A Tale of Three Cities – part 1










Tuesday 2nd February

Noon CET

Imperial Riding School Renaissance Hotel Vienna


Abby looked out of the window and took in the view of the city, smiling as she sipped her coffee.  Glancing over at her wardrobe, she saw the dress bag hanging carefully, the rest of her outfits on the other side of the pole.


“Come in the door’s open,” she said as she heard the knock, and smiled as Tony came in.


“All unpacked?”


“Oh yes – and everything is just perfect,” she said with a smile before they kissed.  “How about you?”


“The monkey suit has gone off to be pressed – I saw Harry in the corridor.  I said we’d meet up him, Tony, Angel and Fiona in the lobby at one.”


“Sounds good – got your dancing shoes?”


“Oh yes – I understand this is almost like a boot camp for the next three days.”


“Yeah – still, it will be fun I’m sure.  You seemed to get some sleep last night anyway.”


“Not as much as you?”


“True,” Abby said, “but I’m used to it by now.  Any of the other girls arrived?”


“I think Trina and her family got in just after us – and she was the last.  The others came over last night.”


“Abby?  Ah I see you have unpacked.”


“I have mamma,” Abby said as she saw Diana in the door.


“Well, we are going for an early lunch.  Will you join us before you head off?”


“I think we have time,” Tony said.


“Good – then let’s go,” Abby said, “I’m hungry...”




“Ah there she is,” Guy said as he and Valeria stood up.  Abby was wearing a white blouse and knee length skirt, with black heels.  She had her Jameson bag, her dancing shoes safely inside.


“Well, here we are,” Abby said quietly, “and this is even more nerve wracking than Le Bal.”


“Only in the sense it is more formal,” Valeria said, “and more organised.  But I assure you, in two days time, you will be one of the brightest lights of the evening.”




1 pm CET


“Hey,” Abby said as she joined Fiona and Angel, “ready for this?”


“No – and my darling brother certainly isn’t,” Fiona said as she watched Mick talking to Harry.”


"You do know,” Tony said, “that even without makeup on, and wearing your glasses at least some people will still recognise you Abby?"

"I know,” Abby said, “but the fewer the better, and this does help a bit."

"Tony dear boy," Guy greeted his granddaughters partner, "are you ready?"

"I guess as ready as I'll ever be."

"Well the best of luck to both of you, have you got a cab?"

"There are plenty outside Grandpapa."

"Alright, you two just relax and remember this is supposed to be fun."

"We will try to." Tony smiled.


“Right,” Harry said, “we need to move.  Cab each?”


The three couples walked quickly out, the doorman hailing cabs.  As Tony and Abby got in the back, the driver looked round and said “Wo sehen Sie gehen möchten , wenden Sie sich bitte“


“Opear Haus, bitte“


The driver nodded as he headed south on the Ungargasse.


“Have you ever been to Vienna, Tony?”


“No – you?”


“Never – but I begin to see how Carina fell in love with it,” Abby said as she looed at the buildings, and admiring the high steeple of the Januariuskapelle.


“Must be one of the main shopping streets, given the store fronts.”


“I think so Tony – but according to both Carina and Annie, the real fun comes from going down the little side streets.  She gave me a list of places to visit...”


On the right, they saw a large rotunda, as the cab turned right onto the Rennweg. 



“That’s the Italian embassy,” Abby said as they passed a large building on the right, “and that’s the Cafe Steiner.  Cari said it was worth a visit.”


“That must be the Polish Church, based on what little German i have,” Tony said as the cab continued along, and entered the dual carriageway at Schwarzenbergplatz.


“OH my – the fountains at the palace,” Abby said quietly as they went past, and then turned left onto the Kartner Ring.


“Very chic,” tony said as they passed the stores, and then did a right and left.


“Opernring,” the driver said, as both Tony and Abby gazed at the entrance to the Opera House, the vast green roof towering over them.


“Forgive me, but can you stop here,” Abby said, the driver nodding as he pulled in and the two got out.  As Tony paid the driver, Abby looked through the arches at the doors.


“It’s breathtaking,” Abby said as two more cans pulled in, the other two couples getting out as Fiona looked through her glasses.


“It says here we need to go to the side entrance,” Harry said, “and we need to move – the girls have noticed Lord Treharran presumptive is here.”


The six walked round the side and into a side door, where a man in a suit, shirt and tie was waiting.




“Sorry,” Abby said, “but...”


“Ah – you would prefer English for now.  Your name, please?”


“Abigail de Ros.”


The man checked his list, then smiled as he said “welcome, Countess de Ros.  This will be your partner, Mr Anthony McNally?”


Tony nodded as he said “please, through the doors where you will receive your welcome pack.  And you are?”


“Angelica Fitzstuart,” Angel said as Tony and Abby went into the reception hall, and walked to the desk.


“Welcome – is it Countess de Ros?”


“Please, can it be Abby?”


“When it is not a formal session,” the woman said as she handed Tony and Abigail a folder.  “Your itinery for the next three days – refreshments are in the hall.”


They waited for the others to come in, before they entered the next hall, looking at the other debutantes.


“We’ll take that table over there,” Fiona said, “if you fine gentlemen – and Michael – can get us some food and drink?”


“I think that was an order,” Mick said as they went to the buffet, and the girls sat down.


"Alright where do they have us placed?" Abigail said as she scanned the charts in the welcome pack. "Alright right hand column, and we follow and I stand behind Johanna von Kiiebersdorf-Obersacken."

"Do you know her?" Tony asked as he handed her a glass and plate.

"No, she could be anyone here."

"And her partner is Joachim von Treb."

"Again another strange name."

"Well let's see if we can find them after we eat."

"Okay," Abby nodded as she sipped her drink.


2 pm CET


Twenty minutes later, Abby and Tony were walking round the room when they heard a voice with a North American accent say “excuse me?”




"Would you be Abigail de Ros?" the petite blonde asked.

"Would you be Johanna?"

"Yes," the blonde almost sighed in relief, "I'm just so glad to meet you."

"Alright that accent, you aren't local?"

"No despite the name I'm Canadian, from Vancouver."

"Well that means you won't have my awful German inflicted on you."

"Mine’s not that great."

"So which one is your escort?"

"That guy over there with the wiry frizz hair, now he is German, but he's my cousin, and was available after my boyfriend back home said no way he was doing this."


“What?  He refused to visit one of the most beautiful and culturally rich cities in the world.”


“Yup – may not be my boyfriend much longer...”


“Well, his loss,” Abby said.


"Do you know many of the people here?" Johanna shook her head as she looked round, "sorry that was a silly question you are Abby de Ros, of course you know people."

"I know a few, but mainly the debs doing international seasons, and the odd French girl I've known all my life."

"Well I don't know anyone other then Joachim, my family never comes to Europe and we have lost touch with most of our European family."

"Are they here now?"

"Yes, today they are sight-seeing." Johanna paused, "and your family?"

"Oh Mama is seeing old friends, and Grandpapa...well he's being himself." Abigail giggled.

"And your father?"

"He died when I was a baby."

"Oh I'm sorry."


“It’s all right –by all accounts...”




“Trina,” Abby said with a smile as they embraced, “you made it.  Who is the lucky man this time?”


“The sandy haired hunk over there,” Trina said as she looked to the side.


“Isn’t that Phillipe Courbin?”


“It is – you’ve seen his films?”


“Some of them,” Abby said, “Mamma has a few in our collection.  Trina this is Jonanna.  Johanna, Trina Culver.”


“Please,” the small blonde said, “call me...”


“Meine Damen und Herren, bitte in Ihrem Paare kommen in die Mitte des Raumes.”


“Showtime,” Abby said as she nodded to Samantha Gordon, and the debs began to congregate in the room


10.30 am

Complete Style


“Well, this is a gathering of the good and the great,” Mary Thomas said as she came into the meeting room.


“Yeah – not often we get the entire editorial group in the same room at the same time,” Juliette said as Mary poured herself a coffee, and then sat down.  “Which can mean only one thing.”


“We have a successor to Anna?”


Juliette nodded.  “And nobody – and I mean nobody – knows who it is.  I asked Janine if she had any leaks, and all she said was nobody on the top floors was talking.”


“Well, at least we will know one way or another soon,” Mary said as she sat down, and the door opened, Anna Mitchell coming in and sitting at the head of the table.


“Good morning everyone,” she said as she looked round, “please, take a seat.”


As the last few sat down, Anna said “as you know, in a few months I will move on to take on the role of Global Editor of Complete Style, and although the time to say goodbye is a while off, I wanted right now to thank all of you for your support, and the way you have made Complete Style the success it is.


“Having said which, the process of appointing the new editor of the US edition has been going on for some time, and last night I was told the name of my replacement.  They have been meeting with the executive board this morning to discuss timings and contract details, but I am now in a position to introduce the new editor of the US Complete Style to you, my friends and colleagues.  A formal announcement will be circulated later today to staff, and then made public tomorrow.”


“She’s not saying he or she,” Mary whispered to Juliette.


“I know – come on Anna, get this over with...”


“So,” Anna said as she nodded to her PA, who smiled as she opened the door, “ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the incoming editor of US Complete Style...”


Juliette looked to the door, and then smiled, a smile of relief and joy combined as Anna said “the current editor of New Mode, Philippa Ashley.”


The room stood and applauded as Pippa came in, wearing a blue trouser suit and dark blouse, and walked over to Anna.  The two embraced and kissed each other, before Pippa says “please, sit down.”


As they did so, Pippa took a seat as well and said “First, let me say it is an incredible honour to be offered this position, and I take it with a mixture of trepidation and hope.  Trepidation, because I inherit from Anna a brilliant team, who I look forward to getting to know.  Hope, because I firmly believe we can continue to make Complete Style the best magazine out there.”


“Pippa and I will be working together to ensure a smooth transition of responsibilities,” Anna said, “and she will be arranging to meet with each of you individually over the coming weeks.  For now, however, welcome Pippa to the team, and somebody get both of us a coffee.”


“So they made the right choice,” Juliette whispered as she waited for others to offer their congratulations, “thank the goddess.”


Mary nodded.  “I’ll let Fiona have the good news later – and it means you’re secure as well.  If either of the other two...”


“Hey – not going to say anything?”


The two turned to see Pippa standing behind them.


“Of course – congratulations,” Juliette said as she hugged Pippa, followed by Mary, “so when were you called?”


“Late last night – Grace, Sarah and Harriet know, because I was at their place when I got the call, and I told Mum.  Apart from that, nobody else outside this room knows yet – so would you mind waiting until I get to New Mode and give them the news before you say anything?”


“Of course,” Juliette said with a smile.  “How do you think they will take the news?”


“I have no idea,” Pippa said with a smile as she looked round, “but this is the right move for me right now.”



10.30 am

FBI Field Office



“Well, look who just came in,” Edie Corben said as she saw Peter Welch come into the office, his leg covered in plaster, “don’t tell me you’ve been cleared for desk duty already?”


“Nope,” Peter said as he eased himself into the chair, “I got a call to come in for something.  Any idea what?”


“Nope – I just got in myself.”


“Oh – where were you yesterday?”


“Helping my sister take mom for a week’s holiday,” Edie said as she looked to the office.  Andre Baughman was sitting there, looking at something on his computer screen.


“Special Agent Peter Welch?”


Peter turned his head to look at the two men standing beside him, Edie watching as well.


“Who’s asking?”


“Special Investigator Jarvis, and Special Investigator Kirby – Internal Affairs.  We need you to come with us Agent Welch – there are a few questions we need to ask you.”


Edie noticed the way Peter glanced at their director’s office, before he said “of course – if you don’t mind me walking slowly?”


“Of course not – this officer is going to seal your computer, and we need your official cell phone as well.”


The office had stopped working, the other agents watching as Edie said “what’s going on?”


“Please do not interfere, Agent,” Kirby said as he looked at her, and Andre came out of his office.


“What’s going on?”


“AD Baughman?”


“Yeah – and you are?”


“Internal Affairs,” Jarvis said as he showed Andre his badge.  “We need to ask Agent Welch some questions, and we will talk with you in due course.”


“This way,” Kirby said as Peter put his cell phone on his desk, a uniformed officer standing guard as he was escorted to another room.




“Is it safe for Agent Borden to continue working here?”


“It is sir,” the guard said as a second officer started to bag the contents of Peter’s desk, “so long as she does not interfere.”


“Keep working, Agent Corben,” Andre said quietly, “I need to make some calls.”


Edie watched as he made his way into the office, and closed the door.  “Well, too late now,” she thought to herself as she went back to her files.


5 pm CET

Opernhaus, Vienna


“Wir werden eine 20 Minuten Pause zu dieser Zeit zu nehmen.”


“Thank god,” Angel said as they sat in a corner, “I will never complain about a Mary Thomas rehearsal again after that.”


"Well having Cari and Ingy tutor us means we aren't as bad as some." Tony smiled.

"No,” Abby said, “all in all I think we looked quite respectable."

"Well you waltz better then my dear brother does." Fiona complained, "for a professional singer, you think he'd have a better sense of rhythm and timing."

"You all waltz better then I do," Johanna complained, "and as for my polka..."

"It is just in need of practice." Abby tried to cheer the little Canadian up.  “My friend Carina had real trouble with the Polka this time last year.”

"I hope that's all it needs."

"Oh by the way gang this is Johanna von Kliebersdorf-Obersacken."

"Just call me Joey...it's far simpler."

"Okay Joey it is." Angel shook her hand.  “Angel Fitzstuart, and Fiona Treharran.”


“Treharran...  Oh my god, that’s Mick Harran?”


“Well, at least it took a few hours this time,” Trina said with a smile.


“Just promise me they have no plans for a bachelor’s night this trip,” Fiona said as she sipped her drink.


“Nope – we haven’t got time,” Tony said as Harry nodded.  “We’re here until seven tonight and tomorrow, and then midday on Thursday before we go and change.  I think Friday is our rest day before we fly back Saturday, right Abby?”


“For you – Angel and I have the shoot at the Spanish Riding School Friday,” Abby said with a sigh.”


"So what do you do Joey?" asked Trina.

"I'm a freshman at UBC, going to major in English Literature."

"What about you Joachim?"

"I'm studying at the Humboldt University in Berlin...I am training in law."


“So we’ve got three students, one school girl and one girl on her year out.  Sounds good to me.”


“Four students.”


“Hey Sam,” Trina said as she stood up and hugged the young Scot, “glad you could make it.”


“Well, I wasn’t going to miss this one.  Two weeks and then San Fran, right?”


“Oh yeah – you’re going to love my dress for that one.”



12.15 pm

St Angela’s


Grace was reading through a document on international qualifications when her telephone rang.


“Grace Brand?”


“Grace it’s Pippa.”


“Hey – so how did it go this morning?”


“Well CS was amazing – everyone seems to be happy it’s me rather than the other candidates.  I just hope they remember I have to work with one of them under Anna, and the other is an important media contact.”


“And New Mode?”


“Yeah – slightly different picture.  I got to the office, and went straight to see my managers.”


“Let me guess – they weren’t quite as enthusiastic?”


“That is a slight understatement – I mean, I think they understand why I want to do this, and they can’t hold me, but...”


"A problem Pip?"

"What I hope is only a hiccup Gray."

"And it is?"

"CS want me in place in August, the people here say I'm free to leave at the end of my contract."

"Which is when?"

"The 15th of September."


"Yeah, it's only 6 weeks difference but it could be a deal-breaker."


“But surely the CS team can talk to New Mode, work something out?”


“I could be put on gardening leave, I suppose, but I’d rather they sort a deal out.  I phoned Anna, and she said she’d talk to her bosses, and get them to talk to mine.”


“So who knows now?”


“CS staff will know about now, and there’s going to be a press release tomorrow.  And then begins the real fun...”


“Come on Pip – you’re looking forward to this, aren’t you?”


“That obvious?”


Grace smiled as she said “yeah, that obvious...”




“She got the job?”


Poppy nodded as she sat in the refectory with Jess, Erica and Dawn.  “She says to thank your gran, and that she’ll return the scarf in due course.”


“No hurry – I’m just glad it brought her good luck.”


“So what’s she doing today?”


“She was visiting CS this morning, and then going to tell the bosses at New Mode.  I hope it all went all right.”  Eating a forkful of salad, Poppy said “how did your mom get on yesterday Erica?”


“Oh she loved every second of it,” Erica said with a grin.  “As far as she’s concerned, she’s in heaven.  She’s at Colombia today, not to work but to talk to the lecturers and plan out a timetable for her.”


“So two of you have moms in the right place,” Dawn said.  “Changing subject, what are you guys wearing tomorrow?”


“Mom’s got some stuff from the New Mode wardrobe for us,” Poppy said.  “It’s going to be an interesting night though...”


6 pm CET

Opernhaus, Vienna


“Ich danke Ihnen, meine Damen und Herren.”


The young men and women nodded as the well dressed woman spoke, and they went to the sides.


"Does anyone have a bandaid?" Trina carefully pulled off her shoe.

"A blister?" asked Angel.


"I have some in my handbag." Abby went to retrieve it, "anybody else need running repairs?"


“I’ll take one as well,” Fiona said, “my feet are killing me.”


“Anyone need an aspirin?”


“I need a drink,” Sam said as they sat down, Angel looking over as Abby looked in her bag.


“Cloth or ordinary?”


“Ordinary – thank you,” Trina said as Abby tossed her a packet.


"Abby you have a mini pharmacy in here," Angel shook her head.

"Well Cari warned me what little things can need treating."


“Praise the lord for Princess Carina,” Fiona said as she accepted one as well.


“So we get an hour off, two more hours, and then we break until ten tomorrow, right?”


“Oh yeah,” Charly said as she drank some water, “and tomorrow afternoon out families get to have a look as well.”


“Deep deep joy,” Abby said.


"Will anyone join me in strolling across the platz and having a look in the Albertina?" Fiona asked hopefully.

"We have an hour to rest our feet and you want to spend it looking at museums?" Charly asked.

"No I want to spend it looking at great art."

"She's studying art at university," Abigail explained to Joey.

"Well personally I think it sounds fun." Joey nodded.


“Oh well – when will I get another chance.  I’m in,” Trina said.


“We’ll come as well,” Abby said as she looked at Angel.


"Well while you girls look at art we will drink nice warm coffee and sample the pastries in the Cafe Mozart." Charly decided.

"That sounds like the very best idea I heard all day," Mick smiled at the princess.


“Come on then – upwards and onwards,” Fiona said as she put on walking shoes and they set off.


“remember,” the man at the door said as they stepped out, “one hour...”



1 pm

New Haven


"So do you think Abby is enjoying herself?" Judy asked as she and Carina grabbed something to eat for lunch in the Branford dining hall.

"Probably,” Carina said, “but like most of us she will enjoy it more once it’s over and she can just look back at the fantastic memories she's acquiring."

"After those breaks in the line as the girls came in last year, I bet they are being totally drilled in getting that right?"

"Yeah," Cari shook her head, "my year will always be remembered for those gaps...but other than that we did do the dances magnificently."


“Well come on – the amount of rehearsing we did?  At least you told her of the pitfalls and problems she might encounter.”


“Well, it only seemed fair,” Cari said with a smile.  “It’s a pity I have that history tutorial Thursday afternoon...”


“Changing the subject,” Judy said as she bit into her andwich, chewed and swallowed, "Did you manage to get that copy of the "Le Smoking" tuxedo suit to wear at Ama's party?”


"Yeah - Eve knew a lady about my size who had an original and was willing to let me wear it."


"So how does it look? Jude questioned.


"Fabulous...I'm just looking forward to seeing what other minds have found to fit the theme." Cari ate some lettuce and smiled.  “What are you going for?”


“I’m borrowing something from Mom – you’ll see tomorrow.”



2 pm



Edie sat in a quiet corner of the bar, looking at her laptop.  She had got fed up with the looks, not only from her fellow agents, but from the agents who were cataloguing Peter’s desk. 


The same question was been asked in their looks – was she involved?  In the end, Baughman had told her to leave the office, and he would call her back in eventually.  So here she was, trying to look inconspicuous as she worked on a report on her laptop.




The chat window appeared from nowhere, just as it had before, and Edie had never been so grateful for the privacy screen as she typed “It’s you, isn’t it?  The Hidden Hand?”




“What do you know of what happened in Niagara?”





“Okay,” Edie typed, “what’s the second thing?”




Edie looked to see a brown envelope by her, and then saw a thin blonde woman walk away.




2.10 pm

New York


“Don’t you just love computers,” Jan said as she sat with Heather, watching Edie as she looked at the printouts.  She then put them away, as Heather ended the call.


“Well, that should move things along nicely now,” she said with a smile.  “Coffee?”



9.15 pm CET

Imperial Riding School Renaissance Hotel Vienna


“Ah, here they come, the weary workers,” Archie Gordon said as the group saw the couples coming into the hotel.


“I – am exhausted,” Abby said as she slumped in a chair, “and we have to do it again tomorrow?”


“Well, it is important, my dear,” Valeria said, “remember this is the ball where everything has to be just right.”


“If it helps,” Guy said, “I heard from Roger – he and the family will be here tomorrow, as will Alain.”


“That’s good – is Marie-Louise coming with them?”


“Indeed, and both Willy and Natasha are in the air already.  Come tomorrow afternoon, we will have quite the gathering to watch the rehearsal.”


“Don’t remind me,” Tony said as Guy passed him a drink.


“So what did you do today?”


“Dance practice – the waltz and polka.  We also watched a film of last year – spotting Cari and Ingy amongst others – to see how the evening goes.”


“So who are you with in the parade,” Valeria asked.


“I will be behind Miss Johanna von Kiiebersdorf-Obersacken – who comes from Vancouver.”


Valeria raised an eyebrow and smiled. 


“Well, some supper, and then bed,” Diana said with a smile.


“I think I’ll skip supper tonight Mamma,” Abby said with a yawn, “and retire for the night.  They expect us back for ten tomorrow for a full day.”


“Very well, dear – we will see you at breakfast tomorrow,” Guy said as he looked at them.


“Good night everyone,” Abby said as she and Tony finished their drinks, and headed to the lifts.


"So the von Kliebersdorf-Obersacken family - do you know them Valeria?" Diana asked.

"I knew this one’s grandparents, they were from old East Prussia, and as the
ethnic Germans fled westwards ahead of the advancing Russians, they abandoned and lost everything that 800 years of family distinction had acquired."

"So they are sort of poor relations to other families?"

"Not overly. I heard young Thomas grew frustrated with life in Germany, showed some initiative and moved to Canada, I have heard that he's progressed from being a lumberjack to owning a mid-sized logging company."

"Well good for him." Diana smiled I look forward to meeting him. "It affirms my faith in the aristocratic gene when I hear of a man putting his family back on its feet like that."

"And Diana dear - you once called me a snob?" Valeria lifted an eyebrow.


“Wrongly, as it turned out Valeria,” Diana said with a smile.



4 pm

The Richmond Mansion


“Thanks for letting us bring these for storage Heather,” Doc said as the girls left their bags in the hallway.


“Not a problem girls – Caroline will come and collect them to take to the venue tomorrow afternoon with Ju,” Heather said, “along with our presents.  Go through to the front room – Katy and Sands should be back soon.”


"So what is Caroline's big present other then Ama's car?" asked Nikki as they sat down.

"She has found an original of Dior's Mondrian dress." Doc grinned.

"Whoa even I know what that is...and not a copy? An original?" Pepsi shook her head.

"Yep," she had me try it on," Becca grinned, "it should fit Ama perfectly."


“She is going to love that,” Pepsi said with a grin.  “And our outfits?”


“All ready,” Doc said, “this is going to be a night to remember – where is Ama anyway?”


“JFK – they’re meeting her grandfather...”


4.30 pm

JFK Airport


“There he is,” Caroline said as she and Ama watched Dan Jameson walk through the arrivals gate.


“And how are my girls,” Dan said as they walked over and hugged him.


“All the better for seeing you grandfather,” Ama said, “did you have a good flight?”


“I did indeed – did the parcel I sent arrived?”


“Safely delivered,” Caroline said as she took his case, “let’s get you booked into the hotel, and then you can come to the apartment for supper.”


“Thanks – I could do with an early night tonight?”


“We all could – busy day ahead tomorrow...”



6 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment


“Hey Mom,” Carina said from the computer screen, “what’s the good word?”


“Hello Gramma.”


“Hey you two,” Juliette said as he waved to Judith, “Orlanda and Jennifer are looking forward to seeing you again tomorrow little one.”


“So who’s your new boss,” Ingrid asked in another window.


“Well, contracts pending – Pippa Ashley.”


“Good for her,” Cari said.  “So what happens next?”


“Well, a date is agreed for her to come over, but she and Anna are going to be meeting regularly to ensure the move goes smoothly.  The news is public tomorrow, so you can congratulate her at the party.”


“Well, Ama is the star tomorrow – but I’ll say well done anyway.”


“Where’s Pops,” Ingy asked.


“He’s got a business meeting, but I’ll tell him you called.”


“Okay – gotta run to a late seminar.  See you all then...”


As Ingy signed off, Cari said “so what’s the latest?”


“Well, we think that someone in Buffalo will be getting worried right about now...”



6.30 pm



“All right, all right, I’m coming,” Louise said as she pulled her sweatshirt on, and walked to the front door of her apartment, wondering who was ringing the bell all the time.  She looked through the peephole, and then opened the door to let the two women in.


“Lynx, Boss – what brings you both to my place,” she said as she let them come in.  Miss Lynx was wearing a black leather jacket and jeans, while the boss was as always elegantly dressed, today in a grey trouser suit, with a roll neck black jumper underneath, and heels.  But she had a face that was set like stone, and Louise shivered a little as she closed the door.


“My apologies for calling here,” the boss said, “but I need to know if you have thought any more about what I talked to you about yesterday?”


“Yeah,” Louise said, “I might be in, but I’m no killer.”


“We don’t want you to be,” Lynx said, “just hold a gun as if you know how to use it.”


“Well then, I’m in,” she said.


“Good – because I want you to go with Lynx to New York tomorrow.  Pack a change of clothing – I’ll sort out a hotel reservation for you.”


“Sure – what for?”


“Someone I want you both to have really good look at – she may have hurt us again today, and i want her taken out of the equation.”


“Well, you’re the boss, boss,” Louise said with a smile as she looked at Lynx.


“Good – we’ll give you a lift into work,” the boss said, “and we can talk in the car.  Grab your coat – Miss Puma.”



6.45 pm

West Central Park


“Well, they took the bait,” Susan said as she watched the trio leave Louise’s apartment, “I’ll let Madame know.  We might be able to take another one out tomorrow.”




Wednesday 3rd February

7.30 am CET

Imperial Riding School Renaissance Hotel Vienna


“Good morning,” Diana said as Abby and Tony came into the restaurant, “I trust you both got a good night’s sleep last night?”


“Oh yes – my head hit the pillow, and the next thing I knew it was seven,” Abby said as she sat down, “but I am very hungry.”


“I am not surprised – I presume you will be allowed time for lunch today before we come and join you?”


“I think so – this morning is apparently about the entrance etiquette.”


“Which mean we get to have fun with them telling us where to go and how to walk,” Tony said.  “But yes, we have a break for lunch before we return for the final rehearsal.”


“You need to be correctly attired for that, right?”


“Absolutely right,” Tony said with a wicked grin.


“Coffee for three please,” Diana said, “and we will avail ourselves of the buffet.”


“So who will be beside you in the line when you come in?”


“Angel – at least we are similar height.”


“Good morning everyone,” Guy said as he sat down, “Valeria will join us shortly.  When do you have to be there?”


“Ten,” Abby said as she sipped her orange juice, “so we’d better get something to eat.”


“I’ll go with you,” Tony said as Guy ordered more coffee.


“So what plans do you have for today, my dear?”


“Mandy and I will be going with some of the other mothers to visit the galleries, and to have lunch somewhere in the city.  What of you father?”


“Oh my place is here to welcome the rest of the family.  Willie and Natasha should be here mid morning, and your other brothers and their families will arrive this afternoon.”


“Well, Will and Charlie are going with the other fathers for a walk, but we should all be there - good morning Terri, Rudolf.”


“Good morning,” the royal couple said, “ready for an interesting day?”


“Good morning,” Abby said as she and Tony returned, and Valeria joined them.  “Abigail,” the older woman said as she sat down, “would you come to my room before you leave this morning please?  There is something I wish to show you...”



9 am CET


“Ah, good,” Valeria said as she opened the door, and Abby came in, “thank you for coming.”


“So why did you wish to see me, Grandmamma?”


“I have already told Guy and Diana of this, but I wished you to see this from me myself,” Valeria said as she took a black velvet box and laid it on the table.  “Abigail, I would be honoured if you would wear this tomorrow for the ball.”


As Valeria opened the case, Abby gasped at her first view of the tiara inside.  It was made of solid silver, and encrusted with diamonds in every loop.


“It is an old family heirloom – I wore it here when I was presented,” Valeria said, “and I hope you will be willing to continue that tradition.”


“Grandmere,” Abby said quietly as Valeria lifted it out of the case, “is that Romanov?”


“It is – and it is one of my most treasured possessions,” Valeria said quietly.


“I...  It must weight a lot.”  


"Darling it is damn heavy." Valeria warned Abigail, "so just try it on for a few minutes to get an idea."


Taking the tiara out, she placed it carefully on Abby’s head, then stood back and smiled as she looked in the mirror.

"Wow it is weighty,” Abby said quietly, “and do I want to know how many carats of diamonds are in it?"

"No you don't" Valeria laughed. "Let me just say that as a Romanov family piece it is an object beyond price."

"I understand." Abby nodded.


The knock on the door took her by surprise, as Valeria went to open it.


“Ah excellent – you are both just in time,” she said, Abby turning slowly and saying “Aunt Natasha – you are early.”


“I know – but I am glad of it, to see you wearing the tiara.  Is this the first time it has been out since I was presented, mother?”


“It is indeed – and Abigail has agreed to wear it tomorrow, as well hopefully as the earrings and bracelets.”


"The earrings are monsters as well." Natasha spoke from experience, "they felt like weights attached to my ear lobes when I wore them."

"You did look wonderful in them though." Diana smiled at the memory.

"Yes even Mama was pleased that night...weren't you?"

"You did the family proud my darling." Valeria hugged her daughter.

"Now if only you'd done that back then," Diana thought to herself, "you might have saved both of you a lot of grief."

"Penny for them Mama?" Abby asked.


“I am sorry my dear – I was just remembering that night.  You must take the tiara off now – Tony is waiting in the lobby for you.”


“Of course,” Abby said as she handed the tiara back to Valeria.


"I take it Trina will wear the legendary Culver sapphires."

"She will Grandmere." Abby smiled.

"Weren't they originally given by Napoleon to Josephine?" asked Natasha.

"So the legend goes. Supposedly William Culver bought them in the 1880's and had the current jewels made mixing them in with diamonds from his own mines." Valeria remembered.

"Wasn't he the one they called 'Wild Bill'?"

"I believe so, I am not as au fait with American family histories as with European ones."


"So the Culver's had all kinds of different mines?"

"They did Aunt Natasha," Abby paused, "It was the gold of the Comstock Lode made them rich, but old Mr. Culver went on to buy silver and diamond mines across the world."

"That is not what keeps them rich though darling,” Diana said as she looked at her watch, “it is good old prosaic copper that has long been the real basis of the fortune. They have mines in Montana, Chile, and Australia, and while it may not be as pretty as gold, as long as there is demand for copper it will keep coming out of those Culver mines."

"I prefer the glamour of gold." Natasha shook her head.




“Of course – I will see you later,” Abby said as she ran out.


10.15 am CET

Opernhaus, Vienna


“And so we gather again, to seek the wisdom of the ages,” Harry said as he escorted Angel into the room.


“Hey – did you remember to bring it,” Tony said as he looked at his old friend.


“Oh yes – I have it ready for later,” Harry said with a deep contented smile.


“All right, ladies and gentlemen,” the woman at the front said, “this morning we will go through the way that the ladies are brought into the hall.  Please line up in the order you are called out in.”


The couples were called out in groups of four, and placed in lines as Angel and Abby waited.


“Lady Angelica Fitzstuart and Abigail, Countess de Ros.”


“Here we go,” Abby said as they went next in line, Tony and Harry standing on the outside.


When the last four were in place, the woman stood at the top of the stairs.


“Now, when the door opens, you climb the stairs and walk in, in step.  For this first time, listen to the metronome for the step.  Ladies, you will hold your hands against each other for now.


“As you reach the marker, where my colleagues are standing, the ladies turn their heads and smile, then move to the sides and take up position where my other colleagues are standing.  Ready?”


“Here we go?” Abby said as the doors opened, and Fiona and Brigitte walked up the stairs first.


11.30 am CET



"They are pushing this aren't they?" Joey sipped some water.

"After last year’s near fiasco can you blame them?" Charly said as she stretched her back.

"I looked at the film again, it wasn't pretty." Joey nodded.

"Well to restore the prestige of the debutante let’s get it right this year." Trina spoke.

"Joey you are losing contact with Burglinde."

"I know Abigail,” the young Canadian said, “but it doesn't help she's five inches taller than I am."

"Well then tell her it’s her responsibility to drop her hand slightly to keep contact with you."

"I'll try."

"Did anyone see anything wrong with me?"

"Other than that perfectly annoying catwalk walk of yours?" Fiona chuckled.

"As you damn well know Abs you are doing everything perfectly." Trina joined in the giggles.

"Oh EVERYTHING can do with being improved..."

"Hark I hear the voice of Mary Thomas," Tony drew extended laughter as he interrupted.


“All right, all right – but this is important,” Abby said with a smile.


"Just look at this." Angel pulled out her mobile as the girls watched the clip again. "Here at 8.18, this long view down the hall, three sets at the back detached, one foursome in no man’s land, then three more quartets and a gap," she shook her head.

"Yes," the others looked over her shoulder.

"We have to make sure that doesn't happen THIS year." Brigitte said resolutely.


“Ladies and Gentlemen, form up again,” the male steward said, “let us walk through this again, this time with the piano playing.”


As Brigitte and Fiona stood at the front, with Mick and Anton beside them, the steward went to the second row.


“Stretch your arm out,” he said to the tallest person, “and touch the shoulder of the person in front of you.  That is the distance you must maintain when walking.”


“Yes SIR,” Joey whispered as she checked her position.


“You may think it is a thing to jest about Fraulein,” the steward said, “but the ball is about not just you fine people, but also about music and art, and the way you walk in sets the tone for the entire evening.  Precision in this ensures precision in other things – such as the dances and the performances.”  He made his way down the rows, and then walked to the front.


“Listen to the music, hear the rhythm in your head and in your hearts, and when I give the nod, walk off.”


Fiona and Brigitte looked at each other as they listened to the piano, and then as the steward said “go” they stepped forward, in line, the others following.  As they passed him, the steward would say to move forward and back a little, watching as they walked forward.


“Excellent,” he said as the last couples moved into place.  “Now again, and this time keep looking forward – and ladies, smile!”


“Yes, we will,” Joey said, smiling brightly as they walked back, whispering to Abby “Is this what it’s like on the catwalk?”


“Oh yes,” Charly, Fiona, Brigitte, and Angel said in unison.


“And again,” the marshal called out as the music started again.


After the third run through, the steward said “good – now, the waltz.  Positions please.”


“Ready Johanna,” Joachim said as he took her hand.


“Only if you are ready to have your foot stood on.”


“Oh, we both know you’re a better dancer than that,” he said with a smile, the music starting as the women curtseyed and the men bowed.






Noon CET

Opernhaus, Vienna


“My feet hurt – again,” Joey said as she took off her dancing shoes, and rubbed them with her hands.


“Here – this might help,” Abby said as she passed a tub of cream over to her. 


“Remind me to thank Cari when I see her next time,” Angel said as she took the cream next.  “At least on Friday it’s riding boots and something I enjoy doing.”


“Well, look on the bright side – another hour, we get a chance to get some fresh air, get some lunch, and then change before we come back.”


“Is it really a tradition to wear the blouses and skirts,” Joey said, “I’d much rather put on some jeans and a jumper.”


“Yeah – and that’s not what worries me most,” Abby said.


“Oh – what does?”


“What they may be planning – they have a tradition as well,” Abby said as she looked at their partners talking.


“So where do you want to go for lunch,” Trina said.


“What was the place like you want to yesterday?”


“Cafe Mozart?  Worth a visit, but I suggest we do that Friday lunchtime – the post Ball discussion.  You’re coming as well, Joey?”


“Love to – but what about today?”


“We could go back to our hotel – have something there?”


“Where are you staying?”


“The Riding Stables.”


“Sounds good to me,” Trina said, “I’ll spread the word.”


“Ladies, Gentlemen...”


“Here we go again,” Angel said as they lined up...


6.30 am

The Village


“Hey – couldn’t sleep?”


Dominique looked up from her seat and shook her head as she saw Annie standing there.  “Nah – there’s coffee in the pot.”


“Thanks – want some more?”


“Nah – I think I’ve had my fill for now,” Dom said as she watched Annie head to the kitchen.  A few minutes later, she came back out and sat with her housemate.


“Penny for them?”


“I was just thinking,” Dom said, “yet again how lucky I really am.  When I think back on my life, what I’ve done, all I’ve done, being the mother to Ama is still the thing I’m most proud of.”


“Thanks, Mom.”


The two looked round to see Ama standing there in her dressing gown, smiling as Dom got up, walked over and hugged her.


“Happy Birthday,” she said quietly, “how does it feel to be sixteen?”


“I am not sure, how should it feel?”


“You’re asking the wrong person,” Dom said with a smile as Annie stood up.


“Listen – there are cards and things galore for you to open already, and we want to give you our presents as well, but there is one we’ve been asked to give you first.  It came by special delivery when we saw Charlotte recently.”


“What is it,” Ama said as Annie went to her room, and brought out a wrapped parcel.  She set it on the table, Ama sitting and unwrapping it before she retrieved a stone bowl and a pestle.


“It is a bowl, my mother would use it to grind maize and grain when we could grow it – but who is it from?”


Ama picked up a folded sheet of paper, and read “For the Heart, on this most special day.  From the Sisters.”


“Which would explain why Charlotte brought it,” Dom said as she sat next to Ama.  “It is a beautiful gift.”


“Indeed,” Ama said with a smile.  “It is.  So what’s for breakfast, Mom?”


“Tell you what, I’ll make waffles,” Annie said as Dom looked at Ama.


“Let me give you my present now,” she said as she handed Ama a small box wrapped in gold paper.  As she unwrapped and opened the box, Ama smiled as she took out a set of keys.


“Is this what I think this is Mom?”


“It is,” Dominique said as she took the curtains to one side, and showed Ama the red car parked outside.  “Not much, and certainly not in the Cari league, but...”


“But it has come from you, and that makes it very special,” she said as she kissed her mother, and then went to the bathroom.


“She likes it?”


“She likes it – and she can get her other present from me later.  Right now, we’ve got a full day ahead of us.”





8.35 am

St Angela’s


“And here she is, the latest member of the Sweet Sixteen band!”


Ama blushed as she, Pepsi and Erica got out of Caroline’s car, and was hugged by Doc and Nikki.


“Thank you,” she said quietly, “but we have still to go to school, true?”


“Very true,” Jeannie said as she rolled herself up the sidewalk, “so let’s get today over with, and tonight we party!”


“Good morning, girls,” Grace said as they walked in, “straight into the assembly hall please.”


“Yes, Miss Brand,” Becca said as they made their way in, and took their seats.


“Good morning, ladies,” Miss Tennant said as she came in, and stood at the podium, “I have only one announcement today, and that is to remind you to be there early on Friday, for the tournament.  But this is a  busy day, so let us sing the school song, and then to work.”




“So what did your mom get you for a present,” Jeannie said as they collected their books for the first lesson.


“Well, I am the proud owner of a small red car,” Ama said, “bur all other presents are to wait until I get home tonight.”


“Lucky you – but I have seen my van,” Jeannie said, “and it looks wonderful.”




3 pm CET

Imperial Riding School Renaissance Hotel Vienna


“Well, I’m ready,” Fiona said as she joined the group, pulling the sleeves of her jacket down over her white blouse.   All the women were similarly dressed – a long sleeved white blouse and a knee length grey or black skirt.


“Well, we’re all here,” Angel said, “so where are the men?”


“That must be them now,” Abby said as she looked to the lift doors, and then burst out laughing.


“What is it,” Fiona said as she looked at her brother, and then said “MICHAEL TREHARRAN!!!  Where did you get that tie?”


“Why – do you think it suits me,” Mick said as he tightened the knot of the gaudy pink tie, with grey dots.


“I know it’s a tradition,” Abby said, “but honestly?  Who are they anyway?”


“Dangermouse and Penfold,” Tony said as he and Harry smiled.  All three were wearing charcoal grey suits and white shirts – but the ties completed the outfit.


“Oh my – such sartorial elegance.”


Abby looked round to see a tall, graceful blonde girl standing there.


“Marie-Louise?  You look so different now?”


“I think the du Grechy genes finally kicked in,” her cousin said as they embraced.  “I look forward to seeing you all later.”


“Say help to Uncle Roger and Aunt Yvette for me,” Abby said as she looked at her watch, “we have to get going.”


12.30 pm

Bishop Walden School


“So why are we here, Lynx,” Louise said as she sipped some coffee from her cup.


“The boss has it in her brain that Agent Janice Carter is behind our current problems in some way, and that somehow she’s mixed up in something far bigger.  So she asks us to look at her daughter, we look – and there she is.”


Louise looked at the thirteen year old blonde as she walked across the yard with her friends.


“Know the names of any of them?”


Lynx looked over.  “The brunette is Alexandra Richmond Junior, very rich heiress in her own right.  The other four, not so sure.  But our target is the little model over there.”


Across the street, the greying bearded man took out his cell phone.


“Boss?  I’m outside the school.  Got a couple of women paying particular attention – sent you a picture.  Instructions?”


Caroline looked at the picture on the screen and smiled.  “Good news and bad news George.  One of them is a person of interest, the other is one of ours planted to infiltrate them.”




“Maintain position, but be prepared.  I don’t think they’ll be stupid enough to try anything, but you never know.”


“Roger that,” George said quietly as he ended the call, and kept watching.



6.30 pm CET

Opernhaus, Vienna


The main auditorium was a hive of activity, with camera crews and technicians working to the sides, while in the various boxes some of the family groups were gathering.  Diana smiled over at Victoria and Mandy as they sat with their husbands in one box, before she heard Alain say “Roger, my dear brother – it is so good to see you again.”


“As it is you,” Roger du Grechy said as he embraced his brother, and then came over to Diana.


“Diana, dear sister, how are you?”


“All the better for seeing you and Yvette – and Marie-Louise?  You have blossomed since last I saw you.”


“Thank you Tante Diana,” the young woman said as she smiled, and then embraced her grandfather.


“Brother,” Willy said as he shook Roger’s hand, “thank you for coming.”


“Well, it give our daughter a chance to see what is involved,” Roger said with a smile.


“Oh – next year?”


“God willing, as always.  Valeria – it is good to see you again.”


“And you, Roger,” Valeria said as they embraced.


“So where is she?”


“On the other side of those doors,” Valeria said as she looked down the auditorium, “tonight is a full rehearsal on the scene, as it were.”


“If she is like I was,” Natasha said as she watched, “she will be a bag of nerves right about now.”


“So how does this work, grandpapa?”


“You can see the orchestra over there, ma Cherie,” Guy said as he pointed to the stage.  “In a few moments, they will play the music for the arrivals, the great doors will open, and they will come in in the order they are to be presented in.”


“And where is Abigail in the process,” Alain asked.


“About a third of the way in, alongside Angelica Fitzstuart,” Diana said as the conductor looked to the far end of the hall, and then raised his baton.


“And we are ready to begin,” Diana said as the music started, the steward at the front, the two female assistants at the side, as Brigitte and Fiona led the party out.  Marie-Louise watched them as they walked down the stairs, making notes as they held unfurled fans in their free hands.


“Who are in front?  Is that Brigitte?”


“It is,” Diana said, “with Lady Fiona Treharran.  They felt, given her eye problems, having her go first would be a good idea.”


Alain nodded in agreement as the couples made their way down.


"How bad are they?" Natasha asked her mother who was closely watching the rehearsal through opera glasses.

"Well they are staying in formation as they come down the steps."

"I remember how damn hard that is to do." Natasha shook her head.

“I understand from what Abby had time to say today much of this morning was simply rehearsing this, to avoid what happened last year.”


“Ah yes – although young Carina and Ingrid acquitted themselves well, others...


"What are you doing Marie-Louise?" Valeria asked the younger girl.

"Taking notes on what I need to learn and rehearse."

"That's an idea." Natasha smiled.

"The girl just ahead of Abigail is having a hard time." Valeria observed.

"It's because the girl she is walking beside is so much taller...they really do need sort something out."

"They do Marie-Louise." Natasha nodded. "Poor Joey, she's trying so hard as well."


“Now who is that with young Miss Culver?  He looks...”


“Valeria?”  Guy looked over as she slowly lowered her opera glasses.  “Valeria, whatever is the matter?”


“Nothing...  Nothing Guy,” she eventually said, “he reminded me of someone.”


Guy nodded, and then looked for himself.  He saw, and he understood...



12.40 pm

The Refectory, St Angela’s


“So what other presents have you had so far,” Pepsi asked as she and Ama headed for a table.


“Annie has very kindly given me a new bracelet and watch, while Grandfather has given me a set of pearls.  The only other present I have opened so far is from Abby and her mother – a diamond brooch.”


“Well, I’m sure you’ll get lots more presents later – and no offer from your mom to do a safe and insurance,” Doc said.


"So,” Pepsi said as she opened her wrap, “the sixties...short skirts...lots of eye makeup...Austin Powers?"

"Well the first two might be right, not sure about the third Peps." Becca laughed.

"According to Eve a lot of the fashion was pretty horrible and tasteless." Doc sat down.

"Yeah a lot of the so-called futuristic stuff now looks just plain dumb." Jeannie eased her chair in. "But the best stuff like from all decades stands the test of time."

"Well I'm just glad you are all getting into the spirit." Ama smiled.

"For your 16th birthday would we do anything less?"

"I guess not Nikki."

"Have you seen some of the shirts the guys are wearing?' asked Becca.

"I know," Ama shook her head, "my boyfriend is wearing a tuxedo, but with a frilled shirt in eggshell blue."

"OH GOD!" Doc laughed. "He will look like an old picture of Tom Jones."

"Pretty much." Ama nodded.

“Mary hasn’t has she?”


“No – as far as I am aware,” Ama said as she put her drink down, “but if I am being honest, I have very little idea of what is happening tonight.  Still, I am sure Nick will look handsome...”


"Well it's better then the floral thing and bell-bottomed pants that Adam is wearing." Pepsi shook her head.


“How do you know?”


“I heard Mom and Jan talking about outfits,” she said.




1 pm

Complete Style


As Caroline walked into the wardrobe, she could hear the music playing in the room somewhere – but it took her a while to find Mary, who was singing to herself to the Mama Cass song.


Stars shining bright above you,

Night breezes seem to whisper, I love you

Birds singing in the sycamore trees...


“Dream a little dream of me,” Caroline sang as Mary turned round, and looked through her glasses.


"Oh.  Hi Caroline.  Sorry, i was getting into the swing of things..."

"Hi Merlin...”  Caroline pulled up a stool and sat down, as she said “I just dropped in to check..."

"Don't worry - Fiona has made sure she will be there, it's just a pity she can't travel."

"Well even by a video link,” Caroline said, “Ama will get a huge kick out of talking with Mary Quant."

"Mary is more than happy to do it,” Mary said as she walked to a rack, and took off a dress bag, “and she even sent this over for the mother of the birthday girl to wear."

"Sent what over for...  Oh SHIT!" Caroline shook her head as Merlin unzipped the bag, "Is that the original?"

"It is," Mary proudly held up the black and white PVC minidress, "as worn by Jean in a runway show."

"I've seen pictures," Caroline stroked the dress with its 4 large black and white squares.  “It’s magnificent.”

"Well the original boots are long since gone, but I'm pretty sure I can find you something appropriate here in the wardrobe."


“Okay – and then you can tell me if the other thing got fixed.”


“Oh yes – you’ll meet him later...”



6 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment


“Anyone home,” Annie said as she came in, and closed the apartment door behind her.  She opened her coat and slipped it off, to reveal a purple velvet top, loose fitting and with gull style sleeves.  She was also wearing a pair of mottled velvet loose pants and sandals, with a large variety of beads hanging round her neck.


“Well now, someone looks fantastic...”


“Says the hot momma.”


“Momma,” Judith said as Carina put her in her chair.


"I like the Janis Joplin at Woodstock look Monster Mama." Carina said as she kissed Annie.


"Well it might not be glamorous,” Annie said as she twirled round, “but the looseness can hide a lot of baby bump."




"Now you my love look spectacular."


"I do?" Carina twirled.


"Cari you know very well you do."


"It's YSL from 1966, and Twiggy was lovely enough to lend it to me." Carina looked down at the black full length dress with the pink outline of a female body on the front.


"Now that's properly called pop-art isn't it?"


"Haven't got a clue," Cari laughed, "but I bet Jeannie can tell you all about it."


“You know she’ll be commenting on everyone’s outfits,” Annie said.  “I overheard them talking at lunchtime about their outfits – and the boys choices...”


“So what is Caroline wearing?”


“Ah – she showed me the outfit earlier.  It’s amazing...”


7 pm

The Richmond Mansion


“Wow,” George said as he walked down the stairs, “you look amazing Katy.”


“Why thank you,” Katy said with a smile.  She was wearing a black mini-skirt and sleeveless jumper, the material tight over her chest, as well as the over the knee boots she had bought.  George was wearing a black v-necked cardigan with white vertical stripes over a black buttoned up shirt, tight black trousers and Cuban heel boots.


“Where did you get your outfit from,” Katy asked.


“Dad helped,” Sands said as she came down, wearing a sleeveless light blue sheath dress with short gloves, pearls and heels, and a pill box hat.


“Your dad has great taste,” Adam said as he and Jan stood in the doorway.  Adam was wearing a brightly coloured floral shirt and bellbottom pants, while Jan was wearing a pale blue trouser suit with a white blouse.


“Jan,” Heather said as she came down, adjusting her earrings, “got a minute?”


“Sure – where’s Sandy?”


“Fixing her hair,” she said as Nessa and Alex appeared.  Alex was wearing a black blazer with white piping over a black roll neck sweater, light coloured trousers and dark shoes, while Nessa was wearing a gold lame shift dress and matching heels.


“We’ll watch the kids,” Alex said as they disappeared into the kitchen.


“So, what’s up?”


"They've had eyes on Katy all day Jan." Heather said quietly.

"So Shirley's people informed me."

"Well luckily we have someone on the inside."

"That always helps." Jan looked up, "and before you ask my daughter is carrying, and as you know has no qualms about using a gun."

"Well both Sandy and I are tonight, just in case anything stupid should happen."


“Maybe they should try – Maisha is there as well, and if they threaten her sister...”



7 pm

The Village


Ama looked at herself in the mirror, turning from side to side as she admired the fit of her dress.  Caroline had taken her completely by surprise with the dress, but now it was the most wonderful thing she could possibly wear.


Sitting carefully down, she put on the knee length white boots, carefully zipping them up the inside, and then fixed the white hair band onto her own hair.


“Ama?  Nick’s here.”


“One moment,” she said with a smile, before she walked out of her room, smiling as she saw Nick standing there.  He was indeed resplendent in his tuxedo and his purple shirt.


“You look amazing,” he said as he looked at Ama.


“Thank you,” Ama said as she smiled at him.


“This is for you,” he said as he handed a thin box over.  As Ama opened it, she took out a silver chain with a blue jewel sparkling in a circle.


“Thank you,” Ama said quietly, “would you put it on for me?”


She stood still as Nick put the chain round her neck, and smiled as he kissed her.


“Oops – I’ll turn round and come in again.”


“MOM!”  Ama looked at Caroline, and said “is that an original?”


“Oh yes – a loaner for tonight,” Caroline said as she posed in the black and white dress, with her knee length black boots laced up.  “Ready?”


“I think so, yes,” Ama said as there was a knock on the door.


“That will be our car,” Caroline said as she collected her purse, “let’s go.”





7.45 pm

Fashion Institute of Technology

7th Avenue and 27th Street


“Interesting place,” Pepsi said as she and her parents stood outside. 


“Well, it is the alma mater of one Juliette Huntingdown,” April said as she looked up.  Grant was wearing a blue Beatles style suit, white shirt and dark tie, while April was wearing a paisley print short dress with brown suede boots.  As she took her own coat off and handed it to the cloakroom clerk, she smoothed down the black leather pinafore dress she was wearing with a pale pink sweater underneath, and a pair of black high heels.


“So I wonder what it’s going to look like inside,” Pepsi said as she carried the gold wrapped parcel.


“Well, let’s find out,” she said as they walked through the auditorium doors, to see a brightly decorated room, a large banner saying “Happy Sixteenth Birthday Ama” hanging over the stage.  The music was Herman’s Hermits, as Caroline came over and said “Welcome – please, come and get a drink.  Presents are over there.”


“There you are,” Doc said as she, Nikki and Becca came over.  All were dressed the same way, as Pepsi joined them and they went to the side.


“Thank you for coming sister,” Ama said as she embraced Maisha.  The young woman was wearing a gold mesh dress and knee length white boots, while John and Shirley watched from the side.


“It is my pleasure – I have brought a small present for you, as have Aunt Susan and Uncle Clint, but we also brought another gift for you.  It was forwarded to us by Maddie, and comes from Nyala in San Francisco.”


“Then I will thank her for it,” she said as she saw Katy and George come in with Jan and Sandy.


“Hey,” Katy said as she came over, “thank you for inviting us.”


“Of course I wanted you to be here – you are my friends,” Ama said as a new song started. 


“Come on,” George said, “let’s dance.”






“Some party they’re going to,” Lynx said as she sat in the car outside with Louise.  “Looks like she’s friends with some even more interesting people.”


“There’s a heck of a lot of models going in,” Louise said as she sipped her drink, “I saw Juliette and Carina Huntingdown go in, as well as some others from that calendar.”


The cell phone ringing made Louise look over as Lynx answered it.


“Yeah Boss?”


“You sure – there’s a lot of people at that party.


“Okay then – I’ll let you know when it’s done?”


“What’s up?”


“She wants us to give Janice Carter a little reminder she’s been watched...”




“This is an amazing place,” Jeannie said as she and her mother, in their short white dresses, made their way around the hall.


"I'm honestly surprised you don't want to come to college here darling." Barbara looked at some of the students work on display.

"No Mum, I'm pretty set on Yale. This is all great, but I can work on fashion history at Yale as well."

"I heard you and Winston discussing it earlier."

"Yeah he's pretty sure if he gets drafted by the NFL he will split his year, half at Yale Law School, half seeing if he's good enough to play pro football."

"Well I'm pretty sure he will succeed at both."

"Yeah me too Mum," Jeannie grinned.


“There you are,” Juliette said as she turned the corner.


“So how does it feel to be back here Pelican?”


“Not as strange as you may think,” Juliette said, “I really enjoyed my time here, even if Paris is where everything took off.  Actually, have a look in there?”


Barbara and Jeannie looked at the photographs of a show, Jeannie gasping as she looked at the legend.


“That’s you?”


“Yup – walking a graduation show for a friend.  Hard to think that was over twenty years ago now...”




“Are we late,” Denice said as she joined April and Caroline.


“Not at all – and I like the look,” April said as she looked at the cocktail dress Denice was wearing.  “What did Erica come as?”


“She’s over there with Simon.”


Caroline looked over and said “that’s Simon?”


“Oh yes,” Denice said as they looked at the young couple.  Simon was wearing a short cut blonde wig, and a dark suit over a striped top.  A pair of dark shades were over his eyes.  Erica was wearing a cream coloured mini dress, held up by thin shoulder straps and with several layers of fringes, dark tights and knee length black leather boots.


“Well, they really went to town,” April said, “you’d expect the rest of the Factory girls to follow him around...”




“Happy Birthday Ama – I see Maisha arrived safely with Susan and Clint.”


“She did...  My goodness, you look like you are wearing a diving helmet Aunt Shirley," Ama said as she embraced the Englishwoman.


"I know isn't it HORRIBLE!”  Shirley was wearing a yellow wool dress, with long sleeves and a knee length skirt, dark hose and heels.  The dress, however, had a matching jacket with a distinctive cut away pattern, and was matched by the hat that came over Shirley’s head and covered her mouth.  “But this is authentic Pierre Cardin from 1966."


"Well it is certainly distinctive."


"It is isn't it," John Hammond smiled as he kissed the birthday girl.


"And you look like a true Carnaby Street 'dedicated follower of fashion' in that suit Uncle John."


“Why thank you,” John said as he smiled.  “Listen – I’m going to put our present over there, and you can help Shirley find somewhere to lose that hat.”


“Oh please,” Shirley said as she took it off, “that at least will be a start...”




"Most of our class is here." Becca said as she wheeled Jeannie towards the centre of the party.

"Yeah, well it just shows how popular Ama is."

"True...but also proves Angels know what will be one hell of a party."

"That is also true," Doc walked over, "am I the only person feeling like these false eyelashes are like little weights on my eyelids?"

"No, but they are very central to the sixties look." Jeannie looked closely at her friends makeup, "and you got the look just about right."


“And so do you Poppy,” Doc said as she looked at the latest arrival.  She was wearing a white silk man’s short, with a large red tie covered with blue polka dot, a tan waistcoat and tan wide shorts.


“Thanks – I got the idea looking at some old photos of Twiggy.”


“Ai – and she would approve,” Mary Thomas said as she greeted Pippa.  Poppy’s mother was wearing a tailored suit, with a wide collared blouse and high heels.




"Alright that is unfair Miss." Nikki shook her head as Grace made an entrance looking just like Jean Shrimpton in a satin evening gown from 1966, "it's hard enough competing for boys attentions, without teachers looking so fabulous."


The gown was strapless, and hugged Grace like a second skin, with a matching scarf wrapped round her neck.


"Well I will take that as a compliment Nikki," Grace said as she shook her famous long blonde hair.


"Mrs Brand you look amazing," Jessica spoke admiringly.


“And what are we chopped liver?”


The girls looks at Sarah and Harriet, Sarah in a white t-shirt, black leather mini skirt and heels, while Harriet was wearing a black leather jacket and trousers, her hair styled like Cathy Gale.


“No of course not,” Pepsi said, “but you’re old enough to remember those times, aren’t you?”


“Okay – who do we have in class tomorrow?”





"I see everyone has tried as hard as we have," Nell Rochermann smiled at her twin as they both came in wearing geometric print mini dresses.


“Of course we have,” Jo said as he and Curt came after them.  Jo had on a long sleeved floral print blouse, and bell bottomed jeans, while Curt was wearing a buckskin jacket and jeans.


“They let you out for the night, Smith?”


“They did indeed,” Curt said as Heather came over.  “You made it,” she said as they embraced each other.


“I did – can you put us both up for the night?”


“No problem – your room’s still empty.”


“So where is the birthday girl?”


“Over there,” Heather said, “but be quick – the first surprise of the night is about to happen.”





“Hello hello – and what do we have here,” Doc said as Chet walked in with Harry and two of their friends.  The four young men were wearing silk military style jackets, buttoned up the front, dark trousers with red stripes down the side and black Chelsea boots, their hair styled with fake sideburns.  “You guys managed to get the second half of the week off then?”


“We did indeed – Ken, Steve, this is Anna Carlton, my girlfriend.”


“Pleasure,” the two strangers said to Doc.


“So where’s Sarah?”


“Talking to the girls,” H said as he looked at his girlfriend, wearing a black and white dress and hat and talking to Ama and Pepsi.


“You guys are staying until Sunday right?”


“Yeah – at Uncle Gus’s place.  Why?”


“We got word our Hong Kong friends are flying in on Saturday.  Let’s arrange to meet up with them Sunday – but right now, let’s dance!”



“Ladies and Gentlemen – could I have your attention for a moment?”


The partygoers gathered round the stage as Caroline held the microphone.


“Ama, would you come up here for a moment please?”


The girls cheered as Ama made her way onto the stage, the mums and dads standing round the sides.


“I just wanted to take a moment to thank you all for coming tonight,” Caroline said, “and making this a very special night for a very special young lady.  But before we do the ritual humiliation of signing happy birthday to my daughter, there is someone who wanted to say a very special hello.”


She looked over to the technician, who nodded as the lights were dimmed, and Caroline said “Hello London – can you hear me?”


“Aye we can hear ye,” Fiona McKenzie said as she appeared on the screen, “is the birthday gahl there?”


“She is indeed, Fiona.  I understand you have someone with you who wants to say hello?”


“Ah dae,” Fiona said, “Ama, my wee darling, let me introduce ye to a very, very special friend.”


She moved the camera, Jeannie gasping as she saw the older woman sitting there.


“Hello Ama,” she said with a smile, “my name is Mary Quant.  I’m given to understand you are a big fan of my designs?”


Ama stood there, speechless for a moment, before she said “I am, Miss Quant.  But how did you hear of this?”


“Ama, Fiona and Mary are old friends of mine, and they told me.  They also told me of who you were, and what you had accomplished over the last two years, so I wanted to say hello, and wish you a very, very happy sixteenth birthday.”


Ama smiled as she said “thank you, Miss Quant, but i am just a very, very lucky girl.”


“Well, that also needs to be celebrated, so I hope you don’t mind that I asked another old friend if he would bring you a present from me – and if you ask him nicely enough, he may even sing Happy Birthday and a couple of other songs for you.  Mary, you there?”


“I am indeed, Maestro”


“Then would you invite him to come onto the stage please.”


“Oh my god,” April said as the grey bearded man came onto the stage, “is that?”


“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Mary said, “please welcome Yusuf Islam, known to many of you as Cat Stevens.”


“Ama,” Yusuf said as he held out a gold wrapped parcel, “it is my extreme honour and pleasure to give you this from myself and Mary.”


“Oh...  Oh thank you,” Ama said quietly, “may I make a request?”


“Of course.”


“Would you sing Moonshadow for all of us?”


“Just as soon,” he said as Ama took the present, and he picked up a guitar, “as we do something else.  Everyone ready?”


“YES,” the party called out as they sang Happy Birthday to Ama, Caroline choking back the tears as she put her hands on her daughter’s shoulders.


“Now, that song you asked for,” he said with a smile as he started to sing, Nick joining Ama.


Oh, I'm bein' followed by a moonshadow, moon shadow, moonshadow
Leapin and hoppin' on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow

And if I ever lose my hands, lose my plough, lose my land,
Oh if I ever lose my hands, Oh if I won't have to work no more.

And if I ever lose my eyes, if my colours all run dry,
Yes if I ever lose my eyes, Oh if I won't have to cry no more.

Oh, I'm bein' followed by a moonshadow, moon shadow, moonshadow
Leapin and hoppin' on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow

And if I ever lose my legs, I won't moan, and I won't beg,
Yes if I ever lose my legs, Oh if I won't have to walk no more.

And if I ever lose my mouth, all my teeth, north and south,
Yes if I ever lose my mouth, Oh if I won't have to talk...

Did it take long to find me? I asked the faithful light.
Did it take long to find me? And are you gonna stay the night?

Oh, I'm bein' followed by a moonshadow, moon shadow, moonshadow
Leapin and hoppin' on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow
Moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow.


“Okay, now she is in heaven,” Heather said as Ama hugged the musician, “but isn’t Cat Stevens more Seventies?”


“Hey – Ama loves his music,” Jo said as she looked round, and then saw something out of the corner of her eye.  “Susan – get Doc, and make your way round to the other side of the room, will you?”




“I think this is a bad mistake,” Louise said as she and Lynx made her way round the room, “we’re going to stand out like a sore thumb here.”


“We’re just going to put something on young Miss Carter, make sure her mommy dearest gets the message,” Lynx said quietly, her eyes fixed on Katy Carter as she stood with Pepsi watching the stage.








“Lynx,” Louise hissed as she saw the flick knife, “what are you going to do?”


“Like I said, put something on her – a nice slash down her back should...”


“This is the business end of a Glock pressed against your back.  Now, very slowly, put the knife away, turn round and walk – both of you.”


The words were whispered, but the pressure on her back was real, as Lynx turned round and saw the fear in Louise’s face.  A brown haired woman was standing with her hand on her arm, as they were both made to walk quietly away from where Katy and the others were going forward to talk to Ama.


“Who the fuck do you think you are,” Lynx said as they went outside.


“Friends of Jan Carter,” Doc said from behind Lynx, “who don’t like the idea of people trying to hurt them.  So, you are going to go for a little trip.  What’s your name?”


“Don’t tell them,” Lynx growled, “they don’t know the pile of guano they’ve landed in.”


“Actually, we were going to say the same to you, but hey – not important,” Doc said as Lynx felt the pinprick, and then slumped to the ground.


“And what about me?”


“I think you showed admirable restraint, Louise.”


She sighed as she turned round and said “thank you Madame.  So what happens now?”


“You came in to carry out her orders, but were hit on the back of the head.  When you came to, you were in the car, and Lynx had disappeared.”


Nodding, Louise said “I guess it’s going to hurt.”


“Regretfully, but necessary.”


“Well you...”


Doc caught the woman as Susan hit her at the base of the skull, and checked her pulse.


“Clint, would you be so good as to ensure Louise is put back into the car in front,” Shirley said as George appeared.


“Of course,” Clint said as he lifted Louise up and carried her out.


“And her?”


“George, would you please deposit this young lady in the boot of the car you will find outside?  I wish to have a conversation with her, alongside others.”




"So what was Andy Warhol really like? Grandfather says you knew him Gran." Simon asked as he stood with her.

"He was pretty much an asshole, just like he's shown in that movie about poor Edie Sedgwick." Paulie shook her head. "I was never one of his factory girls as such, but I did know most of them."

"It was an insane time Simon." Nessa joined the conversation, “and to be honest, from what I know of that whole freak show Andy had going on, just maybe people were saner in the asylum."

"They were doing far too many drugs." Paulie looked sad, "some really nice people let themselves get bent totally out of shape."

"Don't get us wrong Simon, Andy Warhol had talent, but it soon just became all about self promotion and excess."

"That sounds horrible Aunt Nessa."

"Well Andy wasn't a bad person, but I think he especially in the sixties played up his image."

"Was he gay Gran?"

"He said he was, and a lot of his life had gay overtones, but like most people I'm not 100% sure."

"Wow, you've told me so much." Simon looked thrilled.


“The joys of living in the times,” Nessa said with a smile.  “I must say thought, Erica is a true delight to see.”


“I think they all look wonderful,” Alex said with a smile.






“Look at them,” Jess said to Poppy as they watched Dawn and Lynn dancing with Ken and Steve.


“I know – So what did you get from Caroline, Ama?”


“Apart from this wonderful dress – a new Mini, in the classic style.”


“Oh wow – the perfect sixties send off...”





“She looks really happy,” Mary said as she looked at Ama with Caroline.


“So am I,” Caroline said, “and getting Yusuf to come in was a wonderful touch on your part Mary?”


“Oh no – that was Ms Quant and Anna’s doing,” Mary said, “my special guest should be...”


“Miss Thomas?”


“Winston, my boy – has Mister Starkey arrived?”


“He has indeed, and I believe Ms Richmond and Mrs van Roon have noticed?”


Merlin looked over to where Nessa and Paulie were talking in whispers to Juliette and Diana.


“Mary – he did say Mister Starkey, didn’t he?”


“Ai he did – let the band know, will you?”


“But how...”


“Oh my goddess,” Juliette said, “I thought they were joking, but it is you Barbara?”


“Hello Pelican,” Barbara Bach said, “Mary called on us in Cranleigh last week, heard Richard was coming over to do some business, and persuaded us to drop in.”


“Hello there,” the male voice said into the microphone with a Liverpool accent, “Are we all having fun?”


“Oh dearest Artemis,” Diana said, “is that...”


“Ringo Starr?”


“Now then,” Ringo said, “I have a question to ask.  Are there any young girls in the audience tonight?”


The cheers made him smile as he said “stupid question.”  Turning round, he said “I appear to have gatecrashed a birthday party.  Is Ama nearby?”


Pepsi and the others pushed the amazed Ama forward as Ringo held his hand out and brought her onto the stage.  “You know, I have a 14 year old grandson.  Maybe you could go out with him.”


“Thank you, but I have a boyfriend,” Ama said as she looked at Nick.


“Well, it is your sixteenth birthday, so you don’t mind if I sing a little song for you, do you?”


Ama shook his head as the band started to play, and Ringo started to sing.


You come on like a dream, peaches and cream,
Lips like strawberry wine.
You're sixteen, you're beautiful and you're mine. (mine, all mine)


You're all ribbons and curls, ooh, what a girl,
Eyes that sparkle and shine.
You're sixteen, you're beautiful and you're mine.
(mine, all mine, mine, mine)


You're my baby, you're my pet,
We fell in love on the night we met.
You touched my hand, my heart went pop,
Ooh, when we kissed, i could not stop.


You walked out of my dreams, into my arms,
Now you're my angel divine.
You're sixteen, you're beautiful, and you're mine.


You're my baby, you're my pet,
We fell in love on the night we met.
You touched my hand, my heart went pop,
Ooh, when we kissed, i could not stop.


You walked out of my dreams, into my car,
Now you're my angel divine.
You're sixteen, you're beautiful, and you're mine.

You're sixteen, you're beautiful, and you're mine.

You're sixteen, you're beautiful, and you're mine.

All mine, all mine, all mine.

All mine, all mine, all mine.

All mine, all mine, all mine, all mine, but i do.

You are mine!


The crowd clapped and cheered as he kissed Ama on the cheek and let her go back into the crowd, Caroline beaming from ear to ear.


“Now, who wants to hear some oldies...”


“Yellow Submarine,” Doc called out.


“Got it – but I need some help from the birthday girl.”


“But I cannot sing,” Ama pleaded.


“Yes she can,” Pepsi called out.


“Well come up here and help her,” Ringo said, Pepsi bringing Doc, Becca and Nikki with her.


“Good – saves me calling you up,” he said as he signalled to the band and started to sing.


In the town where I was born

Lived a man who sailed the seas.

And he told us of his life,

In the land of submarines.


So we sailed up to the sun
Till we found the sea of green
And we lived beneath the waves
In our yellow submarine

“Okay girls, take it,” he said as he looked at the five of them, as they started to sing along.

We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine

Nessa came onto the stage along with Caroline, as Ringo sang again

And our friends are all on board
Many more of them live next door
And the band begins to play

We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine

“Nessa Richmond, I believe,” Ringo said, “care to lead the bridge?”


“An honour,” she said as Ringo put a muffler over the microphone.

As we live a life of ease (A life of ease)
Everyone of us (Everyone of us) has all we need (Has all we need)
Sky of blue (Sky of blue) and sea of green (Sea of green)
In our yellow (In our yellow) submarine (Submarine, ha, ha)

“All together now!”

We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine


“Ladies and Gentlemen, Ama and the other singers,” Ringo said as he let them take a bow, and then handed back to the band before he escorted Ama back to the body of the party.


“Well now,” Doc said, “serenaded by two of your heroes.”


“It has been a wonderful night so far,” Ama said quietly.


"Richard darling that was marvellous," Mary said as she hugged him.

"Well for a girl who was made a slave, I wouldn't exactly be keeping to my principles if I didn't help her celebrate."

"Yes, I heard you made a large donation to the fund helping those poor children."

"Merlin keep that quiet - you'll be giving my husband a good name," Barbara said as she brought Ringo a drink.

"Well he deserves that name."

"By the way,” Barbara said, “if you need frocks for a future show I have a certain blue evening dress that I may or may not have worn on a certain James Bond film..."

"You'd let us show it?" Mary asked excitedly.

"Well on the right young model."

"Oh come on Barbara you'd still look stunning in it darling."


“Flatterer – but no, the right person, at the right time.”


“Ringo, I cannot thank you enough,” Caroline said as she came over, “you have made my daughter very happy indeed.”


“Richard, Barbara, this is Caroline Jameson, Ama’s mother.”


“Of course – and the honour was ours Caroline.  Tell her she’s by no means the worst singer I’ve heard.”


“I’m curious – who is?”


Ringo looked at Barbara and said “no comment...”





“Jan, Juliette,” Shirley said as she walked over, “can i have a few moments of your time please?”


“Sure,” they said as they went out into the corridor.  Shirley looked to see if anyone was listening, and then said “they tried to hurt you tonight.”


“They did?”  Jan looked round and said “how?”


“Not important – but you need to know we have one of them in our custody.”


“Which one?”


“From the description Sporetti gave us, I think it’s their Miss Lynx?”


“Really,” Juliette said, “perhaps she would care to meet the real Miss Lynx?”


“The thought had crossed my mind, but I understand she is sated for now.  No – I offer you the chance to talk to her first Jan, before I send her to someone who is very keen to meet her.”


“Interesting – what do you have in mind?”


“You were due to go to Buffalo tomorrow – correct?”


As Jan nodded, Shirley said “We’ll drive there with you – and you can witness our plan before you attend your own appointments.  Can you be ready for seven?”


“Oh yes.”


“Excellent – enjoy the rest of the party.”




“So many fine gifts,” Ama said as she looked at them, “I truly do not deserve them all.”


“Well, we all think you’re wrong,” Cari said as she hugged the young woman. 


“So do I,” her grandfather said as he stood there with Caroline.


"So did I miss out on anything you wanted for this special birthday darling?"

"Not a thing Mom," Ama hugged Caroline, 'this has been...MAGICAL!"

"Well other people helped a lot as well."

"I know."

"So what did you think of the presents from everyone else?"

"Oh they were lovely, both the big ones from the grownups, but especially the thoughtful little ones from my friends."

"Did they tell you how hard it was buying presents for you?"

"Actually they did, and I'm glad they didn't pool their cash and get me something expensive, these gifts mean so much more."

"Did you like my wine?" Father Alex asked.

"Yes, and when I'm older I will enjoy it."

"Well it has at least five more years of aging to go before it’s really drinkable." Alex smiled, "but 2000 was a VERY good year."


“I want to thank everyone for this,” Ama said as she walked to the stage, and talked to the DJ.


“Hello,” she said as she looked across the fall, “I wanted to say a few words, if I may.”


As the partygoers gathered round, Ama said “as you all know, I have only known most of you for a short while, but I wanted to say thank you for making this an incredibly special day for me.


“I especially want to thank Juliette for arranging for us to have my party here, and Mom for making all the arrangements – and being the best Mom a girl like me could ask for.”


As everyone clapped, Ama said “I also want to thank the band, and Mary for the special surprise guests – I will never forget them, or this night.  But most of all, thank you, all of you – for being my friends.”


She put the microphone down and walked up to Nick, smiling shyly as she said “especially you” and kissed him, long, passionately, as the others watched.


“Now,” she said out loud, “as Doc would say – LET’S PARTY!!!”



"It's a tradition that a father dances with his daughters I'm led to believe, but as Ama's Great Grandfather and her nearest male relative can I claim the pleasure?"

"You can Granddad." Ama giggled slightly as he took her out on the floor.

"You know somewhere Stella is looking down very happily." Grace whispered to Ju.

"I know...I think she might even say that eventually everything worked out pretty well."

"She would be so happy with how Caroline has grown up."

"That she would, Caroline is an amazing woman."


“Yes, she is,” Merlin said as she joined them.  “And you can see how much she cares for her.”


"May I have this dance?" Nick asked Caroline.

“You may," Caroline said as she felt him nervously hold her, while they joined Ama and her grey-grandfather in the waltz.

"Sorry I'm not very good."

"Nick you are doing fine."


“Perhaps, but I wanted to thank you for letting me come tonight.”


“Well it would not be the same for Ama if you were not here.  She really does like you, you know.”


“I know – but I am very fond of her as well.”




“Hey Boss,” Mary said as Pippa joined the group of ladies, “having fun?”


“Yeah – and i’m not your boss yet,” Pippa said with a smile.


“Did you manage to get the snag sorted out, Pip?” 


“The Uppity Mucks are talking – it does look as if it is going to be worked out, however.”



“That’s not your phone, is it Mom,” Carina said as Juliette looked in her pocket.


"Yeah I think it is...  Oh crap," Juliette said as she checked her phone.

"Anything wrong Mom?" Carina asked.

"Not really, but that was from Missy."

"Oh, and being from Missy was it important?" Annie asked as she drank Seven-Up through a straw.

"For Mary Clarke yes."

"For Mary?"

"Yes Cari darling, the SVA group want to sign Mary to a cosmetics contract, Missy thinks that she and I need to broach it with Mary and her family personally."

"SVA Group?" Annie queried.

"Big French luxury brands conglomerate." Cari nodded, "you use some of their products love."

"I think we all do," Ju paused, "anyway it’s going to spoil our family weekend if I need fly to the coast to see Mary."


“Unless we come with you?”


“What – to San Francisco for the weekend?”


“Yeah – you and Missy go do your thing, we get to see the sights.”


“It’s a possibility – I’ll talk to her tomorrow and let you know...”



"So have you missed me?" Chet asked Doc as they danced.

"What do you think?" Anna laughed back.

"Well you've sounded like your school work, babysitting and modeling was keeping you pretty busy."

"It has been,” Anna said, “but not to the stage where I don't lay awake at night dreaming of you being beside me."

"You say the NICEST things," Chet kissed her.


Looking over, she saw Chet’s friends dancing, but something seemed to be between them.


"What's wrong between Sarah and H by the way?"

Looking at them, Chet said "he doesn't like how other guys look at her."

"Well she's pretty damn hot." Doc looked closely at Chet, "you haven't?"

"NO!  But a couple of seniors at our school are in hot pursuit..."


"Well in H's view Sarah isn't exactly discouraging them."


"Exactly, so can you maybe have a word with her?"


“Well, I have school tomorrow, but I’ll see if I can get to see her later,” Anna said as they danced round.





“Hey,” Doc said as she went into the rest room, and saw Sarah at the mirror.  “How are things going?”


“Not bad,” Sarah said as she used her lipstick.


“Listen – shoot me down if I’m sticking my oar in, but Chet told me you and H were having some disagreements.”


“That obvious?”


Anna nodded. “Yeah – he also said some of the senior boys were looking at you, eyes ablaze or similar.”


"Doc,” Sarah said as she turned and looked, “I was the ugly duckling for so long, I like it that guys think I'm sexy and desirable."

"Well," Anna touched up her makeup, "that I can understand."

"And I'm just flirting with these guys...it means nothing."

"Yes but does H realise that?"


Sarah stood at the table, and smiled.  “No, I should tell him, shouldn’t I?”


“Probably a good idea – and soon...”




"Her school skirts have got microscopic, Chet," H whispered as they waited for Anna to emerge from the powder room, "and she wears these skyscraper high heels. Honestly she looks like she's begging for it."

"And you don't like that?"

"I love it, who wouldn't want a girlfriend that sexy...but it should only be for me. She wiggles her ass and every guy on the North Shore is getting interested."


“Yeah – I know, and I’m sorry.”


H looked at Sarah as she came out with Anna, and she said “I hadn’t realised just how jealous you were getting – and I’m sorry.  Forgive me?”


“Of course I do,” H said as he kissed Sarah.  “Let’s go for a walk in the park tomorrow, all right?”




“We need to go Erica,” Denice said quietly, “it is a school day tomorrow.”


“It’s all right Mom – I think everyone else is getting ready to go anyway,” Erica said as Ama came over.  “Thanks for inviting all of us Ama.”


“Thank you for coming,” Ama said with a smile, standing by the doors and saying goodbye to everyone as they left.


“It certainly has been a night to remember,” Annie said as she and Carina stood with Caroline and Dan.


“Indeed – but i think when we get her back to the apartment, she will go to her room, close her eyes and sleep the sleep of the just.”


Annie nodded as Ama walked back over with Nick.  “I have had a fantastic say, Mom,” she said as she yawned, “but I think it is time to head home.”


“Well, if you’re sure,” Caroline said as she put her arm round Ama’s shoulders, “let’s get our coats...”





“Oh god – did she have to hit me so hard,” Louise said as she slowly opened her eyes, and rubbed her head.  She looked round, realising she was back in the car – and alone.


She heard her phone buzzing, and took it out, answering the call with “yeah?”


“Louise?  Where the hell have you and Lynx been?”


“Boss,” Louise said groggily, “we got made.  Someone whacked me from behind – I just came to.  There’s no sign of Lynx.”


There was a silence on the phone, before she heard the deep voice say “get back here – as fast as you can.  We’ll talk in the morning.”


“And Lynx?”


“We’ll look out for her.”


“Okay, boss,” she said as she ended the call, and started the car, wondering where her dark haired partner was.


Thursday 4th February

11 am CET

Stadtpark, Vienna


The group of young women walking round the park with their partners drew a few looks from the other people strolling through the ornate gardens, but mostly they exchanged smiles and nods.  They knew from the look on their faces that they were in the city for a special reason, and that reason was that evening.


“This place is amazing,” Victoria said as she looked round, and then walked over to a floral clock that sat on a gentle slope.


“Apparently,” Abby said as she looked at the guide she had brought, “this is the tribute to Schubert.”


“Can one of you take a photo of both of us,” Tony said.


“Give me the camera,” Jo said as they posed to one side, and she pressed the button.  “Now can someone take one of me from up there?”


“Up where?”


The girls watched as Jo walked up to the top of the clock and knelt down, her arms spread as they all took photos of her.


“This was a good idea,” Angel said as she held Harry’s arm, “to get out of the hotel and meet as a group, and just forget about everything for a couple of hours.”


“It certainly was,” Fiona said as she walked with Trina, while Jo came back down, “and this statuary is amazing.”


“So suits pressed and hanging gentlemen?”


“Indeed, Mick,” Tony said, “white tie and waistcoat immaculate, and gloves of snowy white.”


“It’s not formal wear for Trina, right?”


“Tuxedo, but not full formal, as we can relax a little bit.”


“Excellent – the formality of this place...”


“Let’s go and grab a coffee,” Tony said, “and then we need to think about getting back.”



6 am

New York


As Lynx slowly opened her eyes, she wondered what had happened.  The last thing she remembered was the two women who had forced her and Louise to leave the party, before she had a chance to carry out her orders.  There had been a pinprick, and then...


Controlling her breathing, she allowed her eyes to adjust to the gloom.  She was sitting in a basement, by the look of it, and whoever had brought her here had secured her to the chair she was sitting in.  They’d done a good job too – her arms were folded behind the chair back and her wrists tied to her elbows, while rope held her upper body to the chair back, and her legs to the front legs.


“Hey shitheads,” she called out, “where the hell am I?”


“You are my guest for a little while longer – please, try to enjoy this time.”


The voice was deep and rich, and as the lights came on full Lynx was blinded for a moment.  When she was able to focus, she saw the tall woman standing in front of her, wearing a tailored black jacket and skirt, dark stockings and high heeled shoes.  An extra stocking was pulled down over her head, pressing her short dark hair down.


“Who the fuck are you?”


“Moi?  I am known as Miss Lioness, but that is not important right now.  Allow me to introduce two of my friends.”


Lynx heard the two sets of footsteps, heels clicking on the hard floor, and saw two identically dressed women walk in. 


“And who are you, Lady Ga fucking Ga?”


“Oh no,” the taller of the two said, “allow me to introduce myself – my name is Miss Panther.”


Lynx swallowed as she looked at her, and then said “so who is she?”


“Oh me?” the other woman said with a smile, as she slipped a pair of knuckledusters onto her gloved hands, “my name is Miss Lynx.  Perhaps you have heard of me?”


Lynx looked at her, and whispered “oh shit...”


“A very appropriate choice of words,” Miss Lynx said.  “Now normally, I would take my time showing you new and exquisite ways to feel pain, but let’s face it – you’re a cheap imitation, and I don’t have the time to spare today, so this will have to be quick and dirty.  You stole my name, you stole my reputation – time to pay.”


Miss Panther and Miss Lioness watched as Miss Lynx laid into the bound woman, the metal knuckledusters sinking into her flesh when they weren’t cracking her jaw and face.


“I regret she has not been able to show the full extent of her anger, Miss Panther.”


“I appreciate that, Miss Lioness,” the other masked woman said as she hit Lynx across the eye, “but given what is going to happen next, we shall consider this – an appetiser.”


“Now, when you reach your destination,” Miss Lynx said as she stepped back, “remember – I was nice to you.”


“Mister Lion,” Miss Lioness said as a man in a dark suit, and wearing dark glasses, came in, “arrange for our guest to be transported.”


He nodded as he signalled to two women, who came in and released Lynx from the chair before dragging her out.


“My thanks for coming early,” Shirley said as Cari and Ju removed their masks, “I trust Judith is safe?”


“Annie stayed over, just in case, but we need to get back to her.  Where is she going?”


“To meet Sporetti.  After that – not my concern.”


10 am



“Are you ready?”


Jan nodded as she slipped the stocking down over her head, and nodded to Shirley as she slipped the mask over her face.


“Mister Sporetti,” she said as they looked at the man who walked towards them, flanked on each side by men Jan could clearly see was armed.  “Thank you for coming to meet me today.  I hope you have avoided trouble so far...”


“So far, Madame,” the tall man said, “I understand yous have somefin for me?”


“We do indeed, may i introduce Miss Ocelot, one of the ladies?”


“M’am,” Sporetti said as he nodded in his direction.


“Mister Lion?”


Sporetti looked at the man standing by their car, wearing a dark suit, glasses and gloves, as he popped the lid of the trunk, and they heard the muffled cursing inside.


“With the compliments of Miss Panther,” Jan purred, grateful for the voice modifier under her black scarf, “we offer you your Miss Lynx.”


Sporetti looked in the trunk, as Lynx looked back through half closed eyes.


“What happened to her?”


“The real Miss Lynx expressed her views – for once, under remarkable self control,” Miss Ocelot purred, “but we know you are anxious to show your displeasure and your feelings at what has happened.  It is still our intention to deliver the one called Miss Panther here to you – we hope this makes an acceptable gift in the meantime.”


“Most acceptable – do you wish to know what we will do?”


“No,” Madame said, “I am more than certain you can think of a suitable way of expressing your views.”


“Indeed – may you know success with your continued endeavours.  Gentlemen.”


“Goodbye,” Madame said as the two men came forward and lifted the struggling Lynx out of the trunk, carrying her to the other car.


“Ladies,” Sporetti said as he nodded, and followed his men.


“What do you think he will do to her,” Jan said as the car drove off.


“I suspect whatever it is, it will be painful,” Shirley said.  “Now, I have a meeting to attend.  And you Jan?”


“A chat with an old friend...”







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