Watching the Watchmen – Part 1






Sunday 18th September

1 am PT

Los Angeles


The waterfront was quiet, and as the security guard walked along the pier nothing seemed to be too out of place.  The moorings were occupied, and the road leading to the hotel entrance seemed clear of any issues.


He didn’t notice the little boat as it came to the edge, or heard the soft footsteps as one of the passengers quickly climbed out from the craft and moored it to a spare post.  The only thing he noticed was the surprise as his head was pulled back, and the sensation as the knife sliced through his throat and neck before he was allowed to drop into the water.


As the passenger watched, five more climbed onto the pier.  All were dressed in black wetsuits, their heads covered by the hoods, and diving masks obscuring their eyes.  They wore soft bootees on their feet, and gloves, but the most striking thing about them was the harpoon guns carried by three of them, and the bags two more were carrying – as well as the hunting knife each one had strapped to her waist.


They moved as a single unit, crossing the pier in the gloom of the night and making their way quickly to the staff entrance of the hotel.  They watched as one of them quickly worked on the access pad, and then slipped inside, waiting as the door was closed behind them.  The lighting on the corridor was still dim, but it was possible to see now that all of the group were women.


Their leader looked round and then signalled as they moved down the corridor, waiting as a door was opened and they slipped into a main corridor.  As the door was closed, however, a maid walked past, staring at them before she turned and started to scream.


An attempt that was stifled by the gloved hand over her mouth, as JD whispered in a German accent “No screaming, Fraulein.  Do as we say, you live.  Understand?”  As the maid nodded, she said “good – in here.”  She dragged her into a side room, Darlene going with her as the others waited.


“Now stay here, stay quiet, understand?”


The maid nodded as she looked at the two masked women, unable to move after they had taped her upper body and legs, and wrapped the same tape around her head to hold the sponge ball in her mouth.  She watched as the two intruders left, before Tracey said “good work – now for your targets.  Rose, Daisy?”


“Jeweller,” Rose said as the two of them nodded.


“Go to it – Darlene, take care of the security room.  The three of us will have a quiet chat with the manager and have him open the vault.”



The bedroom was quiet, the older man snoring quietly as his wife lay on her side.  She had a folded scarf tied on her head to keep her blonde hair back, wearing a white slip, while her husband wore a white t-shirt and dark boxer shorts.


As the door opened quietly, she opened her eyes, and saw the two figures in black, wondering what the hell was going on as one of them walked quickly over, and opening her mouth to scream – but the red rubber ball that was pushed into her mouth kept her quiet, while the tape that was pressed firmly over her mouth kept it in.  she was powerless to stop as her wrists were held together, and secured together with a zip tie, before a second one was used to secure them to the headboard, while her ankles were secured in the same way.


Whsghnnhnnn,” the man said as he rolled over and opened his eyes, taking a moment to see the fear in his wife’s eyes and then the spear gun that was pointed at her head, before he sat up and looked at the two women wearing wetsuits.


“Up, dipshit,” Rose said as Daisy smiled at the bound and gagged woman, “and dressed.  You have a jewellery franchise to open – or your darling fuck machine here gets a new hole in her head.  Understood?”


“I…  Don’t hurt her,” he said as he pulled some pants on, his wife mewling as she watched.


“Good – move,” Rose said as he pushed him out of the bedroom, “get the entrance keys and codes.”


“He does as we say, you live,” Daisy said as she looked at the women, and then hit her, knocking her out before she walked out as well…




“Another quiet night in paradise, Tony?”


“Don’t knock it Geoff,” the younger of the two security guards said as he turned in his seat, “nothing ever happens in this place.”


“True – hey, when’s Jack due in…”


Geoff’s thoughts were interrupted as the door to the security room was thrown open, and they both turned to see the women wearing a wetsuit, goggles covering her face as she said “on the floor fuckers – this is a raid.”


“What the fuck…”  Geoff said nothing else as the harpoon went through his heart, Tony looking on as he dropped to the floor, a dark stain at the front of his pants.


“Well – you going to be a fucking idiot as well?”


As he shook his head, Darlene smiled as she said “good – night night” before she kicked him in the chin, sending him fly back on the floor, his eyes closed.  She put her harpoon down and took the pack off her back, finding the duct tape as she knelt down…





The door to the manager’s suite slowly opened, the three women slipping quietly inside as JD closed the door behind herself.  As she did so, Tracey said quietly “Sit rep?”


“We’re in the sparkly place – having fun,” Rose said in response.


“Security dealt with – one a bit messy, but what can you do?”


Nodding, she indicated the door to the far side of the suite, Rene nodding as she walked over, and they heard the noises as they came closer.


“Someone’s having fun?”


“Our turn,” Tracey whispered as she took hold of the door handles, and pulled the sliding doors to the side.




“Well, this is different,” Tracey said as they saw the naked manager taking the blonde haired woman from behind.  The woman was bent over the bed, her wrists tied to the posts at the far side, a large leather panel covering her mouth as her eyes opened wide in terror.




“Shut the fuck up,” JD growled, “this is a robbery.  You are going to open the vault for us, or you suffer.”




“Oh you’re fine – if you promise not to move or call for help,” Rene said, the girl nodding as Tracey aimed her harpoon gun at the manager.


“Get the keys, and move that scrawny arse of yours, mate – unless you want to die right now…”






The jeweller could only watch as Rose and Daisy emptied tray after tray of jewels and gems into their bags.  Having forced him to open up the store, they had forced him to stand against a metal dividing wall, using zip ties to secure his wrists and ankles so his arms and legs were spread out, and then stuffed a red ball into his mouth before they had taped it over.


“thank you,” Rose said quietly as she looked at him, “but I have a little surprise for you?”  She reached up and stroked his cheek with her gloved hand, his eyes wide as she moved her hand down and squeezed his crotch.




“Sorry,” Daisy said as the hunting knife cut through his throat, “you’re too weak.”


“Done in there,” Darlene said as she watched on the camera.




“Good – get to the main vault,” she said as she looked at Tony, wriggling on the flor in his grey cocoon that went from his ankles to over his mouth.  “Relax, kiddo – you get to live tonight…”




“I’ve opened the vault,” the manager said as JD secured his wrists behind his back with the zip tie, “now what?”


“Sit down and shut up,” Tracey said as Rene pushed the red ball into his mouth and taped it over, before the two masked women pushed him into a filing cabinet and secured his ankles, closing and locking the door as the other two appeared.


“We have ten minutes – go.”


As he watched, they emptied the contents of the vault into their bags, unable to do more than whimper as they cleaned him out.


“Time – move out.”


Darlene nodded as she blew a kiss to Tony, his eyes fixed on the dead body as she walked out and joined the others, the six marching to the boat…



9.30 am
Jameson Security


“Looking good,” Caroline said as she walked round with Francesca, “Madame should be here shortly to do the checks herself.”


“Indeed – we open formally for business tomorrow…  Is something bothering you Caroline?  You seem a little far away.”


Looking round, Caroline whispered “I’m worried I might have a tail Francesca?”


Francesca paused, before she said “Can I ask why Caroline?”


“Because for a couple of days I think I’ve seen a guy watching as I arrive for shows and rehearsals, and afterwards when I leave.”


“Has he followed you here?”


“No, that’s the strange thing…I used every trick I know to see if I could spot him following me here, but there was nothing.”


“Well the fact that you’ve only seen him when you are being Caroline the model suggests maybe it’s a fan stalking you?”


“I’d thought of that.”


“He worries you though?”


“Because of the work we are doing Admiral,” Caroline said quietly, “the last thing I need is some demented fan following me about as I do my business.”


“Agreed,” Francesca paused for thought. “Shall we assign someone to watch and see if indeed you are being followed, and to ascertain the threat level?”


“Please…and can we do it in a way that doesn’t alarm Grace?’


“Grace Gresham?”


“Yes she and I have been carpooling because we’ve been basically doing the same shows.”


“Alright, we will do it in a way she can’t spot.”


“Thanks – Madame, welcome.”


“So this is your new home,” Shirley said as she came in, “how is the final work progressing?”


“Carlotta is somewhere – I will see if I can find her,” Francesca said as she walked off.


“Come into my new Sanctum,” Caroline said as they walked into an office looking out onto the street, Shirley looking round, before she noticed Caroline looking out of the window.


“You look very contemplative Dominique?” Madame said as she stopped and stood still.


“Do I?”  Caroline shook her head and said “I apologise Madame.”


“You don’t need to apologise old friend, but you do look as though you have something you want to say.”


“Oh it’s nothing really, just something Ama said at breakfast.”


“And what was that?” Shirley said as she eased herself onto the couch in what would be Caroline’s new office.


“She basically remarked how few of my friends, and even some of her own, grew up without, or lack strong father figures in their lives…As I said it’s not really that important…Now can I show you the improvements we have made to the vault to maintain security?”


“Later Dominique, because I think it is important we talk about fathers.” Madame paused to think a second. “I was lucky enough to grow up with loving parents of both gender…”


“Until they were snatched away when you were kidnapped,” Caroline broke in.


“As you say…until I lost them both.”


“I ran away from my Dad.”


“As you say you ran away, and what you got as a replacement was that bastard McCabe, your mother’s boyfriend.”


“I was stupid, I realise that now...”


“No you weren’t Dominique, you simply needed your mother, as well as your father, in your life.”


“And I ended up with neither,” Dominique let a tear go as she sat down.




“I made bad choices Madame, you had your parents ripped away from you, but what about so many of our friends?”


“Like who?”


“Well - have you noticed Juliette never talks about her father?”


“I had,” Shirley nodded, “and I’ve never had the courage to ask her why.”


“She brought up Carina fatherless all those years.”


“Klaus is trying to rectify that,” Shirley smiled.


“I know, but think of some of the others. Heather’s father was a monster; Jo had a completely dysfunctional relationship with her father, Abigail’s father was so bad that her mother murdered him, even Diana herself, her relationship with Guy hasn’t ever been truly conventional.”


“I know. On top of those you can add Penelope’s running away from her father, Lillian’s father figure was her Uncle George…Oh I think we both know a lot of other cases.”


Looking over, Caroline said “is the lack of a proper father figure what drove us all in this direction Madame?”


“I don’t know,” Shirley paused for thought, “but I think a lot of analysts might find it at best highly coincidental that so few of us did have purely conventional family lives.”


“Madame, Caroline, do you want to come inspect the communications centre?” Charlotte put her head round the door.


“Why not – the vault is next door, and I need to be on my way to the show soon anyway…”




10 am

The Village


“When are you supposed to be there Grace?”


“In about an hour Harriet,” Grace said as she glanced at her watch.


“Is Caroline picking you up?”


“She is,” Grace mumbled as she checked her tote bag one more time.


“I’m going to make some coffee?” Sarah called from the kitchen, “can I tempt you?”


“I better not.”


“You’ll be happy when Fashion Week is over Grace.” Harriet looked up from the sheet music she was looking at.


“You think,” the tall blonde laughed.


“Just remember that when this ends, you revert from being Glorious Grace to being just regular Mrs. Grace Brand,” Sarah said as she brought in the coffees for her and Harriet.


“I know, but as much as I love modelling, and how great it is hanging out and working with so many old and new friends, I like it that there are times I can put being that me aside, and as you say be just Grace Brand the teacher.”


“I can understand that,” Sarah said as she passed the window, and looked out.  “Funny…”


“What is?”


Looking over, she said “how sunny it still is in September…”  She had seen him again – the third morning running – and she was starting to get worried…





The APCO show


“This is Jeanne Beckmann, and welcome to The Beckmann Report!”


As the opening credits played, Jeanne checked she was looking good on the camera, before she smiled and held the microphone up.


“Today we’re coming live from what has become over the last two years one of the highlights of the New York Fashion Week – the APCO show.  Providing wonderful fashions in their stores, the latest of which has just opened in Dublin, APCO has become one of the best known names on the street – helped in part by their support of designers such as Kylie Mitchell.


“I’m joined today by possibly the busiest woman in the entire show, and a very dear and old friend – Alice McKinnon, the CEO and chief designer of APCO.  Alice, welcome to the Beckmann Report.”


“It’s a pleasure to be here again Jeanne,” Alice said as she came into view, wearing a cream trouser suit with a dark blouse underneath.”


“Now in terms of the sheer number of outfits being shown Alice, this is the single biggest show in fashion week. Is there a reason for that?”


“Well Jeanne” Alice said with a smile, “I like to give people a real show and I don’t think 55 outfits and show over in 12 minutes really does that.”


“So is this really two shows in one?”


“Well maybe two and a half,” Alice smiled, “we are presenting APCO’s new daywear couture, the range of evening wear that Kylie and I have designed together, and then we are throwing in a few surprises at the end.”


“So is this a single show, but showcasing the work of two designers?”


“Not really, Kylie and I have collaborated on a number of the outfits as well as each having designed many on our own. I think we will both be interested what critics make of those that are joint efforts.”


“And where is Kylie today?”


“Where she always is at these shows, behind the scenes, making last minute adjustments and trying to be ready.”


“One of the standouts for this year has also been the number of young models – will you be continuing that trend?”


“Indeed – Orion O’Ryan and Katy Carter will be with us this year, but we also welcome for the first time Suzie Clarke, fresh from her appearances at the Complete Style awards show and in Vogue, as well as Eve and Aileen Priest, the daughters of Paula Lardarn, who have been making their debut on the catwalk this week.  Alongside old friends such as Grace Gresham, Olivia Savage and of course Mandy Carrow, we think we have something for everyone this year.”


“And those surprises?”


“Will, for the moment, remain surprises,” Alice said with a smile.


“Well, we look forward to seeing them, and we’ll let you get back to work.  Alice, thank you for talking to us.”


“Thank you,” Alice said as Jeanne said “more from the show later, but for now a report on what Donna Karin had to say this year…”



Xavier International




As she looked up, and held her back, she saw Pamela standing in the doorway.


“The Marchesa on line 2.”


“Put her through,” Charlotte said as she picked up the handset.  “Good morning Mamma…”


“Carlotta darling we may have a problem.”


“We have Mama?”


“Someone has been trailing Dominique in her identity as Caroline Jameson.”


“OH CRAP!” Charlotte visibly paled.


“Didn’t I once hear you tell me that Helen York has the quickest hands in the business?”


“In what sense?”


“I want this guy frisked and identified without him knowing he’s been made.”


“Well that’s certainly one of her skills, but I thought we’d agreed to keep Helen well out of this?”


“This may just be an obsessive fan, but we need an id, and we need it quick.”


“Get a picture and I can use Heather’s facial recognition software and do it…”


“We can try that as a backup, but for now ring Helen and get her on this please.”


“Yes Mama.”  Putting the phone down, she dialled another number and waited.


“Helen?  Can you get down to the APCO show – we need your help with something…”



1 pm

The APCO Show


Standing in the crowd, his impatience was starting to get the better of him.


“How long does it take for them to get ready?” he thought as he glanced at his watch. It was three hours before the show was due to start and yet she and her friend had already been here at the venue for an hour.


“How am I going to kill all this time?” he asked himself aloud.


This was the worst part of what he was doing, the waiting, the boredom, but at least he was now sure that his plan for reintroducing himself to his ex-wife was feasible, and that he’d be able to catch her totally off guard.


“Do you have eyes on him?”


Hearing Francesca in her earpiece, the female security guard nodded.  “He’s certainly not I would call the fashion fan type Admiral,” the young woman whispered, “and he’s definitely hanging around for some reason.”


“And you are sure he followed our girls?”


“From Mrs. Brand’s apartment to here…yes I’m sure.”


“And your assessment of the potential threat is?”


“I’m not sure,” she whispered, “but I would love to know more.”


“Look, I’m sending you someone I hear is the best frisk artist in the business. Watch him, trail him, and wait for her. Make no, I repeat NO move yourself.”


“Understood Admiral.”



“Okay people – let’s make this a good one,” Juliette called out as Grace came back stage, Marina nodding as she stood with Anna.


“So how bad has she been Marina?” Alice asked as the Englishwoman walked into the dressing area.


“Don’t ask…”


“Oh as good as that eh?” Katy laughed aloud as she sat having her hair done.


“I’m not sure how much sleep she got, and she’s barely eaten a thing.”


“So she’s pretty much as she always is on show day?” Nikki asked.


“Yes,” Marina rolled her eyes.


“And I thought that I was a nervous wreck,” Aileen joined the conversation.


“Compared to Kylie darling you are calmness personified,” Mandy stood to let her dresser tighten the built in corset on the first outfit she was walking.


“So what is she so afraid of Marina?” Pippa asked as she and Anna partook a little of the buffet that Alice and Duncan had laid on backstage.


“That critics like you will say bad things about the collection, and that it will be the outfits she designed that you single out to criticize.”


“Well as usual she doesn’t have to worry one little bit,” Mary Thomas joined her CS colleagues, “it’s an amazing collection as always.”


“Now if only one of you could convince her of that,” Marina shook her head as Kylie walked in looking like she was carrying the weight of the world upon her shoulders.


“Leave it with me,” Doc said as she took Kylie by the arm, and guided her into a quiet corner out of sight.  “Sheesh, Kittycat, you’re worse than the Sydney show!”


“I know Kitten,” Kylie said quietly, “I just get so…”


The gentle pressure of Doc’s lips on hers silenced her for a moment, before she looked into Anna’s eyes.   “That’s enough of that, little one – get out there and be the star you are, got it?”


“Got it,” Kylie said with a shy smile as Marina called out “Kylie?  You’re needed.”


“Coming darling,” she called out as she looked at Anna, and then made her way out…




As Helen came into the front area, she looked round and saw her co-worker, who nodded in the direction of the man watching the doors.  He looked to be in his late forties, a little careworn and bald headed, but his look was focused on the stage and the entrance to the backstage area, to the detriment of all else.


She walked over, grabbing a glass of wine as she did so and looking at a picture on the wall next to him.  As she waited, Liz walked over with Pussy, and his attention was momentarily taken.  The opportunity she needed, as she turned and bumped into him, apologising as she backed away.


He looked at her, wondering who she was, and then checked his pockets – but his wallet and other ID were all present and correct…


“Did you get it?”


Helen nodded as she took out a driving licence, and then a cell phone.


“Francesca?  We need a check on one Bruce Donald Brand, UK citizen…”


She waited a few moments, and then said “are you sure?


“All right – you inform Madame, I’ll talk to Caroline.”  Ending the call, she said “watch him – I’ll be back later.”




Xavier International


“I need to get going to the APCO show, Susan,” Shirley said as she stood up, and then picked up the phone to answer the call.


“Francesca?  Is there an issue?”


"Shirley I think we have a situation?"

Sitting down, she said "what kind of situation Francesca?"

"You know Caroline thought she had someone tailing her?"

"Yes.  She had one of your girls follow her today, correct?"

"Correct…  Well it turns out we think that she wasn't the one being followed."


"Yes, I got the guy frisked down by Helen, and it turns out his name is Bruce Brand."

"Well it's a name that means nothing to me..." suddenly Shirley paused, "Hold on did you say Brand?"

"Yes, it wasn't Caroline being tailed...."

"It was Grace" Shirley interrupted. "Do you have a positive on him?"

"Carlotta's computer spat out some more details when she ran his face through facial recognition...yes he is Grace Brand's ex-husband."

"Ouch! And yes we certainly do have a situation Francesca."

"Any suggestions what we do would be welcome Madame?" Charlotte's voice came on the line.

"Give me a few seconds to think please."  Looking at Susan, she said “Dominique?”


“Helen is talking to her now.”


“Very well – I am going to the show, and I will talk to her there…”



The APCO show


“One hour to showtime people,” Abby called out as Caroline looked round the room, and walked to where Grace was talking to Mandy and Karen.


"Grace dear,” she said as she took the platinum blonde by the arm and led her to a quiet corner, “I need talk to you before the show starts."

"Why Caroline?" Grace looked at the younger woman.

"Look I'll put this in as quick a form as I can." Caroline took a deep breath and looked at her. "I was worried I was being followed, so I had a couple of people follow me to spot if I was being tailed."


"Well it turns out that i wasn't dreaming, there is a guy out there..."

"Oh shit!"

"However,” Caroline said quietly, “it turns out it may not be me he was following....Grace I don't know quite how to say this, but we think he is tailing you."

"Oh come on Caroline,” Grace laughed “why would anyone tail me?"

"Because we think he's your ex-husband."

"Bruce?" Grace went as white as a ghost.  “Are you sure?”


“We got a positive ID.  When the show is over, stay with me, and tell me what you want to do – right now, showtime…”




5 pm


“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the APCO show – and leading off, Grace Gresham and Mandy Carrow!”


As the two women walked out in their evening gowns, he stared at the taller of the two.  How had he never seen this side of her?


“Please welcome, in cocktail dresses designed by Kylie Mitchell, Orion O’Ryan, Katy Carter, Suzie Clarke and Aileen Priest!”


The crowd gasped and cheered as they walked out, smiling and posing before they walked backstage.


“Did you hear that gasp as i appeared," Katy laughed as she ran back for her change, "Kylie I think they loved this dress."

"I think they are liking all of the clothes," Mandy smiled as the makeup artist redid her face..

"We still have more than half of the show yet darlings," Kylie fretted.

"Just call her Miss ‘glass is half empty'," Lily Cole laughed as she stood up and joined Jo and Abby.






"Well I can foresee getting a nice dividend check?" Janice whispered to Denice, "this collection is going to help boost the sales of the accessories Huntingdown's makes."

"Guaranteed Jan.   How will you use it?"


“I have some plans…”




"Any idea why Caroline chose to open her new offices at the exact same time she's busy with fashion weeks Nessa?"

"Not a clue Paulie,” Nessa said as they applauded Juliette and Carina in matching suits, “I'm just glad we at the Trust could help her out."

"According to Susan, it frees up space Xavier's need," Diana spoke.

"Ah that might explain it," Paulie said as they stood to applaud Jo and Marnie, then sat down again.






"So Gale seeing much you like?"

"Far too much,” Gale said as she sat with Annie, “Tom will have a fit if I even think of buying what I'm liking."

"Well if you use some of your inheritance?"

"He hates me using it. We agreed that as far as possible we will live on his salary, and leave that to accumulate for Alan's future."





"I LOATH when this happens," Claire Morse sipped her champagne as they stood during the interval, "I come to fashion shows to look at clothes, not to talk about politics."

"I know," Liz Lodge said as she ate a canapé, "and it's not just here, Sam and I went to a dinner party at an old friend of mines last night, and all anyone did was talk about the elections."

"I don't know how to describe it," Pussy sat next to her sister, "but if this was Star Wars I’d definitely be saying that there's a disturbance in the force."

"True," Rachel laughed, "and trust a physicist to describe it like that."




“Thank you,” Alice said as the models clapped her and Kylie onto the stage, the young designer blushing as Alice held her hand up high in hers, “thank you all for coming…”


As the audience applauded, he turned to walk away – only to stop as he recognised Caroline Jameson standing behind him.


“Good afternoon,” she said quietly, “I wonder if I could have a quick word?”


“Err…”  He stammered as he said “I’m sorry, have we met?”


“Not officially – Caroline Jameson,” the blonde said as she held her hand out, waiting until he took it and shook.  “I’ve seen you around my neck of the woods recently – just visiting?”


“Yes – look I…”


“Need to come with me,” Caroline said as she took him by the arm, leading him backstage as he looked round, and then into a room, before she left and closed the door.


“Hello, Bruce.”


He turned suddenly to see Grace Brand standing there, her arms folded and still wearing the last gown from the show.  Staring at her, he smiled and said “Grace – long time no see…”


“And yet, we do see each other,” she said quietly, “what the hell are you doing here?”


“I was on holiday, it’s a pure coincidence…”


“Bovine Excrement.”  Grace unfolded her arms and looked at him, as she said “you’ve been tailing me for days now – Caroline thought it was someone following her, and trust me, that is not a person you want to know you are following her, but to hear it was you…


“So let me make this short and clear – disappear, Bruce, because if I see you again, I will call the police in.  This is your only warning.”


She opened the door and walked out, Bruce saying, “hold on Grace, I…”


“am leaving – now,” Caroline said as she took him by the arm and led him out, Karen watching with Grace.


“Who was that?”


“Trouble – pure and simple…”




“Stay away,” Caroline said as she pushed him out onto the street, closing the door behind him.


“CRAP!” he said the world aloud as he stood outside the door and tried both to understand what had just happened and to readjust his future plans.


“What happened? How the hell did they spot me? I was so damn careful,” the words ran through his head.


“Okay Bruce think,” he told himself. Well he no longer had the element of surprise on his side, Grace knew he was in New York and she had her defences up. Was there any way that he could now get her alone and talk to her? Or was he going to find that her friends like the Jameson woman had erected a wall round her?


Dear God why did nothing in this life go as he planned it?


“Anyway nothing to be done tonight,” he told himself, “I might as well go back to the hotel and think it all out.”





8 pm

The Village


“Thanks for calling round,” Caroline said as she sat at the table with Francesca and Charlotte, “after this week, I just need to unwind before the next crisis…”


“I can understand that,” Charlotte said as she sipped her Diet Coke, and looked at it.


"So,” Francesca said quietly, “your thoughts Caroline?"

"Speaking as Dominique,” the dark haired Amazon said as she sat back, “I'm just happy that I hadn't been made, and that it wasn't the Russians on my tail. But speaking as Grace's friend I just wish there was something I could do to help her get this over and resolved."

"What do you think he wants?" Charlotte asked.

"Grace told me that he once tried to get money from her family in return for not revealing her secret Charlotte. So I'm guessing he probably is looking for cash."


"I know, but I know Grace well enough to say that if he does threaten to tell tales on her that she's fully prepared to say go ahead, and that she'll see him in court if he says anything libelous.  As it is, she told him to get lost, and I suggested he follow her advice.”


“As Dominique?"


“No,” Caroline said as she shook her head, “as Caroline.”

"That's the only way to deal with blackmailers." Francesca nodded as she sipped hr wine.

"Anyway, to give her some extra ammunition can i ask you and Heather to run a comprehensive check on him, and what he's been doing since their divorce?"

"We are one step ahead of you," Charlotte laughed.

"Now how did I know you were going to say that?" Caroline shook her head.




9 pm

The Waldorf-Astoria


"At least it's one problem that we don't have to worry about Boss," Hannah crossed her legs and sipped her tea.

"No,” Francesca said, “but still, Grace is part of 'our' social circle, and I'm hoping that it can be resolved without tears."

"Amen to that."

"Anyway to change subjects, I know that we weren't operational today, but how has the testing gone, and has anything popped out you think I need to know?"

"Biggest problem has been the electrics misbehaving like that."

"Yes," Francesca nodded, "it's good that the Richmond Trust knew these guys we have coming in tonight to get it fixed."

"On the operational front, I think we have been able to add a couple of extra names to the list of agents of influence we need monitor."

"Alright, put the details in the briefing for the morning please."


“I’ll do that,” Hannah said as she stood up, “see you tomorrow Marchesa.”


As her assistant left, she let Charlotte come in.  “The techs are at work,” she said as she sat down.


“Good – time for a status update to our client,” Francesca said as she dialled a number on her phone.


“This is Preminger.”


"Admiral,” Francesca said quietly, “I'm just ringing to say that we should, God willing, be fully operational in the morning."

"That's at least a week before I even possibly thought possible Francesca," Ed Preminger laughed lightly, "you and your contacts must have worked overtime."

"Well thanks to a generous donor, I've had the cash to spend to make sure it all got done promptly."

"I won't ask who your donor is," The American laughed again, "I'm not sure I really want, or need, to know."

"One thing I have to ask, do you want us to pursue any American citizens we find caught up in this? Or do you just want the details on what the Russians are doing."

"If you come across Americans in this Admiral,' Ed suddenly got formal and businesslike, "please report said names to me, but take no, and I stress that word, no action yourself."

"You don't want us to watch them and investigate?"

"No, that skirts too close to our US laws Admiral, confine your attention please to foreign nationals."

"But keep you informed on American 'names' Sir?"

"Just so."


“Very well – I will provide daily updates to you.  God speed Admiral.”


“And you admiral,” Ed said as the line went dead, and Francesca sat down.


“So we are a go?”


“Indeed…  May I tell you a secret Carlotta?”


“I’m always eager to hear what you have to say Mamma,” Charlotte said as she sat down on the bed.


”Most intelligence departments have to constantly watch themselves for one great problem Carlotta darling,” Francesca said as she poured some tea, “they tend to become incestuous recruiting people of the same background, and with basically the same ideas as the people they already employ. We are starting with a huge advantage in that we have drawn in a large variety of competent people but with vastly different life stories, hopefully that will help us develop some outside the box thinking on all this.”


“What do you mean incestuous Mama? I’m still not quite sure what you mean.”


“Well MI6 has always been dominated by public school and Oxbridge types. The CIA to this day has close ties to Yale University, and particularly to the Skull and Bones secret society there.”




“The exception – I’ll tell you why another day.”


“Ah I think I can see what you are getting at now.” Charlotte stood and stretched, “because of our diversity, that might be our advantage?”


“I’m hoping so.”


“There is something that’s been picking at my brain though.”


“And what is that darling?”


“That with this being what we think is a political influence operation, shouldn’t we be monitoring what is going on closely and trying to discern what is and isn’t traceable back to ‘them’?”


“It had occurred to me as well darling that yes maybe we need someone who is an expert both in political affairs, and in the media.”


“If Jane was a sister then she’d be ideal.”


“But of course she isn’t,” Francesca said with a sigh as she took off her glasses and started to clean them.


“I can maybe put out feelers through our contacts and see if a name crops up?”


“Okay, do that,” Francesca put her spectacles back on. “in the meantime I’ll ask Hannah to ensure that I can at least see the major newspapers each morning on my desk…”


“And I may know someone can do a quick summary of what’s being said on the television and radio.”


“Can you also maybe get me a summary of what’s being said on so-called social media, and in other such places?”


“I may know just the young woman to do that?” Charlotte chuckled to herself.


“Good, I’m proud of how well you are adapting to working in this field darling.”


“I’m my Mother’s daughter, like you I can adapt as I need,” the redhead blushed.


“Yes you are…Anyway darling I think it’s time we both headed to bed, I want us at the office early.”


“Yes,” Charlotte looked at her watch.


“Alright darling, I will see you first thing,” Francesca stood, then hugged her daughter.


11 pm

The Village


“You are up late Mom?” Ama said as she wandered into the kitchen.


“So are you young woman,” Dominique said as she looked at the wall clock.


“I wanted something to drink,” the black girl took the milk jug from the fridge. “What’s your excuse?”


“Nothing really…”


“Still worrying about Aunt Grace and her ex-husband?”


“A bit, but I think it’s more to do with trying to reassure myself that I’ve done everything I need to ahead of the new operation starting.”


“Well you either have, or you haven’t,” Ama poured herself a glass, “want some?”


“No, I’m fine,” her mother smiled.


“Anyway to return to your worrying, it’s not like you haven’t done similar things before, and a lot of your day will still be running Jameson’s as you always do.”


“I think it’s that this is so important, it’s not crime, this is big-time international affairs, and…”


“I knew there had to be an ‘and’,” Ama grinned.


“It’s also about working for Francesca. She sets such high standards, and she is so excellent at her work. I don’t want to feel I might let her down.”


“WOW! My Mom with a case of heroine worship,” the black girl laughed.


“Oh it’s not really that,” Dom blushed.


“Well it sounds like it to me,” a voice said from the doorway.


“Sorry Annie, did we wake you?”


“You didn’t, it was time for the twins to have their feed anyway.”


“Can I help?” Ama volunteered.


“If you wish.”


“Okay I know what to do,” the youngster stood up.


“Thanks,” Annie said as she walked over, “and returning to what you were saying Dom, there is no harm in admiring someone who is great at their job.”


“True – very true…”




Monday 19th September

9 am

Jameson Security Head Office



Francesca had designated that the large room on the top floor that had once served as the Richmond Trust’s boardroom would serve as the conference room, and where each morning she would hold a daily heads of department meeting. The room was more than adequate with its oak panelled walls and slightly musty atmosphere, it had that air of solidity and permanence that far too many of today’s glass windowed towers lack.


“Yes this will do nicely,” Francesca thought to herself as she, Charlotte, and Hannah came in, “I like this very much.”


“So will this do Mama?” Charlotte pointed at the mahogany table and the matching chairs in the centre of the room. “Sandy Richmond had this in storage and she told us we could have it.”


“I must thank her then,” Francesca smiled as she took a seat at the head, and laid her files on the table.


“Sorry if we are actually a little late,” Eleanor looked at her watch as she and Veronica arrived.


“Actually you are a little early,” Francesca looked hard at the large box file that the Coast Guard officer was carrying, and speculated to herself as to the contents.


“Good morning,” Caroline said as she came in, “George is hosting the kickoff meeting for my other staff.  He’s been kept out of this unless it is necessary to bring him in.”


“As it should be – Caroline, I know I have never asked, but just what is George’s background,” Francesca asked.


“Ask him some time,” Caroline said with a smile.


“So, to business - I hope none of you object, but I’ve asked Michaela to act as my personal secretary, and to keep the minutes of our meetings?” Francesca asked as a tall brunette in a black dress slipped into the room, sat on a chair by the wall, put down her bag, and took out a notepad.


“Fine with me,” Caroline smiled as the brunette slipped on a large pair of glasses, She’d rather forgotten in that in addition to being an expert in crimes like extortion, that Michaela was also a more then capable office worker. Francesca had obviously been looking in the personnel files.



“I want to stress one thing before we start,” Francesca looked round the table, “never be afraid to disagree not only with each other, but with me as well. I can assure you that I won’t take it personally. Our mission here ladies is to establish as exactly as we can just what is going on, and who is behind it all. Simply put if you know different then please tell us, if we are going to get to the truth we need every scrap of intelligence, and the very best informed analysis. Do I make myself clear?”


“Yes Admiral,” Veronica spoke for the room.


Nodding, Francesca said “Oh and I suppose that just maybe that is another thing we need to get clear - titles and ranks.”


“One or two staff members have already asked me about that?” Caroline spoke.


“I’d guessed,” Francesca paused for thought. “Look ladies we come from a variety of working cultures, and a number of us complicate things by being friends. However we are all here to work, and it’s my feeling that we need to put a lot of that aside.”


“My people are used to being able to call even me by my name Admiral.”


“I know that Caroline, and can you tell them that in the public facing business that you run then it’s up to you what is done. However I think within this intelligence operation, especially when ‘officers’ are interacting with staff that rank and protocol helps make things more respectful, and efficient.”


“Which is fine Mama, or do I need to say Admiral?” Charlotte asked with a very serious look on her face.


“Darling,” Francesca laughed, “I will say use your judgment which is appropriate in the situation.”


“I guess I can try.”


“And for those of us who lack a military rank?” Caroline asked.


“Then I think Miss Jameson, or Mrs. Van der Byl are appropriate.”


“I don’t totally agree or disagree with you on this Admiral, but maybe we need to think more on it?” Eleanor spoke.


“Yes,” a couple of heads nodded.


“Alright we will mark this as item to which we will return.  Commander, you have the floor.”



“Alright if I can begin,” Veronica opened her file and started handing out closely typed lists, “this is a summary of the prominent business people that we in criminal justice and law enforcement suspect either do substantial business with the Russian mob, and, or, owe them for money and favors.”


“This is just a summary?” Eleanor asked as she quickly counted how many pages there were.


“And just of the most prominent people?” Hannah asked.


“Yes if you go further down the economic pecking order then it starts to look like a telephone directory.”


“I’m sure we all know what the Russians mean by Kompromat Commander,” Francesca adjusted her glasses, “are all these people that compromised?”


“We don’t know Admiral if I’m being totally honest. Tax returns, business records, off shore accounts, by law we can’t even dream at getting at most of those to look at and investigate. This list is merely those that our intelligence indicates MIGHT be susceptible to being influence because we have an idea that they may have done business with the Russians.”


“Understood,” Francesca nodded. “Alright ladies accepting that most of these are probably innocent, I want workups done of the electronic traffic we are seeing, and whether any of our Russian suspects are having face-to-face meetings with any of these people.”


“Can we investigate these people?” Caroline asked.


“No,” Francesca smiled. “As the Commander will no doubt tell us, investigating American citizens like these without warrants, etc, is a no-no. If we find evidence that they are interacting with our suspects though we’ve been told simply to pass their names to the relevant authorities.”


“And anyone else?”


“We do what we do best,” Charlotte said with a smile.  “I’ll get someone working on sorting and assessing needs.”


“Very well – technical input.  Carlotta?”


“Okay I guess I better brief everyone on some of our sources,” Charlotte took a deep breath. “Put simply we can call on the services of the Hidden Hand in managing our electronic data gathering, and as you may know then she is incomparably the best person in the world at this type of thing.”


“She is,” Francesca agreed.


“And contrary to rumour, I am not her,” Charlotte laughed lightly, “I’m good, but I’m nowhere even close to being in her league.”


“So we can trust the raw intercepts that my analysts will be seeing?” Veronica asked.


“The Hand will supply information as to who the sources were and how the intelligence was gathered. It’s up to you and your people to evaluate Commander.”


“Understood.” Veronica nodded.


“Physical intelligence gathered by my Operations people will come with similar notes,” Caroline spoke.


“Good,” Veronica nodded, “and will it be in my remit to request specific work be done?”


“If you require such work done bring your requests to this meeting each day Commander and we will assess each request and assign the work as needed.”


“Thank you Admiral.”


“I want to personally monitor the flow of money in all this,” Eleanor leaned forward. “An operation on this scale is burning cash…quickly. I want to know where and how the Russians are using it, and how they are hiding this.”


“US banking laws Eleanor…remember?”


“If I’m right all this money is moving the international system Veronica, and a certain friend of the Sisters may have contacts who can tell us chapter and verse.”


“That isn’t legal…”


“No it isn’t Commander,” Francesca laughed, “but nor is most of what we will be doing, and Captain?”


Eleanor looked across the table as Francesca said “if you want to use my ‘legitimate’ business contacts to help investigate the money trail, please tell me later.”


“Our ‘friends’ also have contacts in the European crime families that hate and despise the Russians,” Caroline spoke again. “I’ll have them do some asking what is known on our behalf.”


“Good – I have a meeting later to gather more – local financial intel…”



11 am

Jameson Security


“Thank you for coming and seeing me Vanessa, and you too Gus,” Francesca said as she let the older man kiss her on the cheek.  Gus had on an open necked shirt, with a grey jacket and slacks, while Nessa was wearing a Versace rouser suit with a cream top.


“Well you made it sound very intriguing, and all rather cloak and dagger darling,” Nessa said as she also kissed her hostess.


“I will admit to feeling the same Francesca,” Gus smoothed his pants down as he took a seat on the couch. “What can I do for you?”


Dr. McAdam is on Skype Marchesa,” a disembodied voice was heard.


“Thank you Michaela,” Francesca said as she pressed a couple of buttons and Agnes appeared on a screen.


“Good morning Francesca.”


“Good afternoon Aggie, now I believe you know both Gus and Vanessa?”


“Slightly…how are you both?”


“Fine Aggie,” Nessa smiled at the computer screen.


“I know all three of you are busy, and I hate taking too much of your time, but I rather need your combined expertise to explain something to me.”


“And what might that be?” Gus lifted an eyebrow.


“Like both of you,” Agnes said, “I’m involved in the property development business Gus, but I’m not in the New York market.”


“I know that.”


“Look to make this simple, you all know I used to be in the intelligence business?”


“So I’d been told,” Nessa nodded.


“Let me say that I’ve been asked to do some consulting work for one of your US government agencies shall we?”


“So it is cloak and dagger?” Nessa asked.


“In a way,” Francesca took a deep breath. “I need to ask you both, totally and utterly off the record, how a certain property developer can operate as he does when I know for a fact that all American banks stopped making loans to him as a bad risk years ago.”


“Ah you are talking about ‘him’,” Gus smiled slightly.


“That’s a million-dollar question Francesca.” Nessa crossed her legs, “that a lot of us would like to the answer to.”


“Reduced to basics I’m interested in knowing where he gets all this money to make cash purchases, and what if anything he’s being expected to do in return?”


“It’s a great question,” Gus smiled again.


“Look we all, even with our wealth, lay off a lot of risk by raising loans from the banks, and other investors.”


“Just so.”


“Yes Gus,” Nessa nodded to her old friend.


“Tell me if you’ve ever heard different please Aggie? That is standard isn’t it?’


“So I’ve always known Francesca.”


“So why after a career spent borrowing money, and all those bankruptcies, where suddenly was the cash coming from?”


“I can give you guesses Francesca, but I’m sure you’ve already come to the same conclusions.” Agnes replied.


“I won’t say specific nations,” Nessa spoke again, “but let me say I have heard rumors regarding certain eastern European and Arab nations.”


“Shall I serve coffee now Marchesa?” Michaela’s voice came over the intercom.


“Please,” Francesca answered, “now let’s pause shall we, then maybe you can let me pick your brains in detail?”



Xavier International


“Madeline,” Shirley said as she looked at the laptop screen, “I trust the team did well on Sunday?”


“Very well indeed – the local police department are scratching their heads as to what happened,” Maddie said with a smile.  “I understand they still have not found the security guard – the tides are a little unusual at this time of year.”


Shirley chuckled as she said “I can well imagine – but there was another reason I called.  Can you and Emma make it over to London in a few weeks?”


“Oh – any particular reason?”


“A quiet little night out…”



Noon PT

Oakland Heights


The apartment door opened, Mary looking in before she and Suzie brought their cases in, Suze closing the door before they removed their coats and hung them up.


“Right – younger ones are at school, David is at his lectures, and Pops…”


“Was just waiting for you to come in.”


“POPS!”  Mary and Suzie hugged their father as he came in from the kitchen.  “Who’s minding the store today?”


“Jorge is inducting some new apprentices, and I had an appointment in the bank, hence the garb.  Or do you think I wear a suit and tie to the garage these days?”


“Well, you do look good in it,” Suzie chuckled.


“I do, don’t’ I?  So Suzie – you are excused school today, but you have some assignments on the dining table.”


“Now I know how Katy feels,” Suzie said as she walked off, Mary shaking her head as she looked at her father.


“Listen,” Dave said quietly, “her sixteenth.  Has she dropped any hints?”


“Not yet – I wonder what she would like…”



4.20 pm

The Richmond Mansion


“How is your schedule looking now with Fashion Week over Doc?”


“Manageable…Why?” Anna asked suspiciously as she stood at the coffee bar.


“You aren’t doing those Irish shows are you?”


“No, I wasn’t asked…Heather if you have something to ask me spit it out please.”


“Look,” Heather said as she rubbed her eyes, “the people I have you doing courier work for…”


“Caroline and her friends?”


“Yes. Well they need someone great with computers to do something for them.”


“And you Miss Hidden Hand are asking me?” Anna sounded astonished.


“Yes,” Heather laughed.


“What is it they want done?”


“How closely do you follow politics Doc?’


“Not really at all…why?”


“Because our ‘friends’ are investigating what might be foreign interference in the coming election, and they think social media is being used to influence all this.”


“So reading between the lines do you want me to monitor what is being said, and by who?”


“See I knew you were a bright girl,” Heather laughed again.


“How detailed reports do you want?”


“Basically summaries and trends…you could almost look on it as a Civics project for school.”


“Actually that isn’t such a bad idea. I’ve got to do a project this semester, I can maybe cannibalize the research.”


“That’s up to you Doc, but if you do this it needs doing perfectly.”


“Heather have you ever known my work to be anything other.”


“Nope,” Heather sealed the package of documents, drop this off at Caroline’s as usual please.”


“Will do.”



5 pm

Jameson Security


“So anything to report on Dancer?” Caroline asked the assembled team in the meeting room.


“Nothing much Boss.”


“Meaning what exactly?”


“He was at the rehearsal hall at eight on the dot. They worked till midday when he left and headed for Daniel where he had lunch with a group of patrons of the Civic Ballet. At one thirty he left, and he’s currently back home in his apartment.  We’re monitoring him there now.”


“Did he speak to anyone we might be interested in?”


“Other than a host of adoring ladies at lunch who he coaxed some substantial donations to the Ballet Trust out of? Then I didn’t spot anyone.”


“Has he spoken to anyone since he got home?”


“A couple of phone calls, both ballet related, and other then that from what we can tell he’s been relaxing and listening to music.”


“Okay,” Caroline shook her blonde hair, “it looks like this is going to be a fairly typical surveillance then…”


“Yes, for those of us who hate ballet…boring as hell,” one of the girls laughed.


“99% of all surveillance is just watching the subjects routine. It’s that 1% of the time though when he or she does something out of the ordinary that we are interested in.”


“Yes,” others said as heads nodded.


“Alright keep up the good work, and notify me straight away if he, or any of our other subjects, does anything even the tiniest bit suspicious.”


7 pm


"So how goes it Hannah?" Peri said from the computer screen as Hannah sat at her desk.

"Well we survived day one Peri."

"Survived?" the young administrator said as she raised an eyebrow.

"Yes it was longer and harder than the first day in the London office."

Peri chuckled as she said "I guessed it might be."

"Anyway,” Hannah asked, “what are you doing up in the middle of the night?"

"I was hungry, and I thought I'd see if there were any leftovers. While I was eating I thought I'd give you a call."

"You are going to miss Betty's cooking when you eventually move back to your own flat."

"Tell me about it," Peri laughed quietly, "I've already gained five pounds."

"I doubt that," Hannah laughed, "you are hyper-active, you just burn off calories."

"Well it feels like I've added weight."

"Anyway thanks for the legal work feed, the Boss and I are going to devote time each day so that we don't get too far behind and let Sigi down while we deal with this other matter."

"I'll send what I have each morning for you...."

"And I'll reply each evening Peri."


“Sounds good – and this tastes so good…”


“Get some sleep Peri,” Hannah laughed out loud.




11 pm

The Waldorf-Astoria


“Well James what would you have made of me today?” Francesca said as she laid on her bed and tried to relax. It had been a long first day at the new office mostly devoted to putting procedures and protocols in place, and one on which they had made very little active progress on the maters in hand.


“Would it have shocked you to see me as the efficient spy mistress? Would you even have liked this me, the one I kept hidden from you?”


For a second she tried thinking as though she was James, trying to look at herself with his eyes. It wasn’t easy. In South Africa she’d been constrained from revealing herself totally to the man she loved by the need to protect her cover. The jet-setting bimbo he’d observed from afar for all those years was another cover. No he’d actually seen very little of the real her.


He’d seen some though and she knew from what he’d said at the time that he especially loved her when she allowed herself to open up enough to see the real her.

No he might have found the spy mistress disconcerting, but she knew that he would understand the need she had inside currently, that need that would remain unfulfilled, where she longed to come home to him after such a long day of work and to lay in his arms, tell him what had gone on, and talk out all her problems with the man she loved.


Oh what a lovely thought, that he was here laying beside her, holding her in his arms. What wouldn’t she give to feel that for real just one more time?



The Village


Bruce Brand stood outside the apartment building, swigging from the Jim Beam bottle as he looked up to the second floor.   He knew she was in there, and she would have to talk to him – he just needed to work out a way how.


And time in his room, with some quality white powder from the street, meant he was ready for anything.  Sneak in, have a look round, see what he can see, what he can find out – and then make his case…


Walking across the road, he looked at the lock.  Nothing difficult, or special, as he took an old credit card out and opened the lock, closing the door quietly behind himself.  He was undetected, as he walked up the staircase and into the darkened front room.


Neat, tidy – just how he had imagined he had lived all these years, but that wasn’t important.  What was important was that he find something to use on her, as he stumbled across the floor, and looked in a bureau.   There were letters, papers, but not much else.


Perhaps in the kitchen there was something…


“Hey, asshole.”


He turned to see who was talking, but it wasn’t Grace – it was the younger one, and she didn’t look happy to see him.


“Oh – am I in the wrong house?”


“Let me give you a hint,” she said as he finally saw the baseball bat she was holding in one hand, and the way she was hitting the palm of her free hand with it – before she brought it down on him, only his arm stopping her hitting his head.


“SHIT!”  The shout was clear as he stumbled down the stairs and out of the door, Harriet and Grace coming out as Grace said “what the…”


“A burglar, I saw him off,” Sarah said as Harriet turned the light on.  “Looks like he was looking round, but nothing taken.”


“Still – I wonder who he was…”


As Bruce stumbled out of the door and into the street he wondered just how muchworse his luck could get.


“Hey, Asshole.”


He turned suddenly to see two women standing there, looking at him as they slipped knuckle dusters on.


“If I was you…”




“Now who’s calling,” Grace said as she answered the phone.




“Well, yes, Sarah just chased him off.  Doesn’t look as if anything’s taken…


“No – just send someone round, and thanks.”


“Who was that,” Harriet said as Grace put the phone down.


“Xavier Security – he alarm was tripped.  They’re sending someone round to fix the door…”



Tuesday 20th September

9 am BST

Xavier International, The Aldwych


“Good morning Madame,” Amanda said as Shirley walked in removing her black coat to reveal her blue coat dress, “would you care for some coffee?”


“Please – and have Penelope and Lilian come in immediately,” Shirley said as she sat at her desk, looking at the message on her phone before there was a knock on the door.


“Good Morning Madame,” Penny said as she came in with Lily.  While she was wearing a red jumper and leather trousers, Lily was in a blue pinafore dress and white jumper.  “How are you this morning?”


“Tired thank you Penelope, transatlantic travel, even in my own jet, is not the glamourous thing it was once made out to be.”


“We were surprised to get your message that you were on your way,” Lily said as Amanda carried a tray in with the coffee on it.


“I’m surprised to be here as well,” Shirley said as they sat on her leather seats, and she started to pour, “but several things have come up that I can only attend to from here in London.”


“Oh?” Penny gave her boss an inquisitive look. “Business or pleasure?”


“Business business, but also some personal business mixed in.”


“Sounds intriguing.” Lily said as she took a cup.


“In a way,” Shirley said as she took a sip from her own cup. “Have you heard about the sudden reappearance of Grace Brand’s husband?”


“I heard a couple of words,” Penny stirred her coffee.  “In fact, we need to inform you that someone broke into her apartment last night.  Our security service tried to detain him, but he managed to escape.  We made good the damage to the door, but it may be…”


Shirley nodded as she put her cup down.  “Well, I want him thoroughly researched Penelope, I want to do know everything there is to know about him.”


“Alright Madame,” Lily said, “it might take a few days, but I think we can do that.”


“Assign our best bloodhounds please, don’t take this literally, but I almost want to know the colour of his underpants so that we can give Grace aid and ammunition.”


“Understood,” Penny scribbled a note.


“I know this isn’t strictly work girls, but Grace is a great and valued friend, and damn it what’s the point of this organization if I can’t occasionally use it for a personal reason?”


“It makes sense to me,” Lily sat and crossed her legs.


“Now the business business is in a way tougher…”


“Meaning it relates to the Russian thing?” Penny interrupted.


“Just so,” Shirley took a long breath, “First I want Natalya and Selena briefed and on a plane to New York this afternoon.”


“They’ve been on standby, I think they’ve been chaffing at the bit a little,” Penny said as she jotted down another note.


“Good,” Shirley said as she swung in her chair, “the other thing I want done is to talk to our associates in Europe, draw on our own expertise, and have as good a briefing document as can be assembled prepared for Eleanor Ball on how Russian money flows out of that country and gets cleaned.”


“I can try…”


“Are you sure Madame?” Lily asked urgently, “some of our contacts might not like even a trusted sister like Eleanor seeing information they’ve shared.”


“I understand, and yes you may need to redact some of our sources and methods from the report, but Eleanor desperately needs bringing up to speed, and like yesterday.”


“I’ll put staff to work on it,” Penny caught the tone in her boss’s words.


“Excellent – so, the morning report…”







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