Watching Me, Watching You
Monday 31st March
The Huntingdown Apartment
Heather, Joanne and Sandy came into the apartment as Juliette was pouring some coffee. Abigail and Carina were sitting on the other side of the bar, nibbling on a slice of toast each.
“Give me the morning sickness over this any day,” Carina said as Jo put her hand on her friend’s shoulder. “This is infinitely worse.”
“Oh I don’t know why – after all, it’s only your academic future we are talking about here,” Jo said with a smile.
“I take it they did not get much sleep,” Sandy said as she accepted a mug.
“Well, one thing for a transatlantic flight – it means you’re tired early, but they’ve been up since four.”
“And you?” Heather said as she took a mug.
“Since six – Mary had me on the phone for a ‘discussion’ on the shots last week. I have one hell of a morning ahead of me.”
“Oh dear,” Sandy said as she held her coffee, “what did the wizard of Complete Style wanted to know?”
“Oh not much – how did the shoots go, when can she meet ‘wee Jeanie’, is what she heard true about what Abby and Cari did…”
“Just as well Diana isn’t here – I would not want to be in the same room as her and Mary for that conversation.”
“Amen to that,” Juliette said. “Anyway, Missy has already talked to her about Jeanie, and she’s going to work with Fiona on the next issue. She also told me Doctor Shaypuk has agreed to write a special article for the edition – quite a scoop.”
“It’s eight o’clock,” Carina said as she looked at the clock on the wall. “Time to find out.” Reaching for the laptop, she switched it on and took it into the drawing room, the others watching from the kitchen as she sat on the couch and typed on the keyboard.
“What is it,” Juliette said as she looked over.
“Columbia – they’ve offered me a place. Well, we have a back-up plan now.”
Juliette shook her head. “Honestly, for a girl who went to FIT, I would be proud of her wherever she went.”
“Have you talked to Cari yet about what happened?”
“Not a good time yet,” Juliette said quietly.
“This is worse than her morning sickness,” Jo whispered to Abby as they watched Cari peer at the screen through her glasses. After a few minutes, she took her glasses off and stood up, walking to the large window and looking out over the park.
Juliette walked in and stood behind her daughter, unsure of what to say.
“I’m sorry Mom…”
“We’re going to have to decide if Yale can take a new student with a month old baby.”
“YES! You wonderful brilliant clever young lady,” Juliette said as she picked Cari off her feet and swung her round.
“Hey, hey – I just got over that sickness bit,” Cari said as Juliette put her down, and the girls looked at the laptop screen.
“Dammit – I had 205 in the sweepstakes. What about you Abby?”
“210 of course – so who had 203?”
“Find out later,” Juliette said as Sandy and Heather hugged her daughter, “Ready for school in ten minutes, all right?”
St Angela’s Academy
As they were walking into school, Carina’s phone started going off, both of the other girls almost physically jumping.
“When are you going to get that ring tone changed Cari?” Abby took a second to compose herself, “I hear Ozzy screaming like that, and it makes me feel funny.”
Carina poked her tongue out as she listened intently.
“Okay Missy, thank you, that’s the second piece of great news I got today…. yeah I got in, great isn’t it?...yeah, yeah I know…well they seem pretty cool about single moms…yes…yes…well my friend Judy thinks we can maybe room together in college …okay talk to you soon…Loves…Beyerene.”
“What did Missy want?” Jo asked, “Not that I’m jealous but that sounded like another model booking.”
“Remember that glasses print and TV campaign I auditioned for before we went to England?”
“Yep,” Jo nodded.
“Well I got it.”
“Hey well done you.” Abby high fived her friend.
“Well done what?” Judy ran up to her friends.
“Cari got a commercial she auditioned for.” Jo teased.
“You know that’s not the news I’m after Jo Smith?” Judy stood hands on hips. “Well?” she looked Carina in the face.
“Well I have bad news for you Jude…”
“Oh no they didn’t let me in and not you?”
Carina tried keeping a poker face. “Do you know how to change diapers Judy?”
“Yes, but what’s that….” Suddenly the light clicked on in Judy’s head. “Oh my God.” She squeezed and hugged Cari, “You did it!”
“Yes I did it – and careful. Two of us here now, you know?”
“So come on – I want the gos from last week. Tony can’t stop talking about what happened with you three – he made it sound like a riot…”
“It almost was at times – did you get it for me?”
Judy smiled as she handed Cari a storage stick. “So what do you think Tennant is going to say today?”
“Who knows – we have a meeting of the seniors with her second period, so I’m sure she will have something to say then.”
Conde Nast Publishers
“Welcome home Darling.” Juliette was surprised but not shocked to find both Anna and Mary waiting for her as she stepped off the elevator.
“So how was London?” Anna asked.
“Tiring, but I think you gals will love what I brought home.”
“We’ve seen them Ju.” Mary laughed.
“That child…. “
“Which one Abby or Jeanie?”
“Jeanie…. I guess I always forget Abigail is so young still, but Jeanie is going to be a nice discovery on your part - so cute, and yet with her poor body, both broken and vulnerable.”
“You like her as well Anna?” Juliette asked as they all walked towards her office.
“She has a certain something.”
Juliette smiled, that was praise indeed from her editor.
Quickly Juliette greeted her PA and grabbed her messages.
“Now what can I do for you both?” she asked as she took off her jacket and eased herself into her office chair.
The Richmond Mansion
“Well, at least Carina got some good news,” Heather said as she put the coffee mug next to Sandy, her partner working on a new design.
“I know – seems like everyone is going to have to make some choices soon,” Sandy said as she sat back and looked at the picture. “I don’t know, my heart’s not in this today.”
“You miss the kids, that’s all – is Vanessa bringing them round after school?”
Sandy nodded as Heather said “I missed them too – but last week was so nice.”
“I know – I just wish we could be more open around here. It’s amazing – we’re in one of the most open, vibrant and accepting cities in the world, and because of tradition we cannot be ourselves!”
“Peace, lover, peace,” Heather said as she wrapped her arms round Sandy’s neck and gave her a little kiss, “I hate it as well, but who knows? Thought any more about it?”
“Yeah,” Sandy said as she turned round, “and the more I think about it, the more enticing it is, but to give up so much – and there are the children to think of.”
“True – but think of the positives.”
Sandy smiled and gave Heather a kiss. “Yeah, there is that – but we can talk about it later. Right now, I need to get these sketches finished.”
“And I need to get the laundry done – a skivvy’s work is never done.”
She walked off, Sandy giving her a slap on the bottom before she went back to her drawing board.
St Angela’s Academy
“Good morning ladies,” Miss Tennant said as she walked into the hall, the seniors standing as she came in. “Thank you for meeting here with me today.”
“Good Morning Miss Tennant,” they said in unison, before they sat down again.
“I wanted to offer my congratulations to you all, and for the offers you have all received. I am very pleased with the graduating class this year – all of you have, despite the terrible events that have befallen us this year, achieved great things.
“I am as sure as I can be that this success will continue as you go to your colleges of choice, but we still have some weeks ahead of us. As you will be aware, at St Angela’s we ask the graduating class to consider those from the year below who will take the positions of leadership in the senior class this year, and also to nominate four amongst you to work with the teachers on the arrangements for the annual Graduation Prom. Please, take the time now to consult with Judith and let me have your recommendations as soon as possible.”
The class looked at each other as Miss Tennant walked out, waiting until the door was closed before Judy said “Wow – she really is in a good mood.”
Abigail was just amazed how many Angels could fit round one of the tables in the Refectory. It was like London again except these were her friends; most she’d known most of her life, and all they wanted to hear was about the incredible scenes in London.
“Angels give her room.” Judy took charge, “Damn she’s entitled to eat her lunch as well.”
“So what was it like Abs?” Ally Rocherman asked the question that was on all the other girls’ lips.
“Oh fairly routine…”
“Crap!” Bobbi Morse giggled, “You are so full of shit Abigail de Ros.”
Abby laughed, “Well it was incredible - I could barely show my face on the street without a crowd gathering.”
“We saw the pics of the riot in the store.” Bobbi added.
“But I guess it was fun too…. I did some TV shows, and a couple of photo shoots.” Abby passed a knowing glance to Carina.
“Well it beats spring break at my uncle’s place in the wilds of Maine,” a freshman called Britney Harding moaned, “Up to my neck in mosquitoes.”
“Brit, to be honest there were times last week I’d have traded places with you in a heartbeat.”
“You have no idea how frightening it can be when cameras are going off, and fans are screaming…. Honestly made me nostalgic for being ‘The Stick’.”
“Oh now you can’t be serious.” Judy laughed.
“Judy next time I do something like that you are invited…. Then tell me.”
“It was pretty frightening.” Carina nodded.
“She pretty much needed a bodyguard at times.” Jo acknowledged.
“So what was it like meeting Lily Cole?” Ally asked.
“Oh that was AMAZING…. She’s SO COOL!”
“She found out Abs is her number one fan.” Joanne laughed.
“Oh no you didn’t go all fan girl on her…. Did you?” Judy looked amused.
“A bit.” Abby looked embarrassed.
“And is it true you were on a chat show with her and Sting?”
“Yusss,” Abby said as she sipped her drink. “It’s on BBC America later this week – maybe we can gather at my place to watch it.”
Her cell phone going off made Abby stop talking as she looked at it.
“Yeah – he wants to see me tonight. Excuse me a minute girls – gotta do this one now.”
Tuesday 1st April
10 am, The Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
The tall woman made heads turned as she walked in dressed in a long black sweater dress, black coat and high heels. The desk clerk adjusted his tie as she walked up and said “Good Morning – you have a suite reservation for Madame Xavier?”
“Ah yes,” he said as he checked the computer, “You have the Presidential Suite, and it is ready for you. If you will sign here?”
“Thank you,” she said as she signed the register, and a porter brought in a luggage trolley. “I am expecting some guests – please make sure they are directed up.”
“Of course, Madame,” the clerk said as she walked to the lift. As she was shown into the suite, she nodded and said “this will do”, giving the porter a handsome tip.
As he left, she took out a cell phone and checked her messages, before there was a knock on the door. She walked over, looked out and then opened it.
“Good morning Maddie – good to see you again.”
“You too Dominique,” the woman said as they hugged. “When does she arrive?”
“At La Guardia by private jet in an hour. Penny?”
“On a fact finding mission.”
The Richmond Mansion
“Diana! Welcome back!”
“Thank you,” Diana de Ros said as she hugged Heather and Sandy, “How are things here? Is Carina happy?”
“Ecstatically so – and with good reason. Juliette said she would join us for lunch – she has something to say.”
“So how was your contact,” Heather said as she handed her a coffee.
“Most obliging – we should hear from him by the end of the week, I also met with Father – he is alone again, but I think happier for it. It appears his companion was responsible for some of young Abby’s problems.”
“Serves her right,” Sandy said quietly.
“And what of you two? Any word of the divine Allison?”
“Not yet – and I can wait,” Sandy said with a smile of her own.
FBI Field Office, New York
Agent Tom Callaghan looked up sharply as there was a tap on his office door.
“Hi Tom, can I come in?” Special Agent Janice Carter asked.
“Yeah sure Janice,” Callaghan gestured towards a seat, “What can I do for you?”
Janice Carter eased herself into the chair slowly, she was a lot better, but on some days, she still felt the effects of what had happened that night when they thought they were going to get all the Pussycat Gang.
“Well,” Janice glanced down at the paper she held. “We got a heads up from Scotland Yard that their criminal intelligence people had heard a rumour that some shadowy crime baroness called Madame X was in the United States, more specifically in the New York area.”
“And that’s this task forces business why?”
“Well sir I was just thinking that there are very few locals that this Madame X might have business with, I know it’s a long shot but I’d kinda like to keep an eye on things, just in case she’s in town to do business with our lady friends.”
“Sounds like you’re clutching at straws Janice.”
“Well everything has gone stone cold in our investigations…It’s not exactly going to break the investigation if you free up me and Bell to spend a few days following my hunch?”
“That’s true….” Callaghan mused. “Okay I’ll give you guys 72 hours to see if this Madame X might tie in with the Pussycats. You get nothing in that time Janice; you go back to what you’ve been doing.
“Agreed Sir.” Janice got up and slowly left the office. “Thank you, sir.” She looked back. “Going to be good getting out on the streets again, not stuck in here."
The Richmond Mansion.
“Mom!!” Abby embraced Diana as she came in. “How was Paris?”
“Divine as always my dear – Grandpapa sends his love, and says to tell you he has made Yve leave his life.”
“Good – good,” she said as she hugged her mother again. “You heard about Carina?”
“I did – my congratulations dear,” she said as she embraced the smaller girl.
“Thanks, Aunt Diana,” she said as she let go. “So why here?”
“Because,” Heather said as she brought some drinks in, “I think she has a plan.”
“I do indeed,” Juliette said as she came in, and embraced Diana. “I only have a few moments, before I need to leave for a meeting, but I needed to let you know now. The other target from Greenwich is active.”
“It is? What happened,” Sandy said as she came in.
“A large number of deposits have been made recently, according to my sources.”
“Hang on,” Joanne said, “Greenwich? My Greenwich?”
“Yes, Joanne,” Juliette said as she put her hands on the young girl’s shoulders, “which is why I have arranged for you and Cari to be away from school tomorrow. I need you to go with her and do some scouting.”
Jo looked scared for a moment, before she said, “All right – if you say so, Ju.”
“Don’t worry,” Cari said as she slapped Jo’s back, “road trips are fun!”
The Waldorf Astoria Hotel
Maddie opened the door to let in a tall, thin woman with long black hair, accompanied by a strawberry blonde girl in a smart trouser suit and white blouse.
“Welcome, Madame,” Dominique said as she stood up, “Everything has been arranged as per your instructions.”
“Thank you, Dominique,” Madame X replied, in a voice like rivers of hot chocolate, “I am pleased. Will Penelope join us soon?”
“She’s on her way back now – she’ll return to Greenwich in the morning.”
“Excellent – well, allow me to refresh myself, and then we will get down to business. I want this dealt with quickly and quietly.”
Wednesday 2nd April
The Richmond Mansion,
The Annual Staff and Students sports day was an old tradition at St Angela’s, much looked forward to in certain quarters and detested in others. Carina was just thankful this year she could plead her pregnancy to get out of it and take the day off. That she’d been able to convince the principal to let Jo have the day off was an added bonus, or at least she’d thought Joanne would see it that way.
As they met in the kitchen, Joanne looked at her friend. Both girls were wearing denim jackets and jeans over grey t-shirts with sneakers.
“Carina, why in the name of the Goddess did you have to drag me along on this?” Joanne looked long and hard at the older girl. “I thought we had a rule that I stay totally out of the way of anyone who might have known Megan?”
“We do,” Carina said as she picked up her car keys, “but Mom thinks having you along on this trip you might be able to point out things I miss in Greenwich, put your local knowledge to use.”
“I guess so.” Joanne said as they walked out of the house and onto the street. She then slumped into the passenger of Carina’s dark green Toyota as she started the engine and headed onto Madison Avenue.
As they turned and joined the freeway, heading north on I-278, Carina sighed and said “I so wish I could use my ‘trust fund’ and buy something sportier.”
“We all wish we could use that money sometimes…” Jo’s voice trailed off wistfully.
Carina sighed. The road took them out of the city and out the bottom side of the Bronx, before heading north on I-95.
“Can’t you use some of your modelling earnings? That’s legitimate income.”
Carina nodded. “I guess I could, but it’s not a practical idea, soon going to be too fat to drive this thing, let alone be climbing in and out of a sports car.”
“Yeah pregnant woman in a sports car is not an easy image to see.”
For a few minutes they drove wordlessly north, each girl lost in her own dreams.
“You did remember to bring some dark glasses…didn’t you?” Carina suddenly questioned the younger girl.
“No…Why?” Jo looked round. “No one mentioned I should.”
“Duhhhh logic Jo….at least sunglasses provide a modicum of disguise.”
“Well maybe I ought to have brought a wig as well…”
“Now you are being silly.” Jo laughed and realised it was a little ridiculous.
“Well I don’t have any on me Cari?”
“Okay, Okay, we’ll find a gas station once we leave the city, buy you some there.”
“How can I remember things I’m not told to bring.” Jo mumbled to herself.
For a few more miles conversation lapsed as Jo plugged her device in and put in ear phones to listen to music.
As they drove past the Pelham country club, Carina said “I’m sorry Jo. I know I can be a bitch at times.”
“Apology accepted.” Jo said as she pulled the ear buds out. “I think we are both nervous with this being my first return home…”
“Since we recruited you?”
“Yeah.” Joanne laughed, “Since you guys recruited me.”
“Ever regret becoming a Pussycat?”
“No, not really, a bit weird seeing Dad like that in London, but… No, if I am being honest it seems at times like that was another lifetime…a sort of dream…that my real life started that day.”
“You know we are all your family now, not just Heather.”
“I know.” Jo whispered.
“So I guess it will be strange seeing familiar places and faces?”
“Jo you’d not have to do this if Mom didn’t think it was essential.”
“I know.” Jo shook her head. “Just weirding me out I guess,”
The road continued to take them north, with a stop for gas and sunglasses, until they turned off the John Davis Lodge Turnpike, and headed onto Arch Street, then left on Steamboat Road.
“Shit, I remember the last time we drove this road,” Joanne said as she started to see the familiar shops, “I was on such a high that day.”
“Hmmm,” Cari said as with a right and a left, they were heading up Mason Street, she pulled into the car park of Bruce Park Sports, and said, “Wait here” as she walked into the store, and then came out again.
Jo looked across the street, and then opened the envelope Cari had left behind.
“The Patriot National?”
“Hmmmm,” Cari said as she got back in, and set up the small camera on her dashboard.
“I don’t like this at all Cari.” Joanne fidgeted with her sunglasses. “This is my home town, far too many people here knew Megan.”
“Well you keep fidgeting like that people are going to start looking….” Carina paused as a dark haired man came out of the bank. “There’s our man…Do you know him?”
“Reedman? I know his daughter, not him…. she’s the bitch got me chucked out of Country Day.”
“Got you what?”
They watched a young woman with reddish brown hair walked into the bank, carrying a large shoulder bag, and left a few minutes later, crossing the road and walking into the sports store.
“Oh yeah - she pointed out I was flashing my panties at our home room teacher.” Joanne smiled as she remembered the reaction of the male teacher.
“So I beat the crap out of her at recess.”
“And got caught?”
“Yeah…well there had sorta been a few little things before that, just little…trivial things….”
The woman walked out again, and stood for a few minutes looking at the man and the bank. She turned and looked at the car, before walking off again.
Cari looked amused at her friend, “How little?”
“Don’t ask and I won’t tell, all right?” Jo was smiling broadly now at the memories, “anyway it was Jaynie got me tossed out in the end.”
“You know we nearly took his bank last year instead of your dad’s…mom just decided it wasn’t quite ripe enough to pluck yet at the time.’
Jo turned and looked at Cari. “So I nearly missed out on becoming a pussycat?”
“That’s right kiddo, the Goddess moves her magic in mysterious ways.”
“If you guys had not found me I’d probably be in prison right now, I was going out of my skull.”
“That why you were doing the break-in’s?
“One of the reasons, yep…Life with my folks was just so dull…reading about you guys just gave me ideas."
Cari looked at her friend. "I always wanted to ask - where did you learn some of those tricks you have up your sleeve?"
"The Internet…. where else?" Jo giggled again.
And they say too much time on computers is bad for you,” Cari said as she started the car. “Come on – let’s film the route to the house.”
Cari turned north onto Mason Street and headed along the road, eventually turning right onto North Street and heading out of town.
“So what do you know of Jaynie’s family?”
“Juliette has the basics right – Mom, dad, three boys and one girl. She’s the second; the youngest will be in 6th grade and then 8th. Her problem is going to be Bob Jr – the oldest son.”
“Because when Megan knew him, he was a stoner, and I doubt that’s changed much. I’d put money on him not being at home when we visit.”
Carina nodded as they turned left onto Alpine Road, and then onto Gray Oaks Lane.
“Nice houses – different from your end of town,” Cari said as she pulled to a stop, and got a map out, on a roundabout. “That’s the house – on the right there.”
Joanne nodded as she looked round. “If I remember right, the Neighbourhood Watch round here is a little keen.” She turned and glanced over her shoulder. “There was a house up the street, where I knew the woman had this fur coat I SO wanted. I came twice to go in when some bitch comes up and asks me what I was up to.”
“So nosey neighbours…any more inside information I need give Mom?”
“The cops hang out in that donut store back on North Road, so if any alarm goes over...”
“Okay extra cop cars…anything else?”
Joanne thought hard. “My ex-boyfriend lives in the last house on the left down Alpine Road…”
“Irrelevant…but interesting.” Carina laughed, “Like to see what kind of low lives you used to go for.”
“Hey not all my boyfriends were scumbags…. just most of them.”
“Oh Goddess we really did “rescue” you didn’t we?”
“Pretty much.” Jo said quietly and seriously. She looked out of the window as another car drove past, and for a moment Cari thought she recognised the woman behind the wheel. She went round the roundabout, and down the other way.
“Now what is she up to?” Jo suddenly sat forward as a short dark haired girl ran across the lawn of their target house.
“Yeah - that’s Malinda Torres, I was at Greenwich High with her.” Joanne watched suspiciously, “She’s a long way from home, she lives over on the south side.”
Carina sat bolt upright watching the Latino girl. “She’s not going to break…”
“I heard once she did some burglaries.”
“Jo the last thing we need is that house getting turned over and the security getting increased as a result.”
“I know.” Jo looked intently through her glasses.
“We need to stop her.”
“Not sure.” Cari poked round in her bag, “I got these,” she pulled out a pair of snub-nosed .44’s.
“CARINA!” Joanne half screamed, half whispered, “What the fuck do you have those with you for?”
Carina shrugged, “Never know when a girl will need a gun.”
"Yeah, but not here," Jo said as she started to grin. "Give me the pre-pay cell, will you?"
Cari handed the phone over, smiling as she heard Jo say quietly "Hello, this is the local neighbourhood watch? I've just left a friend I was visiting, and I saw a girl acting suspiciously. I think she might be trying to break in."
She gave the address, and then ended the call. "And five... four... three... two... one."
The dark haired girl turned to see two older women walking in one direction, and a man in his late forties coming in the other, before she turned and ran off.
"Let's go," Jo said as she smiled, "no reason to stick around now."
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Nice – very nice. Well done girls.”
Juliette was watching the film they had taken of their visit.
“So how long from bank to house?”
“Fifteen minutes today – maybe thirty in the morning?”
Juliette nodded as Diana stared at the screen.
“I know that look, Mom,” Abby said. “What’s wrong?”
“Go back to the bank, please,” Diana said, watching intently as the woman walked to and fro.
“Now the house, specifically the car that passed.”
As she viewed it again, Diana whispered to herself “Now what is she doing there?”
“Did that driver look familiar to you?”
Cari nodded as Diana said “I think she flew in the same plane as me when I returned – now why is she taking such an interest in these places as well?”
“Can we find out who she is, where she’s staying?”
“What was your flight, Di – and can you remember her name?”
“Get the manifest up and I’ll tell you. I may go out to Greenwich myself tomorrow.”
The Waldorf Astoria
“Yes – that’s our man,” Maddie said as she pointed to the Hispanic man on the screen, talking to the bank manager, “Javier Torres.”
“Excellent,” Madame said as she sat, her chin resting on her fingers, and then she looked carefully at the green car with the two blonde girls in it.
“We saw that at the manager’s house as well – how intriguing. Can we get the licence plate number?”
“A hunch – nothing more,” she said with a smile. “Penny, return tomorrow and continue your research,”
Thursday 3rd April
Mason Road, Greenwich
Diana walked into the bank, smiling as she said to the clerk “Good afternoon – may I cash a cheque please?”
She looked round the building, taking careful note of the security guards and positions of cameras, when she saw the same woman from the film the previous day, filling out a form.
Intrigued, Diana completed her business, and left the bank, waiting as the woman came out and walked to a nearby car park. As she drove off, Diana noted the car registration, and then went to her own vehicle, heading to Gray Oaks Lane.
As she turned in, she noticed the car parked at the corner of the road, and turned into the residential street. Pulling up a short t way along, she wound down the window and said to a passing man “Excuse me –I seem to have taken a wrong turning. How do I get to Court Park Road?”
As he gave directions, she noticed the woman in her leather jacket and pants, walking from the Reedman house.
“Thank you,” she said as she drove round and back out, waiting as the woman got into her own car and drove off before following her. A gas station was a few miles down the road, and she pulled in behind her as she went to the rest room.
Diana followed her, locking the door behind her as the woman went into a stall. A few minutes later, she came out, only to be pushed to the wall by Diana.
“Don’t look round,” she whispered as she pushed the business end of a .44 into her back, “What is your interest in the Reedman family?”
“Who?” Her accent was English as she faced the wall.
“The Reedman family – you went to their house today, and you have been spending a lot of time at his bank.”
“Coincidence –I’m a courier, and I had business in both places.”
“Well, courier,” Diana hissed, “I hope that is all. You would not like to be on the wrong side of me. Stay away from them for now.”
She walked out, leaving the woman in the rest room as she got into her car and drove off. A moment later, the woman came out, talking into her cell phone.
“Maddie? It’s me – tell Madame we have got another interested party – and get her what we found out last night.”
St Angela’s Academy
As the girls made their way to their lunch, they parted to allow the group of four to leave the gates, climbing into the limousine that was parked outside.
Missy Auerbach reflected on a simple fact - she’d had some pretty unusual meetings with models she represented in her time, but this was a first, crammed into her car with four girls in school uniforms outside the gates of their school at their lunch break.
“Okay introductions….” Abby started, “Missy you know Jo, and this is our friend Judy.”
“Nice to meet you Judy.” Missy glanced round. “I understand from Carina congratulations are in order…. You got into Yale as well.”
“By the skin of my teeth.” Judy grinned, “Who knew playing the organ in church on Sundays would one day help me get into a great college.”
“Okay Carina.” Missy glanced at the girl sitting next to her. “You have that eyewear shoot Saturday right?”
“Abby you get the weekend off, but any chance your Mom will let you out Monday night to work with Simon Mitchell?”
“The Australian photographer?”
“Yeah he wants to do this fantasy scene in Central Park.”
“Gets dark pretty early and I can’t skip school.”
“No he wants to shoot in twilight and the dark.”
“That sounds interesting.” Judy commented.
“Who’s the shoot for?” Abby asked.
Abby shrugged her shoulders, “Well if Mom says okay, but remember it’s a school night, she’ll want me home in bed as early as possible.”
“Excellent,” Missy said, “I will talk to her. Carina, will you do maternity wear shoots in the summer?”
“WHAT!” Carina half exploded, half laughed. “Where did that idea come from Missy?”
“Hear me out, dear. I explained to a couple of people that you were pregnant and might not be available in the summer…. next thing I have Rebekah Hisk of Almador the maternity clothes people asking if you want to do their catalogue for Winter,”
“Which of course is shot in the heat of summer.” Abby turned to Judy and laughed.
“Do I score some free clothes out of the deal?” Carina asked.
“Goddess Carina you are so mercenary….” Jo started laughing.
“Hey if I don’t need to buy it….”
All four girls started to giggle as Missy looked at them. “I will try to see what we can negotiate in the contract, Cari darling. Now, back to class – school is still in session!”
Conde Nast – the Complete Style offices
“Give me five minutes, Anne…”
“It’s not Anne.”
Juliette looked up to see George standing in the door.
“George? What brings you here?”
“Have you heard from Sandy today? I tried calling the mansion, but there is no answer.”
“Ah – she and Heather were on a business trip this afternoon.”
Juliette smiled – she knew they were at home, and the phone was off the hook.
“George, are you all right?”
“I’m fine – can you give her a message when you see her?”
“Tell her Allison gave birth to a baby girl – we’re calling her Jennifer Allison.”
Juliette looked up and said, “I thought it was next week?”
“Allison started to go into labour and they had to operate – they’re both fine, but I want the kids to know, and I need to get back to the hospital.”
“Of course, and congratulations,” Juliette said as she stood up and hugged George. “Get going – I’ll let her know.”
As George smiled and left, Juliette sat back and sighed. What else could possibly happen that day?
The Huntingdown Apartment
Juliette sighed as she closed the apartment door behind herself. She knew the girls were having a night out, and she had a lot of planning to do if their work that weekend was going to go ahead without a hitch.
What was bothering her most was this woman who had been following them – well, following is the wrong word, but she had always seemed to be where the girls were when they visited Greenwich? Diana had said she had talked to her, and it was just a coincidence, but the way she was looking at Reedman in the films they had reviewed looked too clinical to her – as if she was assessing him for something as well.
Was it possible another group were thinking of hitting Reedman’s branch? It was possible, but if so she was an out of towner – Diana said she was British.
Juliette hated unknowns, as she shook her head and walked into the drawing room, taking off her camel coat and hanging it up as she did so. As she reached the door, however, she had that nagging feeling that something was not quite right – so she went back to her handbag, and withdrew the small handgun before she opened the door.
As she looked in, she saw a woman sitting in one of her armchairs, flipping through a magazine. She looked to be a little older than her, and had dark black hair that fell over her shoulders. There was no hint of grey, and Juliette had to admit her complexion was flawless – as was her taste in clothes. She wore a black Versace trouser suit, the jacket open as she looked at the blue silk blouse, and a pair of high-heeled ankle boots was visible under the trouser legs.
The stranger looked up and smiled as Juliette walked in. “Ah – good evening Miss Huntingdown,” she said in a deep, mellow voice that was both smooth and commanding at the same time, “please, forgive my intrusion, but I did feel it was time that we met face to face. I think we have some small items of business that we need to discuss between us.”
“You are aware that I have the right to shoot you as you sit there,” Juliette said as she stood there, not taking her eyes off the woman.
“Ah yes – you have that right, but then you would never know why I came to see you, and if I have the measure of you correct, you wish to know that.”
Juliette was assessing the intruder as she sat there. Her speech, soft and quiet but so full of authority, marked her out as an exceptional person already. Yet, she had managed to break in without leaving any signs as to how she did it, which marked her as a very professional woman as well.
“You might be right,” she eventually said, “so I will allow you one minute to explain why I should not kill you right now.”
The stranger smiled as she said “Because, Juliette – may I call you Juliette – my associates have been watching you, as you have been watching my associates, and I believe we have a mutual target in mind, albeit for different reasons.”
“Who are you?”
“Direct, and to the point – excellent. I had already decided you were a woman, like me, who knows how to take risks and is a good judge of people.” She reached down to a bag, opening it and placing a bottle of Cotes de Rhône and two glasses on a table. “May I offer you a glass?”
“You didn’t answer my question?”
“True,” she said as she opened the bottle and poured the wine into two glasses. “My real name is not relevant to this, but I am known to the world at large as Madame X.”
Juliette looked at the woman for a moment, before putting the gun on the table and sitting down. “My colleagues in the UK have mentioned that name from time to time – a known crime baroness with fingers in a number of pies, but good enough never to be caught.”
“The press reports are flattering – but those of you underplay your presence. I remember you from the Paris fashion shows twenty years ago.”
“You were in the audience?”
Madame nodded as she handed Juliette a glass, saying “Your very good health” as she raised it in a toast. Juliette returned the gesture, before saying “But what would such a lady want to talk to me about?”
“Ah yes,” Madame said as she sipped her wine. “My associate has been spending a reasonable amount of time over the last week in Greenwich, doing some research for me. You can imagine her surprise when she realised two young ladies in a car seemed to be watching the same people – so when I arrived a few days ago, she briefed me and I asked someone to keep an eye on them.
“Imagine my surprise when she reported that one of the young ladies lived here – and after a few discrete inquiries, I ascertained her name, and that you were her mother. After your friend had her delightful chat with my associate, she also told me, and I realised we may have a mutual issue to address.”
Juliette smiled as she said “If what you say is true, then why would they be in Greenwich? My daughter is in the last weeks of her school life.”
“Indeed – but allow me to continue. I then realised that your young friends were not watching the person we were, but a very close associate – Mister Robert Reedman, the manager of the Greenwich branch of the Patriot National Bank, a branch the person we are interested in uses. Imagine further my surprise when I found out that, a year ago, one of a particularly vicious series of bank robberies took place in Greenwich, Connecticut, by a group known to the authorities as the Pussycat Gang.
“So I have to ask myself, is this coincidence, or is there a second raid planned? And if so, what connection would two such outstanding young women have with the gang? You begin to see my dilemma?”
“I begin to see something,” Juliette said, “but I fail to see the connection.”
“May I speak plainly?”
Juliette nodded, as Madame leaned forward and said “I abhor violence as a rule, Miss Panther, but I have been known to employ it in the past, and I do know the effect it can have. I suspect you and I are very much alike – two sides of the same coin, if you will.”
“Somehow, I very much doubt that,” Juliette said as she sipped her wine.
"Nevertheless,” Madame said, “I do note that despite your well-deserved reputation for violence." Madame paused for a moment, sipping her wine, before saying “that you and your associates have been responsible for some wonderful compassionate acts as well."
"I heard the Pussycats were just sick sadistic bitches who…"
"Ensured that others might follow in the footsteps of a lovely young woman killed before her time, that a young woman gets to rebuild her life after a gangster blows up her place of employment…" Madame smiled, "’I'm sure I could find other examples if I dug a little harder."
“Well, setting that aside for a moment, our interest is not in Reedman, but in a man called Javier Torres. He has been – using certain business interests of mine as a cover for certain activities that I personally abhor, and it is my desire to bring him down, and crush him totally.
“And, I notice, you did not deny or flinch at what I called you.”
“I do not admit or deny anything,” Juliette said with a smile. “On the other hand, the reports I have hear of you are quite – intriguing. I suspect if you meant me harm, we would not be sitting here, drinking this excellent wine. Where is it from?”
“One of my private vineyards,” Madame said with a smile. “At any rate, we know Reedman has records that will help me to bring Torres down, and allow me to deal with him – permanently.”
Madame paused, "Can I also ask a question? Am I right in thinking that
crime is something of an intellectual exercise for you?"
smiled, "and what makes you think I have any brains to use, I’m just a
former model turned hack fashion writer."
"I did some back checking on you…you graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Fashion Institute of Technology, which despite its horrendous title is probably one of the harder little universities in this city to get into. A BS degree in International Trade and Marketing for the Fashion Industries – very useful for your line of work. In addition, you've written some award winning pieces on the history of fashion, need I go on?
"Well those are just trade…"
"You spent two years in Paris, where incidentally you met the lovely Countess de Ros, and despite working full time as a model managed to earn a diploma from the Sorbonne in two years that normally takes three years full time study…..More?"
Juliette smiled as she said “I think we need not continue to establish my credentials. To have reached the position you have, you too must possess formidable organisational skill, and the ability to lead and command respect. I salute you Madame.” She raised her glass, Madame returning the gesture.
“Would it be impolite to ask what lines of business you find objectionable?”
“People trafficking – especially children. I believe you are to be a grandmother soon?”
Juliette nodded as she considered this. “That is true.”
“My congratulations – but I think you are therefore someone who wishes to ensure the safety of your family.”
“If you are threatening me…”
“You misunderstand – I do not wish to threaten you. I merely point out that removing Torres will make the world a little safer. Will you work with me on this? We can share intelligence, and thus make for a smoother operation.”
“And what do you ask in return?”
“Records,” Madame X said as she stood up, Juliette doing likewise. “Perhaps your associates should meet with mine? You may suggest the venue?”
Juliette picked up a pad of paper and a pen, and wrote down an address, handing it to her. “Noon tomorrow. Tell them to come unarmed.”
“We rarely carry them – except when we have to. This is an occasion when I do not think that is necessary. Please, enjoy the rest of the wine.” Collecting her coat from the chair, Madame X held her hand out and said “a pleasure to meet you, Juliette.”
“Likewise,” Juliette replied in genuine admiration as her visitor walked off, closing the door behind her.
Friday 4th April
“Are you sure this is the place?” Maddie looked at the run down barn, and then at Penny.
“This is where Madame said to come,” Penny said as she stepped out of the car, and looked round. She wore a grey leather jacket over a black jumper, black leggings and grey ankle boots.
Maddie was wearing a tan coat over a green dress, dark hose and black heels. “I’m not sure I like this too much,” she said as she walked to the small door.
“Madame had said we are perfectly safe, and we have to trust her on this,” Penny said as she opened the door and allowed Maddie to go in first, following and closing the door behind her.
The barn had only one thing in it – a small table in the centre of the room. The two women walked in, looking carefully around as they approached the table.
“I’ve never wished so much Dominique was with us,” Maddie whispered, “Where are they?”
Penny and Maddie turned round to see three women standing there, dressed in identical dark blue fitted jackets and knee length skirts. The taller woman in the middle had a red and gold scarf tied as a cravat round her neck, the one on the left a blue scarf tied round her neck with the ends hanging over the lapels of the jacket, the third a white scarf tied at the side of her neck. All three had a jewelled brooch on their scarf or jacket, in the shape of a cat. All three had black leather gloves and hose; their feet nestled in high heels. And all three had black hair, their heads covered by a stocking that sat under their scarves.
“Good afternoon,” the woman in the middle said, “May I ask you to confirm who you are?”
Maddie and Penny looked at each other, before Maddie said “Madeline Moore, director of Madame X’s US operations.”
“Penelope Harker, personal assistant to Madame X.”
The masked woman looked to her left, as she looked at a tablet held by one of the others. “Good,” she said, “I am Miss Leopard, and this is Miss Puma and Miss Cheetah. Forgive the approach, but we needed to be sure.”
“Of course, security is important,” Maddie said with a smile. “I trust Miss Panther informed you of last night’s meeting.”
“She did – I think it only fair to inform you that if anyone else had done that, they would be dead by now.”
“I thank you,” Penny said, “We would expect no less from ladies of your reputation. Equally, be assured whatever we know is confidential, and goes no further. On that you have our personal guarantee.”
“Very well,” Miss Leopard said as they stood round the table. “Miss Panther informs us you have an interest in common with us.”
“We do,” Penny said quietly. “We have no wish to prevent your intended operation, and only ask that we take the opportunity to share information and work to a mutually beneficial goal.”
“Forgive me,” Miss Puma said quietly, “but what proof do we have that Madame X feels this way about this person? We know very little of her.”
Maddie looked into her covered eyes, and said “Did you hear, a few years ago, about a child kidnapping ring on the west coast? A gang who snatched young models and – well, do you remember?”
Miss Puma nodded in response. “It was Madame X who was responsible.”
“Indeed – the history can be told, sparing some details, another time – suffice to say when we discovered we may have been held responsible, we ended the organisation with maximum prejudice.”
“I remember the case now,” Miss Leopard said, “You left those responsible tied to a flagpole in the nearest town at Thanksgiving?”
Maddie and Penny nodded, as Miss Leopard looked them over.
“Well, you have earned my respect at least,” she said as she looked at the other two. “How can we help each other?”
“Our concern is not with Reedman – we leave him to your well-deserved reputation for care. We want Torres – he has a safety deposit box at that bank, which we desire to possess. The box, we believe, contains the record we need to bring him to justice.”
“And what can you offer in return,” Miss Cheetah said as she looked at the two women.
“Assistance – we may know things you do not, and we can share our information. We can also provide a diversion – we have seen that Reedman’s house is in a, shall we see, difficult location to enter discretely.”
“Future cooperation – let me put it this way. We offer a similar service to Harmon Couriers, if required.”
The three masked women looked at each other, before Miss Leopard said “We will consider your offer. How may we contact you?”
“My card,” Maddie said as she left a cardboard rectangle on the desk. “The cell phone number will find me at any time. And thank you?”
“For not killing us on sight,” Penny said as the two women turned and walked out of the barn.
Diana removed her mask and wig, and scratched her head. “I admire them – but we should talk with the others first,”
The Richmond Mansion
“Well girls - any thoughts?” Juliette posed the question as Heather collected the dishes and took them out to the kitchen.
“I don’t like it at all that they know who some of us are? How did they know?” Carina opened.
“But we do know who some of them are as well…” Heather took her seat again, “I checked them out - those are their real names, they live openly and look legitimate. Imagine the confidence they have to do that. Their organisation must be respected as well as large.”
“I must say,” Juliette said quietly, “Madame X personally is a very impressive woman, she obviously did her homework. She also has something about her that demands respect. Not as a threat, but as a natural consequence of who she is.” Juliette looked round the table.
“I can’t say I have any liking for abusers of children.” Heather glanced quickly at Jo and Abby to ensure they didn’t break her secret.
“None of us do lover.” Sandy said thoughtfully, “But we aren’t exactly Robin Hood righting wrongs out there…we’re in the armed robbery business.”
“The fact is that they have leverage ladies.” Diana looked thoughtful. “While I’m sure they’d not turn us into the police, they do hold something over us that we would rather they did not have.”
“So we get their thing while we are helping ourselves to the money?” Abby questioned.
“That case they mentioned – all the girls were eventually found and released, weren’t they?”
“Indeed,” Diana said, “I remember reading some of their stories. Truly horrific – and if she was responsible, it leads credence to her claims.”
“I can bust safety deposit boxes easily enough if you give me some time.” Jo added.
“No – if we do this, we give them the box intact. Something tells me I do not want to know what is in it.”
“Or we visit Torres as well – get him to open it?”
“Hmmm – a possibility. I have no doubt we can do this.” Juliette closed her eyes for a moment, before saying “And you dare make about a comment about computers Sandy.”
"Now would I do that darling?”
Every woman round the table broke out into a grin.
“I’d feel happier if one of them was with us in the house and bank.” Carina argued. “We get caught, then one of theirs does too. It’s the same principle as us taking hostages.”
“I agree.” Diana nodded.
“Well then, I think we tell them we need one of them to ‘move in’ with us so to speak. If one of their girls is coming on this job it’s maybe important we integrate her as best we can.” Juliette said slowly.
“I’d feel happier if it was someone I know will cover my back.” Sandy look relieved at the idea.
“Okay.” Juliette opened her eyes. “We tell Madame that we will proceed on the condition that one of her girls becomes a pussycat for a few days. She can move in with me and Carina and we can keep an eye on her…Agreed?
All round the table there were nods. “I would suggest the one we met today – Penny. I have the feeling she would be most useful.”
“I can mention it to her, but we need to take her views into account – this Penny, does she strike you as capable.”
Diana looked at Sandy and Heather, before all three of them nodded.
“Very well – I shall discuss with her. Heather, girls – start searching.”
The Waldorf Astoria Hotel
“So first impressions?”
Madame looked at Sandy and Maddie, as Dominique sat opposite them. Four other girls were sat around the table, all smartly dressed.
“If one of them is the same person that spoke to you earlier, Penny, I hope you made your views clear.”
“No need, Susan – I am fairy sure one of them was indeed the woman, who I believe is the Countess de Ros, but she treated Maddie and me with fairness and as equals. What is in the past is in the past.”
“So there were three of them?”
Maddie nodded. “They identified themselves by their code names, and we made no further inquiry. Very strong, confident, and resourceful. I have to say, they do have a great deal of style about them.”
“I have to concur,” Dominique said, “from what I have learned of their approach, they are highly skilled and highly dangerous. I like them.”
“I thought you might,” Maddie said with a smile. “I have the strangest feeling you would get on very well with them. Having said that, I believe they were at least open to the idea.”
Madame X nodded. “In my conversation with Juliette Huntingdown last night, it felt very much as if I was – what’s the Fishel quote? A sister is both your mirror and your opposite?”
“I don’t quite understand, Madame.”
“Have you ever wondered, Madeline, what would have happened if we had not escaped? What tortures he may have inflicted on us? When I look at her, I see myself on a different path. I am honoured to have made her acquaintance.”
“Very well then,” Dominique said as she stood up, “but do you think they will work with us?”
“I do,” Penny said quietly, “They know we know who they are. I detest the word leverage, but that is what we have here.”
“Amusing, isn’t it, Penelope,” Madame said quietly, “They could almost be our equals over here, but they choose to act in this way and are very successful at it. I truly believe this is a complimentary association.”
“I do have one thought.”
“I think they may want some guarantee from us – a gesture of good will, if you like. From what I saw today, I think they will want one of us to work with them.”
“Makes sense, Susan,” Dominique said. “They have been extraordinarily careful to hide their path – I suspect nobody else knows who they are. If I was in their shoes, I’d ask for one of us to be part of their team.”
Madame sat with her fingers to her chin, and slowly nodded. “I agree, Dominique – we should be prepared for the possibility. If that is the case, I ask for a volunteer.”
“It cannot be me or Penny – we are public. Dominique we need for the diversion, so it has to be one of you four. Volunteers?”
Susan looked round the room, and said “but none of us are killers – I mean, what they did to that family last year.”
“Yes – but they have a code of conduct as well. Whoever goes has my blessing and protection – and should not feel they have to copy them slavishly. Consider it – consider it a short term secondment.”
“You make it sound like a work project,” Penny said, as Maddie took her phone out.
“All right,” Susan said quietly, “I’ll do it. I don’t like it, but I’ll do it.”
“Thank you Susan,” Madame said as Maddie ended the call.
“We guessed right – they’re in, if one of us joins them.”
“Excellent – pack a bag, Susan. We will take you later tonight.”
The Richmond Mansion
“So what have you found out,” Carina and Joanne said as they sat either side of Heather.
“Well, publicly this Penelope Harker woman is on the board of a number of charitable boards – a bit like Sandy – while Madeline Moore is based in Los Angeles, as the director of a company with a number of interests – film, modelling…”
“Modelling? Which agency?”
Heather typed a little more, before saying “The Rising Stars Agency. Ring any bells Ju?”
“Yeah – specialise in child models for adverts and catalogues, as well as web based shops. Strictly legit.”
“So she has a number of legitimate businesses as well – smart. But what about the mysterious Madame X herself?”
“Now that is a bit more interesting – on the public web, nothing about her.”
“And the dark web?”
“Good thinking Jo – steering clear of the horrible stuff, the gossip on her is quite interesting. She is held in high regard internationally – for her intelligence and her moral code. Here – a speech she gave at a fund raising event.”
Cari and Jo looked through their glasses as they read the article, entitled “The Seven Stages of Highly Effective Robbery.” After a moment, Cari gave a low whistle and said “Wow – she does think things through, almost the same way as you Mom.”
“I gathered as much – but what about who she is?”
“Speculation – officially, she does not exist. Unofficially – in 1985 a woman called Shirley Xavier was reported killed in a car crash. Her father was known as one of the elite kidnappers in England at the time. He died in 1991, and his estate donated to charity - save for one office block.”
“Let me guess – who works there now?”
“It is the registered business address for Penelope Harker. I think we can guess the rest. As to how a girl called Shirley Xavier became Madame X – who knows for sure?”
“So what else can we find out?”
“Case histories of robberies she has been thought responsible for – jewellers, kidnappings, and coin dealers amongst others. She is also thought to have made arrangements with those in power in the UK – keep certain things under control, and in turn leave her alone.”
“As I suspected, a woman of strong character,” Juliette said with a smile. "So how do her financial structures look?"
"Well it's safe to say she has holdings in the companies controlled by her associates. Perfect way to control cash flow." Carina sat down and spoke randomly. "If we had time, we could probably crack her network of anonymous holdings."
right in that," Heather looked up from the screen. "Give me time, and
Carina's help, I can probably find out to the penny she's worth, but I think
it's safe to say multi millions of dollars."
Juliette smiled and shook her head. "No - I think Madame is entitled to keep some of her little secrets. But it's comforting to know that the combined brain power in this room could severely damage her if we ever wished to." Juliette smiled. "We might just have an ace card up our sleeve."
Diana walked back into the room, saying “It’s on – she’s coming to your apartment at ten tonight. You need to get over there – I need to go somewhere with Abby first.”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Nice place,” Susan said as she got out of the car, “so I check in regularly with you?”
“If you would be so kind,” Madame said as she looked at her young associate. “The doorman will be expecting you. Good luck.” She closed the door and Susan watched the car drive off, waving to the driver before she entered the building.
“Can I help you miss,” the concierge said.
“Yeah – I’m here to stay with Miss Juliette Huntingdown. Can you tell her British niece is here?”
He nodded as he called up. “Miss Huntingdown? There’s a young lady here claims you are expecting her? All right.” He put the phone down and said “Miss Huntingdown will be down in a moment.”
Susan nodded and looked round, before the lift door opened and she saw a young seventeen year old, a full three inches shorter than her.
“Susan!” she said with a big grin as she hugged her. “Come on up – Mom’s waiting for you.” They walked to the lift, the doorman smiling as the doors closed.
In a flash, Susan saw the smile disappear as the girl said “I’m Carina Huntingdown, and if I had my way, this would not be happening.”
“I understand – how old are you? Seventeen?”
Carina said nothing as the lift stopped and they walked to the apartment door. “Ah, you must be Susan,” Juliette said as she removed her glasses and stood up when they walked in, “Welcome – I’m Juliette.”
“Madame sends her regards, and also says she would be delighted to meet you tomorrow night as you requested.”
“Good, good – Carina, show Susan to the guest room please?”
“This way,” Cari said as she showed Susan upstairs. A few minutes later, she returned and said “Thank you – it’s a lovely room.”
“You’re most welcome,” Juliette said. "Well, now that you have settled in Susan, some introductions are possibly in order - you have already met my daughter Carina, of course. She is Miss Lynx, while I am Miss Panther."
Susan smiled at the small blond girl, who was studying her intently.
"I still can't believe that you are one of the Pussycats," Susan said with a smile.
"Wait until you see her at work," Joanne said as she walked in, alongside Heather and Sandy.
"This is Miss Alexandra Richmond - known as Miss Puma, and her nanny Heather Smith, Miss Cheetah. The teenager is Heather's sister Joanne - Miss Bobcat."
"The pleasure is all mine, dahlin," Jo said in her Louisiana accent, as she shook Susan's hand.
"So that's five of you," Susan said quietly, "Who are the other two?"
"Sorry we're late - Missy called. Ah - so this is your houseguest - Hi, I'm..."
"Abigail de Ros? Abigail de Ros is a Pussycat?"
"Do you doubt my daughter's abilities," Diana said as she stood in the doorway, arms folded.
"Diana, Countess de Ros, Susan Barkley. Susan, Diana and Abigail."
Susan looked round the room - a former fashion model, three teenagers, one of them a world famous face, a countess, a socialite and a nanny - this was the Pussycat Gang?
"To business," Juliette said, "We need to review our information in the light of anything Susan has, and we need to assess where she can best be deployed for the raid. However, one small piece of business first."
Juliette looked at Susan, her smile still there, but her eyes hard and cold.
need you to swear on all that you hold holy that the information as to our
identities be shared solely between yourself and Madame X, and such of your
associates she might deem it necessary to have that information."
she had guessed this question would be coming.
"Good," Carina said with a smile, "now, how are you with a gun?"
"I know how to use one..."
"I will be the judge of that," Diana said quietly. "You will accompany Joanne and I on Sunday to a place we know, and I will assess you there."
“For now, let us talk briefly, and then to bed – we have a busy weekend ahead of us…
Saturday 5th April
Tommy Morgan’s Apartment
“Hey Tommy…language please,” Annie smiled as Tommy lowered his New York Times, and looked across the breakfast table.
Since Annie had moved into his place, having breakfast together had become a little ritual. Annie would always have some fresh coffee and bagels ready for Tommy whenever he got back from looking after his ‘legitimate’ business down at the fish market each morning.
“So what’s got you so upset, yer horses lose…. again?”
“Nope…just deres summit in der paper I hoped never to see gain…’she’ wants a meet and she’s included a shoppin’ list.”
“She? Oh…” Annie realized who the only customer was who could force this reaction from her Tommy.
“I hoped and preyed, they’d given it up after the last piece of business.”
“Oh damn…” Annie felt a tear come to her eyes. “I sorta hoped that as well.”
Tommy shook his head.
“Why dey do it Tommy? Not like they need duh money.”
“I guess to prove dey can.”
“But dat makes no sense, they rob banks just to prove to demselves dey can do it?”
“I guess so Annie, I guess so.” Tommy stood up and went to the bedroom, returning with his notebook.
“You’re going out again aint yer?”
“Yeah I need go see a few guys…” Tommy chugged his coffee down as he grabbed his leather jacket. “I’ll be back to take yer to the club and check the work.”
“Be safe Tom…” Annie had more tears in her eyes as ‘her man’ headed out the door.
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Now where did I put my purse? Ah there it is. Susan dear?” Juliette called out for her houseguest.
“I’m in here Juliette.” Susan called back from the drawing room.
“Oh there you are.” Juliette smoothed her clothes down and glanced anxiously at her watch. “Darling I have the hugest favour to ask…can you ride shotgun on the girls while Carina does her shoot today? I know I sort of promised you the day off before tomorrow, but I got called into the office…. can you please be a pet?”
Susan looked at the tall woman as she fussed with her purse. She reflected that with Madame X, real life seldom interfered with plans. If Madame had told her she had a day off, she would have been free all day.
“Where do I have to take them?”
“I don’t know, Cari has the details.” Juliette glanced anxiously at her watch again. “Can you please do it Susan?”
“I guess so.” Susan smiled, but inside she was thinking through how inefficient this all was.
“Thank you Darling…I owe you one.” Juliette gave her guest a peck on the cheek and then ran for the door.
Susan shook her head as she called up the stairs “Carina, it seems like I am coming to your shoot today, your Mother got called into the office…where is it?”
“Ummm down in the Village somewhere, I have it on a piece of paper somewhere.” Carina came running, half dressed, down stairs from her bedroom. “Are Abby and Jo here yet?” she called out as she ran past Susan into the kitchen.
“No. Should they be?”
“They should be here anytime soon… Okay,” Carina shouted backwards as she ran back upstairs with a bowl of corn flakes and a glass of orange juice in her hands. “Tell ‘em I’ll be ten minutes please Susan.”
As if on cue the doorbell rang, and Susan opened it to find the two other teenagers looking like they had just tumbled out of bed and thrown on the first top and jeans they could find in their closet.
“Hey Susan!” they both called out as they made their own way to the kitchen and started pouring themselves cups of coffee.
“How long did Cari say she’d be?” Jo asked.
“She said about 10 minutes.”
“Okay.” Abby glanced at her watch, “means we have about 30 minutes to have coffee and see what goodies Juliette left from the bakery.”
Susan shook her head. No it would never do for Madame, she just wondered to herself how such messy, tardy women could form such a highly successful criminal enterprise.
Thirty minutes later, Cari came down, wearing no makeup, and an old sweater over a pair of jeans. “Right – got the address,” she said as she grabbed her door keys. “Let’s go – you’re going to love this Susan.”
“I don’t know,” Susan whispered to herself as she followed them out, and hailed a cab.
Curtis Studios, Stonewall Place
“That’s it, Carina – smile at the camera…”
Carina posed and put the pen to her chin, smiling as she sat on the desk. She was wearing a black jacket and skirt, split up the side, as well as a white blouse, but the photographer was focusing on her face, and the glasses she was wearing.
Jo and Abby were sitting to the side, chatting to the make-up artists as Susan watched. She had been in worse places, but somehow this felt so alien to her…
The sound of her cell phone ringing made her stand to the back, as she looked over at them.
“Good morning Madame.”
“Good morning Susan – how are you settling with them?”
“I am surprised, at who they are, but…”
“Feel free to speak your mind, Susan.”
“I really don’t know about them Madame.” Susan spoke into her cell phone while she watched Carina being photographed. “There’s no real discipline, no orders really. Juliette just issues guidelines, and yes her briefing documents are immaculate, but the others though get to change and alter things.”
Madame X laughed momentarily. “Susan, I know you are used to working in my style, but unless I read Juliette Huntingdown very badly - and I don’t think I do - Behind that apparent chaos there is a both a formidable will, and the essential self-discipline that ensures when they need to they think and act as one cohesive unit. I suspect that they will surprise you.”
“I’m still not sure I can do this Madame.”
“Stay with it Susan, just remember you are doing this for me. If it is any consolation, when I meet Juliette later I feel I may be a little uncomfortable as well.”
“As you wish Madame,” Susan said as Carina rushed past, removing her jacket as an assistant held a sundress up for her.
“Madame, I am not sure you should go this evening. If you get caught…”
“I understand and appreciate your concern, Dominique, but this is necessary, as a sign of trust. I will be back in time for supper.”
The Richmond Mansion
“She’s really cute Mom,” Little Sandy said as she took her coat off. “And she has a lot of hair. Did I have a lot of hair?”
“You sure did, honey – I’ll show you if you want,” Sandy said as she watched her children go into the drawing room, while Heather went with her into the kitchen.
“Penny for them?”
“What do you mean, lover,” Sandy said as she looked at Heather.
“You haven’t said a word between the maternity unit and here. Has it got to you that much?”
“Do you know what I would really love to do,” Sandy said with a smile. “I’d love to take you in my arms and eat that mouth right in front of both of them.”
“I’d be tempted to let you – Goddess, Sandy, we cannot go on like this.”
“I know, I know – do you think we should do it?”
“What – move over there?”
Sandy nodded. “I don’t know,” Heather replied, “we need to make a decision soon, but there is so much to stay here for. I just want you to be happy.”
“And me you,” Sandy said as she gently held Heather.
“Oh, hello mother,” Sandy said as she let Heather go and turned to Vanessa. “I did not hear you come in.”
“Move over where, may I ask?”
The two women looked at each other, before Sandy said “I think you and I need to talk, mother. Heather, will you bring some coffee through to the drawing room, and then fix lunch for the children?”
The de Ros Mansion
“Ah there you are – thank you Susan for playing babysitter for them.”
“My pleasure,” Susan said as the girls disappeared into Abby’s bedroom.
“May I ask a question?” Diana indicated that Susan should follow her into the drawing room.
“Of course,” Susan said as she sat down.
“How long have you worked for this Madame?”
“About seven years - the last four here in the US.”
“I see,” Diana said as she sat and crossed her legs. “We must be a different group for you, yes?”
“Slightly,” Susan said politely as she looked at the French beauty. “Am I right in thinking you met Juliette in Paris?”
“I will admit to that much,” Diana said with a smile. “I was never as famous a model as Juliette, but I did grace some magazine spreads in my time.”
“Aunt Diana – Mom says can you feed us tonight? She’s going to be late.”
“I expected she would be,” Diana called back to Cari, before she smiled again at Susan. “Do not make the mistake of taking us at face value, Susan – please, do not make that mistake.”
Juliette looked out from the driver’s window at the convenience store as another customer came out.
“An interesting notion,” Madame said as she sat next to her, “It has been some considerable time since I have done something like this.”
“Me as well – but I want to see if you can, if you will forgive the phrase, walk the walk.”
“I would expect no less” Madame said as she pulled the leather gloves over her hands. She was wearing a thin zipped jacket over a cashmere roll necked sweater, tight leggings and knee length leather boots. Juliette was wearing a black leather jacket and dark jeans, the heels of her leather boots visible underneath.
She looked at Madame as she calmed her breathing, and then nodded at Juliette. The two women climbed out of the car, looking to both sides as they walked into the convenience store. They had black woollen caps pulled over the tops of their heads, hiding their hair underneath, and dark glasses.
“I’m telling you, Kate, he’s really got the hots for her,” they heard the eighteen year old minding the store say as he looked over at them. He had on a blue polo shirt with a white apron over it, and was talking to a girl who was about the same age as him. She had on a black padded sleeveless jerkin over a white hooded top, black and white checked leggings and a pair of black Ugg boots.
“Yeah, well, she’s too good for him,” Kate answered as Juliette scanned some of the shelves, nodding to Madame as she indicated the security camera. The other woman nodded as she made sure they were alone, and then picked up a carton of milk. She also reached up and pulled something down from under her cap.
“Will there be anything else,” the clerk said as she took it to the counter.
“Yes, there will be, Mike,” she said as she looked at his name tag, “You can raise your hands – and you too dear – and shut up.”
“What did you just say?”
“Mike,” Kate said quietly as she saw the stocking masked woman, and the sawn off shotgun she had produced from her jacket.
“No,” Madame said as she took the gun and blasted the security camera to pieces, “I’m the bitch who’s telling you both to not move a muscle, understand?”
“Oh shit,” Mike said as Juliette locked the front door and turned the sign to closed, then walked over, producing a gun of her own.
“Both of you,” she said as she looked at them, “into the back, not a sound.”
“And keep those hands where we can see them – no pressing hidden alarms,” Madame said as the two of them herded Mike and Kate into the back office, and Juliette closed the door.
“Can you open the safe?”
Mike shook his head, and then gasped as Juliette put the barrel of her gun to Kate’s head.
“I’ll ask again – can you open the safe?”
Mike slowly nodded and punched the key into the front panel, standing back as the door opened.
“Much better,” Madame said with a smile. “Now, I want you both on your knees, facing each other, and then I want you to hug each other.”
“Please, don’t hurt us,” Kate said as she knelt in front of Mike, and they put their arms round each other.
“Then do as you’re told, girl,” Juliette said as she knelt behind her, crossing Mike’s wrists behind her back and tying them together with one of the pre-cut lengths of rope she had brought. Madame was taking care of Kate’s wrists in the same way, before she put his ankles side by side and began to bind them together.
“I’m sorry, Kate – I wish you weren’t here,” Mike said as he felt his legs being drawn together, and then another rope tugging up at them as Madame tied his ankles to Kate’s wrists.
“I wish I wasn’t here either- but I’m glad you’re here as well,” Kate said with a little smile as Juliette went into the shop, returning with a pack of kitchen sponges and a roll of duct tape. Putting the pack down, she tore the end of the tape free and taped their bodies tightly together.
“Open wide,” Madame said as she tore the pack open and took out two sponges, pushing one into each of their mouths before the tape was wound round their heads. The two then watched as the safe was emptied into a bag, as well as the contents of the till, and the two women walked out.
the car, they remained silent for a few minutes as Juliette drove off, until
she heard Madame start to laugh - a deep, rich, genuine laugh.
“What’s so funny,” Juliette said as Madame removed the balaclava and put her hands in her hair, brushing out her long dark locks.
“I’m sorry,” she said between breaths, “I’d truly forgotten just how exhilarating that can be!”
“Truly hands on – at least a decade. I should go onto the shop floor more often. You?”
“Long time since it wasn't business first,” Juliette said, before she started laughing as well.
"Thank you Juliette."
"Thank me for what?" Juliette looked at the woman beside her.
"Thank you for reminding that crime isn't just a business… thank you for reminding me it can be fun as well."
"My pleasure Madame."
"So how much did we get?"
"How much?" Juliette said as she stopped at some lights.
"Yes…How much?" Madame grinned, something she rarely did even when alone, "What's the point in carrying out a robbery if we don't make a little money?"
what I saw I'd guess around two grand." Juliette looked at the paper
bag at her feet. "We'll count it later - might buy us some new
"Not bad for a couple of minutes work."
Juliette started laughing, "You know Madame you really do need to…how was it you put it…get out on the shop floor more often."
Both women sat there with smiles on their faces as Juliette took the car round the bottom of the island and back towards the apartment. "I have a bottle of brandy you might appreciate..."
The officer turned and smiled as the woman and man walked towards him. “Hey Ball…. Carter…now why would the FBI be down here at this time of a Saturday night for a routine little holdup?” Sergeant Mike Gregson of the NYPD extended a hand. “Long time no see guys.” He said as he shook hands.
“I saw this come over the wire.” Janice Carter replied, “So I thought we’d come down and look.”
“Heard you guys were with the Pussycat Gang taskforce.”
“We are.” Ball nodded. “Janice has got them on the brain, any times she hears of a female perp she wants to investigate.”
“I’ll ignore that partner.” Janice could not help smiling however – she was interested in anything that may involve them.
“Well I think Adam’s right Janice,” Mike said as he looked to the door of the convenience store, “this was a chump change job, they got the clerk to open the safe, but the entire take was less than two grand…your Pussycats wouldn’t cross the road for that little.”
“Can we speak to the clerk though?”
“Sure Janice, but you’re wasting your time.”
“Well it’s my time to waste Mike…Where is he?”
“See the kid sitting on the back seat of a black and white with his feet hanging out? That’s him.”
“Thanks Mike,” Ball shook the cop’s hand again as Carter started to walk away.
“Hey,” she said as she approached the young man and flashed her badge, “I’m special Agent Janice Carter of the FBI, this is my partner Agent Ball. I’d like to ask you a few questions”
“Well I already told the police everything I can remember.”
“Can you go over them again for my partner kid?” Ball asked. “When did you first notice them?”
“I was behind the desk, talking to Kate?”
“My girlfriend,” Mike said as he looked over to the ambulance, where a paramedic was looking at a young blonde haired girl.
“All right,” Janice said, “do you remember if they had the stockings over their heads when they came in?”
Mike thought for a moment. “I’m sorry, I can’t say. I did see the caps on their heads, but the first really good look I got was when the woman pointed the gun at us.”
“Okay,” Agent Ball said “so there was two of them, they were tall, they had stockings over their faces and they had caps over the top of those, they had gloves on…and oh yeah they had some very frightening looking guns…. Anything else?”
“Only that we were too scared to do anything more than whatever they said.”
Janice drew in breath. “How did they sound - were they locals? Were they out-of-towners? Anything distinctive?”
“Like I already told the cops one of them had a British accent, the other sounded more local.”
“How local, a Brooklyn accent?”
“No classier… you know like one of those rich women on the Upper East Side.”
“How did they act? Did they raise their voices, use threatening language?”
“Very coolly, very calm, they weren’t frightened what they were doin’ and they scared the crap out of me and my girlfriend.” Mike looked at Kate as she was led into the ambulance.
“Which one fired the shotgun?” Ball glanced at the notes taken by Mike Gregson.
“The Brit… Boom and she took out the security camera…one shot. She knew exactly where to hit it.”
“What about the tapes?”
“What tapes? The boss is too cheap to actually use any.”
Janice and Adam looked at each other, and shook their heads.
“They did not seem panicky at all?” Janice resumed questioning.
“Nope…they made it perfectly clear what would happen if we didn’t do as we were told…. AND I BELIEVED ‘EM.”
“They act like they were in a hurry to be out of there?”
The young clerk paused to think. “No they hurried us along, but nope they didn’t seem in a rush. They ted us to each other, gagged us, emptied the safe and left us. It took me ages to get us both to move to the emergency alarm”
“Hey kid - you still want that ride to the hospital to be checked out?” a paramedic shouted out.
“Yeah please… Hey I gotta go… nice to meet you.” The young man ran to jump in the ambulance.
“So what’s going on in your head Janice?” Adam Ball asked as they sat in the car, “it sure seemed like a routine Saturday night stickup to me.”
“Two tall women, one with a British accent, stocking masks, sawn-offs.” Janice paused, “That wasn’t your common everyday little stickup crew.”
“And you’re basing that opinion on…”
“Experience Ball, experience.”
“Now you’re seeing Pussycats everywhere Janice. Maybe you did come back to work too early.”
“Don’t patronize me Adam.”
“Heyyyy I wasn’t…”
“I got a little scenario for you…How about this…British criminal comes to town and wants the help of the Pussycats to pull a job. The Pussycats aint going to just take their word for them being who they say they are, they are going to want proof.”
“So they get her to pull a penny-ante convenience store stickup?”
“And why not?”
“Because why would two big time criminal gangs do anything so small?”
“As I said Adam it was an initiation, a test, just to see if the Brit could walk the walk so to speak.”
“But again I’ll repeat myself, why for just under two grand would they risk doing something so stupid?”
“Because it’s so small…. what percentage of these jobs get solved…VERY FEW…you’re the Pussycats you do this because it’s low risk, but you get to see if the English broad shapes up.”
“Adam you heard what I heard back there, slick, professional, quick, studied use of violence…this wasn’t no strung out pair of junkies. These are professionals who knew what they were doing.”
“I still don’t know…it’s pretty thin to go to Tom with.”
“Thin yeah, but I think I can make him see it might be something.”
“Good luck with that one,” Adam said as they drove off.
Sunday 6th April
“Here we are.” Diana stopped the car in a parking area, and Susan got out, looking round as Jo left the car as well.
“This way,” Diana said as she walked to the side, and Susan looked along a dirt track that led into the forest. She had no idea really where she was, just the vague idea she was somewhere in the woods of Connecticut. When Diana had said she wanted to see how good she was with a gun, she’d had visions of target shooting at a gun club somewhere, not being dragged out into the wilds.
She started to walk down the dirt path, trying desperately to avoid the holes and rocks that lay along it. The white trousers and boots with 4” heels weren’t really intended for wearing in this terrain, and she stumbled more than once. She noted that both Jo and Diana had on combat style boots and dark green pants and jackets. At least her Barbour jacket was fitting, she thought to herself as they walked through the trees.
“Now before we start Susan, tell me just what shooting you’ve actually done?” Diana looked suspiciously at the girl.
“Madame ensures we are all familiar with both handguns and long guns and can fire both accurately…”
“Which means what Susan?” Diana interrupted.
“That I can hit the bull 7 times out of 10 on the pistol range, am a reasonable shot on the clay pigeon range, and I am up to a good standard with a rifle.”
“Have you ever used a gun on a job?” Joanne asked in a bold manner, as if it was a perfectly reasonable question to ask.
“No… I’ve used one to threaten but I’ve never fired one.”
“Okay to sum up.” Diana concluded, “You know the basic theory but have never taken a practical examination… right?”
“Damn,” Susan cursed to herself as she nearly tripped again, “They could have least warned me so I didn’t wear these rotten heels.”
At the bottom of the hill Susan found herself in a natural amphitheatre with dense foliage covering all sides. A small wooden hut and some targets set up to one side were the only signs someone actually ever came here. As Diana unlocked the hut, Susan noticed that despite its ramshackle appearance it was actually a very well secured place.
She looked at Joanne, who was smiling, then down at her marked trousers before Diana returned from inside with three sawn-off shotguns. A belt of cartridges hung over one shoulder.
“Ever shoot one of these?” she asked as she handed one to Susan.
“Know how to?”
“Well take a shot at that target to the left.”
“But what about the noise?”
“Most of it will be absorbed by the walls of the valley, any noise getting out people will think it’s someone out hunting.”
“Okay Susan go ahead.” Jo moved behind her with Diana.
“Okay tuck it into your shoulder…relax…squeeze the trigger gently.” Susan mentally went through the checks her instructor had given her.
The noise of the shot reverberated in the little valley as the recoil threw Susan back on to her ass.
“OUCH!” she yelled as she got back to her feet and looked round. “What are you two laughing at?” she eyed Diana and Jo who were both laughing heavily.
“Show her how to do it Jo.” Diana said as she suppressed her laughter. “Sorry,” Jo said as she stepped forward, holding her shotgun in both hands. “Watch Susan, notice she keeps her feet apart providing a firm base, she holds the gun slightly to her side so the recoil doesn’t hit her body.”
Jo fired the gun.
Again the noise reverberated, but the target had disintegrated as the spread of the shot hit it. Susan shook her head, wondering when the ringing would eventually stop.
“Here Susan now you better put these in,” she handed Susan some ear plugs. “I wanted you to feel and hear the sensation of firing one of these things unfiltered. You’ll be carrying one both at the house and in the bank.”
Susan nodded as she pushed them in, “Okay lesson learned today,” she told herself as she watched the others.
“Only a lunatic gets brave with someone carrying one of these.” Joanne held the gun in front of her. “Unfortunately we have found that there are plenty of lunatics out there.”
“Okay Susan try again” Diana yelled out as she finished setting up another target.
“Okay I’ll show you bitches,” Susan thought to herself. Consciously she took up the same stance that Jo had taken and pulled the other trigger.
“Well at least this time I stayed on my feet.” She smiled, but the shot appeared to have mainly missed the target.
“You need to grip it harder Susan, like this.” Diana showed her the correct way. “If you don’t, the recoil from the discharge is enough to throw it off.”
The target disintegrated as Diana fired her weapon.
“Okay fire the other barrel in this one,” Jo passed her weapon to Susan as Diana set up another target.
Susan concentrated, held the weapon tight, and fired.
This time the target was shattered to pieces.
“Good shooting Susan.” Diana looked pleased.
Susan was never going to tell her the pain the gun’s kick was causing in her body. It was not the way she had been taught, but she could see now how effective it could be.
“Here I’ve reloaded this one.” Jo handed Susan a gun.
“Okay again Susan practice makes perfect.”
Susan shuddered - this was not going to be an easy day she told herself as she aimed and fired, the target disintegrating again.
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Susan would you mind awfully coming in here please?” Juliette’s voice rang out as the bedraggled British girl let herself into the hallway. Susan stopped and looked at herself in the mirror, taking a twig out of her hair.
“Any chance of me getting a shower first? Things got a little messy today.”
“Oh – yes, I can see that,” Juliette came out of the drawing room and looked at Susan, her white pants smeared with dirt and green stains. “No, I think it’s important I say this now. Come sit down please Susan.
“I apologize for Diana, she can be a little…. ummm…. zealous shall we say, at times. What did she have you do?”
Susan grinned weakly. “Shotgun practice, and then small arms firing at a range of targets while crouching. I feel like I’ve been over a marine assault course – but I could handle that.”
“Here, come sit next to me.” Juliette patted the couch.
Susan slowly sat down, the aches in her bones making rapid movement a trial.
“Oh Goddess she did put you through the wringer. I have some bath salts that may help…”
“It’s okay Juliet, I’ll be fine by morning.”
“I’m sure…now what is so urgent?”
Juliette took a big breath, “Has anyone told you about Carina?”
“That she’s pregnant…yes. I heard the girls discussing baby showers between senior prom dress ideas. I’ll never understand why teenagers make such a fuss over…”
“No,” Juliette said quietly, “I mean about her problem.”
“Eh?” Susan looked at Juliette, puzzled as she said “what about Carina?”
“About what we call her demon?”
“Now you have me totally lost Juliette…what demon?”
Juliette took another long deep breath. “My daughter is what some people call a psychopath…”
“Most of those terrible things you have heard about the Pussycats can be ascribed solely to Carina.”
Susan was genuinely shocked. ”To Carina? But Why? How?”
“I’ll not go into details, but there lurks inside Carina a beast, a demon, whatever we are going to call her, who enjoys killing, who enjoys torturing and hurting people.”
“But she seems like she wouldn’t hurt anyone…. yes she has a temper. But?”
“Susan, when my daughter is in the mood, she is the most savage wild beast imaginable…I have seen her do indescribable things…. then after a good night’s sleep she returns to normal as if nothing had happened.”
“Does she know she’s done it?”
“Does she have a conscience about it?”
“Somewhat.” Juliette thought for a second. “When she’s her normal self, but the creature has no conscience at all.”
Susan sat with a stunned look on her face.
“Carina is aware of herself and to a great extent she can at least keep her demon submerged most of the time, but both Carina, and we, know that the beast must be let loose occasionally or else even worse might happen.”
Suddenly Juliette burst into tears.
“Oh Juliette…No…” Susan put an arm round the older woman.
“She frightens me, she frightens herself…She’s scared for the baby, I’d maybe do something if she wasn’t my flesh and blood, my only child.”
“Juliette.” Susan took a big breath. “May I say something?”
“Yes…Please…” Juliette wiped away a tear.
“Carina could not have a better Mother and her child will have a wonderful grandmother.”
“I know you can only live with this thing inside her, but while I can never condone what happens, I can maybe begin to understand a little.”
“Thank you Susan…I was so afraid of telling you all this.”
“Well I need that shower… “ Susan said brightly, “I’ll see you for supper.”
Slowly Susan climbed the stairs to her bedroom, her body rigid now not from the workout Diana had given it, but the fear inside her that Juliette’s story had inspired.
Monday 7th April
“Well, well – you look like you’ve had a fun weekend.”
Susan sat down at the café table and sighed, looking at both Penny and Dominique as she ordered a cappuccino.
“So what are they like?”
“You would not believe me if I told you,” Susan said as she groaned, “I’m not sure I believe it either.”
“You look as if you spent the day at Annapolis.”
“That would have been preferable – have either of you ever used a sawn off?”
“Oh that takes me back,” Dominique said with a smile, and then she looked at Susan. “Don’t tell me they let you hold it like a normal shotgun?”
Susan nodded as Penny burst out laughing. “Have your coffee,” she said with a smile.
“Thanks for nothing,” Susan said, but she smiled as well as she sipped her drink.
“The best bit was when she had me lying in a hide, and took her time to teach me how to shoot wild turkey.”
“It was livid,” Susan said, “but then, so was I when I had to carry it up the hill to the car. I’m told it’s on the menu for before the job.”
Dominique and Penny looked at Susan, and then burst out laughing.
Eventually, Penny dried her eyes and said “Madame said this would be a learning exercise for you. She went for a little trip with Juliette Huntingdown on Saturday – she said it was very entertaining. Now she wishes to return the favour.”
“Where is she today?”
“With Madeline and the accountant – I think they’re trying to figure out how they launder their money…”
“What about the rest of them?”
“Still trying to figure out how they do it. They seem so carefree and slipshod, and yet…”
“Hang in there kid,” Dominique said kindly, “Hang in there…”
The Waldorf Astoria Hotel
“So you are saying it is not possible to tell how she manages to turn a profit on her gains?”
“I did not say that, Madame,” the bespectacled man said as he looked at Madame X and Maddie, “I am saying it is extremely difficult. Let us take, for example, the ten million in bearer bonds the Pussycat Gang stole in October last year.
“Now, assuming that she managed a 50% exchange rate, that is an income of five million, and even after expenses that would still be I would estimate four and three quarter million.”
“That seems reasonable,” Maddie said, “so where did the money go?”
“Well, I can count the number of brokers who handle that kind of deal on the fingers of one hand, so I made a couple of calls. One in particular made a payment of that region to a company called Acme Holdings, based in Macao.”
“Acme Holdings? How droll,” Madame said with a smile. “Let us assume that is them – there must be tax records, even in Macao.”
“Indeed – save that they have never made a profit to pay tax on. We cannot even find any records of staff employed – which suggests it is a shell company. I would imagine that is one way they do it. Any other possible avenues>”
Huntingdown and her friends are listed as the directors of a Hong Kong based
company that manages the export of Chinese fabrics to fashion houses all over
the world Madame."
took a degree in that area of expertise."
legitimate, it pays a considerable amount of taxes both in Hong Kong and the
US, but it might be a very convenient way also of feeding their ill-gotten
gains back to themselves."
Hong Kong are very close…"
wish Madame I could very easily launch some enquiries in the far east."
sure will find things all look very legal…on the surface…Juliette Huntingdown
is an extremely clever woman. I'm sure Hong Kong/Macao are not the only areas
where she has business interests."
not, Paris, the Cayman Islands, Zurich in Switzerland."
Madame smiled, "Yes Miss Huntingdown clearly knows what she is doing. I think our efforts could be best exerted elsewhere, but keep that idea in mind. Very well – what about personal accounts?”
“All clean and above board – taxes filed and paid for all three. But consider this. Juliette Huntingdown worked as a highly successful model all over the world for many years. The Countess de Ros is a French noblewoman, with a number of major holdings. Alexandra Richmond is New York old Irish money – very rich in her own right. All their children have trust funds sewn up so tightly nobody can touch them, and as they are below legal age they do not have to declare them.
“I would suspect if we could get those details, we could begin to establish the money trail. However, even with our access to systems, it would take months of dedicated work.”
Madame smiled and sat back. “A matter for another time, I think. Thank you Gerald, please stand by for my call, when we have the necessary information.”
“Of course Madame, Madeline,” he said as he stood up and left the room.
“Not interested in finding out?”
“Oh I may be at some point – just as much as I am sure they are finding out as much as they can about me. It’s part of the game, Madeline, and I find I like this game very much.”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“What’s for dinner,” Cari was calling out as Susan came in.
“Ah there you are,” Juliette said with a smile, “I was about to cook some pork steaks. Any problems with that?”
“No – sounds good,” Susan said.
“Oh before I forget, there is something in your room you will need for tomorrow,” Juliette said as Susan went upstairs. As she went in, she saw the outfit lying on the bed, and lifted the lid off the small box.
“Diana and I wish you to accompany us tomorrow when we collect firearms - give you a chance to see the preparations we make,”
“Are the others coming tonight?”
“Not tonight – we have a genuine night off. Fancy watching some Breaking Bad?”
“Sounds good – do you mind if I try it on?”
“Go right ahead.” Carina came and watched as Susan took off her clothes and slipped on the jacket and skirt.
you get the fit so perfectly Juliette?" Susan admired both the style and
the tailoring of the suit.
lifetime in the fashion business, I can pretty much see through someone’s
clothes and describe their figures perfectly."
you've only known me a couple of days…how did you get it done so quick?"
just say I know some people."
good seamstresses who don't mind working some well paid overtime for me."
you see the outfits for the actual job Susan." Carina chimed in.
Susan looked in the mirror, whatever the faults of the Pussycat Gang, lack of style when they were working wasn't one of them.
“The brooch is essential – and I can offer you a range of scarves and gloves. For now, however – pizza and DVD night!”
Judy was sitting in a deck chair, watching wild eyed as the set dressers applied the finishing touches to the props. The area had been transformed into what looked like a fairy grove, with lights set up in the trees to provide an atmosphere like something from an opera or a Shakespeare drama.
“Looks different, doesn’t it,” Abby said from her seat, where the make-up artist was applying the last layer of silver eye shadow to her face. She had a large coat on the keep her warm, as the other staff hustled and bustled around her, while her blonde hair was piled in a beehive on top of her head.
“The only time I’ve seen the park like this was one winter’s night – it’s amazing what they can do these days.”
“Yeah,” Abby said as the artists stood back and said “Done.”
“Good – I want the divine Ms de Ros out here please.”
“Coming, Simon,” Abby said as she pulled her coat off, to reveal a white chiffon dress, low cut and with a skirt that barely covered her thighs, over a sleeveless red body stocking, and knee length white leather boots.
“Pity it’s as cold as winter tonight,” Abby said with a shiver, as she walked over the Australian, and started to discuss the shoot with him.
“Good evening, Judy.”
“Mrs de Ros,” Judy said as she turned round, “Thank you for letting me come tonight.”
“Well, Abby works better when a friend is around, and both Carina and Joanne were busy tonight,” Diana, said as she pulled her fur coat around herself, “although truly, I wish it were another night.
“By the way, my congratulations on your scholarship – and my thanks.”
“For what, Mrs de Ros.”
“For suggesting Carina rooms with you. She will need the support of friends over the next few months.”
“Hey – I like Cari, and I’m good with kids. We can share the poop scoop duty while we study.”
Diana smiled at that. “Poop Scoop duty – I have to remember that,” she said as Abby rushed back in and started to change into a black leather cat suit, with knee length laced boots, and a black mask. As she did so, her hair was let down so that it fell over her shoulders, and the make-up quickly removed and replaced with black liner around her eyes.
“Now to play the baddie,” she said with a laugh as she walked off, the photographer making her pose like a cat on a bench and then taking the pictures…
that body out Abby." Simon asked as Abby tried to achieve a feline
realized she worked this hard." Judy observed as she watched Abigail try
give the photographer what he wanted.
all glamour Judy dear." Diana smiled. "Models work damn hard at
see. I just always thought it was standing round looking pretty, never realized
its running here, running there, into new costumes, fresh makeup, run
loves doing it though…. I was never this keen."
Judy looked at
Diana as she stood there. "I didn't
know you modelled Mrs de Ros."
"Yes for a
while. I was never a star like Carina's mother, but yes I trod the odd
you're not trying Darling." Simon the photographer was getting testy as
Abby failed to hook her long leg round a tree as she posed.
"Simon I need
balance, in these heels this isn't easy."
Judy shook her head, "well next time I open a magazine I'm going to look at the photos from a whole new perspective."
Tuesday 8th April
Tommy the Fish didn’t like meeting his clients out in the open like this, but he had to admit that out in the middle of this old abandoned airstrip near Trenton New Jersey there was little chance of them being overheard or interrupted as they did their business. He lit a cigarette and inhaled, feeling the breeze on his face through the open window.
He’d been waiting about 20 minutes before the White MKX he’d been told to expect turned up. On, off, On, off, On, off, the driver flashed her headlights three times.
On, off, On, off, Tommy flashed his lights in the counter sign.
The MKX approached slowly, cautiously, as always Tommy smiled to himself - the ‘ladies’ were taking little in the way of chances. He got out and stood in front of the van, watching carefully.
When the white vehicle finally pulled up in front of him, three women got out. Miss Panther as always was unmistakable with her commanding height and presence. Miss Leopard he recognized from the brooch she wore on the lapel on her bottle green suit. The third brooch though he didn’t recognize…”a new Pussycat?” he asked himself quietly. As always, they were impeccably turned out, their gold scarves complimenting the bottle green suits.
“Good Morning Tommy, so nice to see you again.” Miss Panther’s silky voice was unusually warm sounding to Tommy’s ears.
“I guess we did sorta establish a bond,” The Fish smiled as he thought back to the last time he’d been with Miss Panther.
“I’d sorta hoped I’d never here from youse ladies again.” Tommy shook his head. “I had hoped youse woulda quit after that last thing you did. Youse did a good thing you know riddin’ New York of Maroni – a good way to go out, if ya will.”
“Why thank you Tommy, I must say it did feel good to be on the side of the Angels for once, but I am afraid we could not stay still for too long,” She paused and then said “Oh by the way you know Miss Leopard, this other lady is Miss Jaguar she’s joined us for one very special job.”
The Fish nodded a greeting to both ladies, too discreet and respectful of his own life to enquire as to watch this special job was.
“Okayse I got watcha wanted,” Tommy returned straight to business. “These come from Anchorage Alaska, they are clean and as always serial numbers have been removed.”
“In the back of your van Tommy?” Miss Leopard asked.
“Yeah - it’s open. Go round and check for yaself,”
Miss Leopard walked slowly to the back of Tommy’s van, her hips swinging as she took careful steps on her four-inch stiletto heels. Tommy looked forward, trying to figure out who this new arrival was.
For a couple of minutes she inspected the merchandise, checking each gun had no obvious faults.
“As usual Tommy they look impeccable, would you mind awfully loading them into the back of our vehicle please?”
“Certainly Miss Leopard.”
Miss Panther smiled under her stocking mask. Tommy was beginning to learn that manners went a long way with the Pussycats.
“Your usual fee and a bonus are in the holdall.” Miss Panther oozed charm in her voice. “As always you leave first Tommy, and once we are sure there’s no trouble we will leave too…. As always we see you, or any other car tailing us, appropriate action will be taken.”
“Yeah I know,” suddenly Tommy’s knuckles hurt again.
“Oh and our best wishes to Annie.” Miss Panther added sunnily.
“Yeah I’ll tell her youse asked after her.” Tommy smiled into his van and started to drive away. For all their terrifying evil they were actually nice ladies underneath.
With Tommy’s van out of site Juliette pulled her stocking mask and short wig off and shook her own blonde hair out.
“Well Susan, that is the famous Tommy the Fish.” Juliette smoked as Susan similarly removed her nylon mask and wig.
Susan was surprised at the way the exchange had gone. “You seem to be on very friendly terms for a notorious gang of robbers and a gun supplier?”
Diana smiled as they walked to the car. “Well we have had cause in the past to be grateful for Tommy’s help in ways other than as our friendly neighbourhood gun runner.”
The Union Bar and Grill, Hoboken,
Tommy the Fish couldn’t settle his own mind down. “What business of yours is it what they do?,” he asked himself in his head. “So they brought in a specialist for a ‘special job’? Why the hell does it bother you so much, Tommy?”
He needed a drink and he needed one now and the Union was close by. It wasn’t one of his normal haunts, he stayed out of Jersey whenever he could, but he knew a few of the local identities.
“Yer frettin like a father sending his daughter out on her first date Tom,” he told himself as he parked the car and walked towards the welcoming lights of the tavern.
“Hey Fish long time no see.” The barman extended a welcome hand.
“Youse still drinking yer beer with a whiskey chaser?”
“I am today Jimmy.” Tommy sat and watched as the pitcher was drawn, and set down with a whisky next to it. “Yer very good health, Jimmy,” he said as he raised his glass.
“Well, well, well, Mister Thomas Morgan…”
Tommy turned and his heart beat faster as he recognized the couple who’d been sitting quietly in a nearby booth.
“Hey,” Tommy said as he downed the amber nectar, and then picked up the beer. “If it isn’t my favourite Feds…”
Janice Carter smiled, “Why Tommy it’s almost like you’re glad to see us.” She eased herself gingerly up on to the bar stool one side of Tommy.
“Hey Jimmy if dese two lowlifes didn’t introduce demselves, she’s Agent Carter, He’s Agent Ball, they’re federal agents.” He said in a voice loud enough for all the other customers to hear. Simple survival tactic – if they’re going to talk to you, make it clear who needs to get outta the way.
“Hey Tommy be nice, we’re only visiting…not working. “Adam Ball eased himself onto the barstool the other side of Tommy.
“I heard you both got hurt in that crazy mess with Maroni.” Tommy asked quietly. “You both okay now?”
“Why Tommy that sounds almost like genuine concern.” Janet said quietly back.
“Yeah well I had a friend or two got caught up in dat mess as well.”
“We heard…how is Annie doing?”
“She’s fine Agent Carter….Thanks for actually asking.”
“If I can intrude on old home week…” Adam Ball interrupted, “we have a couple of questions we’ve askin’ people Fish…maybe we ought ask you as well?”
“Hey Ball youse got no manners, me and yer partner were havin’ a moment there…”
“In your dreams, Tommy,” Janice Carter said, but she was smiling as she did so. “Listen, Tommy - What have you heard about a broad calls herself Madame X…big time Limey bad lady…we hear she’s in town to do some business.”
Tommy looked stumped for a moment, then turned to the male agent and smiled. “You know for maybe the very first time in my life I can actually face the law and with complete honesty say I aint gotta clue whadya talkin’ about.”
Janice Carter laughed lightly. “Imagine that Tommy Morgan telling the FBI the truth.”
“Agent Carter,” Tommy said as he shook his head, “I aint even heard of this Madame X broad - and that means she either don’t exist or she moves at a level that’s way above my head.”
“It was a longshot Tommy,” Ball said as he winced, “but as I said we’re askin’ a lot of people then you came in, we thought you might have heard her name mentioned in connection with a certain group of ladies we’re pretty sure you do know.”
Tommy shook his head and sipped his beer. “I heard youse guys put dem outta business. Those that aint dead have disappeared inta da smoke.”
“Not totally.” Adam Ball spoke softly, “We think they are lying low…playing possum.”
“How can a cat be a possum, Agent Ball?”
“Funny Tommy….Funny.” Janice Carter eased herself off the stool. “Just keep your ears open please and if you do actually hear something…well you know our number.”
“A nudder beer Jimmy.” Tommy turned back to face the bar after he watched the two Feds leave.
“Do you know the dame they’re after?”
“Not a clue,” Tommy said as he sat back. “Okay.” He thought, “they bring in a specialist at the same time the Feds are bustin’ their chops about some British broad…Maybe I need to get Annie out of town?”
As he sipped his beer, however, he realised if they needed to get out of town, they would have warned him. “Nah – let’s just pray it’s not anufer massacre,” he thought to himself.
The Richmond Mansion.
“Madame has asked if we can perform a task.” Susan announced as she sat with the others. “Given the time limits of necessity forced upon us while we are in the bank, she wants us to find out the number of the box she wishes to obtain.”
“And how the hell are we supposed to get that?” Carina looked up from where she was laying on the sofa.
“Madame.” Susan paused for a second to regain her composure and not lose her temper. “Madame has ascertained that there is a data storage facility through whose systems this information may be obtained.”
“The firewalls on systems like that are incredible…. not sure even I…” Heather came in from the kitchen eating a banana.
“Madame says if we can break in and use one of their own terminals, she can obtain the necessary passwords to enable downloading.”
“Well that makes sense…” Heather paused, “where is this place?”
“It’s a firm called Phantom Data Security – out in Norwalk.”
“Smart – not in the same town,” Sandy said as she came in. Diana looked at both of them, and said “All right – what happened?”
“Subject for tomorrow,” Heather said quietly. Susan produced some pictures of the street in the town.
“The firm is based on Selleck Street – by the river. A shared facility, but relatively easy to get into.”
“What’s the outer perimeter like…how many alarms do I need bust to get Heather where she needs be?” Joanne looked up from one of the armchairs where she’d been sitting quietly.
“No external perimeter – an entrance lobby, but during the night it’s not manned. The security guards roam the interior instead. There is an office that opens onto an interior arboretum that Madame has identified as suitable.”
Carina sat up, as Susan saw a cloud almost pass over her. “Hey – why, if your Madame has all this information, doesn’t she have some of your girls do this?”
“Because she’s trying to see how good we are.” Heather gave her opinion. “This is an examination she’s setting us.”
“Only because, as she puts it, she likes to see how the best cope. Can you do it?”
“What do you think, sis? Up for a midnight drive?”
“Sure,” Jo said as she got up, “Let me change into something more black and threatening.”
“I can lend you something,” Heather said as she took Susan to her room…
on the I-95
“Everything ready in back,” Heather said as she drove north, Susan sitting next to her and Joanne behind. All three were wearing black sweaters and pants, with woolly hats on their heads.
“All set – how much further?”
“Nearly there,” Heather said as she left the interstate, turning right and then down a road, before turning right again at St Johns Street and then Selleck Road.
“There it is,” Susan said as she looked at the photos, then at the star shaped building. “We need to get inside and into an office on the ground floor.”
“Well then,” Heather said as she pulled a pair of leather gloves on, “Let’s go. Sis?”
“Here ya go,” she said as she handed them a gun each, and stowed one in her jacket. The three women nodded and got out, crossing the road and walking across the car park to the main entrance.
As they walked past, they looked as if they were heading to the marina at the side of the building, but they took careful note of the entrance lobby.
“One desk, unmanned as suggested. Doors look as if they open from the inside, but I’m betting magnetic locks.”
Jo nodded as Susan saw her produce a flexible steel ruler from her inside pocket, and they walked back over, pulling the ski masks down over their faces as they did so. “You’ve got to be kidding me – that works?”
“Simple physics – if there is a big enough gap,” Jo whispered as she felt the two doors, and then edged the thin ruler between them at the bottom, moving it slowly up. She stopped for a moment, and then brought the ruler up, smiling as the doors started to swing in.
The three masked woman walked in, the doors closing behind them as Jo made her way behind the reception desk, and looked up, pointing at the camera. She worked on the keyboard for a few moments, before smiling and saying “Bingo – entrance hall camera neutralised.”
“Right,” Heather said to Susan, “Where’s this office?”
“1-118 – turn right, and then two lefts.”
“Let’s go then,” Heather said as they walked down the darkened corridors, ears open for any sign of security guards.
“This is it,” Jo said as she looked at a plaque on the wall. “Hold this,” she said as she gave a slim flashlight to Susan, “point it at the lock.” From her pocket, she took out a small purse and opened it, taking some tools out as she started to work on the lock.
“I’ll go to the end of the corridor – make sure nobody is coming or working late,” Heather said as she walked off.
“Susan, for the love of the Goddess, hold that flashlight steady.” Jo hissed out the words. “I can’t pick this lock unless you do.”
Susan tried to concentrate, she still wasn’t totally sure what breaking into this office was supposed to accomplish, but Madame had told her to do as she was told.
“You not got that yet little sister.” Heather hissed as she came back to check on progress.
“If Susan will stop shaking…there”
The lock clicked and Joanne opened the door.
“That took you long enough.” Heather teased.
“I’d like to have seen you do better sis.” Jo was smiling as she put her tools away and opened the door.
“Okay Susan put that flashlight out and have that pistol ready to use.” Heather warned.
Slowly the three black clad women proceeded to enter.
“Okay I can’t hear the watchman.” Jo put her ear up against the interior door.
“Susan you keep guard by the external door…Jo you keep an ear open for that guard…I’ll see if I can download that list of who holds which safety deposit boxes.”
Susan looked over her shoulder, the gun held lightly in her black leather gloved hand. The mere fact that Heather was only trying to “see” if she could download the list worried her. She liked certainties in her life, working with Madame you always knew where you should be at any particular time.
“Okay let me see…” Heather’s gloved fingers flew over the keyboard. “Thank the Goddess that banks store data at outside facilities like this.” She talked as she worked. “If only the public really knew just insecure their data is in many ways…Okay this is it…How your Madame X got hold of these passwords Susan I’ll never know, but it makes this a piece of cake…” her voice trailed off as she inserted a data stick.
Jo suddenly held her hand up - she had heard the sound of footsteps approaching across the interior garden. Heather immediately turned off the display and took up position beside Jo as Susan looked towards the internal door.
The light appeared under the door, and flashed from side to side, and then started to move on - only for it to return and the sound of the door opening to fill the room.
Susan took up position, standing between the exit door and the interior one, as it opened inward and a tall, well-built security guard came in.
"Freeze, mister," Susan said as she aimed the pistol at the guard. He stood still for a moment, looking at the black clad and ski masked woman, before saying, "Give me a break," and reaching for his nightstick.
Only to find it was not there - just before Jo brought it down on the back of his knees, making him crumple to the floor before Heather gave him a swift kick to the abdomen. Susan watched, covering them with the gun as they used his own handcuffs to secure his wrists behind his back, and then Jo brought the nightstick down on the back of his head, sending him sprawling.
"Right," Heather said as she switched the monitor back on, "All done. Let's get going."
Susan checked outside before letting them out. It had only taken them a minute to fell and secure the guard - perhaps she really had underestimated them?
“All clear,” Jo said as they walked into the hallway, pausing behind the desk to open the door and let the three of them out. They walked across the parking lot, only removing their masks as they drove off in the car and back onto I-95.
As they drive back to the city, Susan revised her earlier thoughts - a nanny with an off the scale IQ, a sister with very nice breaking and entry skills, a mother and daughter with also extremely high IQ's. A socialite markswoman. She was beginning to get the picture that the Pussycats weren't quite who the public thought they were in real life.
Wednesday 9th April
The Huntingdown Apartment
“All right,” Juliette said as the eight women sat round the table, “Let’s review where we are.”
She laid a number of pictures on the table.
“Bob Reedman, 49, bank manager. His wife Carol, 48, teacher, and the kids. Teddy, 19, Jaynie, 17, Bobby who is 13 and ten year old Kurt.”
The group studied the photos, and then looked to Jo.
“Jaynie’s the good girl type, in her room by ten each night, homework done, I bet she’s never even thought of sneaking out.” Joanne paused, “She I want for myself, the younger…”
“I’ll take them.” Susan said calmly. “You ladies might get your jollies with the adults so to speak, but I’ll make sure those kids come out of this as unharmed as possible…. That Okay?”
Each pussycat nodded an affirmative to the suddenly assertive Susan.
“The oldest son is the one that disturbs me.” Juliette spoke quietly, “Will he be at the house when we arrive? Will he come home later? Will he be high? Stoned people can do unpredictable things.”
“I’d rather we could get him as far away as possible that night.” Diana sighed as she spoke. “I smell trouble, and that kid is trouble.”
“I could always pop him and leave him in some alleyway to be found the next morning.” Carina said matter of factly.
Susan shook her head, the casualness with which Cari talked about killing frightened her to her core. She was hoping and praying that she not be put in a position where she had to use her weapon on this job.
“I’d rather you didn’t Darling.” Juliette smiled at her daughter.
“The beast will need her blood Mom…we don’t kill someone, Cari, Beast and baby are all going to be as moody as hell.”
Again Susan shook her head at the casualness with which Carina treated her own mental illness astounded her, when Juliette had told of Carina’s split personality that had been shocking enough, but when she outlined some of the horrors Carina had committed it had chilled her to the bone that the little blonde was capable of such evil.
“Let’s try keeping the body count down ladies…you remember the hornets’ nest we stirred up on the armoured truck heist.” Sandy tried to be a voice of sanity.
“Sandy’s right, “ Juliette nodded, beyond Carina making an example of the wife so hubby is scared into co-operation, we only kill actual threats…”
“Or the terminally stupid who can’t follow orders from a woman with a gun in her hand.” Abby interrupted.
“Or as you say Abby the stupid ones.”
“Let’s just try not to whack a cop again.” Diana added quietly.
“Amen to that.” Sandy nodded in agreement.
“So,” Susan said, “we take the family hostage on Friday night, and then raid the bank on the Saturday morning.”
Juliette nodded, and then said “Madame mentioned a diversion would make sure the police did not bother us.”
“Yeah,” Sandy said, “from what I gather, once we move in she’s going to set up a cover story for you – one that will keep the Watch off your backs. She’s also arranging for the police to be otherwise occupied on Saturday morning – probably best you don’t ask too many questions about that.”
“Then I won’t,” Juliette said quietly. “All right – we head to the Farm first thing Thursday evening, after you girls have finished school. Friday final checks and preparations. Everyone – thank you.”
“Good,” Susan said, and then “Why not tomorrow night?”
“Because,” Cari said, “we need to go shopping tomorrow.”
Thursday 10th April
“Any idea what Tennant wants to see us about,” Bobbi said to Carina as the Seniors filed into the classroom.
“Nope – all we were told was that the principal wanted to see us.”
“So who are you inviting to the prom, Judy?”
Judy McNally sat back and said “Ain’t telling – but I guarantee you will be ah-MAZED!”
“I’ve invited my cousin Joshua,” Bobbi said. “Any port in a storm I guess. You bringing Tommy?”
“I hope to,” Carina said as the door opened, and the girls stood up.
“Sit ladies,” Miss Tennant said as she came in, “There are some things I wish to discuss with you.” She sat at the desk as the girls sat down.
“Last week, I asked you to nominate possible candidates for Head Girl for next year. Do you have names for me?”
“We do,” Judy said. “We nominate Katherine des Moines, Suzanne Carter – and Joanne Smith.”
Miss Tennant nodded. “I approve your suggestions, and will give them due consideration. Let us move onto the Graduation Prom. Judy, how goes the preparations?”
“We have the band secured, and the invitations printed Miss Tennant.”
“Excellent – which makes what I am about to say all the more important. I have spoken to my friend, the principal of Sacred Heart. After the – unfortunate incident with the flour bombs, we have kept each other informed of issues.
“With respect, Miss Tennant. We could not be held responsible for their trespass, and had nothing to with the flour bombing.”
“I agree – given you were all at your assigned charity work. But let me make it perfectly clear – there will be no trouble at this event, and any girl who is caught brawling at any time between now and graduation will not graduate. Am I perfectly clear on that?”
“Perfectly,” Judy said, “Thank you Miss Tennant.”
“Thank you ladies,” the principal said as she left the room. The door closed, and a few seconds passed before Judy said “Shit – we need to keep the nuns out of this. Any ideas how?”
FBI Field Office
“So let me get this straight,” Tom Callaghan said as he looked at Janice Carter, “because two women hold up a convenience store last Saturday, you think the obvious conclusion is the Pussycat Gang is back in operation?”
“I know it sounds crazy, all of you,” Janice said as she looked at the rest of the task force, “but it follows. We hear of this big time British crime dame visiting New York. We also know we didn’t get all the gang in the shootout, at least three got away.”
“True – but the evidence we found at Maroni’s place said he was bankrolling them, and Maroni is still, like Generalissimo Francisco Franco, very dead.”
“I know what the evidence says,” Carter replied, “but first we get this report, then two women, one with a British accent and one with a posh East side accent knock over a convenience store. For peanuts.”
“No – to show they can do it. If this Madame X is really here, and she has contacted one or more of the surviving gang members, they would test each other out. What better way than a Saturday Night Special?”
Callahan looked at Ball, who raised his eyebrow in mute comment.
“They’d gamble that we’d never suspect them of doing something so simple!”
“Janice, I said you had seventy two hours – I’ve allowed you twice that, and you have nothing but your own suspicions. I’m sorry, we can’t go on that alone – drop it.”
“That’s an order, Agent Carter.”
Janice looked round the room. “God help us if I’m right,” she said as she left the room, Adam Ball following her.
“Janice, hold up.”
“Some fucking use you were in there, Ball. Do you even believe me?”
“I believe you want them captured or dead – all of them, but Tom’s right – you have no evidence.”
“Adam,” Janice said, “If they strike again, don’t tell me I was right – just remember today, all right?”
Saks Department Store, Fifth Avenue
Joanne brought another selection of dresses other to the private changing room, knocking twice as Abigail opened the door and let her in.
“I swear, the disadvantages of being my size never come home until something like this,” Carina said as she took the gowns from Joanne and hung them on the rack.
“So have you asked Tommy yet,” Abby said as she sat on a tall stool.
“Yeah – he said he would be honoured to, provided he can get a new tux in time. He’s grown again, apparently.”
“Still got a way to go to be as tall as The House,” Jo said with a laugh.
“Nobody is as tall as him,” Abby said with a laugh as Cari held a blue gown to her body, and then put it back on the rack.
“Not going to ask our advice?”
“Not needed - it made me look like a blueberry muffin,” Cari said as she picked another gown off the rack.
“House has asked me to be his date for his senior Prom,” Abby stated, “But I’m not sure if I should go.”
“Why not?” Jo looked up from her mobile.
“You saw what happened in London…. This is supposed to be about him,, and his schoolmates…. Not a personal appearance by Abigail de Ros.”
“Surprised he wants to let you anywhere near all those horny Harkerians,” Cari commented as she discarded yet another gown.
“He told me half the boys at his school have posters of me….” Abby said with a smile. “Maybe I should get him to compare notes with McNally.”
“Not if you still want to go out with him - This one?” Jo held a dress up against herself.
Both of her friends shook their heads.
“Why don’t you just go down to Complete Style Cari, and get Mary to find you something in the ‘wardrobe’?” Abby asked.
“Because I’d have to return it.” Carina paused. “I want to have this dress forever.”
“I still think that black slinky number was ‘The One’,” Jo commented. “Wear it with long gloves and your Mom’s diamonds you’d look a million dollars.’
Carina put the latest gown back, and took the first one off the end. It had a strap over the left shoulder, with a shaped bodice, and was made of black silk with a slit from the waist down one side.
“I have to admit I agree with Jo,” Abby said as she looked at her friend, “You’ve tried on what…. 25 dresses since that one, none look half as good on you Cari.”
“Hmmm – yeah, you’re right, this one,” Cari said, and then she saw Jo looking down at her mobile again.
“No one asked you to a prom Jo?” Carina suddenly realized her friend might be feeling slightly envious.
“Well next year it’ll be you trying gowns on.” Carina put an arm round her friend.
“I know,” Jo sighed.
“It’s not easy being Jo Smith is it?” Abby asked with a moment of insight. “Carina and I get to model, we get to do all kinds of things that being a nanny’s sister you can’t do without breaking your cover.”
Jo nodded. “I have all that money hidden away, but unlike you two I have to question if I can afford a new pair of jeans from my allowance.”
“I know it’s not fair.” Carina hugged Jo.
“I’ve got my driving license, but I can’t buy a car because Heather ‘can’t afford’ to lend me the money…. At times I think I was better off as Megan.”
“You said yourself, Megan would be in prison by now.”
“I know Cari,” Jo said quietly, “It just gets frustrating at times.”
Abby came over and gave her friend a big hug.
“It’s like I said in London, I feel like I just get to tag along with you two.” Jo paused. “I’m just dreaming of the day I can finally be able to do just what I want I guess.”
“We all dream of that.” Carina whispered in her friend’s ear.
“Group hug.” Abigail announced as all three girls held each other close.
The girls looked at the assistant, standing there with her hands clasped in front of her.
“This one,” Carina said as she held up the black gown. “Do you have some opera gloves that may go with it?”
“I think we can find something suitable,” the assistant said as she took the dress. “Allow me to enquire for you.”
The Richmond Mansion
“All right, off to sleep now. Pleasant dreams.”
Heather turned off the main light in George’s room and walked down the corridor, looking in on little Sandy as she slept cuddling her teddy bear. Smiling, she was about to go back downstairs when she looked in Jo’s room, and stopped.
standing in front of a mirror, looking at herself. She had a critical
look on her face, as she slowly turned and checked herself out from each angle.
"Hey Sis - what on earth ARE you doing?" Heather laughed as she came in.
"Trying to give myself a pep talk Sister dear." Joanne continued to look at herself in the mirror, slowly shaking her head.
"A pep talk….. Why?"
"I've been dress shopping with Carina and Abby."
"Okay,” Heather said as she sat down, seeing where this may be heading. “Did Carina find herself a dress for the prom?"
"Why the long face then little sister?"
Jo sighed and turned to look at Heather. "Don't you get sick of the fact we are the 'poor relations'?"
Heather looked thoughtfully. "Sometimes…. I'd rather be the poor Pussycat though then serving a life sentence."
"Oh I know that….. But?"
"Jo, we play the hand we are dealt with…. I've got to deal with more than just being poor, I can't even publicly tell the world about the woman I love."
Jo realised the truth of that as Heather stood up, and said simply "Life sucks!"
"Big time." Heather said as she put her arm round her little sister’s waist.
"I'd just like to sometime be the centre of attention like Cari or Abs."
“A little – is that so wrong?”
Jo, but it’s for the best – which reminds me.” Heather hugged her sister
before she said, "I have something important to ask you."
Jo turned and
looked at Heather. "Now I know that voice….. Should I sit
head, Heather said "What if Sandy and I were to move to London….."
Jo looked into her sister’s eyes. "Goddess, you’re serious - you mean permanently?"
"Yes,” Heather said quietly. “Her, me, the kids - Would you want to come?"
"You mean quit St Angela's?"
“If it’s a question of a school, there are excellent American schools out there…”
“It’s not that,” Jo said as she sat down, “but it would mean leaving my best friends behind, the people who have rescued me, breaking up the gang – I’m not sure I’m ready to do that yet.”
“I know and I understand,” Heather said as she sat down, “Nothing is decided yet, but – well, give it a little thought, will you?”
“I’ll think about it,” Jo said quietly, “but…”
“That’s all I ask,” Heather said as she went to leave the room. “Don’t forget though – they’re always family, wherever we are.”
Friday 11th April
“Here we are,” Cari said as her mother stopped outside the main building, “Our home away from home.”
“Very nice,” Susan said as she stepped out of the car, “discrete, out of the way. Madame has a similar place in the Cotswolds, but I have never visited there personally.”
“We find it a useful base of operations,” Juliette said as she opened the trunk, Carina removing the bags, “and it is comfortable inside. Let’s get in there and get the coffee brewing – the others will be here shortly, once they had dropped off Sandy and Heather.”
Ridgeway Shopping Centre
Heather and Sandy sat in the café area, watching the cars as they pulled into the mall parking lot and assessing each one.
“Would be better if we got one big one and a small one this time – we need to arrive as a team,” Sandy said as she looked round.
“Agreed,” Heather said, “and I think we see out big prize already.” She nodded towards a large black van-like vehicle that pulled up, the female driver jumping out to open the side door as six children jumped out.
“OH yes,” Sandy said as the woman slammed the door to, and ran off after the kids, “perfect. See you later.”
She put her cup down and walked off, Heather watching as five minutes later Sandy drove the vehicle out of the lot. She sipped her coffee, looking round for the perfect vehicle to accompany it.
Heather drove the Mazda into the barn and turned the engine off, Susan waiting until she walked out before closing the doors.
“I’ll work on them after a coffee,” she said as she walked into the house. Joanne was sitting there, her hair under a blue headscarf as she put on a pair of glasses.
“Diana, Cari and I are going into Greenwich to do the final checks,” she said as she grabbed an old green jacket. “Wish us luck.”
“Good luck, sis,” Heather said as she gave Jo a hug, and she went out to join the others in Diana’s car.
Gray Oaks Lane
“Everything looks as if it is unchanged,” Diana said as she sat with Joanne in the car, while Carina knocked on a couple of the doors, asking some innocent survey questions. She eventually, walked back and got into the rear seat, saying “All good little spies. Want to drive to the bank?”
Diana started the car and drove down the lane, soon heading south into Greenwich before she pulled in opposite the bank.
“What’s that coffee shop like,” Cari said as she looked over the road.
“No idea – never went into it.”
“Perfect – time we put that fear of yours about being recognised to the test,” Cari said as she unbuckled. “Come on – I’m starving.”
“She’s right,” Diana said as she handed Jo some sunglasses. “Come on.”
“All right,” Jo said as she got out of the car, and walked across the street.
“Hello,” the woman behind the counter said, “’what can I get you?”
“Cappuccino, latte and large black coffee,” Carina said as Jo and Diana sat at a window table, looking over the road at the bank.
“I don’t like this, I really don’t like this,” Jo said.
“Relax, my dear,” Diana said as Carina joined them. “Just concentrate on watching the bank.”
They sat for an hour, sipping their coffees and eating some Panini’s Cari had ordered, as Bob Redman came out, walked over to grab some lunch from the café, and walked back again.
“All right,” Diana eventually said, “I have no concerns. Let’s…”
Joanne turned suddenly to see Joe Markham standing next to them, staring at her. He was unshaven, and looked as if he had not changed clothes for a while.
“I’m sorry sir,” she said quietly, “Who’s Megan? My name is Joanne – Joanne Smith.”
“But it is you Megan – I’d know you anywhere. Where have you been?”
“Sir,” Diana said as she stood up, “I don’t know who you are, but this is my niece and her friend, and neither of them are called Megan. Please, allow us to leave.”
“I can’t – I’ve been looking for you for so long…”
“Joe – Joe, come and sit down. That’s not Megan – she’s blonde, not a brunette. Come on, I’ll get you a coffee.”
The trio watched as the waitress walked Joe Markham to a table, and sat him down. “I’m sorry,” she said as she came back over, “Joe means no harm – he lost his wife in a robbery a year back, and his daughter disappeared. He just gets upset at times.”
“I understand,” Diana said quietly, “perhaps he should seek professional help – grief counselling…”
“We ask him to, but it’s his choice. Please, leave him with us.”
“Of course,” Diana said as they walked back to the car, and drove off.
“Shit,” Cari finally said, “That was bloody close.”
“Are you all right,” Diana said to Jo.
“I’m fine – he just surprised me,” Jo said quietly. She needed to talk to Heather – if moving to the UK meant losing her father, it might be worth it.
“Let’s head back – Heather should have finished with the vehicles, and we need to eat, then change.”
Susan sat at the dresser, carefully applying the deep red lipstick to her mouth and ensuring it was as perfect as she suspected Juliette demanded. Dabbing some tissue on her lips, she then stood up and walked to the bed, picking up first the cream silk camisole and putting it on, before slipping the red knee length skirt up and fastening it around her waist. She had already put on the new black hose, and felt the slight breeze from the air as it travelled through the slit at the back.
She then picked up the soft black leather shoes, an examined them carefully, before slipping them on and standing up. Even with four-inch heels, they felt incredibly comfortable, and Susan made a mental note to ask where they had come from.
The fitted jacket was next, slipping on to her upper body as she fastened the buttons up the front. The shoulders were slightly padded, but as she looked at herself in the mirror she felt strangely empowered. “I can understand this now,” she said as she picked up the red scarf, and folded it before tying it round her neck like a cravat.
She examined the gold and jewelled brooch, before pinning it to her jacket lapel, and picking up the black wig. She looked at her own hair, fixed in a bun, and then placed the wig on top, making sure it was positioned correctly.
“Quite a change, isn’t it?”
Susan turned to see Carina standing in the doorway, already dressed and wearing her wig. She had higher heeled shoes on, and for a moment Susan forgot an hour or so ago she had been joking with the other two teenagers.
“Contact lenses,” Carina said as she came in. “Listen, there’s something I need to say.”
“What,” Susan asked as the young girl sat on the bed.
darling - you are going to see things in the next few hours I know are going to
shock you… I beg your forgiveness, as I beg the forgiveness of the
Goddess." Carina looked long and
hard at the English girl.
you do it Carina?" Susan asked quietly.
know." Carina looked tearful. "I know it's wrong, I know it's evil…
but somewhere inside me I get this craziness and I have this 'desire' to hurt
going to be a mother in the autumn…”
Susan sat next to Cari and looked at her. “I just don't get how someone bringing a life
into this world can enjoy ending others so much."
explainable…. It's not reasonable…. I guess it's just a pure passion, I get the
hugest sexual highs, I like feeling that power, and I like feeling that bad…. I
don't know how else to explain it."
Susan nodded – somehow, despite everything, she knew Carina understood who and what she was. She prayed she would never have that burden.
just ask one thing…. Let me get those boys out of sight first before you cut
loose as the expression goes, this night is going to traumatize them for life
anyway…. but if I can I don't want to make it worse."
"You are a
good person Susan." Carina hugged the Englishwoman, "I wish I could
be as well."
"When you are you… the real you, then Carina you are a good girl, you are kind, loving, your friends adore you…. I guess it's just like your Mum says, there is something inside you that refuses to be tamed."
“Yeah – well, it’s nearly time.”
“Where are Jo and Abby anyway?”
“Jo’s helping Abby with The Thing.”
“You’ll see,” Cari said with a chuckle as they stood up.”
Walking to the main room downstairs, Susan saw Juliette, Diana, Sandy and Heather talking as they put on their leather gloves.
“For you,” Diana said as she handed Susan a pair of gloves and a pair of dark glasses. Susan slipped the gloves on as Abby and Jo came down.
“How…” Susan stared at the fully breasted, lithe body of Abby as she walked over from the stairs, smiling under her black hair.
“The Thing – we’ll explain later,” Cari said as she stood with the others.
Juliette said, “you travel in the car with Diana, Carina, and Me please. The others go in the SUV with Sandy."
"Can I see
Susan did a
slow pirouette as Juliette looked closely at her appearance.
strand of hair escaping Susan."
Juliette." Susan tucked the errant piece back under her black wig.
inspection…. You look like a Pussycat Darling."
praise from Juliette was as welcome as praise from Madame since neither gave
ladies…. LADIES!" Juliette called everyone to attention. "It's time
we were leaving, usual checks…"
mentally checked herself.
personal items…no jewellery…no odd scraps of paper with your names on it…"
we are professionals at this." Sandy smiled.
but it just takes one tiny mistake and we all end up in prison for the rest of
our lives…. And I for one intend to grow old in freedom enjoying the company of
my friends, my daughter, and my Grandchild."
broadly at her mother.
"So check again, and then again ladies…. NO MISTAKES!"
it occurred to Susan as she watched that minute by minute as they prepared themselves, the facade of dilettante amateurism slipped away to be replaced by the reality that this was a highly professional, and highly dangerous gang of ruthless criminals. The teenage chatter vanished from Carina, Jo and Abby, to be replaced by a colder, harder persona. Juliette, Diana, and Sandy shed their skins of respectability, checking and loading weapons. Heather became tougher, less friendly, cross checking everything was in place and was right.
They checked everything one last time before Juliette said “Glasses on ladies – time to go to work.”
Nodding to each other, the group moved as one to the waiting cars, each slipping into the character like a well-worn coat and carrying the bags between them. Even Susan had a sense of anticipation, as they moved off into the night…
Gray Oaks Road, Greenwich CT
The cars pulled into the driveway outside the Reedman house, as Juliette looked at the lit rooms.
“Right ladies – mask up.”
As Susan pulled the nylon stocking down over her head, she realised she was feeling moist in her panties. Glancing at the others, she saw Abby sigh and close her eyes, and Heather grin.
“Yup – we do as well,” Jo said as she tucked the stocking under her blue scarf. Heather handed out the guns, and then said “Let’s do this.”
They all got out of the cars and walked to the door, Sandy and Diana groaning as they pumped the guns, and looked to Juliette…
“All right boys – ten more minutes and then I need you in your beds.”
“Sure mum,” Bobby Reedman said as he lay on his stomach in front of the television, watching the film with his ten year old brother Kurt by his side. Both boys were wearing pyjamas, with a nearly empty bowl of popcorn between them.
“Go easy Carol,” Bob Reedman said as his wife walked into the kitchen, “They don’t have school tomorrow.” Carol was wearing a white blouse and red skirt, while Bob was in an old jumper and jeans.
“I know – but Jaynie is already in her room, and lord alone knows where Teddy is.”
“He’s about the only one who does,” Bob said as he stood up. “Come on boys, time you were…”
His sentence hung in the air as the front door was thrown open, and six women walked in, masked with nylon stockings over their heads and carrying sawn off shotguns.
“Shit – Carol, run,” Bob cried out, only to be stopped as the kitchen door opened and two more women came in, forcing Bob and Carol into the front room. Bobby and Kurt were staring, open mouthed at the group as two of them walked up the stairs.
Jaynie Reedman was sitting on her bed, her headphones on and music filling her ear as the door to her room was thrown open. She opened her mouth to scream as one of the women said “Don’t make a fucking sound, dahlin, or I shoot you dead right now.” Her accent took Jaynie by surprise, allowing the other masked woman to rip her headphones off and force her out of the room, making her go down the stairs in front of them.
“Mum, Dad, what’s going on,” she said as she walked over, Carol hugging the boys as the eight women looked at them.
“Good evening, Mr Reedman,” the woman directly in front of them said, “My name is Miss Panther, and we are the Pussycat Gang. Now, all of you listen very very carefully…”
In the street outside, two middle aged women crossed to in front of the Reedman house, curious as to why a truck had pulled up, and a tall, dark haired woman was directing her staff round.
“Excuse me,” one of them said as she approached, “Would you mind telling me what is going on?”
“I’m sorry,” the woman replied as she looked at them, “Who are you?”
“We’re the local neighbourhood watch.”
“Oh? Well then the police will have informed you of this.”
The two women looked at each other, and said “Of what?”
“Ah – local inefficiencies. We are installing a new security system for the Reedman family, and it has to be done at night to get the calibration right. We asked them to inform you not to be worried, and to stay in your homes. The extra cars are for our representatives, who will be staying with the Reedman family tonight to monitor the new equipment.”
The two women looked at each other before the dark haired woman showed them the permit. As they scrutinised it, they eventually said “Oh – all right then, we’ll leave you to it.”
“Thank you,” the woman said with a smile, “be sure to inform the others…”
“All good, Penny – finish off and move out.”
“You got it Dominique…”
“I thought I said to be quiet,” Miss Panther repeated quietly as the family sat on the couch, their hands on their heads as Miss Bobcat disabled the alarm and disconnected the phones.
“Please, I’ll do anything, please…”
“Oh for fuck’s sake, stop snivelling,” Miss Leopard said from behind Bob Reedman.
“Miss Cheetah, Miss Jaguar – take the two boys upstairs and make sure they stay out of the way.”
“No – I want mummy,” Kurt said as he hung onto his mother’s waist, while Bobby was gripping his father’s arm.
Miss Jaguar and Miss Cheetah tried to separate the two younger boys from the rest of the family in as unthreatening manner as possible, but the mere presence of the guns, and their dramatic masked appearances made it difficult. Eventually, however, their mother said “Go with the women boys – I want you to be safe.”
“Let’s go upstairs,” Miss Panther said as she held Bobby’s arm, and Miss Jaguar’s Kurt’s, and they walked up the staircase to the second floor.
“Right, you three shits,” Miss Panther said in a low voice, “Get those fucking hands behind your backs…”
"Is this your bedroom boys?" Miss Jaguar said as she indicated a door.
"No it's this one." the younger boy replied, his voice trembling.
"Okay inside please." Miss Cheetah gestured with her gun, then wished she hadn't when she saw the panicked expressions. Miss Jaguar smiled at them as she opened the door handle.
"Okay boys come in here please."
The room had two beds, side by side, and the usual arrangement of wardrobes, chest of drawers and bookcases. A TV and DVD player sat in front of the beds, and a desk was to one side. Kurt and Bobby stood in the middle of the room, holding each other as they looked at the tall, masked and armed women.
Miss Jaguar smiled and said “It’s all right boys – I know this is scary, but you won’t be hurt if you do as we say.”
“What are you going to do to us,” Bobby said in a trembling voice.
"Well, we need your daddy to do something for us tomorrow, so we’re going to be staying the night. But you both need to be kept safe, because it won’t be a good idea to go wandering around. So - for your own… ummmm…. safety, we need to keep you both tied up, gagged and blindfolded in your room. My friend here is going to help me... We are not going to hurt you as I said, but we need you to be quiet and behave yourselves…. Do you understand that?"
Each boy nodded in turn.
"We’ll make you as comfortable as possible so that you can both sleep, all right?”
“Will it hurt?”
“Not if you do as we say. Bobby, do you have some clean socks?”
“Good – can you fetch three pairs for me? While he does that, Kurt, you sit on your bed, and Miss Cheetah will tie your ankles and legs.”
“Ooo. Okay,” Kurt said as he sat on his bed, watching as Miss Cheetah put her gun down, took some rope and started to tie his ankles tightly together, As Bobby brought the socks over, she then tied his legs together below his knees.
“Thank you Bobby,” Miss Jaguar said, “now, give your brother one pair, me one pair, and you keep the third set.”
“What do you want us to do with them?”
“I want you both to put them over your hands, and then your wrists won’t be marked by the ropes. Once you’ve done that, stand in front of Kurt, and I’ll take care of you while Miss Cheetah takes care of your brother.”
They worked together, crossing the wrists of the boys behind their back and securing them with rope, before passing it around their waists to keep them in place. Two more bands went around their arms and stomach, and then their upper arms and shoulders, making sure they were well secured and cinched.
“Right Bobby – I want you to lie down on your bed, and Kurt you lie down on yours.” Miss Jaguar waited until Bobby was lying down before she started to secure his ankles and legs, while Miss Cheetah made sure Kurt was resting his head on the pillows.
“We really won’t be able to move, will we,” he said as the two masked women tied the ankles of the boys to the bottom of their beds.
“As I said, boys, it’s best you stay here. Now, I need you both to open your mouths as wide as you can – it’s time for you to stop talking.”
“Before you do,” Bobby said, “can you do something for us?”
“I know you said you had to blindfold us, but can we watch some television for a little while first?”
Miss Jaguar looked at Miss Cheetah. “OF course,” she eventually said, “It will give me a chance to tell your parents and sister what brave boys you are. We’ll make it nice and loud as well.
“Thank you,” Kurt said as he looked at Bobby. They watched nervously as Miss Jaguar took the third pair of socks and wadded each of them up, before pushing them into their mouths, and then covering their lips with several strips of duct tape.
“Now, stay calm and you’ll be fine,” Miss Cheetah said as she turned the television on and the volume up. “Miss Jaguar will stay with you for a little while.”
As Miss Cheetah walked down the stairs, she smiled as she saw Miss Bobcat and Miss Tigress binding Jaynie tightly around her arms and chest, the young girl looking at them over a tape gag that hid some large cloth underneath. Miss Puma and Miss Panther were binding Carol Reedman to a wooden chair, while Miss Panther and Miss Lynx stood over Bob Reedman, knelling on the floor with his hands on his head.
In the boys’ room she had been the nanny again, but as she stood watching she felt the pleasure between her loins that told her how much this turned her on – the control, the menace, the adrenaline rush.
“Where are my sons,” Bob Reedman said as he looked at her.
“Miss Jaguar is making sure they stay out of harm’s way,” she purred in response. “What of the other members of the family?”
“We were just explaining the rules,” Miss Lynx said as she caressed the sawn off shotgun, “and Daddy here was about to tell us that he agreed with every single one of them, weren’t you?”
“Yes, yes, just don’t hurt them,” he said as he looked at Carol and Jaynie.
“Hurt them? All we did was keep your cocksucking little whore of a daughter quiet when she threatened to scream, and as for you assfuck of a wife…”
“HOW DARE YOU!!!”
“Manners,” Miss Leopard said as she slapped Carol across the face with her gloved hand. “Speak when you are spoken to, cunt.”
“Carol, please – they are killers…”
“Listen to your man, bitch – he speaks the truth,” Miss Lynx said as she walked over, and lifted Carol’s skirt with the barrel of her gun. “Ooh – sexy panties. Gag her with them.”
Jaynie was watching, her own pleated skirt and t-shirt damp with sweat and something else – something she had never experienced before. “I know, sugah,” Miss Bobcat whispered as she put her hand between her legs, “I feel the same way. It’s so deliciously hot, isn’t it?"
As Miss Puma produced a pair of scissors and lifted her mother’s skirt, she shivered in what she realised was excitement, as Carol’s panties were cut away and stuffed into her mouth, before it was taped over.
“Ufkngngbstrdss” she screamed out, earning another slap from Miss Leopard.
“Now, Bob,” Miss Panther, said as she stroked the husband’s cheeks with her gloved hand, “why don’t you tell us where your safe is, hmmm?”
“I thought we told you to be quiet, cocksucking little whore,” Miss Lynx said as she hit Carol in the stomach with her gun, malign her groan and fall slightly forward.
“All right – I’ll show you,” Bob said as his hands were bound tightly behind his back by Miss Cheetah.
“Excellent – Miss Leopard, Miss Puma, take Bob here where he needs to go. Miss Cheetah, will you help Miss Lynx to keep an eye on his wife for a moment?”
“What’s wrong, bitch,” Miss Tigress said as she looked at Jaynie, who was sobbing as she sat there, “Never seen a man dominated by a woman before…”
“Hey – what’s happening here man?”
The armed women turned as one and pointed their shotguns to the door, where two people were standing. One was a young Hispanic girl, who Miss Bobcat recognised – the other was Teddy Reedman, the oldest son.
“Hey Teddy,” Malinda Torres giggled as she looked round, “You’re been robbed by masked women.”
“That’s right,” Miss Panther said as she armed her shotgun, and pointed it at them, “and if you two bastards don’t close the door, nice and quietly, and then do exactly what you’re told, you’re both going to be fucked.”
“That’s all right, Miss Panther,” Miss Bobcat said as she stood up, “If you will allow me and Miss Tigress to take care of these new arrivals, ah’m sure we can make them – comfortable.”
“What have you got in mind, sweet thing,” Teddy said as he walked down the stairs, and looked at Miss Tigress. “I could sure entertain the notion of spending time with you.”
“Sorry,” Miss Tigress said as her knee rose sharply and connected with his groin, “my dance card is full. Now, fuck angel, get the fuck over here with your man – you’re about to go on one hell of a trip.”
Miss Jaguar watched as Kurt slowly closed his eyes and went to sleep. Going to the wardrobe, she found a brown woollen scarf, and used it to blindfold him, tying the ends together at the side of his head.
“Time for you as well,” she said to Bobby, who nodded as she fetched a white scarf and tied it tightly over his eyes as well. He rolled over onto his side, breathing through his nose as she watched both of them for a while longer.
She heard the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs, and then the door opened.
“Miss Jaguar, dahlin, would you help us a moment please?”
She nodded as she left the room, and walked into the next room along, where Miss Tigress had dropped Teddy on the bed.
“I see the oldest son is home – who’s she?”
“His bit on the side,” Miss Bobcat said as she stroked her gloved hand down Malinda’s face, the fear plain to be seen. “Would you mind awfully helping me to make sure she cannot possibly move?”
“It would be a pleasure,” she said as she took some rope and folded the young girl’s arms behind her back, while Miss Tigress began to tape Teddy Reedman up…
“Miss Tigress, Miss Bobcat – you’re needed downstairs,” Miss Leopard said as she came into the room, “We’ll take care of these two.”
“We have a slight problem, Miss Panther – Bob here refuses to tell us the combination of his inner safe.”
“I can’t – I have confidential information in there.”
“I thought we had established there was no such word as cannot, Mr Reedman. Miss Lynx?”
“As you wish, Miss Panther,” the other woman said as she knelt in front of Carol, smiling sweetly as she slowly started to unbutton her blouse. “Whtrudng,” she mumbled as the front was pulled open, and she felt the gloved hands enveloping and caressing her chest.
“You wished to see us Miss Panther?”
“Yes,” she sad to Miss Bobcat and Miss Tigress, “take the little bitch to her room, and – entertain her.”
“With pleasure, sugah,” Miss Bobcat said as they forced Jaynie to her bound feet and made her jump to the stairs, then up them one at a time, as Miss Lynx looked into Carol’s eyes.
“You’re enjoying this as much as I am, aren’t you,” she purred, feeling the heat between her legs as she cut through Carol’s bra, pinching her nipples and making her squeal.
“So how shall we entertain her, Dahlin,” Miss Bobcat said as Miss Tigress pushed Jaynie on the bed.
“Well,” Miss Tigress said as she sat next to Jaynie, stroking her side with the gun, “we could see what really turns her on. What do you think?”
“Let’s see what little miss prim and proper has in her wardrobe,” Miss Bobcat said as she walked over to the double doors and opened them. “Oh very Sunday School – good way to hide the fact you’re a cockteaser, bitch.”
As she moved aside the dresses and pant suits, however, Miss Tigress noticed that Jaynie was getting more and more nervous. The reason became clear as Miss Bobcat said “Why, little miss, what do we have here,” and brought out a top and skirt.
The top was made of black spandex, and looked as if it would barely cover her chest, while the skirt was black leather and only about four inches wide.
“What else have you been keeping hidden from Mummy and Daddy, whore,” Miss Bobcat said as she went back in, and returned with a pair of five inch stiletto heeled shoes, as well as a pair of black fishnet stockings and a garter belt.
“OH yes,” Miss Tigress said as Jaynie lowered her head, “We can have fun with those. I’m going to untie you, and if you make one fucking wrong move, you die. I want you to strip and put on your clothes, little girl – let’s show mummy and daddy.”
Malinda groaned as the rope bit deep between her legs, unable to move as she was hogtied by Miss Jaguar. Miss Cheetah and Miss Puma had tied Teddy spread-eagled to his bed, and were caressing his sac with their hands as he giggled hysterically.
“You may leave them with us, go and join the others,” Mss Puma said, as Miss Jaguar left the room and walked down. She saw Miss Lynx there, her hands squeezing the breasts of Carol Reedman as her husband said, “No, I cannot, they will kill me.”
“Then I will hurt her,” Miss Lynx said as she produced two small clamps and fastened them over Carol’s breasts, covering them with duct tape before she said “Candles?”
“None – try these.” Miss Panther tossed a box of long matches over, Miss Lynx smiling as she caught them.
Miss Jaguar watched, aware of her own arousal as Miss Lynx lit a match, and held it over the tape on Carol’s left breasts, smiling as she screamed in agony.
“ALL RIGHT.” Bob gave the combination, and then shivered at his wife’s screams as her other breast was subjected to the heat.
“Would you go and confirm that works please, Miss Jaguar? Second room on the right down the corridor.”
As she walked away, she noticed the daughter coming down with Miss Bobcat and Miss Tigress – but she looked very different. Her hair was pulled back in a severe pony tail, and the heels she was wearing were even higher than her own. The black skirt and top hid nothing, even without the rope around era arms and body stretching the top so much she could see her nipples.
“Jaynie? My god, what did you make her wear?”
“Why, her own clothes, daddy dearest – isn’t that right whore,” Miss Bobcat said as she pushed her forward. Her lips were ruby red, and her eyes had blue eye shadow above and below them.
“Not the little angel you thought she was, are you,” Miss Tigress said as she walked Jaynie in front of her mother. Carol looked up in pain, and the tears started again as she said “ssshrt?”
Jaynie nodded, before she was turned and forced to kneel in front of her father, who was sat in an armchair. “Time you showed Daddy what you’re really good at,” Miss Bobcat said, “Just like we told you.”
“Please,” Jaynie pleaded, “Don’t make me do this…”
“Simple choice, your fucking cockteasing whore – do your father or die.” Miss Bobcat pumped her shotgun and pointed it at Jaynie’s head.
“It’s all right, Jaynie,” Bob said as Carol looked mutely on, “Do it. I don’t want you to die.”
Jaynie nodded as she shuffled forward, and used her teeth to pull the zip of her father’s pants down, and then used her nose to open his y-fronts, his cock emerging as she did so.
“I’m sorry, Carol,” Bob said as Jaynie looked at the armed women, before she licked the tip of his member and then gently kissed it.
“Keep going,” Miss Bobcat said, pressing the gun against her head as Jaynie started to use her mouth on her father, Bob fighting the urge, the overpowering urge to respond to such teasing.
In the girl’s bedroom, Miss Cheetah was searching through Jaynie’s internet history, chuckling to herself as she looked at the pictures, read the stories, realised just how dirty the girl’s mind was…
“Plsllsssdntmkhrdths,” Carol moaned, the clips making her tits feel like red hot weights, as Jaynie continued to arouse her father, her mouth now round the base of his cock as he started to moan and closed his eyes. He knew he could not fight it any longer, as his daughter felt the pulsing against her tongue, and the wetness between her legs.
“The little whore’s starting to come as well,” Miss Bobcat said as she used her finger between Jaynie’s legs, her squeals of delight reaching the ears of Miss Jaguar as she came back in. She was glad the two younger boys were not here to see this, and hear Miss Bobcat say “I think you’re nice and juicy and ready, dahlin, let go of him and spread them.”
As she and Miss Tigress pulled Jaynie back and held her, spreading her legs apart, Jaynie gasped and said “Christ, Daddy, you have an enormous cock, and it felt so good in my mouth. You don’t know how much I’ve dreamed of that.”
“Go on, daddy dearest, put that big fucking throbbing cock in me and make me scream. I’m so fucking sick of being Miss Nice – make me squeal like a bloody pig.”
“Jaynie, what’s got into you?”
“You are going to, motherfucker,” Miss Lynx said as she placed her gun against Bob’s head and said “Go on, Daddy – she your little whore angel how much you love her.”
“Oh yes, fuck me daddy dearest, I’ve written so many stories of how it will feel.”
Carol was too shocked at the change in Jaynie, as she spread her legs without the help of her two captors, thrust her chest out and said “Put your face right there, let me rub against you…”
Miss Lynx pushed Bob to the ground and then forward, forcing his head against the tightly stretched latex top as Jaynie screamed “OH YES!!! THAT IS FANTASTIC!!! MORE!!! MORE!!!” She twisted her body from side to side, making her father almost choke as he felt her flesh against him.
“Truly a work of art, Miss Leopard.”
“Why thank you, Miss Puma, I thought so as well.”
The two masked women looked at Malinda, who was lying across the bed, her mouth clamped over Teddy’s cock and her neck tied to his legs with rope. Teddy himself had a cloth stuffed into his mouth, and then taped over with duct tape, but his eyes were wide as he came again into Malinda’s mouth.
“Well, I think they can be trusted not to move until we need them to,” Miss Puma said as the two women left the room, passing Miss Cheetah as she came out.
“Quite an adventurous young daughter they have,” she said with a smile as they heard the noises from downstairs. Coming down the stairs, they stood with Miss Jaguar as Miss Lynx pulled Bob back, and Jaynie said “For fuck’s sake, drive into me, you bastard. I need you in here.”
“So I see,” Miss Puma said as they watched, feeling the burning within them as Bob pleaded “No, please…”
“Would you rather I shot your cunt of a wife instead?”
Bob looked at the two most important women in his life as the cold metal pressed against his forehead. “Please – cover her eyes,” he pleaded, but there was no answer, as he slowly stood, his pants pulled down by Miss Lynx.
“I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry,” he whispered as Jaynie looked at his large, throbbing cock, and screamed “FUCK ME!!!”
Jaynie used her own hand to part her own pussy lips; rubbing on her own clit as she positioned herself over her fathers engorged cock. Slowly she lowered herself down onto his throbbing penis.
“Fuck me daddy…. Fuck me hard!.... Pop my cherry and take me.”
She then screamed as she felt his cock slide into her damp passage, tearing through her hymen as she felt the throbbing inside her for the first time, feeling her body grip her father tightly as she wrapped her legs round him and drew him closer, pressing his lips to hers as she pushed up.
She felt the throbbing, felt the burning, and wanted it – wanted it so bad she was lost to the other women in the room, as her father started to move in and out, crying as he felt his own pleasure growing alongside hers, praying that it would end…
Miss Jaguar had to supress a moan of her own as she watched, but as she glanced to the side she saw the other women touching themselves between their legs, and suddenly she understood fully.
“OH FUCK YES!!!” Jaynie screamed as she pulled her father further into herself, “fuck my fucking brains out, big man!! I never dreamed this would be so good!!!”
The burning was fierce inside her, as she felt her father bulging, pressing against places she never knew, never dreamed had existed before, the shocks running through her both pain and pleasure – until she gasped as a huge shock ran through her entire body, making her grip even more tightly as she arched her back, and at the same time felt the hot flow inside her as her father exploded into her.
Carol had closed her eyes, unable to take what had happened as Jaynie finally let go, not resisting as Miss Bobcat stuffed a large sponge into her mouth, and then pressed a length of tape over it.
Miss Jaguar screamed into herself, only to see Miss Cheetah and Miss Puma do the same. All three exchanged a look, all three nodded – all three understood.
“you know,” Miss Lynx said as she stood up and walked over to Carol, “I’m getting a little fucking pissed off with your tone towards us.” She pushed Carol onto her back, moving her skirt out of the way as she stroked the tip of her gun barrel between her legs.
“What…. What are you doing?”
“Having fun,” Miss Lynx said as she rubbed the gun between Carol’s legs, the older woman watching with her eyes wide as she did so.
Miss Bobcat and Miss Tigress blindfolded the father and daughter, both now gagged and their legs bound securely.
“Plssttppp” Carol pleaded as she felt herself starting to cum, the barrel of the gun pushed into her passage. It felt cold, it felt alien – and it was starting to feel wonderful as well.
“Yes you will,” Miss Panther said, “I know you will Bob.”
“Does that feel good you fucking whore mother,” Miss Lynx whispered as Miss Jaguar saw how excited the others were getting. She was also feeling more alive, more aroused than she ever had been, as she understood what she had been told about before.
Carol finally arched her back and then collapsed as Miss Lynx drew the gun barrel out and looked at it.
“Hmmm – I hope that has not damaged it,” she said as she pressed the gun against Carol’s head, and let off a single barrel.
“No – I guess it hasn’t” she said with a smile as she gasped, the muted screams from Bob and Jaynie driving her over her own edge.
“Get these two to their beds,” Miss Panther said, “and cover her up. We don’t want to scare the children too much.”
Saturday 12th April
Gray Oaks Lane
“Finished in the toilet?”
Bobby nodded as Miss Jaguar brought him back into the room, Kurt already sitting on his bed with his hands tied in front of him, and his mouth covered with a fresh length of tape. Bobby allowed Miss Cheetah to cross and tie his wrists together in front of him, and then opened his mouth as she pushed the sock back in, and pressed the tape over his lips.
“We’re going to blindfold you both now, and then take you downstairs. When we get there, We’ll sit you both in a dining chair and secure you to it, and the rest of your family will join you. I’ll be staying with my friend Miss Puma, while my other friends take Daddy to work. Then we’ll leave you to be rescued, all right?”
The two boys nodded as the scarves were tied tightly over their eyes, and they were walked out of their room, down the stairs and past the white sheet covering their mother. Once in the kitchen, they were helped to sit down in a chair, before their waists were tied to the back, and their legs secured at the ankles and knees.
Jaynie was already there, staring into the front room in her outfit from last night. Miss Bobcat had tied her tightly to the chair, her legs spread and secured to the rear legs, while a knotted crotch rope had been tied between her legs, making her groan into her gag as she tried to move.
“ah think your friends are going to love the stories of you, dahlin,” Miss Bobcat whispered into her ear as Jaynie saw Teddy and Malinda been walked in.
“Enough talking,” the two masked women said as they lashed the older two tightly to the chairs, and then blindfolded all three of them as Miss Panther and Miss Lynx escorted down their father. He was showered, shaved and dressed, but the pain was clear in his eyes as he looked at his family.
“Be… Be brave, all of you,” he said as Miss Puma and Miss Cheetah stood behind then in the kitchen.
Miss Tigress walked to the front door and looked out. “all clear,” she said as she looked back in.
“Wait for our call,” Miss Panther said to the other two, as they frog marched Bob out of the house, the kids calling through their gags after him and for their mother.
“Mummy’s gone with him,” Miss cheetah lied, “so be still and be brave.”
"Okay Bob -
we are now going to drive to your bank where we will make a nice large
withdrawal." Miss Panther told him as he was thrown onto the floor in the
back of the SUV.
cocksucker?" Miss Lynx laughed lightly as she climbed in after him.
need take these stockings off first ladies…. Hood him Miss Lynx"
Quickly a black
nylon hood was thrust over the manager’s head and his world went dark as it was
each of the women pulled the stocking back off her head and put the nylons into
glasses Miss Jaguar." Miss Leopard indicated with her hand that the
British bandit should put them on.
feel that Bob?" Miss Lynx asked as Miss Jaguar climbed in the back seat
with her. "That's the barrel of my gun…one false move…one sound…any
trouble I'll kill you just like I killed your bitch of a wife."
feel this one as well?" Miss Jaguar held her gun similarly to the man’s
head…"Well can you bastard?" she asked assertively.
he screamed…"Just don't hurt me."
In the front passenger seat Miss Panther smiled to herself - the new girl was learning the value of terror as a weapon.
Patriot National Bank
“Here we are Bob,” Miss Panther said as they drew up in the bank car park, “Nice and early for work. Sit him up.”
Bob felt himself being raised as he heard the women talking, and then the hood was pulled off his head. He looked at them standing round him, staring back at him through the stocking masks.
The bitches had taken so much already – Miss Panther, Miss Lynx, Miss Leopard, Miss Bobcat, Miss Tigress and Miss Jaguar. Of them, Miss Jaguar had spent the least amount of time with him, instead keeping his two youngest boys bound and gagged in their room. He hoped he would live to explain things to them…
“Let’s go,” Miss Panther said as they stepped out, Miss Jaguar holding the door as Bob got out and then pointing the shotgun at him. All of them dressed identically, dark black tailored jackets that fitted them like gloves, as much as their black leather gloves did. Knee length skirts, with a slit up the back, seamed hose and four-inch heels – five in the case of the psycho bitch Miss Lynx. He could still hear his wife’s screams…
He was forced to the staff entrance to the bank, Miss Jaguar pressing the sawn off shotgun to his head as he opened the door, and then disabled the alarm.
“How long,” Miss Panther said as she looked at the clock on the wall.
“It opens at 8,30 – once all the staff are here.”
“Very well then,” Miss Panther said. “Ladies – positions!”
Miss Tigress and Miss Bobcat moved to the rear door, Miss Leopard to the main door.
"Hey Bob, just remember - you get outta this alive, you have a hot slutty daughter who's dreamed of screwing her daddy to go home to." Miss Lynx laughed evilly.
"Yeah buy her the sluttiest possible clothes dahlin, real tight, real sexy, she'll keep you warm in bed at night." Miss Bobcat laughed at the thought. "That girl of yours has all the makings of a first class whore."
“Why did you make her do that?”
“Make her? Lover, you really should check your family’s internet history.”
The six women laughed as Bob realised that, in truth, they had not had to force Jaynie to act that way.
“Quiet,” Miss Tigress said as she raised her shotgun and heard the rear door open. A young, fair haired man came in and saw Bob standing there with two armed and masked women either side of him.”
“Freeze, mother fucker,” he heard a voice beside him say as a gun was pressed against him. “Be a real good boy and walk into the centre of the room, then lie down and put your hands behind your back – or you get a new hole in your back.”
“Do as they say,” Bob advised the desk clerk as he walked in, lying down as Miss Bobcat took a roll of duct tape and started to tie him up. As she did so, a second bank worker came in – a tall thin blonde, wearing a grey jacket and skirt with matching heels. She saw the two men, and screamed as she felt the gun against her back.
fuckin' hands in the air bitch!" Miss Tigress screamed out her orders to
the delicate blonde woman,
don't kill me." the blonde started sobbing.
there and lay face down on the fucking floor."
started moving slowly.
bitch!" Miss Tigress held the barrel of her shotgun to the woman's head.
sorry." the woman cried as she ran and layer face down.
her." Miss Tigress indicated to one of her colleagues. Miss Lynx came over and started to bind her
with duct tape, as the young man had his tie stuffed in his mouth, and then
tape wrapped round his head.
smiled, a smile that came and went underneath the nylon covering her face.
Whatever her previous reservations the Pussycats were all business inside a
bank. They were menacing, dangerous, if she worked at this bank she'd be pretty
unhappy right about now.
took up her position by the door again her shotgun held upright as she waited
for the next arrival.
better be fucking right about this lock opening on time motherfucker."
Miss Panther glanced at the clock. "Just remember we have those lovely
kids of yours hostage, you ever want to see them again, just don't give us any
"That's right Mister manager." Miss Jaguar grabbed him by his hair and rubbed her shotgun cross his face. "Oh shit" she laughed at herself "This shit rubs off onto you."
The staff continued to arrive, alone or in pairs, only to be forced to the floor and taped so that they could not interfere.
“That the last of them, cockface,” Miss Panther said as a well-built older woman had her head wrapped with tape. Bob nodded as they heard the vault unlock.
“Right on time,” Miss Panther said as she looked at the clock. Miss Bobcat, Miss Leopard, with me. The rest of you, stand guard.”
As Miss Panther, Miss Bobcat and Miss Leopard walked into the vault with Bob, Miss Tigress and Miss Lynx walked up and down the line of taped and gagged employees, while Miss Jaguar kept watch.
“Stop snivelling or we shoot you now,” Miss Tigress said as she and Miss Lynx stood with their backs to the main entrance.
It was instinct that made Miss Jaguar look as a door opened slightly, and a security guard walked in. “Shit – a late arrival,” she thought to herself, but before she could give a warning he drew his pistol from his holster and aimed it at Miss Lynx.
It was instinct that made her move, and it was instinct that took over as with a fluid movement she pumped the shotgun, took position and fired it straight at the guard. She watched as the bullet went through his abdomen and exploded out of his spine, throwing him back against the wall as he slid down, his head rolling to one side, his eyes vacant.
“EVERYONE SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!” Miss Lynx fired a shot into the air as the staff screamed into their gags, and Miss Panther came out.
“Yeah – Miss Jaguar saw a problem, and dealt with it. And if anyone makes another sound, they will be next.” Miss Lynx walked over and gently raised the gun, saying “You did the right thing, Miss Jaguar – now focus.”
The newest member nodded as she returned to her position, watching over the door.
Inside the vault, Miss Leopard was loading bound stacks of notes into leather holdalls, while Miss Bobcat was in an interior cage, opening a selection of safety deposit boxes, tipping the contents of each one into an individual sack and labelling them.
“Time’s almost up,” Miss Panther said, “Done?”
“Done,” Miss Bobcat said as she placed the sacks into a holdall. Miss Leopard nodded as she closed the last bag, taking four as Miss Bobcat took the rest.
“Tape him up,” Miss Panther said as she pushed Bob over to Miss Lynx and Miss Tigress. “Help them with the bags,” she said to Miss Jaguar, taking her gun as she picked up the holdalls and made her way with them to the exit.
“Thank you all for your co-operation,” she shouted out as they returned for the remaining bags. “Nobody move for thirty minutes – let’s go ladies.”
“Say hi to your slut daughter from us,” Miss Tigress said to Bob as she gagged him, and the gang walked out to the waiting SUV. Getting inside, they removed their stockings and put on their glasses, as Diana drove off.
“Well done everyone, especially you Susan.”
Susan nodded as they headed for the interstate, but said nothing…
Gray Oaks Lane
Miss Puma checked the knots again on the family, and then indicated to Miss Cheetah to follow her into the front room, where she talked in a low whisper.
“I’m sorry – we haven’t had much of a chance to talk about the other day, lover.”
“I know – you didn’t even tell me about what happened between you and your mother. Does she suspect?”
Looking to make sure the blindfolds were still in place, Sandy took off her stocking mask and sat down, Heather sitting next to her.
“I told her I had been thinking of moving to the UK for a while, and that you had been offered a job there as well. I had to apologise for not talking to her before about it, but I said it was something I had been thinking about for some time.”
“Sounds close enough to the truth – what did she say?”
“What didn’t she say? She went on about how the Richmond family had always been in New York, how she felt little Sandy and George needed to be with her family, especially with the new arrival…”
“I bet she hasn’t been to see the baby yet.”
Sandy smiled and shook her head. “OF course not – it’s not a Richmond.”
“I swear, Sandy, I just want to tell her the truth, and damn the consequences.”
“I know,” Sandy said as she tenderly kissed Heather. “I heard you last night, with the two younger boys and Susan. I know art is your passion, but you were both so good with them…”
“I could never leave you, or the kids. But on the other hand, I cannot live a lie much longer.”
“So what do we do?”
Heather sat for a moment. “Let me call Amy – ask if I can work on a project short term and see if I am up to it. Get her to accept I need to test myself, and defer a final decision. Then we can make a final decision later in the year, and be here for the others.”
“You would do that for me?”
Heather nodded as her cell phone buzzed. “They’re done,” she said as she looked at the screen, and the two women stood up, kissing each other before they walked over.
“We’re going now,” Miss Cheetah said, “I’m sure daddy will be back soon. Stay calm, and you’ll all be just fine.”
As they walked out, putting their sunglasses on, they saw a couple of curtains twitching. Smiling, they popped the trunk of the car, putting their holdalls inside before closing the lid and getting into the car. Reversing out, they drove down the road, turning right and not going through the town…
“That is better!” Carina threw herself into a chair, having changed into her preferred jeans and top. “We did it again!”
Susan was sitting in a chair, still in her outfit, looking at her hands as Sandy and Heather came in.
“How did it go?”
“Mission accomplished,” Diana said as she walked in, “but we had another casualty.”
“Who was stupid?”
“A security guard,” Abby said, now her normal thin self, “but Susan took care of it.”
“Susan?” Heather looked at the young woman, and sat next to her. “First time, isn’t it?”
“I killed a man,” she said quietly, “I killed him in cold blood, without thinking. Madame… Madame will fire me…”
pretty sure Madame will understand Susan…"
my life. " Carina got out of her chair, walked over and hugged the shaking
killed someone…. I am a killer…." Susan started sobbing, the bloody mess
she had made of the man imprinted on her brain
"As I said,
you saved my life."
Madame doesn't understand know you'll always have a home her with us if you
"Yes Susan….. You make an incredible Pussycat." Heather also put her arms round the sobbing woman, as Juliette walked in.
“How did you leave the kids?”
“As you left them.”
“And you two?”
Sandy looked at Heather, as she said “We came to a decision – but we’ll tell you later. We need to get back to our homes and deliver to Madame what she wanted.”
“Come with me,” Juliette said as she took Susan’s hand, “Let’s get you changed.”
The National Patriot Bank
The police officer turned to see Adam Ball and Janice Carter approaching, holding their badges out.
“Agents – you with the task force?”
They nodded as Janice said “We need to see the crime scene.”
“It’s not pretty…”
“It never is with this lot – may we?”
The officer lifted the tape, and as they walked in the front the first thing they saw was the tissue and blood against the wall to their right. Forensics teams were examining minutely the floor and work area, as Carter and Ball put on gloves and walked into the vault.
Tom Callaghan looked up as they came in. “Don’t say it Janice,” he said as he looked at her face, “Don’t fucking say it.”
“I’m not going to,” Janice said as she looked round, “but it was, wasn’t it?”
Callahan nodded. “They took the family hostage last night – Reedman, his wife, daughter and the two younger boys. His oldest son and his girlfriend were taken when they came in. The boys were held hostage in their room all night, so they missed the worst of the scene – the police had to untie them from the chair and walk them blindfold from the house so that they did not see their mother.”
“The bitches have developed a conscience?”
“Not sure – according to Reedman, there were eight of them.”
“Eight? Christ, they have a new recruit?”
“Might be – she had a British accent, and went by the name of Miss Jaguar. According to the staff, she was the one who killed the security guard here, before he could give a warning.”
The two agents looked at the mess on the wall outside, and then looked round the vault.
“So what happened at the house?”
“What didn’t happen? The Brit and one of the others took the two youngest and kept them out of the way. We should be thankful for that – from what Reedman said, they tortured and abused all the others in some way. Mrs Reedman was the unlucky one.”
“Shotgun to the head. The family are in hospital, along with Malinda Torres, the girlfriend. The kids don’t know about their mother yet…”
Tom Callaghan was not given to emotion, but he kicked out at a chair and shouted, “FUCK! If I had listened to you…”
“Past history – what did they get away with?”
“Cash – about three point five million. They also took the contents of a dozen security boxes – pulled at random by the looks of it. We’re waiting for the bank auditors to come and identify the owners so that we can talk to them.”
“Safety deposit boxes? That’s a new twist – unless our British visitor asked them to get the contents of one or more. We need to interview the owners once they are identified – what’s the holdup?”
“Their offsite security server – someone introduced a virus. Apparently they had intruders, and forgot to tell anyone, in case their reputation was ruined.”
Janice Carter looked at Adam Ball, before she sat down and started laughing.
“Janice, it’s hardly the time to…”
“Sorry, sorry – it’s the genius of it. They’ve done it again, haven’t they? Played us for damn fool suckers. Come on Adam – we need to talk to Reedman and the older kids. Let’s leave the youngsters out of it for now, eh?”
As they left the bank, Janice stopped and looked at the officer. “The Reedman house – does it have a neighbourhood watch group?”
“They do - or did,” the officer said. “Seems a group claimed they were installing a new security system last night, and needed to stay overnight to calibrate it, so when they saw people leaving with Bob Reedman today…”
“They thought they were the experts?”
The officer nodded. “It was only when we got to the house to rescue the family they realised what had happened. A LOT of red faces.”
“They’re not the only ones,” Janice said as she and Adam walked to the car. They sat in silence, before Adam said “thanks.”
“For not saying I told you so.”
Janice nodded. “I want them, Adam – I want to look each of them in the eye and take their masks off, then see them stand trial. Come on – we’ve got a job to do.”
As Adam started the car, Janice suddenly said “Shit.”
“What do we know about this Madame X?”
“Big time crime boss, suspected to have some interests over… Oh, now I see what you’re getting at. If the Pussycats are back in business, and they’ve hooked up with someone like her…”
“Yeah – another headache for us. Come on, Adam – let’s get this over with.”
“I should have listened to you,” Ball said as he drove off, “I should have listened…”
The Waldorf Astoria Hotel
The group looked up as one as the door opened, and Susan walked in, carrying a black canvas bag with her.
“Welcome back, Susan,” Madame X said as she stood up. “Is that what we need?”
“It is, Madame,” Susan said quietly as she handed Maddie and Penny the bag. Looking inside, they nodded and said “Well done – how was it?”
“Different, very…” Susan collapsed into a chair, burying her head in her hands as she started crying.
“Dominique, please remain. The rest of you, leave us for a moment.”
“Out,” Penny said as she opened the door, looking at Madame before she left Susan and Dominique with her.
“I have already heard what happened,” Madame said as she sat next to Susan, “but I want to hear it from you as well.”
“I’m sorry Madame, I’m so sorry,” Susan blurted out between sobs, “I did not know what I was doing until…”
“Take a deep breath, Susan,” Dominique said quietly, “and tell us in your own words.”
Nodding, Susan said “I was standing guard over the staff – when I saw the guard out of the corner of my eye reach for his gun. I… I must have acted on pure instinct as I fired at him, and he dropped like a rag doll.
“I’ve never killed anyone before, and I know you personally do not advocate it. I took great care to keep the younger boys unaware of what had happened – and then to do that…”
“It’s all right,” Madame said quietly, “Continue.”
Susan looked at Dominique, then Madame before she said “You’ll want me to resign – you will have my letter in the morning.”
Susan looked at Madame, before saying “But I murdered someone today.”
“Yes, you killed someone – and you did it instinctively. But you did it to protect others, and to stop one of your colleagues from injury or worse. Susan, there is a reason I insist on you all being trained and proficient – it is to remind you that a gun is not a toy, but a weapon, and if it Is to be used it must be used for a serious purpose.
“All of us, when we carry a gun, know that one day we may have to use it for the intended purpose - to wound or kill. We constantly hope, pray, persuade ourselves that day will never come, but eventually it will – and we need to know how we react when it comes. Today it was your day, Susan, and although someone died, you did it to protect others.”
“So… So I’m not fired?” Susan looked at the two women, seeing them in a new light.
"Susan,” Madame X said quietly, “you've participated in several robberies before, it's by the merest chance you've never had to shoot anyone. Even I pray I will never have to, but just last Saturday when Juliette Huntingdown and I had our… ummm… little bit of fun, I knew in my head that at any second I might have to use that weapon in my hands.”
"The jobs I've done for you Madame have always gone so smoothly…."
"But, " Madame interrupted, "you always have to allow in your mind for the fact that someone might turn brave…"
"Or stupid." Dominique added quietly.
"When we threaten to kill someone we must always in the back of our mind be prepared to carry out that threat."
"I know Madame, I guess I was just deluding myself…"
"No, Susan, you were just being a normal person, I'm afraid that sometimes this almost seems like a game…. Today you learned that what we do is very real and that it can have deadly consequences."
She looked at Dominique, as the enforcer held her hands.
“I’ve been on so many robberies, both before I joined this organization, and after, as well as the duties I perform for Madame. I always try to avoid shooting to kill, but when I have no choice, I do so quickly, neatly, so there is no suffering. The first time was much like you – I was cornered, and had to shoot my way out. It was messy, it was bloody, but it was necessary.
“Susan,” Dominique said quietly, “if you had shown no emotion, you would have been asked to leave. But you felt the death and you are mourning – which means you know the consequence and the price. Now, when you carry a weapon, you know what can happen, and you know what needs to be done.”
Susan nodded as she looked at Madame. “I understand, a little – but have you ever killed anyone Madame?”
Madame sat back for a moment. “Once, long ago, I had a man’s life in my hands – a man who had done me terrible wrongs. I wanted to kill him, but the opportunity passed. So no, I have not, but I know what it means. Dominique, on the other hand, does.”
Susan looked at Dominique, who said, “Each time I need time to recover, as you do. Today, Susan, you did what needed to be done. I will spend time with you now – it is time you joined my team.”
Susan looked at Madame, who nodded slowly. “I think it is time you developed some necessary skills for leadership, Susan – you will take a vacation with Curt, and then act as Dominique’s representative here.” Pouring s whisky, she handed it to Susan, saying “Drink – you have earned it.”
As Susan sipped
the liquor, Madame said "So what lessons have you learned from your time
as a Pussycat Susan?"
starters to never judge a book by its cover Madame… when I first met them all I
couldn't comprehend how they possibly be the Pussycats, they live jumbled,
complicated personal lives…"
real lives, Susan." Madame interrupted.
quickly saw that behind the chaos there really is something profoundly
do actually know what they are doing?"
Madame…. it's hard to explain, but they try very, very hard to keep their two
lives completely separate…. Does that make sense?"
does Susan…. It's what keeps them safe, who is going to suspect seeing their
real lives that they are the Pussycats?"
"Well I certainly didn't at first." She sipped the drink again, and then looked round.
they do the terrible things in the house?" Susan quietly asked her
terror, to make sure that everyone is terrified of a visit from them."
what Carina did was so vile."
said yourself Susan though, Carina is not in charge of herself always, that
thing that drives her. It's terrifyingly
sad in many ways and I'm amazed that her mother and friends cope as they
wasn't just Carina…"
"No, I think Juliette long ago decided that the use of fear as a weapon gave her gang added power and strength… I can't condone it, but I do understand her reasoning.”
There was a knock on the door, and Madeline came in. “Madame, the information checks out – we will be ready to move in the morning. Is Susan…”
“She will be fine,” Madame said quietly, “I will join you shortly. Susan, rest now. Madeline, extend an invitation to Juliette Huntingdown to join me for dinner tomorrow – somewhere discrete.”
Sunday 13th April
The Huntingdown Apartment
“There you are,” Juliette said as Carina walked into the room, wearing a black t-shirt and leggings, “Sleep well?”
“Like a log,” Cari said as she poured herself some coffee. “What are you doing?”
“Waiting for some photos to be delivered,” Juliette said as she looked at her phone. “And they just arrived – I’ll be back in a minute.”
Cari nodded as her mother left the apartment, looking at the paper as she sipped her coffee. The phone rang, and as she picked it up she heard her mother say “Cari, darling, will you come down to the lobby for a moment?”
“Coming,” she said as she found a pair of slippers, grabbed the keys and walked to the lift. As she got out, she saw her mother standing by the door, looking into the street.
“What’s up,” she said as she looked out, only to see a grey Maserati Quattroporte GTS pull up outside. The driver got out, walked into the lobby and said “Miss Huntingdown?”
“Which one,” Juliette said quietly. The man checked his clipboard, and said “Miss Carina Huntingdown?”
Carina stared at him, at the car, and then at her mother, before saying “that’s me.”
“Sign here,” the man said as he handed Carina the clipboard and a pen, watching as she signed and then tore a copy off. “Here you go,” he said as he handed her the form and the key, and then walked off.
Carina was still in shock, as Juliette said “all yours darling.”
isn't this just a bit…" Carina lowered her voice to a whisper… "Just
a bit too flashy?"
an appropriate gift for a darling daughter who has worked her socks off for
four years to get into Yale…. and anyway Jo told me what you were saying about
wanting something sportier, and I have to admit your Honda's not exactly glamorous.
"But I'm gonna look
grotesque driving this when I get big with the baby?"
simply chose outfits that show how beautiful you are, even expectant mothers
can nowadays look good you know?"
Carina giggled. "Mom you didn't need to do this you know… but I have to admit this is a dream car. Can I take it for a spin?”
“Dressed like that? No – Gerald, park my daughter’s car in the garage and let me have the key back, will you?”
The Waldorf Astoria Hotel
“That was a delicious meal – thank you for inviting me.”
“The pleasure is mine, Juliette,” Madame said as they stood up, leaving their napkins on the table, “May I offer you a drink?”
“Single malt, straight up.”
Madame X poured the whisky, and a brandy for herself, and indicated the deep armchairs. As they both sat down, she raised her glass and said “To your future success.”
“And to yours,” Juliette replied as she raised her own glass. After they had both drank, she said “How is Susan?”
“She will recover – Dominique has taken her under her wing.”
“Ah yes – you have not met her. She is my head of security – she helped provide cover for you yesterday. Susan will work with her and I am sure she is the better for it.”
“Good,” Juliette said as she nursed her glass. “May I ask a question?”
Madame nodded as Juliette first said “Would it be impertinent to call you Shirley?”
“No – I believe you have earned the right to be one of the few, Juliette. As I said before, I think we are very similar.”
“Then how did you become the person you are?”
Madame X sat back for a moment. “I left home when I was eighteen to go to university. I never made it – one the way there, I was kidnapped, and my car blown up. It was made to look like an accident, and I was believed dead. Instead, a man who made me call him Master – a rival of my father, had kidnapped me. I met Madeline there. I… I do not like to dwell not what he made us do.”
“So how did you break away in the end,” Juliette asked quietly.
“He took me, Madeline, and two others – a woman and a man – to Paris for a job. When we executed it, we discovered we were never meant to have succeeded. We were a diversion, while the Master hijacked a school bus, and kidnapped twenty children of the most prominent people in Paris. The oldest was only seven, the youngest five.”
Juliette sat up for a moment. “Not the Ecole Rue de la Marseilles bus?”
“You know of the case?”
“My friend Diana – one of her nieces were on the bus.”
“Ah – I should have realised. Anyway, we decided, the four of us, to escape, after alerting the authorities to where the children were. We stayed in Paris for a while, before the opportunity arose to return home. By the time I did, my mother had died of grief, and my father was dying of cancer.”
“Do not be, Juliette – I was with him at the end, and he was at peace. At any rate, I had discovered a flair for criminal organisation, so with Madeline, Sandra and Robert, we formed a gang, and from that grew my organisation.”
“Robert – was he…”
“He was my lover – but he died, in 2000, protecting me from Master. I still have the scars of those days, here,” she said touching her back, “and here,” touching her heart. “Since then I have worked hard to obtain the position I have now. Would you care for another drink?”
“Thank you,” Juliette said as she handed over her glass. “So now you are in charge of – a corporation, I guess you would say.”
“You would,” Madame said as she handed the recharged glass back. “But what of you, Juliette – what happened to you? And to the others of your remarkable group?”
“That is a question,” Juliette said as she sipped her drink. “For me… Eighteen years ago, I was raped in a hotel in Los Angeles. It was a brutal, degrading affair, and it left me scarred in all sorts of ways. It also left me with the greatest gift a woman could ever have.”
Juliette nodded, as she held her glass. “Ever since then, I have kept total control of my life, kept focused, held that anger inside me. Diana had already moved to New York – we had met in Paris some years before as fellow models, and she was resident here for a while with her husband. She and others helped me through the pregnancy and the birth.”
Taking another sip Juliette said “After Cari was born, she moved back to France – and then returned a couple of years later with Abby. Her husband had – died in a car crash.”
“Did he lose control of the car and drive off a cliff?”
Juliette nodded. “Of course, the bullet in his brain from Diana did not help his concentration – he had raped a young girl, got her pregnant, abandoned her.”
“I had surmised as much – forgive me, but I have looked into you, her and Miss Alexandra Richmond very carefully. Tell me, does her mother know?”
“About Heather? No – but I fear she will soon enough. I had known Sandy for years – she had done a little modelling as well, before she married and had her children. Then there was a messy divorce – not her fault, but she was the one who paid the heaviest price.
“So there we were – three very damaged women, and then – something broke. One of us was insulted, we swore to take revenge, and that was the start.”
Madame X nodded as she sat back. “Forgive me if I pry – but remember I said when we first met, I believed we were very much alike?”
“I do remember, and I did not believe it at the time. Now – I can believe it.”
Madame nodded slowly. “We have both had our lives altered irrevocably by cruel, heartless men. We have had to face great suffering and hardship, and have only a few rally close friends who know everything about us. We both have come through – and we could so easily have taken each other’s paths.
“Tell me – did you ever catch the man who did it to you?”
Juliette nodded. “Very recently – you may have heard about it.”
Madame watched as Juliette nodded again. “You did the city a great service that day – but did you kill him?”
“No – that I did not do. What about you?”
“I did not, but he died. I think they both paid the price for what they did, don’t you?”
She out her glass down and stood, extending her hands. “I hope this can be the beginning of a true friendship, Juliette.”
“I would like that, Shirley,” Juliette said as she stood and took the proffered hands, “I would like that very much.”