J O I N                    





            PART I            


Samantha could hear them searching the woods for her. They knew someone had blown up their headquarters. Luckily she had escaped without being seen, but the fuse was too short. She had been caught in the blast. She knew she was injured but couldn’t tell exactly where or how bad. She still had the documents she had stolen, but shock was setting in.  The explosion had been a cover to conceal their theft. Now if she could just find a place to hide.

There were lanterns and voices in the wood behind her, but no dogs. That was good. She might be able to escape.

The President had asked her to steal their plans. It had not been his first such request. They had been friends for years, when he first asked her to quietly work for him. "Someone I can trust." He said. "Someone who is outside the system, but we can never be seen together again." That was when he came up with his method of contacting her. "I’ll post and personal add in the Sunday paper. "Sweets needed at the White’s house." You can pick up your instructions at the locker in the station.  When you have completed the mission, post an add saying; "The sweets have been delivered." Leave the documents and a brief report in the locker. Payment for your services will be made to your Swiss account."

The  payments, she remembered, had been very very generous indeed.

She could hear them getting closer now. There was a large gate up ahead. If she could just make it, perhaps she could find a hiding place inside. She barley noted the sign on the stone piers, some kind of Academy. The road was long leading to the front door.

The massive doors were in front of her now. She must have been fading in and out of consciousness stumbling up the road. The knocker was very heavy. No answer. She was about to try again when a young lady in a white nightgown opened the door. She heard her say "Are you all right ...." Just before the darkness took over and she fell to the ground.

She awoke to the sound of men in the room. The young lady who opened the door was explaining that their head mistress had been quite ill for the past two weeks and she should not be disturbed. The men said she looked very pale and a doctor should be called as soon as possible. She heard them exchanging pleasantries as she slipped back into unconsciousness.

The smell of black coffee brought her back from her dreams. The young lady in the white nightgown was sitting at the side of the bed. She explained that the night before, they had found her at the front door. They brought her in, cleaned her up and had just put her in the mistresses bed when the men cam to the door. The men were looking for a spy who had blown up their headquarters. When they saw how ill the head mistress was and how few of the student were left at the academy, they continued their search elsewhere.

The young lady, who looked to be in her early twenties, introduced herself as Pauline Everstoned-Cornwall. She was one of the senior girls at the Academy. Most of the young ladies had fled to their homes when the battles could be heard in the distance. Those few who were left had no family to return to. Her parents were on a diplomatic mission to China when they were killed by the Tongs.

Pauline explained that the Head Mistress, a Miss Sara Pennington-York, was the founder of the Academy. Miss Pennington-York died only a few days ago after a long illness. It seemed only natural to tell those men that the sick lady in the bed was the Head Mistress.

It was three days later as Samantha was leaving though the gates that she noticed the sign and the idea came to her. Sara Pennington-York's Academy for Young Ladies. The irony was too much to resist. She did need a new place to live and the remaining young ladies did need a new Head Mistress.

Three months later President Lincoln was killed. It was a sad day for the country and a very sad day for Samantha Sweet who had lost a close friend. She was amazed one Sunday  nearly a month later when, while looking through the  paper she read; "Sweets needed at the White’s house."

Over the years, the Presidents had changed, as had the locations for the exchange of information. But each President had passed a name and the nature of the special services on to their successor. A note in the desk? A private conversation? She would never know. But the Head Mistress’s of the Academy and their chosen students had always served them well.

The political climates, their allies and enemies had changed over the decades. The Prussians were our friends. Then they were our bitter enemies and now friends again. The same could be said of the Russians, Chinese and of course the Japanese. There were similar forces at work from all sides including each of these countries. Even the English and French had players in the match. The game had one unspoken rule when they met.  They would never do physical harm to one another.  Who knew, they might be allies again next week. 




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