Birthday Girl – Part 2
Friday 15th May
The Richmond Mansion
“Hey Carina, I don’t think we will get out today for a walk, this rain looks well set.” Heather looked up at the dark grey overhead clouds as she helped Cari bring the baby in from the car.
“I know, but what I have in mind to discuss probably means we have to stay inside anyway.”
“That sounds intriguing.” Heather said as she took Judith out of her rainsuit, while Cari took her coat off.
“Annie came up with an idea in bed last night…”
“I’ll bet she did.” Heather giggled.
“Not that sort of idea.” Cari laughed and blushed. “She reasoned what if our girl is putting into practice things she’s read about in online fiction?”
“Mmmm now that is smart thinking, life imitating art. I should have thought of that myself.”
“Well I thought we could maybe Google things and see what that produces.”
“Cari we need a far better search tool then Google…”
“And it just so happens you have one?”
“Now what gave you that idea…?” Heather laughed as she booted up her computer,
“Past experience – hello Jennifer, what are you drawing?”
“Yes,” Jennifer said as she scribbled on a piece of paper with some pencils.
“My search engine reaches parts of the Internet Google isn’t even aware exists. Not just the dark web, but all shades of it.”
“I’ll make coffee while you work…want one?”
“Please Cari, and make it strong I get the feeling some of this will churn even your stomach.”
“I’ll make sure it’s really strong,” Cari said. “But it would have to be something to shock me.”
Heather looked at the young woman, and shook her head as she typed in the search terms based on the crime scene report.
FBI Field Office
“Jan,” Adam said as he looked up, “have you seen these two murder reports from the last week?”
“I’ve seen them,” Jan said, “Whoever this is, she makes the Pussycats look like Sunday school teachers.”
“I agree – at first I thought it was one of them gone rogue, but this goes to a new level of viciousness.”
“What is,” Tom said as he came back from the coffee machine.
“These sex murders – the two victims were tortured, and then had their throats cut before their apartments were set on fire."
“Let me see that,” Tom said as he picked up the file, and looked through it.
“Something wrong, Tom?”
“Hmmm. No, nothing, mind if I borrow this for a little while?”
“Knock yourself out,” Adam said as he looked at Tom, then at Janice as he walked into his office, closing the door behind him.
“What was that all about?”
“Search me,” Janice said as she looked at the closed door.
The Richmond Mansion
Carina stared at the screen, hardly believing what she was reading.
“Pardon me, but some of this is absolutely foul, and as a practitioner of the black art, I’m not sure half of it is even possible.” She said as she shook her head.
“This is downright disgusting…”
“It’s not medically possible, she would have long since killed him.” Carina looked horrified, “I never ever thought I’d hear myself utter these words, but there are some real sick bastards out there.”
“Well other than learning the depths of depravity that our minds can create, are you seeing anything that sets a bell ringing in your head Cari?”
“There are several stories in which virtually every element is present, Can you find out who the writers were, and get locations Heather?”
“With my housework, etc, it might take me a few hours, but yeah I can probably trace these back to their source,”
“Good and hopefully something in the names and locations might mean something to one of us.”
“I need to cleanse my mind – have you any idea what Jo and the other girls are planning?”
“Nope – she’s keeping things very close to her chest. Have you heard anything?”
“Only that she got ahold of the Alumni list for some reason…”
The Huntingdown Apartment
The doorman looked up to see a slim brunette, wearing a red leather jacket over a grey v-necked jumper and grey slacks, looking at him.
“I’m here to meet Miss Juliette Huntingdown,” she said as she fidgeted with her shoulder bag.
“You must be Miss Bronheimer,” he said with a smile, “go right up.”
“Thanks,” Alexis said as she walked to the lift and got in, nervously humming to herself as the lift took her up, and she stepped out. Walking down the corridor, she stopped and knocked on one door.
“Hi Alexis." Janine greeted
her colleague as she opened the door to Juliette's apartment.
Alexis walked in, taking off her jacket as she did
so. Looking at Janine, she whispered
"Why did she want me to come here?"
"She'll tell you." Janine said as she
ushered her into the drawing room.
"Wow,” Alexis said as she looked round the room, “you
have an amazing apartment Miss... Sorry Juliette."
"Thank you Alexis,” Juliette said as she
indicated the couch across the coffee table from her, “I thought it was the
best place to hold our little chat."
"Okay." Alexis looked round as Janine gave her
a glass of wine.
"Now how have things been going Alexis?"
"I think I’m doing alright Juliette,” Alexis said nervously. “I mean, I know I made a few mistakes, but I got them sorted out - I think."
"You did." Juliette glanced at her notes.
"Well I hope I did." Alexis looked downwards
"Are you enjoying the work?"
Alexis smiled broadly.
"Even the long and odd hours, and the different
"Well I knew that was what was involved going
"Now Janine has written me a detailed report, and
I've read it closely." Juliette paused. "She has brought a couple of
things to my attention..."
"Oh!" Alexis fidgeted.
"A couple of them are complimentary,
another few were things I needed to think upon.”
"I hope they weren't too bad." Alexis
whispered as she looked at Janine.
"Juliette asked me for complete honesty."
"Oh, so you won't be keeping me on?" Alexis
Sitting back, Juliette looked at the young woman
before she said "What gave you that idea?"
"Oh,” Alexis said quietly as she looked at both
of them, “I thought...ummmm"
"If I was reassigning you I'd have done it at the
office Alexis...Bringing you into my home, I am welcoming you into my extended
"You mean I got it?"
"Of course you did." Janine laughed and hugged her assistant all at once.
“Not that there are not things you need to change and do differently,” Janine said as she took another sheath of papers from the table, “but that’s part of the learning process. Get Janine to tell you about the time she almost lost the entire lead feature of the issue.”
“What’s important is you learn from the mistakes and move on,” Janine said.
“Now, fair warning – the assistant of my associate Catherine Lo is coming in four weeks to spend some time in the city, working on contracts with me for Huntingdown Silks. She will also spend time in the office, so the three of you need to work as a unit on that one. You and Janine need to start coordinating with her now.”
“You’ll like Marina – she’s a fun person,” Janine said with a smile.
“We’ll work up a development plan for you as well, but for now, take this contract and read it, then sign and return to HR.” Sitting back down, Juliette said “by the way, Alexis, you never told me what you do in your spare time.”
“Oh – well, I practice my writing. Short stories, meditations – maybe one day I’ll get published, but I’m a long way off that yet.”
“Well, trust me – practice makes perfect.”
“Nobody home baby,” Carina said as she took Judith out of her rain suit. “Would you like a drink and a little snack, yes you would wouldn’t you?”
Judith laughed and smiled as Carina picked her up and rubbed her tummy with her head, and then walked to the kitchen. As she passed the phone, it started to ring, so she picked it up and said “Huntingdown residence.”
"Cari I found another
site that might interest you?" Heather spoke.
"Oh," Carina cradled the phone against her
shoulder as she put her daughter into her high chair.
"It's a site for a group that call themselves
Daughters of the Ripper. It's a combination of sickos
and genuine Ripper enthusiasts trying to work out who he was."
"And I'll be interested why?"
"I'm not going to say - just go look at some of
the names and aliases of members...I e-mailed you the link."
"Okay I'll get online Heather."
"Phone me back as soon as you've looked."
Putting the phone down, Cari made sure her daughter was secured in, and then fetched a bottle and a biscuit, handing the latter to her and putting the former on the tray, before she fetched her laptop.
“Now then,” she said as she started the coffee maker, and then booted up her machine, “let’s see what Aunt Heather has found for Mommy, shall we?”
She soon found the e-mail and opened the link, squirming slightly at the front page before she looked on the forums.
“Original that isn’t,” she muttered, and then one name in particular caught her eye. She rubbed her chin for a moment, and then clicked on the red text, a profile coming up.
“Oh merciful goddess,” she whispered, before she picked the phone back up.
“It’s a joke, right?”
“I wish it was Cari – and she’s not the only one. The girls are coming for coffee – keep looking – I’ll talk to you later.”
Upper West Side
Susan and Clint’s Apartment
“It’s good of you to invite us over, Susan,” Adam said as he escorted Jan and Kathleen in. “Who else is coming tonight?”
“Well you know Penny and Charlotte of course,” Susan said as they came into the lounge, “and Shirley and Sandy will be here soon with their partners.”
“Something smells nice anyway,” Jan said as she sat down, “so what culinary delight are you treating us to tonight?”
“Alright, on the menu for tonight is Toad in the Hole, followed by Spotted Dick.”
Susan laughed at the expression on her American friends faces. “For those of you who don’t know what they are, Toad in the Hole is sausages cooked inside a Yorkshire Pudding, while Spotted Dick is a steamed suet pudding stuffed with currants.”
“Is Clint cooking those?” asked Adam.
“No, Mum and Aunt Maeve are cooking, Clint’s helping and learning.”
“Adam I remember both from my childhood.” Katherine patted him reassuringly on the leg, “trust me they are good.”
“Well if you say so…are the sausages pork?” Adam looked for a way out.
“Yes, but since I’ve seen you eat pork chops Adam Ball, you can’t plead Kosher to back out.” Jan laughed at her boyfriend.
“Look at it as an adventure.” Susan smiled as she handed out glasses of wine and then went to greet their other guests.
“I have to admit, I was scared stiff the first time I was offered them.” Charlotte remarked.
“You should have seen her face I said I was serving her Spotted Dick.” Penny giggled at the memory, “but she actually now makes it herself.”
“Clint is making two different custards in a bit to serve with it.” Maeve came in to fill up her wine glass.
“And knowing Adam is a custard fiend, I think we just talked him into trying it.” Janice replied.
“Alright, I know when I’m beaten.”
“Beaten at what, Adam,” Shirley asked as she and John came in.
“Susan was just describing the menu for tonight,” Penny said as Sandy and John Jacobs joined them, taking a glass of wine from Susan.
“Oh – and that would be?”
“Toad in the Hole and Spotted Dick?”
“With proper beef gravy?”
“Of course,” Maeve said as she nodded to Shirley.
“Good – it needs a proper gravy,” Sandy said. “I still remember when Shirley tried to make it one day, and got the recipe slightly wrong.”
“To be fair,” Shirley said, “it was a mistake to make it with Lincolnshire sausage – and to make the batter mix as if I was doing pancakes. But at least the mashed potato was all right that night.”
“Thanks to Mr. Marks and Mr. Spencer,” Sandy said with a smile. “God, when was that?”
“It would have been about – oh, 1989 I think.”
“Well it reminds me of school days.” John Hammond laughed to himself, “Though any food is usually better then what we ate at Eton.”
“I’ll guarantee Winchester was worse,” the other John said as he shook his head.
“I never knew you were a Wykehamist John?”
“Yes,” John smiled to himself, “Though I’m not sure the school counts me as one of its leading old boys, as Eton does you.”
“The last thing we need are two public school boys trying to be modest.” Shirley intervened.
“As an outsider can I say I think you’ve both had interesting lives.” Adam sipped his drink.
“Exactly,” Shirley said in a decisive tone, “so we will have no false modesty tonight.”
“She has spoken, we must obey,” John Hammond said as he held his hands up in surrender.
“Alright folks, as a starter this is my take on Welsh Rarebit.” Clint said as he came in, carrying plates of toast covered in melted cheese as everyone took their place at the table.
“Oh Lord this is good.” Sandy said as she tasted a slice, “a dash of Worcester sauce?”
“And?” Clint replied.
“Oregano certainly.” Shirley looked up.
“Just a hint of Dijon mustard.” Katherine finished a bit and reached for another.
“You got it.” Clint looked happily at everyone eating.
“What beer did you use Clint?”
“There’s a microbrewery nearby that does an excellent Dark Ale.”
“My compliments to the brewer,” John Jacobs said as they sat round and talked.
“Alright I don’t know if it’s the company, or the food, but this has to be one of the nicest meals I’ve had in years.” John Jacobs said as he leaned back in his chair.
“It’s just a pleasure to hear you all laugh so much.” Susan said as she sipped her brandy, “Especially you Mum.”
“Oh.” Rose blushed. “I’m just glad Maeve and me got a chance to thank all of you.”
“I definitely think we have to say a thank you to our cooks for tonight for such a lovely meal.” Shirley spoke.
“Indeed we do, Ladies and Gentlemen, Rose, Maeve and Clint.” John Hammond raised his glass.
“Rose, Maeve and Clint!”
“So where is your new flat Rose?” Sandy asked.
“Well I’m saying it’s Enfield, but that’s only because Southgate sounds a bit posh.”
“That’s a nice area though.”
“It’s only three or four miles from Tottenham but compared to my old place it’s like another world.”
“And have you got a job lined up?”
“Thanks to Juliette, I’m going to be teaching sewing at the local university to fashion students…me of all people teaching at a university.” Rose shook her head.
“Well skills like you were trained in Rose need to be kept alive.” John Jacobs looked across the table, “I think it sounds like a round peg in a round hole.”
“Well I am looking forward to it.”
“I’m happy for you Rose,” Katherine looked down the table, “You can show us pictures of the new place when you come over for the christening.”
“As to who are to be April’s godparents?” Asked Shirley.
“Well after much soul searching, we’ve decided to ask Penny, Marina, Abigail and David.” Clint answered.
“And I’m glad to say they all accepted.” Susan smiled broadly.
“I hear Marina is doing very well in her new job,” Penny said.
“Indeed – I spoke with Catherine yesterday, and she is very impressed.”
“So you will return to the UK on Sunday, Maeve?”
“That’s right, then come out at the end of June for the christening. What about you John?”
“I fly back on Tuesday – I have some business to conclude here first. A rather nice piece of Shaker furniture that would suit a client. I need to arrange transport and so on.”
“So have you always worked in antiques John,” Kathleen asked.
“In one capacity or another, yes,” John said as Shirley and Sandy looked at each other. “After Winchester, I was apprenticed to a dealer, and learned the trade from the bottom up.”
Rose sipped her tea and looked at Susan for a moment, indicating the kitchen.
“Excuse me a moment – need to check the coffee machine,” Susan said as she stood up, Rose following her.
“You want to ask about Marina, right?”
“Yeah – has she, you know…”
“Turned over a new leaf? She has mum – she works as an assistant for a client of ours in Hong Kong now. She got a second chance as well.”
Rose nodded, and said “good – we all deserve second chances, don’t we?”
“Yeah we do mum,” Susan said as they hugged each other.
“Want a hand with the coffee?”
“Please John,” Susan said as she dried her eyes, “I’ll make some fresh tea for mum.”
The Richmond Mansion
“Mum’s keeping an eye on Judith,” Carina said as she slipped her coat off, “where’s Sandy and Jo?”
“Jo’s upstairs doing some work, and Sandy went to see Tonia to discuss a project. We’ve got the place to ourselves.”
“Good – I really don’t want them knowing about this yet,” Carina said as they went into the kitchen, and Heather put the coffee on.
“So, the Daughters of the Ripper?”
Carina nodded, before she said “I shouldn’t have been surprised to see that name as Mary Kelly, but still – her knowledge is amazing.”
“I guess that’s what happens when you’re the wife of a FBI AD, but I have to admit, when I saw Gale Callaghan’s name come up, I almost choked. She does seem to know the full gory details of the original crimes as well.”
“I guess the question is, could she be responsible for these crimes?”
“Well, they moved here from Nebraska, didn’t they? Maybe Jan knows what Tom was working on before he came here.”
“I’ll tell you what surprised me – seeing Maureen Gardiner as a recent joiner.”
“StudentOfAbelaine? I know – she asked a lot of questions about the psychology of a criminal, and some of the crimes of the past.”
“Last night we asked Valeria about possible descendants, but she wasn’t sure. Two possibilities, and then there is the legend of The Blood Princess – she may have sired two children, but nothing has even been proven.”
“So some avenues to explore?”
Heather nodded. “One other name cropped up – HellDaughter.”
“I missed the one, who was it?”
“Sharon Kennedy – and she is reported missing from Philadelphia. Apparently she has family in NY.”
“And we saw she has the right tendency when we called,” Carina said, “but would she be a killer?”
“Well, three to consider – want two more names?”
“Oh yes – when I ran the checks, many were just nut jobs, but two – the two that matched most closely – want the names?”
“Go on – nothing could shock me anymore.”
“Alexis Bronheimer and Emma Cromwell.”
Carina had a mug of coffee in her hand as Heather said that, but she slowly lowered it. “Emma Cromwell? As in soon to be wife of Madeline Moore Emma Cromwell.”
“Yup – she has a definite flair in her writing, and she is very detailed.”
“Well, we can rule her out of the NY killings –she was with Maddie and Penny all Saturday night, and she flew back with Maddie on Monday. A phone call should confirm she was there. Who’s this Alexis Bronheimer?”
“An English graduate – I can find out where she works now easily enough.”
Carina sat back. “So we have four possible contenders – can you work up profiles I can go through with Great Aunt Natalya?”
“Not before Monday – we’re away tomorrow. But you can talk with her about what you know.”
“We can also do some family trees for the four we know – dig a little way. Heather, thanks – I know this could not have been easy for you.”
“Wish I could have been more detailed, but…”
“Come on – let’s leave this now. Get Jo down and let’s watch a film.”
Saturday 16th May
The Richmond Mansion
Fifth Avenue had seen many sights, but this particular occasion had a bit more of an unusual nature around it. There was a cluster of cars parked near the mansion, but parked outside the front door was a large RV, Sandy’s car parked beside it, and Diana stood in the doorway, watching with amused detachment the chaos around her.
“Anyone needs us, we can drive home quickly.” Sandy looked round as the convoy formed up outside her home.
“We know darling.” Diana waved, “You guys just have fun down there.”
“It’s only practice,” Jan called out as she hustled Katy and her mother into the RV, “but I think this will tell us just how we will run in the race.”
“A little less haste please.” Katherine complained as she looked at her daughter, “some of us are not fast movers.”
“That’s not what Papa says,” Diana whispered to Sandy, making her burst out laughing.”
“Henri, Jeanne, the mechanics and the car are already on their way.” Clint said as he kissed Susan goodbye. “What are you ladies going to be doing this weekend?”
“Helping Mum and Maeve back, but Caroline and Annie are coming round tonight.”
“Roy and Tonia will meet us down there.” Heather shouted as she looked up from her cellphone.
“Have we forgotten anyone or anything?” Sandy shouted out.
“The kitchen sink maybe?”
“It’s in the RV Diana,” laughed Heather.
“I just checked the refrigerator,” little Sandy poked her head out of the door of the RV, “we might need more supplies.”
“Well you and Katy make a list and we will stop along the way.” Sandy climbed into her car.
“Okay Pocono here we come.” Heather yelled out as she took the driver’s seat in the RV.
“We will see you late tomorrow night.” Jan kissed Adam before she climbed in next to Sandy.
“We know.” Susan waved.
“Alright wagons roll!” Sandy yelled as the convoy moved out into traffic.
“Well,” Adam said as they disappeared in the traffic, “I need to get going. I have some business to deal with. Can I give you a lift Diana?”
“Thank you, but I need to collect Abigail. She has a commitment to fulfill at Saks today.”
“Well, I’ll see you tomorrow then,” Adam said as he went back to his car.
“Are they gone,” Jo said as she looked out.
“Yes, ma cherie,” Diana said, “Why?”
“Good,” was all Jo said as she took her cell phone out. “Suzie? We’re a go – pick up Kathy and come round to my place. I’ll expect you all at eleven.”
“Something amusing my love?” John asked as he wandered into the kitchen in his dressing gown.
“Yes,” Shirley said as she looked up from her cell phone, “Diana sent me a story and pictures of the chaos as the team got ready to leave this morning.”
“Oh I bet they virtually stopped traffic on the avenue.” John smiled as he leaned over and kissed his lover good morning.
“There’s coffee in the pot, and fresh croissants from The Bakery.”
“Perfect Saturday morning fare.” John replied as he sat down and started to scan the newspapers.
“There was another one of those grizzly murders in The Bronx last night.” Shirley slipped her glasses back on and glanced at the Daily News.
“Adam was talking to me about them last night. It’s not an FBI matter, but he has a certain professional interest.”
“What was his opinion John?”
“That there is a psychopath out there who won’t stop until she’s caught.”
“I think I tend to agree.” Shirley sipped her coffee, and then said “I wonder what young Joanne and her boyfriend would make of it?”
“They’d say leave it to the professionals,” John said as he looked at her. “On a more cheerful note, Tom seems to have made an impression on the Immigration debate in the House of Representatives.”
“I read the story in the Times,” Shirley sipped a coffee. “He’s just what is needed in Washington right now, a voice speaking good common sense.”
“Oh on that I agree totally. You know at home I always regarded myself as a moderate conservative…”
“One of Maggie’s notorious wets?” Shirley teased.
“Exactly, but the centre in politics over here is so far to the right, without changing my views I become virtually an extreme liberal.”
“I know, I’m in a similar position.”
“Talking of positions, where did you learn that one we tried…”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Shirley giggled and kissed her man.
The Waldorf Hotel
“So where is Uncle Wilhelm today – surely you haven’t knocked him out for the whole day,” Carina said as she joined Natalya in the coffee shop.
“No, nothing so prosaic – Roy invited him to go to the racetrack with him and Henri today, and he gladly accepted.”
“So we have the day to ourselves – well?”
“I have been looking at the website you identified Carina,” Natalya said as she stirred her coffee, “and I must say it shocked even me at the level of depravity some people can create in their own minds.”
“Well Aunt Natalya, it leaves us with some possibilities to at least check. Any ideas as to how?”
“What plans do you have for today?”
“I was going swimming with the girls.”
“Cancel it please, I think we maybe need observe some of these people and try and look for any signs.”
“Signs? Are there signs that reveal one is a sadistic, homicidal maniac, if there was the police would have apprehended us all years ago.”
“Carina dear, you forget she who is inside you. It is she not you who needs do the observation. Let her follow her instincts.”
“Okay I get that…I think…but she can’t always sense this…surely?”
“You sensed me didn’t you? Just as I sensed you.”
“That’s true.” Carina acknowledged.
“Let us first see if we can maybe track down this missing girl from Philadelphia.”
“Any particular reason?”
“We know where we can find Mrs. Callaghan and Mrs. Gardiner, they can wait. It is these other two we must locate and urgently.”
“Well, we can head back to the apartment – Mum’s out at a meeting today, and Judith is with Judy and David, so we’ll have the place to ourselves.”
Natalya nodded as Carina dialed a number on her cell phone. “Holly? Can you give my apologies to the others – something’s come up and I can’t make it today…”
The Vanderbilt YMCA, E 47th Street
“Holly, be honest - can you swim in those without them coming off?” Nell asked as the statuesque little blonde came to poolside.
“What’s the problem?” Holly squinted as she looked down at her tiny blue bikini.
“If you don’t know I’m not going to explain.” Ally giggled.
“So where is everyone?” asked Holly.
“Well Bobbi and Becca are here somewhere,” Nell looked round. “Caroline is dropping off Ama, Maisha, Doc and the others in a few minutes…”
“Abby has a personal appearance down town, and House and Jeans are going for a drive out on the Island.” Ally finished.
“Okay that sounds good.” Holly dived elegantly into the water and started to do some lengths as Bobbi and Becca came in
“No Jo or Carina?”
“Cari rang me to tell you she’s sorry – something came up,” Holly said as she swam back.
“And as for Joanne Smith,” Ally said, “she only told me there was something she had to finalize today.”
“Hey. Hey, the gang’s here,” Doc said as she and the other girls came in. “Anyone up for going to the Farmer Street market when we’re done here?”
“What is this market,” Maisha said as she slipped into the water.
“A collection of stalls and shops – plus good food,” Ama said as she dived in. “You will enjoy it.”
The Huntingdown Apartment
As Carina got out of the car, she said “I’d better check for mail before we go up,” Natalya nodding as they took the elevator to the first floor.
“Hello Duncan,” Carina said as she got out of the lift and walked to the front desk, “anything for us?”
“I do indeed have your mail, Carina – I’ll just go and get it,” the doorman said as he went to the back office. As she turned to talk to her great aunt, she saw the lift doors open and two familiar young women walk out – but she had to work fast to hide her recognition of one of them.
“Hey Cari – I heard you were back for the long break,” Kathy des Moines said as she kissed her, “who’s this?”
“Oh this – this is my great aunt Natalya. Great Aunt, this is Katherine des Moines, Kathy to her friends.”
“A pleasure,” Natalya said as she shook Kathy’s hand before she looked at the other girl, and then at Cari.
“Oh – sorry, my manners,” Kathy said with a smile. “This is my cousin Sharon Kennedy – she’s been staying with us for the last week. Sharon, this is Carina Huntingdown – she was a year above me at St Angela’s, and lives two floors above us.”
“Hi,” Sharon said as she looked at the two women, her head to one side. “Have I seen you somewhere before?”
“Probably in the magazines – Cari is the model for Ilux Glasses, and her mom is Juliette Huntingdown, the fashion writer.”
“Oh yes – you were both in the mother and daughter issue. I remember now.”
“Sharon, Suzie’s waiting for me. Are you going to be all right?”
“Of course I am – I’ll go shopping, and then head back here. Go – I’ll see you later.”
“Later, Cari,” Kathy said as the two girls walked out, Natalya looking at her great niece as they stepped into the lift, and then went up to the apartment.
“Well who’d have thunk it?” Carina shook her head as she closed the door. “She was in the same apartment block all week?”
“I take it you know her relations?”
“Yes, I’ve known Kathy des Moines since we were both small children. She’s a year younger then I am.”
“Des Moines, now where do I know that name from? Where?”
“It’s a city in Iowa?”
“No, this is back in my childhood…Would you happen to have an Almanach de Gotha?”
“I think Mom has in her library… Why?”
“Something I need to look at…”
“This way,” Cari said as they went into the book lined room, and she found the book in question, handing it to her aunt as she sat down.
“Hmmm.” Natalya started flipping pages and reading. “Carina I may be a while…”
“I’ll go make coffee…Turkish?”
A few minutes later, when Cari brought the coffee cups in, she saw aunt deep in concentration.
“Here’s your coffee aunt,” she said as she placed the cup on a coaster, “Anything?”
“Yes I believe so. I think the des Moines family here in America descends from what was originally a family from Alsace on the borders of France and Germany, that moved to the Netherlands before a branch settled here in America.”
“Okay, but that is important why?”
“Because if you trace through a couple of female ancestors, you come to the name von Furstenburg…”
“NO SHIT!” Carina yelled out.
“As you so colloquially put it dear niece, both Miss des Moines and her cousin are distant relations of ours.”
Carina sat down and sipped her coffee. “I’m prepared to swear that Kathy is not one of us.”
“As am I – but her cousin, the one in our list… There is something about her, like a baby awakening.”
“What do you mean, Aunt?”
“I am not sure, I would like to see more of her, do you feel anything?”
“There is something, but I’m not sure what – so yes, I think we need to see her some more.”
“I could call down – ask her if she wanted to come round later for a coffee, with Kathy?”
“Any idea where Kathy may have gone?”
“She said she was meeting Suzie – so yeah, I know exactly where she’s gone. Right now, we need to track down this Alexis Bronheimer. Let’s start by looking at her profile on the site…”
As Carina went to boot up her laptop, Natalya kept reading the reference book, humming to herself.
“Here we go – her profile page on the story site,” she said as she handed it to Natalya, “all it says is she is now based in New York.”
“Hmm – the story she wrote called ‘Moonlight Mayhem’ does bear a great resemblance to what you described of your own escapade – at the very least, she is thorough in her research.”
Carina nodded as the telephone rang. “Excuse me a moment,” she said as she went to answer the phone.
“Cari? I thought you were going swimming?”
“Oh hi Mom – no something came up. How’s the meeting?”
“Overrunning – listen, I left my notes on the New Stars article in my office. Could you run them down to me?”
Carina looked at her desk, and picked up a file. “Got them – I can be there in twenty. Great Aunt Natalya is here – do you mind if she comes as well?”
“No – Cari, what’s going on?”
“I’ll tell you later Mom – see you in a little while.”
“Is there a problem, Carina,” Natalya said as she looked up.
“No – would you come with me for a moment? I need to head down to Complete Style with these.”
“Of course – I must admit, I am curious to see where your mother holds domain,” Natalya said as she set her cup down. “It could be educational.”
Complete Style Magazine
“Hey Cari,” Janine said as she saw the two women walk in, “what brings you down here today?”
“Mom left these notes at home,” Cari said as Natalya looked round, “can you get them to her?”
“I can’t, but I know who can. Alexis?”
“Yeah Janine,” the brunette said as she came out of the store cupboard, both Cari and Natalya stopping as they saw her.
“Alexis, this is Carina, Juliette’s daughter. Cari, Alexis Bronheimer, my new assistant.”
“Pleasure,” Alexis said as she shook Carina’s hand, “and this is…”
“Oh sorry – this is my Great Aunt, Countess Natalya von Buchenwald.”
Alexis nodded as she looked closely at both of them.
“Can you take these to the conference room please, Alexis – Ju’s expecting them.”
“Sure,” Alexis said as she took the file and headed out of the area.
“How long has she worked here, Janine?”
“As my assistant? Just over a month, but she’s been here since February. Why?”
“Curiosity, nothing more. Do you mind if I show my aunt round?”
“Sure – knock yourself out. I need to get these to the wizard,” Janine said as she left the room.
“You felt it as well, didn’t you,” Carina said as she looked at her aunt.
“Oh yes,” Natalya said, “she called to both of us, and I think we called to her. She is one we need to talk to on an even level.”
Farmer’s Street Market
“Haven’t you ever been to one of the London outdoor markets Maisha?” Bobbi asked as they strolled round.
“Bobs and I had a look at Camden Lock market while we there last summer.” Becca looked up from inspecting some jewellery.
“Aunt Shirley has taken me to the market in Greenwich, when we visited the Cutty Sark there – and with our move to Chelsea, I have visited some farmers markets, but this is different,” Maisha said. She picked up a pair of earrings and held them to her ears, looking at herself in the mirror, before she started to talk to the vendor.
“That place is Hippy heaven, so much tie died stuff.”
“Don’t forget all the punk stuff Bobs.” Becca reminded her.
“Alright what incredible thing did you find to buy this time Ama?” Becca asked as her friend came smiling towards them.
“Just these,” Ama pulled out a pair of stonewashed Levis, “and I only paid five bucks.”
“You what?” asked Becca as she shook her head. “Every magazine is predicting these are this year’s must have jeans, and trust you to find a vintage pair and pay virtually nothing for it.”
“Did she show you?” Holly asked as she wandered over, her glasses perched on her nose.
“She did…I should know better, next time I’m just going to walk round with Ama.” Becca smiled.
“Anyone else find any prizes?” Nell asked as she joined the group.
“I found some vintage magazines for Jeans, but precious little for myself.” Nikki looked in her bag.
“Well I got some really funky old platform shoes from the 70’s,” Pepsi looked into Nikki’s bag, “perfect for the 70’s disco at school.”
“If you don’t break your leg trying to walk in them.” Holly checked them out. “God they are HORRIBLE!”
“Aren’t they just?” Pepsi giggled. “I heard Mom talking about the clothes my grandmother used to wear – quite different.”
“Would you like to come to the disco, Maisha,” Nikki said, “I know it’s meant to be for us only, but I’m sure Annie wouldn’t object.”
“Thank you – I look forward to it,” Maisha said, “I have an idea for an outfit, and hopefully I will be able to find all I will need.”
“Anyone else need sandwiches?” Little Sandy yelled from the RV.
“We’re fine Sandy,” the pit crew shouted back.
“I’ll have more.” George shouted.
“YOU can get your own brother.” Sandy smiled as she turned.
“Well Henri, I think we finally have a couple of set-ups worked out for different track conditions.” Clint mumbled as he eagerly ate his food.
“It looks like it.” Henri wiped his hands clean with a rag, and took a sandwich from the plate.
“If the girls can do qualifying laps like they’ve been running today, we should be well up in class on the grid.”
“If being the operative word, you know as well as I do the pressures of qualifying.” Henri watched as Jeanne parked the car.
“So what are you two worrying about?” Sandy came in from outside the garage.
“Qualifying next week.”
“That’s been worrying me as well.” Sandy sat down on a blanket on the ground.
“Sandy I know it’s your…”
“It’s OUR car Henri, and I know I’m probably not the best driver to do qualifying.” Sandy collected her thoughts. “For a short burst of laps I think Jeanne has to do the driving.”
“Me…but why?” Jeanne came over and picked up a drink and a sandwich.
“Because you’ve done probably more qualifying laps when you raced karts then Jan has on the oval, and I never have. So I think you are the right person.”
“What’s your opinion Jan?” Clint asked as she and Heather brought some fresh water bottles in.
“I agree with Sandy, I’d love to do it, but I think Jeanne is best equipped.”
“I know it’s a six hour race, but we don’t want to give too much time to rivals before the race even starts by being at the back of the grid.” Sandy looked up at Jeanne, “so you are nominated Princess.”
“Well if you all agree.”
“We do.” Sandy and Jan replied together.
“How is the tech looking Heather?” asked Clint.
“It looks good to me, but I’m not an expert on the minutiae of racing cars. You’ll tell me when you look.”
“I’ve placed the orders for tires, etc.” Henri looked up, “we will have everything we are allowed by the rules.”
“We still haven’t nominated a spotter though.” Clint chugged a bottle of water.
“How about me?” Tonia asked.
“You know what a spotter does Ton?” asked Sandy.
“Stands up on the top of the grandstand and acts as your eyes as to what the other drivers are doing…I watch NASCAR races sometimes,” she smiled.
“Well we do need someone.” Henri mused. “Why don’t we try in practice in the morning and see how it works?”
“Gran says who needs more?” Katy came into the garage from the RV.
“I do.” George shouted.
“She meant those doing the real work, you can get your own George.” Katy cast a contemptuous look at the boy.
“You look like a proper racing team guys, tired and dirty.” Mario Andretti put his read round the garage door.
“Well we are getting there Mario.” Henri shook hands. “By the way can I introduce Roy and Tonia Razinski, Roy is one of our sponsors, Tonia will be spotting for us we hope.”
“It’s nice to meet you.” Mario shook hands.
“And you, I’m a fan.” Roy looked impressed.
“So are you all practicing tomorrow?”
“As much as we can.” Sandy spoke. “By the way what’s the weather forecast?”
“Hot and sunny.”
“Alright another set of conditions to master ladies.” Henri looked at the three drivers.
“Are you out with Dan tonight?” Annie said as she looked up from grading exam papers.
“I am.” Caroline came out in a cerise cocktail dress.
“Not in that I hope, not your colour at all.”
“I know,” Caroline sighed, “But he’s seen so much of my wardrobe already.”
“You know for a supermodel you own relatively few outfits.”
“I know, but I’ve always kept it that way so I could pack easily to make a hasty exit if I needed to.”
“Well now you are settled and a mom, I really think it’s time we went shopping. It’s not like you can’t afford new things.”
“I guess, for tonight though what do I wear?” Caroline made a face at herself in the mirror.
“Try a sweater and your white pants, smart but casual.”
“It’s an idea.” Caroline dived back into her bedroom.
“So no closer to a decision?”
“Nope, Dan is brilliant, witty, fun, but Dominic is charming, and urbane, and we know a lot of the same people.”
“I can see the problem…plus from the noises they both sound great in bed.” Annie laughed.
“You can hear?” Caroline looked slightly shameful as Annie nodded.
“Good thing the cops will hopefully never arrest you Dom, because you’ll never cum quietly.”
Caroline looked back out of the door and shook her head. “That joke was old when Benny Hill used it,” she laughed as Ama came back in with Pepsi. “Did you have a good day, Ama?”
“I did – but I need your help to complete the outfit for the dance on Friday. What please are platform soles?”
“Oh lord,” Annie said as she shook her head, “hell does indeed return…”
The Huntingdown Apartment
Carina looked to the door as she heard the knock.
“Ready,” she said as she looked at Natalya.
“As ready as we will ever be,” her aunt said as she opened the door. “Hey, Kathy,” she said as she opened the door, “come in, both of you.”
“Thanks, Cari,” Kathy said as she and Sharon came in, “how’s life free from Yale?”
“I’m enjoying the first days of my freedom – but you’ve only got three weeks yourself,” Cari said as Natalya stood up. “May I introduce Countess Natalya von Buchenwald, my great aunt.”
“A pleasure ladies,” Natalya said as she shook their hands, “please, take a seat and I shall, to use the phrase, play mother.”
“Thank you,” Sharon said as she sat down and looked round. “Some apartment Carina.”
“I know – I grew up in it though, so I have a habit of taking it for granted.”
“I know the feeling,” Kathy said as she accepted a cup of coffee.
“So where are you going come the end of the summer Kathy?”
“MIT – I’m going to be reading system engineering.”
“And what of you Sharon,” Natalya said as she handed the young girl a coffee.
“No, I’m only a junior at the moment,” Sharon said quietly, “I had an – experience recently, and I needed to get away from home for a while.”
“That sounds ominous,” Carina, said as she sat back, “what happened?”
“Have you heard of the Pussycat Gang, Madame,” Sharon said as she looked at Natalya.
“Indeed – their reputation has reached us in Bavaria,” Natalya said. “Were you unfortunate enough to encounter them?”
“We were – a few weeks ago. My step-mother was killed by them, and my father was overcome with grief. I felt I had to leave for a while – give us both space.”
“If what you saw is on the lines of the reports, I’m not surprised,” Carina said quietly, “are you the only child?”
“No – I have a younger brother and sister, but they were kept out of the way. Dad – Dad needs to look after them more than me.”
“You know that’s not true, Sharon,” Kathy said. “He loves all of you – he’s just having a hard time showing it.”
“Well, he needs to show me it,” Sharon said as her brow darkened, Carina and Natalya looking at each other.
“Sharon,” Natalya said softly, “grief does strange things to people, and anger is one of the emotions you can feel.”
“Well, I am angry,” Sharon said, “but I use that to keep me going.”
“Anyway,” Carina said as she sipped her coffee, “are you going to be any more open that Jo as to the fund raising event this year, Kathy?”
“Oh no,” Kathy said as she shook her head, “Jo and Suzie have sworn me to secrecy. After last year, we need this to be spectacular.”
“Oh – what happened last year,” Sharon asked.
“Well,” Carina said with a blush, “we kidnapped the principal and held her to ransom. Raised nearly forty thousand on the day, and had it doubled a week later.”
“A radical idea, but obviously you raised a good amount for charity,” Natalya said. “Also a rather dramatic idea to try and follow.”
“Yeah – we left you a stinker there, didn’t we?”
“This is exceptional coffee,” Sharon said, “where do you get it from?”
“Sorry – if I told you, I’d have to kill you,” Carina said with a smile, watching Sharon’s reaction. The young girl smiled and nodded as Kathy said “Cari, do you mind if I…”
“Sure – you know the way don’t you?”
Kathy nodded as she headed upstairs, Natalya putting her cup down and leaning forward. “Sharon, may I ask a question you may not want to answer?”
“Well, if I don’t answer it, what will that tell you?”
“Good answer – I was directed in some genealogical research to a site called the Daughters of the Ripper, and I saw a Sharon Kennedy listed as a recent member. That would not be you, would it?”
Sharon put her cup down and paused as she said “I… I know of the site, and I have been in some discussion there recently. My recent – experience led me to question a few things about myself, and I thought I may get some answers there.”
“And did you,” Carina asked.
“Most of them are idiots and posers,” Sharon said, “but a few got into serious discussion. They helped me get a few things straight in my mind.”
“It must be some heavy issues if they were able to help you, given the subject and the content of some of the discussions,” Natalya said quietly.
“Madame,” Sharon said, “May I ask a serious question?”
“You called me Madame – may I ask why?”
“Because I think you deserve the respect,” Sharon said quietly. “What did you think of the discussions?”
“I found them – heavy going, but they are obviously passionate about their interests and loves,” Natalya said with a smile. “Are you?”
“Very much so, as are my friends,” Sharon said as Kathy came back in. “Sharon, Mom just rang – your dad called, he’s worried sick.”
“Good,” Sharon said quietly.
“Sharon,” Carina said, “I know I have no right to say this, but you should talk to your father, to at least let him know you are all right.”
Sharon nodded as she said “I guess I should – can I do it from your place Kathy?”
“Of course,” Kathy said as she put her hand on her cousin’s arm, “you can do it now if you want.”
“Thanks – it’s been a pleasure to meet both of you.”
“I hope we get a chance to talk again,” Carina said as she showed them out, and then turned to look at Natalya.
"Well aunt?" Carina asked.
"She has it within her, and the anger might have
released a beast."
"But you and I it occurred at puberty,
"Well all rules are made to be broken my dear, Miss
Sharon might be an exception?"
"I guess so,” Carina said as she sat down, “so
what do we do?"
"We watch and observe all four women, and we
learn if the sadism is still just in their heads, or if they are putting
it into practice."
"I need to find out Gale's maiden name I guess,
see if she is related to us as well."
"I suspect you'll find it was Hildestochter."
"Is that a guess?"
"Yes, but I think an informed one."
Daughters of Hilde?"
"Okay now explain the why?"
Natalya sipped her coffee, and said "What was the
Blood Princesses name?"
don't mean she really did have daughters?"
"I do, and the reason I'm guessing this is
because I know for a fact that descendants came to the American Mid-West."
"Damn, I'll ask my friend if she can find their
marriage certificate online."
"You do that please Carina." Natalya stood up and collected her coat. “For now, I must return to Wilhelm – he does worry when I am not around.”
“So you do believe it is one of them?”
“Oh yes,” Natalya said, “but I must arrange to meet the other three. We will talk tomorrow.”
“Allow me to show you out,” Carina said as she went to the door. As Natalya went out, she said “your friend Annie – she is not of our line, but she has her own beast in her. You are very well matched.”
Carina watched as she walked to the elevator, shaking her head before she closed the door.
Going to her computer, she opened it and went onto the secure network.
“Penny? I need a favour…”
Sunday 17th May
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Good morning,” Klaus said as Natalya and Wilhelm came in, “Ingrid will be down in a few minutes, and Carina and Juliette are with Judith.”
“We have time,” Wilhelm said as Carina looked up. “It will not take that long to get to St Martha’s will it?”
“No of course not,” Juliette said as she put the little jacket on Judith.
“Does anyone want a drink,” Carina said as she went to the kitchen.
“May I trouble you for some water,” Natalya said as she followed her in.
“Here,” Carina said as she poured some water from the filter into a glass and handed it over.
Well what did you find out Carina?" asked Natalya.
"You were wrong, her surname was Brenner."
"Well that does surprise me, I was sure..."
"My friend did some deeper digging though, and it
turns out that Gale's mother is a Hildestochter."
"Ah! Well I was out by one generation, but it
does make her a viable candidate, as yet another distant relative."
"I also asked my friend to dig into Alexis'
"Let me guess...another Hildestochter?"
"No, but she did find a Dutch family called van Wildenburg."
"Oh yes, Wildenburg
being where the Blood Princess was confined."
"I'm thinking not, just as you are dear niece."
Carina nodded. “That leaves Maureen Gardiner. We are having dinner with Vanessa after mass – perhaps she can throw some light on her?”
“I agree – do we have an address for Alexis?”
“I got it from mom’s records.”
“Good – we should look more into her tonight.”
“Okay Jeanne, you have eight other cars out on the track.” Tonia spoke from the spotter’s position.
“Roger that Tonia.” Jeanne started weaving to warm the tires up. “Tell me when I’m coming up on traffic and how much please.”
“These are the soft compound tires darling.” Henri came on line, “we need to know about how many laps before they start to go off.”
“Roger that Papa.”
“Okay Tonia coming up on the yellow 22 car he’s slowing down.” Tonia looked through the binoculars.
“I see him.”
“You’ll also pass the red Alfa before you cross the line again, he’s been up on the sand trap, so watch out for some small debris as you come out of the next bend.”
“Okay looks like a clear track for a couple of laps Jeanne,” Tonia reported over the com.
“Alright, I’ll open up and see how she goes.
“Check the telemetry.” Henri shouted in Heather’s ear.
“Looking good.” Heather held a thumb up.
“Jeanne watch out, that fuckin’ a-hole in the Mazda spun in turn 4, you’ll need to slow to pass him.”
“She sounds like she’s been doing this for years.” Jan whispered in Sandy’s ear.
“Well she has the salty language certainly.” Henri smiled as Sandy watched her swerve to go round the Mazda and drive past.
“Well apart from revealing my wife’s command of parts of the English language that I thought she didn’t even know.” Roy asked, “How did you think that went guys?”
“Not bad, but those new soft compounds go off quicker then they used to.” Clint stroked his chin, “I was having a few words up and down the pits and everyone agrees.”
“I got plenty of grip on that hot track for the first few laps with them, then I started sliding round.” Sandy said as she sipped her water.
“I saw you using plenty of the curb in places.” Tonia shook her hair out. “You all were.”
“I think you have to.” Jeanne looked up from the printout she was reading.
“We are going to need keep an eye on those temperatures, she was getting a bit hot towards the end there.” Henri sat down next to Heather at the computers.
“I’ll strip her down with the boys so she’s ready for qualifying on Saturday.” Clint joined the group at the table
“I think we are ready for virtually everything the track and the weather can throw at us.” Jan dipped into a box of chocolate bars Katy was bringing round.
“Just remember racing is a whole different kettle of fish.” Henri warned.
“I’d better copy the start list and learn the cars and numbers.” Tonia picked up a document.
“We just need to operate as we have been…as a team.” Sandy raised her water bottle. “From Katy and little Sandy, to the boys, to Henri and Clint, well to everyone on the team, can I say on behalf of us drivers…THANK YOU for your amazing hard work, and for helping make a dream come true.”
“The team!” everyone made a toast with water bottles.
Vanessa Richmond’s apartment
“Thank you for coming,” Nessa said as she showed Juliette, Klaus and the rest of the family through, “you know Gus and Paulie, but I also invited Tom and Gale Callaghan to join us today. I thought it would give us the chance to get to know each other better.”
“A pleasure to meet you again,” Klaus said as he shook Tom’s hand.
“And you sir,” Tom said, “it was good of Vanessa…”
“Nessa, Tom, when I’m home its Nessa now.”
“Sorry – Nessa to invite us. After the unfortunate business at Curragh, we have got to know her quite well.”
“So are we the complete company for lunch,” Wilhelm said as he looked round.
“Not quite – but here come my last guests now,” Nessa said as Maria brought Shirley and John through.
“Thank you for inviting us,” Shirley said, “Maisha has joined Lily and George for the day, and sends her apologies.”
“That’s all right,” Nessa said, “we may be a little old for her anyway. Maria, would you serve the drinks please.”
“Yes, Miss Richmond,” the maid said as she went to the drinks cabinet, and poured some glasses of wine.
“So when do you return to the UK, Shirley,” Paulie asked as they all sat down.
“Next Wednesday – I have some business appointments, but I wanted to let you all know that, if you can find your way to be in London in August, we both hope to have a housewarming party for our new home there.”
“Sounds wonderful,” Nessa said, “let me know when. It’s been years since I’ve been in England – even in the summer.”
“Well, we will send the invitations out in due course,” John said with a smile.
“By the way, I had a lovely e-mail from Blair,” Paulie said as she looked round the room. “She sent your friend John Jacobs some of her sketches Shirley, and he took the time to write her back with a good honest critique.”
“John will always tell you his opinion.” Shirley said as she drank some wine.
“Well Blair liked the fact that he didn’t just tell her what was good but what was bad, and what needed working on.”
“I think John was impressed with her passion for her subject Paulie.”
“He should either teach, or write a book, he shouldn’t keep his lifetime of knowledge just to himself.”
“That’s an interesting thought Paulie dear.” Shirley said as she played with her glasses a second. “I think I might pass that along to him.”
“What was that you were discussing Paulie?” Carina asked.
“We were talking about Shirley’s Uncle John, and I was saying he ought to either teach, or write a book.”
“Oh I agree, Blair was raving about him in an e-mail.”
“I got one of those as well.” Paulie smiled.
“So Gale what do you do with yourself while your husband works?” Natalya asked.
“Oh I ride, I write a bit, I shop, and I lunch now with the girls.” Gale smiled.
“Oh what do you write? Anything interesting?”
“Not really, just some fiction I put online.”
“I’d be interested in reading it, you should send me a link by e-mail.”
“Oh I’m sure it would just bore you Natalya, it’s not very good.”
“Well I’d still like to look.”
“Very well then,” she said as she took a pen and paper from her bag and wrote it, the pen in her left hand, “there you go.”
“Thank you,” Natalya said with a smile as Tom joined Gus, Alex, Wilhelm and John.
“So how are things at the office, Tom – at least those things you can talk about,” Wilhelm said as she sat with his head to one side.”
“It’s quiet at the moment, for which I’m grateful,” Tom said as he carefully swirled the wine in his glass. “After the last few months, we could all use the down time I think.”
“I always meant to ask, Tom – what brought you to New York from the idyll of Nebraska?”
“You’ve obviously never been there during tornado season, Gus,” Tom said with a laugh. “No, it was promotion – when I made Assistant Director, I was posted here.”
“Bit of a change for you and Gale, I would imagine.”
“Not for me, Alex – I grew up in Baltimore. I was posted to Arkansas during my army days, and met Gale there, so when I left and joined the Bureau I stayed. A bit more of a wrench for her, leaving her family there, but she settled quickly enough.”
He looked over at his wife and smiled, but something in his eye made Carina look at both of them.
“Lunch is ready Miss Richmond,” Maria said as she came in.
“Excellent – I hope you’re all hungry,” Nessa said as she stood up and they followed her in, Carina placing Judith in the high chair before she sat next to her.
“And how is the youngest member of the family today,” Paulie said as she looked across the table.
“Curious,” Juliette said as she watched Judith look round the room, and then take a biscuit from Carina’s hand before she sucked on it. “She’s also starting to pull herself round the furniture, so we really need to keep an eye on her now.”
“It’s wonderful to see how much she’s grown,” Nessa said, “and I’m glad she and Jennifer are getting on so well.”
“Indeed,” John said with a smile, “and I see she had already made her official debut as a model.”
“Well, she did that sunglasses shoot with me, but I didn’t think they had used any of those photos,” Carina said as she looked at John, and then at Shirley. “All right, what have I not seen today that I should have?”
“Do you happen to have today’s Times, Nessa?” John said.
“In the front room, why?”
“Excuse me a moment,” John said as he left the table, and then returned, showing Carina one of the inside pages. It showed her carrying Judith on the beach, smiling as the caption read “Rayban. When you need to see the beauty clearly.”
“Nice picture,” Ingrid said as she looked at it. “And Judith is a real cutie as well.”
“I’m glad they went for one where I had something more than a bikini on for that ad,” Carina said quietly, “but I didn’t know this was running already.”
“Does it upset you, dear,” Natalya said as she looked over.
“No – I’m actually very proud of Judith here,” Carina said as she kissed her daughter’s forehead.
“Consider it a start on her college fund,” Alex said as the food was brought in, and he stood to carve the lamb.
As Carina watched Gale, she allowed the Beast to see through her eyes for a moment. Watching the way Gale looked round the table, at first she could not see anything unusual, but then she saw the way she looked at Tom – a passionate, fierce look of possession and pride.
She looked over at Natalya, who nodded to show she had seen it as well, and then both of them saw Gale turn and look at Klaus.
“Oh – sorry mom, miles away,” Carina said as she accepted the plate, the beast subsiding as she took the bowl from Maria and started to feed Judith as well.
“You know Carina and her Great Aunt are up to something Juliette?” Shirley whispered to her friend.
“I know,” Juliette said quietly, “and I’m not sure what. They are certainly keeping it secret from me.”
“No, Carina promised me that it wasn’t her.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Hmmm I wonder what they are up to?” Shirley pursed her lips. Something was out of kilter, and from within that sense that needed her to be in charge of everything so it didn’t rise up and hurt her was asserting itself.
“I’ll try get Cari on her own and get her to tell me.” Juliette looked hard at her daughter, looking hard at Gale Callaghan. Something was definitely going on.
“Ladies, perhaps you will join me for coffee in the drawing room while the men talk,” Nessa said as she put her napkin on the table and stood up.
As the men gathered at one end of the table, the ladies moved through, Paulie talking to Gale as they made their way through. Before she came in, Carina grimaced and said “Diaper change – excuse me for a moment,” picking up the changing bag from the hallway before she went into the large bathroom.
“Oh my little one, you needed that, didn’t you, yes you did,” Carina said as she removed the soiled nappy and bagged it, then wiped Judith’s bottom before she put on a clean one and re-arranged her dress.
As the door opened and closed, she turned to see Natalya locking it, and then looking round.
“We are alone?”
“Yeah - Aunt Natalya, I think we need let Mom in on this.”
“And why might that be?”
“Because we have more than two suspects and we could do with some fresh eyes and legs working on all this.”
“I’m sorry,” Natalya said, “I am so used to working in the shadows, I sometimes forget it can take more than one or two. Even with such well placed friends as yours Carina.”
“Well Mom works pretty well in the shadows as well. She knows just what the creature inside me is and does, and she has and never will betray my secret. We need to talk to her and bring her in.”
“I very much agree.” Juliette spoke softly from behind them. Both women turned in shock, and then saw the open door to the actual toilet.
“Always check who is in the room, NEVER just make sure no one follows you in. I heard you both talking – but I wanted to talk to you both anyway.”
“I can guess what about,” Carina said, “and I’m sorry I didn’t come to you sooner Mom.”
“You know what I am Juliette?” asked Natalya.
“Does it trouble you?”
“A little, but I have nurtured and protected my own daughter, I can accept what you both are.”
“You are definitely not the woman I first met in Paris,” Natalya said as she looked at her, “you have become stronger, harder, yet you maintain the face of an angel.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment. Now, what have you been up to these last few days?”
“Well,” Carina said as she picked up Judith, “these killings over the last week or so. You know it’s not me, and Natalya says it’s not her, but the resemblance was too close for us not to enquire further.”
“We believe these Bronx killings are the work of another, probably another descendant of her.”
“The Blood Princess?” Juliette enquired of Natalya.
“Yes. The legend of the illegitimate children, for example, is true – Wilhelm does not know it, and I will not tell him, but they took the name Hildestochter.”
“Alright,” Juliette said as she folded her arms, “go on please.”
“We have traced 4 suspects via a Jack the Ripper website Mom that has fiction that matches closely this woman’s work.”
“Alright, that I understand…Who are they?”
“Gale Callaghan is one….” Natalya spoke.
“Another is your new assistant Alexis Mom.”
“Frau Gardiner is a third, and the fourth is a cousin of a girl in your building.”
Juliette looked at both of them, before she said “How sure are you of this?”
“That they are descendants of her? We met this Alexis briefly yesterday, and we could both tell. The cousin – Sharon I think you said her name was Carina – has the spark, and Gale has too. As for Frau Gardiner – I need to meet her personally.”
“Join me for lunch tomorrow with the ladies – she will be there,” Juliette said. “As for Alexis – she’s technically Janine’s assistant, not mine. But – you need to show me the writings.”
“We can show you, but you may not enjoy it,” Carina said quietly.
“Show me anyway – now, come on, we need to join the others before Alex calls time.”
The Huntingdown Apartment
Juliette removed her glasses and looked at Carina, as Judith sat in her play seat.
“My god – I thought we had a vicious streak, but… How much of that is actually possible?”
“Not too much fortunately – and there is actually some quite scholarly discussion there, but it’s the fiction that drew our attention. Now do you see how we narrowed it down?”
“I can – and I should say it’s not possible, but then I look at you and Natalya…”
“That’s why we thought we had to find this woman – if she is one of them. Their family history all show the connection, and we know this thing skips generations, but…”
“What do you intend to do if you catch this woman Cari?” her mother asked.
“It depends who she is I guess,” Carina said as she removed and cleaned her glasses, “but I am pretty sure she has to be either stopped or helped.”
“Even though you are far worse yourself darling?”
“Mom I’m not making any moral judgments, but she’s taking risks and she might jeopardize others.”
“Will you kill her?”
“Only if nothing else works Mom, but she’s a loose cannon, and I for one don’t need more publicity about serial killers.”
“So how do you help then?”
“I still don’t know…anything I do will need be cleared with the group, but Aunt Natalya may have her own ideas.”
“Shirley wants to help you know?”
“She does? Well I’ll admit having Madame helping would please me.”
“But we cannot reveal her identity to your aunt.”
“No it’s bad enough she knows something of you and Annie Mom.”
“I agree – but she has access to resources we don’t.” Juliette sat back and closed her eyes. “Gale Callaghan – she knows a lot about the ripper, I grant you, and you say she is one generation removed?”
Carina nodded as she looked at her mother.
“Maureen Gardiner – why her?”
“You know she’s related to Hughson?”
“The man who hurt Nessa? She’s his daughter, but I don’t see the connection?”
“Natalya pointed out there may be a family connection – something about the branch that went to Holland.
Juliette nodded before she said “now, the girl here in the building?”
“It’s Sharon, you know the bankers daughter from the Philadelphia job.”
“Oh Goddess another complication.”
“I know Mom, if we can just eliminate some people till we find our culprit, then we can get rid of a lot of these problems.”
“Well I’ll take Natalya to lunch with the girls tomorrow, see what her senses tell her.”
“Good, and I’ll round up Jo to visit Alexis’ place tonight – see if we can find anything.”
The Richmond Mansion
“I’ll be with you in half an hour,” Jo said to Carina as she removed her jacket, “I need to get something sorted first.”
“Take your time, Jo – I need to talk to Heather first,” Carina said as she went into the kitchen, closing the door behind her.
“You have your four suspects, I hear – now what?”
“Now we make them nervous – did you do it?”
“Okay Cari, I’ve established an untraceable identity to post on the Daughters of the Ripper site.” Heather looked up, “You know most of this you can do yourself, you aren’t at all bad with computers.”
“I know, but I feel safer with you doing it.”
“Well what do you want to tell all these maybes and wannabees?”
“Just listen and write it as she tells you please Heather,” Carina closed her eyes and took some deep breaths, before opening them again, Heather seeing the change in her eyes.
“Alright – title. The true description of the Christmas Eve killing by one who was there.”
“Oh Good Grief Cari” Heather shook her head as she typed the title, and then looked at her.
“I want to address those of you who are interested in the murder, on Christmas Eve 2013, of a man in Manhattan. In particular, someone out there appears to have been inspired by it to commit their own murders. Well, I know all about it. Let me tell you what happened that night – what really happened.”
Heather started typing, blanching as she added the details. Used as she was to her friend’s savagery, even she felt appalled at some of the minutiae of her attack on the man that night.
“This will prove my bona fides to the one of you out there who is killing to my inspiration. Let it be known that I am coming for you and will find and apprehend you.”
“Damn, I think knowing you were on my trail might make me jump as well Cari.”
“Add please, I know you are a left handed person, those of you who are right-handed have nothing to fear from me.”
“So you are hoping you scare someone into making a move?”
“And if they do, we are ready to chase and capture.”
Carina closed her eyes and took another deep breath, before opening them again. “Goddess – she told you didn’t she?”
“Oh yes – every detail, down for posterity. Are you sure you want this posted?”
“No – but this is only one step,” Carina said as she clicked on the Submit button.
"Heather the other thing, all four women carry cellphones - can you use your gizmo to track the gps signal, also get a list of the calls they've made."
"I can do that Cari, just let me add a few bits of equipment to this array and I'll be good to go."
"Okay while you do that, I'll make coffee."
Carina disappeared into the kitchen, returning with two mugs and handing one to Heather as she plugged some devices in.
“Right then – this screen is running your post, see who responds, and these four devices here will tell me not only where Sharon, Alexis, Gale and Maureen are at any time, they’ll keep a phone record.”
“Great – when do we go live?”
“We just did – Sharon, Gale and Maureen are at home, and Alexis is working late at CS.” Heather pointed to the screen, and the city map with four blinking lights.
“Ready when you are,” Jo said as she looked in the room.
“Any responses so far?”
“Not yet – put this in your ear.” Heather handed Cari an earpiece, and said “I’ll keep you posted.”
“Gotcha – and thanks. Right Jo – we may only have a little while. Let’s do this.”
“Small place,” Jo said as she and Cari slipped inside, “You can tell she’s a junior.”
“Let’s do this as quickly as we can,” Cari said as she made her way into the front room, Jo following as she looked around.
"Well her bookshelf certainly reveals a taste for
the macabre." Jo looked at titles, "Stuff on the Ripper, Bathory, The Blood Princess, Son of Sam, The
Green River Murders."
"You'd think she was the criminologist eh?" Cari shone her flashlight on the girl’s desk.
“Well, if they were serious tomes, yes – some of these are, but not all. What have you got there?”
“Bills, invoices – and a fan letter believe it or not.”
“Oh – any idea who from?”
“It’s not signed, but it’s effusive about the praise for her attention to detail and style of writing.”
“Cari, it’s Heather – she’s on the move. I reckon you have fifteen minutes.”
“Gotcha – Jo, we’re on the clock. Let’s check the bedroom.”
The two girls went in and searched carefully through the wardrobe and drawers.
“She likes to wear wigs – various styles and colours here,” Jo said as she looked in one drawer.
“We need to go – before she gets back in,” Cari said as she took one look round, and then looked more closely in the corner.
“What is it,” Jo said as she looked over.
“Large brown shoulder bag – empty for now. We could do with more time, but we haven’t got any – come on.”
Five minutes later, both girls watched from Jo’s car as Alexis walked past them.
“Thanks – I think we got what we wanted.”
“Tell you later – can you drop me at home?”
Monday 18th May
The Huntingdown Apartment
"How many people have read the post so far
Heather?" Carina said as she juggled the phone and a wriggling Judith.
"Over 300 hits."
"Already? Any from our suspects?"
"Yes, do you want me to tell you the whens?"
“First up, you need to know the raging debate is whether or not this is genuine.”
“Good – I like the idea of doubt in the general readership. But the four we’re interested in?”
“Okay – first response was from Gale at about twelve last night – she posted a very detailed discussion of the veracity of some of the points. You may want to look at it some time.”
“Okay – wonder what Tom was doing at that time?”
“Not sure – Sharon looked at it at seven this morning, no response. Ditto Alexis. Maureen is looking at it now?”
“And current locations for all three?”
“Alexis is at CS, the others at home. One thing you might like to know – Sharon called her father this morning. Seems he’s agreed to her staying here until the weekend.”
“Well, that’s one worry less – Jo told me she’s coming to the prom on Friday. Hopefully.”
“Right – are you coming over later?”
“Yeah – be there for eleven.”
The Tavern on the Green
“Nessa, Paulie, I’m glad you could both make it,” Juliette said as she stood up and kissed both of them.
“Not a problem – we wanted to see everyone anyway,” Paulie said as she sat down.
“I hope you don’t mind, but I invited Maureen Gardiner to join us Nessa. I felt it was time we all got to know her as well.”
“Not a problem – I was going to invite her to one of our lunches anyway,” Nessa said as she saw Maureen arrive, Gale Callaghan walking in with her.
“Hi – thanks for inviting me,” Maureen said as they both sat down, followed by Jan and Claire Morse.
“So how was your weekend, Claire,” Nessa said as she sat down.
“Absolutely divine – Tom’s found an apartment that is nice, and I got to know it very well.”
“I can imagine,” Jan said as Sandy, Diana and Rachel McNally joined them.
“Where’s Tonia today?” Rachel said as they perused the menu.
“Working – she’s playing an important role for us at the weekend.”
“Ah yes – the race. Wilhelm and I are looking forward to coming.”
“Natalya – you made it,” Juliette said. “I think you know most of us, but this is Maureen Gardiner. Maureen, this is Countess Natalya von Buchenwald, Carina’s great aunt on her father’s side.”
“A pleasure,” Maureen said as the two of them looked at each other.
“Well, let’s order then,” Juliette said as she looked round, the conversation turning to small talk and gossip.
Natalya watched Gale and Maureen carefully, letting her inner beast loose for a moment to watch. She could see the fire in both of them, burning brightly, but they held it in check. For a moment, she considered a guarded prod, but then realised with too many innocents here, it was too dangerous.
“So when do you return to Germany Natalya?”
She sighed as she returned her focus to the group. “A week on Monday – Ingrid and Klaus will fly back with us, in preparation for the visit of Carina and Annie in a few weeks.”
“Oh Sandy before I forget, Mom may have found George a nanny through her friends at the Daughters of Erin.” Jan spoke up.
“She’s New York Irish, but she’s got a degree and training from Norland College, the famous nanny school in London.”
“A Norland nanny? I’ll almost tell George to take her sight unseen just by their reputation.”
“I have to say she sounds perfect.”
“Any chance of her coming over to see George at my place…Say Thursday?”
“I’ll get Mom to ask.”
“Well if you have found him a nanny Jan,” Rachel McNally broke in, “The rest of us should find him a new wife…Oh Sorry Mrs. Gardiner.” Rachel realized what she had said, “I know it’s been only…”
“I understand Rachel, and I’m just glad George has friends so concerned about him.”
“There,” Natalya thought as she looked at Maureen, “there she is. What caused that?”
“Forgive me for asking,” she said quietly, “but what happened to upset this George?”
“His wife… My daughter… Killed herself at a weekend party over Easter. I know he took it hard, and we certainly did.”
“I am sorry – I did not mean to intrude on your grief…”
“It’s all right Natalya – we have to move on at some point, and I have started to do so.”
Glancing at Gale, she saw the fire in her eyes as well. “So is grief your trigger too,” she said to herself as the lunch party continued.
The Huntingdown Apartment
“So we’re resolved? We need to track all four of them tonight and if one of them makes a move, take her down?”
“I believe we have no option,” Shirley said as she sipped her coffee. “Heather is tracking them?”
“She is – she’ll move her equipment over here for the evening, and Jo’s coming over to keep an eye on Judith.”
“Penny and I will join you – she, out of all of us, is best equipped to understand who this person is, and I wish to see this threat removed and dealt with in the best way possible.”
Carina nodded. “Funny, isn’t it – three of the biggest psychos we know out to track a rogue psycho and take her down?”
“Sometimes, the principal of it takes a thief to catch a thief holds true. I trust we and Heather will use the voice modifiers?”
“Correct – and we all go armed. Which reminds me.” Juliette stood up and carried over a wooden box.
"Dominique has sent these over Carina
"What are they?”
“Tranquilizer guns,” Juliette said as she opened the lid and took one out. “If we are going to capture this person, and not kill them, everyone will need to have one of these as well as a real gun."
She took out the guns and laid them on the table to check.
"Whoever it is, they are tranquilized then taken
to the farm, we can debrief and work out just what we
do next better out there."
"I agree Mom. We’ll need to blindfold Natalya – she’ll want to be in on the discussions.”
“I know – your job at the time will be to persuade her to allow that to happen,” Juliette said.
“So is Sandy running a book on this?”
Juliette looked at Shirley and nodded grimly. “Yes - she has Gale Callaghan as favorite."
“I personally am not so sure, but with luck, tonight we shall see.” Putting her cup down and standing up, Shirley said “We will be here for seven thirty.”
The Huntingdown Apartment
The others nodded as Carina went to the apartment door, opening it to allow Natalya to come in. She was wearing a short black wig, leather jacket and trousers, but even she was astounded at the women waiting for her.
Juliette and Annie were wearing brown leather bomber jackets and jeans, as well as long brown wigs, but it was the three other women in the room. All three were wearing black embroidered leather jackets, fastened up to the neck, short leather skirts, sheer hose and high heels, as well as leather gloves on their hands and black leather caps, but it was the heavy veil covering their faces that intrigued her most of all.
“In my career,” Juliette said as Carina came over, “I have had to deal with some less than honest characters, as you might imagine Natalya. I take you into my confidence with two of them tonight. May I present The Hidden Hand, and Madame X.”
Two of the three veiled women bowed slightly as Natalya looked at them. “I have heard of you both – the world’s most wanted hacker, and a great lady of crime. I am honoured you would seek to help Carina and I with this.”
“It meets our own wishes as well,” Madame said, “my regret is that Miss Huntingdown felt it necessary to call us in. This must be a grave issue indeed.”
“Most grave – there is a woman out there, taking lives, who must be stopped and helped if possible.”
“My associate, The Soldier,” Madame said as she indicated the third woman. “She is one of my top operatives, and has a special skill set that will assist us here.”
Natalya nodded as she said “so, the plan?”
"Okay I'm saying we institute tails and tracking." Carina looked up at the three heavily veiled women in the room with Juliette, Annie, and her Great Aunt. “With the help of the Hand, we have a system that has been tracking the four suspects all day. We will take one each, and follow them – and fi it looks like one of them is making a move, we congregate on her and silence her with these.”
Juliette handed out the tranquilizer guns, each of them checking them in turn.
“We also go armed, but use only as a last resort – I want to talk to this person myself, woman to woman.”
“If she is found and neutralized, I will bring a vehicle to collect her, and we will take her to a facility I maintain out of town to discuss her fate,” Madame said. “You will all come, but you must be blindfolded – for security reasons.”
“Acceptable,” Natalya said with a smile.
“The Hand will co-ordinate communications, Madame X
will liaise with all of us. The Soldier, Annie, me and you aunt Natalya will be
the ground troops."
Penny smiled inwardly; it would have amused her father to hear her described as a soldier.
"Mom, you will plug any gaps. Codenames – Annie, you are Tinker, Mom Tailor, me Sailor. Aunt Natalya, you are Rich Man."
“Here,” The Hand purred as she handed Natalya an earpiece and a throat mike. “This runs on a secure network of my devising – discretion guaranteed.”
As Natalya fitted the devices, The Hand continued. “Gale Callaghan is currently at home. Soldier, you have the co-ordinates – go.”
As The Soldier left, The Hand turned to Annie. “You have Alexis Bronheimer. She is currently at the offices of Complete Style.”
“On my way,” Annie said as she kissed Carina, and then left.
“Maureen Gardiner is currently visiting George Graham at his apartment.”
“I’ll take her,” Carina said as she zipped her black leather jacket up, and headed out.
“I’m going to cruise the Bronx in the van.”
“May I have a lift there then,” Natalya said, “I have a suspicion as to where she is finding her victims, and wish to make my way there. If I am wrong, and she is out tonight, I will at least be in the right vicinity.”
Madame nodded as she left with Natalya.
“Finally, Sharon – she’s attending a film at the moment with Kathy des Moines. I suggest you catch half the showing.”
“On my way,” Juliette said as Heather removed her veil and unzipped her jacket.
“Okay, what’s really going on,” Jo said as she came down with Judith.
“Pray to the Goddess it’s a wild goose chase,” Heather said as she put her headset on.
“This is Tinker – mark has just returned home, and is entering the apartment.”
“Confirm that Tinker – keep in touch.”
“Soldier here – all quiet on the Callaghan front.”
“Good – confirm she is still there…”
“Poor man here – Rich man has been let loose.”
“Copy that – she’ll report in when she’s ready. How are the streets?”
“Busy as usual.”
“Sailor here – mark has left the Graham apartment, and is getting into a taxi. Following her.”
“Roger that Sailor - I have her on track. Tailor?”
“God save me from teenage movies,” Juliette groaned, “but mark is within line of sight.”
“Endure, Tailor,” Heather said with a smile.
“This is Soldier. Mark is on the move, I repeat mark is on the move. She’s in a taxi and heading up town.”
Heather looked at her computer as the blinking light headed up the screen. “Confirm Soldier, stay in touch.”
“This is Sailor. Mark is heading across town, I guess towards their city home.”
“Soldier, do you have visual?”
“Okay she’s in a taxi heading north on Fifth, we are just getting to the outskirts of Harlem.”
“Roger that soldier.” Heather watched the tracer on her computer.
“The assistant is also on the move,” Annie came over the con. “She’s just getting in her car.”
“Roger that tinker.”
“All looking quiet here.” Juliette reported.
“Roger that tailor.”
“And here as well.”
“Roger that sailor.”
“Mark just entered her apartment block.”
“Well I am ready and waiting in the bar.” Natalya did her com check.
“Copy that Rich Man.”
“Assistant is heading towards the Bronx as well, by the looks of things,” Annie said.
“Copy that Tinker – let me know when she stops, and then follow on foot.”
“Tailor here – target is on the move, and getting into a taxi. Following in second one.”
“Understood Tailor,” Heather said quietly.
“Sailor here – mark has left building on foot, catching a cab now.”
“Understood – all four on the move,” Heather said as she looked at the map on her screen, all four lights heading towards the Bronx…
Annie parked her car in a side street and followed Alexis on foot, staying back as she made her way down of the less welcoming side streets of the area, and then into a bar. Swallowing hard, she opened the door and walked in, getting glances from some of the men as she closed the door behind her.
“This place looks and feel sinister,” she whispered as she looked round, “I’ll admit I’m frightened.”
“Tinker release her, release the creature who carved up that guy.” Carina urged.
“I’m trying sailor, but it’s not as easy for me, I need to get angry first.”
“Go drink for what passes as good whiskey in a place like that, if that doesn’t make you angry, then nothing will.”
“Thank you for the suggestion soldier.” Annie giggled to herself as she walked to the bar.
“What will it be sister,” the bartender said as he came over.
“Two fingers of your best rye – straight up,” Annie said, looking out of the corner of her eye as Alexis sat in a booth, putting her large brown shoulder bag by her. She took the glass from the barman and took a swig, then choked as she put her glass down.
“Where the hell was that brewed Mac – under someone’s armpit?”
“Hey, you don’t like it, go elsewhere.”
“Did I say I didn’t? Another two fingers.”
“Atta girl,” Cari said as she watched Maureen Gardiner get out of the cab, and head through a set of double doors.
The Soldier followed her mark as she went into a bar and sat in the side booth, lighting up a cigarette as she looked round the room.
Sitting at the bar, in a place where she could see her in a mirror, she signaled to the woman. “Jack Daniels on the rocks,” she said, smiling as she kept her vigil.
“Thanks mac,” Sharon said as she paid the driver and looked round, the cab heading off alone. Juliette threw a note to her driver and jumped out, following the young girl into the seedy bar.
“All right, I have stationary on all four marks. Check in ladies.”
“Tinker – all good.”
“Tailor – on lookout.”
“Soldier – she’s not moving.”
“Sailor – interesting.”
“All right then – Rich Man.”
“I have visual on one tracker and one mark. Will keep advised.”
“Has anyone eyeballed who they are following yet? Are they disguised? Asked Heather.
“Confirm my mark is wearing wig and leather clothing,” Sailor said, “but this is a very very interesting nightclub.”
“In what way?”
“In a kinky way.”
Carina smiled as she watched Maureen Gardiner, in her leather jacket and trousers, demonstrating a surprising skill with rope work on a young man to a watching audience.
“My visual matches the description Sailor and I had before – blond haired, chain smoking.”
“Mine too,” Soldier said.
“Nope – mark is not, repeat not in disguise.”
“Operational order is to watch and observe till re-enforcements arrive.” Heather spoke. “If target finds someone and shows signs of leaving find a way to delay them.”
“Roger that,” the female voices responded in sequence.
“I hate this.” Jo paced, “I’d far rather be part of the action.”
“Both of us would, but tech support is our specialty.”
“Hey mystery lady can I buy you a drink?” a tall dark haired youth said as he approached Annie.
“If you value your life you’ll just leave me alone mister.” Annie quickly flashed the pistol under her jacket.
“Are you a fuckin’ cop?”
“No just a guardian angel looking out to protect innocent men’s lives. Now piss off and find someone else.”
She watched Alexis as she put out a cigarette, and took another from the packet, lighting it up as she looked round.
Juliette watched as Sharon walked around the club floor, as if she was looking for something, or someone. She then stopped as she looked across, and then made her way to where two men were sitting in a booth.
“Hey Sharon,” Juliette heard one of them say as she stood nearby, “thanks for meeting us here. So when are you coming back?”
“Next week some time, how are the kids?”
“Looking forward to seeing you – but why here?”
“Because it was the last place I thought anyone would look for me – or you dad.”
Juliette looked over as she recognized Alan Kennedy, and one of the workers from the bank.
“Honey, I know I hurt you, and I’m sorry – can we start again?”
“Yeah Dad – I’d like that.”
“Why here though,” the other man said, “why not a hotel?”
“You have to accept I like places like this Dad – no time like the present to start to get used to that.”
Juliette smiled as she made her way to the door.
“Control, this is Tailor – scratch my mark from the list. She’s meeting her father tonight.”
“Understood Tailor – Poor Man is coming to pick you up.”
“Thank the goddess,” Jo said, “I hoped it wasn’t her.”
“We don’t know for certain,” Heather said, “but our field is narrowed for tonight.”
Penny sipped her drink as she watched her mark in the bar mirror. The ashtray was getting fuller; as she looked slowly round, as if she was looking for someone or something.
Annie was nervously watching the young woman, drinking the whisky as the beast stirred within her.
Natalya watched them both closely, wondering, weighing in her mind if she was indeed in the right place.
Juliette sat in the van with Shirley, her mind torn between relief Sharon still had hope, and wondering if they would meet her tonight.
As Maureen left the stage to a round of applause, she came over to the bar and sat down next to Carina. She didn’t recognize her, but instead ordered a glass of white wine from the barman.
“Quite a display – you certainly have some skill,” Carina said as Maureen looked over.
“Thank you,” Maureen said with a smile, “it’s nice to be able to demonstrate my art.”
“I’m curious – how did you get into Shibari?”
“Oh - so you know something of the art?”
“I learned recently, and my sensei reckoned I had enough skill to demonstrate.”
“May I ask what brought you into the world?”
Maureen looked into the distance for a moment. “About two years ago, out family home was robbed by a bunch of psychopaths called the Pussycat Gang. They threatened to rape and kill me in front of a roomful of guests, and it awakened something long buried in me.
“You see, my family has some very dark skeletons in the closet, which I ran away from. That assault brought them all back, and I needed to defeat them. The last thing I wanted to do was repeat the mistakes my family made – sadly, other members of my family fell into that trap…”
Carina watched as she wiped away a tear, and then said “but the feeling of the ropes on me excited me, so I contacted a rope master and had lessons – and now, I do demonstrations and teach as well. It gives me the release from the darkness, and I am appreciated for it.”
“Well, I admire you,” Carina said as she finished her drink, “and you were most educational. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Maureen said as Carina walked out.
“This is Sailor – scratch my mark.”
“Understood – pick up on the way.”
“Not Allison’s mum then?”
“So it appears,” Heather said, “so it appears…”
Natalya suddenly looked up as she sensed something, something major.
“Control, this is Rich Man – I think we have her, and I think she is making her move. Move in on my location.”
She watched as the blonde moved over to the bar, and started to talk to a young man who was standing having a drink. They seemed to be talking, getting along, as Natalya looked across the bar, and nodded.
As Natalya moved towards the door, she heard The Hand say “ETA one minute – hold her there if at all possible, Rich Man.”
She nodded as another young woman in a leather jacket walked over and started remonstrating with both of them, the man shaking her head as he took the blonde by the arm and started to walk towards the door. The woman made a grab for him again, and then felt the hand of the blonde as she slapped her across the cheek.
“Get stuffed,” Natalya heard her say as she led the man to the door, and she followed her out – in time to see Carina jump out of the van before it turned the corner.
As they walked past, Natalya caught up with Carina as she called out “hey – copycat.”
The woman stopped and turned, then started to sprint down the side alley, Carina racing after her as Natalya looked at the young man.
“Go home,” she said, “and count your blessings we have interfered.”
Carina raced after her, the woman’s bag banging against her sides as she ran towards the end of the alley, where the grey van was parked. She didn’t see Juliette step out and aim, firing a dart into her chest as she approached.
“What the fuck…” she said before Carina fired a second dart into her back, the woman crumpling to the floor, her blonde wig slipping as she fell unconscious.
“Shit,” Carina said as Natalya caught up, “it really was her.”
“Get her in the van,” Juliette said, “and then we all put blindfolds on. Hand?”
“The situation is in hand, and we have her. Inform the others.”
“Roger that,” Heather said as she breathed a sigh of relief.
Annie looked round as she whispered “Reading you.”
“Stand down – we have her.”
She looked over at Alexis as she smiled and greeted another young woman who sat opposite her.
“Roger that – have Poor Man pick me up as well.”
“A most interesting place you have here Madame,” Natalya said as she looked round. Madame X smiled behind the veil and said “I find it has its uses – I have a similar establishment in England and other countries.”
On the monitor, they could see The Soldier standing in the corner of a room, while their captive lay on the bed, her wrists and ankles tied to the four posters, still asleep as a result of the tranquilizers.
“Gale Callaghan – I suppose looking back, the clues were there, but I still can’t quite believe it,” Juliette said as she and Carina looked at the screen.
“Do you think Tom has any suspicions?”
“Does he have any suspicions about you Carina,” Natalya said quietly, “no, I think you will find then when we talk to her, she will hide her true self at first – but we will soon be able to talk to that.”
“The question still remains, however,” Annie said, “what are we going to do with her?”
“We need to talk to her first,” Carina said, “Natalya and I, but you should all watch.”
“Why you two,” Madame X said as she looked at them.
“Because we’re family,” Natalya said as they saw her starting to come round. “If you will excuse both of us?”
“Put this on Aunty,” Carina said as she handed Natalya a half-face mask, with eyeholes in the white material, and put a black one over her own face. They looked at each other and nodded as they walked up the stairs, Madame waiting until they were out of sight before she removed her hat and veil.
“A most extraordinary night,” she said quietly, “what was the story with Alexis, Annie?”
“I need to know as well,” Juliette said as she looked at her.
“Well, first off she’s at least bi, if not fully lesbian,” Annie said, “and secondly, she’s actually one of the founders of the site. When I left, they were debating whether or not to take Carina’s post down, as it could cause legal problems.”
“As opposed to illegal problems,” Juliette said as she watched Gale Callaghan raise her head.
It had taken Gale a few minutes to process where she was, and her position. She looked down her body, wondering why she was wearing a brown floral print blouse and knee length skirt, but that was the least of her worries.
Her wrists and ankles were held with ropes to the four posters of the bed she was lying on, and standing in the room was a woman dressed in leather, with a veil over her face, but she could tell she was looking intently at her.
“Where… Where am I,” she finally said, “and why am I tied to this bed?”
“For your own safety and protection,” the veiled woman said as the door opened, and two more women came in. The taller wore a black leather jacket and trousers, and had a white mask covering her eyes and forehead, while the smaller of the two wore a white jumper and leggings with a black mask on her face.
“Thank you Soldier,” the taller of the two said, “Do you wish to stay and act as a witness?”
The veiled woman nodded as she closed the door, and the two others stood either side of the bed, looking down at Gale.
“Who are you,” Gale said as she struggled in the ropes, “why have you brought me here?”
“These are all very good questions, Mrs. Callaghan,” Natalya said quietly, “tell me, what is the last thing you remember before waking up here?”
“The last thing?” Gale looked up as she said “I was at home with Tom – I was telling him about our lunch today with the ladies, while I poured some wine and handed him a glass. He’d had a long day, and he looked as if he needed to unwind. I took a sip myself as we talked, and then… and then…”
“Yes,” Natalya said, “and then what happened?”
“I woke up here – did you drug our wine? What have you done to my husband? If you’ve hurt him, you’re in trouble – he’s an Assistant Director in the FBI!”
“Actually, that is a good question,” Annie said as she looked at Juliette. She nodded as Shirley took out her cell phone.
“Janice? It’s Shirley – can you try and contact Tom Callaghan, make sure that he’s all right?
“No I’ll explain why later – and thanks,” she said as she ended the call.
“We do not have your husband, Mrs. Callaghan,” the smaller woman said as she picked up a large brown holdall and placed it on a table by the bed, “when we collected you, you were in a bar in the Bronx, about to escort a young man home to his apartment. Do you remember that?”
“The Bronx – no, I told you, I was in my apartment, having a drink with Tom, and then…” Gale looked at both of them and said “I don’t remember. I woke up here.”
“Is this your bag, Mrs. Callaghan?”
“Yes, it is – why have you got it?”
Carina opened it, and took out a .45 pistol. “What is that doing in there,” Gale said as she raised her head, her eyes wide open, and then she gasped as Carina produced a set of cuffs, ropes and a ball gag, followed by a selection of bottles, a medical kit, and a long riding crop.
“That… That’s my spare riding crop, what’s it dong in the bag,” Gale said as she looked round. “Please, tell me what’s going on.”
“Mrs. Callaghan – Gale,” Natalya said quietly, “Do you remember what you were doing on the weekend before last?”
“I went with Tom to a birthday party – Shirley Xavier – then we went to bed about midnight. I woke up about ten the next morning.”
“Or last Tuesday,” Carina said as she stood over the captive on the other side of the bed.
“I went to the theatre with Tom, and then we had an early night – please, what is going on?”
“A moment,” Natalya said as she motioned to Carina, and they walked over to where the veiled woman was standing.
“I think she’s telling the truth,” The Soldier whispered, “based on her body language and tone of voice.”
“I agree,” Carina whispered, “and yet the evidence, the actions…”
“Which means we have a true split personality here,” Natalya said. “My dear Soldier, this is your chance to back out, in case you see or hear things that may cause you an issue.”
“I have my instructions,” Penny said quietly, “I will stay.”
“As you wish,” Natalya said quietly. “Carina, my dear, it is time to let the others talk to her.”
Carina nodded as they both closed their eyes and took several deep breaths, before they walked back over to the bed. Carina picked up the surgical kit and opened it, taking out the scalpel and saying “I like this blade – well made, very clean. I wonder if I could get the details of where you obtained it from?”
“What – I’ve never seen that before,” Gale said quietly, “why would I know where it came from?”
“Forgive my young friend,” Natalya said as she looked at Gale, “she wasn’t talking to you Mrs. Callaghan, she was talking to our cousin.”
“Your… Your cousin?”
“That’s right – so stop hiding, daughter of Princess Hildegard von Furstenheim. Your cousins wish to speak with you.”
“I have no idea wha…” The Soldier stepped forward and watched as Gale Callaghan seemed to stare into the distance for a moment, her body taut, before she relaxed and a smile appeared on her face.
“So it is true – I am not alone,” she said in a deeper voice, “there are others of us around, and I finally have a chance to meet you.”
“You left us little choice, cousin,” Natalya said, “your actions over the last week or so could not be ignored – not when they bore so close a resemblance to something my young cousin here did some time ago.”
Gale turned her head and looked straight at Carina. “You – you posted that note she read on the message board, did you not?”
“I did,” Carina said with a smile, “because I do not need a deed assigned or attributed to me I had nothing to do with. It asks too many awkward questions, but it does raise one in my mind – how did you know what I had done?”
“I did not,” Gale said quietly as she stared at Carina, “but my host’s husband, he does not know I can access his computer, and I read the reports. When I decided I needed to come out after so long, the details somehow merged in my planning.”
“Oh dear god,” Juliette said as she watched and listened, “Gale is a true split personality?”
“So it would appear – unlike Carina and Natalya, there really are two Gale Callaghan’s.” Shirley listened as Natalya asked her about how she selected her targets.
“What can I say, I like young men, and I like to see them suffer for my pleasure? I am a woman of simple tastes.”
“May I ask a question, cousin? Who was your first?”
“Ah,” Gale said as she looked at Carina, “A young man who thought it would be fun to touch me in the wrong places. It was so many years ago now, but I remember his screams in the empty barn with great pleasure, as well as his death rattle as I garroted him with chicken wire.”
“But why remain hidden until now?”
“Who says I have been hiding? But these last two weeks, for some reason, my host has been distracted – as if she has had something else on her mind. So it has been easier for me to come out and play.”
“We are in trouble ladies.” Juliette said as she shook her head. “The shock of the revelation of her other half could kill Gale if we try to reunite them.”
“But if we don’t do it, Juliette, the creature will continue what she is doing and risking Gale’s life in doing so.” Madame thought aloud.
“There has to be another way,” Annie said as she watched them.
“And what would you have done if Gale had been hurt or caught?”
The woman smiled and said “I do not know, and nor do I care.”
“You should,” Carina said quietly, “because I think I know why she has been distracted, why her thoughts have been elsewhere, and why you have found it easier to emerge. You see, cousin, I do not think you have been totally focused, totally in control either.”
“Whatever do you mean? What has she done?”
“Look inside yourself cousin,” Carina said quietly as Natalya looked at her, “tell me what you see, what you hear.”
Gale looked at her, before her eyes widened. “Oh my,” she whispered, “so small and quiet, yet so strong…”
“As I suspected,” Carina said as she looked at Natalya.
“You are with child? Then this does put a different complexion on things.”
The three women looked at each other as they tried to digest what they had just heard.
Shirley slowly nodded as she looked at the
screen. "Do you have any ideas how
to proceed Juliette? I will admit I have no idea as to
what to do." She shook her head as she looked at them.
"Not a clue...and I don't think even a team of
abnormal psychiatrists could tell you."
"The obvious measure is to kill her."
"Shirley that is Gale, she's our friend."
"But she is also an uncontrollable monster...unless we can control the demon in her, she will continue risking Gale's life doing this."
"I know – but she’s also carrying a child. We don’t war on children, no matter what the cause – we’re going to have to trust those two."
“Well, this is a new situation,” Gale said as she looked up. “What will your next move be, Cousin.”
The Soldier stepped forward as Carina looked at her aunt.
“Release her – she is family, and we need to talk to her as such.”
Carina glanced at Penny, who drew her pistol and stood ready as they untied Gale’s wrists and ankles. She slowly sat up, and looked at them both as she said “Why?”
“You need to listen to me, and listen to me very carefully,” Natalya said, “the child is family, and we do not hurt family, do we?”
Gale looked at Carina and Natalya, before she shook her head.
“Good,” Natalya said as she removed her mask, “I am Natalya, and my young friend here is Carina.”
Carina looked at her aunt, and then followed her lead as Gale looked at them.
“She knows both of you,” Gale said quietly, “she calls you her friends.”
“And what do you call us?”
She looked at them for a few moments, before she said “at the moment, I do not know.”
“A good answer,” Carina said, “because right now, we are not sure what to do either. But I am a mother, and I know there is hope in that.”
“Our child – will she…”
“We do not know,” Natalya said, “but we are family, and we do not harm family. Our problem at this time is you – you are uncontrolled, wild, lashing out, and as such you are a risk to your host and to your child.”
“So that risk must be eliminated – but if you eliminate me, you eliminate the child, and that would be wrong as well.”
“Indeed,” Natalya said, “and we are in no position to judge your deeds before. This week has attracted too much attention, however, so you need to rest – to allow her to draw on your strength to bring the child to this world.”
“That’s right,” Carina said, “and I and others will watch over you. You must hide, sleep, and allow her to live. Because if you do not, if you appear again as you have done – we will have no choice.”
“And when the child comes?”
“Then we will find you, and we will talk more. The choice is yours cousin – what do you say?”
Gale sat on the bed, and then said “You swear on her blood?”
“We are all of her blood – now, sleep, and give her your strength.”
She looked over at her bag, before Carina said “I will dispose of these – you must not be found with them.”
Gale nodded as she lay down and closed her eyes, breathing deeply as they watched her relax, and her head fall to the side.
“I have, at least, bought us some time,” Natalya said, “time to watch, and time to plan. They are watching, are they not?”
Carina nodded as she turned to Penny. “We need to consult with Madame and the others. Will you come with us?”
The Soldier nodded as the women left the room, and walked downstairs.
The three women looked at them, Madame X’s face covered by the hat and veil, as Juliette said “that is a huge risk you took there Natalya.”
“Perhaps, but the creature in her has been controlled in some way up until now. What I have done is bought time, and also saved two innocent lives. I truly believe Gale is unaware of the other her, and somehow it is the change in her physically that has weakened the walls.”
"So how do you put her beast to sleep without
Gale being aware?" asked Madame.
"Only the Goddess knows, but we must try, for
Gale and the baby's sake." Cari said as she
fiddled with her glasses.
"Our beasts, our demons respond to everything at
a sensory level." Natalya looked thoughtful.
"You remember me asking you how she would react when I knew we were pregnant Mom?'
"Well we had the conversation somehow, Gale needs to tell the beast she must go dormant."
"But that means the two halves have to
meet?" Madame spoke.
"They do, and it will be bad, it will be
traumatic, but I see no other solution." Carina shook her head.
"I cannot think of one better." Natalya
"Poor Gale." Juliette looked at each face. "Does no one have another idea?"
Natalya said quietly “We have the time to prepare for that – but she has seen us. I think she may allow us to help, but I cannot be certain.”
“So we watch her, keep her supported, and pray nothing goes wrong?”
"Her beast will survive anything,
it will be Gale who needs our help." Natalya spoke. "She did once
know the beast was in her, but she has blocked her out deliberately and erased
her from her mind. She and she alone must remake the connection."
"She erased it for a reason,
she cannot cope with the horror of what the beast does." Madame
"I know." Carina shook her head.
"May I offer a suggestion?"
"Speak please Soldier." Madame answered.
"I buried and denied my demon for years, should I perhaps talk to her?"
“That may be a good idea – we can make the arrangements once Gale is safely returned, and the news of her child is public.”
“It appears we have a way forward,” Juliette said, “are we all in agreement?”
The sound of Annie’s phone ringing broke the ice, as she said “excuse me.”
She went out into the kitchen before saying “Hello?”
“Annie, it’s Jan. I got into Tom’s apartment – he’s out cold in a seat in the front room. I sniffed his wine – I could smell a sedative. What the hell’s going on?”
“I’ll tell you in a day or two Jan – can you stick around for a while? We need to sneak someone in.”
“Sure – I don’t think he’s going to wake up anyway.”
“Thanks,” Annie said as she ended the call, and came back in, rubbing her head. “So is this over?”
“I believe so, yes – can you return her to her apartment?”
Madame X nodded as she said “The Soldier and I will take care of her. You all need to be blindfolded for the return trip – please – come to the van and take your seats.”
Natalya looked round and nodded as she and Carina walked out first. Madame nodded to Juliette as she went upstairs.
“We have a loose cannon now Juliette.”
“I know Annie – but she was right. We don’t war on innocent children.”
“We need to leave,” Madame said as she came in, “and return her. Juliette, I will be there if you need me again.”
“I know – and thank you.”
Tuesday 19th May
The Callaghan Apartment
Jan opened the door and watched as Annie and Penny carried the unconscious Gale in, laying her on the couch as Tom slept in the chair.
“What the hell is going on,” she whispered as Penny left, and Annie helped her to remove Gale’s clothes and put on her a nightdress.
“I’ll tell you later, but right now, the best thing we can do is leave them there,” Annie whispered as she gathered up Gale’s clothes and put them in a bag. “Let’s just say it’s been one hell of a night.”
Jan nodded as the two women slipped out, leaving the lights on as the couple slept.
Tom slowly opened his eyes as he stretched his arms up and yawned, then looked round the room.
“Dear god, did I fall asleep in the chair again,” he said to himself as he stood up, then walked over and gently kissed Gale on the forehead.
As he made his way to the kitchen, Gale turned over and opened her eyes, before she sat up and looked round. She looked at her wrists and rubbed them slightly, before she stood up and followed her husband.
“Did I fall asleep on the couch,” she said as she smelt the coffee.
“Looks like it – better than me falling asleep in the chair,” Tom said with a smile. “Coffee?”
“Please – I have an appointment this morning,” she said as she sat down. “I also had a doozy of a dream – I dreamt I had been kidnapped by two masked women.”
“I need to stop bringing work home,” Tom said as he handed a mug over. “This appointment – anything I need to worry about?”
“No – I’ll come and see you at the office afterwards,” Gale said with a smile.
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Here,” Juliette said as she handed Carina a mug of coffee.
“How was Judith,” Cari said as she looked at Jo and Heather.
“Slept like an angel – which is more than any of us have done. So Sandy wins?”
“In a macabre way yes – now we need to do something incredibly difficult and dangerous.”
“Well, what’s life without a challenge?”
“Heather, can we get a full biog?”
“You mean this,” Heather said as she handed over a set of papers. “I draw your attention to an incident when she was seventeen in Tulsa.”
“I’ll read it later,” Juliette said as she glanced at it, “I have an editorial meeting this morning. My question is the other three – what they may need?”
“From what you said, Sharon is on the road home, and is becoming comfortable in herself. I still think she is one to watch, though.”
“I agree, darling,” Juliette said to Carina, “and your news on Maureen is also a revelation.”
“I need to think about that,” Juliette said.
“I need to get back for the kids,” Heather said as she stood up, “and you need to get changed Sis. We’ll come round tonight Ju.”
“Please – I’m inviting Diana and Abi as well.”
“Baby’s awake,” Cari said as she heard Judith giggling on the baby monitor.
“We need to get ready for today,” Juliette said as she stood up and stretched. “I’d better get Janine and Alexis on coffee runs all day.”
“Earth to Jo, Earth to Jo, Wake up Jo!”
Jo suddenly opened her eyes to see Abby, Ally and Maggie looking at her.
“Sorry – I didn’t sleep much last night,” Jo said as she accepted the energy drink from Abby. “Listen, I need to thank all of you with your ideas for Monday – everything is now set up, and I look to you Abby to make sure the collection goes well.”
“Everything’s ready – the worst bit is not telling Cari and the others. They’ll flip their lids when they find out!”
FBI Field Office
“And so,” Adam said as he stood up, “once more we happy heroes, we band of few, must gird our loins and set off for Murder Row.”
“Oh joy, he’s misquoting Shakespeare,” Jeanne said as Gale Callaghan came into the office.
“Hello Jan – is he is his office?”
“Yeah,” Jan said as Gale walked over and knocked on the door, looking in and saying “Tom darling, can I get a moment of your time?”
The trio watched as the door closed, before Adam said “any idea what that’s all about?”
Before Jan could answer, she was stopped by the sound of Tom shouting “REALLY?” He then threw the door open, Gale beaming behind him, and said “I’m going to be a father! We’re going to have a baby!! Guys, we are going out to lunch on me and Gale!!!”
“Congratulations,” Adam said as he shook Tom’s hand, and Jan and Jeanne hugged Gale.
“Come on,” Tom said as he grabbed his jacket, “if they need us, they can call me.”
As they headed for the door, Gale took her phone out.
“Oh hi Penny – what can I do for you?
“Yeah, I’d love to meet up with you later, where do you want to go?
“All right – I’ll meet you at your office at seven. Gotta go – see you then.”
At her office, Penny put the phone down and looked out of the window. This was not going to be easy, but it had to be done…
“Gale – thanks for coming over,” Penny said as she greeted her visitor. Gale was still wearing the jumper and slacks she had worn since the morning, while Penny was in a black blouse and skirt with high heels.
“It’s my pleasure,” Gale said, “but I’m surprised to get a call from you. How can I help?”
“Well, I wanted to pick your brains on some ideas we’ve had recently on horse insurance – I’m not a rider, but you are, so you can probably help me with some of the things I don’t understand. We can grab some dinner afterwards, if that is all right.”
“Sounds good,” Gale said as Penny showed her to one of the elevators, “not many staff around?”
“Well, a few of us are following up on clients, but it is usually quiet at this time of night,” Penny said as the lift doors closed, before she pressed her hand onto Gale’s arm, the needle on her ring pressing into her flesh.
“Oh sorry about that,” Penny said quietly, before she caught Gale as she slumped a little, “it won’t last long, but I need to make sure you’re comfortable before we begin.”
“Wha… What happened,” Gale said as she slowly opened her eyes, and tried to lift her arms, only to be stopped as the ropes holding them down to the arms of the chair held firm. She looked down, and saw the rope around her chest, her laps, and holding her ankles to the chair legs.
“PENNY!!” She shouted out and looked round, only to see Penny looking at her as she leaned against her desk, her arms folded, a look in her eyes she had never seen before – or had she…
“Did you… Did you do this to me,” Gale said as she looked at the young woman.
“I did – and I am truly sorry that I had to do it, but we need to talk, and I want to be sure you stayed in one place, and were held fast there.”
“Why? Penny, this is not funny…”
“No, I know it’s not,” Penny said as she picked up a folder and looked at the contents. “Gale you are under restraint because you may end up hurting me, hurting yourself, and hurting the baby.”
“How the hell do you know about the baby, I only found out this morning.” Gale struggled against her bonds before she said “Seriously Penny, what is this all about?”
“Tulsa, fifteen years ago. In your Junior year, there was a young man called Bobby Blakelaw. Do you remember him?”
“Bobby? Of course I remember Bobby – we all remember him, and what happened to him.”
“I know – I have a copy of the police report,” Penny said as she looked at it. “You were one of the last people to see him.”
“At school,” Gale said quietly, “along with half my year. Penny, what is going on?”
“Gale, I know you saw him after that. You’ve forgotten what happened, blocked it out, but you need to remember.”
“Gale it is time for you to remember that which you have buried.” Penny spoke slowly, and rhythmically. “To reunite the two halves.”
“What the hell are you talking about Penny?”
“I’m talking about that which you strove so hard to forget. The Blood…The Knives…The Whips…The Excitement…The Ecstasy…The Death. I know how you felt, why you did it, but with the baby on the way, you need to remember, to regain control.”
“NO…NO!” Gale screamed as she struggled. “Please just let me go Penny… PLEASE?”
“Gale, you need to remember the blood, remember the shame. Remember the horror. Bobby dies with his head nearly severed from his body by chicken wire, and you held that wire. Gale, you need to remember what happened that day – because it’s happened again, and it has to stop.”
“NO!” Gale threw her head around and said “I can’t, I just can’t!”
“You must – and I’m sorry, but if you cannot remember, then I need someone to remind you.”
“No – Penny, please, you don’t know what you’re doing…”
“Gale, believe me I do know – and I am so, so sorry.” Penny took a deep breath, and said “Daughter of Hildegard come forward please.”
She watched as the ropes cut into Gale’s wrists, knowing this was the only way and hoping she would forgive her. “Come, join with us here.”
“I am here.” Gale’s tone of voice changed, and she stopped struggling. “I remember you – you watched last night while I met my cousins.”
“That is right,” Penny said. “Your cousins asked you to rest, to strengthen and help your host, but they have talked further, and now they also think you need to be a larger part of her again.”
“Amusing – and they gave this task to you because?”
“Because I and Gale are alike – I hid my own beast away because I was frightened of her, ashamed of her. Recently, I have allowed her to come out, and I am a better person for it.”
“And you think she needs to be the same.”
Gale looked at Penny as she nodded. “I know it will not be what she wants to know, but she needs to remember so that we can help her to cope with you. Now, join minds with Gale.”
“She is weak and pathetic,” the woman said as she looked at Penny, “tell me why I should.”
“Because for the sake of both of you and the baby, it is time you re-joined as one. Yes, you can strengthen her quietly, but your cousins want to be sure Gale and you are both looking out for the baby. Can you understand that?”
“My cousins are wise,” the voice said. “I will do as you request.”
Penny watched as Gale closed her eyes, waiting for the inevitable storm as she opened her eyes.
Suddenly Gale unleashed a scream of such a heartrending nature, and such volume that Penny had never experienced before. She grabbed the bound woman by the shoulders and held her as she shook.
“There she remembers.” The Beast spoke.
“Penny, Penny!” Gale suddenly burst into indescribable crying, as the memory of the horrors she had done re-entered her consciousness. “Dear God, what have I done, what have I done…”
“Is that Gale or her?” Penny said as she knelt and looked up into Gale’s face.
“It is she.” The Beasts voice came out in a tone full of contempt, followed by Gale sobbing, “What have I done?” over and over again.
“Nothing I’ve not done myself, Gale, so believe me when I say I know what you are feeling.” Penny said as she wiped away some of the tears from Gale’s face. “You need to let it all out, and then tell me what happened to Bobby.”
“I… I went to his farm to see him. We walked to the barn, hand in hand, we kissed, we made out – and then he tried to… He tried to… Oh God Penny, he tried to force himself on me.”
“Okay – and something snapped in you.”
“No – it was like something was released, and it felt good. I enjoyed hitting him, I enjoyed using the cord as a whip on him – and then I found the wire, and I just… I just…”
“It’s all right Gale – I’m not here to judge you.”
“But I killed him Penny – have you ever killed someone?”
Gale stared at Penny before the Beast said, “you are not one of my family?”
“No – I am another type of demon. But I understand what you went through Gale – both of you, because as I said before, I forced my demon deep into myself.”
“But the memories – those young men – where have they come…” Gale stopped talking for a moment, as if she was listening to a voice inside her, and then whispered “no – last night, it really happened?”
“It did – which is how I know you are pregnant.”
“I remember – Carina and Natalya, they talked to me. They – they are related to me?”
“Distantly, yes. Carina wants to meet you tomorrow, to explain what happened,” Penny said, “but right now, I need to know how you feel.”
“I… I feel like I’m complete again, as if something that has gnawed away at me is now fully in view.” Gale looked at Penny as she said “but this beast in me – she says she wants to help me through the pregnancy, to bring Tom and my baby into the world together. Why should I allow her to do that?”
“Because – well, because she is part of you.”
“But what do I tell Tom?”
“Nothing – this has to be your secret. The good news is there are people like me who can help you, who you can talk to. Look – I’m going to untie you, and then you need to decide what you want to do next.”
Gale watched as Penny untied her body, and then handed her a tub of hand cream. She rubbed some on her wrists, and then looked at her.
“We have an understanding,” the Beast said, “and I like you. Be at peace – she will not hurt herself.”
Penny nodded as Gale sighed, and then said, “So are you going to report me?”
“The Daughters of…” Gale looked at Penny, before she nodded. “Now I remember – it was whoever she is, not me, but who is she?”
“Long story,” Penny said as she handed Gale her bag, “and again, I’m sorry I had to do that to you, but you needed to start the process.”
“I understand why you did it – I had blocked all of that out of my mind, all the hurt I had caused, but really I just kept it bottled inside me, didn’t I?”
“So did I – come on, if you want, I’ll tell you over dinner. How does a steak sound?”
“Just how many Daughters of Hildegard are there running around out there, Cari,” Dom said as she sat with Carina, Annie and Jan in the apartment.
“Hopefully, none like that,” Carina said quietly. “As far as we can tell, Gale completely buried that side of her persona after the Nebraska incident – but she pushed out from time to time, in different places. Over these last few weeks, as the pregnancy started, Gale somehow lost that subconscious control, and her beast really kicked loose.”
“Which explains why you chose Penny for tonight – she’s the poster child for repressed sides in our group,” Jan said quietly. “But aren’t you worried that as they become integrated, she’ll remember about the others?”
“Apart from me and Natalya, the only one she saw even half clearly was Penny. We’ll meet her tomorrow, but her beast saw nobody else.”
“So we can relax now – no more Sex Murders in the Bronx.”
“It’s the Bronx Jan – but no, this particular spate is over.”
She turned and kissed Annie’s neck as Dom rolled her eyes. “All right you two, get a room or wait until later,” she said as she went to fetch some more beers.
“Changing the subject completely, Miss Jameson,” Jan said, “Annie told me about your wardrobe problems. You and I are going shopping on Friday.”
“OH deep, deep joy,” Dom said as she handed the beers out, “and what will you be doing while I face this purgatory?”
“The seventies dance at the school,” Annie said, “want to see what I’ve got to wear for it?”
“Go on Monster Momma – scare me,” Carina said as Annie went to her bedroom, the others talking for a few minutes until she came back out.
“Oh my lord,” Jan said as she looked at the young blonde, “where did you get them?”
“I cannot tell a lie – Mary helped,” Annie said as she stood in her tan suede top and hot pants, the knee length stack heeled boots laced up the front. “Mind you, you should see Kate Hardisty’s outfit – turns out she’s a closet Roller fan…”
Wednesday 20th May
51st Street Diner
“Will Gale come through this?” Shirley asked straight out as they sat in the booth, both wearing jeans and a jumper.
“With help, yes.” Penny looked at her breakfast. “Why did I suggest we ate out?”
“Well I did offer you breakfast at my place…” Putting some pancake in her mouth, Shirley chewed for a moment before she said “but returning to our main topic, is there anything others can do to help her?”
“Carina is going to tell her she can literally call any time. Also Cari says that the urges become more controllable when you are pregnant.”
“Well let’s hope so. I know Tom is an FBI man to the core, but I genuinely like him and Gale, they are a nice couple.”
“Well I don’t think we need worry too much about her in the X organization, she will never cross over into our field.”
“I agree,” Shirley nodded, “Gale may be a psychopath, but basically she’s a law abiding person…is that?”
“Strange to say? … Penny smiled, “yes, but it’s also true, my sadistic nature for example can help in work, but it’s not a necessary requirement.”
“Oh I know – before this side of you came out, you were my trusted right hand for the right reasons,” Shirley replied as she sipped her coffee.
“So what are your plans before you fly home Madame?” Penny said as she sipped her orange juice.
“Well, John is taking me to see the Mozart at the Met concert, along with some of our friends. Saturday and Sunday at Pocono for the race, then I fly home next week.”
“With me just days behind you.”
“Looking forward to your cozy cottage, and your beloved gore movies Penelope?”
“Yes, in a way…I love New York, and most of my real friends are here, but I do need spend time establishing just who Penny Harker really is.”
“And that’s best done with a slasher flick, and a bottle of good wine?”
“Hey, everyone to their own tastes.” Penny laughed.
“Well John has two weeks work, here and then in Sydney before he flies home, it will give Charlotte time to install the security system in the new house.”
“Did Heather and Jo brief her?”
“They did, Heather has even recommended some tricks she failed to use in Park Avenue.”
“It should be VERY interesting Penelope.”
Carina handed Judith the biscuit as she sat in her push chair, and then looked up to see Gale and Penny walking towards her.
“Hi,” she said as they joined her, “thanks for meeting me here today. How are you feeling Gale?”
“Scared, if you want the honest truth,” the young woman said as she sat down.
“I can imagine – Penny told me about last night. Why don’t we take a walk down to the café, and we can talk on the way.”
Gale nodded as Carina stood up and started pushing Judith along. After a few moments, she said quietly “Carina, who… What are we?”
“We really are distant cousins,” Carina said. “Go back far enough in our family trees, and you will find one Elizabeth Bathory.”
“I’ve heard of her – but I thought the stories were legends.”
“Sadly no – and in our case, there is the matter of Princess Hildegard von Furstenheim.”
“Daughters of Hildegard,” Gale whispered, “are you one as well?”
“More of a great several times over niece,” Carina said, “but we are of the same bloodline. I have my other self as well, but we came to an understanding when I was a young teenager. You just re-met yours last night. I’m sorry that it happened that way, but we had to be sure you and her made sure she did not appear again.”
Gale nodded. “It’s funny, having a conversation with a side of yourself you had forgotten for so long – but we did, and she’s going to stay quiet. But what happens after…”
“Find an outlet that satisfies her – the website, the writing. But if the urge gets too great, then you need to make sure she is a lot more careful.”
“Forgive me if I don’t answer that,” Carina said as she glanced at Penny.
“No, I’m sorry – it’s just having those memories flood back shocked me. Talking with Penny last night helped, but still…”
“You’ll find these primal urges within yourself Gale.” Cari looked heavenwards, “the urges to do things, indescribably evil things. Resist, and if the feeling becomes overwhelming, contact me and I’ll move heaven and earth to help you.”
“Cari, how do I keep secret from the world that I am some kind of perverted murderess?” Gale asked in a low tone. “Most importantly how do I keep it from Tom…he’s a lawman for god sake, he’s supposed to catch people like me.”
“Do you love Tom?”
“Cari of course I do.”
“Does he love you?”
“Well there is your answer, you must spare him the agony of having to deal with the reality that within you resides a psychopath. For his and the baby’s sake, you must keep this a secret. Just promise me you won’t repress her totally and split again the way you had.”
“I’ll try not to.”
“Good – ready for a coffee?”
The two women walked to the café, sitting outside as Penny went in to order drinks.
“I need to ask you about Natalya – does she?”
Carina nodded as she sipped her coffee. “There are others out there – we know of three at least – but because your inner beast managed to completely usurp you, we needed to find you and bring you in so to speak.”
“And Penny is not one of you.”
“No,” Penny said with a smile, “as I explained last night, I have my own dark side, but it came from another source. I find a different way to seek release.”
“This is going to take some time to sink in,” Gale said quietly.
“Now, I need you to be brave for a moment, Gale, and let her come out. Do not worry, Penny and I are watching and she will do no harm. Trust us on this.”
Gale nodded as she said “How.”
“Follow my lead.”
For a few moments Carina closed her eyes. Gale watched as she opened them again and smiled.
“Come forward cousin, now we need to talk.”
For a few seconds Gale looked at her uncomprehending, then she closed her own eyes, Penny watching closely.
“I am here cousin.” Gale said, her voice dropping as she opened her eyes.
“They have talked, now we must.”
“You and I must agree that your behavior must be controlled, for safeties sake.”
“I agree,” Gale said, “this baby growing within me needs to be protected at all costs.”
“Our hosts deserve our respect Daughter of Hildegard. They must live in a world of laws and morality that our spirits find unbearably restrictive. We are predators, they are not. But just as I have realized that I need Carina to nourish me, you must do the same with Gale.”
“Yes, I see that now, I need keep to myself in a corner of her consciousness and await the times when I can be released.”
“Which hopefully will be very rarely.”
“Perhaps, but all the sweeter for when they come. You will watch her?”
“We both will – and one day, if it gets too much, I will show you how to seek satisfaction.”
“I look forward to that day. Until then, cousin.”
Cari nodded as they both closed their eyes, and then exhaled.
“That… It felt as if I was in a warm and secure place,” Gale said quietly.
“Good – she is protecting you when she comes out, and that is the first step. Now, live life, and if the need arises, call me.”
"So how did Tom take the news he is to be a
father?" asked Penny.
"He's overjoyed. We both rang our parents and they were happy as well."
“Well, that’s good to know,” Carina said, “any idea if it’s a boy or a girl yet.”
“We don’t want to find out – there has to be some suspense in all of this.”
Thursday 21st May
“What part of the seventies are you and House going for Jeans?”
“Some real seventies style English punk, Sex Pistols, Ian Drury, etc.” Jeannie laughed. “Did you know Granddad once had the Sex Pistols in his cab in London?”
“So lots of holes in your jeans held together with safety pins?”
“Yup – we both have some old jeans Mum is – adjusting,” Jeannie said as she ate her sandwich.
“Just a thought - House doesn’t have any piercings…does he?” Becca asked.
“No and he won’t get any…even for me.” Jeans pouted, “But Mum reckons she knows how to fake the look on him.”
“Well Nikki and I are doing the whole glam rock thing.” Pepsi munched on a carrot stick.
“We sure are, and when I told mom she just shook her head.” Nikki laughed.
What about you Doc?” asked Becca.
“I was thinking Girl George,” Anna grinned.
“Now that’s an interesting idea.” Becca nodded.
“Beg all you pardon who was Girl George?” asked Ama.
“He was really Boy George Ama, here let me find Kharma Chameleon and show you.” Doc pulled out her mobile.
“What did people do before You Tube?” asked Jeannie.
“Was there a time before it?” Pepsi laughed out loud.
“Call me a stick in the mud,” Becca said, “but isn’t he more Eighties?”
“All right – you’re a stick in the mud,” Doc said, as the girls kept laughing.
“Are you going on Friday Abby,” Ally said as they looked over from their table.
“No – I have something else on. I bet you wish you were going as well?”
“Nah – we’re going to have enough fun. We booked that band Mom went to see for the prom.”
“Oh it is going to be … Legendary…”
In the teacher’s lounge, the feeling was slightly more tense.
“I’m getting nervous.” Wilhelmina Tennant said as she sipped a coffee.
“I know.” Kate Hardisty looked round and shook her head, “It’s like waiting for a bomb to go off.”
“Annie what are your snitches telling you?” The Principal asked the young math teacher.
“Absolutely nothing. All I know is that the little darlings think it will top even last year.”
“What about your roommate’s daughter?” Kate asked.
“If she knows, she’s not talking.”
“My sources have clammed up as well.” Ingrid Muller chimed in.
“God I hate this time of year.” Kate rolled her eyes.
“We could bug the head girls room?” one of the French teachers suggested.
“No, even I am not that worried…yet.” Wilhelmina noticed her hand trembling slightly.
APCO on 5th Avenue
“So what do you normally wear to the office Caroline?” Jan asked.
“I have a couple of suits, but usually pants of some kind, and yes I do wear jeans to work often.”
“Caroline,” Jan said as she shook her head, “you are a wealthy business woman in your own right, as well as a successful model, you need to start dressing like one. Pants are great, I wear them myself sometimes, but really some more style and flair can do you no harm.”
“I know, I know,” Caroline said as she looked at Jan in her cashmere sweater and knee length black skirt. “Penny and Susan have both reminded me that first impressions count.”
Jan kissed the manager on the cheek as she approached. “Well I finally dragged her here Betsey.”
“I can see…welcome Miss Jameson.”
“Hi.” Caroline shook the woman’s hand.
“As we discussed on the phone, Betsey, Caroline has always led a nomadic life until now, but with a daughter and her business based here, she needs to expand her wardrobe so it no longer can be carried in two suitcases.”
“I get the picture Miss Carter.” The manageress smiled as she looked at Caroline in her silk blouse and tan trousers. “Well from these things you have on Miss Jameson your taste is obviously good, but can I maybe suggest a few things?”
“Please do?” Caroline nodded.
“This suit would look perfect on a woman of your height,” Betsey pointed to one on the rack. “The Boss wears it herself and it looks very elegant.”
“And Alice is almost as tall as I am?”
“I suppose I ought to try it.”
An assistant brought Jan a cup of tea and she watched as Betsey made suggestions, selecting several outfits before she directed Caroline to a changing room.
“Come on Caroline,” Jan called out, “let’s have a look at you.”
She looked at Caroline as she walked out, looking at herself in the mirror as she put her hands in the pants pockets as she posed.
“You’re off the clock, you know Caroline,” Jan said with a smile.
“I know, I know,” Caroline said as she looked at herself. “Do you think this would go with a dark blouse?”
“Possibly – or a roll neck sweater,” Betsey said. “Now, why don’t you try this?”
She handed Caroline a cap sleeved summer dress.
“Hang on – I wore this last November in Boston.”
“I know – have a look at yourself in it as a woman, not a model.”
“I’m not a model first and foremost, you know.”
“I know,” Jan said, “but indulge her.”
Shrugging her shoulders, Caroline returned to the changing room, coming back out with the pale blue dress on.
“Yeah – it does look good on me,” Caroline said with a smile.
“Try this linen jacket with it,” Betsey said as she slipped it onto the model.
“All right, I’m convinced,” Caroline said with a smile, “what’s next?”
“Well, I think that’s everything,”
“I think you’ve definitely extended the wardrobe,” Betsey said as she totted up the bill.
"Oh and before I forget, I guess I had better
take one each of the Hebridean jumpers."
"Well at least your boyfriends get to see you in different outfits now." Jan smiled. "and I think I'll take one of those jumpers...in the ecru...as well please Betsey."
Friday 22nd May
St Angela’s Gymnasium
“Oh my God you look AWESOME!” Doc shook her head as she saw Nikki and Pepsi came in wearing satin jackets, and pants, platform shoes, their hair spiked up with gel, and their faces painted.
“Hey you don’t look so bad yourself.” Pepsi smiled. Anna was wearing a white coat over some loose fitting pants, and a wig formed of black beaded dreadlocks. Her face was pale, with the help of white makeup, and she had dark mascara round her eyes.
“Are those the shoes you bought at the market?”
“They don’t look so bad with the whole look.”
“So who is here?” Nikki asked.
“Nowhere near enough guys.” Doc looked round. “And those that are here mainly have very protective girlfriends.”
“Well I promised Jack I’d behave.” Pepsi looked round at everything from the rotating glitter ball, to the row of girls sitting waiting to be asked to dance.
“Come on we can dance together.” Nikki pulled the other two onto the dance floor as the DJ played Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’.
“So this is the famous St Angela’s Gymnasium,” Nick said as he came in with Ama. Both were wearing Levi’s, Nick with a faded blue shirt and denim jacket, Ama with a roll neck sweater and a pair of black wedge sandals.
“It is indeed,” Ama said as she waved to the girls on the dance floor. “Come on Nick – let’s dance.”
“Well well, Ama and the not a boyfriend are having fun,” Becca said as she joined the girls, wearing a blue satin blouse, white waistcoat and mini skirt, and knee length white boots.
“Yeah – we need some boys here,” Doc said, and then she smiled as Chet walked in.
“Hey – thanks for coming,” she said as she walked over.
“Thanks,” Chet said, “but aren’t you in…”
“Don’t go there,” Doc said as she took Chet onto the dance floor.
Kate Hardisty watched, in her short sleeved blouse and knee length white pants trimmed with tartan, and stacked baseball boots.
“Nice look,” Annie said as she walked over.
“You too,” Kate said as she looked at Annie, the suede hugging her skin.
“What this party needs is more boys.”
“Agreed – so Wilhelmina put in a call to some local schools, and…”
The doors opened as some of the freshmen and other students from the local public boy’s schools came in. They started to mingle with the girls, talking and even dancing as Annie smiled.
“Careful, Miss Kelly – some of them are looking your way.”
“No chance,” Annie said with a smile as she started to walk round the hall.
The Richmond Mansion
“Good evening, Sandy,” Curt said as he came in, “I hope I’m not too early?”
“No, your timing’s good,” Sandy said as she closed the door behind him. “I see you dressed appropriately.”
“I felt the classic suit was the best approach,” the young man said as he stood and smiled, looking to the stairs as Joanne walked slowly down, Heather following her down and beaming with pride. Her dress reflected the lights from the ceiling, as she adjusted her elbow length ivory gloves.
“Hey,” she said as she came up to Curt, her blonde hair held in tight curls, “thanks for agreeing to come.”
“My pleasure,” Curt said as he handed her a small box. Opening it, Jo smiled as she took the small corsage out, and allowed Heather to pin it to her dress.
“Hi every… Oh Goddess, you look fantastic Jo.”
“Why thank you, Miss de Ros,” Jo said as she made a small curtsey, and then put her arm in Curt’s. John smiled as he held the door open, the three of them watching as they walked down to the waiting limousine.
“Right,” Sandy said as John drove off, “you and me, out now. Abby, thanks for coming round and babysitting.”
“No problem – have fun, both of you.”
The Waldorf Astoria
John opened the door and waited until Curt stepped out and offered his hand to Joanne, smiling as she stepped out and walked with him into the hotel lobby, and then into the ballroom.
“Boy you Guys know how to have a graduation prom,” Curt said as he looked round.
As always the student committee and the hotel had combined wonderfully to present the event. The ballroom was a blaze of lights as each girl arrived with her date. Even Ally was on her best behavior, just bathing in the atmosphere.
“Hey,” Jo said as they walked over, “you look wonderful.”
“So do you,” Ally said with a smile.
“So who’s your partner for tonight,” Curt said as he looked round.
“He’s just coming over now,” Ally said as Peter Lodge walked over with two drinks.
“Hey Jo, Curt – just arrived as well I see,” he said with a smile.
“Yup – so if you’re here, who’s accompanying Nell to her prom?”
“That would be Simon,” Peter said with a smile. “So who have you got as a band for tonight?”
“Yes, Miss Smith?” Sheryl Burton walked over in a dark blue floor length gown.
“Our partners were enquiring as to the band for tonight?”
“Ah yes – they were a group that Mom heard a few months back in Alphabet City. I’m looking forward to hearing them.”
“So where’s Maggie?”
The girls watched as Maggie walked in, accompanied by a tall sandy haired boy in a white tux, her red hair piled high as the green silk shimmered with every move. Those movements, however, were hurried and she looked upset – as did Marnie Paget, who looked behind her as there were sounds of a heated discussion outside. Her partner, a broad shouldered blonde haired boy, was holding several sheets of paper as all four walked over.
“Hey Chad, Dave,” Peter said as they joined the group, “glad you could make it.”
“Friends of yours?”
“They accepted my kind invitation,” Peter said, “but what was going on outside?”
“Have a look,” the blonde man said as he handed Peter and Curt the sheets of paper.
"The damn paparazzi were in hot pursuit, we had a
couple try to get in earlier," Maggie and Marnie
both shook their heads as they gathered themselves.
"Well lucky I'm not a big star like you two
are." Jo smiled.
"Don't believe it Jo,
they were looking for you as well." Curt picked up one of the
"We just need to apologize
girls." Marnie turned to their classmates.
"Hey they can take my picture...ANYTIME." Ally laughed.
“You think she’ll feel the same way if she was us?”
“Hey, I’m still the part timer here, remember?”
“Let’s see you say that after the summer – come on, I need a drink…”
“Well, this is some party,” Alex said as he danced to Tiger Feet with Ama.
“Indeed – this music is very easy to dance to,” she said with a smile as the dance floor literally throbbed with the stamping of the dancers.
Nikki and Pepsi were standing with House, who looked happy even with the fake safety pins and the ripped t-shirt. Jeannie was wearing ripped jeans and an old black t-shirt, the sleeve on one side down her arm.
“Come on,” House said as David Cassidy started to sing I Think I Love You, Jeannie wrapping her arms round his neck as he picked her up and took her out onto the dance floor.
“Now I’ve seen it all – Punks dancing to David Cassidy,” Kate Hardisty said with a smile, before the DJ said “and now, a teachers only dance.”
“What,” Annie said, as he started to play Bye Bye Baby.
“Oh come on,” Kate said as she dragged Annie on, the other teachers following as the kids crowded round the floor, clapping and cheering.
“Wow, they really can move,” Doc said as she hugged Chet.
“Hey – what’s House doing?”
As the song finished, the DJ said “While we have you there, we have a special delivery from the Seniors for one Kate Hardisty. Is Kate Hardisty here?”
The staff applauded as House brought over a large bouquet and handed it over. Kate looked at the card that came with it.
“With thanks – the class of 2015.” She smiled and waved as she carried them off, and the dance started again.
The Waldorf Astoria
As the band completed the first half of their set, Katherine des Moines came up to the microphone and shouted “Weren’t they great?”
The girls and their dates clapped and cheered as Kate said “I drew the short straw this year, so bear with me as we get through this…
“Alright 2015,” she finally said, “before we do the customary awards I’d like us all to remember a classmate who should be here tonight, and who while she may not be present in body, is certainly still there in all our hearts and memories.” Katherine wiped away some tears. “Please may I beg silence as we celebrate our lost classmate, and can I beg Andy van Ollen to come up here and lead us in silent prayer for her cousin, our much beloved, and much missed Jamie Kirkham.”
Andrea walked slowly up, clasping her gloved hands together, as she turned and looked round the room. “There’s not a day I don’t think of Jamie, and wish she was still here,” she finally said, “but her memory lives on. I spoke to her father today, and he told me that a second Kirkham scholar will be joining Anna Carlton in the Freshman class next year. For now, however, let us remember Jamie in our hearts, and honor her with our silence.”
All was silent except for some muffled crying as Andrea van Ollen stood in silent memory for Jamie.
After a minute, Wilhelmina Tennant came to the microphone. “Class of 2015 it is my pleasure to announce that as part of Commencement, the Board of Governors have decided that a special certificate will be presented to the family of Jamie Kirkham, so that she will be recognized alongside the rest of you, her friends and classmates.”
For a moment there was silence, but then tumultuous applause from all the girls as they realized just what had been said by the principal.
“All right – we start, as is traditional, with Mouth of the Year, although we did debate naming this the Judy McNally award in honor of last year’s head girl,” Kathy said. “However, this year the award goes to a young lady with a great future ahead of her. We give the title of mouth of the year to Marnie Paget, purely based on her words to the idiots outside tonight!”
Marnie blushed as she walked up and took the award, before saying “I guess I’m going to miss all of you, so let me say this – WE ROCK CLASS OF 2015!”
The floor cheered as she came down, and Kathy came back to the mike. “Now, for Most Likely to be a Geek award. To be honest, we debated this, given the winner’s recent change of career but in the end, she was the obvious choice. Maggie Fife, we’re looking for you here, so come on up.”
Maggie smiled as she accepted the reward, and others were called forward.
“I’m happy to say the award for Sportswoman of the Year, goes to Sheryl Burton.” Kathy stepped aside as Miss Tennant presented the track star with her trophy.
“Oh God 2015, thank you, thank you all so much.” Sheryl waved her trophy.
“Now this next award is new, as head girls we created it with just one person in mind.” Kathy beamed. “It doesn’t really have a title, but I suppose you can say it’s in a way to the most memorable girl in this year’s class, a girl we all love, adore, envy, shake our heads at, but really just accept as a great great friend. Can someone please push Allyson Rochermann up here please.”
Ally looked stunned as her friends led her up and Miss Tennant presented her trophy.
“Oh shit, oh crap…You guys didn’t need to give me anything.” Ally cried and laughed at once. “But thank you – thank you all, and if you’re in Boston, look us up.”
“Okay can I say that the competition to name a prom queen was maybe the toughest in the history of the school.” Kathy des Moines smiled as she stood at the microphone. “As a class we have been blessed with so many wonderful, beautiful, and intelligent classmates.”
Kathy paused for the applause.
“When we all entered the school nearly four years ago, we were told to look around because the faces we saw would be our friends for life. That wasn’t quite true, the September before last we acquired a new classmate who rapidly became one of the most popular girls in school, a sports heroine, the survivor of a horrible kidnapping, one of my fellow head girls, and a classmate whose leadership and great love for her fellow angels has shone out like a bright light.”
There was more applause.
“In the end despite the many wonderful girls in the class of 2015, we in fact had a unanimous choice to win that toughest competition…Our prom queen is of course Joanne Smith.”
Jo stood in shock as Curt kissed her, and she was led up by Ally and Maggie, standing and smiling as Miss Tennant placed the tiara on her head.
“Alright someone might have told me.” Jo wiped away some tears. “Thank you Miss Tennant, Thank you Kathy, Thank you all so much.” Jo paused again to wipe away a tear. “I was unfortunate enough to lose my parents, and to have to be raised by my aunt and uncle, before Miss Alexandra Richmond was kind enough to invite me into her home, and to agree to pay for me to come to this amazing school.”
Kathy led the applause.
“You were kind enough to accept a newcomer into your midst, and to become honestly more than just my classmates, but also my very best friends. As you can tell I was not expecting this, I had thought my highlight of the year was us winning the Vanderbilt Cup, but no…” Jo sniffed back a tear, “this wonderful honour coming from all of you means far more…” Jo again wiped a tear, “Thank you all again so much.”
Kathy and Miss Tennant led the applause as Jo hugged Curt and showed him her crown.
“One last thing before we try and rock the night away.” Kathy returned to the microphone, making a signal to someone. “Miss Tennant to say thank you on behalf of the class of 2015 we would like to present to you these beautiful flowers,” Kathy took them from the member of the hotel staff who brought them on stage. “Can I also add we arranged for Mrs. Hardisty to be presented with a similar bouquet at the Younger classes disco tonight.”
“Thank you so much Katherine.” Wihelmina whispered as she took the presentation.
“Alright 2015 Three Cheers for Miss Tennant and all the staff…HIP HIP…”
”HOORAY!!” the girls in the ballroom screamed out.
“Right – I have only one last thing to say,” Kathy said. “In the immortal words of Miss McNally – let’s PAR-TAY!”
Running off the stage, she joined her friends as the band came back on stage, and started playing.
“Excuse me a minute,” Jo said as she slipped outside, and took out her cell phone.
“Hey Jo – we’re just having some dessert.”
"I have news big sis."
"Must be big to ring us from the prom."
"Guess who was voted Prom Queen?"
"Oh my God.....NO!"
Jo could hear Heather scream, "Jo was voted Prom Queen," to Sandy.
"Seems it was a unanimous decision."
"Oh my Goddess I wish I'd been there." Jo
could hear Heather sobbing with emotion.
"Well several girls filmed it, I've asked them to
send me copies for you."
"Jo we are both so proud of you." Sandy came
on the phone, "Your poor sister is in shock."
"Tell her I'll show you my crown in the morning
before you leave."
"Will do...and Jo darling well done for
"We will see you in the morning." Heather
shouted, "People here think I'm insane, but this is SO mega!"
"Alright Sis I'll see you in the morning...I love you both."
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Hello – hey Heather what’s… Calm down, Heather, take deep breaths.”
Klaus, Juliette and Ingrid looked at Carina as she said “All right, calm voice, and say that again.”
"OH FUCKIN' SHIT!" Carina screamed at her parents
and sister. "Jo was voted Prom Queen...UNANIMOUSLY!"
"Oh that is wonderful." Juliette's smile was
"I know," Cari
shook her head, "When I won last year there were votes for other girls,
but for every girl to vote for her?"
"Joanne is a lovely young lady." Klaus smiled.
“Yeah – she’ll never live this down now. Just wait until I tell Abby – in a minute,” she said as she dialed a number on her cell phone.
"Did you hear Jude?" Cari
spoke into her phone.
"Jo was voted prom queen."
"Oh shit...YES!" Judy yelled. "Well
done that girl."
"I know...hold on Jude someone else
"Did you hear?" Bobbi yelled.
"I did, I'm just telling Jude...Jude it's Bobs she heard as well."
“We treat that girl to a celebration next week – no questions asked. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” the other two said in unison.
The Waldorf Astoria
"Well can I say I never ever thought that I'd be
dating a prom queen," Curt whispered in Jo's ear as they slow danced.
"I had to take my cousin to my own prom."
"Well I never thought I'd be a prom queen."
Jo looked up at him. "Nor that my date would be the
handsomest man in the room."
"Exaggeration, but thank you."
Curt smiled happily. "Well apart from the unpleasantness with the
photographers, let me guess that you've enjoyed yourself immensely."
"I have." Jo kissed her boyfriend. "I'm a very, very, lucky girl."
“Come on,” he said as the music finished, “let’s hit the buffet.”
"Well next year, Abby will make it a hat-trick
I'm predicting." Ally grinned as they all took some food.
"The three musketeers, all prom queens in successive years." Kathy told him.
“Carina was prom queen last year then?”
“She was – and I think Abby is in with a real chance.”
Saturday 23rd May
The Richmond Mansion
“Hey there,” Jo said as she let Abby in, “thanks for coming round today.”
“Well, I wanted to see if the plans for Monday had all come together,” the tall blonde said as Jo closed the door, “especially given my role in all this. Anyway, how’s the Prom Queen?”
“I’ve seen the photos – you looked wonderful last night.”
“I still can’t quite believe it,” Jo said as she picked up the crown, “and you should have heard Heather last night. It’s – well, it’s just the best thing ever.”
“So where is Curt?”
“At the UNY library – checking some papers out.”
“Well, getting back to Monday, have you told Jeannie yet?”
“Nah – I figured Monday five minutes before the start of the day was enough, especially given one of the surprises lined up.”
“Well, come away through – I’m glad Sandy and the others all left at eight for the weekend, because it means we can meet early and outline the plan.”
Abby nodded as she went through to the front room, smiling at Kathy and Suzie. She also recognized some of the other women sitting there – Jane Molloy; the rapper Elly Mental; Danielle Shaypuk, in her wheelchair talking to Brooke Hutton; and Sigi, smiling as she talked to Ingrid. There were others there, all names known to her.
“All right folks,” Jo said as she stood at the fireplace, “thanks first to all of you for agreeing to give up your important time on Monday, and also for meeting us here today. You’ve all spoken to either myself, Kathy or Suzie, and all of you know my friend Abby, who will be taking charge of the actual fundraising on Monday.
“But now it’s time for you all to learn the timetable and the full plan for Operation Takeover…”
“All right,” Henri said as the crew entered the garage, “this is the designated Richmond-Carter garage. Children, there is a refrigerator in the rest area back there – let’s make sure it’s fully stocked.”
“Yes boss,” Katy, George and Little Sandy said as they went back to the Winnebago.
“Boys, check the delivery of parts and tyres, then get the car in here.”
“You heard the man,” Clint said, “let’s go.”
“Yes Boss,” the pit crew said as they went to the rack of tyres and other parts which had been deposited in the garage, while Jan, Sandy and Jeanne came in.
“Are you two feeling as tense as me,” Jan said as she looked round.
“Oh yes,” Jeanne said as she looked round, “possibly more so.”
“Take your time,” Henri said, “breath in the calm atmosphere as it is now – for in a few short hours, it will be so different.”
The three women closed their eyes as they listened to the sounds, breathed in the atmosphere, steadied themselves.
“Good – now, to work. Heather?”
“Setting up now,” she said as she started the laptop.
“Good – our spotter will be here soon, with Ray, Shirley and John. Let us be ready for them.”
“Good morning Henri.”
“Good morning Mario – and who is this with you today?”
“Ken Pierce, race steward,” the tall dark haired man said as he shook Henri’s hand. “I came to let you know the driver briefing for qualification will be at noon, so could you ask your drivers to be at the briefing room for then?”
“Of course – as they are my bosses, I see no problem with that. Ladies?”
“Driver briefing at noon.”
“Then we had best hurry and change,” Jeanne said as the three of them headed for the Winnebago.
“Ah here they come now,” Heather said as Jan, Jeanne and Sandy returned to the garage.
“Hi you guys,” Sandy said as she kissed Tonia and Shirley, “we had to attend the briefing, but now it’s down to the joy of qualification.”
“Well, we’re here to support you all the way,” Shirley said as John took some pictures of the pit crew at work.
“Well then ladies, I suggest a light lunch, and then we get down to the serious business of qualification. Will you join us?”
“We’d be delighted to,” Tonia said as the four of them walked to the large vehicle parked at the rear.
“Right, right, Now Jeanne…NOW!” Tonia came over the com. “Just one other car out on the track.”
“Alright as we discussed it.” Henri spoke into his microphone and gave his daughter the thumbs up.
Jeanne eased the big BMW down the pit lane and onto the track, weaving to warm her tires up, glad that the clear sunny skies replicated what they had faced in practice the previous Sunday.
“Still virtually clear Tonia?” she asked as she passed the start finish line for the first time.
“The 34 Jaguar came out as well, but you are separated by half a lap.”
“Roger that Tonia.” Jeanne replied as she started to pick up speed.
“How are the tire temperatures Heather?”
“Looking good Henri.”
“Okay Jeanne one more warm-up lap after this, then you go for it.”
“Roger that papa.” Jeanne crossed the line again.
“Fingers crossed everyone.” Henri spoke on the com as he crowded against the pit wall with Jan, Sandy and most of the support team.
“Okay let her rip Jeanne.” Clint called out…”GO!”
Jeanne came out of the final turn with her foot down, building speed, building momentum. She passed the line almost as a blur.
“Still looks aok.” Tonia reported as Jeanne steered the sports car into and out of the turns.
“It feels good.” Jeanne reported. “Cornering well, no slip on the tyres as of yet.”
“Well?” Henri shouted as she crossed the line again.
“Good, but she can do faster.” Clint called back.
“Still no trouble Jeanne, but next time you’ll have the 21 to contend with.”
“Okay Tonia let’s make this lap count.”
“Come on darling.” Henri whispered to himself. “Come on.”
“Looking smooth.” Tonia called out.
“Well?” Henri asked.
“She’s third fastest in our class.” Heather yelled.
“Okay coming up on that car Jeanne…you’ll pass him on the straight.”
“And that?” Henri shouted.
“She’s up to second in class.” Clint yelled back.
“That should do nicely.” Henri contorted his scarred face into a grin and high-fived the other two drivers. “Alright Jeanne, a couple of laps slowing down then bring her in…That’s a job well done.”
“Copy that – I want the others to have a chance to get out as well.”
“You need to – all drivers must participate in qualification. Sandy, you’re up”
“See you later lover,” Sandy said as she kissed Heather, and went to the pit lane to wait with the crew. The kids watched as Jeanne pulled in, and jumped out, Sandy taking her place as they checked tyres, and then set off as Jeanne removed her helmet.
“Brilliant work, princess,” Henri said as he handed her a bottle of water.
“Thanks, papa,” Jeanne said as she was hugged by Jan. “Now we wait and pray.”
“Okay Sandy – track is clear at the moment, go for it.”
“Roger that Tonia,” Sandy said as she sped down the straight, and went into her full test lap.
“She’s looking good – keeping her speed up, cornering well.”
They watched as she past again, Jeanne nodding as she drank her water.
“Sandy, watch that banking at turn 7 – there’s a little bit of debris on the centre line.”
“Copy that Jeanne – Tonia, line in straight?”
“Watch for the Lotus 24 coming out.”
“OK – have him in sight.”
“Smooth, Sandy,” Heather said as she watched the telemetry, “Keep going for the moment…”
“But not too long,” Jan said, “I need to get out too.”
"Okay everyone gather round,” Henri said as they walked over.
“That was a great performance out there. We qualified damn well, now we have the free practice, and then Clint and the boys takeover and everything is checked, double-checked, and put into race trim for the race tomorrow." Henri stood on a box as he applauded them.
"Is there anything you want to try in the free practice Henri?" Clint asked.
"I really think just see how she handles with a
"That we can do."
"Well for our first qualifying I think we can all
be pleased with that." Roy passed Shirley a cup of coffee.
"They did rather well didn't
"I think they did." Roy smiled.
"So how did the photography go John?"
"Not too bad at all...definitely a couple of images for my own collection, other for the team and everyone to have."
"The big thing now is the weather." Jeanne
looked at the forecast. "If that rain hits on time, those last two hours
could be chaotic."
"Well we just need to be careful...just remember
we are doing this for fun." Sandy spoke.
"Yes, but taking home some trophies would be nice
as well." Jan sipped her energy drink.
"That's true." Sandy smiled.
"Alright we are having dinner with the team tonight." John packed away his cameras, "Then I think early nights for everyone."
"If nerves don't keep people awake." Shirley reminded him.
The local diner had never seen quite so mixed a group. A lot of the local race drivers met there the night before a race, and many of them recognized the scarred face of Henri Marais as he sat with the large group in one corner, several tables pulled together.
“So, the race starts at eleven tomorrow – we need to be at the racetrack for nine. Clint, final checks?”
“Car is fuelled and ready, but the boys and I will go back and finalise the race trim. Heather?”
“Coms are all working, and no problems with the readings. Could we have some more iced tea and coke for the kids, please?”
The waitress nodded as Shirley looked round. “This place has so much atmosphere,” she said, “it reminds me of the A1 Café in North Finchley. Have you ever been there John?”
“No, but I’ve talked to some of the regulars. You’re right though – a real atmosphere about the place.”
“So who else is coming out tomorrow,” Jeanne asked.
“Willy and Natasha are coming with Diana and Abby,” Heather said, “and Juliette and Carina are coming as well.”
“Vanessa and Jo are coming with Paulie and Gus – Alex is working, but says he’ll see us when we get back.”
Sandy took her phone out as it rang and said “Hello?”
"So how did it all go?" Juliette asked on
the other end of the call.
"Not too shabby, we qualified second in our
class, and we were the first ladies team overall." Sandy spoke into her
"How did Tonia work out?"
"Great, she obviously has learned a lot watching
TV, she was spot on."
"So are you guys eating out?"
"Yeah, it’s dinner for everyone, followed by
"Well loads of us are coming down in the
"Just remember umbrellas the forecast is rain in
the late afternoon."
"Okay I'll warn everybody." Juliette made a mental note as she spoke.
“Oh – and what has Jo been doing today?”
“I have no idea – ask her tomorrow.”
“Very well, See you then,” Sandy said, “kiss Judith for me.”
“I will – ciao for now,” Juliette said as Sandy ended the call.
"Well did you enjoy watching qualifying and practice." Shirley asked Maisha.
"It was a little boring at times, but Ama and I
got to sit in the car at one stage."
"As long as you kept out of the way."
"We did." Maisha
"Thanks for watching out for them Caroline."
"Well it wasn't too much of a chore, Dan and I
both enjoyed ourselves watching it from down
"Yes," Dan spoke, "Motor sport is not really my thing, but its different when you are in the pits and the drivers are friends."
Sunday 24th May
“Ladies and gentlemen, we welcome you to Pocono Raceway for today’s six hour race. The drivers are making their final preparations for today, so we invite you to enjoy the attractions, and take your seats for the start at 11 am precisely.”
Juliette looked round as Carina put Judith into her stroller, and then walked with her through the car park to the grandstand. They were joined by the Rochermann and McNally clans on the way in, as others formed lines snaking to the entrances.
“Should be quite a day,” Rachel said as they walked along.
“Sandy has agreed to come to the ballet with me when Catherine comes in June – her penance for my coming today. I would have come anyway, but…”
“A little taste of revenge goes a long way,” Kelly Rochermann said with a smile.
“So are we invited down to the pits after the race?”
“Could be – but I understand it’s sponsors and crew only down there for the moment.”
In the garage, Henri looked on with quiet pride as the team made their final preparations.
“How goes it my friend?”
“I think we are ready Mario – ready to do our best. The other teams?”
“As ready as you are, so I will wish you the same luck as everyone else, and let you get ready.”
As Mario Andretti walked off, Clint came over, wiping his hands. “A true sportsman – he’s visiting every garage and wishing them all luck.”
“Naturally - All right girls, huddle in," Henri
Jan, Sandy and Jeanne walked over and leaned in as Henri said "Remember this is a marathon not a sprint. Jeanne, take the first hour, do us proud."
“Jo always likes to say Go Angels,” Sandy said, “so let me say it – Go Team!”
"Here we go," Jeanne said as she hugged the others and got into the car. The group watched as she started the engine, and then moved out with Clint and the boys to take her position on the grid.
From the stands, Juliette watched as the cars moved into their positions.
“Good – we didn’t miss the start,” she heard Nessa say as she arrived with Jo, Gus and Paulie. All four were wearing jeans and leather jackets.
“No – just in time,” Juliette said as they sat down.
“Hey – what’s this I hear you are the Prom Queen of 2015,” Cari said as she hugged Jo.
“yeah – could have knocked me down with a feather on that one. Mind you, it was almost eclipsed by Ally getting her special award.”
“I know,” Rachel said, “and then she found out what happened with Nell.”
“Oh – what happened with Nell?”
“Nun Prom Queen,” Ally said as Nell beamed from ear to ear.
"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the cars
are now out on their warm up lap. In a few moments they will take their
places in the starting grid, ready for the signal."
Jeanne drove the car in formation, weaving from side to side to warm the tyres, watching the cars around her.
"Tonia sit rep?"
"Clear view all the way Jeanne."
'Car readings look good."
"Bon chance princess."
She smiled as she approached the start again and took her place on the grid, watching the lights above.