Two Weddings and a Robbery – Part 3
Wednesday 13th July
10 am BST
“Why are you bringing me here,” Cat said as Shirley pulled up into the car park.
“We’re holding a mass briefing for the mission,” Shirley said as she stopped the car and turned off the engine. “I recommend dark glasses from here on in – and whatever happens, listen carefully and say nothing until you are asked to do so.”
“OOkkayy – but if what you told me last night is true…”
“Let’s go in,” Shirley said, “we have the rooms to ourselves today.”
Cat nodded as she put on the dark glasses, and they walked into the private entrance of the suite – Cat stopping short as she saw the three people standing there.
“Madame – and I see you have your guest with you,” Charlotte said, “welcome – coffee is available in the main hall.”
“Francesca? You’re in this as well?”
“I suspect as a recent addition, like yourself Cat,” Francesca said as a tall, thin woman came through, her face hidden under the veil that came down from her beret, and dark glasses covering her eyes.
“Our technical support,” Shirley said, “The Hidden Hand. Shall we go in?”
“What on earth am I…” Catriona walked into the room and stopped as she looked round. She had seen many of them at Xavier International, but some were new faces – as was the tall dark haired Amazon wearing a dark jumper and pants, talking to Lily and Susan.
“Ladies,” Shirley said as she went to the front of the room. “Please, take your seats – we will begin in a few minutes, once our guests arrive.”
“Join me,” Francesca said as Catriona sat next to her, and looked round.
“Who are these…”
The room fell silent as the side door opened, and a group of women came in – wearing grey jackets and knee length skirts, walking on black four inched steel stilettos with poise and grace. They were identical – right down to the short black hair, and the dark glasses, with cat shaped brooches on the lapels of their jackets, the knots of their silk scarves.
“Please,” Shirley said, “welcome my co-leader in this operation, Miss Panther, and her associates in the Pussycat Gang.” One woman nodded as she stood beside Madame, the others sitting at the front.
“As you look around this room ladies,” Shirley said, “there are probably several faces that you recognise and never expected to see in a meeting like this...My advice to you all is to immediately forget what you are seeing, and just take this warning to heart, there are several women in this room who enjoy, and I do mean enjoy, killing people in the slowest, most painful ways possible.”
“Our target,” Juliette said, her voice disguised, “is the legendary Manchurian Gold, thought lost for nearly eighty years, but now found.” She paused as the murmur went round the room.
no exact idea what the haul will be," Juliette paused, "but our best
estimate is that there is over two billion in gold down there..."
say BILLION?" a voice asked.
but under our deal with the Chinese Secret Societies we are getting just 22.5%
of the net worth, which if you quickly do the math, is still a huge fortune to
be divided up amongst ourselves."
Juliette heard Eleanor's voice.
"And if any of you have any ideas of cheating our partners, can I introduce both Catherine Lo, and the lady they call Chénmò Sǐwáng or as you probably heard it...Silent Death, who are here to protect the interests of their masters."
The room watched as Helen and Catherine came in, Helen wearing clothing that only allowed her eyes to be seen.
“On behalf of the Honoured Fathers, thank you for your help in this endeavour,” Catherine said.
“With me here today,” Juliette said, “are Miss Puma, Miss Panther, Miss Cheetah, Miss Bobcat, Miss Sidhe and Miss Snow Leopard – but be assured, all the Pussycats are helping with this endeavour.”
“If any of you should even think of betraying anyone else involved in this operation, just be assured the authorities cannot protect you, we WILL find you and you will regret even the thought about turning rat." Madame spoke ominously.
“If anyone wants out, the door is there.”
Penny watched as nobody moved.
“Very well then, you will be assigned to teams with specific tasks. Miss Panther.”
"To use a
term I've borrowed from the "Underworld" movies, you ladies will be
our 'death dealers'." Juliette looked deep into some people's eyes.
"You will be our first line of defence while we carry out the removal of
the gold from underground. Your task is simple, and that is to ensure nobody
hostile, and that includes both other villains, and the forces of law and order
gets anywhere near that gold...Do you understand?"
various voices murmured.
be under the command of Natalya Kosolov who has been working for weeks on where
our weakest positions are, and who she wants to station there.” Natalya stood and nodded to the others in the
room. “You will all be linked on a
closed com network to Natalya and you will all obey her orders to the
letter...Do I make myself clear?"
voices murmured their assent.
"Natalya will brief you on specifics when this larger meeting is over...listen very carefully please, and be assured you will not be forgotten when the spoils are divided up."
"Those of you tasked with the capture and holding of our hostages” Charlotte said, “will be briefed by Lady Davina. I know you've already conducted several dry runs, but just remember we need no one other than their loved ones to know that we have snatched these people...your part in this mission is absolutely critical, you aren't merely babysitters."
“I will discuss specific targets with you all later,” Davina said, “Tracy?”
“Facilities at the Barn are ready for those who will be taken there – those teams remaining in situ will be supported by one or more Pussycats.”
"Those of you running the bunker should by now know your tasks backwards," Charlotte took a turn to speak. "Your mission is to take over the traffic control system from the time passenger service is halted, get our train to and from the depot to the gold site, then back to where it will be unloaded. Both the Hand and I will be monitoring your work, and will tell you when you need to start messing with the traffic system."
you who will be in the Underground have all worked together before,” Juliette
said. “We will be down there long before the train arrives putting the gold on
pallets so it can be loaded straight away when the train arrives. You will
alternate between acting as guards, and doing the physical work, I just hope
that you've all been following the fitness plans?"
you are in charge of cleaning," Madame took a turn to speak, "you
will ensure that if a mess ensues as much evidence as is humanly possible is
another note," Juliette spoke, "each of you will be given a group
name and number that you will use to communicate with each other. "So the
underground team is naturally Gold, I for example will be Gold One. Death-dealers
are Red, Cleaners are Green, Tech is Blue, Hostage teams are Black...etc."
say this only once," Shirley grimaced, "woe betide the woman uses a
known to the police codename, or a real name...the penalty for doing so will be
death....Do I make myself understood?"
"Yes," the assents were whispered.
As the room
talked, Juliette said "Do you think Francesca will accept being a death
dealer, and working above ground Shirley."
as she is assured that her task is protecting Charlotte, then yes I think she
she's going to be most value with us underground, since she keeps herself
amazingly fit, and I do think we need another mover."
"Okay I'll accept that recommendation then."
11 am BST
you need to arrive in the next couple of minutes," Jill Hudspeth whispered
into her telephone, "She's just moving towards the lifts to come down into
Jill," Louise closed the call, and smiled at the cabbie, "Okay can
you drop me off now, my friend has just got there."
love," the driver smiled, "you are the one paying the money for me to
just sit here with the engine running.”
be worth every cent...or should I be saying every penny?" Louise laughed.
is Claridges darlin'," the cabby pulled over in front of the expensive
"Thanks," Louise looked at the meter and reached into her purse. "Keep the change."
"Checking in Miss?" the doorman asked as he undid the taxi door and helped Louise to get out. She was wearing a cream Chanel suit with a white blouse, a cream scarf tied round her neck.
"Yes – if you could have someone take my bags darling?"
"Okay," the doorman signalled to a porter to come and collect the luggage as Louise walked into the lobby.
"I'm Louise Baker, I believe you have a suite reserved for me?" Louise spoke quietly, and tried not to look obvious as she checked for Tamiko Tanaka's presence.
indeed Miss." the girl smiled. "May I check your credit card and your
go," Louise said as she removed them both from her handbag and handed them
she heard the voice behind her.
Louise smiled inwardly. "Tamiko
darling, long time no see," she turned and looked at the lady Yakuza,
"are you visiting?"
staying at the hotel," Tanaka kissed the very tall, leggy, blonde,
checking in, I decided to come see merrie old England for my vacation... And you?"
doing much the same," Tamiko smiled then whispered. "I heard Madame
paid for your operation."
darling, this trip in part is to celebrate now that I'm a 'real' woman."
happy for you Louise."
"Well I'll tell you all about it if you have time for a drink this evening?"
Tamiko smiled and said “Why not? Meet you in the bar at about eight?”
“Delightful,” Louise said as she smiled at the two men behind Tamiko. “Well, don’t let me detain you – a twelve hour flight, I need a rest.”
As they walked off, the bodyguard whispered “is she the one who helped bring down the Death Dragons?”
“She is,” Tamiko whispered, “and now she is here? Check her story – disceretely.”
Madame,” Louise said in her phone as she looked out of the window of her suite,
“she's meeting me for drinks at eight."
Louise...very well done." Shirley chuckled, "she of course is
suspicious of you?"
hid it very well, but yes I could literally feel the suspicion, both from her,
and her bodyguards."
you look in your bedside cabinet drawer, there is a weapon, and additional
rounds, be discreet, but please carry it at all times."
Madame," Louise opened the drawer and found the snub nosed .38.
"Should I ask how this got here?"
"No, but be aware Jill has a team covering you."
“Good – good luck Madame.”
“And you Louise…”
11 am BST
gets to ride with the driver of 'our' train Madame?" Angela asked.
need to know Angela."
the Englishwoman nodded.
document that is being distributed is to be memorised...not copied...and each
copy is numbered and will checked when it is returned, then shredded."
Shirley warned the participants. "This is a list of safe houses that if
you do get into trouble that you should make your way to. as I said it's not to
be copied, it must be memorised."
"And while you are doing that this is a good time to take a coffee break," Charlotte stood up and announced. “Fifteen minutes, then meet in your designated groups…”
“Diana,” Cassie Stone whispered, “what the hell is Catriona Cuthbertson doing here? She’s a QC for the love of the Goddess!”
“Indeed – and with quite a viscious streak by all accounts, ma cherie. She will be assisting us.”
“And why is Kylie Mitchell – KYLIE MITCHELL – here?”
“Ah – Kylie and Marina have learned so much in their time in Hong Kong, so many useful skills – especially for the role they play in this event.”
Shaking her head, Cassie stood up. “I need coffee – and lots of it…”
“My apologies for my late arrival.”
“Miss Lynx – welcome,” Miss Panther said as she embraced her twin in many ways. “You have not missed much.”
“How did it go,” Juliette whispered.
“Very well,” Carina whispered back, “but I need to be back for lunchtime.”
“Eleanor,” Shirley said, “thank you for helping the Sisters in this.”
“My pleasure – but they’re real Pussycats?”
“They are Gran,” Katy said, “Mom told me how they worked together for Ama and the girls then, and they do so now.”
“I see that – but still…”
“Miss Leopard – may I introduce Captain Eleanor Ball, one of the Sisters assisting us.”
“Captain Ball – I heard you dealt with a particularly obnoxious drug problem for the Sisters. Thank you for that.”
“Have we met,” Eleanor said as she studied Juliette’s face.
“Not to the best of my knowledge, but your reputation precedes you,” Juliette said with a smile, “as I am sure is ours.”
“But the gold – are we sure it is there?”
are," Shirley replied, "we took a peep through a hole in the doorway,
and to quote Howard Carter, 'we saw wonderful things'."
"Our first task will be to clear the wall out of the way, and to start loading the gold onto wooden pallets that we have been taking down there regularly," Penny spoke, "I will advise on both weights that the pallets can hold, and our mini forklifts can move when we are on site."
The group sat round the conference table, looking carefully at each other as Natalya came in.
ladies, most of you probably do not recognise each other," Natalya smiled,
"though I'm sure that if I revealed your code-names and aliases, you
certainly know each other’s reputations. For now though, I will just say that
each of you is a trained assassin."
looked at each other trying to measure the woman behind the disguises.
is in theory simple...We are the watchdogs, the guardians of the outer
perimeter of this job. Our mission is to ensure our colleagues are not
disturbed as they do the actual taking of the gold."
at faces, "to that end you will be stationed in pairs to guard various
possible entrances, as well as the transfer site where the gold will be handed
over to our Chinese partners."
will we be concealed?" Jayne asked.
transit vans," Natalya replied, "each has state of the art monitoring
technology that will allow you to sit in the back and observe everything we
"So it will
appear to passers-by to be a perfectly innocent parked vehicle?"
will you be?"
command van, able to respond quickly."
own professional judgment as to who might constitute a threat, and eliminate
with prejudice if needs be."
we do with corpses," Marina asked.
"Get them hidden asap, and call in the cleaners."
“So our pairings?”
“The Mongoose and the Swan – you are one pair.”
Marina and Kylie nodded at Natalya.
“Ladies I wish
we could have a snappy nickname like the Death Dealers," Lady Davina
smiled, 'but our function in this is to seize and hold our various hostages…
These two ladies," she indicated Miss Lynx and Miss Leopard, “will form
part of the gold team, but they will be the ones who accompany the driver to
the gold site, so for this briefing’s purpose they are with us."
we holding?" Tracey asked.
starters the driver’s family, we will hit the house that you've been observing
at Eight O'clock at night, seize the family and transport them to the
will teach him just what is at stake if he doesn't do just what we order?"
"When he is due to go on shift these ladies will accompany him to the depot and will ride with him to the gold site."
The others in the room nodded.
"Our other targets are the depot security guard on duty, and the duty supervisor, both of whom we need to look the other way as the expression goes." Daffy smiled. "The procedure will be the same, lift them and their families as quietly as possible, and bring them to the holding point."
“And our current guests?”
“Remain in the Farm for the moment.”
“So,” Juliette said as she sat with the other members of the Gold team, “you understand the plan? We move in tonight to secure access, then for the next two nights we go in, and prepare the gold for shipment.”
“We work in shifts,” Jan said as she looked in, “one hour on moving, one hour on guard duty, one hour resting.”
“The idea is to move swiftly and silently – but when you are on guard duty, you must remain alert,” Juliette said. “Even with the Death Dealers, we are anticipating the possibility of an attempt to stop us in situ, and we must be prepared.”
hiding secrets, hiding even more secrets," Eleanor thought carefully.
"I thought that we had deep covers in intelligence, but well compared to
operating uniforms will be?" Jan's voice brought her attention back in the
leather trousers, boots, black sweaters, gloves, ski-masks...Oh and one more
thing, black kevlar vests."
Madame," Jan nodded.
"Well she can't complain about me wearing leather for this," Katy thought to herself happily.
and hand guns," Dominique answered. "As Madame said there is a
distinct possibility that others will try and steal the gold from us."
know," Catriona shook her head and smiled, "there are some really dishonest
people out there?"
"Isn't there just?"
one more thing ladies," Madame smiled wickedly, "the place is also
swarming with rats."
YUCK!" Katy couldn't help herself.
"Not my favourite creatures either, but we hope that they'll be more afraid of humans then we are of them."
“And they have another very useful function,” Dominique said, “they can be a very effective early warning system.”
The City of London
“Hey – how is Central Office,” Sue said as she looked up.
"Hectic. So where is Aggie darling?" Colin kissed
his bride to be.
moment checking on the first delivery of books for the new office...She told me
to go take an early lunch."
no doubt spends more time reading then she does putting them away."
know she is such a huge brain?"
Colin said as he looked at the menu, “but I hear like so many other large
brains she tends to forget the routine and trivial."
know," Sue laughed, "both Tamsin, and Sherry Babbage, have taken me aside
and told me that when it comes to things like ensuring we have coffee, etc,
then I'm going to have to remember to do all that."
you ready for the weekend?"
talk to the church people you mean?"
as I'll ever be I guess, but I'm not really looking forward to it."
be fine." Colin put his hand on hers.
folks are having to return to Washington for a few days Bobby told me...She
wasn't happy about it."
entertaining," Colin shook his head, 'the two main candidates in turn
coming to the residence."
and Bill are old family friends, they are fine...It's the other man, and I
quote her, ‘I can't believe that I am having to allow that vulgar...’ well you
know her favourite words... ‘into MY house.’"
him speak,” Susan said. “He likes
blowing his own trumpet doesn't he?"
Colin shook his head, "but as Dad pointed out it’s not her home, that it’s
Government property, and that she's been a diplomat's wife long enough to know
these things have to be done."
"True...but I'll bet she's not happy about it still."
“Of course she’s not – but we live in hope.”
“Surely they’d never elect him?”
“And we’d never leave the EU? It’s a strange world Sue, a very strange world…”
12.30 pm BST
“Thank you all for your attention this morning ladies,” Madame said as Catriona looked round again, “good luck to one and all, and may we meet again to toast success.”
As the room stood up, Eleanor whispered to Jan and Katy “whoever Miss Panther really is, she is a genius – I think she’s covered every possibility save the unknown.”
“And it’s that we have to guard against,” Jan said as she and Katy put on their jackets. “Come on – let’s head into Windsor and get something to eat before we head back.”
“We are going to be very tired come Sunday Morning, aren’t we?”
did training go this morning darling?" Juliette asked as the Pussycats
gathered in a side room.
well...I think I got a read on the wind and water."
your hotel like?" Sandy asked.
isn't the Savoy, but it's also housing a lot of other rowers, so I met a few
interesting people last night."
reactions to today girls?"
"I thought it went well Cherie," Diana smiled. "Madame's people seem first rate."
“They all seem capable,” Abby said, “but there were a few people I was surprised to see. What’s Adam Ball’s mother doing here?”
“She figured out Jan and Katy did work for Shirley – but not the connection to us, not yet anyway. I’ll deal with that one at some point.”
“And the woman in business clothing – isn’t that Shirley’s barrister friend? I recognised her from the party,” Jo said.
“It is – and there is a story behind that,” Heather said as she took a drink, “but be assured, she’s up for the job – she helped out in Hatton Gardens last week.”
all the disguises Shirley?" Cat asked as Clint closed the car door.
lot of people involved in this lead very public lives Cat, and they'd rather
not have their little secrets more widely known."
several people recognised me?"
darling, but you aren't a member of the Pussycat Gang."
Cat turned and
said "Do you know their real identities Shirley?"
"I do," Shirley nodded, "and all I will tell you is that it would blow your mind if you actually knew who they are."
“But are they anything like the way they were portrayed in the film?”
“Let me put it this way – the raids in the film were incredibly accurate, but the real Pussycats have very different backgrounds in some ways – and not so different in others.”
Catriona nodded as she watched others leave, and Clint drove off.
"While we travel back to London, can I change the subject Catriona,” Shirley said, “and ask what more you know of Sue and Colin's wedding plans?"
"Other than that they are going to Oban for the weekend not a lot more then you probably. It’s a certainty Susan will go from Ardray, and the wedding breakfast will be held there, and I heard Donnie and John will be in the full Highland outfit – as well as anyone else who chooses to wear it."
“John will in that case – and the day before?”
“Ah yes – the shoot. We gather in the early morning, and whoever is not on the moors will join us for lunch. Beyond that – wait and see.”
rang to say she and Charles have headed back to Washington for a few
days," Shirley smiled. "by her account she has to do some
entertaining she's not looking forward to."
get this job done and we can start to enjoy our summer holidays."
say Shirley." Catriona looked out the window as they approached Heathrow,
"first let us get this done."
but with so many people involved I'm hoping any risk is minimal."
"To be honest it should be, the lady who has planned this is superb at working out the dangers."
“But the unexpected?”
“Always the main issue – but we hopefully have anticipated as much as possible – and plans are in place for the one big unknown threat.”
“Oh – what’s that?”
“The Japanese might want the gold as well – an ancestor of the head of Japanese Intelligence at the time it went missing is in London. But do not let that concern you.”
“I’m meeting with Clarissa this afternoon – we think we have enough for a judicial review of Agnes’ conviction, and if we agree, she’ll arrange the submission.”
“Perhaps we should give Mike a heads up – so that he is aware that may be coming?”
“I would imagine he is – but we can’t notify him until a decision is made…”
we give you a lift back to work?" Charlotte smiled as the head of
personnel came out of the hotel.
came down by train..."
mean you can't accept a ride though with Mama and me back."
Jayne shook her head, "It will certainly be more comfortable a ride." She smiled as she walked over to the car
while Francesca sat in the back. Charlotte
climbed in the driver’s seat as Jayne climbed in the passenger side.
"As we are
going to be working together I thought we ought to get to know each
other," Francesca purred from the backseat as they set off. "I'm
Francesco di Cambrello... also, as I'm sure you know, known as the Devil
Pettigrew," the woman with the brown hair reached round and shook hands, "also
known as...the White Mamba."
Francesca lifted an eyebrow, "then I did rather well in getting you as a
amazed your paths have never crossed before," Charlotte spoke as she
pulled away from the hotel.
once," Jayne smiled.
three years ago," Francesca remembered, "I never actually saw your
face, but you were there to kill the same person that I was tasked to
Artemis, how comes I never heard of this?" Charlotte's voice got louder.
both failed," Jayne smiled, "the man's brother put a knife through
his heart before he could drink the cobra venom laced iced tea I had prepared
were you Mama?"
"Two minutes away on a motorcycle after being lured away with a very clever deception,” Francesca said with a smile. “I got there just in time to see that the brother’s jealousy had done the deed. The assassin I knew was there to do the hit was nowhere to be seen." Francesca smiled as she said "you and I will certainly have a lot to talk about in the back of that van Jayne."
“Well, we weren’t the only professionals there. Was it my imagination, or did I see Eleanor Ball in the audience?”
“Oh she was there – but she is in Gold team for this particular event,” Charlotte said, “and where do you know Captain Ball from?”
“Oh that’s another story…”
this is a morbid thought?" Susan asked Maddie as they were driven back to
London, "but just how many deaths are the women who were in that room
responsible for, do you think?"
must be in the high hundreds, if not over a thousand." Maddie smiled.
"Between just us it must be over ten..."
over 20...and compared to some that makes us angels."
I believe," Susan shook her head, "and I'd guess that with Helen it's
rather more than that."
the funny thing?" Maddie said with a smile.
never felt so safe in my life than I did being in that room full of
"I get you," Susan laughed, "it really is just like a big family, and we look after each other closely."
2 pm CET
he having a fit about now?" Suzie sighed as she heard the loud Spanish
curses coming from outside the dressing tent.
you," Mary said with a smile as she sat down next to her sister,
"this time he's not happy with the lighting."
said he was temperamental I know, but shit Mary, he's ten times worse than
anyone I've ever met in my whole life."
it worry you Suzie, for all his complaining those first two setups were
Erwin showed me some of the images, they are beautiful, and you look fabulous
in them, the magazine people are in raptures."
is he giving me such a hard time?"
knows,” Mary said as an assistant rushed in and out, “with the maestro it can
be any little thing that sets him off."
Susie stood up as they finished securing the large black hat with the huge pink
bow over her hair.
a very similar design to this in an old shoot by the Body," Mary cast her
eyes over the pink pencil skirt, the matching gloves and belt, as well as the
black silk blouse and the incredibly tall heels. "And you look better in
it than she did," Mary encouraged the youngster.
my MODEL?" the Maestro's voice was heard.
"Showtime," Susie whispered as she stood up and started slowly walking outside. Mary shook her head, and then followed her outside…
1.30 pm BST
is Jayne from personnel's background that she is to be a death dealer
Penny?" Kylie asked as the train pulled out of Windsor station. "and
why isn't Dominique leading us?"
she's more use underground,” Penny said with a smile, “and because Natalya is
more than competent in her own right."
that darling," Helen asked, "but again I'll ask that question, why
you ever hear of the White Mamba?" Penny said quietly.
"Jayne is the Mamba?" Helen looked shocked. "but she seems so...well normal."
“So do you, and Kylie and Marina,” Penny said, “but you’re all deadly in your own ways.”
“So who is, or was, the White Mamba,” Marina asked.
“One of the most deadly assassins in the UK,” Helen said, “specialised in taking out those the law cannot touch. I heard she had retired – and saying that, why doesn’t it surprise me Madame has employed her…”
“Well, leave that for the moment – we have a party tonight, remember?”
1.30 pm BST
“So when is your flight back tomorrow,” Ama asked as she sat with Maisha and Nyala in a booth in the Mexican restaurant.
“At one tomorrow afternoon – I should be home in time for supper, but I have to say I have enjoyed every minute of my stay,” Nyala said as she picked up a stuffed pepper and bit into it.
“Well, it has been a pleasure to have you stay with me sister,” Maisha said, “and for Ama to join us for some of the time as well.”
“Well, I am glad I was able to – and now we have this week, a trip to Naples, and back for another wedding before I meet my team to play in the tournament.”
“So when will you see Uma again?”
“This weekend, her foster mother and she are coming to spend the day with me and Mom. Then we hope to have them over when they have a holiday in October.”
“That will be nice,” Ama said, “unless it is when we have our Halloween party.”
“I am not sure – but we will see. So what will you do when you return for the rest of the summer Nyala?”
“I still help at the shelter – some women are still coming in there – but I also will help at a summer sports camp.”
“Well, I will be joining Ama at the weddings, one as a bridesmaid,” Maisha said, “but then I return to New York with Aunt Shirley for a few weeks.”
“Well, we have some interesting times ahead of ourselves,” Nyala said as the starters were cleared, “but first we see the show this afternoon, and then go to your house for one last meal Maisha.”
“As I want it to be,” Maisha said with a smile, “as I want it to be.”
2.30 pm BST
As they left the restaurant, Maisha looked over and said “Dr McAdam – what brings you down here?”
Maisha, and why aren't you at home working?" Agnes smiled as she came over.
you told me that I was entitled to a summer holiday Dr McAdam," Maisha
grinned back. "Why aren't you working though?"
I am Maisha, I am heading to the Department for International Development to
purchase some of their publications for my new office. Their offices are
only in Whitehall, but I thought I'd look in at my school on the way."
"Your school?" Ama asked.
sure Caroline has told you about the place I run to try and help runaway kids
"She has. I think it is a wonderful thing you are doing."
"I am willing to bet that of all the young ladies I've met, that you probably understand the desperation in these children the most."
“Indeed – perhaps we can visit one day when I am free, but sadly Nyala returns tomorrow.”
“We’ll see what we can do – where are you going now?”
“I have tickets for the matinee of Phantom,” Maisha said.
“Well, enjoy the show – we’ll talk soon…”
2.30 pm BST
“Okay Miss Harker – I have a question,” Charlotte said as she came into Penny’s office.
“The dresses look amazing Char, so don’t…”
that… Why do they call Jayne the White
Mamba Penny, and why was I never told she was a top assassin?"
Smiling, Penny replied "Because you didn't need know that fact Charlotte."
"One day I'll find out all the secrets in this place," Charlotte sighed as she waved her arms. "Seriously though who would have thought that our rather quiet head of Human Resources was a top hitwoman?"
- hiding in plain sight Charlotte..."
know," Charlotte broke in, "but my other question - why do they call
her the White Mamba?"
snakes, and snake venom are her preferred way of dispatching her victims."
"Snakebites can often pass as accidents, and snake venom is not something the coroners look for while doing a standard toxicology screen. The delay usually gives Jayne a chance to be a long way away when they work out cause of death, and that it was murder."
“So she really does fit right in here?”
“Oh yes… Anyway, still up for the meal with Dom later?”
“Sure - go from here at about seven?”
6.30 pm BST
“I thought I said seven,” Charlotte said as she walked with Caroline and Penny down past St Martins.
“I know – but we decided to meet someone else,” Penny said as Charlotte saw Heather standing outside the National Gallery.
“Hey,” she said with a smile, “Fancy some shrimp? I hear there’s a new restaurant around here that’s not too bad…”
“Okay – but will we get in?”
“Of course we will – I already made the reservation. Come on – adventure awaits!”
7 pm BST
"So while Roo and her girlfriends party the night away, what am I supposed to do John?" Piet said as he drank his coffee.
"Well how about a nice dinner at my club, and then maybe a couple of games of snooker...You do play don't you?"
not that well," Piet laughed.
you sound about my standard then," John laughed back.
belong to a couple,” John said, “but the best food is to be had at
"You know the place then?"
"Well that's put it this way - I've walked past it, but I've never been inside. I think it's a bit exclusive for a mere South African journalist."
suspect was put up by his father for membership of the Rand Club very early in
his life," John shook his head, "Piet old boy you cannot fool me, I
know enough of your background by now to see through this front as the good old
you got me," Piet laughed again, "but honestly, while I probably have
guest privileges at several London clubs, I still prefer a good night at a
being able to retreat to one’s club for a quiet evening is a privilege I think
you'll come to appreciate as you get older, young man."
Piet smiled, "well it's a good thing I have my suit and tie on then."
is...so do we have a plan."
"Ja we have a plan Sir John."
“Good – drink up…”
7.30 pm BST
“All right, all right, I’m coming,” Agnes said as she walked to the main door, looking through the spyhole first.
"Sherry? Now to what do I owe the pleasure of this
visit?" Agnes smiled as she opened the flat door.
as anything to these two young women Aggie," Sherry smiled as Aggie kissed
her on the cheek.
Agnes shook hands with the two younger ladies, "and what can I do for you
like what can we do for you Dr McAdam," the taller of the two replied.
sounds intriguing,” Agnes said as she closed the door. “Well, come through, and pardon the mess,
I've spent the afternoon shopping."
Sherry shook her head at the sight of the books spread everywhere, "this
looks just like our old rooms at Oxford."
but I got to reading something, and then I needed some cross
things will never change," Sherry grinned.
clear some space on the chairs for yourselves girls, and tell me what I can do
Jemima said, it's more what we can hopefully do for you," the smaller of
the two women sat down as Tippy Toes jumped off and went to sit in her basket.
"I'm Georgina Hope, and I'm the current President of the Ashington
Jemima Wolesey, the current Secretary," the tall brunette explained.
they explain what they want to say, I'll go make tea and coffee." Sherry
pleasure to meet you both...but my question is why would you wish to see me...I
got the message from the club many years ago that I was not wanted?"
the article on you in the Sunday Times," Georgina spoke, "and well I
was very impressed at what you had done with your life."
people have said that before," Aggie smiled slightly.
from the records it was you had founded the Ash Dr McAdam," Jemima
continued, "and well in light of the article we the current undergraduate
members had a meeting."
upshot of which is, that we'd like to offer that you resume your life
nice Jemima, but I wrote the rules myself, and I can only be reinstated by a
unanimous vote of ALL members...both past and present."
have done," Georgina spoke, "we canvassed every single member we
could get hold of, and there was not a single objection."
one?" Aggie asked as a tear came to her eyes.
one," Sherry came in with the tea and coffee pots, "and I know
because I helped them do the canvas."
Ashington Dining and Social Association would very much like it if their
founder would resume her position as a life-member."
"Ladies, I'm not quite sure what to say..." Agnes started to cry
8.30 pm CET
us all about working with Antonio Bell Suzie?" Sigi asked as they all sat
with Klaus in one of the drawing rooms.
unbelievable," Suzie yawned.
good, or unbelievably bad?" Klaus said as he looked up from cradling Mags.
it be both?"
him it can Your Highness," Suzie smiled, "and just to think I have
another day of it tomorrow."
means really," Mary said as she held Rudi, "is that while they
produced some truly memorable images, the Maestro seemed to bitch and complain
about every single little thing."
"My fencing coach at prep school was like that," Sigi grimaced, "I was national age group epee champion, and she still was on my ass constantly."
8.15 pm BST
The Piccadilly Pavilion
Carina tonight Juliette?" Jan asked as they both sat at the bar.
have their heat to race in the morning, she should be just about curling up in
bed with her research on the other crews."
she's going to miss a great party tonight," Katy looked round as others
started to arrive.
"It looks that way Katy," Annie grinned, "It looks like a fun bunch, even if I don't know most of them." The women were wearing party frocks, or tight jeans and tops, standing and talking to each other.
“Well, I should have known you might make it here,” Eleanor said as she approached a brown haired woman, standing with a slightly taller woman, both wearing jumpers and tight leather trousers.
“Well met by moonlight,” the woman said as she smiled, “Cassie, meet Captain Eleanor Ball. Eleanor, my wife Cassie Craig.”
“Pleasure,” Cassie said as they shook hands, “so where do you know Charlotte from?”
“Oh our paths have crossed…”
mother of the bride usually come to things like this Francesca?" Shirley
laughed as she passed the Marchesa her drink.
not, but I've never yet turned down an invitation to a fun party."
"And I can
bear witness to that Shirley," Marianne smiled.
I," another woman spoke.
"Natalya! You made it," Francesca embraced her German friend.
“Of course – I’m helping a few friends out with things. So, an eclectic bunch?”
“All right people,” Peri called out, “they’re on their way…”
“Okay, that was good shrimp,” Charlotte said as she walked with her friends towards Piccadilly, “so what do you fancy now? A drink?”
“I know a place just down here – serves Chateau de Ros,” Caroline said as they approached the Criterion, “why don’t we pop in?”
“Okay – so what do they call it,” Charlotte said as they went through a side door.
“Well,” Heather said, “it’s called Myvri endewil graa gvier.”
“That sounds like bad Afrikaans, Hea...” Charlotte looked at the three of them and said “oh no, no no no…”
“Yes yes yes,” Caroline said as Heather and Penny opened the doors, and they propelled Charlotte in to the voice of Francesca calling out “HERE SHE IS!”
“What the hell…” Charlotte looked at the brightly-lit room, with the banner saying “GOOD LUCK CHARLOTTE!”
“Right – get this on, get this down.”
Charlotte looked at the sash reading “Bride in Training” and then at the two girls smiling at her. “Wendy? Charlene? Where the hell have you two been hiding?”
“Never mind – start drinking,” Charlene said as he handed Charlotte a glass, “this is your night!”
you enjoying London Jo?" asked Lily.
since Curt arrived yesterday," Sandy smiled.
you done with him tonight?"
"Recovering from Jo being in bed with him earlier," Holly giggled, "poor boy was tired out for some reason."
“Can’t think why…”
a bit old for an event like this?" Glenda looked round as the three women
entered the room, wearing short dresses.
yourself," Nessa laughed.
that old saying?" Margaret laughed, "you are only as old as..."
you are feeling?" Nessa offered an ending.
"Maybe..." Maggie started to laugh. “Come on, we’re with friends, let’s let our hair down a bit…”
and Charlene, meet Ally and Nell Rochermann, I'm pretty sure that you've heard
of each other on the International winds of infamy." Charlotte grinned.
implying we all have bad reputations?" Ally laughed.
"Well if we haven't then we've all been doing something wrong," Wendy laughed. “We’ve heard of you though…”
goddess," Charlotte shook her head as she left her friends taking to the
Rochermanns, and joined Heather. "The
Terrible Two, and the New York Sluts in the same room - have all the men of
London been warned?"
Nell is taken Charlotte."
"I know Heather but what about Ally and them?"
“Well, all I can say is they had better watch out…”
“Praise the Lord for lifts,” Jeannie said as she wheeled herself in, wearing a black leather bustier and silver mini-skirt.
“Hey BS – up on a stool,” Ally asked.
“Please – then at least I can talk to everyone…”
that skirt is almost indecent," Shirley shook her head at the sight of her
friend in the tiny leather mini and her high heeled boots.
"Hey blame Jeans, she picked this out for me to wear, it's actually one of hers."
“Well it suits you as well,” Shirley said with a smile.
was your shoe shoot BS?" Abby asked as Jeannie got comfortable.
"Oh not so
bad Stick, I've done a lot worse."
you've done a lot better?"
got sorta boring, they had me changing outfits for different shoes, but too
many of the poses were just me in my chair...I explained I can sit on bar
stools, swings, etc, but they weren't over interested in my ideas."
least you got paid a large fee."
"Yeah and I did score a few free pairs for myself."
“Quite a group you have here,” Sarina said as she stood with Charlotte, “and they all seem good friends.”
“Well they are,” she said as she saw Holly take Sands onto the dance floor. “And believe me, they don’t let anything get in the way of fun.”
"So I see – that young girl on the floor with the small blonde?”
“Sands? What about her?”
“How old is
she?" Piet's sister asked as she shook her head.
and a very little," Charlotte smiled, "the shorter girl is her
girlfriend I sort of think."
sort of think?"
Holly also has a steady boyfriend."
"Well it looks like they are in love," the South African looked as the two Americans held each other very tight and danced.
"Oh this is going to be FUN!" Marina laughed as she, Kylie, Maddie and Emma arrived.
"Tell me about it darling," Kylie said as she started to lead them through the crowd towards the bar.
here," Caroline smiled.
“Sorry – busy day darling.”
Ama?" yelled Maddie above the music.
"Over there dancing with Itsy Buthelezi, and a couple of the other African women, she's trying to introduce them to some of the British and American contingent."
someone explain to me why a one-legged Australian Aboriginal is here?"
Catriona asked Penny as she looked at the group at one table.
she's one of Charlotte's best friends...Her name is Sunburst McRae, and just
like your late husband, she's a genuine heroine, they gave her the George Cross
for what she did in Iraq."
her now," Cat smiled. "And the rather quieter woman?"
"Is Helga Svenson - another friend of Charlotte's from her work in Africa. Both of them have helped Marianne Vosloo with the horse ranch she is opening."
you are planning for me Kay love, please let it be a little quieter than
this." Sue shouted to be heard above the music.
makes you think we will be giving you a hen party?"
that you and Penny were whispering to each other."
"Well we might just have been exchanging a few ideas." Kay laughed. “But relax – this is not what we have in mind…”
for you Charlotte," Jan grinned as she handed the bride-to-be a pair of
they?" Charlotte asked as she opened the first box, and took out something
like a Barbie doll.
is Eve," Jan laughed.
is Adam," Katy added as Charlotte lifted out a male doll with a long
up his beard," Jan chuckled.
GODDESS!" Charlotte burst into huge laughter, "that could make
Piet feel quite inadequate."
"How Jan?" Francesca asked, "Sorry forget I asked that, I get it," she laughed as her daughter demonstrated how it worked.
“Where did you find these?”
“Amazing what you can find off the Charing Cross Road…”
“Mind if I join ye,” Catriona heard an Australian voice say, and she looked at the dark skinned woman.
“Not at all – have a seat.”
“Thanks - G'day
Miss Cuthbertson, I'm Sunburst McRae," The Aboriginal former soldier said
as she extended a hand.
know," Catriona shook it, “I remember reading about your tremendous
bravery in Iraq.”
"Well it was less than your husband did in Kosovo, we were both just trying to keep innocents out of harm’s way, at least I wasn't under fire."
"No just imminent danger from land mines." Cat shook her head.
"Yeah, they are nasty little buggers," she looked down at her amputated leg. “Look what one did to me!”
"Please,” Catriona said quietly, “call me Cat Miss McRae?"
you call me Sunburst."
deal," Cat smiled. "Can I ask where your George Cross is?"
Mums, I personally can't stand the bloody thing."
everyone makes a big fuss about it, and be honest I was only doing my job, so
it seems a little too much."
know I've never even seen Jamie's Victoria Cross,” Cat said quietly. “I took it from Her Majesty, but I never
opened the box, and as quickly as I could I gave it to his mother."
you that he'd be home safely didn't he?” For once all the jolliness vanished
from Sunburst's face.
me..." Catriona let a couple of tears come.
"I told me
Dad just the same thing, and well I did get home, even if with a bit missing,
but I understand how heartbreaking it must have been for you."
he have to be so bloody brave?"
"Because there are some of us who can't sit by and watch in times of trouble. I always say I was being stupid in Basra, but those kids were so scared I just couldn’t wait for the anti-mine guys, I had to get them out before they accidentally set them off because they were all so agitated. Your old man probably just thought the same thing, lives were in danger...and he just happened to be there...For some of us it’s just a bloody reflex action."
“Damn stupid thing to have.”
“True – but we have it, and we did what was right. Times like that, promises tend to get forgotten – but I’m sure he was thinking of you as well.” Taking a drink, she said “you got kids?”
“A daughter – Jamie never met her, but she is his image.”
“Guess that was tough?”
“I’m only now dealing with it.”
“Well, at least ye are – good for you.”
is she?" Caroline asked as she watched Glenda dance.
I am," Shirley shook her head, "but damn she can still move can't
say that again...She and Nessa are putting most of these young kids to
at Barbara dance as well," Shirley pointed out Jeannie's mother dancing
with Ama and Maisha, "Barb isn't exactly looking like she has two left
Caroline smiled. "It's just nice to see so many of Charlotte's African
friends here, seeing her so much as the computer nerd, I forget that she's also
both tough and resourceful."
remember your face when I said I was sending her to Geneva with you..."
I've learned a lot about her since then."
who?" Francesca asked.
daughter Francesca,” Shirley said, “I was reminding Caroline of the negative
image of Charlotte before they did their first mission together."
"Yes Carlotta fools a lot of people because she is so small, but James did a damn good job teaching her confidence and self-reliance."
“Indeed,” Caroline said, “he certainly did. So how are the preparations in Naples coming along?”
“Well, everything is ready at our end in terms of the church and the reception, and her uncle flies over in a week to make the preparations. Security, however, is a nightmare, as you can imagine.”
“Is it true His Holiness will be in attendance?”
“He is – which makes it even more interesting…”
yourself Teacher?" Itsy asked as she took Helga a drink.
I am,” Helga said with a smile, “I know I'm not dancing, but I love seeing
people have fun around me."
such a variety of people here."
Charlotte really moves in two different worlds and they are meeting in this
reminds me of some of the wilder parties at Oxford when I was a student."
reminds me of my university days as well."
Itsy said, “all the time that I've known you, I've never asked where you went
said "Uppsala, back home in Sweden."
it or not I studied biology, and then did a teacher’s certificate."
something new every day," Itsy smiled. "So is that why you sometimes
just go out alone into the bush for a few hours?"
sort of fascinated by the fauna and flora of our little corner of
someone once told me, every girl needs a hobby," Itsy smiled broadly.
are you talking about?" Karen Kumalo joined them.
telling me a few things about herself."
is a great observer of things," Karen smiled, "not a lot escapes her
both implying that I'm a wall flower?" Helga laughed.
"No," Karen smiled, "but sometimes even naturalists have to do what comes naturally," she laughed as she pulled Helga onto the dance floor.
that's the frame to you," John smiled as Piet potted the black.
left me with a fairly easy clearance when you missed the green."
still had to be potted though," John racked the reds up again.
is often just about that one unlucky break."
but it also needs skill, you look like you play reasonably often."
snooker," Piet shook his head, "but I do play a bit of pool when I'm
out with the guys."
a simpler game, but it explains the cue skills."
should see Roo play John."
can stand square, but it's hilarious sometimes watching her have to lean over a
table to make a shot."
is tiny really," John grinned. "Nature gave her many things, but a
long reach wasn't one of them."
"True, anyway John it's your break." Piet smiled as he chalked the tip of his cue, and stood back.
The Piccadilly Pavilion
“Right then,” Heather said into the microphone, “we think it’s time we saw just how competitive Charlotte can be. Carina’s not here, unfortunately, or she’d join in – so we need groups of three women, and the one proviso is the must have gone to the same school!”
“Up for it,” Jo said as she pulled Abby onto the dance floor.
“Holly – we need a third Nun,” Nell called out.
“Come on Char – we need you,” Wendy said as she and Charlene pulled her onto the floor.
“Are they doing what I think they’re doing,” Shirley said to Catriona.
“I think so,” Cat said, “come on – grab Margaret as well.”
“Francesca,” Sigi said, “Aunt Natalya and I need you.”
“Because Diana said no – over here.”
“All right ladies,” Heather said, “the Charlotte Gordon rowing race is about to begin. Get into position – Mister DJ, suitable music!”
“Why one earth am I agreeing to this,” Margaret said as she sat in front of Shirley, Catriona behind her.
“And start when the music begins – first crew to get to the other side of the floor wins…”
"You know why I love it when Sigi is at a party?" Charlotte whispered to Penny.
"Because she's even smaller than I am."
"And a lot
younger looking," Penny laughed, "the bar have been quite happily
serving drinks to Alexandra, and to Katy, but from her they asked for ID?"
it's ridiculous," Charlotte shook her head.
reminded them that this is a private party, and that the Baroness is a mother
of three, so hopefully we won't have any more trouble."
you discussing girls?" Maddie joined them.
staff not serving Sigi like that"
Penny, it's ridiculous really."
where is Emma?" asked Charlotte.
"I don't know, last I saw she and Nessa were deep in conversation, I was wondering if you'd seen her."
“Not me, but those two…”
“I hear music and there’s no-one there…”
"Hey that's Mick and Nessa's version," Jeannie started moving her upper half in time to Rocking Good Way.
"Who says you can't dance BS?" Abigail smiled at her friend.
me," Barbara said as she held Jeannie's hand and helped her swivel on the
a chair or stool like this, and I'm well away," Jeannie laughed as her
mother twirled her round a couple of times.
that is so inspirational to see," Karen whispered in Ama's ear, "to
see her enjoying herself to the full despite her disability."
know," Ama grinned, "Jeans finds she can do most things that she
wants to, even if sometimes like being swung on a seat to dance, they aren't
what the rest of us do."
see," the Matabele priestess looked round contentedly, "I wish I
could one day persuade her to visit Africa, we have so many people who lost
limbs, etc. I think it would help if they saw with their own eyes that no their
life is not over."
"Perhaps the Sisters should sponsor a trip?" Ama weighed the thought in her mind
heard Curt had to cry uncle Jo," Abby said as she passed her friend a
well let me say he earned his sleep," Jo smiled broadly.
power of love," Annie spoke.
and Carina resumed...well you know what I mean?"
have," Annie laughed, "we took the doctor’s advice and took it
steady after the babies arrived, but we are enjoying life to the full
good," Jo said as she clapped Annie on the back.
she's not too tired from training with the girls that is." Abby smiled
morning will tell them a lot Cari says. They aren't expecting to win the heat,
but they want to see how close they can get to the Dutch pair."
they'll be eliminated?"
get a second chance to qualify for the finals in what is called a repechage on
Friday. The girls reckon that if they can qualify out of that then they are on
track to maybe go to the Worlds."
my fingers crossed," Jo held her hand up.
"And hopefully I will get some great pictures." Abby added.
is the groom Shirley?" Juliette asked.
"John has taken
him to his club, and the plan is a very good meal, followed by a few frames of
belong to a club?” Juliette smiled, "and you know I've never asked you
really," Shirley shook her head, "John has occasionally taken me to a
couple of his clubs, but I've never joined a ladies club."
Sandy belongs to clubs in both New York and Boston, she's taken us as her
guests there a couple of times."
told me a while back that she'd been expelled from her club here in
thinks there would still be people who'd black ball her."
like that." Juliette shook her head.
"No neither do I, but such is the way of the world…”
“Enjoying yourself,” Doc said as she stood with Kylie.
“Surprisingly yes Darling – the dresses are ready for next week, will arrive in Naples on Monday, and we fly over on Tuesday once I’m happy with the other commission over here.”
“Well, after this weekend, I’m ready for a long break. When do you get back to New York?”
“After Italy – although I must come back for the Scottish wedding,” Kylie said as she sipped her drink. “Perhaps we can meet then?”
“I’ll look forward to it,” Doc said with a smile.
“Okay girls – please allow the girl of the moment to speak – CHARLOTTE!”
smiled as she stood in front of the large television screen. "Ladies can I
thank you for coming to my party so very much," she smiled. "My Aunt
Marianne says that thanks to you all she has some interesting pictures of me to
show so that you all can see them."
include the ones I sent you Marianne?" Wendy called out.
hope not," Charlotte giggled.
"Oh now we
must see them," various people called out.
yield the microphone to Aunt Marianne, and I will just remind her of how much
I've always loved her."
isn't going to save you Charlotte," Annie yelled out.
let's start this with the photograph I know means most to Charlotte,"
Marianne said as she pressed some buttons on her device, "the only picture
ever taken of Charlotte with BOTH her parents."
As the photo of Francesca cradling the infant Charlotte in her arms with James by her side came on, various women started to applaud, many started to cry. Chief amongst which was Francesca as she stood with Natalya.
to Sarina's parents I have the only known picture of Charlotte stark
naked," Marianne laughed as a picture of a 2 year old Charlotte came on
the screen, walking round the pool. "And I wonder if she still has that
cute little mole?"
not stripping off so you can check."
"Now this is one of Charlotte and two of the friends she made in her first week at school, and what I want to know Wendy and Charlene is whatever happened to those two innocent little girls?"
“We grew up,” Charlene called out as they saw the three girls in their open necked blouses and skirts.
“As is demonstrated by this,” Marianne said as a picture of the three of them petting some goats came on.
wrong Francesca?" Natalya whispered in her friend’s ear.
wonderful pictures of Carlotta growing up Natty...and I'm not in one of
help that," her old friend said as she put an arm round her, “and haven't
been over this all far too many times already?"
I don't know Natty, she's MY daughter, but its Marianne who knows all her
friends and was able to put together these pictures...NOT ME." Francesca
started to cry quietly, "her oldest friends had to be introduced to me, I
know virtually none of my own daughter’s friends."
"But you know them now Francesca,” Natalya said quietly, “it's no use looking backwards, what happened happened, what is important is what happens now."
“I know, but to have missed so much…”
"Looks like she's had Piet twisted round her little finger for a long while..." Marianne smiled as up came a picture of Charlotte laying on a recliner next to a swimming pool, with Piet serving her a drink.
“What she’s not showing is what happened when Piet spilled the drink over her,” Charlotte said as she looked round, “and how I dragged him into the pool with me.”
“And here’s Charley on her way to her prep school dance…”
Mama?" Charlotte looked round as everyone laughed at a picture of her
playing hockey at school.
seen her," Heather looked round.
should have said something at the start Heather..."
"All these pictures...and she isn't in them...She's probably in a corner crying."
As Charlotte went off, Marianne said “More later, but for now, please welcome Emma and Nessa, with an appropriate song.”
As she left the stage, Emma and Nessa came up, both wearing wedding veils as the music started and they harmonized.
Going to the chapel and we're gonna to
Going to the chapel and we're gonna to get married.
Gee, I really love you and we're gonna to get married.
Going to the chapel of love.
Nessa then stood forward and sang
Spring is here,
the sky is blue.
Whoa! the birds all sing as if they knew.
Today's the day, we'll say, "I do"
and we'll never be lonely anymore.
Emma than joined in again with the chorus, before continuing
Bells will ring,
the sun will shine.
Whoa, I'll be his and he'll be mine.
We'll love until the end of time
and we'll never be lonely anymore.
Because we're going to the chapel and we're gonna get married.
Going to the chapel and we're gonna get married.
Gee, I really love you and we're gonna get married.
Going to the chapel of love.
(yeah yeah yeah yeah)
Going to the chapel of love.
(yeah yeah yeah yeah)
Going to the chapel of love
Francesca looked up from where she was sitting with Natalya, wiping her eyes as she said “Sorry, Carlotta, but…”
“I understand – and I’m sorry, I should have realised. We can talk of those later – but will you come with me now please?”
Francesca nodded as she took Charlotte’s hand, and walked with her up to the stage.
"Ladies there is someone who should have been in some of those photos and who wasn't...My mother...Look most of you know what happened - that she was deported from South Africa and she and my father were divorced," Charlotte started to cry..."Look I'm not much of a singer, but I want to sing hers and my father’s song. Would Nessa and Emma join me up here, I've got the words on the computer, and maybe they can make me sound better."
“You sure about this,” Emma whispered.
“Yeah, I am,” Charlotte said as the music began, and Francesca watched.
We have all the time in the world
Time enough for life to unfold
All the precious things love has in store
We have all the love in the world
If that's all we have
You will find we need nothing more
Every step of the way will find us
With the cares of the world far behind
Charlotte’s voice was barely holding the tune as Nessa and Emma looked at each other, and stood by her, signing softly.
We have all the time in the world
Just for love nothing more nothing less only love
Every step of the way will find us
With the cares of the world far behind us
We have all the time in the world
Just for love nothing more nothing less only love
“Thank you,” Francesca whispered as Charlotte came down and hugged her.
Shirley, I've heard songs sung a lot better, but I'm not sure I've ever heard
one sung with such genuine feeling before. That was just so beautiful,"
Juliette sighed as she brushed back some tears.
know," Shirley also wiped her eyes, "that ranks up there with Winston
giving Jeannie her first ever dance at my party that time as one of the most
wonderfully memorable things I ever saw."
isn't a dry eye in the room darlings," Diana whispered.
is an incredible young woman." Natalya smiled, "and you could tell
that came straight from her heart."
Shirley sipped her drink, "it was so wonderfully spontaneous and
recorded it on my phone," Natalya looked at her device, "it will give
her and Francesca a wonderful souvenir of this."
"I think a
few people did," Heather wiped her eyes, "I'll get everyone to send
me what they got and I'll fit it all together for them both."
"Even the bar staff stopped and listened." Sigi smiled happily, "pure magic."
like a nightcap John?" Piet asked as they both put their jackets on.
so Pieter," John smiled as they made their way through to the bar,
"you know we will have to do that again?"
are pretty evenly matched."
we both had a couple of very nice breaks of over fifty." John smiled,
"I think that's the best I've played in a couple of years or so."
Piet sat down in an armchair, "I think the atmosphere and setting helped
us both raise our game."
could well be," John signalled to the waiter to bring a couple of brandies.
"This is a very historic building."
said as he looked round, “if these walls could talk I wonder what tales they
a lot of fortunes won and lost playing games of chance in the early
very important political discussions?"
say." John smiled again as their drinks arrived.
family Whigs and Liberals John?"
how did you work that out young man?"
"Oh I know
enough history to understand that a man belongs to Brooks and the Reform then
he reflects a certain political heritage...I'll bet you aren't a member of the
no," John laughed, "my ancestors would turn in their graves if I had
joined that place."
that's how I guessed your ancestor’s politics Man." Piet laughed softly.
as he swirled his brandy in his glass.
"You are right of course," John cupped his glass to warm it, "so I wonder how our ladies are doing?"
that from Lizzie?" Aileen asked as they sat in the drawing room at Lardarn
mother, it seems she's rather enjoying this hen party she is at." Lizzie
smiled, "she's in a long queue for the ladies’ room so she can go repair
her face, everyone it seems has been crying."
you have a great time if everyone has been crying?" Aileen asked.
says there was a wonderfully emotional moment between the bride and her mother
that plucked at everyone’s heartstrings."
I understand I think."
to what we were talking about Lizzie, you think you'll be happy riding
certainly," Lizzie smiled, "he's a great ride, I just set him at his
fences and he popped them."
glad you enjoyed yourself, and he should give you a couple of great days out
hunting, he's half Hanoverian half Thoroughbred." Eve explained.
stamina in his bloodlines as well." Kit finished her warm milk. "Well
I suppose Mummy will be ready to head back to the Dower House?"
finish playing bridge." Eve stood up. "I wonder how much she and
Mummy have won from Father and Mr Casey?"
"Not much probably," Aileen smiled, "they only play for small stakes."
The Piccadilly Pavilion
as she looked round, before she heard a Scandinavian voice say "Your name
is Marina isn't it, you work for Complete Style magazine?"
"I do, and
Helga, I know Charlotte from Africa."
I place you, the Marchesa was pointing out people to me earlier," Marina
smiled at the Swedish woman, “so what do you do in Africa?"
done some teaching, I've worked with a couple of charities, and currently I'm
helping Marianne to put together her riding academy cum ranch."
heard you are. Someone said you speak seven languages."
try," Marina blushed, 'you probably speak a few yourself?"
German, and of course Swedish..."
several African tribal languages and dialects." Marianne joined them.
"Teacher as we call her is a lady of many facets."
wouldn't say that."
would," Liz Egwegwe said as she joined them.
what is your exact job?" Marianne asked.
for the Global Editor of CS as one of her PA's."
sounds very cool." Liz smiled.
bad, I get on well with Anna, the only fly in the ointment is that the senior
PA doesn't like me."
not great," Liz shook her head, "it can spoil the whole harmony of an
hoping it will work out."
also Kylie Mitchell's flatmate I hear?" Teacher smiled, "that must be
"Yes it is," Marina laughed. “She’s a great kid, and we seem to complement each other well.”
what was my daughter like growing up?" Francesca asked.
truth Marchesa?" Wendy said as she looked at Charlotte dancing with Peri.
up a great front, but I know she cried a lot because unlike us all she didn't
have a mother."
looked shocked as she said "Truthfully?"
"Could only do so much,” Charlene said, “my Mother tried to help as well, but Charlotte wanted so much to be have the relationship most of her friends had with their Mothers."
"She told me what it was like for you and your Mother earlier," Wendy smiled, "that's what she so badly missed in her life."
so,” Francesca said as she looked down, “I know though she never met her, that
my Mama desperately wanted to give Carlotta all the help in life she
those wonderful wedding arrangements."
Francesca smiled. "So where did you live?"
Piet's family lived one side, we lived on the other side."
you had all those pictures?"
"Have a lot of boyfriends like me and Charl?" the South African grinned, "no Piet was always her one and only, when he was away at school we tried setting her up with other boys, but she was never interested."
haven't fitted in that climbing we hoped to," Caroline spoke loudly over
the music as she danced with Charlotte, Annie, and Janice.
we've all been so busy." Annie shouted back.
think Piet would like me going climbing while I'm pregnant anyway."
Charlotte swung and swayed to the music.
I'm glad you are sitting behind a computer with Heather the next couple of
nights." Caroline said in a tone that was barely audible.
"So is my
you told Piet?" asked Janice.
spending a couple of nights with Mama...which in some ways is true...family
according to others that's just what we are...one large family." Annie
will Ama be?"
her nails at Shirley's I suspect, she's staying there while we work."
about John Caroline?"
spending two days in Milan."
rather convenient," Janice smiled.
"Isn't it just," Charlotte laughed aloud.
“Well, it seems we are not alone,” Ally said as she and Nell sat with Wendy and Charlene.
“True – although your reputation is legendary. But you are dating Mick Harron Nell?" Charlene looked impressed.
"Have you been on this tour with him?"
that like?" Wendy asked. Nell
sighed as she took a drink, and said "Both wonderful and terrible all at
is wonderful, and I know we are both in love,” Nell said as she sat back, “but
the constant travel, and the girls throwing themselves at him gets on your
nerves very quickly."
can understand," Charlene nodded, "I've dated a couple of famous
South African rugby players and it’s the same thing."
the tour finished?"
date and then his family and mine are retreating to the peace and quiet of his
at least you have that to look forward to."
"Yes," Nell smiled as she looked to the door. “What the…”
“Is there a Charlotte Gordon here? Charlotte Gordon?”
The room parted as Charlotte looked at the tall man, dressed in a white naval uniform, and then looked at Peri as she said “No, don’t tell me you booked him?”
“I have no idea who he is,” Peri said with her hand on her heart, “Tanera, on the other hand…”
The DJ started to play You Can Leave Your Hat On as he walked over, tossing his hat into Francesca’s hands as he looked at the small redhead.
10 pm BST
was John doing while you had your little girls’ night?" Tamsin asked as
they sat in the old house.
television, but none of us fancied the film he wanted to watch so we just sat
and talked." Kits replied.
guess at what you talked about - horses, weddings, and boys."
about sums it up Mummy...How did you guess?"
while it may seem it was years ago to you darling, I was once sixteen
that was in ancient times..."
that long ago Miss," Tamsin laughed.
did you and Aunt Paula win as usual?"
know why Uncle Tom and Mr Casey both keep playing you."
because we all enjoy it, and old Mr Casey likes getting out and socialising
with people. Since his wife died he's been alone you know."
remember his daughter just about...why did she move to America?"
she fell in love with an American” Tam smiled, “but her father does miss her
now he's alone."
romance is in the air this summer, we will just have to find him a lady of his
age." Kit smiled broadly.
"Darling he's 72." Tam rolled her eyes.
The Piccadilly Pavilion
three Countesses of Sithwell then Catriona?" Jayne asked as she sat with
Catriona, Francesca and Sue at a table.
so,” Cat said with a smile. “My
mother-in-law and I are both the Dowager Countess technically, my daughter
Elizabeth is the true Countess."
same situation as in my family," Abby nodded her head, “both my Mother and
Grand-Mere are dowagers and I'm the actual Countess."
so," Cat sipped her wine, "it gets confusing, so that's why
professionally I'm just Catriona Cuthbertson."
on the other hand will only become Marchesa di Cambrello on my death,"
Francesca looked proudly at her daughter across the room.
makes it a little easier," Jayne smiled.
can't believe the range of backgrounds of the people here," Sue shook her
head, "I asked Kay at one point what the hell someone like me is doing
herself down again," Catriona smiled. "Sue you are marrying into one
of this country's proudest aristocratic families...again...Darling I don't
think you need have anything of an inferiority complex."
you all know my background."
"As I've said before," Francesca waved her arm, "that is irrelevant."
“I think we should make a move soon,” Juliette whispered to Diana.
“Agreed ma Cherie – I’ll let Abigail know if you can get Jo to inform the youngsters.” As Diana walked across, Juliette walked over to where Charlotte and Francesca were standing.
“We need to go now – but thank you for inviting us, and we’ll see you on the day.”
“Of course – safe travels,” Charlotte said as Juliette kissed her on both cheeks, and then joined Sigi and the others.
“Early night for all of them?”
“They’re going to watch Carina race tomorrow, so an early start…”
Thursday 14th July
9 am BST
Dorney Lake, near Windsor
one more time we go over the race plan girls," Carina said as they stood
outside the boathouses, looking down the course.
and worry Maartjie, Eva, and Marloes as they do their usual thing and blast of
the stake boats by sticking with them if we can for the first 500," Kelsey
settle to our own pace through the middle 1,000..."
try and come back at them in the last 500 Molly, hoping that we have forced
them to use excess energy in getting away from us early." Carina finished.
lucky in the draw, the Brazilians, Luxembourgers and Estonians aren't that
good, so we can concentrate on racing the Dutch girls," Molly nodded.
let’s go get changed and launch the boat." Carina smiled.
"So enjoyed yourself at last night’s party Moms?" Ingrid grinned as Juliette joined her in the stands wearing dark glasses.
"Shirley assures me that I did." Juliette sat down carefully. “I personally do not remember too much of it.”
"That's good at least, I heard it was a fabulous party."
that," Shirley joined them.
press boat, she will follow a couple of the races from there." Ingrid
looked through her binoculars and saw the tall blonde got on.
good of John to get her the press pass Shirley," Juliette looked round her
at the few fans watching, "not a huge turnout I see."
"No but I
hear finals day will attract a good crowd Moms."
"Alright lock and load ladies," Carina laughed as she adjusted her microphone as she lay down in the boats stern.
Kelsey shouted back.
in." Molly called out.
push off and slowly make our way down the course please." Carina checked
as they cleared the dock, "alright our normal routine girls, long slow
strokes to extend those muscles."
"They don't look like they are having a lot of fun yet," Ingrid looked through her binoculars again.
look very business-like and focussed," Shirley observed.
"This is a
very big thing for all three of them," Juliette said as she poured some
coffee out of a thermos. "Their first real test against an acknowledged
what was worrying Cari at breakfast Moms," Ingrid took some coffee.
were her nerves darling?"
contrast to tonight," Shirley thought to herself, "when she will be
ice cool...or at least the Beast will be."
girls appreciated having you to drive them Ingrid?" Shirley spoke aloud.
they have, and I've enjoyed being even a little member of the team."
"I know, I
know," Sigi grimaced, "but at least I made it here in time to see the
late than never," Juliette laughed gently.
did I miss?"
"Nothing they are just warming up as they go down to the start, Cari is getting them doing practice starts right at this second," Ingrid resumed watching through the field glasses.
“Good work girls,” Cari said as she looked round, “time to head for the starting docks…”
“They’re getting into position,” the photographer from the Times said as Abby checked her lenses. “Mind if I ask a question?”
“What is a world famous model doing on this boat with her camera?”
“Building my summer portfolio for the start of my degree in Photography at Cooper Union – I’m following the US boat team.”
“Good place to learn,” he said with a smile, “good luck…”
ladies, remember the Dutch will be to your left, us in Lane 2, them in Lane
3...Just concentrate please on your rowing, I'll tell you just how we are
doing." Cari issued her final orders as they maneuvered into their
position and the official held the boat’s stern.
Luck," Carina glanced over and spoke to the Dutch cox.
second now," Abby stood with her camera firmly focussed on her friends.
all but ready," Sigi looked down the course as Carina dropped her arm to signify
that her crew were set.
Girls," Juliette whispered to herself, "you can do this."
go, let them go," Abby whispered under her breath as the tension rose.
torture," Diana looked through her binoculars.
ladies," Carina whispered.
last hand went down," Ingrid spoke.
moment," Carina spoke.
should be it," Shirley spoke.
"NOW!" Carina shouted as the boat was released and the start signalled. The boats moved off, Abby taking a couple of pictures as the press boat followed along.
Klaus asked eagerly as the crowd cheered.
just under a length," Juliette high fived Sigi as she spoke on the phone,
"far better than I think then they were predicting."
congratulate all three of them for me then."
are finished I will, they are just rowing back to the dock."
race again Friday afternoon?"
then hopefully in the final on Sunday."
you flying home or extending your stay?"
so just profoundly apologize to Mary and Suzie for me, I'm not being much of a
hostess from this distance."
don't think they are that worried,” Klaus said with a laugh, “Suzie is still
trying to figure out how she makes The Maestro actually happy."
he's just in one of his moods, that I saw yesterday’s pictures and she truly
didn't she, very unlike the tall young teenager she is in real life."
"Yes she looked both mature and very sexy."
“All right then – I’ll talk to you later tonight.”
“I miss you,” Ju said with a smile as she ended the call. “Come on, let’s go and meet them.”
improved," the Dutch girls smiled as they shook hands with the Americans
on the dock side, "that was not the race we thought we were going to
surprised you eh?" Kelsey grinned, as both lifted their boats from the
go harder than we thought we'd have to," Maartjie Oosterhuis shook her
tactical plan," Marloes van der Riet, the Dutch cox, said with a smile as
she shook Cari's hand, "you did your research on us."
tried," Carina blushed.
it nearly worked," Eva Bakker said as she and Maartjie hoisted their
boat overhead to take back into the boat shed, "we will have to factor you
in for the final."
"If we make it," Molly laughed as she and Kelsey too carried the racing shell inside.
“Well done you three,” Abby said as they came out, “Mom and the others are on their way, and we’re heading into town to get an early lunch.”
that expression the English use? Calm as a millpond?" Carina looked up
from her food, "the conditions were basically so perfect I could have put
the steering on autopilot."
“It meant she
could concentrate on calling the race tactically," Molly smiled happily,
"and she did that to perfection."
"A lot of
the journalists on the press boat were very surprised," Abby sipped her
drink, "they thought you'd be second before the race...but many lengths
three Dutch girls have won medals in major championships in various boats, and
according to who you read, most experts have them in the world’s top three
coxed pairs," Kelsey looked very pleased, "Rowing USA will certainly
take notice of what we did today."
will nominate you to go to the World Championships?" Sigi asked.
we will need a few more excellent races to prove this wasn't a flash in the
pan," Kelsey paused for thought, "but it definitely puts us in the
both know tonight and tomorrow that Abs and I have to fit in photo shoots in
London don't you?" Carina asked.
know you have a career as well Specs," Molly looked at her, "just be
back in time in the morning so we can have a light training session."
be back, that you can count on." Carina grinned.
"I'll make sure she is," Juliette touched her daughters hand, “and ready to compete…”
1 pm BST
I don't normally ask Susan...but?"
April will enjoy yourself," Susan smiled as her daughter played with the
Koala that Rose had brought back from Australia, "the next two nights will
be Grandma time."
very well that isn't what I meant."
Mum,” Susan whispered, “and fanks for worryin' but 'onest - all goes as it
should, and the worse fing that will 'appen is that I get a lot of achin'
muscles from lifting."
"And if it
don't go as it should luv?"
still be fine Mum."
"I fink I
was 'appier when I didn't know what you did."
"She will be fine Rose...really." Clint smiled reassuringly.
“Still – come back safe Saturday, and we’ll talk…”
1 pm BST
“And what are you doing,” Sandy said as she came into the room.
checking the gathering places one last time lover," Heather looked up from
her computer, "I'm patched into the traffic cameras and some security
networks, but I can't see anything out of the ordinary going on."
good," Sandy smiled, "so no last minute hitches to speak of?"
few hangovers from last night’s party."
can understand," Sandy's smile turned into a laugh, "I woke up with a
fairly decent one myself."
are the kids?"
train to Sheffield where Mandy will collect them and take them to Ordford
convenient they had a standing invitation to visit."
and I know that both our daughter and Holly are looking forward to seeing
George gets to hang out with Billy..."
"While we do other, and far naughtier things," Sandy caressed her girlfriend’s soft hair.
“Indeed – you need to get ready and head off soon…”
1 pm BST
vans fully operational Natalya?" Penny asked as the Russian came into her
to be, I've just had the techs give them one last check."
I know you are probably disappointed you won't be below ground, but really you
are actually doing something far more important."
Penny, but if nothing does happen then this could be two very long and boring
let's hope and pray that they are...Anyway did you meet Louise?"
and she had drinks with Tamiko last night...Nothing happened, they talked about
what happened in Tokyo...they talked about Louise's operation..."
as to what she's up to?"
to Louise not a one."
was hoping she might accidentally drop a hint."
Tanaka is far too much of a professional to do that," Natalya shook her
know," Penny thought hard, "our surveillance team do know to make
sure they know just where she and her goons are once the operation
"Jill assures me they'll be able to do it."
“Well, I hope so…”
1 pm BST
did this morning go darling?"
Mummy," Lizzie looked contentedly into the computer. "We went out
riding on the Lardarn estate and I have to say Blaze is a wonderful horse to
ride. Eve says he was a handful before he was gelded, but he seems to me to be
just about a perfect mount to go hunting on."
do they have sorted out for me to ride?"
Cat jumped in, "they do know how little I ride nowadays?"
Lizzie smiled, "and she gets her name from a grey streak in her mane...not
he temperament. Aunt Paula uses her as her second mount."
that sounds hopeful."
Mummy what are you doing tonight?"
VERY quiet dinner at your Aunty Shirley's. While John is in Italy she's invited
a couple of old friends over."
sounds depressingly quiet to me, but you make sure you have fun."
will, but a little less than last night I think...I got up with a hangover, and
that only happens..."
"When you have an EXTREMELY good time," Lizzie laughed.
1 pm BST
"You are up early Bobby darling?" Agnes smiled as she sat in her new offices.
"I'm having the Residence fumigated after last night."
"Oh he was as bad as you thought he might be?"
"God help us all if he is elected President."
"He does say some ominous things."
"Yes, but if that was all I could live with that, there are some politicians with what are distinctly odd policies, at least to me, who personally I rather like."
"Is indescribably bad, he is boastful, egotistical, conceited..."
"As well as having antediluvian views on women?"
"Exactly, "Lady Roberta sighed, "anyway the reason I rang is to see if there is any news?"
"Only that Sue and Colin are flying up to Glasgow Saturday morning. Other than that it's been pretty quiet."
“Good – any word on Catherine?”
“No – Donnie’s going to see her this afternoon…”
2 pm BST
“Now, Your Lordship,” Serena said as she stood with Donald and the doctor, “just go in, be sociable, and talk as you normally would. We will be watching.”
“Okay then,” Donald said as he looked through the two-way glass, “how has she been today?”
“The same as usual,” the doctor said, Donald nodding as he picked up the flowers, and left the room.
Catherine looked up as she heard the knock on the door, and smiled as Donald came in. She was wearing a cream silk blouse and a knee length skirt, sitting in a chair reading a novel.
“Donald darling,” she said with a smile as she looked at him, “and you brought flowers. Roses as well.”
“Your favourites,” he said with a smile as he looked round. “I would ask if you have a vase, but…”
“Use the water jug,” Catherine said with a smile, “I’m sure the maid can sort them out later.”
Donald nodded as he put some water into the plastic jug, and then sat next to his wife. “How have you been?”
“Oh, I have kept busy, and the doctors talk to me a lot,” Catherine said with a smile. “I read the papers as well – London does seem to have had a lot of problems over the last few days.”
“So I have heard – I was away over the weekend, but I was told the full story on Monday.”
“Oh? Where were you?”
“In Scotland, at Will’s estate. He was showing me the plans for a shooting party in a month or so.”
“That would be nice – hopefully I can join you for that as well.”
“That would be nice – I do miss you by my side,” Donald said with a smile.
“Really? I find that hard to believe, given what you said in the paper on Sunday.”
“I was asked what happened to make me break off the engagement, Catherine, and I did not lie or say anything that is not public knowledge in that interview.”
“Perhaps, perhaps not,” Catherine said quietly, “have you seen her?”
“No – why do you ask?”
“Because if I thought she was getting her claws back into you…”
He could see the red anger in her eyes, as he quietly said “Agnes is far too busy to spend time digging her claws into me darling. You can be assured of that.”
way Donald are you getting any from Agnes, or is she still the tight arsed
little bitch she was before. Giving it away to all those men in return for
money, and all you got was a kiss. You always were so damn stupid Donald...It
wasn't that little bitch who deserved you, it was always a real woman like
“As I said, I have not seen her…”
“And that bitch
of a sister?”
“Tamsin is back in Ireland with the family – all of them. I have not seen the others.”
“Hmmm – so when you were in Scotland, you did not go to Ardray?”
Donald looked at his wife, not sure how to reply, before he said “we drove through, but that is all. Why are you asking?”
“Well, with her in public again, I think she would go there don’t you?”
“I don’t know – as far as I’m aware, it is in the hands of a private company that she sold it to. Maybe they would know?”
Catherine nodded slowly, as she said “That would be a good move. Perhaps I should contact the directors and ask them?”
“You could try.”
“The letter will be with you tomorrow.”
Serena looked at the other doctor as Donald and Catherine stood up, and said “get him out of there now.”
“Oh come on DONNIE! You bought it, and I had someone check the current directors – she and her shit bitch of her sister are now co-owners with you, and her little slut of a daughter is the heir. Why are you lying to me Donald? Is she in my bed as well?”
“No she is not,” Donald said quietly as he went to stand up.
bought and never sold THAT estate Donnie tells me all I want to know. You might
not have married her, but that bitch was always in your heart and in your
Catherine," Donald said quietly, "I made all efforts to erase her
memory, and as for selling it.... Ardray belongs to the McAdam's. It has always been in my will that it passed
either to Tamsin or her heirs on my death."
"Well who's going to inherit it when I KILL YOU ALL," Catherine shouted. “And what about the rest of them?”
Catherine glared at Donald as the door opened, and the doctor came in with two orderlies. “I think you should go now Your Lordship,” he said as Catherine screamed “YOU ARE DEAD DONNIE – I’LL KILL ALL OF YOU FOR THIS!”
“GO,” the doctor shouted as Donald walked quickly out, Catherine shouting abuse at him as the door was closed. He stood, his back against the wall, the tears coming as Serena came out.
“She’s not getting better is she?”
“No – I’m sorry, Your Lordship, but I have to recommend a secure institution for her.”
2.30 pm BST
Xavier International, The Aldwych
“Alright girls,” Charlotte said as she looked round the room, “let’s just go over this one more time shall we?”
“Charlotte you’ve briefed us half a dozen times…we know what we have to do.” Susan smiled.
“Still just one last time…just for me please.”
“Alright…Advance team enters via Charing Cross Station.”
“We have the keys to get us in via three locked doors to the abandoned tunnel,” Maddie added.
“You meanwhile make sure that at the crucial times we vanish off the stations security cameras,” Clint continued.
“I do my thing on the wall door,” Helen finished, “and then we start to tidy up so that when the main teams arrive later there is a clear, smooth, way to run equipment from where the gold is to the loading point.”
“Once we are done, Helen and I make our way back to the surface via the sewer entrance.”
“Correct Clint,” Heather nodded.
“While Maddie and I do last second security checks and prepare for later in the evening.” Susan finished.
“That sounds okay,” Penny spoke for the first time, “Helen my love where are the charges?”
“In my bag ready to go.”
“And you are sure that they will work?”
“Penny darling,” Helen said as she turned and looked at her, “if I wasn’t in love with you I’d be offended by that question.”
“I just had to ask,” Penny smiled.
“What about the noise?” Maddie asked.
“I’ll co-ordinate it with as many trains as possible arriving at Charing Cross and Embankment,” Heather looked up from reading her plans, “that will negate any slight chance the explosions are heard.”
“I notice by the way that you have brought in a man to do some of the physical labor,” Clint laughed.
“Yes,” Susan dug her husband in the ribs, “as equal as women are, you are still stronger physically then us, those muscles of yours are useful at least for something darling.”
“Now I’m the one might be offended if I wasn’t in love,” Clint laughed.
“Alright it looks like you are set, just remember that you go in looking like any other commuter heading home…you change once you are beyond that third door and are in the old tunnel.” Heather gave a final reminder.
“We know Heather,” Maddie looked one last time at the plans.
“Good – right, I’ll check with the group in Meeting Room B…”
“Ladies you hopefully know this backwards, but I’m going to talk this out one more time - just in case any of you have come up with a likely problem.”
“Well I haven’t found one Natalya,” Jayne sipped her coffee. “Francesca and I walked round the area before we joined you, we are well placed to cover that sewer entrance.”
“Anyone unknown does anything other than just walk by, we can take care of them.” Francesca spoke as well.
“Marina, Kylie, have you done some observation at your spot?”
“We have darling,” Kylie drawled, “I think we are covering the least likely access spot, but we are both prepared.”
“Helen and my spot is probably the trickiest,” Louise Carling spoke, “people coming in and out of that club, it’s going to be hard telling who are kosher, and who we might have to worry about.”
“Which is why I have Helen there,” Natalya looked at faces, “her professional instincts are probably the keenest of any of us, I trust her to be able to spot danger.”
“The two stations are probably the hardest, but most logical points of entry.” Francesca put her coffee cup down.
“Which is why we have teams outside both, but we are also using London Underground’s own security cameras that Charlotte has accessed. Someone tries to come in those ways I’m confident we can stop them.”
“Are there any entrances we don’t know about Natalya?” Marina asked.
“If there are they’ve escaped our set-up teams that have been down there, and we have been over the location several times.” Natalya looked round the room. “Just trust your instincts ladies, you are all top professionals, let’s just make sure our friends get to work in complete security.”
5 pm BST
Charing Cross Station
The young couple walking through the concourse of the main railway station didn’t attract much attention as they approached the stairs leading to the underground station. He was wearing a grey suit, white shirt, tie and black shoes, while the small brunette wore a blue jersey dress and heels.
As they entered the concourse from the railway station, a middle aged woman, the grey starting to show in her hair, walked down the stairs from The Strand. She wore a grey leather jacket over a black dress and trainers, and carried a rucksack on her back. She was followed by a woman with short red hair, wearing a blue sweatshirt and jeans.
The tall blonde looked round as she walked down the stairs at Trafalgar Square, and came out onto the concourse, looking round as she walked over to where the other four were walking.
“Okay Char,” Susan said, “turn off the cameras.”
“Cameras off,” she said as the woman quickly unlocked a hidden door, and the five of them hustled in, Susan closing and locking the door behind herself. The five looked at each other before Maddie opened her rucksack and said “change.”
The old door creaked open as Clint shone a torch in, and then the group entered the disused tunnel, Maddie shining a torch round as well.
“Masks on,” she said, each of them pulling the hat down to cover their heads and faces before they made their way down the tunnel, stopping by a brick wall with some holes drilled into it.
“Got eyes on us Charlotte?”
“We have indeed – Helen, do your thing, and I’ll tell you when to detonate.”
“Roger that,” Helen said as Penny and Susan held the torches, and she placed several packages on the wall. She then took a small black box, and motioned for the others to step back.
“Awaiting your word, Charlotte.”
At the Bunker, Charlotte looked at the screen, showing the trains on the system, and said “on my mark…”
“Fire in the hole,” Helen said as the others covered their ears.
Helen pressed a button on the box as the others saw the explosion, and the bricks falling inwards.
Louise was sitting in the lounge of the hotel, watching Tamiko as she talked to three other gentlemen.
“Louise, we just triggered the starting pistol,” she heard Jill say, “any sign of a warning?”
“Not yet, but I will watch carefully…”
As the smoke cleared, the group walked carefully down the tunnel, Maddie and Susan shining the torches into the room.
“Goddess,” Maddie whispered as the torch shone over the neatly stacked bars, “to actually see it…”
“Charlotte, we’re in,” Susan said, “and it is real. Real pretty.”
“Understood – begin the clear up, I’ll inform Madame…”
Shirley looked up as there was a knock on the door.
“Charlotte just called,” Angela said as she looked in, “stage 1 complete.”
“Excellent – I shall be at home Angela. And good luck tonight.”
Her secretary nodded as Shirley collected her coat, and made her way out…
6 pm BST
“Diana, Abigail – welcome, the others are inside, and we are about to eat.”
“You made it,” Jo said as they came into the front room.
“We did,” Diana said, “something smells good.”
“If we can take our seats,” Shirley said as she opened a bottle of wine.
“Was that raid on the bookmakers this afternoon one of our diversions Shirley?” Juliette asked as they sat down to eat.
“No,” Shirley shook her head, “that was actually Catriona’s idea, and it was one of her teams.”
“They made a mess,” Carina spoke as she sat down.
“I think that was the idea Cari, to give the cops one more very bloody crime scene to investigate.”
“Did she clear it with you Shirley?”
“She did, but just remember that Cat is an operator in her own right, and she has her own crews. She is not a member of my group, Lady C is really just an ally.”
“Who just happens to be your oldest friend Aunt Shirley,” Maisha said as she brought the huge pot of food she had prepared to the table.
“True.” Shirley nodded.
“Well Maisha and I hope you enjoy this?” Ama smiled, “Mom has had it before and liked it.”
“You have Dom?” Penny sniffed the aroma.
“Yes, and despite that slightly pungent smell, it is actually a superb dish.”
“It is what people at home eat as a feast,” Maisha said as she started ladling out bowls.
“Do I want to know what is in it?” Carina looked at her bowl suspiciously.
“Well it starts with chicken, and then they keep adding things,” Annie laughed, “I’ve had it as well darling, and honestly you’ll love it.”
“You know this is superb actually,” Sandy ate a spoonful.
“And I’m glad this is one occasion that I’ve not had to cook.” Diana tried hers. “I recognize this girls, I’ve eaten it in Paris, and you are right it is excellent.”
“Thank you,” Maisha grinned, “we have to adjust the recipe slightly to what ingredients we have available, but I got most of the herbs, and roots at a little African supermarket on the Fulham Road.”
“Well my compliments to both our chefs,” Juliette said as she raised her wine glass for a toast, “let’s just hope that tonight is as successful as we have planned it to be.”
As she put her glass down, the intercom for the main gate sounded. “Ah – my other guest,” Shirley said as she stood up, “I felt given the role she has played in our joint endeavours in the past, and more recently, it was time she met some of you. I trust her implicitly.”
“And does she know us? Who we are?”
Shirley smiled as she went and pressed the button.
"Shirley I'm sorry I'm late something came up at the last moment?" Cat spoke in the intercom.
"Something in East Ham?"
"You might say so," Catriona laughed, "anyway can you buzz me in?"
“Sure – take a deep breath though. I have some other friends round.”
“Sounds fun,” Cat said as Shirley pressed the button, and then went to the door. As she returned, Catriona Cuthbertson looked round the room, and said “oookayyy – Hey Maddie, Penny, Maisha, and Ama – but the rest of you?”
“Well, let me put it this way,” Shirley said, “Cat, perhaps I should introduce Caroline Jameson as I have known her for far too many years – Dominique.”
Cat stared at Caroline, before she said “okay – and the others?”
Diana and Juliette looked at Shirley, who nodded as she said “Well – they are referred to in my work as the American Associates.”
“Oh boy…” Cat sat at the table as Maisha handed her a bowl of food, and said “am I going to die tonight?”
“Not if we can help it,” Juliette said with a smile, “Shirley says we can trust you, and this afternoon shows you have a streak of ruthlessness you understand. Welcome – come, sit and eat.”
6.30 pm BST
“Now who could that be Tippy Toes,” Agnes said as she heard the doorbell, and walked to look through the spyhole. “What the…” she whispered before she opened the door, and looked at the distinguished man outside.
“Hello Simon, you are probably the very last person I ever expected to see again.” Agnes looked shocked, “So to what do I owe a visit from the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office?”
“I thought it was about time we talked Agnes.”
“Well then,” she said as she stepped to one side, “you had better come away in.” She watched as he walked in and closed the door, before taking him into the front room.
“I’m not interrupting anything am I?” Sir Simon looked round the flat.
“Not really,” Agnes said with a smile, “I was about to cook myself some beans on toast.”
“Oh - I did come at a bad time?”
“Simon I don’t think there is a good time for you and I to talk.” Aggie smiled, “so come and sit down, and excuse both the piles of books everywhere, and my cat, and you tell me just what has brought you to my door.”
As he sat down, Simon put his hands together and said “Aggie I read the piece in the Sunday Times…”
“Oh,” Aggie lifted an eyebrow.
“It was most revealing.”
“Well it just told the truth Simon,” she said as she stood up, “and while you try and summon up the courage to say what you really want to say, can I offer you tea, coffee, or a drink?”
“A very small whiskey would be welcome Aggie.”
“So how is Fiona?” Agnes asked as she poured the drink and gave it to the civil servant.
“She’s fine…how are you?”
“A lot better than I was, but as I said you didn’t come here for small talk…did you?”
“A godfather can’t visit his goddaughter?”
“I think you made it pretty clear 20 years ago that you disowned me Uncle Simon.” Agnes poured herself a small drink before she sat down again, “so why are you really here?”
“Ever direct Aggie,” the older man shook his head, “I’m here because this afternoon Catherine Fitzstuart was committed to a secure mental hospital after she made threats against both yours and Donald’s lives.”
“Shit,” Agnes thought quickly, “but why would you come see me about that?”
“I take it Donald hasn’t told you yet?”
“No, I’ll probably get a call later, but there are several people he will call before me you know?”
“Even though you are the woman he loves Aggie?”
Raising an eyebrow, Aggie said “Have you come to ascertain the status of my relationship with Donald Uncle Simon? If so then I can tell you that rumours to the contrary, and despite some urging on my behalf, it remains as chaste as it always was…and that I am still a virgin.”
“I’m sorry if that shocks you Uncle, but while I love Donald as much as I did 20 years ago, and he still loves me, neither will we destroy his marriage, or permit me to become an embarrassment to him, and by extension to Her Majesty’s Government.” Agnes sipped her drink, “so I hope that puts your mind to rest?”
Simon nodded as he sat back and took a drink himself. “Do you know how much you impressed the French at that affair in Rosville?”
“Oh they were just polite enough to talk to me.” Agnes blushed.
“A bit more than that Agnes,” Simon said. “The Minister was indiscreet enough to say that you would make the perfect ambassador’s wife.”
“As I said, he was very polite.”
“Well it’s only what we all know should be happening, if only you hadn’t…” He paused for a moment, before Aggie said “Become a dominatrix Uncle Simon?”
“Well I did, that’s all a matter of record now, and as I’ve told people a hundred times, I long since abandoned the dreams I once had.” Agnes brushed away a tear.
“So you won’t marry Donald?”
“Uncle,” Agnes sighed, “I wish with all my heart I could, I dream about it both while I’m awake, and asleep. But it can never happen. Just for starters Donald is too great a gentleman to divorce Catherine, even if she is insane. Secondly I know just how people like you would view him marrying the notorious Lady D’Eath, it would be the end of his career…”
“Uncle Simon,” Agnes said as she sat forward, “do you remember reading Hans Christian Anderson to me when I was a child?”
“I do,” the civil servant smiled fondly.
“Well I learned long ago that fairy tales NEVER come true, so go back to your political masters and inform them that they needn’t worry, I will not publically embarrass Donald, nor will there be any adverse publicity.”
“I already did,” Simon said, “but – well, new broom and all that…”
“Ah – she sent you, didn’t she?”
“I’m afraid so – but I will inform her Agnes.”
7 pm BST
“Well, I will not ask who was who on Wednesday, but I will say you have managed to stun me,” Catriona said as Ama cleared the plates. “I will also say what all of you did in New York to close down the Mazengwean cancer – I was proud to play a small part in that, but you did an amazing thing.”
“Thank you,” Juliette said as Maisha brought a bowl of fruit in, “one day, we may tell you the full story. But how does someone who is one of the most respected law officers in this country…”
“I could say
the same of you and others here,” Catriona said. "My family history might be riddled with
judges and advocates, Juliette, but you go back far enough the Cuthbertson's
were really just mere bandits and outlaws, preying on travellers and their
neighbours. I come by my criminal instincts quite properly you might say."
"Oh well that explains it," Sandy laughed, "one or two of us round this table also have ancestors we keep discreetly quiet about."
“That would not surprise me,” Catriona said with a smile. “so let me make an offer Juliette – I understand you are interested in the YY group?”
“How did you… Yes, I am. My great aunt was Jane Huntingdown, the criminologist, but the family rumour was she spent some of the war doing hush hush work – and the YY group keeps cropping up.”
“Come with me tomorrow – I can introduce you to someone who can help you.”
“Well, every little helps,” Juliette said with a smile.
“I will bring the coffee through in a little while,” Maisha said, “so you have time for some before the evening begins.”
“Sounds good,” Shirley said as they stood and walked to the lounge, Cat following Ama and Maisha.
“So what will you be doing while we work tonight?”
“Watching some Shakespeare,” Maisha said, “and Ama will be praying.”
you and Maisha cope rather better with this then my Elizabeth would if she knew
what was going to happen tonight Ama.”
Catriona helped to sort out some cups as she said “Lizzie I think would
be freaking about right now."
she ever worked out that you are Lady C?"
"No," Cat shook her head, "and I thank God for that. Like Shirley and John, I need to compartmentalise…" She took her phone out and said “excuse me a moment. Agnes, what’s up…”
As Cat joined the others, she said “I’ll let them know – and don’t worry Aggie, you’ll be fine. Go and see who is at the door.”
was that Catriona?" Diana asked.
Aggie...she's heard from Donald that the doctors are recommending that
Catherine be transferred to a secure psychiatric unit as she presents a clear
danger to both herself and others."
see that coming," Shirley shook her head, "She has hidden deep depths
of insanity within her so successfully, that no one knew exactly how bad she
"Well speaking with a little knowledge of that subject,” Penny said as she sipped her coffee, “I'm glad I am not the type of person who holds grudges like she does."
the driver and his family arriving at the warehouse?"
"Soon," Carina glanced at her watch, “I suppose I'd better be making a move."
“We will see you at the room,” Diana said as she and Carina stood up, and went to collect their coats.
“Good hunting,” Juliette said as Shirley showed them out…
7.45 pm BST
“Donald,” Agnes said as she showed her visitor into the front room, “if you are here to tell me about Catherine then you could have saved yourself a journey…My Godfather was here a couple of hours ago.”
“Sir Simon was here?” Donald looked startled as he sat down, and Agnes handed him a drink, “how the hell did he know?”
“Don’t be naïve Donald,” Agnes said as she refilled her glass and sat down next to him, “you are about to take up an extremely important position – of course the security service has someone in the clinic watching her.”
“Donald darling, Uncle Simon dropped the information that his coming to see me was down to orders from she at the top…So do you want to revise your opinion?”
“Well that was very succinct, I thought civil servants never said in one word what they could say in a hundred instead?” Aggie looked amused.
“Stop taking the piss Aggie,” Donald said as he slumped back and took a drink.
“Sorry, but I sometimes can’t resist.”
“So what were ‘they’ trying to find out?”
“Basically,” Agnes said, “what the state of our relationship was.”
“And you told Sir Simon?”
“That basically it’s just as it was twenty years ago, and that despite my best attempts YOU remain a gentleman, and that I remain a virgin.”
Smiling, Donald said “And he accepted that?”
“Donald, Uncle Simon is a gentleman, he always takes a lady’s word, and besides - it just happens to be the truth.”
“She made the most blood-curdling threats, not only against me and you, but Tam and Christine too,” Donald whispered as he shook his head, “she’s totally insane.”
“Did you have no clue Donald?”
“No, she hid it totally. I knew that she didn’t love me and that she had had a string of affairs, but I never suspected what she was really doing,” he sat hunched forward with his head in his hands.
“I’m just sorry that my being in love with you is what got you drawn into her spider’s web darling.” Agnes poured them both small drinks, “It was all my fault originally I think.”
“How can that be Aggie?”
“Because it was me she hated and envied first, it was by extension that my friends and relatives got drawn into the twisted web she wove.”
“You can’t blame yourself,” Donald said. “You heard what Victoria said, she was berserk even as a small child.”
“I know, but still she transferred her hatred directly from me to all the people I ever cared about.”
“Well we can’t do anything about the past,” he said as he drained his glass and looked at her. “The question is what do we do now?”
“What can we do, you’ll not divorce her, and I’m still persona non grata to most of the world you move in anyway, so I guess she stays locked up, and you go to Paris, whilst I stay here in London.”
“Donald there are no other options darling.”
“There has to be something we can do?”
“Well you can always stay the night,” Aggie whispered as she sat down next to the diplomat and lightly kissed him.
“I could, but is that really right?”
“Donald I don’t give a toss what is right and what is wrong. I want you to at long last have me…Am I that unattractive?”
“No darling you aren’t, but whatever Catherine has done, I still take my vows seriously, and while my heart is bursting with love to you, I will not break my oath.”
“That I am going to do this,” he finished his drink, kissed her lightly, and headed for the door.
“Sweet dreams darling,” he called over his shoulder as he let himself out.
“Damn,” Aggie said softly as Tippy Toes curled upon her lap.
8 pm BST
Ashburton Road, Tooting
Daffy looked out from the passenger seat at the front of the black van, at the door of the semi-detached house.
“Okay then,” she said quietly, “two of you round the back, two minutes.”
She kept looking at the house as the door at the side of the van opened and closed, before she pulled the rim of her hat down, covering her head with the balaclava.
“Control – communications?”
“We’re jamming the phone lines,” she heard Charlotte say. “Internet dead on your word.”
Looking up and down the empty street, Daffy said one word.
“Fancy a cuppa,” Ellen Norman said to her husband Richard as they sat watching the television. While Richard was wearing a blue and white polo shirt and jeans, Ellen had a shot sleeved floral print green top on over some lime green leggings.
“Why not – shall I ask the girls if they want some?”
“Go on,” Ellen said as she stood up, stretched and made her way to the kitchen. Richard smiled and shook his head as he walked to the bottom of the stairs. He glanced in the hall mirror and smiled, the grey just starting to show in his brown hair.
“Zoe, Chloe” he called up, “we’re making a brew. Do you want some?”
“No thanks,” a young girl called down as the front door bell rang. “Just us, love,” he said as he walked to the door, and opened it.
“Yes, how can I…”
“Keep quiet, dipshit,” the masked and armed woman said as she pushed Richard back in, two similarly masked women following her in. Ellen looked out as the door closed, and whispered “oh my god…” as the woman put the gun into her husband’s mouth.
Turning sharply, she ran for the back door and threw it open – only to walk back, raising her hands as two more armed and masked women walked in. “Zip it, bitch,” one of them said as Richard was pushed into the kitchen with her.
“You two – get their little darlings down here,” their leader said, as two of them peeled off.
“Wonder who was at the door,” Chloe Norman said as she sat cross legged on her bed. She was wearing a white t-shirt, grey leggings and denim shorts, her brown hair pulled back in a ponytail. Zoe, her twin, was sitting at a desk, looking at her laptop.
“Hey – the internet just went down,” she said as she turned round. “What’s happened?” She had short blonde hair, and was wearing a blue denim dress and black tights.
“No idea – but somone’s running up the stairsohfuckshitwhoareyou?”
“Just shut the fuck up,” one of the two masked women said as they burst in,”do as you’re told, nobody gets hurt. Mobiles – to my friend here.”
The twins took their phones out and threw them over, as the first woman smiled, only her lips and eyes showing in the balaclava mask. “Good – stand up, turn round, put your hands behind your back.”
“Because we FUCKING WELL TOLD YOU TO, YOU STUPID BINT,” the second woman said as she aimed her gun at them. Chloe and Zoe looked at each other, and then did as they had been ordered, the first woman opening her leather jacket and taking out two zip ties.
The twins stood quiet, scared as their wrists were secured together, and then they were frog marched down to the kitchen. “OH god – my babies,” Ellen said as they saw their mother and father, their hands behind their backs as well.
“Uniform – where is it,” the leader said as she looked at Richard.
“Upstairs – why?”
“Fetch it,” she said, one of the masked women walking off as she reached into a black bag, and took out a clear bag with four red sponge balls inside.
“We haven’t got any money,” Richard said, “what do you want from us?”
“To shut up and do as you’re told – open your mouth.”
“Why – whatruuggnntdddhmmmnnnn,” he said as the masked intruder pushed the red sponge ball into his mouth, one of the other intruders tearing a wide strip of clear tape from a roll and pressing it firmly over his mouth.
“Jsttbrrfff,” Ellen said as she was gagged in the same way, and then the girls as the woman came back, holding up a sports bag.
“Coats and glasses on them – then you walk out with us. If any of you try to run, you all die.”
The family looked at each other as a coat was placed over each of them, fastened up the front and the sleeves stuck into the pockets, before a pair of glasses was placed over the eyes of each of them – the lenses painted black.
Daffy removed her balaclava, and looked out of the front door, waiting as the side door of the van was opened before each woman took one of the Norman family by the arm and walked them out, making them get into the van and sit down as Daffy closed and locked the door, then followed them out.
“Whrrwgnn,” Richard mumbled as the van moved off.
“Hell, if you disobey,” Daffy said quietly as they moved off. “We have a couple of very special ladies who want to meet you…”
9 pm BST
Agnes punched the numbers into the telephone handset and then sat down, rubbing her eyes as she waited for someone to answer.
“The Old Lodge.”
“This is Agnes McAdam, may I speak to Mrs Mahan-Gaunt please?”
“One moment,” the woman said as Agnes waited, and then she heard her sister say “Aggie?”
“Are you on your own Tippy Toes?”
“I am Aggie,” she heard Tamsin say, “Kit’s having an early night…why are you asking?”
“Because I have some news that I don’t want her to hear.”
“I’ve had a couple of visitors tonight Tam, and you have a right to know what is going on.”
“Aggie you are worrying me,” Tamsin said, “do I need fly to London?”
“No, and it’s probably for the best that you are out of the country.”
“Catherine it seems has finally cracked totally.”
“Ah, I think I start to get the picture.”
“I’ve been told she threatened to kill not only Donald and me, but also you and Kits.”
“She’s been sectioned and put into a secure facility, but I think we maybe all need to just watch our step at least for a little while.”
“I agree,” Tamsin paused, “So I presume Donald was one of your visitors, who was the other?”
Taking a deep breath, Agnes said “Uncle Simon…”
“I know! It surprised me as well to see him standing on the doorstep.”
“What did he want?”
“Basically I think to officially ascertain on behalf of she who must be obeyed, what the state of my relationship was with Donald.”
“And you answered?”
“That nothing has changed, and by the way Donald rushed out of here when I suggested he sleep with me, then nothing is going to ever change.” Aggie sighed, “he still feels tied by his wedding vows.”
“Even though they were made to a madwoman?”
“You know Donald, ever the honourable gentleman.”
“So what is going to happen darling?”
“I guess he and I stay nothing other than friends, he goes to Paris, I stay in London, and Catherine stays locked up.”
“That sucks Aggie.”
“Tell me about it – but at least Sue and Colin will be happy…”
9 pm BST
“I’m back,” Simon said as he closed the door, putting his bag on the floor and removing his great coat.
“So how did it go my love?” Lady Fiona McDonald asked as she came out, and gave her husband a peck on the cheek.
“How did what go?”
“Don’t be obtuse Simon, you know very well what I’m asking about. How did the meeting with Aggie go?”
Pouring himself a drink, Simon said “Pretty much as I expected.”
“Oh darling that can’t have been pleasant…for either of you.”
“It wasn’t, but at least I can tell my superiors that any trouble will not originate from Agnes.”
“So she isn’t still in love with Donald?”
“Far from it,” he said as he sat down, “she’s head over heels about him, just as she always was, but she’s pragmatic enough to know that she can never become his wife.”
“Let me guess, Donald is too gentlemanly to divorce Catherine, and she is determined not to ruin his career.”
“That about sums it up.”
“Why don’t they just sleep together discreetly?”
“Because Donald is too much the gentleman ever to do that.”
“So Aggie remains a virgin, he remains lonely, and they both are unhappy,” Lady Fiona shook her head. “Simon is there nothing you can do?”
“I don’t own a time machine Fiona, I can’t go back and stop that article being published, and I can’t by extension walk Aggie down the aisle as I should have that following Saturday.”
“No you can’t darling,” Lady Fiona shook her head. “So how is she looking?”
“Wonderful. She’s died her hair back to its natural red, and honestly she looks rejuvenated.”
“Did you tell her you forgive her?”
“No,” Sir Simon shook his head, “when I tried to the words just wouldn’t come out.”
“Honestly Simon you are HOPELESS! I thought we’d agreed after we read that article that it was time for at least us to forgive and forget?”
“The problem is that I can’t do that officially. As a servant of Her Majesty then I have to observe protocol.”
“And what do you have to do as her godfather?”
“Find a private occasion when I can say all I want to say without it coming from me in my official capacity.”
“Which will be when?”
“I don’t know, I really don’t.”
“Well I do,” Lady Fiona stood up, “when Charles and Roberta return from Washington I’m going to invite them, Colin and his girlfriend, AND Aggie and Donald to dinner…”
“Fiona is that wise?”
“I don’t know,” she laughed, “but I do know it’s the right thing to do.”
9 pm BST
The Babbage home
“That you Mike,” Sherry said as she heard the door close.
“Yeah – sorry I’m late,” Mike said as he came in.
“I heard on the telly Mike that there was another robbery and a couple of murders.”
“There was darling,” Mike kissed Sherry on the cheek, “a bookies got held up in East Ham, the gang that did it wasn’t exactly afraid to use their shooters.”
“So is that why I had to hold dinner for you again?”
“In part, but most of it was this rotten traffic.”
“I thought you said that they had fixed the computers?”
“They thought they had,” Mike sighed, “seems they hadn’t.”
“Well I’m glad I haven’t been out driving a lot recently.”
“You’ve been one of the lucky ones,” Mike smiled, “anyway how did your day go?”
“Not too bad, worst thing was getting a call from Simon McDonald.”
“You mean Sir Simon McDonald from the Foreign Office?”
“What the hell did he want?”
“Advice about Aggie, he had to go talk to her tonight about Donald…He told me that Catherine has totally flipped her lid and is making death threats.”
“He was checking how things stand between her and Donald I suppose,” Mike sat down at the dinner table, “but why ring you?”
“Because while he’s Aggie’s godfather, and was the man who was going to give her away, he was one of the people cauterized her from their lives 20 years ago. He knew I’d stayed in touch a little and he asked me how he should put things.”
“I hope you told him to do it carefully?”
“I did, and since I haven’t had a follow-up call I’m hoping it went alright.” Sherry put the plate of warmed up Shepherd’s Pie in front of her husband.
9 pm BST
“Now that was good,” Steve Fowler said as he pushed his plate away, and looked at his wife as she took the dirty dishes to the sink. Leeza was wearing a green smock with grey leggings, the slight bump showing.
“Well, I don’t want my man hungry,” she said with a smile.
hate working nights," the big black man stretched, "it's against the
rules of nature to be havin' my breakfast this late at night."
da one who wanted the promotion Steve."
"I know Leeza," he smiled, "but with da baby on da way, the extra money is gonna come in real useful."
“True – and Shift Manager does have a nice ring to it. At least at night it’s just making sure the stock is shunted to the right place – nice and quiet.”
“Well, I hope so,” she said as Steve stood up and put his jacket on. “I’d…”
He stopped talking as the back door opened, and three masked women walked in, wearing black leather jackets, leggings and boots, glove son their hands and balaclavas covering their heads. Two of them were carrying guns, the third a small bag.
“Sit down, don’t make a sound,” she said as the two armed women forced Steve and Leeza into their seats. “After all, you have someone else to think about, don’t you?”
“What the hell do you…”
“Quiet,” she growled as she removed a plastic zip tie from the bag, and walked behind Leeza, taking her arms behind her back and securing her wrists together. “Your wife is coming with us, you got to work and await our call. If you tell the police, or anyone else, you become a widower. Got it?”
“Don’t hurt her,” Steve said, “She’s seven months pregnant.”
“Well then, don’t dick us around,” the woman said as Leeza was tape gagged, and a black hood pulled over her head, “we’ll be watching.”
He could only watch as the two women frog marched his wife out, before the third one walked out of the house behind him…
9 pm BST
Rose Harper’s Flat
“Up please Ant Mave,” April asked as she stood in her pyjamas, and held her arms out.
“Come here darlin’” Maeve smiled as she picked her great-niece up, “you are gettin’ to be such a big little girl.”
“She is that,” Rose smiled as she brought a pot of tea and two mugs into the living room and laid the tray on the coffee table.
“So does she like the Koala?”
“Susan says it’s become her favourite toy. I’m glad that I got that for her in Australia.”
“Well I’ve ‘ad a great time just lookin’ at the books you bought for me.”
“It’s a pretty amazing place.”
“One of those places if you said to us as kids that you’d go there one day Rosie, that you’d never ‘ave believed it.”
“True,” Rose poured the tea.
“So what is ‘appenin’ that we get the pleasure of looking after little one?”
“Don’t ask Maeve,” Rose shook her head, “Susan didn’t tell me, and I’m pretty sure it’s one of those fings that you and I don’t really want to know.”
“I sometimes wish I ‘adn’t worked out that she was doin’ that sort of fing still, it aint very comforting if you know wot I mean?”
“Clint says she knows wot she’s doin’, and Sooz says that it’s not goin’ to be dangerous, but I still bloody worry.”
“Well yer ‘er Mum, of course you worry Rosie.” Maeve sipped from her tea.
“Yeah well I’m goin’ to try and put it outta me mind, and just enjoy these next two nights with me angel of a granddaughter.”
“But you’ll be jumpy as ‘ell everytime the phone bloody rings, won’t yer?”
“Of course I bloody will, but Susan says she’ll ring in the mornin’ and let us know it’s gone alright tonight.”
“Well let’s just ‘ope and pray it does.”
“Amen,” Rose laughed as April lay her head against Maeve’s shoulder, “looks like she at least is ready for bed.”
“I’ll take her – you pour the tea.”
9 pm BST
“Right, the line is cleared,” Clint said as he came back in, “how is it looking?”
“As if it hasn’t been touched in over eighty years – which is the truth,” Susan said as she stood in front of the first pile of gold bricks.
“Attention Susan – first team coming in now.”
“Roger that – Helen, time for you to go topside.”
“See you all in the morning,” Helen said as she walked off, passing Lily as she led the first group of four women in. “Oh my lord, that is a beautiful sight…”
“Indeed – let’s get the first palette loaded girls. The main crew is due in an hour.”
9 pm BST
Somewhere in London
“Ah – our most special guests are here.”
Richard heard the deep, almost cat like voice as he was pushed forward, saying “hsthrrrrr?”
“Remove the blindfolds.”
As the glasses were pulled off, Richard blinked and then looked at his wife and daughters, who were staring straight ahead. Moving his head slowly round, he saw the two women, sawn off shotguns in their gloved hands. Both were wearing black leather jackets, leggings and knee length leather boots, but it was the scarves that were round their necks and tucked into the jackets, the black stockings over their heads that pressed down their short black hair, and the cat shaped brooches they wore.
“Good evening, mother fuckers,” one of them said, “allow me to introduce myself – I am Miss Leopard, and my friend here is Miss Lynx. We are two of the Pussycat gang – and for the next two nights, you are ours.”
“Lkkinthmmffee,” Zoe said. Miss Lynx walked over and stroked her cheek with her gloved hand, before she purred “oh no – we’re the genuine article, and tonight you all belong to me.” She then grabbed the young girl’s chest, making her scream into her gag as she did so.
“We will explain what we want you to do later,” Miss Leopard said, “once we have you all secured – properly. Just know this – you fuckers piss us about, and you all get hurt…”
“Hshhtttt,” Richard said as Miss Lynx ripped the tape from his face. “You’re the real thing?”
“Oh yes – now remember that…”
9.15 pm BST
“So have you and Nick yet?” Maisha asked as they finished loading the dishwasher.
“No,” Ama blushed, “I’ve let him touch me a couple of times through my clothes, but I still think neither of us is ready to do any more than that.”
Maisha nodded as they picked up their drinks and walked back into the lounge. “I dream about some of the tennis players doing it to me, but that’s all I do, just dream.”
“Do you touch yourself sister?”
“Sometimes,” it was Maisha’s turn to blush, “and what about you?”
“A few times, but it somehow seems wrong.”
“Aunt Shirley says its normal that we do so.”
“I know, so does Mom, but I guess we are both still a little sexually immature.”
“I guess so,” Maisha nodded solemnly.
“At the moment though, I’m far more worried about what Mom and the others are doing these next two nights.”
“Aunt Shirley says they will be fine.”
“Mom says that as well, but I still worry.”
Taking a sip, Maisha said “Do you think one day that you will one day do what Caroline and Aunt Shirley do?”
“Become a criminal?”
“No,” Ama shook her head, “I can see myself maybe fighting alongside the sisters, but I’ll leave Mom’s business to her.”
“That’s mainly how I think as well. I want to do the Sisters basic training sometime in the next year, but I’m not going to join Aunt Shirley’s ‘business’ as she calls it.”
“So you will do the walk as well?”
Maisha nodded. “I will talk to Teacher and the others next week.”
9.15 pm BST
Xavier International - the Bunker
“Xavier International,” Alison said into her headset as she answered the call.
“Charlotte Gordon please?” she heard Louise whisper in her phone.
“Hold on a second please.” Alison motioned to Charlotte, who came over and took the headset.
“Charlotte Gordon speaking.”
“Charlotte it’s Louise from the LA office, Madame said I was to give you updates on Tamiko Tanaka.”
“Yes she did…So do you have any information Louise?”
“Only that she’s eating dinner with me at Seven Park Place.”
“That’s William Drabble’s place isn’t it, how’s the food?”
“It’s amazing Charlotte,” Louise laughed, “but I’m pretty sure that it’s not how good a chef he is that you want to know?”
“No, but if she’s eating dinner with you, I know at least she is out of harm’s way.”
“Well I’m in the powder room alone right now.”
“So who is keeping an eye on her?”
“Jill. She and another girl are busting their expense accounts at another table.”
“I’ll warn accounting,” Charlotte laughed, “I hope Jill is in disguise?”
“She is, I didn’t recognize her till she flashed me a sign.”
“Well that’s good at least.”
“If you want to set up a traffic jam to keep us here Charlotte, this food is so wonderful, I at least won’t complain.”
“It’s a thought Louise, a definite good idea.”
“Anyway I better get back before my dessert is served.”
“Okay Louise, stay in contact.”
9.15 pm BST
Kensal and Queens Park Conservative Club
“Bit late for a meeting,” Susan said as she and Colin walked down the corridor. Colin was wearing a grey suit, shirt and tie, while Susan had on a grey silk skirt with a white jumper.
“I know – welcome to the world of Conservative politics,” Colin said with a smile, “here we are.” Knocking on the door, they heard a female voice say “Come in.”
“Mrs Bremner,” Colin said as they walked in, and saw a grey haired lady in a blue dress standing by a set of chairs.
“Welcome – please come in. Mr Gresham-Fox this isn’t a formal selection meeting,” Alice Bremner, the Chairwoman of the Kensal and Queens Park constituency Conservative and Unionist Party smiled as she came forward, “more a chance for us to get to know you.”
“I appreciate that.” Colin nodded, “and thank you for the invitation.”
“Anyway this is Jack Fitzpatrick,” she indicated the man sitting in the armchair, “and Surinder Patel,” she indicated the Indian lady in the other chair.
“It’s very nice to meet you,” Colin smiled warmly, “and this is Susan Fletcher, my wife to be.”
“Hello Miss Fletcher,” Mrs. Patel spoke. “Please, take a seat.”
As Colin and Susan sat down, Alice sat with the other two. “So,” Colin said, “you have questions?”
“Look I have one thing I want to ask for starters, Mr Gresham-Fox,” the man spoke, “why are you offering yourself as our candidate, when Chase Valley, which is practically your family seat, is also about to hold a by-election?”
“Well for starters can you please call me Colin…”
“And me Sue please.”
“But,” Colin said with a smile, “the reason is that I am doing this both to help the party, and to help myself.”
“You know though that you are sure to lose here?” Mrs. Bremner asked softly, “and I’m round Central Office enough to know that you are considered a future star, you are Peter Latimer’s blue eyed boy, so again - why offer yourself to us?”
“I’m pretty sure that you’ve done your homework Mrs. Bremner, and you pretty well know the reason.”
“I have Colin,” she said quietly, “but I want to hear it from you.”
“No you don’t,” Sue broke in, “what you actually want to hear is what I have to say.”
“Well you are a direct young woman, I’ll give you that,” Jack Fitzpatrick looked hard at Sue.
“I’m sure if you’ve done your research - as you say - then you know that I used to be a prostitute. That I was a runaway, that I don’t know who my father was, that my Mum gave me up when I was four years old, and that for a time I was homeless and slept rough on the streets.”
“Well you didn’t sugar coat it Miss Fletcher?” Alice said quietly.
“My name is Sue, Mrs. Bremner - and no I’m not being less than honest with you. I might also add I was illiterate until I was 16 or 17, and that I have a juvenile record for shoplifting.”
“That I think takes some bravery to admit Sue,” Mrs. Patel smiled.
“Yes,” Mr Fitzpatrick nodded in agreement. “So Colin can you explain why we should make you our candidate given the bad publicity that your wife to be’s - unorthodox background will attract.”
“Well for starters,” Colin said as he sat forward, “while you’ve done your research on me, then I’ve done my research on you, and the constituency. All three of you have proven track records of involvement in social awareness campaigns. Margaret Harker says all three of you are first rate people.”
“That’s kind of Dame Margaret.”
“Well Mrs. Bremner she’s not one who gives out praise that isn’t deserved.” Colin smiled as he remembered the Medoc, and adjusted his tie. “Look Kensal QP has one of the highest rates of single parenthood, teenage pregnancy and just sheer poverty of any place in London. I might not be able to talk to some of these people and know what they both have gone through, and are going through, but Sue can. I went to Eton and Oxford, my father is an ambassador, but I’ve known Sue long enough to realize my upbringing wasn’t typical.”
“We are aware of that Colin,” Mrs. Patel smiled again. “Now can I ask Sue what she thinks her role would be if we chose you?’
“To get outside along Colin, and to do my damnedest to get him elected.”
“So it isn’t just an opportunity to get your shit out in public while causing minimal harm in the longer term?” Alice Bremner said as she looked Sue straight in the eye.
“Look I won’t lie and say that isn’t part of this,” Sue looked straight back, “but if I’m being completely honest, then I’m also going to say that Colin and I think we can genuinely make a good fist of this election.”
“Meaning Mrs. Bremner,” Colin spoke, “that there are certain causes both Sue and I believe in, that we think will strike a chord with voters.”
“You being an Anti on the referendum won’t help,” Jack Fitzpatrick noted, “we voted heavily round here to stay in the market.”
“I know, but I am far from a hardline Brexiter.”
“We have a large immigrant population,” Surinder Patel spoke again.
“I know, and many of them are living in sub standard housing that is a disgrace to a civilized country. How can we absorb people when we put them in crumbling ghettos?” Colin smiled as he sat back, “I think where councils have failed, we need to give incentives to private companies, like yours Mr. Fitzpatrick, to build quality, low cost housing.”
“We also need to get real about education,” Sue continued, “I was one of the systems failures, we need better quality education for ALL children.”
“And another of Sue’s big things, we need to encourage families to stay together, to discourage young girls from thinking getting pregnant is a passport to happiness…”
“And to really make our family welfare system work. Never having had a family, I truly believe in the value of one.”
The three grandees looked at each other, before Alice said “so, how would you conduct your campaign…”
9.30 pm BST
Somewhere in London
“Please, don’t do that to them,” Richard said as he looked at his wife and daughters. They were kneeling on the floor, their wrists now secured behind their back with ropes, more rope forming a harness that held thir arms tightly to their sides – their bare sides, their naked bodies glistening in the sweat as the tight ropes forced their breasts up and out. Ropes held their ankles, knees and thighs tightly together, as Miss Lynx walked round them. Their cheeks were puffed out – their own panties inside – and duct tape was wrapped tightly round their heads.
“Well, mother fucker,” Miss Leopard said, “you do as we’re told, and the worst thing that happens in they have some fun.”
“Although I do hope you do something wrong,” Miss Lynx purred as she reached round and squeezed Chloe’s chest, making her scream out in a mixture of fear and pleasure. “We may have some fun anyway while you are out.”
“But what do you want of us – I’m a nobody.”
“Oh no Mister Norman – for the next two nights, you are a very important person indeed. In fact, you are a key part to our plan…”
“DDHLLPMMMMM,” Zoe called out as her mother looked over.
“What do you want me to do,” Richard whispered as Miss Leopard stroked his cheek with her gloved hand.
“Your job – drive a train for us…”
Tracey opened the door to the room and watched as Leeza was walked in, and the hood pulled from her head.
“My apologies for the fact you had to be brought here like this,” Tracey said as she removed the zip tie and tape. “We’ll try and make you as comfortable as possible, and we will be watching you, so please try and relax.”
“Why am I here,” Leeza said as she rubbed her wrists, “what do you want him to do?”
“Help us with a job – now relax. The television can pick up most channels, and some food and drink will be brought shortly…”
9.30 pm BST
“Good evening Charlotte,” the Hidden Hand’s sexy voice came out from behind her veil as she came in, “I see all is currently going to plan.”
“It is,” Charlotte smiled as the Hand sat in a chair at the back of the Bunker and crossed her long legs. “No hiccups as yet, and we’re moving Gold teams in.”
“Excellent, and do you have a situation report prepared for me?”
“We do,” Allison walked over with a three-page printout.
“This congestion at Hyde Park Corner…”
“Not our work,” Molly called out from her desk, “a drunk driver managed to cause all that without our aid.”
“It happens,” Heather smiled under her veil. “And the breakdown on the Underground?”
“Again their own fault,” Hayley called out, “blame the lack of investment in new rolling stock.”
“So it will be cleared in time?”
“Yes. Shutdown is still scheduled on that line for just after midnight.”
“Very good,” the Hand stood up, “well ladies you seem to have everything in hand currently. Now Charlotte can you show the way to your office, I need to have a private word.”
“Certainly Hand,” Charlotte said as she stood up and followed the Hand out.
“I wonder what Charlotte has done wrong?” Kelly whispered to Hayley.
Three minutes later Charlotte pressed the locking button in her office as Heather removed her disguise and the voice box.
“Alright how are things going overall Heather?”
“Pretty well from what I’ve been monitoring, teams are gradually getting to the site, and the death dealers are getting into place.”
“How is Sandy?”
“Full up from the meal Maisha and Ama prepared, but she thinks that she’ll be able to do her full share down there.”
“I wish I was there with them.”
“I do as well, but as Shirley said our talents are of more use here tonight.”
“Oh my dear Goddess that looks amazing,” Penny said as she took her first look at the gold, “and to think it’s just been sitting down here all these years.”
“I know,” Lily smiled under her mask, “I keep looking to just check that its real and this isn’t a dream.”
“It’s not a dream,” Penny shook her head. “Anyway to return to business how hard is it to move?”
“The little forklifts can take a reasonable weight,” Susan spoke, “but loading it onto the pallets is bloody ‘ard work.”
“Those bars aren’t light,” Maddie added.
“Alright you take a break, my little team will take over loading for a while.” Penny made a decision. “With me,” she nodded to Eleanor, Katy, and Jan.
“Okay,” Katy grimaced under her mask, “as long as there are no rats in here.”
“Not that we’ve seen Gold Nine,” Maddie spoke again as she unscrewed the top of a flask.
“Let’s do this as a little chain,” Eleanor suggested, “we pass the bars one to another, we should get more loaded that way.”
“Sounds like an idea to me.”
“And me too Gold Five,” Jan nodded at Penny.
“When does our tech support arrive?” Maddie asked as she and Susan left the gold vault.
“Should be pretty soon.” Lily answered.
“I’ll feel happier when we are fully plugged into the grid.”
“As will I – it might help scare the rats off as well.”
“You’ve seen them?”
Ten PM BST
“You in position Red Seven?” Natalya’s voice came through Marina and Kylie’s communicators.
“We are Red One, as yet nothing to report.” Marina replied.
“Nothing suspicious at all?”
“Only a rotten bastard who Red Seven used to go out with,” Kylie drawled, “and he’s too dumb to be a threat.”
“Understood Red Eight,” Natalya fought to keep her professional composure, “for all the temptation we aren’t whacking ex-boyfriends tonight.”
“Pity,” Marina chuckled.
“How are you Red Three?”
“All set, nothing to report as yet,” Francesca answered, “but personally I think killing the ex boyfriend wouldn’t be such a bad idea.”
“Ladies, a bit of professionalism please.”
“Red One,” Jayne’s voice came online, “if we don’t have some fun these could turn into two very long and boring nights.”
“I know Red Four, but at least to start with can you all humour me and do this by the book?”
“We can try,” Helen spoke from in front of the National Liberal Club.
“How do things look where you are Red Two?”
“Nothing yet that has set off my spider senses, just several very proper looking people coming and going.”
“I spotted what looks like a potential mugger,” Louise Carling spoke, “but he’s not our business.”
“No he isn’t Red Eleven.”
“What about the rest of you?” Natalya asked.
“AOK,” the replies came in.
“Good – keep them peeled and remain vigilant…”
11.30 pm BST
Rutland Street, Kensington
“Oh now who is that,” Susan said as she reached over and picked up the telephone.
“I’ll put you onto Colin Charles,” Sue said as she turned over and handed the handset over, “he can tell you what happened better than I can. It’s your Dad,” Sue continued as she woke Colin from his sleep.
“Whhhh – Dad?”
“Sorry Colin, did I wake you both?”
“You did Dad,” Colin rubbed his eyes.
“I thought you both might still be up.”
“No we both have work in the morning.” Colin said as he glanced at the alarm clock.
“I wanted to know how your ‘informal’ meeting went?”
“Not as badly as I expected,” Colin said as Susan put the bedside lamp on, “but not quite as well as I had hoped in my dreams.”
“Meaning what Colin?”
“That I think we impressed them in some ways, but that they still have issues they want to sort out.”
“About your policy positions, or about Sue?”
“Actually a bit of both.”
“Well start with what you think they liked?”
“I think they liked that we both believe strongly in the value of family, and that we support getting private firms into the world of building quality affordable housing.”
“I thought they might.”
“I also think that Susan’s honesty about her past life impressed them.”
“She told it to them plainly?”
“So are they taking a moral stand?”
“Not overwhelmingly, I think they are more concerned that Susan and I are using them as a way of getting this all out.”
“Well I can understand that Colin, because at least in part its true.”
“On policy I don’t think they like my mild Eurosceptism, it’s very much a Remain area.”
“That’s a thorny issue, I can understand their problem.”
“Well you and I agree to disagree on that son.” Charles chuckled, “but at least it sounds like you are in with a chance.”
“Yes I think we are.”
“Anyway let me put your Mother on, she wants a word with Susan.”
“Alright,” Colin smiled at Susan, “it’s Mother…for you.”
“Sorry to wake you up Sue.”
“Oh I understand Bobbie.”
“So how did you see it?”
“I think Mrs. Patel is definitely for us, Mr. Fitzpatrick isn’t, and I think it will turn on Mrs. Bremner’s opinion.”
“And what do you think that is?”
“Hard to tell, she has a good poker face, and it’s hidden under a certain sternness that I suppose comes from her being a headmistress.”
“But if you had to bet?”
“I think they will adopt Colin, if for nothing else that he and I can’t be just ignored even though we are Conservatives, and KQP is such a Labour district.
“Well fingers crossed that you are right?’
“Whores learn to judge situations pretty well Bobbie,” Sue laughed.
“We’ll let you get back to sleep then…”