War Zones – Part 2
Tuesday 15th September
St Angela’s – The Refectory
“All right then,” Pepsi said as she sat at the table, “we have the place, we have the time, we have the theme, and… We have the invitations!”
She handed out the envelopes around the table, Becca and Nikki opening theirs and saying “Well, we know you’re in. Who else is coming?”
“I’ve got the ones for Jeannie and Abs, but they scarpered – I think they have a show today, so I’ll get them to them later. A lot of my friends from the village are coming as well – Mom’s taking care of those today.”
“Any of the Tween brigade,” Doc asked.
“One or two – I’m still thinking on them.”
APCO Fashion Week Show, Waldorf Astoria
The ladies were sitting backstage, looking through the outfits and talking with each other as they did so.
“Well, if it gets me away from school for the afternoon, I’m happy,” Jeannie said as she came in with Abby and Grace. “Hey Maureen, Jordan.”
“I am never going to get used to you calling me that,” Maggie said as she and Marnie sat down.
“How’s college, girls?”
“Getting used to that,” Marnie said with a smile. “So what’s the plan for today?”
“We’re about to find out,” Carina said as she sat with Judith, watching as Alice McKinnon came out.
“Listen up ladies. First up, thanks for coming. Next up, we’re going to shake things up.”
“Oy vey,” Little Holly said, “this is going to be fun.”
“Look,” Alice said as she looked round wearing a grey coat dress and heels, “I know I’m breaking the custom of recent shows, but honestly 25 minutes, each girl walks just one outfit, those kind of shows are starting to get horrid.”
“Alice has been watching videos of old time shows again darling.” Mandy drawled in Karen’s ear.
“So just for me, you will all be doing at least two outfits, many of you three, there will be a short intermission, and if it’s not PERFECT,” Alice said as she looked round, “kiss all of your discounts at my stores bye bye.”
“Ouch!” Talya Somoroneva, gulped, “that could cost me a fortune.”
“Well then no one fuck it up…”
“Can I remind you that the same rules apply to you Bats.” Karen laughed.
“I’ve told her that,” Duncan smiled at his wife. “She messes up she pays full price.”
Mandy and Angel were looking through the racks of clothes. “I adore these clothes darling…”
“And I have to agree with Mandy, to think this all started with the doodles you were making at the Dior Retrospective.” Juliette smiled.
“Is this one of Kylie’s?” Abigail said as she held one of the dresses on her rack up.
“It is,” Alice smiled, “that girl will one day be a top designer.”
“Bats can I protest.” Cecelia Chancellor moaned in her posh English voice.
“Well, best to get it out of the way early, CeeCee,” Grace said with a laugh.
“I have nothing against darling Judith, but I draw the line at her modeling with me, I feel old enough having walked with her mother and her grandmother in shows… But to work with the granddaughter of someone I worked with as a mere child?”
“Well quit like you said dearest CeeCee,” Karen and several of the models in her group started to laugh hard as they looked at the veteran model.
“Alright, alright, now I remember saying it,” CeeCee shook her head, “Let me change it to Great Granddaughter of anyone I’ve worked with…And Carmen you DARE ring one of your great grand kids to come here…”
“Who me darling?” Carmen smiled innocently.
“No Jane Bats?” Juliette asked.
“No,” Alice said, “I asked, but Gisele is still sticking to her decision she made in April to call it quits after 20 years in the biz.”
“Well with a quarterback like Tom as her husband, it’s not like she needs the money,” Missy said as she entered the backstage area.
“True,” Juliette replied as she kissed her agent.
“Alright ladies,” Bats yelled out, “we are now on the clock, places please, hair done, makeup done, then you all get to rest.”
“I hate to say it,” Jeannie grinned, “but I think I just found the one thing worse than a Mary Thomas show…”
“I heard that, Jeannie Brewster,” Alice said with a smile.
“I wish Jo were here…”
“Well then, you’d better thank Coach on your behalf.”
“JO!” Abby and Carina hugged their friend as she came in.
“You made it,” Mandy said as she kissed Jo on the cheek.
“Yeah – it took the combined efforts of Ju, Missy and Alice, but I got the night off. But I have to be back for eight tomorrow – so someone arranged a helicopter for me.”
“Minor expense,” Missy said, “and the cost?”
“Sponsorship for the team this year,” Jo said with a grin. “So what are we doing?”
“So what’s been worthwhile so far?” Jo asked Abby as they sat together a short while later, having their hair done.
“Well more shows then ever, but with Grace as dean the school has been a lot more understanding.”
“Well I bet she’s walked a good few shows herself?”
“She has, as for the clothes, it’s been the usual mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly…Ooohh and I need to tell you. Letty got to make her debut as a model.”
“Letty?” Jo turned her head slightly. “As in Letty Kinman?”
“Well with best regards to a girl I love as a dear friend, poor Letty hasn’t got a great face.”
“Maybe not, but she’s only an inch shorter then I am. Angie was supposed to be doing a double with me at the Factory Door show.”
“She had a wreck and broke her leg driving cross town. So Erica is having a fit when he spots Lets who had only come to give me a ride. Anyway with her wearing slightly higher heels then me, and me whispering all she had to do, it rather went well.”
“Done by a professional, she looked really pretty good.”
“Oh knowing Letty she hated it…”
“Pretty much, but she said it gave her insights for her essay she’s writing on the effects of adrenalin on the human body.”
“Well good for her, how about the others?”
“Well - Carina and Ingy, probably know the routes to and from school blindfold, they have worked hard fitting classes and shows. Mags and Marnie have both done fewer shows, but some high impact ones, even Holly has walked a couple of shows.”
“Sounds good – and Jeannie?”
“Lapping it up as she always does,” Abby said with a smile.
“I heard there had been a couple of incidents locally as well.”
“Could be – but on the good news front, that issue we had with our mutual friend has been resolved in part.”
“Tell me later,” Jo said with a smile.
The Richmond Mansion
“You wanted to see me,” Doc said as she came into the kitchen, where Heather and Sandy were sitting.
“Yeah – I spoke to Dom last night, and again this morning, and she has news for you.”
“Was it him?”
Heather nodded as Sandy said, “Angelic Escorts has ceased trading again, and we got Master Metz not only to compensate his ladies, but to donate all other gains to the Mazengwe fund.”
“And the bastard himself?”
“Dom paid a visit to his parents first – robbed them, and showed his father a certain piece of film. He knows if he crosses you in this way again, Dom will finish the job. In the meantime, he’s so scared of his father, he’ll keep quiet.”
“I still want him dead,” Doc said, “but did he order Kerry’s death?”
“Dom doesn’t think so, and I agree. Jan says there is another possibility.”
“Ed Mitchell has disappeared – Heather is trying to track him, and Jan is doing what she can. The website is gone, but for the moment, stay vigilant.”
“Ed? He wouldn’t – would he?”
“We don’t know,” Sandy said, “so be careful.”
“I can never seem to eat that much at these things,” Carina said as she looked at her food, “how on earth do you manage it Jo?”
“Hey, I have a meet this weekend – I need the energy,” Jo said as she cut into her chicken and ate a piece.
“So diaries out,” Kate ordered as the models picked at their dinners, then reached for their bags. “So who is where, other then London, Paris and Milan before Christmas?”
“Well those of us who are college girls return mainly to our studies.” Ingrid got her book out.
“Same with those of us still at school.” Jeannie pulled her diary out.
“And those of us who teach.” Grace smiled as she glanced round the private dining room, she’d missed this sort of thing where the girls collapsed, unwound, gossiped, and some of them even ate some food.
“I’m doing a couple of small fashion weekends, places like Philadelphia and Atlanta, going to check out the local talent.” Juliette sipped some champagne.
“Is that as Pelican looking at models, or Juliette looking at Designs?” Kate Upton asked.
“A bit of both,” Juliette said with a smile, “with taking ownership of Norstar, I thought I’d go look at prospects.”
“Sounds an idea darling,” Mandy drawled.
“Well Stick and I have a deb season to prepare for.” Angel looked at the list of events she was committed to. “What I hadn’t realized is all the other things that go along with the balls.”
“Tell me about it – and I need to make a decision about school next year,” Abby said. “I’m torn about five different ways at the moment.”
“Your mother pushing the Sorbonne?”
“Nothing wrong with the place,” Juliette said with a smile.
“True – but there are attractions in other places…”
“Like Cornell,” Jo said, ducking the bread roll as Abby threw it.
“Going back to what you were saying, Ju – when the deal goes through, then can you now give Missy orders?” asked Agyness Deyn.
“Not if I want to keep living.” Juliette laughed. “We’re very much the silent partners – Missy will be the front of house manager.”
“So Pru what is it we all here about pending nuptials?” asked Sasha Pirovarova.
“Well, ladies, the rumours are true,” Pru Stratton said as she showed them her hand, with the single diamond surrounded by gold, “Jerry popped the question two weeks ago, and we’re trying to set the date for next year.”
“Congratulations,” Grace said as she looked at the ring. “Sounds like a match made in heaven.”
“Well, you will all get invitations,” Pru said with a smile as Alice came in.
“Right – places ladies. We have a show to do! Final make up and hair, and then we get started!”
“Hey,” Pepsi said as Ama came into the main room of her apartment, “what brings you here?”
“To deliver my acceptance to your party,” Ama said, “I trust all of us are coming?”
“Yeah – so far so good,” Pepsi said with a grin. “Alex?”
“Is also coming – he has started to look for a suitable costume. I still have the costume from the Curragh weekend.”
“Well, at least your boyfriend is coming – blooming exams,” Pepsi said with a huff. “Hey – while you’re here, want a drink? I want to ask you a question.”
“Of course,” Ama said as she followed Pepsi into the kitchen. “You know Jan Carter is my other mom,” Pepsi said as she handed Ama a bottle, “well, her daughter Katy knows now. The problem I’ve got is that I want to invite her to my party.”
“Well, that sounds good,” Ama said as she took a drink, “but what is the problem?”
“Her posse – they’re growing up, but at different rates. She and two others are discovering boys, but the other three are wondering what’s going on.”
“So the issue becomes, do you invite Katy alone, Katy and the two friends, or all six, correct?”
“In a nutshell,” Pepsi said. “What do you think?”
“You are, perhaps, asking the wrong person Pepsi – I did not grow up as you and the others did.”
“I know – but I’d still like to know what you think.”
As they walked back into the main area and sat down, Ama said “do you remember when we first met, at the party?”
“At that party at the Waldorf – yeah, I remember.”
“I knew nobody there, except for Mom and Maisha, but you welcomed me and Maisha, brought us both into your circle and made us welcome. So, logically, can we not do the same for all of Katy’s friends, and make them feel just as welcome?”
Pepsi nodded. “I guess so – girls gotta grow up some time, and I want Katy there. All right – we’ll send invites to all six. Thanks Ama.”
“You are most welcome. Now, about the game on Thursday night…”
“This fifties makeup is different.” Marnie spoke as she sat next to Abby.
“Very different…I’m not sure I’d ever wear this deep a red lipstick in real life.”
“Or me do my eyeliner like this.” Marnie sat still while the makeup artist did her face.
“With the hair once we get it out of these curlers,” Abby said as she looked in the mirror, “it should look pretty good you know.”
“You know it will Abs.” Lily Cole stood behind them waiting her turn.
“I think this show was just designed with me in mind girls.” Kate Upton grinned.
“Hey I was thinking of all of you, not just you and your huge tits Kate, when I designed this.” Alice shouted from where she was having her hair done.
“Ten minutes to start, ladies, ten minutes to start.”
“Right,” Alice said as she stood up and removed her robe, revealing a diamante evening dress with a plunging neckline, “Let’s get this show on the road. Starting models in position, please!”
She moved to the side of the stage, looking through the curtains at the crowds around the stage.
“Quite a crowd – I see Clare and Kelly leading the Sinners with the Saints in attendance,” she whispered.
Alice turned to see Duncan standing there, smiling as he said “break a leg Alice – now go show them why you’re the best on both sides.”
“Flatterer,” Alice said as she kissed her cheek, as the lights dimmed on the other side.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the announcer said, “welcome to the APCO show, and leading off the show, please welcome the CEO of APCO, Alice McKinnon!”
Alice stepped out to the flash of the light bulbs and applause, smiling and posing before she was followed out by CeeCee and Juliette in gowns that reflected the style of the fifties, the high collar and gathered waist shining in the photographer’s glare.
Going backstage, she immediately took on the role of showrunner as she called out “come on – Cari, you and Judith ready?”
“Waiting for the last member of our party,” Carina said as she held Judith’s hand.
“Coming,” Jo said as she walked over in her jacket, pants and jumper. “Ready?”
“Ready,” Carina said as they walked out, Judith grinning as she waved to the other people.
think the new collection is a hit Bats." Jeannie smiled as she wheeled
herself to her changing station.
looks it." Alice looked round the curtain trying to judge reactions in the
affordable will this be darling?" Mandy asked as she came off the catwalk.
very affordable, especially if you can get me more woolens for the winter
have a lot of people knitting again..."
was well received." Angel said as she came off and rushed to her change.
rather fond of that blue velvet suit."
should be Bats." Juliette called over from where she was awaiting her
turn. "We will definitely feature it in the magazine."
look okay?" Mags asked the designer.
look beautiful Maureen."
fix this strap?" Candace's South African accent was heard from the back of
"Shit, I'm on my way." Alice ran towards the model, both walking the show and running it was not easy.
“Cover for her,” Juliette called out to Caroline, who nodded as she and Marnie followed Jo and Mags out.
“This is an amazing show,” Tonia said as she sat with Sandy, Heather and Pussy.
“Oh I agree – Alice really has pulled off something spectacular here,” Pussy said as she watched Lily and Abby walk down the catwalk. “I could easily blow a serious amount of money on these clothes.”
“Many of us could – there’s something for everyone,” Shirley said as she sat with Nessa and Paulie.
“I can see that – and Judith was so cute when she came out in her own version of the outfits as well.”
Nessa nodded and then applauded as Jo came out again.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, your models for tonight – and your host, Alice McKinnon!”
Alice came out, smiling, waving and blowing kisses as the models followed her, applauding her and each other as the crowd stood and applauded.
“Thank you all,” she said as she turned and applauded the others, before she walked off and breathed a sigh of relief.
“Right girls – relax, have fun, let off steam,” she said with a smile.
“And yes, you can all keep your discounts,” Alice said as the models applauded.
“Hi Jeanne,” Grace said as Jeanne Beckman came backstage, “after interviews?”
“I am indeed – starting with the star of the show.”
“Nope,” Jeanne said as she picked up and kissed Judith.
11 pm Local Time
“Charlotte can I have a quiet word please?”
“Of course Rassie,” Charlotte said as she sat by the fire, “what can I do for you?”
“I hope it’s more like what I can do to help you.”
“That sounds intriguing?”
“Ja, well this doesn’t sound natural from me, but to increase your efficiency you need work out an organized command structure.” He stroked his beard before saying “you have too many officers and nco’s being consulted before anything gets done, and yes I know this is not a real army, that yes, no one sister is above another, and that group decision making has always been the norm,” the old soldier paused, “but if we are going to make our strikes more effective the whole process needs streamlining.”
For a couple of minutes Charlotte sat thinking hard. A structure would mean at least here in the operational area abandoning one of the fundamental procedures of the sisterhood, but equally she could see that things were getting too large for every sister to have a say in planning.
“Alright Rassie, what do you have in mind?
“Itsy is far too good at her job for her not to be still ops leader,” he paused as Charlotte lifted an eyebrow. “And yes I do know who she was before all this.”
“Alright Leader stays in command.”
“Liz as Intelligence Chief logically reports to Leader.”
“Makes sense,” Charlotte said in agreement as she nodded.
“Shelby, myself, Lucia, and her medics, those all working command and support duties logically should work for you Charlotte as camp commander.
“Okay,” Charlotte took a big swallow of air. “And our overall decision making process?”
“Should be determined between you and Leader, and such specialists as Liz, Shelby and myself you want to invite in to help you make decisions.”
“And the sticks?”
“I think you in effect need a couple of senior sergeants, reporting to an RSM, incidentally I suggest Red for the job, who works alongside Leader and Liz in the Leadership cadre and is the regular girls voice in military matters.”
“Well it sounds like you’ve thought this out well Rassie…”
“Oh these supply runs can get routine, it gives you time to think.”
“Alright, I’ll put it to the others for their opinions….Thank you.”
“Hey – your show lass. Just my thoughts,” Rassie said with a smile.
“So – you and Teacher?”
Rassie grinned and said, “What’s her story?”
“Ah – say no more. Yours?”
“Much longer story – want to hear it?”
Wednesday 16th September
10 am Local Time
“Here she is,” the radio operator said as Charlotte came in.
“What information do you have for me, Margaretha?” Charlotte asked.
“Well they aren’t even allowing me to go to Baromba Charlotte.”
“Did you see the Prime Minister?”
“I did, and I was politely told that a public health quarantine was in place due to some suspected cases of Ebola.”
“Has Mogola had any Ebola outbreaks?”
“Not as far as I know,” the Swedish woman laughed, “and I know a nervous and evasive speech when I hear it. He had been told clearly by someone to warn me off.”
“Alright so we can assume that Baromba is in effect now under the control of the Chinese?”
“Yes, but the road between there and the mine, is now under your control?”
“How are their airstrip preparations going?”
“You know surprisingly slowly,” Charlotte giggled.
“Well I will keep doing my thing down in the capital.”
“Yes, and a million thanks for that Blondie…Little Mother out.”
As she stepped out, she found Leader talking to Liz.
“I just heard from Green – we have a platoon leader in our hands.”
“And his platoon?”
Leader grinned as Liz shook her head.
“I have a special visitor coming in on the next helicopter – we can’t use the same people as last time,” Liz said as the helicopter flew in low, and landed on the open area.
They watched as the women went forward as the rotors stopped, Rassie walked forward to talk to the pilot, while the doors opened and crates were passed out – and a small, thin woman came out with an army backpack. She was definitely oriental, but as she helped to unload the supplies the other women accepted her.
“Welcome Petra,” Liz held her hand out as the oriental woman walked away from the helicopter.
“Good Morning Ma’am.” The visitor said as she stopped and saluted smartly.
“No titles, no salutes please Petra, I’m officially retired from the army, and you are here as a ‘volunteer’.”
“Now come meet some people.” Liz ushered the newcomer over towards Charlotte and Leader.
“Hi you must be Petra.”
“And you must be Charlotte, your Uncle John said to pass on his congratulations.”
“Leader, this is Petra Nguyen. Petra is part Vietnamese, part Chinese, and a damn good soldier.” Liz smiled as Leader shook Petra’s hand. “Officially she’s on secondment somewhere, but I needed a translator, and the good Sergeant here is pretty damn good at working intelligence.”
“Well you are more then welcome.” Leader smiled a rare smile.
“So where do I put my kit?” Petra looked round.
“I’ll show you.” Liz motioned for her to follow her into the compound.
“Poppy, do you have a minute?”
Stopping and turning round, the young student watched as Erica and Jess caught up with her.
“Listen, I was wondering if you wanted to go and grab a coke after school – if you were interested?”
Poppy looked at both of them, before she said “so that you can pump me for the details of what I went through?”
“No – not at all, from what little I’ve heard it must have been horrific. I just wanted to…”
“Save it,” Poppy said quietly. “It was bad, but I and my mother can cope. We don’t need someone from the Projects offering sympathy to us.”
“Well, I tried,” Erica said with a shrug of her shoulders as Dawn and Jess joined them.
“Still playing the Ice Queen, is she?”
“Yeah – which is a pity,” Erica said as they followed Poppy in, “I’m sure there’s a nice girl in there somewhere.”
“Buried deep – way on down,” Dawn said with a laugh.
If they had looked inside the toilets as they made their way to the assembly hall, however, they may have seen a different scene – one of Poppy looking at herself in the mirror, the tears running down her face as she struggled to get her self-control back, before she ran some cold water and splashed it over her eyes and cheeks.
Patting them dry, she smiled and said quietly to herself “showtime” before she walked out.
“Ouch – at least you tried,” Doc said as she looked at Erica.
“Yeah – maybe one day, maybe tomorrow…”
“So I know that Anna wants to be an OBGYN when she finishes her education Erica, what do you have in mind?” asked Nikki.
“I want to be a surgeon, preferably doing orthopedics.” Erica replied.
“At last that gives me a clue what your nickname should be,” Becca said as she sat up straight. “While Anna is Doc, we will call you Bones.”
“Oh that’s good.” Ama replied.
“You only think that because you are a Trekkie Ama.” Erica rolled her eyes.
“It’s still a damn good name though.” Anna spoke. “Alright I’m Doc and she’s Bones.”
“Bones…Hmmm it could be worse I suppose…Okay nickname accepted.”
“It could be MUCH worse,” Dawn, said, “in the jazz band we call Lyssa ‘Saxy’.”
“You are right…it could be really terrible.” Erica groaned.
10 am Pacific Time
Ocean Park Place North, LA
In itself, the warehouse was just like any other warehouse in the area – large, grey, box shaped. The two security guards in the main reception to the warehouse were also perfectly normal – so long as you did not ask to see what was under the front desks, or look too closely at the security monitors behind the desk.
So when the grey van pulled up outside, and the driver got out, they both figured it wasn’t anything especially to worry about. The woman herself looked attractive – tall, red haired, with the hair pulled back in a ponytail through the back of her brown baseball cap. Her brown short sleeved shirt and cargo shorts marked her out as a courier – as did the package she was carrying in her arms as she pressed the button.
“Let her in Ger,” the second man said, “we may as well have some fun.”
“Thanks,” she said as she came in and placed the white cardboard box on the counter, “I’ve been driving up and down this road for the last half hour trying to find this place. You sure don’t make it easy to find your company, do you?”
“The big bosses like it that way – what have you got for us anyway?”
“No idea,” the redhead said as she looked at her clipboard, “all I got is the address, and a form to sign. Which one of you hunks wants to do that?”
“I’ll take it,” Ger said as he took the clipboard, and flipped through the pages, before picking the pen up in his hand and placing it to the paper. By the time he heard the soft sound, it was too late, as his partner crumpled to the floor with a red spot growing on his forehead.
“What the hell…”
“Nothing personal,” the courier said as she fired a second shot into his forehead, killing him instantly, “but you guys picked the wrong side.” Coming over to the other side of the counter, she opened a store cupboard and pulled both men in, before closing the door and looking at the monitor screens.
As she did so, the side door to the van opened and six more women, dressed in black boiler suits and carrying sub-machine guns, came into the lobby as the redhead let them enter.
“Good work, JD,” Tracey said, “now nix the security system.”
“Got it boss,” the actress said as she plugged a USB stick into a port, watching as one by one the cameras turned off.
“All right – we move as a phalanx, no mercy. Our primary objective is to find where the women are and secure that area – secondary objective their computers and records. You all know what you have to do?”
The six women nodded as JD locked the front doors, took her handgun up, and smiled.
“All right – let’s do this. Silenced pistols for individuals, try not to use the automatics unless absolutely necessary, understood.”
The women nodded as they made their way through into the corridor behind the main doors, walking slowly down as they came to the first door. Looking inside, Tracey could see five men sitting around a table playing cards.
She signaled to Daisy and Rose, who walked quickly past, and then entered the room. A series of soft thuds were heard, and then the group moved in, adding extra shots to make sure as Rose and Daisy looked round.
“Rest room – not…”
Tracey put her finger to her lips as she heard a cough behind another door. Walking to it, she took ahold of the handle and opened it – looking at the man sitting on the throne, his pants down around his ankles as he looked at her.
“Wha…” The shots to his chest and head were quick, and lethal, as he slumped forward.
“Move out,” she whispered as the team went along the corridor again, stopping by a door on the other side. A second one was just down the corridor, and as Darlene looked in the first door she saw a kitchen, two men cooking on the stove.
She indicated the door next to them, as Rene and JD moved to that door. Tracey could see a door on the opposite side a few doors down, so she indicated to Rose and Daisy, as they took up position there.
As the two women watched, the others took hold of their automatics and watched as Tracey counted down – and then kicked in the door to the kitchen, as Rene and JD entered their room, and Rose and Daisy ran into theirs. There was the sound of gunfire for a few seconds, and then silence, JD and Darlene coming out and covering the corridor from both directions.
“Nothing boss,” Darlene called out as Tracey left the kitchen. “How many in there,” she asked Rene as she came out.
“Four more – Rose?”
“We found the records office,” they heard her say as Tracey and Darlene came in. Two men and two women were slumped over their desks, as Daisy looked in some filing cabinets.
“Old fashioned, but they have their records here – and the computers as well.
“JD, Darlene, secure this room. The rest of us will head to the main part of the building.”
“Roger that,” Darlene said as she plugged a USB stick into one of the still active laptops, while JD stood guard, the other four approaching a metal door with a large bolt on it. Daisy slowly pulled the bolt back, and looked inside.
“Large open area, I see two guards patrolling up and down the walkway that this door leads to.”
“Any sign of anyone else?”
Daisy shook her head.
“All right, Daisy, Rose, deal with them.”
The two women nodded as they slipped through, the other two waiting until they heard the gunshots before they moved in. Walking along, they looked down on the basement area, and the small cage cells that were below.
A spiral staircase led down to the floor, which they slowly walked down, taking care to look behind and in front in case of any surprises. As they reached the floor, they noticed a side room, Tracey indicating to Darlene as she moved over.
The burst of automatic gunfire was short, as the other three took up position, but there seemed to be no response, save for the screaming as the shots were heard from the cages.
“Looks like they preferred the sit on your bum and watch approach to guards,” Darlene said as she looked at the monitors she had left intact, and then threw the switches, the doors to the cages opening as Tracey looked on.
Slowly, she saw one or two women look out, the fear etched into their eyes as they looked at her.
“Do any of you speak English?”
One of the women went back into the cell, helping out a middle aged woman who leaned on her shoulder.
“Do you speak English?”
“I do,” she said in a quiet, dry voice, “who are you?”
“Who we are is not as important as why we are here.” Putting her hand to her ear, she said “This is team leader – any problems outside?”
“We got four for interrogation – buses standing by.”
“Copy that – Darlene, open the rear doors.”
As a massive metal shutter slowly opened at the back, Tracey said “tell those who stand with you, and get them to pass the word down the line – we’re here to free you. Transport is about to come in, and you will be taken to a place of safety, where food, medical aid and clothing waits for you.”
“You… You are here to free us?”
“We are – your pain and suffering are at an end. Spread the word, and bring your sisters out,” Tracey said as a number of school buses were driven in.
“Orders, boss,” a woman said as she and some others got out of the first bus.
“Two of your upstairs and assist Rose and Daisy with collecting and extracting records. The rest of you, help these women into the buses, and take them to the location you were given earlier. Keep the shutters down on the buses – some of them may not like the light.”
“Roger that,” she said as she motioned two women up the staircase, while the others slowly helped the women to walk to the waiting buses, the word spreading as they did so, a murmur growing to a chatter as they were slowly helped into the buses.
Tracey turned and took out her cell phone.
“Maddie? We’re sending them to the school you found now. No survivors from their captors, and we’re collecting as much information as we can.”
“Understood Tracey – how bad is it?”
She looked at two young girls, barely older than twelve, as they walked out on the arms of one of the older women, and said “Bad. Really bad.”
“Once they are on their way safely, and you have extracted all you can, I want the place destroyed.”
“Don’t worry, Maddie – I planned to do so,” Tracey said as the first bus set off, the women slowly been helped. Ending the call, she watched as the procession continued, tears forming in her eyes.
Student Administration Office, Columbia University
“Is that a real Jameson bag?” Jane Bonnafuce asked as Denice sat at her terminal.
“On what they pay us here?” Erica laughed, “No it’s a knockoff I bought in Times Square. Cost me twenty dollars.”
“Wow that is a REALLY good knockoff,” Jane said, “I’ll have to see if I can find the same seller.”
“Good Luck with that,” Denice smiled as she went back to work. The bag was the real thing - it had been a gift from Juliette Huntingdown, but she didn’t want to advertise the fact. For anyone knowing just how expensive a purse she was carrying today though it would be an open invitation to theft.
“Seventy, Shirley. I reckon the youngest is thirteen, the oldest fifty or so. We have them in the safe hostel you found, with medical teams looking them over. The ones who speak English have passed the word on of their safety.”
“And those holding them?”
“The only survivors were the four guards at the rear. We’ve brought them to our special place for interrogation – Darlene and Rosie are with them now. After we got the records off their computers, and their paper records extracted, we torched the place – the fire is being covered on the news at the moment.”
“So we have cut off their base in Mogola, and their way in and out of the country – and their final arrival place.”
“The one worry I have, Shirley, is what happens if they have a boat in transit.”
“All the Intel from Colonel Vosloo suggests not, but we remain vigilant. At some point in the next few hours, this will reach Tokyo – I suspect it will be the final straw for both sides.”
“And the women?”
“I trust to the medical care you have arranged for now, Maddie. The volunteers from Canada have faced this before.”
“I know,” Maddie said as she rubbed her eyes.
“By the way, I understand JD is joining the cast of a certain film. Any idea what role?”
“No – she won’t tell me either.”
“Well, I could ask Cassie, but she won’t tell me either. We just need to wait and see.”
“So this is your home area,” Ama said as she and Erica left the 168th Street subway station. “An interesting place.”
“Interesting? I suppose so – but I do wish Doc had been able to come on the same train as us.”
“I would not worry – she will catch the next one, and meet us at the place you suggested,” Ama said as they crossed to the coffee shop. Walking in, she went to the counter and said “two coffees please Ger.”
“Hey Erica – this one of your friends from school,” the Lebanese boy behind the counter said.
“Yeah – she and another friend are coming round to help me with a few things. Is it all right if we sit outside at a table and wait for them?”
“Knock yourself out kiddo,” he said as he handed over the two cups, smiling as Ama and Erica went outside.
“I saw you tried to talk to Poppy this morning,” Ama said as they sat down, “Would I be wrong in assuming it did not go well?”
“No, that would be a good assumption,” Erica said as she sipped her drink. “I just wish I could find some way to…”
“Oh god,” Erica groaned as Rochelle and her two friends appeared from nowhere, standing by the table.
“I am sorry,” Ama said quietly, “who or what is a homegirl?”
“Oh my – brought one of your posh new friends to see where you grew up, homegirl?”
“Rochelle,” Erica said quietly, “nice to see you again. This is Ama, a girl I know from my school.”
“A pleasure to meet you,” Ama said quietly, “I take it you and Erica went to the same school around here?”
“Yeah we did,” Rochelle said, “and we don’t like the fact she’s abandoned us and tried to be something she’s not.”
“And what, please, is that?”
Ama looked at the young black girl, in her black leather jacket, leopard skin top and black leggings, and then at her two friends, wearing denim jackets, t-shirts and jeans.
“Are you serious, girl?” Rochelle stared at Ama, before leaning over and saying “What’s the matter, afraid?”
“No,” Ama said calmly, “I am not afraid. Why should I be? I am sitting here, having a coffee with my friend, and talking with you. What is there to be afraid of in that?”
“Oh she’s good homegirl,” Rochelle said with a sneer, “her posh parents give her all she wants, do they? Maybe she’d like to make a donation to our funds?”
“Shut up whitey,” Rochelle said as she produced a knife and held it toward Ama. “Well, sister – going to help the poor?”
“You are not poor.”
“You really are kidding me – look around sister, do you see money here?”
“Oh, I do not deny the fact that you have less money than others I know,” Ama said, her stare not leaving Rochelle’s face, “but you have clothes to wear, food in your belly, shoes on your feet, and I suspect although you will not admit it in front of these others, a warm bed at night. Shall I tell you what it really means to be poor, to know you have nothing?”
As Ama spoke, Erica noticed Ger appearing in the doorway of the coffee shop.
“Before I was adopted by my mother,” Ama said quietly, “I spent three years as a slave to a couple who thought money and power meant they could do whatever they wanted. I was taken from my family, from my homeland, and brought to a place I did not know, sold as if I were a dog, forced to work as a maid without pay, the only things I possessed the clothes on my back, what little food and drink I was given, and the hope I would get to the end of the day without a beating or a punishment.
“I would cry myself to sleep at night, and pray each night that someone would come and release me from the nightmare. My only other refuge was my mind, the times I could sneak into the room my owners lived in and watch television, teach myself English and French, learn of the world outside the four walls of my prison. I lost my family, my homeland, and much of my childhood because someone thought my only value was as a worker, not as a human being.
“Yes, I now have a mom who has adopted and loves me, I have good friends, I attend a good school, and slowly, oh so slowly, I am becoming the person I was meant to be. But there are still nights when I wake up in a cold sweat, thinking I am still in servitude. And every morning, I give thanks for the blessings I have now, and the freedom I enjoy.
“So when I look at Erica, who is using her God-given talents to try and get herself into a position to help others like you, and like me has been given the opportunity to do so, I give thanks for that as well. So the question is, Rochelle why does that upset you so much? Because, Sister, I see you with so much, and I know what it means to have nothing, and I would like to understand.”
The other two girls were looking at Rochelle, as she stared at Ama, the anger in her eyes building as she said “You dare call me Sister? Gonna cut you for…”
Rochelle spun round to see Doc standing there, smiling as she had her hand on her schoolbag strap.
“No, you are not going to cut her,” she said as she walked up and looked at her, “because if you try to, then I will do something you will regret.” She put her hand into her satchel, and discretely showed Rochelle the gun handle.
As Erica watched, she could have sworn the colour faded from Rochelle’s face, before she said “come on” and walked off, the other two girls following her.
“You two all right,” Doc said as she sat down.
“Yeah,” Erica said, “but Ama, what you said…”
“Is all true,” Ama said quietly. “There have been times when Mom has come into my room in the early hours, and held me until I have calmed down. Some memories never completely go away. That is why I have started classes with Father Richmond – as God has saved me, so I wish to serve him.”
“I never knew…”
“It is all right,” Ama said with a smile, “We all have our secrets. So, shall we go to your apartment, Erica?”
The Richmond Mansion
“Hey big sis,” Jo said as she appeared on the chat window, “how’s life in the big city?”
“Busy as usual – how about the quiet backwaters?”
“Got the evening off – which is nice. Hey Cari.”
“Good evening to both of you,” Carina said as she appeared in another window, “all quiet?”
“Sandy is with the kids – where are the respective roommates?”
“Jude’s at a full rehearsal – Jo?”
“At the library – so, I presume we are here to discuss the Enigma of Ed Mitchell?”
“Indeed we are – how did you get on?”
“Well, disappeared off the radar does seem to be the right word,” Jo said, “I managed to get into the HR system for his company, and he hasn’t been seen in his office for a month now. Before he disappeared, he seemed to be working on a major finance project.”
“Yeah,” Heather said, “I saw that as well. I managed to get past their firewalls, and it was to do with a new shopping complex out near JFK. To be honest, I could not see anything in there to explain why he would disappear.”
“Well, something must have made him vanish,” Cari said as she leaned forward, “who were the major investors in that project?”
As Heather read down a list of names, Cari listened carefully, before she said, “Hang on a minute Heather – what was the last but one name you gave?”
“Hold on… Perrot Investments?”
“Now where have I heard that name recently?”
“Checking,” Jo said as she typed on her laptop. “Investment firm based in Washington, involved mainly in financing large scale infrastructure projects like shopping malls and bridges. I don’t recognize any names in the list of directors – what about you Heather?”
“I’m cross checking now – says here they’re involved in doing some work up New Haven way Cari.”
“That’s it – they’re involved in building the new sports centre. So what about the financial angle?”
“Well, him disappearing a month ago from that angle is consistent – his checking account has not been touched since 17th August. On the other hand, he had a number of private accounts – and they have been used over the last month.”
“Now that is interesting – any near San Antonio?”
“No – the closest is Vegas, but the last withdrawal was in Boulder, Colorado two days ago. I’m checking flights in and out of the city, see if the name Ed Mitchell has come up, but no joy so far.”
“He may not be using that name you know,” Jo said quietly. “Heather, have you checked Ed Warren?”
“Hang on,” Heather said, and then she slapped her forehead. “Now how the hell did you think of that?”
“Something Doc said at Easter – they knew him as Mr. Warren.”
“Well, Ed Warren arrived in Boulder the day before the last withdrawal from the account. I should be able to trace back from there, and see if his travels match withdrawals.”
“Where is he staying?”
“Difficult to tell quickly, without checking each hotel in turn. But we have something to work on – good thinking, Jo.”
“Nice to know I do have some uses,” Jo said with a grin.
Thursday 17th September
Noon local time
“So how did it go?” Helen asked Marina as the English girl joined her in the coffee shop of the hotel.
“Well I think I got the perfect kimono for Kylie, and I didn’t get lost on the subway, so all in all it wasn’t bad.”
“I don’t like sitting and waiting,” Helen said as she picked up her cup, “but at least we’ve been able to do some business and to buy some gifts…”
“And I’ve picked up a few words of Japanese.”
“You are like a sponge with languages aren’t you?”
“To my amazement…yes.” Marina smiled. “Mind you, it does not mean I am always good with them.”
“Persevere – skill comes through practice. Natalya says she will meet us in the hotel gym, she thinks we can chat discreetly there.”
“Any ideas why?”
“If I don’t miss my guess the other Yakuza’s are asset stripping the Death Dragons, each taking businesses they like.”
“Meanwhile the Dragons lose soldiers everyday…”
“Yeah,” Marina said, “I read the paper as well about that gunfight in Yokohama at the docks.”
“It would appear their empire is collapsing in on itself.”
“Is Catherine still interested in that textile factory of the Dragons?” Marina asked as she slipped her high heels off to rest her feet.
“She is,” Helen said as she put her cup down, “it’s a legitimate business - Natalya was also going to enquire how and if we can buy it.”
“I know the Yakuza’s by and large descend from Japan’s untouchables, and I suppose I have a certain sympathy for them overcoming that, but I’m still amazed that compared to other criminal organisations they are rather more public, and have actual status in Japanese society.”
“I know - it’s almost like they are state licensed criminals.” Helen nodded as she looked at her watch. “Okay we better go put our gym clothes on. Natalya will be waiting.”
“Yes,” Marina said as she finished her coffee and put her shoes back on.
Thirty minutes later, Marina and Helen were pounding out the hills on the treadmills as Natalya came in, draping a towel over the rail of the free treadmill before she started it off.
“So, how goes the negotiations,” Helen said as she adjusted the speed of the treadmill.
“Oyabun Tanaka is open to the purchase of the textile factory, at favourable terms to be discussed. I have pointed out that there are advantages to a business alliance with Huntingdown’s, which he will consider.”
“I can inform Catherine that she may open negotiations in due course then,” Helen said quietly. “What about the rest?”
“As far as the Mogolan operation goes, they want no part of that. In fact, they look forward to, and I quote, the extermination of the Chinese infidels.”
“A charming choice of words,” Marina said quietly as she started her warmdown.
“Catherine excepted of course.”
“And the Viper?”
“Gets the brothels – a regrettable loss.”
“I understand- but I would suggest Niki and Jill keep an eye on her anyway when this is over. Now, on the other matter?”
Natalya slipped a USB stick out and passed it to Helen.
“All Jill was able to find out on Dong Yun, with Madame’s compliments.”
“Excellent – so, why don’t we hit the sauna, once we have changed and locked things away?”
Shirley looked up and smiled as Susan came in with the morning report.
“Thank you,” she said as she glanced over it, and then saw Susan still standing there, her head down.
“Madame we need to have one of ‘those’ talks.” Susan spoke softly as she looked at her boss.
“Oh?” Shirley put her pen down and sat back.
“I know you hate these, but there is a fence and small jewellery store owner called Nick Marischal, based on 110th Street, who is refusing to pay for our protection.”
“Has he been warned?”
“Yes. Three times, we even sent Dominique with a message, but he is still holding out and others are beginning to think they can get away with it as well.”
“Damn...” Shirley stood up and walked to the window, looking out for a few minutes. “You are right Susan - I do hate chats like this.”
“So what should I do?”
“You said we have warned him three times?”
“Yes Dom trashed his place a couple of weeks ago, but still nothing.”
“Well it is not good for our business to let him get away with this insolence.”
“So we sanction him?”
“Can you see an alternative?”
“We could try hurting his wife or kids?”
“Susan you know my views on that.” Shirley said as he gave her subordinate a harsh look.
“Well then,” Susan said quietly, “as I see it we must use him to set an example.”
“Agreed.” Shirley sighed. “So whom?”
“I was thinking me and Annie, she can get pretty rough and if we want to convey a message to others?”
“Alright I agree to the hit, and please tell Annie that she can make it as messy as she likes.”
As Susan left the office, Shirley sat down and sat for a moment. In this line of work, sometimes these decisions had to be made, but it did not make it any easier…
Susan sat at her desk, and then picked up the phone.
“Annie? Can you spare an hour or two later – I need your help with something…”
“Alright where did you get these suits from?” Annie laughed as she sat while Susan pinned her hair up for her. “We look like we are getting ready to go to Pepsi’s Sweet 16.”
“Well I was just road testing this as an idea, but why shouldn’t we get a bit of fun out of tonight?”
“I look like Alice Capone.” Annie laughed again as she applied her lipstick. Her suit was tailored in black with a thin white pinstripe, a black blouse and large white tie completing the outfit. A pair of high heeled black shoes sat on her feet.
“Well I think we look like old time mobsters SHOULD have looked like.” Susan admired herself in the mirror as she adjusted the men’s three-piece suit. Her suit was a tasteful brown, complete with waistcoat, a white blouse and black tie. Both women also had fedoras sitting on the make-up table – Annie’s a white hat with a black trim, Susan’s brown.
“I’ll admit I love this image,” Annie said, “from the fedora to the high heels.”
“Alright put your gloves on.” Susan’s tone changed as she pulled the black satin gloves over her hands.
“Here courtesy of Heather and Sandy,” Annie pulled a pair of .44’s out of her bag, slipping one into the shoulder holster she was wearing.
“Thanks,” Susan holstered her gun then got her brass knuckles out of her own bag.
“So explain again just how nasty I can get with this guy?” Annie said as she put her flick knife in her jacket pocket.
“As bad as you want, just don’t make me throw up please.”
“Yeah that’s evidence I wouldn’t want to clean away before we left.”
“Just remember,” Susan said as she adjusted her fedora, “we are really just conveying a message to other potential troublemakers about the retribution they face if they decide not to pay.”
“You know, if we were doing this properly,” Annie said, “we really ought to be doing his wife and kids as well.”
“I said that, but Madame has scruples as you know.”
“I did once, but look at me now.” Annie adjusted the angle of her hat on her head. “I’m a stone cold killer, and personally I’d have no rubbing them out as well.”
“You are getting evil…”
“Aint I just.” Annie smiled.
“Clint got us a nice car, it’s parked in the alleyway.”
“Alright,” Annie adjusted her tie, “What about our faces?”
“Wear these.” Susan passed her a pair of Rayban sunglasses. “We are killing him, and any extraneous witnesses won’t be able to recognize us in all this.”
“This suits me.” Annie pulled the glasses on.
“It’s time to go…Nothing personal on you?”
“No I’m clean,” Annie patted herself down. “You?”
“Yep.” Susan took some deep breaths, “Alright we have an appointment with Mr. Marischal.”
Marischal Jewels, 110th Street
“Nice place,” Annie said as she looked at the front of the shop, “very classy.”
“So what are you going to get Pepsi for her birthday party,” Susan said as she watched the street.
“Not sure yet – I need to sit down with Ama and Caroline at some point. I think Ama has found her present, so I’ll probably join with Caroline.”
“The tough thing with her is knowing two moms are watching her.”
“Oh, Jan will be all right – it’s April and Grant you have to please.”
“Maybe I can use the special surprise guest to distract them?”
“Oh you know about that do you?”
“I think the only reason Pepsi doesn’t know is because we haven’t told any of the girls.”
“Well, that would work,” Susan said as she looked up and down the street. “Well, shall we go to work?”
“Why not,” Annie said as the two besuited women got out of the car, Annie holding the door to the store open as Susan went in, and then closing and locking the door behind them.
Nick Marischal was standing by the counter, a man in his mid-fifties with a balding crown of black hair, slightly portly, wearing a white shirt and trousers.
“Hey,” he said as he looked round and saw the two women standing there, “what is this, Scorsese making a chick flick now.”
“Who the hell wants to know?”
“We do – are you Nick Marischal?”
“Yeah,” he said as he looked at them, “who wants to know?”
“Madame sends her regards,” Susan said as Annie drew her gun, “but she needs you to know your resistance has led to this.”
“Oh you’re from that penny ante extortionist are you?”
“Show some respect, Mr. Marischal,” Annie said quietly, “Madame is not a penny ante extortionist.”
“Well she doesn’t scare me…”
“We recognize that,” Susan said as she walked forward, and then delivered a blow to Marischal’s belly with her gloved fist, “which is why she has sent us. You need to know this is not personal, Mr. Marischal – this is business.”
“Who… Who the hell are you,” he gasped as Annie kicked him in the side.
“We’re your worst nightmare,” Susan said as she leaned down, looking into his face. “We only come when it is absolutely necessary – so you should take some pride in that.”
“Before we end your miserable fucking little existence,” Annie said as she forced him to stand, hooking her arms under his and clasping her hands together behind his head.
“Let us review, Mr. Marischal,” Susan said, “first, we offered you protection on very reasonable terms.”
“Go to hell,” Nick spat, before he felt Susan’s hand slapping his jaw.
“As I said, we offered you a very reasonable insurance policy, but you refused – several times, even after we demonstrated what would happen if you still refused to pay.”
“You don’t scare me,” Marischal said as Annie held him, and then drove her knee into the small of his back, making him buckle as she held him up.
“So as I said, with deep regret, Madame asked us to call on you, Mr. Marischal,” Susan said as she slipped her brass knuckles out of her jacket pocket and slipped them on, flexing her fingers as she did so, “and I would be lying if I said I do not get pleasure out of what I do.”
“What the hell do you think you’re AAARGHH” Marischal said as Susan struck him on the jaw, sending two teeth flying out and hitting the floor.
“My friend enjoys doing this.” Annie snarled as she held Marischal’s arms behind his back, while Sandy drove her fists into both his stomach and face. “I hope you appreciate that fact.”
“You fuckin’ stupid prick, did you really think we’d let you not pay?” Susan spat the words out as the brass knuckles on her right hand hit the guys face, smashing his nose and causing even more blood to spout out.
“When we offer you insurance, a wise man would have taken it.” Annie felt his arm break as she twisted it further, making him scream more. “Now not only you, but your wife and kids are going to pay the price for your stupidity.”
“No, not them…” both the words and blood came out of the mans mouth.
“Too late asshole.” Susan was enjoying terrorizing this bastard. “You signed their death warrants.”
“Look, spare them, for the love of God…”
“Fuckin’ bastard,” Susan drove her fists into his stomach again, venting her fury in a spout of pure animalistic rage. “You asked for this, and now you’ve got it.”
After a few minutes, Susan stopped and looked into his battered face, before taking the silk handkerchief from her jacket pocket and stuffing it into his mouth, grinning as she looked round.
“What do you have in your back office, Mr. Marischal,” she said quietly as she walked off, and then returned.
“Bring him through,” she said, Annie forcing him forward as they walked into the room, Susan standing behind an old wooden chair as she held up a roll of duct tape.
“Sit him down,” she said, the man screaming as he was forced to sit, and Susan pulled his hands behind the chair back, taping his wrists together as the bones in his broken arm ground together, and then taping him to the chair back.
“My friend here has already expressed Madame’s displeasure,” Annie said as Susan wrapped duct tape around his bloody head, sealing his mouth closed, “and soon, when you are ready, it will be my turn.”
“Whrrymmnn,” Marischal said as he looked at them, while Susan taped his legs to the chair – and then he saw the look in Annie’s eyes.
“Now can I cut him?” Annie asked evilly, as Susan finished securing the jeweler to the chair. As the man screamed into his gag from a combination of the pain and terror, Annie took out and opened her stiletto bladed flick knife, flashing the blade in front of his eyes.
“Yeah go ahead and do your thing.” Susan smiled.
“Oh good I was hoping you’d say that,” Annie whispered as she tenderly ran her gloved hand over the mans face. “I want you to know that, while this is going to hurt you a lot more then it’s going to hurt me, at least you’ll know you died making someone happy.”
Very carefully, Annie cut the man’s clothes away, trying in her own mind to calculate the damage Susan and her knuckledusters had done. Broken ribs, probably some internal damage, his face pulped…yeah left alone he was going to die. Annie just hoped it wasn’t before she had finished her work.
She gave her mind over to the joyous pleasure as she started making little incisions, feeling his pain as his body jerked, fuelling her own sick passions. Goddess, she thought to herself as the blade sliced into his chest, why had she never realized how exciting pure sadism was until she met Carina?
“We need to send a message Mr. Marischal,” Susan said as she stood with her arms folded, looking at him as he closed his eyes and moaned, “and you are the canvas on which we will write the message.”
“Pllnmmr,” he moaned as the blade sliced down him.
“You know this is really a stabbing weapon, but let me see if I can do a little surgery with it.” Annie saw the horror in his eyes as she reached down and grabbed his testacies.
The gag silenced his scream as she started to remove his manhood, the blood spouting, and his quivering shell of a body merely heightening Annie’s joy. Slowly, taking her time, she inflicted her knife on the jeweler, but as she looked up she saw him shudder, and then his head fell to the side, his eyes wide open.
“You fucking bastard!” Annie suddenly shouted, startling Susan as she absorbed the bizarre spectacle, “the Motherfucker just died.”
“And before I really got my jollies…You asshole!” She thrust the knife in and out of his still torso, the unseeing eyes showing absolutely no reaction as the blade went in and out, the thick red blood oozing out.
“Look,” Susan said as she saw the look in Annie’s eyes, “are you going to…?”
“Oh yeah.” Annie grinned as she ran the knife over his throat, his windpipe exposed as she drew it from left to right.
“Alright - I think I’ll duck out a second.” Susan gulped as Annie started decapitating the body.
“I would if I was you,” Annie whispered as she pulled his head back, and then cut though the remaining bone and flesh. She had a wild-eyed look on her face as she began dismembering the corpse.
Fifteen minutes later, Annie came into the backroom.
“Sorry Susan,” she said as she put the knife away, “but I ruined the suit.”
“So I can see.” Susan looked at her blood-covered friend. “We better go get showers and destroy this all.” She looked out the door to the car making sure the coast was clear.
“I’ll go first,” she said as she went and unlocked the car, Annie following as she got into the back while Susan drove off.
“Well, I think the message has been delivered,” Susan said quietly, “what were we talking about?”
“Presents for sweet sixteens – what are you and Clint getting her?”
“Not sure yet – but we’ll think of something…”
The Peacock Inn
“I don’t think I have ever been to this place,” Denice said as she and Barbara got out of the cab. “How did you find out about it?”
“Juliette recommended it a few times – and given Fashion Week is done for another year, it’s a chance for all of us to let our hair down and have a natter,” Barbara said as she opened the door, and the two women walked in.
“Good evening ladies,” the woman in the red gown said, “are you part of the Sinners party?”
“We are indeed,” Barbara said as the waitress walked them to a large table in the centre of the room.
“Ah there you are,” Juliette said as she looked up. “Welcome, Denice. I think you know most of the people round the table, but this is Mandy Carrow, Alice McKinnon and Karen Boyd. Ladies, Denice Burton.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Darling,” Mandy said in her slow drawl as she shook Denice’s hand.”
“So the girls are gathering at your place tonight Barbara,” Caroline said as she sipped her drink.
“Yes – discussing outfits for Pepsi’s birthday party. Is it true it’s out at the club April?”
“Oh yes – Jan and Sandy have very kindly made the booking on our behalf.”
“Jack has his ticket booked,” Mandy said as Grace Gresham came to the table. “I’m not too late, am I,” she said as she took her seat.
“Not at all,” Diana said as she looked over the menu. “Shall we do as we always do?”
“And what is that,” Denice said as she looked at the menu.
“We usually just order the banquet and dig in.”
“Well, I’m not going to change the pattern,” Denice said as she looked at the others.
“Excellent,” Sandy said, “we’ll have the banquet, and several bottles of the de Ros Chardonnay,”
The waiter nodded as Denice whispered to Barbara “de Ros? Does that mean Diana is connected to the vineyard?”
“Her mother in law,” Barbara whispered back.
“So just who do we have sitting round the table?”
“You really want to know?” Barbara sipped her drink and said, “Diana, Countess de Ros. Natasha, Duchess de Grechy, Diana’s sister in law. Jeanne Marais is actually a princess, Mandy a Lady, Pussy a scientist, Juliette a writer, I’m your host Barbara Brewster – let’s play Jeopardy!”
“What the hell am I doing here?”
“Denice,” Heather said quietly, “ignore their titles, and look at us – we’re just friends on a night out.”
“After all, I’m a florist,” April said, “and I was just as you were this time last year. But we started as friends first – the titles and other things just never entered into it.”
“It’s funny, I read the magazines, and I wonder how it must be like to be so…”
“Sorry,” Denice said as she looked at Mandy, “I didn’t mean to offend…”
“No offence taken darling. “Mandy said with a smile. ”Being rich does not mean you have to be a snob.”
“Says the former punk queen of modeling,” Karen said with a laugh.
“There is a quote by Alexander Theroux, which Juliette told me that I think explains it Denice. Theroux said ‘Hypocrisy is the essence of snobbery, but all snobbery is about the problem of belonging’.”
“Which means what Barb?”
“Which means,” April said, “our rich friends here all come from families that have had had wealth and influence for several generations. They are all secure in belonging, and as long as you aren’t a snob yourself, then interesting people are welcomed in on equal terms.”
“Even my family, though we weren’t exactly rich, we had been important in our little corner of the world for generations.” Juliette smiled. “You grow up secure in who you and your people are and were, it makes you accommodating of others.”
“So with Erica going to St Angela’s...then that was my point of contact, and I got invited in because you liked me?” Denice tried to get her head round the idea.
“Believe it or not, it is as simple as that Denice.” Pussy laughed.
“Wow – just wow…”
“See – that’s how I reacted,” April said as Emma finished her drink, “especially after that Halloween party.”
“Well, thanks, I think,” Denice said. “Wow – these look amazing.”
“Dig in everyone,” Juliette said as the dim sum was laid out.
“So tell me,” Pussy said, “has Erica settled well?”
“She seems to have – although some of the local girls have been giving her a little bit of trouble.”
“One of them called Rochelle?”
“Yeah – oh no, don’t tell me they bothered her and Ama yesterday?”
“I take it she didn’t tell you?”
Denice shook her head as Caroline ate a piece of prawn toast. “Don’t worry – from what Ama told me, she told the young lady a few home truths about poverty and what it really can be.”
“From what I’ve heard, she really does know what poverty is,” Denice said, “and then there’s the Ashley girl?”
“Poppy? Did you hear what happened to her and her mother,” Kelly Rochermann said as she finished a paper prawn.
“Yeah – same people that visited poor Allison Graham. I guess we’re lucky they seem to have come through it.”
“I’m not sure they have yet,” Grace said, “I think they’re behaving like Ashleys.”
“Sorry,” Heather said as she stopped laughing, “kid’s show from when I was a teenager. Carry on.”
“You’re our resident expert on the Ashleys Grace,” Juliette said, “any thoughts.”
“Well, based on a conversation I had with Pippa, we need to go back a generation.”
“Were it not always thus,” Sandy said as she looked round the ladies.
mother, Lady Ashley was nouveau riche, and very snobbish.” Grace waited as the waitress ladled the soup
into her bowl, before continuing “at first she was keen on me and Pip being
friends at school - I guess because my grandfather was a viscount, but when she
learned I couldn't really do anything socially for Pip, she began to dislike
Poppy inherits her snobbery from her mother and her grandmother Grace?"
so,” Grace said as she wiped her chin. “Lady
Ashley was always aware that her husband had basically made his fortune in
scrap metal, and that he'd been knighted because of his friendship with certain
lacked that security we were talking about Grace." Juliette reminded her.
and Poppy, who should be secure, have this nagging doubt that was the old lady
inside their heads. They need to express superiority to feel secure."
Grace drank her wine.
other words, they need to stop being snobs?"
"Exactly right Denice darling." Mandy said as she topped up peoples glasses. “But until she realizes that, all we can do is show her the error of her ways.”
“Just so I have this right,” Denice said, “Sandy, Caroline, Diana, Janice, Juliette, all single mums like you and me right?”
“That’s right – Ken, Karen’s husband, is minding the fort in Boston, while Duncan McKinnon is with their kids as well.”
“Talking of which,” Pussy said, “I have a little announcement to make. I told Liz as well as Mum and Dad last night, so now the rest of you can find out.”
“Oh Goddess,” Juliette said, “Is Frieda…?”
“Yes – ten weeks.”
“Well, that is reason for a toast,” Heather said as she made sure everyone’s glass was filled. “To the new van Roon!”
“Thank you,” Pussy said with a smile, “and Frieda would like you in particular, Tasha and Karen, to know that she now faces purgatory as well.”
“And another one bites the dust,” Sandy said as she shook her head.
Mandy, your husband?" Denice asked.
home with his beloved pigs darling..."
another inside joke or something?" Denice looked from face to face.
the truth," Karen laughed. "Will breeds prize pigs on their
joke lies in which he loves more...me or the pigs darling."
dear," Denice giggled. "Now I think I get it."
"Mandy may actually come way down the list, they have four children as well." Alice joined in the laughter.
“One of whom is coming over here at the expense of his studies, I would remind you,” Mandy said as she looked round the table.
“Their oldest son is Pepsi’s boyfriend,” April said, “he’s kind of a surprise present for her. Her next oldest is a student at Yale, and dating Rachel’s daughter – the one who is doing the organ recital.”
“It’s going to be some sweet sixteen party, isn’t it?”
I'm late everyone..."
The table looked up as the tall auburn haired woman came in, her bump showing under her top.
meet Gale Callaghan, her husband is an FBI Supervisor." Sandy made the
boss." Jan smiled as she hugged the pregnant woman.
"Hi." Denice raised a hand.
"All this lovely wine, and you know I can't..." Gale glared at her friends as she sat down.
was in the same position earlier this year." Tasha answered, "And I
don't remember a lot of sympathy for me, Susan, and Karen."
"Okay...point taken." Gale slipped into a chair, "Evian water please," she spoke to the waiter.
“At least you made it for the Peking Duck,” Diana said as the pancakes and other items were laid out.
“So what’s the topic of conversation,” Gale said as she sat herself down.
“Snobs,” Juliette said as she passed the pancakes round, “and why some people think they have to be one to be noticed.”
“Sounds familiar – when I was in High School, apart from the usual cliqueiness of the cheerleaders and jocks, there was one particular girl who felt she had to lord it over everybody. Her dad was one of the local politicos, and she used to revel in the status that afforded her.”
“A real drama queen then,” Heather said as she bit into her pancake.
“Well, naturally she had to be the chair of the Prom committee, and naturally she demanded that everyone attend in their finest dresses and tuxes, made sure the decorations were exactly the way she wanted them to be, and generally took charge of everything. Come the night, she arrived with her date in a long limousine, and was certain she was going to be the prom queen.”
“So what happened,” Sandy said as the plates were cleared away.
“Well – you remember when Jo was elected Prom Queen at St Angela’s this year?”
Heather nodded as Gale said “well, in our year there was a unanimous vote as well – for a sweet girl named Betsy Conner, who had spent the entire year helping her fellow classmates on the quiet, while looking after an invalid parent. Even this girl’s so called friends had voted for Betsy, and the look on her face was so priceless as Betsy was crowned it will stay with me forever.”
The table looked at each other and then burst out laughing.
“Proms – still a foreign concept to me,” Barbara said, “but I do remember two boys in my class at school. They lived in different parts of town – one in the new estate on the edge of town, one on the same council estate as me. Andrew – the boy on the posh estate – had a father who worked in the civil service, and certainly in those days if you worked in the civil service, you carried yourself with a certain sense of superiority.”
“What about the other kid?”
“Mike? Nice guy – one of a family of seven, quiet, shy, reserved, but if you took the time to get to know him, you found out he had a very dry sense of humour and was a very caring person. He was very bright, but – and I mean this in the literal sense – useless at sport in a school where sporting prowess was revered. So he was the obvious targets for bullies and the like – and Andrew was one of the worst.
“Mike was also one of the few guys not dating any girl – which brought a whole new set of accusations. Anyway, this went on for a few years, Andrew taunting Mike at every opportunity he could, and Mike not protesting once. So naturally Andrew kept doing it, because he felt he had the god-given right to do so – not helped by the fact Mike could out-perform virtually everyone at school in science and maths.”
“Hmm,” Mandy said as she put her glass down, “that says more about both of them than you think. Why on earth did Mike not fight back?”
“He didn’t know how to is the short answer – he had family troubles at home, which contributed to his shyness. I did get to know him, and saw some of what he grew up in – so I knew where he was coming from. But Andrew’s need to attack him came from that same sense of insecurity and superiority you are talking about with the Ashley's.
“Anyway, one day we were in a careers day with a guidance counselor, and they mentioned that the civil service covered a variety of sins. He then pointed to Andrew, and the fact his dad worked in the government – and then to Mike, whose father was what’s called a Royal Park Constable, a special policeman if you like, and said his father was also a civil servant.
“Well, that went down like a lead balloon with Andrew – I believe psychologists call it a blow to the gut of the ego – to be put on the same level as Mike through their dads. As for Mike – he just smiled and shook his head. What only a few of us knew was that his dad was a war hero – fought in ’44 through Europe, saw some things men should not see – and like his dad, Mike had a very quiet courage which meant he refused to take advantage of a blow like that.”
“So what happened to both of them in the end,” Juliette said.
“Last I heard, Andrew was a low ranking civil servant – Mike got a doctorate, and now works for a large multinational firm, coaching and bringing on new staff. He’s married with kids, Andrew is divorced. Wonder who got the better deal?”
The Brewster Brownstone
“All right,” Jeannie said as Nikki dropped the leather bound volumes on the coffee table, “Complete Style magazine from the Gangster era. Read them and weep, girls.”
“Wow – living history,” Doc said as she began to flip through the magazines, “we could always use the dresses we wore to Curragh?”
“Those of us who were there, yes,” Pepsi said, “but we don’t need to, and not all of us were there.”
“Yeah – what is Curragh,” Erica said as she sat with Jess, Dawn and Lynn. The girls were all wearing sweatshirts with jeans or leggings.
“It’s a big old house out on the island that Nessa Richmond – Sandy Richmond’s mother – owns. A whole bunch of us spent the Easter weekend up there this year, and had a lot of fun.”
“What my friend is forgetting to tell you,” Jeannie said as she poked Becca, “is that it was a Roaring Twenties themed night, so we have some flapper dresses – but I want to try something different this time.”
“I can imagine – just have a look at some of these,” Jess said as she flipped through the magazines. “You collect these Jeannie?”
“Oh yes – have done for years,” Jeannie said as she picked up a slice of pizza, “so please, don’t eat and read…”
“Alex has already managed to persuade his dad to let him borrow an old suit of his,” Ama said as she sipped her drink, “and I have a very particular idea in mind.”
“This sort of thing is amazing,” Dawn said, “and some of it so classic, you can put it together with modern clothes.”
“That’s the idea – after all, Ma Parker could be seen as a gangster as well,” Doc said. “So anyone fancy grouping up?”
“I’m in,” Jeannie said, “House can’t make it back for this, so – say, how do you think the pussycats would look if they were around at the time?”
“Hmm – worth thinking about,” Becca said as she looked at Nikki.
“Well, clothes aside – what about jewels?”
“Depends, looking at these magazines – if dressed to party, lots of beads and low hanging earrings. But for everyday wear, they would wear rings over their gloves, of bracelets. Farmer’s Market can help with a lot of that.”
“Pin-stripes, big hats, scarves tastefully tied,” Erica said. “What about you Jess?”
“Tricky – after all, my home country had a civil war going on at the time, but I can see what I can do.”
“All right – so does everyone have an idea of what they want to wear?”
The room nodded as Jeannie said “Good – now for homework. Doc, put the player on will you?”
“What have you got?”
“Chicago and White Heat…”
about furs?" asked Erica.
all given minks as Christmas presents from Miss Thomas last year." Pepsi
think she'd let me borrow one?"
but if I know her you ask, then she will give you one." Jeannie smiled.
have in mind going as a singer from the Cotton Club, you know, gown, gloves,
"Oooh sounds great." Nikki spoke.
“Pity you haven’t got that Jeans – it’s a great film.”
“I’ll need to try and find it,” Jeannie said as Catherine Zeta-Jones started to sing.
anyone else got any ideas?”
getting the slinkiest, tightest, sexiest gown I can find," Doc grinned,
"long gloves, highest heels, my hair up....early fifties film noir
you warned Chet?"
warned the married ladies Jeans?" Becca giggled.
the idea girls,” Doc said with a smile, “so hot no man in the place will take
his eyes off me."
"Someone must definitely warn Chet then." Pepsi laughed.
"Did you ever see the pictures of Abs as Clyde and Carina as Bonnie. I think they are planning to do that again." Jeannie looked up from a book.
“No – have you got them?”
“Oh yes – hang on, it’s over here,” Jeannie said as she went to the bookcase, and brought the bound collection from 2014 over. “Here we go – look at that.”
“Wow – that’s a look. Think we could do that,” Dawn said as she looked at Jess.
“Possibly – if I get used to heels, and you wear flats.”
Friday 18th September
“Come,” Shirley said, looking up as Susan walked into her office.
“Good morning Madame,” she said quietly as she handed a slim manila folder over, “the morning report.”
“Thank you,” Shirley said as she glanced over it, and then laid it to one side. “Well you certainly left a message.” Madame glanced down at the Post and the Daily News on her desk.
“It seems to have had the desired effect,” Susan smiled. “Our collectors are saying that our ‘customers’ are practically throwing the cash at them.”
“Well as long as they all got the message then I’m satisfied.” Shirley adjusted her glasses, “did you…?”
“Eradicate all the evidence? Yes we did Madame. Everything was incinerated, and the car was torched and destroyed by Clint personally.”
“Good,” Madame smiled.
“As you can probably guess by reading between the lines in the papers, Annie went to town on his corpse.”
“I could tell, the details while veiled in words were fairly clear to me…” Shirley looked at the text, before she said “and did you work out some of your itches?”
“I did,” Susan said with a grin, “my knuckledusters did just what they were designed to do.”
“You know,” Shirley said as she sat back, “I look at both you and Annie Susan, you both look like slightly mousey little women, if I didn’t know better I’d never suspect either of you was capable such a thing as this.”
“And as long as people keep believing that, then I am quite happy,” it was Susan’s turn to smile.
“Now to other business…Did you?”
“Indeed – the money has been funneled to the required charities, and last we heard Master Metz was in hiding.”
“Excellent – and the Los Angeles situation?”
“Madeline will brief you at two, but the records are being passed to the authorities via the Hidden Hand and Janice.”
As Annie sat at her desk, eating her lunch, she noticed the flashing icon on her laptop screen and pressed on it.
“Hi lover,” she said as she saw Carina in her rooms at New Haven, Judith on her lap.
“Hey Monster Lady,” Carina said, “I see you made the newspapers?”
“Did I? Is our track team that famous?”
“You know damn well you did,” Carina, said, “you don’t think I can recognize your work even from a police statement my Love?”
“Just let me lock the classroom door…”
“Okay,” Carina replied as Annie disappeared for a moment, locking the door before she re-appeared, “So why?”
“Someone wasn’t paying for Madame’s protection,” Annie sat back in her chair, “Susan and I had to teach others who might have tried to imitate him a lesson.”
“Oh it was you and Susan eh?”
“Yes she worked him over with those brass knuckles of hers. The one problem was she did too good a job. I barely got any fun before he pegged it.”
“I know…Tell me about it.” Annie paused and then said “So what else are you doing?”
“Working hard, I’ve joined a German language group to try and improve my conversational German so I can read more original texts.”
“Running with the team, I need make a decision tonight on who runs Saturday, and who sits this one out.”
“It must suck for the girls who get left out.”
“I know, but I can promise them they will all run the weekend after against Girls Grammar and Westside…I can rest most of my aces and we will still win that meet easily.”
“Way to go.” Cari smiled and high fived the computer screen.
“Waytaga.” Judith added her approval.
“Why thank you both,” Annie said with a smile, “nice to know I’m on the right track.”
There was a knock on the door, and Annie heard Grace say “Annie, got a minute?”
“I need to go – I’ll see you both on Sunday.”
“You got it,” Cari said as Judith waved goodbye.
“Sorry,” Annie said as she unlocked the door and let Grace in, “private matter to deal with. What can I do for you?”
E 52nd Street Diner
“So any news from San Antonio?” Heather asked as she put a slice of ham into her mouth.
“Why do you even ask Heather?” Jan said as she took a bite from her hot dog and wiped her chin, “I’m willing to bet you see the traffic before I do.”
“Yes you Miss Van Gogh.”
“Alright,” Heather said with a grin, “I do get to see certain things, but even I don’t have your phones tapped, and I just wondered if you got any calls?”
“No nothing.” Janice shook her head. “Texas Rangers have cleared all her johns, they are working to see if they can find any other motives.”
“Could it really just be some nutcase with a rifle and a telescopic sight?”
“Yeah,” Jan said as she looked round, “random killers like that are the damn variable in any police investigation, you look for motives, and it’s damn hard if there isn’t an obvious one.”
“Like trying to catch psychotic bank robbers who leave no traces eh?”
“You might say that Heather.”
“Okay. So how are plans going for the sweet 16?”
“Well there seems to have been a detailed conference at Barb’s last night, and I have a request...no maybe a demand, from Katy to take her shopping.”
“I just hope she and Sandy don’t get into a permanent rift over this.” Heather sighed. “Poor Sandy in many ways is still so much younger, she really doesn’t get that Katy and George are growing up.”
“By the way, did George Senior have that chat with Junior?”
“Yes, I think he covered it all.” Heather took a drink, before she said “told him that one day he and Katy might want to do something, etc.”
“Good - well as long as it’s not someday soon,” Jan said as she ate a fry, “my daughter is growing up far too fast, and the last thing she needs as yet is a sex life.”
“I know.” Heather finished her meal. “And as for you and Adam?”
“Our business, Miss Smith,” Jan said with a grin.
“Well, that’s Fashion Week done for another season in New York,” Anna Mitchell said as she, Mary and Juliette walked back to the office, “got your plans for London and Paris sorted out?”
“Fiona’s people are handling London again this year,” Juliette said as she glanced round before stepping into the road, “But I’m heading over to Paris for most of that week. Diana’s coming over with me, to sort out the details for Abby and Angel for Le Bal.”
“When is it?”
“November 21st,” Juliette said as they reached the other sidewalk and approached the entrance to the offices, “they would fly back in time for Thanksgiving, although I suspect Memories may have…”
“Are you Juliette Huntingdown?”
“I am,” Juliette said as she squatted down to talk to the young girl – and then heard the sound as the bullet passed over her head and hit the wall.
“Get down,” she heard Mary shout as she pushed Anna to the ground, and the girl’s mother screaming as Juliette covered the young girl with her own body, and a second bullet hit the wall.
“Stay down,” she heard a police officer shout.
“You all right,” she whispered to the girl before she was lifted by two officers and hustled into the lobby, the girl and her mother following with Mary and Anna.
“Did someone just shoot at us,” Mary breathed as security closed down the main entrance.
Juliette just shook her head as she looked at the girl. “Sorry about that,” she said as she tried to smile, “what can I do for you?”
“I wanted to ask for your autograph,” the girl said with a tremor of fear in her voice, “but what happened?”
“Don’t worry, you and your mum are safe,” Anna said as a police officer came in.
“You ladies all right?”
“A bit scared but we’re unharmed,” Mary said, “what happened?”
“No idea,” he said as the lift doors opened and Janine ran out.
“Juliette, are you all right?”
“We’re fine,” she said, “look, can you take this girl and her mother and get her a drink upstairs? Officer, my assistant will make sure they’re safe and don’t go until they talk to one of you, but…”
The officer looked at the young girl and nodded as Janine said “Come on up with me – I’ll get you both a drink and give you a chance to get yourselves together.”
As she took the mother and daughter to the lift, the door to the building opened as Janice Carter and Adam Ball came in.
“What happened, Officer,” Janice said as she flashed her ID at the office.
“Someone shot at these ladies from across the street – we’ve got officers searching the buildings opposite now, and CSI are on the way down.”
Adam looked at Anna, Juliette and Mary, before he said “You three all right?”
“We’re fine, Adam,” Juliette said, “what about anyone else outside?”
“No wounded,” the officer said as Anna started to shake.
“Oh god,” she whispered as she slowly sat on the floor, “first that Kerry, and now this?”
The officer looked at Adam, who said “a sniper killing in San Antonio. We may need to talk to you guys when you get some ballistics and other information.”
“I’ll get them to call your office. We need to talk to you ladies.”
“We can go up to our offices upstairs – is that all right?”
The officer nodded as they went to the lift.
“I’ll stay with Anna,” Mary said as they walked to her office, while Adam said “I’ll go with them.”
Jan and Juliette walked to her office, Jan closing the door and looking at her friend as she sat by the coffee table.
“You don’t think…”
“I don’t know – and won’t until we get the forensics, but…”
Her phone ringing made Ju stand up, as she walked over to answer it.
“Juliette, it’s Diana – I saw the news. Were you…”
“I can’t talk now Diana,” Juliette said as Adam knocked and came in, “we’ll all talk later.”
“Understood,” Diana said as she ended the call, only for the phone to ring again.
“Klaus, I’m fine – and tell the girls and Sigi I am fine as well please. I’ll see you all in a little while.”
As she put the phone down, Janine came in with three mugs of coffee.
“Thanks,” Juliette said as they each took one, “how are the girl and her mother?”
“The police are talking to her now – look, Juliette,” Jan said, “we can’t rule out the possibility this and the killing in San Antonio are linked, because of the common thread.”
Carina smiled as Judith held up her rag doll, with the Angels hoodie on, and made her dance from side to side.
“That’s very clever, Ju…”
“Cari switch on the TV!” Judy screamed as she came in from her bedroom.
“Someone took some shots at your Mom…”
“They did WHAT?” Carina said as she dived for the remote, and switched channels.
“…and that WNBC can confirm that two shots were fired into a group of women outside of the offices of Complete Style magazine, narrowly missing famed fashion writer and model Juliette Huntingdown among others…”
“Oh dear Goddess,” Carina snatched Judith up from the floor and hugged her close.
“I’m sure she’ll be all right,” Judy said as she sat down, and then Cari took out her cell phone.
“Cari? It’s Jo. What the hell happened?”
“I’ve no idea – I just saw the news myself. Have you called Abby?”
“She’ll still be in class. I’ll call you when I find out more.”
“Okay – we’ll talk later,” Cari, said as she ended the call, and dialed home.
“Pops? Tell me she’s all right?
“Oh Goddess, she’s safe,” she said as he looked at Judy, “Do you need me to come home?
“All right – but tell her to call me the second she gets in.”
“Madame there is something you need to hear.” Susan said as she came into Shirley’s office.
“What,” Shirley said as Susan turned on the television she had on the shelf
“…eyewitness reports say that shots were fired this afternoon into a crowd outside the offices of Conde Nast Publishing close to Times Square…narrowly missing several senior members of staff on Complete Style Magazine, including editor Anna Mitchell, and writer and model Juliette Huntingdown…”
“Oh Goddess!” the colour drained from Shirley’s face, “has Dominque…?”
“I have Madame…”
“Right - Work all our sources please Susan, and have Dominique call me. This sniper just became OUR business.”
“She’s on line 2, Madame.”
Picking up the phone, Shirley said “Dominique?”
“I have the feelers out Madame – and I will talk with Heather in a very short while. I suggest a chat with Tommy the Fish sooner rather than later as well.”
“I concur – call at the apartment later, and we will talk.”
Ending the call, Shirley said “We will solve this now.”
The Richmond Mansion
“I know, I heard on the news and from Jan,” Heather said as Caroline came in, “I’ve already got a search running on who sells the ammo used in the San Antonio shooting locally, and Tommy’s trying to find out which snipers known for this sort of thing are in the area. We’ll talk with him later.”
“Good – I’ve asked my contacts in the forces for any details of former snipers who are in this line of work. Once we have that, we can cross check, see if any are in the area.”
“Okay – for now, let’s just…”
“Is it true?”
“Is what true,” Heather said as April came in the back door.
“That someone shot at Juliette and Mary this afternoon?”
“Apparently – and yes, they’re all fine. Jan’s with them, and I talked to her a little while ago.”
“Why would anyone want to shoot at her?”
“There’s a lot of crazy people out there,” Caroline said as Heather started to make the coffee, and smiled at Elaine Colman as she came in.
“Some day,” she said as she sat down, “so what’s the gossip?”
Looking at the other three, she said “what?”
“Haven’t you heard the news today?”
“Never listen to it when I’m showing clients round – why?”
“Someone took potshots at Juliette this afternoon.”
Elaine looked at them, and then said “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“Yeah – they’re fine, if a bit shaken up. Jan and Adam are talking to them now.”
“We heard,” Barbara and Denice said as they came in, followed by Emma.
“Who would do something like that?”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Look,” Juliette said as she looked at Klaus, Sigi and Ingrid, “I am fine. New York is a city with more that its fair share of crazies – and I think this was just one of them.”
“Still, Juliette,” Dieter said as he sipped his drink, “it was a shock to hear what had happened when I arrived.”
“I appreciate that, but I am fine,” Juliette said as she sat with Klaus. “And I am going to keep doing the things I was doing.”
“Juliette,” Jan said as she stood with Adam, while Tom was talking on the phone, “I relay think you should stay here for a few days, lie low…”
“No,” Juliette said as she put her glass down, “I refuse to let this interfere with my Life Jan. I am GOING to see Judy and the Yale students perform Handel tomorrow.”
“I refuse to be intimidated by someone who does their killing at long range.”
“Juliette,” Adam said quietly, “you, Mary, Anna, all of you might have been the target today.”
“And we are all going to see Judy perform Adam, just like we have promised her.”
“Ju!” Jan shouted.
“It’s no use Jan,” Juliette said as she stood up, “I will not back out on seeing a girl who I have known virtually all her life filling the spotlight…and besides you both know I love Handel.”
“Klaus,” Adam said, “can you talk some sense into her?”
“I gave up trying years ago Adam.”
“Klaus you know I’m going.” Juliette’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “I will not be frightened.”
“Can we do her a bullet proof gown?”
“Klaus don’t be dense, you know very well I’m wearing that blue dress I bought just for this.”
“Tom, she will not listen to reason,” Adam looked at his superior as he approached.
“Good – because if she hides, whoever this is has won. Juliette, we want you there – because whoever this bastard is, we’re going to get them.”
“See – the only way this can end is if we show we’re not afraid. Now, having said that, we’re not travelling there alone.”
As the apartment bell rang, Dieter went to answer it, returning with Caroline and George.
“Are you all right, Juliette,” Caroline said as she hugged her friend,
“I’m fine – and thanks for agreeing to do this for me,” Juliette said quietly.
“We’re going to shadow Juliette every step of the way tomorrow – along with you I suspect Tom.”
“Agreed – full cooperation?”
Caroline nodded as Juliette said “See – we’re going to be perfectly safe. Now, I for one…”
Sigi went to answer the telephone and said “Hello?
“Aunt Natalya,” she whispered as she handed the handset to Klaus, and walked to join the others.
“Let’s talk in here,” Caroline said as she and Juliette headed to the kitchen. Closing the door, she looked at her friend and said “Really, how are you?”
“Worried for Anna more than me – any word on Ed?”
“Heather’s tracing him – he’s apparently travelling as Ed Warren. He was in Boulder, but left this morning.”
“New York – I have to go, an appointment to keep. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
The New Calabria
“Hey Tommy,” Annie called out, “we needs the barrel changing on the beer.”
“Gotcha, Annie,” Tommy said as he served the two whiskies, “youse gals gonna be okay out here?”
“Come on lover,” Annie said as she held Tammy, “the girls are coping, you go and get the beer flowing.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Tommy said with a grin as he made his way to the back of the bar, and turned the light on, looking at the feeds from the barrels.
“Okays, which of youse guys are runnin’ dry,” he said to himself as he looked along the line.
“Third from the left, Tommy.”
Smiling, he turned round to see the tall woman in the fitted jacket and trousers, her blue scarf tied as a cravat in the front of the jacket, and the stocking mask holding down her black hair.
“Miss Civet – you said youse would be calling round tonight,” Tommy said as he unscrewed the feed, and moved the barrel before attaching a new one, the Pussycat watching the whole time.
“Give me a minute to tell em it’s fixed,” he said as he disappeared to the main bar, and then returned. “So, what can I do for youse?”
“As I said earlier,” Miss Civet said quietly, “the shooting at the offices of Complete Style are of concern to Miss Lioness – it’s the third time someone she knows has been shot at by a sniper in the last week, and she is grateful no one was killed this time?”
“Dis time? So someone’s died already?”
Miss Civet nodded as she stood up. “Therefore, Miss Lioness is eager to ensure it does not happen again. Hence my reaching out to you – what have you managed to find out?”
“Well,” Tommy said as he sat on the empty barrel, “the ammo you described – very specialized. Used only by ex-Forces, usually Marines. Da good news for youse is only one person in the city handles dat supply – McTork, over in Queens. I’ll give you his address, so long as it doesn’t come back to me.”
“You have my promise,” Miss Civet said as she smiled under the mask. “And the other matter?”
“Now dat’s more interesting,” Tommy said. “Like I said, de way dis guy worked today suggests ex-Forces – and long range sniper at that. Only a couple of dem in New Yewrk at the moment. They both work as enforcers – talk to McTork, see if he gives a name dat matches the ones on dat list.”
Miss Civet looked at the paper and said “thank you Tommy – most helpful.”
“Can I ask a question?”
Miss Civet looked over as Tommy said “Why dese ladies?”
“That is indeed the question Tommy – we will be in touch. For now, Annie will be wondering where you are.”
Saturday 19th September
9am Local Time
Opening the door to the hotel gym, Natalya looked at Helen as she sat on the bench, taking a drink from a bottle of water.
“Okay Helen, what is so damn important?”
“My apologies – did I wake you?”
“No,” Natalya said quietly. She was mildly irritated at being summoned to the gym like this.
“Someone took a potshot at Juliette Huntingdown this morning…important enough?”
“Oh crap yes… Forgive me,” Natalya said as she sat next to Helen, “Is she?”
“She’s fine, but we have to consider - could it be related to what we are doing out here?”
“I want to think not, but it might explain some chatter we heard…”
Natalya looked down as she said “Chatter on the communication network. Something that is called Operation Oitsumeru.”
“That means nothing…”
“Translated into English Helen, it means Operation Hunt Down…”
“Mā de!” Helen swore. “We need to consult with Catherine, now.”
“Agreed – and I will consult with Tanaka. And we must do so now – something is very wrong here.”
8 am Local Time
“Message for you Mother.”
“Oh Fuck!” Charlotte went pale as the radio operator passed her the message while they sat eating.
“Bad news?” asked Liz.
“Yes, but of a personal nature, someone tried to kill a friend of mine yesterday in New York.”
“Is she connected…?”
“Very, very indirectly, but this I am sure doesn’t relate to us.”
“New York is full of crazies.” Leader looked up from her food.
“How good a friend is she Charlotte?” Liz asked.
“Extremely close, I know her, her daughter, her granddaughter, most of her social circle.”
“That is a close friend.” Leader nodded. “And from all this distance there is nothing you can do but worry.”
“Yes.” Charlotte looked skyward uttering a small prayer.
“I’ve always known Juliette as a brave woman – you don’t bring up a daughter by yourself if you’re not – but I’m still worried about her.”
“I know,” Shirley said as she sat opposite John, “but you’ve known her longer than I have. Would anyone really want to try and kill her?”
“I don’t see who or why,” John said, “but we can’t take any chances. We’re still going tonight, right?”
“Yes we are,” Shirley said as she looked at her cell phone. “But I need to go into the office for an hour to take care of something.” Standing up, she said “can you meet me there at eleven thirty – we’re having lunch with Juliette and Klaus before we all head up.”
John nodded and smiled as Shirley headed for the shower, and drank some more of his coffee.
“All right,” Shirley said, “what have we done so far?”
“We have people watching both Anna and Mary – discretely,” Susan said, “and George is keeping an eye on Juliette. Dom?”
“Diana is going to pay a visit to McTork this morning, and Heather…”
“Heather is trying to track down Ed Mitchell. Until one of them reports in, we are in a protective pattern.”
“Madame,” Susan said as she looked at her screen, “I have Catherine on the line.”
“Catherine,” Shirley said as she looked at the screen, “how is progress?”
“Slow – but this is about Juliette. Do you know anything of something called Operation Oitsumeru?”
Shirley sat back and said “No, I cannot say I have. What is it?”
“Apparently it is something to do with a Yakusa contingency plan – Natalya is trying to find out more. We don’t think it has anything to do with what is happening there, but you need to be informed.”
“Thank you Catherine – if you hear anything, contact me on my personal number.”
Looking round the table, Madame said “I want reports hourly. Go to it.”
Hobart William Smith
“Right girls – take on some water, keep moving, first race in thirty minutes.”
As Jo stretched her legs, she heard her cell phone go off, and fetched it from the pocket of her track suit top.
“Hey Carina,” she said as she answered, “How’s Judy feeling?”
“Nervous as hell – David’s taken her out for the day to take her mind off the concert.”
“And how are you?”
“Nervous for different reasons. I’ll be a lot happy when they all get here this afternoon.”
“I’m sure your mom is taking every possible precaution, and according to Sandy Jan, Adam, Caroline and George are watching her every step of the way.”
“I know – but… Anyway, when are you getting here? When does your race start?”
Glancing at her watch, Jo smiled and said, “My race is at midday Cari, plenty of time afterwards then for Curt and I to drive down for the concert.”
“Just be careful Jo,” Cari said, “if this is Ed Mitchell and he has lost his marbles then who knows who he might target next.”
“I know, we will be extra careful.”
“So switching to the race, what kind of run will please you?”
“If I can finish in the top 20, and the top three freshmen, then I’ll know I didn’t have such a bad day.”
“Well fingers crossed…”
“Did Annie and the team getaway on time?”
“Bright and early, Annie fretted all night I heard from Caroline, tossing and turning, and calling out instructions to runners in her sleep.”
“That sounds like Coach.” Jo giggled. “Well I’d better head out to the course, Coach has called a team huddle before we run, so I better get over there.”
“Okay best of luck and see you tonight.”
Jo ended the call and started to jog to the start area, smiling to herself.
“This – looks fun,” Brooke Paget said as she looked out across the sand dunes. “An interesting course.”
“Tell me about it,” Sarah said as she stood next to Annie, “I think I’ll stick to soccer thanks. Reminds me too much of training on beaches for tournaments.”
Ashley Adams and Beth Abrahams looked along the coast, mentally plotting their race as a brown haired girl did some runs along the road.
“All right Angels,” Brooke called out, “come together.”
As the other three joined Brooke and Phillipa Connery, Annie looked at all of them.
“Right girls – This is a different race, and a tough one, but what do we say to that?”
“Good,” the team said as one.
“And why is that good?”
“Because we’re Angels!”
“That’s right – so start the warm up, keep hydrated, and do us proud,” Annie said as Brooke said “right Angels, let’s do this!”
McTork Supplies, Queens
Angus McTork was a big man, standing behind the counter of his store and towering over most of the customers who drifted in and out. He offered wholesale discount on cleaning materials and supplies to all customers – and a very special supply of items to the more discerning of customers.
“Aye, that’ll do it fer ye,” he said in his broad Aberdeen accent as he showed the two women out, and then locked the door. He had received word that a special client was coming in search of particular supplies, and the source that had passed the message on had promised him privacy would be appreciated in the deal.
As he walked into the rear of his building, he checked again the contents of the cabinets and stores. Everything was ready, everything was in place…
“Good morning, Mr. McTork.”
He turned suddenly at the sound of the deep voice, to see a dark haired woman standing there, wearing a pair of black leather trousers and a fitted jacket over a black jumper, ankle boots and gloves. A large pair of dark glasses covered her eyes, as she seemed to be watching his every move,
“You the lady who called this morning?”
“I am,” she said as she walked over to one cabinet, and ran a gloved hand down the rifles. “I was referred to you as someone who would be able to help me obtain certain – items.”
“You never said who referred you?”
“No – I didn’t,” the woman said, “he wanted to be sure his superiors at West Point did not hear about his – extra curricular activities.”
“Hmm,” McTork said quietly, “if you came alone, either you’re the bravest lass I’ve ever met, or the stupidest.”
“Oh who said I came alone?”
McTork noticed the incredibly tall woman who appeared from the doorway, dressed identically, as she stood by the door.
“Okay – what are you looking for?”
“A particular rifle – USMC Sniper issue. I wish to do a particular form of hunting.”
“Well, step over here,” McTork said as he walked to one cabinet, “these may be of interest to you.”
“Ah – the M40A5,” the woman said as she held the rifle, and looked through the sights, “much call for this these days?”
“From particular clients, yes,” McTork said as he watched her put it to his shoulder. “I see you are someone who knows how to handle these things?”
“I have some experience – ammunition?”
“Sole supplier in the area,” McTork said, “What do you need?”
“Answers,” the woman said as she looked at McTork, “namely, who have you supplied in the last week?”
“You better not be a fed, Bi…”
McTork groaned as the woman drove the butt of the rifle into his gut, sinking to the ground as the second woman walked over and put her arm round his neck, pulling him back.
“Let me make this simple,” the woman said as she lifted his head up, “We’re going to read some names, and you just tell us if you have seen them recently.”
“Go to hell, Feds!”
“We’re not feds – we’re not police,” the woman behind him said as she pressed her arm on his larynx, “We’re no form of law enforcement.”
“Then who the hell are you?”
“We’re Pussycats,” the woman said as she looked into his eyes, “you know who we are now, don’t you?”
“Oh shit,” McTork said as there was the sound of water flowing to the ground.
“And here’s the thing,” the woman behind him said, “someone tried to hurt a friend of ours, and has killed someone known to us, with the type of weapon and the ammunition your supply – so answer my friend’s questions.”
“Let’s start with an easy one,” the woman said as she reached into her jacket, and pulled out a pistol with a silencer on her. “Ed Mitchell or Ed Warren?”
“Go to SSHITTTTT!”
The first bullet passed through his leg, as the woman snarled “A little respect, shithead. Do you recognize any of those names?”
“No – should I?”
“We will continue,” the woman said, “and if I do not like your answers, your kneecaps are next. Vincenzo Morizio?”
“Get stuffed.” He then screamed as a bullet went through his left kneecap.
“Answer the question?”
“No – for Christ sake No…”
McTork hesitated for a moment, as the woman looked at her partner.
“Richard Cabe, McTork…?”
The third bullet shattered his other kneecap as he screamed “YES!!!!”
“He… He came ten days ago, told me he had a job and needed ammo. Something about forcing some money guy who had welshed on the family out of hiding. I sold him the ammo – but that’s all. If I had known…”
“Do not worry, McTork,” the woman said as her companion stood back, “he will never know you gave him up.”
“What are you…?”
The shot made his head snap back before he fell to the ground, his empty eyes staring into space. The two women walked out of the rear entrance and into the waiting black car.
As the taller woman drove off, her partner took out a cell phone.
“Heather? Diana. Richard Cabe – inform Jan and see what you can find.”
“We’d better get home mom,” Abby said quietly, “we need to change before Aunt Natasha and Uncle Willy arrive.
“Agreed – and I wish to talk to Shirley as well.”
The Richmond Mansion
“There you go,” Sandy said as she handed Orlanda a mug of coffee, “Sandy and George should be down in a few minutes.”
“No rush – Mister Graham will not be home with Jennifer for another two hours yet,” the young Irish woman said as she sipped her drink.
“It’s good of you to agree to watch them both tonight,” Sandy said as she sat down, “I’m not sure what time we will get back from Yale tonight, and given both my mother and uncle are going…”
“As I said, Miss Richmond…”
“Orlanda, please – it’s Sandy.”
“As I said, Sandy,” Orlanda replied with a blush, “it is no problem.”
“Well, just steer clear of the subject of other girls, please – particularly Katy Carter, if you wish to avoid a fight.”
“George is sweet on Katy, Sandy hasn’t quite caught up with the idea yet,” Sandy said as Heather came in.
“Hey, Orlanda,” she said as she poured herself a mug of coffee, “how are things going?”
“I hear I have to avoid girl talk tonight?”
“If you want a quiet night, yup,” Heather said as she took a drink, and then took her cell phone out.
“Jo asking if I can bring something up,” Heather said with a smile, “excuse me a minute.”
“We’re here,” Little Sandy said as she brought her bag in, George following behind.
“Right then,” Orlanda said with a smile, “let’s get going.”
“See you tomorrow, mom,” Little Sandy said as she and George followed Orlanda out of the house, Heather standing with Sandy as they waved them off.
“So who was that really?”
“An automated alert – I’ve been running a check on the name Diana dug up, and he has been working as an enforcer. Maybe Ed hired him.”
“I still can’t believe he would do this – or understand why he would want to do this,” Sandy said as she took the coffee mugs to the dishwasher. “I mean, I know he was less than complimentary about us, but still, to want to…”
“Tell me about it…”
“Lunch will be ready in a few minutes – Klaus and John insisted on sorting it out,” Shirley said as she handed Juliette a drink.
“Oooh I just want my own damn life back,” Juliette growled as she took her seat. “Having around the clock protection is destroying my freedom.”
“Until we catch whoever is taking shots at people you need just put up with it Ju.” Shirley looked through her glasses at her friend.
“I know, I know,” Juliette said as she sipped her drink. “What with your people, the feds, and I’m pretty sure at least one reporter and photographer from each of the main papers and the wire services, I would say my ass is being pretty well covered.”
“Just calm down…please,” Shirley said as she leaned forward, “at least in here you are safe and private.”
“I know, and thank you for offering me sanctuary.”
Looking to the door, Shirley said “I take it Klaus is worrying?”
“Like a damn mother hen.”
“Well I can’t blame him,” Shirley said as she sat back, “you are next to the girls the most important thing in his life.”
“I guess I know that, but you know half the reason I created Miss Panther to start with was that glorious sense of freedom crime gives me.” Sipping her drink, Juliette said “right now, I’m feeling hemmed in, and constricted.”
“Well for a few days at least, just relax and go with the flow…”
“Oh like you would if this was happening to you Shirley?”
“Do as I do, not as I say.” Shirley smiled.
“Hypocrite!” Juliette laughed back then took another sip of her drink.
“So,” Shirley said, “are the authorities still acting on the assumption that Ed is behind this?”
“According to Jan they are, and I’ll admit it’s looking that way. He certainly had cause to dislike Kerry, and he never really liked me.”
“I heard on the grapevine he thought you exerted influence on Anna, and the rest of your group.”
“He told me that once to my face when he was drunk, he called me a real bitch.”
“Well Ju that is further evidence.”
“I was wondering also if he had seen me with Kerry that day in Southampton when I spoke to her?”
“And maybe thought you were behind her and her actions?”
“It’s possible Shirley.”
“It’s very possible Ju, let us just hope this afternoon somebody manages to track down the elusive Mr. Mitchell.”
“Oh from your lips to the Goddesses ears.” Juliette looked skywards.
“Lunch is ready,” John said as he looked in, “and Klaus insists you both come through now.”
“Come on, we don’t want to keep the men waiting,” Shirley said as she stood up. “You can change after we have eaten, and John will drive us up to Yale to meet Carina.”
“Here,” Klaus said as he pulled a chair out at the table, “sit, eat, and relax.”
“All right,” Juliette said with a smile, “all right, I’ll try to…”
FBI Field Office
“The Hidden Hand has been in touch – they offer their support, and have said to check the name Richard Cabe.”
“Cabe? Did you say Richard Cabe?”
Tom looked at Adam as Jan turned her head. “Adam, do you know the name?”
“I hope I’m wrong,” Adam said as he searched the records on his computer, and then said “shit.”
“Richard Cabe served with me in Iraq,” Adam said, “gun expert. He dropped out of sight when we returned, but I had heard rumours he might have been earning some money taking on private defence work. Looks like that might have been a euphemism…”
“Was he a sniper?”
“A good one too – which means, yes, he could have pulled off that shot yesterday and the one in San Antonio.”
“Have we got a current address for him?”
“Getting it now – look, let me handle this one first Tom. We have some common ground, after all?”
“Fine – but take backup with you. Go.”
Complete Style Magazine
“Got a minute, Anna?”
Anna Mitchell looked up as Mary Thomas stood in the doorway. “Sure – you got your change of clothes here?”
“What change of clothes? Seriously, Anna…”
“I know – where are our shadows?”
“The FBI agents? Getting a coffee I think – I convinced them we were going nowhere.”
Sitting down, Mary rubbed her eyes and said “have you heard from him?”
“No – and if I had, I would have told him to turn himself in.”
“Do you think he really could be behind this?”
“Mary, I honestly don’t know,” Anna said quietly, “You think you know a man, and then…”
Looking up as she heard the knock on the door, Anna said “Alexis – what can I do for you?”
“Sorry – I have Fiona on line two.”
“She’s slow on the uptake,” Mary said as Anna put the phone on speaker.
“Anna? Mary? Are ye two awl right?”
“We’re fine Anna – so is Ju. When did you find out?”
“When I woke up this morning. When I got back last night, I went straight to bed.”
“How are you, Fiona?”
“Tired – and that’s only after one course. You haven’t told any of them yet, have you?”
“Of course not – but I still think you should tell Juliette lass,” Mary said.
“And I will, Mary – but no until you three are awl safe. Then I’ll tell her, awl right?”
“Okay – but you’d better Fiona. This has to come from you.”
“Anyway – what are ye gonna dae?”
“Go to a concert – we’ve got more protection than Abby when her mother’s on the warpath.”
“Funny – I needed that, thanks.”
“Listen – we’re all coming over for fashion week. Tell her before then, all right? Because she’s going to know as soon as she sees you.”
“Ah will – you three jes keep safe,” Fiona said as she ended the call.
“Hey – where’s the star of the hour?”
“Trying to stay calm in her room,” David said as he shook Tony’s hand. “Your aunt and uncle are somewhere around as well.”
“Well then, I shall wait here if that’s all right,” Tony said as he sat down.
“An experience – my tutor is just about coping with the language difference, which makes English 101 great fun, but at least I get it out of the way this semester.”
“Always best to get the bad stuff out of the way first,” David said with a smile. “Apart from that, no problems?”
“Just a touch of culture shock – but yeah, no problems,” Tony said with a smile.
“And the prep for the balls?”
“Abby told me the date of the Paris one – the weekend before Thanksgiving, I’m going to have fun that week.”
“Ach, you’ll live through it,” David said with a smile as Judy came in.
“Hey, Cuz – where’s your lady?”
“They’re coming in convoy after yesterday,” Tony said. “Hey Cari.”
“Hey yourself,” Carina said as she came in, carrying Judith in her arms. “Ready for tonight?”
“I think so – so long as Jude here does not send me to sleep with her restful lullaby…”
W135th Street, Harlem
“Well, this is the place,” Adam said as he looked at the building. “Look, can we play this my way? He’s more likely to talk to a former buddy then a fed right now.”
“All right,” Janice said quietly as she stowed her gun in her shoulder holster, “I just hope you’re right Adam.”
“So do I,” Adam said as he rang the bell.
“Hey, that you Cabe man?”
There was a moment’s silence, before the voice said “Benny the Ball? What are you doing here?”
“Looking up an old friend – gonna let me come up?”
The door unlocked, the voice saying “come on up” as Adam and Jan went in. Climbing the stairs, they knocked on an apartment door; waiting until the door opened by a thin, grey-eyed man.
“Cabe,” Adam said as they gripped hands, “how long has it been?”
“Too long, Benny, too long – who’s this?”
“This is Jan, my main woman - Jan, Richard Cabe.”
“Pleasure,” Richard said as they came in, “so how did you get my address, Benny?”
“VA – I got a hankering to see if I could look up some of the old gang, and they told me you were in the city.”
“Not for me thanks – on the wagon.”
“Probably wise,” Cabe said as he opened the bottle and took a swig. “So what are you doing with yourself these days, Benny?”
“Oh, a little bit of this, a little bit of that,” Adam said as he sat back, “right now I’m working private security – heard of Jameson Security?”
“The firm the model heads up? I hear good things of them – does she pay well?”
“I can’t complain, can I Jan?”
“No, you certainly can’t,” Janice said with a smile.
“How about you Cabe?”
“Security work – a lot of it abroad, but I came back to settle three years ago.”
“So what do you do for a living now? I mean, this isn’t Park Avenue, but it’s still a nice place.”
Cabe sat for a moment, and said “I get by – odd jobs here and there.”
“Look,” Adam said, “did you hear about the shooting off Times Square yesterday?”
“Saw something about it on the news - why?”
“Chatter around the community is it was a professional job – I got a look at the forensics through my contacts, it was military issue bullets they used. When I saw that, I hoped it wasn’t one of us gone rogue.”
“Ex-sniper?” Cabe stood up and went to the kitchen. “Thanks for the heads up Benny – I guess I owe you for that.”
“One thing that bothers me though,” Adam said quietly as he stood up. “If it was one of us, and they were paid to take a hit on someone, they would not have missed, unless they had been paid to miss. I mean, someone like you, you could take out a target moving at speed in a car, no problem.”
“And I have done, in the past,” Cabe said, and then he straightened up. Turning, he looked at Adam and said quietly “well played, Benny, well played.”
“I’m doing this because we fought together,” Adam said as he showed Cabe his badge. “Come quietly, talk to us. Right now, it’s not you want – it’s Ed Mitchell.”
Cabe shook his head, laughing as he put his hands on the work surface, and then suddenly reached under.
Cabe looked at Janice and smiled as he pulled out the gun – and then dropped it as the bullet from Janice’s gun went through his arm below his elbow.
“Move in,” Adam said into the collar mike, standing back as other agents moved in while Jan walked over to where Cabe was standing, holding his arm.
“We are taking you to get that treated,” Jan said, “and then we’re going to have a little chat.”
Adam and Jan looked at one of the agents as he held up a rifle.
“Get forensics on it – and get him out of here,” Adam said. “We need to get the good news to some people.”
“Well, one advantage,” Jo said as she and Clint got out of the car, “it takes just as much time for us to get here as it does the others.” Jo was wearing a light blue blouse and skirt, with black shoes and a black leather jacket, while Clint wore an open necked shirt with a grey suit.
Walking into the lobby, Jo stopped at the desk and said “Joanne Smith and Curtis Richardson to see Carina Huntingdown and Judy McNally?”
“Hey Caroline,” Jo said as the tall blonde walked over, “did you come up with Juliette?”
“Me and a few others,” she said as they walked towards the rooms Carina and Judy shared. Knocking on the door, Jo and Curt waited as George opened it, smiled and said “come on in.”
“Hey Coach,” Jo said as she came in and hugged Annie, who had been standing with Carina and Judith.
“So how did your race go Jo?” Annie asked.
“I finished 14th,” Jo said as she beamed with pride, “and I was second freshman home.”
“I did actually know,” Annie smiled, “I phoned Lisa after our race and she told me how well you ran, but I wanted to hear you boast a bit.”
“Coach Waterman was very pleased, and it was 5 places higher then I thought I’d finish, even though it was nearly two minutes after Mindy did.”
“Well Mindy Wells is the star on your team.”
“She works damn hard to be so as well, she’s taught me a lot about training the right way for running longer distances.”
“Well that’s always been a coach’s excuse,” Annie said as Curt went to talk to Klaus and John, “you girls teach each other more then we do.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Jo said as she looked round, “I’m just so grateful for what you and Coach Waterman have taught me.”
“Thank you,” Annie smiled shyly. “That means a lot Jo.”
“So how did you think the Angels ran today?”
“Pretty well considering it was in open class. I thought maybe third as a team was about our mark, we finished fourth, but out of 20 schools I can live with that, especially as this was our first big meet of the season.”
“What about individually?”
“Brooke finishing third was a bonus I didn’t expect, nice also that Ashley, Beth, and a girl you don’t know called Paula Miller all made the top 25.”
“She’s that transfer student from California?”
“Yes and she’s a damn good little runner, I wish I had her for more then one year.”
“Would we have won small schools?”
“Oh easily,” Annie said with a smile, “but the secret is out about the Angels, most meet organisers know how good we are and we automatically get classified open grade.”
“In a way, that’s a pity,” Jo said quietly, “but in other ways its such a compliment to how far you’ve raised standards at the school Annie.”
“I know.” Annie smiled again.
“Hey – what are you two talking about,” Carina said as she came over.
“Racing – how’s your mom Cari?”
“A mixture of defiant and scared stiff,” Carina said as she looked at Juliette talking to Shirley. “Sigi and Ingrid have gone to do a little shopping, while Dieter and Adam have gone for a drink.”
“Dieter reading the riot act to Adam?”
“I think Pops already did that – this is about something different,” Carina said with a giggle.
“Any word on who’s behind this yet?”
“Not really – so we’re all on alert as well. I know…”
“Diana,” Rachel McNally said as Diana came in with Abigail, Willy and Natasha, little Alain in Willy’s arms, “I’m so glad you all made it.”
“Our apologies for being late,” Diana said, “but our lunch overran somewhat when my father called.”
“No problem – we can…”
Juliette took her cell phone out and looked at the caller ID, before saying “excuse me a minute” and heading into Carina’s room.
“Go ahead Adam,” she said as she closed the door.
“We think we’ve found the man who shot at you yesterday – we’re running some forensic tests on a rifle we found at his apartment, but we won’t get the results until tomorrow. NYPD is talking to him at the moment.”
“So the danger may not be over yet?”
“Please be very careful Juliette – we still haven’t tracked down Ed Mitchell, and until that happens we can’t be certain about anything.”
“all right – so are you all coming up now?”
“Tom’s driving us up – let Caroline know, and we’ll see you at the concert arena.”
As she ended the call, Caroline came in and said “Jan just texted me. We still need to watch you both – when do Anna and Mary get here?”
“They should be arriving about six thirty – Clint and Susan are bringing them, right?”
Caroline nodded as she looked at her friend. “We’ve got people in the auditorium, along with local FBI agents, and Shirley has people shadowing you every step of the way. I can’t believe he would try anything – but if he does, we’ll get to him first.”
“Thanks – where’s Ama?”
“She and Maisha went with John to look at the bookstore.”
The Yale Bookstore
77 Broadway, New Haven
“Here we are,” Maisha said as she looked at the row of books, “this is the one Aunt Shirley was telling me about, Uncle John.”
“Ah yes – the new Warhol biography. I think this would be a very good thing for you,” John said as he and Ama looked at the book.
“Well now, what are you doing here John?”
“Helping Maisha here find a suitable book for her art appreciation lessons,” he said as he shook Adam Cabot’s hand. “What are you and Dieter doing here?”
“Finding a reference book for my darling wife, as she reminds herself of US Tax Laws,” Dieter said as he held up a volume. “So, have you managed to find what you are…”
Adam looked at Maisha, who was looking keenly to one side of Adam.
“Sister,” she whispered to Ama, “do you recognize the man two aisles away?”
Ama looked over and slowly nodded her head as she took her cell phone out.
“Who is it?”
John swung round, to see the back of Ed Mitchell’s head disappearing out of the bookstore.
“Mom?” Ama turned and looked at Maisha as she said “Please tell Shirley – Mister Mitchell is in New Haven.”
“Nothing for you to worry about,” Caroline said as she and Juliette stepped out into the main room.
“Getting crowded in here,” she said as she walked over to Shirley, and whispered “Mitchell is in the vicinity – Ama and Maisha saw him.”
Nodding, Shirley whispered back “inform everyone to be on high alert – and text Susan.”
Woolsey Hall, Yale
“Imposing place,” Clint said as he got out of the car, Susan doing so as well and looking round before Anna and Mary got out.
“It should be – it was designed by Carrere and Hastings, who built the New York Public Library, and is over 110 years old.”
“Been reading up on it, Mary?”
“I do have some spare time you know,” Mary said with a smile as another car pulled up, April and Grant getting out with Denice, Pepsi and Erica.
“I’m so glad you could both make it,” Mary said as she hugged Denice and Erica.
“Wow – so this is Yale,” Erica said as she looked round.
“First time here for me as well, Bones,” Pepsi said as she put her hands in her jacket, “so where is this hall?”
“Right over there,” Susan said as she pointed to the right of the Rotunda, “shall we?”
“Why not,” Anna said as they joined the throng of people making their way over. From the side of the Woodbridge Hall, Heather and Sandy walked across the quadrangle as well with Alex and Nessa.
“It feels good to be back,” Heather said with a smile, “with everything that’s happened over the summer. I guess I need to come back once in a while to recharge my batteries.”
“Nice to hear that, sis.”
“Hey Jo,” Heather said as she hugged Joanne and Curt, “how was the race today?”
“I did good,” she said as the rest of the party joined them, Caroline and George looking around as they did so. “Come on then – let’s hear the maestro at work.”
The bar area was filling up with ticket holders enjoying a pre-performance drink, as
Juliette’s party stood in one corner.
“So they are opening with Handel,” Klaus said as he glanced through the program.
“You know,” Shirley said as she looked round, “the Water Music was originally written as the background music for a royal journey up the Thames from Whitehall to very near John and I live in Chelsea don’t you?”
“Didn’t I see a television documentary about that?” Rachel asked. “It was because of the problems of hearing over water that Handel made such prominent use of horns and trumpets.”
“It is indeed, and that documentary is one of my favourites,” Juliette said as she brought her friends their champagne.
“Well I think it is right that it’s opening the show…”
“It’s also right that they are ending with the Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah as the end Shirley.”
“Two crowd pleasers at either end,” Rachel grinned, “my worry is right in the middle of the programme.”
“Is she nervous?”
“Have you ever heard of butterflies with their knees knocking together Shirley.” Rachel laughed nervously, “and I’m almost as bad for her.”
“Well she could not have worked harder darling, according to my son he has never seen anyone work as hard as Judy has on this.”
“I know Mandy, and I’m just so grateful for all the support he’s given her.”
“We’ve all been with her every step of the way,” John said as he looked at Carina talking to Bobbi and some of the other girls, “and I’m sure this will be a beautiful evening.”
“Hello Elaine,” Denice said as Doc approached with Jeannie and their parents, “I’m glad you could make it as well.
“Oh almost all of the group wanted to be here,” Barbara said, “the only ones who couldn’t were Pussy and Frieda. They had a faculty event to attend, but Blair made it with Gus and Paulie.”
“So I see,” Jeannie said as she saw Blair talking with her aunt and uncle.
“There’s the ten minute warning,” John said, “shall we go in?”
“Oh dear Lord this is an impressive auditorium.” Sarah Nightingale whistled as she, Harriet and Grace took their seats.
“I wonder how good the acoustics are?” Harriet glanced round.
“Oh that’s how you tell who the musician is in our little group.” Grace laughed, “thinks about things like how it will sound.”
“I know, and I’m hoping they are perfect, it’s lovely to come to an event like this.”
“Well I’m just glad I made it, my damn shoot seemed to go on forever.” Grace shook her head, “some of these younger photographers are almost like amateurs.”
“Well I had fun with Annie and her team.” Sarah said as she looked at the programme.
“And I know she appreciated you helping out with the support team.” Grace replied.
“Compared to inter-school events back home they make such a big deal out of it here.”
“Well let’s be honest,” Grace said, “the school makes a big thing of all its other extra curricula’s as well.”
“You are right Grace,” Harriet said as she glanced down the schedule, “and in my case its wonderful the support Wilhelmina and the school are giving my jazz group.”
“Talking of support I see Huntingdown’s, Xavier’s, and the Richmond trust are all on the patrons list.” Sarah showed the list in the programme.
“Good for them, it is nice seeing support for the arts.”
“You are right in that Harriet.” Grace nodded as the auditorium watched the orchestra tune up.
“All quiet so far Boss,” George whispered as he sat next to Caroline and Ama. “I’ve got girls at all entrances – and I mean all – as well as watching from key points in the auditorium.”
“Good,” Caroline whispered, “let’s hope we can enjoy the show tonight,” as she started to applaud the conductor.
“Good, we made it in time.” Tom Callaghan said as he and Gale slipped in with Adam and Jan. “I wasn’t sure if we would make it or not.”
“There’s Caroline – I’ll catch up with her at the interval,” Jan said as the conductor tapped his baton, and the sounds of the Water Music started.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, performing Handel’s Organ Concerto in G Minor, please welcome on the Newberry Memorial Organ, Miss Judy McNally.”
Judy walked out, wearing a black cocktail dress and bowing to the audience before she took her seat in front of the keyboard. Taking several deep breaths, she then started to play, the sound of the organ filling the auditorium as Harriet closed her eyes and lost herself in the music.
As Judy played, George glanced down at his cell phone, and then showed the text to Caroline. The blonde nodded and watched as George sent a response, and then sat back, the organ music washing over him.
Juliette closed her eyes, humming along as she listened to the sound of the orchestra and the organ, her mind transported back to the era in which the music was written, as Klaus held her hand.
The auditorium resonated with the orchestra and the organ music, each and every member of the audience in their own special place.
Sunday 20th September
1.20 am Local Time
“Now what on earth is that she is listening to,” the two women said as they came towards the mess tent.
As they got closer, they could gear the strains of organ music.
“Handel this late at night Charlotte?” Liz said as she and Shelby wandered into the tent.
“It’s a concert at Yale University,” Charlotte said as she sat back, “I had tickets. The girl playing is a friend of mine.”
“She’s good.” Shelby listened.
“Its amazing that here in South Central Africa, thanks to the internet you can listen to a concert all the way away in Connecticut.” Liz remarked.
“True – so I don’t get to miss listening to it,” Charlotte said as the orchestra played.
“Wish you were there?” Shelby asked.
“Yes,” Charlotte said as she closed her eyes, “I have an awful lot of friends who are there…but what we are doing here is far more important.”
“It’s still not nice missing out on things with friends though.” Liz said as she put an arm round the little redhead.
“Is that the Organ Concerto in G Minor?” Red asked as she came in to get herself a coffee.
“It is…?” Charlotte looked round.
“I used to be a music student in Harare.” Red smiled a response. “I love Handel.”
“Well come sit and join us.” Charlotte beckoned.
“Thank you,” Red said as she sat down and started humming along.
“How are the casualties doing?” Liz whispered.
“Doctor Lucia has finished surgery, she said she’d be in in a bit, they should all be good.” Red nodded.
For a few minutes silence rained other then the sound of Judy and the orchestra playing thousands of miles away, the contrast between the little sounds in the large clearing in the African jungle, and the beautiful sounds being played in the concert hall so very obvious.
Saturday 19th September
“So very much trouble just to get myself a drink,” Sigi said as she walked back, shaking her head, “that young woman behind the bar wasn’t going to even accept my passport as evidence of my real age.”
“So how did you?” Carina pointed to the whiskey and soda in her aunt’s hands.
“Professor Kaunitz of the law department vouched for me, he taught me in Heidelberg, so he knows my real age.”
“Well good for him.” Carina grinned.
“Did you know girls that our ancestor tried to get Handel to come to Furstenheim as Kapellmeister, but he got a better offer from the English Court.”
“No that I had never heard.” Ingrid looked interested.
“Just think all that glorious music might have been written for us instead.”
“True.” Carina nodded. “But isn’t great music written for everybody?”
“Yes it is.” Ingrid smiled.
“For a student orchestra and choir, they are amazing, I’ve never heard Zadok the Priest sung and performed better by professionals darlings.” Mandy felt herself tingling at the memory as she sipped her drink.
“They are performing at the highest quality,” Dieter brought a bottle of champagne over to top glasses up. “Truly a magnificent group.”
“Enjoying yourself Juliette?” Grace asked.
“Do you need to ask?”
Grace shook her head as she said “I thought I could see you losing yourself in the beauty of the music.”
“Well you weren’t alone Juliette,” Harriet accepted a top-up, “I am in heaven in there.”
“What about you Sarah?” John asked politely.
“Well,” Sarah said quietly, “can I be a Philistine and admit it’s not totally my scene…”
“You may.” John smiled.
“But I did appreciate some of the bits I did know like parts of the Water Music.”
“Well then - just think of dragging Grace and Harriet to a concert of music you like.”
“Now that is a thought John.” Sarah giggled. “I need to find a good Ska venue in this city…”
“I am sure you will succeed, Sarah.”
“Hello Wilhelmina, I didn’t know you were here,” Juliette said as she kissed a familiar figure on both cheeks.
“I’m here with some friends, but I thought I would just drop over and say hello.”
“Well that was nice of you.”
“So is everybody enjoying the music?”
“All of us probably bar Sarah.” Grace kissed her superior welcome.
“Well at least you are supporting the event Sarah.” Wilhelmina smiled. “By the way thank you for your help with the cross country team today, I bumped into Annie and she was more than a trifle pleased with the team.”
“It was a pleasure, and she’s promised in return to help with my soccer squad.”
“Well it will be mutually beneficial then.”
“Hello Miss,” Jeannie said as she came over, pushed in her chair by Pepsi.
“Hello girls…are you enjoying yourself?” Wilhelmina smiled at the students.
“I think I am a bit more then Pepsi.”
“Oh, not enjoying yourself Nicola?”
“I don’t really understand classical music Miss. Jeannie does, but no I’m just basically waiting for it to be over.”
“Well it’s not for everyone.” Juliette said as she quietly passed the girls a glass of champagne each.
“Mmmm that’s nice, now Dad is liking it and so is Mom.”
“Well your father is knowledgeable about big band music Pepsi.” Harriet broke in, “it’s not too big a leap.”
“Just remember what I said Peps,” Jeannie spoke, “Handel was really writing the pop music of the 1740’s.”
“Which is actually very true Jeannie.” Wilhelmina smiled, “Well I had better get back to my group.”
“Alright Wilhelmina we will all see you Monday.”
“Remember bright and early Grace.”
“All right,” Caroline said as she and Jan stood with George, “what did your contact say?”
“Ed Mitchell is in the building somewhere – she saw him enter as the concert started, but lost eye contact. I’ve got our people looking round – discretely.”
“What about this character you arrested earlier?”
“Ballistics confirm the ammunition we found matches that used, but we won’t know if it was the rifle until later tonight or tomorrow. In the meantime, he’s not talking. Adam thinks he might be capable, but he’s staying hands off.”
“So if we find Ed, then what?”
“We keep him eyeballed,” Caroline said, “and I have someone ready to step in.”
“So how are preparations going for your birthday party Pepsi darling?” Mandy asked.
“Brilliantly Lady Ordford!” Pepsi grinned. “The girls are really getting into the theme.”
“Look,” Mandy said quietly, “I think it’s about time we changed that, you’ll soon be sixteen, and we said you and Jack can be an open couple then, so you had better start calling me Mandy.”
“Thank you Mandy.” Pepsi said as she hugged the older woman.
“It’s my pleasure darling.”
“The one pity is about Jack.”
“Well as with you his studies do come first.” Mandy smiled again.
“So did Stanford win today Jeannie?” Father Alex asked as he brought round another bottle of champagne.
“Last I heard they were leading in the third quarter, but I have it on being taped at home.”
“So you can watch it later?”
“So Juliette,” Alex said with a smile as he turned to her, “I was just talking to Mary and Anna, how are you holding up?”
“Actually very well Alex, how are they doing?”
“Mary is herself, but Anna is clearly jumpy.”
“I can’t blame her…who would have thought Ed would?”
“Juliette,” Alex said quietly, “we still don’t know it is him. Adam has been keeping me in touch, and Caroline has included me in her security loop.”
“So you are here both as music lover and as former soldier Alex.”
“In a way yes.”
“Any word yet Alex?” John whispered quietly in the priests’ ear.
“Oh hello Alex,” Shirley kissed the priest, “may I have some of that?”
“But of course,” Alex said as he poured the drink into her glass. “I trust you are enjoying the evening as well?”
“Very much so,” Shirley said with a smile. “Judy in particular was magnificent.”
“Well, she has a role to play in the finale as well,” Alex said as George walked past, and started to head up the staircase to the balcony.
“Where,” he asked the young woman waiting at the top of the stairs, who nodded to the gents toilets as the door opened, and Ed Mitchell walked out, looking both ways before he headed back to the seats.
“Right – let Caroline and Adam Ball know,” he said quietly, “I’ll keep an eye on him up here.”
The hush in the auditorium grew before the conductor returned to a polite round of applause, bowing before he tapped on the stand, and started the next work.
From the balcony, Ed looked down at where Mary and Anna were sitting, next to each other, his gaze not wavering from them as the string section played. The music was keeping him calm, soothing him, but there was still a look of fear in his eyes as he hummed along.
From the rear of the balcony, George watched carefully, as did two of Shirley’s staff from different angles. He glanced to one side as Adam joined him.
“I’ve got staff with your people covering all exits from the balcony,” Adam whispered, “and Alex will be up in a few minutes. What I’m hoping is we can contain him quietly.”
“Difficult with the people sitting around him,” George whispered back.
“I know – but we live in hope. In the meantime, Caroline and Jan have the ladies covered downstairs.”
Judy’s fingers danced over the organ as she accompanied the singers in the Hallelujah Chorus, the hall filling with the crescendo of sound as the music lifted the spirits of everyone present.
As the last note was sung, and the music stopped, the whole audience stood and cheered, clapping as the conductor asked the orchestra to stand, and then invited Judy and the two solo singers to come forward and take a bow.
The beam of pride on the face of Rachel and George McNally was only beaten by that on the face of David Fitzstuart as he clapped and cheered, joined by the others as a bouquet of flowers was presented to Judy.
Eventually, however, the audience stopped their acclaim, and started to slowly file out, talking amongst themselves as Ed watched over the balcony.
He slowly turned his head to the side to see Alex Richmond sitting next to him, and then to the other side as Adam Ball turned and smiled in reply.
“We’ve been looking for you Ed – we need to ask a few questions of you.”
“Look – I’ll answer any questions you have, but for the love of God wait five minutes – I need to be sure Anna gets out of here all right.”
“Don’t worry Ed – we have security people watching her, Mary Thomas and Juliette Huntingdown, and the guy who took a pot shot at them yesterday we believe we have in custody.”
“You don’t understand,” Ed said with a tremor in his voice, “they won’t give up. I would not be surprised if they have another assassin down there right now…”
Alex and Adam looked at each other, before Adam said into the microphone at his wrist “Jan – where are the three of them?”
“Mary has joined Ju – Anna is on her way over now.”
“Move in on Anna – we have Ed, but he says someone might try something.”
Nodding, Jan indicated to Caroline to move in on where Anna was, as a tall, well dressed man stood behind her.
As the two women got closer, Jan noticed the man reach into his jacket pocket, and then caught the glint of light on the blade.
“Shit,” she said as she pushed forward, Caroline doing the same, as he walked closer to Anna – and then crumpled to the floor, the crowd parting round him as he lay there.
Anna turned round and looked at him as his face grimaced in pain, while Maisha slowly walked over and stood with Shirley.
“Thank you,” Shirley said quietly, “I see the small lesson Helen taught you has worked.”
“You asked me to keep watch, Aunt Shirley, and I did – what happens now?”
“Now, we join the celebration,” Shirley said as she walked towards Anna.
“Is he all right?”
“We’ll look after him,” Caroline said as she and Jan knelt by him, “you go with Shirley and join the others at the celebration.”
“Come with us,” Shirley said as she and Maisha took Anna by the arms, “I think we could all use some refreshment.”
Glancing up at the balcony, Jan saw Adam and Alex with Ed, and nodded slowly as she made her way out.
“All right, people,” Caroline said into a microphone, “stand down, but don’t disappear just yet.”
Sunday 20th September
“Amazing – truly amazing,” Petra said as she looked round the tent.
“Well that was heavenly.” Lucia smiled as Charlotte turned off the Internet.
“That chorus is so uplifting.” Red smiled as well, “It was my tutor’s favourite.”
“It was nice of you all to sit and listen with me.” Charlotte yawned, “but we have a very full day ahead, so we better go grab some sleep.”
“Agreed,” Leader stood up, “but just for once it was nice to relax and forget we are in the middle of a war zone.”
“I’ll second that,” one of the nurses said as she started humming to herself.
“Right – get what sleep we can. Tomorrow we need to find someone for Petra here to have a chat with, and Marigold should be back with a progress report.”
Heading out into the starlit night, Charlotte looked round.
“To imagine such cruelty in this god-given place – soon, it will return to peace, Goddess willing.”
“Amen – but for now, we do what we need to do,” Leader said as she looked round, “we do what we need to do.”
Saturday 19th September
“Now that was an amazing concert,” Grace said as the Saints and Sinners gathered in a small ante room.
“I have to agree,” Denice said as she watched Erica talking to the other girls, “truly outstanding.”
“Why do I find it ironic, but somehow eminently right that England’s greatest composer was a German import?” asked Juliette.
“Because really, when you think about it, up to the time of Lennon and McCartney our greatest artistic talents were usually drawn into literature.” Sarah spoke back.
“With a few honourable exceptions,” John said, “Mister Gilbert and Mister Sullivan, for example.”
“Are we really comparing popular music writers with great composers?” Angel asked.
“Well, if as I do, you consider George Gershwin to be a great composer? Then yes I suppose we have to.” Harriet answered. “And McCartney has written an oratorio as well.”
“Point taken Harriet.” Juliette nodded.
“I was telling the girls earlier that we came close to tempting Handel to Furstenheim before the Hanoverians attracted him to London…”
“A lot of German princes can claim that dear sister.” Klaus chuckled at Sigrid, “He was putting out feelers to all and sundry, including our family, and it was simply that George the First of England made him the best offer.”
“He was undoubtedly a musical superstar of his era.” Juliette nodded.
“The pity was that he wasn’t the all rounder that say Mozart was.” Harriet spoke in a well-considered tone. “His religious and ceremonial music is sublime, and so are most of his choral and atmospheric compositions. But he never wrote a great opera, and there are other areas he’s not quite in the first rank of composers in either.”
“Agreed.” Juliette nodded.
“Judy will be out in a bit.” Carina smiled as she came out from backstage, “To say she is on top of the world is putting it mildly.”
“I can imagine.” Klaus laughed. “She has every right to be happy.”
“David and her parents are trying to prevent her floating on a cloud back to the city.”
“I’ve felt like that after concerts.” Harriet laughed. “And she really is a magnificent organ player.”
“Indeed – I may have to consider inviting her to play at funeral masses.”
“Alex – where did you disappear to?”
“I was asked to help with a small problem,” Alex said as he looked at Klaus.
“Did you like it Bones?”
Erica smiled as she said “Will I sound like a total geek if I say yes?”
“Not really,” Jeannie smiled. “I enjoyed it too.”
“Well even I enjoyed that finale.” Pepsi said as she came out of the ladies room.
“As the voices soar to the heaven in praise of God.” Erica closed her eyes and remembered. “You know my Mom is pre-ordering the concert CD for me?”
“You liked it that much?” Pepsi asked half in disbelief.
“Yes, and I will tell everybody at school that this was one of the most thrilling nights of my life…”
“Better then a shootout between two drug gangs in your building Homie?” Poppy said as she seemed to appear out of nowhere.
“You have to go spoil it don’t you?” Jeannie glared at the younger girl.
“Hey it was a fair question.” Poppy giggled as she went into the powder room. Her laughter changing to tears as she realized she was on her own. She so wanted to be part of ‘their’ group, she hated that she was trying so hard to maintain an image to please other girls she didn’t even really like.
“Shall I go hit her?” Pepsi whispered outside.
“No,” Ama said quietly, “let me go and talk to her.”
The other girls watched as Ama went into the room, quietly closing the door behind herself as she saw Poppy at the sinks.
“Have you come in to tell me I was a bitch as well,” Poppy said as she looked round, using a small towel to dry her face.
“No,” Ama said quietly, “although if you want an honest opinion, you are hard on Erica. I simply wished to see if you were all right – after all, you went through a very traumatic experience recently.”
“You’re beginning to sound a lot like Letty,” Poppy said as she looked at the young African girl.
“Well, Letty is a very wise young woman,” Ama said quietly, “while all I have to offer is an ear that can listen, and an arm to lean on if it is needed. If that is ever needed.”
Poppy looked at Ama, before she said “I don’t understand. Why would you offer to listen?”
“Because everyone needs someone to share their fears with,” Ama said quietly. “But for now, please, consider this. You may have Erica completely wrong – from what I see, she belongs where she is, and she will do great good. That is to be cherished, and accepted, not feared.”
“Who says I am afraid,” Poppy replied angrily.
“Nobody needs to say it,” Ama said as she looked at the younger girl. “Please, think about what I said.”
She looked round as Pippa Ashley came in.
“It’s Ama Jameson, isn’t it? Are you all right Poppy?”
“I’m fine mom,” Poppy said, “Ama was just asking if I enjoyed the concert.”
“Thanks for asking,” Pippa said as she looked at Ama, who nodded as she left the powder room.
“Are you sure you’re all right,” Pippa said as she looked at her daughter.
“Yeah – showtime mom,” Poppy said with a smile as they both walked out.