Thursday 26th February
“Calm down, Susan,” Clint said as they stood in the arrivals area, “Heather will have done her usual magnificent job, and Marina swore on her life she delivered her to the right part of Terminal 5.”
“Yeah, funny how I’m worrying about this,” Susan said as she looked round, “maybe the mothering gene is kicking in.” She put her hands on the visible bump under her blue smock top and smiled. She was wearing black leggings underneath, tucked into knee length suede boots. Clint was taking his usual smartly casual approach to dressing.
“The plane touched down ages ago, how much…”
Susan turned to see a fourteen year old girl walking towards her, her chestnut brown hair pulled back in a ponytail that fell down the back of her Pauls Boutique padded jacket. The legs of her jeans were tucked into a pair of brown Ugg boots, and she was accompanied by a British Airways steward pulling a case behind her.
“There you are Kylie – what happened?”
“It was our fault,” the stewardess said as she handed the case to Clint, “we had to remove a rather unruly passenger first, but she is safely here now. Enjoy your stay Kylie.”
“Thank you,” the teenager said as she handed Susan her passport, and then said “I’m here – I’m really here?”
“Yes you are – come on, let’s get to my place and get you settled.”
The trio made their way to the parking lot, Kylie staring excitedly at everything.
"Kylie there are a few
things you need to know." Susan said as she sat with her in the back of
"Wow - I can't believe I’m in fucking New
York," the young girl whispered as she kept looking out of the
straight friends you are my little cousin from England, so less effin and blinding as you talk please."
"And to your bent friends?"
"You are here strictly to see if you have
potential. We will put you through the hardest bloody weekend of your life, and
after that you and I will have a talk and see what you both want and are
willing to do.'
"Okay Sooz that I
get." the young Londoner smiled.
"And no Sooz, I'm
Susan, he's Clint…just try and remember your manners,
I want people to think you are a nice kid."
"Okay, I'll try, but bloody 'ell this is fuckin' New York."
"I know you are excited, just try thinking' before you open that gob of yours."
Kylie nodded as Clint said “Once we have you settled, we’ll order in some food and relax. Tomorrow Susan has an appointment with Dr Boyd, but she’ll show you something of the city after that, and then we’ll go out for dinner. You’ll need a good meal in you for what’s coming.”
“You make it sound as if I’m going to be exhausted.”
“Trust me – I spent a day and that was bad enough. But by the time we are through, we will know one way or the other.”
Friday 27th February
“That was a lovely casserole – thanks Annie,” Anna said as she pushed her plate away.
“Well I’m glad you like it – my cooking isn’t as good as Caroline’s yet, but still…”
“Come,” Ama said as she stood up, “sit with me in the front room while they clear up.”
“I thought you were on washing up duty tonight,” Caroline said as she looked at her daughter, but she smiled and nodded as the two girls went through.
“So how are you really feeling,” Ama said quietly as they sat down.
“I’m still processing everything – I mean, a week ago I thought I was finished, but then they stepped in, and now – now I’m nervous about what happens next.”
“I can understand that,” Ama said, “When I first met them, I had no idea of what was about to happen.”
“Caroline told me – you were being treated like a dog?”
“Indeed – but they brought me out of darkness into light, especially mom. I owe them my all, and I am eternally grateful to them.”
She looked at Anna, before saying “you owe them a great deal as well, of course.”
“That’s why I’m here – to see if I fit the others. Have you always known about Jo, Abby and the other ladies?”
Ama nodded slowly before saying “Maisha and I owe them everything. And mom – she is the world to me now.”
“I’m glad – it’s nice to have someone to talk to who knows more than the others. Have you spoken to Maisha?”
“She called me and asked me to wish you luck. Now, what shall we watch?”
Saturday 28th February
Upper West Side
Kylie was lying on top of her bed, gently sleeping before she felt a hand pushing her shoulder.
“Go away,” she mumbled, but then she opened her eyes to see someone standing beside her, dressed in a boiler suit and with a mask covering her head.
“Get up, and get dressed,” she heard a female voice say, “and then put the balaclava over your head. It is time for your weekend to begin.”
Doc opened her eyes to see Caroline standing there, her arms folded.
“It’s time,” she said quietly, “there are clothes there for you to wear. You have five minutes – and make sure you put the gloves and balaclava on before you come into the front room.”
Doc nodded and dressed quickly in the grey joggers and sweatshirt, socks and trainers, and then pulled on the black leather gloves and the black head covering, her eyes and mouth the only thing showing as she walked into the front room.
“Eat and drink quickly,” Caroline said as she pulled on a leather jacket, Doc having her breakfast before she watched the older woman fold a black scarf.
“From this moment on, you say nothing unless spoken to, do nothing unless told to, understand?”
“I understand,” she whispered as Caroline tied the scarf over her eyes, and then said “let me guide you.” She was walked down the stairs, and then helped into a car, the seat belt fastened around her before she was driven away.
Anna allowed herself to be helped out of the car, and then walked across what felt like a dirt yard to her, and then into a place with wooden floors.
“Thank you,” she heard a voice that sounded like Diana say, and then she heard Caroline walk away. The door closed, and then the voice said “you may remove your blindfolds.”
She reached behind her head and untied the band, blinking as she saw standing next to her a slightly younger girl, dressed like her and with a balaclava covering her head.
“Welcome – take a moment to allow your eyesight to adjust again.”
She looked ahead of her to see two women, wearing white jumpers, padded jerkins and jeans with hiking boots standing there. They too were gloved and masked with balaclavas, the taller of the two looking intently at them both. From her voice, she knew who the taller of the two was, but not the smaller.
"Okay girls, you will address me as Miss Leopard
or simply as Miss, and my colleague here as Miss Jaguar." Diana smiled.
"We will address you as Kitten." Susan
pointed at Anna, "and as Kittycat" she
pointed at Kylie.
"You will not at anytime unmask until you are returned
to the city and you will not reveal your real names to each other...Am I making
"Yes Miss." both girls answered hesitantly.
"What was that whisper?"
"YES MISS," both girls shouted.
"Your personal security,
and the security of this facility demands that you obey these simple commands,
any disregard may result in the ultimate sanction." Susan pitched her
voice low. "Do you both understand what that is?"
"Our deaths." Anna blanched
under her mask.
"Yes." Miss Leopard smiled, "neither Miss Jaguar or myself would hesitate in killing
either one of you, and if you want a point of reference I'm sure you've heard
of the so-called Newark Airport Massacre?"
As both girls nodded, she said quietly "We were
both participants that day."
Miss Jaguar smiled, "So realise
we do not make idle threats."
“This weekend is designed to test you both, find your strengths and your weaknesses, and ultimately help us know if this is a life you can live. You will eat, and there is rest, but if we say to do something, you do it, without question. Are we in agreement?”
“YES MISS,” they both shouted.
tell me, has either of you ever fired a weapon?" Diana looked hard at both
girls’ eyes through the holes in their masks.
"No." Anna shook her head.
"No." Kylie did the same.
"Well at least you are honest." Miss Jaguar smiled as she stood up.
"Between the two of you pick up that large bag, and follow Miss Jaguar and I to the firing range."
Kitten and Kittycat took a handle each, grunting slightly as they followed the two adults out of what Anna now realized was a farmhouse, and along a path, heading down a hill into a closed valley. She could see an old hut at one side, and a number of targets set up on straw bales as well as old buckets.
“Set the bag down there,” Miss Leopard said as the girls gently lowered the bag, standing back as Miss Jaguar opened it. They let out a low whistle as they saw the weapons inside.
“First things first,” Miss Leopard said, “these are not toys, nor should they be treated as such. All guns are designed to send something at very high speed towards something else, with the intention of damaging or killing that something else. Miss Jaguar?”
“For example,” the other woman said as she took from the bag a sawn off shotgun, and put two barrels in the chamber, “This is the weapon of choice for the Pussycat gang. You’ve seen them in films, and you think you may know what they can do.”
“Put these on,” Miss Leopard said as she handed the girls a set of ear protectors each. As they did, she stood back and watched as Miss Jaguar pumped the rifle, and fired both barrels into a nearby bale of straw.
“Oh my,” Kittycat said as she watched the straw settle on the ground, Kitten watching wide eyed. “Now imagine that was a person,” Miss Jaguar said. “These are deadly weapons, and need to be treated with respect.”
The two girls nodded as Miss Leopard removed two .38 handguns from the bag. “We need to see how you handle a variety of firearms. We’re not looking for perfection – but that will help. First, take these, feel them in your hand, and we will see how your grip works.”
The two girls held the gun in their hands, Kittycat holding it straight out with one hand as Kitten looked at it.
“A confident stand,” Miss Jaguar said, “but I will tell you now if you fire the gun holding it like that, it will dislocate your shoulder.” She walked behind Kittycat and sad “hold the gun in both hands, palms around the butt, and put the index finger of your writing hand over the trigger.”
As she did this, her arms out in front of her, Miss Leopard said “Stand with your feet apart, flat on the ground, and aim at that target over there.” She pointed to a target pinned to a bale, as Kittycat turned and looked at it.
“Right, slowly squeeze the trigger, and let’s see what happens.”
Nodding, the young girl braced herself and squeezed the trigger. The recoil almost made her arms fly up, but she held her pose as Miss Jaguar walked over.
“A six – not bad for a first shot,” she said with a smile.
“All right Kitten your turn.”
The older girl stepped forward, and took up the stance, the concentration clear in her eyes as she squeezed the trigger, and fired.
“An excellent start,” Miss Leopard said, “now aim at separate targets, and empty the clip. I want to see improvement in the scores.”
They nodded and fired off, the two instructors watching and then checking the targets.
“Good – now let’s see how you handle one of these.”
She reached into the bag and took out a Browning BAR.
“Wow, that’s a nice rifle,” Kitten said.
“It is indeed – semi automatic, and perfect for hunting. Allow me to demonstrate.”
She lay on the ground, smiling as she aimed at a can on a bale and fired a shot, the can flying in the air.
“Right,” she said again as she stood up, “Hold it in your hands again, feel the weight, and how it feels against your shoulder.”
As the two girls held the rifle, Miss Jaguar set a row of six cans up on the bales.
“All right – I need you to lie as I did, and hold the rifle so that the butt rests comfortably against your shoulder. I then want you to aim for the cans and send them flying – as fast as possible.”
Kitten nodded as she lay down, aimed through the sights, and then fired off six shots – sending three cans flying. Kittycat managed two.
“Again,” Miss Leopard said as new cans were set up.
“I need this,” Kitten said as she drank from the canteen, her eyes widening as she saw Miss Leopard hold the sawnoff shotgun.
“Your signature weapon,” she whispered as Kittycat looked at it. “Wow – I haven’t seen anything like that outside the movies.”
“Well it is a very real and very potent weapon,” Miss Leopard said as she opened it and placed two cartridges in the barrels, swinging it shut. “Kitten, come and hold this, and fire a shot into that bucket there.”
Kitten handed her new friend the canteen and walked over, taking the weapon as Miss Leopard and Miss Jaguar put on the ear muffs. They stood back as she held the gun in her hands, pointed it at the bucket and fired it with a deafening boom.
“Impressive,” Kittycat laughed as Kitty sat down three feet back, the gun on the ground where she had dropped it. She then saw Miss Leopard beckon with her finger, and stopped laughing as she picked up the gun, braced it against her shoulder and fired, falling onto her bottom as well.
“Don’t feel so bad,” Miss Jaguar said as she held them up, “first time I fell as well. Now, this is how you should hold it.” She took the reloaded gun from Miss Leopard, braced herself with her legs apart and the butt of the gun braced on her hip, and fired both barrels into the bucket, the sound of the shot hitting the metal deafening.
“Simple physics – the barrel is shorter, so the force going one way has to be balanced more. That means you have to brace yourself properly, and make sure your body absorbs the impact.”
Miss Leopard loaded two more guns up and said, “Now, copy Miss Jaguar, and fire into those bales there.”
The two girls held the rifles, closed their eyes and fired both barrels.
“Well, we’re still standing,” Kittycat said, and then she looked at the cloud of hay and dirt.
“Remember these are not toys,” Miss Leopard said, “imagine if that was a human being.”
Kitten nodded slowly as Miss Jaguar said “Load up and shoot again.”
“You have done well so far,” Miss Leopard said as they walked into the kitchen of the farmhouse, “be seated. We prepared some lunch before you arrived, and you may rest for a few minutes.”
“Thank god,” Kittycat said as she sat down, “I ache all over. I never knew those weapons could give you such a kick.”
“As you build your core strength, they will become easier to handle,” Miss Jaguar said, “so don’t be too hard on yourselves.”
Miss Leopard brought some cold meat from the fridge and laid it on the table, then fetched some bread as Miss Jaguar fetched some drinks.
“Right,” she said as she sat down, “get eating. We have a busy afternoon ahead of us.”
She watched as the two girls grabbed bread and meat and started to eat.
“Take your time – it would not help for this afternoon if you feel sick.”
“Why – what have we got planned for this afternoon,” Kittycat said.
“Oh, just a nice little walk in the woods,” Miss Jaguar said with a smile.
The two girls looked at each other – they had a funny feeling this was going to be a little more than a walk in the woods.
“Right,” Miss Leopard said as she made sure the backpacks were sitting properly on their backs, “you follow me and do exactly what I say, understood?”
“Yes Miss,” they both called out.
“Right then, let’s go,” she said as she started to jog, the girls following her as Miss Jaguar watched them leave.
Walking into the farmhouse, she switched on the laptop and checked the messages, smiling as she heard the car draw up outside.
Removing her mask, she went out and waved as she walked to the barn doors, opening them to allow the new arrivals to drive in.
“Right, drop and aim for the targets, firing at will,” Miss Leopard said as the two girls dropped to the ground, aiming and firing at the targets through the trees.
“Good, back on your feet, and keep running.”
“This is worse than cross country,” Kitten said as they set off up the hill, looking straight ahead as they ran.
“You should… try running… from the coppers down… Tottenham Court Road…” Kittycat said, but they kept pace as Miss Leopard led them up to the top of a hill, and then straight down the other side.
“That’s not a stream down there is it,” Kitten said as they reached the bottom – only for her question to be answered as Miss Leopard ran into it and motioned for them to follow her.
“How was the afternoon walk,” Miss Jaguar said as they came in.
“Invigorating,” Miss Leopard said, “but I believe we have worked up an appetite for dinner. Tonight will be a formal meal, ladies – a suit has been laid out in rooms upstairs for you, which we wish you to change into. You will also have a chance to wash your hands and relieve yourself, but remember what we said about masks.
“Yes Miss,” they said as they walked up the stairs, Miss Leopard walking over to where Miss Jaguar was preparing the evening meal.
“And what is on the menu for tonight?”
“As you requested, a proper three course meal and the table is set. I understand you have the pre-dinner lessons sorted out?”
“Indeed – we now need to see how they cope in a social setting.”
“How are we progressing,” Miss Leopard said as she looked into the room. She smiled as she watched Kitten help Kittycat to tie the red silk scarf round her neck, and then tuck it into the front of the blue jacket she was wearing. The jacket matched the knee length skirt, and a pair of new pantyhose was on her legs.
“I’ve never worn anything like this,” Kittycat said as she stood up and slipped into the shoes, “why am I now?”
“We dress for dinner here,” Miss Leopard said. “Kitten, while Miss Jaguar and I dress, I want you to take Kittycat downstairs and give her a chance to try some shoes on. They are waiting for you in the main room.”
“These two ladies,” Kitten whispered, “are members of the Pussycat Gang – and they always dress with this sense of style when they do a job.” She did not let on the excitement she was feeling, dressed in the same way as the women she had dreamt of.
As the girls walked downstairs, they saw two pairs of shoes sitting on the floor in front of the old recliner. Kittycat picked up the shoes and looked at the long stiletto heels.
“They’re kidding right?”
“Nope – sit down and put them on.”
"What the hell do I need to know about walking in
these flamin' high heels?" Kittycat
asked as she put them on.
"They are part of the style, part of the
image." Kitten laughed as she stood and tried the five-inch heels.
"You look like you wear them a lot." Kittycat said ruefully as she tried to stand.
"I do wear them a bit." Kitten laughed,
"And I had the best teacher in the world show me how to walk in
"That's probably why they are having you bleedin' teach me." Kittycat's
ankles shook as she slowly stood up.
"Just stand and get your balance, don't try
walking yet, just get used to standing upright."
"I'm bloody tryin' to,"
Kittycat said as she wobbled a little.
"Just try and stand as upright as you can, you
can't slouch in high heels Kittycat."
Kitten watched as Kittycat
tried to maintain some posture.
"Ass out, and tits up." Kitten corrected a
couple of things.
For what seemed an eternity to Kittycat
the young Londoner stood still, getting used to the different way it felt.
"Okay now give me your hands." Kitten stood
facing the other masked girl. "As I walk backwards holding your hands, you
walk with me, slowly, small steps, one foot in front of the other."
Tentatively Kittycat took a
few steps trying to remember what to do.
"Good, just concentrate on your balance and keep
looking at me." Kitten smiled as they crossed the floor.
"Bloody 'ell I'm walkin'
on 'em." Kittycat
laughed, and then fell to the floor.
"Don't worry we all do that at first...Try again." Kitten helped the other girl to her feet. "Practice is the only way to learn this art, and you need take the falls in your stride and forget them."
“Gotcha,” Kittycat said as Kitten helped her up, and she took a moment to regain her balance – not as long as last time. She then started to walk again,
Miss Leopard and Miss Jaguar looked in as the two girls walked round the room, laughing and joking as the heels sat on the seat.
“They’re different, Miss,” she said as she saw them standing there, “but I need to get used to them.”
Kitten nodded as Miss Leopard said “that’s fine – we would not expect you to wear them all night. Come – dinner is served.”
“How do you manage to look so good in them,” Kittycat said as they sat down.
“Practice,” Miss Leopard said as Miss Jaguar served the starter of hot chicken salad.
“Now, we enjoy dinner, and you tell me of your experiences of today. It is important that you tell us how you felt.”
“Does tired, sore and hungry count?”
“It does,” Miss Leopard said. “Now, eat. I promise you, the food is not drugged or tampered with in any way.”
Kitten picked up the outer knife and fork, nodding as Kittycat did the same thing, and started to eat the salad, savouring every mouthful.
“This is good,” Kittycat said as Miss Leopard poured some wine, and passed it to the two girls.
“Wine? I’ve never had it before – well, not like this?”
“Now you do,” Miss Jaguar said as she sipped her wine. “Drink slowly, savour it.”
Kittycat took a small sip and smiled as she placed her glass down.
“One glass only – you are still young,” Miss Leopard said. “Now, we have a classic stew for main course.”
Kitten sat back, smiling as she looked at the hand she had been drawn.
“Two pairs, queens over tens,” she said as she laid them down.
“Beats me,” Miss Leopard said as she laid her hand down. Kitten reached out, but stopped as she watched Kittycat lay her hand down. “Royal flush,” she said with a smile as she collected the matchsticks.
“Right, a nightcap and then bed,” Miss Leopard said as she stood up, and then froze, listening as if she had heard something.
“What’s wrong,” Miss Jaguar said, but before she could get an answer the door was kicked in, and three armed FBI officers ran in, wearing bullet proof jackets and with black masks over their heads.
“FBI – NOBODY MOVE!”
“Fuck,” Miss Jaguar said as she grabbed a gun, and aimed it at one of the officers, while Miss Leopard grabbed a knife and threw it at the trio, before diving for the bag and grabbing a sawn off shotgun.
“You’re not taking us,” she roared before she took a round in the chest, falling backwards as a red stain started to spread on the front of her jacket.
“Get down,” Kitten said as she pushed Kittycat to the ground, covering her head as she heard more shots, and then saw Miss Jaguar fall to her knees, clutching her stomach as she fell over, her eyes wide open.
“Secure them,” the leader said, as the other two FBI officers came over. As one covered them, the other produced a long length of rope and draped it over Kitten’s neck and shoulders, winding the rope down her arms in a spiral as she stared at the two bodies. She barely registered that her arms were being pulled and secured together behind her back, and then around her upper arms and chest, as she said “Oh god…”
“This is alpha team,” the leader said as Kittycat had her arms secured in the same way as Kitten, “two down, two captured. Taking them to the holding area until you send transport.”
The two girls were forced to their feet and blindfolds secured over their eyes, before they were marched out of the room.
“What… What happened,” Kittycat whispered as they were pushed forward.
“The Feds – say nothing, try to stay calm, I’ll get us out of this and call someone,” Kitten said, trying to control her own shaking as they were made to sit down, and she felt rope around her legs, pulling them together below her knees, and then her ankles.
“Watch them,” she heard one of them say, and then a door closed, leaving them wondering what has just happened.
"We could have rehearsed that better."
Janice smiled ruefully as she took off the FBI SWAT team gear.
"Well the firefight had to look convincing."
Diana removed her bloodstained jacket.
"I'm still not sure about stressing them this hard." Susan looked remarkably healthy for a corpse as she looked over Heather's shoulder at the monitors.
“After the day they’ve had,” Heather said, “I think they were fairly stressed anyway.”
"They think they have been captured by the law, tied, up and blindfolded, if they are going to make it in this business this test will tell us." Diana looked intently at the screens.
"Remember though one is just 14 years old, the other is 15, this could damage them for ever." Janice joined the watchers.
"It's why Jo is in that room, and why we hooked
them up to those monitors." Heather explained.
"Those things are as tiny as these voice
modifiers." Janice removed hers from her collar.
"That was a nice job of binding them up by the
way Carina." Heather smiled as Cari came in
holding Judith. "Have you been studying up on your bondage?"
"Now what might give you that idea," Cari replied with a glint in her eye. “It’s a method developed by the Chinese –
fast, efficient and incredibly difficult to undo by yourself.”
"You need to show me." Susan laughed,
"Clint has often said he'd fancy me as a domme."
"Okay it's a deal, once baby is born."
Carina looked concernedly at the screens. "Are they holding up?"
"Anna's readings are up, but marginally
only." Heather looked at her computer.
"As I said nerves of steel, she's probably gaming
every possible way she has of escaping in her brain." Carina smiled.
"What about Kylie?" Susan sounded concerned.
"Not too bad, she panicked badly at first, but I
think she's realized nothing is happening right now."
"Heather can you zoom in on their hands?"
"I think so." Heather pressed buttons.
"Now into focus..."
Suddenly the image sharpened of the girls tied back to
"Look." Diana smiled, "Somehow Anna has
reached out and is touching her hand. That's why Kylie is calming down."
"Should I separate them?" Jo whispered over
"No, that's important." Janice smiled, "Anna is showing compassion and leadership, and they are bonding."
“Kitten, they’re dead aren’t they?”
She felt the hand holding hers as Kitten said “Don’t try to think about that, Kittycat. You need to stay calm and not panic – they don’t know who we are, so we have that advantage.”
“But they fuckin’ shot them, they shot Su…”
“Hey – codenames only. Remember, they didn’t tell us.”
She sat there, listening carefully, trying to find any give in the rope around her. Eventually, however, she stopped, holding her friend’s hand as they stayed silent.
“What do you think they’re going to do to us?”
“I don’t know, but we’re together, and they’ve left us alone – so far, I think we’re all right. Stay calm, and we’ll get through this.”
“All right Kitten – together,” Kittycat said, as Doc smiled under her mask.
“So how long are you going to leave them there before you tell them?”
“As long as it takes – Heather, you all right pulling an all nighter?”
“That’s part of the deal, Susan – you go and get some sleep.”
“Okay – Janice?”
“I need to head back, make sure this stuff is back in storage. I’ll see you all on Tuesday, if not before.”
“Thank you again for doing this, Janice – what did you think of them?”
“Carina has it right I think – but I look forward to getting your full evaluation.”
Sunday 1st March
It was the sound of the heavy boots that made Kitten wake up, as she felt the rope finally being removed from her legs and she was made to stand up.
“What’s happening,” she said as she heard Kittycat groan and then felt her nudge her. Whoever it was made her walk again, and she felt the cool air as she was taken outside, then back inside again.
“What is your name?”
“Kitten,” Doc said, then hearing her fellow captive say “Kittycat.”
“Why were you here?”
“Who were you seeing?”
“No comment,” Kittycat replied this time.
“I see – remove their blindfolds.”
Kitten blinked as the blindfold was removed, and then saw who had spoken, removing a small disc from their throat.
“What the… But we saw you…”
“Yes, you did,” Miss Leopard purred. “Untie her.”
Kitten stared at the masked woman as her arms were released, then turned and looked at Kittycat. Her eyes were wide open as well, and it looked as if she was crying as Miss Jaguar started to release her.
“Come with me,” Miss Leopard said as she took Kitten by the arm and walked her to the door.
"You fucking bastards,
that was beyond cruel." Anna cursed as she was taken into the
"Remember code-names only Kitten."
"You scared Kittycat to
death." Anna's eyes blazed through the slits in her mask.
"I'm sorry,” she said in a calm, controlled
voice, “you scared Kittycat to death...MISS."
"Are you okay now Kittycat?"
Kitten turned and watched as Miss Jaguar walked the young girl in, and sat her down.
"I am Miss Leopard, may
I beg some water to drink please though?"
"I'll get us both glasses Kittycat." Anna's temper was far from cool as she brought over two large glasses of clear liquid. "Drink this." she spoke softly to her fellow trainee.
“Thanks,” Kittycat said as she sipped the water, “I don’t understand – why?”
“Why did we do what we did?”
“I think you owe us that much, MISS” Kitten said as she turned round.
“In the life we lead, in the work we do,” Miss Leopard said calmly, “there is always the risk that one or more of us will be shot or taken prisoner. If – and I admit we plan so it is a very big if – that happens, your fellow teammates need to know you will carry on, and that you will not crack or divulge important information under stress.”
Kitten sat down as she considered what she had said. “So you staged the whole thing, Miss Leopard?”
“A little stage effects, and a few trusted associates – but trust me, it was real enough for me, and also for Miss Jaguar.”
“Are you sure you’re all right,” Kittycat said to Miss Jaguar.
“I’m fine – we monitored you both as well as ourselves through the night.”
Kitten nodded as she sipped her drink. “I still think it was a cruel thing to do – but I understand why you did it. Did we pass Miss?”
“To be discussed later,” Miss Leopard said. “We will have breakfast shortly, and then you are coming with me.”
“Where to,” Kittycat said as she looked out of the window, the rain starting to fall.
“To catch dinner.”
“Change from the clothes you are wearing into the boiler suits and hiking boots you will find in the room. By the time you come down, coffee and bread will be ready.”
The two girls nodded and headed to the room, where the grey boiler suits and boots were waiting.
“No chance of a decent kip then,” Kittycat said as she stripped off the skirt and jacket. “They really went for it, didn’t they?”
“Yeah,” Kitten said quietly as she stepped into the legs of the coverall.
“You still mad at them?”
“A little – but I think I see why they did it. Miss Leopard is right – these ladies play for keeps, and they understand and appreciate the risks. We need to be able to do that as well.”
“Yeah, I kin see dat now,” Kittycat said, “but it still scared the life out of me. How did you stay calm?”
“Oh I was scared too – but I knew we had to stick together, whatever happened.” She sat down and laced on the hiking boots, before standing up. “Come on – I’m starving.”
“Recognise this,” Diana said as she laid the Browning BAT on the table.
“Yes Miss Leopard – you showed us it yesterday and got us to shoot with it,” Kittycat replied.
“Good – show me how to load it.”
She watched as Kitten loaded the rifle and laid it down.
“While it has other uses, the Browning is primarily a hunting rifle,” Miss Leopard said as Miss Jaguar laid a second rifle next to it, “and that is what we will be doing this morning. You will accompany me as we make our way to the woods, and a hide we have there, and I will show you how to use the rifle as a hunting implement. After that, you will provide the meat for dinner tonight.”
“We’re going to kill something?”
“Hopefully a deer – but some rabbit never goes amiss either. Put the rifles in the bags and over your shoulders, and follow me.”
“Yes Miss,” the two girls said as they slipped the rifles into leather bags, flung them over their shoulders and walked out of the farmhouse.
Miss Jaguar sat for a moment, finishing her coffee, before she said “want some?”
“Thanks,” Heather said as she came in.
Opening the laptop, Miss Jaguar smiled as she went onto the secure network, and opened a video call.
“Morning ladies – how goes it,” Dominique said from the Village.
"Diana has them out hunting for a deer."
Susan removed her mask, and shook her hair. "Thank the Goddess baby means
I can't do it."
"Oh and we all know just how much you love going
hunting." Dominique smiled.
"Well I'll go extra once she's born."
"And pigs might fly." Heather laughed.
"So how are they doing?"
"Well they haven't quit..."
"And they haven't killed you...yet."
"No but I think Anna came close this morning," Susan said as she looked at Heather.
“The stress test?”
“She's showing what we already knew, that she has
leadership qualities, and cares for colleagues." Dominique looked happy.
"Very much so."
Susan nodded, "She looks ready to my eyes."
"Kylie has shown spunk and endurance, we've
stressed her and she's bounced back each time. I can see what you see in her
Susan." Heather glanced at some notes.
"I think her big test will come Tuesday
evening." Dominique spoke knowingly.
"Tasha and Willy's housewarming party."
Susan nodded in agreement, "See how she can adjust to a room full of
people from various backgrounds, some she knows are crims
like her, others she knows are straight..."
"And she doesn't know which is which."
Dominique smiled again.
"Yes I agree it will be a huge test for
her." Heather nodded.
"I better take her to Saks and buy her a dress tomorrow." Susan laughed, "And she's going to love wearing high heels...I don't think."
“But so far on the weekend?”
“I think they’re doing well – but Diana is the final arbiter on that.”
“Remember, lie quiet and still, let yourself become part of the woods,” Miss Leopard whispered as the two girls lay flat in the hide. They had practiced, and now came the practical test.
"Well they said it would be bloody tough." Kittycat thought to herself. She was cold, her clothes were
wet, and she was as tired as she'd ever been in her life thanks to the lack of
"Over there." Kitten whispered as she
spotted the deer upwind of them.
"I have it." Kittycat
tried to calm herself down, regulate her breathing, just as they'd been taught
as she trained the telescopic sights of the rifle on the animal.
"You on it?" Kitten
"Yeah and you?"
"Okay on three we both shoot." Kittycat whispered. "One, two, three,"
Simultaneously the shots were fired and the animal
"Nice shooting ladies." Miss Leopard patted
them both on the back. "Now let’s go skin it and butcher it and you can
pack the meat out of here."
"Oh joy." Kitten smiled at Kittycat. The two girls wriggled out and shouldered the rifles as they walked with Diana towards the deer.
“See,” she said as she pointed to the head, “two nice shots. She would have felt no pain, just a quick end. But just as we respected her in life, it is important we respect her in death, and also leave tribute to nature.”
“So what do we do,” Kitten said, as Miss Leopard drew two large hunting knives from her backpack.
“First we have to remove the skin – then we remove the meat, pack it into plastic bags, and carry it to the farm. We have a smokehouse and freezers ready – and, with the age of this animal, venison steaks for dinner.
“Now, who wants to use the knife first?”
“Me, if I may Miss,” Kittycat said, as Miss Leopard hung the deer by the head from a branch, and showed her how to open the deer to the sternum. She produced a series of plastic bags, before saying “all right Kitten – pull the stomach out.”
Miss Jaguar opened the door as the three hunters came back, the girls carrying packs full of meat as Miss Leopard carried the skin.
“Right – bring the meat this way, we need to hang it and make sure it matures,” she said as she walked towards the barn,
“I thought you said we would have this venison for dinner, Miss Leopard?”
“And you will – but the rest has to be properly stored. Once it is done, we will have lunch, and then begin your final exercise of the weekend.”
“Oh joy,” Kitten said as they walked to the barn, returning a short while later with a sample of the meat.
“We’ll marinate this in some red wine, herbs and berries to tenderize it,” Miss Leopard said. “Right now, take a toilet break, then join me in the kitchen for lunch.”
The two girls nodded as they headed to the bathroom, returning as Miss Jaguar laid out four bowls of steaming home made soup.
“This is what you need after a morning with Miss Leopard in the hide,” she said as they sat round the table.
“It smells wunderfull,” Kittycat said as she put her spoon in and tasted it, “what is it?”
“Beef and barley – in this weather, you need this to warm your innards.”
The girls are greedily as Miss Leopard and Miss Jaguar looked on.
“Slow down – the last thing you need to do is make yourself sick,” Miss Leopard said.
“Sorry, but this tastes so good,” Kitten said as she looked up
“While we eat, we wish to put a few scenarios to each of you. I want your immediate response, as this will see how you respond to different situations.”
“Kittycat,” Miss Jaguar said, “you and a fellow associate have decided to raid a convenience store. You are armed, and when you enter you see there are two customers as well as the clerk, and there is a door behind the clerk. What is your first move?”
Kittycat thought for a moment, and said “Get the customers in one place on the floor, and cover them and the clerk while my partner checks the back room – you don’t know if someone is hidin' in there.”
“Good,” Miss Leopard said. “Kitten, you are part of a team that have invaded the home of a bank manager. He is home, and so is his wife, his eighteen year old daughter and his sixteen year old son. Who do you secure first?”
“The son – he is the most likely to cause trouble, in fact, get the older girl to do it while holding the family at gunpoint.”
Kittycat was eating a spoonful of soup as Miss Leopard said “Kittycat, how effective is a tape gag?”
“Depends on the type of tape.”
Miss Jaguar smiled as she said, “You have a choice of masking tape, duct tape or cloth plaster.”
“I’d go for the duct tape – masking tape is no good, and plaster can hurt someone.”
“She thought for a moment, and then said “for quickness, the sticking plaster. That stuff can hold a mouth closed. But if I had time, duct tape over something like a cloth or a pair of panties.”
“True or false, Kitten – it is impossible to get free from a zip tie without string scissors.”
“False – I saw a show where they showed how to force them apart, or use a piece of plastic to force the clasp.”
“Kittycat, how long a piece of rope do you think you need to bind the average person’s wrists?”
“I dunno – I use tape usually. Maybe about six feet?”
“Okay – final question for now. Who are your heroes – the ones you look to and say you want to be like them.”
Kittycat thought for a moment, before she said “I look up to the leader of my crew, but I know some people who got out and made themselves better. I guess I look at them and think ‘can I do that?’”
Miss Leopard nodded and said “Kitten?”
“I guess it’s the ladies of the Pussycat gang. I dream of being one of them at night.”
“Okay then – this afternoon, we’re going to do some simple physical tests, assess your physical strength, and also I want you to do a simple paper based test before I give my final assessment.”
“Yes, Miss,” the two girls said as they finished their lunch, and waited for Miss Leopard to lead them out.
“My arms ache,” Kitten said as the two girls walked back into the house. “Why shift bags of corn like that?”
“The answer is simple,” Miss Leopard said as she followed them in, “the sacks are roughly the same weight as a money bag, so you need to be able to heft and carry one with ease. Also, the distance is roughly that from the vault to the door of an average bank. Everything this weekend has been designed to test some aspect of the work.”
“And the lashing together of…” Kittycat stopped and put her lips into a small circle as she answered her own question.
“Now, I want you both to sit here, and answer the questions on the sheet as quickly as you can. You have one hour – and do not talk while you do it.”
The girls sat down, picked up the pen and started to do the test as Miss Leopard and Miss Jaguar left the room.
“Normal increase in heart rate and respiration during exercise – nothing to worry about there,” Heather said as she turned round. “Once they’ve finished the tests, I’ll get them analyzed and pass to you.”
“Interesting idea of Joanne’s – test their intelligence at the end of the two days rather than the beginning,” Diana said. “We have a baseline for Doc, but not for your girl Susan. It will be interesting to see how the results compare.”
“Well, I’ll start preparing the meal,” Susan said, “We can give our thoughts to the feedback while they change.”
“Very good,” Miss Leopard said as she took the papers. “Now, I want you both to go upstairs and change into the clothes you came in yesterday. Dinner will be ready in half an hour, and afterwards we will talk.”
“Yes Miss,” Kitten and Kittycat said as they headed upstairs.
“Wow – I guess it’s nearly over,” Kittycat said as she started to strip out of her damp clothes.
“Yeah – do you think we passed?”
“Dunno – what do you fink?”
Kitten sat down in her underwear and smiled. “I have absolutely no idea – I hope so, I really hope so.”
“It’s funny – I never thought I’d say it, but I’m feeling a little homesick.”
“Well, you’ll be home soon,” Kitten said. “As for me, I just want to give my head a damn good scratch.”
“Tell me about it,” Kittycat said with a smile. “Mind you, something smells really good.”
“Oh I agree – come on, let’s eat.”
The two girls walked downstairs to find the room empty, but the table laid and a large pot placed in the centre.
“Sit down,” Miss Jaguar said as she came in with a bowl of potatoes. “Miss Leopard will be along in a moment, she’s just pulling her thoughts together.”
“Yes, Miss Jaguar,” they said in unison as they took their places at the table. She put the venison steaks on plates and handed them to the girls.
“Help yourselves to vegetables,” she said as Miss Leopard came in. “Good - I am very hungry this afternoon,” she said as she sat down and helped herself. “Eat – we will talk afterwards, but right now, relax – the tests are over.”
“This is beautiful,” Kitten said, “is that juniper berries in the sauce?”
“Well spotted – it is an old recipe,” Miss Leopard said.
Three quarters of an hour later, the table had been cleared and the two girls were sitting side by side, Miss Leopard looking through her notes.
“All right,” she said as she looked up, “I have reviewed the notes Miss Jaguar and I have taken over the last two days, as well as feedback from the associates we invited to take part in the over night exercise. I have also taken note of your physical prowess, as well as the results of the test you completed earlier today.”
“Kitten,” she said as she looked over, “you showed remarkable coolness in a number of stressful situations, and you have shown a good degree of leadership and support to young Kittycat here. I do note a certain anger under certain conditions, which is something that you need to work at, learn to channel in a useful direction as opposed to lashing out, but you did retain control and showed the correct level of obedience.
“I believe you have shown great potential, and will be recommending to those who have sent you here that you begin training in the necessary techniques. I do, however, also recommend a training regime to build up your core strength – it needs a little improvement. That apart, I am pleased to say you have passed.”
Kitten beamed as Miss Leopard looked at Kittycat.
“You have also shown great potential, Kittycat – your core strength and fitness are exceptional, and your marksmanship is remarkable for one who has never held a gun before. The stress situation last night at first worried me, but with Kitten’s help you calmed down and came through.
“My concern is your youth – but I think there are ways of dealing with this. I also think you need further education both in a formal sense and also in the skills required. I do not say you are not intelligent – in fact, the tests show a great deal of intelligence – but it must be used with knowledge to further yourself. A broad knowledge may seem unnecessary, but it is essential to provide the background against which you can weigh and judge situations.
“Despite that, you also have passed, and I will make some further recommendations to your sponsor. A full report will be with them by the end of tonight, but for now – congratulations.”
The girls hugged each other as Miss Jaguar stood up. “With that, we need to return you to the city. As with your arrival, you will be blindfolded, and the masks remain until you are returned.”
“I look forward to meeting you in the future, and wish you the best for that future,” Miss Leopard said as the scarves were tied over their eyes, and then Heather came through.
“Take them by the long route,” Diana whispered, “give us a chance to get back first.”
She nodded as she took the arms of the girls and walked them out to her car.
“I’ll drop you off at your place, and then head to the village,” Diana said as she removed her mask. “The reports have already been sent.”
Upper West Side
Kylie heard the door open by her side as an arm helped her to get out, and then the car driving off as the scarf was removed.
“You can take your mask off now,” Susan said as the teenage reached up and removed the balaclava, rubbing her head as she did so.
“Jesus H Sooz, that was one hell of a weekend.”
“Well, it’s over now – come on up and get yourself cleaned up.”
“I would kill for a hot shower though – and a hot drink. Got any vodka?”
“You can have coffee and like it – come on, let’s get you upstairs.”
Doc allowed herself to be taken out of the car, and then walked up a flight of steps
“Welcome back,” she heard a familiar voice say as the blindfold was removed, and she saw Caroline and Annie sitting in front of her.
“Thanks Ama,” she said as she removed the balaclava and ran her hand through her hair. “I must look a mess.”
“You have certainly looked more soigné,” Annie said as she looked at the young girl, “but trust me, nobody looks good after spending time where you were, doing what you did.”
“Never mind spending the night trussed up and blindfolded on the floor of a barn,” Caroline said as Anna sat down.
“Well, we have the report from Miss Leopard,” Caroline said, “but I suspect you recognized the place.”
“Yeah it’s where I was taken last week. I recognized the kitchen. Where was it?”
“No comment,” Annie said, “but it is owned by Diana, who will call round shortly. I presume you realized she is Miss Leopard?”
“I figured out who all seven of them are – but I said nothing, and followed orders.”
“Right – I strongly suggest you go and have a long shower, and we can talk when you come out.”
“Thanks – I ache in places you don’t think you can ache,” Anna said as they stood up.
“And you have some blood on your wrists,” Ama said, Anna looking and then nodding as she headed off.
"Well Kylie?" Susan asked as the teen came
into the living room, wearing a dressing gown as she toweled off her hair after
"I feel better for that," she said,
gratefully taking a cup of coffee as she sat down.
"At least it's over, I
told you it would be tough."
"It was more than bloody tuff Sooz...sorry
I mean Susan...when I fort the FB bloody I had killed yer,
and I was sittin' on that bleedin'
floor, if it hadn't been for Kitten reachin' out and
'oldin' my 'and, I fink I'd have packed it in if I'd
'ad a gun to kill meself."
"But you didn't...you proved something to me, my
people, and I think to yerself."
"I know, I know, so who iz
"Not really your business, just think of 'er as a potential future colleague."
"So you fink I have potential?"
"I do, we all do." Susan hugged her.
“So wots this about education?”
“Remember in London I said you needed to go back to school, catch up on lessons?”
“Yeah, well I’m trying, but it’s boring…”
“Yeah, I remember the place. Look, we’ll talk about it tomorrow, but I have a few ideas.”
“Okay – so what happens now?”
“You unwind, and get a good night’s sleep – and tomorrow, I take you shopping.”
“Shopping? For wot?”
“You’re coming to a party with me, consider it the coming out of the new Kylie…”
"Will I ever see her again Caroline?" Anna
sat on the couch, one of Ama's dressing gowns round
her, and a towel round her head.
"Maybe, but I guess you realized..."
"That we were basically trying out for two
different teams?" Anna smiled. "I got her accent,
just like yours...is she one of Madame X's prospects?"
"Never ask questions it's not necessary for you
to know the answers to," Caroline said as she sat up.
"Well I asked when more training started, I guess I got the answer."
“Indeed,” Diana said as she came up with Annie, “you impressed me this weekend. Well done.”
“Praise from the Countess is praise indeed,” Ama said with a smile.
“What have you been telling her,” Diana said as she raised an eyebrow and looked at Caroline.
“Nothing,” she replied as Annie handed Anna a cup of
Diana sat down and accepted a drink. "It was important to see how you reacted under pressure in different situations. You and Kittycat were basically guinea pigs trying out the ordeal."
"I got that idea, I think we both learned a lot about handling weapons, respecting weapons, and in adversity how to dig deep within for strength."
"Also the value of friendship and teamwork I hear." Ama smiled.
“Oh very much so – especially the friendship.” As she sipped the cocoa, Doc looked at Ama and said “Have I really been that big a bitch these last few weeks?”
“Not in my experience, no – but I am glad you are part of the group fully again,” Ama said with a smile. “For my part, I missed your presence, as well as that of Becca and Nikki.”
"By the way,” Anna said as she looked over, “tell
Jo Thank You for sitting in the room with us while we were tied up."
"How the hell did you know that Doc?"
Diana looked shocked. "She was silent."
"I could smell her, she was wearing a perfume
I've only ever smelled being worn by one woman, and after about 4 hours, I
think she came close to check on us, and I caught her scent."
"You crafty bitch."
"That was when I guessed maybe it was a set up."
“And you said nothing? Jo said you were cunning, and now I see how true that is.”
Anna smiled and then yawned.
“Right – bed young lady. I’ll make sure you get up in the morning for school.”
“Oh lord – Monday Math,” Doc said as she looked pleadingly at Annie.
“No chance – I’ll see you in the morning.”
“All right,” Anna said as she stood up and walked to the room, Ama watching as she left.
“So she has proven herself,” she said as she looked at Diana.
“She has started to, and made a good start, but she has a lot to learn…”
Monday 2nd March
The Richmond Mansion
"Jo you are going to need change your
perfume." Heather read Diana's debrief as she prepared breakfast.
"I am? ... Why?"
"Doc smelled you and identified you from your
"What?" Joanne rolled her eyes, "That
perfume is my one little luxury, the one thing that reminds me I'm a rich
"But it's also made only for you,
it's as distinctive as a fingerprint, on a job it could one day get you
Jo sighed, "Okay I'll switch to a commercial brand."
“Fair enough – keep it for those nights with Curt though.”
Jo grinned as she looked at her paper. “Right, I need to finish off quick, then go and collect Ama, Anna and Pepsi.”
“Do you think she’ll have woken up yet?”
“Mother Hen had her in bed by ten last night – she should be all right.”
“Mother Hen? Don’t ever let her hear you call her that,” Heather said as Sandy came in.
“Curt coming tomorrow night?”
“He’s coming down for a meeting, so he’s going to come with me later on after it finishes.”
“Good – right, you’d better get going, and tell Anna well done from us.”
The de Ros Mansion
Diana was reading her paper when she heard her laptop beep. Opening it, she held the key fob on her door keys to her eye, and then opened the chat window.
"Hello Penny, I guessed you might want to
chat." Diana smiled at the screen.
"I was reading your report,” Penny said as she
looked into the screen, “what we discussed last week seems to have worked quite
"Indeed, I think you can safely go ahead with it
"I'm going to write up some protocols this
week." Penelope nodded.
"Doc says she's going to write me a report on
what it was like from her perspective."
"That will be helpful, she's very bright."
"I know - I still can't believe she pinpointed
that Jo was in the room in that manner."
"Did you warn Jo about that scent?"
"I told Heather, she said she'd tell her."
work… By the way, Heather said she's
already shipped me some of the medical monitoring gizmos, I look forward to
"What would any of us do without Heather's tech
"Diana darling I've asked myself that question
more than once." Penny laughed aloud.
"Hey Penny." Abby said as she
joined her mother. "I'm running late again for school, so I'll have to say
Hi and Bye."
"Bye Abs," Penny laughed again.
"My daughter is not really a morning person
"I know, she's Miss Lazybones."
"I'm still here Penny," Abigail's voice came
from off camera, "At least wait till I'm out the door please before you
"Oh if magazine readers could see her now,"
Diana laughed, "A danish in one hand, coffee in the
other, one side of her shirt out of her skirt, her hair in a ponytail, glasses
on, no make-up."
"Not exactly a pin-up."
"Okay Mom I'll see you tonight." Abby yelled
as she grabbed her car keys.
"There she goes," Diana smiled broadly.
“Right – need to go. We have a supply problem I’m trying to get to the bottom of.”
“Could be – I’ll talk to you later. Hopefully.”
“Hmm?” Susan looked up from her desk as her secretary looked in.
“Your 10 am call from head office.”
Susan nodded as the door was closed, and then pressed the loudspeaker button.
"Good Morning Madame."
"Good Afternoon Susan." The rich familiar tones rolled out from the
speaker. "How are things looking in
"Nice, it starts to feel almost spring like."
"It's raining in London..."
"Did you pass on mine and John's apologies to
Natasha and Willy?"
"I did and they both understand you have work
"We do, John is booked solid, and I'm practically
camping in the office as we get straightened up."
"Do you need any help sent over?"
"Not unless you have a clone of Charlotte, she
has actually been sleeping in her office as she gets the legitimate computer
system set up."
"I could ask Heather?"
"Heather is already helping,
she thinks she and Charlotte can get it sorted by midweek without her leaving
"I hope so, things are busy here."
"So I hear you are taking young Kylie dress
"Yes, I want to see how she copes in a social situation...Any
ideas yet where to place her?"
"Still not quite sure, but I think she might require
a little hand-holding at first."
"Diana predicts she will get homesick at
"That's possible," Susan paused.
"So despite what I said previously about her age,
I think we will invite your friend Marina to join us as well."
"Well that makes me happy personally, Rina is an old friend, and yeah she will at least be a familiar face for Kylie."
“Indeed – from your description of her, I think Lily and Penny could find her a position at the country farm, once initial orientation has taken place.”
“I wonder if Maisha would appreciate the company as well.”
“The same thought had occurred to me, and I will give it further consideration.”
“Well, I will keep you appraised of progress.”
“Excellent – then I will leave you to continue your work. Until tomorrow, Susan.”
“Madame,” Susan said as the call ended, and then Shirley heard the cursing from next door.
“Right,” she said as she walked out and looked where Charlotte was shaking her head, “Coffee break. Now.”
Upper West Side.
“Hey,” Clint said as Kelly came in, stretching and yawning, “I was beginning to wonder if I had to come in and wake you up.”
“What time is it,” she said as she rubbed her eyes and looked at the clock. “Wow – I slept twelve hours?”
“You were exhausted,” Clint said as he stood up. “Come on through and I’ll fix you some brunch. How does Eggs Benedict sound?”
“Ham and eggs on a muffin with a sauce.”
“Sounds good,” Kylie said as she sat at the coffee bar.
“Susan told me what you did over the weekend – well done.”
“Fanks – so where is she?”
“Work, my dear cousin – she says to get a cab to this address to arrive at two thirty. I’ll leave money – I need to be off at one to get to work.”
“Oh yeah – driving the hob nobs around?”
“Not as bad as it sounds – you’d be amazed what you hear.”
“So dis party Susan’s talking about – who’s crib is it?”
“Will and Natasha? They both work in connection with the UN – you’ll meet their mum and dad as well.”
As he had talked, Clint had cooked the breakfast, which he now placed in front of Kelly.
“Wow dissgiiddd,” she mumbled as she ate the creation.
“Good – but remember, do not talk with food in your mouth,”
“Sorry,” Kylie said as she swallowed her food, and took a drink of orange juice. “So this couple, what is their married name?”
“Oh, du Grechy – the Duke and Duchess du Grechy.”
Kylie stared at Clint as he said “Right – eat up and then get ready.”
“You look like the cat that got the cream, Doc,” Becca said as she looked over the table. “Just what did you and Ama get up to over the weekend.
“Nothing special – we sat up all Saturday night talking and watching DVDs, then slept until Sunday lunchtime. What about you lot?”
“Campaigning all weekend,” Becca said as she put some salad on her fork, “at least there’s only just over two weeks to go before the vote.”
“Fashion week is over as well,” Jeannie said as she ate her wrap, “so I get some peace and quiet until Easter.”
“Hey – you all going tomorrow night?”
“Oh yeah – the housewarming. I didn’t know you were coming Doc.”
“We all got invites, so sure I’m coming.”
Susan was putting her jacket on as the door to her office opened.
"Hey Heather, what are you doing here? I'm just
on my way out to buy Kylie a dress."
"I heard, I was hoping I
could borrow your office while you are out to work on the legitimate computer
"Madame said you and Charlotte were having
problems, so go ahead be my guest...”
She then stopped and looked at her friend. “Hold on I smell a rat, since when did YOU
have to be onsite to work with any computer?"
"Just occasionally even I do you know."
"Okay, I know you know the passwords." Susan
slipped her jacket on as Heather turned the computer system on.
"Shit," a worried look came on Heather's
face as she looked at the screen.
"Okay that look I know, what's the problem
"This system is being attacked..."
"IT'S WHAT!" Susan screamed.
"Keep your voice down Susan,"
"Who the FBI, Interpol?"
"No it's not the secure services,
my defenses make it virtually impossible to start even trying to hack that...
No this is industrial espionage, a competitor is
trying to look at quotes, delivery routes, etc.”
"Any idea who?"
"I recognise some
Russian activity, and it ties into the fur hijacking, but for now they are
driving me and Charlotte crazy, with all the misdirectional
stuff they have going on."
"Does Madame know?"
"Damn I knew there was a reason she wasn't grabbing the jet and coming over for the party."
“Well, I think it’s time to fight back,” Heather said as she downloaded some information. “These stupid idiots are about to discover what it means to come up against the Hidden Hand…”
“I’ll leave you to your fun – I need to go and meet Kylie,” Susan said as she left the office.
Saks 5th Avenue
“Sorry I’m late,” Susan said as she met Kylie outside the main entrance, “problems at work.”
“That’s all right, Sooz, but what are we doing ‘ere?”
"We need to buy you a dress for tomorrow night's
"In a posh place like this Susan?"
"Back 'ome I went in a
place like this, they'd bleedin' arrest me on
suspicion of shopliftin'."
"Well over here they won't, but while I do fink
of it, please remember to keep your feevin' 'ands
from doin' anyfink
Susan smiled as she opened the door and the two walked in, Kylie looking at the outfits as they passed across the floor.
"Hello Serena." Susan greeted one of the
associates in the fashion boutique.
"Hello Mrs. Walker, what can we do for you
"My cousin here is over for a visit for a visit
from England, and we have a social engagement tomorrow night, might you have
something appropriate for her?"
"Let me see, she looks like a 2...can I bring a
few things for her to try?"
"Please," Susan smiled as she sat down.
"Blimey Susan, 'ow do you get treatment like that, an' you sound so bleedin' posh?"
“I’m a regular customer, and I’m a regular customer – so time to practice those manners and slightly less harsh accent, all right?”
“Of course, Susan,” Kylie said with a smile as the associate brought some dresses over. “Might I suggest we start with the basic black party dress, and then see if a different colour would suit. Can you go in there please – I’m sorry your name is…”
“Kylie – and thank you,” she said as she took the dress and went into the changing area.
“A nice young girl – just visiting for the week?”
“That’s right – she has to fly back to England on Wednesday,” Susan said as Kylie came back out. The dress was held up with spaghetti straps over the shoulders, and came to just above her knee.
“Hmmm,” Serena said, “with no disrespect, I do not think you have the body yet to fully carry off a strapless dress, Kylie, but I wonder if one with cap sleeves might work. Here – try this.”
She handed Kylie a royal blue dress, which she took back into the changing room, coming out as she looked at herself in the mirror. The skirt came just above her knees, while the neckline allowed the top of her chest to be seen.
“Now that looks more promising,” Serena said as she looked at it. “Heels?”
“She’s not comfortable on very high heels – got anything suitable with a two inch?”
“Let me have a look – her shoe size?”
“7,” Susan said as Serena walked over to a rack of shoes.
“My gawd - sorry, god, Susan, I look so different in this.”
“That’s the idea – look your best and hide in plain sight,” Susan said as Kylie twisted round, looking at herself in the mirror.
“Here – try this,” Serena said as she brought over a pair of black pumps, watching as Kylie sat and slipped them on, and then tried walking round in them.
“How do they feel?”
“Very soft, very nice – how much?”
“That is not important Kylie, what is important is to you think you can spend the evening wearing them?”
“I think so yes.”
“Good – we’ll take them, and some silk hose in the appropriate size as well.”
“If you would get changed,” Serena said, Kylie nodding as she went out, and came out again in her jumper and skirt.
“Your purchases, Mrs. Walker,” Serena said as Kylie walked over to join them.
“My thanks Serena,” Susan said with a smile as she and Kylie left, and hailed a cab.
“Come on – I’ll take you back to the apartment. We need to talk about a few things.”
Upper West Side
“All right, I admit it Sooz – they do good pizza over here.”
“Glad to hear you say that,” Susan said as she took the plates back to the kitchen. She had changed from her business clothes into a pair of jeans and a polo shirt, and returned with some wipes and a towel.
“So what do we need to talk about?”
Before Susan could answer, there was the sound of her buzzer interrupting. “Hold that thought,” she said as she left, Kylie turning and watching as she returned.
"One of the skills you need work on Kylie,” Susan said as she came back in, “is putting your makeup on so you look like a lady, I thought I'd ask a friend to show you how tonight...Kylie meet Abigail...Abs this is Kylie."
"Hi Kylie." Abigail waved from the doorway. "Susan said you might need some makeup tips."
"You...you...you're Abigail de Ros..." Kylie's jaw dropped.
"So my Mom
tells me." Abigail laughed.
God, wait till the Vipers, I mean the girls, here about this...You are really
her aint you? Not just someone who looks like 'er."
this is the REAL Abigail."
"I see you brought your small makeup kit." Susan laughed at the huge bag slung over Abby's shoulder.
"You never know what you might need." Abby smiled as she dropped the bag.
"Kylie doesn't wear makeup usually, she's 14, and
I'd like her to look special." Susan smiled proudly at her young protégé.
"Well there are a variety of things we can do." Abigail stood hands on hips looking at Kylie. "You know you are really cute, you ought to wear at least some makeup though."
"What do you suggest Abs?" Susan brought a
large mirror out and sat it on the dining room table in front of Kylie.
"Your skin is a tad oily Kylie,” Abby said as she
looked at the teenager, “what cleanser do you use?"
"Wots a cleanser?"
"Tell me she didn't just say that?" Abby
rolled her eyes as Kylie looked at her.
"I think she did," Susan sighed.
"Susan grab that bottle of the Garnier Radiance Renewer Cleansing Gelee from my bag please, I think we are in for a long evening."
Kylie watched as Abby draped a towel round her shoulders, and then used a hairband to keep her hair back from her face and forehead.
“First things first,” she said as she put some of the cleanser on a cotton wool pad and gently wiped it over Kylie’s face, “let’s show you what a cleanser can do for you.”
“But I washed – several times,” Kylie said as Abby worked on her.
“I’m sure you did,” Abby said, “and yet…” She showed Kylie the cotton pads, and the dirt that was on them, before she said “now, take a look in the mirror.”
“Oh my…” Kylie stared at the fresh faced youngster looking back at her, and said “I… I don’t remember the last time I looked like dat.”
Susan and Abby looked at each other, before Susan said “she’s right, by the way – you do look kinda cute, but now we get to make you look fabulous.”
“Despite what you may have seen of me in magazines and shows,” Abby said as she sat and looked at Kylie, “the key to good makeup is not to try and look like someone in a photo. It’s to bring you out and show you in your best light – and often, less is more.”
Looking at Kylie, she said “So let’s start with some foundation – I think a subtle one will work best for you…”
“There – I’m not a make-up artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I think that works. What do you say Kylie?”
The teenager looked at herself in the mirror, her cheeks highlighted by the blusher, her eyelids shaded and her lips rouged. She hardly recognized herself, and it showed in the way she kept staring.
“Get her to Carlos tomorrow, Susan, and she’ll fit right in.”
“Is… Is that me?”
“As far as I can tell, you’ve been in that seat the whole time, so it’s still you,” Abby said. “Having said that, I didn’t wear makeup regularly until I started modeling, so I do know what you’re thinking. It can transform you – when done properly.”
Closing her bag, Abby said “I need to get back – I’ll see you tomorrow Kylie at my aunt and uncle’s place.”
“Yea – and fanks, I mean thanks,” Kylie said, still staring at the mirror as Susan walked Abby to the door.
“She really is an innocent in this, isn’t she?”
“Yeah – and she isn’t in other ways. That’s the dilemma, like I faced – to balance the two.”
“Well, good luck – I think you’re halfway there,” Abby whispered as she left, Susan closing the door and walking back in.
"Well what did you make of Abigail Kylie?"
"She's really nice,” Kylie said as she turned in
the chair, “she aint stuck up like you fink people
like 'er are at all."
Susan smiled, "she's one of the nicest girls
you'll ever meet."
"I liked some of the bits she showed me."
"Well lunchtime tomorrow we'll go out and
assemble a makeup bag for you..."
"Thank you Susan...and see I said Susan not Sooz."
"I noticed, you're
learning a bit."
Kylie looked at herself again and said "Did I
'ear 'er say it's her Aunt and Uncle 'ooze party we
are going to?"
"It is. Her fathers
sister married her mothers brother."
“And they really are a duke and duchess?”
“Oh yes – actually, technically Abby is the Countess Abigail de Ros, but we never use that here.”
"Gawd that sounds
complicated...so wot are 'er
mum and dad like."
"Abby's father died when she was a baby in a car
accident, but Diana, her mother is a lovely lady...A lady in the real sense of
"So she never knew 'er
"Yes, you both have that in common."
"Well at least 'e didn't run orf
wiv sum bitch from souf of
"True." Susan smiled.
"I 'erd 'e died last
"So there's only you and your Mum?"
"Yeah, and well you know 'ow
useless she is."
Susan sat down at the table and looked at the youngster.
"Kylie, tell me straight out, do you really want a life like I 'ave?"
"Are you bleedin’ kiddin’?"
"Even if one day you end up goin'
to prison for a long time?"
"Even if...look Susan you grew up in our part of Totten'am, wot chance do we 'ave to get sum fink nice like this 'onestly?"
"You know that one day you'll probably need to
"I killed that deer dident
I?" Kylie paused. "Weren't that meant to see if I 'ad that in
"Very clever Kylie...well spotted." Susan
smiled again. "Well anyway to be part of all this, you need to
change so you can do what I and others do and hide in plain sight."
"I guessed that.
That’s why you took me shopping and finks, and why we’re doing dis party tomorrow, yeah?"
“Yeah,” Susan said with a smile.
"We – Madame, me and some others - are discussing
where to place you so you can learn your cover, get an education, and learn
your trade...It will mean you leaving home...Are you up for that?"
"Yeah I spose so."
"Well to make it less of a wrench we want Marina
to come with you."
"Oh Lord, Rina 'ull luv that."
"Will your Mum complain?"
"Not if she's bunged some dough she won't, all
she ever wanted me for woz to screw the DSS."
"Okay I'll talk more to Madame and see what she
has in mind for you."
"Fank you Susan...Fank you so much." Kylie cried as
she hugged the older woman.
"Hey, you'll ruin your makeup." Susan smiled broadly. “Look, Clint should be back soon – you watch something, and I’ll see about sorting some cocoa out.”
“You all right Susan?”
“Yeah – just little miss kicking,” Susan said with a smile.
“I heard yer mum is getting better.”
“Apparently,” Susan said as she put the mug of cocoa down in front of Kylie. “When you’ve spent over half your life in the comfort of a whisky bottle, it takes a lot of courage to crawl out and smell the fresh air.”
“She’s a tough lady,” Kylie said as she picked up the mug. “So will there be some girls my age at this party?”
“Oh yes – I know Natasha and Willie have invited a group that know Abby and her friends well, as well as their mothers.”
Kylie nodded as Susan said "Oh by the way Kylie,
there'll be a girl from Harlow at the party and she's only your age."
"You mean 'arlow back 'ome?"
"Me Gran used to take me shoppin' there sometimes, it 'ad nice shops, but wots a girl from there doin' at a fancy party like this one?"
"Oh she goes to school now here in New York, maybe you've heard of her...Her name's Jeannie
"WOT!" Kylie spat a little of her cocoa
out..."THE Jeannie Brewster? The Model?"
"That's her, she's a nice kid, you'll
"Just 'ow many famous
models do you know Sooz?"
"She knows lots," Clint said as he came in,
yawning and then leaning over and kissing Susan.
"You’re late," she smiled at her husband.
"The Security Council was in late session, I drew
the Armenian ambassador and he took forever to come out."
"Well you are home now...I was just telling Kylie
that Jeans will be at the party."
"Along with some other famous faces - and by the
way, talking of faces, congrats to Abigail, you look lovely Kylie."
"Thanks," she smiled and blushed.
"So you booked tomorrow night off right?"
"Yeah they know I have an out of my pay grade
event to go to." Clint put his feet up on the couch as Susan brought him a
cocoa..."You know this is one British drink that I really love."
"I'm glad." Susan laughed as she cuddled up beside him.
“You know you said ‘Rina would be coming – will she have to go to school too?”
“In a way,” Susan said, “Marina is and always was a smart girl. She just needs a focus – so while you’re at school learning one thing, I think she will be somewhere else, essentially doing an apprenticeship. We need to sort it out – but you need to tell her something.”
“It’s never, ever too late to learn.”
“Unless it’s my wife driving – that may already be too late.”
Susan glared at Clint, and then burst out laughing.
“So how did you two meet anyway?”
“I worked for Madame on the West Coast, driving Maddie, the number one there. When Sooz…”
“Sorry – when Susan came out to work for her, we just fell naturally together.”
“Awww – so have you thought of a name yet for junior?”
“Nah – we’ll pick it when she decides it’s time to arrive.” Susan drained her cup and said “Right – you need to clean that off your face, and then get to bed. I’ll set up an appointment with Carlos for tomorrow.”
“Who is Carlos?”
“Her hairdresser,” Clint said, “this is going to be a fun night…”
Tuesday 3rd March
The home of Natasha and Willy du Grechy, 5th Avenue
"I see Sandy did her usual superb job decorating
this place for you Aunt Natasha." Abigail smiled
as she looked round the lower part of the brownstone."
"She and Tonia must have worked like slaves." Natasha smiled. "It's really just perfect for us and baby when it arrives."
The house was a survivor, one of the few original
single family homes built when the avenue was still predominantly residential.
Part of a row of such houses, it was built from the characteristic New York
brownstone with three stories and an attic above ground and a basement level
below the street.
Not overly wide, it had however a uniquely New York
charm that Tonia had kept while knocking some interior walls down to give the
couple the larger spaces they desired.
Sandy in decorating the house had incorporated some of the treasures that the couple had had shipped over from France and created interiors that were warm, inviting, and just enough reminiscent of a Paris apartment.
Abigail and Natasha were standing in the reception room on the ground floor, which had been created by knocking the connecting wall between two of the rooms. A large dining room sat behind the reception room, with the kitchen to the other side. The dining room was serving as the bar and buffet for the housewarming, with the caterers hard at work in there.
Willy walked through with Diana, having given her the tour of the rest of the house.
“I like the idea of having your main residential rooms on the second floor, and the bedrooms on the top floor. Very much in your style,” Diana said with a smile as she
“Well, Willy and I are going to be expected to entertain, so it made sense when Sandy suggested it,” Natasha said with a smile.
“I must say the honeymoon has done you so much good – you look wonderful,” Abby said.
“Ah but I missed your triumph – to wear original Dior in that way must have been heavenly.”
“It was,” Abby said with a sigh, “and the show has proved so good for quite a few people. But we are glad you have returned.”
“Well, we had to come back some time,” Willy said, “and it gives us a chance to welcome our friends and yours to our new home.”
The doorbell rang, and as Natasha went to open it Diana said “This should prove to be a most interesting evening.”
Abby was wearing a black cocktail dress, while Diana was wearing a grey and white dress with long sleeves and a knee length skirt. Wilily was in a smart suit, shirt and tie, while Natasha was wearing a green tunic with gold decoration, and white pants.
“Juliette darling, how good to see you again,” Natasha said as she embraced Juliette. “And you as well Carina – I was so jealous of you and Ingrid in Vienna.”
“Well, that is nice to hear,” Ingrid said as she followed them in with Klaus. “It was an amazing experience, Natasha.”
“Come away in,” she said as they walked through. “I’m showing the house off to everyone tonight.”
“I love what Tonia and Sandy have done with the ceilings,” Juliette said as she looked up. “It really gives the impression of space in here.”
“Oh wow – it looks amazing.”
“Hello Jeannie,” Natasha said as the young girl arrived with Barbara and John, “I’m glad you could make it as well. Will your friends be arriving soon?”
“I believe the bulk of them are coming with Nikki’s mother – but I saw Caroline pull up a moment ago, so I presume that…”
“Thank you for inviting us tonight, Natasha,” Caroline said as she came in with Annie and Ama, Grant and April coming behind them with Pepsi. Ama was carrying a wrapped box, while April was carrying a large basket.
“I thought you might appreciate a herb box as a housewarming present – the gift that keeps on giving,” she said with a smile.
“Thank you – and thank you for what you did to the garden. I cannot wait to see how it blooms over the next few months.”
“It was a pleasure,” April said with a smile as Ama and Pepsi joined Jeannie at a group of seats to the side of the room.
“Hey – did I hear a rumour it’s somebody’s birthday soon,” Pepsi said as she sat down.
“No comment,” Jeannie said with a smile as they sat in their cocktail dresses. “I will say that I will be having a get-together at a time and place to be announced, but that is all.”
“What’s that about a party?”
“Hey you two,” Jeannie said as Nikki and Doc joined them, Nikki in an electric blue off the shoulder dress and Doc in a red strapless one with a fishtail skirt.
“So ready to have a little fun tonight?”
“Yeah – if the right people turn up,” Nikki said as she looked at Janice and Adam, Adam handing Willy handing a present as Janice kissed Natasha.
“It’s a pity Jeanne had to return to Geneva, but she has said she will visit soon,” Janice said.
“I know, but work is work – I have to report back to the office tomorrow as well,” Natasha said with a small shrug. “On the other hand, it does pay the bills and keeps me occupied.”
“There is that,” Adam said with a smile as Valeria and Guy came down to join the party. At the same time, Mandy Carrow, Karen Boyd and Alice McKinnon arrived with Karen and Alice’s husbands.
“The party’s beginning to heat up now,” Jeannie said as Pussy and Frieda arrived, along with Liz and the family.
“Mind you, hunk number two just walked in,” Doc said as Sandy and Heather walked in.
“We had better mingle and make the most of it – I think we’ve…”
"Well girls hunting as a pack again I see."
Caroline smiled at the six Angels.
"We aren't hunting Mom." Ama giggled.
"Too few single men."
Becca looked round.
"And besides your esteemed roommate has seen fit
to give a test on Friday, so believe it or not we are talking Math." Anna
"To think we'd be reduced to doing school work at
a party." Pepsi rolled her eyes.
"I know." Nikki sighed.
"Just remember to behave yourself girls."
Caroline's eyes conveyed a message.
"We are." Jeannie looked up, "how I'm
going to misbehave without Winston here anyway?"
"That's what I like to hear." As Caroline walked away, Doc smiled – it was good to be back amongst friends.
As the room filled up, Juliette was standing with Mandy, Karen and Alice
"So is Angel happy to be back at school Tufty?"
"She is darling, she's
doing a shoot with Justin Adams though over the weekend for her
"That's impressive," Juliette nodded,
"How did you get the 'enfant terrible' of British photography to agree to
"I didn't, he rang John Hammond and volunteered,
seems he saw a couple of the prints from over here."
"Well that is great indeed,
her face must have made an impact."
"That's what I told her." Mandy smiled.
“She’s agreed to do a shoot with me later in the spring,” Alice said, “and I heard a rumour Almador had been in touch with you, young Sweets.”
“I think it helps pay the bills,” Karen said as Ken joined her, “and if it helps with the wardrobe, well and good.”
“Such a mercenary attitude – and exactly what Cari said,” Juliette giggled. “Well done that girl.”
“Good evening Guy,” Tom Morse said as he approached his friend.
"So how is it looking Tom?" Guy asked.
"We are ahead, but not comfortably. The party's
national problems are not helping me locally at all."
"We often see that happen in France, perfectly
good people in electoral troubles because of their party’s national leadership."
"Well as I said, I'm ahead, but I'm feeling
guilty about taking time out from campaigning for even as lovely a party as
"I think though that Claire might have objected if you hadn't come." Guy nodded towards where Claire was standing, laughing, and enjoying herself with Valeria and Kelly Rochermann.
“There is that,” Tom said, “and we deserve a night off anyway.”
“Susan, I am so glad you could make it,” Natasha said as she embraced her, “we mothers to be need to support each other, correct?”
“Correct,” Susan said as she handed her coat to a maid. “You know Clint, of course, but this is my cousin Kylie, visiting for a few days from the United Kingdom.”
Natasha looked at the young teenager, her hair cut short, looking slightly self conscious in her new dress and shoes, the makeup fresh on her face.
“It’s a real pleasure to meet you, your ladyship,” she said as she gave a little curtsey.
“It’s Natasha, Kylie – trust me, if we held to our titles here, we already have at least one princess.”
“Sorry, my mistake. Two,” Natasha said as she embraced Ingrid and Klaus.
“A magnificent new home, my dear,” Klaus said as she kissed Natasha on both cheeks.
“Thank you – please make your way through,” she said as a waitress came past, and Susan took a glass of champagne as well as one of ginger ale.
"One glass of champagne now Kylie, and one later,
that's your quota." Susan asserted herself. "Otherwise you are like
me and our hostess, reduced to soft drinks."
"Ginger ale sucks." Natasha pulled a face.
"Tell me about it." Susan made a similar face.
“Thank you, Susan,” Kylie said, giggling as she tasted the sparkling wine for the first time.
“Come away through – quite a few others are here,” Natasha said as they made their way through, Kylie looking round the room with awe struck eyes.
“Jeannie – can I ask a favour of you?”
“OF course Susan, what is it?”
“I’d like to introduce you to my young cousin Kylie – Kylie, this is…”
“Jeannie Brewster,” Kylie whispered.
“Where?” Jeannie laughed and then said “you’re not from North London are you?”
“Tottenham – I hear you used to live in ’Arlow?”
“I did – let me guess, introduce her to the other girls and help her to feel welcome, Susan?”
“If you could, I have to make this a semi working party,” Susan said.
“Hey my pleasure – she can tell me about the gossip back home,” Jeannie said. “Sit down – I’ll get someone to bring some food over and we can natter.”
“Thanks,” Susan said as she walked towards Sandy and Heather.
“Mind if I borrow Heather for a moment,” she said quietly as she took the young nanny into a corner.
“I cannot thank you both for the work you have done here,” Willy said as he stood with Tonia and Sandy.
“That’s my wife, the perfectionist,” Ray said with a smile, “but I have to admit, this is a wonderful achievement.”
“Indeed – and your selection of items to install is masterful,” Valeria said as she came over.
“Well you were very helpful,” Sandy said, “and I look forward to visiting in April.”
“I look forward to having you – both of you,” Valeria said as she looked over to the corner of the room. “I would invite Annie and Carina as well, but I understand you are hosting them, Klaus?”
“Indeed,” Klaus said as he came over, “they will stay with us in Munich for a week, and then Carina is taking Annie and Judith to Vienna for a few days.”
“Sounds delightful,” Tonia said as she sipped her drink.
"So what were you and Heather talking about so
intently?" Clint said as he handed his wife a glass of seven-up.
"Work...she's making progress on this attack on
our system, it seems to be a Russian company with more
than just ties to their organized crime syndicates that are trying to hurt our
"Am I the only one who finds it funny that two criminal empires are fighting, and it's over
legitimate business," he whispered in her ear.
"Well Madame is far from pleased," she whispered back. “She wants Dominique over to personally deal with certain issues.”
“And in the meantime?”
“In the meantime, we deal with this legitimately,” Susan said quietly, “excuse me a minute.
She walked over to where Adam and Janice were standing, looking round.
"Janice can I grab you and Adam for a moment in
your official capacity?"
"That sounds ominous Susan?"
"I am hoping it is not. We have a problem at work, we think a
competitor is trying to hack our computers and is stealing privileged
"Not really our department, did you ask more
specialized firms?" Jan nodded slightly in Heather's direction.
"We've got a consultant in, and Charlotte and our
Techs are working on it, but I wanted to know what the FBI could do?"
"I'll make enquiries in the morning." Adam nodded.
“Thanks – I appreciate that,” Susan said as she sipped her drink, and then looked at her glass. “Lord I could do with a strong drink right about now.”
"Is it me, but are they all a lot more restrained
then normal?" Liz asked her sister.
"Who? ... Oh you mean
the girls dancing with your boys, our young angels?"
"I do Puss."
"I hear Caroline and Annie read the riot act to
them, and besides I think steady boyfriends have entered the picture."
"Aha well that will slow down even the wildest girls misbehavior." Liz laughed.
"Hello Katherine dear."
'Hello Mary, you decided to come then I see."
"To be honest I was intrigued to see what Sandy
had done with the place."
"Well I'm no expert but it looks wonderful to my
"So who's babysitting young Katy?"
"Sandy arranged a sleepover at her place with a nanny to supervise, so I get to come out and kick my heels up."
"Is young Kylie your cousin as well Carina?"
Rachel McNally asked as she looked at the young girl sitting with Jeannie.
"No, I'm Susan's cousin, so is she, but we aren't
related...opposite sides of Susan's family.
"Okay, I understand now...She seems a quiet young
"I think she's a bit intimidated by all of us, but I see Jeans has taken her under her wing and is chatting to her and introducing her to some of the other girls."
“Relax – they’re really not that bad,” Jeannie said as she ate a vol-au-vent.
"So what do you spend all your money on
Jeannie?" Kylie asked.
Jeannie wiped her mouth and said "What
"Wot you earn?"
"I never see it,” Jeannie said as she leaned
forward. “My Mum gives me pocket money,
and I get a clothes allowance, but all I earn is going into the bank to pay for
my education and my future."
"You get pocket money?"
"Yeah, I told ya I aint an heiress like some of these others."
Kylie laughed as she said “You don’t know how good it
is to hear a familiar accent – I feel a little our of place here. I'm trying to tone down my accent, but it's
bloody 'ard...sorry I mean HARD."
"I know,” Jeannie replied, “I need to do it at
times as well, North London and West Essex, we basically speak the same."
"I'm going to try and improve my English
"Well you aren't the worst I ever heard, you
should hear Naomi in full flow when she forgets her elocution lessons."
"Yeah, she can get to sounding like she aint been outta the East End for
more than five minutes." Jeannie laughed.
"So your friends what are they like, are they all
"Becca and Nikki are, Pepsi though, her mum owns a florists shop, and Anna’s a scholarship girl, easily the cleverest girl in our class. Hey you lot – get over here!”
“What’s up Jeans,” the four girls said as they came over.
“I want you to meet Kylie – she’s Susan’s cousin from North London. Kylie, this is Becca Morse and Nikki Colman.”
“Pleased to meet you,” they both said as they shook Kylie’s hand.
“This is Pepsi – her mum’s the florist – and Ama Jameson is Caroline’s daughter.”
“A pleasure,” Ama said as she shook Kylie’s hand.
“And this is Anna ‘Doc’ Carlton.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Anna said as she held out her hand, Kylie staring at the young blonde before she held her hand out, and said “likewise. I get the strangest feeling we’re going to be good friends.”
Anna looked closely at Kylie, and smiled as she said “You know, I think we are.”
Ama looked at both of them as Pepsi said “so what brings you to our fair land, Kylie?”
“Just visiting my cousin,” Kylie said with a smile, “I fly back tomorrow.”
“So have you enjoyed your stay so far.”
“It has had some interesting moments,” Kylie said with a smile.
“Well, life needs interesting moments,” Doc said, “doesn’t it?”
“Come on up and dance with us,” Becca said as they took Kylie by the hands and dragged her to where others were dancing.
"So what do you make of Kylie Jeans?" Doc
"She reminds me of home, she's so like so many
girls I used to go to school with."
"You think she's okay?"
Jeannie nodded her head. "A little rough maybe, but yeah I know
loads of girls just like 'er."
“They have drive, they have ambition, but somehow the breaks never come their way, Some of them find satisfaction in the bottle, some in the bingo, and some – well, let’s just say in less than legal things.
“I look at Kylie, though, and I get the feeling she’s got her break. Susan as her cousin means she has the leg-up she might need to get ahead, if she takes it.”
“So she found her flying lesson?”
“Nice way of putting it.”
"Caroline this is Dan Amatrescu, he works in the
Secretary-General's office and begged me for an invite just so he could meet
"Well I'm flattered Mr. Amatrescu,”
Caroline said with a smile, “can I ask what you do in such a high placed
"I get to indulge a childhood passion and travel
the world watching sport Miss Jameson."
"My name is Caroline and can I ask what you
"I'm Dan, and what I mean is that my current boss
believes that given both the economic and social importance of sport in so much
of the world, that he needed a section of his secretariat that monitors the
field and advices him, on policy, etc. What it means in reality is that I get
to both watch sports, but also write reports on things like doping, corruption,
"Wow now I am totally impressed" Caroline assessed the Rumanian, 40ish, good looking, but also charming in a roguish way.
“I understand you are a security consultant, Caroline.”
“First and foremost, why do you ask?”
“Natural curiosity, of course. May I offer you a drink?”
"What is this the
expectant Mum's sofa?" Susan laughed as she sat down next to Karen and
"It is now you are here." Karen smiled.
"Can I get a photo please?" Klaus asked as
he produced his mobile.
"Please do." Natasha's eyes sparkled.
"Well ladies are you enjoying yourself?"
"No," Susan and Karen giggled.
"I know. Definitely not fun only drinking this
slop." Natasha stuck her tongue out.
"Oh Natasha I'm keeping that for your baby to see
one day." Klaus laughed as he checked the image on his device.
"Bastard...want to help
me get his German arse girls?"
"Hey Juliette protect me," Klaus laughed as
he hid behind her.
"If you are in trouble with those three you are on your own darling." Juliette laughed as well.
“Hold that thought,” Natasha said as she got up and walked over to greet the new arrivals.
"Sorry we are late Natasha." Jo kissed the
hostess on the cheek.
"My fault." Curt grimaced, “my
meeting went on far later then I expected.”
"Well you made it." Natasha grabbed a pair of champagne glasses and passed them to her guests.
“Looks like everyone is here,” Jo said as she looked round. “I don’t know her though.”
“The brunette? That’s Kylie, Susan’s young cousin.”
“Is it now,” Jo said quietly.
“Hey,” Anna said to Kylie as they helped themselves to some food.
“Hey – quite a spread.”
“Indeed – although I have to admit, I could go for some venison stew.”
Kylie smiled as she whispered “I thought I recognized your voice.”
“And I yours,” Doc whispered. “Susan’s cousin?”
“I’m learning a lot from her. You?”
“I am learning a lot as well,” Anna said with a smile. “I hope we get to meet again.”
“So do I,” Kylie whispered, “and thanks – I never got to the chance to say that properly.”
The two girls walked back over and sat with Jeannie and the other girls.
"The Duchess said somefing
about there being princesses 'ere?" Kylie asked Jeannie.
"Princesses?” Jeannie looked around, and then said “Oh you
mean Ingrid and Carina?"
"I guess so."
"Klaus over there is the Prince their dad, which
makes Cari and Ingrid, who are half-sisters,
"Geez." Kylie shook her
head, "But they talked to me earlier like they are regular people."
"They are ordinary."
"I can't imagine ever getting close to a princess
"Well a few days ago there might have been a
third here, but Jeanne had to return to Europe."
"is that their
"No Jeanne is French, she's a policewoman, and a
princess as well."
"Yeah like Adam and Jan over there, they are both
with the FBI."
"Fuckin' 'ell." For a moment Kylie inwardly panicked, till she remembered about hiding in plain sight.
“Did Susan tell you about the Saints and Sinners? It’s a term that gets used to describe most of us – the saints are the men, the sinners the women.”
“Why would they do that?”
“Long story, and goes back to Halloween last year…”
“Your cousin does seem to be getting on well with the girls,” Vanessa said as she stood with Susan and Clint.
“Yeah – she’s coming out of her shell a little now,” Susan said with a smile as she watched her talking with the other teenagers. “She was a little overwhelmed at first, but she’s getting into her stride now.”
“Indeed – I understand she returns home soon?”
“That’s right – we’re looking into a new school for her to attend, so that she can get the education she needs.”
“It must be nice for her to know you are watching over her?”
Susan smiled as she said “I am sure she appreciates it.”
“Mary – come over here a minute will you?”
Mary Thomas smiled as she walked over to the seats.
"Mary come meet Kylie, she's Susan's cousin, Kylie this is Mary Thomas the Style Director of Complete Style magazine."
"Nice to meet you Kylie."
Mary shook her hand.
"You're Welsh," Kylie said as she looked at
the older woman.
"And you're from North London, I'm guessing."
"I am." Kylie blushed.
"Mary is the lady who made me famous."
Jeannie smiled. "It was her who dreamed up my flying stunt."
"Well I just speeded up what would have happened
"Maybe – but it gave it the kick it needed."
"So when are you flying home Kylie? Mary asked.
"Tomorrow afternoon." Kylie looked round.
"You know my friends aint ever gonna believe all
"They are just like all other people dear."
"But they 'ave titles,
they are famous."
"They scared me at first when I went to London from South Wales, I soon learned though they are good, they are bad, really no different from the people in my little village."
“Still – it’s opened my eyes a bit.”
“Ah there you are,” Kylie then heard a familiar voice say as she came over.
"Kylie you look beautiful." Abby kissed the
"Susan helped me, did we do it right?"
"Yep, your makeup is perfect."
"Thank you so much for 'elping
"It was my pleasure."
“She also took me to buy a full bag today – no idea when I’ll get to use it, but I have it now.”
“Well, make sure you do use it – it does make a difference,” Abby said as Diana walked over. “Mum, this is Kylie – Kylie, my mother and Willy’s sister.”
“A pleasure,” Diana said as she shook Kylie’s hand. “It is a pity you cannot stay longer, but I hope you enjoyed your time here.”
“So your brother is the duke – does that make you a duchess as well?”
“Actually I am one of three Countess de Ros in the room – but I try not to wear it too much,” Diana said as she saw Alex and Vanessa Richmond come in.
"Willy I apologise, but
I had to see a poor parishioner." Alexander took his overcoat off.
"Some people die at the most inconvenient
"Vanessa that is uncharitable, and un-Christian."
"Well you got here anyway." Willy kissed
"They did," Natasha smiled, “and you still have plenty of time to mingle or dance.”
“I think the others are managing that just fine,” Alex said as Natasha saw Carina take Annie onto the dance floor.
“Did I miss something?”
“Oh dear – I forgot you have been away for the two balls, Natasha. Carina and Annie are a couple now…”
"Are they all Lesbians Susan?" Kylie asked
almost in disbelief as Cari and Annie, Pussy and
Frieda, and Heather and Sandy danced slowly.
"Want to join them?" Doc came over and
"Wot us dance....like
"Why not, it will be fun." the older girl smiled, "Just hold my hand. I'll look after you."
Kylie looked wide eyed at Susan, but then started to
dance with Doc as they held each other.
"Okay we can safely say they recognised each other." Susan whispered to Caroline and Diana as they huddled on the sideline.
“Ah-ha – they appear to be becoming good friends as well. Has Madame come to a decision yet?”
“No – she is a little distracted at the moment,” Susan said as she and Caroline heard their cell phones ping. They each looked at their phones, then at each other.
“Yeah – guess I’m not going to have as much free time as I thought this trip,” Caroline said quietly.
As the music stopped, Doc looked at Kylie and said “see – not that bad was it?”
“Nah – but I guess I prefer dancing wit’ boys to girls. No offence.”
“None taken,” Doc said as they walked back over.
“Enjoy yourselves,” Jeannie said as they sat down.
“It was different,” Kylie said, “but there aren’t that many boys here, are there?”
“Not this time, no,” Nikki said as she sipped her drink.
"So do you have a boyfriend Jeannie?" Kylie
"I do, he's a student at Stanford University in
California and plays football on their team."
"Winston is so big we just call him The
House." Becca laughed.
"He can lift and carry me easily,
I can even dance in his arms." Jeannie smiled.
"Pepsi and me are sort of dating two English brothers." Becca looked happy, "But we only get to see them occasionally."
“What about you Ama?”
“No, I do not have a boyfriend…”
“No, just a boy she sees to play soccer with, eat burgers with, go to the cinema with…”
“Oh so you do have a boyfriend?”
Ama blushed before saying “not in the same way as they do, no.”
“But – OH,” Kylie giggled, “I get it now. What about you Doc?”
“Nah – I just split up with one, and I’m a free agent for the moment.”
“Excuse me a moment,” Ama said as she stood up and walked over to where Caroline and Annie were talking.
"When are you flying to Europe Mom?" Ama
asked as Caroline answered another text.
"Friday morning, Shirley wants me to go to
London, then probably onto St Petersburg."
"I'll be here." Annie smiled.
"Will this be dangerous?" Ama asked.
"No,” Caroline said as she looked at her
daughter, “it’s just routine."
"You lie badly
Mom." Ama looked deeply into Caroline's eyes.
"Darling," Caroline put her arms round her
daughter, "You know this is what I do.
Besides, I’m not THAT bad a liar – you just know me too well."
"I know." Ama tried to look happy.
"I'll look in on you as well." Janice said
as she walked over and put her arms round the African girl.
"Did you see Shirley's post Jan?" Caroline
"I did, two more of your shipments taken, that looks nasty."
“But not impossible to deal with – provided the right inducements are provided.”
“Just keep in touch when you can – and bring me a present back,” Ama said as she hugged Caroline again.
"I take it you worked out who Anna is
Kylie?" Susan whispered
"I did, took my breath away for a minute when I 'eard 'er voice."
"Well as you can see she hides in plain
"Yeah, I can tell, don't 'er friends know anyfing?"
"No, and that's the way we like to keep it."
"I get that."
"So when you get home nothing gets said beyond
generalities, even to Marina...Right?"
"Yeah, I get it." Kylie thought for a moment, and then said “so enyone ‘ere could be one of the ladies – even Miss Leopard?”
“Exactly – but to hide in plain sight means exactly that, so I’m not telling you one way or the other.”
In one of the corners of the room Caroline was
whispering to Jo and Annie.
"Can you two handle the business we discussed
while I'm in Europe?"
"We'll scope it out and do it Friday or
Saturday." Jo nodded.
"Friday would be better."
"I'll let Ama spend the night at Pepsi's."
"Just get all the information you can find, and
get Heather to forward it to me."
"Will do." Jo nodded.
"Now what are you three conspiring about?" Kelly joined them bringing fresh glasses of champagne.
“A little something I need carried out while I’m away,” Caroline said with a smile. “I want to arrange a special treat for Ama and the girls later this month, so I need Annie and Jo to do some research for me.”
“Good – the girls need a break,” Kelly. “I’m glad Ally and Nell are talking again as well – for a while there something was going on between them, and I had no idea what.”
“Sisters – I’m glad I don’t have one.”
"So why are Judy and David not here tonight
Carina?" Katherine asked.
"Judy has a paper to finish,” Carina said as she
sipped her drink, “so she and David are watching Judith while she writes
"What subject is it on?"
"It's for her music appreciation class, and it's
on early English church music."
"Sounds deadly dull to me."
"It is for me as well Mrs. Carter, but Judy understands
and appreciates it...and it has the additional benefit if she puts some on low
it puts Judith to sleep...me too sometimes." Cari
"So what are you laughing at Carina?" Father
Alex brought some drinks on a tray.
"I was just telling Mrs. Carter that the early
church music that Jude likes puts me and baby to sleep...I guess I'm a
"It can be extremely beautiful, but I think you
are right - to modern ears it's an acquired taste."
"I heard you say a parishioner died Father."
Katherine changed the subject.
"Indeed, poor Mrs. Flannery.
I think you'd met her Katherine."
"I had at the Daughters of Erin, she was a grand
old lady, drank a bottle of Guinness every day..."
"And died today aged 95...I wonder if there is a message in that." Alex smiled.
“Live life to the fullest extent you can, and do not let anyone tell you what to do?”
“Possibly – as good as anything else,” Katherine said as she looked at Guy talking to Roy.
"So you are both flying to California over the
weekend Guy?" Roy asked.
"We are, Valeria is going to look at some
wineries and I'm going to drink some of their product."
"It's part of Valeria's
plans to upgrade facilities at Chateau de Ros, she's
getting advice and ideas from California growers on how to maintain quality
while expanding production."
"So no horses?"
"I might run down to Santa Anita for an afternoon
if I get a chance, but this is primarily a business trip for Valeria, not
"Well gentlemen talking racing?" Valeria
"No my darling we were talking about wine for a
change." Guy smiled.
"Are you also a wine enthusiast Roy?"
"Not really, I've had some enquiries though from
clients regarding wine investments...do you have any ideas Valeria?"
"If you are buying bottles, buy what you enjoy, If you are investing in wineries themselves, my current advice
would be to hold off."
"The mass market is saturated, too much
reasonably priced wine chasing too few customers."
"But at your end of the market?"
"More and more places producing better wine all
the time, be sure the winery is keeping up with the
"Like Chateau de Ros
"Well we are trying." Valeria smiled.
Susan caught a glimpse of Kylie yawning and nodded at Clint.
“I think we need to get my cousin home,” Susan whispered to Natasha, “forgive us if we depart.”
“Of course,” Natasha said as they walked over to her. “Kylie, come on – time we got you to your bed.”
“Thank you for having me,” Kylie said as she stood up. “It was nice to meet all of you.”
“And you,” Jeannie said, Doc winking at her as she smiled back.
“Come on,” Clint said as he put her arm round her shoulders, “let’s get you home.”
Wednesday 4th March
“Right,” Susan said as she and Clint stood with Kylie, “we have to leave you here to be escorted onto the plane. Marina will meet you tomorrow at the other side.”
Kylie nodded as she stood in her new jeans and top. “I don’t know how to thank you,” she said quietly, “for everyfink.”
“When my friend comes to talk to you and your mum, do what she says, and work hard.” Susan smiled as she hugged Kylie. “I don’t think I’m going to get back over before Junior arrives, but I want you and Marnie to come over after for the christening.”
“Wot, babysit your mum as well?”
“We’ll discuss that later,” Susan said with a smile. “She might already be out here by then. At any rate, keep your head down and your nose clean – I’ll hear if you don’t.”
“Don’t worry Sooz – I’ll be a good little kittycat,” Kylie said with a smile as the steward came over. “See you soon.”
“She really is a chip off the same block as you, isn’t she,” Clint said as the young man checked Kylie’s ticket and passport, and then walked her through the security check.
“Yeah – she’s got real potential too. Hey – fancy Chinese tonight? We could give that place near Dom a try…”
Thursday 5th March
“So wots it like?” Marina asked as she handed Kylie a can.
“Wots wot like?”
“New York, Sooz’s flat, this course you did? You ‘aven’t exactly said a lot Kylie.”
“Sorry, I’m tired out, but thanks for collecting me at the airport Rina.”
“So wots ‘er place like?” Tracy asked.
“Well it aint a bleedin’ squat that’s for sure.” Kylie laughed. “It’s nice.”
“Nice? Kyl you aint exactly bein’ forfcummin.”
“It’s nice, I don’t know wot else ta say. They’ve got free bedrooms, one of which they are doin’ up fer the baby. A great kitchen that’s Clint’s playroom, nice livin’ room, a good dinin’ room…Wot more can I say? It’s nice.”
“Did you meet any of her friends Kylie?” Marina asked.
“Wot they like?”
“Interesting, I met a coupla princesses, some countesses, a duchess, all kinds of important people.”
“So she really does know all those posh gits?” Bev asked.
“But wot about ‘er uvver friends?” Marina asked.
“I never saw any faces, they wore masks, I wore a mask.“
“I bet you never even met a real gangster Kyl, I knew she weren’t the real fing.” Bev laughed.
“Oh I met the real fings.” Kylie laughed.
“It’s bleedin’ security Bev, ‘ow do fink they stay outta the nick? By tellin’ everybody I’m a armed robber?” Marina looked hard at Bev.
“So wot did they get you to do like Kyl?” Tracy asked.
“Well I killed…”
“You killed somewun?” a gasp went up from the White Vipers.
“No not a person, I killed a deer.”
“Ow?” asked Bev.
“We stalked it in the woods, me an’ this uvver trainee shot it, then we skinned and butchered it an’ took the meat ‘ome.”
“Gawd!” Kerry’s jaw dropped.
“Wot else Kylie?” Marina asked.
“They taught me ‘ow to ‘andle all kinds of diff’rent guns, we did a fitness test, sum stress tests, and some uvver fings.”
“Like wot?” asked Bev.
“Ow ta walk in ‘igh ‘eels like a lady, ‘ow to be’ave at a dinner table, ‘ow to play a good game of poker.”
“Sounds like fun.” Tracy smiled.
“Only in places Trace, most of it was ‘ard, tiring, stressful…it was meant to be a test an’ it fuckin’ woz.”
“So did you pass Kyl?” Marina asked.
“I guess so, I’m still alive aint I?”
“So wot ‘appens next?”
“I go to school.”
“Wot back to Cardinal Murphy?” Bev asked, “That bleedin’ dump?”
“I dunno, somewun is goin’ to cum talk to me Mum about me goin’ an’ livin’ somewhere else.” Kylie looked down.
“You did pass then Kylie.” Marina sounded sad.
“I guess I did.”
“Congratulations.” Marina hugged the younger girl tryin’ to sound happy for her.
“So yer leavin’ Totten’am an’ the Vipers?” Tracy asked.
“I guess I am.”
As the other girls went to get some food, Kylie and Marnie were left to talk.
“You grew up a lot in a week Kylie?” Marina spoke quietly as they sat together.
“I guess I did.”
“I’m ‘appy for yer.”
“Yeah, I guess it’s great you are goin’ to get outta ‘ere really.”
“Well I ‘ave a message for you from Sooz.”
“Why didn’t ya tell me earlier.”
“She said to tell ya when we were alone.”
“Okay so wot’s the message?”
“Tell Marina to get bluddy well packed, coz when they come collect me, you’re cummin’ too.”
“You ‘eard Marina, you are goin’ wherever I’m goin’.”
“But I’m too bleedin’ old to go back to school.”
“Sooz, said you’d say that, and she said to say ‘yer never too fuckin’ old ter learn’.”
“Yeah she did.” Kylie smiled happily. “So, wanna take a trip togefer?”