Training Day – Part 1







Friday 9th September

7 am

FBI Headquarters, 935 Pennsylvania Av.

Washington DC


The two security guards looked out as the grey panel van drew up outside the entrance to the main building.


“What do you think they want,” one of them said as the side panel was opened, and a large grey sack pushed out onto the pavement before the van drove off at speed.   The second guard looked out, and then walked to the door, drawing his weapon as he said “call the Washington PD, just in case.”


“Roger that,” the first guard said as his partner walked slowly out, looking up and down the nearly deserted street as he walked slowly to the sack.  Looking down, he saw the blood soaked stains in the cloth, as he turned and looked to where his partner was.  “Get some backup here,” he called out, “I think there’s a dead body in here.”


7 am

The Farm


“Get up.”


Lily slowly opened her eyes, to see two women standing in the barn, again wearing combat trousers, army jumpers, boots, gloves, and this time balaclava masks.


“I said GET UP,” the taller of the two women shouted, the group waking as Tracy said “who the…”


“I am Miss Leopard,” the other woman said, “this is Miss Cheetah.  You have five minutes to put on the outfits by your beds, and meet in the yard.  Do not disappoint me by being late.”


“Here we go,” Lily said quietly as she started to pull on the boiler suit…



Ten minutes later, the eight women were in the yard, watching the two masked women as they stood in front of a row of hunting rifles.


“The first lesson I have to teach you is do as we say,” Miss Leopard said quietly, “the second is to listen to the first.  Take your rifles – we’re going to go for a pre-breakfast run, and there will be tests along the way.”


“A run?  How far?”


“Does it matter,” Miss Cheetah said, “do it!”


The group nodded as they picked up the rifles, and looked at the masked instructors.


“Follow my lead, and at times, you will be given scenarios and targets – reaction speed and accuracy will all be assessed.  Move out.”


As she set off at a trot, the others followed, Miss Cheetah smiling as she brought up the rear.  A trot that soon turned into a run through the woods…






8 am

FBI Headquarters, Washington DC


He walked into the medical officer’s sanctum, dressed in a golf shirt, slacks and shoes, as he said “what happened?”


“This unfortunate young lady was left on the doorstep,” the grey haired medical examiner said, “with a note addressed to you.”


He nodded as the examiner removed the cover, and whispered “shit – how the hell did they…”


“You recognise her?”


Slowly nodding, he said “she’s one of us.  The note?”


“Over here – forensics are checking for fingerprints, but there don’t appear to be any.”


He nodded as he looked through the clear plastic bag.




I applaud your ingenuity and planning, but as you can see, I was made aware of the agent who managed to infiltrate my organization.  She has paid the price.


He looked back over, and said “initial findings?”


“Her body is a mass of contusions and cuts – as well as small burns on her feet and chest.  Her fingers are mangled – I’d say crushed at the knuckles in some way.  Cause of death, however, I’d say was the sliced jugular.”


“How long ago?”


“Difficult to tell – whatever brought her here was a refrigerated vehicle.   I’ll know more when I’ve finished.”


He turned and continued to read the note.


I regret the necessity of silencing her, but I cannot and will not take the risk of her continued spying on my group.  Rest assured, any further attempts to do the same will meet the same response. 


Accept my word for this – I have no desire to hinder you in the necessary work you do, and you have much to do.  Concentrate on those criminals and threats – and leave us to continue our work, or the results will be even more unfortunate.  Leave us to our business, and we will leave you to yours.


Madame X


“Fuck,” he said quietly, “how on earth did she get onto her?  And who did this to her?”


The Farm


“SWAT Team approaching!”


The group dropped to the ground as one, Miss Leopard watching as Lily and Tracy aimed the rifles.


“Good – up and continue,” the instructor said as they ran through to the yard of the Farm, the group standing and panting as Miss Cheetah brought up the rear.


“Excellent – a morning run wakes the body and quickens the appetite.  Breakfast is in the barn – we start again in half an hour.”


“Come on,” Frances said as she looked round, “I need something hot.”


“I ache in places I did not believe I could ache,” Evey said as she poured some coffee into a mug and took a long drink.


“It’s worse than the Tottenham high road,” Tracy sighed as she picked up a Danish pastry and nibbled on it.  “Why on earth did…”


“A war scenario, I think,” Lily said quietly.


“Lily – are they…”


“Yes they are,” Lily said quietly, “when we say you are being trained by experts here, we were not joking…”



“Your thoughts,” Susan said as Heather and Diana removed their balaclava matches.”


“Most reasonably fit and fast responding – one or two need more work,” Diana said as she took the coffee.


“So the little surprise we have prepared for them?”

“Let us see…”





Louise was the first to notice something out of the corner of her eye.  There was a sound, but she was not sure where.  Putting her cup down, she slowly looked round the room.


“What’s up,” Frances said as she looked at her friend.


“Do you hear that,” Louise said as she walked to a box covered by a blanket, “it sounds like a clock.”


Lily followed her and nodded as she said “I hear it now,” and removed the blanket, Louise looking in the box as she said “oh hell.”


“What is it,” Tracy said as she looked in, and then called out “nail scissors – quick!”


“Here,” Frances said as she dug a pair from her bag and took them over, Tracy looking at the ticking clock which was wired to the taped together bundle of red sticks. 


“Right – red or green?”


“Cut them both,” Lily said, but Louise shook her head and said “no – the red for danger.”


“Here goes nothing,” Tracy said as she cut the red wire, the clock stopping for a moment – and then starting again.


“Fuck – is there a bucket of water over there?”


Evey nodded as Tracy picked the package up, walked quickly over and dropped it in, then running with the girls into the courtyard as Miss Leopard came out.


“A problem ladies,” she said calmly as there was a ringing sound, and then steam coming out from the barn.


“A bomb?”


“Actually, no – just some firecrackers.”


They group looked at the tall woman, dressed in black including the balaclava.  “But you coped well – tried to defuse it, then dunked it in water.  Good thinking.”


“Ladies – allow me to introduce Miss Serval.  She will be talking to you today about explosives in various forms.”



"Welcome – let me start with a question.  What practical experience do any of you have with explosives ladies?" Miss Serval asked.


“We’ve faced rigged bombs, but ran rather than dealt with them,” Lily said.


“I’ve had some experience, but not much,” Evey said.


"Okay.  In the real world ladies you will be required to both use explosives, and to disarm them. Neither is an easy task, they require knowledge and they require learning several different skills. I can't teach them to you on a single course, but I can at least give you a grounding in all this."

"Thank you," Louise muttered.


“So we have the basics of what you may use – this is gelignite,” the masked woman said as she opened a waxed paper parcel, and revealed what looked like grey putty.  “In itself harmless, but put it near a lock, and run a current through it, and it will explode.  So, before you can proceed ladies you need to blow this safe and collect what is inside. Is that clear?"


The group nodded as Tracy looked at the safe, and said “how much?”


“You decide…”






"How is it going out there Penny?" Carina asked as she poured the Englishwoman a coffee.

"I think Helen has their attention."

"Yes,” Carina said as Judith drew on some paper, “that trick with the firecrackers was a pretty good one."

"It is."

As they spoke, a bang came from outside, and Penny looked out to see a small column of smoke, and Tracy taking a package from the now doorless safe.


“A little too much putty, I think,” she said as she turned and smiled.


"I'll admit I have no desire to work with explosives, it's why we Pussycats needed to bring in Helen in the first place to blow vaults and safes."

"It's a lot easier to hold a gun to someone’s head and terrify them into opening something?"

"It works for me," the smaller woman laughed as Shirley and Diana came into the room.


“Are you sure you are up to doing the firearms assessments Diana?" Shirley looked as the Frenchwoman momentarily looked in pain.

"Yes Cherie,” Diana said with a smile, “and I do wish you'd all relax, I will be fine, but not if you keep worrying like this about me."

"We are just all concerned."


“I understand – Helen has promised next week to tell me when she can do what is required.


Nodding, Shirley took a drink and looked at the others.  “When are you girls shooting back to Manhattan?” Shirley addressed Caroline, Heather, Sandy, and Janice.


“In a bit,” Caroline said as she looked at her watch.


“I need to get back and prepare for the first proper Friday afternoon Coffee Club meeting of the new school year.” Heather smiled. “A nanny’s work is never done.”


“Any new recruits yet?”


“Not that I’m aware of Shirley.”


“We will know more when we hear who has been invited to go swimming tomorrow,”

Jan said as she looked down at her device.


“I guess that’s true,” Shirley caught the look on Jan’s face. “Something bad?”


“Your ears should be burning Shirley, that little stunt in Washington has raised Madame X to number one on the FBI shit list.”


“Ah – I anticipated that would happen.  Time to make a few phone calls…”




“A little exuberant, but not too bad ladies,” Miss Serval said.  “What did you find?”


“A list of ingredients,” Tracy said as she looked at the sheet, “fertilizer, bleach, cleaning materials, electrical wire…”  She then looked up and said “shit – is this what I think it is?”


“It is,” Miss Serval said quietly, “you need to understand how to use everyday things to create explosive devices – to improvise if you will.  Who has some chemistry experience?”


As the group looked at each other, Miss Serval nodded.  “I am going to show you how to use those things to improvise a small explosive – keep those gloves on ladies, and when you have finished, we will test them out…”



12.45 pm

St Angela’s Academy


“Well it’s only the first Friday of the New Year but things are already settling down Kate,” Grace said, smiling as she looked out over the students as they ate their lunches.


Kate Hardistay nodded slowly as she said “They appear to be.”


“Appear to be?”


“I don’t know how to explain it Grace,” Kate said quietly, “but it’s as though something is in the air, something is going to happen. I can sense it somehow but I have no clue what it is.”


“Are you sure you aren’t imagining trouble Kate?”


“Oh let’s hope it’s just that, but I just can’t shake this feeling that we have trouble heading our way.”





“So how has the first week gone Mel,” Erica said as she sipped her drink.


“Good so far – but I can’t wait to get home for the weekend.  I’ve got my assignments for Monday done so that I can relax.”


“Sounds good – so you’re heading off after the last lesson?”


“Yeah – you okay taking my bags back for me?”


“Sure – I’m going to the Richmond house anyway, so Mom can give me a hand after that.”


“Maybe you can stay one weekend and come swimming?”


“Much as I’d like that,” Melinda said with a grin, “I think the only time we’re staying is when we come to the ski lodges – what is that like?”


“Ah – Jean Claude…”


Erica closed her eyes and smiled as Mel looked at her.


“Something to look forward to?”


“Oh yes…”




1 pm

The Farm


"How many of you would describe yourself as feeling at home in a rural environment?" Diana said as she looked through the eyeholes in her mask, "and how many of you would simply describe yourself as big city girls?"

"Well I'm a city girl for sure," Louise mumbled.

"It doesn't in the end really matter, but it will play a part in how easy you find the firearms testing you are about to undergo."


“In what way,” Tracy said as she looked over.


“We’re going hunting – but I want you to create your own hides.  Follow me…”


“What does she mean,” Louise said as they set off.


“Wait and see…”




“All right ladies,” Miss Leopard said as they reached a clearing, “I want you to pick a spot to hide, and then I want you to shoot some game.  Simple as that.”


The group looked at each other, before they split off, Tracy putting her rifle over her shoulder and starting to climb a tree as Frances and Lily went for a nearby gorse bush, the others finding other places to hide.


“And what are we hunting for,” Louise said as she lay on the ground.


“Whatever may come along…”


"What is the point of this exercise Lily?" Tracy asked, "I need food I go to the shops, why am I out hunting?"

"Because dear Trace,” Lily said quietly, “not everywhere that we might get sent is walking distance to Tesco's. Occasionally we may be required to live off the land."

"I guess I understand that Lil, but I think you better explain it again to Louise, she broke a nail a few minutes ago and had a near meltdown."

"That's our Lou," Lily giggled, "I've got a bet on with her sister on just how many times Louise threatens to just walk away this weekend and head for the comforts of a hotel and a hot tub."

"You think she will do that?"

"No, but I expect her to complain and bellyache all the way. Louise may have started out as Lou, but inside she's the ultimate girly girl, she likes her comforts. Despite that though she's proved more than once when the chips are down she does her job admirably...Just like you Trace, it's why I chose you both for this team."


“Hold on – couple of rabbits over there.  Shall we?”


“Why not,” Lily said as they took aim, Miss Leopard nodding as they killed them cleanly…



3.30 pm

The Richmond Mansion


“It’s good to be back,” Denice said as she sat at the Kitchen bar, smiling as Heather handed her a mug of coffee.


“I know,” April said with a smile, “it means the summer is over, but what the hey.  So, what are the arrangements for getting Melinda home tonight Denice?"

"She's going to catch the subway, ferry, and train home, Eva is going to meet her at the station."

"Rather her then me," April smiled. "I think it’s a pity that Andy and Eva live all the way out in Tottenville, it would be great seeing her here regularly."

"Agreed," Heather said as she poured some fresh coffee, "they do seem to mesh in with the group."

"That they do." Denice nodded.

"So is Eva making time to come on some of the ski weekends?"

"She is Caroline, she's told them at the Library which long weekends she wants off."


“Ah, coffee – just what I need,” Pippa said as she came in with Elaine and Emma.


“I second that emotion,” Janice said as she joined the group.


"So I hear that Katy, Sands, and the others are now the Queens of Bishop Walden Sandy?" Emma said as she sat down.

"I think they like to think they are Emma."

"They'll soon come crashing down to earth next year when they start their new schools."

"I know I did when I went from Bishop Walden to St Angela's," Elaine shook her head.

Janice smiled as she said "it will do my daughter some good becoming a humble freshman next year."

"Katy? Humble?" Sandy laughed, "She's already a superstar, changing schools won't change that."

"I can dream can't I?" Jan laughed as the sound of laughter announced the arrival of the girls.


“Hi Heather – Katy and I are going upstairs,” Sands said as she looked in.


“Where are the others?”


“In the front room…”




"Alright swimming in the morning, then lunch, then we hit the market?"

"Sounds like a plan to me Ama," Nikki said as she looked up from checking her mobile.

"So who has dates tonight and tomorrow?" Becca asked.

"Well not me," Doc nibbled on a cookie, "I don't even get to talk with Chet till Sunday night because he's on this damn school camping trip."

"Snap," Jeannie sighed, "House and the team have a game and he says he can't concentrate on preparation if he talks to me."

"Speaking as an engaged woman..."

"Don't rub it in Peps" a couple of the other girls groaned.

"I intend to devote my time this weekend to my school work."

"And pigs might fly," Doc laughed, "Odds on you'll spend most of it looking at Jack's picture and dreaming he was here with you."


Pepsi shook her head as the others laughed…





"So are you and Tonia finished at last with Gale's new place Sandy?"

"We are Emma,” Sandy said as she sat down, “those last minute changes she ordered we've been working round her and Tom, but it looks like everything is going to be just as she wants it."

"And all in time for the house warming party," Pippa smiled broadly.

"Am I going to be able to survive all the parties between now and Christmas," Denice looked skywards.




"What news from The Hampton's April?" Barbara asked.

"It's looking all but finished Barb, Nessa and Paulie have both paid me, and mainly now it’s a case of giving it time for everything to grow and for the gardens to look at their best."

"Out of interest,” Pippa said, “how long is that going to take April?"

"You won't really see it at its best for probably 5 or 6 years, but I've given both gardens enough quick growing things that there will at least be something to look at while the whole thing matures."


“Nothing like long term planning…”



6 pm

The Farm


"So what were your impressions Diana?" Penny asked as she came into the kitchen of the farmhouse.

"Oh they can certainly all shoot accurately,” Diana said as she sat down, “but I'm awfully tempted to recommend sending them to Botswana to learn some bush craft from the Sisters."

"Believe it or not, I've talked about that with Madame and Charlotte." Penny poured the Frenchwoman a glass of wine, "but Madame is worried that just maybe that is a step too far."

"I think it's something you need think about," Diana took a sip.

"So other recommendations?"

"As of this moment then nothing, but I'll tell you more after I see them using a variety of weapons on the range tomorrow."


“After a Cari special?”


Diana smiled as she nodded.  “Where’s Shirley?”


“Business calls…”





"How are things out on the West Coast this evening Madeline?" Shirley smiled at the face of her old friend on the screen.

"Not great Madame."

"Oh?" Shirley sat at attention.

"Oh it's nothing that concerns you Shirley, it’s a series of irritating little things relating to the legitimate businesses."

"Ah well on those I can just sympathise and offer any help that can be given from my end, there is nothing I can do in the way of direct action."

"Not unless you have influence with someone upstairs regarding these huge storms in the western Pacific."

"No my pull doesn't extend quite that far," Shirley giggled.

"A couple of ships we have goods being moved on are stuck in port and we are talking substantial penalties if deliveries aren't made on time."

"Not good," Madame shook her head, "but it's a matter beyond our control, if needs be we will just have to pay."

"I know," Maddie shook her head, "I sometimes think that crime is so much simpler then all this."

"It often is."

"I know."

"Anyway the reason that I rang like this, any progress with regards to the Chinese with regards to them telling us what they know about what the Russians are up to?"

"As of this moment no, but I'm hoping that in the next 48 hours that contact of Jill's in Chinese intelligence will have something to tell us."


“Keep me informed,” Shirley said, “I need to take another call.  We’ll talk tomorrow Madeline.”


“Of course, Madame,” Maddie said as that call ended, and Shirley accepted the second call as Eleanor appeared on the screen from Annapolis.


"Well Eleanor,” Shirley said, “what news do you have for me?"

"As Madame X? Or as the clandestine figure trying to assist US Intelligence?"

"Both I guess," Shirley laughed.

"That stunt this morning has made you VERY popular...NOT!"

"So Jan told me."

"Ed though says that the powers that be who are investigating all the crap are more than happy to have the use of some of the network behind The Sisters."


“The power of the politic,” Shirley said with a smile.




8 pm

The Eckholm home


"So how was week one at St Angela's Mel?" Eva asked as she watched her daughter eat her supper.

"Hard, exciting, fun," Melinda smiled. "Erica warned me that it might be a shock and it certainly was."

"Are you and Erica getting along okay?"

"Yes, despite the fact that she doesn't know one end of a football from another," Mel took another bite, "and Aunt Denice has been fantastic. The one thing I miss above all though is Mom's cooking."

"Thank you darling," Eva smiled, "it's nice to know I've not been replaced totally."

"Don't you miss us?" Tommy asked.

"Do I have to answer that?" Mel giggled. "You and Asty can be pains in my rear, but of course I miss you both."

"Can I have that in writing please for the next time you shout at me?" Astrid asked with a smile.

"No," Mel laughed.

"So when is your first game Mel?" Andy smiled as his daughters bickered.

"Girls Grammar on Wednesday. Everyone says they aren't very good so it should be an easy warmup."


“We’ll see,” her father said, “assignments?”


“All done – this is a down time weekend for me…”



The Huntingdown apartment


"You look as though you've had far too much fun darling," Juliette looked at the screen."

"Who me?" Carina laughed as the screen showed the kitchen of the farm, "all I've been doing is tweaking the musical playlist for tonight."

"May the Goddess help them," Juliette shook her head.

"Others have endured listening to my taste in music, I'm sure they will."

"Well just be prepared to hear your ears burn as they curse you out darling."

"Oh I've got a new joke for you Mom."


"Yes, you know black when you wear it makes you look slimmer and smaller?"

"I do."

"Is that why condoms are rarely made in black?"

"OUCH!" Juliette laughed loudly, "Carina Diana von Furstenheim you should be shot for that one."

"Hey it made you laugh Mom." Cari giggled.


The Farm


As the barn doors opened, Lily looked up to see Susan pulling a dress rack in, a number of bags on it as Shirley came over.


“Tough day,” Susan said with a smile as she stopped.


“Had worse,” Tracy said with a smile.  “What’s in the bags?”


“A change of clothing – but first, Madame?”


"Okay ladies we must now deal with an issue that can either make or break the kind of missions that this team will be tasked to undertake," Shirley spoke softly. 

“And that is?”


"You need to be able to blend seamlessly into any kind of social environment without arousing suspicion."

"Isn't that just part of the whole thing of hiding in plain sight Madame?" Frances asked.

"It is, but you need to ensure your social craft meets absolute perfection. Merely being able to pass is not going to be good enough, you must learn to blend in so that in any situation you are all but invisible."

"Meaning what Madame?" Evey asked with interest.

"Well let's start to answer that by asking a couple of questions shall we? How many of these girls Tracy could you take into a back street pub in Tottenham and they wouldn't stand out like a sore thumb?"

"Very few Madame."

"And Louise - how many could you take into a Hollywood type milieu and they wouldn't excite interest?"

"As Tracy says Madame, not many."

"Good," Shirley smiled, "at least I think you now understand what I'm getting at, Go change and get ready for a late dinner and we will discuss all this with a few guests I've brought in to talk with you."





8.30 pm


As Lily led the girls in in their evening dresses and heels, Tracy smiled as she recognised the small blonde.


“Kylie – I should have realised you would be one of the guests.”


“It is good to see you as well, Tracy darling,” Kylie said as she stood up in her silver dress.  “Marina and Beverly send their regards.  You all know Charlotte, of course, but for those who do not know her, this is Francesca, Marchesa di Cambrello.”


“Or as I call her, Mamma,” Charlotte said with a smile.  “Come – the dinner table is set, and we can talk openly.”


“Welcome,” Shirley said as she and Susan stood up, “please, take your seats, and help yourselves to food.  I have invited my guests here to discuss with you how you can adapt to blend in.”


“Forgive me Madame,” Evey said, “but how would Kylie and Charlotte know these skills.”


“Because,” Tracy said as she sat down, “Kylie and I used to run in the same gang, and she has transformed herself.  Pass the salad bowl…”


As the girls helped themselves, Susan said “what do you think it takes to blend in?”


“The clothing, the style,” Frances said as she cut into the meat.


"It’s more than that.  The Marchesa keeps a secret ladies that I'm about to reveal and which will never cross your lips," Shirley sipped her wine.

"Out of interest may I ask what that is?" Tracy asked.

"Not at all," Francesca smiled, "until my recent retirement I was considered one of the world’s premiere undercover agents."

"My Mama was both an Admiral in the Italian navy, and an agent engaged in vital work on behalf of her country." Charlotte looked at her mother proudly.

"But I've read about you in the magazines Admiral," Louise had a puzzled look on her face, "they all said you were this famous socialite."

"La Bionda Idiota," Francesca smiled again, "that was just one of the many covers that I adopted Tracy. In my line of work I had to be prepared to go anywhere, any time, and just be able to seamlessly meld into the background."

"Which is just what tonight’s dinner topic of conversation is to be all about." Shirley spoke again.

"So can I ask Madame why Kylie is here?"

"I'm here Evey darling,” Kylie drawled, “to reinforce the message. When I was first assessed for my suitability for joining Madame's organisation I was this little street thug from a North London council estate."

"That's like our housing projects isn't it?" the redheaded Cailie asked.

"It is."

"So this Kylie isn't the real you?" Frances asked.

"Gawd No!?" Kylie slipped back into her old accent and laughed. "This me is a creation of both my own will, and a change in environment. This Kylie is the ultra respectable front that I can hide behind."

"So are there other Kylie's?"

"A couple Louise," Kylie said as she changed her posture and voice, "I think I can pass pretty well as a Valley Girl from your part of the world."

"That actually isn't bad," Louise smiled, “how did you learn that?”


“Study – believe it or not, YouTube is perfect for this,” Kylie said as she slipped to her normal accent, “but it takes time to learn.  The good news is, the more you practice, the easier it does get.”


“Kylie is essentially correct – you need to quickly assess your surroundings and do what needs to be done to blend in,” Francesca said as she sipped her wine.


"Out of interest, what was the most challenging type of role you ever had to perform Marchesa?" 

"I'm interested in that answer myself Tracy," Charlotte said as she turned and looked at her mother.

"Going undercover in Saudi Arabia," Francesca took a bite of the Dauphinoise potatoes, "to pass completely I had to forget and overcome a lifetime of habits."

"In what way?" Lily asked.

"Oh simple things really, but that if I'd done them I would have immediately given myself away."

"Like what?"

"Things like looking men straight in the eye. Muslim women, especially in Saudi Arabia are trained from birth to only do such things with members of their own family."

"How did you pull it off?"

"It was something early in my career I realised I might have to do and I spent a long time learning both the cultural, and other behavior habits that I knew might come in useful."

"So you recommend we do the same?"

"I would Lily, they are skills you might not ever need to use, but it’s better to have them in the type of work you do then not."


“Take another example,” Shirley said, “suppose you had to go into an Amish area.  What would you do?”


“Dress modestly – black and white – show respect to the elder men, and serve?”


“Precisely, Louise – and also know the tradition of family.”


“My point is,” Shirley said, “hiding in plain sight is vital and a skill you need to master quickly, whatever the circumstances.”



The girls looked at each other, before Susan said “I think we should call it a night there.  Sleep well.”


As they stood and walked out, Cari looked out from the kitchen.  “Oh they have no idea…”



Saturday 10th September

2 am

The Farm


It's bugging me
Grating me
And twisting me around


Yeah I'm endlessly
Caving in
And turning inside out


"I'd heard rumours about this shit," Lily glared at where she thought the music was coming from, "but I didn't believe them."

"Why the fuck are they doing this?" Frances shouted to be heard above Def Leppard.

"To make sure that tomorrow is even tougher and more stressful then today has been."

Yeah it's holding me
Morphing me
And forcing me to strive


To be endlessly
Caving in
And dreaming I'm alive



"Tougher?" Louise spoke incredulously.

"Yes," Tracy yelled and then realised that the music had stopped and that all the others could more than just hear her.

"Why am i putting myself through this?" Louise rolled over and tried to go back to sleep, "I had a perfectly lovely job with the organization in LA, what made me think I wanted to do this?"

"The same reason we all chose to accept Louise," Evey smiled, "we were flattered that they thought we were good enough to be part of an elite team."

"Well at this very moment I'd far rather be asleep in a nice comfy bed, with some wonderful stud next to me, and who has made Louise a very happy girl indeed."

"I think we'd all prefer that Lou," Lily laughed, "but this is what we are actually dealing with so at least try and get some sleep...And that goes for all of you."


“How long though before there is more music…”


The doors to the barn opened as Susan and Shirley came in.  “Our apologies for waking you up…”


The laugh from Tracy made Susan smile as Shirley said “I have a task for you to undertake immediately.”


"Madame we have barely slept, it's the middle of the night, and you want us to do what?"

"Your jobs Lillian," Madame looked severely at her team, "something has come up and something I desire needs retrieving. It's urgent, and since urgent things are this team’s remit, the job is yours to do."

"I understand most of that Madame, but can't this wait till morning?"

"No it can't Lillian, and given your attitude do I have need to re-evaluate my decision to give you this job?"

"No Madame," Lily turned towards her team, "alright you heard the lady, up and at 'em girls."

“Where are we going,” Louise asked as she slowly got up and stretched.


“Read the file,” Shirley said as she put it on the table, and then stood back.

"That was a little harsh on Lily Madame," Penny observed as they both watched the trainees assemble what little equipment they had.

"I know, and sometime I will apologise to her Penelope, but this whole thing is designed to be simulating a crisis situation, and in a real crisis you've known me a very long while, how would i expect my orders to be carried out?"


“Immediately – very well then…”



3.30 am

United Bank, N Main Street

Manchester, CT


“All right,” Lily said as she sat behind the wheel of the car, “Evey, Frances, scout the area, see if a local 9-11 can get us what we need.”


“On it, boss,” the two girls said as they jumped out, and made their way round the corner.


“So we get into the safe deposit boxes, blow the one Madame wants the information from, no witnesses?”


“That’s the idea,” Tracy said, “and all we have to help us are some boxcutters and bottles of chemicals.”


“If that’s what we have, it’s what we have,” Lily said quietly, “but there are some bonuses.”


“There are, darling,” Louise said quietly.


“No Def Leppard.”


Louise smiled as she said “there is that” as the door opened, and Evey looked in.


“We got some tape and other supplies.”


“Did you pay?”


“The man manning the desk did,” Frances said, “no blood.  So what now?”


“We get in.  Did you read the file Tracy?”


“Yup – we got a steel ruler anywhere?”


“Got a piece of steel,” Lily said as she reached into the glove compartment and took out a ruler. 


“That’ll do – let’s go.”


The eight women left the vehicle and crossed the main road towards the bank building, putting on leather gloves as Tracy looked at the doors.


“Are you sure this will work?”


“No harm trying,” Tracy said as she slipped the thin metal between the doors, and slowly pulled it up, stopping for a moment and then pulling it up as the doors swung inside.


“Louise, security system,” Lily whispered as Louise slipped inside, crossing the floor and standing behind the security desk as she typed on the keyboard.


“Cameras off,” she called out as the others slipped in, Tracy jumping in and removing the metal as the doors swung together and closed.  She then turned on the torch she had, as she said “security guards?”


“Find them,” Lily said to Frances, who nodded as Evey and Kelly made their way to the rear of the building.


“Hear anything,” Evey whispered, and then stopped as Kelly held her hand up, and they both moved to the side.  From the shadows, they watched as a female security guard walked by, humming to herself as she went along.


She never felt anything beyond the initial cut, as Evey covered her mouth with a pad and sliced the box cutter across her throat, severing the nerve and killing her instantly as she let her fall to the floor.


“No witnesses,” she whispered, Kelly nodding as they walked on…



“So what do you think,” Lily said as she looked at Kay.


“We need to blow this lock, and then that of some safety boxes, cover our tracks.  I just hope I get this right…”


“Louise – alarms?”


“Disabled darling,” Louise said as she walked over, watching as Kay put the putty on the door lock, and then pushed a wire in, before they went to sit behind a desk.


“Here goes nothing,” Kay said quietly as she touched the bare wires to either end of the battery, and there was a loud pop.  Looking over, they saw the door swing open, and waited for any alarms.


“Tracy – go.”


The young black girl nodded as she walked through the smoke, and mixed some chemicals in bottles, before she poured them into a disperser and sprayed them on the locks of a number of the safe deposit boxes.  She smiled as there was a soft fizzling sound as the chemicals dissolved the locks, and then the doors swung open.


“Get everything out,” Lily said quietly as Evey and Frances came back, tipping the contents of the boxes into small velvet bags as Tracy took some documents from one particular box.




The bank worker had come in for an early call, but his day ended as Lily threw a knife into him, penetrating his heart as he dropped to the floor.


“Clean up – we got what we came for,” she said as she pulled the knife out, and the group left…



9 am BST

Rutland Street, Kensington


“Aggie,” Sue said as she opened the door, seeing her boss in a trouser suit and cream top, “What brings you to our humble abode?”


“Have you got a few minutes for a chat Sue?”


“I think I can find 20 minutes Agnes…” Sue said as she opened the door and let Agnes come in, “just about.”


“I guessed you were busy,” the young woman said as they headed into the kitchen.


“We are,” Susan said as she poured two coffees, “the campaign is truly heating up.”


“I saw what that bitch from UKIP said about you personally online. How are you coping?”


Sighing, Sue said “Part of me wants to tie her up, torture her, then beat her senseless…”


“A sentiment I can totally understand darling.”


“However as Colin’s wife I’m instead keeping my mouth firmly closed, and consoling myself with the fact that she is trailing very badly, and that an attack on me is in fact just a desperate attempt to get some media attention.”


“Well if her campaign is going badly, how is Colin’s doing?”


“Everyone seems more than happy Agnes.”




“Yes,” Sue said with a smile, “the polls show we may actually increase the Conservative vote reasonably substantially. We don’t expect to win…”


“Well,” Agnes said with a smile, “that would take a miracle in a constituency like Kensal-Queens Park.”


“But we are having an impact, and certainly the papers have said some very favourable things about how good a candidate Colin is.”


“And even better things about you Sue, I read all the newspapers.”


Sue blushed as she finished her coffee.  “They are just being kind.”


“Rubbish, they are telling it straight, you’ve shown an innate ability to talk to people in a way they understand. Face it Sue you have a lot going on that gives you the ability to talk to people and that they definitely listen to you.”


“I’m trying.”


“Talking of trying Sue darling, you should see the effort the girls are putting in now they are living with me.”


“So they are enjoying Paris?”


“Immensely I think,” Agnes said with a smile, “and they are definitely trying to absorb some of the culture and language.  Donald is taking them to the theatre tonight.”


“That will help for sure. So have you hired their tutors yet?”


“I’m doing interviews next week.”


“Sounds good. How are things at the office? Will it be chaos when I return after the election?”


“No, Amber’s quite competent, but if I’m being honest I don’t relate to her the way I can to you.”


“That sounds almost like a complement Aggie,” Sue laughed.


“It is – when you took the job, I said we complement each other, and that is the case…”


9 am

Park Avenue


“So while Aunt Shirley tortures Lily and her friends,” Ama said as she sat in the chair, her legs tucked under her hiding her black leggings under her denim skirt, “and Uncle John spends the day photographing my Mom, are you up to come out with me and the others Maisha?”


“I think so Sister.”  Maisha was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, holding her mug of coffee as she looked in the distance.


“You look distracted. To use one of my Mom’s expressions, ‘penny for them’.”


“A penny for what?”


“Your thoughts.”


“Oh,” Maisha said as she put her mug down, “I’m just thinking about going to the training camp and hoping that I’m good enough to pass the training.”


“Now I understand,” Ama said as she refilled their coffee mugs.


“I want to feel like a true sister, a real sister…”


“That you can walk the walk,” Ama smiled as she interrupted.


“Yes, I somehow think that it’s wrong that I give my name to those brave fighters, but as of yet I don’t feel one of them.”


“You’ll be fine,” Ama stirred her drink, “all that tennis keeps you fit, and I know you’ve done basic weapons training, you’ll pass the test I’m sure.”


“I know – and as Aunt Shirley says, a little fear is a good thing…”



9 am

The Farm


“I understand you had a long night,” Miss Leopard said as she turned to face the group.  They had returned to the farm, and tried to sleep – but the music had started again, so instead they talked of ways to discover who was responsible, and how to thank them.


Then they had eaten before the hike to the clearing in the dell, the other masked woman opening the shed to bring out several bags.


"Now relax ladies, I'm not anticipating that something will suddenly come up and you'll have to rush off. We are simply here for an extended range session where I can assess you proficiency with a range of firearms and other weapons." Diana smiled under her mask.

"Why am I learning to be suspicious when they tell us to relax?" Tracey whispered in Lily's ear.

"Because you are learning important lessons," Lily whispered back.


“We start with small arms – shall we?”


2 pm BST

Lancaster Gate


“Thank you for the wonderful lunch, Betty,” Charlotte said as she and Francesca stood, walking from the table to her drawing room as the housekeeper followed with the coffee.  “Just what we needed after the overnight flight.”


"Tell me darling, what has Helen ever told you about her mother and how she defected to the west?" Francesca said as she sat down next to her daughter.

"Not a lot,” Charlotte said as she looked over, “Helen doesn't talk a lot about her past."

"You know her mother was one of the last prominent defectors before the collapse of the Soviet Union?"

"I did, Madame one day told me what she remembered about it all."

"Did Shirley tell you that Elena Sharamatova's escape attempt was betrayed by someone she trusted to the KGB, and that she and Helen's escape to the west owed more to luck then judgment?"

"No that she never told me," Charlotte shook her head.

"That doesn't surprise me,” Francesca said as she shook her head, “it wasn't public knowledge."

"So how do you happen to know all this then Mama?"

"I know because one of my first jobs with La Citadella was a very low level appointment to the Italian Consulate in Leningrad and I had a contact who told me all about it."

"Does Helen know she and her mother were betrayed?"

"Not as far as I know darling."

"Mama do you know who the betrayer was?" Charlotte turned and looked her mother straight in the eye.

"I'm about 95% sure I do."

"Oh crap!”  Charlotte put her cup down and said quietly “Are you intending to tell Helen? Did she know this person?"

"If I'm right then yes she knew the betrayer Carlotta." Francesca took a deep breath. "In those days it was standard KGB practice to have informants and agents planted inside most organisations to spy on and report what people were saying and doing."

"So the betrayer was in the Kirov Ballet?"


For a good two minutes Charlotte thought deeply.

"Mama,” she continued quietly, “why did you start this conversation?"

"Because what happened back then might just be very important in the work that we are doing right now my darling."


“He is still working as a spy?”


“I suspect he is – which means we must be careful,” Francesca said as she sipped from her cup.


"Mamma, a question that has bothered me a little…  Mandela didn't come to power till 1994, why was NATO so concerned as early as 1990 about the new directions in South Africa, after all it was still the same old, bad old, National Party that was in power."

"It was Carlotta,” Francesca said, “but once Mandela was released in February 1990 it was obvious to all that change was coming, and that it was coming fast. Out of public sight South Africa was building bridges to the front line nations and the Eastern bloc. It wouldn't mature till after the 1994 elections, but South Africa was already making new allies, it was making significant arms buys from new sources, etc. That was the background to the crap that I was gathering and passing to my superiors."

"So you were spying successfully, and then you met Dad?"

"Yes, I fell in love, I got married, I gave birth to an amazing little girl...and then I was caught." Tears started to flow from Francesca's eyes.

"Don't cry Mama, you know I hate it when you do."


“I know, but I still fear…  Carlotta darling,” Francesca said, “if you want to ask 'the' question then please go ahead and ask it now,"

"Which question Mama?"

"The one that I know has been inside your head probably from the day you were old enough to read the gossip about me," Francesca took a deep breath, "you want to know am I actually a nymphomaniac?"

Charlotte brushed the hair from her mother’s eyes, before she said "Mama you told me that you'd done all that as part of your cover, as a way of punishing yourself, as a way of getting back at Dad..."

"But you still couldn't resist asking yourself at Shirley's party when I brought Sandro as my escort - had I slept with him?"

"I told Piet when he asked about that then it was none of my business, and that the you I see now is coming to terms after all these years with the fact of being Dad's widow."

"I'm trying," Francesca smiled, "but I'm guessing that deep in that Scottish brain of yours you were thinking is she going to take him to the hotel and have sex?"

"Mama,” Charlotte said with a smile, “you are a beautiful woman, a widow, who you have sex with is really none of my business."

"Thank you for that darling," Francesca smiled again, "but I want to get this out of the way please."


"I went to my wedding bed as you know a virgin?"


"But with James I discovered how wonderful and amazing sex was, and how much I loved it."

"I think that's a little more information then I wanted," Charlotte laughed.

"As James's wife I was sure that this amazing lover would be my one and only. When I was forced to leave him...and you, I thought at first my sex life was over for ever."

"I hear a but coming Mama."

"In that you are right darling. I discovered that I needed the affirmation that having men desire me brought, and that yes I did adore having sex."

"So are you a nymphomaniac?"

"If you'd asked me before we met in Marseilles darling I'd have probably answered yes. Now I'm far from sure."

"So the justifications I said are true?"

"I'm beginning to think so. I thought I had a compulsive need for sex, but I've discovered I don't maybe....and one more answer, no I've never slept with Sandro.”


“Would you if he asked?”


“No – and I surprise myself in saying that.  I’m still discovering myself, dealing with all my issues – and that must come first.”


"Did Dad know you'd had all those mental breakdowns Mama?"

"I'll be honest darling, I don't know. I certainly didn't tell Fergus, and since he seems to have been both mine and James's main source of information on each other I'm guessing that perhaps your father didn't know."

"Someone should have told him though," Charlotte spoke quietly, "he had a right to know."

"Carlotta I made sure even my Mama and Papa didn't know that I'd been in and out of mental hospitals, I was never going to burden James with that information. I'm not sure though that even if he had known that his anger wouldn't have still seen it as a fit punishment for me."

"Mama I think you are being harsh."


"I probably am," Francesca sighed, "but anyway I always somehow eventually managed to right myself."

“But you were still not the same person – Carina’s aunt says that.  When we first met you remember telling me that you knew I was pregnant and going to marry Piet?"

"Yes, as I told I was a first class intelligence agent."

"I remember, but it occurs to me that what was going on in my life wasn't the sort of intelligence La Citadella trafficked in. You were paying special attention weren't you?"



"Yes I'd been breaking the strict rules for several years and having people say what they knew about you to me. My watchers though missed a lot. I had no idea of your connections to the Sisters for example."

"Well I'm glad I had some secrets.  You must have known who Shirley was though."


“Actually, no – remember, it is only recently she has emerged in the light, as it were.  We knew of Madame X, but our contacts with the Families informed us of her activities to right wrongs, and we always regarded her as a good more than a bad influence.”


Charlotte laughed.  “And now?”


“Now – I know better…”



10.30 am

The Farm


“I fucking knew there was a but coming,” Tracy said as she lay prone on the ground, firing at the target as Miss Leopard fired the round from the rifle over the group.


“Well, it is under fire,” Lily said as she fired the last round, and looked over.


“Good – take a ten minute break,” the masked woman said as they stood up, “you all coped well under the increased pressure there.  Now we go for our signature weapon.”


“I don’t know if I can take much more,” Louise said as she stood up, and then saw the sawnoff shotgun in the gloved hands of the masked instructor.


“Take one each, and fire it at the straw bales over there,” she said as Louise took one, stood with her feet apart and the stock to her hip, and fired at the bale, the others watching in awe.


“What was your motivation,” Miss Leopard said quietly.


“Whoever compiled that play list last night, I want her to be there,” Louise said quietly as Lily took the weapon.


“Good – and good stance.  Who is next?”



1 pm


“I never needed this so much,” Frances said as they sat in the barn, slowly sipping from mugs of coffee.


“Tell me about it – weapons drill was bad enough, but to have that run through the woods again… When, and if, we get to a hotel, I am having a soak for two hours and a whole afternoon in the spa,” Louise said as she held her back.


“So this afternoon Lily,” Tracy said.


“All our ‘friend’ Miss Leopard said was it involved hand to hand work…”


2 pm

The Metropolitan


"Well Dancer does that tell you what you need to know?" the woman asked as he passed her back the file.

"That the Marchesa is a very competent, and highly dangerous woman? Then yes."

"When she served in Leningrad she was however a very junior level personage. Are you not just panicking that she is perhaps in possession of knowledge that you'd rather she didn't have?"

"I saw the way she looked at me," the dancer sipped his tea, "she knows what i was doing back then."


“Well, avoid her if possible – your focus must be on those who can be influenced at this crucial time.”



The Farm


“Come ladies,” Susan said as she held the door open, “your instructor awaits.”


As Lily led the group into the courtyard, they saw a number of mats laid out, and in the middle a woman, dressed in black, only her green eyes showing.


“Greetings,” she said in a Chinese voice, “I am honoured that you would join me today.”


"Have we met? You seem familiar?" Louise stared at the woman clad entirely in the classic black ninja outfit.

"Your memory is excellent," Marina smiled at the sound of the accented voice that the voice modifier produced. "We did indeed meet in Tokyo briefly, and again in London."

"I thought so," Louise looked intently at the woman's eyes, the only part of her head that was visible, trying to imagine the face under the disguise.

"In my profession I am known as The Mongoose ladies..."

"And what is that profession?" Evey interrupted.

"I am an assassin Honoured Ladies," Marina bowed formally, "and I am here to both talk to you about the use of killing in our profession, and to test some of your skills in unarmed combat."

"Ouch!" a voice said quietly.

"I understand that you have been tested already in your proficiency in the use of firearms, but I am here to work with you on what you can, and what you shouldn't do, when your weapon to hand is not a gun, or indeed when you have no weapon to use at all.  So, let us begin with some exercises to ensure you are ready.  Please, follow me…"


Thirty minutes later, Louise gasped as she said “that was the warm up?”


“Indeed – but I assure you, it will be more relaxing now,” The Mongoose said as she looked round.  “Pair up – I wish to see how you would silence an opponent without use of weapons.”


As she stood to the side, the group split into four pairs, Marina trying not to laugh as they had their mouths covered and arms over the throat.


“Enough, honoured ladies,” she eventually said, “I wish you to feel at your neck until you can feel your pulse.”


As the eight did that, Marina said “What you feel is the blood flowing through the carotid artery.  Now, move your fingers about a centimetre to the left.”  As they did so, she said “you are now over one of the main nerves leading to the brain – if it is your desire to silence and incapacitate a foe with no resistance, and fatally, then pressure on the right way there will do it, but if you merely wish to incapacitate – I desire a volunteer.”


Frances raised her hand as Marina walked over, smiled and pressed on the nerve, Frances’ eyes opening wide as she crumpled to the floor.


“Do not be alarmed, I will reverse the pressure soon, but I have time to show you this trick – if you so desire…”





7 pm

John Hammond’s Studio


"Sorry we ran late Ama,” John said as he put his equipment away, “but when you see the spread come out I hope you'll see why we took so long shooting it."


"It's not a problem Uncle John, Mom has promised to take me out to eat in a bit as a reward for being patient."

"Are you feeling happier now darling?" Caroline asked as she looked in the mirror at the reflection of her daughter behind her.

"A bit...But I'm also ashamed of myself for getting angry with those people like that."

“Tell me again what happened…”


“We were in the market, looking at some clothes, when these two girls started saying out loud that we should not be there, that we were immigrants draining the country’s resources.  Well, I could see Erica was upset, so I asked them why they believed that, and they said in effect because we were not white, and we should go home.


“Erica said this was her home, but they would not listen to that, even after Doc has asked them why they believed she was not allowed to be there.  Then I saw the stickers – Trump for America – and I am afraid that was when I asked them if they were truly followers of him or of someone else.


“Then one girl stared me in the face and said I was worthless.  That was when I started to shout that she was ignorant, she knew nothing – and I guess that was when Maisha pulled me away…”


"You’re right - it's pure ignorance and prejudice Ama, don't let stupid people like that upset you."


“I know it should not, but to hear someone from the place I now call home speak to me and others in that way…”


“Americans believe the First Amendment protects their right to say what they want, when they want, without recognising there is such a thing as difference and similarity,” John said quietly as he sat down.


"That is so sad.  If I've learned one thing since I was rescued, it’s that no matter what the color is of our skins, where we originally came from, or what languages we speak, that we are all really just human beings, and that there are good people, bad people, and purely ordinary people everywhere I've been."

"Precisely!" Caroline smiled and looked at her daughter with pride.

"I've lived with such nonsense all my life Ama," John shook his head, "I grew up in Northern Ireland so I've seen very close up what the evils caused by hating someone just because of their religion can result in."


“But then why do they choose to support people like that?”


“In Northern Ireland, the problem then was society, politics, education – everything was split along sectarian religious lines.  In this country, it is in living memory of many that people were considered inferior because they were not white – I wonder sometimes if he is using their fear of President Obama based purely on his skin to fuel his cause.”


“The problem,” Caroline said as she looked in the mirror, “is that people like him prey upon the fears of people in times of trouble and strife Ama - that they must worry about a threat posed by people who don't look and think like they do."

"But as Erica said that is just stupid," Ama shook her head, "why should they feel threatened for example that Aunt Denice and Aunt Mary talk to each other in Welsh sometimes rather than in English?"

"Because if they can't understand, how do they know that Mary and Denice aren't plotting some crime, or worse a terrorist attack?"

"Uncle John,” Ama laughed, “that is plain stupid."

"Of course it is darling," Caroline said as she finished removing her makeup. "I know that, you know that, most people here in New York know that, but out in the country where most people have never been outside the US, or rarely if ever met a foreigner, they find it easy to believe that sort of rubbish, and when a politician tells them that they need to be worried, that foreigners etc are taking advantage of and subverting 'their' country, and way of life, then they listen and agree."


"A lot of unscrupulous politicians use and abuse the fears and prejudices of people to manipulate and control how they vote Ama. They take concerns that are often genuinely held and by turning them into emotional appeals that cause people to lose their perspective and powers of reason, they secure their votes, and then use their votes to commit terrible acts that harm both innocent, and possibly guilty, alike."

"That's what Jess said she was taught about what went on in Spain while General Franco was dictator, Uncle John."

"Good for Jess," Caroline pulled her jacket on.


"Surely people are persuaded that people like him are wrong when intelligent people explain all this Mom?"

"No," Caroline shook her head. "The kind of people who he appeals to do their thinking with their gut and their heart."

"They actively distrust knowledge Ama," John said as he finished packing his cameras, "and they actually distrust and actively disbelieve what they are told by well-educated people."

"But that is stupid Uncle John."

Caroline put on her coat as she said "Well they think people like us and our friends are 'elitists' and that we have an agenda that doesn't support them or their country..."

"A lot of them remember Caroline actually take pride in their ignorance. They see their reactions as being 'authentic' and 'real' and not corrupted by traitorous intellectual thought."

"Uncle John is it really that bad?"


“It seems that way - I fear we are in for a very difficult time Ama, and I’m sorry about that, but somehow they always manage to get through in the end.  So go and have dinner with your mother – and I’ll see how Maisha feels.”


9 pm

Park Avenue


“I do not think I have ever seen Ama so upset,” Maisha said as she held the glass in her hand, looking at Shirley and John on the couch opposite.  “The way they spoke to her, and the assumptions they made about her, were so wrong, yet they were so certain in the truth of what they spouted.”


Ama told me you had to hold her back,” John said as Shirley looked at him.


“I did – I think she would have exploded into their faces, but there was a look in their eyes that told me that would be playing to what they wanted,” Maisha said quietly.  “What I do not understand is how they can hold such – what was the phrase Erica used – Neanderthal beliefs?”


“I understand,” John said as he put his drink down, “but the simple truth is they are told these things in papers and on some news channels, and they accept that it true without questioning.”


"Do the newspapers not repeat what the truth is Aunt Shirley?"

"They try and do so Maisha,” Shirley said as she sat forward.  “Just remember what Piet and Jane Molloy did in exposing what went on in Africa, as well as the vile behaviour of those who brought you here to New York to be sold into slavery."

"They told people exactly what had happened, and what was happening," the young woman nodded.

"But imagine though what might have happened if some of the people had said it was all made up, and that it was 'fake news'?"

"But it wasn't.  I know – I lived through it, after all, as did so many others."

"Just think though if the people claiming it was false were popular, and that many people trusted them because they were famous..."

"Or that they agreed with them on other subjects," John interjected, "and trusted them more than they do the proper news outlets."

"But they'd be lying." Maisha insisted.

"I know that Maisha, and it’s what John and I know as well. Unfortunately there are millions upon millions of people who because what the main stream media reports clashes with their religious, political, social, and other viewpoints, then they chose to think the media is wrong, rather than confront the idea that they themselves might be wrong."

"It’s not helped by the fact though that the media trying to be 'responsible' does chose sometimes to underemphasise, or ignore, certain events." John added.


“Has this ever happened before?”


“Many times, sadly,” John said as he sat back, “but we live in an age where if something is published, and people believe it, it becomes shared so quickly it becomes next to impossible to make the truth know over the cacophony of noise.”

"When I was a young woman we had a generally accepted truth, and that was what the more reputable newspapers and TV said. Nowadays far more people believe what they read on Twitter, etc, and it means unusual and extreme views find an audience with those inclined to believe such things."

"I think I understand that," Maisha paused to think. "So are those who represent prejudice going to win Aunt Shirley? Do you think they will Uncle John?"


Looking at each other, Shirley said “I fear they may, unless a way to balance the ideas been shared is found.”


“And I fear that may not be possible in our current world,” John said quietly.  “Shirley and I can only encourage you to stand for the truth, and hope enough people will share your views and pass them on to others.”


“John is right, dear,” Shirley said quietly, “remember, all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.  We need to do something – because if we do not, this country may have serious problems….”


"I'm not American, but I have an awful lot of friends who are," Maisha spoke slowly and thoughtfully, "Is there nothing I can do or say that will help?"

"Not directly Maisha," John shook his head, "all three of us are British citizens so technically we have no say."

"We can support our friends though, especially in the fight I fear is coming.  Even Tom Morse and his family may not be able to avoid it."

"Just tell me how Aunt Shirley? After seeing Ama upset like that so badly I want to do all I can."

"I had better take a call of nature," John stood and smiled as he headed to the bathroom.

"Is there nothing that the Sisters can do Aunt Shirley?" Maisha whispered.

"Again not directly, but I can tell you that we are doing all we can to combat both the causes of this vile prejudice, and those using it for political purposes."

"Good....It's what we should be doing."


“On which note – Liz and Teacher are visiting on Monday, and they ask if you wish to fly back with them on Tuesday night.  It is time for you to walk the walk, as you have been saying.”


Sunday 11th September

9 am

The Farm


“I’m just saying,” Louise groaned as she stretched out, “what sort of mind mixes Def Leppard with The Laughing Gnome?  At two in the morning?”


“Lou,” Tracy said with a smile, “do you really want to meet a person who thinks like that?”


The blonde looked over, and whispered “you don’t mean…”


“Good morning Ladies.”


The group looked over as Susan came in with two other women, both wearing masks and combats.  “I have the great pleasure this morning to introduce you again to Miss Bobcat, and her partner today, Miss Cheetah.  Ladies.”


“Thank you,” Heather said as she looked round, “we will be training and assessing you this morning.”


“In what way,” Eve said quietly.


"Alright ladies so far we have been mainly dealing with situations where you encounter resistance, or bystanders. This morning we are going to be working on situations where your presence needs remain undetected."

"Meaning precisely what Susan?"

"Covert operations Tracy." Susan smiled, "the world of intelligence gathering and research.  Which is why we have our guests here today – they are both very skilled in this area, and wish to share their knowledge with you."


“We provided the major surveillance work for the Mazengwe project, and also have supplied Madame with covert devices and instructions on their use.”


"With such a large number of targets involved in that case, and with it imperative that they didn't suspect either our interest or involvement," Jo looked through her mask at the women, "we learned to pull off what we called 'virgin' burglaries."

"Meaning what? Frances asked.

"That we honed our skills to a degree that we could spend quite a long time in targets residences, etc, all with the Walrus's associates ever knowing we'd been there."


“And the devices you used?”


“State of the art,” Heather said quietly, “but for today, we wish to teach you the do’s and don’ts.”


“The key to invisible surveillance is to make it look as if nobody has been there.  You have to be aware of the exact positions occupied by anything you move, or touch, so that it can be replaced exactly where it was." Jo spoke quietly, "a lot of people have surprisingly good memories regarding how they leave things, it's your task to ensure you don't make any little slip-ups."


“So we enter without making any visible traces…”


“But always, ALWAYS check the door frame when you enter.  Have you ever seen Doctor No, the Bond film?  Bond fixes a hair to the door and the frame, and when he returns if the hair is not there, he knows someone has gone in.  Looking for that has saved us more than once.”


As the girls nodded, Lily said “so we need to get in and out unannounced.  Wat about electronic surveillance?  How do we deal with that – feedback loops and the like?”

"Neutralizing electronic surveillance is certainly a huge help," Heather smiled behind her mask, 'but ultimately something as simple as the target noticing a piece of paper has been moved can be the crucial difference between success and failure."

"Now I'm not expecting to get you up to the standard of these ladies in one morning," Susan took over talking again, "but we all hope we can teach you skills today that will help you in the future."


“So,” Jo said quietly, “let us begin…”


10 am

The Village


Grace looked out of the window onto the street below, shaking her head as she picked up the telephone and dialled a number.




"Wilhelmina I'm sorry to disturb you at home on a Sunday morning, but an incident happened yesterday that I'm thinking you might need be aware of."

"A serious incident Grace?"

"In a way yes. Ama, her friend Maisha, and several other girls were confronted by a couple of officious Trump supporters at the market, and words were said and tempers got frayed."

"Was there violence, were police called?"

"No Thank God! but I've spoken with both Caroline Jameson and Shirley Xavier and they both told me that it was a traumatic experience for the girls."

"I can understand that. Alright Grace what in your opinion should we do about it at the school?"

"Well not to sweep it under the carpet.  I think that we should make some time for teachers and students to discuss all the matters that an incident like this raises."

"I think that might be worthwhile."

"Also to get both Tom Morse, and his opponent to come in and talk to the girls about how political debate can be conducted in an atmosphere that encourages the right to disagree, but which condemns violent hatred."

"Again I agree Grace."


“Good – I’ll call Tom and Albert Brooks, and get the dates selected, then we can talk tomorrow…”



The Pentagon


Admiral Edward Preminger sat at his desk, reviewing the latest status reports when his phone rang.  Looking out to the outer office, he saw his assistant was gone, so he picked up the handset and said “yes?”


"Is this Admiral Preminger?" A very sexy voice asked.

"It is," Ed replied gruffly, "and can I ask how you obtained this telephone number young woman? This is a secure line."

"Well I was told you wished to speak to me Admiral. I was intrigued by that, so I looked up your number."

"This is not a listed number. How the hell did you obtain it?" the admiral fought to control his temper. "Who is this?"

"I'm called by many names, you probably know me as The Hidden Hand," Heather found herself laughing, "and now you know that do you still wish to know how i obtained this number?"

"Hold on a second please..." Ed reached for a second device.

"Admiral if you are thinking of trying to trace this call, please don't be silly enough to waste yours, or your peoples, time."

"Alright," Ed laughed as he put the other device down, "it was worth a thought."

"Actually it wasn't. Anyway to cut to the chase you asked Agent Carter for me to contact you. Tell me what you wish to say and I will then tell you what I will or won't do."


“All right – in simple terms, I am concerned that a foreign power is seeking to influence our election, and is using web-based methods as a tool in that attack.”


“I see – I also have some concerns that may happen,” Heather purred, “but if you wish me to devise methods to stop it, you will run into certain constitutional questions – that first amendment is a difficult one, for example.”


“I know,” Ed said as he rubbed his eyes, “so let me ask a different question.  If a third party was to, say, use social media sites to spread false and malicious stories…”


“Tracking the third party is not impossible, but finding the true source and then shutting it down if it is not based in the US is another matter, and one I suspect you will not be able to undertake.  So I ask a serious question – what does my country expect of me, Admiral?”


“Can you at least help us figure out how to identify such attacks?”


“I will consider your request – we will speak soon Admiral,” Heather purred as the line went dead, Ed shaking his head as he put the handset down.



Juliette’s apartment


"As a non-American citizen I know I'm prohibited from any actions in regard to your US elections Ju,” Shirley said on the screen, “but I'm not prohibited from trying to expose the actions of a hostile foreign power to stir up hatred and discord in its own interest."

"So in other words Shirley?"

"Any organisation that I have any influence with will be devoting its resources and its time to help your US government law enforcement and security agencies to unmask just what is going on."

"Well Heather in her role as the Hand has been in touch with Admiral Preminger."

"Excellent," Shirley took a breath. "I will arrange a meeting for him for Monday with some of the Sisters leadership."


11 am

The Farm


“So here’s the deal,” Susan said, “you are to make your way into the locked barn, over there, and plant devices in the best places you can think of to avoid detection.  These are dummies, and you will be assessed on how well you break in and leave no traces.  Begin.”


“I’ve got the door,” Tracy said as she worked on the lock, the group walking into a room with no lights.


“We need sight.”


Eve nodded as she took some penlights and handed them round.


“Okay, take a moment, look where everything is,” Lily said quietly as they looked round, not noticing the cameras as they walked round.  She then said “okay – Eve, Frances, Angela, Casey, set the devices.  Tracy, Amy, check the drawers and documents.”


Walking over to a desk, she tried the drawer, before saying “Louise, you need to work on this.”


“Sheesh - after barely sleeping at all last night they expect us to do detailed work like this?" Louise whispered to Lily.

"You can always walk away and head for that hotel room and soft bed Lou."

"No," the tall Californian shook her head, "I started this, I intend to finish it," she shone her pencil flashlight over the draw.

"Can you pick that lock?"

"LILY!" Louise laughed as she whispered, "I was picking locks harder than this years before I even thought of joining Madame's organization."

"Well did you check just in case there is some kind of alarm or security?"

"Yes...What do you think I was trying to feel for with my fingers?"

"Just checking."

"Anyway, just let me do this," Louise retrieved a small pouch from her pocket and retrieved a couple of items,

"How long Lou?"

"If you stop talking to me Lily about 5 more seconds."




"So?" Susan asked Jo as they watched.

"Some of them are first rate burglars,” Jo said with a smile, “even I'm learning a couple of little bits of technique watching them."

"The kind of security they might be confronting though means I think some of them would benefit from doing an advanced course in overcoming security measures," Heather whispered.

"I will have a word with Madame and see if we can get Charlotte to create a programme."

"Well with her out of action while she's pregnant it will at least give her something to do." Jo smiled at Susan.

"That is true."


“Ah – they found the documents.”


“So I see,” Susan said as Lily took photos of the documents, and then placed them carefully back, as Louise closed and locked the drawer.


“Okay girls,” Louise said, “everything back and let’s get the assessment.”




As they sat on the beds, drinking their coffee, Jo and Heather looked at them.


“One thing,” Jo said as she looked at the screen, “see what was on the top of the desk before you went in?”


The girls nodded as she said “and then after,” Tracy looking and saying “shit…”


"Tracy leaving that little box on top of the desk after you returned the papers to the drawer was just the sort of small mistake that I was warning you all about....EVERYTHING goes back perfectly...Just remember that above all."

"I know," the Londoner shook her head, "I do know better."

"Good," Jo quickly scanned the scene, "otherwise that wasn't bad, and you found the listening device nicely."

"Always look for anything unusual," Heather continued. "The type of target that we look at can often be under other people’s eyes as well, just make sure that you don't somehow tip off other watchers, even if the owner is unaware that you've been there."


“We get it,” Lily said, “and we are grateful.”


“Good – because we have a little job for you this afternoon, and this time it is the real thing.  Pass that, and the weekend is over…”


As the trio left, Tracy sat down and said “One more thing?”


“Looks that way...”


"Lily can I ask a question please?"

"Sure Tracy."

"If we are a criminal organisation, why the bleddin' 'ell are we training so hard to do the same jobs that basically spies and John Law does?"

"Because as you learned when we put you in to watch over Denice and Erica, we are a lot more than simply robbers, kidnappers, and thugs Trace. Madame's organisation is basically two things. Yes we are still professional criminals, but we are also concerned to sometimes help our friends and support good causes."

"Like with the work I did in Tokyo?"

"Exactly Louise." Lily smiled, "we are still the bad guys, but just sometimes we find ourselves helping to try and right wrongs."


“Oh brother – so what are we doing later?”


“Fighting the even worse guys…”





Park Avenue


“Please, come in,” John said as he came into the drawing room.  “Your guests are here, Shirley.”


“Welcome,” Shirley said as she hugged Helga and Liz.  The blonde Swede was wearing a cream jacket over a knee length blue dress, while Liz wore a dark trouser suit with a cream camisole underneath her jacket.  “I’m so glad you were able to come over for a few days before taking Maisha with you on the course.”


"Shirley,” the blonde said as she looked round, “you do know that this apartment makes the royal family’s accommodation in Sweden look a trifle shabby in comparison?"

"Does it Helga?"

"Well I think it does," Teacher said as she looked out at the view over the New York skyline, "This is magnificent."

"Thank You for the compliment," Shirley said as she looked around proudly, "I wish I could claim sole credit, but some amazing people worked on this place to make it what it is."

“Welcome,” Maisha said as she brought coffee in, setting the tray on the low table and then pouring cups before she handed them round,


"Everyone who contributed has something to be proud of," Liz sipped her coffee.

"We think so," John sat down and crossed his legs.

"Anyway I think we'd better deal with the subject at hand," Teacher said as she put her cup down.

"Agreed," John looked at the two visitors seriously. "I know Maisha desperately wants to do this outdoor survival course, but can you assure me she will be okay?"

"Darling you told me you that you did something similar on the Duke of Edinburgh's scheme," Shirley smiled.

"And as one ex-soldier to another," Liz leaned back, “you almost certainly did far tougher things in the army.”

"I know,” John said as he sat forward, “but speaking as her father in all but name, I want her back home safely afterwards."

"John I know the people who run this training course, Maisha will be fine," Teacher said as she looked the Ulsterman straight in the eyes.  “I am sure she will be more than capable of completing this course.”


“Uncle John,” Maisha said with a smile, “I consider it part of my education to do this.  I will be fine, I promise.”




“She’ll be fine John – it’s only for a few weeks…”


Nodding, John said “well, if I have your reassurance…  I need to call Jack and sort something out for tomorrow.  I’ll see you both before you leave?”


“Of course,” Liz said as John stood up and left the room, closing the door behind himself as the others stood and watched.


"While John is out,” Shirley said quietly, “let's drop the euphemisms shall we?"

"If you wish Madame," Helga sat down again.

"Doing the Sister's training course is not easy Maisha."

"I know Liz, and I understand that you had to reassure Uncle John by telling him that it was a fairly routine thing."

"In many ways it’s tougher than most military exercises are."

"Yes," Maisha nodded, "But inside I need to do it. I have to prove to myself my worth as both the person who gives her name to the Sisters, and as someone who will spend her life trying to help the Sisterhood."

"Have you packed just what we told you to bring?"

"I have Teacher."


“Good – we have meetings tomorrow, and we leave late tomorrow night.”


“Maisha, will you give us a few minutes?”


“Of course, Aunt Shirley,” Maisha said as she stood and left.


“This other matter we need to deal with?”


“We’ve arranged a meeting for you with Admiral Preminger,” Shirley said, “somewhere discrete.  He wants to know if they can help them monitor for foreign influence on the elections here?”


“Not something we normally do,” Liz said, “but we have recently recruited from the Baltic and Eastern European countries.  Those who wish to fight back against the exploiters of the children.”


“Meet with him, hear his concerns, and then we can consider and advise.  John – all is well?”


“All is well.  So Maisha will leave tomorrow?  We should give her a proper send off.”


“I agree,” Shirley said with a smile, “let us see if Caroline and Ama can come round tomorrow night…”


3 pm

2nd Avenue


It was the cellar to an old brownstone, quiet, peaceful, but as the door opened and Tracy looked in, she waited for a moment and then signalled for the others to follow her.


“This looks like it,” she said as she opened a steel cabinet, and then a laptop which she attached with bulldog clips to the wiring inside.



Looking at the screen, she said “Frances – you’re up.”


The blonde looked at the screen, typing on the keyboard until she said “okay – we’re in and we have control of the building cameras.  Setting up the loop on the corridor – now.”


“Good – keep us informed.  Ladies, let’s go,” Lily said as they made their way to the service stairs.



The third floor door opened quietly as Louise looked out, then stepped out.


“Frances, darling?”


“You’re clear – proceed.”


Louise nodded as she walked to the apartment door, feeling round the edges and smiling as she took from her pocket a fine spray.  Firing it, she saw the tape and used a thin blade to slice through it, before opening the door with her keys.




“Not a sound – we got it as well,” Frances said in her earpiece as Louise opened the door, allowing Lily in first as she took a tablet and walked round the large open space inside.




Eve slipped the device out and switched it on as Lily nodded, and motioned for her to move to the next room.  As they did so, Louise, Tracey and the other girls walked round, carefully searching and placing their own devices in hidden places.


“Louise – locked drawer,” Tracy said as she stood by a desk, Louise nodding as she swiftly opened the drawer.


“Take photos, put everything back as it was,” she said, Tracy nodding as she produced a small camera and photographed page after page.




“Go,” Tracy said as the other three girls split off, Eve watching as they continued to search the desk, and ensuring everything was replaced in the correct place.


“How are we doing,” Lily said as she and the others came back.


“We done – the dampers?”


“Hidden out of sight.  Right – let’s get out of here, he should be coming back soon.  Frances, prepare for ex-fil.”


“Understood,” the last member said as they slipped out, Louise removing the two ends of the tape and tearing a fresh strip off to replace it after the door was closed.  As they slipped into the service stairwell, the lift doors opened and Andre Kannenikov stepped out, looking at a paper as he walked over and looked at the frame of his door.  Satisified, he unlocked the door and walked in, as a van drove off outside.


“Susan – job done.”


“We have the signal loud and clear – proceed to the Waldorf and enjoy a night off.  Report to the offices at ten tomorrow morning.”


“Finally,” Louise said with a sigh, “a long bath and a long sleep.”


“Not yet Lou – I want a debrief over dinner first…”







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