A Tale of Three Cities – part 2








6 pm CET

Imperial Riding School Renaissance Hotel Vienna


“Tell me it gets less nerve wracking after this, Your Grace,” Tony said as he stood in the main room of Guy’s suite, tugging nervously on the cuffs of his formal coat.


“Ah I wish I could Tony, but I would be lying,” Guy said with a smile.  “I will say this – the worst part is right now, because when Valeria, Diana and Natasha bring her through, I am confident you will be so proud your nerves will be assuaged.”


“I hope so,” Tony said as he went and looked out of the window.  He barely heard the door open, but as Guy said “Is she ready, my dear?” he turned to see Valeria nodding.


Tony turned, waiting as Natasha came through, and then Diana, beaming with pride as they held the doors open and Abby came out.


“Oh my...”


The dress designed by Alice was based on a classic Romanov opera dress design – it was made from white silk, with a round collar and short capped sleeves, but with a white lace jacket effect on the top half.  The skirt flowed down and out from her waist, reaching the floor in a slight pleat, and with a white girdle round her waist.  The long white kid gloves came over her elbows, while her long blonde hair was carefully arranged and pinned up, the silver tiara sitting proudly at the front.  A silver and jewelled pair of earrings hung from her lobes, and a set of pearls round her neck.


“You...  You look amazing,” Tony said as he took Abby’s hand and kissed it.


“Now, Guy and i will escort you to your car,” Valeria said, “Natasha, Diana, it is your turn next.”


“Shall we?”


“Of course,” Diana said as she put her hands on Abby’s shoulders.  “Tonight, I am the proudest woman of all.  I will see you later.”


“Come,” Guy said as he opened the door, and Tony offered his arm to Abby, “it is time.”


“One moment Papa,” Diana said as she took a picture of Tony and Abby.  “I promised I would send it, as Juliette did last year.”



12.15 pm

Geneva, NY


Jo was walking across the campus, her mind on her lunch and the German class that afternoon, when her cell phone went off.  She took it out, and stopped for a few moments as she looked at the picture she had just received.


“Oh goddess,” she whispered, and then smiled as she put her phone away.  Someone was a very proud young lady...



12.15 pm

New  Haven


“Hey – want a sandwich?”


“If you’re making one,” Carina said as she put her bag down, “any coffee in the pot?”


“Freshly made,” Jude said as Carina poured herself a mug, and then took her phone out to read the newly arrived message.


“Who’s it from?”


Jude looked over to see Carina smiling, and then showed her the picture.


“My lord, he does scrub up well doesn’t he,” she said as she looked at Tony.


“So does Abby,” Carina said with a smile.  “At least nobody sees her knees knocking under that dress.”



12.25 pm

Complete Style


“Oh my,” Merlin said as she looked at the picture with Juliette, “she outdid herself again.”


“Where did she get that lace?  It’s exquisite.”


“It is at that – right, we meet in the cave at 3 to watch?”


“We do,” Juliette said with a smile.



12.30 pm

St Angela’s


“She looks radiant and magnificent,” Miss Tennant as Grace showed her and Kate the photograph.


“Indeed – a real credit to her family and the school,” Kate said.


“She is at that,” Grace said.  “Anyway, to the reason I asked us to have lunch together. I need to put a scenario to you – a hypothetical at this stage, but the odds are shortening on it being a reality.”


“Intriguing,” Wilhelmina said, “go on.”


“I don’t know if either of you have met a friend of Jeannie Brewster’s, called Kylie Mitchell.”


“I’ve met her in passing at a few events – very well spoken young lady, currently at school in Hong Kong, correct?”


“That’s her – she’s attending school there to basically bring her up to the standard of taking GCSE this year, which puts her at a Sophomore level.  The intention was, after this year, she would return to London to study for her final school exams there.”


“A very bright young lady then?”


“Indeed – she got the opportunity to go to Hong Kong because a friend of hers was seconded there for a year.  She was also due to return to London at the same time as Kylie – but that may no longer be the case.”


“Oh,” Kate said as she raised an eyebrow, “why?”


“There is a possibility that Marina, her friend, may be offered a position here in New York instead.  If that was the case, and she was to accept it, then it is very likely that Kylie would join her here.  If she does, she would like to continue her schooling and take her exams – but she would be best doing that somewhere where she had friends.”


“And that place would be St Angela’s,” Wilhelmina said.  “Well, it is unusual, but it would not be the first time we have taken a Junior in and tutored her for a different set of examinations from SATs and the diploma.”


“We had the oldest daughter of the head of the UK delegation to the UN – the one before that man Twining.  She was with us for two years, and took the GCSE exams.  What would it be for Kylie, if she was to come here?”


“International A-Levels – if it becomes a reality, I can get the information together quickly, and we can prepare a curriculum for her to allow her to study for the subjects she wants, as well as other classes.”


“Her Aunt is Susan Walker, the head of Xavier International in New York, correct?”


“That’s right – I don’t know if she’d live there or with Marina, nothing can be discussed about that until we know one way or the other.  I wanted to let you know, however, as it will need to be taken into account.”


“When will we know one way or another?”


“They arrive here for a holiday on Saturday. I think we will know before the end of next week, and if this is a reality, we can have her in for a preliminary visit before she returns.”


“Well, at least we are forewarned,” Wilhelmina said.  “Let’s see what happens – but from what I’ve seen of her, she will be a fine addition to our student body.”


12.30 pm



Peter Welch was not having a good day.  He had been taken to hospital to have his wound treated, but the two spooks from Internal Affairs had insisted on coming along.  Once he had been allowed to go, he had to wait while they talked to his doctor, and then they had escorted him to the office, and left him in the office.


What was worse, his wife had called to say they were searching his house, and taking items away.  He was just glad the kids were at school – but even with that, he could see things crumbling around him.


As the door to the interview room opened, he was expecting to see one of the two IA bastards – the last person he expected to see was Janice Carter, closing the door behind her before she sat opposite him.


For her part, Janice looked at her colleague, wearing an open necked shirt and jeans, his leg now in a bandage.


“I take it it is healing?”


“What is?”


“Your leg – your leg is healing?”


“Oh – oh yeah, it’s getting better.  I saw the sawbones today, he says it’s coming together.”


“Yeah,” Janice said as she looked at a file, “remind me what happened?”


“I fell, impaled it on a fork.”


“Oh yeah, that’s right,” Jan said, “so you said.”  Leaning back, she looked at him and said “you know who I was thinking of the other day, Peter?”


“No – who?”


“Arthur Deakin.”


“Arthur?  What brought him to mind?”


“Well,” Jan said with a smile, “it was just the recent events in Niagara that bought him to mind.”


“I heard you were up there when that firefight went down?”


“Having a well earned holiday,” Jan said with a smile.  “But those two being found dressed as women – that’s what brought Deakin to mind. He was convicted of kidnap, right?”


“And sexual assault on minors – he dressed as a soccer mom, kidnapped girls off the street, molested them and then let them go.”


“Yeah – that’s right,” Jan said.  “We were seniors at the academy then – the tutor allowed us to shadow the main investigation.  I remember his claim he wasn’t alone – there were others – but he refused to name names.”


Peter nodded as he said “I remember – but why did he come to mind?”


“Well, that’s the thing,” Jan said with a smile.  “When I heard about the events in Niagara, I got curious, and I asked Quantico to send the file for review.  I said I was interested for a new recruit.  That’s when we discovered some of the evidence was missing, so I asked who had last accessed the file.”


Peter shifted uneasily in his chair, as he said “who?”


“You, Peter, a few months ago.  I also found out Deakin had been moved – but I found him, and asked a colleague to have a little chat with him.  He was most – educational.”


Jan stood up and walked round, leaning against the desk as she looked at Peter, before she said “I like your wife, and I like your kids, and I have no reason at all to see them hurt more than they are going to be.  So I’m going to make this nice and simple.


“I don’t even begin to understand why you did what you did, but so far the only three who know your role in that activity are me, Deakin and my friend.  I know you’re the block here, Welch, I know you’re involved with the Pussycat gang here, but I can’t prove it.  In two minutes, however, IA are going to come back in, and they’re going to tell you the wound on your leg matches a gunshot wound that was treated on a female the night of the Niagara incident.”


Peter Welch looked directly at Jan, before sneering “and what are you going to do about it?”


“Nothing – nothing at all.  You’re just a small wheel in a much bigger operation now Peter, but I wanted you to know I know.  And I wanted you to know one other thing.”


Jan leaned over and whispered into his ear “go after my family again, and not only will I tell all I know, Deakin will as well, and you will enjoy a short and uncomfortable stay in a prison where they treat shits like you in a very, very special manner.  Do I make myself clear, Old Friend?”


Peter looked at her and nodded as Jan said “good – be seeing you Peter.”


She walked out of the office and closed the door, Welch looking after her and saying one word.






7 pm CET

Opernhaus, Vienna


“Hey,” Trina said as Abby came in, “you look amazing.”


“So do you,” Abby said as she looked at the young Californian, the high collared bolero jacket covering her shoulders with her strapless dress.  “How are you feeling?”


“Not as bad as Jo,” Trina said as they looked at the young Canadian.  She was looking round, and taking a drink from a little silver flask.


“Hey – enough of that,” Abby said quietly.


“I know – it’s just seltzer anyway,” Jo said with a grin as the bearded chief marshal walked round.


“You both look amazing as well,” Trina said as Victoria and Fiona arrived, Fiona wearing a mink shrug while Victoria had a high collared dress on. 


“Yeah – you too,” Fiona said.  “At least the menfolk can’t argue over who looks best tonight.”


“Hey Charly – do your parents have to sit with the president tonight?”


“No, thank God – they have a box with Victoria’s parents,” Charly said.




“Well, gentlemen,” Mick said as he looked round, “the ladies are fantastic, and the men are penguins.”


“Of course we are,” Phillipe said, “as it should be.”


“My French friend is correct,” Joachim said, “the true stars of the Opernball are the women, no?”


“Very true,” Archie said as he looked at his trousers.  “I’d have preferred a kilt, but rules is rules.”


“Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please.”


The couples looked at the chief steward, as he said “we will make final preparations in one hour.  Ladies, please be sure to collect a posy from one of my assistants.”


Abby looked at the female stewards, who wore wearing long red evening dresses with white gloves.  They were standing at a table, on which sat boxes with poses made from lilac flowers.


“Take water, and relax – it is going to be fun.”


1.30 pm

The Speakeasy, Buffalo


“Well, the bruising is clear,” Rochelle said as she looked at the back of Louise’s head, “and yeah – looks like a truncheon or something.”


“So tell me again what happened,” Miss Panther said as she sat on the other side of the table.


“Well, it’s like I said boss,” Louise said as she accepted the drink, “Lynx talked to you last night, and then said we had to give this Carter lady a message.  So we gatecrashed the party, and made our way round to the back of where they were watching some old guy on the stage.  Good singer though.


“Before she got the chance, though, someone stuck a gun in our backs.  I saw the one behind Lynx – young woman, maybe 18 or 19.  I didn’t see the one behind me.”


“What did they say,” Miss Panther whispered as she sipped her own drink.


“They told us they were watching Janice Carter, and walked us out of the main party room.  The next thing I knew, I was whacked on the back of my head, and when I came to I was in the car outside.  Best I can figure, whoever is watching her spotted us getting out of the car, and they put me back in.”


“And Lynx?”


Louise shook her head.  “No idea – I would have gone back in, but you called and told me to come straight back.”


“Yeah – well, you did the right thing Louise.  Miss Cheetah?”


“I called Miss Tigress and Miss Bobcat – they’re good.  I haven’t been able to get ahold of Miss Puma, however.”


“I’ll take care of that now – when is your next shift Louise?”


“In about an hour – why?”


“Get something to eat, and stay here – I’ll see you later.”


“Got it boss,” Louise said as she got up and left the room.  As the door closed, Rochelle looked at Miss Panther and said “they’re watching her – which means one of two things.  Either who is doing this to us has also identified Carter as a weak link and they’re keeping her safe for their own purposes...”


“Or she is the most unlucky woman in terms of coincidence around here,” Miss Panther said as her cell phone rang.  “Can you give me the room for a minute?”


Rochelle nodded as she left the room, and the blonde haired woman looked at her cell phone.






“No, I will be in the office in an hour – say nothing until I get there.”



2.30 pm

Complete Style


“I’ve got the popcorn,” Alexis said as she came into the cave.


“And I’ve got the drinks,” Janine said as she followed her.


“What on earth do you girls think this is, a movie night?”


“Oh leave them alone, Ju,” Mary said as she set up the laptop to project on the large screen, “it’s an event, after all.”


“Yeah – I suppose so.  How are we doing?”


“It’s about to get underway,” Merlin said as she started the transmission, and handed Juliette a mug of coffee.


“So who is the guest of honour this year,” she asked.


“By the sound of it Brooke Shields – ah, and there is Mandy and Will in the background...”


8.40 pm CET

Opernhaus, Vienna


“Amanda, William!”


Mandy and Will turned to see Victoria and Archie coming behind them, Victoria in an off the shoulder black gown and Archie in the black tails.


“Well, this is an amazing thing,” Mandy said as they were joined by Olivia and Charles, “I know Angelica was a bag of nerves when she left.”


“So was Fiona – Mick even managed to take her arm with no trouble at all,” Charlie said.  “So we will be sharing a box?”


“Indeed, darling,” Mandy said as she looked to the doors.  “But here – here are the real stars of tonight.”


She watched as Diana came in, wearing a brown silk dress with a high collar, again as with Abby’s designed in the Romanov style, with long brown gloves.  Valeria was wearing a dark green dress with a pleated skirt, while Natasha wore a gold strapless dress with a matching jacket.


Yvette and Marie-Louise wore black evening dresses, while the male members of the du Grechy family were in formal attire, Guy wearing a white sash with blue trim.


“Well, here we are,” Diana said as she kissed Mandy, “shall we?”


2.45 pm

Complete Style


“My lord, Diana looks positively regal,” Mary said as they watched the group coming up the stairs.  They were followed by the Fitzstuart, Treharran and Gordon parties ascended, the commentator speaking in German as they did so.


“So who is the Guest of Honour,” Juliette said as she sat down, a sketch pad and pencil in one hand and a mug of coffee in another.


“Believe it or not, Brooke Shields,” Janine said, “although apparently Pamela Anderson is there too.”


“Well, Pamela spends half her time out there now,” Juliette said.


"Is that Jerry Hall arriving?"


“No, that's not Jerry, but with that blonde hair and the red sequinned dress I can see what you mean Alexis." Merlin nodded. "it's very much HER look....VERY TEXAN!"

"Yes very," Juliette agreed.


3 pm

FBI Field Office, Buffalo


As Andre Baughman walked into the office, her saw Edie Corben standing in his office, Jarvis standing with her, as Kirby stood outside the door.


“AD Baughman,” Kirby said as he opened the door, “we need to talk to you.”


“What’s going on, Corben?”


“AD Baughman,” Jarvis said as Kirby closed the door, “Agent Peter Welch has admitted to blocking the communication of information pertinent to the Pussycat Gang investigation in New York.  He has therefore been arrested and detained, and his badge revoked pending the full investigation.


“As his partner, Agent Edie Corben is being placed on suspension,” Kirby said, “pending investigation.  You will give your sidearm and badge to AD Baughman, you will be escorted to your home, and you will not contact or be contacted by anyone in this office.  Is that understood?”


“I understand,” Edie said as she placed her firearm and badge on Baughman’s desk.  Kirby nodded as he took Edie out, and Jarvis sat down.


“As his supervisor, AD Baughman, I have some questions I need to put to you...”





“I understand why you had to do that,” Edie said to Kirby as he drove out of the city centre, “but do I have to be suspended.”


“Plausible deniability,” Kirby said, “you have nothing to fear, and will be re-assigned in due course.  For now, stay at home, and someone will be watching from a distance.”


“Yeah,” Edie said, “what happened to Welch?”


“Being questioned,” Kirby said as he pulled up outside her house, “relax – nothing’s going to happen.”


Edie nodded as she went into her house – and stopped as she saw Janice sitting in her front room.


“Hey – hope you don’t mind, but the officer in situ let me in through the back.  Let’s talk...”


9.20 pm CET

The Opernhaus


“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the chief steward said as he stood on the stage, his greying dark hair and neat grey beard immaculately trimmed, his tails properly pressed and displayed, the sash lying over his white waistcoat, “it is time.  Please, get into position.”


They could hear the faint sounds of the music in the main hall, as they took up their positions in the order they had been assigned to.


“Now then,” the steward said as he walked forward on the stage, “as is traditional, we will approach the doors soon, but before we do this, we need to ensure you are all calm, all collected, and all ready to make yourselves and your supporters proud.


“To confirm the order for tonight – you will go in three groups of rows.  Two of my colleagues,” he said as he indicated the red dressed women on the stage with him, “will tell you when to move and when not to move.  Follow their instructions, and try to keep your place as much as possible.  The easiest way is to fix your eyes on the person in front, and if you walk with them, you will stay with them.”


The couples nodded as Abby nervously held her posy in both hands.


“Remember ladies – posies touching, then turn, nod and smile before your partner takes you to the other side.”


Johanna looked at the tall girl next to her, and nodded.


“The dance order tonight has just been agreed,” The male steward then said, “we will start with the polka, then a gallop, before moving to the waltz.  Just listen and follow my directions.  And do so now please.”


“What is he – oh my god,” Joey said as the stewards started to dance Gangam style...





3.45 pm

Complete Style


“Okay, we’re getting ready here,” Mary said, “the President and his guests have just arrived.”


The quartet looked at the screen as everyone stood for the national anthems, the party arriving on the grand balcony.


“Brooke looks amazing in that dress,” Janine said as the door opened, and Anna came in.


“So this is where you are hiding,” she said as she sat down, “Vienna?”


“Yeah – want a drink?”


“I’ll take some coffee,” Anna said as she sat down.  “I haven’t missed the arrival then?”


“Oh no – it looks as if it may be time soon.”



10 pm CET

The Opernhaus


“Ready,” Brigitte said as she looked at Fiona.


“I don’t know – you ready Big Brother?”


“Seriously?  Give me the crowd at the Brits or the O2 over this...”


“Deep breaths,” the lady in red whispered as she stood next to him, “we will be underway soon.”


The chief steward turned and looked at the row of four in front of him.


“When the doors open,” he said with a smile, “relax, and enjoy the experience.  When I turn and start walking, first group, take up my walk timing, and keep walking.”


“And in three,” Brigitte’s partner whispered, “one, two, three...”


The sound of Carl Michael Ziehrer’s Fächerpolonaise came through the large doors, as the steward started to walk, the front row matching him and the other’s following suit.


The escorts took the hands of the debutantes, their posies touching in the middle.


“Why are we at the front of the second block,” Joey whispered over her shoulder to Abby.


“Could be worse, we could be first in,” Abby whispered back, as the doors were opened.  “Showtime.”





“Here they come,” Olivia said as the party came down the steps, marching in unison as they slowly walked down, and between the two groups of musicians.  Fiona and Birgitte stopped as the two stewards walked forward a short distance, and then the couples followed.


As the first group came down, Valeria said “they are bringing them in in groups this year?”


“Probably to avoid the problems last year,” Natasha said, “but who stands at the second row of the next group?”


Valeria and Guy looked through their glasses, Diana nodding and beaming as she said “I could not be prouder.”


“Nearly there,” Fiona thought as she approached the far end of the floor, Mick grinning as they kept time.  She counted down the steps in her head, and then turned, nodding to Brigitte as they touched posies and then split off, her to the right and Brigitte to the left.


Guy put his hand on the shoulder of Alexander, as Katerina smiled and wiped away a tear when Brigitte took up her position.


“Congratulations Katerina – she is radiant,” Diana said, Katerina nodding as the first group took up their positions.



4.10 pm

Complete Style


"Well a prize for Mary," Merlin smiled as she and Ju and the girls sat watching the feed from the ball on a computer screen.

"How so?" asked Janine.

"See how several girls are wearing boleros over their gowns, Mary had Kylie incorporate one for her on her dress."

"Yep she certainly made a good fashion call." Juliette agreed as she sketched a couple of necklines on a pad.


"With Guy in charge I will bet you the champagne is flowing like water in their box." Merlin smiled, "that old sod loves an excuse for a party, and Abigail's big moment, well my children I bet he is just so proud."

"Oh you know he is." Juliette looked closely, "just as Klaus and I were of the girls last year."


“And talking of Abby,” Alexis said, “here she comes now.”



10.15 pm CET

The Opernhaus


Abby and Angel were controlling their breathing, concentrating on keeping their position behind Jo and her partner as Tony and Harry held their other hands.


“They look amazing,” Marie-Louise said as Guy opened a bottle of champagne, and filled glasses.


“Wait until she is in position,” Diana said as she watched them walk down.


“Certainly more organised than last year,” Natasha said, “a good idea to break them up.”


“And here she comes...”


Abby watched and smiled as Jo and the taller girl turned, smiled and nodded before she peeled off, and then she turned her own head, smiling and nodding at Angel as Tony and Harry moved round, putting their arms round their waists as they walked them behind the other girls, and then Abby took up her position behind Jo.


As she looked up, she saw her family raise their glasses in salute, and smiled back as they toasted her.


“Right – first bad thing over,” she said to herself as Charly and Trina stood next to her.


“I think we did it,” Trina whispered as the third group came down.


“So far, so good...”


Complete Style


“So, compared to last year?”


“Much more organized,” Juliette said as she watched.  “Ah, this was the most memoreable part of last year.”


“What was,” Janine said.


“The ballet,” Juliette said as the pairs of dancers ran on and took their position.


“Get some drinks girls, she’ll be watching for a while,” Mary said with a smile.



The Opernhaus


Abby stood nervously as the pairs of dancers from the Opera Ballet came out to perform. Cari had told her this was the worst bit just waiting your turn.


“A truly magnificent performance,” Valeria said as she looked at the dancers.


“It will be your turn next year, all been well,” Yvette whispered to her daughter.


“I know – I can only hope I will be as graceful as them,” Marie-Louise said with a smile.


"The children look so nervous standing and waiting down there." Valeria whispered to Guy.

"My love I hardly think we can call them children now."

"To me they will always be children." Valeria smiled happily as she looked again at her granddaughter.


“I know – I still think of Diana that way sometimes,” Guy said, “but she is a beautiful young woman, Valeria.  As are Angelica and the others.”



Complete Style


"Why do they keep showing pictures of Abigail?" Janine asked.

"I guess because she's internationally famous."

"It's rather unfair on the other girls though Merlin."

"I agree, but the TV director and the commentators keep going back to her."

"At least the commentators know to pronounce her surname de Roose and not de Ross, unlike that numbskull who did that piece on ABC about the SOBER gala."

"Ai that's true Ju." Mary nodded.



The Opernhaus


“Magnifique,” Alain said as he applauded the dancers before they went off.


“So what is next,” Roger said, and then he joined in the applause as Placido Domingo came out, taking the baton as he started to conduct the orchestra in the overture to the Barber of Seville.


"Does Abby have many more events to do?" Willy asked.

"A few little things, but the major bit is Trina's private ball in San Francisco." Diana replied without looking away from the girls below.

"I would have funded a private ball for Abigail," Valeria looked round, "but..."

"It's a bit superfluous in New York Mama," Natasha broke in.

"I was thinking at Grechy."

"Yes but as we said the school is already worried about the amount of time that Abby has taken off." Diana spoke again, "And how would it look for me as the Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees if they did something special just for her?"

"I understand that Diana,” Valeria said, “but I still would love to open up Grechy for a huge party."

"Well maybe in the summer after she's finished school Mama?"

"That is an idea darling." Valeria looked serious for a few seconds, "a very good idea."


“What is,” Guy said as he looked round.


“A summer ball for Abigail.”


“Oh I approve wholeheartedly,” Guy said as they applauded again, and Olga Peretyatko came out to sing.


“She is magnificent – I understand she was discovered by Maestro Domingo,” Alain said.





“She is magnificent,” Mandy said as she and Will watched, while Victoria and Archie sat with Olivia and Charlie.


“Look at Angelica,” Will said, “you can see she is enjoying this as well.”


“Oh wonderful,” Mandy said, “Maestro is going to sing as well.”


They watched in rapture as Placido started to sign as well.





“How much longer is this going to go in,” Jo whispered to Abby, “I’m beginning to get a cramp in my leg.  I need to move.”


“Hopefully not much longer,” Abby whispered back.  “Although this is wonderful singing...”




Complete Style


“Are you all right lass,” Mary said as she looked at Juliette.


“Yeah – just moved by the music,” Juliette said as the music stopped, and the applause rang through the opera house.


"Ever wish that you had done all this girls?"

"NO WAY MERLIN!" Janine shook her head, "it was bad enough going to my high school prom, I don't even want to think of the nerves I'd have got going to an international debutante ball."

"I agree on that." Alexis sighed at the memory. "The nearest I got to this was when my sorority at Michigan was invited by our brother fraternity to a fancy black tie party." She paused, "that was sort of like this I guess."

"On a smaller scale." Juliette nodded.


“Finally – the relief I’m sure they have been looking for,” Janine said as the couples moved out, and they heard the music start.





The Opernhaus


As they moved out, and formed up in lines of eight, Tony whispered “now remind me – is it forward first or back?”


“You decide to ask now,” Abby whispered, before the orchestra played and she dropped in to the first curtsey, then curtseyed again.


“I have to say, their formation and discipline is incredible,” Olivia said as the polka started.


“May we join you for a few minutes,” Diana said as she and Guy came into the box where Victoria, Olivia and Mary were with their husbands.


“Of course – do you feel as proud as we do darling,” Mandy said as they kissed each other on the cheek.


“I believe I do,” Diana said with a smile.  “But then, I am sure we all do as well.”


“Valeria and I have been talking,” Guy said, “and we wish to explore the possibility of having a summer ball for Abigail to celebrate her 18th birthday at Grechy.  Do you think her fellow debutantes would be open to an invitation?”


“When is her birthday again?”


“June,” Valeria said, “so she will have finished school, and I believe the others will be free as well.  If we do this, can you ensure the others will be available?”


“We will do that,” Olivia said, “but someone should let a certain Missy Auerbach know now, just in case.”


“Fiona does seem to be having great fun down there,” Archie said.


"Well Fi and the others worries about their glasses were misplaced – and i for one am grateful of that."

"Agreed Olivia." Diana smiled as she took a sip from the champagne Charles poured for her. "There are plenty of girls out there wearing them."

"And when you are as beautiful as they are 'men do make passes at girls who wear glasses'."

"That is true Charles dear boy." Guy laughed heartily.


"Is this the 1996 'Dom Pérignon Oenothèque' Charles?" Valeria asked as she looked at her glass.


"It is,” Charles said.  “Fiona was born just after the vintage was picked, and I laid down a stock. I have brought 10 bottles with me just to celebrate with tonight."


"Well it's an extraordinary wine." Guy smiled contentedly.


"The finest Moët & Chandon maybe have ever made." Valeria tasted with the palate of a true expert.


"Well I'm glad you agree dear friends."





Abby was enjoying herself now, as she smiled and moved across the dance floor, even though it was in a regimented manner.  As the music built to a crescendo, she found herself back with Angel, smiling as they came to a standstill and then curtseyed.


“Oh god,” she heard Jo whisper, “i’m going to fall.”


Abby could see her wobble from side to side, as Joachim tightened his grip on her hand while the applause went on.  She glanced at Angel, and then breathed a sigh of relief as the signal to rise was given.


Jo breathed a sigh of relief as she got up, and they looked at each other, before the signal was taken to take up positions again.


“A gallop?  Unusual to have one in the opening part,” Natasha said to Willy.


“Well, perhaps they wish to demonstrate their sense of unity,” Yvette said.


“Or they need to work out some cramps – one or two of them wobbled there,” Marie-Louise said as the music started again.




Complete Style


“Hello Cari darling,” Juliette said as she answered her cell phone, “have you managed to see any of it?”


“Apart from the photo of Abby’s dress, no – how did it go?”


“Disciplined would be the word for it – I’m sure you’ll get a recording in due course.”


“So no gaps?”


“Not this year, no.”


“So, the weekend?”


“Yeah – can you and Judith drive back tomorrow lunchtime?  I’ll get seats booked for all four of us on the late afternoon flight, and we can stay at the hotel Mary Clarke works for.  It makes a good base of operations to talk to her and her family in.”


“Got it – see you then Mom.”



The Opernhaus


Tony and Harry turned and bowed as Abby and Angel curtseyed, and then took them by the arms.


“I’ve got good news and bad news,” Tony whispered, “the good news is, we get to relax after this.”


“And the bad news?”


The opening strains of the Blue Danube were played, as Tony whispered “we’ve got to do this first.  Ready?”


“Oh yes,” Abby said with a smile as they began to dance, twirling in formation with the others around two of the pairs.


She felt like a true princess, her prince holding her in his arms, and as she passed the others she could see the same look in their eyes, in their faces...


Eventually, the music stopped and they all faced the stage, the men bowing and the women curtseying, as the audience applauded.  Eventually, they all stood and applauded as well, as the chief steward nodded.


“Thank you,” he mouthed as he and his assistants applauded them, and they scattered, heading back to their supporters.


“There she is,” Alain said as Abby and tony found their way to the box, everyone standing and applauding as they came back in.


“Mamma,” Abby said as she embraced Diana, “thank you for allowing me to do this.  Now, may I have a very large drink?”


“Of course,” Guy said as he passed a glass to Tony and Abby, “and it is most assuredly deserved.”


“So now you are free to enjoy the rest of the evening,” Roger said, “on which note – Yvette my dear?”


“Of course,” Yvette said as they went to the floor, and Tony appeared with two plates of food.


“Oh thank you,” Abby said as she unbuttoned her gloves and tucked the fingers away, “I am starving.”


“Forgive me – may I intrude for a moment?”


“Of course Joey,” Abby said as she stood up.  “This is my mother Diana, my grandfather Guy, my grandmother Valeria, my uncle Willy and Aunt Natasha, and my Uncle Alain.  May I present to all of you Johanna von Kiiebersdorf-Obersacken?”


“Please, call me Joey,” the young Canadian said as she gave a small curtsey.  “But it is an honour to meet you, your grace, and all the rest of you.”


“Oh I like her,” Guy said with a smile as he kissed her hand.


"Can I present my parents?" Joey asked as two people followed her into the Grechy box.  “Mother, Father, this is Guy, Alain and Willy, Duc du Grechy, Natasha Duchess de Grechy, and Diana, Abigail and Valeria, Countess du Ros.  My father, Thomas.”

"I actually knew your father when he was a child...”  Valeria stood and smiled as she said “How are you Thomas?"

"I remember Countess, you visited us in Bonn?"

"I did, and enjoyed myself totally."

"This is my wife Emma."

"It is a pleasure to meet you." Valeria kissed the other woman.


“Likewise,” she said with a Canadian accent.  “I am so proud of the fact Johanna has been able to attend here.”


“We met Trina’s parents as well,” Joey said, “and she has invited me to her ball in a few weeks time.”


“That’s wonderful,” Abby said, “I hope you can come.”


“May I offer my hand for a dance,” Alain said as he took Emma’s hand, “I fear your husband has been engaged in discussions of family history...”


“Where is Joachim?”


“Talking with some of the other escorts...”




“So have I passed muster,” Mick said as he and Fiona relaxed in the box with Victoria and Angel.


“Yeah, I’ll let you off this once,” Fiona said as she punched him in the arm.


“Is it all right to be elated and exhausted at the same time,” Angel said as she looked at her mother.  “Is this how you felt after some of your most famous shows?”


“I can imagine, darling,” Mandy said, “that it would be somewhat similar.”


“Well, Fiona, you and Brigitte were magnificent in leading the ladies off,” Charlie said.  “By the way, Michael – the ties?”


“We made sure they all burnt them together,” Victoria said, “in front of us.  But we have our fans with the signatures safely packed away.”


“Well, the dance is going well,” Charlie said, “Shall we head down to join the throng?”


“Why not, darlings,” Mandy said with a smile, “I see Teresa and Rudolf down there already...”




Friday 5th February

12.30 am CET

The Opernhaus


As the dance went on around them, groups of the debutantes and their supporters were standing round the edge and in the boxes, watching the proceedings.


"Do the girls still talk in the coded language our generation used?" asked Terri as she sipped her champagne.

"You mean the slang?" Charly replied.

"No I think she means some of the words that you knew marked out one of 'us' from one of 'them'...And doesn't that sound so snobbish?" Diana shook her head and laughed as she realised what she had said.

"Well most of the girls know you always call these things dresses," Abigail nodded, "that the word 'gown' is not really ever used."

"Tuxedo, or dinner jacket...Never Tux." Trina volunteered.

"School, What!, die, rugs, driver, icebox, Mummy." Angel added.

"That's the sort of thing in English," Terri smiled, "and of course in French the choice of appropriately upper class words is even worse."

"Well you go out on the floor dear wife," the King nodded, "and I'm sure you'll hear only the 'right' words mainly in German."

"It is more than a trifle snobbish though that so many of us pigeon hole and define ourselves by the way we talk darlings." Mandy looked thoughtful, "and yes I know with my voice I should be the last one to talk."

"It's how we are brought up," Will smiled at a memory, "try as hard as I could in my younger days I never could forget what was drummed into me by nanny and school and get rid of this accent..."

"Or change your choice of words darling?"

"Exactly my love."


“Which is what makes the Saints and Sinners so unique,” Mandy said, “a mix of people from all quarters, who are just friends.”


“I must meet these people at some time,” Terri said. 


“You have,” Diana said, “well, some of us anyway.  But perhaps, we can arrange a more – discrete get together at some point.”


“What do you have in mind Mama?”


“It is your eighteenth birthday in June, my dear – i think it should be celebrated in style, with a party at our home.”


“In New York?”


“No – Grechy.”


Abby’s eyes lit up as she said “Oh that would be wonderful mamma...”


“Well, Valeria and Guy will send invitations in due course...”


“Come,” Will said as he took Abby’s hand, “I would like this dance...”



2 am CET

The Opernhaus


“Hey,” Abby said as she came up to Trina, “how are you feeling?”


“Elated and overwhelmed,” Trina said as she looked round.


“Oh?  How?”


"Most of the girls’ families are so old and distinguished," Trina shook her head, "I can honestly say this is the first time that as a Culver I've ever felt nouveau riche."

"Well compared to a lot of families, our mere 150 years of prominence does seem recent," Derek Culver reflected.

"Were people being rude about who you are darling?" Rebecca asked.

"Far from it, I think it is a small touch of insecurity on my part."

"Virtually all the girls though just accept each other as fellow sufferers in debutantism," Abigail spoke, "we are VERY democratic amongst ourselves."

"So says the girl with the blood of Emperors and Dukes flowing in her veins." Mick Treharran laughed as he topped up glasses.

"Well you Treharran's can trace your ancestry back far further than any of my ancestors."

"That is true Abby," Fiona self-mockingly preened herself.

"However old one’s family tree is though, the important thing though is we are all enjoying ourselves." Charly butted in.

"Well speaking purely personally I am enjoying myself IMMENSELY," Angel giggled lightly, "and I will always remember tonight...and ALL the girls who were presented tonight."


“And so say all of us – now may I quote my good friends on New York?”


“Indeed – in the words of the New York Sluts, let’s par-TAY!”



3 pm CET

Spanish Riding School

Michaelerplatz, Vienna


As Angel looked round the white building, her hair up in a bun, she knew she was in one of her favourite places.  She was wearing an elegant riding coat with sheer black leather boots and gloves, the stick in her hand as she breathed in the air.


"Alright Kit Squirrel I know this is your idea of heaven, but I'm not that good a rider." Abby shook her head as they tried to get her into position sitting sidesaddle on the Lippizaner.

"All you have to do,” Angel said with a smile, “is sit there and look beautiful Stick."

"Yes but what if he decides he wants to move?"

"Who knows?" Angel laughed.

"That is not reassuring."

"Which is why we have Gustaf here," Andrea the stylist pointed to the man in the vintage military uniform, "he will hold your horses bridle Abigail."

"Can you adjust the veil on Abigail's hat please?" Jackie Pearson the photographer asked.

"Doing it now." one of the assistants stood on the mounting block.

"How does it look now?" Abigail quickly glanced down at the deep green classic riding habit she had on, set off by the black gloves, boots, and top hat with a veil.

"Looks fine to me." Andrea looked through the view finder.

"I have to agree," Jackie replied in her flat English Midlands accent, "you look amazing girls."

"Thank you Jackie," Angel smiled as they hoisted her into the saddle in her deep blue riding habit. "You know I'm fulfilling a lifetime’s ambition riding Caesar here."

"That she is darling," Mandy looked at her daughter, “we must have seen the show here a dozen times in my daughter’s lifetime."


“And now, here I am, on this magnificent animal,” Angel said as Jackie took more pictures.


"You'll be happier when you are posing as your Great, Great, Great, Great Grandmother Cherie." Diana watched the nervous look on her daughters face as Lancer moved a little.

"Well at least my feet will be on the ground."

"I think it’s amazing that we have a descendant of the Empress Elizabeth to pose in this recreation of the Winterthalter portrait." Andrea looked very happy.

"Well Sisi had auburn hair, and I'm blonde, but I'll do the best I can later." Abby smiled as Jackie shot a few frames.


“Okay Abby – you can come down now.”


“Thank you,” Abby said as she was helped down.


“Does anyone mind if I...”


“Could we stop you darling?”


Angel grinned as she started to ride around the sand covered enclosure, as Abby patted the neck of her mount.

"Is the Hapsburg blood on your side darling?" Mandy asked in her slow drawl.

"No her fathers, he descended via his grandmother from Sisi's daughter the Archduchess Marie-Valerie."

"Okay,” Mandy said, “should I have known that?"

"Only if you are as big a genealogy buff as my mother-in-law...It was Valeria who told me."


Angel brought the horse to a halt and dismounted, as she stood next to Abby for some more photos.


"I've seen the pictures of Romy Schneider as Empress Elizabeth in the movies." Angel spoke, "You have a lot to compete with Stick."


"I know, I saw those stills as well." Romy was so beautiful."


"Well you are just as stunning," Jackie changed camera angles as she shot Abby alongside the impassive soldier and white stallion.


“Right, some shots together, and then off you go to change Abby...”


“I need to change as well,” Angel said as she went to the dressing area, returning a short while later in a white riding habit.  The gown had a fitted top, with a black lace collar and waist detail, as well as black buttons down the front.  Similar lace details were on the hips and cuffs, while her blonde hair was pulled back and covered by the train fo the white scarf that had been tied round her black top hat.


“Magnifique,” Diana whispered as she was posed by Andrea.


“I know, darling,” Mandy said with real pride, “she manages the things I could never hope to do in my career, and i am so happy for her that she gets to do this.”


“Now if only all modelling could be like this,” Angel said as she posed, while Diana took her phone out.




“In a way – Juliette letting us know she won’t be able to see us until Monday.  She, Carina and Judith are heading to San Francisco this afternoon.”


“Oh?  Why?”


“Apparently SVA wish to offer Mary Clarke a cosmetics contract – and Mary been Mary, Juliette and Missy are heading out to tell her about it.”


“Is Annie going?”


“She can’t – they have the meet tonight, and she has some planning to do for two weeks time.”


“Ah yes, the ladies weekend away.  I for one am looking forward immensely to it.”


“You are a beauty aren’t you,” Angel said as she gave the horse soem food, and Jackie took more photos.


“Right – to the great room for Abby now,” she said as she collected her equipment and headed off.


“I’ll be up once I’ve changed Mother,” Angel said as she went off.




As Diana and Mandy looked round the room, she said “I know why Carina loves this city.  I should have returned long before now.”


“Why haven’t you darling?”


“Memories,” Diana said as the door opened and Abby came in.  She was wearing a white and cream lace dress, the top with round short sleeves which Andrea pulled down off her shoulders.  The dress flowed down and out, layer upon layer of lace with the fine brown detail showing through.


Her blonde hair was combed back to fall down her neck and shoulders, and in her hair were silver and jewelled stars, arranged in a line along her hair.  Diana gasped as they looked at the print of the original portrait, and then at Abby.




“I do not know,” Jackie said, “but it is truly amazing.  Andrea, let’s have Abby by the window, and then I want her to look back over her shoulder.”


“Hey, how is – wow.”


“I think they’re going to forget about Romy Schneider,” Mandy whispered as Jackie began to take photos.


“That is truly amazing,” Diana said as Abby turned her head and smiled.


“Oh yes,” Angel said as Mandy watched, “that is one way of putting it.”


Eventually, Jackie smiled and said “we are done, ladies.  My thanks to both of you – when do you head back?”


“Tomorrow,” Diana said, “we need the night to recover from last night.”


“I can imagine – well, enjoy the rest of your trip.”


“Oh I intend to,” Abby said as she passed by, “dinner, and then some down time...”



10 am



Louise was sitting drinking coffee when the telephone rang, and she picked up the receiver.


“It’s your dime.”




She suddenly sat up as she said “sorry Boss.  What’s up?”


“You need to come in.  Lynx has turned up.”


“Oh thank god – where?”


“Face down in the river.  Be here in thirty.”


The line went dead, Louise looking at it before she booted up her laptop.


“Louise,” Susan said as she looked out from the screen, “you have news?”


“Lynx is down.  I need to find out how, but apparently she was found in the river.”


“Understood – go and do what you’ve got to.  I will inform Madame.”


10 am

Complete Style




Juliette looked up to see Alexis in the doorway, Missy standing behind her.


“Come on in Missy, I’m just finishing up some research,” Juliette said as she closed her laptop, hiding the plans of the Buffalo bank she had been looking at.  “Find some coffee, will you Alexis?”


“On it,” the brunette said as she headed out, and Missy sat down.


“So, flights booked?”


“We’ll leave on the 6 o’clock flight, once Cari has driven down from school.  So - the plan for tomorrow?”


“Mary has a shoot at the hotel at nine tomorrow – I’ve called her father and asked him to meet us, and we can tell her the news then.”


“I want to invite her and her family up to Stowe at some point – might be the right time to issue that invite as well.”


“Fair point – and she has the Culver ball in a few weeks as well.  Exciting times for the young lady.”


“While you’re here,” Juliette said, “I saw the prints from Katy’s shoot.  A complete contrast from the Lolita show, right?”


“Katy has an amazing career in so many ways ahead of her,” Missy said with a smile.  “I guess she got her lucky break.”


“Is the girl who was meant to do it all right?”


“Yeah – bruising, nothing serious.  The kid who did it got suspended.”


Juliette tapped a pen on the table for a moment, and then smiled.  “We’re not getting to see Maddie this trip, but I hope to see her soon.”


“Agreed – how are things here?”


“Pippa is working out a transfer date – well, the higher ups are doing that.  We may have to pay New Mode to release her from her contract early, but I’m staying out of that one.”


“She’s the right choice, you know?”


“Oh I know – it’s another change in a year of change.”


“That’s right the future Princess Juliette von Furstenheim.”


“Do NOT start with that yet,” Juliette said with a smile.





4.40 pm

Madison Square Garden


"The girls seem tighter this year." Annie whispered to Alicia as the girls unloaded their bags in their 'lucky locker room'.

"Well last year was tight, but this year the results have been all over the place...most of the schools have a chance."

"I know."

"We also don't have a certainty to rely on in the sprints and the long jump."


"And we don't have Jo's incredible spirit and leadership to help calm nerves either."

"Again true, but Letty is doing her best, and Beth is trying to inspire the younger girls."


“Well, I think we go out, and do our best...”


“Oh I don’t know – I think they need some real support.”


“Jo!  Betsy!  What are you two doing here?”


“Come to support the team,” Jo said as she and Betsy hugged Annie and Alicia.  “Listen up – we got our partners out there, but we’re watching you and with you every step of the way, got it?”


“Got it,” Letty said as she and Beth came over.  “Right Angels – get ready for the fight of your lives!”


"Well Granddad here we are again." Jeannie smiled as he wheeled her into place.

"It doesn't seem like a year has gone by."

"Well it has."

"So,” John said as he sat down, “what are the prospects?"

"According to the gossip at school we could win,” Jeannie said as she wrapped her scarf round her neck, “or we could come as low as fifth."

"It all depends on how girls perform on the night eh?"

"You got it Granddad."


"Why are they starting the vault early?" John asked Jeannie.

"I guess because they think it's going to take a long time to decide."

"And how do you know that?"

"Because I read the sports pages," Jeannie laughed. "Erin Nash from Westside, and Toya Young from Girls Grammar, are both capable of breaking the national age group record. The guy from the Times reckons it might be the highlight of the night.

"So how good is the Angel?"



"Well from what I hear she should break the school record and that might only be good enough for fifth or sixth."

"Oh my."

"The good news though is she's still only in my class, so she will have two more years after this."

"Well that's encouraging for the future."


“Hey there,” Doc said as she arrived with Pepsi and Ama, “have we missed anything?”


“Nah – the field events are just starting...”




"Aydeena are you ready to go?" Alicia asked the big black girl.

"I guess I am," she replied nervously.

"Just go out and do your best." Letty whispered, "I know the weight toss is a new event for you, but you are better than you think, you just need relax and remember the technique."

"And Aydeena just remember we have no expectations, nor do most of the other schools, so just see what develops."

"Okay Coach," the chunky girl looked Alicia straight in the eye.


“Yuma, Sinthya, your heats for the 60 are up first, so are you fully stretched out?"

"Yes coach," the two black girls nodded.




5.30 pm


As Poppy and Erica walked in with their mothers, the first thing that hit them was the noise, the cheering, the way the clear demarcation of territories had already begun.


“Oh my,” Denice said as she stood with Pippa, “is this really how noisy it gets?”


“Nope – by all accounts it gets louder as the evening goes on.”


“Hey Caroline, Susan – you down for the night as well?”


“Of course,” Caroline said as they walked down, and took their seats behind the cheering girls, “it only gets better.  Jo?  What brings you and Curt down?”


“Well, Betsy and I agreed to come for this, and Coach Waterman gave us both a lift to the Gardens,” Jo said with a smile.


“Is it right that I feel scared,” Curt said as he looked round.


“Nah - they won’t bite,” Susan said, “much...”






"Is there much outright recruiting goes on by the schools?" Lisa Waterman asked as she stood with the coaches.

"That's against the rules," Alicia replied with a twinkle in her eyes.

"But that is not to say that sporting talent is not sometimes a factor in all of the schools granting of scholarships." Annie smiled.

"For example, the Stonor girl from Anselma is going to the University of Oregon on a full scholarship. Her grades though from her ordinary high school needed improving to meet Oregon's standards..." Alicia started.

"So Anselma take her in for a year, she improves her grades, and they get an existing state champion over 400 metres to add to their team." Annie added.

"Alright so I get the picture, promising girls at say middle school level, it gets suggested to them that maybe applying to a private school is not a forlorn hope for them?"

"You get it."


"So are many of these girls going to compete in college?"

"Well Jenny Craig our hurdler, Harvard have her signed to a letter of intent." Alicia stood and watched as Winnie easily cleared her opening height.

"I remember her from last year...VERY fast but technically ragged."

"Well I worked hard with her and her technique has improved immensely."

"If it wasn't for Diyemba Mkombo from Sacred Heart, she'd be a certainty, but Diyemba is good enough she might be going to the Olympics for Mali, and she's certainly going to Alabama next year." Annie spoke.

"She sounds pretty hot."

"Yeah she is. Her Federation back home sent her to be a Nun..."

"So she's another one year girl Annie?"

"Yep, but in her case it’s understandable that she needs a year prepping for college."


The girls cheered as Yuma and Synthia qualified from their heats, and then cheered again as Winnie easily cleared the qualifying height for the Vault.


“She’s doing well – and so are the rest of the field athletes so far,” Alicia said as the runners started to warm up.


"So I saw 'my' Beth won the City Under 16 Cross Country last week." Lisa smiled.

"With ease." Annie nodded. "She has had an exceptional winter for a sophomore."

"The more I see,” Lisa said as she saw Beth talking to the others, “the more she reminds me of myself."

"She's not going to be as tall, but yes she's VERY good, and she learns so quickly." Annie thought for a second. "Her mother joined the gym I'm a member of so Beth could work out on the treadmills."

"Setting them at an angle?"

"Exactly, and that 'hill' work has certainly helped her endurance. She will make tonight an honest test for the older girls by carving out a very decent pace."


“Well, she certainly has the right attitude,” Lisa said with a smile.




“Who was the text from,” Ama said as she looked at Doc.


“Kylie – she and Marina are in the air, and should be landing tomorrow morning.”


“So how long are they over for?”


“Until Sunday night is my understanding – I think she’s got a fairly full week ahead of her.”


“Marina is coming as well?”


Doc nodded as Grace sat next to Wilhelmina. 


“Well, this is a very different form of event,” she said as she heard the cheers.


“And these are just the heats,” Wilhelmina said, “wait until the main finals get started.”





“Warming up Coach,” Letty said as she stretched out, and then looked at her cell phone.


“Who is it?”


“Message from Abby, wishing us all good luck and she’ll see us on Monday with the trophy.  Hear that team – if Abby wants to see us with the trophy on Monday, who wants to disappoint her?”


“Well, there’s motivation,” Alicia said as the team cheered, and Letty went to the high jump.





"That was a very nice throw by Aydeena," Annie made a note.

"Yeah she's comfortably in the top eight, so she'll get the extra three throws." Alicia nodded. "We really do need a specialist coach for the weight events at the school...I try my best, but I really am a sprints/jumps coach."

"And I'm just a distance coach, so I agree we do need a member of staff who can really hone the technique of girls like Aydeena. At the moment she really is just relying on brute strength."

"I'll mention it to the principal."

"Yes at least we can 'legally' recruit coaches."

"It helps having Sarah running the support staff you know." Alicia smiled as she looked over at the soccer coach, working on massaging legs and supervising her little group.

"It certainly is great she has that physiotherapy training I agree, but she is a soccer coach, not a weights coach."




As the heats came to an end, and the field events were slowly whittled down in terms of competitors, the hall was filling up in wide bands of school colours, the noise increasing exponentially.


"Wow I had heard this was some event." Harriet shook her head as she slipped into a seat besides Kate.

"Oh it will get far louder yet, the little darlings are only just starting to warm up."

"They are?"

"Oh yeah, the screaming gets louder the deeper into the program we get."

"I should have bought ear plugs."

"Wilhelmina ALWAYS does," the deputy principal smiled.


“So how are we doing?”


“We’re still in all the field events, and have qualifiers in all the semis and finals so far.  Now it comes down to the placings...”



The noise was building to a crescendo as Letty cleared 1.70 metres in the high jump.


“Excellent,” Alicia said, “that guarantees us at least third in that event.  How’s the long jump looking?”


“Angela just cleared 6.95, so she’s lying second in that,” Annie called over.


A cheer came out of the Angel section as Winnie managed to clear 3.50 on her second attempt, Alicia and Annie both applauding.


“I think that gives her fourth at least, so good for her on that,” Alicia said as Annie walked over to the runners.


"Okay the 3,000 is in a few moments." Annie looked at the trio, "just remember the tactics we worked out."

"I'll make sure that the pace is better than honest." Beth nodded.

"And I'll be in your shadow all the way." Brooke added.

"I try my best to stay with them, and if Beth fades I try keeping the pace up." Linnie Peterson the third Angel running spoke."

"That's the idea, let us just see if it works out as we hope." Annie smiled, "now hands in."



"So they are running as a team to make sure Brooke crosses that line first." Lisa looked as the girls completed their final warm-ups.

"Hopefully with Beth not too far behind, and Linnie also winning us points." Annie allowed herself a smile. "If a girl beats Brooke she will have to obliterate the meet record to do it because I know Brooke can break it comfortably."

"Your girl in the weight throw is in third place I see."

"Yep, she's very raw, but awfully strong, she should be even better in the shot later."

"I can see talent to build on."

"And how would you notice that Miss Waterman."

"Hey we both dated enough throwers in college we know a little about those events," Lisa giggled rather girlishly.


“That was a lifetime ago,” Annie said as she watched them line up, saying a silent prayer as the gun went off, and Beth set off at a blistering pace, Brooke and Linnie going with her.


"Did I miss anything?" John asked as he returned from the concession stands with hot dogs and cokes.

"Not much, Aydeena had a no throw on her fifth attempt." Jeannie was writing in her program.

"So she is still third?"

"Yep, and I'm just glad it's not me having to throw that damn weight out there."

"Letty looks a lot happier this year." Doc noted.

"Yeah, she's fit, and she's the strong favorite to win." Jeannie nodded. "She has worked so hard, not just for herself but for the team."


“That’s the first K,” Annie said, “and the three fo them are doing well.”


“What about the Nun?”


“Oh she’s hanging in there,” Annie said, “for the moment, but I think she’ll start flagging soon.”


The girls started to cheer as lap after lap fell away.


“Two K,” Annie said, “and she’s holding her own.”


“For now,” Lisa said as she looked at Beth, “but I think she’s starting to feel it.”


Annie watched as Beth turned and nodded to Linnie, the Junior nodding in return as she came alongside and helped her along.


“Two laps to go – the Nun is starting to flag...”


“But so are Beth and Linnie...”


So as Brooke came alongside, and the three girls looked at each other, Annie whispered “now...”


Brooke kicked and raced off, Beth and Linnie holding their own as they went round, and the Nin started to fade.


“YES!!!  TOP THREE!!!”


Brooke turned as Beth and Linnie embraced her, the Angels cheering like mad as the three of them looked round.


“New record as well – that was amazing!”


“And just the boost we needed – Aydeena just clinched third in the weight throw, and Letty is ahead in the High Jump.”


“So in the score?”


“We’re level with Anselm and Sacred Heart,” Annie said, “so it comes down to the remaining events...”


“So what’s next?”


“60 hurdles semi, then the 5K...”





"Wow that was fast by the Mkombo girl." Lisa looked at her watch, "she smashed the meet record in just her semi-final."

"And easing up whilst doing so." Alicia jotted down times. "Now let's see how Jenny does."

"Not bad," Lisa again looked at her watch a few seconds later, "she broke the old record as well, and her hurdling looked fine."

"Yes," Alicia nodded, "but she's really only hoping to get second in the final."

"Well as my old coach always says, as long as you give your best, there is no disgrace in running second to a better athlete."

"Just what my coach said when I ran against you Lisa." Annie laughed.


“So 5K next?”


“Yup,” Annie said.


"In the 5.000 you have Ashley Adams, and that Californian girl Paula Miller?" asked Lisa.

"Yes, if they can both finish in the top 5 I'll be VERY happy.  Philippa Connery is running just to make sure there is some kind of pace and it doesn't turn into 800 sprint at the end."

"Looks like you have your tactics worked out again?"

"All three of my main girls can run about 18.10, that should be good enough to be in the mix."





“What happened?”


Alicia grinned as Letty danced for joy.


“We just took the high jump – she did a Captain’s job.”



“That was amazing,” Lynn said as she sat with Dawn, Jess, Poppy and Erica.  “So how are we doing?”


“Holding our own,” Jess said as Letty came back and high fived the rest of the team.


“So what do you think,” Betsy said as she sat with Jo.


“Oh its close – for every point we’re gaining in the field, we’re losing one elsewhere.  But the 1-2-3 in the 3K is a huge boost.”


Betsy nodded.  “It is, it sure is.”


“By the way, have a look at this,” Jo said as she showed Betsy the picture of Abby in Vienna.


“Oh lord – she looks amazing.”


“I know – I can’t wait to see her tomorrow.”




“Well done Winnie,” Alicia and Annie said as the Sophomore came back to the team, “you did the school proud, and broke the record.”


She grinned as she was hugged by Brooke and Letty.


“Fourth – better than expected, and now we can watch the rest.”


"How do the relays look?"

"The 4 by 2 can run just about run 1.43 and high change, that could win it, the 4 by 4 is worse, they'll run about 4.12," Alicia nodded.



The Angels started to clap in unison with Rhona O’Dowd, and then kept clapping as she stared down the runway, heading off at speed as she was cheered and clapped on.  One jump... the second jump...  and then the landing in the sand.  She looked back as the white flag was raised, and then looked to the scoreboard. 


"Your triple jumper just did 12.55 to take the lead..."

"She did." Alicia punched the air...Good for        that's getting close to the national best at that age."


"And that's a solid 14.22 from Aydeena in the shot, that should guarantee second." Sarah ran over to the coaches.

"With her third in the weight toss she's our biggest unexpected bonus tonight."


"That duel in the vault is really on." Annie smiled, "but we must be satisfied with our performance, given these two are both in the very top class."

"Agreed they could go very close to that national record tonight."

"Well they've both flirted with it all year."


Annie looked back to the 5K, where Ashley and Paula were still in the leading group, keeping pace with the others.


“Come on, come on,” she whispered under her breath as she watched them pass the 4K mark, “keep going, keep going.”


The Angels somehow sensed what was going on, as they started to shout “Ashley! Paula! Ashley! Paula!”


Harriet found herself caught up in the shouting as well, as the race built to a climax – only for the girl from NYGGS to pull away in the last lap, taking first place, but with Paula and Ashley taking second and third.


The crowd cheered as they hugged each other, and then came back, Annie and Ashley hugging them as they put their tracksuits back on and warmed down.


“It’s getting too close to call – Aydeena, very well done indeed.”


“Thanks Coach,” the big African American said as she came back, “medalling twice.  I would never have believed it...”




"I just ran into Mike Obramovic Annie, he's up in the stands scouting talent." Lisa stood next to her friend.

"Where is he nowadays?"

"Michigan...I don't know if this means much but we were chatting about Letty, he was VERY impressed with how she won."

"Interesting...but I think she has her heart set on Penn."


"She'll be doing pre-med and there is a closed scholarship that will give her a free ride and that she's eligible for. I don't think high jumping comes into her equation."

"Pity...You might mention him to her though, Michigan's med school is top class as well you know."


“I’ll do that – a back up plan never hurts.  Okay then – we’ve got the 800 and 1500, then the relays...”



The cheers were turning into screaming, as different schools won the track events, the Angels taking the 4x200 and the 1500, and in the background the Vault was building to an incredible climax.  Erin Nash picked the pole up, focused totally on the runway as she set off, planted the pole and pushed herself up...


“YES!”  The entire stadium cheered as she cleared the height, setting a new age group national record in the process.


“Well, they’re equal all the way down,” Jeannie said above the noise, “if Toya fails now, that’s it, game over.”


Toya picked up the pole, sprinted down, lifted herself into the air, seemed to clear and then...




Her heel clipped the pole, rattling it as it slowly rolled off the supports and came down to the ground.  She picked herself up off the mat, looked at the pole, then smiled as she embraced Erin and lifted her hand up in acknowledgement of the win.


“Okay,” Annie said as she looked at her sheets, “we’re tied with Girls Grammar and Anselm.  It’s down to the sprint final.”


“We’ve got one advantage,” Alicia said as she stood with Lisa, “we have two girls in the final, none of the other schools have more than one.  Even with that, however, all we can do is watch – and pray.”


The entire stadium, up until that point a cacophony of noise and cheering, fell silent, watching as the eight finalists lined up at the far end of the lanes.  Yuma and Sheryl looked at each other, nodding as they took their places.


“On your marks...”


Jo and Betsy leaned forward with the rest of the angels.


“Get set...”


The atmosphere was electric, as Annie and Alicia watched with Lisa.


The sound of the starter’s gun was like a safety valve blowing, as the entire stadium screamed in support.  The race only took about six or seven seconds, but at the end Annie and Alicia looked at each other, and then at the team...



7 pm Pacific Time

Hilton Union Square, San Francisco


“There you go Miss Huntingdown,” the desk clerk said as she handed Juliette the pass keys, “one for each of you.  The porter will take your cases to your room.”


“Thank you,” Juliette said as Carina sat with Judith, looking at a book with Missy.  As her mother walked over, her cell phone rang, Juliette shaking her head as Ozzy screamed.


“Sorry,” she said as she answered the call.  “Annie – hey what’s all the screaming for?


“They did?  Well pass on my congratulations to all of them.  And give Abby a big hug from me when you see her tomorrow.


“Okay – get back to your party.  Talk to you tomorrow,” she said as she blew a kiss, and ended the call.


“and the word is?”


“They won by one point – the Vanderbilt cup stays at St Angela’s for another year.”



10.10 pm

Madison Square Gardens





The singing was deafening as Brooke and Letty lifted the trophy in the air, and carried it back to where the Angels were standing and dancing.


Saturday 6th February

9 am Pacific Time

Hilton Union Square, San Francisco


“So what will you be doing while we talk business,” Juliette said as she sat with Carina and Judith at the table.


“Trina Culver flew back yesterday, she’s offered to take us on a tour of the city by cable car.”


“Fun,” Judith said with a grin.


“Sounds good,” Juliette said.  “We can meet you later if you want.”


“Call me and let me know,” Carina said as she lifted Judith up.  “Come on Judith – we’ll get your coat and head off.”


“Bye Gramma,” Judith as she waved at Juliette.


“Bye Judith,” Juliette said as she waved back, and then smiled as Missy joined her.


“So how do you want to play this?”


“Well, I think for something like this,” Missy said as she picked her case up, “we just come out and say it.”


“I’ll have the smelling salts ready,” Juliette said as they stood up, and went out into the lobby.


“Hello Missy, Juliette,” Mary Clarke said as she stood up and hugged them.  She was wearing a grey trouser suit and a bluer blouse underneath, and a pair of black heels. 


“Mary – you’re looking good.”


“Thanks – I guess Trina was right.  I saw her a few minutes ago – she said she was meeting your family here?”

"Trina is taking Cari and Judith out to ride the cable cars." Juliette said as she looked round.

"Well the little one will love that." Mary smiled, "almost as much as she enjoyed the ponies in Russia."

"She likes new experiences."

"Our cable cars are certainly different." Dave came in from parking the car.  “So what do we have to talk about before Mary gets to work here?”


“Let’s find a quiet corner,” Missy said as they made their way over to another table.


“Coffee, Mary?”


“For all of us please, Carl,” Mary said with a smile.  “So come on Missy, what is this all about?”


“Well, we have an offer to put to you,” Juliette said, “but we both felt it was better if we presented it to you face to face, because - well, all will be clear in a minute.”


Mary and Dave looked at each other as the coffee was laid down, and they picked up their cups.


“Have you heard of SVA?”


“Only when I’ve seen the name on the make-up at some of the shoots,” Mary said as she sipped her coffee.  “Why, Juliette?”


"Missy, I think you’d better tell her...”


“Mary they want to sign you to a three year deal to be the spokesmodel for the Cadeau Aphrodite line of products." Missy pulled out a sheaf of papers from her case.

"What would that entail," Dave looked a trifle nervous, "remember her first loyalty is to the hotel."

"Don't worry Dave,” Juliette said, “I've already checked with them, and in fact they will now have to pay Mary more if she takes this under the escalator clause in her contract that says should she get a major endorsement like this her fee from them nearly doubles."

"It what?" Dave shook his head.

"You heard Pop."

"Well anyway to return to Cadeau Aphrodite," Missy continued, “it's hedged with inducements and all kinds of the usual thing for appearances, etc, but in pure base terms the offer is $18 million for three years."

"Could you repeat that," Dave was holding his coffee cup in mid air as it shook.

"It's Eighteen mil for three years."

"I thought you said that." Dave looked stunned as Juliette helped him put his coffee cup back on the table.

"That is an enormous chunk of money Missy." Mary said quietly as she stared at her.

"It is,” Missy said, “but they want you bad Mary, and they are prepared to pay that to get your fabulous face endorsing their product."

"But I'm still only a beginner Missy."

"So was Abigail when Memories signed her..."

"And the same with Jeans when she signed her cosmetic contract Ju."

"Eighteen Mil." Dave said the word as though he couldn't believe it.


“Well, that’s before taxes and fees, but it is an incredible offer, and I promise you it will make you.”


“Mary, are we definitely not in Kansas?”


“Pops,” Mary said quietly, “I’m not even sure we’re on earth at the moment.”


“I know it’s a lot to take in,” Juliette said, “so we’re going to come with you to the shoot today, be ready to answer your questions.”


“Okay,” Mary finally said as she nodded and looked at her father.  “Okay – I guess we can afford that holiday now Pops.”



1 pm

JFK Airport


“I am so glad to be home,” Abby said as she put the last case onto the trolley.


“Yes,” Diana said, “I must admit, it will be good to have a week of normality.”


“Tell me about it,” Tony said.  “I will settle for a nice quiet night with Aunt Rachel and uncle...  Oh my goodness...”


"Hail the Conquering Heroine Comes." Jeannie held up the sign as Diana and Abby emerged into the Arrivals Hall.

"Here she comes." Mary Thomas smiled.

"What is this? A reception committee?" Abby laughed as she saw her friends.

"Yes," Jeans reached up to hug her and Tony.  “You really are the Belle of the Ball now.”

"It looked AMAZING!" Doc grinned broadly.

"I was so JEALOUS" Behati said as she kissed both Abigail and Diana.

"I'll take the bags." John spoke.

"Oh you don't have to John," Abigail interrupted.

"Oh it's not a problem," he smiled at the fabulous young model.

"So what is this story doing the rounds of a party at your Grans place this summer Stick?"

"She wants to throw me a HUGE eighteenth Jeans."

"There you are,” Katy Carter said as she ran over, “welcome back.”

"Hey looks like I wasn't the only one to get the idea to come and meet them." Janice laughed as she walked in.


“How are things,” Diana whispered as they hugged.


“We’ll bring you both up to speed tonight,” Jan whispered back.


“Listen, lass,” Mary said, “Ju said to tell you she’ll see you on Monday – right now, let’s get you all back to yer place.”


“Well what have we here?”


“Hello Susan,” Diana said as she hugged the young woman and kissed her, “what brings you and the family here?”


“You’re not the only ones flying in today, darlings.”




“Who else,” the young blonde said as she hugged the group.  She was wearing a white jumper and jeans, her blonde hair pulled back and her glasses making her eyes twinkle even more.  “We have a holiday week, and where better to spend it than here?”


“That and other things,” Marina said as she appeared on the other side of the group, pushing the luggage trolley as Helen and Cathy followed her.


“Listen, Kyles,” Doc said, “I’m taking your Sunday morning already.  Chet and the gang are here.”


“It will be a pleasure darling,” Kylie said, “call me later.”


“All right John, we’ll let Susan and the others get going,” Diana said.  “I am sure we will see you all over the next day or two.”


“I’ll take you and Helen to the hotel, Cathy, and then the girls to the apartment,” Clint said as he took the luggage, Marina tickling April on her cheek.


“It is good to be back again,” Helen said with a smile as she watched the others leave.


“Indeed,” Cathy said, “but I could do with a short restorative sleep.  We have a busy week ahead of ourselves.  Shall we leave?”


“So how serious a discussion am I going to be having this week,” Marina whispered to Susan.


“We have a LOT to talk about and discuss – but let’s get you back first, give you a chance to rest up.”


As they walked out of the terminal building, they waved to John as he drove off.


“So I heard I missed a heck of a meeting yesterday,” Abby said as she sipped some water.


"Oh before I forget - for your portfolio Abs." Jeannie gave her friend the Vanderbilt Cup program, "they ended up using two of your pictures."

"They did?"

"Well they are great pictures," John called from the driver’s seat.


“So how were Letty and Brooke by the end of the night?”


“I don’t think they’ve come down yet,” Jeannie said.  “And as for Annie, I’d be amazed if she has slept at all.  And then there’s Jo and Betsy...”


“Jo and Betsy came down?”


“Indeed – Jo is here for the weekend, so she’s hoping she’ll see you later.”



2 pm

The de Ros Mansion


“Welcome home, Madame, Miss Abigail,” Edith said as she opened the door to them, Abby sighing as she came in with Tony.


“Home again – thank goodness,” she said with a sigh as Diana removed her coat and gloves.


“I trust there have been no problems while we have been away, Edith?”


“None, Madame – your mail is in your office, and Miss Abigail’s in her room.  Would you care for something to eat and drink?”


“Coffee would be wonderful Edith,” Abby said as she went into the front room, fell heavily into a seat and yawned.  “Just promise me that is the last European journey for a while, Mamma.”


“As far as I am aware, you are here until a week Friday, when we fly to San Francisco for the chat shows and Trina’s ball,” Diana said as Edith carried the coffee in.  “Edith, would you ensure the dress bags John brought in are properly hung?”


“Of course Madame,” Edith said as she turned to leave.




“Miss Abigail?”


“When do you next go to see your sister?”


Edith looked at Diana, waiting for her nod before she said “Tomorrow afternoon, Miss Abigail.”


“Would you be upset if I was to come with you?  I wish to meet her.”


“She would be delighted to meet you, Miss Abigail,” Edith said, “I will let you know the time later.”


“Here you are Tony,” Diana said as she handed him a coffee cup.


“Thank you – so how does it feel to be home Abs?”


“Very very nice indeed,” Abby said as Edith reappeared.


“Miss Joanne and Miss Annie,” she said as Jo came in with Annie, both wearing tracksuits and smiling as they came in.


“We were having a training run and saw the limo outside – sorry if this is a bad time,” Jo said as she leaned forward.


“Not at all – Edith, some water please?”


“So you missed a hell of a night last night,” Annie said as she sat down.


“You all missed one on Thursday,” Abby said with a grin, “so we’ll call it even, all right?”


“Deal – so what was the best part,” Annie said with a smile.


“I’m not sure – seriously, it is like you’re taking part in a production of Cinderella or an opera, you have to hold your mark, do everything right – but on the night itself, it is so magical...”


“Did you manage to see it?”


“No, not yet anyway, but Cari was watching as I understand it.  She said she’d call you later.”


“So why is she in San Fran?”


“Apparently, young Mary Clarke has been made the contract offer of a lifetime,” Annie said, “so both Ju and Missy have both gone out to tell her about it.  Carina took Judith for a trip – if I remember right, Trina is taking them round the city today.”


“Really?  Who with?”


“Cari didn’t say – but I’m sure you’ll find out soon enough...”










11 am Pacific Time

Hilton Union Square


“Okay Mary – can we get the next shot set up please,” the photographer said as Mary stood up, and went to join Brenda at the side of the room for a moment.


"Did you hear the offer Brenda? I could feel Carl's ears flapping."

"I did hear something amazing."

Mary looked to where her dad was sitting with Missy and Juliette, and shook her head.  "Is there really that much money in this world?"

"Yes,” Brenda said with a smile, “and I can't think of a more deserving person for it to go to."

"Well thanks,” Mary said with a smile, “but I still can't work out...WHY ME?"

"If I'm being honest I suspect you can thank your Mom."

"Mom? Why?"

"I've seen your family photos remember...You get those fabulous cheekbones straight from her."

"Dad always says I look a lot like her." Mary mused a second.


“Well, I’m sure she’s watching and very, very proud of you,” Brenda said with a smile.




"Are you okay Dave?" Juliette asked as she looked at his face while the waiter brought them both fresh coffees.

"I'm not sure..."

"I know it's a lot to take in. It's why we came out in person."

"Do they really want to pay my little Poppit that much just to wear their cosmetics?"

"And the perfume," Ju smiled, "but yes I think they think she's worth every cent."

"But how? Why?"

"A lot of people have started seeing her face...Mother...sorry I mean Linda Evangelista predicted this at our charity show."

"She did?"

"Yeah she said some company wouldn't be able to resist. I guess SVA was that company and they are prepared to pay top dollar to tie her up before other offers come in."

"Still how many weeks ago was she just a chamber maid in this hotel?"

"I know," Juliette smiled, "in the fashion world stardom can come just like that."


“And it can disappear just as quickly?”


“Well, sometimes, but – and I know she still doesn’t quite believe this – she is a genuine star Dave.  And she has the support of all the girls as well – and her family.”


“You know she will invest it all for the others?”


“I know – so long as she enjoys doing it, that’s the main thing.  But i do want to do something else – invite all of you to come over for the weekend.  We have some cabins up in the mountains, and I’d like the chance to let you all have a break as well.”


“Oh no, I don’t think...”


“Please, allow me to do this for you,” Juliette said, “as a thank you for your support for her.”


"But what about skis, all the clothes...?"

"We keep a stock for friends and guests,” Juliette said, “so I'm sure we can fit everyone Dave."

"Well if you are sure?"

"I am...and I'm pretty sure the kids will have a great time."


“All right – let’s set it up then...”


11.30 am Pacific Time

The Powell and Mason Line


"This is FUN!" Judith pronounced as she sat between her mother and Trina as the car creaked and groaned as it ascended the hill.


“It is – very different from the EL at home,” Carina said.

"Look down there, that is Alcatraz." Trina pointed out, and Cari snapped a couple of pictures.

"What's Alkatwaz?" Judith asked.

"It's that big island down there with the buildings on...See?"


"Don't try explaining it was once a prison Trina, I'm not sure she would understand the concept yet." Carina laughed.

"It looks pwitty."

"No I'm not sure she would either Cari."


As the car slowly climbed up, Carina looked at Trina and said “I saw the ball – you did a much better job than we did last year.”


“It was easily the most terrifying night of my life,” Trina said with a smile.


“It must be good to be back home though.”


Trina smiled as she looked out of the car window.  "It's very different from Vienna Carina."

"True, but this city is wonderful as well...I love both."

"Well I have to say it was some experience for me - a girl from out here, rubbing shoulders with all that royalty and aristocracy."




Judith started laughing as the cab started to go downhill, Carina laughing as well.


3 pm

Susan and Clint’s Apartment


“That’s better,” Marina said as she put her empty coffee mug down.  “Finished your unpacking Kylie?”


“I believe so darling,” Kylie said as she sat down and stretched her legs out.


“Is it my imagination or have you grown,” Susan said as April sat on her lap.


“According to Cathy I have – I certainly needed a larger blazer and some new skirts,” Kylie said with a smile.


“She’s telling little fibs again,” Marina said, “but her APCO money has been put to good use.  So, what do we need to catch up on?”


“A few things,” Susan said, “but two that I need to tell you about now.  One, we’re having some trouble with a group in Buffalo who are pretending to be Pussycats.  We’ve had a few incidents, I’ll tell you about them later.”


“And the second thing,” Marina said quietly, “is me, right?”


“Yeah – Juliette, Cathy and Shirley want to see you at the office Monday morning, before you go into Complete Style.  I think the odds are on you will be asked to go and see Anna Mitchell later that day.”


“So she has accepted the new position?”


Kylie was looking from Susan to Marina, before she said “what is it I have not been told yet, darlings?”


“Anna Mitchell is moving to the post of Global Editor of Complete Style,” Marina said, “and she has been sounding out a few people about – well, me.”


“Oh?  So you have been noticed, darling?  And what has Anna been asking?”


“About my skills and experiences,” Marina said as she finished her coffee, “I’m being head hunted to join her team.”


Kylie smiled as she said “I wondered why Cathy and Helen had been talking so much about you during the flight.  But why would she want you on her team?”


“Part of her new job is to launch editions of Complete Style in China and Russia, amongst other areas.  I guess she thinks I would be a perfect fit.”


"So if she offers you a job as her PA what will you say darling?" Kylie asked.

Marina sat back and sighed.  "Would it surprise you if I said I still don't know?"

"Not really Marina." Kylie shook her head.

"We both owe so much to Madame, Susan, Cathy, and the organization."


"But it has to be said it would be the job offer of a lifetime, and it's not as though I'd be moving out of the organization completely."

Susan nodded.  "That is true, although your role would be different."

"But probably most importantly to me,” Marina said, “it's what effect this would have on you. I know you have your heart set on London again."


“Moi?  Marina darling, you must not think what I may have planned should stand in your way.  I know I had thought of London, but if you are offered the position, and you wish to remain in New York come the time...”


Susan, Clint and Marina looked at Kylie as she slowly smiled, and said “I would be honoured if the Mongoose and the Swan could continue to live and work together for the duration.”


“As would I,” Marina said, “but your education?”


“Well, on that note,” Susan said, “some discrete enquiries have been made, but I don’t want to say any more about them until we know if this is going to happen or not.”


Standing up, she said “Marina, can you give me a hand with April please.”


“Sure,” Marina said as she followed Susan out.  Clint sat back and watched Kylie as she finished her coffee.


"So how is your Mom doing Kylie?"

"She's hating it Clint darling,” Kylie said quietly, “but she's doing it despite that. Susan's mum and my aunt are with her every step of the way."

"Well no one said it would be easy, and she knew that."

"I know." Kylie nodded as she poured herself another coffee.

"Sami though isn't the only thing on your mind, is she?"

"It's that easy to tell darling?"

"Yes, that's your fifth coffee in the last two hours, easily a record for you." Clint smiled.

"Oh! You know I hadn't noticed."

"That's because your brain is working overtime...do you want to talk about it?"


Smiling, Kylie said “I had a feeling something had changed, but no real idea what.  But if you want the honest truth, Clint darling, I was thinking of a year ago.”


“Oh yeah – the first time you came here.  You have certainly changed a lot since then?”


Kylie nodded as she said “Mostly for the good I hope.  Still, when I think of Mother, and of what she is going through...”


“Is that the only thing?”


“No – I had my heart on London, it is true, but I think I could be happy here as well.  I just need some stability, I suppose.”


“Understandable – but for the moment, there’s nothing you can do, so I suggest you kick back and relax.”


“Everything all right in here,” Marina said as she came through.


“Everything’s fine darling,” Kylie said as Marina headed to the bedroom.


The apartment doorbell ringing took Clint by surprise, as Susan said “I’ll get it.”


“Now who could be calling at this time,” Clint said before Kylie heard Susan say “well this is a surprise.”


“Have they arrived?”


“Sure – come on in.  Marina!" Susan shouted, "Janine and Alexis are here."

"Hey I didn't expect to see the two of you." Marina came out of the bedroom smiling broadly. "Saturday I thought you'd both have dates?"

"Well mine is down in Florida checking out the Sebring track." Janine smiled.

"And mine cancelled."

"So we thought we'd see if you wanted to slip out for a quick drink?"


“Go on,” Susan said, “we can get the Monopoly board out.”





12 pm Pacific Time

Hilton Union Square


“Okay,” Mary said as she sat down with Missy, “serious question time.”


“Go on – ask away.”


"Missy,” Mary said as she sipped her water, “would I be able to afford to send David to Stanford if I signed this?"


"Well it's where he's always really wanted to go,” Mary said as she looked over, “but we'd always thought he'd need go to one of the state colleges and commute to keep costs down."

"Mary if his grades are good enough then he should apply...I cannot see money being a problem."

"Okay that is one question answered."



"Second is I think I'm going to need a damn good accountant to manage my business affairs and investments."

"Ring Maddie, her company offers a Wealth Management service."

"They do?"

"Yes," Missy nodded and smiled...next question?"


“Well, I need to structure this so most of the money is squirreled away for the family – so if Maddie can handle that, all well and good.”


“Give her a call, and get her down for a chat,” Missy said with a smile. 


“All right then – I guess the other question is when?”


“They’ll come and see you here first – so I have a question for you now.  Will you sign?”


3.30 pm

The Speakeasy, Buffalo


Miss Panther poured the 15 year old into five glasses, watching as Miss Tigress, Miss Bobcat, Rochelle and Louise as they each picked one up.


“A toast,” she said quietly, “to those who are gone.”


The five silently raised their glasses and drank, before Miss Tigress said “What’s the word on Miss Puma?”


“Not good – she’s not able to communicate with anyone at the moment.  I’ve tried to contact her, and got nowhere.”


“How the fuck did this happen,” Miss Bobcat said, “and so fucking fast.  We were top guns, feared by all, and now?”


“Now three of us are dead, the real Pussycat Gang know of us, and they’re watching us.  That murder the other day?”


“The four bodies they found in the church,” Louise said as she looked at her boss.


“Yeah – I got hold of the ME’s report.   They had to be identified by dental records, but all four were young men, all four had been tortured, all four had been sexually assaulted.”  Taking another drink, she then said “one had even had his balls cut off.”


“Holy shit,” Rochelle said, “what sort of sick mind would...”


“The real Miss Lynx would.”


Louise looked at them, and then said quietly “you think they sent her and some friends here to deliver a message?”


“I honestly don’t know – but that bitch Carter is at the centre of this.  And we need to do something about her.  Something permanent...”


1 pm Pacific Time

Fisherman’s Wharf


"I don't think she could wear that safely back in New Haven." Carina laughed as Trina held up a miniature Stanford hoodie as they looked in the souvenir shop.

"You think?" Trina laughed back.

"No comment, I do think though this toy cable car would make a nice addition to her toy box."

"Yes." Judith held it tight as she looked at her mother.


After she had paid for the souvenir, the trio walked outside, Judith tightly holding her mother’s hand.


"It’s been years since I ate here," Carina looked round as they walked along Fishermans Wharf looking for somewhere to have lunch.


“Well, how about this place?”




“Yeah – old school and not too touristy?”


“Sounds good – shall we go here Judith?”


“Okay Mommy.”




4 pm Pacific Time

Hilton Union Square


“Hey Mom,” Carina said as she came into the room with Trina and Judith, “how has your day been?”


“Interesting,” Juliette said as she handed Mary a drink.  “Missy and Mary’s dad have gone to take care of a couple of things, so we were having a chat.”


“Hello Aunty Mary,” Judith said as Carina took her coat off, and she toddled over, Mary picking her up and sitting her on her lap.


“Hello Judith, have you had a fun day?”


“Yes,” the little girl smiled as she showed Mary her new toy.


“I hear congratulations may be in order,” Trina said as she accepted a drink from Carina.


“Yeah – I signed the contract,” Mary said as Judith rested her head on the young woman’s chest.  “It’s certainly going to be different...”


“Well I’m glad,” Trina said, “you deserve it.”


“Is Judith all right there,” Juliette said as she watched her granddaughter’s eyes close.


"She's tired out." Mary cuddled Judith in her arms as she sat there.

"Well she's had a big day." Carina answered.

"You did all the sights eh?"

"We did," Trina answered, "and I never before met such an inquisitive under two year old. Everywhere we went she was asking what is this? and what is that?"

"She's inherited her Mom's brains." Juliette looked on proudly.

"And her Gramma's." Cari beamed.

"Well I know if I took her home my sisters would make such a fuss over her." Mary rocked the child gently in her arms.

"She's my beautiful angel."

"That she is Cari." Trina smiled.


“Here, let me put her in her bed for a sleep,” Juliette said as she lifted her granddaughter up and took her into a bedroom.


“So, still think you’ll be the poor relative at the ball Mary?”


“I already have the money planned out – but I must admit, I am looking forward more to the ball now,” Mary said with a smile.  “The dress arrived yesterday – it’s amazing.”


“So are you coming over for Fashion Week?”


“I’ll be there Thursday to Sunday – and one thing I want to do is meet Kylie in person.”


“Well, I’m sure she’ll be at the APCO show on the Saturday – we all tend to walk that one,” Carina said as Juliette came back in.


“Mary, your dad’s downstairs.”


“Right – I promised I’d take the girls to the cinema tonight.  See you next week.”


“Have fun,” Trina said as Mary went out.


7.30 pm

West Central Park


“Now who do we have here,” one of the group monitoring Janice’s apartment said as the lift doors opened, and a woman got out.  She typed some commands on the computer and started a facial recognition program running as her partner came and looked over.


The woman was of average height, with greying brown hair, and wore a long brown coat, under the hem of which could be seen a pair of baggy brown leather boots.  She also had a blue silk scarf wrapped round her neck and tucked into the front of her coat, as she stood in front of the elevator doors and looked round.


“She seems to be looking at the apartment numbers,” she said, “do we call Susan or Dominique?”


“Let’s see if the facial recog finds anything,” the first girl said, as her friend went and looked at the screen.


“Hey – this could be good.”




“Not for us no – watch and learn, my friend, watch and learn.”





“Katy, can you see who is at the door please?”


“Sure, Gran,” Katy said as she went to the apartment door and opened it.  Looking at the woman standing there, her back to the door, she said “can I help you?”


As she turned round, Katy quickly assessed her – a little older than her grandmother, but a stranger to her.


“Oh, I’m sorry – is this the Carter apartment?”


“Yeah – can I ask how you got past the concierge?”


“Oh I had my ways,” the woman said quietly, “may I speak to Mrs Carter please?”




The woman looked at Katherine Carter as she came to the door. 


“Hi, I’m Katherine Carter.  Can I help you with something?”


“Ah – again I need to apologise,” the woman said.  “I was looking for Janice Carter – I was told I would find Adam Ball at her house?”


“Oh you want my daughter,” Katherine said, “she and Adam should be back in a minute, would you like to come in and wait?  I’ve just brewed some coffee.”


“Why not – thank you,” the woman said as she came in, Katy taking her phone out and sending a text.


“So,” Katherine said as they went into the kitchen, “why are you looking for Janice and Adam?”


The woman looked at Katherine, in her blue blouse and knee length skirt, and then Katy in her sweatshirt and jeans.  “Actually,” she said with a smile, “it’s Adam I’m looking for.  I went to his apartment, but his neighbour said he was out, and suggested I come here.”


“So you know Adam?”


“Oh yes, I know Adam,” she said with a smile as she accepted the coffee, and they both heard the apartment door open and close.  A moment later, Janice opened the door and said “Mom?  Are you all right?”


“I’m fine – this lady is apparently looking for Adam.”


“Oh,” Janice said, “and you would be?”




Janice turned to look at Adam, who was standing there, with a look of almost fear in his eyes.


“Mom?  Adam, is this...”


“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you Janice,” the woman said with a smile, “I’m Eleanor Ball – Adam’s mother.”


Janice and Katherine stared at the woman, and then looked at Adam – and for a moment, he looked like a ten year old boy whose hand was in the cookie jar.


“Well,” Eleanor said, “aren’t you going to introduce me properly.”


“Err...  Yeah, right.  Mom, this is Janice Carter, her mother Katherine and her daughter Katy.  Guys, meet Captain Eleanor Ball – my mother.”


For once, Janice was lost for words, as Eleanor sipped her coffee.  “Hmm – good blend,” she said with a smile.  “I have to admit, Janice, you are different from what I imagined – what little Adam has told me about you.”


“Well,” Janice eventually said, “he hasn’t told us a lot about you either.  You’re a Captain?”


“US Naval Reserve – I work mainly in site security these days,” Eleanor said.  “Adam just loves to remind me of my rank however.”


“Mainly because you usually ask to be called that,” Adam finally said.  “Mom – what are you doing here?”


“I have some business meetings in the city this week, so I came early and wanted to see Adam.  When he wasn’t at home, I called at his office, and a very nice lady called Jeanne said to try here.”


“Remind me to thank her later,” Adam whispered to Janice.  As she giggled, Eleanor looked round.


“Nice apartment – so you all live here?  No Mister Carter?”


“No,” Janice said, “Katy’s father died in Afghanistan before she was born.”


“Ah – sorry to hear that,” Eleanor said.  “Anyway – Adam, why don’t you and Janice join me for dinner?  If that is all right with her mother and daughter?”


“Oh it’s all right with us,” Katherine said with a smile, “you three go off.  I’ll sort something out for the two of us.”


“Well – okay then,” Adam said as Eleanor put her mug down.  “I know a good kosher restaurant near here.”


“Thank you for the coffee, Katherine,” Eleanor said with a smile, as she followed Jan and Adam out.  Katy waited until the door closed, before she burst out laughing.


“Hey, it’s not funny,” Katherine said, before she started laughing as well.


“Yes it is Gran,” Katy said as she shook her head, “yes it is...”



7 pm Pacific Time

Hilton Union Square


“Hungry, mamma...”


“Well, let’s go and wash up while Grammy makes a call,” Carina said as she took Judith to the bedroom, while Juliette logged into the network.


A few moments later, she smiled as Maddie appeared in a Skype window.


"Madeline it's Juliette, sorry to disturb you at home."

"It's not a worry Ju.  How’s San Francisco?"

"Entertaining.  Did Mary phone you?"

"She did, and I'll be putting her in touch with Liz Applebee in my office."

"Is she one of us?"

"No,” Maddie said with a smile, “Liz is straight as they come, but she's a first rate financial planner, and she used to work for the IRS so she knows the system backwards."

"She sounds just what she needs,” Juliette said, “but if she was a tax woman do you want to revise your comment on her honesty?"

"No," Maddie laughed. "She will make sure that thanks to all this Mary and her family will be set for life."

"Well Dave was telling Missy that they are both determined that very little will change. They aren't buying a new house, he's keeping his work, the kids just might get to go to a better college each though then before."

"I wouldn't expect anything less from Mary and Dave, going hog wild with money is just not their style."

"That's true." Juliette smiled to herself, "so how is your New York apartment hunting going?"

"I'm looking at some during fashion week."

"Oh you are coming east for that?"


“Got some meetings with Missy to have, and I want to go to the APCO show.  Word is Kylie and Marina are back there as well this week?”


“Yeah – Sheila and I need to talk to them about a few things...”


“So the rumours about Anna Mitchell are true?”


“Yeah – and she wants Marina to work for her.  I think this is going to be a very important week for both of them.”





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