Friday 3 July, 2009
At 8:00 a.m. all the girls in the sorority house have almost finished their breakfasts and the maids are cleaning up when Maria Franks turns to her two best friends, Toni Amaral and Mel Chesway, saying, "You're sure it's OK to help us with our shopping at Victoria's Secret today?"
Toni, short for Antoinette, says, "Yes, we've only the one class today. It's a straight lecture which is being recorded and we can get it off the net later. The other two classes have been cancelled due to the holiday weekend. Lou is joining us as well. We'll have a fun time, but I have to be back by four p.m. to get ready to go out later."
Maria is happy because Toni has such better dress sense than she and her younger sister, Francesca (who arrived late last night), have; so they're all going shopping together this morning. They're going to get some nice outfits and underwear at Victoria's Secret.
At 9:00 a.m. the five girls walk out the front door, all eager to do a nice day's shopping. All are well off financially and can afford to shop well. But all except Toni are still learning about how to choose well.
One of the maids, Rosa Sanchez, watches Antoinette Amaral, Maria Franks, Francesca Franks, Louisa Bowman, and Melinda Chesway walk down the path. She goes to the kitchen and picks up the phone to call her boyfriend. His brother wants to meet Maria at the mall because he's interested in her, but has trouble organising to meet her. Rosa is helping by telling her boyfriend which mall they're going to so they can meet 'accidentally.' There's only the one mall in the area with a Victoria's Secret shop, so they must be going there. She's happy to be playing cupid for her boyfriend's brother. No one's worried when the girls don't show up for lunch.
At 10:30 a.m. in a warehouse across town a large man is talking to seven others, he's not happy. Angrily, he says, "What the hell's wrong with you idiots? Two girls, you were told to get two girls, and you turn up with five. And you bring back four dead as well. Twelve men to get two girls and four get killed with two others badly hurt. What sort of useless idiots can't follow simple orders or snatch a couple of school girls. Shit, we'll have to keep them all until the boss tells us what to do about them. Put them all in the big truck and get ready to move to the next place. Leave the bodies here." They're quick to move the girls to another vehicle and leave.
At 5:00 p.m. Sandy Roberts is very worried. Her room-mate, Toni Amaral, isn't back, and she promised to be back by 4:00 p.m. so they can get ready for a double date. Their dates will be here at 5:30 p.m.
Their dates turn up and still no word from Toni. Sandy asks the young men to take a seat and starts asking if anyone had seen Toni since breakfast. No news since she left to go shopping and no one has seen any of the five girls since they left that morning. She's extremely worried now. Apologising to the boys she goes up to her room and gets out her personal phone book. Looking inside the front cover she sees the number and notes Toni gave her when they first became friends two years earlier. It's all she can do not to panic when she picks up the phone; she's a very nervous type of person and very easy to upset.
She dials an 1800 number and it's answered straight away, by a woman saying, "Berant Embassy, New York, may I help you?"
An embassy, this isn't what Sandy expected. She's already near panic and this flusters her a lot more. Looking at her notes, she says, "I'm not sure, I'm ringing for my friend. I have to speak to Risnac."
The operator replies, "Please wait." She can hear a keyboard rattle, the operator says, "I'm sorry, I can't find a Risnac in the telephone directory. Are you sure of the name?"
Sandy is really panicking now, because Toni impressed upon her how very important it was to tell this Risnac if she ever went missing. Crying into the phone, she says, "I don't know, she's gone, I was told I had to call this number and tell Risnac, urgently."
The operator realises this isn't a normal call and signals for her supervisor, while she says, "Look, I'm very new here. Please hold while I put my supervisor on the line, she may be able to help you."
There's a click, and another voice says, "Good evening, this is Amy Pirot, switch supervisor, how may I help you?"
Crying, Sandy says, "My room-mate's gone missing, she told me if that ever happened I was to call this number and ask for Risnac."
Amy replies, "Please calm down. I take it you're reading from a note you took at the time. If that's so, please tell me, is that one word with a single capital or is it in block letters as if it maybe initials?"
Sandy takes a deep breath, "I made these notes two years ago and the name's spelled out in single letters. Does that make a difference?"
In a calm voice with a smile in it, Amy says, "Yes, it does. That can be an acronym of a position, it's initials. Please hold a moment while I check." Again she hears a keyboard clatter. Suddenly she hears, "Hell." Amy comes back, "I think I now have who you wish to speak with, please hold while I transfer you. I'll stay on the line until I'm sure."
The phone rings, and a man answers, "Royal Intelligence Service, North American Commander." Sandy catches her breath at this.
Amy says, "Amy Pirot, switch supervisor. Sorry to bother you, Colonel, I've a girl who's very concerned as her room-mate's missing and she's following instructions the room-mate left for her. She's called on the eighteen hundred number asking for Risnac. Is that you, Sir?"
Sitting up in his chair, he replies, "Very likely. Please stay on the line until I say otherwise. Please go ahead, Miss, I'm listening."
Gulping, Sandy says, "My room-mate, Toni Amaral, was supposed to be home at four p.m., it's now five forty-five p.m. She told me when we first became roomies if she ever went missing to call this number and speak to Risnac. I'm to say something else, but I can't remember what it is. I know it's something to do with birds and lockets because I've drawn reminder pictures here of a bird's nest, a locket, a bird, and the number twenty-one." She's crying again.
Colonel Harrison is now sitting straight up in his chair and waving urgently at his assistant, Captain Morris, while saying, "Please calm down. Now let's see if I can help. You said the first image is a nest, so it's probably something like nest or the nest. Correct." Captain Morris is now very wide eyed, because The Nest is the Guards' code and slang for the Royal Palace.
Hopefully, Sandy says, "Yes, that's it. I'm to say the nest is broken, no not broken, breached, no broached. That's it, the nest is broached. It's a broach not a locket."
With a sinking feeling in his heart, the colonel says, "The nest is broached? You're sure?" Morris' face goes white. He picks up a phone and calls for a high priority encrypted link to Highcliff, priority Omega minus. The radio operator almost dies when he hears the priority, that's the highest there is and only used in extreme emergencies. It means do what you have to do and make it happen right now.
Sandy is a bit less flustered because the man is helping her to remember. She says, "Next is a bird like an eagle, and the number twenty-one. But eagle twenty-one doesn't sound right."
Resignedly, Harrison says, "I think it's Falcon twenty-one, Miss. Can I please have the full name of your room-mate and anyone else who may have gone missing with her? I also need to know your exact address."
While Sandy gives him the names and the address of the sorority the colonel is putting the names into his computer, and points the citizen matches out to the captain. He also reaches over and hits the emergency alert button for all his staff to report for duty immediately.
Captain Morris is talking to Highcliff. He says, "RIS North America, I have an Omega minus message for the Palace Duty Officer." He's soon transferred through to Colonel Rochester, head of Highcliff security. He says, "Colonel, we've a civilian passing on a possible Falcon Down for Falcon 21, Antoinette Amaral, with Louisa Bowman and Melinda Chesway as possibly missing too. Missing from California, Ma'am."
Taking a deep breath, she replies, "Alert all staff and agents in North America. Get investigators on site. I'll tell the Protector, he'll probably come out himself. Tell the ambassador to arrange customs clearance for Prince Edward and his security attachment at L.A. International, since they'll be armed. Diplomatic immunity is needed."
Captain Morris simply replies, "Yes, Ma'am. I'll get right on it." He looks up from his phone, to see all the RIS duty staff are on hand; they live on-site. He starts issuing orders and gets things moving. One person gets the address details and calls the nearest contract private investigator to the sorority house to have them get started on the local investigation and gathering background information.
Hanging up, Erica goes to tell Gerry a cousin of theirs is missing.
Meanwhile, a sound proofed truck is driving fast along a major interstate highway with a half load, eight thugs, and five schoolgirls. They're headed for a place just outside of Boston. The man expecting them is already happy with the capture, and is now planning what he intends to do with and to the girls.
.... There is more of this story ...