Tuesday 7th July
The three young women stood on the large green lawn, two of them following the graceful movements of the blonde as she performed a series of graceful movements. There were a few joggers out in the morning sun, the hum of the streets muffled by the surrounding trees, but it seemed as if there was not another person in the world as they twisted and turned.
Eventually, the blonde stretched her left leg out, and then stood up, placing her hands palm to palm together in front of her and bowing to her two friends. They made the same gesture and bowed in turn, before they walked over to where Cathy Lu was sitting, sipping from a coffee cup as a large canvas bag sat at her feet.
“Excellent,” she said as Helen opened the bag and handed Marina and Kylie a bottle of water, before taking a small towel and mopping her brow, “your poise and grace improves with every day, as does your stamina. When you started, Helen would take you through a ten minute routine. Today it was nearly thirty minutes.”
“Well, it is worth the effort for the reward,” Kylie said with a smile as she took a drink. “I feel so much better now after a routine.”
“As it should be,” Helen said quietly. “Tomorrow we go to the YMCA and make use of their gym for some practice with the dummies. But for now, you may relax.”
“I cannot – I need to change and get to work,” Marina said as she mopped her brow. “Do you have my bag, Catherine?”
“I do,” Cathy said as she handed Marina the large shoulder bag. “Your work outfit and shoes are inside, and please tell Juliette that Helen and I will be at our eleven o’clock meeting as arranged.”
“And you Kylie?”
“I have a history assignment to do some work on before I go to see the girls, so I will return to Susan’s place first,” Kylie said.
“How would you feel about a run back?”
“You got it,” Kylie said as they set off, Catherine shaking her head as she closed the bag and stood up.
The du Grechy residence
“It is good to be home,” Natasha said as she walked into the lobby, Guy carrying her bag as Valeria followed them, and Willy brought Alain in a car seat.
“Indeed – and is that fresh coffee I smell,” Willy said as Abby appeared from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel.
“You’re back,” she said with a big grin, “coffee is brewing, and Mamma had has just gone out to get some bread and meat for lunch. Is this him?”
“It is indeed,” Natasha said as she unclipped the baby from the seat and picked him up. “Alain, this is your cousin Abigail. She’s a famous model, but don’t let that scare you.”
“Don’t listen to your silly mother,” Abby said as she let Alain hold her long finger, “I’m very pleased to meet you young man. Your uncles are coming to see you soon as well.”
“Ah, I thought I saw your car outside,” Diana said as she came in, carrying a grocery sack. “Go through – Abigail and I will fetch the coffee.”
“It is really good to be home,” Natasha said as she sat down, Valeria sitting and looking at Alain, “gives us a chance to catch up on what we missed.”
“Not much in two days,” Abigail said as Guy sat, “it’s like a holding pattern until the weekend, then a lot of us are off to LA for a wedding.”
“Not such a bad thing, it means we can relax,” Willy said as he sat down.
“So I heard the situation between Holly and her young man gets worse eh?” Natasha asked.
“It does, Carina thinks we ought to kidnap them and put them into a locked room together till they sort this all out.”
“I heard it was all down to that masculine fault of never knowing what is the right time to tell a woman no?”
“I’m afraid so.” Abigail sighed.
“Men will never know that there are occasions when a woman wants the man to be assertive and tell her she can’t do something.” Diana joined in as she placed the tray with the coffee pot and cups on the coffee table.
“So Holly has been speed-dating, so to speak,” Valeria said, “a different man every night, and unhappy as can be while she does it.”
“You know Carina might have the right idea Abigail.” Natasha shook her head, “It sounds like they both need their heads banging together.”
“I thought that the modern liberated woman disliked her man going caveman,” Willy spoke.
“We do darling,” Natasha patted his hand, “but just occasionally saying no shows you love someone and care for them.”
“I’ll never understand,” Willy looked bemused, “no is good, yes you can do what you like is bad?”
“YES!” all four women answered.
“Willy, take a word of advice from an older man – do not try to understand the way the female mind works, merely accept their superior wisdom.”
Willy laughed at Guy’s comment as Abigail poured the coffee.
“So when do you next have a modeling assignment,” Valeria said as she looked at Abigail.
“Next Monday and Tuesday – a shoot for Vogue,” Abigail said with a smile.
“Something tasteful I trust?”
“Actually, it’s a shoot in leather clothing,” Abigail said, “but I’m sure Adam Cabot will do a good job as he usually does.”
Susan sat in her chair, her fingers under her chin as she looked at the slim woman taking notes.
“Got all that, Pamela?”
“Got it,” she said quietly, “arrange accommodation and travel for the LA team, and then liaise with your contact to ensure a pick-up time on the Saturday morning for them. Also arrange a private dining room on the hotel for the Friday night.
“I’ll get onto it right away – use the Xavier International name?”
Susan nodded. “If they ask, tell them they are on a team building event. It has the advantage of being the truth.”
“Ashley never said how she knew you,” Pamela said as she put her pen and pad down.
“We were classmates in LA,” Susan said, “she helped me with math, I helped her with political science.”
“A Brit helping with political science?”
“I have some experience in how to handle people politically,” Susan said with a smile.
Missy Auerbach looked up from her desk as her assistant opened the door.
“They’re all here – shall I show them all in?”
“Please,” Missy said as the door opened wide, allowing Carina, Maggie, Ingrid and Jo to walk in.
“Well, we’re here,” Cari said as the door was closed, “Angel would have come, but she’s back in the UK.”
“It’s all right, I spoke to her and Mandy this morning, and told them what I’m about to tell you,” Missy said. “Grab a drink and sit down.”
“So what’s this about,” Maggie said as they sat down.
“Well I asked you all in to basically congratulate you all on being asked to join PTA.” Missy smiled as she glanced at the group of young women in her office.
“Well thank you Missy…and now why are we really here?” Carina asked pointedly.
“To discuss work for the rest of the summer.”
“Missy I have that outdoor clothes thing, I’m modeling again for Alice, a couple more bits, I really want the rest of the summer to be with my family.” Joanne moaned.
“You promised me three weeks at home in Germany.” Ingrid looked hard at her agent.
“We all have a lot of commitments.” Mags said quietly.
“Can I at least tell you about some of the offers…please?”
“Oh go ahead Missy,” Carina said gruffly.
“Well let me say that interest in you all has increased even more since the London show.”
“It has?” Maggie asked.
“And I hear from Marnie’s agent she has had the same reaction.”
“Well apart from me upping your asking price, I have some endorsement proposals for all of you to look at.”
“Interesting.” Carina sat up straight. “But if you say bikinis Missy, I’m going to strangle you.”
“Should I just say swimsuits then? Face it Cari you have a body that swimwear manufacturers love.”
Carina shook her head.
“Here, all of you read these papers then tell me what you think…okay?” Missy passed each woman a folder full of documents.
Jo opened her folder, and glanced at the top sheet. “Isn’t there a slight dichotomy between me being the face of Fitzstuart Woolens, not to mention Big Boy, and then to be invited to be the face of a steak house?”
“I suspect they wished to promote the idea of steak as a healthy food,” Missy said with a smile.
“The answer is no – unless they throw in free meals for a lifetime,” Jo said as he turned to the next sheet. “This, however – I’d need to talk to the coaches about whether or not it would contravene team rules.”
“I would expect no less,” Missy said as Cari looked at one offer.
“Okay – this I could be willing to do,” she said, “I loved doing her show last Fashion week.”
“I thought you might – Ingrid, dear, I suggest you focus on endorsement for the summer.”
“There are a few that interest me, if the shoots can be arranged, but August is out for me,” Ingrid said quietly.
“Highlight those you can fit in, I’ll do the rest.”
Maggie was sitting, shaking her head. “I… I need to talk to mom and dad,” she said as she looked up, “but this, this – and this are definite no-go’s. I cannot be a supporter of the environmental lobby and also be the face of these campaigns.”
“Agreed – go and discuss the rest with your parents and friends. I’ll see each of you individually tomorrow to discuss your thoughts – Melissa will fix a time with you as you go out…”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Impressive set of offers,” Bobbi said as she put the manila file down, “made any decisions yet?”
“One or two – so has Ingy, but I need to have some time off as well, to spend with you, little one,” Carina said as she held Judith’s hands, the little girl giggling as she held her mother’s hands.
“She really is growing up fast,” Judy said as she sat in her short sleeved summer dress, “we’d better consider getting some guard doors on the rooms when we get back.”
“Tell me about it,” Carina laughed, “and talking of babies, how did you get on with Tommy?”
“Do the words brick wall mean anything to you?”
Carina shook her head as she helped Judith to sit on the mat, and then sat in a seat.
“Look - the only hope for Holly and Tommy is to do what we did for the Tennant.” Carina looked round.
“But that got us in deep shit with the law Cari.” Bobbi looked up. “The only reason we didn’t get in bigger crap was that it was for charity.”
“I have to say I agree with Bobs, much as I’d like to bang their heads together, I can’t see kidnapping them as being an option Cari.” Judy leaned forward on the couch.
“Well do either of you have a better solution? I’ve talked to him, so have you, we’ve all talked to Holly, and you’re right - it’s like banging your head against a brick wall.”
“It would be stupid Cari, and you know my father has warned both Becca and me to keep our heads down this summer.”
“We could always just trick them into the same room and lock the door.”
“And who cleans up if it goes wrong?”
“Well I can’t come up with a better idea Bobs.” Carina sat down on the floor and played with little Judith.
“She’s going to be a holy terror now she can stand up.” Judy smiled down at her namesake.
“She can do a couple of steps, she did the first ones at Furstenheim, Dad luckily captured them on his mobile. I can show you if you want?”
“No thanks, I’ll do without her proud mom showing off and boasting on her daughter.” Judy laughed.
“It seems strange to have you talk about having a dad Cari, all those years I’ve known you, and now suddenly he’s there.”
“I know,” Carina sad as Judith started to pull herself up on the couch, “it blows my mind too.”
“So what ballet has he and your Mom taken Ingy to see?”
“Copelia Bobbi, and I’ll admit I’d rather be here with you guys.”
“So not getting a sitter was just an excuse not to go eh?” Judy laughed.
“Only the Goddess will ever know.” Cari laughed back.
“Well, we could always lay some plans down for a girls night out – maybe we can all descend on Holly. In the meantime, we could always get Winston to talk to Tommy.”
“That might – might work,” Carina said quietly, “right now, I need to get this one into her bath. Can you open a bottle while I get her sorted out?”
“You go and run her bath,” Judy said as she slipped off the chair, “we’ll play with her, won’t we darling?”
“Like a light,” Carina said as she sat down and picked up a bottle of wine. “So, that night out we were…”
They all turned their heads as they heard the banging on the apartment door.
“Who on earth is that,” Bobbi said as she stood up.
“I don’t know – but Jacques downstairs would not let someone up unless he knew them.” Carina walked to the door, and said “you two stay in here – if you don’t hear me in two minutes, call the police.”
Judy and Bobbi nodded as Carina made her way to the apartment door, and looked through the viewer. “Goddess,” she whispered as she quickly opened the door and Holly came in, her face covered in cuts and a bruise starting to appear over her left eye.
“Cari, I’m sorry, I had nowhere else to go,” she whispered as Carina shut the door and took her arm. The blonde was wearing a white leather jacket over a sundress, one of the spaghetti straps broken and hanging down the front.
“Holly what’s wrong?” Carina looked concerned as she took her disheveled friend into the drawing room.
“Oh my God.” Bobbi leapt up when she saw the state Holly was in.
“Who did this to you Hol?” Judy asked as she helped the little blonde into an armchair.
“The guy I was out with…he turned ugly when I said I wouldn’t go to bed with him.”
“And he did this?” Carina asked as she came in from the kitchen with her mother’s medicine chest.
“Here, let’s get you cleaned up.” Bobbi shook her head as she knelt in front of her and accepted the cotton pad which Carina had poured some antiseptic on, Holly wincing as the wounds were cleaned.
“Can I stay the night Cari,” she said as she looked at her friend, “I don’t want my folks to see me looking like this.”
“It’s going to look even worse in the morning Hol.” Carina dabbed at the cuts on her friends face.
“Did you call the cops?”
“Why? I can’t even remember the bastard’s name Bobs.”
“You mean you are going to let him get away with doing this?”
“He called me a pricktease, and said why if I didn’t intend going to bed with him did I dress like this.” The tears started to roll down Holly’s face.
“Hey, hey,” Judy said as Carina and Bobbi stood up, “it wasn’t your fault, whatever happened.”
“But it is – if only that idiot of a boyfriend would realize…”
“You, come with me,” Carina said as she took Holly’s hand, “I’ve got a spare set of nightclothes you can use, and you can sleep in the spare room.” She looked at the other two and nodded as she took Holly upstairs.
“Two floors down, apartment D.”
“I’ll be back in five,” Judy said as she left Bobbi in the room.
“I can’t thank you enough for letting me do this, Cari,” Holly said as she buttoned up the pajama top. “I can’t imagine what’s gotten into me recently…”
“I can – but let’s not talk about that now. Come on down and have a drink with us.”
As they headed back to the drawing room, however, both of them were surprised to see Tommy sitting there with Bobbi and Judy. Before Holly could say anything, he walked over and held her, looking into her eyes as he said quietly “Are you all right? Who did this to you?”
“Why do you want to know,” Holly said in a testy manner.
“Because I want to punch his lights out – nobody does this to the girl I love and gets away with it.”
Holly looked into Tommy’s eyes, and said “you’d do that for me?”
“Of course I would, you daft girl. I’m crazy about you, and I’m sorry I got you so mad at me. I feel like this is my fault.”
“It’s not,” Carina said as she looked at them, “neither of you are at fault for tonight, but for the love of Artemis, will you stop trying to ignore each other and just make up?”
“Well,” Holly said with a little smile, “I am sorry…”
“No – I’m the one at fault, putting my needs before yours,” Tommy said as he brushed her hair away, and gently kissed her forehead.
“Hold me, Tommy,” Holly said as she put her arms round him and pressed her head into his chest.
“We’ll go into the kitchen for a few minutes,” Cari said as she ushered Bobbi and Judy out to leave them alone.
“Not how I would have done it,” Judy said as she closed the door, “but perhaps it has worked out for the best.”
“Not really – there’s a guy out there who thinks it’s all right to beat up girls who won’t give out,” Carina said quietly. “That upsets me a little…”
Wednesday 8th July
“Who was that on the telephone,” John Hammond said as he looked up from the couch. A tray with coffee mugs and bagels was placed on the low table in front of them.
“That was Juliette, some bastard beat up Holly last night when she said she wouldn’t go to bed with him.” Shirley shook her head.
“Oh God, is she all right?” John asked in shock.
“She has some cuts and bruises, but she will be alright eventually.”
“Some people are just sick.”
“I know my love.” Shirley sat on John’s lap, wrapped her arms round him and gave him a long kiss. “So what plans for you for today?”
“I need to go into Norstar – Missy wants to approve some contracts for a few weeks time – and then I need to go and see Susan. She’s asked if I will do a family portrait for her when her mum and aunt fly in.”
“As a present for Rose and Maeve?”
“That’s right – what about you?”
“I have to go into the office and have a three way meeting with London and LA. There are some things that cannot wait for us to all meet next week – but right now, I have other things on my mind.”
“Do tell,” John said as they kissed…
The Richmond Mansion
“Sandy!!! George!!! How much longer are you going to be?”
“Coming,” Little Sandy and George said as they ran down the stairs, their packs on their backs as Heather tapped her foot by the door.
“Come on or we’re going to be late,” she said as she opened the door – only to see Nessa standing there.
“Are the children causing a problem, Heather – I heard you raise your voice,” she said as she looked at the young nanny.
“No – I’m sorry Vanessa, I just didn’t sleep well last night. Come on you two or Katy will be wondering where you’ve got to.”
As they went down the stairs, their grandmother waved to the kids and then closed the door.
“I’m in the kitchen mom,” she heard Sandy call out as she walked in.
“Is Heather in a bad mood?” Nessa asked as she sat down at her daughters’ kitchen counter.
“She had another night of bad dreams Mom.” Sandy brought two mugs of coffee over and sat down. “That’s the fifth in a row.”
“Sandy,” Nessa said as she held her mug, “one day I hope you’ll both trust me enough to tell me why she gets those.”
“Mom,” Sandy said as she looked her straight in the eye, “If I was to tell you, can you promise me it will never get repeated by you?”
“That sounds very serious,” Nessa sipped her coffee, “of course I promise darling.”
“Okay,“ Sandy said as she took a deep breath. “From the age of 12 Heather was sexually abused by her father.”
“Oh dear Lord,” Nessa put her hand to her mouth, “that poor child.”
“I’m trying to get her to see a friend of Karen’s, a Doctor Gleb, but she refuses to get counseling.”
“Well thank goodness for that at least, and darling you are right she should get professional help.” Nessa closed her eyes, “take it from someone had her own trauma, it eats at you if you bottle these things up, I know it did me.”
“I know as well – but the trick is going to be persuading her. I know Karen is coming on Sunday – maybe we can do a mini intervention then.”
“A mini intervention on what,” Jo said as she came into the kitchen.
“Heather – she didn’t sleep again last night.”
Jo glanced at Nessa, who said “it’s all right – Sandy told me. Was that why you lived with your aunt and uncle?”
“I didn’t know it at the time, but yes. My aunt must have somehow found out, but they never told me. I only found out after I moved here.”
“So what do you think’s brought it on again?”
“I don’t know – but I sure as hell wish I did, so I’m behind you two hundred percent.”
The Inn on the Park
Carina was sitting at the bar, looking at the menu when she looked over to see Gale Callaghan walk in, her long legs in sheer hose, her feet in a pair of high heels and her dress fitting her body like a glove.
“Thanks for inviting me to lunch,” Gale said as Carina kissed her on the cheek, and then pointed to a table. As they sat down, Gale smiled and looked round.
“It’s my pleasure – what’s Tom up to today?”
“He’s meeting with his team – for some reason, this is a quiet time of the year, but Jeanne Marais wanted to brief them on some things going on in Continental Europe.”
“So you haven’t needed to make sure he had a good, long night’s sleep recently?”
“Nope – we spend our evenings thinking about baby names and what color to paint the nursery.”
“Go for something neutral – unless you know?”
“We don’t, so probably light green or something like that.”
“So how has it been going Gale?” Carina asked her distant relative.
“Not easy Cari,” Gale said as she looked round, “I know she’s there and she talks to me sometimes, but it’s still not easy knowing you have a murderous psychopath within you.”
“Any really bad moments?”
“I saw this homeless guy on the street a few nights ago, and I was just so tempted to stop the car and pick him up…”
“Those things happen. You just need to tell her no.”
Carina nodded, “we both agree though that casual things are just too dangerous.”
“So do you plan things out?”
“Gale I won’t tell you details, but just occasionally even I do find the need overwhelming.”
“And you do what?”
Carina waited as the food was brought to them, and then whispered “I usually know when it’s going to happen, and I plan accordingly. More than that…”
She then looked round and said “You know Holly don’t you?”
“We’ve met – cute kid,” Gale said as she put some salad into her mouth.
“Gale if I said that there is a sonofabitch out there who hurt Holly pretty badly…what would you say?”
“That creatures like that should be…oh...Am I hearing this right?”
Carina nodded, “if I can trace him, would your beast like to join mine?”
“Allow you to show us how we can deal if the urge gets too great?”
Carina nodded slowly. “And what do we tell Tom?”
“We’ll make it look like a girl’s night out when the time comes.”
Gale smiled as she said “then yes, I think it will be both educational and enjoyable.”
“Right – set that to one side for the moment. How are you and baby?”
“We’re doing good – want to see some scans?”
“Sure,” Carina said as Gale handed her a brown envelope, smiling as she looked at the black and white photos.
“He – or she – looks beautiful,” Carina said as she handed the photos back.
“Standing and trying to walk now – she’s adventurous.”
“Listen – I’ve been following the news about your ancestor and her efforts to save all those people. She was one of us, wasn’t she?”
Carina nodded. “I think she tried to make amends for what she did – and she’s getting recognition for that, but she was rightly convicted of war atrocities. A very complex woman – runs in the family.”
“I wasn’t going to say a word,” Gale said with a smile.
“Got some holiday time sorted out?”
“We’re heading down to Tom’s parents for a week or two – at least get out of the city when it’s at the hottest.”
“Wise move – but in the meantime, drink plenty of water,” Carina said, “and tell her to be patient – a chance will present itself.”
Gale nodded as she sipped her water. “Will you be having a holiday?”
“Baby’s first birthday up in Beverley, and a break up there. A wedding in LA as well – which will probably be pure hell.”
Upper West Side
“Kylie? We’re back?”
Susan looked round as Maeve and Rose walked in behind her, Clint carrying their cases. Both of the older women were wearing summer dresses, sheer tights and small heeled shoes, as Susan took their coats and hung them up.
“Welcome back, Susan,” they both heard Kylie say, “I’m just changing April’s nappy.”
“She sounds remarkably well spoken,” Maeve said as they walked into the front room, to see Kylie kneeling on the floor, fastening the new diaper over April as she waved her arms around. She slipped the baby into her clothes, and then looked round, smiling as she said “Hello – welcome to New York.” She stood up, brushing some talc off her shorts, and walked over to join them.
“It’s a real pleasure to finally meet you,” Maeve said as Kylie came over and kissed her on both cheeks, and then looked at Rose. “It is so good to see you again, darling,” she then said, taking Rose by surprise as she was kissed on both cheeks as well.
“Most people know Kylie as my niece, even if it is really a honorary thing,” Susan said.
“So would you be offended if I referred to you as Aunt Maeve and Aunt Rose,” Kylie said with a smile.
“No… No, not at all,” Rose said quietly. “It has been a very long time since I saw you Kylie – it almost seems like a lifetime ago.”
“Indeed – may I fetch you both a cold drink?”
“I’ll give you a hand,” Clint said as he and Kylie went into the kitchen, Susan taking her mother and aunt into the front room.
“She’s changed,” Rose said as she sat down.
“Three months in one of the best grammar schools in Hong Kong, and that’s the result,” Susan said with a smile. “She took all of us completely by surprise when she arrived two weeks ago.”
“She seems a very well mannered young lady,” Maeve said, “where did you say she came from?”
“The same area as me,” Susan said as Kylie brought a tray with glasses and a pitcher of iced water in, and set it on the coffee table, before she poured the water and handed the glasses round.
“Was April any bother, Kylie?”
“Not at all Susan – she was a perfect angel,” Kylie said as she sat back, her legs together and to one side.
“Susan told us you have been attending school in Hong Kong, Kylie?”
“That is correct, Aunt Maeve – I had fallen behind in my old school, and with a friend going to work in Hong Kong, the opportunity arose to attend school on a scholarship there instead.”
“And it appears to be working,” Rose said as she sipped her water. “Any difficulties?”
“Maths can be tricky, but I am catching up – I can show you my report if you wish?”
“No need,” Susan said, “but you had better get a move on, young lady. Aren’t you meeting Doc and the others tonight?”
“Oh yes – if you will excuse me,” Kylie as she stood up and walked slowly out of the room. Rose looked at Susan, her eyebrows raised as her daughter said “yes, she is different.”
“Did I hear my name mentioned,” Marina said as she came in, wearing a flowing white skirt and a pink blouse. “Hello Rose – it’s been a long time, and you must be Maeve – a pleasure to meet you.”
“Likewise,” Maeve said as they shook hands, “Susan says you’re working in Hong Kong as well as watching Kylie?”
“Yes – Shirley felt a year working for Huntingdown’s in the city would help in my development.”
“And you are doing well?”
“I am thank you – may I have some of that water?”
“Oh and before I forget darling.” Kylie said as she looked back in, “Miss Thomas has said I can spend a couple of mornings a week helping out in CS’s wardrobe. That is as long as you say okay?”
“Unpaid I presume?”
“Yes,” Kylie giggled, “but it gives me a chance to work with some of those fabulous clothes.”
“Well as long as Mary is happy, then I am.”
“Thank you Darling.” Kylie gave Susan a huge hug and then went off again.
“That was amazing as always, Clint,” Maeve said as she pushed the plate away. “I hope Susan has been talking lessons.”
“Oh that is it – I’ll cook the food for Sunday afternoon, shall I?”
Susan laughed at the chorus of agreement from all four people round the table. “All right, I submit,” she said as she stood up, “let me get some coffee going, or would you prefer tea Mum?”
“I’ll give you a hand with them,” Rose said as she helped collect the plates, and walked into the kitchen. As Susan put on the coffee machine, and then the kettle, Rose loaded the dishwasher and closed the door. As the machines started, Rose looked at Susan, nodding as her daughter closed the kitchen door.
“I’m flabbergasted,” Rose said as she sat at the breakfast bar, “truly, totally flabbergasted. I would never have recognized them.”
“I told you they were different now,” Susan said with a smile.
“Shirley has taken them under her wing, given them a chance to prove themselves. In Kylie’s case, she is genuinely working to catch up on her education – and believe me, the first key to her success was the glasses she wears.”
“The… You mean she was short sighted?”
“Yup – she’s discovered a love for literature, a passion for history – and an amazing taste in clothes. She’s totally reinvented herself.”
“Given a chance to use her talents and her skill with languages, she’s blooming as well.” Susan checked the coffee machine before she turned back. “Mum, I know the last time you saw them, they scared the crap out of you, and you learned some things about me you probably didn’t want to hear…”
“True – what little I remember of that day,” Rose said as she shook her head. “But we’re alike, you know. All three of us have got second chances – so I’m not going to say anything, just admire the way they have changed.”
“Mum, I notice there’s one question you’ve not asked.”
“What else are they doing out there? I don’t want to know, love – worrying about one of you at times is bad enough.”
“You worry about me?”
“Of course I do, Susan – I know you’ve been in the office, but when I see reports…”
Susan walked over and hugged her mother, saying “thank you” as the tears started to come.
Eventually, she let go and looked at Rose.
“Mum I’m a thief it’s what I do.” Susan said quietly, “But I’m very good at it, and I work with incredible people. We keep each other safe.”
“I know, but it will never stop me worrying.” Rose hugged her daughter closely.
“Oops- sorry, I came to see how the coffee was doing…”
“It’s all right Clint, I’m bringing them in,” Susan said as she arranged the coffee pot and mugs on a tray and carried them in.
“Can I fix your tea,” Clint said as he filled the teapot.
“Sure – Clint can I ask you a question?”
“Of course you can, O mother-in-law.”
“Clint,” Rose said as he stirred the pot, “don’t you worry about her? You know when she…?”
“Of course I do Rose,” Clint said as he turned round, “but she is a member of an incredible pair of gangs, and I’m hardly the poster boy for living on the straight and narrow.”
“Does she tell you in advance?”
“Yes, and stop worrying - there’s nothing planned…worry more about me babysitting while she starts her course two nights a week at NYU.”
“You’ll do fine.” Rose smiled.
Clint smiled as he poured the tea and handed it over. “Rose, she works hard at everything, her whole life, legit and crooked is about minimizing risk, and maximizing profits. Take it from me, my wife looks after herself.”
“And the girls?”
“They’re learning from the best as well – trust us on that. Come on – they’ll be wondering what kept us.”
Thursday 9th July
The Richmond Mansion
Heather felt as if she was suffocating – something was holding her round her waist, stopping her from rushing to Jo as she stood in a yellow smock top, leggings and trainers. Her hair was in pigtails, and she looked so young, so innocent – so unaware of the huge black shadow that was looming over her.
A hand reached out and took Jo’s, as a voice that made her sick to her stomach said “Come with me, Joanne – I have something special to show you.”
Heather tried to scream as Jo smiled at her, and took the hand, the band around her chest tightening as she threw herself forward. She struggled like mad, and finally, desperately she called out “Mom don’t let him do it to Jo as well please…MOM DON”T LET HIM!”
“Lover you were having a bad dream again.” Sandy spoke softly as her partner sat bolt upright in bed. Heather slowly turned her head, her body covered in sweat, her eyes wide and staring.
“You were, and you were talking loudly lover - what was he trying to do to Jo?”
“I don’t know…” Heather shook her head and said “I just woke up and I was sitting up like this.”
“Heather,” Sandy said as she put her hand on Heather’s “you were talking in your sleep again, well actually more like shouting in your sleep, some plea to your mother for him not to do something to Jo.”
“I don’t remember.” Heather shook her head. “Goddess help me, I don’t remember…”
“Are you sure you won’t see Doctor Gleb…?”
“Lover these dreams come and go, I’ll be fine…”
“Mommy what’s wrong? Why was Heather shouting? She woke both me and George up.” Little Sandy called from outside the bedroom.
“Go back to bed darlings I’ll be there in a second.” Sandy called back.
“Is everything alright?” George asked.
“It is, I’ll come and explain in a second.”
“Don’t you think I ought to, I am the nanny after all?”
“Heather my love, you need your sleep,” Sandy said as she looked at her. “For once let me be a Mom. You know I’m right on this one.”
“Alright.” Heather lay back down and closed her eyes.
Sandy looked at her, waiting until she breathed more easily, before getting up and putting her robe on. As she walked out, she saw Sandy and George standing there.
“Come on you two,” she said as she took their hands, “everything’s all right, let’s get you both back to your beds.”
“What’s up,” Jo said as she came out of her room.
“Heather woke us up – she had a bad dream,” Sandy said, “would you take George back to his bed for me? I’ll come in once I have Sandy settled.”
“Sure – come with me,” Jo said as she took George’s hand, while Sandy took her daughter into her room.
“All right – into bed and under the covers with you.”
“Mommy what is upsetting Heather?” Little Sandy asked as her mother tucked her back in.
“I’m not sure darling, she’s been having a lot of bad dreams recently.”
“I can lend her Pookie, he always took away my bad dreams when I was little.” Sandy looked up at the pink, stuffed, teddy bear, sitting on her headboard.
“I’ll tell her you offered.” Sandy kissed her daughter goodnight.
“Good night mommy.”
“Sweet dreams.” Sandy called back as she closed the bedroom door and stood with her back to the wall.
“George is looking for you,” Jo said as Sandy turned her head. She nodded and went into her son’s room, Jo waiting until she came out.
“Sandy, we have got to do something about this – she’s stretching too thin.”
“Yeah, I know – I’ll talk to Karen later.”
“Good,” Jo said as she rubbed her head. “I’m going to get a drink. Want one?”
“No – I’m going back to bed,” Sandy said as she went into her room, removing her robe and lying down with her arm round Heather.
Upper West Side
“Good morning,” Marina said as she came into the kitchen, “did you sleep well?”
“Yes, thank you,” Maeve said as she looked up, “Rose is still sleeping. Kylie?”
“In the shower. Is that fresh coffee?”
“It is,” Maeve said as Marina poured herself a mug.
“So tell me dear, what exactly it is you are doing?” Maeve asked Marina, “I heard you working on the computer last night. Was that Chinese?”
“It’s Cantonese to be precise Maeve, but I’m in Hong Kong to learn it, and I use a computer tutor to help.”
“And its Shirley’s company you work for?”
“Yes, I speak four languages already, I’ll certainly add Cantonese, and I’m hoping to be fluent in Mandarin Chinese as well by the time I return to the London office.”
“That sounds so amazing. I wish I’d have got a similar chance.”
“Well it was Shirley who saw my potential,” Marina said as she sat down, “I’ll be a PA to one of her executives when I eventually return home.”
“They will be lucky to have you dear.”
“At the moment I’m seconded to Juliette Huntingdown’s company, and I’m responsible for orders getting to our suppliers in China and liaising with her assistants back here to New York.”
“That sounds like a great job in itself.”
“It is.” Marina smiled.
“So what is Hong Kong like?”
“Oh loud, confusing, colourful, full of bright lights, I could go on forever.” Marina laughed.
“It sounds like you enjoy it?”
“I do,” Marina paused to think, “I suppose you get used to things so quickly, it really feels like a home right now.”
“Well London is dull compared to here and there…”
“NEVER.” Marina laughed again. “No, London will always be my home, but I want to enjoy this experience to the full.”
“Quite right too,” Rose said as she came in, cradling April in her arms. “Susan’s just getting ready, so she asked me to bring her in”
“Here,” Marina said as she stood up, “you sit down and I’ll get you a drink.”
“Thanks,” Rose said as she sat at the table, Maeve looking on as April waved her arms round.
“It’s all about this one isn’t it?” Marina said as she set a mug down, and looked proudly at her goddaughter-to-be.
“It is that Marina.” Rose held her in her arms. “She’s a little miracle.”
“And unlike me and her mum she won’t grow up on a grotty housing estate in Tottenham.”
“You can be so sure?”
“Rose, I know how much this young lady already has in a bank account in her name. Susan told me what they’ve tucked away for her. She will never want for anyfink.”
“You slipped there Marina.” Rose smiled. “But it’s good to know my granddaughter is well provided for.”
“Well I’ve still not got all of Tottenham out of me, but yes Susan is a wonderful mother.”
“And Clint is an excellent father.” Maeve laughed as the baby smiled at her.
“We’re been talked about,” Clint said as he and Susan came in, and he grabbed a mug of coffee before starting a fresh pot. “I need to get going, but don’t forget Alex is popping round tonight for a chat.”
“See you later as well,” Marina said as she looked at her watch, “I need to get going. Susan?”
“I’ve got the morning off – I’ll see you both later,” she said as they went out of the kitchen, and the apartment door closed.
The Richmond Mansion
Sandy sat at her drawing table, looking at the blank sheet of paper as Heather walked by.
“I’m going out to do some shopping – do you need anything?”
“Hmm? No, I’m good – but if you brought back some olive bread for lunch, I wouldn’t say no.”
She watched as Heather checked her pockets, and then said angrily “where did I put my keys?”
“In the bowl by the door?”
She disappeared for a moment, and then Sandy heard her say “Got them – thanks” before the door closed. Standing up, she took a deep breath, picked up the telephone and dialed.
“Karen Boyd speaking.”
“Karen? It’s Sandy Richmond.”
“Hello Sandy, how are you?”
“I’m fine, but Heather had a really rough night, shouting in her sleep, she even woke the children.”
“That does not sound healthy at all. How is she this morning?”
“Jumpy, very on edge…”
“Right - I spoke to Serena and Susan, Susan has added Serena to the guest list, I’ll introduce her to Heather without telling her she’s a therapist and see what Serena thinks.”
“Well that sounds like a plan Karen. And if Serena thinks Heather needs help?”
“I trust her to approach it sensitively. We just have to hope Heather realizes she needs it.”
“Well, we can only keep trying. Thanks Karen – I’ll see you on Sunday.”
“Thank me if it helps Heather, Sandy. See you at the church.”
Sandy ended the call and put the phone down, and then realized Jo was standing in the doorway.
“Do the others know?”
“No – apart from you and Abby, I think Janice is the only one.”
“Well, let’s try and keep it that way,” Jo said quietly. “Right – I have to get going. Jeannie and Mary’s invited me to join her and Grace at the Saks shoot – get an idea of how a catalogue shoot works.”
“I’d say have fun, but…”
“I know – I’ll be back for dinner,” Jo said as she headed off.
“Hey,” Jo said as she approached Carina and Abby, “I didn’t know you were doing this as well.”
“I’m not – I came down to keep you company,” Carina said as she and Jo sat down.
“I must be desperate to agree to this.”
“Forewarned is foreprepared,” Abby said as she went to the changing area.
“What she means is she’s going to spend the entire morning running in and out of there,” Carina said. “Here you look tired.”
“Another interrupted night’s sleep,” Jo said as she opened the bottle of water.
“Jo, I need a favor,” Carina asked.
“If it’s modeling forget it Cari….”
“No this is more to do with your other talents.”
“Well,” Jo said as she looked round, “that sounds more interesting.”
“You know some bastard roughed up Holly?’
“Yes, piece of shit.”
“Well it happened at Elgaria, any chance you can get me the security discs and copy the sign in pages so I can maybe identify him?”
“Not easy, but if I borrow Jan, yeah I can probably do it.”
“Good, and as soon as possible please.”
Smiling, Jo took her cell phone out. “Jan? Jo – fancy a little clubbing tonight…”
Upper West Side
“What do you have in the box, darling,” Kylie said as Susan came in, laying a white box on the table.
“It came to the office today – a present from Pussy – sorry, Patricia Van Roon,” Susan said as she took her jacket off, and hung it on the back of the chair. Lifting the top of the box, she opened the tissue paper and gazed at the contents.
“Oh my,” she said quietly as she lifted the white robe, while Rose picked April up and brought her over.
“Is that the christening robe?” Maeve asked as she came over.
“It is.” Susan said quietly as she shook her head, “It’s just so beautiful.”
“You must send a big thank you to the Van Roons, Susan.”
“She must.” Rose said as she carried the baby into the kitchen, Maeve and Susan following with the robe. “I know lace and that is the very highest quality.”
“It will be an heirloom one day.” Maeve smiled as she carefully dressed April in it.
“Oh she will be the star of the show on Sunday,” Rose clapped her hands as April looked at them.
“That she will,” Father Alex spoke from the kitchen doorway.
“Alex – sorry, we didn’t hear you come in.”
“Clint let me in,” he smiled as the baby gurgled at him. “Oh she is growing so quickly Susan.”
“We’d better get her out of this for now,” Maeve said as she laid April down and took her out of the robe, before Susan carried it back in and laid it in the box.
“Can I offer you a drink, Alex,” Clint said as he came in.
“Tea will be fine, if you are making a pot,” Alex said as he sat down, and accepted April as she sat on his knee.
“So,” he said as he bounced April up and down, “Sunday. Godparents?”
“Marina should be around later, you know Abigail, and David and Penny are flying in on Saturday.”
“Good – I know Abigail is only seventeen, but she is a mature young lady, so I’m happy to include her. So, let’s talk about a few things.”
“Hey,” Susan said as she saw the two women walk in, “did you get them?”
“Here are your outfits ladies.” Catherine smiled as she and Marina brought in three large garment bags.
“Fresh out of customs, we collected them at the airport ourselves.” Marina added.
“Hello Alex,” Cathy smiled as the priest kissed her on the cheek.
“Aren’t I glad I don’t have to go through the whole rigmarole of buying clothes for christenings,” Alex said as he looked at April on his lap. “You and I are the only two who get that privilege.”
“Oh Cathy they are beautiful.” Susan exclaimed as she looked in her bag. “Thank you so very much.”
“Catherine that might just be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever owned.” Rose wiped back a tear as she looked in her own bag.
“It’s our pleasure Rose, oh and Maeve we did make that jacket longer then in the picture just as you requested.” Cathy smiled brightly again.
“Thank you,” Maeve said, “you are a true miracle worker.”
“Marina,” Alex said as he handed April to Clint, “can I have a few moments of your time? There are some things I need to talk over with you – consider it a prep for Sunday morning.”
“Dinner’s ready in thirty,” Clint said.
“No problem – we’ll be done by then. Let’s go through to your bedroom,” Alex said as he stood up.
“I’ve been invited to the cinema tonight by Nikki and the girls,” Kylie said as she came in, “will that be a problem, Aunt Susan?”
“No problem,” Susan said as she looked at the young girl. “Do you need a lift?”
“No, thank you – Jeannie’s grandfather will pick me up.”
Alex was sitting in the armchair, talking to Susan and Marina about Sunday, while Maeve and Clint served coffee and tea.
“So that was the way I was shown to do it – it makes a truly invisible seam.”
“Oh so that’s how they used to sew it?” Catherine listened intently as Rose explained something she’d been taught years before by a woman who in the fifties had worked as a seamstress for Dior in Paris.
“It’s ridiculously simple once you get the hang of it,” Rose said with a smile, “At the time, simplicity and elegance really went well together.”
“You know my people have never been able to duplicate that particular thing, and now I know why.”
“Well it was a craft secret I suppose. I expect I am one of the few people left who was taught how to sew that way.”
“Well now you can pass on some of your skills to students Rose.” Alex smiled as he sampled the excellent port Clint had bought at the store.
“I’m tempted to send a couple of my people to London to learn from you Rose.” Catherine looked up from her notepad where she’d been jotting down what Rose had said.
“I said she ought to do some private classes as well as the work at the university.” Maeve sipped her coffee as she looked at her sister.
“Well if you did Rose, as I said, I’d send you some students.”
“I suppose it wouldn’t do any harm to think about it Catherine.” Rose finished her cup of tea.
“Send me to Hong Kong to learn languages, send Chinese students to London to study sewing, that sounds a fair trade to me.” Marina smiled.
“Well your workers are obviously very good Catherine,” Rose paused a second, “my outfit is beautifully finished, but if I can help Huntingdown’s after Juliette was so kind in helping me, then I’d be delighted.”
“We have a deal then.” Catherine smiled and shook Rose’s hand.
“Good – now, what are you wearing on Sunday Marina,” Maeve said as she looked over.
“Mary Thomas has helped me to select an outfit – all I can say is that two of us will be coordinated,” Marina said with a smile as she sipped her own drink.
“Father Alex,” Rose said as she put her cup down, “will you be attending the wedding next weekend?”
“Alas, I cannot, but I will send my greetings, my blessing, and a present.”
“You are certainly different from the priests I have known,” Maeve said.
“I hope so – we tend to mainly be a dreary lot,” Alex said as they heard the apartment door open.
“Is that you Kylie,” Susan called out as Alex stood up.
“It is, darlings,” Kylie said as she came in and walked over. “Hello Father.” Kylie smiled as the priest kissed her on the cheek.
“How was the film Kylie?” Maeve asked.
“Nikki was in raptures, but quite honestly Aunt Maeve, I think I’ve seen far better performances by Cassandra Stone.”
“So you weren’t over impressed Kylie?” Alex asked, “Some friends have invited me to go with them to see it next week.”
“I like her in period pieces,” Kylie cleaned her glasses as she spoke, “she was magnificent in that adaptation of Northanger Abbey for example, but she didn’t convince me that she was this tough LA detective.”
“Well I might wait then till it comes out on DVD,” Alex said as he sipped some more of his port.
“What did the other girls think?” Susan asked.
“I think opinion was pretty evenly divided, Pepsi and Anna agreed with me, while Becca and Jeannie sided with Nikki.”
“Are you going to stay and talk?” Marina asked.
“Well I’m hoping no one will think me rude Darling if I get some milk and head to bed to do some reading.”
“Of course not.” Rose smiled, still amazed at the young lady Kylie had become.
“Helen is coming at seven thirty tomorrow,” Marina said, Kylie nodding as she put her glasses on.
“Good night everyone,” Kylie said as she headed to the kitchen.
“She is becoming a very refined young lady,” Alex said with a smile, “the time in Hong Kong is becoming the making of her.”
As the clock approached eleven, Alex stood up and said “I think I have to let you retire to your beds now – it is getting late.”
“Thank you for coming tonight Alex.” Susan kissed the priest as he slipped his coat on.
“I never turn down fine food and good wine.” Alex smiled, “and Clint always provides both.”
“That he does Alex.” Catherine smiled. “Can I give you a lift?”
“Oh that would be most welcome Catherine, save me having to find a cab.”
“Susan, I enjoyed myself immensely.” Catherine kissed her hostess goodnight.
“Well it was a pleasure having you both round.”
“I will see you Sunday then?”
“You can count on it Alex.” Susan laughed lightly.
“Alright ready to go Alex?”
“I am Catherine.”
“Bye to you both.” Susan called out as she shut the door.
“Well that was a lovely evening.” Rose said as she and Maeve sat drinking their Horlicks.
“It was indeed.” Susan fell into an armchair.
“Cocoa Susan?” Clint called from the kitchen.
“He is far from being a typical priest isn’t he?” remarked Maeve.
“That he is.” Clint answered as he brought in his and Susan’s drinks.
“In a sensible church he is the type who should have become a bishop.”
“I agree Rose, but he’s probably just a wee bit too progressive for the Vatican’s taste in its bishops.”
“I’m afraid Clint is right there.” Susan nodded.
Friday 10th July
“This is it,” Jo said as the two women walked up the back alley, and she stopped outside a non-descript door.
“When you said ‘do you want to go clubbing’ I thought we’d be getting dressed up and dancing.” Janice moaned as she looked round. Both women were dressed in black, with gloves and leather jackets.
“Any fool can get in a club when they are open, this is far more fun.” Jo said as she squatted down and worked the lock.
“For you maybe.”
“Well you are here as my bodyguard Jan, while I do my thing, you just make sure we don’t get surprised.”
“I do know the routine Jo…and haven’t you got that lock open yet?”
“About 30 seconds ago, but you were talking.” Jo laughed.
“Okay, pull your stocking on, and get your gun out, just watch for any surprises please.”
“Always,” Jo said as the two women pulled stocking masks down over their heads, and went into the darkened nightclub, closing the door behind them. Taking out a penlight, Jo shone it round the corridor, and motioned as they made their way down the corridor.
“Looks quiet so far,” Jan whispered as they passed the restrooms, and then entered the ground floor of the nightclub.
“According to the plans, the security office is over there,” Jo said as she pointed to a door on the opposite side of the dance floor.
They made their way across the floor, Jan watching as Jo unlocked the door to the security room and let them in. “So far so good,” Jo whispered as she looked at the security cameras, “now I need to locate the security disks for the night before last, and their sign-in sheets.”
“You never told me what this about,” Jan said as Jo searched through the records on the screen.
“Did you hear about Holly?”
“I heard she got beat up by someone who thought she would go further than she was willing to go – why?”
“Well, she met him here – ah here we are.” She typed on the keyboard and then plugged a USB stick in, downloading the files from the previous night.
“Hold on,” Jan said as she held her hand up, Jo turning the screen off as they both listened. The sound of footsteps came closer, and then the door opened as a young man came in, shining a torch round.
He saw Jo at the terminal, and mouthed “what the f…” before Jan brought her nightstick down on the back of his head, sending him sprawling to the floor as she pulled his arms behind his back.
Securing them with a zip tie, she took a roll of tape from the table and wrapped it round his head, blindfolding and gagging him at the same time before securing his ankles, and then kicking him in the groin.
“Go see what you can find in the office,” Jo said quietly as she opened a filing cabinet and retrieved the sign-in sheets, heading to the office as Jan forced the safe and emptied it.
“Might as well gain something,” she said as Jo photographed the sheets, “who is he?”
“Who the hell cares? Means this looks like a robbery – let him explain what he’s doing in here at three in the morning. Got what we need?”
“Got it,” Jan said as they went back to the security office, Jo replacing the sheets as Jan moved the groaning captive against the wall. Turning the lights off, the two women made their way out as quickly as they could, and back to the car.
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Well good morning – sleep well,” Juliette said as the tall blonde walked down the staircase.
“Very well – I was exhausted,” she said as she wrapped the robe around herself. Is that fresh coffee?”
Juliette nodded and poured two mugs.
“So how was the shoot Grace?” Juliette asked as her guest eased herself onto a bar stool in the kitchen.
“Just as hard as I remembered. It soon came back to me why I’d stopped doing catalogue work. Ah – that hits the spot. Thanks.”
“I did Alice’s last one, and yes they are tiring.”
“Most of these kids are so damn young.” Grace shook her head. “I felt so old in comparison.”
“Well at least you and Jack are old friends.”
“Yes, of course I’ve met Jo and Jeannie, and Pru was working the shoot as well, I knew her slightly back then as well.”
“The important thing,” Juliette said as she sat down and sipped from her mug, “was how did the people from Sears react?”
“They seemed very pleased…” Grace took another sip from her mug and continued “and I liked a lot of the clothes.”
“Well you did well then after all these years.” Juliette smiled.
“I’m glad you had invited me to stay with you Ju, some of the kids invited me to go clubbing with them, I just don’t have the stamina any more.”
“We did it at their age as well…but eventually you learn that cocoa and a soft bed are a more then welcome substitute for overpriced drinks and men trying to pick you up.”
“Or put another way, we are getting old.” Grace laughed.
“Did you meet Jack’s latest pretty boy?”
“I did,” Grace said with a smile, “he seems a nice lad, and he has some talent, Jack let him shoot some frames and they were excellent.”
“So Jack has been telling me, he has asked if I can find Luke something to shoot for the magazine, you know give Luke’s career a boost.”
“Well I think he’d do a good job.”
“I probably need to ask Merlin what she thinks.” Juliette sipped her drink, “So any decent gossip?”
“Did you know Pru is stepping out?”
“She is? No, I didn’t – she kept that one quiet,” Juliette said, “Who is it?”
“She said his name was Jerry.”
“Jerry, Jerry… Jerry Levin?”
“Could be – you know him?”
“Only in passing – George, Sandy’s ex-husband, knows him better. He’s a broker – one of the best – in the money market, and he plays a mean hand of poker.”
“Which would explain how Royal Flush would be attracted to him,” Grace said with a smile.
“Indeed – I know they played a tournament together, but…” Juliette smiled as she said “they do make a nice couple though.
“Anyway, what about you? Any word from the UK yet?”
“I spoke to Grant – he thinks we have a case to argue that although I withheld certain things, to use my past as a model as an excuse to remove me from office is illegal, and the motive of bringing the school into disrepute is subjective. He’s started to take statements from Harriet, Sarah and some of the other staff and students, and has already filed a notice with the governors that he is attending the meeting.
“You should see the messages of support I’ve received though – from parents, students and others. I even got a note from Stephen Fry of all people, offering his support.”
“Well, you made a very public return,” Juliette said with a smile.
“I can’t believe the way this has turned out – I sometimes wish I hadn’t agreed to go to the show.”
“No – I’m so glad I did, now I just have to work through the rest.”
“Hey – come down to the office with me today, will you? I want you to see how I earn an honest crust these days.”
“As the writer or as the businesswoman?”
“Oh go on,” Grace said with a smile, “I could do with a touch of further education.”
“Hey there,” Carina said as she came in, Judith in her coat and shoes, “we’re going round to Sandy’s. Any messages?”
“Tell her we’re good for Sunday – and let me know how Heather is.”
Carina nodded as she picked Judith up, as well as her bag. “See you later Grace,” she said as she headed out of the door.
“She turned out all right,” Grace said with a smile.
“Oh yes,” Juliette said with a smile, “she did at that.”
The Richmond Mansion
“How did it go last night?”
“Interesting,” Jo said as she tossed the paper over to Carina, while Heather held Judith.
“Why don’t you come with me,” she said, “I got Jennifer in here with the kids as well.”
“How did she sleep last night,” Carina asked as Heather played with her daughter.
“A little better – at least she didn’t wake up anyone except Sandy last night,” Jo said as she started her laptop. “Right – first up the sign-in sheets for that night. Let me print them off, and then you can start to go through them while I make some coffee.”
“Hey,” Abby said as she came in, “did I hear the mention of coffee?”
“Sure – just let me get these printed off first, and we can go in.”
In her workroom, Sandy was looking at a design when her cell phone went off.
“Hello Miss Richmond?” The voice was unfamiliar to Sandy, so she put her pen down and said “Speaking.”
“My name is Serena Gleb, I’m a friend of Karen Boyd’s.”
“Oh hello Doctor Gleb.”
“Am I calling at a bad time?”
“No Heather is in another room with the children.”
“Good - I was hoping for a preliminary chat.”
“Go ahead please Doctor.”
“Call me Serena please.”
“Okay Sandy…You say these nightmares have returned since you returned from Europe.”
“May I ask if anything happened while you were over there?”
“No we had a wonderful trip, Heather binged on her passion…”
“Great art, she’s an art historian.”
“I understood from Karen she was a nanny?”
“She is.” Sandy giggled, “but she is also the possessor of a Phi Beta Kappa key and a degree in Art History from Yale, as well as being my girlfriend.”
“So you would say she’s highly intelligent?”
“Her IQ is off the scale.”
“Okay that makes me revise my theory slightly. So she’s not normally given to histrionics?”
“No she’s had these dreams on and off since I’ve known her, but this is the worst they’ve ever been.”
“Has anything changed recently?”
“Her sister graduated from high school.”
“Was her sister also molested?”
“No she was still rather young when her parents died, she was raised by an uncle and an aunt.”
“Alright, so other than that what if anything has changed?”
“Hmmmm I need to do some thinking. Thank you for the little chat Sandy, and I will see you Sunday I hope.”
“I’m looking forward to it.”
“Well anything yet?” Jo asked Carina as she brought the coffee mugs in.
“I’m ticking off all the names I know,” Carina said without looking up, “and I actually know a lot of these people. It’s just a pity they didn’t arrive together, the name would be next to hers then.”
“Well not him either.” Joanne said as she pointed to a name on the list, “he’s 60, paunchy and bald.”
“And how do you know that Miss Smith?”
“He’s my bank manager.”
“Oh well,” Carina said as she drew a line through it, “then definitely scratch him as well.”
“That leaves three names to check.”
“Did you get some good pictures from the footage?”
“Well then maybe we just try looking in the phone book and see where any people with those names live.”
“That’s an idea.” Carina paused. “I’ll also do a Heather type computer search.”
“A search for what?” Abby asked as she wandered in.
“An identity for Holly’s attacker we hope.” Jo looked up.
“Okay – got a spare laptop? Maybe I can help out with that as well.”
“I’ll get Heather’s,” Jo said as she left the room for a few minutes.
“Hey, I think I have a match.” Abby said as she looked up from the spare computer.
“Who?” Carina and Jo asked together.
“This guy, his Facebook page of all places.”
“Dirk Callerway. 26, works for Morgan Stanley, he looks like he might be the type Holly would meet at a party and go on a date with.” Carina looked intently through her glasses.
“But how can we tell if it is him without Holly’s help?”
“Leave that to me – I’m meeting her for lunch in a little while. In the meantime, can you see if there is anything for him on the police records?”
“Anything on who?”
The girls turned to see Heather standing in the doorway, looking at them, her eyebrow raised.
“We think we have a lead on the Neanderthal who beat up Holly,” Jo said as her sister came in, and looked at the Facebook page.
“Don’t bother Holly with it – I’ll look into it, if you and Abby can play with the kids, little sis.”
“Sure – what are you going to do?”
“What I do best – enjoy your lunch,” Heather said as she sat down.
Complete Style Magazine
“Welcome back to the nerve centre,” Juliette said as she and Grace entered the Bullpen.
“Hey Grace,” Mary Thomas said as she walked over, “how was work yesterday?”
“Tiring, but it pays some bills,” Grace said with a smile. “So this place hasn’t changed that much?”
“Computers instead of typewriters, but no – not that much.”
“Grace, these are my assistants, Janine and Alexis. Girls, meet Grace Gresham as was.”
“A pleasure to meet you,” Janine said as she shook the blonde’s hand. “Ju, your messages are on your desk, and Anna has the proofs of your article in the next edition for your review.”
“All right then – can you rustle up some coffee for both of us Alexis, and bring it through? Grace, come and have a look – it’s about the London show…”
“What are you doing Kylie?” Marina asked as she sat down next to her protégé in Conde Nast’s staff dining room.
“Oh just doodling a couple of ideas.” Kylie looked at her sketch pad, and then added some details with her pencil.
“May I see?” Mary Thomas asked as she sat down with the two North Londoners.
“It’s not very good,” Kylie blushed, “but it’s an idea that the vintage YSL we were getting ready for the shoot gave me.”
“Actually you are wrong Kylie my darling, this is not bad at all, it’s actually very good.” Mary looked up from Kylies sketchbook, “may I look at the rest?”
“Those are nice.” Janine looked at the book Mary was holding, as she and Alexis joined the group. “Who are they by?”
“This is young Kylie here’s sketches.” Mary spoke.
“Wow I’m impressed Kylie.” Janine looked at a few pages.
“Well thank you darlings,” Kylie blushed at the praise, “But they really are just doodles. I look at clothes and I get an idea, so I just doodle it.”
“I can tell you love fashion.” Mary smiled.
Kylie blushed as Mary handed her the book back. “Let me introduce you to Casey next week – you two have a lot in common…”
The Richmond Mansion
“Did she describe him this time,” Jo said as Carina came back into the room.
“She did – he’s the one all right, what did you find out?”
“Lives alone,” Heather said as she reached for a coffee mug, “has a couple of minor run-ins with the powers that be on record, but nothing serious. His e-mail history is interesting – seems he has a habit of expecting far more from women then they are willing to give. Some of the things he has sent – not nice.”
Looking round, she said “so what are you planning to do?”
“I just want a little chat with him – show him the error of his ways, if you like. Where does he like to frequent?”
“Bank records show he visits that nightclub a lot – why?”
“Good a place as any to start – and if he’s not there, I can always call on him at home.”
“No – he’s not worth it. But he does need to learn a lesson…”
“Jeannie and Barbara Brewster to see you.”
Missy looked up from her desk and said “show them in please,” coming from her desk to the coffee table as she did so.
“Alright what’s the problem that we had to come into the office Missy?” Jeannie asked as she wheeled herself in, following her mother.
“I’m not sure it’s a problem,” Missy said as she got some cold drinks from her icebox, and handed them to her visitors, “more an opportunity to maybe think about.”
“That sounds troubling.” Barbara said as she sat down and opened the bottle of water.
“I understand that you met Stephen Stone while you were in London?”
“We did, he even said he’d like to photograph me.” Jeannie giggled.
“Well yes,” Missy said quietly, “he does…”
“She’s not doing nudes Missy, even for Stephen Stone,” Barbara interrupted, “besides she’s only 15 - it would be illegal kiddie porn under your laws, never mind UK ones.”
“Stephen knows that Barbara.” Missy took a deep breath. “He wants to do a book reflecting on the fact that a disability does not make a woman any less a real woman, with all funds going to charity.”
“Well I’ll admit that’s very worthwhile,” Barbara said, “but she’s still only 15 Missy.”
“Which is just what I told Stephen when we spoke. He says though that he can shoot Jeannie wearing clothes and still give it his trademark style.”
“I’m still not sure…”
“Can I voice an opinion?” Jeannie interrupted.
“Go ahead darling.” Barbara nodded.
“Well I’m a fashion model, not a nudie model, but Stephen Stone’s work is amazing and I’d love the chance to pose for him.”
“I understand that Jeannie darling, but the law…”
“Mum as long as I don’t show anything too much, it cannot be misconstrued as pornography, and I’ll admit I both love the idea, and also that it will raise a lot of money hopefully.”
“What do you think Missy?”
“Barbara,” Missy said as she sat back, “I’m in two minds, normally I’d say no on principle to nudity, but a few things run through my mind here.
“The first is that Stephen Stone is a photographic giant, and he’s a sick man, who knows how much longer he will be working. The second is the concept of the book. Girls like Jeannie are breaking down walls; it will be a wonderful testament to their courage to be featured in a book by Stephen. And the final point is that I know Jeannie is dying to do this.”
“Well as long as I have approval, and we don’t break any laws, ask Stephen what he has in mind please.” Barbara sighed.
“Oh Thank you Mum.” Her daughter hugged her.
“I’ll let him know – and that holidays come into play as well. We’ll see what happens next…”
The two women looked round as they walked in, drinking in the atmosphere. The smaller of the two had long chestnut brown hair, and was wearing a strapless dress made of grey leather with three inch strapped sandals. The taller had on a sleeveless white blouse and skintight black leggings, with black ankle boots.
“Do you know who we’re looking for,” the brunette whispered to the blonde. She nodded as they made their way across the floor, dodging some of the girls dancing as they made their way to the bar.
“What will it be ladies,” the barman said as he came over.
“Two white wines,” Cari said as she and Gale say down, looking round as the drinks were poured.
“Yeah – but it might pick up later. You’re new here, aren’t you?”
“Just come to the area. Any hints on who to watch out for?”
“Most of the people are OK – just watch your step with some of the blokes, and if they give you any trouble have a word with Bob on the door.”
“Gotcha,” Gale said with a smile.
The two women sat at the bar, looking round as the nightclub slowly filled up, until Carina nudged Gale with her elbow. The two women looked at the tall, broad shouldered dark haired man who came in, looking round before he went to the far side of the bar.
Carina took out a cell phone, and took a picture, Gale watching as she sent it on.
“What are you doing?”
“Getting confirmation – a friend has some photographs of Holly with the man, and I want her to compare.”
“And if it is him?”
Carina sipped her wine and smiled, as her cell phone indicated a message arriving. Smiling, she looked at Gale and said “finish your drink – and then we need to allow them some time. Do not worry – I will guide and help her.”
Gale nodded as she sipped her drink. “Sometimes, she told me what she used to do when I was – elsewhere. This is definitely a step up from what she described.”
“I can understand that,” Carina said as she looked at her phone. “It’s confirmed – he’s our guy. Finish your drink.”
Gale nodded as she drained her glass, looking at Carina as she nodded before they both closed their eyes. As they opened them again, Gale smiled and said “Cousin – thank you for the invitation.”
“You are welcome,” Carina said with a smile. “Remember, though, this is revenge – we seek to teach, not to kill.”
“A new feeling for me – will I get satisfaction?”
“I would hope so – Bartender!”
“Two Russian Mules – heavy on the vodka.”
The Huntingdown Apartment
Juliette and Klaus looked round as Ingrid came down, putting on her leather jacket over her blue dress.
“Are you out with Adam tonight darling?” Juliette asked Ingrid.
“He’s taking me to a sports bar he knows, we are doubling with Caroline and Dominic.” She picked up her purse and said “see you later.”
“Well have fun.” Klaus waved as his daughter departed.
“So with the girls out, and Grace spending the night with Alice and her husband, we have the place to ourselves at last.” Juliette smiled as she and Klaus snuggled up.
“Well we still have Judith.” Klaus nodded at the baby monitor before he kissed Ju passionately.
“Well hopefully our granddaughter will sleep all night.”
“She is very good that way,” Juliette said as she put her head on Klaus’ chest.
“So where is Annie tonight?”
Juliette glanced at the wall clock. “She should be somewhere between here and St Louis.”
“It’s nice that she’s bringing some of her family’s things here to New York. I really do adore her you know.”
“I know you do Klaus darling,” Juliette said as she looked up and kissed him again. “Annie is very special. At first I thought they might be just a temporary thing, but no I think this is true love.”
“Cari told me they are planning to visit a specialist while they are in Los Angeles for the wedding.”
“Yes - to see about Annie hopefully getting pregnant.”
“It’s nice of Cassandra to let us use her house.” Klaus whispered as he nibbled on the tall blonde’s ear.
“Very nice of her, she and David and the children are going to see her parents.”
“It’s such a shame he has Parkinson’s.”
“I know, but Eve is handling it magnificently.”
“Do you know Eve Stone was the first woman I ever saw naked?”
“Oh?” Juliette looked at him quizzically.
“My father had one of Stephen’s books. I would have been about 10 years old and he had left it on a table and I looked at it.”
“Oh now I understand.” Juliette giggled.
“He gave me a frightful scolding when he caught me.”
“Poor you, darling.” Juliette said as she kissed him happily.
“Who could that be,” John said as he looked up at the sound of the apartment doorbell.
“Must be someone we know – I’ll go and find out,” Shirley said as she walked out of the drawing room, and looked through the small view hole in the door.
“Hello Barbara we don’t often have the pleasure of your company.” Shirley greeted her fellow countrywoman at the apartment door.
“Well I have something I’d appreciate both yours and John’s opinion on if he’s at home?” Barbara came in and removed her coat as she looked at Shirley.
“He is and that sounds very intriguing.”
“Well, that’s one word for it,” Barbara said as she walked down the hallway.
“Look who’s here darling.” Shirley ushered Barbara into the drawing room.
“Hello Barbara.” John stood up and kissed her on the cheek.
“Barbara has something she wants to ask us.”
“Well yes,” Barbara sat down as Shirley shook her jacket.
“Well John,” Barbara said as she looked at him, “Stephen Stone is doing a book on handicapped women who are breaking down barriers in things like the fashion industry.”
“He wants to photograph Jeannie.”
“Oh now I see the problem.” Shirley sat on the arm of John’s chair. “You are worried because of Jeannie’s age?”
“I am… Thanks,” Barbara said as she accepted a drink. “Look, I know Stephen is an artist, and he says she will be partially clothed, that no laws will be broken, but if you were in my position what would you do?”
“Well,” John replied, “I know Jeannie well enough to know that the idea of being photographed by an all time great like Stephen appeals to her immensely.’
“You are right in that.” Barbara nodded.
“But you are worried about paedophiles and other perverts seeing the pictures?” Shirley asked.
“Of course I am, what mother wouldn’t be?”
“Barbara if I was you I’d let her do it.” John looked at Shirley for her approval. “Jeannie is a groundbreaking woman in our industry, a disabled girl who has become an iconic model, not just a disabled model, but one who is accepted without people thinking she sits in a wheelchair most of the time.”
“I am sure Stephen will do it in a way that suggests more nudity then it will actually involve, and it will probably end up looking like an 18th century painting. Anyone can view those, and they aren’t considered pornography.”
“How can you be sure, John?”
“Because I know and trust him – and besides, compared to the calendar, it will probably look like a Rembrandt.”
“I suppose so – I forget she’s growing up so fast,” Barbara said with a sigh.
“And besides, Stephen will insist you are present – and House, if you wish.”
“Well, when you put it like that – who else do you think he’ll ask?”
“I’ll call him in the morning, see if I can find out,” John said as he stood up. “But don’t worry Barbara – I trust him.”
“Well, if you say so – thanks.”
“Now, tell me,” Shirley said, “have you spoken to Grace yet? I imagine she would appreciate a visit from you…”
Carina and Gale watched Dirk Callerway as he danced with some girls, smiling as he chatted to them, oblivious to their looks as he tried to act cool.
“Look at him,” Gale whispered, “so sure of his own dominance.”
“Patience – he has not been able to take his eye off me,” Carina whispered. “Allow him to approach us, and then we can begin.”
Gale smiled as the young man walked over, and said “I don’t think I’ve seen you here before. What’s your name?”
“Oh I don’t think I’m going to tell you that,” Cari said quietly, “after all, I don’t know yours?”
“It’s Dirk – so what’s your name?”
“Call me Elizabeth,” Cari said with a smile. “This is my friend Hilda.”
“Charmed,” Gale said as she raised her glass.
“What are you ladies drinking?”
“Russian Mules,” Cari said as he motioned to the barman.
“Two for the ladies, and my usual,” he said as he sat with them. “So what do you think of the place?”
“A little staid for my tastes – thank you,” Gale said as she raised her glass. “You?”
“I find it useful for meeting girls,” he said with a smile.
“Ah – so you don’t have a regular girlfriend?”
“No – I prefer to play the field. What about you – is there a man in your life?”
“No man in my life,” Carina said with a smile.
“So you two girls are here on your own?”
“That’s right,” Gale said, looking at him as she purred “do you think you’re man enough for two?”
“Baby, I’m man enough for both of you,” he said with a smile, “want to come back to my place?”
Gale and Carina looked at each other, before Carina said “I thought you’d never ask – shall we?”
Dirk looked at the large shoulder bag Gale put over her shoulder, and said “What do you have in there?”
“Spoilers, sweetie,” she said with a smile as they took an arm each, and escorted him out of the nightclub.
Dirk Callerway’s apartment
“Well, here we are,” Dirk said as the two women walked in, “not much, but its home.”
“Very nice,” Carina purred as she turned and looked at Dirk, “so tell me, big boy, how do you like to play it – rough or smooth.”
“So long as you’re willing, little one, I’ll do anything you want…”
“Anything,” Carina smiled as she put her hand between his legs, feeling just how engorged he was already. “And what if I’m not willing?”
“You don’t want to do that – the last girl who turned me down didn’t like my response.”
“Oh? What did you do?”
“Let’s just say she won’t be such a prick tease again.”
“Oh – a man who likes to assert his position. What do you say, Hilda?”
“I say this little mother fucker needs to get his hands in the air,” Gale said as she drew a pistol from the bag and pressed it against his back.
“What the fAAAAAAAGGGHHHHH,” Dirk exclaimed as Carina suddenly tightened her grip on his crotch.
“You heard her, arsefucker – hands in the air, and on your knees, right now.”
“Hhhhhhthhefcckkareyouuuu,” Dirk gasped as he fell to his knees, Carina releasing her grasp as he did so.
“Us? We’re your worst nightmare,” she said as Gale grabbed his hair and pulled his head back, “we’re women who know how to deal with scum like you.”
“What the hell dyummnnnnn,” he mumbled as Carina pushed the ball gag Gale had handed her into his mouth, and fastened the straps tightly round his head.
“There – that’s better,” Gale said as Carina slapped his cheeks, and then said “Night night, sleazebag” before a black hood was pulled over his head.
As the hood was pulled off Dirk’s head, he looked round the dim room he was in. He was sat in a chair, his arms pulled behind and his wrists secured with ropes that cut into his bare skin.
This made him look down, as he realized he was naked, save for the ropes that encircled his chest and held his back firmly against the wooden back support, and those that held his ankles and legs firmly to the front legs of the chair.
“Oh look – he’s awake.”
He turned his head as Carina and Gale walked round, looking at him with their heads to one side.
“Us – like I said before, you’re our worst nightmare,” Gale said quietly as she opened the large brown bag by her side, and took out a riding crop, while Carina removed a small black case and opened it, the glint of the dim light on the scalpel blade clear even to Dirk.
“We’re avenging angels,” Carina said quietly as she walked behind Dirk and yanked his head back, before running the felt of the blade over his throat, “sent to rain punishment down on those who seek to harm our fellow women.”
“And what’s more,” Gale said as she brought the crop down hard on her gloved hand, “we’re very, very good at it. Show him sister.”
“With pleasure,” Carina said as she replaced the scalpel in the case, and took out instead a pair of silver nutcrackers. Dirk watched as she walked behind him, then stared at Gale before he felt the knuckle on the small finger of his right hand disintegrate under the jaws of the device.
“Hswttjsjssnnnnnn” he screamed out, his eyes wide as one by one he felt his knuckles breaking under the jaws of the nutcracker.
“Oh don’t be such a baby,” Gale whispered as she brought the riding crop across his cheek, a thin red line appearing as she did so, “she’s only doing this because you used them to hurt a woman, so you only have yourself to blame.”
“Ufkngnbhssss,” he growled as he looked straight at Gale.
“Why, yes, yes we are,” Carina, said as she broke the last of his knuckles, and then stood up, caressing his head from behind. “Oh dear, she has left a nasty little wound there – let me clean that up for you.”
Gale watched as Carina took a little bottle of lemon juice from the bag, and poured it over his cheek, Dirk screaming as she rubbed it into the wound.
“Ah, the children of the night, how beautiful they sound,” Gale said quietly as she looked at him, and stroked the riding crop down his chest. “Don’t you think so?”
Dirk tried to pull himself towards her, but the rope was too strong as Gale started to whip him on his chest, criss crossing him with red weal’s as the riding crop came down time after time.
As she did this, Carina walked round and looked at his eyes, the pain clear as well as the confusion and anger.
“Awww – he still doesn’t understand, Hilda,” she said as she stroked his cheek, “he doesn’t know why this is happening to him. Is that right, arsefucker?”
He slowly nodded as Gale stepped back, and Carina slipped a set of brass knuckles over her gloved hands.
“It’s perfectly simple,” she said as she hit him in the chest, and then the jaw, two teeth flying out as she did so. “You hit one of us, we hit you back. Now do you understand, fuckwad?”
Dirk stared back at them as blow upon blow was rained down by Carina on his head and chest, before he mumbled “Plsstpppp.”
“Oh,” Gale said as she pulled his head back from behind, “is there something you wish to say to us?”
Dirk nodded slowly as the ball gag was loosened, and removed, the drool running down his cheek as he looked at them. “Look,” he gasped, “I have money – I’ll pay you anything you want for this to end.”
“Well, isn’t that nice of him,” Gale said as she looked at Carina, “he’s offering us money.”
“There’s just one problem,” Carina said as she retrieved the scalpel again, “there is not enough money in the world that can provide recompense for what you did to one of us.”
“Oh god… Oh god what are you going to do with…. SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTTTTTTTT,” Dirk screamed out as Carina ran the blade down his chest, a thin red line appearing before she ran one more down, and then two across, making a grid of nine squares on his chest.
“There,” Carina said as she handed the scalpel to Gale, “you have first go.”
“First… First… FUCK!” he shouted out as Gale used the scalpel to cut an X in one of the boxes, and handed it back to Carina, the two women playing a game of Tic Tac Toe on his bare chest.
The pain was excruciating as they sliced into her chest, crossing the already red and swollen weals until Gale said “Oh dear – a hung game. Maybe we should prepare another board?”
“No – please, no more,” Dirk whispered, panting as the pain started to subside.
“Oh, and we were just getting started,” Carina said as she tipped his chair back, his arms hitting the floor as his back pressed the wooden chair back on them, and then he felt the riding crop as Gale lashed it again and again on the soles of his feet, his screams echoing around the empty building.
“Nobody can hear you here,” Carina said quietly, “that’s why we picked this spot.”
“So, you little faggot,” Gale said as she picked the chair back up, panting as she realized just how hot she was getting, “now do you realise how wrong it was of you to attack our fellow women.”
Dirk mutely nodded before he whispered “please – please, no more…”
“Oh but we’ve only just begun,” Carina whispered as she caressed his head, “surely you have not had enough already?
“Oh well – if that is what you wish,” she said as she looked at him, his face bloody and bruised, his chest red with the scalpel marks, his feet bleeding on their soles, “then there really is nothing more to say, is there?”
“What do you…?”
There was a gurgling sound as Gale drew the scalpel blade across his throat, slicing through his voice box and his jugular veins as they stood in front of him, watching the life drain slowly from his eyes.
“Are you satisfied cousin?”
“Strangely, yes – I am satisfied. I did not do as much as before, but…”
“But the urges have subsided?”
Gale nodded as Carina said “we need to change – come back to the car. I have wipes and their original clothing in the boot, as well as a black bag for these outfits and the wig.”
Fifteen minutes later, Gale watched as Carina placed a black bag on the dead man’s lap, and then poured a bottle of clear fluid over it and him.
She struck a match and threw it on, both women turning and walking quickly away as the late Dirk Callerway was engulfed in a fireball. Getting into a car, Carina drove off into the night, stopping a mile away as she looked at Gale.
“It is time to let her return,” she said quietly.
“I understand – thank you,” Gale said as the both closed their eyes.
On opening them again, Gale grabbed the dashboard and whispered “Oh god…”
“How do you feel?”
She looked at Carina and said “Strangely, happy.”
Carina nodded and said “you are going to sleep well tonight,” before she set off again…
Saturday 11th July
Upper West Side
Susan was sitting at the dinner table, poring over pieces of paper as Clint brought her a mug of coffee.
“Well, is the shuttle service to and from the airports ready?” Susan asked Clint.
“With John and a few others help, then yes.”
“All right,” she said as Rose sat with April, giving her a bottle, “let’s go over it one more time.”
“1 pm, I’ll pick up my family and take them to the Plaza. An hour later, John is going to get Penny, Charlotte, Lily, et al, from the London office.”
“Marina, will you be going with Clint?”
“Yes,” she said as she came in with Kylie, “but we’ll be out of your hair for most of the day after that. We’ve got our own guests to deal with.”
“Do you mind if I go and shower first, darlings,” Kylie said, “I feel as if I am especially glowing after this morning’s workout.”
“Of course – on you go Kylie,” Susan said as she looked at the papers again. “Are all the hotel rooms booked?”
“Yes they are darling, please stop worrying Susan, we have this well in hand.” Clint hugged his wife.
“I just don’t want any last minute hiccups.”
“There won’t be…”
“What about Maddie and the girls from the LA office?” Susan suddenly looked panicked.”
“The van Roon’s are sending their driver.” Clint shook his head. “Relax, love – it is all in hand.”
“I know I’m worrying,” Susan left, “but I don’t want to leave someone stranded at the airport expecting a ride that doesn’t arrive.”
“I think everyone has been accounted for… Oh, hang on…”
“Oh god Clint, who have I forgotten,” Susan said in a panic as she looked at the sheet again.
“Have we got room for you in there?”
Susan turned slowly and looked at him, as Clint backed away, saying “I think I’d better just go and make sure the car’s all right…”
“Where is Clint going in such a hurry,” Maeve said as he passed her.
“Somewhere I can’t throw a cushion at him,” Susan laughed, shaking her head as she sorted the papers out.
“Hey,” Gale said as she walked up to Carina and Judith, “how are you feeling this morning?”
“More important, how are you feeling,” Carina said as Judith tried to catch a butterfly.
“Honestly? You were right – I had the best night’s sleep for a long time,” Gale said as she sat at the table.
“Two cappuccinos, please,” Carina said as the waitress nodded, and headed for the counter.
“Do you think she will sleep easier for a while now?”
Gale nodded slowly as the cups were brought over.
“I hope you don’t mind, but Tom is coming to meet me here in a little while – we need to go and start shopping for baby things.”
“No problem – I’m heading down to the Village anyway to be there when Annie gets back.”
“Where has she been?”
“St Louis – she felt it was time to bring some of her family belongings out of storage.”
“You two make an amazing couple you know,” Gale said quietly.
“We have a great deal in common,” Carina said with a smile, “even if I wasn’t that good at math.”
Gale smiled and shook her head as she heard Tom Callaghan say “There you are – hope I’m not interrupting?”
“Of course not,” Carina said as he ordered another coffee. “We were just discussing baby things – especially given you are determined not to know the sec of junior.”
“It makes it more exciting,” Tom said as he took a drink from his cup. “Although it does mean pink or blue is out, hence the light green for the walls of the nursery.”
“And it also means we look for pine furniture – not so bad in itself,” Gale said as she tickled Judith’s chin. She giggled and tried to grab Gale’s finger, as Tom watched her.
“Right,” Carina said as she finished her drink, “I need to get down to the village. Have fun shopping!”
“Welcome back Miss Harker, Miss Harmon,” John said as Penny and Lily made their way through from the Arrivals hall, pulling their cases behind them. “Susan sends her regards, and has asked me to make sure you get to the hotel.
“Good to see you as well, John,” Lily said as she kissed him on his cheek, and then turned as they watched Charlotte and Piet walk through, Piet carrying their cases.
John smiled and said “I have the car waiting outside for all of you – may I help you with the cases, Mister van der Byl?”
“No, it’s all right John, I think I can manage,” the man mountain said with a smile.
“That’s my big bear,” Charlotte said with a smile.
“We have got rooms booked at the Waldorf for all of you,” John said as he led the way to the car, the girls waving to Marina as she stood in her blouse and jeans.
“Did you see them?”
“We had to – we were playing shotgun on Susan’s orders,” Lily said, “and after what they did to Dom’s place, they damn well knew they had to be on their best behavior…”
Marina kept looking at the doors, before they slid open and two young women came through, wearing jeans and t-shirts, looking round and appearing completely out of place. The taller of the two was dark skinned, and had straight red dyed hair, while the smaller girl had curly brown hair.
“Hello Tracy, Hello Bev.” Marina greeted the two Vipers as they came into the arrivals area.
The two girls stopped dead and looked at Marina as she walked slowly over. “Gawd is that really you Rina?” Tracy gasped at the site of her old friend.
“It is Trace.” Marina smiled. “Welcome to New York.”
“I can’t fuckin’ believe it, I’m in the fuckin’ States.” Bev shook her head.
“Yes, you’re here – and not without pulling some strings let me tell you,” Marina said as she hugged them. “You’re both looking well.”
“We’re looking well? Bloody hell Rina what have you done with yourself?”
Marina shook her head before she said “Look you two, Susan did me a big favour saying that for old times we should invite some Vipers to the christening. Try and behave so you don’t let either of us down please.”
“We know.” Tracy nodded.
“So nothing gets nicked, nothing bad happens, just relax and enjoy yourselves.”
“When did you get such a lah-di-dah voice Rina?”
“When I decided that I was never going back to a lousy squat in North London,” Marina said quietly, “and I discovered Susan was right. Out here, just remember that you are two old friends of Susan’s from London.”
“So where’s Kylie,” Bev said as she looked round.
“You’ll meet her in a little while – trust me, I’m the start of a lot of shocks coming your way. Right now, we get you to the hotel, and then Kylie and I will take you shopping…oh and before I forget, shopping here means we pay for everything we take out of the store…Understand?”
“We understand,” Bev said, “but fucking hell – New York.”
“I heard someone else said that first time,” Marina said as they walked out, hailing a taxi as they waited.
“I believe Annie has returned,” Ama said as she sat in the window, looking to the street below.
“What makes you say that,” Carina said as she walked over, and looked at the small truck that was slowly reversing into the parking space. “Yeah, that would be her all right. Coming Caroline?”
“Give me a moment,” Dom said as she adjusted her wig, before the trio headed downstairs.
“Thank god – I made it,” Annie said as she climbed out of the driver’s seat.
“Welcome home Monster Lady.” Carina hugged Annie as she stood by the truck.
“Just lock it for now we will unload it later.” Caroline hugged her roommate as she came over.
“Sounds good to me,” Annie said as she locked the doors, and hugged Ama.
“We borrowed Winston to help, he should be here soon.” Ama kissed her teacher. “For now, we have fresh coffee brewing upstairs.”
“That’s the best thing I’ve heard all day,” Annie said as she walked slowly up the stairs, smiling as she looked round.
“Thank the goddess that’s over.” Annie eased herself onto a stool in the kitchen as Caroline poured some coffees. “That is a long, long, drive.”
“Well at least you made it safely love.” Cari kissed her.
“Just about. That storm front wasn’t funny, I think I dodged a couple of tornadoes somehow.”
“I’ll admit I did keep an eye on the weather channel.” Caroline spoke.
“Oh you don’t know how good it is to be home.”
“So St Louis isn’t home anymore?” Cari asked.
“No home is where the heart is, and that’s wherever you are.” Annie kissed her lover.
Holiday Inn Express, Fifth Avenue
“This is an amazing place,” Tracy said as she and Bev travelled down in the lift with Marina, having washed and cleaned themselves up a bit.
“That Lily watched us all the way over,” Bev said as she looked around the lift.
“Can you blame her? It took me an age to be able to look her in the eye after that going away party.”
“Oh but what a great night, eh?”
“You’re going to meet her landlady tomorrow – want to explain it to her?”
Bev slowly turned her head and whispered “Dominique?”
“Yeah – Now Kylie, see if you can spot her.”
“Oh come on – we spotted you…”
“I mean, how hard is it going to be to spot Kylie in the lobby?”
“Try,” Marina said as the lift doors opened and they walked out.
Tracy and Bev looked round, as people walked to and fro, looking for their old friend.
“Maybe she hasn’t arrived yet,” Bev said as she looked at Marina.
“Honestly, darling, are you sure it is not you who needs the glasses, instead of me?”
Tracy slowly turned round and looked at the thin blonde, wearing a cream sundress with a thin black belt, and three inch heeled sandals, smiling broadly as she looked at them through her glasses.
“That’s right, Tracy,” Kylie said as she kissed the girl on both cheeks, “what do you think?”
“Kylie? Oh f…”
“Language, Beverly – you need to mind your p’s and q’s here,” Kylie said as she hugged her friend, “but it is good to see you again.”
“What happened to her,” Tracy whispered to Marina.
“Quite a transformation, isn’t it? Anyway, come on – we have things to do, places to be. Shall we hail a cab?”
Twenty minutes later, the quartet alighted outside the main entrance to APCO, Kylie smiling as she walked slowly forward, her hips swaying as she did so.
“There is no way that is the same Kylie,” Tracy whispered to Marina as Bev stared at her.
“Trust me, she is – under our training program, she’s becoming a very skilled fighter and has picked up some very different skills,” Marina whispered back as they walked in, and made their way through the store.
“Hello Miss Sokowski, and Miss Mitchell – a pleasure to see you both again.”
“Hello Betsy,” Marina said as Tracy and Bev looked round. “Well, these are the two girls I rang you about. They are here for the Walker Christening and don’t have a thing suitable.”
“Well shall we see what we can do about that,” Betsy said with a smile, “come this way please ladies.”
She led them past the racks of dresses, stopping as she said, “these are the latest in our line of summer occasion outfits. Perhaps we can find something that will suit you here?”
“I don’t think I’ve ever been in a place like this before,” Bev said as she admired some of the dresses.
“I was thinking about that pale lemon suit I looked at for myself.” Kylie said as she looked appraisingly at Tracy.
“Yes I can see what you have in mind,” Betsy said as she stood for a second as well, looking at Tracy. “How tall are you miss?”
“About five eight.” Tracy answered.
“And I think she’s about a size four.” Kylie stood hand on hip. “Black gloves, pumps and hat, I think that would look wonderful.”
“Well I’ll sort out a couple of other things for her to try, but I think you might be right.”
“Now for you Bev?” Kylie stood looking.
“If I may make a suggestion – how old are you?”
“I’m sixteen,” Bev said as she looked at Kylie.
“Well, I wonder how this would look on her,” Betsy said as she picked up a light red dress, with a white trim, and held it in front of Bev.
“Hmm – do you have the same style, but in a light blue?”
Betsy selected a dress in the colour Kylie suggested, and handed them both to the young girl.
“Why don’t you go in and try those on – one of my assistants will come and help in a moment,” Betsy said as Bev looked at her.
“Actually, let me help her,” Kylie said as she took Bev by the arm, and walked her into the changing area. Betsy then handed a selection of gowns to Tracy, who followed them in with one of the assistants, as Marina sat down and accepted a cup of coffee.
“Well, nice to see you get some time off.”
“There you are,” Marina said as Susan pulled up a seat, “Come to meet the girls.”
“Come to make sure they’re behaving themselves,” Susan whispered. “Where’s Kylie?”
“In with Bev – I think she felt she had more chance than one of Betsy’s assistants in getting her into a dress.”
“True – never mind the fact of Bev in a… Oh my, that really does suit you Trace.”
“Hi Susan,” Tracy said as she came out in the pale yellow jacket and skirt, and looked at herself in the long mirror. “I don’t know what else Kylie’s picked up in that school, but damn she has good taste in clothing.”
“I have to agree,” Susan said as she looked at her old friend. “Betsy, do you have a pair of three inch in yellow?”
“I thought these would suit,” Betsy said as she handed Tracy a pair of pumps, watching as she slipped the shoes on and then turned round.
“Oh yes – black gloves and a hat, and we’re good to go, if you like it Tracy.”
“I love it,” Tracy said as she smiled, “and I can’t thank you enough for this – for having us over as well.”
“Well, behave yourselves and it could happen a bit more often,” Susan said as Kylie looked out from the changing room.
“Susan, darling, would you come and tell Beverly she looks all right please?”
“Back in a moment,” Susan said as she went into the changing area, emerging with a very different looking Bev, the light blue dress hanging on her and coming to just above her knees as she walked uncertainly out.
“Oh my,” Marina said as she stood up, “this is a new look for you, Bev.”
“Isn’t it – but she looks divine in it, doesn’t she,” Kylie said. “Betsy, could I suggest a blue blazer?”
“With white gloves and shoes?”
“You read my mind, darling,” Kylie drawled as Bev and Tracy looked at each other.
“I’ll do it if you do it?”
Nodding, Bev put on the blazer and looked at herself, then said “yeah, I can make this work…”
“Good – Betsy, charge to my account please,” Susan said as she looked at her watch, “I’m late to meet my in-laws. What are you going to do after this?”
“We’ve been invited to dinner at Shirley’s place,” Marina said. Susan looked at the four of them, and then smiled as she said “I’ll see you tomorrow then girls. Marina, Kylie, don’t be too late back please – we need to be at the church early.”
Upper West Side
“Hello, anybody home,” Clint called out as he opened the apartment door, standing to one side as his parents came in. His father Craig was slightly taller, with grey hair either side of a balding head, but he was as lean and tanned as Clint, wearing a jacket over a light coloured shirt and trousers.
Alice Walker was also a tall woman, wearing a short sleeved white wool dress and high heels, as she looked round, her blonde hair held back by a white Alice band. They looked to the kitchen as Rose came out, drying her hands.
“Oh hello Clint,” she said as Maeve emerged from the bedroom, “I’m afraid Susan isn’t back yet.”
“That’s all right – may I introduce my mother and father? Mom, Dad – this is Susan’s mother and aunt.”
“Hello I’m Rose,” she said as she held her hand out, “and this is my sister Maeve.”
“It’s finally nice to meet you Rose.” Clint’s father said as they shook hands.
“And you as well.”
“Hello Rose,” Clint’s mother embraced her. “How are things going?”
“Oh not so bad… good days and not so good days,” Rose said with a smile. “Come with me - I think someone needs to be woken so that her grandmothers can fuss over her.”
“That sounds like a plan to me,” Alice said as she and Rose went into the bedroom.
“A beer dad?” Clint offered as he walked towards the kitchen.
“Please, as long as…”
“My sister can be around alcohol Mr. Walker,” Maeve said with a smile, “she just can’t drink it.”
“I’ll bring out some cold ones.” Clint smiled, “I presume you too as well Maeve?”
“On a hot day like today it should really hit the spot, so yes please Clint.”
“Sorry I’m late,” Susan said as she came in, “Are they here yet?”
“I’m afraid so,” Craig said as he kissed his daughter in law, “but don’t worry, we won’t hold it against you.”
“Please,” Susan said as she hung her coat up.
“She’s grown so much.” Alice said as she came back in with April and Rose.
“That she has,’ Susan smiled, “And I’m sorry I wasn’t here, I had to go see some old friends.”
“We’ll get to meet them tomorrow?”
“Oh yes – they’re looking forward to it as well.”
Big Nick’s, 70 W 71st St.
“It’s good of you to invite me out,” Grace said as she sat with Barbara and Jeannie at a table in the busy restaurant. “I love staying with Juliette, but as she’s going to this party at Shirley’s apartment tonight…”
“I know – you need the fresh air and space,” Barbara said as the waitress brought their drinks over. “Can you give us a few more minutes please?”
“Of course,” she said as she walked off, and Grace looked round.
“At least nobody asks you for an autograph here.”
“No reason they should – a lot of people from theatreland come in here, precisely because they know they can grab some food and not be bothered.”
“Hello Jeannie – how is your holiday going?”
Jeannie suddenly looked up, nearly choking on her drink as she saw Miss Tennant there, wearing a belted coat dress and sandals.
“Miss Tennant – sorry, I didn’t recognize you in civvies for a moment.”
“Well, even head teachers have to eat from time to time,” she said with a smile. “Hello Barbara – but I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure?”
“I believe you two are slightly acquainted.” Jeannie smiled, “Miss Tennant, meet Mrs. Brand.”
“Oh yes, we have spoken a couple of times.” Grace said as she held out her hand.
“Indeed we have,” Wilhelmina Tennant replied, smiling as she shook it.
“I understand that Jeannie loves her new school.” Grace smiled.
“Well she’s something of a prize student.”
“Miss you’ll be giving me a swollen head.” Jeannie laughed.
“Do you mind if I join you?”
“Please Miss Tennant.” Barbara patted the seat beside her.
As she sat down, Miss Tennant said “I have heard of some of your troubles Mrs. Brand, I’m sorry that your board or whatever is giving you such problems.”
“Well I suspect you’ve had your own troubles Miss Tennant, as Principals or Headmistresses it seems to go with the territory…and by the way it’s Grace.”
“Indeed Grace, my Board of Trustees and I have not always seen eye to eye.”
“Jeannie has been telling me about your marvelous facilities,” Grace said. “I will admit I’m quite jealous.”
“I’ve taught myself in the public sector Grace, so I know the budgetary problems – and please, call me Wilhelmina.”
“Something as relatively easy as a real PE programme for Jeannie is just impossible within our budget.”
“Well luckily we could afford some in school training so our existing Phys Ed people could help her.”
“Ladies while you talk shop, can I get you some food?” Barbara asked.
“Oh sorry – let’s order and then we can make Jeannie feel really embarrassed,” Grace said as they looked at the menu.
“Okay, now I know you’re having me on,” Tracy said as the four of them stepped out of the cab. As well as their summer dresses, they had both bought a new blouse and trousers, which both Tracy and Bev had changed into before they had taken a cab uptown.
“Who lives here,” said as she looked at the entrance.
“The lady who sponsors me – Shirley Xavier. She’s having a small get together of some of her staff and a friends before the christening tomorrow – it gives them a chance to mingle socially from the three main offices. Anyway, we are expected, so let’s go in.”
The four women walked in as the doorman looked over.
“You are attending Miss Xavier’s party?”
“That’s right,” Marina said, “we are expected. Miss Sokowski?”
“Ah yes,” he said as he looked at a list on his desk, “you are expected. Top floor.”
“Thank you,” Marina said as they went into the elevator, Tracy and Bev looking at each other as they went up.
As the elevator opened, Kylie walked slowly out, leading the way as they approached the large doors at the end of the corridor.
“You are going to love this apartment,” Kylie said as she knocked on the door, “it is simply to die for.”
Tracy and Bev watched as the door was opened by an African girl, not much older than Bev, wearing a red sleeveless dress and flat shoes.
“Good evening, Marina, Kylie,” she said as she stood to one side, “please, come in.”
“Thank you, Maisha,” Marina said as they walked in, the girl closing the door behind them. “May I introduce our friends from London, Tracy and Bev. Girls, this is Maisha – Shirley is her guardian.”
“A great pleasure to meet both of you,” Maisha said with a smile. “If you will follow me, some of the others are already in the drawing room and on the balcony.”
As they walked in, Tracy whispered “She seems a nice enough girl.”
“Just keep thinking that,” Marina said with a smile as they entered the drawing room.
“Ah, I see your friends arrived safely,” a tall auburn haired woman said, in a deep rich voice. “Welcome to my apartment, I’m Shirley.”
“Tracy,” the taller girl said as she shook the woman’s hand, “and this is Beverly.”
“A pleasure to meet both of you,” she said, smiling as she did so. “Please, feel free to help yourself to food and drink, and to circulate. Perhaps Kylie can introduce you to some of the other younger girls here?”
“It would be my pleasure, Shirley,” Kylie said as she took Bev over to where Doc and Pepsi were sitting with Ama.
“Who are they,” Tracy said as she watched Kylie introducing them.
“Well, Ama knows Maisha very well,” she said as Bev shook the hand of the seated African girl, “and Anna Carlton and Nikki Broadhurst – Pepsi to her friends – are school friends of Ama.”
“Not to mention the fact that Ama is my daughter.”
Tracy turned and saw a tall blonde haired woman standing behind them, wearing a white blouse and long crimson skirt.
“I’ve seen you in magazines,” Tracy said, “you’re Caroline Jameson. How do you know Shirley?”
“Well Shirley employs me in my capacity as a security consultant,” Caroline said with a smile, “but we also have mutual friends as well. You must be Tracy – Marina has told me a lot about you.”
“It’s a real pleasure,” Tracy said as they shook hands. “I presume Ama is your adopted daughter?”
“She is – both she and Maisha were victims of the child slavery ring that was exposed in New York last summer.”
Tracy’s eyes widened as she looked at the two girls, laughing and joking with Kylie and the others.
“Excuse me a moment – I need to talk to someone,” Caroline said with a smile, “but I do hope we get the chance to talk again later.”
“She seems nice enough,” Tracy said as she took a beer from the bar.
“She is,” Marina said as Helen walked over. “Tracy, let me introduce you to Helen York, the PA to my current employer Catherine Lo. Helen, this is Tracy Cocker.”
“A pleasure,” Helen said as she shook Tracy’s hand, taking her by surprise with her grip. “I am glad you were able to come and be with Susan this weekend.”
“Well, I could hardly refuse the invitation,” Tracy said. “So you work with Marina in Hong Kong?”
“That’s right – I am supervising her training,” Helen said with a smile. “Come – let me introduce you to Catherine.”
“So why has Sandy not flown out with you,” Maddie said as she stood with Lily and Penny.
“There was a training course she had to supervise this weekend at the farm,” Penny said as she sipped her drink, “but she’s flying directly to LA and meeting us out there. Where’s Emma?”
“Final preparations for next week – she said she needed to meet a few people, and make sure her family’s hotel bookings had not been taken away. Besides, as she put it, this is a time for family.”
“Very true,” Lily said as a red haired woman walked over, wearing a white top and shorts.
“Ah – you haven’t met Tracey before have you? Tracey, meet Penny and Lily from the UK offices.”
“We’ve spoken often enough on the phone, so it’s a great pleasure to finally meet you,” Tracey said as they shook hands. “Have you seen Dom? I thought she was coming as well.”
“Dominique? Oh she’ll be here eventually,” Lily said with a smile as she glanced at Caroline talking to George and John, “I’ll make sure you see her when she turns up.”
“So I understand we will be doing a team building exercise here in two weeks?”
“Yes – the tickets have already been arranged by Susan’s new PA, and I guarantee you will have a real experience.”
“You know what’s going to happen, don’t you?”
“Even if I did, I would not tell you,” Lily said with a smile.
“It’s amazing,” Tracy said as she and Bev stood on the terrace, looking out, “24 hours, and look at us – eating and drinking in an amazing apartment in the heart of New York.”
“Yeah – and on our best behaviour as well.” Bev sipped her drink and looked round. “You know, this would be one hell of a target.”
“Yeah – but you wouldn’t get past the front door.”
“Think about it Bev – Susan works for Shirley Xavier, and so does the Lily bird. She’s the one who called us in for that little conversation with those girls from Harlow a couple of weeks back.”
“Yeah, and… Oh. OH!”
“Now you get it – Shirley Xavier is…”
“A very well known business woman,” Caroline said as she came out with Marina, “with many interests both in business and in leisure. Did you know, for example, she co-sponsors a fairly successful racing team in New York?”
“Really? That is a surprise,” Tracy said as she nudged Bev in the ribs. “She certainly has something about her of a leader.”
“Precisely. While I have you out here, I understand that I have you to thank for a little remodelling that had to be done to my house in London?” Caroline spoke.
“Us?” Bev looked at Tracy, before she said “You mean the party? I thought that was the house Lily lived in with you and Kylie before you came over.”
“I admit, it got a little out of hand,” Tracy said, “but it was a great party.”
“So I heard,” Caroline said quietly, “from all other parties concerned.”
The two girls looked at Marina, who was shaking her head and laughing. “Oh I’m sorry - I didn’t introduce you properly did I? Caroline here is a model, and a security consultant for Shirley and others, but I suspect you know her better under another name. Tracy, Bev, meet the legendary Dominique.”
“Oh crap!” Bev’s jaw dropped as she looked at Caroline.
“Ah – look, I am really, really sorry, and please – don’t hurt us?”
“Hurt you? It meant I had to get some work done earlier that I had planned, but that’s the past – Marina and Kylie have both apologized, and I accept your apologies now. Assuming you are apologizing?”
Both girls nodded as Marina said “now do you understand in particular why you must behave?”
“Yeah, we get it,” they said as Lily came out.
“Riot Act read?”
“No need – I think they are suitably overawed,” Caroline said with a smile. “Now come on in and enjoy the party.”
Holiday Inn Express
“I still can’t fucking believe it Trace – we met Dominique and survived?”
Tracy came in from the bathroom, drying her hair as she said “I know, Bev – but you can’t deny it, they look bloody wonderful?”
“Yeah, they do – but she don’t arf talk funny…”
“Rina or Kyles?”
“Bofe of ‘em,” Bev said as she lay back. “Real funny…”
“You said it Bev.
Tracy looked over to see the redhead lying on her side, fast asleep. Smiling, she turned off the lights and climbed under her sheets, quickly falling asleep herself…
Sunday 12th July
Upper West Side
“That obvious,” Susan said as she sipped her coffee, sitting in her dressing gown. Rose and Maeve had already eaten, and were getting dressed, while Clint and Marina were taking care of April.
“Well, I can tell anyway,” Kylie said as she sipped her orange juice. The young girl was wearing a white nightgown as she said “but remember – this is really her day.”
“I know, I know,” Susan said as she stood up. “I’d better go and get into the shower – can you clear up?”
“Of course I can,” Kylie said as she cleared the breakfast plates away, gracefully walking into the kitchen and loading the dishwasher.
“Hey,” Marina said as she came in, “so what was it like seeing them again?”
“Like looking in a glass darkly,” Kylie said as she started the machine, “I see so much they could do, given the chances we have been given.”
Marina nodded as she looked at the young woman. “Agreed – I think Lily and Shirley may have an idea, but I’ve been asked not to say anything until they get a chance to talk to them later.”
“The look on their faces when they realized who Caroline was as well…”
“That was worth the price of admission,” Marina said with a smile as Clint carried April in.
“Right, little one, into your car seat,” Clint said as he strapped her in, “and then you get to watch as all we silly adults get ready.”
“Who’s next,” Susan called out.
“If you don’t mind?”
“No, go on,” Marina said as Kylie sashayed out…
“Maeve my hands are shaking,” Rose said as she looked in the mirror, “can you help pin up my hair please?”
“What’s wrong?” Maeve walked over and put her hands on Rose’s shoulders, as she looked at herself.
“It’s nothing to do with booze or DT’s,” Rose smiled, “this time it’s purely big event nerves.”
“I must admit I have a few butterflies as well.” Maeve said as she pinned her sister’s hair up, then stood back and admired, “you know Rosie you look amazing.”
“I do don’t I,” Rose said as she stood up and looked at herself, in a royal blue dress coat with mid-length sleeves.
“And so do you darlin’.” Rose said as she hugged her sister.
“Does anyone need any help?” Susan called from the sitting room.
“No I think we have everything under control darling.” Kylie called back.
“Well we have thirty minutes before we must leave for the church everyone.” Clint called out.
“Well I’m ready…what do you think darlings?” Kylie came into the living room in a peach minidress with a matching bolero jacket, gloves, heels and large hat.
“Blown away.” Clint smiled.
“That is an amazing outfit Kylie.” Susan shook her head.
“Well the dress is from APCO, the rest is borrowed from the CS wardrobe.”
“She’s been agonizing over what to wear for a week,” Marina said as she emerged, pulling on her gloves.
“Well you don’t exactly look like you threw on the first thing out of your closet either.” Clint whistled.
“Thank you,” Marina smiled as she checked herself in the mirror. “This is all APCO,” she pointed to the black and white dress and the hat, “but these shoes I borrowed from Janine, the gloves are from the wardrobe, and the blazer Juliette gave me from one of the designer offerings that came in.”
“Well it looks very special.” Susan smiled.
“And what about the mother?”
“Oh this? I think it looks good,” Susan said as she brushed some imaginary lint from her cream slip dress, the jacket hanging on the back of a chair.
“I’ll go darlings.” Kylie called out as the doorbell rang, and she said “You must be Uncle Clint’s parents – please come in.”
“Mom, Dad, you look wonderful.” Clint said as he greeted his parents.
“You don’t look exactly bad yourself son…new suit?”
“Made to measure in Hong Kong, Dad. Catherine got my measurements last time in she was New York.”
“Do you think she could do one for your father?” Clint’s Mom asked as he kissed her on the cheek.
“I’m sure we can accommodate him…I’m Marina,” the English girl shook hands. “A real pleasure to meet you at last.”
“And I’m Kylie darlings.”
“Well it’s nice to meet you both. You are Susan’s cousin?” Alice Walker asked.
“I am, but I call her Aunt Susan, because there are a few years age difference.” Kylie smiled.
“Alice, do you want to come and help me dress April?” Rose called out.
“So what do you do in Hong Kong Marina?” Craig asked as he sat down.
“Well I’m there to learn Cantonese, but I’m also trying to learn Mandarin as well. I’m on secondment from Xavier International to Huntingdown’s while I do so.”
“That sounds very impressive.”
“It’s tough work, but I’m getting on top of it,” Marina said as Maeve took the light grey jacket and put it on.
“I knew I was right.” Maeve looked in the mirror, “that shorter length jacket would have made me look all arse.”
“It’s the penalty we pay for our Irish heritage.” Susan laughed.
“Oh that with hips like yours you have to worry.” Maeve laughed.
“I worked hard to get this figure back.” Susan laughed again.
“She did.” Clint put his arms round his wife’s waist. The sound of the telephone ringing made him let go as he went to answer it.
“Is everything arranged for the party afterwards?” asked Craig.
“The one thing I haven’t done.” Susan looked round, “Nessa Richmond’s organized that.”
“Which means it will be wonderful.” Clint said as he put the phone down. “Okay Troy, Leigh and family are on their way to the church, and Suzanne, Bill, and their kids are just about ready.”
“Is that your brother and sister and their families?” Maeve asked.
“It is indeed – they got in too late last night to call round, but you will meet them there. Where’s April?”
“Right here,” Rose said as she and Alice returned with April, the little girl in her lace gown.
“You say that wonderful christening gown was a gift from the van Roon family?” Alice asked as Clint fastened his daughter into her seat.
“It was. Patricia is a good friend, and I know her parents and her sister and her family.” Susan replied.
“Well even out in California I know who the van Roon’s are. This is going to be a very grand occasion isn’t it?”
“I guess so.” Susan smiled. “I should warn you there will be press and photographers outside the church, but don’t let them worry you…”
“They only bite a little.” Kylie interrupted with a giggle.
“All right,” Clint said, “time we were out of here. The cars are downstairs, let’s get going!”
Holiday Inn Express
“Do you feel a bit funny as well,” Bev said as she stood under the canopy, squinting under her wide hat.
“I haven’t dressed up like this sins my first christening,” Tracy said, “and that was nearly twenty years ago…”
“So where’s this car Susan said would pick us up?”
“That might be it,” Tracy said as a black car pulled up, and the driver rolled down the window. Both Tracy and Bev looked at the blonde as she looked at them.
girls, you are Beverly and Tracy aren't you?"
Abby squinted through her glasses.
de Ros," Beverly stammered.
and I apologise for being late."
"Okay when Susan said she'd set us up with a lift, she failed to mention from who?" Tracy laughed, still slightly in shock.
“Strap in,” Abby said as she moved off, “I should have been at the church by now…”
St Mark’s Church
“Hello Penny,” Abigail said as she kissed her friend, “I see you and the others made it?”
“We did indeed,” Penny said as she stood in her black dress, open at the neck, and white jacket. Abby was dressed in the opposite way – a white sheath dress with a black blazer.
“How was the flight,” Diana asked as she greeted Lily, Charlotte and Piet.
“Not bad – I’ve been on worse,” she said with a smile.
“Hey there,” David Fitzstuart said as he arrived with Judy, “so I get to be one today, do I?”
“Yes you do – Marina should be here with them soon,” Penny said as she waved to Shirley and John, the two of them walking into the church with Maisha, Maddie and some of the others.
“Gawd, I’ve never seen so many people or so many cameras,” Tracy said as she and Bev stood to the side.
“Do all of them know Susan?”
“In on way or another, they do.”
The girls turned to see Caroline standing behind them with Ama. “Susan suggested you may wish to sit with us for the service – I can introduce you to some of our mutual friends at the same time, such as young Jeannie here.”
“Hi Caroline,” Jeannie Brewster said as she arrived with her mother, grandfather and House, “who are your friends?”
“Friends of Susan’s from the UK – Tracy, Bev, this is…”
“Jeannie Brewster,” Tracy whispered as she held her hand out.
“What gave it away – the hair,” Jeannie said with a smile as they shook hands, and House started to push her into the church.
“She doesn’t know what happened the night of the show,” Caroline said quietly, “but I for one thank you. And don’t be afraid - they’re all just normal folks like us…”
“They have a beautiful day for it,” Nessa said as she met Paulie and Gus on the foot of the stairs.
“Indeed they do – Alex getting ready?”
“I would imagine so – ah, here they are now.”
“Well, here we are again,” Sandy said as she adjusted her hat, Jo and Heather following her with the kids.
“Hey, Sandy,” Katy Carter said as she ran over to join them, “you look nice.”
“So do you,” Little Sandy said, Jo smiling as she watched George trying to hide from Katy.
“It’s a lovely day for a christening,” Janice said as she and Adam joined them, “how is everyone.”
“Not too bad,” Heather said, “I had another bad night, but not as bad as earlier this week.”
Sandy looked at her lover, seeing the dark circles under her eyes. She had not woken up, but she had been talking in her sleep again, pleading for Jo to be left alone, and that was bad enough.
“Well, let’s join the teeming throng,” Sandy said as they all headed up the stairs.
the press have anything better to do on a July Sunday morning?" Carina
spoke to herself, as she gave the keys to the Maserati to a parking attendant.
smiles please." Carina turned and briefly posed for the photographers,
before walking up the church stairs.
are your Mom and Klaus?" Abby asked as Carina joined her and the London
know this christening will be late because of all this."
"Before I forget, Carina,” Abby said as Caroline and the others came over, “these are Beverly and Tracy, two London friends of Susan's.”
“Pleasure,” Carina said as she shook their hands.
“And you are
right,” Caroline said as she looked round, “this whole press thing is
"They even wanted to snap my bluddy picture." Bev shook her head.
“Well you look beautiful Beverly.” Abby smiled.
"This is Annie, my partner, and this little angel is my daughter Judith."
“Hi,” Annie said as she waved Judith’s hand at them.
“Yeah – Alex just looked out and said they can wait a few minutes more – mainly because the guest of honour has not arrived yet…”
hear them call you Princess?" Tracy asked.
forgot," Abby giggled, "this is Princess Carina von
is the Countess Abigail de Ros." Cari fired back, and shook her head, “I
thought I’d got you out of the habit of using the P word Abs?"
couldn't resist, if only to see the look on poor Beverly and Tracy's
really a Princess?" asked Bev half disbelievingly.
"I am, but for all our sakes, I'm just Cari....eh?"
“What the heck are we doing here,” Tracy said as she looked at the people coming in.
“Just how many people know this woman,” the dark haired woman said as she walked towards the church beside Karen Boyd, Ken carrying John in his seat.
“Susan is a very popular young woman – and as she is a cousin of Juliette Huntingdown, she’s considered part of their extended social circle,” Karen said as they crossed the road, the press taking photos as they passed.
“Oh – one of these famed sinners,” her friend said as she looked round. “So, Heather Smith?”
“She’s probably already inside Serena – why don’t we enjoy the service, and you can meet her later. Any ideas so far?”
“From what Sandy said, I think somehow her sister Joanne is the key to this – but I’ll know more when I see her.”
“FINALLY!” Susan smiled as she got out of the car with Rose and Maeve, Clint unclipping April and handing her over as Marina and Kylie arrived with Clint’s parents.
“We thought you weren’t going to make it,” a tall man said as he came over, unmistakably Clint’s brother, accompanied by a brown haired woman and two teenage girls.
“Traffic is ridiculous,” Clint said as they embraced. “This is Rose, Susan’s mother, and her Aunt Maeve. Ladies, my older brother Troy.”
“Pleasure,” he said as he shook their hands, “this is my wife Leigh, and the girls are May and June.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Leigh said in a soft Western accent.
“Hello Susan,” a blonde haired woman said as she joined them, with a red haired man and two young boys.
“Ladies, this is Suzanne, Bill, Alan and Jeff. We had better get a move on – I see certain people at the church entrance looking at their watches…”
“I know, I know,” Susan said as they made their way up the stairs, “sorry.”
“It’s all right – Alex has the organ going inside, courtesy of Jude,” Carina said.
“You made it then,” Susan said to Tracy and Bev.
“Yeah – thanks to your special guest driver,” Tracy said as she looked at Marina and Kylie – and then at Rose.
“Mum, I don’t know if you remember Tracy and Bev.”
“It’s… It’s a real pleasure to see you again Rose,” Tracy said as she shook her hand.
“It’s good to see both of you as well,” Rose said with a smile,” I hope you’ve both kept well and out of trouble?”
“As much as possible, thank you,” Bev said, shaking her head as Clint and Susan went in with April, the others following.
"I see the three witches have arrived." Sandy laughed.
"Darling that is WICKED!" Nessa smiled as Mary Thomas, Anna Mitchell, and Katherine Carter got out of Mary's car.
“Is our name beign taken in vain – again,” Mary said as they walked up the steps.
“Only in jest – we’d better head in…”
The church was filling, people chatting quietly in the pews as Judith played the organ. Heather looked at George and Sandy, smiling as they talked to Jo, and then stifled a yawn, hoping that nobody else noticed.
“Do you mind if we sit with you,” Juliette said as she and Klaus appeared next to Karen. “We got caught in the traffic, and it looks like Carina is with Annie and the others.”
“Of course not,” Karen said and she and Ken moved in a little. “Juliette, this is Serena, a friend from Boston. Serena, Juliette Huntingdown.”
“Pleasure – this is Klaus and Ingrid, his daughter,” Juliette said as they all shook hands.
Serena smiled as she watched the blonde a few pews in front of her – she could see the signs of fatigue, but she obviously doted on her charges, and they seemed very happy with her and her sister.
The sister looked happy – and a thought occurred to her as she watched them. Maybe the key was not something that had happened recently…
“Heather’s sister Jo – has she graduated high school?”
“Yeah – she’s off to William Smith in August. Why?”
“I’m curious – has anything happened to Jo since she came here?”
was kidnapped a year ago by someone who thought she was his dead
daughter." Karen explained.
think I’m beginning to get a picture." Serena nodded.
closely at her. "You think this is
about Jo going off to college don't you?"
"I'm beginning to think it is, away from big sisters protection and care. Heather is having nightmares I suspect that are more to do worrying about Jo, than what actually happened to herself."
“Could it be as simple as that?”
imagining the worst fate her brain can think of for Jo, and that's falling into
the hands of their father."
you sure?" Karen whispered.
"Not totally, but it might be a place to start from when I talk to her."
“Well, is that the cure?”
Serena shook her head. "I'll still want to probe what happened to her as a child though, that must be addressed before something even worse than this happens."
"You think it might?"
"Left untreated then yes, she's repressing it I suspect, I bet even Sandy doesn't know the full horror."
The muttering crowd fell into silence as Judy stopped playing, and Alex came to the front of the church.
“Welcome, friends, guests and everyone, to our service this morning, which will include the sacrament of baptism for April Shirley Walker. We start with signing the classic hymn, Amazing Grace.”
Grace Brand stifled a little giggle as Alex continued “Let us all stand and sing.”
Rose wiped away a tear, Maeve holding her hand as they watched Clint and Susan standing by the baptismal font, David, Marina, Abby and Penny standing on the other side of Alex.
“April Shirley Walker,” he said as he dipped the scoop into the font, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Looking to her other side, she saw Kylie beaming as Tracy and Bev both watched silently.
“There we go,” Alex whispered as he handed April back to his mother, and then picked up some candles, handing one to Clint and one to each of the godparents as they stood there.
“Beautiful,” Shirley whispered to Cathy, the young Chinese woman nodding as Alex lit the candles, and said “we give these as a reminder of Christ, the light of the world, and to remind you of the responsibilities you have undertaken as parents and godparents.”
Guy and Valeria nodded as he blessed April, and then stood back as the baptism party made their way back to the front pew. “We will now sing a hymn chosen by Clint and Susan,” Alex said to the congregation, “a modern one, but with a very powerful message on this day. Please, join us in singing There is A Redeemer.”
As the church bells chimed out, the congregation started to make their way out, Susan and Clint remaining at the font with Alex and their families as John came forward with his bags.
“Thank you for allowing me to take some photographs here,” he said as Shirley stood to the side with Juliette and Catherine.
“A truly wonderful ceremony,” Shirley said with a smile, “somehow made better by the smaller size of the church.”
“Who are the two girls standing next to Kylie,” Catherine asked. Shirley looked over and said “You mean Tracy and Beverly? They are old friends of Susan, Kylie and Marina.”
“Ah – I think you need say no more,” Catherine said with a smile. “They seem extremely well behaved.”
“I understand certain promises were made, and certain threats uttered – particularly on the part of Caroline.”
“Ah,” Juliette said quietly, “that would explain a few things, such as their very attentive manner when she was around. I presume she has gone on to the reception?”
“Indeed – Maisha has gone with them as well as the others.”
“Now, everyone look at me and say Hi there….”
The group smiled as April tried to grab something in the air, John taking the photograph and smiling as he did so.
“Thank you – I won’t delay you any longer.”
“Time to change into my civvies,” Alex said with a smile, “I will see you all at the reception.”
“Wow,” Beverly said as they walked into the room with Marina and Kylie, “this is an amazing place.”
“Why don’t we take a seat over there darlings, and I’ll see if I can get some drinks,” Kylie said as they made their way over to a table, a waiter approaching as they sat down and offering glasses of wine.
“I’m not going to say a thing,” Marina said, “so long as you watch how much.”
“With the like of them watching over us,” Tracy said as Caroline came in with Ama and Lily, “I don’t think that’s going to be a problem…”
“Hey Karen,” Sandy said as the three Bostonians walked over, “coming to join us are you?”
“If that is all right with you, Heather and Jo,” Karen said as she sat down, “a wonderful service wasn’t it?”
“It was indeed,” Heather said with a smile as she looked at the other woman with Karen. “I’m sorry, I don’ think we’ve met?”
“I’m Serena – a friend of Karen’s,” she said as they shook hands, “I was in New York for a few days, and she was kind enough to invite me to join her today.”
“Well, I’m Heather Smith, this is my sister Joanne, and Sandy here is my employer and lover.”
“An interesting combination,” Serena said with a smile. “So you are friends of Susan and Clint?”
“We are,” Sandy said as the kids went to join Katy at another table, Heather watching them, “we formed part of the party at Curragh House when April was born.”
“Ah,” Serena said as she nodded to Karen, “they told me about that weekend. A roller coaster ride of emotions, I imagine.”
Heather nodded silently as the waiter brought some drinks over, Serena taking mental notes the whole time.
“Ah there you are,” Vanessa said as Clint and Susan led the families in, “a wonderful ceremony.”
“It was – and thank you for arranging this for us,” Susan said as Nessa kissed her on both cheeks. On a side table, she could see gifts and presents been left for the baby.
"Alice,” Susan said as she turned round, “can I present Vanessa Richmond, who has organised this reception for me, Nessa this is my mother-in-law Alice."
"It's nice to meet you Mrs. Walker,” Nessa said as they shook hands, “can I present Paulie van Roon, my best friend."
believe we have your family to thank for that amazing christening gown Mrs. van
specifically, my daughter Patricia, she had a friend in Brussels buy it and
send it out."
it's amazing, Rose was explaining some of the skill
and intricate work that’s in it."
mother knows her way round sewing Paulie." Susan smiled.
glad it met with her approval." Paulie smiled back.
on the grapevine Catherine is going to send students to learn from your mother
Susan?" Vanessa asked.
"So she says, I think she recognizes my mother has a lot of old skills that it would be pertinent for her workers to learn."
“Well, the old skills need to be maintained,” Nessa said with a smile. “Come – have a drink and a seat.”
“That is a wonderful idea – my feet are killing me,” Rose said as she and Maeve headed for a table.
“Hey,” Doc said as Jeannie wheeled herself over, “Where’s the House?”
“He’s taking a call from Stanford – I think it’s the date he has to report for pre-season, but he’ll be here in a minute. Enjoy the service?”
“Little high for me, even with Alex in charge. Where’s your mom Pepsi?”
“Fussing over the flowers of course – even with her as a guest, she can’t stop herself.”
“Looks like there’s a band as well – and a few good looking boys around as well.”
“Eyes front,” Janice said as she walked past with Adam, “remember you’re with others here girls?”
“Yeah,” Pepsi said as she rolled her eyes.
“Natasha – you made it here!” Susan went over and hugged the new mother as she held Alain in her arms, “and this is the newest du Grechy?”
“Indeed – at least we could both make it here, and I can join you and Karen in a drink later.”
“We’ll huddle up later on,” Susan said as she walked off, with Diana, Guy and Valeria joining Natasha and Willy.
“Your turn soon, little one,” Natasha said as she stroked his chin, looking into his eyes.
“Something tells me you need this more than anything,” John Bowden said as he brought two cups of tea over to where Rose was sitting.
know John you are a lifesaver." Rose smiled at Jeannie's grandfather as he
placed them on the table.
may have lived here a few years, but I still think you can't beat a nice
are right about that." Rose sipped her tea.
hear you got a new flat in Southgate, can I ask where?"
from Oakwood Tube station?"
the one, how do you know that John?"
to be a London cabbie remember."
bloody ‘ell of course you were, I forgot that." Rose smiled.
"I can still navigate round most of London, just don’t ask me about the Isle of Dogs these days,” he said as he sat down. “She was beautiful today you know.”
“Yes April was.”
“You all were.”
Rose looked at John, before she smiled and said “Flatterer.”
“I know, I know – the patter never goes away. Cheers.”
“Cheers,” Rose said as they clinked their cups together.
“Penny for them?”
Tracy turned round to see Penny and Lily standing by her.
“I’m still a bit overwhelmed,” she said as she watched Bev talking to Kylie and the other girls. “I mean, when Kylie told us what happened when she came over, we didn’t really believe her, but gawd – it’s all true isn’t it? Countesses, princesses, she has met them all – and she seems perfectly at home here as well.”
“She does,” Penny said with a smile, “the training with Catherine and Helen is proving to be a great success with her and Marina.”
“Training? I know Helen’s been like a personal trainer to them, but what else have they been learning?”
“Tell you another time,” Lily said, “right now, relax – I know it seems funny, but if this Northern lass can feel at home here, then so can you.”
“So what do you do for a living Serena?”
Looking at Heather, Serena said “I actually have a doctorate in psychology, but I mainly work these days as a counselor.”
“Psychology? I wonder if Curt knows of you?”
“Jo’s boyfriend,” Heather said, “he’s an lecturer in the Psychology department at William Smith – Curtis Richardson?”
“I’ve heard the name – but his specialty is penology, if I remember correctly. I work more in the medical field. How did you meet him, Joanne?”
“Please, call me Jo – and I’m attending William Smith as a freshman majoring in psychology in August. We meet on an open session – and no, he’s not teaching me.”
“It’s an excellent school – you must be very proud of your sister for getting a place there Heather.”
“I am,” Heather said quietly, “although I know I’m going to miss her when she goes.”
“Hey, we’ll talk every day, and I’ll come home as often as I can.”
“I know – but I can’t help worrying about you,” Heather said quietly, before she got up, saying “excuse me, I need to visit the restroom.”
“Are you all right,” Sandy said quietly as Heather walked off.
“Will you excuse me a moment,” Serena said as she wiped her chin and walked behind Heather.
“Karen what the heck is going on,” Jo said as she looked at the two doctors.
“Serena thinks she knows why your sister is having such bad dreams,” Karen whispered, “the real question now is whether or not she will listen to Serena.”
“Hey,” Carina said as Tommy came in, Holly on his arm, “I’m so glad both of you could make it today.”
“Well, we could hardly refuse when you asked,” Holly said with a smile.
“How are you both anyway?”
“We’ve talked a lot,” Tommy said, “and I’ve agreed not to find and clobber that bloke if Holly here agrees to something in return.”
“Oh, and what’s that?”
“To be his,” Holly said with a smile as she showed Carina a new eternity ring.
“You’re serious then?”
“Oh yes – very serious – Bobbi! Excuse us a moment, Carina.”
The small blonde watched as they walked to where Bobbi Morse was standing with her parents, and shook her head as she walked towards another table.
“Hey Gale,” she said as she sat down.
Tommy and Holly are here." Gale Callaghan whispered to Carina.
are, and both are a lot happier now."
will admit to a certain degree of personal contentment as well."
know," Carina's eyes sparkled, "Sometimes we need to release our
inner selves and the world will not miss a rat."
"That was just what I was thinking." Gale turned as Tom approached with some glasses of wine.
“Thank you darling – my ration of one,” Gale said as she took a small sip, “and I intend to make it last.”
you so much for your service as the organist today," Clint said as he kissed
“It was my
pleasure,” Judy said with a smile, “I'm spending a lot of time in the church
anyway right now."
ask why?" Leigh asked.
music student at Yale, we are doing a concert of Handel's music in the autumn and
I'm busy rehearsing."
means I am also spending a lot of time at the church," David said as he kissed
rehearsal time means a better performance." Troy spoke. "And I've no
doubt you are excellent."
so." Judy blushed.
you also into racing cars as much as Clint, Troy?" David asked.
to be,” Troy said with a smile, “but with a family I'm
more concerned now with just keeping my own cars running."
when he means his cars, my brother means specifically a '66 Mustang."
"A very nice car," Henri Marais said as he joined the conversation.
“Henri, thank you and Jeanne for coming today,” Clint said as he looked at Troy. “May I introduce my older brother Troy and his wife Leigh. Troy, this is…”
“Henri Marais – sir, it is an honour,” Troy said as he shook the Frenchman’s hand. “I have fond memories of seeing you race back in the day. How does Clint know you?”
“My daughter is one of the Richmond-Carter racing team, and Clint and I head up the pit crew,” Henri said with a smile.
“Now them I have heard of,” Leigh said with a smile, “they’ve won a few races this year – and they are all here?”
“Indeed – Miss Sandy Richmond, Miss Janice Carter, and Jeanne – they are all here.”
Heather stood at the washbasin, looking at the mirror and then bending over to splash cold water over her face, as Serena came in and said “Do you mind if I…”
“No,” Heather said as she looked round, “sorry, I just felt a bit faint then.”
“I need to apologise – I feel as if I struck a raw nerve with my comment about your sister leaving for college.”
“You did, but it’s all right,” Heather said as she tried to smile, “I just feel very protective of her.”
“You must have a very strong bond with her.”
“I do – and I know it’s the right thing for her, but big sisters have the right to worry don’t they?”
“Of course they do, and it’s only natural to be worried about her safety. But she strikes me as a sensible and capable young woman. Forgive me for asking, but is there something else giving you cause for concern?”
Heather looked into the mirror, and slowly turned round. “You never told me your surname, Serena.”
“No,” Serena said with a smile, “and I apologize for that. It’s…”
“Gleb – Dr Serena Gleb. When Sandy first mentioned your name as someone to talk to about the nightmares, I looked you up. You really need to update the picture on your profile – the hair’s grown out since that was taken.”
“Well, then I need to apologize again,” Serena said, “for not saying who I was. I confess, I was afraid if you knew before we had a chance to talk socially, you might have refused to talk to me.”
Heather shook her head, as she said “I am going to have words with Sandy about this – honestly, I have coped with these things before.”
“Yes, she said,” Serena replied quietly, “but she also said it’s worse this time. She, Jo – they’re both worried about you, which is why they suggested I try to talk to you. You see, I really am a counselor, and I work with a lot of women and men who need help to deal with things that have happened to them.”
“Forgive me, Serena, but I don’t think you could even begin to understand…”
“My father first raped me when I was eleven.”
Heather stood for a moment, looking at Serena, before she said “Goddess…”
“Sandy told me, in confidence,” Serena said, “because she thinks something’s happened to make the nightmares returned. I agree – but it’s not what she thinks.”
“She really is worried about me – I’m worried about me,” Heather said quietly.
“Listen – let’s enjoy the party, but if you have time after, let’s go somewhere quiet and have a chat – just a chat. Two sisters with something in common. Would that be all right?”
Heather stood still for a moment, and then said “yeah – yeah that would be all right.”
“Good – let’s get back before they think we’ve done a runner,” Serena said as she opened the door.
“Do you mind if I join you?”
Tracy looked at the tall woman; her red hair mixed with grey, and said, “of course not – please, sit down.”
“So you’re Tracy,” Maddie said as she took a seat, “Susan told me about you a long time ago.”
“Maddie Moore – Susan worked for me in LA before she came out here.”
“So you work for…”
“Yup,” Maddie said as she grabbed two glasses of wine and handed one to Tracy.
do I hear a slight Bajan edge in your voice?" Maddie asked.
was from Barbados, so yes probably." Tracy replied.
there, with an awful lot of North London as well."
know...I'm trying to keep from saying too much in case I embarrass Susan."
"Don't worry, people won't hold your being a cockney against
but everyone here is so posh...and so well-dressed"
“Well, let’s see,” Maddie said as she looked round, “Lily comes from a housing estate in the North West, I’m from Yorkshire, I know full well how Susan sounds when she slips back into her Tottenham roots, Penny’s father was a RSM in the army… An awful lot of us are from humble roots, Tracy. “
“Nope – Oh, and you don't know how amazing you look yourself?"
do,” Tracy said with a smile, “Kylie picked out this suit, and it is
has a wonderful sense of style."
"She does." Tracy nodded. “It’s just how much that has come out – when she was with the Vipers, we saw none of that.”
“It’s possibly always been there, but it needed the chance to come out. Trust me, it is going to hold her in very good stead in her future career.”
“What do you think she will end up doing?”
“Have you met Helen York?”
“In passing – why?”
“She speaks highly of Kylie and Marina – ask her,” Maddie said as she stood up.
As she walked along the room, Maddie looked round. The tables around the dance floor were filled with family, friends, and acquaintances, while at one end the band has set up, and were starting to play. She smiled as she saw Klaus and Juliette taking to the dance floor – she knew about Sandy’s book, and contemplated taking a bet herself.
At the opposite end of the room from the band, a buffet was set up, and she watched as Rose and Maeve made their way over with Mary and Katherine. She remembered Susan telling her about her mother, and the drink – and yet here she was, poised, confident, and sober. Like Susan, all she had needed was the break, really – and the support to get through things.
Just as young Kylie and Marina had – just as many of them had needed. The room was lively with chatter, and filled with love – which made her think of Emma, on the other side of the country.
“I am so looking forward to Saturday,” she said to herself as she continued back to her table, passing Kylie with Jeannie, House and Pepsi.
“Can I help you darling,” Kylie said as a young man nervously stood by the table.
I'm Alan Osgood, I'm Clint's nephew."
Susan's cousin Kylie, how do you do?"
well,” Alan said as he shook her hand, “I was watching you and wondering if you
wanted to dance?"
"Please." Kylie stood up and went onto the dance floor with Alan as the band started playing. They took up their position, Alan holding her, near where Marina and Bev were sitting.
"Who is Kylie dancing with?" Bev asked as she looked over.
"Clint's nephew." Marina smiled. "I was watching him, it took him 20 minutes to pluck up the courage to ask her."
“Poor kid – the closest Kylie has come to dancing is pogoing at a nightclub.”
“Watch,” Marina said, Bev’s jaw dropping again as they waltzed round.
“How… How did she learn that?”
“Dance classes – Helen gave us a dancing lesson when we went on the Twenties themed weekend at Easter, and she’s given both of us dancing lessons as well since we’ve been in Hong Kong,” Marina said as Mandy and Angel came over.
“Who is that with Kylie, darling?”
“Clint’s nephew Alan.”
seems a very nice boy darling." Mandy said as she sipped her champagne.
before I forget, Beverly this is Lady Ordford, and her daughter
Angel, and it’s nice to meet you." Angel extended her hand.
nice to meet you as well."
worry darling, we don't bite." Mandy drawled as she noticed Bev's slight
sorry," Bev tried to smile, "I'm not used to meeting so many grand
and famous people."
"Well we aren't so very different you know." Mandy laughed. “After all, we’re all the same basically.”
very subtle girls?"
Heather said to Karen, Jo and Sandy as she sat down, "You didn't think I'd
look up Doctor Gleb here when you mentioned her?"
now at least you know why we worried enough to bring her in lover." Sandy
kissed her girlfriend. "Sometimes, even someone with your frightening
intelligence needs help."
with Sandy darling sister,” Jo said, “you really do need to talk to
think Serena is probably the one person who can understand and help."
know...It's just I'm so used to being able to deal with everything
you were abused." Sandy hugged Heather. "It really is time you talked
said I do understand Heather..."
know." Heather turned to the doctor. "Would you care to come to
afternoon tea later... Please, you and
Ken as well Karen, and maybe you and I can talk Dr. Gleb?"
"It's Serena Heather, and yes I think that might be an idea."
“Right – can we enjoy this now,” Sandy said as she took Heather’s hand, “I want to dance.”
“Hey,” Pussy said as she and Frieda came over to Susan and Clint, “how is the star of the day?”
“Sleeping,” Susan said as she looked at April, asleep in her seat.
“She looks fantastic in that,” Frieda said as she stroked her hair, “and you look wonderful as well.”
“Of course she does,” Suzanne said as she came over, “Hi – I’m Suzanne Osgood, Clint’s sister.”
“Patricia van Roon – call me Pussy. My wife, Frieda.”
“Charmed – and thank you for giving this wonderful gown as a present.”
“Our pleasure – it’s become something of a tradition,” Pussy said, “although I suspect Valeria may have something in mind for little Alain.”
“Almost certainly – I wonder who will be next?”
Susan looked at Pussy as she held Frieda’s hand, and whispered “no…”
“Not a word – we haven’t told anyone yet. Just watch this space…”
Susan looked at Gus, who had his ear to his cell phone.
“You’re joking – you’re in the hotel now?” He walked to the doors to the lobby and looked out, before saying “yes, I see you – go and drop your things off and come down. I’ll have a word with the hostess.”
Putting his cell phone away, he walked over to where Susan was sitting.
beg a favor Susan?" Gus van Roon asked. "I just found out my nephew
and his family are checking into the hotel, may I invite them in?"
do Gus, it will be nice to see Blair again, and I know Anna will be happy to
Serena turned to see a small red haired woman standing behind her.
“My name is
Penny Harker, I'm a friend of Susan's and also
Sandy's. I overheard a little of your conversation with Heather, might I make
an appointment to come see you?"
course, can I ask why?"
wasn't sexually abused, but my father beat me, and hurt me so deeply
psychologically that I ran away at age 11 and basically grew up on the streets
of London. I guess I need to talk a few
sorry to hear that Penny,” Serena said, “and yes I think maybe we ought to
talk. Can you come see me at my hotel tomorrow? Say 11.00 am?"
"I can, and thank you doctor."
As Penny walked off, Serena looked round the packed ballroom.
you Serena." Sandy said as she gave her a glass of wine. "Maybe now
Heather will finally open up."
seems she isn't the only one, your friend Penny just made an appointment to see
did? Well, good for her."
I suspect there are enough secrets in this room that could keep me busy for
"Probably because you are very intuitive and good at your job." Sandy smiled. "And you are right, a lot of us in this room have had severe trauma at some time or another."
twin babies when I found out my then husband was being unfaithful. In my
Mother's case it was miscarrying after being beaten by her then boyfriend, and
then institutionalized by my grandparents...I could go on."
"No - I think instead maybe I ought to stop you, if people need see a counselor it's better they tell me themselves."
“Agreed – and we’re no different from any other group in that respect. Some of us have had therapy of one form or another, that has worked in different ways for different people.”
Serena nodded – she could understand that.
“Welcome,” Susan said as she joined Gus and Paulie at the entrance to the room, the Chicago branch of the van Roon family walking in. Augie and Chet were wearing short sleeved shirts and light coloured trousers, while Tracy and Blair were wearing khaki short sleeved dresses with leather belts round their waists.
sorry we didn't bring a present, you must think we are terribly rude."
Tracy van Roon said as she kissed Susan on the cheek.
Susan smiled, "this is my husband Clint."
this is my husband Augustus."
call me Augie." the Chicago man smiled as he shook hands with Clint.
Gus is Augustus van Roon, the fourth?" Susan asked.
Augustus van Roon the fifth."
must get complicated." Clint laughed.
“We worked it out – although it has been a while since we’ve been in the same room. I’m the good looking one.”
“Young whippersnapper!” Gus smiled as he clapped his nephew on the back.
"Well I know Blair and Chet know a lot of people, I suspect you do as well, so please feel free to plunge in." Susan smiled again.
“Enjoying yourself,” Janine said as she sat with Marina and Bev, handing them a drink as she did so.
meet Janine, Janine meet Beverly Martello I've known her since she was a little
kid." Marina made the introduction.
Beverly," Janine said as she shook hands.
is, I suppose you can say, my counterpart here in New York Bev, she's Juliette
Huntingdown's PA. We are in contact virtually every day."
"Which makes it good that we are also friends." Janine laughed slightly.
“Must be a rough job at times, working for someone as famous as her,” Bev said as she looked at Juliette, sitting with Diana and Carina.
“Rough? Nope – I mean, it’s hard work, but I enjoy every second of it, and like Marina I get to see parts of the world most others only dream of.”
“Sounds exciting,” Bev said, “and I’m just getting a small taste of it this visit. How do I get into this?”
“Work hard, do the research, learn the trade,” Janine said with a smile.
is the little task I set you going Doc?" Juliette asked.
well, I'm doing a contingency analysis right now, seeing if I've allowed for
every possible variable in solving the problem."
some of the techniques we discussed in class?" Annie asked.
I think the discipline of solving math problems can be applied to a lot of
haven't got her talking math have you?" Chet grinned as he and Blair came
over with drinks in hand.
have." Doc kissed her boyfriend full on the lips, "I thought you weren't
coming till Wednesday."
a couple of his meetings moved to tomorrow."
Blair." Juliette kissed her on the cheek.
"Carina and Judith are here somewhere." Annie kissed her as well.
“I see them,” Blair said as she waved across the room, “will you excuse me for a moment?”
As she walked across the dance floor, Bobbi and Jude saw her and walked over to join them.
“Thought you’d never ask,” Doc said as she dragged Chet onto the dance floor.
“Mister van Roon?”
Augie turned to see a tall, blonde haired woman standing behind him.
“Forgive the forward nature of this, but I wanted to introduce myself. I’m Caroline Jameson.”
“Oh yes,” Augie said as he shook her hand, “I’ve seen your pictures in some of the magazines Tracy reads, and Blair mentioned your name when she came for the season. It’s a real pleasure to meet you.”
“The pleasure is mine Mister van Roon – I should also mention by way of introduction that John Jacobs is an old friend.”
“Really? How can I help you today, Miss Jameson?”
"Well, I saw in the news that you paid a world record for a piece of van Roon silver last week Mr. van Roon." Caroline spoke.
"Indeed - it went higher then I expected, but I wasn't going to lose it, a piece of family history if you will...” Augie looked at her and said “Are you an antique collector Miss Jameson?"
really, I have a few pieces but not in the same league as the likes of
John. No - my interest comes from
another angle, I run a company that advises people on security, as well as my modelling."
Caroline's services extensively to get clients to upgrade their security."
Shirley said as she joined the conversation.
Roon, this is Shirley Xavier, she runs Xavier International."
the insurance company."
Augie placed the name. "And please both of you call me Augie."
well, Augie it is." Shirley smiled. "I'm also a friend of your aunt
Caroline, and she's Shirley."
"I was talking to Augie about the silver he bought this week." Caroline steered the conversation back to the original subject.
“Indeed – I read about it as well. You must be pleased to have added a part fo your family’s history to your collection.”
“It has been a long time, but with Blair’s interest in this area I felt it time to do something about it.” He looked at both of them and said “let me guess – you wish to offer your services?”
“We wish to extend the offer of an assessment and valuation,” Shirley said with a smile. “Your uncle has also used our services for his townhouse, and we can provide other references if you so desire.”
“But it is entirely up to you,” Caroline said. “As I say, it is the offer of a discussion, not a formal discussion unless you so desire.”
“Well, your business reputation is well known, Shirley – so I would be churlish to refuse such an offer. Perhaps I can contact your New York office to arrange some time while I am here?”
“Susan, or myself, would be delighted to meet you,” Shirley said as they shook hands.
“Ladies and Gentlemen – ladies and gentlemen, could I have your attention for a moment please?”
The room turned to see Clint standing in front of the band.
“Susan and I just want to take this chance to say thank you to all of you for coming today, and for the presents and gifts you’ve brought for April. It means a lot to us that you have done this, and it – well, it shows how much we have become part of your group.
“The waiters and waitresses are coming round with some champagne, and I’ll like to ask you all to take a glass, raise it, and join me in a toast to the most beautiful woman in this room today.”
He watched until everyone had a glass, before he said “Please, join me in toasting April Shirley Walker.”
“April,” the room said as one as they reaised their glasses, the little girl looking round as she sat on Alice’s lap.
“Now, the band will play, the food and drink continue – everyone, have a fantastic time,” Clint said as he walked off to applause.
“Excuse me a moment, Trace – I need to go and see Helen and Catherine,” Marina said as she stood up and walked across to another table, Tracy watching as she sat and talked to the small Chinese woman and the blonde. She looked totally at ease – as did Kylie, who was dancing in a foursome with young Andrew, as well as the girl she had heard others call Doc and her boyfriend.
“Penny for them?”
She turned to see Lily standing beside her, looking over the room.
“It’s still a bit overwhelming,” she said quietly, “I’m talking to a lady and a princess…”
“Several princesses actually…” Lily smiled as Tracy’s mouth opened again, before she said “first time I came here, I was overwhelmed as well – as was Kylie, as were most of us at one time or another.
“Come to the buffet with me – I want to talk to you about something.”
Tracy stood up and walked with Lily, smiling as she said “So come on, what’s been the biggest culture shock so far?”
“I really can’t get over the changes in both of them.” Tracy whispered to Lily. “Kylie has become this posh creature, and Marina is both posh and so business like. I mean, Sooz I knew from when we talked to her, but those two…”
“Well they both work very hard, and as they’ll both tell you they are still learning.”
“Gawd - If they are still learning what the ‘ell will they be like when the finish?”
“They’ll be perfectly disguised.” Lily paused for a few seconds. “Just look around Tracy, can you tell who is crooked and who is straight?”
The young woman looked round, at the du Grechy and de Ros families as they looked at the baby boy; Juliette Huntingdown with her daughter and granddaughter, talking with the FBI agents she had been introduced to; the various groups clustered round tables; the younger girls, especially the two African girls next to Jeannie Brewster. They all look so – normal.
“No.” Tracy eventually said as shook her head.
“What about you Bev, who in this room is crooked?” Lily asked as the 16 year old got some sandwiches.
“Apart from those we know of – I have no idea. Are any of them,” she said as they returned to their table.
“Some are – after all, Caroline is one of the most feared enforcers in the business as Dominique, but here she’s Caroline Jameson, security consultant and part time model. You know Susan’s cover – Penny, me, others, we’re on the same level.”
“Did I hear my name mentioned?”
“I was explaining about trying to spot gangsters in this room,” Lily said as Penny sat down.
“The whole point is looking so respectable that no one gives a second thought that you might be a thief.” Penny whispered in Bev’s ear.
“Or anything else – Helen, for example, isn’t just a PA and dance teacher – she’s teaching them other useful skills as well.”
“I suppose I get that now,” Bev said as she sipped her drink. “When Kylie came ‘ere the first time and came ‘ome I didn’t fink she’d met any real gangsters, but now I aint so sure wot a gangster looks and sounds like anymore.”
“Indeed – which shows how successful our methods are.”
“Well, perhaps you should both consider joining our organization.”
The two girls looked at Shirley as she joined the quiet conversation. “I owe you girls a debt for your work with those bullies from Harlow.”
“Wow,” Tracy said as she looked at Bev, “that’s some offer, Miss Xavier.”
“Well, I think you have seen the benefits Marina and Kylie have reaped from becoming part of our group,” she said as she leaned forward. “I would like both of you to meet with Penny when you return, to see what opportunities exist for both of you. As just one example, we could always use permanent staff to help with the management of our country retreat.”
“You visited to help us,” Lily said quietly, Bev and Tracy nodding.
“So I hope you will consider joining us,” Penny whispered, “time for the White Vipers to pass on the mantle, and step up to the plate, if you like.”
Tracy and Bev looked at each other, nodding as Tracy said “yeah – we can talk.”
“Good – enjoy the rest of your stay ladies, and I will see you soon.”