Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Grey Tabby: Twenty- Three

The Grey Tabby laughed, looking down at the figure of the Girl in Grey. She glared back at him, hands bunching into fists.
"You won't get away with it," she warned the supervillain.
"They all say that," the Grey Tabby told her. "But the others have died."
"What others?" the Girl in Grey turned, eyes flaring, cheeks flushed.
"The White Feather," the Grey Tabby told her firmly.

"Right," the blonde sighed. "The most cowardly superhero of all time, unless you count the Yellow Streak. I'm impressed."
"Scoff all you like." The Grey Tabby laughed. "But you'll never know. You die now, Girl in Grey!"
"Or perhaps not." A familiar figure stepped out of the shadows.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Grey Tabby: Twenty-Two

The Girl in Grey came to to find that her mask, boots and gloves had been removed, her boots having been replaced with slippers, perhaps due to the glass on the floor of the derelict warehouse she was imprisoned in. With a groan, the intrepid crime-fighter rose to her feet and crossed to the window. She found herself looking out at a blazing shoreline. The Police were still stood down, then. She shook her head.

"Worried?" a thug walked into the place.
"Not listening," she told him. "I want to speak to the head man or no-one at all. If the Green Man hasn't killed him already, that is."
"Not at all, my dear." The Grey Tabby strode confidently into the room, flanked by a number of guards. "I'm afraid your boyfriend has missed the wood for the trees."

"Meaning," the Girl in Grey sighed, "that all this is just a cover for a much bigger crime. Or are you just going to steal a great deal of money and be dull?"
"Not at all." The Grey Tabby laughed. "My dear child, I am going to steal something very large. I am going to steal London. And no-one is going to be able to stop me."

"Isn't that a bit hard?" the Girl in Grey shook her head.

"Of course!" The Grey Tabby laughed. "The Crime of the century, my dear. I shall steal an entire city. And not even the Green Man can stop me."

Monday, January 29, 2007

Sunday Supplement: You'd be surprised

Ms. Madison here. Scruff joined me for the evening service at a chapel in Paddington. This Chapel is in a building I once went to when I was a little girl. The church that used it had closed down, and it was being used by a gange of forgers when my father caught them. Since theb, it has been bought by a group calling themselves: 'The Authentic Church.'

We got there during the first hym, as we couldn't find a place to park. Scruff wore baggy jeans and a tee-shirt, while I wore a new dress from the sales. I tried to convince Scruff to do the same., but she just glared at me (I mean, some girls). The man giving out hymnbooks glared at me, and was very nice to Scruff, wich I thought was a bit unfair. I know you're not supposed to treat someone in nice clothes better than someone who can't dress properly. But surely everyone's equal in God's sight - even fashion plates?

But enough whingeing. Everyone glared at me, so I smiled back. The rest of the congregation were dressed any old how, so Scruff fitted in pretty well. Not like yours truly. I felt very lost indeed.

We sang a couple of worship songs, before the 'message.' It wasn't a sermon, but everyone was encouraged to share. I decided to walk up to the front, when someone squirted me with one of those trick flowers, ruining my make-up. It was Scruff, and I told her off.

For which I was thrown out of the Chapel.

Scruff says the service was pretty odd. No-one seemed to know what they were talking about, so she joined in and pointed out where someone had gone wrong.
That's when she left.
I've informed my father that the forers are back in business and that the chapel is a front.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Grey Tabby: Twenty-one

The Girl in Grey threw a looter into the Thames. Just another nasty sneak-thief taking advantage of the chaos of the city south of the Thames, she thought to herself. But the Green Man was inside the warehouse, looking for something after a tip-off from a beggar who was apparently one of his agents and had seen something being carried into it. She was on watch, while the Green Man and his agent searched for whatever it was.

A noise behind her caused the Girl in Grey to turn, removing her whip from her belt. There stood seven men in the sharp suits and fedoras of the Grey Tabby's gangsters.

"Well," one of the men laughed, "the Girl in Grey, consort of the Green Man."

"I wish," the Girl in Grey laughed. "You, I take it, are the Grey Tabby's goons."
"You got it, sister," the gangster grinned, reaching for his gun.

The Girl in Grey's whip tore the gun from his hand. A second blow from the whip sent the man spinning towards her. A high-kick from the Girl in Grey knocked him cold. She laughed, knocking out another man.

But it was too late. Something heavy smashed into the back of her head, and the Girl in Grey slid to the ground, her head spinning.

"Take her to the prison." Through the haze of semi-consciousness, the Girl in Grey saw the imposing figure of the Grey Tabby. "We will deal with her later."

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Grey Tabby: Twenty

The Grey Tabby looked towards the fires in South London from his penthouse, a sadistic smile on his cruel features. Beside him, Miss Jones held a little pad, looking cold and efficient as usual.

"Reports, Miss Jones?" he asked her.

"The Police are stood down in our selected districts," she spoke crisply. "Criminals are causing chaos, although there are reports of resistance in the area of Southwark. A blonde girl, probably the Green Man's assistant."

"Have her brought in," the Grey Tabby told her. "But not to here. To the warehouse."

"With the bomb?" Miss Jones looked surprised.
"Not that one, the other one!" The Grey Tabby exclaimed. "And tell the gunmen to keep an eye out for the Girl in Grey and the Green Man. I want them out of the way, preferrably dead!"
"At once," she turned from the window and headed back into the outer office.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sinks of Iniquity 2: Pudding Norton Provident Union

Sir Richard Arcos, financial correspondent writes:
Today, the Pudding Norton Provident Union Insurance group announced its annual profits. The obscene and bloated profits will be shared with the policyholders, who will no longer have to surrender their firstborn to the company in cases of non-payment of premiums. Farmers will still have to surrender every tenth cow as part of their agricultural policy. In cases of fraud, hitmen will still be used to kill delinquent policyholders.

Chief executive Robert D'Arc spoke to policyholders from his private island and congratulated the workers, before announcing a fresh round of executions. Staff in payments and the call centres will now be flogged for persistent failure to achieve the company's tough and unrealistic targets. In a concession to employees, however, the director of customer service was put to death.

Mr. D'Arc also confirmed that the requirement to prove the death of a policyholder had been downgraded from the heart of the deceased policyholder to a finger. The company's majority Shareholder, the mysterious (and evil) Grey Tabby, has approved the policy change.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Grey Tabby: Nineteen

The Green Man looked out across the flames that marked the area of London where the Police had stood down. Standing beside him, the Girl in Grey shook her head.

"And my London, too!" she shook her head. "How could they?"

"They're weak, my dear," the Green Man told her grimly. "That is why we exist. They think they can avoid harm by giving in to a blackmailer."

"I thought we didn't give in to blackmailers," the Girl in Grey sighed.

"Everyone does." The Green Man told her. "But if the Grey Tabby had told the people of London, what do you think would have happened?"

"Mass panic, of course," the Girl in Grey replied. "So they give in. And now we're all that stand between London and the men of the Grey Tabby is us."

"And what does he want?" The Green Man looked to flickering flames on the skyline. "I can't believe all he wants is this. Not when he has chemical weapons."

"So what, then?" the Girl in Grey demanded.

"We have to find the Grey Tabby," the Green Man told her. "And we have to find those chemical warheads."

Another explosion rent the night air.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Grey Tabby: Eighteen

Ms. Madison, in a very expensive-looking evening gown, looked over at the floodlit bulk of Southwark Cathedral, then to the black and smoky form standing beside her.

"Well," she sighed, "we're the law here after ten o'clock, Emily. I just hope the bad guys are ready for us."

"I don't care." The Outsider primed her crossbow. "All I know is that some wicked people are about to die."

"You sound just like my boss," Ms. Madison smiled. "Only younger and female."

"Let's do it," the Outsider laughed.

"Wait." Ms. Madison indicated a policeman on the corner. "Not yet, Emily - unless you want to see me badly injure that bobby."

"And get put across your father's knee," Emily added.

Before Ms. Madison could reply, the policeman spoke into his radio, and strode off. As he rounded the corner, shadowy figures detatched themselves from the shadows. Someone heaved a brick at the plate-glass window of a shop, and the crowd surged towards it.

Two of Emily's cross-bow bolts stopped the lead men, before Ms. Madison stepped in, a long-barreled pistol in her hand.

"Time to stop it," Ms. Madison spoke softly. "Unless a few of you want to find out what it's like to be dead." She brandished the gun menacingly.
"And so say all of us," the Outsider materialised, then dematerialised.
"The Outsider!" the men turned and ran.
"Result." Ms. Madison struck a cute pose.
Before she could say more, an explosion rocked the city.
"A bank vault," Ms. Madison sighed.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sunday Supplement: A New Church?

Ms. Madison here: I spent the weekend with Lady Sylvia Vaughan at a shooting-box in Denbighshire. Naturally, we had to find a church yesterday. Many of the churches in the county are Welsh-speaking, and we had to wander a bit. At last, seeing a sign for 'Denbigh True Baptist Church' on a newly-opened building, we decided to go there.

The hymn-book was familliar, and we started with 'How Happy Are We/ Our Election who see.' The prayer made special mention of 'God's Animal creation.' By this time, the alarm bells were screaming. We were told that there would be a baptism service after the sermon. The pastor preached on God's creation, lingering over the passages that indicate that Christ's death had a reference to the animal creation. By the time the cat basket was produced, I was no longer surprised.

It was a new church of the Cat-Baptists. Those guys seem to follow me around! As the new (as unblemished elders, produced a black cat from the basket, opened the baptistry, and tried to immerse the cat. It spat and scratched, so soon the baptistry was full of blood. At last, the cat was immersed three times, after which it shot out of the water and hid under Lady Sylvia's dress. We took it home and gave it to the Girl in Grey. She was grateful for it, and Scruff and I arranged to go to a social gospel church next Sunday. I'm taking my best frock.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Grey Tabby: Seventeen

Back at the Savoy Hotel, Ms. Madison relaxed, looking out over the Thames. She had been disturbed by her father's comments, but there was nothing more she could do. Now dressed for lounging about her hotel room, she was talking to the Outsider, who had materialised again.

"Do you think the Police 'll stand down?" she asked.

"Possibly," the Outsider drew her crossbow, "but if they do, I'll be there. And so will you, Lynette."

"Thanks," the blonde laughed. "But I'm a lot less lethal than you."

"Desn't matter," the Outsider declared menacingly. "You can learn."

"Are you offering to teach me?" Ms. Madison enquired cautiously.

"Yes," the Outsider shot back at once.

Before Ms. Madison could offer a reply, the telephone rang stridently. Starting, the blonde plucked up her 'phone.

"Lynette Madison," she announced.

"Hi, Lynette," the Girl in Grey laughed. "How's the Outsider?"

"Emily's offering to teach me the crossbow," Ms. Madison explained earnestly. "Your end?

"The Green Man and I," the Girl in Grey sighed romantically, "have been..."

"Petting?" Ms. Madison suggested mischievously.

"Not that!" the Girl in Grey protested. "We've been checking the identity of the dead men. They're mostly London gangsters, with a few from Liverpool and Glasgow."

"Nothing remarkable there," Ms. Madison sighed.

"But a number of them were recently released from gaol," the added. "The vast majority, in fact. And the others were their known associates. All were released early after completing some rehabillitation programme."

"Let me guess," Ms. Madison laughed. "The same programme."

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Grey Tabby: Sixteen

The men on the television screens gasped at the sight laid out before them. It was a good minute before one of the observers could speak.

"It is all very impressive," the oriental declared. "But a pipe-dream. How do you propose to do it?"

"The final stage is happening now," the Grey Tabby told him grimly. "And the British Government will do my work for me."

"Explain," one of the Europeans spoke.

"Under the British National Security Process," the super-villain explained, "London will be evacuated in the event of a chemical or biological weapons attack. The Police will lead that, while the army sets up a cordon at the edge of greater London.

"Within a day, the Police in a number of London Boroughs will be stood down for twenty-four hours. Seven hours into that, a number of Chemical weapons will be detonated throughout London. The Cabinet has already left to its bolt-hole in the Chilterns, and many army units are already pulling back to the cordon position. My men have chemical warfare suits and they will restore order, after destroying Scotland Yard. I shall be the master of London!"

"But the army..." the asian pointed out.

"Will not risk killing thousands of civillians," the Grey Tabby declared. "And by that time, criminals from all over Europe will be here. I shall destroy City Hall and rule myself. There will be no law, gentlemen, except out law. We shall open Casinos and abolish all taxes - the people of London who survive will fight for us. And all the criminals of Europe will have a safe haven with its own port. With the remaining chemical weapons, we shall force the British Government to let us carry on."

"And us?" the asian leaned towards the screen.

"For a million dollars a year," the Grey Tabby told them, "and the use of your men, you will have a one-fifth share in the Republic of London. Do I have your agreement?"

"You do," all three men nodded.

"That is good," the Grey Tabby turned from them. "Miss Jones, now we can begin. Start the count-down."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Grey Tabby: Fifteen

Ms. Madison gasped, covering her little red mouth with both hands. She looked at her father with utter incredulity. He returned her gaze.

"The top brass at Scotland Yard are in crisis talks with the Government," the Superintendent told his daughter. "I walked out when they started talking about surrender. Sometimes, I think your path works better than mine. Even if they give in, I don't think it'll stop there until those devices are recovered."

Ms. Madison nodded soberly, looking full into the awed face of his daughter.

In the mighty penthouse of the Grey Tabby, the super-villain looked out over London. He smiled in quiet satisfaction at the view below him. Beside him, a petty, if slightly hard-boiled young woman in a business suit held a file.

"Dudley got killed at the Natural History Museum, sir," she reported with cool efficiency.

"At least he had the decency to do that," the Grey Tabby replied coldly. "And there are more where he came from."

"Yes, sir," she nodded. "And your conference call is ready."

"Good," the Grey Tabby pressed a button on his desk. At once, four television screens rose from it. Four faces appeared, three european, one asian. The Grey Tabby settled back in his chair.

"Welcome, gentlemen," the supervillian glared into the screen. "It's glad to see you replied to my letters."

"But of course," the asian nodded. "We were fascinated by your offer. A safe haven for crime in Europe. Which Eastern European country had you in mind?"

"None." The Grey Tabby replied bluntly. "Gentlemen," he pressed a button on his desk, "I give you a new world - the Republic of London!"

A huge diorama rose out of the office floor. It was a scale model of London - a devasted London with many buildings in ruins and whole areas sealed off, but London nevertheless.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Grey Tabby: Fourteen

Ms. Madison said goodbye to the Green Man and the Girl in Grey at the entrance to the Savoy. The Outsider went invisible to slip past the doorman. Hurrying to the lifts, the blonde pressed for her floor. She ignored the young man who tried to start a conversation with her, and hurried backto her room.

"Be good, Emily," she whispered, "I don't want to have to move out." She swung open the door, only to start back.

There, sat in an armchair facing the door, was the portly form of Superintendent Madison. He frowned at the appearance of his daughter.

"Lynette," he sighed. "I heard about your latest exploit on the radio. What do you think you are - batgirl?"

"Not with a gun," Ms. Madison crossed the floor and seated herself on the arm of her father's chair. "I've been in fights before, dad, so why the visit?"

"Your friend in green," the detective scowled. "Scotland Yard received a fresh demand from the Grey Tabby. He's got hold of five old Soviet chemical warheads and is threatening to detonate one of them in Romford unless the Metropolitan Police stands down in his selected boroughs. After that, he will detonate another until we agree to his demands."

"And will you?" she asked, voice full of foreboding.

"We may have to," came the grim reply. "If we can't find these weapons in twenty-four hours."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Grey Tabby: Thirteen

The guard at Tilbury docks idly smoked a cigarette, looking at the mighty container port which serviced London. He waved the great truck past, exchanging idle words with the driver, before moving on to the next vehicle.

The big truck turned into the docks, towards a sealed-off compound. The gentleman at the gate turned and shouted for them to stop. A short burst from a machine-gun felled him. The truck rammed the gates of the compound. Men hurried down off the truck, gangsters all.

The gangsters shot down a number of uniformed guards, before a man with cutting gear stepped down. Behind him came the imposing figure of the Grey Tabby. in cloak and long coat.

"Get it open." He ordered the men. "And hurry."

The gangsters feverishly cut the doors open. Three shots felled two of them, but a burst of fire into the container ended that. The door open, the men stepped back.

Two nightmarish figures stepped out of the truck. In brown all-covering suits with gasmasks and eyepieces, they looked like some odd alien creatures.

They entered the container, picking up a number of dusty shells labelled in a foreign languaue. These were loaded on the truck and locked in a secure box.

Before the armed police teams arrived on the scene, the truck was long gone.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sunday Supplement: Guarding the Pulpit

Sir Richard Arcos here: Last weekend, my wife and I paid a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Rule, my daughter and son-in-law, at Plas Llangarmon, Carms. We attended the Rules' own church, Salem, Llangarmon, a solid and very typical Welsh Chapel. The Rev. Geraint Pryse, the minister there, was away on holiday, so we were to listen to a supply preacher. This gent, who will remain nameless, was from a college somewhere in London. He got into the pulpit and welcomed everyone. We sung lustily, Mr. Rule, one of the deacons, watching closely. The prayer was a little odd, but we let that pass for a bit. When the sermon started, however, we quickly discovered some disagreements between ourseoves and the preacher. He told us that the Gospel was more about society than individuals.

That probably started it. Two of the decons got up, a large chap who is rugby teacher at the local school motioned him to get down. When he refused and continued, three decons charged up the pulpit. The rugby player got his legs, and the man crashed down from the pulpit. Two others got the man in an arm-lock, as he continued to strugle and attempt to deliver his sermon. He was pinned across the communion table and gagged with a handkerchief, before being bodily ejected from the church.

The late arrival of a rather worried-looking gentleman was the cue for us to discover that the man had in fact been a Unitarian who had gone to the wrong church in error. He had done the same thing and suffered similar consequences.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Grey Tabby: Twelve

A single gunshot split the air, the man facing Ms. Madison jerked convulsively before hitting the ground, his life's blood pumping out of him. A second shot disposed of the man who had meant to kill the Girl in Grey. Ms. Madison laughed, as a familiar figure stepped out of the shadows.

"The Green Man!" the gangsters gasped in amazement.

"Backup," Ms. Madison confirmed, her own gun held unwaveringly at the opposition.

"Now go to it." The Green Man shot another thug.

Andrea emerged from the other passage, a tommy-gun held in her hands. The Girl in Grey drew her whip from her belt and leapt over the rail, onto the gangsters, the Green Man following. Soon, the hall of the Natural History Museum was filled with unconscious or dead hoods.

"And Emily reports success her end," Ms. Madison laid down her radio. "It looks like the Grey Tabby's plans are well and truly on the skids."

"Don't be so sure," the Green Man warned them. "Now that his plans are being disrupted, he's likely to change them. And that could mean sometheing far deadlier than robbery."

"What do you mean?" the girls asked anxiously.

"I mean," the Green Man told them, "that this felt very much like a distraction."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Grey Tabby: Eleven

The mighty towers of the Natural History Museum speak of its status as a temple of natural science. As usual, the museum was packed with vistors, families showing their children around the amazing space. Many a scientist would have smiled at it all, but few can have any illusion that the main draw was the dinosaurs inside. But that is the way of things.

The attendants were a little puzzled by the sharp-suited men who strode into the museum, a couple of them carrying violin cases. One man thought to challenge them, only to be knocked out. Guards rose, and the violin cases opened, revealing tommy-guns.Thus armed and equipped, the mobsters strode through into the main hall.

One man discharged his gun, drawing screams from the visitors. He only laughed, the others forming a phalanx behind him. A number of men appeared at the other doors, having crept in undetected.

"You will give us your money!" the leading gangster announced. "Then your bank details. After that, you will be allowed to go." A somewhat nerdy-looking man set up a computer. "The Grey Tabby gives you his word."

"And the Grey Tabby was pretty free with it on insecure connections." Ms. Madison strode through a door, over the body of an unconscious gangster. "Your boss is all brawn but very little brain, in my opinion."

"Really?" the lead gangster moved his gun to cover the blonde. "You didn't think it might be a trap?"

"The thought had occured to us." The Girl in Grey strode through another door, having knocked two more men out. And maybe you'd forgotten about the Savoy."
"Not at all!" the men opened up with their tommy-guns, as the visitors hit the floor, screaming in terror. The girls turned from the doors, only to find men behind them, guns ready.
"Don't accept their surrender!" the gangster cried. "Kill them!"

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Grey Tabby: Ten

At the top of a mighty tower block, greedy eyes surveyed the city, seeing each pin-point of light and coveting it. A buzzer sounded on a broad oak desk, and the occupant of the chair swung round to face the door.

"Enter!" he commanded imperiously.

The door opened cautiously to admit a rather nervous-looking man in a sharp suit. The man in the chair, a cloaked figure wearing a tabby-striped mask, glared at the newcomer.

" You were supposed to rob every guest at the Savoy Hotel tonight," the Grey Tabby scowled. "Instead, you come back here decimated by three girls."

"The Outsider..." the man began, trembling, "they were trained and ...."

"I will not tolerate bungling!" the Grey Tabby's fist slammed down on his desk, voice rising to a shout. "And I will not tolerate excuses for bungling! Bring me those girls - dead or alive! I want them!"

"How do we do that?" the sharp-suited man replied, voice hardening. "With the...."

"No excuses!" the Grey Tabby pounded the desk again.

"Then find someone else!" the man scowled.

"I already have," the Grey Tabby smiled. "they arrive tomorrow at Tibury docks. Goodbye."

The man looked shocked, as the floor gave way beneath him. He fell into a pit full of wildcats, who immediately tore him to pieces.

"Miss Jones," the Grey Tabby pressed his desk intercom again. "Tell Dudley that he's promoted. Tomorrow's targets are the Natuaral History Museum and Victoria Station. And no bungling."
"And Rob?" the girl on the line asked.
"The cats won't need feeding tonight," the Grey Tabby replied, calm again. "And tell that to Dudley as well."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Grey Tabby: Nine:

"Oh, goody!" the Girl in Grey rubbed her hands together, adopting a fighting stance.

"Now for some fun. Ready to go to prison for a long time?"
"After all," Ms. Madison chipped in, "you must know we destroyed your men downstairs. The lights!"
The Outsider flicked the light switch, and the girls made ready to do unspeakable things to the Man who had called himself master of London.
But there was no man there, only a large grey Tabby with a speaker attached to its neck. The room filled with laughter once more.
"I respect you far too much for that...." The gangster chuckled. "But know that you cannot be everywhere...."
"We don't have to be," Ms. Madison replied spiritedly. "Just others like us."
"And the Outsider," Emily spoke menacingly. "I can be places you can't believe."
"She can, you know," the Girl in Grey smiled. "So how about you walk away right now, before things get really tough?"
"Yeah!" Ms. Madison laughed.
"I could say the same thing," the Grey Tabby growled. "You will do no more against my men, or you will suffer. And the Savoy will suffer for what you have done here. Soon, no-one will oppose my men."
"Except us," Ms. Madison replied. "Our families will fight alongside us - mush."
"You will regret this," the voice said, before the tabby cat walked through the room. The Outsider opened the door for it. "Do not doubt it."
"And that means Emily stays with you tonight," the Girl in Grey instructed Ms. Madison. "I'm off to keep a watch on the streets."
"And that," Ms. Madison shed her dress, sitting by the window, "is that. Fancy something to eat, Emily?"
"No." The Outsider sat down, materialising again. "Do you have anything I can shoot at?"

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Grey Tabby: Eight

Ms. Madison and the Girl in Grey were able to slip away from the admiring crowds (not that they had tried very hard when the press turned up), and head upstairs. Since the Outsider had gone invisible, they had to trust that she could see them. Taking the lift to Ms. Madison's suite, they spent the way up laughing at what they had done.

"What do you think they'll tell the boss?" Ms. Madison asked, laughing happily.

"That London's society girls are way too tough and he should get out of town..." the Girl in Grey hung onto her friend.

"No," Ms. Madison shook her head. "He'll decide to have a go at the Savoy again."

"Then I'll move in with you." The Girl in Grey patted Ms. Madison's cheek. "Or I'll leave Emily. Scruff sort of needs me - and so do the cats."

"I understand," Ms. Madison smiled, "just come in for a chat. We have to work out our next move. Besides," she laughed, "it's almost time for the late news, and I think we'll be on it."

The lift stopped, and the girls stepped out, hurrying into Ms. Madison's room. The Girl in Grey sat down on the sofa, while Ms. Madison rang for room service. Before she could do any more, all the lights went out. Someone male began to laugh, very close at hand.

"Two clever girls," he spoke softly, voice mocking. "Didn't you consider that I might have planned that as a distraction?"

"Depends who you are," Ms. Madison replied. "Who are you?"

"I," the speaker announced, "am the Grey Tabby. Shortly to be master of London."