over.  “And what can I get you two ladies for lunch today?”


“I’ll have the Turkey club, no cheese,” Heather said with a smile.


“Cob salad, extra blue dressing,” Janice said as she flashed a smile at the waiter.


“Back in a few,” he said as he walked away again.


“What we can’t do is move against the ringleaders – well, the ones who are still alive.  The British won’t let us near Twining, Kimba is holed up somewhere, and as for Chen, she’s disappeared off the face of the earth.  I heard my people went to her restaurant today, to find it under new ownership.”


“Yes, well,” Heather said quietly, “I seriously doubt you need to worry about Madame Chen ever again.”


“Ah,” Jan said as she looked down, “how did she…”


“Carina had a talk to her.  Trust me, you really do not want to know.”


“No – no I don’t think I do,” Jan whispered as the waiter brought the food.  “I presume she will appear at some point?”


“Possibly, depends on the tides I suppose,” Heather said with a shrug.  “Anyway, enough shop talk – I wanted to talk to you about something else.”


“Oh yes,” Janice said as she sat back, “and what is that?”


“Thanksgiving – Sandy is gathering everyone at the Manchester house for it, and she’s like you and the family to join us.”


Jan nodded and said “Thank you – we’d love that” before she ate some more of the salad.


"We also need talk about the sleepover little Sandy wants to host next week,” Heather said.  “She asked me to ask you if Katy can come. I'll be supervising so it should be good."

"I think Katy would like that, she and Sandy have become best friends."

"They have,” Heather said with a smile.  “Sandy tells us everything they've been up to over supper."

"Yeah we get the same." Jan laughed, "You know on top of everything else I really think she and I've made some good friends."

Heather leaned over the table and said "Want to know a little secret?"


"If you'd not been a fed,” Heather said quietly, “you'd have been invited in months ago."

"I would have been?" Janice looked surprised.

"Yeah everyone has really taken to you."

"Well that's lovely." Janice smiled, "I'm just glad to be a member of the group now."


“You’re family now Janice – all of you.”


2 pm

FBI Field Office


"Well Adam,” Tom said as Adam Ball walked in, “how is the surveillance on Janice going?  Is she going to lead us to her mysterious contacts?"

"Well not so far,” Adam said as he looked at Tom and Brooks, “she slept in, and now she's having lunch with her friend Heather."

"This Heather she's… "

"Heather is the nanny to Jan's daughters best friend, she runs them to school each morning, and collects Katy and babysits her till Janice gets off work.”

"Oh,” the CIA link sounded disappointed. "So this is someone she's known a long while?"

"Yeah. She's not one of her new crew."

"Well just make sure Janice doesn't spot her tails Ball." Tom Callaghan warned.

"They are under orders to stay well out of sight sir."

"Good,” Tom said, “we just want to know who some of her new friends are."


“I understand Tom, but that doesn’t mean I have to like this.  She brought Cohen to us, and he has proved invaluable.”


“I know, Adam,” Tom said, “but I don’t like loose ends.”


“Chief – call just came in from the NYPD.  There’s been an explosion in a bar downtown – might have been a bomb.”




Lower East Side – a place called Willy’s Bar?”


Brooks and Callaghan looked at each other.  “That’s where Cohen said they were sourcing the arms from – Adam, you’d better go down and have a look.”


2.30 pm

E 57th Street



"Excuse me Jan." Heather said as she answered the telephone in her purse. "Hey it's Heather."…


"Oh Hi lover what's up?… Shit… where did you hear this… Okay tell Charlotte Jan and I can handle this and we will be in contact once we know something… Okay… Love you too… Bye."

"Sandy I take it," Janice said as Heather put her phone away.

"Yeah, there's been an explosion downtown in a bar Charlotte was monitoring."


"Will your people be in touch?"

"No I'm officially booked off for the day."

"Okay we better head down there."

"They know my face,” Jan said with a wry smile.

"Don't worry I keep wigs in the car."


“Okay – meet me in the Metrop parking lot in fifteen minutes.  I’ll park at the shopping area and then walk round.”


As the two women left the diner, Jan went to her car and drove off, Heather noting the car that went past with mild amusement before she took her cell phone out.


“Lover?  Can you pick the kids up – we may be some time…”


Janice pulled into the parking lot at Saks, and then set off into the department store, looking at some clothing before she slipped out of a different exit and made her way to the Metropolitan as quickly as she could.


“Get in,” Heather said as she opened the door, and then drove off, blending into the downtown traffic.


“We’ll park a couple of blocks away,” Heather said, “I have jackets, wigs and glasses in the trunk that we can use.  We won’t get close – just do a general sweep.”


2 pm

Vanessa’s Apartment Building


A short while later, John was standing at the door of the limousine outside, as he saw Juliette come down in a mink fur jacket, covering a gold lame strapless dress.


“If you can sit inside, Ju darling, I’ll take some photos of you and then the good Father can come and escort you inside.”


John opened the door to allow Juliette to sit herself in, and pose inside while Jack took several shots, before Alex appeared in a charcoal grey suit, white shirt and tie, acting the perfect gentleman as he helped Juliette out, Jack shooting all the time.


“Your turn,” Juliette said to Alice as they went in, the designer wearing a coral pink bolero jacket over a matching dress, the skirt coming to her knees at the front and sweeping down to the floor at the back.


“Why thank you, dear,” Alice said with a smile as Juliette joined the others.  Karen was still in the make up seat, the hair artists working her hair into a bee hive to compliment the grey leather sheath dress she was wearing, while Caroline was talking to Mandy.  This time Mandy was in the white dress jacket and dress, while Caroline wore a royal blue puff sleeved dress.


“Now I see why you hate this,” Caroline said as she looked at Juliette, “the standing around.”


“Precisely – I never liked this part.  At last after this, it’s only some group shots, and then we can end for the day.”


One by one they came out for the shoot, before they assembled at the staircase in the apartment for the last group shots.  Alex played his best Bond impression as Jack completed the shoot, and then stopped, looking at them.


“Jack?  Are you all right?”


“I’m going to show my age again here darlings,” Jack said, “but I need to say Caroline, I photographed your mother, she would be proud of you.”


“Are those tears I see in your eyes Jack?” Mary asked.


“Don’t fuss Mary,” Jack said as he wiped his eyes, “can’t an old queen like me show some emotion occasionally?”


“Thank you for saying that Jack,” Caroline said as she stepped forward and hugged the photographer.


“Oh now you WILL make me cry… bitch!” Jack mixed laughter and tears as everyone hugged.


“Caroline,” Mary said, “I do not say this often, but you have talent, you could make a very good living doing this.”


“I’m too old to start a fresh career.”


“Well expect your phones to be ringing when this comes out in December.” Mary warned her.


“They can try all they want,” Caroline said, “but my other career comes first.”


“I give her ten minutes in a room with Missy Auerbach before her mind is changed,” Mandy whispered to Alice. 


“I don’t think so,” Karen said with a smile, “I think this is the one person Missy cannot argue with.”


"The irresistible force versus the immovable object." Juliette laughed. "I'd pay to be a fly on the wall at that meeting"

"Caroline has certainly grown to become a lovely woman." Mandy looked round. "Ju can you unhook me please."

"Certainly." Juliette said as she undid the fastenings on her friend’s dress.

"Well Cinderella’s - we all get to turn back into serving girls, it's midnight." Alice observed as she slipped out of her gown.

"Back to our 'real' lives." Mandy sighed, "you know all this time with you girls, and then doing a shoot today makes me nostalgic.'

"A comeback Mandy darling?" Jack asked as he came back in the room.

"JACK WE ARE UNDRESSING!" Alice screamed.

"Darling, what are you worried about? I've seen it all before and it still doesn't interest me."

"I know Jack, but a knock would have still been nice." Karen moaned.

"And maybe not a real comeback Jack, but I think I'll tell Missy that I might do the odd shoot or show." Mandy said as she tried covering her body with her hands.

"Well I'll keep you in mind for any of my projects… Should I close my eyes?"

"No just look away." Mandy laughed.

"What about you others?" Jack ostentatiously turned his back.  “Read to strike a pose for the beautiful older woman?”

"I'm starting to think the same as Mandy." Juliette mused, "I've done a couple of shoots now, and with the right people I might do more.  But strictly on an occasional basis.”


“No way you could persuade the Countess and Debs to join in?”


“Not in a million years,” Juliette said as she slipped back into her trouser suit.

"What about you Karen?" Jack grinned as he looked in a mirror and preened himself.

"Alice already asked me to do her next catalogue." Karen smiled, "My husband agrees that it might let me buy a few things for the baby…"

"The baby? You mean Bats' latest?"

"No she doesn't." Alice looked on proudly.

"You don't mean?" Mandy and Juliette squealed together.

"Yeah, the in-vitro finally worked." Karen glowed.

"What worked?" Caroline asked as she came in the room.

"Karen's PREGNANT!" Mandy shouted.

"Oh God here come those tears again," said Jack as he joined in the hugging and congratulations.


“Oh Goddess, Karen, that’s fantastic,” Caroline said as she picked up and hugged her friend.


“Hey, hey – put me down you, you know exactly where I’ve been!”


3 pm

The former site of Willy’s Bar


Adam Ball bent under the police tape and walked up to the smoking husk of the building.


“Hey Ball,” Ron Mercio said as he looked up, “What brings you down to this?”


“The place was on a list of places of interest over this slavery auction business.”


“Willy’s?  It was a nice place, but I don’t see the guy who ran it having any interest in child slaves.”


“How about gun running?”


“Ah,” Mercio said, “that would be a different matter.  He was one of the main guys in the day, and rumour was he was back in the game.”


“Any chance of talking to him?”


“Depends,” Mercio said as the two attendants carried the black bag past, “know any good spirit guides?”


At the far side of the barrier, two girls were looking on, redheads with large puffa jackets on as they looked over the scene.


“Thoughts,” Heather said as she looked at Janice.


“Whoever did this meant business,” Janice said as she looked over the scene.  “They reduced the building to rubble, and it looks like whoever was in there didn’t get out.”


“I see at least one body – who worked here?”


“Willy – you remember Bald Andy, the guy Cohen was talking to when you guys snatched him?”


Heather nodded as Jan said “Well, Willy was his brother.  Gun runner as well – until now.”


“I see,” Heather said.  “Well, it might have been an accident.”


“I would need to get closer,” Jan said, “but if this was an accident, I’m Lois Lane.  Look – charring against that wall there, and the clear blast zone.”


“Bomb then?


“I think so – but I’ll find out tomorrow.  We’d better go – there’s nothing more we can do here.”




4 pm

The Waldorf Hotel


“Well now, the prodigal returns,” Penny said as Dominique came back in.


“Excuse me, ma’am, I think you will find I booked the day off,” was her reply as she closed the door to the suite.  “How are things?”


“Quiet – a little too quiet if you ask me.  Diana called to confirm everything had been tidied at the Farm, and Madame had coffee with Catherine Lu earlier today.”


“Excellent – the girls?”


“Charlotte is in with them, explaining the mysteries of football.  Anyway – you have a visitor.”


“Yeah,” Dominique said quietly, “I hoped I would.  Where is she?”


“In your rooms.”


Nodding, Dominique walked to the end of the corridor and opened the door, smiling as Annie turned from the window.


“I never realized how beautiful the view is of Central Park from here,” Annie said as she stood there.  She was still in her work clothes, her sleeves rolled up on her blouse.


“I never really had the chance to look much before,” Dominique said as she shrugged her shoulders.  “How are you, Annie?”


“I’ve had better days, but I’ve coped,” Annie said as she sat in a chair indicated by Dominique.  “I just never imagined I would do what I did last night.”


“I know – that’s why I asked you to come and see me,” Dominique said.  “Can I get you a drink?”


“No – not yet, anyway.  I need to keep a clear head for a little while longer, because I fear if I start drinking I’m not going to stop, and I don’t want that.”


“That I can understand,” Dominique said quietly.  “In a strange way, I’m proud of what you did last night – but I am curious as to what was going through your mind.”


“I’m not sure – I was at first, but after I did it, and Carina brought me back down to earth…”


“Ah – I suspected, but did not have it confirmed until then.”  Annie looked suddenly up as Dominique said “Don’t worry – I’m not going to say anything.  But can you recall anything?”


“I remember thinking I cannot allow her to hurt anyone ever again – and then – bang.”


Dominique nodded as she sat next to Annie.  “You know I killed the man who drove my mother to her grave?”


“I’d heard that,” Annie said. 


Dominique sat back and let out a deep sigh.  “After my mother died, he took me in – if took me in is the words you use for turning someone into an accomplice, a lookout.  I really was a skinny little runt then, but over that time I started to grow up a bit, blossom out.


“Well, this particular night, he had consumed more than his usual amount of alcohol, and I was called and told – no ordered to come round.  I was sixteen, and honestly, I had no idea the way I looked had changed so much – I still felt the geeky young teenager.  So I came round to his place from the dive I was living in, and went in.  I remember it was raining, and I had one of those old plastic mac things you get in theme parks over my jumper and jeans.


“Well, I could see he was out of it when I walked in – but he stood up, walked over to me and said – well, I can’t repeat them now, and I’m not sure I ever wanted to.  All I knew was what he wanted to do to me – so I kneed him in the groin, and tried to run out of the house.


“Thing is I’m not Jo, and I was still gangly – so I tripped over, and the next thing I knew he was over me.  There was a shotgun next to me in a cupboard, so I grabbed it and pointed it at him.  I heard him say ‘you haven’t got the balls,’ and thought of all the pain and hurt he had caused me and my mother, decided in my mind I could not allow it anymore, and – bang.”


Annie looked at Dominique, and said “Why did you tell me that?”


“Because you are not me, Annie – what I did that night sent me down a path that brought me here.  What you did last night is similar in one great respect – you did it to prevent others from being hurt again.”


Taking Annie’s hands, Dominique said “Killing someone is never easy, and never to be taken lightly.  It is my sincere hope you never need to face that choice again, but if it does happen, always think – am I doing this to protect others from harm?  It is all right to be upset, all right to show remorse – it is what makes us human.”


Annie looked at Dominique, and then held her, tears coming as she buried her head into the shoulder of her friend.  Dom put her arms round Annie and held her, allowing the tears to flow until she was ready to let go.


“Thank you,” she finally said as she wiped her eyes.


“Now, are you ready for that drink?”


Annie nodded as Dominique stood up and went to the ice box.  “By the way,” she said, “I understand you are looking for a new apartment?  Would you consider sharing with me?”


“Of course I would – did Heather say something?”


“She may have said something,” Dominique said as she produced two beers.  “It would mean acting as a guardian in name to Ama as well, if you are willing.”


“Of course I am – in fact, I was going to talk to you about her schooling.  She is a very bright young lady, and I think we may have a place for her at St Angela’s – if she is willing, and can do some catch up classes in some subjects.”


“What would it entail on my part?”


“First to be recognized as her guardian – so no moves until this business is finished.”


“Agreed – ah there you are Ama, come and join us.”


“Did you have a good day, Dominique,” the young African girl said as she sat down.


“At least we have got onto first names,” Annie said with a smile.


“Ama, you know that when this is over, I intend to stay here in New York, and for you to live where I live?”


Ama nodded as Dom continued “Well, would you object if Annie joined us as well?  I will need to travel a bit on business for Madame, and she can act as the adult in my absence.”


“I would like that very much,” Ama said as she smiled at Annie.


“Good,” Dominique said, “now all we need is to find a place…”


5.30 pm

The Richmond Mansion


“All right young lady – get your bag and let’s get going.”


“Yes, Mom,” Katy said as she went to find her rucksack.  “Can I go to the party on Sunday Mom?”


“We’ll talk about it when we get home,” Jan said as she hugged her daughter.  As she went to step out of the door, Heather glanced up the street.


“Funny,” she said quietly, “that’s the third time I’ve seen that car today.”


“Which one?”


“No – don’t look.  I’m just glad we did what we did this afternoon.  Listen, I’ll call you in a few minutes on your cell, all right?”


Jan nodded as she took Katy’s hand and went back to her own car, driving off as Heather closed the door to.  Through the crack, she watched the car drive after her, and closed the door.


As she drove to West Central Park, Jan saw the text alert on her phone, frowning slightly as she glanced at it.


“Something wrong Mom?”


“No Kate – Mom just needs to ask Granny to do something when we get home.”


As Jan pulled into the space outside her apartment block, she took Katy’s hand and led her in, the car pulling in down the block.


“Better call it in,” the driver said as he looked at the door.


“This is unit two – she’s back home with her daughter.  No other…”


He looked up as there was a tap on the window, and saw Katherine Carter standing outside with a flask and two cups.


“Hello boys,” she said as they lowered the window, “Janice was concerned you might be cold and thirsty, so she sent me with this flask and she’ll bring some sandwiches later.”


“I…  UH… thanks?”


“No problem – I’m sure once she’s finished talking to Mr. Callaghan she’ll be out to talk to you herself…”


8 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment


“They were tailing Jan?  I’d like to have been a fly on the wall of that conversation.”


“As would I,” Diana said as she looked at Heather.  “Still, it has been a quieter day today, and the distraction was most useful.”


“Not that quiet,” Sandy said.  “The explosion at the bar troubled me, and it would appear I was right to be troubled.  Have you talked to Tommy?”


“We spoke earlier,” Juliette said quietly, “he was sad to hear of Willy’s passing, but he also confirmed Willy was working to supply arms to Mazengwe for blood diamonds.”


“Any word on the cause of the explosion?”


“Not yet – but I know where my suspicions lie?”




“One of them, certainly – but this is something we’ve never seen them use before.  No, I have a feeling someone is tidying up.”


“The Walrus?”


“Or someone employed by him.  Jan promised she’d let us know more as soon as she knew.  I’ve set her up with the secure link now.”


While they were talking, Heather was looking at the New York Times website.  “Well, if it was Kimba, it can only get worse.”




“Today’s report from Jane – she’s now in a position to share exactly what the Johannesburg Mail and Guardian published today about Kimba’s role in all this.  I would imagine he is about to go nuclear.”


“When is Jan next due to talk to Jane?”


“Tomorrow, I think – why?”


“Ask her where and when tomorrow – I’m not easy about what may happen.”


Sandy nodded as Juliette sat back.  “If this is indeed Stonemark on a scorched earth policy, then we need to consider the possibility we may need to move sooner than expected.”


The telephone rang, and Juliette stood up to answer it.


“Hello?  Oh hello Rachel, what can I do for you?


“Tomorrow night?  Well, of course I’d like the opportunity to say goodbye to Mandy before she leaves – who else are you inviting?


“Shirley said yes?  That’s good…  Diana and Sandy are here with me so I’ll tell them as well…”


As they looked at each other, they saw Juliette harden her face for a moment, before she said “Well, of course it will be a pleasure to see him as well.  Seven thirty for eight?


“All right Rachel, I’ll see you then.  Bye for now?”


As she put the phone down, Juliette turned and said “We have a dinner invitation for tomorrow – one I have accepted on your behalf.”


“At Rachel’s house?  I presume she is saying goodbye to Will and Mandy?”


“She is – and she’s invited her cousin.”


Stonemark?  He will be there?”


Diana looked at Juliette as she slowly nodded.  “Well then,” she said quietly, “I look forward to seeing the face of the enemy.”


“Diana, are you and Abigail still flying to Paris on Friday night?”


“Sadly yes – this damned perfume company wants her at Longchamp on Sunday, but we will be back by Monday morning on the redeye.”


“Then we just have to hope we do not have to move on him before your return,” Juliette said quietly.



9 pm

The Waldorf Hotel


Madame came into the room as Dominique, Charlotte, Susan and Penny stood up.


“Thank you for coming so quickly,” she said as she sat down.  “As you will be aware, as of one hour ago the full details of Kimba’s involvement in the slavery and diamond smuggling have been revealed by Jane Molloy.  Charlotte, what news?”


K’Gala has been on television, denouncing Kimba and calling for his supporters to realize the enormity of his crimes.  It would appear the tide is turning decisively in his favour.  Kimba himself is furious, and I’m having to rotate those watching Xantu and him more frequently.”




“Because, Dominique, the threats he is making are most potent and upsetting.”


“Understandable, and commendable Charlotte.  Now that Cohen and Chen are out of the picture, we can cycle listeners more quickly.  Now, what of the explosion earlier today?”


“I have spoken to Heather,” Susan said, “she went to view the scene from a distance with Janice.  They could not get close, but Janice is certain it was a deliberate explosion.”


“So someone decided to blow a bar up – the question is, why?”


“Because the man who owned the bar was probably their new arms supplier – well, ex-supplier.   He died in the explosion.”


Madame had been sitting back as the conversation went on, but this news made her sit forward.  “The man referred to as Willy?”


Susan nodded as Dominique looked round the group.  “Somebody is tying up loose ends – Twining?”


“Not his style – Kimba would be more likely to perform so public an act.  Is there anything in the transcripts to suggest he ordered such a thing, Charlotte?”


“I am not aware of anything, but I will order an immediate review of the last 48 hours.”


“Good,” Madame nodded, “because there is one other possibility.”




Madame nodded in response to Penny’s comment.  “Ladies, am I alone in thinking we are now at the point of preparing for the endgame?”


She looked round the room as the other four shook their heads.


"Alright, then we must ensure that we take reasonable precautions.  Susan, I want a watch on Twining at all times.  Right now, he is the loose cannon, and I want to know what he is doing before he does it.  His wife as well.”


“I’ll get teams organized, and ask Clint to see if he can be assigned as his driver,” Susan said as she got up and left the room.


Madame looked Dominique straight in the eye. "From this moment, none of our people go anywhere without a loaded gun to defend themselves."

"I'll tell them." Charlotte said as she ran to the door.

"We might be short of weapons Madame." Dominique looked serious.

"Ask Ju if we can have access to Cari's store and to Sandy's cache.  If they cannot, then ask them to contact Tommy for an emergency order in my name.  Tell them I will pay a 100% bonus for fast delivery.”


“Agreed,” Dominique said, “Anything else?”


“Two things.  First, tell Ju to tell her girls they need to arm themselves."

"Will do. The second thing?"


“Ama and Maisha.  Will they be safe enough here?”


“I do not think we dare move them in the current situation.  I will make sure one of us is here at all times.”


“Agreed – you have your instructions.”


Dominique nodded as she got up and left the room.

"So what can we do?" Penny asked.


"If this is going to be a war then we can fight it." Madame spoke softly.

"We have the huge advantage of anonymity, that helps." Penny replied.  “We also have Janice on our side, and I imagine they are going to be as concerned as we are.”

"How the hell I'm going to be able to sit down with him at the McNally's for dinner tomorrow night I do not know?" Madame said as she leaned back in her chair.

"I'm sure you'll cope."

"I hope so Penny, I sincerely hope so."



Wednesday 1st October

9.30 am

FBI Field Office


“Well,” Janice said as she stood in front of Tom Callaghan’s desk, tapping her foot, “do you or do you not trust me on this case?”


Tom sat back and looked at Janice in her grey jacket and fitted trousers, her black silk blouse unfastened on the top two buttons.  “I trust you Janice,” he finally said while Adam Ball stood against the wall.


“Then why the hell did you have someone tailing me yesterday?  How long has it been going on for?”


“Jan, we just want to be sure you’re safe,” Adam said quietly.


“Oh?  Really?  Are you afraid I cannot take care of myself?”


“All right – they’re off your back now,” Tom said as he held his hands up.  “We’ve got bigger problems to consider at the moment anyway.”


“Sorry,” Adam mouthed as he and Janice sat down, Jan crossing her legs while he watched.


“I heard about the downtown explosion on the news,” Janice said.  “Wasn’t the guy who owned it one of the people Cohen mentioned?”


“He was,” Tom said quietly, “now he’s dead.  Fire department reckons someone placed a device near the gas line and leveled the place.”


“Typical – I take a day off and something goes bang,” Janice said as she smiled.  “Any other casualties?”


“Only Willy and another man – the coroner hasn’t identified him yet, but by the build, I’d say it was his brother.  One thing though – they reckon their hands were tied behind their backs.  We should have the reports later today.”


“Someone has been rattled,” Janice said quietly.  “Is it likely to be one of the others?”


“Who knows?  It’s not Cohen that much we can be certain of.  Legault is dead, Rice missing – it could be him.  And now Chen has vanished as well, so until and unless they turn up we can’t rule them out.”


“Chen has disappeared?  How?”


“Honestly,” Tom said, “according to Brooks her own people have got her.  If that’s the case, expect the show trial in due course.”


Adam looked through his notes.  Kimba is certainly more than capable of ordering it, but Xantu – the woman he is staying with – has diplomatic immunity, even if he doesn’t, so unless he sets a foot out of the apartment we cannot touch him.  As for Twining, he might be, but until MI6 or someone says we can, we can’t.”


“So if I hear you right, we have a potential war on our hands, and we can’t do anything to find out who ordered it?”


“That just about sums the situation up,” Tom said, “unless you have heard anything different.”


“Not yet,” Janice said, “but if I do, I’ll let you know.  I have one thought – I need to meet Jane Molloy later.  Despite the events of yesterday, I would feel safer if I had some backup for that meeting.”


“Agreed – Adam, shadow her at that meeting.  Kimba has past form when it comes to journalists – be prepared for anything.”


“On it Tom,” Adam said as the two agents walked out.  As they left Janice turned and said “Thanks for not chewing me out in there – I know you’re curious as to who these people are, but I do not want to scare them off.”


“There is one other possibility – this Walrus character Cohen talked about.  He couldn’t name him, but he said even Twining was scared of him.”


“I thought of that too – but all we have are vague details.  Nothing substantial.  Still, I would like to know more.  Maybe we can ask him together?”


“Let’s see – he’s with his family now in a safe house.  You have another meeting to get out of the way first.”


“Right – and we need time to get into our gladrags.”


“How on earth did you persuade me to do this tonight Janice?”


“Because you wanted to?”  Janice smiled as she sat at her desk – she was beginning to like being this way with Adam.




10 am

The Waldorf Hotel


“You wished to see me Madame?”


Clint was standing in front of Madame’s desk, dressed in his chauffer’s outfit and somewhat nervous.  When Susan had called and asked him to ‘just pop in’ before he went to the car pool, he suspected something was up, but was not sure what.


“I did Clint,” Madame said with a smile.  “I have a rather delicate mission to perform tonight, and I would prefer it if someone was able to accompany me as a support.  I will not be able to go armed, so having you beside me would be invaluable.”


“Of course Madame,” Clint said, “Where is it we shall be going?”


“One of the most dangerous situations known to modern man, love – are you up for it?”


“Of course I am Susan – how bad can it be?”


“That depends,” Madame said, “on your views on dinner conversation and other matters.”




“Tonight, Clint,” Susan said as she walked over and stroked his cheek, “you will be Madame’s partner at a New York Society Dinner party, and get to mix with the nobility.”


Clint looked at his wife, and then said “Oh lovely – and I was looking forward to the game tonight.”


“I’ll TiVo it for you – and thank you,” Susan said as she kissed him, Madame smiling in the background.


11.30 am

The de Ros Mansion.


“What do I wear to have dinner with the man I have sworn to destroy?” 


Diana was looking through her wardrobe, looking at a black strapless dress with a long flowing satin skirt.  “Perhaps he will die of a heart attack,” she said as she held it in front of herself in the mirror.


She heard the doorbell ring, and Edith answering the door, saying “Can I help you?”


A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door and Edith came in,


“My apologies Miss Diana, but there are two gentlemen here to see you.  I have asked them to wait in the drawing room.”


“Did they say who they were Edith?”


“I believe you know them well, Miss Diana,” Edith said with a smile.  Diana looked at her housekeeper, and then laid the dress out on the bed.  “Would you find my opera gloves and my diamond necklace please,” she said as she descended the staircase and entered the drawing room.


“Good morning, gentle…  Papa?  Guillaume?”


“Diana my dear,” Guy said as he stood up, impeccable as ever in a dark suit and open necked shirt, “it is a pleasure to see you again.  How are you and Abigail?”


“We are well,” she said as she embraced the Duc de Grechy, “and all the better for seeing you.  And you, Guillaume, what brings you to this city?”


The younger man stood and embraced his sister.  He was as tall as Diana, and looked a lot like Guy, but his hair was jet black, the same colour as his shirt and jacket.


“Can I not pay a surprise visit to my favourite sister?” he said with a smile.


“I’m your only sister, but it is good to see you.  Would I be wrong in thinking you are here to see Natasha as well?”


“Well, if the opportunity should arise…”


Diana smiled as she said “Tell me, would you both happen to have brought your dinner suits with you?”


“Now Diana, when have you ever known me to not travel with one?”


Diana smiled at Guy’s answer as her brother nodded.


“Good – Natasha and I need partners for a dinner tonight, and you have both just volunteered…”


2 pm

The New Calabria Club


Annie looked up as the door opened, watching as Janice and Adam walked in.


“Long time no see, Agent Ball,” she said as they walked up to the bar, “can I get youse two a drink.”


“Just coffee for me please Annie,” Janice said.  “What about you Adam?”


“Give me a ginger ale, Annie – I’m here to watch today?”


“Oh yeah – the new Agent Carter got youse wrapped round her thumb, has she?”


“Hardly Annie,” Adam said as she gave him the glass, and Janice a cup.


“Is she here yet?”


“Yeah – she’s in da usual place,” Annie said as she moved her head back.


“Be careful,” Adam said as Janice carried her cup to the booth at the back of the bar, where Jane Molloy was waiting.


“Hello Jane,” Janice said as she sat down, “How are you?”


“Needing several good night’s sleep, if the truth be told.  This story has just exploded – had you any idea it would go this wide?”


“I have to confess, my confederates and I did not think it would explode so spectacularly – but it has had the effect of lancing a boil.”


“An interesting analogy,” Jane said as she stirred her coffee.


“But apt – when you do that, it gets very messy and stinks, but with care and planning it will heal and cleanse itself.  I have to say, you and your colleague in Johannesburg have done a magnificent job of getting the story out.”


“So, Agent Carter, what is the next step?”


At the front of the bar, Adam looked round as the door opened and Tommy came in, whistling as he held the NY Times under his arm.  As the door swung to, it was stopped by a tall dark skinned man, who came over to the bar and ordered a beer.


“Be wif ya in a minute,” Annie said as Tommy came behind the bar and kissed his wife.


“Afternoon Agent Ball,” he said as he looked at Adam, “All on youse own taday?”


“Nope – Jan is meeting someone out back,” Adam said.


“So what did da doc say, Annie,” Tommy said as he held her in his arms.


“All good, daddy to be – no problems.”


“I heard, congratulations,” Adam said as he raised his glass.  Annie smiled as she served the other customer, and Tommy stood next to Ball, looking at the paper.


“So how’s business Tommy?”


“Can’t complain – catch has been down a bit last coupla days, but still…”


“I take it you heard about Willy?”


“Yeah, I did – bad business dat, Ball, bad business.”


“Any thoughts on it?”


“Only how I’m gonna help carry that coffin – he apparently wants me to be a pallbearer, and I’m not as tall as the others…”


Adam laughed as he looked at Tommy.  “All right, Tommy, play it your way…”





“So you’re saying Mister Big, this Walrus, is in town now?”


“That is what I have been told, Jane – but no move can be made against him without conclusive proof.  In the meantime, and this time with the agreement of my superiors, we want you to have this.”


She placed a sealed envelope on the table, which Jane put in her bag.


“What’s in there?”


“The names of fifty prominent people who have been identified from the film of the auction.  We ask you hold off on publishing the actual names for the physical edition of the paper, but mention online arrests are imminent.”


“You need to flush some of these out, don’t you?”


“Or give them the chance to come clean.  At any rate, they will be arrested in the early hours, hence the need for some anonymity.”


“Understood – and when can I publish the full story?”


“Soon – but we are at the point where one wrong move can prove decisive.  I know you want the full truth out, but endure Jane – it will not be long now.”


“I hope so,” Jane said as she stood up.


“Did you come on your own?”


“My driver is waiting outside – why?”


“Give me a minute will you,” Janice said as she stood up and walked out, noting the new arrivals in the bar.


“Afternoon Tommy,” she said before she whispered to Adam “Jane has a security guard in a car outside.  Can you nip out and get him to come in for her?”


“Got it,” Adam whispered back as he finished his drink and walked out, Janice waking back to the rear of the bar as Tommy watched them.  The other customer also finished his beer, as he watched Janice.


Adam looked up and down the street outside, and then saw the red car parkinged at the curbside.  He walked up to it, noticing the man staring straight ahead behind the wheel, and looked in.


“I’m telling you Jan, I’ll be all right,” Jane said as the two women walked to the door of the club, “Who’s going to try and stop me?”


“Jane Molloy?”


“Who wants to…? ” Jane’s eyes widened as the man in front of her pulled a pistol from the inside of his jacket and aimed it at her.


“GET DOWN!!!”  Janice dived forward and forced Jane to the ground as the man fired one shot off, the reporter hearing it whizz past them before it hit the wall.


“Say hello to your god,” the man said as he aimed again, before Jan pulled her gun out and aimed it at him.  Before he could fire, however, a second shot was heard, as the man dropped the gun and held his arm.




Janice jumped up as Adam burst into the door, both of them covering the gunman.  “You all right Jan,” Adam said as he looked at her.


“Fine – Jane?”


“You…  You just saved my life,” Jane said as she stood up, “both of you.”


Youse picked the wrong bar to pull that stunt in, man,” Tommy said as he walked forward, the.45 still in his hand.  “Any chance youse can overlook dat, Ball?”


“Every chance in the world Tommy – and thanks.”


“Here, lady,” Tommy said as he offered Jane his hand, “Let me help ya up.”


“How did you know...?”


“Jane, you’d better sit down,” Janice said as Tommy took her over to her bar, while Adam fished his cell phone out.  “Yeah, I need a squad car at the New Calabria – there’s been a shooting.  One dead, the suspect wounded…”


3 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment


“Mom?  You home yet?”


Juliette looked up from her chair and removed her glasses as Carina brought Judith in.


“Hey there,” she said as she stood up, “is that her overnight bag?”


“Yup – change of clothes, diapers, and bottles of milk all prepared and ready.  Did Tommy agree to be your partner again tonight?”


“He did – I understand Judy and David have found a partner for you?”


“Yeah – some guy on David’s history class.  I have no idea who he is, the first time I’ll see him is when we meet at Judy’s tonight.”


“Well, my advice to you is to grin and bear it.  It’s only for one night.”


“Don’t worry – I’m there for Judy as well,” Carina said with a smile.  “Did Mary send the dress I asked to borrow?”


“She sent one for each of us – come and look.”  Juliette put her book down and went up to her bedroom, looking at the black strapless dress.  It was covered in sequins, and had a tiered black and white lace lower skirt.


“Perfect,” Carina said with a smile, “My white gloves will go so well with this.  What about you?”


Juliette looked at the purple dress and smiled.  “Oh yes, I love that Merlin Magic,” she said with a smile.  “Tonight, we kick ass,”


“So who is this second cousin of David’s who is coming to dinner – Viscount Stonemark?”


“Ah,” Juliette said, “I need to tell you something about him.  I want you to watch him very closely…”



6.30 pm

The de Ros Mansion


“Good evening, Miss Natasha,” Edith said as she opened the door to allow Natasha to enter. 


“Thank you,” Natasha said as she swept in, wearing a grey mink stole over her red halter neck evening dress.  The top was covered in sequins from the shoulders to the bottom of her chest, while a pair of silver four inch heels added to her height.


“Wow, you look wonderful, Aunt Natasha,” Abby said as she came down the stairs, wearing jeans and a t-shirt.


“Why thank you, Abigail,” Natasha said with a smile, “it is very kind of you to say so.”


“Well, she is not going to lie, is she?”


Natasha slowly turned to see Guillaume standing in the door of the drawing room, his arms folded as he smiled.


“Willy?  What are you doing here,” Natasha said as she walked as fast as the dress would allow over, putting her arms around his neck and kissing him.


“Ah young love, how sweet,” Guy said as he and Diana looked on from inside the room.


“Papa, please – just shut up and let them enjoy the moment.”


“Right, well, I’m off to join Heather and Jo – see you tomorrow folks!”


“Enjoy your night, darling,” Diana said as Abby walked out of the door, smiling as she looked at her uncle and aunt.


“Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?” Natasha said as she looked into her fiancé’s eyes.


“What, and miss the look of pleasure in your eyes,” Guillaume said.  “Father and I came over on business, and we surprised Diana this morning.  She mentioned she had this dinner invitation, and a gentleman always steps in when asked.”


“Business?  Has it finally been approved?”


“We can discuss that tomorrow – tonight, I am your escort,” he said as he offered his arm.”


“My dear?”  Guy offered his arm, Diana smiling as she took it and the two couples walked out, Edith closing the door behind them.


6.30 pm

The Waldorf Hotel


“Well?” Madame asked.


“It looks like he’s scorching the earth.” Susan said as she looked up from her notes, “striking out in all directions.  The explosion at Willy’s, and then this afternoon and the attempted assassination – it looks like he is clearing the way.”


“That’s how it looks to me as well Madame.” Dominique nodded.


“So your best guesses are?”


“He goes for Kimba.” Dominique paused, “But he gives him a little more time to suffer.”




“I think he likes the feeling of having powerful people like Kimba quaking in their boots.”


“I agree.” Susan checked her phone. “I think he’s a player, he enjoys the combat, he enjoys playing with people.  Clint is here, Madame.”


“Well,” Madame said as she stood up, “I have to sit down with him tonight and be polite… Oh by the way did you find what I asked for Dominique?”


“I did, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.” Dom said as she handed Madame a vintage Derringer.


“Pearl handle I see, it could actually pass as a fashion accessory.” Madame slipped the small weapon into her evening bag.


“If you are ready Madame,” Clint said as he came in, blushing as his wife came over.


"Okay Darling." Susan looked Clint up and down, “I think you look acceptable. Just remember you are Madame's escort but MY husband."

"Okay babe." Clint kissed his wife.


“Shall we,” Madame said as she walked to the door, Clint following.


“On to other business,” Dominique said, “Tommy is expecting you at the Long Island rendezvous at eight.  The payment is in my room.”


“Then I need to get ready,” Susan said, “if you can give me a few minutes?”


“We both do,” Dominique said, “I’m going with you.”


7.15 pm

The McNally Residence


“Sandy?  Thanks so much for agreeing to come tonight?”



“It’s our pleasure,” Sandy said as she and Alex entered the home, handing their coats to the maid.  Sandy was wearing an emerald green ball gown with matching opera gloves, while Alex was wearing a formal dinner jacket, white shirt and bow tie. 


“Are we the first to arrive,” Alex said as Rachel led them into the drawing room.


“Not quite – Mandy and Will are already here,” she said as they walked in to the guests of honour standing with George, David and another boy with Judy.  He had curly brown hair, and there was something about him that seemed familiar to Sandy.


There was another man standing with Mandy – Sandy guessed who it was, as Mandy came over and said “Sandy, come and meet my cousin.  Sandy, this is Gerald Stonemark.  Gerry, this is Alexandra Richmond and her uncle, Father Alex.”


“A pleasure,” Alex said as he shook the viscount’s hand.  “I was unaware we were going to be graced by even more of the aristocracy tonight.”


“The honour is entirely mine,” Stonemark said as he made a grave bow.  “So you are George and Rachel’s confessor as well, Father?”


“Only if they have anything to confess, your lordship.”


“Please – call me Gerald,” he said as the maid showed Carina and Juliette in, Tommy accompanying them.


Cari – over here,” Judy called out as Carina walked over to the trio.  “I want you to meet Harry.  Harry, this is my roommate Carina Huntingdown.  Cari, this is Harry Fairchild, David’s friend from History 101.”


“A pleasure to meet you,” Harry said as he took Carina’s gloved hand and kissed it.


“Oh I like this one,” Carina said with a smile.  “Where do you come from Harry?”


“Seattle now – but my family used to live in New York.  They moved out there when Dad’s job was transferred.”


“You look divine tonight Sandy,” Juliette said as she walked over.


“As do you,” Sandy whispered back.


“So this is Stonemark?”


“Indeed,” Sandy said quietly.  “I presume we shut up and listen?”


“All of us,” Juliette said as Madame walked in accompanied by Clint.  It took a moment for Sandy and Juliette to recognize her, as she had dyed her hair a deep auburn colour, and was wearing a classic black shift dress with a diamante pattern on it.  The maid was taking her mink stole, and she wore diamond earrings and bracelets over her white gloves.


“Shirley,” Rachel said as she greeted her, “Thank you for coming tonight.  And who is this?”


“Clint is a friend who agreed to act as my escort tonight,” Shirley said as Clint gave a small bow.  He was wearing a black dinner jacket and trousers, with a white shirt and black bow tie.


“Wow – who’s the hunk with Shirley,” Judy said as she looked over.


“Friend of hers I think – oh my Goddess.”




Judy and Carina both stared as Diana and Natasha entered, accompanied by Guy and Guillaume.


“Oh my,” Mandy said as she came forward, “I am indeed honoured if the Duc de Grechy had honoured us with his presence.  Two of them, in fact.”


“And two Countesses de Ros,” Will said as he took their hands and kissed them.  “I think this means the French nobility outnumber the English for this one night.”


“Can we agree just to be friends instead,” Diana said with a smile.  “My father and brother arrived unexpectedly today, and were gallant enough to agree to act as our escorts for tonight.”


“Of course we did,” Guy said with a smile, “we could not allow two of the three most important women in our lives to go unaccompanied, now could we?  William, a pleasure to see you again.  Tell me, how are the creatures?”


“And he’s off again,” Mandy said as she rolled her eyes.  “I do not believe you have met my cousin Diana.  Diana, may I present Viscount Gerald Stonemark.  Gerald, this is Diana, Countess de Ros, and her sister in law Natasha, Countess de Ros.”


A pleasure ladies,” he said as he kissed their hands, and then he saw Guillaume standing there.  He gave him a nod of the head, the gesture returned, before he went off to circulate amongst the other guests.


“Is there something wrong, darling,” Natasha said as she looked at her fiancé.


“It is nothing, my dear – do not let it concern you,” he said as he took her arm, but Diana watched him carefully.  For her brother to be upset at someone was very unusual, and worthy of note.


“Forgive me,” Sandy said as she talked to Judy and Carina, “but I cannot help feeling I know you from somewhere Harry.  Have we met before?”


Before Harry could answer, Janice and Adam entered, Janice in a silver halter neck dress and Adam in a suit and tie.


“Thank you for inviting us,” Janice said as she greeted Rachel, “I’m just sorry we are a little late.  Something came up that we had to deal with.”


“No problem – I think you know everyone, but this is my cousin, Gerald Stonemark.”


“An honour to meet you, sir,” Janice said as Stonemark held her hand.  “My partner Adam Ball.”


“A pleasure,” Adam said as they shook hands.


“I am sure Diana will introduce you to the others in due course, but this is David’s friend from Yale, Harry Fairchild.”


Adam turned to look at the young man, and then said “Harry?  Good lord, how long has it been?”


“At least ten years, Uncle Adam – ever since we moved to the west coast in fact.”


Carina and Sandy looked at the two men, before Janice said “Uncle Adam?”


“Yes,” Adam said quietly, “Harry’s mother is my sister.  How is she Harry?”


“As well as can be expected – I’ll tell her I saw you Uncle Adam.”


“Please, please do,” Adam said as Janice led him away, offering him a glass of wine.


“So you’re Adam’s nephew?  That would explain where I thought I had seen him before,” Sandy said as she looked at Adam walking away.


“Yes – I’m sorry, when we moved it was not exactly a decision my uncle approved of.  Anyway, why let that spoil a fun night?”



8 pm

Long Island


As Tommy pulled into the road that led to the barn, he was still wondering about what had happened that afternoon.  Ball had done him a favour today, and he was grateful for that.


Then there was the transformation in Carter.  She was always a good looker, but somehow she had woken up and showed herself off.


But right now, he had this emergency delivery to deal with.  He’d been surprised to find the order when he checked that morning, and even more so when he learned what it was for and the bonus.


Driving into the barn, he stopped next to the black limousine, watching as the door opened and one of the ladies got out.  She was impeccably dressed, as was the amazon who got out with her, and both identical – grey skirts and jackets, heel, stockings, scarves and the stocking masks.


“Good evening Tommy,” the smaller of the two said, “I am Miss Jaguar, and my friend here is Miss Civet.  I presume Miss Panther informed you we would be collecting on behalf of Miss Lioness?”


“She did, ladies,” Tommy said, “Would youse come this way please?”


He walked to the rear of his van, opening it and showing them the contents of three bags.


“Most impressive,” Miss Civet said as she checked one of the pistols.  “All identifying marks removed, of course?”


“Naturally – I also threw in extra ammunition, no extra charge.  I trust dis is sufficient for yer needs?”


“It is indeed,” Miss Jaguar said.  “If you will carry some of these for us, I have your payment in the car.”


Tommy hefted one of the bags, and Miss Civet the other two, and walked to the limousine as the trunk lid lifted up.  Placing them in, he retrieved a briefcase and held it.


“Do you not wish to check it?”


“No need ladies – your word is your bond.  Besides, if I was short changed, I know who t’ talk to, don’t I?”


The two women nodded as Tommy got into the van and drove off.


“I see why Juliette likes him,” Dominique said as he removed her mask and wig. 


"We need get these to everyone as quickly as possible," Susan said as she walked to the door.  Dominique nodded as she closed the trunk.

Susan opened the barn door and looked round carefully, "Right, Tommy's gone."

"Okay,” Dominique said, “let's head back into the city, better let me drive."

"Hey lay off about my driving."


“Susan, you are a loyal friend and a fine criminal, but you drive like Mister Bean – give me the keys.”


8.00 pm

The McNally Residence


The room had filled up with the guests, standing and talking in small groups as Rachel and George milled round.


“I understand you and Abigail will be on the same flight as us on Friday,” Guy said as he looked at Natasha and Guillaume.


“Indeed – a pity we can only do an overnight stay, but the company have paid for the trip and back, as well as the accommodation, so we must grin and bear it.”


“So what will Abigail be wearing at the races on Sunday?” The Duc asked his daughter.


“She’s found something amazing,” Diana said with a real sense of pride.  “It’s a black vintage suit with a peplum jacket and long pencil skirt, very chic very early fifties, she’s going to wear it with matching large hat, long gloves, and heels.”


“Well that will look amazing on her.” Kelly remarked.


“Indeed - I saw it when she had the fitting and it looks beautiful. She looks like a film noir character.”


“You could dress my granddaughter in black plastic bags,” Guy said as he sipped his champagne, “and she’d still look divine.”


“That’s true your grace.” Kelly smiled, “makes those of us who are mere mortals intensely jealous.”


Diana simply smiled.




“So where is little Judith tonight?” Mandy asked Carina as they stood by the bookcase.


“Heather’s babysitting her, I dropped her and her bottle off at the Richmond’s earlier.  Jo and Abby are keeping them company as well.”


“If you don’t mind me asking,” Mandy said as she looked at Carina, “how much did that fabulous dress cost?”


“Nothing.” Carina giggled, “It’s a loaner from Complete Style.”


“Oh - the models best friend, a good stylist who will lend.”


“That sums up Aunt Mary.”


Taking another sip from her glass, Mandy said “I’ve seen you in some TV ads darling.”


“Oh the ILUXX things,” Carina smiled again, “They were quite fun to do.”


“Are they going to throw you any more work?”


“Yeah.” Carina nodded, “It’s not too bad a gig, I can easily fit it in with school.  I’m doing a Bridal shoot as well in a few weeks time.”


“Ever considered going full-time?”


“”I’m too darn short to really make a living in the business.” Carina pouted, “What the hell stunted my growth?” she measured herself against Mandy. “Still, the catalogue and TV work is something.”


“Well you are a genius to make up for it.” Mandy smiled. “By the way what’s the relationship between the guy David brought along for you and our friendly neighbourhood FBI man?”


“I don’t know, but I intend to find out.” Carina sipped her champagne as she looked at Harry.



“I didn’t even know you had a sister, Adam,” Janice said as the two of them looked at Harry and David. 


“Yeah,” Adam said as he sipped his wine.  “Eve, she’s four years older than me.  She had Harry when she was barely seventeen.”


“So why have you never talked about her?  I’ve worked alongside you for years, and this is the first time I’ve ever heard you mention her.”  Janice then started giggling.


“What’s so funny?”


“Sorry, sorry – but Adam and Eve?  Seriously?”


“Hey – good Yiddish stock in my family you know,” Adam said with a smile.  “Look, it’s private Jan – something happened that I did not approve of, and we parted on bad terms.”


“Then this might be the chance to get back onto good terms?”


“Possibly – if he will allow me,” Adam said as he finished his drink.





 “Well Shirley has certainly raised the interest of all the men here.” Kelly said as she spoke to Rachel.


“Well,” Rachel said as she looked at the auburn haired woman, “that dress is to die for and the hairdo is so dramatic.”


“What I want to know, Rachel darling,” Kelly said quietly, “is where she dug that hunk of man up from?”


“I don’t know, but I’m sure I will be asking her before evenings out.”


“So what are we discussing?” Claire Morse joined them.


“Shirley’s man.” Kelly nodded.


“That is Grade A prime beef.” Claire sighed.


“No wonder she keeps her private life to herself,” Rachel said as she pursed her lips.


“And that dress fits her like her gloves.” Claire looked enviously.


“It’s pretty obvious she has nothing on underneath.” Kelly checked.


“You couldn’t under that gown.” Rachel looked daggers at her husband as he took Shirley a drink.




“So Harry, what’s the deal with your uncle Adam?”


“Hmmm,” Harry said as he looked at Carina.  “Oh, it’s old family business.  You don’t want to hear it.”


“Well, it obviously upset him, and you didn’t exactly look pleased to see him…”


“Well, we left for Seattle when I was a kid partly because of an argument he and my mother had over what happened at 9/11.”


“Oh my Goddess, don’t tell me one of your family were…”


“My dad – my first dad.  He was one of the firemen.  Anyway, Mom remarried, and I guess Uncle Adam felt it was betraying his memory to leave the city.  He liked Dad.  Then he went off to Iraq and Afghanistan, and when he returned Mom had remarried and moved.  I guess she was just too hurt to cope with it.”




“Well Madame… “


“My name is Shirley, Clint.”


“I know,” Clint said as he smiled at Sandy, “but it’s hard to say your name in public, I’m not used to it.”


“Well for tonight,” Shirley said as she put her gloved hand on his chest, “you have my permission.”


“I feel as if I’m in the lions’ den,” Clint said as he looked over at Claire, Rachel and Kelly, “and I’m the dish of the day.”


Madame smiled, “some of my friends may look like predators, but just remember they don’t bite… I hope.”


“Well Madame, sorry Shirley,” Clint whispered, “I think there are more than a few predatory husbands as well looking at you.”


“Really?”  Shirley smiled coyly as she looked round.


“Shirley, you know very well you are turning heads.”


“I know,” she said with a smile, “but it’s still nice to have it confirmed.  What of Stonemark?”


“He’s looked your way a few times as well – but he’s sticking with Lord Ordford for now.  Interesting that Diana’s younger brother did not like him.”


“Ah, so you noticed that too?  A fascinating man young De Grechy.  Do you know how he earns his living?”


“No – how?”


“He deals in gems…”





“So Guy,” Alex said as he shook de Grechy’s hand, “how have you been?”


“Reforming myself Alex,” Guy replied with a smile.


“You?  I fear the four horsemen may be coming down Times Square tomorrow now.”


“Yes, Father,” Guy said as he accepted another drink, “even I’ve come to realize that I needed to slow down a bit.”


“Well. We all grow older every second.”


“Indeed,” Guy said with a laugh.  “Well I have my eyes on a certain rich widow,” he said as he played with the end of his moustache.


“Oh yes,” Alex said, “Who might I ask, you old devil.”


“Young Natasha’s mother… “


“The countess?”  Alex held his glass in his hand as he looked at Guy.  “I thought you both cordially hated each other?”


“Well we have found we have a common interest in wine… “


“Well so do I, but… “


“And her bark is a lot worse then her bite. We’ve been seeing a lot of each other. It’s one of the reasons I flew over, to talk to Diana and Natasha.”


“I wondered what tempted you out of Paris so close to the Arc.”


“Well my filly went lame… “


“So you won’t win the big race this year?”


“No, but I have a couple of runners in the lesser events.”


“Well here’s wishing them luck.” The priest clinked glasses with the old nobleman



“Ladies and Gentlemen,” George McNally called out, “shall we head in for dinner?


The party made their way through to the dining room and took their places, the conversation continuing over the meal.