We Are Gathered Here – Part 4
Saturday 10th December
The Waldorf Astoria
“Klaus, where has… Yuri. How are you?”
“I am well, Juliette – and may I say you look even more beautiful than when I last met you.”
“Well, I suspect you did not find me at my best,” Juliette said with a smile.
“Is that Carina?”
“Indeed – with her wife Annie and my grandchildren.”
Yuri smiled as he said “as with Olga, I see the beauty carries on. May I meet them?”
“Of course – this way…”
“All right, Major Sir John Hammond,” Shirley said as she fastened the front of the cream dress coat, “NOW do I get to know where we are going?”
“Certainly,” John said with a smile, “Clint is going to drive us to the airport.”
“And then,” John said as he fastened the knot under his collar, “we will get into your jet, and the pilot knows where to go.”
Slowly turning round, Shirley smiled as she said “John…”
“Trust me, Mrs Hammond,” John said with a smile as he put his hands on her shoulders, “it will all be for the best…”
“Well now,” Penny said as she and Helen sat next to Sue, “I see you have joined the soft drink club completely.”
“I need to,” Sue said with a smile, “I have fortnightly checks now, and alcohol is right out. But I refuse to have Diet Coke or anything like that – so it’s apple juice for me for the moment.”
“But you are blooming for it – and I see you and the child are both well.”
Sue smiled as she saw Karen Kumalo standing next to the group. “Well, you were right when you said there would be more than one new grandchild. How do you do that?”
“It is a gift,” Karen said as she looked at Penny. “I see the indecision in your eyes, Penny. Be at ease – there is nothing you can do until the new year, but then reconciliation will come.”
“I hope so,” Penny said quietly as Maddie came over.
“Have you seen Shirley?”
“I think she and Dad slipped out,” Maisha said as she joined the group and glanced at her watch, “it may be nearly time.”
“Ah – right,” Maddie said with a smile, “gather the other ladies, will you…”
“Flush, darling – so when is the happy event?”
“Late Spring,” Pru Lewin-Stratton said as she kissed Tatiana on the cheek. “Did I see Yuri come into the room?”
“You did – I think he is avoiding me for some reason,” Tatiana said with a sigh. “It is good to see so many friends here, though – especially Mandy and Will.”
“Have you met her soon to be sister-in-law?”
“No, who is it?”
“Agnes McAdam – she’s sitting over there with her fiancé and their girls.”
Tatiana looked over to where the redhead was sitting, talking to two young girls, before she said “I read her story – she was known as Lady D’Eath?”
“That is her past, Wormhole darling,” Mandy drawled as she sat with them. “She now looks only to the future.”
Nodding, Tatiana said “indeed – we need to look to the future…”
“Ah, that’s better,” Rose said with a sigh as she put her cup down and looked across the table. “How are you doing, Your Honour?”
“Call me Brooke - after all, we have a lot in common, don’t we?”
“Yes you do,” Karen said as she looked at both of them, and then at Kylie. “Are you all right, Kylie – you look concerned about something?”
“Hmm? Oh forgive me, darlings,” Kylie said as she looked at Doc dancing with Chet, “merely a memory of things lost.”
“Well, you did an amazing job today – is that your commissions done for a while?”
“It is, Your Honour,” Kylie said as she looked at Brooke. “I have some designs to review for Alice McKinnon, but I am looking forward to the holiday season as well.”
“You will be spending it in New York?”
“Indeed – Marina and I have an invitation to join Maisha and her parents on the day itself…”
John turned as they both heard the knock on the door, and then smiled as Nessa looked in.
“I take it you are both decent?”
“Well, we are dressed,” Shirley said as she slipped on the soft leather shoe and stood up. “So what are the odds of us quietly slipping away?”
“If it was my daughter,” Nessa said with a smile, “I would not give you a good price at all - especially as your bridesmaids have been at work.”
“I can imagine,” John said as he shook his head, and then looked over as Clint looked in. “The case?”
“The one you indicated is in the car, John – I suggest failing in your escape attempt now.”
“Well, If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly,” Shirley said as she took John’s arm, Nessa and Clint stepping back as they made their way back into the reception room.
“THERE THEY ARE!”
Both blushed as the room applauded, Maisha coming over and whispering “be safe” into their ears as she hugged them, before Emma said into the microphone “I understand the happy couple need to leave soon, but this is the chance for them to offer some parting words of wisdom.”
John smiled as they walked over and took the microphone. “I’m sorry we cannot stay longer,” he said with a smile, “but my wife has been seeking the answer to only one question, and I don’t think I can keep it a secret much longer. But we both wanted to say thank you all for coming today, and we wanted to say thank you as well for the god wishes and presents.”
“We will see you all when we return,” Shirley said as she took the microphone, “and under strict orders from my family, I am not contacting work for the time away.”
“Unless it is an emergency,” Cat whispered to Maddie, “right?”
“And it will have to be a fairly big one,” Maddie whispered back as Shirley smiled.
“But, before I go, there is one thing I wish to do.” She turned round and looked back over her shoulder, as she said “in three… two… one…”
As the bouquet sailed through the air, the women cheered, then clapped as Tracey caught the arrangement.
“Do I need to ensure I am available,” Beverley said with a smile as she looked at her old friend.
“Oh lord,” Tracey said as she rolled her eyes, “I truly do not hope so.”
As they made their way back through the room, Alex shook John’s hand and kissed Shirley on the cheek.
“May you be blessed in all you do,” he said with a smile, “and be assured, the wine will keep until your return.”
“I am sure it will, especially as Maisha is not a big wine drinker,” Shirley said, “and thank you for all you did today.”
“It was my honour,” Alex said as Nessa hugged them both as well.
“Mama, the girls and I are going to take a walk outside,” Olga said as she stood with Tatiana.
“Of course,” Tatiana said as she watched her daughter head off with Kit, Liz and Eve.
“Will you excuse me a minute,” Angela said as she stood and walked out of the room, Mike and Grace looking after her.
“Now where is she off to?”
“Who,” Richard said as he looked at Kay.
“Oh – one of the Gresham-Fox group,” Kay said with a smile as she turned to look at him. “I’m sure it is nothing serious.”
“We need to go, I am afraid,” Shirley said as she looked round, 2do stay and enjoy the evening.”
The room clapped and cheered as Maisha and Penny accompanied them to the door, Clint waiting as he opened the car door.
“Now will you tell me where we are going,” Shirley said as John sat with her.
“all right, Maisha,” Penny said as the car moved off, “what is in her case?”
“Warm weather clothing,” Maisha said with a smile, “and that is all I am going to say…”
“I thought our school was cold,” Olga said as they stood in the doorway, ”but this – this is a different level of cold.”
“It is,” Kit said as she looked at the crowds walking past outside, “but our friends over here say they would not trade it for anything.”
“I can imagine,” Liz said as she stood with Eve, “but it is amazing…”
“I know as a teacher student welfare is important, but this is a little beyond the remit, Angela.”
Angela Gresham-Fox turned to see Jo Frost and Cassie Craig behind her. “I was instructed to keep an eye on them,” she said quietly.
“They’re sixteen and seventeen,” Cassie said with a smile, “and consider who their mothers are. A top barrister, a duchess, one of them has the titles of Master of Ardray and Knight of the Red Knife…”
“And then there is Olga Markova,” Jo said, “the daughter of a lawyer and a supermodel. A lawyer with known ties to…” She stopped talking for a moment, and then looked at Angela.
“Don’t ask, Don’t tell,” Angela said with a smile. “My turn – I heard rumours that you two were working for a shadow operation. A summer trip to Marseilles, Jo?”
“I fancied a week in the sun – and Marseilles is beautiful at that time of year,” Jo said with a smile.
“I agree – but at the same time a major drugs operation is taken down, and one Fernando Rey was killed by person or persons unknown? And besides, look who are guests at a society wedding – Maria Riva and Francesco di Cambrello, and I recognised Eleanor Ball from briefings in the past.”
“Not to mention Commander Cornwall – who we saw you talking to,” Jo said quietly. “So here’s my question – are you still Captain, my Captain?”
Angela smiled, and then her expression changed as she saw two men walking towards the group of girls. She walked after them, Jo and Cassie exchanging glances before they followed her.
“So, sister,” Ama said as she sat with Maisha, “your plans for tomorrow?”
“I intend to return to the apartment with Penny, have a long sleep, and then relax. You?”
“Alex has invited me to join his family for lunch tomorrow – and I need to consider what we are taking for the weekend next week. You will be joining us, of course?”
“Of course – but for now…”
“Tatiana – may I see, that outfit really makes your beauty greater.”
“A lawyer always knows the right thing to say at the right time,” Tatiana said as she raised her glass and took a sip. “So answer me this – is it true Byushin has dropped the bid?”
Yuri nodded before he said “I am as surprised as you are – but I need to complete several formalities, so I will be here for a few more days.”
“Well, perhaps we can have some time with you – the three of together for the first time since…”
“Since I was a deluded idiot – you can say it,” Yuri whispered, a sad smile crossing his lips. “But yes, I think we can make time for that – I always wanted to walk in Central Park on a cold winter’s day.”
“Then we can make the arrangements,” Tatiana said, “would you hold my glass please – I need to pay a visit somewhere…”
Sharon Kennedy was standing to one side, watching the girls as the two men walked towards her – and she noticed Angela Gresham-Fox walking behind them. There was a look in her eyes, one she recognised as she touched her ear.
“Boss – I think there’s going to be an incident with Olga Marakova in the front entrance area. I have potential hostiles approaching the girls – and someone else.”
“A teacher we met?”
“Yes – actions.”
“Do not, repeat, do not interfere unless there is grave danger. I’m on my way – George, you copy.”
“Copy that,” she heard George Simpson say, “heading there now.”
“Wonder who’s getting out of that,” Kit said as she saw the black van pull up outside the entrance. The doorman looked at the van, and started to walk towards it – but then the side door opened, as he stopped.
Olga was taken completely by surprise as she was lifted up, the two men carrying as she tried to kick them and then almost throwing her into the van as the doors slammed shut.
The three girls ducked as Angela Gresham-Fox aimed a pistol at the two men, and said “if I was you, I’d get on my knees and start talking.”
“No,” one of them responded as he reached into the inside of his jacket – and then dropped to the ground, a red dot growing on his forehead as he fell forward. The second man turned round – and then fell down, clutching his shoulder as Sharon came over, the gun aimed at him.
“Sharon, what happened?”
“Olga was snatched Boss,” she said quietly as Caroline and George came running out, “I wounded this one, but the other…” She looked over at Angela as she holstered her gun and knelt next to the other three.
“Any of you hurt?”
“Compared to a mad lady paying someone to run us down with a tractor, that was nothing,” Eve said as they stood up. “But Olga…”
“Let me worry about that – I need you three to come inside. Sharon, any chance you got a look at the number plate?”
“I can remember the first part – that’s all. But security cameras?”
“On it,” George said as he went in, Caroline looking at Angela as she said “we need to talk?”
“Yeah – look, this will sound weird, but no police.”
“On what authority,” the doorman said.
He turned to see Kay Cornwall standing there, showing her badge. “Caroline, get the girls inside. Angela – let’s take this gentleman and make sure he is treated well, while we ask some questions.”
“What about him,” Angela said as she looked at the second man.
“Icicle, Magda – can you assist?”
Angela looked at Jo and Cassie as they came out, and said “yeah – do we need to inform Little Mother?”
“Commander,” Angela said quietly, “what the hell is going on?”
“Explanations later – Caroline, can you inform Yuri and Tatiana without raising the alarm?”
Caroline nodded as she looked over. “Girls – keep this to yourselves for now, and go with Sharon. I’ll let your parents know where you are.”
“Come on – hot drinks needed,” Sharon said as she took the other three inside, Jo and Cassie talking to the doorman.
As Yuri turned round, he saw Caroline standing there, Juliette watching from the side of the room as he said “Caroline – how can I help you?”
“Don’t react when I say this,” she whispered, “but someone just snatched your daughter. We have one of the men who did it, and certain people are – talking to him. Where is Tatiana?”
“She… She was going to the rest room. What happened?”
“It is contained, but I need you to come with me.”
“Yuri – what’s going on?”
“Juliette – do me a favour, and go to the powder room,” Caroline said as she looked round, “find Tatiana, and bring her here.”
As she walked off, Francesca walked over and said “Caroline – is there a problem?”
“Yes – but we have it contained,” she whispered in response as Yuri looked at both of them. “As soon as…”
The three of them turned to see Juliette standing there, Tatiana’s purse in her hand as Yuri blanched. “No,” he whispered as he looked at his phone, and then he looked at Francesca.
“Where is Commander Cornwall?”
“Interrogating a suspect,” Caroline said quietly, “Why?”
“I need to talk to her – now…”
“What is the meaning of this – how dare you…”
Tatiana struggled in the grip of the two men as she saw a third one nod and open the doors to the suite, before she was frog marched in – and then saw the small, balding man standing there.
“Madame Ulyanova – welcome. Please, forgive the way you have been brought here – release her.” As the two men let go of her, he walked to a side table and said “may I offer you some coffee?”
“I… I don’t understand,” she said as she watched him pour the coffee into a cup. “Why have you brought me here in this way, Mister President?”
“Please, be seated,” Yeltsin said as he indicated a chair. “I assure you, no harm is going to some to you, and you are not being – invited to return to the motherland.”
“So why have you – invited me here,” Tatiana said as she sat down.
“We need to assure ourselves of where your husband’s loyalties lie…”
“My ex-husband – but what do you mean by that?”
“Please, have some coffee,” he said as he sat down, “what do you know of what your husband does for us?”
“Nothing – he has not told me, I have not asked.”
“Good, he has passed the first test…”
“Kto ty, po-tvoyemu, takoy?”
The man grunted as Angela taped the pad to his shoulder, before saying “Vy budete zhit', eto naskvoz'. I vy zadayete nepravil'nyy vopros.”
“I kakoy pravil'nyy vopros?”
“pravil'nyy vopros: chto s toboy budet?”
The man looked over at Kay Cornwall, who was leaning against the wall, her arms folded as she stared back.
“You – you have no authority here,” he replied in English, “Neither of you do. I demand to be taken to the authorities.”
“Oh don’t worry, you will head that way,” Kay said with a smile, “eventually, once we have a little chat. Who do you work for, and where have they taken Olga Marakova?”
“You do not scare me, you’re SIS – you know the rules.” He replied with a sneer as he looked at them.
“Yes, normally, that would be true,” Kay said as she walked over and looked at him, “but today, for this, I’m not here in an official capacity.” Angela turned her head and looked at Kay, as she smiled and said “so let me be crystal clear on some things. My friend here is indeed here in an official capacity, as a bodyguard for Olga Marakova – and you are in no trouble on that score, Captain. But the authorities have not been informed of what has happened yet – not until we are finished here.
“Secondly, whoever you are working for, you really have picked the wrong place and occasion to pull this stunt – although I give you some credit for waiting. After all, Madame X is not a person your people want to cross, is she?”
“Madam Iks? Dorogoy bog, chto on nachal?”
“Good question,” Kay said with a smile, “and one you can contemplate at your leisure – because, be assured, she is one woman who will find you, and will deal with you for this. Well, you and Byushin – because he’s the one who ordered this. Isn’t he?”
The man said nothing, as Angela said “is there something else you need to tell me, Commander? For example, Icicle and Magda?”
“Oh yes, Captain, I do need to read you in – because there is another group you have upset today, young man.” She stopped as they both heard the knock on the door, Kay opening it as Jo came in.
“Apologies for interrupting – the body has been dealt with,” she said quietly, “but we have a second problem. Tatiana Ulyanova has disappeared, and her ex-husband is demanding to see you. He awaits you with the Marchesa.”
Kay nodded as she looked at the man and Angela. “I want him to tell you everything he knows – Icicle will assist. I need to deal with this.”
Angela nodded as Kay walked out, and looked at Jo.
“I’m just going to say this, and then you will talk,” she said quietly, “you have not only crossed Madame X today – you have upset the Sisters of Maisha, and I am sure you are aware of the role they played recently with The Dancer. So, for your own continued health – start talking…”
“The…” Angela shook her head as she said “a day for revelations, and we will talk more of this later. But right now – shall we?”
“Penny, Helen, a moment,” Charlotte said as she handed Frances to Piet, and guided her friends to one side, “I need to tell you something, and then I need you to do something.”
“Of course,” Penny whispered, “what is it?”
“A crisis has arisen with Yuri Marakov – his daughter had been kidnapped, and his wife is missing. Sharon is with Kit, Eve and Liz - they saw what happened. Caroline is chasing down the van they used, and Kay is – talking to one of the perpetrators.”
Nodding, Penny said “so the situation is contained?”
“As much as possible, but at least one person is both concerned and having her eyes opened. Penny – can you go and join Sharon until Caroline is free?”
“Of course – where is she?”
“Meeting room 2 – Helen, very quietly, gather your pupils. When we have a location…”
Helen nodded as she looked round the room, and walked to where Marina was standing.
“We are needed – gather the Swan and the Silk Shadow, make your excuses, return to your apartment – I will meet you there.”
“In what way?”
“I will explain – go, now.”
Olga was petrified – two more men had grabbed her when she was pushed into the car, blindfolded her, and then used zip ties to secure her wrists and ankles. They were talking in Russian, thinking she did not understand, as an English schoolgirl. They actually said that – which just made her even angrier. When she was free…