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Svetlana – 12: Payback

As I approached I greeted her in Serbian.
“Good Afternoon Libena.”
She looked at me a little curiously. “Good Afternoon. Tell me what is in my bag, please.”
I smiled. “Five ten-pound notes, ten one-pound coins, a phone-card, a handkerchief..”
“Stop!” she said, “You are wrong!” She looked at my surprised face, then burst out laughing.
“Only four ten-pound notes. I bought nice perfume this morning!”
She moved forward, stretched up and kissed my cheek, before standing back and looking at me.

This is the final chapter in Book 1 of my serialized story. You may wish to read the previous chapter 1st: 11: Refuge.
The menu ‘Svetlana’, in the left sidebar contains links to all chapters. A similar menu can be found at the bottom of the post.

This story tells of a man who has adopted a life of helping homeless and vulnerable girls, and of waging a dark and ruthless private war on the human traffickers and criminals who prey on them. His chance encounter with a young Serbian woman, and his experience of her growing unconditional love for him, reveal to him that emotionally, he is as broken and beaten as the girls he is trying to help.

Warning: The story contains adult subject matter, several explicit scenes of an intimate sexual nature, descriptions of human jeopardy, and is not suitable for minors, or those who are easily offended.

« 11: Refuge

The Carlson Imperative
Book 1: Svetlana Curuvija
© 2010 J.W.Brown

Chapter 12: Payback

It was nearly lunch time. I left Svetlana and Katrina sipping coffee and headed for the garage. I picked up my vest and bag from the Cosworth, and entered the ‘waiting’ room. I looked at my watch, then unloaded ice and lemon from the ‘fridge into a glass, cracked a fresh bottle of tonic open and sloshed in the Gin.

I took a large gulp, put down the glass and picked up the bag. The neat hole through the tough leather shoulder strap reminded me of how close Vasilov had come to making Zee’s worse fears become reality. I poured the contents of my bag onto the table, then sat back and looked at the haul, sipping the G & T.

There were bundles of high denomination Pounds, Euros and Dollars. There was a thick wad of very high denomination Euro bearer bonds and finally a small chamois leather pouch. I undid the lacing, and tipped the contents carefully onto the table.

Twenty or so beautifully cut large diamonds winked up at me.
I let out a whistle. Then got to work.
15 minutes later I had some totals. There was just over two-hundred thousand pounds in the currencies, nearly two and a half million Dollars in the bearer bonds, and I estimated the large diamonds would fetch around forty-thousand pounds.

I finished off my G & T, got out a Torx driver from the toolbox and headed out into the garage. The house heating and air-conditioning control unit was a 19-inch rack cabinet, comprising two 6U units. I turned off the power, and releasing the bottom unit pulled it forward. I removed the top panel and exposed the empty rear of the fully functional unit. I returned to the waiting room, gathered up the booty, and carefully fitted it into the rack unit, then replacing the panel, returned the unit back into the cabinet and re-secured the screws. Finally I switched the unit back on.

I went back to the waiting room and removed the two DVDs from my tunic pocket and smashed them to smithereens with a small hammer, dumping the plastic shards in the bin. I took out Vasilov’s pistol and my own, and placed them in the small wall-safe.

I heard her come in behind me, and smelt her soft but very distinct perfume. I turned. “Hi Zee.”
Her eyes were bright and she smiled. “Tidying up?”
“Just about done.” I smiled at her.
“Let me see.” she said, her face more solemn.
“What? – your damned shoulder, that’s what!”
She shouted the last words at me. I said nothing, but unbuttoned my shirt and slid it over my left shoulder. “There’s nothing to see Zee, I’m fine.”
She stared at the small elastoplast on my shoulder, then looked into my eyes. “Another six inches to the left and you wouldn’t be here.” There were tears rolling down her cheeks.
“Hey.” I said, and cuddled her. “Everything’s fine. I will always come back to you, please believe me.”
She stepped back a little. “I try to, but sometimes it’s very hard.”

She picked up my shoulder bag from the table and fingered the hole in the strap, then looked up at me. I nodded. “That, and the vest, stopped the bullet from doing any real damage.”
She brushed the remaining tears from her eyes. “You’re forgiven – this time.”
I laughed. “Thank you. Did you come down here just to check me out?”
She nodded smiling. “Mostly, but I wanted to thank you for talking to Tomas.”
“About what?”
“You know what. About my feelings for you.”
“Did Tomas tell you that?”
She shook her head. “No, but I detect your sure, but gentle touch, in the change in his attitude.”
“Is everything OK?”
She smiled happily at me. “Everything is better than it’s been in a long while.”
I picked up the laptop and diary and took her hand. “I’m glad Zee, so glad you are both happy. Shall we check on the Terrible Two from Titov Vrbas?”
She laughed, and we headed back to the basement.

I opened the door for Zee to the sound of loud music, and we stood in awe, watching as the two beautiful sisters danced around the room with each other, both yelling ‘I Like It’ at the top of their voices. Constanza was sat, her plastered foot up on the sofa, watching them both, clapping her hands and laughing. The amplifier was cranked up almost full, and there was evidence on the table, apart from the Gerry Marsden LP that was already playing, that they had begun a systematic trawl through my old vinyl collection.

Zee turned to me laughing. “So much for ‘taking it easy’ Joe.”
I shook my head, smiling at her. “What do I know?”
We turned and watched the girls, and when the track finished I said. “Anyone for lunch?”

The girls were drifting into the kitchen as we arrived in the day room. Zee pushed Constanza’s wheel chair to the table and Patricia removed a seat to make room for it. Lizzie was sat at the table beside Anna, and smiled sweetly at me as we all sat down.
There was curiosity of course, as always when there were new arrivals, and after the main course, Zee stood up and introduced Katrina and Constanza to the rest of the girls. There were enthusiastic smiles and nods from the current residents, and a more muted and shy response from the two newcomers.

After lunch I sat down on one of the sofas and watched a process of which I never tired. All of our girls had been hurt, in one way or another, and all of them recognised that. Generally there was total empathy, mixed with a natural curiosity. Sometimes there was angst as new friendships were formed, and current ones diluted. Rarely though, did we have any real problems with jealousy, but the staff on these occasions were still particularly wary.

I loved her even more as I saw the skilful and considerate way Svetlana immediately invited Lizzie to sit with her and Katrina, and it became obvious that Katrina was as struck with Lizzie’s brooding beauty, as Lizzie was with Katrina’s uncanny resemblance to her beautiful sister.

Constanza too, drew attention, her very real frailty bringing out the strong mothering instincts in some of the older girls. One of the Spanish girls who had been practising learning Portuguese with Zee, had taken charge, and I was glad, because as I watched her, I could see Zee looked very tired.

I walked over to her. “What are your sleeping arrangements going to be?”
She looked up as I sat down opposite.
“We’ve put two single beds in..”
I laughed “It’s OK. Until you think of another name let’s call it Constanza’s room.”
She smiled with relief. “Well, I know she can’t be on her own at the moment.”
I nodded. “Yes, I agree. How does Tomas feel?”
She smiled. “He’s happy. He knows it’s short-term.”
“What does he think of her?”
She looked at me curiously. “You don’t miss much do you?”
I laughed, then added more seriously. “Zee. Be careful. Until we know her circumstances, there can be no plans regarding her future.”
“I know. I’ve told him that. It’s just..”
“Yes. It’s just that she is the daughter that you have both always wanted. I understand. We’ll make it a priority to find out as much as we can about her as quickly as possible.”

I wandered into the kitchen, and re-filled my glass with Connie’s lemonade, then headed back to my seat. I sipped the drink, and shortly Patricia sat down beside me.

“Did you know I’m leaving tomorrow Joe?”
I nodded. “How do you feel about that?”
She shook her head. “At first I was so glad. The foster parents are lovely, but I’m going to miss everyone here terribly.”
“Have you changed your mind?” I said gently. “You are allowed to, you know.”
“No..” she paused. “No, I know I can’t stay here forever, much as I would want to.”
“How far away do they live?”
“That’s not far.” I said “You can easily come and see us whenever you want.”
She looked at me hopefully. “Whenever I want?”
I nodded. “Yes, whenever. We will always be glad to see you.”

“They have enrolled me in a local school,” she said “but I would like to visit at the weekends.”
“What are your plans long term? Have you thought about what you would like to do work-wise?”
She looked across at Jane. “I would like to do what Jane does.”
I smiled. “That’s excellent. Because already, you have been doing just that in the last few weeks, and we are very happy with the help you have given with some of the other girls.”
She blushed slightly. I continued. “If you like, we will log your visits as work experience, and I’ll arrange that your travel costs are refunded, plus £5.00 an hour for the time you are here.”
She began to protest “I don’t want any money..”
I laughed. “If you want to go to college later on, any extra you can save now will be really useful, so please consider it.”
She smiled. “Thanks. Thanks very much.”

I looked at her and remembered her appearance and demeanour when she had first been brought to us by one of the other Refuges, who at the time had no space.
“When are they coming for you?”
“Around six tomorrow evening.” she said. “Will you be here?”
I smiled “Yes. It would be nice to see them.”
“To check them out?” she laughed.
“Well, that’s been done already. No, mostly just to see you will be OK.”
She nodded.
I said quietly. “I’m going to ask you a couple of questions. If you don’t want to answer, that’s fine. OK?”
She nodded. “Yes, go ahead.”
“How do you feel about what happened to you?”
She smiled sadly. “At the time I blamed myself. Now I realise that none of it was my fault, and that he was just a very sick person.”
I nodded “Good. And how do you feel about men generally?”
She paused before answering. “A little wary.”
Again I nodded. “That’s not a bad way to feel. You will be OK.”
She looked straight into my eyes. “If they were all like you Joe, I would have no problems at all.”
It was my turn to blush, and I smiled at her. “You flatterer! But thanks for the compliment.”
“I mean it.” she said quietly, “You are a lovely man. All of the girls are a little bit in love with you.”

“Thank you.” I said.
“The reason I asked how you felt was that sometimes a really bad experience can eat away at your insides like acid. You have used the understanding and insight your terrible experience has given you, to help others. That makes you very special. If in the future, you would like to work here full-time, we’d be very glad to have you.”

She took me by surprise. She leaned forward, put her hand to my cheek, and kissed me briefly, but fully, on the lips, then she gave me a lovely smile. “Thank you. Thank you for everything.”

I grinned “You are very welcome.”

She got up and went into the kitchen. There were a group of girls standing close to the kitchen door who were looking at me and giggling amongst themselves, and I realised that Patricia had set me up with the kiss, probably for a dare. I shook my head and smiled as they looked at me, and several burst into laughter.

I got up and made my way to where Svetlana was sat. I bent down and kissed her, causing giggles amongst some of the girls around us.
“I have to go out.” I said. “But I’ll be back around five-thirty. Is everything alright?”
“Lovely man.” she said. “Everything fine. We are all very happy.” then a look of concern crossed her face. “You not going into danger?”
I shook my head and grinned “Nothing like that. Just returning a car I borrowed.”
She visibly relaxed. “OK Good. We see you for tea then.”

I crossed the room and told Zee what I was doing, then headed back downstairs.

I walked up Praed street to W.H Smiths and poured over the large CD collection until I found what I wanted, then chose a pretty Birthday card with no greeting, and headed back to the basement. I made a couple of calls, one to a caterer, the other to the local Italian Restaurant, then set off in the Cosworth.

The journey to and from Waltham Abbey was uneventful, and I had felt a pang of regret that I had to return the Cosworth. I made sure that everything in ‘Grace and Pride’ was in order and left the vehicle keys on the table, before walking briskly to the M3 with the heavy holdall.

Back home in the garage, I added my weapon and Vasilov’s to the holdall and locked them in the safe, then made my way back to the basement. I sat down at the desk, pulled on a pair of latex gloves and opened up the diary. It was mostly written in Cyrillic text, but since the content was largely names, addresses, dates and times, I had no problem reading any of it. Anger welled in me as I saw Katrina’s name, that of Constanza and also Libena, together with several of those on the list of girls names Svetlana had given me.

My anger this time wasn’t directed at Vasilov, but at the long list of pederasts documented in the diary.

I got up and made myself a coffee, then sat back in my chair and pondered. The diary was undoubtedly dynamite. There were several prominent names and addresses. Trouble is, I realised that if I handed it over to the police, a long lengthy investigation would ensue, dragging in the girls to corroborate evidence, with no guarantee of a suitable outcome. I wanted more.

I opened the laptop and switched it on. There was no password protection, and I browsed freely amongst the various spreadsheets and letters I found. It became apparent that the girls were being traded using a bogus Escort Agency as a front. If the diary was dynamite, the laptop with it’s detailed payments and credit-card numbers was weapon-grade plutonium. All I needed was a delivery system, and every nasty little pervert named would be finished – for good.

First things first. I scanned every used page of the diary onto my PC, and printed out a copy to ensure that every page was readable. Next I re-partitioned the spare hard-drive in my PC and connecting a transfer cable, made an exact copy of the laptop’s hard-disk contents, checking everything was copied successfully.

I poured over the diary copy and made copious notes on it. One girl’s name stood out as a possible candidate – Libena. She had apparently been much in demand, but even better, several of her ‘clients’ were well-known members of the London socialite clique.

Again I sat back in my chair and pondered. I would have to find her again – quick, before any trail grew cold.
I looked at my watch, then made some ‘phone calls. I was becoming despondent as each Refuge manager in turn had greeted me, confirming they had taken in some of the girls but no-one called Libena. Then the last on my list turned up trumps.

Charlotte Craven had greeted me warmly. “Joe. Lovely to hear from you. How are things – you are busy?”
I laughed. “Yeah fairly, we took in a couple of girls this morning. How about you?”
“Us too.” she said. “I managed to take in four, but we had to squeeze them two to a room. Do you know anything about what the Hell went on during the night?”
I dodged the question. “I expect we’ll hear the ‘official’ version on the six-o’clock news.”
“Yes, I suppose so, but I’m intensely curious.” She paused. “Anyway, what can I do for you?”
“Well, Charlotte it’s about the girls you took in actually. I’m trying to trace the whereabouts of a girl called Libena Krotovski.”
She laughed. “That’s easy. She’s here with us.”
I breathed out slowly. “Ah. Good. Is it possible to speak to her? One of her friends is staying with us, and wants to contact her.”
“Don’t see why not Joe. To be honest, despite what she’s been through, she seems remarkably resilient. Hang on, I’ll get her for you.”

I realised the risk I was taking, but the stakes were too high to ignore. A few minutes went by.

“Hello. Mr. Carlson?”
“Hi Libena. Is there anyone in the room with you?”
There was a pause. “No, Miss Craven has just left closing door. Do I know you?”
“Can I ask you a couple of questions first, then we can talk freely?” I said.
“OK.” she sounded puzzled.
I continued in Serbian “Would you like to put an end to what has happened to you, by helping me to bring the men who abused you to justice?”
There was no hesitation, she almost spat the reply. “Those bastards? Yes.”
“I can promise you won’t be identified, but I would like you to talk to a reporter.”

There was another pause, then she said softly. “You are him, aren’t you?”

I knew what she meant. “Yes.” I said quietly. “Can I trust you to keep my secret?”
“For you I will do this.” she said “And tell no-one who you are.”
“Good, Libena. You are a brave girl. How do you feel?”

“Much, much better, thanks to you. When do you want me to talk?”
“First of all, I’d like to go through the diary I have with you. Would you be OK to do that?”
“Yes.” she said emphatically. “Just say when.”
“Could we meet tomorrow? Perhaps for lunch, then we could take a walk in the park and talk?”
“Yes. That is good.”

“OK Libena. I’ll come for you tomorrow. Leave the refuge at 12 o’clock, and I’ll make myself known to you just outside. If you are in any doubt, ask me a question about Wednesday morning when I greet you. OK?”
She said quietly “Good. I will do that.”
“And thanks very much for helping me.” I said.
She laughed. “No Mr. Carlson. I thank you.”
We said our goodbyes and I hung up.

I took another look at my watch, then got out one of the spare pre-paid mobiles, slipped on the muffler device I’d bought, and dialled the Guardian sub-editor’s number.
His P.A. answered. “Andrew Donaldson’s office. Who’s calling please?”

“He will know me as Daniel.” I said. I’m a C.I. Please get him for me, I have information related to the police raids last night.”

“One moment sir.” she said. There was a click and a brief pause, then his broad Lanarkshire accent boomed down the ‘phone.
“Daniel! Nice to hear from you. I gather you have something for me, but before that, thanks very, very much for your last contribution. As you no doubt already know, we used the information wisely.”
He paused, and I answered “You are welcome. I’ll come straight to the point. If I put a laptop and diary in your hands documenting the sale of under-age girls sexual services to several prominent men in London, what would you do?”
He answered immediately. “Well, there’s the question of provenance.”

“OK” I said, “I thought you would say that. What if I add in a full and detailed interview by one of your staff, with one of the girls named in the diary, and who was rescued last night?”
“We’d publish.” he said without hesitation. “Conditions?”

“The identity of the girl is strictly protected and for corroboration purposes only. You must make no attempt to locate her whereabouts.” I said.
“No problem. I can guarantee that. Why haven’t you placed this material in the hands of the police?”

I laughed quietly. “You know why. It will take them weeks, and involve exposing all of the girls to endless questions.”
“Have I exclusive?” he said.
“Of course. I will give you the original laptop and diary. When you have copied the contents, at some point you can pass it on to the police.”
“Yeah. They will probably demand it anyway.”
“That’s OK.” I said. “They can’t drag their feet then.”
“What’s in this for you?” he asked.
“You should know better.” I said. “I want nothing other than you publish as quickly as possible, and the girl is not named – to anyone.”
“Sorry.” he said “I should have know by now. I didn’t mean to give offence.”
“None taken.” I said. “Can you provide a female reporter for around 3 pm tomorrow?”

“Our features editor is a smart young woman. I don’t want to trust this to just anyone.” he replied. “Her name is Sam Johnson.” he read out a mobile number. “Call her yourself to arrange where you want to meet. I’ll talk to her myself now, as soon as we are done.”

I laughed “Not far to go. The girl will be escorted by another young woman, who you must promise not to try and identify. The girl in question is Serbian, and although her English is excellent, I’m arranging an interpreter for you who I can trust.”
“You have my word Daniel.” he said.
I believed him. So far he had been completely trustworthy, plus open and honest with me in the past.

“You will have the laptop and diary by courier at your reception desk within two hours. This will give you a chance to work on them before the interview tomorrow.”
“Excellent!” he exclaimed.
“I’ll talk to you tomorrow afternoon, after you have had a chance to discuss matters with Ms. Johnson, in case you need anything clarifying.”
“Good. And thanks again Daniel. No chance of any background on what happened during the night?”
I laughed. “You don’t miss a chance do you?”
He laughed “You can’t blame me for asking.”

“Andrew. What I’m sending you will blow last night’s incidents onto the back page or beyond. There are dates, times, names, addresses, telephone numbers, VISA card numbers – all of over two hundred men. Have you heard enough?”
“Christ!” he said. “I can’t wait. Thanks.”
“You are welcome. Bye for now.” I said and hung up.

I ‘phoned Katya. She did not hesitate to agree when I told her of my intentions, and I told her I’d ring early tomorrow with a location to meet.

I called Tomas, asked him to get himself ready for a bike ride, and that I would be riding pillion, then cleaned both the laptop and diary with an alcohol wipe, put them into a large Jiffy bag, and addressed it. I took the SIM card out of the mobile, picked up the Jiffy bag and went though to the garage, where I wrapped a piece of paper around the SIM and smashed it to smithereens with a hammer, sprinkling the pieces into the dustbin, as Tomas came in from upstairs.

“We are going to the Guardian Editorial Offices.” I said.
He nodded. “OK.”
“When we get there I want you to stop a hundred yards or so away from the main door and prying eyes. Then sit with the engine running, I’ll be straight in and out with the parcel.”
He smiled though the visor. “Will do.”

I put the Jiffy bag into my shoulder pouch and donned my leather jacket, a pair of heavy sun-shades and the helmet, then opened the garage doors as Tomas started the bike. I pulled myself up behind him. He gunned the engine, and we turned into the mews.

Svetlana saw me enter the day room. She got up and walked across to meet me, putting her arms around my neck and gently kissing me. “I worry.”
“Why?” I whispered softly. “I would not lie to you. I have not been in danger.”
She held on to me but moved her head back, and her lovely blue-green eyes focused on mine. “I know when you do things.” she said simply.
I smiled at her. “Yes. I know you do, because you are a very perceptive young lady. I will tell you, but later. And you must tell no-one else.”
She smiled “I promise.” She kissed me again. “We have tea now?”
I nodded. “Then would you like to walk? Just you and I?”
“Yes plis. Very much. I miss you with all activity.”
“And me you. Let’s have some tea.”

We joined the other girls in the kitchen and sat down. There was still a buzz of excitement amongst the girls regarding Katrina and Constanza, and as I looked around the room I was happy to see the newcomers had been made so welcome.

Just before six, I took my cup of tea and sat down in the day room in front of our small TV. It was the third item on the news.

“Acting on information received, Police entered a house in Hampstead in the early hours of this morning to discover the bodies of several men. A large quantity of drugs were also found on the premises. Police would neither confirm nor deny the rumour that the house belonged to a member of the Russian Mafia, but have said that they believe the deaths are the work of a rival drugs gang.

In a separate incident Police were called to an address in Hackney where they found 12 young girls, who had apparently been kept prisoner for some time. The girls, all under-age, have been found temporary homes by social services. The bodies of two men were also discovered at the scene. Police will not confirm that the incidents are linked, and said that ‘inquiries are on-going’.”

Two hands gently touched my cheeks from behind the sofa, and she kissed my head before walking around and sitting beside me.

“You heard?” I said, turning the TV off.
She smiled. “Mostly. You are drugs gang?”
I turned quickly to look at her, but she was laughing.
I grinned. “Apparently so.”
She leant over and kissed me. “Good Police don’t know Avenging Angel.”
“It is.” I nodded. “Walk?”
“Yes plis.”

Katrina looked up and smiled at us both as we approached the group of girls around her. Svetlana told her we were going for a walk. She got up and put her arms around my neck and kissed my cheek and said slowly in Serbian “Thank you again, Joe. I am so very, very happy.”
I grinned at her. “It is my pleasure. We won’t be long.”

We stepped outside into the early evening sunshine. It was still warm, but a light breeze was blowing, just enough to keep the temperature pleasant.

“The park?” she asked.
“Yes, if you want.”
“I do.” she said, and took my hand.

We had walked slowly around the park as I told her about the diary and laptop and what I’d found in them. She had simply nodded when I told her that I had found and contacted Libena, and arranged an interview with the newspaper, and that I had made copies of both the diary and the laptop hard disk and sent these to the editor. I had bought two ice creams and we were sat on a bench watching the children before she spoke.

“She is good girl. Very strong, and will not betray you. This man at paper – you have given him other stories?”

“But he doesn’t know who you are?”
I laughed. “No, and I hope he never finds out.”
She squeezed my hand and said quietly in Serbian “You tell me that you have not put yourself in danger, but I saw your face after lunch and knew you were contemplating risk. These people at the newspaper. Can you trust them?”

I nodded. “Yes. He’s a journalist. He won’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg.”
She laughed. My Serbian version of the old saying had translated badly, but she understood.

She said quietly. “You are going to bring Libena to stay with us, aren’t you?”
I nodded, still a little surprised at how easily she knew what was in my mind. “Yes. It is the only way to protect her. Do you mind?”
She grinned. “No! I like her very much. And Katrina – they are close.”
“Good. I’m glad.”
She squeezed my hand again. “Take me back and we make love now plis.” she said quietly.
“Yes.” I said. “I will.”

I had guessed that she wasn’t ready for a fuss. So I’d had Anna creep into her room early and place the card and CD at the foot of her bed, so she would see them as soon as she woke. I’d located the words on the Web for her special song, and printed them on the inside of the Birthday Card, and had most of the staff sign the card before sealing the envelope.

It was just before ten when I’d gone up to the day room with Svetlana and Katrina, and as we entered, I heard Lizzie’s lovely voice singing her song, along with The Rankin Sisters. Although all of the girls were there, no-one spoke, just listening to the beautiful song, and the haunting accompaniment by The Chieftains.

Raghadsa chun coille agus caithfead an chuid eile
San áit ná beidh éinne, ag éisteacht le ceol na n-éan
Ag bun an chrainn chaorthainn mar a bhfásann ann féar go leor
Ag tabhairt taitnimh don duine úd, sé Jimmy mó mhíle stór

He’s the fondest of lovers, sweet Jimmy mó mhíle stór

Svetlana stood beside me captivated. “That song – she sings most times, it is so lovely!”
She gripped my hand as she shivered with emotion.

Lizzie came over to us when the song finished, holding the card in her hand. She stood in front of me and held out her arms. I bent down and kissed her cheek, then whispered “Happy Birthday Lizzie. Did you like your present?”
She folded her arms around my neck and kissed my ear. “It is lovely. Anna told me. How did you know?”
She let me go and I stood up straight. “Your Ma told me that your Dad was Irish, and his favourite band were the Chieftains. I thought you would enjoy listening to it again.”
She flashed her small white teeth in a lovely smile. “I do. Thank you.”
Svetlana and Katrina each gave her a cuddle, and we found a seat together. The rest of the CD played on, the Chieftains lovely music filled the room, and Lizzie’s face was a picture of delight.
We sat and chatted, then I excused myself just before 10:30 am and made my way back downstairs.

He sat down as I poured Gin over the ice and lemon into the two tumblers, and sloshed in the tonic.
I pushed a glass towards him and sat down opposite.
We raised the glasses, clinked, and drank.

“A nice, neat job Joe. Thanks.”
I smiled. “You’re more than welcome.”
“How is the girl?”
“Surprisingly good. Still excited at seeing her big sister again. No doubt more tears will come later.”
He nodded and sipped the G & T.
“I extracted an 11 year-old Portuguese girl from Vasilov’s bed George.” I said mildly.
“Jesus Christ!” he exclaimed, shaking his head. He reached for the bottle, and topped up our glasses.
“Tell me he is gone.” I said.
“Minced, and feeding the fish off Southend.”
I nodded. “Good.”

He took a sip of his drink and asked quietly. “How did you know about the stapler?”
“I went to see her.”
“I tried to protect you..” he began, but I interrupted.
“I know, and I thank you. I just wanted to see her again.”
“Jesus Joe. Why haven’t you said anything?”
“You had your own grief to deal with.”
He nodded. There was a pause as we both drank slowly.

“Was that his own..”
“Staple gun? Yes.”
He nodded his head. “A fitting refinement.”
“I thought so too.” I replied.
He looked at me. “What if you hadn’t found it?”
I looked into his steady grey eyes. “I took one with me.”

He nodded slowly and changed the subject. “Thanks for the bonus of the laptop and notebook.”
“Useful?” I asked.

“The notebook has been translated by our team and the transcription given to the Drug Squad. They are arresting his contacts as we speak.”

He paused. “The laptop was encrypted but we have already broken some of the codes. It details several well-placed FSB operatives, as well as a mine of other information. The Russians are going to be very upset. If for nothing else, your raid would have been worthwhile for that alone.”

I nodded. “Good. And talking about the FSB, have you seen these before?”
I took the small polythene bag from my pocket and emptied the remaining rounds from Vasilov’s gun onto the table.
Dearby picked one up, turning it between his fingers.
“Unfortunately,” he said “We are seeing more and more of these. The Russians are equipping their army with them, and now their agents. Next, they’ll be selling them on the street.”
I took out the spent round and held it up.
“You took one?” he said, raising his eyebrows.
I nodded. “Thak dug it out of my shoulder. It went straight through the vest like a hot knife through butter.”
He nodded. “Nasty.” He waved the live round slightly as he spoke. “With sufficient velocity, the payload will cut through concrete, heavy steel, you name it.”
I topped up our glasses, this time with tonic and only a little more Gin.
“I’ve put Vasilov’s MP-443 in with the other ordnance. The only weapon we discharged is 8 rounds short and I’ve tagged it.”
“Good.” he said “I’ll have it destroyed.”
He took another sip of his drink. “Did you find enough loose change to cover your expenses?”

I nodded. “A bonus for the guys, and sufficient for substantial donations to two other charities, as well as our Refuge.”
“Good. I’m glad the op paid for itself.”
He sat back.
“There’s just one more thing I think you should know.” I said.
He smiled. “I thought there might be. But do I really have to know?”
I laughed. “OK. I’ll spare you the details. I recovered all of the records regarding the girls from the house in Hackney. All the clients names, addresses, credit card numbers, the whole works.”
“Jesus! Anyone prominent?”
“Several. There are over two hundred men named.”

He looked steadily at me. “Don’t waste time with the police. Do what you did a few months ago, and sink every last perverted bastard, by giving the stuff to the Press.”
I nodded, and he laughed again. “You already have? Good for you.”
There was a pause.

“Do you want a look around?“ I asked, “It’s been over three years.”
He smiled. “Thanks, but not today. I know Cynthia would like to see you, so maybe I could give you a call?”
“Of course.” I nodded. “I’d be delighted.”

We both stood and shook hands. He made a call on his mobile, and I picked up the heavy holdall I had beside me, and walked him to the garage doors. I pressed the button and the doors rolled up slowly.
His ‘taxi’ appeared and he picked up the holdall, turned and winked at me, then got in. The taxi pulled away, and I closed the garage doors and headed back to my basement.

I had just finished making a pot of coffee when the ‘phone rang.
I picked it up. “Good Morning. Joe Carlson.”

“Ah, Mr. Carlson. Good Morning.” The voice was slow and deliberate, and very Welsh.
“I’m Sergeant Nevett of the Bala Police.”

“Good Morning Sergeant. I’ve been expecting a call.”

“Yes.” he said, “I expect you have. We interviewed a Mrs. Davies early this morning regarding her missing daughter Brangwen. Can you talk?”

“Yes, of course.”

“I’ve made some inquiries about your Refuge, and it’s very highly thought of, so I don’t doubt your credentials. Can you briefly describe how Brangwen came to be staying at the Refuge?”

I told him. I also told him we knew her as Lizzie, not Brangwen. He listened without interrupting as I explained that it was only in the last three days that she had been able to tell us what had happened, and had given us her Mother’s name and address.

“I gather that it was you who advised Mrs. Davies to contact us, Mr. Carlson. Did you manage to get any information from her?”

I sighed. “Only that she finally realised that her daughter had told her the truth, that her boyfriend was sexually abusing her daughter, but that she hadn’t reported him, nor notified you of her being missing.”

“Yes. That ties in with what she has said to us Mr. Carlson. How is the girl?”

“Physically she is fine. We had a doctor check her shortly after arrival, and she found minor tearing and abrasions, but nothing that won’t heal. Mentally is another story. As you can imagine her confidence, especially with men, has been shattered, but I’m glad to say she’s improving day by day.”

“Would you say she is fit enough to rejoin her mother?”

I paused.”It’s my opinion that her confidence in her mother has been damaged as well. The girl herself would like to talk to her mother here in London, before she makes any decision.”

“That doesn’t surprise me. Are you happy to continue looking after her until such time as she may be ready to return?”

“We are. I have also offered Mrs. Davies her fare to and from London, and free accommodation so that they can meet. The only condition I imposed, was that she report matters to you first.”

“It’s a dreadful business, and thank you for your insistence that she talk to us. I have men out looking for the nasty little shit as we speak.”

“Will Mrs. Davies face charges?”

“Well, of course we could charge her, but as you may have already gathered Mr. Carlson, she isn’t very bright, and we tend to try not to punish people for their lack of mental acuity.”

“I’m glad. The poor woman has probably suffered enough.”

“Yes.” he said. “Mind you, the Social Services take a dim view of what they see as criminal negligence. So that is all still up in the air.”

“If the girl can’t go back to her mother, then we are happy to take care of her.”

“I’ve informed the local Social Services Mr. Carlson. They may want to talk to you, or possibly come and see you.”

I had the impression that he’d said all that he was going to.
“OK Sergeant Nevett. Thanks for your help and understanding. I hope you catch the child rapist as soon as possible.”

“Thank you Mr. Carlson. Good Day sir.” he hung up.

I was a few minutes early. Police take a dim view of men hanging around women’s refuges, so I took a walk down Handley Road, returning via Southborough Road, just in time to see her leaving Charlotte Craven’s 3-story house. She wore a crumpled skimpy dress, and had cheap trainers on her feet. One of Zee’s little bags hung over her shoulder.

She looked around. Across the street from her was a young man in a striped tee-shirt, and a little behind him a women pushing a baby-carriage. She turned and saw me walking towards her and came to meet me. As I approached I greeted her in Serbian.
“Good Afternoon Libena.”
She looked at me a little curiously. “Good Afternoon. Tell me what is in my bag, please.”
I smiled. “Five ten-pound notes, ten one-pound coins, a phone-card, a handkerchief..”
“Stop!” she said, “You are wrong!” She looked at my surprised face, then burst out laughing.
“Only four ten-pound notes. I bought nice perfume this morning!”
She moved forward, stretched up and kissed my cheek, before standing back and looking at me.
“You are handsome man. Much better than last night!”
I shook my head and smiled. “Thank you. Shall we eat?”
“Yes.” she said. “I am hungry.”

We headed down the road and into “The Broken Chain.”
At the bar she looked at the menu and asked for lemonade and a ham salad. I nodded to the young barman. “I’ll have the same please.” I paid, waited for the drinks, and we sat down.

She was very easy to be with, bright and cheerful, and remained so as she recounted how she had ended up a prisoner.
I had stopped her at one point and asked her how she remained so cheerful, despite what had happened.
She pointed with both hands to her body. “They make prisoner and use this” she said, then pointing to her head with her right hand “But cannot use this, and that is where I really am.”
I looked into her brave and pretty face, with not a trace of self-pity in it, and I felt greatly humbled.

The salads came, and I was reminded of Svetlana, as I watched her attack the meal with evident relish. We finished with some fruit and cream, then two coffees.
She went to the Loo, and when she returned I said. “A walk in the park suit you?”
She nodded, and we left and walked down onto Gore Road, and into the park.

We found an unoccupied bench in the bright sunshine and sat down. I tapped the A4 folder I carried. “Are you ready for this?”
“Sure.” she said easily, so I took out the copy of the diary.
She hadn’t seen it before. I said “Are you sure?”
She said nothing but took the stapled pages. I’d marked in highlighter the entries with her name, and I sat quietly as she thumbed through the diary. For the first time since I’d seen her, I saw tears in her eyes. I suddenly felt heartless and cruel.

She finally rested the diary on her knees. I reached across and closed it. “I am so sorry.” I said. “I have asked too much of you.”
She looked up at me, unashamed of her tears, but her eyes pleaded. I put the diary down beside me and wrapped her in my arms. She put her arms around my neck and wept uncontrollably.

Her sobs drew attention from strangers passing, but my warning looks moved them on quickly. Eventually she had calmed, but still clung to me. Then she spoke in my ear. “You are first man I want to hold me. For you and other girls I will do what you ask. We will destroy these perverts?”
I nodded. She released me and I took out a clean tissue and gently wiped her face.
“Are you sure?” I said.
“Yes. Very. Tell me what to do.”

“OK.” I said. “Shortly, we will be meeting a young lady called Katya. She is Serbian, from Smederevo, and she is a good friend of mine. She is there to help and support you when you meet the journalist.”

“You will not be there?”

I smiled. “It is very important that this journalist does not find out my name, nor even know of my existence.”

She nodded. “Of course. I am silly.”
I shook my head. “No, you are not. You are very brave.”
She smiled at me, and I continued.

“The journalist is a lady called Samantha Johnson, and she is the features editor of The Guardian newspaper. She already has a copy of this diary, but she doesn’t yet know who you are. When you meet, simply tell her your name, and she will want to ask you to confirm some of the times and dates where you are mentioned in this diary. If, and only if you want to, you can tell her anything else you consider relevant about any of the men that you have met. She will not pressure you in any way.”

I paused, waiting for her to absorb the implications of what I was asking.

She nodded. “I understand. I can do this.”

I continued. “Your name, and the names of the other girls will not be published, only a code letter for each girl’s name will be used by the reporter. Also, I’ve been assured that no attempt will be made to question you further in the future, unless you wish it so.”

Again I paused. She smiled at me, the tears all gone.
“I am ready.”

I said “Wait. I have just one more thing to say before we meet this reporter. There is always a risk that someone will find out who you are and where you are staying. People are very good at putting two and two together and making five.”
She laughed at my dry joke, then added seriously. “They may pester me?”
I nodded “It is a possibility. You can still say no. I will understand.”
She looked at me thoughtfully. “You know where Svetlana, Katrina and Constanza are?”
I nodded “Yes. They are safe at my Young Women’s Refuge.”
“Can I be with them? Will I be safe then? Is that possible?”
I smiled. “If that is what you want, of course you can join them.”
She nodded vigorously “Yes. I do. That is what I want.”

I looked at my watch. “OK. A short walk from here is a small hotel. I’ve booked a room and the journalist is waiting there. Katya will be waiting in the lobby for my ‘phone call. I’ll phone her now, and she’ll meet us on the way, and walk you back to the hotel to meet the journalist. When the interview is over, I’ll see you both back at that pub we were in earlier. How does that sound?”

She smiled. “It sounds good. And then will you take me to Svetlana?”

I nodded. “Yes. I will talk to Miss Craven before we meet in the pub. You and I will return to her Refuge and get your things. She will be more than happy for you to join your friends – she has no more room, and will probably be glad of the help.”

I got out my mobile and called Katya. She greeted me and we arranged she would walk down Gore Road to meet us.

I put the mobile back in my pocket and we both got up and started walking. She took my hand and squeezed it, not letting go until she put her arms around Katya and kissed her.

I stood by smiling at them as they fired questions at each other in rapid colloquial Serbian I couldn’t fathom, then we walked slowly up Gore Road toward the hotel. A few hundred yards from the entrance I stopped and spoke.
“Be careful, both of you. Don’t tell her anything you don’t want her to know. She will be fair, but very clever, so bear that in mind.”

I turned to Libena. “You can still say no. Are you OK to go ahead?”
She nodded and smiled “Yes Joe.”

“Good.” I said “I’ll see you both in ‘The Broken Chain’ when you’re finished.”
I kissed them both, then re-traced my steps down Gore Road and into the park. I got out the mobile and ‘phoned Charlotte Craven.

“Hi Joe. Second time in one week! What will people think?” she laughed.
“It’s about Libena. She has asked if she can join her friend at my Refuge. How do you feel about that?”
“Have you any space? I thought you were full?”
“A girl is leaving today. We have one room.”
“Well Joe. To be honest, I’d think it a favour. I’m chancing my arm with the law about overcrowding. If she’s happy, then so am I.”
“Thanks Charlotte. I’ll bring her back round to pick up her things a little later, if that’s OK.”
“Great. Will you have a cup of tea with me?”
I laughed “Yeah. Of course.”
“See you then Joe. Bye for now” she said and hung up.

I switched off the M3’s engine, and turned to Libena.
“We’re here.”
She grinned and we both got out of the car.
Katya wasn’t long following us, and after she parked the little Micra, I closed the garage doors and we headed for the basement.
“Would you like to freshen up before you meet the girls Libena?”
She was standing just inside the door, looking around.
She smiled. “Yes please, Joe.”
I grabbed fresh towels from the airer, and lead her into my bedroom, showing her where everything was.
She carried everything she owned in a small carrier bag, and although her dress was clean, it was shabby.
“Later we’ll find you a change of clothes. Use anything you need, Katya and I will be waiting in the lounge.”
She stretched up and kissed me on the cheek.
“Thank you.”
“Libena, it’s my pleasure. I hope you will be happy with us.”
I left her to bathe and closing my bedroom door, headed back to the lounge.

Katya had made us some coffee and had taken out her notes and small recorder. I poured us both coffee and sat down.
“Ready?” she said.
I nodded and she switched on the recorder. At various points she stopped and spoke, sometimes winding on the recorder when I waved my hand.
After half an hour or so, we were finished.
She switched off the recorder and sat back in her chair looking a little anxiously at me. I grinned at her. “Perfect!”
I got up and leant across to kiss her cheek.
She laughed nervously “Thank God for that! I wasn’t sure if we’d said too much.”
“It was just right. Not too little, not too much. Did she look pleased?”
Katya nodded. “Ecstatic. Only minutes into the interview when she realised which of the girls Libena was, she could barely contain her excitement.”
“And Libena?”
“Well, as you heard, she was quiet, but confident throughout, and answered every question without hesitation. There were no tears. I rather got the impression Sam Johnson liked her a lot, and Libena sensed that, which probably made a difference.”

“And last, but not least, you?”
She laughed. “I’m fine Joe. Libena is lovely, a real pleasure to be with..”
She paused.
“Yes?” I said.
“There is something about her – a steel – no, I’m putting this badly.”
I nodded. “I know what you mean. An inner strength, an indomitable determination?”
She nodded. “Yes. There’s that, but..”
I waited.
“She is like you.”
I couldn’t help myself. “What?”
Finally she found the words. “She’s a warrior.”
I was dumbstruck. Katya had put her finger right on what I had been trying to define ever since I’d met Libena early Wednesday morning.
I nodded slowly. “You are right. That is it. She is.”
She picked up her cup and drank the remainder of her coffee.
“I must be off.”
I walked her to the garage, and opened the doors, waving to her as she pulled into the Mews in the little Micra she seemed to adore.

I got out the spare mobile and fed it a topped-up SIM card, attached the muffler device, and rang Andrew Donaldson’s office.

His polite secretary put me straight through when I identified myself. His voice boomed down the phone.
“Hi Daniel. Fantastic!”
“You sound happy.” I said softly.
“Absolutely. Seventy kinds of shit will hit the fan tomorrow morning. Make sure you get a copy of the 1st edition.”
“I will.” I said. “How are you running it?”
“As you asked.” he said “WMD stuff. Front page with headline and prominent names, and a little note from yours truly. Second page the girl’s interview, third page..”
“Whoa!” I laughed. “Leave some for me to be surprised at.”
“There’s enough for three days, plus all of the stuff I’ve got a team working on now, can unearth about the men involved. Is that what you wanted?”
“Exactly Andrew. And thanks.”

“Christ!” he exclaimed “It’s you we should thank. Sam will probably pull a prize for the interview.”
I laughed. “Yeah. She is good. I listened.”
He laughed. “Your interpreter recorded it?”
“Just checking on you Andrew. Seriously though, thank Sam for her considerate and kind treatment of the girl.”
He laughed again. “Who shall I say wants to thank her?”
“Well it’s still Daniel, unfortunately.”
“Damn! I thought I might catch you out.” he quipped.
“We can help each other better the way things are Andrew.” I said softly.
“Yes. I know. Still, I would like to shake your hand at some point.” he said.
“I look forward to that,” I answered “but not just yet.”

“One question?” he said.
“Why do you think they kept such detailed records?”
I paused. “Well, it’s a guess, but the evil bastard who ran that operation, probably had his eye on blackmailing the clients at a later date.”
“You know who it was?”
“Yes, but I can’t say, at least not yet.”
“Russian Mafia?”
I laughed “I thought you said ‘One question’ Andrew.”
He laughed. “I’m a journalist.”
“Yes. He was Russian Mafia.”
“Was he one of the ones found at the scene?”
“No. He was executed elsewhere.”
“Can I print this?”
“Good man.”
“You’re welcome. Can I go now?”
He laughed. “Of course. Don’t forget – 1st edition.”
“I won’t” I said and hung up.

I cleared away the coffee cups as Libena entered the lounge.
She smiled a little nervously at me.
“How do you feel?” I said softly.
“Strange. Many things happen in short time.”
I smiled “I know. But once you’ve met your friends again and the other girls you can relax. You’ve been very brave and I want to thank you again.”
She smiled at me, and I took her upstairs.

Svetlana was in the day room, the inevitable sketchpad in her hand, but when she saw us she came straight over and greeted Libena with big hugs and kisses. They chattered rapidy in Serbian, and I left them together and walked over to Zee.

She looked quizzically at me. “You’ve been busy I see.”
I grinned. “Sorry to spring things on you Zee, but I brought her for her own protection.”
She raised her eyebrows. I sat down and quietly told her what I’d done. When I finished she nodded and smiled.
“Tomas and I wondered about the parcel to the Guardian. I should have guessed. Any more surprises?”

I laughed. “Only one, and I’m about to announce it now, but need to say a few words to both the staff and girls about what they may see and hear tomorrow.”
“I’ll round everyone up” she said, getting up.
“Thanks Zee. After I’ve spoken, can you find Libena something nice to wear?”
She laughed. “Of course. Leave it to me.”
I went into the kitchen and poured myself some of Connie’s lemonade. She was just finishing off making sandwiches. I smiled. “I’m making the announcement now Connie. Would you come into the day room.”
She nodded. “Just finishing off Joe.”

Girls were still finding their seats when I re-entered the day room. I waited a minute or so to make certain everyone was there, then went and stood in front of the wall with all Svetlana’s sketches on. She caught my eye and smiled a little nervously. In fact looking around, everyone looked a little apprehensive.

“Hi Everyone. First of all, there is no need for glum faces. This is not going to be bad news.” I paused as they visibly relaxed. “I have two things I wish to say. The first is by way of preparing all of you for what you may see or hear both in newspapers and on the TV tomorrow. I am going to speak plainly and not use any fancy words so that everyone will understand exactly what I am saying”

“As you know, London has it’s fair share of unpleasant men, by far the most unpleasant in my opinion being those, who for whatever the reason, prefer to have sex with children. Some of you here this evening have suffered as a result of these men, and I am pleased to tell you that tomorrow, and over the next few days, there will be widespread arrests by the police, of a large number of them.”

“As a result of the news coverage, the names and possibly photos of these men, will be displayed in the newspapers and on the TV. I tell you this because you may see someone who has hurt you in the past, and find seeing them again upsetting. If so, I want you to tell a member of staff, so that they can re-assure and comfort you.”

“Although you might find this news unsettling, I hope all of you will understand that this is a good thing that it is happening, that so many of these perverts are going to end up in jail, where they can’t hurt any more children.”

“If anyone is not sure about what I have said, and would like further explanation or assurance, please come and talk to me or another member of staff.”

I waited. Because there were several girls whose first language wasn’t English, they relied on other girls to help them. There was a hubbub of conversation, but eventually they quietened and looked expectantly at me.

“Now. This next announcement hopefully is a little more pleasant. Some of you will have noticed that Connie is sat amongst you, rather than cooking your tea. That is because I have arranged for all of us to have a meal in a local Italian Restaurant, to celebrate Lizzie’s Birthday.”
I paused, waiting for the cheers to die down. A big smile was on Lizzie’s face.

“You will be able to have anything you like to eat, and there will be a cake, live music and a Karaoke.”
I paused again.

“Thak and Pash have agreed to stay behind and look after any girls who don’t want to go out, and Connie has prepared sandwiches in the cooler. I know you will want to take the opportunity to freshen up, so let’s all meet again here just before seven. The restaurant is only 3 minutes walk away.”

The roomful of excited girls began to clear. I walked over to a hesitant Patricia. “Your foster parents have been informed, and are welcome to join us when they arrive.” I said.
She smiled “Thank you Joe.”

Svetlana walked over, put her arms around my neck and kissed me.
I said softly “Aren’t you going to get ready?”
“We wait for you.”
I laughed. “Until Patricia leaves later this evening, Libena has nowhere to wash or change, so I suggest she uses my room. Zee is finding her a nice dress and will bring it down.”
She stood back and beamed at me. “You are lovely man!”
I turned to Libena “Is that OK Libena?”
She grinned “Yes. It is good.”
“OK. I said “Off we go. Lizzie and I’ll take Constanza to her room to get her ready, then I’ll see everyone back up here later.”

We walked out of the day room, and they disappeared into the lift as I waited with Constanza in her wheelchair for it’s return. Lizzie had taken my hand, and she chatted excitedly until the lift returned.

I took a deep breath and walked through the door pushing Constanza. I needn’t have worried. The room had been re-painted and the furniture changed around, and there were now two single beds, so that Zee could stay with Constanza at night. It looked completely different.

Lizzie was quite happy to help Constanza in the bathroom, and I sat on one of the beds, listening to their happy chatter and laughter until they were ready.

I looked around at the happy, animated faces of the girls, and picked up my glass of Rioja and took a large swig.
The meal was now mostly cleared away and the small combo that had played for us as we ate were having a break, and a laugh, watching the antics of the girls with the Karaoke machine.

Almost inevitably, it seemed, the ‘Terrible Two’ had been first up to sing, and the singing of the two beautiful sisters together, had brought the activities of the restaurant almost to a halt, and prompted encores from several customers.

The remains of the Birthday cake I had ordered for Lizzie was on the table in front of me, but Lizzie herself was now standing with Svetlana by her side, singing her special song. There was complete silence in the room apart from her singing and the Chieftains music, and as she finished the song, the whole room burst into thunderous applause.

“What a truly lovely voice she has.”
I looked across at Jim Watson.
Jim and his wife had joined us, with Patricia, at my insistence, when they arrived shortly before we left the Refuge.
I nodded and said softly. “Yes. It is quite beautiful.”

He looked shrewdly at me. “This work must bring you great pain, as well as joy, Joe.”
I smiled. “Sorry. Sometimes my mask slips off.”
“Don’t apologize.” he said “It must take enormous courage. I certainly couldn’t do what you do.”
“You do your share Jim, fostering as you do.”

He looked across the room to where Patricia and two other girls were sitting.
“Yes. But you’ve already done the really hard part.”
I shook my head. “They need us both.” I paused, then added. “Take care of her please Jim, she’s a lovely girl.”
“We will. I promise.” he said quietly, and smiled at his wife who nodded at me.

The combo once more took their places and struck up with a slow tango. Svetlana stood next to me and took my hand. “Do You Wanna Dance?” she quipped.
I looked up into her lovely eyes and laughed. “I’d love to.”
We walked out together to the small dance area in front of the stage and bowed to each other then danced, much to the delight and whistles of some of the girls.

The number came to an end, and Svetlana turned to the piano player. “Another plis?”
He laughed, and they began again. Another tango, but this time more dramatic, and much more demanding. There were whoops from the girls as we whirled around the small dance area, and when we were finished, gentle applause from the customers.

The night was warm, and I lay with only one sheet covering me, going over the events of the last 48 hours. A nagging doubt that I’d missed something had crept into my mind earlier in the evening, but I’d dismissed it so as not to cloud Lizzie’s birthday celebration.

I’d had such feelings before, and sometimes, most times, they proved to be groundless – perhaps just my unconscious mind working it’s way through a checklist. This time also, I recognised that trying to ferret out the reason for my discomfiture was a complete waste of time – it would come to me eventually, as if out of the blue, and hopefully not too late to act upon it.

I heard her enter the room, and then her lips were on mine, her hands holding my head. Her tongue swept across the inside of my lips and immediately I felt the stirring in my groin.

She moved the sheet, and gently sat astride me, again kissing me. I ran my hands along her silky thighs, under the thin nightie and caressed her lovely buttocks. She moaned, and moving her head down, she took my left nipple between her teeth and nipped it gently, before spreading her mouth and kissing my breast in a powerful, passionate movement, her head rotating, moving up and down, and it was my turn to moan.

She lifted herself slightly, and I moved, then entered her. I felt her grip me as I moved deep inside her. A shudder ran through her body and she lifted her head and gasped.
“I love you.”
I kissed her. “I love you, beautiful lady.”

She grasped the shoulders of her nightie, and pulled it off over her head, and I eased myself up and took her right breast in my mouth. We rocked together as the spasms within us grew stronger, and she began shuddering with each stroke of me inside her, her head falling back, then moving forward, over and over.

I kissed her throat and neck, and the first of her screams was deafening. I felt her groin pressing into me with all the strength she could muster, and I could feel her fingernails biting into my back as she clung onto me, as if for her life.

There was a pause, a brief few seconds when she was perfectly still, then her grip on me became relentless, and she yelled my name and shook her head from side to side, in the final contractions of her orgasm.

I waited until she was nearly done, then simply let go of all of the pent-up passion I felt for her. I thrust into her powerfully and hard and I heard her breathe the words softly and intently into my ear.
“Ooh! Yes plis. Go, my lovely Joe.”

Her encouragement unlocked even more passion within me, and she moved skilfully and beautifully in time with me, cooing her appreciation in my ear, as I gasped my way to fulfilment.

I buried my face in her breasts and screamed, while she clasped my head with both hands, and kissed my head. We said nothing, locked together, before she carefully climbed off me, and lay at my side.

My breathing slowly returned to normal, as we lay, looking into each other’s eyes.

“I am so happy.” she said simply
I smiled at her. “So am I. I can’t believe how very happy you have made me. I love you.”
She kissed the tip of my nose.
“I love you, My Angel.”

« 11: Refuge

Svetlana – Chapter Index.

Listen to Lizzie’s song: Jimmy Mó Mhíle A Stór

Bliain an taca seo Jimmy d’imigh uaim rún mo chléibh
Ní thiocfaidh sé abhaile go dtabharfaidh sé cúrsa an tsaoil;
Nuair a chífead é rithfead le fuinneamh ró-ard ina chomhair
‘S clúdód le mil é, sé Jimmy mó mhíle a stór

Bíonn m’athair is mo mháthair ag bearradh’s ag bruíon liom féin
Táim giobaithe piocaithe ciapaithe cráite dem shaol;
Thugas taitneamh don duine úd dob fhinne ’s dob áille snó
Is chuaigh sé ar bhord loinge, sé Jimmy mó mhíle a stór

These twelve months and better my darling has left the shore
He ne’er will come back till he travels the globe all o’er
And when he returns with laurels I’ll crown him all o’er
He’s the fondest of lovers, sweet Jimmy mó mhíle a stór

Raghadsa chun coille agus caithfead an chuid eile
San áit ná beidh éinne, ag éisteacht le ceol na n-éan
Ag bun an chrainn chaorthainn mar a bhfásann ann féar go leor
Ag tabhairt taitnimh don duine úd, sé Jimmy mó mhíle a stór

He’s the fondest of lovers, sweet Jimmy mó mhíle a stór

‘Jimmy Mo Mhile A Stor’ featuring The Rankin Sisters can be found on: Tears of Stone by The Chieftains.

Book 1 of The Carlson Imperative is now available as a PDF download here: The Carlson Imperative – Book 1

The Carlson Imperative is a work of fiction. Any resemblance between characters in the story, and real persons, either living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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