Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Crooks' Tours: Part Six

Lady Sylvia was somewhat pleased when she came to. She was very glad that the gas had been knock-out gas, not poison. Stretching, she examined the ceiling of the room she was in. It was the heavy mock-tudor favoured by the Victorians. It had to be the Castle, she thought.

Rising from the soft bed she had been laid in, Lady Sylvia crossed to the door. She was not surprised to find it locked. She scolded herself for ignoring the Green Man's warnings. She ought to have expected an alarm or booby-trap of some kind.

"Awake, my dear?" someone knocked on the door. Lady Sylvia stepped back from the door, readying herself for an escape attempt.

The portly figure of Mr. Coote stepped through the door, a gun in his hand. Raising her hands, the young aristocrat stepped away from the door.

"You're a sensible girl, Lady Sylvia," Coote laughed. "You don't have a chance."

Lady Sylvia moved swiftly, catching the portly Coote off-guard. She was able to knock him backwards. A high-kick sent him falling across the bed. Not waiting to follow up her advantge, Lady Sylvia bolted.

A cry from the end of the corridor sent Lady Sylvia running through the nearest door, into an airy study with a great bay window in it, a massive desk dominating the room. She drew back with a gasp at the sight of the figure at the desk.

"Good evening, my dear," said the Grey Tabby.

Crooks' Tours: Part Five

The Castle consisted of an old house with a huge extension that looked about a hundred and fifty years old. Lady Sylvia could only smile at the showiness of it all. Her father, an earl, lived in a real castle, and this looked just like so much fake to her. Even the liveried footmen looked like extras. And yes, Lady Sylvia was a snob.

"And you, my dear," a middle-aged man who bore a resemblance to Adolphe Menjou, took her hand, "must be the fragrant Lady Sylvia Vaughan."

"Right first time," she beamed peppily. "And you have to be Marcus Coote, the chap who owns all this. It's a nice house."

"Nothing on Mainstone, I'm told," he replied, still smiling.

"That's not hard," she laughed charmingly. "So, how do you spend your days, Mr. Coote? I'm told you used to work for a living."

"But now I follow the example of my better," he shot back. "Now, excuse me, Lady Sylvia, but I see a Justice of the Peace who wants to talk to me. Make yourself at home."
"But of course," the brunette let him go. As soon as she was left alone, she headed off into the caverous halls of the castle, searching for Coote's study.
She slipped off her shoes as she climbed a flight of stairs, towards the newest section of the house. If her father's house was anything to go by, that would be where the living quarters were.
She was half-way up the stairs when something gave way under her feet. she fell heavily onto the stairs, and a jet of gas hit her in the face. Her head span a couple of times, before she passed out cold. As darkness claimed her, Lady Sylvia heard someone laughing, very close at hand.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Crooks' Tours: Part Four

Lady Sylvia had been wondering just when the Green Man would show up. She now supposed that he must make a habit of showing up when his poor, hard-pressed assistant worked out what was going on. And with this elderly man present, he had been forced out of the woodwork.

"And you..." Mr. Nicholson smiled wryly, "are the Green Man, Lady Sylvia, may I..."

"I know," the young aristocrat smiled back. "I'm one of the Green Man's agents. That's why I'm here."

"So you're here for the same reason I am, then," the elderly detective chuckled. "And you fooled me pretty well, Lady Sylvia. My congratulations."

"Think nothing of it," she laughed. "Now, why don't you tell me about Coote of the castle?"

"Not much to tell, my dear," he bowed, "only that Mr. Coote bought the castle a few years ago. He was a lawyer specialising in handling the defence for members of the underworld, but retired under a cloud. Now he pretends to be a country gentleman, but I believe he's using the Castle and his contacts to run a labour exchange for crooks. I'd be able to find out more if I could only find a way in."

"And I," the Green Man told Mr. Nicholson, "feel just the same way. But Coote would never ask someone with your connections to detection to his house. Burglary could be done, but that would alert him, and the agency would close down."

"But a great big snob like Marcus Coote doesn't need to be asked to invite some people," Lady Sylvia beamed proudly. "Take a good look, guys," she struck a pose, "I'm invited to a party at Mr. Coote's Castle tonight."

"Just a whisper of a title..." Ralph Nicholson sighed.

"The wicked," the Green Man declared, "are often shallow. Just be careful, Lady Sylvia. Remember, you are still very inexperienced."

"How can I forget?" Lady Sylvia smiled sweetly. "My brother always reminds me of that. And I won't be alone."

Monday, February 26, 2007

Crooks' Tours: Part Three

Lady Sylvia looked a little concerned at the news. Since the Green Man had not told her what was going on, but left her to work things out for herself. She supposed it must be because she was new, and the Green Man was testing her.

"Really?" she asked Mr. Nicholson.

"Really," he nodded, his manner a little patronising. Lady Sylvia wondered if he thought she was some air-headed aristocrat. "And there have been crimes committed in Glasgow by London Villains, two members of the Cardiff Mafia were shot dead in Corsica last year. Put simply, my dear, over the last few years, crooks from different parts of the world have been travelling to work with mobs where their faces are not known."

"How do you know?" Lady Sylvia narrowed her pretty eyes.
"Because, my dear," Mr. Nicholson drawled pleasantly, "I am not simply the old duffer at the Old Rectory. Ralph Nicolson, Principal of the Nicholson Detective agency."
"So you know your stuff," Lady Sylvia smiled. "Do you know who the man doing this is?"
"I have a suspect," he told her, as they reached the gate of the Hall. "Look over there -" he pointed across the park to a large house, with pinnacles and towers "-that is Prior's Castle, bought seven years ago by Marcus Coote. And I think Coote's the man running this."
"And so do I." The two turned, as the Green Man stepped out of the trees behind them.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Crooks' Tours: Two

Lady Sylvia struggled with the man briefly, before knocking him to the ground with the haft of her riding crop. Unsure of what to do next, she let him flee, while she saw to the fallen figure. She had assumed that it would be the typical damsel in distress, instead, it was an elderly man with a neat moustache and traces of latin ancestry.

"I must thank you," he looked up, "you seem a most spirited young thing, Miss..."

"Lady," she lowered her eyes. "Lady Sylvia Vaughan, I'm staying with Val Tarrant at Prior's Hill Park."

"Well, I'm pleased to meet you, Lady Sylvia," the man rose to his feet, dusting himself off. "I'm Ralph Nicholson, renting the Old Rectory. Visit me, if you have the time."
"Of course," Lady Sylvia laughed. "Now, do you know the man who was attacking you?"
"It depends," the man bowed graciously. "If you mean, did I know that swine personally and oft-times share a pint down the local inn with him, then no - mostly as I don't carry pocket tests for poison everywhere with me. But if you mean, do I know who he was, then I did."
"And who was he?" the young aristocrat asked.
"Joe Perelli," the old man told her "-a vicious New York thug who decided very suddenly last month to take a holiday in Norfolk. Since when there have been five robberies committed here that answer exactly to his modus operandi."

Crooks' Tours: Part one

Prior's Hill Park, Norfolk, nestled in the park it had occupied for centuries. From atop her horse, Lady Sylvia looked down on the beautiful mansion and sighed. The park wasn't as lovely as her beloved Mainstone, but it was almost as nice. And the house was more convenient. After all, Mainstone had been bought because no-one else wanted it, while the Tarrants had owned Prior's Hill Park for centuries. And she, as a well-known debutante, was more than welcome. And they had no idea she was the Green Man's agent.

A scream rent the still air. Digging her heels into the flanks of her steed, Lady Sylvia galloped across the park to the source of the scream. She saw a man in a fawn mac, bending over the prone figure of someone else.
"Hey!" she cried out hotly, "what do you think..."
A gunshot rang out, Lady Sylvia ducked, spurring her horse onwards, zig-zagging to avoid the man's shots. As the reached him, she struck out with her riding-crop. The man dropped his gun, and Lady Sylvia leapt from her horse onto him.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Carnage on the HIgh Seas: Fourteen

The sailing yacht cut through the clear blue water, heading for a small island, one of the outlying islets of the Bahamas. The Green Man, masked and swathed, was at the whell, while to informally attired girls constituted the crew.

"What beats me," Lady Sylvia sighed, "is how you managed to track us down," she gave the Green Man a signifiacnt look.

"Ms. Madison," the Green Man explained, "carried a tracking device. I gave it to her rather than to you when I learned Rostov would be on board the liner, and that one of his associates had been on each of the liners from wich people disappeared. Knowing that the late Colonel had a soft spot for Ms. Madison, she agreed to appear to yield to his manly charms in order to find out exactly what was going on."

"And what if Rostov had rumbled her?" Lady Sylvia sounded worried.

"There was never," Ms. Madison sighed, "a danger of that. Rostov was such a conceited thug that the moment I melted in his arms he stopped suspecting me. But I'm not doing that sort of thing in a hurry. For one thing, Mike would never forgive me. He's waiting for me in Nassau, you know."

"Is this where we say goodbye?" Lady Sylvia looked concerned.

"Until the next time," Ms. Madison laughed. "You're flying back to England Post-Haste, back to Mainstone, then on to Prior's Hill, just outside Norwich. I've got a holiday booked - and we're needed."

Carnage on the High Seas: Thirteen

Ms. Madison drew back, her breath catching in her throat. Lady Sylvia screamed so loudly that Ms. Madison was afraid she might be left deaf. The Sheikh laughed at the girls, anticipating their helplesness.

Until Ms. Madison shot him through the head.

"Come on!" she grabbed the young aristocrat's hand, "we have to get to the control room before the Royal Navy gets out of range! This island has a private army on it!"

"And Rostov?" the brunette asked.

"Dead or about to die!" Ms. Madison shouted back, as she sprinted through the door of the control room. The men there saluted her, allowing the two girls to make short work of them. While Ms. Madison smashed up the control device, Lady Sylvia ran to the microphone.

"Royal Navy squadron!" she exclaimed, "come in! This is Lady Sylvia Vaughan."

"Slyv!" a hearty voice came through the ether, "this is Admiral Sir George Brett! How's my favourite niece?"

"All the better for hearing you, uncle!" Lady Slvia laughed with relief. "Listen, I'm on Colonel Rostov's secret island base. Home on my signal!"

"Wilco, Sylv!" the noble Admiral laughed. "We're onto it!"

"Well?" the Green Man stepped into the control room. "Did you speak to them?"

"Well, of course!" Lady Sylvia laughed, "and the officer commanding's my uncle, George Brett. That means they've got at leat one carrier with them!"

"In that case," the Green Man told the girls, "we just need to get out of here."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Carnage on the High Seas: Twelve

"You can't win, Green Man," Colonel Rostov snarled, dawing back from the masked figure. "I am the finest swordsman in Europe."

"Everyone has to lose some time," the Green Man moved forwards, his blade darting at the Colonel's face. The vicious mercenary was only just able to dodge. Drawing a knife from his belt, he thre it at the masked figure, who only batted it aside with something akin to contempt.

With a snarl, Rostov leapt forward. Hero and villain crossed blades. Rostov glared at the Green Man, as he easily absorbed all the blows rained on him. The Green Man laughed, parrying another thrust.

"Do you think that I could be the terror of the underworld and not be able to match a villain like you?" he mocked, his blade grazing Rostov's side.

"You are a devil!" Rostov cried, "a devil and not a man!"

"No," the Green Man shook his head. "Soon you will know what a devil is."

Rostov saw the Green Man drop his guard for a moment. He took his chance. Too late, the ruthless mercenary realised that he had miscalculated. He felt the burning pain, as the Green Man's sword punctured his chest.

Rostov's lifeless body crumpled to the ground.

The girls ran down a corridor, Ms. Madison leading the way.

"So you only pretended!" Lady Sylvia cried after Ms. Madison.
"And Max fell for it!" the blonde laughed. "Now we have to get the control room before they restore power! Before the Sheikh can activate his device."
"That will be hard when you are dead."
The girls came to a dead stop. There, in front of them, was the Sheikh, a gun in each hand.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Carnage on the High Seas: Eleven

"The Green Man..." Rostov chuckled, before turning to Ms. Madison, a look of sly regret on his handsome face. "So, my darling Lynette, you have betrayed me."

"No," Ms. Madison shooh her head firmly. "I have betrayed no-one, Max. "And you should have known me better than to think I would. I just distracted you."

"Which you did very capably," the mercenary bowed gallantly. "But you have made one fatal mistake, my love. The Green Man must have been on that liner, and I have the passenger list."

"My yacht lies just of the island," the Green Man laughed, "hidden by radar jamming devices. So you can forget that, Rostov. Your wicked plan is finished."

"Not if I can finish you first!" Rostov cried, drawing his sword.

"That's some 'if.'" The Green Man drew a sword, shedding his hat and coat. "En garde, Colonel. Ms. Madison, Lady Sylvia, find that transmitter and destroy it. Then send a radio signal telling anyone who may be listening that this is a nest of international mercenaries."

"But who'll listen?" Rostov presented arms. "This island if off the shipping lanes, and I have an army here."

"The Royal Navy is steaming past here in a few hours," the Green Man replied, "on their way to a joint amphibious exercise with the United States. Several frigates and an aircraft carrier loaded with Commandos."

"But you will not live long enough to enjoy your triumph!" Rostov sprung on the Green Man, thrusting his sword at the masked man. It was parried easily.

"We shall see, Colonel," the Green Man chuckled, "we shall see. Girls, don't stay and watch, do as I told you!"
Ms. Madison and Lady Sylvia ran from the room, leaving the Green Man and Colonel Rostov locked in deadly combat.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Carnage on the High Seas: Ten

Lady Sylvia waited in the luxurious room she was locked in, wondering just what Ms. Madison and Rostov were up to. Her first mission for the Green Man, and her senior colleague had been a bad girl, joining with a dubious adventurer who was working with Islamic extremists. Even in her best party clothes, Lady Sylvia felt awful.

"Hi!" Ms. Madison strolled through the door, looking very elegant in a white satin dress and pink gloves. "Enjoying yourself, Lady Sylv?"

"No." The young aristocrat pouted. "And I don't know why I should speak to you."

"Because I'm speaking with you?" Ms. Madison smiled. "Now, come on, grumpy, it's tea-time."

Lady Sylvia followed Ms. Madison out of the room, down the corridor. She was not happy at seeing Rostov's men salute Ms. Madison. The room they entered was an elegant banqueting hall, where Rostov stood by the table, liveried servants waiting on him.

"It's lovely to see you, Lady Sylvia," he told the brunette.

"I'm just sorry you're still alive," Lady Sylvia told him.

"No elegance, I'm afraid." Ms. Madison crossed to Rostov's side. "But she didn't see all that wonderful equipment, the device that'll destroy the world, leaving only us."

"Hang on!" Lady Sylvia exclaimed, "aren't you working for some Islamic nut?"

"That's what he thinks," Rostov chuckled, "but the machine he made is under my control. When it activates, I, not he will be the master of these men and women."

Ms. Madison smiled, holding Rostov's arm, looking straight at Lady Sylvia. As the brunette watched, Ms. Madison gave her a stage wink. At that moment, the lights flickered and dimmed.
"This can't be!" Rostov ran to an intercom. "Control, "what's going on?"
Only static came through the receiver.
"Do you have a problem, Colonel?"
The new voice caused everyone to gasp. There, standing in the doorway, was the familiar figure of the Green Man.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Carnage on the High Seas: Nine

Lady Sylvia walked behind Ms. Madison and Rostov, as they stepped onto the islands. Two men, who seemed to be guards and members of Rostov's private mercenary army, saluted Rostov. He saluted back, and Ms. madison giggled kittenishly. Something, Lady Sylvia thought, was very wrong with Ms. Madison. Or the world as a whole, she told herself. But there was nothing she could do about it, so she tagged along.

"You will both dine with me tonight," Rostov announced grandly. "For now, Lady Sylvia, you will be kept safe. Lynette, you must come with me, so I can introduce you to my current employer."

"Our employer," Ms. Madison smiled foolishly, as Rostov stroked her cheek.

As Lady Sylvia was hustled away, Rostov led Ms. Madison through into a large control room. A big man in in Fez was watching a man in a chair through a screen. Lights were flashing in the man's face, as three men busied themselves around him.

"Back already, Colonel?" The man turned. A bear of a man, with a thin face and dangerously intense eyes, Ms. Madison could not help but tremble at his approach.
"Lynette," Rostov gave her a comforting squeeze. "This is Sheikh Ali Haseed of the Islamic Jihadi Army. Sheikh, this is Lynette Madison, a good friend of mine."
"I can see that," the Sheikh did not look impressed, as he eyed Ms. Madison. "And are you sure you can trust her?"
"No," Rostov replied at once, "but I'm sure she won't get off the island. Lynette, the Sheikh invented the brainwashing device, but he needed someone to get the people."
"A job you have done most well," the creepy Sheikh announced. "Soon there will be enough agents planted to destroy the West."
How will they be activated?" Ms. Madison asked.
"A radio signal which the Colonel will broadcast via the media's satellites," the Sheikh laughed. "The West will be doomed by its own technology."
He started to laugh insanely. After a while, Rostov joined in; even Ms. Madison was able to laugh a little.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Carnage on the High Seas: Part Eight

Lady Sylvia watched, as Ms. Madison stepped off the submarine, her arm in Rostov's. She could not believe her eyes - Ms. Madison, the Green Man's capable and talented assistant - falling for such a swine. And the way she looked at him!

"So," Ms. Madison asked Rostov, eyes big and misty, "what's the plan?"

"Look there," Rostov pointed to seven people in civillian clothes being led off the submarine.

"The people who vanished from the liner?" Ms. Madison enquired, still gazing into Rostov's eyes.

"You're smart, Lynette," Rostov gave the girl a squeeze, drawing a giggle from her. "The men and women we took this time."
"Who are they?" Ms. Madison asked girlishly.
"Could be anyone," Rostov shrugged.
"What?" Ms. Madison started.

"Just people," Rostov told the girl on his arm. "The sort of people you'd never notice. The people the West runs on, ordinary men and women in the street. At the moment."
"And what 're we doing to them?" Ms. Madison asked earnestly.
"I like that 'we,'" Rostov bent to kiss the blonde again. "You're a cute trick, Lynette."
"Yes..." the blonde laughed. Lady Sylvia wondered just what was wrong with her. "So, what?"
"My employers - our employers now, Lynette," Rostov smiled at Ms. Madison, "are brainwashing them, to send them back programmed to commit acts of terrorism and sabotage. To bring the West to its knees."
Lady Sylvia blanched, but all Ms. Madison did was gaze lovingly into Rostov's eyes, as if he'd told her the most wonderful thing in the world.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Carnage on the High Seas: Part Seven

The submarine glided into a speacially constructed pen in the tiny island, Ms. Madison and Lady Sylvia watching as the sub was moored.

"Go on," Ms. Madison turned to the smiling Rostov, "tell me more. I'm impressed."

"I knew you would be!" Rostov laughed in triumph. "Are you sure you don't feel even a twinge of love to me."

"Honestly?" Ms. Madison smiled coyly. "No, but if you tell me just what's going on, Max..."

"That's simple,"Rostov replied brutally. "My employers are going to destroy your world, Lynette. And that means soon all there will remain of the West will be with me. And that means..."

"I'll have no choice but to yield to your Teutonic manliness?" Ms. Madison sighed deeply. "Who are you working for this time, Max?"

"Who are there now?" Rostov leered at the blonde.

"Islamic loonies," Ms. Madison rolled her eyes. "I suppose you know they'll kill you when they've done with you, Max?"

"That,"Rostov told her taking her arm, "is what they think, Lynette. Now, come with me."

Before she could object, Rostov turned to Ms. Madison and kissed her. Much to Lady Sylvia's surprise, the blonde kissed back.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Carnage on the High Seas: Part Six

As the girls watched, a submarine surfaced close to the liner, huge and threatening. Lady Sylvia gasped at the sight, while even the well-travelled Ms. Madison registered surprise.

"I think," she told her companion, "we've found our answer."

"You're right, my beautiful Lynette," Rostov spoke from behind them. "And now you and your friend know too much. You must come with me."

"Since I personally think we don't even know enough," Ms. Madison shot back, "it 'ld be a pleasure." She completely ignored the gun that Rostov carried. "How did you stop the liners from picking up your submarine on the last few trips?"

"I don't," Rostov replied coolly, "but the ship's doctor hypnotises anyone who does see it into foretting."

"And you don't trust me to forget?" Ms. Madison smiled.

"No," Rostov laughed, "I just want to kidnap you."

"The perils of being assistant to the Green Man," Ms. Madison shook her head, "well, let me tell you..."

A jet of gas in her face rendered the blonde unconscious. Lady Sylvia was gassed a moment later. By the time they came to, the submarine was cruising on the surface, and it was no longer night. Forced up on deck, they saw a stark rock, jutting out of the Atlantic.

"My base!" Rostov laughed. "Enjoy yourself, Lynette!"

"Don't worry," she drawled languidly, "I will."

Monday, February 12, 2007

Carnage on the High Seas: Part Five

Ms. Madison sighed, before drawing a wicked-looking automatic from her purse. She smiled, shaking her head.

"The first man who takes a swing at me gets a hole in the head." The blonde smiled dangerously.

"And that goes for me, too," Lady Sylvia laughed. "Go away, you nasty men."

"Beat it, slugs," Ms. Madison translated in a threatening drawl.

"That, too," Lady Sylvia added.

One man took a swing, Ms. Madison shot him in the head. The other thugs turned and ran in panic.

"And now," Ms. Madison sighed, "we add to the list of mysterious disappearances. Lend me a hand to heave this guy over the side, will you, Sylv?"

As they made to do something, the girls looked into the water. They drew back at the sight of a white wake heading towards the liner.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Carnage on the High Seas: Part Four

"So who is Rostov?" Lady Sylvia asked Ms. Madison as they walked the deck after dinner, looking out over the moonlit Atlantic. "I mean, what does he actually do?"

"Like I said," Ms. Madison smiled, "he's an international mercenary and peddlar of plots. He was a Colonel in the East German Army until 1989, when the army was largely disbanded. After that, he organised an elite mercenary squad, mostly composed of former special forces operatives from the old Eastern Bloc countries. Since then, he's been involved in about seven revolutions in the world, as well as a few wars. He fought for the Croats in Bosnia and with the rebels in the Congo."

"So he's a tough guy then?" Lady Sylvia looked impressed.

"A tough guy for hire," Ms. Madison confirmed. "He'll fight for whoever pays the most. Trouble is, that means that if Rostov's a part of this set-up, we can't really know who're actually behind the scenes."

"So what do we do?" Lady Sylvia leaned on the rail, looking out at the broad ocean. "I mean, if we can't..."

"We wait," Ms. Madison smiled. "Now Rostov knows I'm on board, if he is up to something, he's sure to show his hand sooner rather than later."
"How?" Lady Sylvia looked worried.
"I think you know." Ms. Madison grinned. "And you're right, Sylv, that's likely to be a bit strenuous."
"You're right, girlie." A litle crowd of tough-looking men approached the two girls. "You're poking your cute noses in just where they're not wanted. So we're going to teach you a lesson."
"Okay," Ms. Madison adopted a fighting stance. "Let's start school, boys."
The men closed in on the two girls, drawing an assortment of weapons from their garments.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Carnage on the High Seas: Part Three

"Watch out!" Lady Sylvia hissed, "he's seen us!"

Sure enough, the man who had so stood out strolled over to the girls' table, a smile on his handsome, if cold face. Pausing by Ms. Madison, he bowed stiffly to the well-dressed blonde, clicking his heels.

"My dear child," he smiled. "What a surprise meeting you here. May I ask what the Green Man's most accomplished agent is doing on a transatlantic liner?"

"Right now," Ms. Madison smiled sweetly, "I'm having dinner."

"And the fact that you are on the same liner as I is pure co-incidence," Rostov shook his head. "And you expect me to believe that, my little vixen?"

"Frankly?" Ms. Madison told him, "no. Given your giant ego, I wouldn't be at all surprised if you thought I was chasing you because I was madly in love with you."
"I had forgotten your sense of humour," Rostov tried to look annoyed.
"You know you don't mean that, Max," Ms. Madison purred dangerously, "you've never forgotten me, have you?"
"You laugh now," Rostov growled, "but soon you will plead with me for just a smile, Lynette."
And with those words, he stalked off, glowering.
"And that," Ms. Madison told an astonished Lady Sylvia, "is how you get the suspect to confirm your suspicions. Prime suspect is now Max Rostov. My old friend."

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Carnage on the High Seas: Part Two

The saloon was half-empty as the girls went to dinner. An orchestra was playing, and a girl singer was seated by the stand looking bored. Lady Sylvia looked around her, smiling at the grand scene.

"You know," she reflected, "I never went on a cruise liner before. And I've got a title, too."

"I've been on millions," Ms. Madison laughed, "and my father's a policeman."

"But you work for the Green Man," Lady Sylvia nodded. "And I've started working for the Green Man, and my very first case I get to cross the Atlantic in a cruise liner."

"The Green Man strikes again," Ms. Madison grinned happily. "Where do we go from here, Lynette?"

"We take in the scenery, Sylv," the blonde told her new colleague. Just keep our eyes open and see what comes up. Right now, all we know is that people have been disappearing from these ships on a regular basis. So tonight we're playing the good, old-fashioned game of 'spot the suspicious person.'"

"And that works?" the young aristocrat asked.

"Normally," Ms. Madison informed her friend. "And especially on a cruise ship like this, where people can't keep out of sight forever. I..."

Suddenly, Ms. Madison fell silent. She looked across the room and tried very hard to keep her mouth closed.

"What is it?" Lady Sylvia demanded, leaning over the table towards the pretty blonde. "What is it?"

"There," Ms. Madison indicated a distinguished looking man with a neatly clipped moustache and a military bearing. "That man is Colonel Maxillian Rostov."

"And?" Lady Sylvia looked confused.

"Colonel Rostov," Ms. Madison told Lady Sylvia, "is the most dangerous international mercenary in the world. He sells revolutions and treachery to the highest bidder."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Carnage on the High Seas: Part One

Lady Sylvia Vaughan looked out over the bustling docks from the deck of the giant cruise liner. She shook her head, before looking across at Ms. Madison, who was waving good-bye to Michael Rake, blowing him kisses and waving.

"And you told me it wasn't serious between you two," she sighed. "Why don't you just marry him and be done with it, Lynette?"

"Can you really see me as a housewife, Sylv?" Ms. Madison laughed, indicating her fashionable outfit. "I haven't finished with being young and irresponsible yet!"

"But of course," Lady Sylvia sighed, still shaking her head. "You realise you're the loudest 'good-bye' shouter on deck, don't you?"

"No," the blonde replied artlessly. "And I have to. After all, this is a trans-atlantic cruise, isn't it?"

"And work as well," Lady Sylvia smiled. "My first case!" she smiled sweetly. "Why are we here, Lynette?"

"Worrying reports," Ms. Madison replied snappily. "Apparently the White Feather Line's ships have been docking in port missing significant numbers of passengers."

"And that's not good, is it?" Lady Sylvia shook her head. "What's our job?"

"We have to find out what it is," Ms. Madison told her new colleague. "And put a stop to it. No matter what it takes. The last liner came in with twelve passengers missing. All types and classes."

"Any pattern?" Lady Sylvia leaned forward.

"Yes," Ms. Madison shot back. "They were all passengers on a trans-Atlantic cruise."