Belles of the Ball – Part 1










Tuesday 19th January

8.45 am

St Angela’s


“Wow – sounds like you had a really good time,” Ama said as she, Erica, Poppy and Pepsi got out of Caroline’s car.


“It was like a fairy tale,” Pepsi said as they walked through the school dates – and then looked at the banner hanging over the entrance.


“What the...”


“Inside Girls,” Letty said, “Miss Tennant will speak to it.”


They closed their eyes as they walked under the banner, the message “Nuns Rule” in cardinal red on the white background...



Miss Tennant looked out over the assembly hall, the girls sitting in silence.


“Ladies,” she said quietly, “I am aware of the strong feelings you may have over the latest addition to our school furniture.  This is the second time this has happened in recent weeks, and I am determined this will not happen a third time.


“I am therefore asking a representative from each year to meet Mrs Brand in her office in lieu of their first lesson today, to accompany her to Scared Heart.  Poppy Ashley, Ama Jameson, Kerry Wright, and Letty Kinman, please report after the end of this assembly.”


The four girls looked at each other as Miss Tennant continued “I need not remind you of the need not to take any form of retaliatory action.  Please let myself and the leadership team deal with this, concentrate on your studies, and prepare to show your feelings where they really count – on the sports field and only on the sports field.”


There was a murmur around the room as Abby whispered to Letty “what do you think the Tennant is up to?”


“I’ll let you know after we do it,” Letty whispered back as they rose to sing the school song.


As they gathered outside the Dean’s office, Poppy asked Letty “why us?”


“One from each year,” Grace said as she walked over, “a united front.  Come with me please ladies.”


The four girls followed Grace out to her car, where two members of staff were putting the folded banner into the trunk of her car.


“Get in girls – Letty in front,” Grace said.


“Where are we going Miss?”


“To face your enemy,” Grace said, the four girls strapping themselves in as Grace drove off.


9.15 am

Sacred Heart


“Here?  We’ve come here Mrs Brand?”


“That’s right Poppy,” Grace said as they got out.  Letty, would you and Kerry get the banner from the trunk, please?”


The two girls looked at each other as Grace popped the lid, and then lifted the banner, the group marching through the gates and entering the home of the enemy.


“Mrs Brand?”


They met inside a small, stout woman, wearing a grey jersey dress and baggy boots.


“Miss Turkel.  Girls, this is Rowena Turkel, the principle of Sacred Heart.  Are they assembled?”


“Indeed – will you come this way please?”


The group followed her into their assembly hall, the Nuns staring at them as they took the stage.


“Girls,” Miss Turkel said, “this is Mrs Brand, the dean of students at St Angela’s.  She has something to say to all of you.”


“Ladies,” Grace said as she stood at the lectern, “I am here with four of the students of St Angela’s, one from each year, to return a small gift that someone left for us this morning.  We have good reason to believe one or more of you know who may have done this.  Letty, Poppy, kindly place the banner slowly on the stage.”


The Nuns watched silently as the two girls placed the banner down.  Ama could see the hate in their eyes.


“Now,” Grace said, “as we are here, we do wish to know who hung the banner, and who also redecorated the railings of our school recently.  Miss Tennant and Miss Turkel have discussed the matter, and approved what I am about to say.”


The Nuns looked at their principal as Grace said “unless either Miss Turkel or Miss Tennant are informed of who did it, and the activities cease forthwith, a new program will be instituted at both schools – a student exchange program.”


It wasn’t clear who gasped more – the four Angels or the body of Nuns.


“Unless the culprits come forward, next Monday these four girls,” Grace said as she indicated Poppy, Ama, Kerry and Letty, “will spend the day here, and four girls from here will spend the day at St Angela’s.  Miss Turkel will inform the four after we leave.  I am sure nobody wishes to cause pain or embarrassment for their fellow pupils.  Thank you for your time.”


Grace turned and left the stage, the four girls walking behind her in stunned silence as Miss Turkel said “the four selected will be...”



FBI Field Office, Buffalo


“Well now,” Steve Welch said as he looked up, “what brings you to our fair city, Agent Carter?”


“Tell you in a minute, Agent Welch,” Jan said as she hugged her old friend.  She had flown in that morning, wearing a black trouser suit and a white silk blouse underneath, with killer heels.  “And this is?”


Peter looked at his partner, who was wearing a black jumper and long skirt.  “Agent Enid Corben, meet Agent Janice Carter, New York office.”


“Pleasure,” Enid said as she shook Jan’s friend, “off your beaten track aren’t you?”


“Mixture of business and pleasure – so I’d better get the business out of the way first.  Peter, can I have a word with you and your boss?”


“Sure, let’s see if he’s free,” Peter said as he turned round, “follow me.”


Jan looked round the room as she walked across – it was smaller than the NY office, more crowded and more chaotic.


Peter stopped at a door and knocked.




“Boss, got a minute?”


“Come in Peter,” the voice said, and as Jan came in she saw a tall, thin man behind the desk, his head glistening as a thin circlet of grey hair went round.  “And this is?”


“Andre Baughman, Janice Carter, New York office.”


“Agent Carter,” Andre said as he shook Jan’s hand, “what brings you to our fair city?”


“As I was saying to Peter, business and pleasure, so Business first,” Jan said as she looked at her watch.  “You’re about to get a call from Inspector Georges LeBlanc, Ontario Provincial Police.  He called our office last night, is probably on the phone with Buffalo PD now, and then will call you.”


“Oh – what about?”


“I’ll let him explain.  While we are waiting though – as Peter knows I’m a member of the Pussycat Gang Task Force.”


“I’ve seen the reports – don’t envy you that one,” Andre said with a smile.


“At any rate, when I visit other offices, I always ask if they have heard any rumours of their activities in the local area.  I was wondering if you had?


Peter and Andre looked at each other, before Andre said “I’m not aware of any.  Peter?”


“I looked last week - nothing on our files,” Peter said as he looked at Jan.


“Ah well – with those bitches, we have to look everywhere, and pray one day we find something.”


“Understandable,” Andre said as the telephone rang.  “Baughman,” he said as he pressed a button.


“Supervisor Baughman?  Inspector LeBlanc.  A pleasure to speak to you again.”


“You too Georges.  I have Agent Peter Welch and Agent Janice Carter with me.”


“Agent Carter?  A little off the beaten track for you.”


“True – but Tom thought I may be able to offer some advice, based on what you told him yesterday.”


“As you wish – I briefed the Police a few moments ago, and now it is your turn.”


“Go ahead Georges.”


“We’ve had a tip off of a large drugs shipment coming over the lake in the next week, and then through Niagara in your area.  We still need to verify, but if it is the case, we wish to set up a joint operation.”


“Agreed.  Can you provide what you have?”


“Sending what little we have to you now.  Agent Carter?”


“Tom thinks the ultimate destination is one of the New York families.  That’s why he asked me to call today – I have the Intel on the current drug activities to share as well.”


She handed a file over to Andre, who nodded and smiled.


“Georges, we’ll help in any way we can.”


“That is all I ask my friends, I will contact you shortly.”


As the call ended, Jan stood up and smiled.  “My job here is done,” she said, “I’ll see you guys around.”


As she walked out, Erin stood up and walked past.


“We need to talk,” she whispered.


“One thirty, bar round the corner.”


1.30 pm


Jan looked up as Erin walked in, looking round before she sat down.


“I thought I would have heard from you yesterday, Agent Carter?”


“It’s Jan – and why did you think you’d hear from me?”


The waitress brought over two beers, Erin nodding as she said “look, after our chat on Saturday, I started to check with some of my contacts.  They said there had been incidents where a group of women had claimed to be the Pussycats, but they had orders from on high to refer them to a special team.


“And the office?”


“Look – I can get into a lot of trouble over this,” Erin said.


“I’m not going to let you,” Jan said.


“Okay – last two days I’ve been trying to find what we have on file in terms of local Pussycat sightings – but every time I tried to get into the records I got called off to do something else.


“Eventually, I was called into the super’s office – he asked what I was doing, and I said my contacts had been telling me of some Pussycat activity.  He told me to give what I had to Welch, and they would make sure it got to you.”


“Sorry Erin – not a sign.  But I can’t believe Peter would have put a stop on the information.”


“If it wasn’t him,” Erin said, “it was Baughman – neither option makes me happy.”


“Yeah – me neither,” Jan said as she frowned.


“So what now?”


“Did you keep copies of what you had?”


“Officially or unofficially?”


“Erin, after what you told me we have two choices – go to IA now, or gather as much evidence as we can and then go to them.  I’d much prefer the latter.”


“I agree, I don’t like it, but I agree.   What now?”


“Get me that info – and let’s set up a little chat...”


12.45 pm

The Refectory


“She WHAT!!!”


“If the Nuns don’t own up, four of them are going to come here next week, and the four of us,” Letty whispered, “are going to go there for the day.”


Abby shook her head.  “What does Grace think she’s doing?”


“I have no idea,” Letty said, “but you have to admit one thing.


“It has to be the most devious approach to this yet.  She knows we can’t stand each other, so threaten to force us to spend time in each other’s company.  Scares the blinkers off of me.”




“Oh god,” Jeannie said with a laugh, “she’s playing the school swap ploy!”


“You mean she’s done this before,” Ama said as she looked across the table.


“In my first year at my old school,” Jeannie said, “there was a rivalry almost as intense between us and Harlow Grammar as there was between the Angels and the Nuns.  In the end, after a fight on the school grounds, Mrs Brand and the headmaster of the Grammar school got together, and announced that ten pupils from year 11 in each school would spend a week at each other’s school.”


“Year 11?”


“GCSE year – our age,” Jeannie said.  “Well, they went ahead and did it – and the two schools built links that are still there.  But in this case, I think she’s using a fear tactic – wanting to stop us spying on each other.”


“But that needs the Nuns to admit.”


“I know Pepsi – which is why I suspect there’s another line of inquiry at play.  One that may involve you Nikki.”


“Me?  What – oh no, anything but that!”




“Put it this way – I would not like to be a Rochermann today.”



1 pm



“Thank you for meeting us here girls,” Wilhelmina said as she and Rowena stood up.


“Well, you paying for lunch was a bonus,” Ally said as she and Nell sat down, “but what’s this about?  Neither of us were exactly your favourites.”


“Not exactly true,” Rowena said, “but we have a situation at the moment that requires some unusual thinking to resolve.”


“Nuns vs. Angels?  I haven’t forgotten two years ago, Miss Tennant.”


“Yes, well – we probably should have handled things differently,” Wilhelmina said, “but that was then, this is now.  I presume you have heard about this morning.”


“Mutual friends called both of us,” Nell said.  “Do you seriously think the girls will give up whoever did it to keep four of them from coming to St Angela’s?”


“If they do not,” Rowena said, “there is the chance of learning from each other.”


“It’s a tiny chance, about as big as the chances of me becoming a Mother Superior – forgive the analogy, sis,” Ally said.


“Not a problem sis.”


“Nevertheless,” Miss Tennant said, “we also feel there is scope in trying to preach that outside of school, after this place, it is possible to be friends.”


The girls looked at each other, before Ally said “you do know Holly and Carina would be a better illustration?”


“Oh they’re next on the list to talk to,” Miss Turkel said.


“You expect the four of us to undo decades of rivalry?”


“No – we want the four of you to be the ambassadors, especially this week, of the ability to forgive and forget.”


“Forgive, possibly,” Ally said.  “Forget?”


The waitress came and took the orders, before Nell said “It might – might – work, but it would be better if whoever put the banner up stood up and took the hit.”


“I have the head girls working on that one,” Miss Turkel said.  “But can you help?”


“Talk to Holly and Carina first,” Ally said as their meals came over, “and then we can see what can be done.”




1 pm

The Faculty Room, St Angela’s.



“Well, you’ve certainly got the girls talking,” Kate Hardisty said as she and Grace walked into the lounge.


“Well, I would imagine as soon as we got back, the story would spread like a wildfire.”


“At the very least,” Grace said, “it might give this whole thing the slap to solve it needs.”


As they walked in, however, Kate and Grace noticed the room was empty – save for Annie and Ingrid.


“Err – where is everyone?”


“Planning for this afternoon,” Kate said as she looked up, nursing her mug, “something about possibly planning for a mutiny.”


“I take it my plan has taken them by surprise as well?”


“That would be an understatement,” Ingrid said as Sarah and Harriet came in, carrying their lunches.


“Well, you got them talking all right,” Harriet said.  “The School Swap Ploy – and sprung on them with no warning!”


“Well, I had to do something to stop them planning revenge – and I picked the four girls to come with me because those four were the least likely to make a scene at the school, and the most likely if push comes to shove to cope with what they need to do.”


“Well, that may be true,” Sarah said, “but we play Sacred Heart a week on Wednesday.”


“I know – which is why I said Monday,” Grace said.  “Hopefully, sense will prevail.”



1.30 pm

Complete Style


“Hey Missy,” Juliette said as her agent and partner in Norstar came in, “what can I do for you?”


"Juliette do you know Clive Walton?"

"British photographer, lives and works in Toronto Missy?"

"That's the guy. He's interested in using Fiona for a shoot illustrating fashions at the time of the Revolution. I'm not sure it's high fashion enough for her, but I thought I'd pick your brain."

"Well it's not strictly speaking what we see her doing in the future, but I do know his work, and doing the illustrations for a book can't actually harm her career." Juliette paused for thought, "he does know about her visual limitations doesn't he?"

"Yes I told him very carefully, and he still thinks she has just the right face."

"Look leave it in my hands, I'll talk to Olivia and Fi myself...Where does he want to shoot?"

"Niagara on the Lake, you know all those preserved houses, etc."

"Sounds perfect, and when?"

"As soon as Fiona can be available."

"Alright Missy leave it with me, I will see what I can do."


“Good – now onto better news.  Mary’s walk through appointments seem to have excellent feedback – quite a few offers coming in.”


“I’m glad for her – this is the boost she needed.”


“Yeah – so, wedding arrangements?”


“The invites go out this week – plenty of time to sort out the visas...”



5 pm

The Waldorf Astoria


As the doors opened, the couple stepped out, Glenda with her black coat wrapped round her, Alex in an open necked shirt and dark trousers under his great coat.


“I’m glad you enjoyed the show, even if it was the understudy,” Alex said as they walked down the corridor.


“I could not tell,” Glenda said as she looked for her key card.


“Well, it was Broadway after all.”


“You know Alex it's been years since I've had this much fun." Glenda turned as she opened the door of her hotel room.

"Well I have to say I'm enjoying myself as well. It's nice to have an old friend to talk with and show the sights to."

"Well in nearly 50 years they've changed a bit. Do you remember back then us going to the top of the Empire State Building and Rusty looking round and discovering just how much he really was afraid of heights?"

"I do." Alex laughed in his deep baritone tones.

"Look,” she said as she stepped in and turned round, “do you want to come in and have a drink?"

"Much as I'd love to Glenda,” Alex said as he held her hands, “there are certain things that alas I should not, or cannot do, and having drinks alone in her hotel room with a still highly attractive blonde falls in that category."

"Okay well don't say I didn't ask," she gave him a peck on the cheek and went inside, the door gently closing.

"Oh if only you'd have asked me in for that drink all those years ago," Alex muttered to himself as he made his way back to the elevator.



8 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment



Gott schützt mich von Juristen und Gesetzgeber!”


"Estate business my love?" Juliette asked as she found Klaus in her library working at his laptop.

"Yes," he looked over his shoulder, stretched and yawned.

"Well don't work too hard," she leaned over and gave him a peck on the cheek.

"No choice I'm afraid,” Klaus said with a smile, “if I don't review all this the redoubtable Frau Strecher will be all over my case as you say - and then my darling sister will join her."

"Oh,” Juliette giggled, “that bad eh?"

"Yes...It's material relating to certain grazing rights that I own by hereditary right in the Sten Valley. I want to relinquish that right, and it means I have to agree to hundreds of little changes in law."

"Oooh rather you then me."

"Well it's a stupid thing anyway, the prices the tenants pay was fixed in 1910 and I can't change them. The yield is therefore minuscule, and I thought that it was about time I abolished the damn thing, it actually costs more to collect then it raises."

"Well its good business..."

"Yes, but now I understand why it wasn't done before by father or grandfather...all this damn paperwork."

"Poor you," Juliette kissed him, "serves you right for being a prince doesn't it?"

"And for having Frau Strecher as my steward," Klaus laughed.


“I’ll leave you to it,” Juliette said as she went back to the drawing room, and switched on her laptop.


“Hey Mom,” Carina said as she appeared with Judith.


“Hello Gramma,” Judith said as she waved as well.


“Have you both had a good day?”


“I drew a pony,” Judith said as she held her picture up.


“That’s a lovely drawing, Judith,” Ingrid said as she joined the call.


Fank ew Aunt Ingee,” Judith said with a grin, before Carina put her down and said “so what’s happening?  Where’s Grappy Pops?”


"Don't go bothering your father tonight girls."

"Oh is he still stuck on that damn Sten Valley thing?" Ingrid asked.

"He is...only the Goddess knows what time he will get to bed tonight."

"He told me about all this yesterday," Carina laughed, "do you know among other things the tenants have to pay a toll each time they take their cattle up to the high pastures?"

"They do, but what's the problem with that?"

"The bridge they pay to cross actually fell down 250 years ago Moms," Ingrid laughed, "but the farmers still have to pay their couple of cents per cow as if it was still standing."

"Oh Dear Goddess!" Juliette joined in the laughter, "it perhaps is time something was done about these antiquated rights and dues."

"Yeah they are leftover bits of feudalism, Pops is sending me a list so I can use them in an essay I have to write."

"Good for you Carina darling."

"Aunt Sigi is the one having to deal with the Bavarian state government on all this, she was telling me earlier how much rigmarole it is to go through, just to abolish some ancient laws."

"Doubtless she will complain to me when I see the serious business are you both set for the ball?"


“I am – Adam will meet me at the apartment Friday afternoon,” Ingy said.




“I need to leave Judith with Orlanda – she volunteered to look after her as well as George and Sands.  Then I’m coming straight over.”


“Annie will come over after school, so we can go as a group.  This year, Merlin weaves her magic chez de Ros, however.”


“Oh I am sure we can do a good job,” Juliette said with a smile.



9.30 pm

The Richmond Mansion


Stopping outside the door, Heather stopped to listen for a moment to the sounds from her young charge’s room.


"Die! DIE!"

"Computer games George?" Heather asked as she came in and took his hot drink to his bedside.

"How did you guess?" he smiled.

"Oh,” Heather said with a smile, “the little fact of one of the gentlest souls I know calling out he wants to kill someone."

"It's the new Chicago Underworld version 3.0...The graphics now are amazing."

"I'll take your word," Heather shook her head, "my games playing days are long behind me."

"Well you are old..."

"Hey less of the old Mister," she gave him a playful punch on the arm.

"Ouch!" George laughed.

"Just don't stay up too late playing, remember you have school in the morning."

"I know Heather."

"Who's the hot girl?" Heather looked at the screen over his shoulder.

"Well she's sort of based on Katy, you can create your own characters in this game."

" who else have you put into there?" Heather tucked in the sheet.

"Oh a few people you might recognize," George laughed as he turned the game off.


“All right,” she said as she left the room, looking in on Sands as she was reading a book, and then downstairs.


“So have you heard from Jan lover,” Sandy said as she looked up.


“Yeah – she’s stopping there overnight while a contact up there sets up a meeting.  She also looked out over the Niagara landscape for Shirley.”


“So that may go ahead as well?”


“Indeed – the word is Natalya may be over by the end of the week, to assist Dom.”


“Now that is a pairing I’d like to see...”



Wednesday 20th January

8.55 am

St Angela’s


“Well,” Abby said as she looked at Letty.


“No word yet – we’re just hoping they blink first, if truth be told,” Letty said as she closed her locker.   “So you get to be a star again Friday.”


“Yeah – then a break, and over to Vienna, then back to Fashion week.  The life of a glamorous model is never done.”


“Truth – where would you rather be on the 5th – Vienna or here?”


“Honestly – if it was at all possible I would be here for the Vanderbilt, but they heard I was coming, and I’ve got a shoot the afternoon after the ball at the Riding School with Angel.”


“Which means she is in her heaven, right?”


“Oh yes – you should have heard her when she heard about it...”


Letty – you still good for tonight?”


“Yes Miss Kelly – your last hurrah before you have to stop for a while?”


“Looks like it,” Annie said as she held her small bump, “so let’s make it a good one, all right?”




11 am

The Speakeasy, Buffalo


“A large coke shipment?”


“That is what the Intel says,” the older brunette said as she looked at the faux Miss Lynx, “worth several million on the street.  I’m worried though – it’s very very convenient.”


“I can understand that, Miss Leopard,” their leader said, “but this has come from a number of our sources, both official and unofficial.  Sporetti must be trying to circumvent his usual routes.”


“So what are you thinking?”


“I am wondering,” Miss Panther said, “is a trap, or is it genuine?  Miss Puma?”


Sporetti has been talking since yesterday about an unexpected delivery – maybe this is it?”


Miss Panther sat for a few minutes, before she said “What plans are being laid Miss Leopard?”


“We have a tactical briefing at three – I need to be there for that, but I’m on the late duty this week anyway.”


“Can you get yourself on the team?”


“I already have,” Miss Leopard said with a grin.


“Good – Miss Lynx, get on the street, see what you can dig up.  Miss Bobcat and Miss Tigress – do the math.  We meet here tonight – Miss Leopard excepted – at nine to make a decision.”


“Got it Boss,” they said as they stood up and walked off.


Miss Panther sat for a few minutes, before she took out a cell phone.


“Welch?  I’ll be in at one – gather the team for a briefing.”


“Yes even Corben – where is she?


“Oh, I see – well, must needs must.”



11 am

Niagara Falls State Park


Jan looked out over the river, the sound of the falls deafening in the background as she took in the scene.  The last time she had been over the river was the Toronto visit, and she smiled as she remembered that night.


“Beautiful isn’t it?”


“Yeah,” Jan said as she looked at Erin, “what’s that over there?”


Erin looked over at the island.  “Goat Island?  The word is that is where the shipment will come in.  They bring it over the river, load the cars and drive back.”


“One way in and out – neat.”


“Indeed – but we don’t know when.




As the girls talked, a thin fair haired man walked past, Erin nodding as they stood up and followed him.


“Hello Col – how’s things in Allentown?”


He looked round and groaned.  “Come on Corben – I told you all I know, what else do you need?”


“Indulge me – word is a big shipment coming over the river.  Hear anything?”


“I may have – but i may also have heard dose ladies have heard?”


“The ones everyone’s scared of?”


He nodded as he looked at them.  “Who’s this?”


“My friend from the big apple.  She’d be keen to stop the ladies as well.”


“If I hear, I’ll let you know, but watch your step Corben – I like you, I’d hate to see you fall to them.”


“Fair enough – keep safe Col.”




2 pm

Complete Style


“A set of historical fashion pictures?”


Juliette smiled as she looked at Fiona Treharran.  “That’s right – the idea is you would go up Sunday, and spend the day at Niagara On The Lake, shooting in some of the houses and squares round there.  Nice simple work, and Clive Walton is a very good photographer.”


“And he can cope with...”


“He assures me he can,” Juliette said to Fi as she sat with Olivia.  “So, interested?”


“Sure – if Missy says it’s all right.”


“Good,” Juliette said as she picked up her phone.  “Alexis, show Clive in will you?”


Fi and Olivia turned as the grey haired man came in.


“I’ll leave you to talk,” Juliette said as he left the office.


“Juliette – Anna says to tell you she’ll be free at seven.”




3 pm

Xavier International


“Susan – Natalia Kosolov is in reception?”


“Can you bring her to the conference room – and fetch coffee for four,” Susan said as she stood up, and made her way along the floor, knocking on Shirley’s door and looking in to see her and Dominique.


“She’s here.”


Caroline stood up and followed both of them – Shirley in her grey jersey dress and heels, Susan in a white jumper and black trousers, and Dominique in her black jumper and pants, the legs in knee length boots.


A few moments later, the door opened and Natalya Kosolov came in, wearing a brown leather jacket over a brown roll necked sweater and leather pants.


“Welcome back to New York,” Shirley said as she hugged Natalya, “I trust you had a good flight?”


“Not too bad as these things go – Dominique, it is good to see you again.”


“And you – Lily has told us of the work you have been doing.  I am especially pleased with the Farm.”


“That is entirely down to the work of Tracy and Beverley – but I thank you on their behalf,” Natalya said as the coffee came in.


“So, how may I be of assistance,” Natalya said as she sat down.


“You have been briefed on our situation in Buffalo?”


“I read the papers on the flight over – a most disturbing situation.  I presume it is not the actual ladies?”


“No – on that accept my word.”


Inclining her head, Natalya said “so, the plan is?”


“We are seeding news of a drug shipment in Niagara this weekend, in the hopes they will take the bait.  If they do – we will do what needs to be done.”


“I see – so, please assure me we are not actually smuggling cocaine into the USA Madame?"

"No a few pounds of best quality Canadian flour will be playing that role." Shirley paused, "but to fool our adversaries everyone must behave just as if it is the real thing...   If they get one hint this is a trap then the whole operation is blown."


“And you wish me to oversee the operation?”


“Indeed – we have picked a small team to act the role.  You will meet them later.  We also have a contact in Buffalo who will assist.”


“And that is?”




Natalya smiled.  “I trust she is fully recovered?”


“She is – we have placed her where we believe the group have their base of operations.  Susan?”


The group turned to the computer screen as Louise appeared in a window.


“Madame – I see you have company,” she said with a smile, “Natalya – good to see you again?”


“And you Louise.  With us is Susan, who as you know heads the New York Office, and Dominique.”


“Pleasure to finally meet both of you,” she said with a smile.


“News, Louise?”


“The six have been in deep conversation on several occasions, Madame.  I have managed to eavesdrop, and they are definitely tempted.”


“Very well – you may proceed with the next phase, Louise, and good luck.”


“The next phase?”


As the call ended, Shirley smiled and said “time for her to become a friend.”


6.30 pm

Greenwich Florists


“Here you go,” April, said as she handed Pepsi a plate and a drink, “we’re going to eat in the sitting room tonight.”


“Possibly,” Pepsi heard her father say as they passed the dining room, “what about her...”


"Roy, Guy, George, and your dad are in the parlour Pepsi love,” April said as they sat down, “so we can eat out here."

"What are they doing Mom?"

"Looking at archaic form books, old pedigree charts, watching videos...and occasionally calling for coffee."

"Sounds like a serious 'sweat' session."

"It is,” April said as she sipped her drink, “they are trying very hard to decide if there are any yearlings, or other youngsters they think it's worth their while to go visit."

"It sounds harder then school work to me," Pepsi said as she ate some of her chicken.

"Oh it definitely is,” April said, “and far harder then shopping on Black Friday, but the principal is the same, spotting an absolute bargain somehow."

"Just like they did with Sinnerz?"

"Exactly."  April looked to the room – they were happy, and she was happy.

"So Mom,” Pepsi said as she took a drink from her glass, “how was today in the shop?"

"Brisk, a couple of big funerals coming up I'm sad to say are always great business for me."

"Plus didn't you say social season bookings for floral presentations are up?"

"Well up on last year."

"Just one of the perks of being a sinner." Pepsi smiled.


“Yeah – you know they want to go skiing again weekend after next?”


“I’d heard – could be fun.”


7 pm


401 W 52nd Street


“Ladies,” the waiter said as he showed Juliette and Anna Mitchell to a table, the two women sitting as he gave them each a menu.


“Can you bring a bottle of the de Ros Chardonnay ’13?”


“Of course Madame – two glasses?”


Juliette nodded as the waiter left, returning with a bottle and two glasses.  As he poured the wine, Anna smiled and looked at her old friend.


"Well after work drinks,” she finally said as she took the glass, “to what do I owe this pleasure Ju?"

"Well,” Juliette said, “I might say that isn't this what old friends do?"


"Well,” she said as she took a sip and then put the glass on the table, “the but is that, finally, stories of your impending promotion have caught my ears."

"I wondered if that was the case...”  Anna took a sip from her glass, and said “so what do you think Juliette?"

"Anna,” Juliette said with a smile, “it will arguably make you one of this world’s most powerful women, setting the style for a string of fashion magazines worldwide..."

"That is how they've been selling it to me."

"Well,” Juliette said as she had another drink, “even the other Anna doesn't have quite that sway over her magazines worldwide editions."

"I know," the older woman's eyes twinkled.  “And that on its own makes it exciting.”

"I guess my question is really why take on such a huge job..."

" my time of life?"

"Yes," Juliette nodded.

"I guess because I'm alone,” Anna said as Juliette refilled her glass, “my last scumbag husband is rotting away in jail, and I need work to occupy my time if I'm not going to turn to the booze and other things."

"Well there is work,” Juliette said, “and then there is work."

"I'm sure I have plenty of friends who will tell me when I'm overdoing it."

"So you are going to take it?"

"I gave them a 97% yes, so I think I will."

"Leaving us on the US edition with the need to break in a new editor-in-chief."




“Me?”  Juliette looked at Anna.  “Oh no – I’m very happy where I am, and I have more than enough on my plate at the moment.  I presume they are looking however?”


“Oh yes – your thoughts?”


“I presume Pippa Ashley is in the frame?”


“Let us say she is meeting some people on Friday,” Anna said with a smile.


8 pm

The Village


“Hello Mrs Brand,” Ama said as she opened the door, “please, come in.”


“Thank you Ama – are you alone?”


“No – Mom is in her room,” she said as they went into the front room.  “I’ll get her for you.  Have a seat please.”


“Thanks,” Grace said as she sat down, and then saw Caroline come out, wiping her eyes with a handkerchief.


Standing up, she said "why the tears Caroline?"

"What,” Caroline said as she looked at Grace.  “Oh, sorry Palomino - I just had a video chat with Fiona."


"Well,” Caroline said as she sat down, “her doctors seem very, very pleased, but she does look so weak, and frail."

"After what she's been through...are you surprised?"

"No...not really I guess...but she's one of my few links along with you and Aunt Karen back to my mother."

"I know that Face." Grace embraced her friend.

"Anyway to what do I owe this pleasure," Caroline gave herself a mental shake.

"Oh nothing complicated, some notes for Annie that she needs to review."

"On the ongoing Nuns/Angels thing?"

"Yeah you guessed. I am just so glad we never took rivalries this seriously back at the Abbey."

"I know," Caroline laughed, "it can get more than a little out of hand.  I hear you’re heading home next week for a few days?”


“Oh yes,” Grace said as Ama brought them both a coffee.  “A family reunion for my uncle’s birthday.  Should be intriguing...”



8 pm

4th Avenue, the Ashley apartment


“Poppy, would you bring me some water to the table please?”


“Sure Mom,” Poppy said as she went to the kitchen, bringing a glass of water and placing it next to Pippa as she wrote on a pad.


"So what is all this homework Mom?" Poppy looked at the pile of magazines her mother had spread on the dining room table.

"Just that...homework darling," Pippa looked up and smiled, "I've been asked to a preliminary interview about the job of Editor-in-Chief at Complete Style."

"Anna is leaving?"

"No, she's getting promoted and they are looking for candidates to take over the US edition."

"WOW!...Way to go Mom!" Poppy high-fived her mother. "So what chance you'll get it?"

"Probably pretty low," Pippa took off her glasses and chewed the end of one of the arms, "but it's a hell of a thing I'm even being asked to interview."

"So when?"

"Friday afternoon."

"I'll keep my fingers crossed."


“Did you give the card to Erica today?”


“Yeah – she moves tomorrow, and I hope she likes what we included.”


9 pm

The Richmond Mansion


“So she has been offered the position?”


“Yup,” Juliette said as she sat down with Diana, “and she’s going to take it.  And she should – despite the increased workload, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”


“And so an era comes to an end – and the search for a new editor-in-chief begins.”


“There cannot be that many candidates?”


“There aren’t – and she confirmed Pippa is in the hunt.”


"So why is Pippa Ashley getting the close look Juliette Cherie?" Diana asked.

"Because in 4 years,” Juliette said as she filled the glasses, “she has turned what was a moribund and failing title and made it relevant and profitable again."

"I'll admit it has been a pretty impressive turnaround." Sandy brought in a tray of snacks and laid it down.  “New Mode has become a popular magazine again.”

"But isn't it's readership a little younger then that of CS?" Diana queried.

"And a little less well off?" added Sandy.

"True on both points,” Juliette said, “but you both know Pippa quite well now, do you really think she cannot be just as good at picking high fashion trends, as she has been at picking more department store level sold things?"

"True, she does dress impeccably herself." Diana took a snack.

"You wouldn't mind working for her Ju?"

"As long as she accepts that I pay some rent and part of the salary to the girls so I can also run Huntingdown’s from the office, then I'm okay."

"So what about Merlin?" Sandy asked.

"I guess they will interview Mary for the job, they have to just on her seniority."

"But does she want it Ju darling?"

"I'm guessing not,” Juliette said with a smile, “she likes her niche as style and creative director, and with Fiona's worries, I think she'll pass on it."

“So who else do you think is on their shortlist?" Sandy sipped her wine.

"Jim Chastain, and Marie-France Erec, if I don't miss my guess."

"And you have ancient feuds going back to our Paris days with both of them..."

"OY" Sandy rolled her eyes.


“So in many ways, I do hope Pippa gets the job.  Besides, I have another problem to think over in relation to Anna.  She’s been talking to Janine, and to Cathy, about one person in particular.”


“Marina?  Mon Dieu, do you mean she is looking at Marina as her PA?”


“It’s looking that way – remember she did a magnificent job in St Petersburg, she speaks Russian, Mandarin and Cantonese, and is an organised woman.  If you were Anna, taking this job, and looking for a PA who can work to the new role?”


“True – but you need to consult with Cathy and Shirley – and where would that leave Kylie?”


“Exactly – as I say, something to think about...”



5 pm Pacific Time

Oakland Hills


“Mary, tell me why I am doing this again?”


“Because you are my brother, and you love me – now come out and let me have a look at you.”


Mary stood to one side and looked at David as he came out, wearing a tuxedo over a white shirt, waistcoat and dark trousers.


“I look like a penguin,” he said as he looked at himself in the mirror.


“Look bro of mine,” Mary said as the assistant made some adjustments, “if you are going to be my escort for Trina Culver’s party, then you need to dress the part, and besides - you look kinda handsome in a tux.”


“But I feel so uncomfortable Mary…”


“It will be better on the night…I promise.”


“How are the shoes?” the sales associate asked.


“Better then the suit.”


“Stop complaining.” Mary looked up at the ceiling and counted to ten.  “That’s good.”


“Alright,” the woman said with a smile, “you’ll be able to collect these the morning of the event and return them the next day.”


“Understood.” Mary nodded.


“Now will that be cash or credit?”


“Cash please.” Mary carefully counted out the pile of notes onto the counter.


“That’s perfect,” the associate counted the cash then gave Mary her change.


“Okay get undressed Kiddo,” she ordered her brother.


“Thank you,” David said as he walked back into the changing room.


“You don’t remember me do you?” the saleswoman smiled again as Mary looked at her.


“Well I thought I did, but I couldn’t be sure.”


“I’m DeeDee Harding - I sat behind you in math.”


“Oh that’s where…”  Mary smiled and shook her head, as she said “Hi DeeDee; long time no see.”


“So what’s the big event that little brother is getting all dressed up for?”


“A friend,” Mary said as she looked to the curtains, “she’s having a fancy party and I got invited, he’s getting dragged along as my escort.”


“Still no boyfriend?”


DeeDee” Mary said with a smile, “who wants a beanpole like me?”


“Now you are a model I would think plenty of guys…”


“You heard eh?”


“That a girl I went to school with is now becoming a famous model….whaddya think?”


“I guess so, but model or not, still no guys ask me out. I guess once you are typecast as ‘Stringbean’ Clarke, people don’t forget.


“Oh ‘Stringbean’ that name does take me back,” DeeDee shook her head.


“Can we go now,” David said as he came back out.


“Sure – nice to see you again DeeDee.”


“And you Mary...”



Thursday 21st January

8 am

Downtown, Mary Thomas’ Apartment


“All right Erica – bags all packed?”


“Yes Mom,” Erica said as she sipped the last bag up, and came through to the kitchen.


“Well, sit down and have your breakfast before Letty comes to pick you up,” Mary said as she pushed a toasted muffin over to her.


“I’ll meet you at school today to come over to the new apartment,” Denice said as she sipped her coffee.  “We can start to unpack out things after that.”


Erica nodded as she drank her orange juice, and then put her glass down.




Denice watched as her daughter walked over, and hugged Mary.  “Thank you,” she said quietly, “for everything.  When you come back, come and tell us all about it in our new home.”


“AI I will,” Mary said as she hugged the young girl back, “now go and learn new things.”


Erica smiled as she grabbed her bag and ran out, Denice looking at Mary as she did so.


“She’s right you know – if you hadn’t stepped in when you did...”


“Now that’s enough,” Mary said with a smile.  “Your bags packed?”


“Ai – yours?”


“Ai – I’ll see you safely over and your things unpacked, and then I’ll catch my flight later tonight.  It’ll be good to be home again.”




“If only for a little while.”


“As you say, if only for a little while.  Come on – one last cup of coffee, and we’re ready to go.”



10.30 am

W 20th Street.


Sandy smiled as she saw Mary pull up in her old car, Denice getting out and looking at the three storey brownstone.


“Hey,” she said with a smile, “welcome to your new home.  You have the second floor apartment on the left – why don’t you come with me, have a look round before the van arrives?”


“Okay then,” Denice said as she followed Sandy to the entrance to the brownstone, Mary following her in.  As they walked up to the second floor, the door to the apartment opened and Tonia Razinsky looked out, smiling as she said “ah good – come on in Denice, come on in.”


As she walked in, Denice looked at the large mirror in the hallway, while Mary closed the door behind them.


“Right – hallway obviously,” Sandy said as she looked at her tablet, “with closet to the side for coats and other sundry items – so hang them up in there, and we can move on.”


“Fair enough,” Denice said as she slipped her coat off and put it on a hanger, Mary doing the same before they walked into the front room.  Denice was surprised to see some of her own furniture back in, with some new chairs and coffee tables arranged in a three quarters square around a wall mounted television.


“The television comes as part of the apartment furniture,” Sandy said, “as does the entertainment centre that is connected to it.  Like it?”


“I do,” Denice said, “but it’s good to see this again.”  She ran her hand over the back of her favourite chair, before she said “they moved it all in yesterday, didn’t they?”


“Well – yes,” Tonia said, “now then, let’s have a look at the kitchen, shall we?”


“Yeah – right,” Denice said as they went into the kitchen, and she smiled as she saw the old dining table and chairs, alongside the modern kitchen.


“You can test this later,” Sandy said, “let’s go through the rest of the rooms first.”


As they went round, Denice could see the mixture of her own furniture with the new – such as the large chest of drawers with her own bed in the larger bedroom, and a new dressing table in Erica’s room.  She figured it was part of the furnishings of the house – and then they stopped outside the last door.


“So what’s this – a dining room?”


“Not really,” Tonia said, “but we all know you are starting a new job, and that Erica will need somewhere to study as well, so this is possibly the most important room in the house.”


Sandy opened the door, she and Tonia standing back as Denice and Mary walked into the room.  The large windows opened out onto the street, but that wasn’t what grabbed Denice’s attention. 


What she was looking at was the wall, lined from ceiling to floor with shelves, and the shelves filled with books.   She walked over and looked at the titles, running her hand over them.


"Alright who selected all these books?" Denice finally asked in awe.

"Let me just say the Welsh Mafia went to work," Mary laughed. "I have an old friend who used to have a shop on the Charing Cross Road in London, but he now has retired over here. I gave him a list of both your interests, and a budget, and – well, these are my housewarming gift."

"Mary these must have cost a fortune?" Denice said as she looked again at the titles.

"Well Owen got them at trade discount,” Mary said as she stood by the wall, “he did save an awful lot."

"Even so..."

"Don't worry, I can safely afford it you know,” she said with a smile, “and I do know how much you enjoyed my library."

"The desks are the gift from Mom, Heather, me, and the kids." Sandy looked proudly at the oak desks she had found and had restored.

"And other bits of furniture and decorations around the place I suppose are gifts from other sinners?" Denice looked round half in jest.

"Yep," Sandy laughed.

"You are serious aren't you?" Denice shook her head, "how will I ever thank you all?"

"By enjoying your life here as much as we have enjoyed creating the apartment." Tonia came in with a tray of glasses.


“That’s right lass,” Mary said quietly as Sandy brought in a bottle of champagne, “the rest of your stuff will be here soon, and we’ll get your bags in, but this – this is your home now.”


“So I propose a toast,” Sandy said as she handed the glasses round, “to Denice and Erica.”


“Ai – Denice and Erica,” Mary said as they raised their glasses, and toasted the new home.


The revelry was interrupted by a knock on the door.  Sandy went off, returning a few minutes later with Caroline.


“Nice,” she said as she looked round.  Denice, you’d better come and tell the guys where to put things.”


1 pm

Xavier International




Shirley looked up as Susan came in for the briefing.  "How are the details coming Susan?"

"Slowly Madame, finding the right place to do this to please both Janice and me is not proving easy."

"Is Natalya in place?"

"She should be." Susan checked her watch.

"And Heather?"

"Is set up at home monitoring everything, and everybody."

"It does so help to have such a tech genius on our side."

"Absolutely Madame."

"So is there anything else absolutely urgent?"

"A few documents need your signature..."

"For the regular business?"

"Yes, we have had a lot of fresh enquiries since Christmas, I need your authorisation before I can proceed with some things."


Shirley looked through the papers, and then said “it all appears to be in order,” before she signed where needed.  “Do you have your dress sorted for tomorrow?”


“I do Shirley – and April will stay with Orlanda at George Gresham’s apartment.”


“Excellent – well, all we can do now is wait for Louise to make herself – indispensible.”




1 pm

Outside the Speakeasy, Buffalo


As Louise walked round to the stage door, she saw the dark haired woman who knew the owner standing by the entrance.


“Hey,” she said as she got closer, “you enjoying working here?”


“I am,” Louise said, “why?”


“The boss said you were on the lam from a psycho boyfriend – how bad?”


“He liked to hurt me, and I didn’t like him doing that,” Louise said as she stopped for a moment.”


“Got a light?”


“Don’t smoke – sorry.  Forgive me, but what is your name?”


“It’s...  Now who the hell is that?”


Louise turned to see the motorbike coming down the alley, and then saw the rider take a gun from their leather jacket.


“Shit – GET DOWN,” she called out as she pushed the dark haired girl to the floor, two bullets whizzing over their heads as the bike drove off.


“What the fuck...  How did you know?”


“Happened to a friend of mine in Tokyo – are you all right?”


“Yeah - thanks – they call me Lynx.”




“Louise, I’m going to let the boss know what happened – she may want to thank you personally.”



4.15 pm

W 20th Street


“Well, here we are,” Denice said as she opened the door, Erica coming in and looking round wide eyed.


“Oh my,” she said quietly, “this is so different.  Where’s my room?”


“Third door on the right – your things from the old apartment are there to put away, I’ll get some coffee on,” Denice said as she watched her daughter walk down and go into the bedroom.


“Okay,” Caroline said as she appeared from the front room, “that’s the security system wired up.  The control box is in the coat closet.”


“Thanks,” Denice said, “I still can’t believe we are finally here?”


“Well you are.  My team made sure everything was put in the places you pointed out – save for Erica’s room, as per your request.”


“It’s important she has her own space the way she wants it,” Denice said as Erica came out.


“Oh hello Caroline – you been here all day?”


“Making sure things were put safely away – have you seen the rest of the apartment yet?”


“No – let me give you the tour,” Denice said as she took Erica by the arm and led her to the other rooms, Caroline smiling as she took out her cell phone.


“Susan?  Installation complete at the Burton apartment.  Start the policy, will you?


“Many thanks,” she said as she heard Erica say “oh my god, Mom – and these books are for us?”


“Apparently,” Denice said as Caroline joined them in the library.


“So,” Caroline said, “I think I’ll leave you both to get used to the place.”


“Caroline, thank you for everything...”


"Oh, by the way - these are for you." Caroline smiled as she handed Denice a well wrapped parcel.

"Oh these are lovely," Denice shook her head as she removed the four hand painted plates that were inside.

"They date from about 1825, and are from the Swansea pottery..."

"From South Wales?" Denice looked up.

"Exactly, they aren't hugely valuable, but knowing your passion for Wales I couldn't resist buying them as a housewarming gift."

"Oh Caroline you needn't have..."

"But she's going to treasure them anyway," Erica hugged her mother.

"That I am." a small tear came to Denice's eye.


“Right – see you tomorrow Erica.  School day and all that.”


“Let me show you out,” Denice said as Erica looked at the books.




8 pm

W 20th Street


As Erica took the dishes to the kitchen, and loaded them into the dish washer, she heard her mother saying “thank you, Mr Jacobs – that is a great help.  I hope to see you soon.”


"Who was that on the telephone Mom?" Erica asked as they sat in the front room.

"Do you remember that antique dealer friend of Shirley's...John Jacobs?"

"Just about."

"I was talking to him about those plates that Caroline gave us."

"Oh,” Erica said, “and what did he have to say?"

"Only that they aren't hugely valuable, though the right piece can fetch a nice price."

"And our plates?"

"From my description he said they sounded fairly typical of Swansea ware. He said that he has had advised a few friends over the years who are like us..."

"Black?" Erica interrupted.

"No Welsh, as you darn well know," Denice laughed back, "that if they want to start collecting pottery that it's a great way to do it."

"Well we do have that great cabinet Tonia gave us Mom."

"Just my thought darling, I might start trying to learn a bit about Swansea pottery and se if I can turn collecting it into a hobby."

"Good for you Mom.  I think I’m going to love living here."


“So am I – but that does not excuse your homework.”


“No, I know,” Erica said with a sigh, “I’ll get it done now...”




Friday 22nd January

1 pm GMT



The taxi stopped outside the terraced house, Mary Thomas stepping out and paying the driver before she turned and walked up the short stone staircase.


Pressing the intercom button, she looked up and down the street before a Scottish voice said “Aye?”


“Fiona, me lass, put the kettle on and do a brew up.”


There was a chuckle before Mary heard the familiar voice say “get up here, you daft wee Welsh lassie.”  The front door clicked as it opened, and Mary walked in, closing the door behind herself and stopping to collect some mail from the letter box before she walked to the first floor.


She looked at the door to the left of the stairs, with “Ms F MacKenzie” engraved on the gold panel, before she let herself in.


“Where are you lass?”


“In the kitchen – ye’ll hae tae take me as ye find me.”


“I always ha...”  Mary stopped in the doorway as she looked at Fiona, a blue scarf tied over her hair, her body thinner than she had ever remembered.


Wha’s the matter Mary – hae I got a dirty mark on me?”


“Sorry,” Mary said, “it’s just I didn’t realise.”


“Ye shulda seen me a week ago,” Fiona said as she stood up and walked over to the kettle.  “I ahm getting better, or so they tell me.  So get yer coat off, gie us a hand, and let’s hae a natter.”




A few minutes later, Fiona eased herself into a rocking chair as Mary poured the tea.


“Ah that’s better,” she said as she took a sip, “when I cannae eat much, this keeps me going.  So how are ye, lass?”


“I can’t complain – and what do they say about you?”


“Well, the last tests were clear, but ye know these people – ah take it wan day at ah time.  So how are your houseguests?”


“Moved on yesterday – their new apartment was ready, so I’ll be on my own again when I go back.  But little Erica has promised she and her friends are going to come round every so often – and I have work to keep me busy.”


“So I hear – wha’s this rumour about Anna?”


“It’s not a rumour,” Mary said as she sipped her tea, “worldwide editor of Complete Style.”


“My my – she’ll love that job,” Fiona said with a smile, “so who’s in the starter’s line up?  You?”


“They asked, but I said no,” Mary said, “and according to Janine, Juliette’s ruled herself out as well.  I think they’ll go outside?”


“Oh – who tae?”


“My money’s on Phillipa Ashley.”


Wee Pippa?”  Fiona sipped her tea and then carefully put her cup down.  “Aye, well – she has dun ae guid job at New Mode, and she has the experience and eye.  She’d be a guid fit.  Would Juliette work with her?”


“We both would,” Mary said, “but we’re a way off from that.  She’s coming into the offices this afternoon for a preliminary chat.  Which reminds me – got some things to show you.”


“Oh good – I don’t get that much frae the office,” Fiona said as she looked at Mary’s tablet.  “Oh my – is that wee Judith?”


“It is – she’s growing up fast, and this shoot in St Petersburg has the makings of a classic.”


“So ah see – young Caroline as well, and – now who is this wee star?”


“That’s Missy’s latest discovery – her name’s Mary Clarke, hails from San Francisco, and a more down to earth girl you could not believe.  For most of her life, she and her dad have brought up her kid brothers and sisters – Missy found her when she came to turn down her bedspread as a hotel maid.”


Yer kidding?  Wie tha bone structure?  I take it she’s gone full time now?”


“Only just – she needed kid glove handling, but she’s now the face of the hotel, and free to do shoots like this...”


An wha aboot the over lassies?”


“Friends or models?”




“Okay, okay – Jo is finally getting used to the idea of being a model student like Cari, and is back at her college now.  And as for Sandy’s kids...”


Wee Sandy and George?”


“Not so wee now, trust me – Sands is blooming into a beautiful young woman, and as for George and Katy Carter...”


Och aye – Jack showed me the photos he took of young Katy.  We talk every so often on yon internet thingy.  That young lassie has a future as well.”


“And of course, tonight’s the night.  The ball in New York, where young Abby is presented with some of the other girls from Paris.”


Fiona smiled as she closed her eyes.  “Aye, I wish ae culd be there, but – well, we’ll see when they say ae can fly again.”


“You concentrate on getting better,” Mary said as she put her hand on Fiona’s knee.  “Do that, and the rest will come.”




1 pm

The de Ros Mansion


“Abby, Fiona, you will both need to eat something – it will be late before they serve dinner at the ball, and you will need all the energy you can get.”


“I know, Mama,” Abby said as she picked at the casserole, “I’m just nervous?”


“You and me both,” Fiona said as she sipped some water.


“Still,” Olivia said, “eat.  Trust us – you will feel better for it.”


The two girls nodded as they started to eat a bit more, Diana and Olivia shaking their heads. 


“They weren’t this nervous in Paris, were they?”


“There they were kept busy all day, as happens in Vienna,” Diana said quietly, “the problem with this ball is the fact that they first meet at the Pierre.”


She looked up as Edith came in, and said “Alice McKinnon and her entourage are here Madame.”


“Alice,” she said as she stood up and kissed her old friend, “we are ready?”


“My friends will need a while to set up.”


“Of course – Edith, show Mrs McKinnon’s team to the master bedroom, and then bring some coffee for all of us.”


“Well now – ready for the night to remember?”


“Another one,” Fiona said with a smile.


“We’ll leave you to it after we have finished lunch Bats,” Olivia said.  “I cannot wait to see what you have done tonight?”


“Oh I have almost surpassed myself, I think.”




“April, Diana – with all due respect...”


“I know and understand, ma Cherie,” Diana said with a smile.  “Valeria will join us later, to avail herself of your make-up and hair artists.  In the meantime, please – join us.”


“Thanks,” Alice said as she sat down.  “By the way, I got a card today.”


“As did I,” Diana said as she showed Olivia the gold embossed card.


His Serene Highness Prince Niklaus von Furstenheim and Miss Juliette Huntingdown request the pleasure of your attendance on the occasion of their marriage.


Saturday, April 2nd

11 am

Munich Frauenkirche


The wedding breakfast to follow at the Furstenheim Munich Townhouse.




“Very regal,” Olivia said as she handed it back.


“Indeed – who is this Frau Strecher?”


“The Furstenheim estate manager – I suspect a person it would be unwise to upset...”



2 pm

Complete Style



Anna Mitchell looked up from her desk as her assistant looked in.


“Phillipa Ashley is here – she has an appointment?”


“Of course – show her in please.”


Anna stood up and walked round as Pippa came in, wearing a fitted black jacket and knee length skirt with a white top under the jacket.  The three inch Italian leather pumps added a little extra height.


Pippa – thanks for coming round this afternoon,” Anna said as she indicated some chairs by a low table.  “Joan, would you fetch coffee for two please?”


“Of course,” the assistant said as Anna sat down, her skirt arranging itself as she did so.


“I understand congratulations are in order,” Pippa said as she placed her bag on the floor.


“Well, it’s not officially announced yet,” Anna said, “but thank you.  I have to admit, it is a challenge, but it is one I think I will enjoy.  I should congratulate you as well – the latest issue of New Mode had a few things I wish I had thought of.”


“I am sure you did think of them,” Pippa said as Joan brought the coffee in, and then went back out.


“The higher up have suggested I meet with each of the potential candidates before they do, and then we can compare thoughts, before deciding on who may be invited back for further interviews.”


“I wouldn’t have expected anything less – thank you,” Pippa said as Anna poured the coffee and handed her a cup.  “I have to confess, however, I was surprised to get the call.  I’m sure there are far more qualified editors out there – even within this building.”


“Don’t sell yourself so short,” Anna said with a smile before she sipped from her cup.  “Anyone who can turn a magazine round in the way you did at New Mode is worthy of respect.  I for one certainly think you would be qualified to do this job.”


Putting her cup down, she picked up a file and handed it to Pippa.  “You and the other people I am talking to are going to be in a privileged position – this is the mock up of the March issue, our New Faces edition.  Have a look through, please.”


Putting her own cup down, Pippa carefully opened the file and flipped through the pages, stopping to look at some of the shots.


“I have to say, I’d need to put something spectacular in New Mode to beat these,” she finally said.


“Slightly different audiences,” Anna said with a smile, “but that’s not the reason I wanted you to see it.  The decision is already made, but if it was up to you, who would you put on the cover?”


“I wouldn’t.”


Anna raised an eyebrow as she said “there are four or five girls there that are equally deserving of the honour of the cover – Trina, Mary, Charly, a couple of others.  My suggestion would be one of two things – both possibly a little out of left field for you.”


“Try me.”


“Possibility one – a cover that only has a wardrobe or a box on it, with a large ribbon tied round and a question mark, with the caption ‘Who is the Face of 2016?’”


Anna sipped her coffee again as she said “the other possibility?”


“Get Jack Linklater or John Hammond to do a special shot of all of them together.  That issue last year when Caroline Jameson broke out?  The picture of her and Karen Boyd with Alex Richmond was the perfect choice – it set the tone for the entire issue.”


Sipping her own coffee, Pippa watched Anna as she slowly nodded.


“Both interesting ideas,” she finally said, “but I really function as the school marm to the editorial team here.  What do you think of them?”


“The team?”  Pippa put her cup down as she said “honestly?”


“I would like an honest opinion?”


“If I was fortunate enough to be offered the position here,” Pippa said carefully, “I wouldn’t change any of them.  Seriously, Anna, having Mary Thomas as the Style Director and Juliette as the Fashion Editor is the cornerstone of one of the best teams out there.”


“So you could work with them?”


“I think I could – I’ve always believed in letting my staff run with their talents.”


“Are you aware of the nature of the contract we have with Juliette?”


“No – but I would imagine there is provision in there for her to run Huntingdown’s as well as her work here?”


Anna nodded.  “We have an agreement where she pays for the use of office space to run her business, as well as her paying some of the wages of her staff.  It has never interfered with her work for us.”


“I would be amazed if it did – but I would have no problem with accommodating that.  And Norstar?”


“Missy handles all that – Juliette is the majority shareholder, and her future sister-in-law Sigrid handles the tax side of that business.”


Anna saw the smile on Pippa’s lips.  “I take it you got an invitation as well?”


“Totally unexpected – but yes, I did.”


“Will you and Poppy attend?”


“I hope to – depending on the work situation.”


“Well, I will be going – and if I was you, I would make the arrangements as well.”


“Is Mary here today?”


“No – she’s on leave, visiting the old country.  I believe she was visiting Fiona MacKenzie today.”


“How is she?”


“The treatment has finished, now comes the wait.”  Anna finished her coffee, before she said “they’re expecting you upstairs in five minutes – is there anything you want to ask me?”



“Can I ask a really impertinent question?”


“Of course.”


Taking a deep breath, Pippa said “who can you see as your successor?”


“The right person,” Anna said with a smile, “after all, they would have to work under me as well.”  Standing up, she walked to the desk as Pippa stood and retrieved her bag.


“Joan?  Would you take Miss Ashley up to the board room please?”


As her assistant came in, Anna shook Pippa’s hand.  “I will say this – I am fairly certain we will be talking again, Phillipa.”


“Thank you, Anna,” Pippa said as she walked out, Anna returning to her desk.  A few minutes later, there was a knock on her door and Juliette came in.




Anna smiled and said “she nailed it.  Did John agree to do the shot?”


“He’s going to tell the girls tonight.  He’s also booked a flight out to San Fran to see Mary next week.”


“I really hope she impresses those who must be obeyed today,” Anna said, “because in my book, she’s perfect for the job.  Anyway – don’t you have a ball to get ready for?”


“See you on Monday,” Juliette said as she left Anna to her work.




6 pm

4th Avenue, the Ashley apartment


“Well, let me put it this way, Poppy – I’m not out of the race, but I’m not the only runner.”


Pippa was sitting in her favourite armchair, wearing jeans and an old jumper and holding a glass of wine in her hand.


"So what would the salary be Mom?" Poppy stretched as she lay on the couch.

"Quite a bit more than I earn currently,” Pippa said, “plus stock options, clothing and travel allowances."



"And you think they were impressed with you?"

"I wish I knew...”  Pippa sat forward and put the wine glass on the low table.  “It was easy enough talking with Mary, but so many of the corporate people are just glorified accountants who know nothing about fashion or even really how you put together a great magazine."

"Just like your current bosses."

"Exactly darling.  Before the big interview, I had a coffee with Anna Mitchell, and she tested me."


“Tested you?  How?”


“She showed me the mock up of their upcoming New Faces edition.  The main article has Abby de Ros working with some of the new crop of names that are coming through – the idea been to introduce the girls they may expect to see soon.”


“Would they normally do that?”


“Only if they trusted me not to tell anyone, and it was too late to change anything.  The test was to see who I would put on the front cover of the new faces.”


“So was there an obvious name?”


“Nope – and that’s the point.  You single one of those faces out, it’s no longer the New Faces issue – it’s the New Face issue.  So I offered a couple of suggestions to Anna – I wonder what they actually did do?”


“And then the big interview?”


“Oh yes – we went over my career, experience, how I would handle certain situations.  Standard corporate speak – and I think I acquitted myself well there.”


“I’m sure you did Mom,” Poppy said with a smile.  "So any hints on the competition?"

"Well,” Pippa said as she sat back, “we have Marie-France Erec.  She edits the French edition of Complete Style, and has that incredible chic that comes from several generations on French aristocracy..."

"Like Diana de Ros?"

"YES,” Pippa said, “except Marie-France is known as a mean ruthless bitch, unlike Diana who would not hurt a fly."


“What do you mean?”


“When I was a young model with Grace,” Pippa said, “we were hired to take part in a shoot celebrating Country chic for Vogue.  Marie-France was the sub editor at that time on the magazine, and had been dispatched to oversee the shoot.


“Well, she was an absolute bitch – ordering everyone round, poking in on everything.  She was lucky she didn’t get a right hook from Naomi Campbell the way she was talking.”


Yowzers,” Poppy said.  “She doesn’t sound a fun person.”


“She isn’t – and she really does not like one Juliette Huntingdown for beating her to a job at Complete Style a few years ago.  No love lost there.”

"Okay she's the internal candidate,” Poppy said, “who is the other?"

"Jim Chastain...”  Pippa picked up her glass again.  “He's done a bit of everything - male model, photographer, designer, writer, editor...He almost literally could do almost any job on the magazine."

"Where does he work currently?"

"In Los Angeles, he runs that Fashion television network your Aunt Jeanne works for, but word is he wants to get back into magazines."

"He sounds formidable?"

"Oh take it from me Poppy, he is VERY formidable.  Much as I hate to say it, he is a lot like I was until recently – holding grudges right, left and centre."


“Don’t tell me he holds a grudge against Aunt Ju as well.”


“Oh yes – mainly because he really tore into a young model one year, and that model was a close friend of hers.  Sandy Richmond.  So all three of them don’t exactly like him.”


“So what is the next stage?”


“If we are invited back for interview, it’s the whole day – and no warning of...”


The sound of the telephone ringing made both Poppy and Pippa look over, before Pippa stood up and walked over.


Pippa Ashley?


“Oh hello Mary, what can I do for you?


“I see – okay then, let me know when you wish to see me.  Thank you again Mary.”


“Well,” Poppy said as her mother put the phone down.


“I made it to stage two.  Now begins the fun.”



6 pm

The Richmond Mansion


"So Uncle Alex is bringing a guest Mom?"

"He is indeed,” Vanessa said as she adjusted the skirt of her gown, “the Kennedy girl had the misfortune to have her escort catch chicken-pox of all things, and I asked Glenda's grandson to stand in, so Glenda has extended her stay here in New York to take in the ball."

"Well I think Todd will make a lovely escort for Sharon." Heather said as she looked up.

"Especially in his dress uniform," Sands sighed, "the West Point cadets looked so special at New Years."

"That they did darling." Nessa smiled at her granddaughter. "I have to admit I've always thought there is something special about a man in uniform."

"And we finally get to meet your mysterious gentleman friend Mom," Sandy's eyes twinkled.


“Indeed – and on that note,” Vanessa said as John appeared, “I need to head to the ballroom.  I will see you all there later.”


“We look forward to it Mother,” Sandy said as she watched her mother walk out, the green silk shimmering as she walked.  “Right – I’m heading to the shower.”


“Sands, George – your father will be here soon.  Have you got your overnight bag ready?”


“Yes,” George called down as Sandy walked up the stairs.



6.15 pm

Hobart William Smith


In her dorm room, Jo had to stop herself laughing as she heard Carina curse under her breath, moving round in her undergarments.


“Honestly, Cari, this is the best comedy I have seen in a while,” she eventually said.


"Are you glad still you didn't take up Nessa's invitation to bring you out tonight Jo?"

"Oh more than you can know," she laughed as she saw Carina in the background of the video screen trying to find Abby's gloves that she had kept just for tonight.

"You prefer doing English Lit to dancing?"

"I prefer doing ANYTHING to all the fussing round you are doing." Jo laughed. "While you are curtseying and doing formal dances, just think of me tucked up in bed with a great book, a warm drink, and a smile on my face."

"BITCH!" Carina yelled.

"Yeah aint I a stinker!" Jo yelled back.


“Still, we’ll get you to a formal again one of these days,” Cari said as she held up the white kid gloves.  “So what are you studying for this class anyway?”


“Would you believe, War and Peace?”


“Okay, Smith, when I next see you...”




7 pm

The Waldorf Astoria


“Stop fussing,” Mick Harran called through from the bathroom, “I’m nearly ready...”


"Michael Treharran if you don't get your fucking arse in gear." Fiona stood impatiently waiting for her brother, tapping her foot under the skirts of her gown.

"Why sister dear,” he said as he came out, adjusting his bow tie, “such coarse language from a Roedean girl."

"You'll hear worse if you don't get a damn move on," Fi stared through her glasses. "Is that a stain on your shirt?"

"No just a piece of lint," Mick brushed it off.

"Is he presentable?" Olivia called out as she knocked on the door.

"Is he ever?" Fi called back.

"Come in Mother,” Mick said as he opened the door, “it's not as though I have anything you've never seen..."

"But not since you were a little boy." Olivia entered holding her gloves, and giving her son a quick once-over.

"Well do I pass inspection?" Mick said as he pulled his tail-coat on, and picked up his white gloves.

"Just about," Fiona growled, "honestly I don't see what millions of your fans really see in you."


“That must remain an eternal mystery, O radiant sister of mine,” Mick said as Charlie appeared in the doorway, “shall we?”


7.05 pm

The Rochermann Apartment


“May I say you look wonderful tonight,” Daniel Rochermann said as he watched Kelly putting on her pearls.


“You may – and I would thank you for it kind sir,” Kelly said as she stood up and allowed the skirt of her royal blue gown to fall to the floor.  Walking over, she adjusted his bow tie, and then kissed him gently on the lips.


“Now be honest with me, Kelly – did you ever think you would see this day?”


“Honestly?  No,” Kelly said as they walked down the stairs, to see Nell and Ally standing in the hallway, wearing mink stoles over the shoulders of their white gowns.  Both girls were wearing the same style of gown, with a wide shoulder band and floor length skirt, with their long gloves covering their arms to their elbows.


“Well now,” Daniel said as he looked at both of them, “I guess I am a double fortunate father.  I also get to do the father’s dance twice.  Your curtsy?”


The two girls dropped elegantly as they smiled at their parents.


“The Buffy McGeorge plan?”


“Avoid as much as possible, and where possible Ally and I stand on opposite ends of groups,” Nell said.


“All right,” Kelly said as she put on her own fur coat, “let’s show them who we are.”







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