Building Bridges – Part 1







Wednesday 17th August 2016

7.30 pm BST

The New House



“She’s back,” Miley called out as she looked out of the window, Laura and her coming to the front doors as the car pulled up.


“Welcome back Aggie darling,” Donald smiled as Rory opened the car door and helped her out. “How was London?”


“Hot and noisy.” She smiled herself as he kissed her, “but I did get several things done.  Let’s go inside.”


“Welcome back,” Miley and Laura both hugged Agnes as she came in, “we missed you.”


“And I missed both of you as well,” Aggie said as she kissed both of them.  “I’ve been asked by the kids to say hello to you, and to say they miss you as well.”


“So what else have you done,” Laura asked as Sheilagh closed the door.


“If you all give me a chance to freshen up quickly let’s then have some tea and coffee and I’ll tell you everything.”


“Sounds like a plan,” Donald looked at Sheilagh, “can we have our tea and coffee in the Yellow room please?”


“Of course Your Lordship.” Sheilagh said as she walked off.


“Excellent, we will see you in ten minutes Aggie.”


“Thank you,” Agnes said as she walked up the stairs.


“Come on – we’ll wait for her in there,”  Donald said as he put his arms round the two girls.




“Oh that tastes so good,” Agnes said as she sipped her coffee, sat in one of the armchairs, and eased her shoes off, “airline coffee really is lousy.”


“That is true,” Donald laughed. “So you said you got a lot done?”


“I did,” Aggie took another sip, “the most important thing being my visit to the American Embassy, and them granting me a visa.”


“I guessed it was going to happen,” Donald looked happy as he spoke, the girls clapping, “as you’ve probably worked out darling a lot of your friends intervened on your behalf.”


“I know,” Aggie said as she sat back, “and I’ll have to thank them when I see them – which I will now.”


“So what else did you do?”


“Well,” Agnes said as she put her cup down, “I talked to several people about you and Miley Laura darling.”


“I knew my ears were burning,” Miley giggled.


“First things first – I’ve asked Karen to check your flat in Paddington, make sure everything is all right.  I really wanted to ask her to pack your things up, but then I realised you’d want to do that – once we decide something we’ll talk about in a few minutes.”


“Well, the place could do with a clean anyway,” Laura said with a smile.


“Look girls,” Agnes said as she leaned forward, “I need to ask you both a serious question.”


“What question?” Miley asked quietly.


“Well you’ve talked to most of the other girls the past few days haven’t you Miley?” Agnes said as she finished her scone, “and most of them have told you I suspect that they go to boarding schools?”


“Yes they have.  But not all of them do.”


“True.  But I went to boarding schools, Donald went to boarding school, your Aunt Tam and Christine as well. If I gave you your choice would you like that option?”


Miley looked at Laura, and said “I don’t want to be on my own, without you or Laura.”


“Aggie I’d rather be with you and Uncle Donald,” Laura looked concerned as she spoke.


“I guessed all this,” Agnes said as she reached for another scone. “So I did some enquiring about day schools in London.”


“Private schools?”


“Yes darling.  Given all I know of those the public system has failed, that is my best thinking.”


“And what did you find out Aggie?”


“That it will be hard to get you up to speed and assessed  in time for the start of the new school year, but it’s not impossible that you’ll be able to start schools again in January.”


“Oh wow – so we can go to school again,” Laura said quietly.


“Indeed – and if you want an example to follow, Ama, Caroline Jameson’s daughter, also started her school in January after she had some catch-up classes.”


Ama – why did she miss school?”


“In her case,” Donald said quietly, “She was a slave for three years.”


“Oh my,” Miley said, “and she is such a wonderful person.”


“You can tell her that – now that I can go there, we will make sure you meet her and others who have refound themselves.”


Laura stared at Aggie, as Miley said “We are going to New York?”


“Yes you are Miley,” Agnes smiled again. “Donald is organizing passports for you both for Germany, and when we have those I’ll apply for you to be able to visit the States.”


“Oh my God,” Laura stood there with her mouth open in amazement.


“Just remember,” Aggie said with a smile, “that this is for your Aunt Shirley’s engagement party, and that it’s a secret that she and Uncle John are getting married.”


“So we have to keep our lips zipped,” Miley laughed as she made a motion across her lips.


“Indeed.  Now, last but not least, we had better talk about living arrangements hadn’t we?”


“I wondered when you’d get round to this,” Donald poured more coffee and juice.


“With your father, and I hope you are both happy thinking about him as that, being the British Ambassador in Paris…”


“I love that thought,” Laura grinned.


“And me having a business to build in London, then I think it’s pretty obvious what the biggest problem is going to be at first.”


“That we will have to be in Paris some of the time, and London the rest.”


“Exactly Miley,” Agnes said.  “Now the Ambassador’s residence is large, but my flat isn’t that big. I need to keep a room for guests, so will you and Laura mind sharing a room?”


“Mind?  Mum,” Laura said, “we’ve shared for two years.  Why would we stop now?”


“You called me Mum again Laura,” Aggie said with a smile.


“Well, you are our mum now, Mum – even if I have to be Amelia outside the family,” Miley said as she came over and hugged Agnes.



8 pm BST

Sue’s Country Home


“Colin darling,” Sue said as she draped her arms round her husband, “we are on our honeymoon, you are supposed to be more interested in doing naughty things to me then reading all those papers.”


“If I don’t take a break and do something like read all this then I’ll be too exhausted to actually fight this election,” Colin laughed. “Where did you learn to do what we did earlier?”


“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Sue giggled, “One advantage of marrying a whore darling, we do know some interesting things about sex.”


“That,” Colin said with a wry smile, “I can’t deny.”


“Anyway to give you a chance to recover, what are you looking at, and can I help?”


“You can try Sue.”  Colin passed over a paper as he said “I’m looking at the polling data on which issues concern the voters in the constituency most.”


“Brexit I suppose?”


“That’s what I thought it would be, but no it’s the everyday issues to do with housing, the health service, schools, etc.”


“I suppose that makes sense,” Sue picked up a sheet of paper, “most people are more worried about the things that impact their everyday life.”


“I’m having to defend our years of austerity and cutbacks that the government has conducted.”


“It’s not that easy,” Sue paused and read something, then reread it to check.


“What are you looking at?”


“Some of this stuff on crime and law and order, it’s interesting.”


“Why?” Colin looked up.


“Because so much of it is ill informed. Most of what people are telling pollsters reflects and fear and prejudice, not the reality.”


“Do I want to know how you know this?”


“Probably not darling, but take it from me that while street level crime is a huge problem, there are far worse things happening out of sight.”


“Domestic violence, child abuse, etc.” Colin nodded. “The things that you do know a lot about Sue.”


“Yes,” Sue put the paper down, “Colin if we do nothing else in this campaign we do need to talk about those who suffer in all but total silence.”









"Well it's official Will darling," Mandy said as she looked up from her mobile, "Stern says that members of both the American and British branches of the renowned Saintz and Sinnerz will be at the Christening."

"Doesn't exactly surprise me someone else has picked up on it," Will smiled. "What else are they saying?"

"Not too much, it's a pretty standard gossip piece, references to Carina and Annie being lesbians of course, but nothing really shocking."

"They can live with that Mum." David joined his parents.

"So are Judy and her family all going to make it to Furstenheim darling?"

"Yes, looks like it will be a full turnout of both American and British McNally's."

"Looking forward to seeing her son?"

"Dad you don't know how badly I've been missing her."




6 pm

George Simpson’s Apartment


"How are preparations going for September Lily?" George said as he sat in his chair, a glass of wine by his side.

"You mean for mine and my teams visit to New York Uncle George?"

"I do, from what I hear it’s not likely to be fun."

"So they tell me," Lily smiled on the computer screen. "I have everyone in intense training trying to get them physically fit, and mentally prepared, but I know enough to realise that however much preparation we do, nothing is going to match the actual experience."

"I'll just keep my fingers crossed that it all works out Lily love."

"Anyway enough of my future, what do you have planned?"

"Oh a few things.”  George sipped his wine, and said “we want to give Saintz one, maybe two, more races before the Breeders Cup. I'm up to my neck in work for Caroline doing security evaluations."

"I saw something saying she's looking for more staff?"

"We are." George paused, "Young Sharon is going to be missed when she starts college, she's a hard little worker."

"So Dom told me. Any other plans?" Lily touched her nose.

"Oh I've seen a few possibilities Lily love. just a case of do I have the time to do anything about them."

"Understood" Lily laughed, "who thought there'd ever come a day when George Simpson was too busy with honest work to put off a great potential job?"


“It comes to all of us eventually, Lily my dear…”


Thursday 18th August

8 am BST

The New House, Ardray


“Miss Aggie,” Sheilagh said as she brought some letters and papers into the Breakfast Room, “I think you might need look at the local newspaper.”


“The Oban Times you mean?”


“Yes Miss.”  As she spoke, Sheilagh put the new paper on the table.


“Is there a problem Sheilagh?”


“Personally I’m not sure Miss,” the housekeeper said as she opened the paper, “but look at page five, at the pictures of Miss Sue’s wedding.”


“Let me see,” Aggie adjusted her glasses, “These actually aren’t too bad.”


“Look in the corner of that one Miss,” Sheilagh pointed.


“Oh, they caught me and Donald hugging the girls.”


“I know you were worried about that happnin’ Miss Aggie.”


“It was something we could have done without Sheilagh,” Agnes said with a smile, “but the girls aren’t identified by name, and this is just a local Scottish paper, hopefully it will just pass unnoticed.”


“Aye hopefully it will.”


“Is there any coverage of Lady Catherine’s death?”


“Aye there is Miss, look at page two.”


“Ouch!” Agnes said as she scanned the headline and the first couple of paragraphs, “that is rather more detail then I was hoping would emerge.”


“The fact she married Lord Donald after he broke off the engagement?”


“True – and her recent confinement for mental health reasons.  It’s the mention that this was an issue in childhood though – is Lord Donald still here?”


“Why,” Donald said as he came in.


“Have you read this,” Agnes said as she passed him the paper.


“Ah – I need to talk to Victoria,” he said as he left the room…



"Victoria, it's Donald...Have you seen the local Oban newspaper?"

"I have,” Victoria said into her phone, “there are a few too many secrets been spilled for my taste, but I guess we will cope."

"Please, just be assured that I didn't say anything, and nor did Aggie."

"I know Donald," Victoria paused, "you know she really didn't deserve you, and she certainly didn't deserve what you are doing."

"Victoria she died as my wife. I might have been divorcing her but the fact remains she was my wife, and I'll do just what I would have done if she hadn't done so much damage in the lives of so many people."

"How is Agnes taking all this?"

"She's looking forward to 'the day', and we are working on adopting the girls, but she's also drawing on all that experience she has of saying nothing untoward and we will both be both discreet, and decorous."

"My sister ruined both your lives for so long to be honest I'd not blame you for publicly celebrating, but thank you for letting her be buried and mourned like this."


“Me neither,” Donald said as he smiled…



11 am CET

Furstenheim Palace


“The good thing about owning a palace like Furstenheim, Annie, is that at least we have plenty of accommodation for guests.” Sigi smiled as they walked down the main corridor.




“And there is still a little accommodation left over in case of any last minute arrivals Princess,” Frau Strecher spoke as they went into the drawing room.


“Good,” Sigi looked down at her note pad, “Now the drivers do have their schedules for meeting guests at Munich Airport?”


“They do.”


“You know I don’t know how we could have possibly done this without you Frau Strecher,” Annie said as she looked up from her own notes.


“I’m sure you and Princess Sigrid would have done fine Princess.”


“I wish I had your confidence,” Annie shook her head.


“Frau Strecher is correct though,” Natalya removed her jacket as she walked in.


“Welcome Aunt,” Sigi kissed the older lady. “Where is Uncle Willy?”


“Outside talking with your Aunt Gloria, I came in to warn you she’d arrived,” Natalya smiled.


“Stand by to repel borders,” Sigrid laughed. “Is the whole family with her?”


“They are.” Natalya laughed, “so everyone keep calm and just try not to let her get to you.”


“Right,” Annie rolled her eyes.


Wite,” Judith looked up from her drawing.


“Oh – and there is someone in the morning room who wishes to see you Annie?”


“And that would be?”


“Why don’t you go and see,” Natalya said with a smile as Annie walked into the larger room.


“Hey – did I miss much?”


"Welcome back darling, how did it go?" Annie said as she put her arms round her wife and kissed Carina.

"We won,” Carina said with a smile, “but the whole little trip was not fun."


"Yeah, poor accommodation, bad food, bad organization, take it from me that you should be glad you weren't with us."

"I am," Annie smiled.

"Mommie!" Judith cried out as she toddled in.

"I overheard what you said Cari darling," Juliette said as she followed the youngster in. "I had that sort of thing happen more than once when I was modelling full-time. You never knew quite what you would find when you ventured out into parts unknown."

"I remember Mom," Carina grinned, "and how have you been little one?" she said as she swept her daughter up into her arms.

"I've been GOOD!" the two year old nodded her head decisively, "Mags and Rudi have been bad though, they were cwying while we were at the church."

"Two years old and she's already ratting out her younger siblings," Annie rolled her eyes.

"When does Pops get home?"

"Early in the morning. King Rudolf is flying several of the people who've been shooting in Scotland here."


“So, all ready for Sunday?”


“I think so…”


1 pm BST



"Did you know it would do that Aunt Catriona?" Laura rubbed her shoulder as she slowly lowered the shotgun.

"I did, and i apologise Laura,” Catriona said, “but it is best to learn by feeling it that these things kick like a mule when you fire them."

"Well I'm sure I'll never forget."

"It's nice that you and some of the other young ones have helped Sheilagh today."

"Well we couldn't think of anything we all truly wanted to do,” Laura said, “and Uncle Jimmy can't give us more dance lessons till this afternoon, so we thought we'd help with the lunches."

"Well it was very good of you," Elizabeth smiled as she sat down next to her daughter-in-law.

"Thank you Aunt Elizabeth," Laura smiled.

"So are you getting used to the idea of what is coming yet?"

"A little. It's going to be so incredible going to both Munich and New York."


“It’s just the beginning Laura – your life is going to change, hopefully so much for the better.”


“I know – I really do know,” Laura said with a smile.





Complete Style


"It's all right for some,” Anita said angrily as she sat in the canteen, “getting days off to go attend a Royal christening."

"Several of us were invited Anita, it's not a special privilege for me," Marina sighed. 

"Well think of all of us here doing some real work." Anita smiled cattily.

"You are going to have to do something about that situation you know Anna?" Mary Thomas whispered in her friends ear as they sat an adjacent table.

"I know Merlin," Anna looked over at the younger women. "I had hoped that once she saw how invaluable Marina was in the office that Anita would get over her hangups regarding Marina's background. but if anything it’s getting worse."

"What are you talking about?" Janine said as she sat down.

"Anita's problems with Marina."

"Marina isn't the only one she's getting nasty with.”  Janine opened her drink before she said “she's giving me hell as well now the publicity is starting to come out about me dating Henri."


“Changing the subject, when is Juliette back?”


“Monday – and Alexis will be coming over with Catherine in a few weeks…”



Friday 19th August

9 am BST

The New House


“So what is this party tonight all about Mum?” Laura said with a smile at the breakfast table.


“Well…”  Agnes put down her knife and fork and looked round.  “It’s a way of both thanking the locals for welcoming me back home like this, but also to thank those who worked so hard to make both the wedding and the shoot such a success.”


“The Marchesa was telling me she does the same sort of things at her homes in Italy.”


“That doesn’t surprise me Laura,” Agnes paused, “it’s never wrong to thank people who do things to help you, and to show them you are grateful for that.”


“I probably should remember that.”


“You should darling,” Aggie smiled as she reached for the coffee pot. “Anyway in other news I’ve asked Grace Brand if she can recommend someone I can consult with in London on getting you both educationally assessed, and working out what things I need to hire a tutor to teach you before you can start school properly.”


“Does she know someone?”


“She thinks she might know someone who knows someone, shall I put it that way?”


“I understand.”  Laura picked up her milk and took a drink.


“Well I know that sums were never what I was good at,” Miley shook her head.


“I enjoy Maths though.”


“You like most things Laura.” Miley finished her orange juice. “I like English a lot, I like writing stories, but most of all I like things like art.”


“Well Grace in just chatting with you said she thinks that creative subjects are really your thing as well Mylie.  But you need to do the hard stuff as well, so we will see…”



6.30 pm BST

The New House




"Now let me look," Agnes pursed her lips as she looked at Laura and Miley. 

"Do we look okay?" Miley asked as they stood there on the main hallway.  Both girls were wearing white dresses, with a round neckline, and black shoes, the skirt of Miley’s dress coming to her knees and that of Laura’s nearly to the floor, while Miley’s sleeves came down to her elbows.  Laura’s dress was sleeveless.

"Actually you look far better than merely okay," Aggie smiled and then hugged both youngsters.

"Mum you had me worried for a few seconds there," Laura looked relieved.

"I'm glad I ordered those white dresses for you both, with the tartan sashes and the shoes we got you in London they look perfect."

"Why is my dress knee length, and Laura's floor length?" Miley looked downwards.

"Because I think you are still a fraction too young to wear a proper evening dress darling."

"Okay," Miley nodded.

"Your dress is amazing Mum."

"Thank you Laura darling," Agnes smiled as she did a twirl in her white satin evening dress. "Now when I put my sash on, and then my gloves..."

"My sister looks incredible."

"Thank you Tippy Toes," Agnes smiled as she looked at Tamsin and Christine as they descended the main staircase.

"Well it's the truth darling."  Tamsin was dressed in a similar manner to Agnes, while Kit wore a long sleeved dress, both women like the girls wearing a tartan sash over their left shoulders.

"Now girls put your gloves on," Agnes smiled at her daughters as Miley pulled on the short black gloves that went just her wrists, and Laura pulled on the black over the elbow gloves that matched hers and Miley's shoes. "Your father has a gift for you."

“I do indeed," Donald said as he came out of one of the side rooms with three small boxes, handing two to Laura and one to Miley.

"Earrings....for me?" Laura gasped as she opened the first box.

"And matching bracelets for you both," Donald smiled as Laura out the pearl drop earrings in, and Agnes helped Miley with the bracelets.


“There now – we are ready to receive the guests,” Agnes said as they heard footsteps on the stairs.  Turning round they saw Paula, Tom, John and the girls coming down.  Tom and John were in their kilts, Eve and Paula wearing long white gowns with tartan sashes, and Aileen and Clodagh in pleated tartan skirts and white blouses.


"Oh my God," Aileen shook her head when she saw the two girls.

"You both look so beautiful," Clodagh sighed as she hugged Miley.

"Well you look lovely as well," Laura grinned.

“We don’t have to stand in line like Sue and Colin, do we,” Miley said as she looked at Agnes.


“Oh no – I will meet the guests with Tamsin, but you’re free to dance and have fun.  Go on through.”


"Agnes darling they are a credit to you," the Duke of Lardarn smiled broadly as the girls went to the marquee with Kit and John.

"I know Tom, they both look just perfect." Aggie smiled with pride.

"You'll have my daughters demanding we buy them some jewellery," Paula smiled as well."


“That was Donald’s idea, not mine.  Anyway – shall we go and be there for the guests?”


As they went into the marquee, the band that Agnes had hired were playing while some of the locals stood round.  Behind the bar, a grey haired man looked over, resplendent in his kilt as his wife stood next to him in a dark blue dress.  He looked over, and called out “Tha a h-uile càil aig McAdam à McAdam!”


“Dougie, you are not serving tonight,” Agnes said with a smile as she came over.


“Aye ah know – the bar is closed tonight anyway, but it is tradition.”


“And tradition is all – right Dougie?”


“Miss Catriona – you look well,” Dougie said as Catriona walked over with her mother and daughter, the other members of the Dunmarnock party walking round and talking to the other guests.


“So do you Dougie,” Catriona said, “and you Maggie.”


“Thank you Miss Catriona” the grey haired woman said as Agnes and Tamsin went to greet more guests.



"So will Charlie be visiting Ballysatten Tippy Toes?" Agnes asked as she looked across the dance floor, to where he was talking to Will.

"That's a question I've been thinking about Aunt Aggie?" Kits smiled as she and John brought over drinks.

"I don't know what you are implying?" Tamsin sad in mock shock as she blushed.

"Oh come on darling," Agnes smiled at her sister, "it's pretty obvious that you and Charlie have had sex a couple of times..."

"Aggie!...young ears?" Tamsin nodded at Kit.

"Mummy it's hardly like I'm a virgin," Christine looked amused, "Daddy has been dead a while, Uncle Charlie just got divorced, you have history together, it doesn't worry me that you are sleeping with him."

"So returning to my question, will he visit Ballysatten?"

"Yes I'm hoping he will Aggie."


“Good – settled,” she said as Charlie and Donald walked over.


“It’s going to be an eightsome – care to join us ladies?”



“Hello Mrs McAdam,” Laura said as Rory arrived with the family, “Mum is so glad you could come.


"Oh Miss Laura you look just so beautiful," a small tear appeared in the corner of Sheilagh's eye.  She was wearing a black evening dress, while Rory was in full formal Highland dress, as was David.

"And so do you Miss Amelia," Rory smiled broadly as he kissed her hand.

"I'm NEVER going to get used to being called that," Miley smiled as well.

"I love your dress Morag," Laura smiled at Sheilagh and Rory's daughter.  Morag had on a black satin party dress, with dark tights and flat shoes.

"Thank you Miss."

"Do I have to keep my collar buttoned up Mum?" David appealed to Sheilagh.


“Yes you do,” Rory said as the music ended, the groups clapping as a waltz started.  “If ye will excuse me?”  He walked over to Agnes and said “may I have this dance, Miss Agnes?”


“I’d be delighted,” Agnes said as they went onto the dance floor.




“I feel ridiculous,” Richard Babbage said as he came into the party with his family, his sporran slapping against his kilt.


“Go with the flow,” Mike said with a smile as Pepsi and Jack stood with Mick Harran and Nell.


“This is an amazing party,” Mick said, “it’s just a pity we have to go our own ways after the weekend.”


“I know – I have to get ready for Harvard, and you’re going into the studio,” Nell said


“Look at them,” Pepsi said as she looked at Mylie dancing with one of the boys.  “They’re part of the family already.”


“Well, Agnes did save them, true?  So they have been a family in all but name.”


Pepsi nodded as she said “I hope they do come to New York – I’d love to show them round.”




“I never danced with a girl wearing gloves before," Richard Babbage said as she gave Miley a drink.

"Well I've never worn proper gloves like these before." Miley giggled as she sipped the lemonade.

"Mum took Alice and Bridget into Glasgow today to specially buy their dresses and gloves for tonight."

"They all look pretty special,” Miley said with a smile, “but then again, so do you and your Dad in your kilts."

"We hired them in Oban," Richard laughed. "If the boys at school ever find out I wore a skirt..."

"It's not a real skirt," Miley laughed at the look on his face.


“Nah it’s a warrior’s dress – and tell yer friends that tae” David said as he joined them.


“Have you danced much David?”


“Miss Aileen has danced with me, but I was wondering – may I have a dance, Miss Mylie?”



"Oh this takes me back Reverend," Mrs McDonald sat next to the minister, “I remember coming to something just like this when I was nae any older then young Morag."

"Oh that wasn't so many years ago," the churchman replied.

"Och be away with you," the shopkeeper laughed, "it was back in the days when Miss Aggie's grandfather was still the Laird."

"Aye I was there as well," another elderly lady smiled, "it's a guid few years now."

"Well I still think you could both still out-dance a lot of these youngsters Mrs McLeod."

"Not now, though maybe back in our day Flora and I might have given a run for their money."

"I'm just glad to see that Miss Agnes's and Miss Tamsin's exile is over, and that this house, well the whole village is awakening from all the bad years." Mrs McDonald watched the young people dancing. "I look at Miss Christine and Lord John, and also at Miss Laura and Miss Miley and I know the future is in safe hands again."

"I agree," the Minister smiled.  “And it looks as if others wish to discuss it with the Laird as well…”




"I'm in complete agreement Geordie, we, and by that I mean the estate, do need to do something to curb the drift away from Ardray of the young people," Agnes knitted her brow as she sipped her whiskey.

"As much as we'd all like to keep Ardray just as its always been, if we are to keep the younger people at home, then they need jobs, and they need affordable places to live." Catriona spoke seriously.

"Well I hate to be raising such matters on a lovely night like this,” the farmer said, “but just this past week two more local houses got sold as holiday, or weekend, cottages. Both rents and house prices have been climbing steeply in recent years."

"I think both Agnes and I as the biggest local landowners need to sit down with you Mr Millar, and with other community leaders, and to start to work out what we can do to help."

"Thank you," Miss Catriona," Geordie Millar smiled, "now that I've said my piece can I tempt you both back on the dance floor?"


“To do what?”


“The Gay Gordons of course…”




"I'm never going to be able to dance as well as Mum, or your Mum Lizzie," Laura shook her head as they both stood watching the dancers.

"Never say never,” Elizabeth said as she shook her head, “the only reason I can dance some of these is that over the years I've practiced."

"Miley is picking it up though," Laura smiled as she watched her sister in a set with a lot of other younger people, smiling and laughing as she danced the steps.

"She isn't bad is she?"

"Who isn't bad?" Eve Gaunt asked as she walked over.

"We were saying Miley looks naturally light on her feet."

For a second Eve turned and looked, "yes she does doesn't she?"

"Yes," Laura turned her attention to the older girl, "are you all ready for your trip?"

"Yes, while you go to Germany, Mummy, Aileen, and I fly to Boston."

"Clodagh isn't happy that she can't go." Lizzie spoke.


“It’s a strange time for her – she goes off in a few weeks, and she isn’t looking forward to it.”


“We all got used to it – eventually…”


“Mum talked to us about schools,” Laura said, “she thinks we’re going to go to one of the day schools if we get caught up.”


“That’s fair,” Lizzie said, “boarding is not for everyone, and you need Agnes as much as she needs you.”






"I spoke to Ju earlier and she was saying guests have already started arriving Kelly." Mandy said as she sipped some champagne.

"Good, I was saying to the girls earlier that the event should be a wonderful end to a memorable summer.”

"Agreed," Mandy took another sip, "so darling have you and Olivia done much more talking about Nell and Mick?"

"We've agreed on a couple of things," Kelly smiled as she looked across to where Mick was signing autographs for some of the locals. "We were thinking that if they do want an engagement party that we can maybe find a date in late November."

"Understood darling," Mandy nodded, "there is so much else going on though that it’s going to be hard to find a free date."

"Shirley and John's engagement party being merely the first."

"Exactly. Will and I were looking at our diary earlier and with things like Pepsi's birthday party, and my modelling commitments we were speculating if we maybe need to find somewhere in New York for ourselves."


“The hotels boring you?”


“In a way.”


“You’ve met Nicki Colman’s mother haven’t you?  She’s a realtor – she might be able to help you out.  We can ask this weekend…”


“And we also have to get Angel settled and David and Jack back to their studies.”


“So only Billy at home?”


“Yes - the place will seem empty when they all go…”





"When do you start university Angel?" Fiona asked as the older girls sat round a table.

"Next month."

"Have you found somewhere to live in Glasgow yet?"

"I have - Emma Pearson, Gillian Trautmann, and I are going to rent a flat together."

"I wrote the local police and warned them," Billy giggled as his sister scowled at him.


“So that spare place on the couch won’t be needed when you go on the university tour?”


“Ah – when you put it that way…”


As the band finished playing, and the dancers applauded, there was a knock and everyone looked round.


"All stand for their Majesties the King and Queen of Ruritania, and his Serene Highness the Prince of Furstenheim," Rory called out as they came in, Rudolf and Klaus in dinner suits and Teresa in a Black Watch tartan dress.

"Your Majesties, Your Highness, you honour us again with your presence," Agnes and Tamsin curtsied deeply, whilst Donald bowed.

"Thank you for your very kind invitation Miss McAdam," Rudi smiled. "It's our pleasure to be here."

"And I also thank you as well," Klaus kissed both the ladies.

"Now that we've got the formalities out of the way," Queen Therese smiled as the music started again, "can I apologise for us being slightly late?"

"It's my fault Aggie," Sir Simon said as he kissed his niece “but I had to talk with both Downing Street, and the Foreign Secretary."

"I was beginning to wonder where you had all got to," Agnes smiled.

"It's one of the better things about being a king without a country, at least I don't have fretting politicians interrupting my life at all hours." Rudolf chuckled.

"That is true," Donald laughed.

"They really can ruin so much," Lady Fiona spoke.

"Is there anything that Donald and I need to be aware of Uncle Simon?"

"A few things, but they can wait till later Aggie."


“Well, enjoy yourselves – and we can talk later if you want.”






"Your Majesties, Your Highness, My Lords and Ladies, Ladies and Gentlemen," Agnes said as she stood at the microphone, "I think it's appropriate that at this time I say some words."

Agnes paused whilst everyone turned their attention to her.

"Just a few weeks ago this would all have seemed like a wonderful dream that deep inside I knew was just a lovely fantasy on my part. I know that you all now know the story of why for 20 years I thought that both the estate, and all my old friends here in Ardray were something that belonged just in my past, and not in my future."


Agnes choked back a little tear before she continued. "However due to the actions of so many kind and wonderful friends, and most especially due to my family, I find myself after all this time with the privilege of welcoming all of you to the New House."


“We’ve missed you Miss Agnes,” a voice called out before the room clapped and cheered, Tamsin and Kit leading the applause.

"Can I thank each and every one of you for coming here tonight. As my father used to say, the estate is but land with some buildings on it, the New House is just really a house, what makes Ardray so very special is its people..."

Agnes paused for the applause.

"A few of you are newcomers who I haven't yet had a chance to get to know. Many of you are younger people who I missed getting to know during my years of absence. I'm hoping that over the years I will come to know each of you as well as i know so many older faces."

Agnes again paused.

"This past fortnight people many of you have contributed mightily to making both the shoot, and the wedding of two young friends of mine both wonderful successes. Can I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your hard work in all this."


As the applause died down, Agnes said “we have also had some trying and difficult times recently, and I want to thank those who supported us through that time as well.  Those of you who know my story know the work I have done in London, and continue to do, and I want to ask two of the children from that school to come up here.  Laura, Miley, will you join me please?”


The two girls looked at each other before Kit and Tamsin took their hands, and all four walked to the stage.  “I want you, my friends, to know that Laura and Amelia – although she prefers Miley – will be joining our family, and I want you to welcome them, as well as the Master of Ardray, to this community and to your hearts.”


The girls blushed as the room clapped and cheered at that.



“So please enjoy the rest of the evening, and I hope to meet as many of you as possible.”


“Three cheers for Miss Agnes,” Rory shouted out, and as she walked off the stage to the sound of the cheers Agnes wiped away a tear.



“Hello girls,” Simon said as he came over to Laura and Miley, “sorry if you got a bit embarrassed up there.”


“Well, I guess Mum is right – people need to know,” Laura said as she looked round, “but it’s still a bit like a dream for us.”


"I can imagine…  You know, my sister would be so happy that you are taking her name Miley."

"She would Uncle Simon?" Miley tilted her head. "What about my past?"

"Amelia had a very big and understanding heart darling,” Simon said with a smile. “It's one of the things that Agnes inherits from her."

"I've looked at her picture...she had a lovely smile."

"That she did. when she smiled she could light up a room" Simon paused a second. "Angus once told me that it was her smile that made him fall in love with her."

"That's lovely."

"Aggie says you love to draw, has she showed you any of Amelia's art yet?"

"She did art?"

"Oh yes, she painted some lovely water colours Miley. I have a few, but the majority are still here in the New House."

"I'll ask Mum if I can see some before we go to Germany,"


“You do that – but I think someone wants you to dance.”


Miley smiled as David took her hand, Charles Treharran taking Laura onto the floor for the Strathspey Reel.


“They are nice kids – despite their background,” Fiona said as she walked over.


“Oh they’ll be fine…”




“So I understand you are now cleared to visit the US,” Teri said as she stood with Agnes and Mandy.


“I am indeed – we just need to sort out the access for the girls, but I’m assured that is not a problem, so I hope to visit in a few weeks to meet with Gus van Roon, and do some work over there myself.”


“How long has it been?”


“Clinton was still president, put it that way.”




“Are you enjoying the evening,” Ama asked as she gave a drink to Laura.  She was wearing a dark blue evening dress with heels, while Caroline as wearing a red dress.


“I am – may I ask you a question Ama?”


“Of course.”


“You were adopted by your mother, right?”  As Ama nodded, Laura said “how did you feel when you heard about your mother?”


“I was sad for a while, but I had also just been released from slavery, and the relief of that meant it was not so bad.  Then Mom adopted me, and life began again.  I suspect, eventually, you will realise the same is happening to you.”


“I think we will – even if Miley has to get used to being Amelia.”


“Has anyone told you the name I was baptised under?  I chose Amamaria Marastella.”


“But you are called Ama by everyone?”


“Because that is my name, but it is not the name that makes me who I am, it is my friends, my family, all I have that does so.  And my faith as well.  I pray you find that as well.”




“Donald, Agnes, may I have a quick word?”


“I was expecting this Uncle Simon,” Agnes said as the three of them went into a quiet corner, “go on, tell us the news.”


“As you know, I was called by our masters before coming here – Mrs May is having a little trouble processing what has happened.”


“I imagine she has a little trouble processing many things,” Agnes said quietly, Simon shaking his head and smiling as he said “be that as it may, she is happy for you to continue in place, Donald, and trusts to the innate discretion of both of you.”


“In other words, play by the rules,” Donald said.


“Indeed – Boris, on the other hand, wishes to buy you both dinner, but I suggest you politely refuse.  You do not want to be in the papers after that.”


“When you go to the US, as I know you are planning to Agnes, we also ask you meet with Sir Charles, to discuss a confidential matter.  Nothing serious, I promise you.  Apart from that, I think the way forward is an appropriate mourning period, and then to wish you both the very best.”



"I know paternalism is neither considered right or desirable any more by most people Clarissa,” Francesca said as she sat at a table, “but  I look at 'her' people reconnecting with Agnes tonight, and I'm reminded of what my father taught me about my own position."

"That responsibility flows both ways Francesca?" Clarissa said with a smile.

"Yes just that. People look to someone like Agnes or myself for leadership just as their ancestors have for centuries, and we in return have responsibilities towards them."

"You are right of course,” Clarissa said, “in our modern world aristocratic leadership and privilege isn't something that most people want to talk about, but I overheard both Agnes and Catriona listening to local concerns earlier and it wasn't something either of them do just for show, they do feel genuine responsibility to help the community."


“Klaus feels the same about the people of Furstenheim as well.  No matter how the world changes, the people who lead will lead.”


“So how do you explain what is happening in the US?”


“I cannot explain that, Clarissa, not at all…”




“So,” Donald said as he sipped his whisky, “have you got out in the car and done some sight-seeing Sherry?"

"We have Donald,” Mike’s wife said, “and we intend to do a lot more during the next week."

"Richard is going to miss Miley you know?"

"Mike and I were saying that earlier, they do seem to get on very well." Sherry looked over to where a lot of the younger people were standing and chatting

"She needs 'ordinary' friends if you get my meaning."

"I do, and he maybe needs to broaden his circle of friends as well."


"Yes," Sherry smiled, "my son is more then something of a geek, it will be good for him to know people who are interested in more than just computer games."

"Ah that I understand," Donald smiled.

"Anyway back to tonight, I know it’s not everyone’s taste, but the variety of whiskey that Agnes has brought out for us to try tonight is pretty incredible."

"It is I agree, though I still see that as good as it is that Mike is still sticking to beer."


“Well, he’s old fashioned.  But getting back to Laura and Miley – once things have settled, we’ll get them together as a group a bit more often so they can get to know each other better…”






"Am I allowed to hurt boys who do that?" Laura said as she sat at the table.

"Do what Laura?" Kits asked.

"Can I hurt boys who keep stepping on my feet while we dance?" Laura said as she looked down ruefully at her feet.

"As a general rule? No you can't," Kits laughed, "it's one of the hazards of life you have to get used to I'm afraid."

"Pity.  I can think of some inventive ways…"

"What's a pity?" Ally joined the conversation.

"My cousin just got her first experience of a boy who truly can't dance."

Ally looked round as she said "which one?"

"Him," Laura pointed, "three times he trod on my toes."

"Yuck," Ally shook her head, "it's something you get used to, there are always guys who can't dance. You just have to remember who they are and not accept invites to dance with them in the future."

"Oh him I'll always remember," Laura shook her head.

"Laura can I have the next dance please?" Mick said as he came over.

"You want to dance...  Mick Harran wants to dance with me?"

"Well it is rather the custom for a young gentleman to dance with the daughters of the house you know?"

"I didn't," Laura shook her head, "can I tell people back in London that I got to dance with Mick Harran."

"You have my permission," Mick laughed as one dance ended and people started to sort themselves out for the next.






"Why does this always seem to happen at most parties darling?" Mandy shook her head as she looked over the dance floor.

"What happens Amanda?" Lady Elizabeth looked round.

"Why do men always seem to gather in corners to talk about sport? Just look at them all."

"It's one of the great mysteries of life,” Lady Elizabeth said, “that even with all my years of experience I have no answer to."

"I could go out in the middle of the dance floor and do one of my burlesque routines and I swear most of them wouldn't even notice."

"Oh now there I disagree Mandy," Elizabeth smiled, "if you do a striptease men are definitely going to notice."

"I wish I had your confidence darling." Mandy shook her head.

"By the way,” Elizabeth said “what is this I hear about you performing at a charity event at Georgette's club?"

"He approached me at Sue's hen party about it," Mandy took a sip, "I'm going to need talk to some friends, maybe twist some arms, but I hopefully can get several people to dance."




"If everyone agrees I was going to offer our place as the venue for the Halloween party this year," Kelly said as she sipped her drink. "I think we have more than enough space."

"Just remember to lock each and every bedroom," Caroline giggled, "we don't need a repetition of what happened last year at Barb's place....Do we Nell?"

"Hey why blame me? You were the one invited two dates Caroline. All Ally and I were told was to keep him occupied and out of the way."

"That's true Mom people did think you wanted him kept tied up and out of the way," Ama laughed.

"I didn't want Dominic literally tied up though," Caroline shook her head.

"This year we all combine to make sure NOTHING happens that is too outrageous...Right Ally?"

“Hey,” Ally said as she put her hand to her chest, “why pick on me Mom. Nell is..."

"Nell is safely settled with Michael, it’s you alone I now need to worry about."

"And people think my dungeon used to be a house of iniquity." Aggie shook her head.

"Aggie if just a quarter of the stories about what the twins have got up to are true they'd make you blush," Caroline laughed.

"Well I for one am rather looking forward to seeing what my membership of the infamous Saintz and Sinnerz gets me involved in," Francesca smiled.

"Are all we European members also invited for Halloween?"

"Of course you are Olivia dear," Kelly smiled, "ALL members from both sides of the pond are more than welcome."

"Why am I suddenly thinking I was safer before I got a US visa," Aggie laughed.


“Find out when Shirley throws her party…”




11 pm BST



“Is it wrong to say I felt like a princess tonight,” Miley said with a sigh as she sat in her bed, watching Laura as she finished changing, and hung her dress in the wardrobe.


“Nope – we met royalty, Miley, so we should do.  But look at us – we’re going to Germany tomorrow, and the US in a few weeks.”


“And moving in with Mum in the time between – this is truly amazing,” Miley said as she lay down.


“I know – we are so lucky Miley?”




Laura looked over to where Miley was sleeping shaking her head as she walked over and kissed her forehead.  “We really are lucky, little sis,” she whispered before she climbed into her own bed, and turned the light off.


Sunday 21st August

7 am CET

Furstenheim Palace


“Well we have a lovely day for it darlings,” Juliette said as she came into the breakfast room from outside smiling broadly. “The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and I haven’t seen a single face without a smile on it.”


“At least you look happier then you have the last two days Moms,” Ingrid said as she looked up from what she was reading.


“Greeting guests, getting them settled, then the rehearsal, then the military parade last night… Can you wonder I was stressed darling?”


“Oh I don’t wonder why,” Ingrid said with a smile, “but at least that is done.”


“True,” Juliette said as she sat down, “all that is out of the way now and I just have to think about getting myself and your father ready for the ceremony, and then to sit back and enjoy the Christening Reception.”


“Annie, Frau Strecher, and Aunt Sigi have done a marvelous job in arranging all this.”


“Agreed darling.”


“Good Morning Juliette, Good Morning Ingrid,” Natalya said as she kissed both women, “am I among the first?”


“You are.” Ingrid smiled.


“So Rose was worried that we might not approve of her work on the Christening gown Natalya.”


“I don’t see why she should be,” Natalya smiled as she poured herself some coffee, “she did a first rate job of refurbishment in my opinion.”


“It’s what I told her, but I think she was just a little panicked that her work on something that old and precious might be seen as ruining it.”


“No, it needed a woman of her skills, and she’s done a perfect job.”


“and with Mags in the Huntingdown robe, they will look fantastic.  Good morning Frau Strecher.”


“Good morning your highnesses,” the steward said as she came in, “breakfast will be served shortly, and some of the other guests are starting to rouse.”




“So have you enjoyed your stay darling,” Diana said as she walked with Abby.


“I have Mama, but I am looking forward to returning home tomorrow as well.  I have to make the final preparations for my assignment, and make sure I have everything ready.  And it will be good to be in New York again.”


“Even if Missy is lying in wait for you?”


“Mama, the chances are she is lying in wait for everyone this weekend…”


“Who is?”


“Jo – I have missed you these last few weeks,” Abby said as she hugged her friend, “how are you?”


“Getting ready to head back in two weeks, but Curt and I would not have missed this for the world…”



“I’m hungwy Momma,” Judith said as she sat on the bed, swinging her legs to and fro as she looked at her new light blue dress.


“I know – once Mom Annie has finished, we can come down,” Carina said as there was a knock on the door, and Sigi came in. 


“Come with me darling, and let’s leave your Mother’s to get the twins ready shall we?”


“Alright Aunt Sigi,” Judith said as she put her hand up to be held.


“Just be sure that she doesn’t get anything down her dress please Aunt Sigi.”


“I’ll make sure she eats carefully Carina.”


“Thank you.”  As they left, she looked at Mags and said “let’s get you ready, shall we?”





"Well both Carina and Annie certainly seem to be a lot calmer then I was."

"That isn't hard Puss," Frieda said as she gave Paulette a bottle, "you were so stressed we all thought you'd need be given something to calm you down."

"I don't think I was quite that bad..."

"Take it from me love you were," Paulie interrupted her daughter.


"This place is magnificent," Heather said as she sat down at the table. "I thought the Munich house was huge, I thought Valeria's chateau had a wonderful art collection, but well when you compare them both to this place?"

"I know, this is history on a whole new scale."

"We think Lardarn Castle is extremely large Heather," Tom Gaunt said from the neighbouring table where he sat with John, Clodagh, the Stone's and Cassandra and her family, but you could fit it into Furstenheim three times."


“Have you heard from Paula and the girls?”


“They arrived safely, and start work this morning.”




“Well, there she is.”


“Tony – glad you could make it,” Abby said as she kissed her boyfriend, Jude shaking her head as she said “and where is my boyfriend?”


“You called?”


“Well, that’s better,” she said as David kissed her, Pepsi sitting with her parents at the same table as Mandy and Will.


“What’s this I hear of an engagement,” Jo said as she stood behind Nell and Ally.


“Engagement?  I don’t think I’ve heard anything,” Nell said, “have you Ally?”


“Oh no, you’re not getting away with that one, Eleanor Rochermann, especially when I can see the new ring on your left hand.”


Eleanor looked at the gold and diamond ring, and said “oh, THAT engagement.  Well…”


“Congratulations – how did your mother take it?”


“I don’t think she’s quite processed it yet,” Ally giggled, “and she’s done another silly thing.”


“And that is?”


“Offer to host our Halloween party this year?”


Miley and Laura walked slowly into the breakfast room, looking round as Donald held their hands, and Agnes smiled.




“Gus – how nice to see you,” she said as Gus van Roon kissed her on both cheeks.


“I heard a rumor the barriers to you visiting Chicago have been removed – true or false?”


“True, Gus – I hope to come over with Tamsin and Kit in a few weeks, and Chicago is most certainly on the itinerary.”


“We’ll meet then,” he said as Grace came over.


“I have some news for you Agnes.  A friend of mine suggested that you check out Queen Charlotte’s School for the girls.”


“Well it’s a definite thought Grace,” Aggie paused a second, “it’s got a wonderful academic reputation.”


“That it has, it’s also only either a short bus ride, or a simple tube journey from your place to South Kensington.”


“Queensway to Notting Hill Gate, Notting Hill Gate to South Ken,” Agnes smiled, “on nice days it’s not even that huge a walk or bike ride.”


“I had thought that.”


“You know the more I think the more ideal it seems…Thank You Grace, I’ll talk about it with Donald and the girls after the ceremony.”


“Good – now go and join them, they look completely lost.”



“I see you have news already,” Donald said as Agnes joined them.


“True – so what do we have here?”


"I've never had a breakfast quite like this before," Miley said as she looked at all the different breads and meats on the table. "Is this a normal German breakfast?"

"Pretty much," Donald said as he put his newspaper down, "now don't feel that you try everything girls, or eat everything, have what you fancy."

"I don't even know what half of this is," Laura shook her head.

"Well let's start with what you want to drink?" Aggie smiled. "Tea, coffee, or something else?"

"Can I have some coffee?"

"Of course you can Laura dear."

"And I'll have a cup of tea if I may?"

"Not a problem Miley," Donald said as he poured her a cup, Agnes handing Laura some coffee.

"Now,” Agnes said, “sliced bread or rolls? and what would you like on them?"

"Can I be boring Mum and just have white bread rolls with butter on them?" Laura asked.

"Me too," Miley nodded, "I'm not sure I like the look of these other kinds of bread, especially the dark ones."

"Well just take a nibble and see, but anyways just take what you fancy darlings."

The two girls nodded as they put some butter on the soft rolls, while Donald cut a slice of sausage and out it on some rye bread.


"What is that white sausage you are eating Dad?"

"It's called Weisswurst," Donald said as he cut a little bit off for Miley to try, "it's a local delicacy here in South Germany."

"Uggh,” she said, grimacing as she chewed on it, “it tastes nasty."

"It's very much an acquired taste," Agnes laughed, "and one I'm very glad I never have learned."


“It’s all right – have some tea, and the taste will go away,” Donald said with a smile.

"When do we need get changed for church?"

"After breakfast Laura, we will go upstairs then."

"I love you the hats you bought us," Miley said as she sipped her tea.

"Well,” Agnes said with a smile, “a lady should always strictly wear a hat in church."


"It's a question I've always asked Laura," Kits smiled as she and Tamsin sat down, "but just accept it’s something we have to do."

"I really am learning so many different things," Miley shook her head.


“That’s good – you need to learn new things,” Tamsin said as she spread some chocolate paste on a slice of dark bread, and started to eat it.


"So what happens after the service Mum?" Laura said as she put her coffee mug down.

"We all come back here for a sit down lunch, and then there will be a small party Laura."

"Okay...  Oh my…”




“Is…  Is that Abigail de Ros and Jeannie Brewster over there?"

Agnes looked at where Abby and Jeannie were talking at a table, smiling as she said "It is indeed."

"Oh my God!" Laura pulled on Miley's sleeve, "Miles look at who that is over there."

"Who?" Miley took a second to work out who Laura was looking at, "Crap, that's Abigail de Ros and Jeannie Brewster."

"It is indeed," Agnes smiled at her daughters reaction.

"I can introduce you later if you'd like?" a voice with quite a strong Belfast accent said from behind them.

"You can?"

"I can," Orion O’Ryan said with a grin, "it’s nice to see you again Dr McAdam, and you girls. I see you are wearing the Sharamels."


“Yeah, they’re wonderful,” Laura said, “who else is here?”


“Katy, get over here,” Orion said, “Katy Carter, meet Laura and Miley…  You know, I never got your second names?”


“Well – they will be Fitzstuart,” Miley said as she blushed.


Fitzstuart?  As in Will and Mandy?”


“As in me,” Donald said with a smile, “I’m Will’s brother.”


“Oh – a pleasure to meet you, Lord Donald – I heard on the news about your wife passing away…”


“thank you – but Agnes and I are hoping to adopt the girls.”


“Really?  Congratulations, both of you,” Katy said with a smile.






“So you return tomorrow, sister,” Maisha said as they sat with Caroline, Shirley and John.


“I do indeed – but you are coming in a few weeks are you not?  I heard Mom say you will be throwing a party.”


“Oh yes,” Maisha smiled, “I hope as many as possible can attend.”


“Anything you wish to share,” Caroline asked her boss.


“No, not at this stage…”



"Is everyone doing alright?" Juliette stood in the entrance to the dining room. "I hope the food is to all your liking."

"It's wonderful Ju," Karen Boyd looked up from feeding her son.

"Good," Juliette smiled, "look I just wanted to say that the busses to the church will start leaving at eleven."


“Which is our cue to go and change,” Agnes said as Klaus came in with two more guests.


"This place is huge Klaus," Alex Richmond shook his head as he looked round, "I'm not sure there is anywhere in America that even approaches it."

"Well it's sheer size is what caused all the problems," Klaus said as he rubbed his chin. "My esteemed ancestors Rudolf the Third, and his son Rudolf the Fourth, kept expanding the scale of this place, they kept buying more and more art, and in the end ended up bankrupting both themselves and the principality."

"If I remember my history correctly a lot of German princes did just the same didn't they?"

"It wasn't so much a case of keeping up with the Jones's," Tom Lardarn smiled, "as keeping up with someone like Louis XIV."

"Exactly Tom," Klaus shook his head, "but the French kingdom had infinitely more resources it could draw upon then a little principality like Furstenheim."

"Just so," Alex shook his head.

"The good news from history is that somehow we managed despite all the odds to keep all this more intact, and my Grandson will one day find himself custodian of all this magnificence."


“Not Ingrid or Carina?”


“Sadly, the rules of our accession are patriarchal,” Klaus said as he looked at the girls, “and so it will be Prince Rudolf the Ninth who takes my place.”




11.30 am CET

The Church of St Gertrude



"Who are all the people in the funny looking outfits Mum?" Miley asked as they stood outside the beautiful 14th century church that doubled both as a family chapel for the von Furstenheim family, and as a parish church for the people of the small town.  She, Laura and Agnes were wearing light blue dresses with wide hats, Donald in a gray suit, white shirt and blue tie.

"I would think mainly locals darling. That is Bavarian national costume."

"So why are so many here?"

"Because like the people who came to our party Friday night they feel a connection to the Furstenheim family.  Look at it this way – they came wearing tartan because that is the national dress of Scotland.  They are doing the same."

"A lot of them will be tenants Miley," Donald smiled, "others will be people who work for things Prince Klaus owns, and many others will be people who though the Principality was formally absorbed into Bavaria over 200 years ago, still think of themselves as Furstenheimers."

"That is so amazing," Laura shook her head, "I am so going to have to read up on all this when we get back to London."


“We both will,” Miley said as they walked into the church.


"I am so looking forward to getting some really good sleep," Heather gave herself a little shake as she sat down.

"Why aren't you sleeping?" Dr Karen Boyd asked as she sat beside her, the turned her head.  "The nightmares haven't started again have they?" she looked concerned.

"No," Heather smiled, "I've just been run off my feet trying to do all the jobs on my plate."

"Can I ask what jobs out of interest?"

"A couple of articles for art journals, some research a couple of people asked me to do...Oh a pile of things, and all on top of course of my regular work as nanny, Sandy's assistant, and the other bits and pieces i do," Heather rolled her eyes.

"You need to scale back a bit Darling," Mandy said as she sat and smoothed out her gloves.

"I know, but it's just I find it difficult to say no when people ask."

"Just be glad you aren't a model," Karen laughed, "not saying mo, Missy would work you to death."





"QCS?" Tam whispered as she looked round the church. "I guess I can see the logic."

"It has a first rate reputation Tippy Toes. I got a quick look at their website while i was dressing. They send a very large proportion of the girls on to what are considered prestigious universities."

"What are the fees like?"

"Oh I think Donald and I can safely afford them."

"You know a thought just hit me Aggie,” Tamsin whispered, “you could have maybe saved a lot of money if you'd sent me there after Father died."

"That had occurred to me as well darling, but I think at the time I was pretty well obsessed with giving you just what i had had...and that included Benenden."

"If I can be a snob Aggie, what is the social profile of the school?"

"Middle and upper Middle class, but I'm not sending the girls to school to advance them socially. This decision is all about giving them the best education possible while we live together as a true family." Aggie laughed, "and yes I'll admit for a few seconds the odd snobbish thought ran through my brain, but I soon dismissed them."

"Good," Tamsin smiled, "and I'll agree Queen Charlotte's does look the best option."


“Well, we’ll broach it with the girls later, and set up a visit – but in the meantime, we still need tutors.  Grace will talk to them as well later, and Shirley has some names as well.”




“So Lady Nicola – had a fun summer?”


"You have no idea.  So how was China Jeans?" Pepsi asked.

"Different."   Jeannie smiled as Orion and Katy came in.

"Meaning what?"

"That the air in Beijing was even more polluted then Los Angeles or Houston and I hated that,” Jeannie said, “but that things like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City were unforgettable sights. I've been to a lot of places modelling but I'd never quite seen anything like that."

"It sounds good, what were your shoots like?"


“Shoots are shoots – it went well, but I need this downtime before school starts.  What about you?”


“Come back tomorrow, fly out Friday, back the next Friday and straight in.  I miss the fun of the Newbies.”


“Ah the young Freshmen.  Such a sight…”


“Down girl, just because we are juniors does not mean…”


“I know, I know,” Pepsi said with a smile.


“But you have missed New York, right?”


“Oh yeah…”




“Is it all right to feel so nervous,” Annie said as she sat with Carina in the car, Mags and Rudi waving round while Judith sat with Ingrid.


“Oh I don’t know – the main focus of the guests and the crowd is on these two,” Carina said as she looked at the twins in their gowns, “so we get off lightly.”


“Was I that pweety,” Judith said as she looked at Mags.


“Yes you were,” Carina said with a smile.  “Anyway – we’re nearly there…”




As the door was opened, the crowd cheered as Juliette and Klaus got out, the two of them waving as Natalya and Willy got out with Sigrid, Dieter and her family.


“Well, they seem happy to see us,” Juliette said as they walked up the stairs, the priest smiling as he said “Welcome, your highnesses – the Princesses?”


“Coming in the next car,” Klaus said as it pulled up, Adam and Ingrid holding Judith’s hands as they walked up the stairs, and Carina and Annie carried the twins in their arms.


“Are we on time this time?”


“I think so,” Juliette said, the priest smiling as they walked inside.





“Another time with you on this side,” Nessa whispered to Alex, the priest smiling as the organ started playing, the congregation standing as the christening party came in.


“Well, here we go,” Pepsi whispered as she watched them walking down the aisle, Jack shaking his head and trying not to laugh.


“By the way,” Abby asked as she stood with Tony, “who is the sixth godparent?”


“Oh you are going to be surprised…”




As they finished the first hymn, the priest came forward and said “would the godparents come forward please.”


Pepsi walked forward with Tony and David, Ingrid and Abby joining them – and then an older gentleman in a sober grey suit, white shirt and tie.




“What can I say,” Jack Linklater said with a smile, “they got me at a weak moment.”


“Well, I think it’s an inspired choice,” Abby said as she kissed his cheek.




“Jack?  They asked Jack Linklater?”


“Oh yes,” Grace said as she stood with Mandy and Will, “a most inspired choice as well.”


“It is actually,” Luke said, “Jack is a very different person when he is serious, and he is taking this very seriously.”


“I know,” Will said quietly.





“Jack is the sixth godparent?”


“He told me last week,” John whispered, “floored me as well, and then I realised it was the right choice.”


“Well, you can floor him in return,” Shirley said with a smile.


“You have no idea – I want him to be my best man…”




“Rudolf Klaus Richard Alexander von Furstenheim, I baptise you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”


Juliette smiled as the priest poured the water over her grandson’s head, and then made the sign of the cross, before he handed him back to Carina and took Mags.


“Margaret Renate Juliette Natalia, I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…”


As Mags giggled, there was a gentle ripple of laughter round the church, before he handed her back to Annie.


“And there we are,” Abby whispered to Pepsi, “your godchildren.”


“I still don’t believe it,” Pepsi whispered back.


“Believe it,” David said as each of them was handed a candle, and the priest blessed them.


“Wow – I guess it really has happened…”




“Go in the peace of the Lord.”




The congregation stood and watched as the priest led the procession out, then bowed as Klaus and Juliette carried the babies out, Annie and Carina following with Judith, and then the godparents, Jack smiling as he passed Luke.


“And there we go,” Klaus said as they stood at the top of the stairs, Marina coming out with her camera




"Why are you taking so many photographs Marina?" Missy asked as they stood outside the church as everyone filed out.

"For Kylie,” Marina said as she took another picture, “given she declined the invitation after all her travel, she wants to see what people wore in case it triggers any ideas."

"Now why doesn't that surprise me," Alice said with a smile as she joined the conversation, "I keep my eyes open for fresh inspirations quite a bit, but Kylie wants to absorb literally everything."

"It's what makes her the prodigious talent that she is," Missy smiled.

"Yes it is," Alice looked over to where Juliette and Klaus were shaking the priest's hand. "You know I've known Ju an awful long time but I'm not sure I've ever seen her looking quite this happy."

"She has a lot to be happy about," Marina replied as she snapped a couple of pictures.

"I know," Missy smiled, ""I'll not mention all the modeling jobs she's been offered and ruin things."

"You'd better not," Alice shook her head.  “This is a family day for her, got it?”


“I know, I know – but still…”





"I know several people were disappointed that Ju couldn't invite them," Rachel McNally said as she stood with Kelly Rochermann, "but the church was literally packed to the rafters, I'm not sure they could have shoehorned anyone else in."

"Agreed," Kelly adjusted her hat slightly, "at least they are holding a little thing at Ju's place so anyone who couldn't come today can drop by and pay their respects, and drop off gifts, etc, for the twins."

"Yes, I think that's helped to mollify a few souls.  It’s still amazing how many turned up, however."

"It was nice to see that they balanced Ju's friends and family, Klaus's, several formal guests, and still a nice lot of ordinary local people. I was chatting with several Ardray people at Aggie's party Friday and in communities like this people still today feel a personal connection to the local laird, be they Agnes or Klaus.”


“I can believe that – the McNally family used to own a substantial part of Ireland before the 1919 revolution, and they shipped out to the US and Britain.”


“They do seem to love him though – it was the same at the wedding in April.”








"It was just so right that they asked Uncle Jack to also be a godparent," Katy smiled as she looked at the party, "He doesn't like to show it but he cares so much about people, and he tries so hard to look after his friends."

"Agreed," Pru Stratton said as she nodded to a couple of people she knew, "take your case Katy, behind the scenes Jack talked to a lot of people and laid down the law that you weren't to be used or abused in the industry."

"He did?"

"Oh yes."

"Did you know that Mom?"

"No," Janice shook her head, "but knowing Jack it doesn't surprise me."

"Jack projects a public persona and too many people think that's the real him. Jerry said he was sort of shocked when he got to know Jack well just how different he is underneath."


“I’ve heard Uncle John say the same thing – but why does he do it?”


“I think he’s protecting himself…”




"Momma why is everyone laughing and cheerwing?" Judith said as she stood next to Carina and smiled as she waved at the crowd.

"Because they like sharing today with us darling?"

"Sharewing what?"

"The christening."

"Oh!? Judith's brow knotted, "did people cheer when I was kwissened?"

"A lot of them did darling."


"I'll explain when you are older darling."

"You will have a lot of photo's to look at when you are older little boy," Carina smiled as she held Rudi, and Annie held Mags, whilst the photographers took their pictures.


“He’s smiling,” Klaus said, “always a good sign…”


“Right – if we are done, back to the palace for lunch,” Juliette said as the coaches drew up.


2 pm CET

Furstenheim Palace


"Any news from the Honeymooners Penny?" Grace asked as they left the coach and entered the palace.

"Not a lot Grace,” Penny said as she looked round, “Sue's rung a couple of times..."

"Oh about what?" Grace interrupted.


"Well one of the calls was to see if I could recommend a couple of local places to go eat," Penny laughed, "though I’m surprised they have the energy to go out."

"What I remember from my own honeymoon, they'll be needing plenty of extra calories to burn."

"You never talk a lot about your ex Grace, what was he like?"

"Tall, handsome, charming, but with a serious drink and drugs problem and a foul temper."

"The type that looks great on the surface but once you dig underneath you find they are arseholes?"

"Precisely.  I was well shot of him in the end."






"So if you are going to be hosting Halloween Kelly any ideas on a costume theme?" Barbara asked as they stood chatting with their pre-lunch drinks in hand.

"Not really, I was going to ask round for ideas when we all get back to New York. That national costume thing last year will take some beating."

"Agreed," Diana spoke, "most of the outfits were magnificent."

"Well just don't make the mistakes i did regarding entertaining the drivers and security people."

"I'm going to try not to Barb," Kelly giggled, "that pub fight has become almost as legendary as the party itself."

"Tell me about it," Barbara rolled her eyes.

"Changing topics slightly, any clues why John and Shirley are throwing a party  just before all the kids head back to school?"

"I'm not totally sure Cherie," Diana looked across the large room  towards her friends.  “But it will be a good send off for them.”




"Did you all see the text from my Honoured Mistress?" Helen whispered to Shirley, Penny, and Marina.

"I did," Shirley nodded, "it would seem that both Alexis and Beverley are making huge strides during their time in Hong Kong.”

"Well it certainly transformed both mine and Kylie's life." Marina sipped her aperitif.


“The Honoured Mistress and Beverley will accompany Alexis back for the party – I wonder how she will be?”


“I’ll let Kylie know in good time…”



"You may have heard that I write a social column for one of our Munich newspapers?" Reinhard von Elstenburg spoke to the ladies on either side of him at the table.

"I hadn't," Sandy smiled, "does that mean I have to remember to keep my mouth shut and not be indiscreet?"

Smiling, Reinhard said "Some people in this room might say it does."

"I'll have to bear that in mind."

"I had better as well," Tonia smiled.

"And there was I thinking I'd be able to pump you both for a lot of good old fashioned gossip about the legendary Saintz and Sinnerz."

"Well you can try," Sandy smiled again, "but I'm not sure there are a lot of things that aren't public knowledge."

"Oh in any social group there are always hidden secrets Miss Richmond, but to be honest I'm not into that kind of muck-raking. I am however fascinated by how such a group came together."

"You ought to ask Tonia, I think she was the first person to really notice we had become a group."

"Oh?" the aristocratic journalist turned. "So do you have a theory on how it happened Mrs Razinski?"

"Not really, I suppose the truth is we all just coalesced."

"I think at first we were just a group of little subsets that came together," Sandy for a second looked serious.

"Mothers with daughters at St Angela's got to know women who had known each other since they were all at school together, and from then on they started to pull in people they liked, and the Sinnerz were the result." Tonia ate some more.

"And it was as simple as that?"

"It was Reinhard," Sandy stopped eating for a second, "it was never a conscious thing saying let’s start a social coterie, it was just something that somehow grew."


“And then there was a Halloween party, and the rest, as they say, is history.”


“How fascinating – and this year?”


“I hear a rumour Kelly Rochermann is hosting.”


“Now is she the mother of Eleanor, Mick Harran’s fiancée?”


“That’s right,” Sandy said, “it should be entertaining…”






“Agnes – do you have a minute to spare?”


“Of course,” Agnes said as she wiped her chin, “I’ll be back in a minute girls.  Now, Heather, what can I do for you?”


“Let’s talk over here,” Heather said as they went into a quiet corner, before she drew a folder from her Jameson bag and handed it over.


“As requested, birth and death certificates for Miley.  I’ve used her actual birthday, but this should help cover the legal niceties for adoption.”


“I don’t know how to thank you, Heather…”


“It’s my pleasure – is Margaret Harker helping as well?”


“She’s smoothing the waters, and Grace is helping with the education side.”


“From what I have heard of the last two weeks, she deserves this break -so does her big sister.  Good luck Aggie – we’ll see you in a fortnight in New York.”






"Thank you so much for asking me to be a godparent Annie," Pepsi smiled as they both ate their lunch.

"No thank you for agreeing Nicola. It means an awful lot to both me and Carina you know?"

"Thank you," Pepsi blushed.

"So are you ready for the soccer tour and then school re-starting?"

"Not really,” Pepsi said as she took a drink, “I've got to get my new uniform sorted, books to buy, etc, etc."

"I have a lot of preparation to get done myself once we get back to New York."

"So have you given a lot of thought to what you want us to call you at school?"

Nodding, Annie said "A bit."


"Well Mrs von Furstenheim somehow sounds a little odd, and you certainly can't address me as Princess, or Your Highness...."

"Ummmm No," Pepsi giggled.

"So at least for school I'll stay Miss Kelly."

"Okay, that sounds like an idea to me."


“And do I have plans for you girls next year…”



“So are you ready for Cooper Union" Blair van Roon said as she sat with Abby and Sigrid.


“As ready as I’ll ever be – I submitted my project, and we see what happens next.”


“So what do you think the biggest changes will be Abigail?" Sigi asked

"That I'll be driving my car in the opposite direction to St Angela's, and that I won't have to wear a school uniform. Otherwise I'll still be going to class, coming home, doing my assignments, and fitting it all around my modelling career Sigi."

"I suppose you break it down it is just as simple as that."

"Will you be visiting New York regularly?"

"I'm going to try and get over for a few events,” Sigrid said, “but it’s becoming clear that as people think over Britain leaving the European Union that both Francesca and I can expect to be snowed under with clients asking for opinions."


“But you are coming for Shirley’s party?”


“I hope to, but we shall see…”





"So did you look at that stuff on the Galway golf course thing Tom?"

"I did Aggie, and I'll have to admit it's a challenging problem," the Duke said as he sipped his wine, "when they no doubt started planning all this years ago it probably looked an excellent idea, but as I know by personal experience business conditions have changed in Ireland in recent years."

"Well as I told you,” Agnes said “I'm not that clued in on either Ireland, or the leisure industry, but I did promise I'd give some advice because this guy is a friend of Augie's."

"Come over to Dublin for a couple of days and I'll set up some meetings for you. That might help you."

"Thanks Tom.  I was rather hoping I might be able to use your contacts."


“In fact – get we could fly to New York from there, if the girls come to.”





"So without you betraying any confidences Donald, what does the future look like for the UK in Europe?"

"I wish I knew Dieter," Donald paused to eat a morsel. "I know we are at the start of what is going to be a long and messy period, but how it will all eventually work out I have no idea."

"And like all good public servants your own personal opinions count for nothing anyway."

"Exactly, I'm in Paris to serve Her Majesty’s Government, to liaise, co-ordinate, report, and do a million and one things, but I have no influence on actual policy."

"Well my bank is starting on plans to close its London offices. We don't see a lot of point being there in the event barriers go up between the UK and the rest of Europe."


“It surely won’t come to that, will it?”


“Donald,” Dieter said quietly, “you know what our friends in Brussels adopt as standard policy if something happens they don’t like?”







"So what is New York like Katy?" Laura asked as they sat together.

"At this time of year? Very hot and sticky. It's why people who can afford it like Aunt Juliette have places they can retreat to so as to escape."

"That wasn't quite what I meant,” Laura laughed, “what is it like to live there?"

"I could ask you the same what is it like to live in London?" Katy smiled. "To me its home, what you'll think of it I'm not sure I can answer."


“Trust me – you don’t want to see where we live just now.  The best thing about Mum adopting us is we get out of there…”



"How is Judith's German coming along Carina?"

"Well she's gradually picking some up Jude. I'm planning to take her to my German conversation group so she stays used to hearing it."

"Sounds like a plan to me."

"So what's your schedule looking like?"

"After a summer on tour with the orchestra and teaching organ, I'm going to try and not schedule a lot of performances. I want to see if I can maybe do some writing of music. I've been playing a few themes in my mind and i want to see if I can turn them into an actual composition."






“My friends, if I may have your attention for a moment?”


The room fell silent as Klaus stood up.


“Juliette and I want to thank all of you for coming today,” Klaus said with a smile, “to celebrate the christening of the latest members of our family, Rudi and Mags.  It means a great deal to all of us that you could be here, and even if they are too young still to know what is going on, I think they would want to say thank you as well.


“We hope you can stay around and show them your love a while longer, but I want to propose a toast.  Rudolf and Margaret!”




As Klaus sat down, Carina stood and said “I just want to thank you, on behalf of myself and Annie, for the gifts you have given us today, and for the gifts to Judith as well.  Big sisters must not be forgotten, right?”


“Wright,” Judith called out as the room laughed.


“So, if we do not get to see you individually, thank you, and enjoy the rest of the day.”




"Mid August and like most students our thoughts turn to going back to school," Ingrid smiled as she sat at a side table with several of her friends.

"I know - it's hard to believe that I'm going to be a Junior," Bobbi shook her head as she sipped her wine.

"Half of our college undergraduate life down, half to go." Carina laughed.

"For some of us," Abigail spoke, "some of us will only just be starting."

"True," Jo nodded, "and I for one hope I have more than three years of college life left, I definitely want to go on to grad school and get both full qualification, and certification."

"You already know the career you have in mind Jo," for once Ally looked totally serious, "if I'm being honest I still haven't got a clue what i want to do with my life."

"Sometimes life springs surprises on us," Heather added her wisdom to what the younger women were saying. "Just take me for example, no way I ever thought I'd end up becoming a nanny."

"That I understand Big Sister," Jo smiled at Heather, "but as things have worked out it's only proved to be a temporary diversion on your career path."

"That is true," Blair nodded in agreement, "you are gradually becoming something of a figure in the world of art Heather...And by the way what is this I heard that Cooper Union is asking you to do a little teaching?"

"They are?" Abby looked round in surprise.

"I haven't said I'll do it yet, and I'm not sure I have the time to fit it in," Heather looked skyward, "but yes I've been asked if i can maybe do some teaching on late 19th century art next semester."

"Way to go Sis," Jo grinned as she high fived her sibling.

"Congrats Heather," Ally smiled broadly, "but it still doesn't help me decide what I'm going to do post-Harvard."

"Have you considered teaching Ally?" Grace joined the conversation.

"Can you see me teaching?" Ally laughed.

"Actually after seeing how you helped chaperone the Senior Prom then I can."

"You're being serious aren't you Grace?" Ally looked at the older woman quizzically.

"I am." Grace took a sip, "I know that its often those with the most unorthodox backgrounds make the most inspiring teachers."

"Well I guess it's something to think about, but..." Ally started to giggle, "can you imagine the Tennant's reaction if I applied for a job at St Angela's?"

"Oh I'd pay to see it," Carina started to laugh out loud.

"Me too," a couple of other voices said.


“Give it some thought anyway….”





“With this, we can adopt you and there should be no problems,” Agnes said as she and Donald sat with Laura and Miley.


"So what you are basically saying is that I'm dead?" Miley tried to understand what Aggie was saying.

"Miley Underwood is officially deceased yes, but my acquaintance," Aggie smiled as Donald nodded slightly disapprovingly, "created a whole new life for someone called Amelia Strong, she's been orphaned after her parents died in a car wreck, and it’s her that Donald and I are adopting."

"What about if anyone who knows who Miley really is sees a photo, or meets her?" Laura asked practically.

"That is where we are going to have to get creative darling. Our new Miley must be made to look as much unlike Miley Underwood as possible."

"How?" Miley cocked her head.

"Change your hair colour and style darling, add glasses...Oh there are several things we can do."


“Okay – and those who have seen me here?”


“We trust them to keep the secret,” Donald said, “And you are still Amelia or Miley Fitzstuart at the end of the day, with your big sister Laura.”


“And the school?”


“We’ll set up a visit to Queen Charlotte’s when we get back, and also once the adoption papers are in.  Grace reckons it will be the new year anyway, but it gives us a chance to get an assessment.  The future starts now girls…”


Saturday 3rd September

9.30 am

West Central Park


“Why don’t you see who is at the door Katy,” Jan called out from the Kitchen as Katy left her room, wearing an old sweatshirt and jeans.  Opening it, she smiled and said “hey – when did you get back?”


“Late last night,” Pepsi said as she came in, wearing a football shirt and shorts, “I wanted to come and check in before tonight.”


“Oh yeah – the party at Shirley’s.  So, how was the tour?”


“Tiring – but two wins and a draw is not too bad.  School Monday though.”


“Did I hear that Ama came back with her sister?”


“She did – Uma and her mother are staying in a hotel, and will be there tonight as well.”







1 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment


"It is just SO GOOD to be back," Juliette said as she put her handbag on the counter and started to make coffee. "First all that time in Europe, then up on the North Shore, it seems like forever since we were last here."

"I know," Klaus said as he put his arms around his wife, "I guess though all those places are home as well, this is our TRUE home."

"Well despite how much I love those other places, to me it is," Juliette flipped the coffee maker on. "This is where my life is centered."

"Yes I know," Klaus smiled as he kissed her.

"Is that coffee I smell Mom?"

"It is Cari, do you Annie and Ingy want some?"

"Well let Annie get the twins to sleep, but yes I think we can all do with some, we've got to get readjusted to being back."

"When is Annie going to move back to the Village darling?" Klaus said as he started glancing at some of the post.

"When Judith and i head back to Yale, we both want as much time together as a family as we can get till then Pops."

"Well I can understand that,"

"Was that Adam you were talking to darling?" Juliette asked Ingrid.

"It was Moms," Ingrid shook her head, "you know he's still threatening to use some of those pictures he took at the beach party?"

"Well there was the usual parade of famous models and others in the most amazing bikinis." Juliette laughed.

"Including yourself Mom, that bikini you had on made even me think I was a trifle overdressed," Cari laughed.





1 pm

The Village


Ama,” Caroline said as she sat at the table, looking at her laptop, “can you come in a minute please.”


“Of course Mom,” Ama said as she came form the kitchen, “what is it?”


"So…  The Scottish Football Association wants to know if you want to make yourself available for consideration for them Ama. I got an e-mail confirming it."

"Oh Mom you know that I do," Ama grinned, "you know how much I fell in love with the country while we were there, and the Scottish coaches were amazing when I met them."

"Well they did seem pretty impressed with you darling i have to agree."

"The only problem is going to be getting the time off to go to training camp."

"Oh I think St Angela's will co-operate," Caroline smiled, "from what Sarah was saying Wilhelmina is overjoyed with the positive publicity from the tour and by the fact that the school might have two current international players on its roster this year."

"I'll keep my fingers crossed," Ama said with a thrilled look on her face.

"Remember school starts Monday darling."

"Even school isn't going to dampen my happiness," Ama laughed as there was a knock on the door.  Running down the stairs, she opened the door and said “Welcome – come on up.”


“Hello Rhona,” Caroline said as she embraced the older Scottish woman.  Caroline was wearing a white blouse and pants, while Rhona wore a blue short sleeved dress.


“This is where you live Ama,” Uma said as she looked round.  She was wearing denim shorts over black leggings, trainers and a grey sweatshirt, as she smiled at her older sister.


“It is indeed,” Ama said as she stood in her New York Bulls strip.  “Come – we can have a soft drink while I call a friend.”


“SO what is this party we are going to tonight,” Rhona said as she and Caroline sat down.


“One of my major clients is Shirley Xavier…”


“Xavier International?”


“Yup – and she’s having a party for her friends tonight.  An informal affair, but she knew you and Uma were here, and insists you come…”




Greenwich Florists


"Was that Ama?"

"It was Mom," Pepsi said as she put her phone away, "the Scottish soccer people have asked her to formally declare she wants to play for them."

"From what you were saying about how their coaches reacted after seeing her play that doesn't surprise me darling." April said as she finished the flowers she was preparing.

"No, she showed them how good she really is."

"I'm just happy that Sarah asked you to be team captain this year."

"I know, it amazed me as well," Pepsi shook her head. "I know we are a young team, but I honestly expected it would be one of the Seniors."

"She sees a lot of leadership potential in you darling," Grant said, kissing both his wife and daughter as he came in.

"It's like all our friends have said Pepsi, this summer in Europe, and some of the responsibilities you took on at Ordford seem to have helped you grow up a lot."

"Well I don't know about that," Nicola blushed, "but I guess I'll have to get used to being called 'the old lady'?"

"You are engaged after all darling." Grant smiled.


“I’m not the only one though – Nell and Ally are delaying going to Cambridge until tomorrow because of the party.”




2 pm

The Inn on the Green

Central Park


“Well, we finally get to sit down,” Donald said as he sat next to Agnes, looking at Laura and Miley.  Laura was wearing a white polo shirt and her jeans, smiling as she looked round.


Miley looked round as well, playing with the legs of her steel rimmed glasses.  Her hair was now cut short and dyed red-brown, like Agnes, and she was wearing a grey gilet over a white t-shirt and her jeans.


"So are you enjoying New York so far girls?"

"Oh Mom you'd never believe how much," Laura grinned, "it's an amazing city."

"It is," Aggie looked at her menu, "not having been here in all these years I'd forgotten how vibrant it all is."

"You know even in my dreams I never thought I'd get to see the Statue of Liberty like we did this morning."

"It is quite a place," Agnes smiled as Laura gushed.  “What about you Miley?”


“I’m overwhelmed, Mum,” Miley finally said, “and we’re going to a party tonight as well?”


“We are – which is why we packed the party dresses.  Don’t worry – there will be girls there your age as well.  Aileen and Eve are coming with their mother.”


“Good – I like Aileen,” Miley said with a smile.


“Will just texted – the family are here now as well,” Donald said as he looked up, “and the funeral is set for next Friday.”


“Well, we can enjoy this weekend at least,” Agnes said as the waiter came over.  “So what do you girls want?”


“Can I have a burger and fries,” Miley asked.


“Me too,” Laura said as the waiter took a note.





FBI Field Office


“Boss,” Edna Corben said as she looked into Tom’s office, “you got a visitor?”


“I do?”  Tom looked up at the tall, thin man standing in the doorway.


“AD Callaghan?  DCI Mike Babbage, Metropolitan Police.”


“Oh yes – welcome to New York,” Tom Callaghan said as he stood up and shook Mike’s hand.  “Good flight over?”


“It is – a weekend away just now with my wife is a good idea.”


“Take a seat – so, I hear you’ve met some ‘friends’ of ours?”


“Some of them anyway – let me tell you a story…”




3 pm

The Village


"Wilhelmina this is an unexpected surprise," Grace smiled as she opened the door.

"Well,” Wilhelmina Tennant said as she stood in the doorway, “I thought I'd drop in and congratulate Sarah in person on how well she and the team did."

"Well come away in, she's upstairs."

"So how was your little side trip Grace?" the Principal asked as they ascended the stairs.

"It was actually huge fun, though personally I think I'm getting a little ancient for bikini parties."

"Nonsense, now if you were me..."

"I think every girl in school would pay to see you in a bikini Wilhelmina," Grace laughed. "It was nice seeing so many friends from the biz in a setting like that, Abby's annual beach party is becoming something of a fixture on the models calendar."

"So I understand," Wilhelmina smiled as Sarah came out from the kitchen, "ah here is the heroine of the hour."


“Hey boss,” Sarah said with a smile, “am I?”


“I think so,” Wilhelmina said.


“Let me get you some coffee,” Grace said, “I want to ask a favour of you while you’re here…”



6.30 pm

The Waldorf Astoria


"Thank you for that news Grace, it's so great of you to arrange that," Agnes said as she sat in the chair, “we can confirm that tonight.”

"What did Grace want?" Donald asked as he tied his tie.

"She's arranged for one of the Guidance Counsellors at her school to assess the girls educationally Tuesday afternoon. She had a chat with her boss earlier."

"Well that's very good of her..."

"It is," Agnes said as she stood up, walked over and pulled the tie apart, "here let me do this,"

"So what will they do?" Donald stood still as Agnes tied the tie.

"Things like an IQ test, and also give us an approximate idea what the girls do and don't know. It will give us an idea what we need them to work on."

"They both seem set on QCS."

"I know, and it's great that the deputy headmistress there was at Wycombe Abbey with Grace, I think that personal contact can only help."

"True." Donald stepped back a step, "so do I look presentable for a party?"


Agnes stepped back and looked as there was a knock on the door.  “Come in.”


“Well, you look presentable,” Tamsin said as she came in.  “Kit is just helping the girls, and I saw Paula and Tom a few minutes ago.”


“Good – well, let’s go and see how they are doing…”


7 pm

The Richmond Mansion


George Richmond walked down the stairs, adjusting the cuffs on his shirt, and then walked into the front room.


“Hey Dad – Jennifer all right,” he said as he saw his father standing there.


“Indeed - looking forward to school starting Son?" George said as they both walked into the hallway.

"I've got a few butterflies Dad, it's going to feel odd being a new boy again." George said as he pulled his jacket on.

"St Augustine's is a great school."

"I know, and I'm glad you let me choose it rather than me going to Lawrenceville like Grandpa did."

"Well boarding isn't for everyone,” George said with a smile, “and I know several of your friends are going to St Augustine's."

"Saint Disgusting's don't you mean?" Sands laughed as she came down the stairs.

"Shut up Sands," Young George rolled his eyes. 

"Make me..."

"And there was I thinking just how grownup my daughter looked," George senior laughed and shook his head at the same time. "You look incredible darling," he said, kissing her as she reached the bottom step.

"Thank You Daddy," she beamed, "Mom bought me this evening dress while we were in Paris.”

"You Mother did always have impeccable dress sense."

"Thank you George," Sandy called out as she and Heather started to come downstairs.  Both women were wearing blue evening dresses.  “Uncle Alex is collecting Nessa and David, so he will see us there.”




The de Ros Mansion


“Hello Edith,” Tony McNally said as he stood in the doorway, “I hope I’m not late.”


“Of course not Master Antony – Miss Abigail and Madame are in the drawing room,” the house keeper said as she closed the door, and showed her in.


“Ah Tony,” Guy said as he sat with Willy, “You are here.  How is your university?”


“Still there Sir, so I start Monday.  You certainly look different from last Saturday Abigail?”


“Well, that was a beach party,” Abby said as she sat in her grey evening dress, “this is something different.”


“Indeed,” Valeria said, “very different – ah I see you are ready as well Francesca.”


“Indeed,” Francesca said as she entered with Charlotte and Piet, Charlotte’s dress cut to hide her growing bump.  “I would not miss this for anything.”


“Do you know what this party is for Francesca?”


“Not at all – I am as curious as you are,” the Italian noblewoman said as she smiled.


“So who again is your mothers date Roo?”


“Dr Alessandro Riva,” Charlotte said as she accepted a drink from Edith, “and Mama is insisting he’s not a date, merely an old friend she ran into and who she asked Shirley if she could bring.”


“Should I enquire too closely how she knows him?”


“Given that he’s a plastic surgeon do you want to take the risk Piet my love,” Charlotte giggled.


Ja, I’m not sure I want to ask her how she knows him,” Piet smiled, “Francesca would happily go to her grave rather than admit she’s had any work done on her body.”




“So you don’t think it’s anything sexual?”


“In the past?”  Shaking her head, Charlotte said as the doorbell rang “I’d hate to speculate, but right now? No, Mama is coming to terms with being Dad’s widow like I’ve said before. She will have to be very interested in someone pretty amazing I think before she’s unfaithful to my father’s memory.”


“Well she may not be shopping for a guy, but looking how she does in that dress she’s brought to wear I can tell you a lot of men are going to be very interested in her.”


“Are you two talking about Francesca?”


“We were Aunt Marianne,” Charlotte said as they turned round, “Piet was saying how amazing her dress is.”


“I know,” Marianne shook her head, “I spend days shopping, spend a fortune, and then I measure my dress against hers and think…”


“Marianne you look fabulous,” Piet smiled.


“That’s just what I told her,” John Vosloo said as he followed his wife in, “but like far too many women she sees herself competing with her best friend.”


“With Francesca it’s not a competition, she always wins hands down,” Marianne laughed.


The Village


“These are the times when I know we did right buying this place,” Maddie said as she finished doing her makeup.


“Agreed,” Emma nodded as she walked over, “can you zip me up darling?”


“It’s so much more convenient having our own apartment then staying in hotels.” Madeline said with a smile as she zipped up her wife’s evening dress.


“Especially with you having to be in New York for a few days on business darling.”


“Shirley throwing a party will be fun, but I’m not looking forward to all those meetings at all.”


“Given that it’s basically all about negotiating shipping contracts I don’t blame you.”


“I know,” Maddie shook her head, “but Catherine being here, and knowing as I do that she is representing a group of Chinese companies looking for a new shipper to move their stuff worldwide, it’s too big an opportunity to not at least make a sales pitch to her about Xavier International’s services.”


“At least while you are doing it all I can do some more shopping.”


“That’s true.  Also Sandra and John are over, which makes for interesting times.”



Park Avenue


“I hear that we are going to have a few intriguing guests Shirley my love?”


“Oh I think it’s more than a few John. I know several people for example are looking forward to meeting Veronica’s brother,” Shirley paused to put her earrings in. “Have you ever met Billy Joyce yourself?”


“No,” John shook his head, “I’ve seen him in a couple of shows, and of course in some of his films, but I’ve never had the pleasure personally.”


“What about Helen’s ‘uncle’ as she calls him?”


“Same thing,” John smiled, “I saw Andre Kannenikov dance a couple of times years ago, but I’ve not met him.”


“The ballet star, and the Broadway musical star, both high and popular culture at our party,” Shirley looked uncharacteristically excited.


“So what is the balance of the sexes looking like?”


“Well better than it has at some of our Sinnerz parties.”


“Now who is it Eleanor Ball is coming with?”


“Both Leroy Vance, and a man called Ed Preminger, they are hers and Veronica’s regular bridge partners.”


“Alright, I look forward to meeting them both.” John finished fixing his cuff links. “So will I do?”


“Yes,” Shirley smiled contentedly, “for me you’ll always more than merely do.”


“What about me?”


“Oh Maisha you look beautiful,” Shirley turned and smiled. “That dress is simply perfect.”


“Thank you Aunt Shirley – I understand Uma is coming with Ama?”


“So I am told…”


West Central Park


“Would you see who is at the apartment door Darling,” Kylie called out from her room, “I just need to put my earrings in.”


“Of course I can,” Marina said as she adjusted the straps on her gold dress, and looked through the spyhole.  She could see a fair haired woman wearing a beige great coat, but she didn’t recognise her.


Opening the door, she said “good evening – can I help you?”


“I do hope so Marina,” the woman said in an educated London accent as she turned and smiled.  “You look a little tired.  Have you been doing your morning exercise?”


“Every day, but that’s not important right now,” Marina said with a smile.  “You look wonderful.”


“You could have warned me though,” the new arrival said as she came in, her coat opening to reveal a black cocktail dress and high heels.


“I thought we did,” Marina said as Kylie came out, wearing a red off the shoulder dress.


“Who was…  Beverly darling, it is so good to see you!”


“And you,” Bev said as she looked round the apartment.  “They did a wonderful job on your new home.”


“I see Helen and Catherine have already influenced you – where are they?”


“They will meet us at the party later – Helen went to meet a certain someone, and Catherine has some business to attend to.  So, I thought I would come with you.”


“And you are most welcome,” Marina said with a smile.  “Do you want a drink before we go?”


“No thank you – I will have one when we get there – well hello my young cousin.”


“Bev?  Good lord, you look amazing!”


“Who does – Beverly?”


“Hello Janice, Veronica, Eleanor, Adam,” Beverly said with a smile, “so are we making a party for the party?”


“Oh we have a lot to talk about,” Katy said with a smile.


“I need to go and meet my escorts for the evening – I’ll see you there,” Eleanor said as she walked off.




8 pm

Park Avenue


“Good evening Aunt Catriona, Elizabeth – please, come in.”


“Thank you Maisha,” Catriona said as she and her daughter came in, both women wearing dark blue dresses as they handed their coats to the maid.  Maisha was wearing her black velvet dress, a blue pendant round her neck.  “So this is your New York home – impressive?”


“Come on in Cat,” Shirley called out as they went into the drawing room, Shirley smiling in her green silk dress, and John in his dinner jacket.  “I believe you know everyone here so far, but perhaps you can introduce them to your daughter?”


“Indeed – Elizabeth, this is Sandra Kirk, John Jacobs, Madeline Moore and her wife Emma Cromwell.”


“I’m pleased to meet all of you,” Elizabeth said.  “This is an amazing apartment, Aunt Shirley.”


“I like it,” Shirley said with a smile.  “So, I think this is going to be a very special weekend – I hope you all enjoy it.”


The Odeon


“Eleanor,” Ed Preminger said as he saw Eleanor Ball walk in, “thank you for meeting here in advance.  Whisky?”


“Please,” Eleanor said with a smile. “Is Leroy here yet?”


“I asked him to come a little later.”


"Okay…  So why exactly did you ask me to ask Shirley if you could come tonight Ed? A New York high society party isn't exactly your normal thing."

Sipping his Bourbon, Ed said "Let's just say I have a couple of reasons Captain."

"Business, Admiral?"  A little alarm bell went off in Eleanor's head that her friend had used her military rank.

"I don't know," Ed stroked his chin, "let's just say someone considerably higher up the chain of command asked me to give him my impressions of a couple of people it was known would be at this party shall we?"


Shaking his head, he said "for tonight just call me Ed as always please Eleanor, this might or might not be anything and I'd rather not be arousing suspicion."

"So I don't tell anyone just what you do at the DIA...correct?"

"Correct," the admiral smiled.

"Just so I know, this is nothing to do with any of my friends is it?"

"As far as I'm aware, no it isn't...there's just a whisper in the wind that maybe something is going on, and basically I'm just collecting gossip."

"You do know Tom Morse will be there?"

"I do,” Ed said as he finished his drink, “and I'm fully aware that the Congressman has heard me testify before his committee and knows who I am. I had a word with him as well to be discrete."

"Ed my antennae are twitching like mad," Eleanor looked a little frustrated.

"I know they are Eleanor - you are far too good an intelligence operative for them not too, but please - and I don't want to make this an order - please stay cool tonight."

"You do also know Francesca di Cambrello will be there?"

"Yes I do, if she gets suspicious I might need have a word with the Marchesa.  Leroy – ready to mix with the Hoi Polloi?"


“I do enjoy social chit chat,” the ex-Marine said as he adjusted his jacket, “shall we?”



Park Avenue


“I have seen some buildings these last days,” Laura said as she looked up, “but this…  Aunt Shirley and Uncle John live here?”


“Apparently in the penthouse,” Agnes said as she gripped the hands of the girls, Tamsin and Kit looking up as well.


“Well met by fading sunlight.”


“Caroline,” Agnes said with a smile, “and this must be Uma.  I’m Agnes, and this is Donald, Laura and Miley.”


“Hello,” Uma said as she gripped Rhona’s hand.  She was wearing a blue party dress, and Rhona a grey evening dress.


“Well, shall we,” Caroline said as they walked in.  The concierge looked up, and smiled as he said “Miss Jameson – you are expected.  Go right up.”


“Thank you,” Caroline said as they entered the elevator cab, waiting as the lift door closed while Uma shined her shoe on the back of her leg.


“You as well?”


She looked at Miley and nodded as the lift doors opened, and they walked down the corridor.  “Allow me,” Caroline said as she knocked, the door opened by a tall African girl.


“Hello sister,” Ama said with a smile, “how was your flight?”


“Very good, thank you – and is this Uma?”


“It is.  Uma, I would like you to meet Maisha, another of the girls from Mazengwe.”


“Come in Uma – all of you.  Aunt Shirley is in the main room – the maid will take your coats for you.”


“Yes, it is a big place,” Caroline whispered to Rhona as they walked in, Shirley smiling as she said “Aggie – you all made it.  And this must be Uma and Rhona – I’m Shirley Xavier.  Welcome to my home.”


“Thank you for inviting us,” Rhona said as she looked round.  “Nice place – roomy.”


“Why don’t you come with me and Maisha Uma, we will introduce you to some of the other girls,” Ama said as they walked over to where Jeannie was sitting with Nikki and Becca.


“Let me introduce you to a few people as well,” Caroline said to Rhona as Laura heard a familiar voice say “there you are.”


“Hey Aileen – I see the Babbages are here as well?”


“Indeed – let’s go and sit outside…”



As they went onto the balcony, Pepsi came in with her parents, as Tom and Claire arrived.


"This is a night where you should take a bow April," Shirley said as she kissed Pepsi’s mother on the cheek.


"Who me?"

"Yes you Mrs Broadhurst," Shirley smiled, "the terrace garden looks wonderful, and it's just lovely to see so many people out there enjoying it."

"Oh on that I'll agree,” April said, “but I'm sure you yourself would have realized the enormous potential the space had."

"If I'm being honest,” Shirley said “I never even saw the possibilities when I bought this place. It was truly your idea April, and thank you so much for doing all this."

"Oh it's not a problem," the florist blushed.


“You need to come and visit Curragh,” Nessa said as she joined them, “the garden is back to the former glory it was now.”


“I hope to – and congratulations on the hit records.”


“Thank you – but he was responsible as well,” Nessa said as Mick came in with the Rochermanns.


“This is a remarkable apartment,” Andre Kannenikov said as he handed his coat to the maid.  “You say it is Shirley Xavier who lives here?”


“Indeed,” Kelly said with a smile, “Tom, Clare, allow me to introduce Andre Kannenikov.  Andre, this is Congressman Tom Morse and his wife Claire.”


“A pleasure,” Andre said with a smile as he shook Tom’s hand, and then saw the latest arrivals, his face paling slightly as he saw the older blonde woman.  “I hope to see you at the shows during the next year.”



“Francesca – it is good to welcome you to my home again,” Shirley said with a smile as she greeted the Marchesa.


"Shirley, John, can I Introduce an old friend?"

"Please do Francesca."

"This is Alessandro Riva, Sandro this is John Hammond and Shirley Xavier our host and hostess."

"Given your fame Dr Riva, is it breaking some doctor/patient rule asking how you know Francesca?" John smiled as he assessed the tall, bespectacled man, with the hint of grey at his temples.

"No it isn't, and please call me Sandro, I've known Francesca since she was a girl, my parents were friends of her family in Rome."

"Ah then that explains it, and we are Shirley and John."

"Thank you Shirley, and despite vicious rumours, and nasty stories, that I have no doubt our terrible Italian gossip media has told far more than once, as far as I'm aware Francesca is still exactly as nature designed her."

"And I'm guessing that there are an awful lot of women in this room cursing her for her good fortune in that," John laughed.

"What can I say, I am who I am," Francesca smiled broadly.




“Hey,” Caroline said as she greeted Charlotte, “blooming?”


“Oh yes – and we’ve started to feel him or her moving round,” Charlotte said with a smile.  “A lot of people here.”


“Well, Shirley and John want a lot of people here for one reason or another.”






“Hello Gus, Augie,” Agnes said as she greeted the van Roons, “I made it at last.”


“You did indeed – and Donald came as well.  We heard a rumour…”


“Apart from me getting a visa?”


“Yes, apart from that – you and Donald…”


“Well, we bury Catherine next week, but yes – we are engaged, and we are adopting two of the girls from my school.”


“Where are they?”


“Outside with the Gaunt and Babbage children…”




"You still haven't told us all about your photo shoot Aileen," Laura said as she put a tray of soft drinks down on the table out on the terrace.

"Oh don't....PLEASE," Clodagh laughed, "If I have to listen to all that again I swear I'm going to throw up."

"Well we haven't heard Clo," Laura said as she sat down on the bench seat next to Miley, "so you'll either have to cover your ears, or endure it."

"I've heard the stories, and it’s not the hard work doing the photo shoot that I'm envious of, it's the fact that you got to go to a real beach party with all those other models," Bridget Babbage shook her head.

"Yeah that was the fun part," Aileen smiled.

"But what was the shoot like?" Laura returned to her question.


“It was amazing – we got to visit Historic Boston and the photographer made it very easy for us,” Aileen said.  “And then, as you say, the beach party – Suzie and Mary Clarke made it over with the other West Coast girls.”


“I can imagine – but back to school Tuesday?”




“Back on Monday night for Tuesday,” Eve said as she sat with Kit and John.


“I know – and the joy of A2s to come.”


“Is that the sound of back to school blues,” Liz said as she joined them.


“Oh yes – and with Clodagh coming as well.”


“I’d forgotten that…”




“Who do you know who lives here,” the thin blonde haired man said as he got out of the cab with his sister, “it’s a bit above your usual haunts, V.”


“I do have friends outside of my work you know,” she said as she looked up, then smiled as she saw the family getting out of a second cab.  “Well, well – I should have guessed you would be here.”


"Hello Billy,” Cassandra Stone said as she walked over, “it's been a while."

"Oh are you coming to this shindig as well Cassandra?"

"We are," Cassie smiled while the man kissed her.

"So how do you merit an invite to all this?"

"Rick and I have become friends with Shirley and John, and how about you?"

"My sister Veronica knows them. Have you met her?"

"A couple of times," Cassie said as she kissed Veronica on the cheek. "How are you doing Commander?"

"Very well," Veronica smiled, "and tonight I swear I am NOT getting drunk and ending up doing something I come to regret."

"Sounds like a plan to me," Rick ushered his family towards the entrance to Shirley's apartment block.


“Something you want to share with us V?”


“E – you haven’t come with the family?”


“Had to meet my escorts first – you must be Billy.  Eleanor Ball.”


“AH – the woman my sister wins card games with.  Nice to meet you at last.  Coming in?”



“Uncle Andre!”


“Well hello Yelena,” Andre said with a smile as he kissed Helen on the cheeks, “and this must be Penny.  A pleasure to meet you at last.”


“And you,” Penny said with a smile as the door opened again, Jan smiling as she came in with Katherine, Adam and Katy.


“Maisha darling, it is so nice to see you again,” Kylie said as she and Marina took their coats off, “do you remember Beverley?”


“Of course I do – you look good, Beverley.”


“Thank you for saying so,” Bev said with a smile as she looked round, “it is a real pleasure to be back again.”




“Hello Abigail, Diana – I trust I find you well?”


“What is it about Hong Kong,” Abby said as she looked at Marina.


“Trade secret – let’s get a drink.”


"Shirley has asked if we will dance a ballroom solo when the dancing starts Uncle Andre. Is that alright with you?" Helen said with a smile.

"It would be my pleasure Yelena. what do you have in mind?"

"I remember you dancing the Paso Doble with Mum, can you still do it?"

"Oh just about," the Russian laughed.


“Good – I’ll find you when the time comes,” Helen said as she walked off, Andre looking round, deciding who to talk to next…







"So any idea yet as to babies sex Charlotte?" Heather asked as she stood with her friend.

"Nope - and I don't want to know Heather. Piet and I talked it out and we will find out the old-fashioned way when I give birth."

"Now I was just the other way," Annie sipped her champagne, "I was more than happy to know i was having twins and that it was one of each."

"Can I avoid this topic of conversation?" Karen laughed, "it sounds far too much like talking shop for my liking."

"Oh why?" Sandro asked.

"Because Karen is a consultant obstetrician at Mass General in Boston," Francesca spoke.

"Ah now i understand, I've already had one or two of the ladies here trying to ask me about my work."

"I'm never sure who has the harder conversation task at parties, doctors like you two, or lawyers like Francesca?" Heather looked amused.


“It is a close run thing,” Francesca said as she looked round, and then looked again at the bearded man talking to John.


“Mamma?  Is something wrong?”


“No, not at all my dear, not at all…”




"Maddie can I have a little private word please?"

"Certainly Shirley, what can I do for you?"

"I have something I want to tell you personally before we announce it publicly."

"Now that sounds intriguing, It's not something to do with business is it?"

"Not at all."

"So what then?"


“Come with me,” Shirley said as she walked her old friend to her den, Sandra looking up as she came in.


“She got you in here as well,” Sandra said as Maddie sat down, and Maisha came in.


“You wished to see me, Aunt Shirley?”


“I did Maisha – all three of you.  I want to ask you all something before we say anything to the party.”


“And that is?”


“Will you stand by me on the day – you three and one other.”


“Let me guess,” Sandra said, “Cat?”


“Indeed – I have already asked her, but I want you three as well.  If you will?”


The three women looked at each other before Maisha said “you really have to ask Aunt Shirley?”


“Good, that’s settled,” Sandra said.  “When are you spending some time in Africa Maisha?”


“I go next weekend…”



“Mike – enjoying your leave?”


“I am actually, Colonel – but back to the grindstone next week,” Mike Babbage said as he stood with John Vosloo.


"So did you drop in for a chat with the FBI Pussycat Gang Task Force like you were planning Mike?"

"I did John," Mike looked round the room, "I basically shared what we'd learned and surmised about their activities in London."

"Were you able to help each other’s enquiries at all?" John asked as he sipped his wine.

"Well I hope so. Tom Callaghan and I seem to be of a similar mindset regarding all this."


“Which is?”


“Whoever these ladies are, they work in tandem with, or assist, one of our major criminal figures.  But the heist – to literally steal all that gold from under the noses of everyone – that was a master stroke.  I almost admire them for that.”


"So why are you in New York Billy?" Rachel McNally asked. "Or is it a secret?"

"Not really,” Billy Vance said with a smile, “a couple of producers are considering yet another revival of Oklahoma, and they are trying to persuade me to do it."

"Which wouldn't exactly be a stretch," Veronica broke in, "he's known the whole damn show by heart since he was about 12 years old."

"True, and I did perform it in college, but I've never done it professionally."

"So is it an ambition of yours Billy?" Andre Kannenikov asked.

"I guess so, Curly is one of the most seminal parts in musical theatre, so I guess I'm more then just intrigued how I'd stack up against all the greats who played it in the past. There must have been similar parts that you always had ambitions to dance Andre?"

"There were a few and i got to do most of them in my career."


“Ah – two people I must introduce you to.  Billy, this is my daughter’s fiancé Michael Treharran…”


“aka Mick Harran,” Billy said as he shook his hand.


“And Nessa Richmond.  Mick, Nessa, this is Billy Vance.”


“It’s a real pleasure,” Nessa said as she kissed him on the cheek.   “We heard you were here – tell me, how up are you on your Gene Kelly musicals?”


“Why – what do you have in mind?”


“Come with us,” Mick said as they took Billy by the arms, “and we’ll explain…”




"This party is rather different to what I was expecting Eleanor," Ed Preminger said as he stood, sipping his champagne and looking round. "It's a truly diverse crowd."

"That's the beauty of the Saintz and Sinnerz Ed. The group is drawn from such a broad spectrum of humanity."

"I'd begun to notice," the Admiral looked across the room, "who are those people Leroy is chatting with for example?"

"The soccer circle," Eleanor laughed. "The woman is Sarah Nightingale the soccer coach at St Angela's, but the men are Sergeant Anders Eckholm of the NYPD, Juan Murchado, who is a banker from Spain, Klaus von Furstenheim, and of course Leroy."

"As I said - a diverse group."

"Well Andy and Juan both have daughters play for Sarah, Leroy's daughter Belinda plays at UVa of course, and Klaus just loves the sport."

"I get that, and what is that crowd?"

"The horse racing aficionados amongst us.  You recognise the Marchesa?"


“Indeed - her beauty is outstanding.”


“Well, with her are the co-owners of SaintzAndSinnerz.  You have Guy, Duc du Grechy, of course, and Ray Razinski, but George Saunders is Caroline Jameson’s second in command, and Grant Mitchell is a worker for the NYTS.”


“Amazing,” Ed said quietly.


“Who else have you seen, Ed?”


“One or two others, Eleanor, one or two others…”



"Well your children look to be enjoying themselves Eva," Sandy smiled as she looked at the small group.

"Yes Mel has been introducing them to some of the people she knows."

"Is Mel all set for school starting?"

"Yes, I think she's going to be very happy at Denice's."

"Denice and Erica are wonderful people."

"I agree."

"So did she enjoy the soccer tour?"

"Very much,” Eva said, “though she regrets a little missing Freshman Orientation."

"She'll soon meet plenty of other girls though.  You are staying until tomorrow afternoon?"


“We are – and then the journey back…”





"So where are your mother and Maeve Susan?" Vanessa asked.

"Honestly?  Bognor Regis."

"Bognor what?"

"It's an old style English seaside resort town Nessa. Mum said after the summer she's had she needed peace and quiet so she and Aunt Maeve have booked themselves into a small hotel for two weeks."

"Ah I can see their reasoning."

"It's a slightly posher version of the place that I used to take Jeannie to," Barbara smiled.

"I think if you were to go back you'd probably find Clacton pretty dull nowadays Barb."

"I probably would Marina."

"Was Kylie's mother invited?"

"She was darling," Kylie said as she nibbled at a little sandwich, "but with having moved, and also having started a new job, she decided to wait a few weeks to come see us."


Nessa nodded as she looked round.  “Ah – excuse me a minute.  Something I have to do…”


“Can I have your attention a moment please?”


“Who’s doing the dance tonight John,” Jack Linklater called out.


“I promise you, no burlesque tonight – but we can’t have such shining stars of the music world as we have here tonight without getting them to entertain you.  So please welcome Mick Harran, Billy Joyce and Nessa Richmond with a number you’ll all recognise.”


“Ready,” Mick whispered.  “You’re Debbie Nessa, and Billy you get to be Donald.”


“Excellent,” he said with a smile as they turned and Nessa started


Good mornin',


Billy smiled at her and sang


Good mornin'!


Mick nodded to both of them before he sang


We've talked the whole night through,


Good mornin'

Good mornin' to you.


Good mornin', good mornin'!

It's great to stay up late,

Good mornin', good mornin' to you.


When the band began to play

The sun was shinin' bright.


Now the milkman's on his way,

It's too late to say goodnight.


So, good mornin', good mornin'!

Sunbeams will soon smile through,

Good mornin', good mornin', to you,


And you, and you, and you!


Good morning,

Good morning,

We've gabbed the whole night through.

Good morning, good morning to you.


Nothin' could be grander than to be in Louisiana

In the morning,

In the morning,

It's great to stay up late!

Good mornin',

Good mornin' to you.


It might be just a zippy

If you was in Mississipi!


When we left the movie show

The future wasn't bright

But came the dawn

The show goes on

And I don't wanna say good night


So say, Good Mornin'!

Good Mornin'!

Rainbow is shining through

Good Mornin'!

Good Mornin'!


Bon Jour!


Bon Jour!


Buenos Dias!


Buenos Dias!


Buon Giorno!


Buon Giorno!


Guten Morgen!


Guten Morgen!


Good morning to you.

Waka laka laka wa

Waka laka laka wa...

Ole, toro, Bravo!


The room burst into applause as Francesca watched Andre closely, while he went over and engaged someone else in conversation…





"I didn't know Roy with all his other interests was also into ballet Ton?" Liz Lodge said as she stood with her best friends.

"He's not," Tonia shook her head, "Andre has got him talking politics, specifically why despite being a lifelong Republican Roy isn't supporting Trump."

"I hope Roy is telling him that it's for the very same reason that that man will NEVER be invited to one of our little gatherings like this." Kelly looked a trifle cross.

"I think that my husband was making that point."

"Good," Liz nodded. "We are all far too aware of that man’s dubious financial record, his lack of morals, and all his other crap."

"It's just a pity that most of the people out there don't know him as we do Liz."

"Agreed Ton." Liz shook her head, "all those people who will believe any crap about Hilary, but cut him a pass."

"I know," Kelly smiled, "but we can be at least reassured that there is enough common sense out there that he will never be elected President."


“I don’t know,” Liz said quietly, “we live in strange times.  At least Andre is showing an interest in our politics…”




"So where is the Clarke family Shirley?" asked Jeannie as they sat on a couch.

"At home in California. John and I invited them, but with David about to start at Stanford, and the kids all heading back to school, Dave decided they couldn't really afford the time to travel."

"I get that," Jeannie nodded, "with pre-season training at Stanford having started early I've barely seen House in weeks."

"That's the problem dating a top class sportsman I guess."

"I suppose so. I'll be seeing him in a couple of weeks though as i've got a weekend shoot to do in San Francisco, and I'm going to watch him play."


“Will you see Mary and Suzie then,” Shirley said as John walked over.


“I hope so.”


“Forgive me Jeannie – there’s something John and I have to do now.”




“What’s happening,” Miley said as she and Laura joined Donald and Agnes.


“A true miracle,” Agnes said happily as John said “could I have your attention for a moment please?”


“Is it time sister?”


“Time for what,” Uma asked as she stood with Ama and Maisha


“Happiness,” Maisha whispered as the room gathered around John and Shirley at the stage.


“We wanted to thank all of you for being here tonight – especially given the distance some of you have travelled – but we wanted to have as many of you here as possible to celebrate the end of an amazing summer, the start of a new year for many of you – and one other thing.”


Maddie, John and Sandra nodded as Shirley took the microphone.  “I wonder if I could ask a question of Miss Alexandra Richmond Senior – have you or have you not been running a book on me and John getting engaged?”


The room looked at Sandy as she said “Well…  Why are you asking?”


John looked at Shirley and smiled as he said “because two weeks ago, Shirley paid me the great honour of agreeing to be my wife.”




As the room fell silent for a moment, and then erupted in cheering and clapping, Dancer watched everyone.  He had wondered how he would be able to influence their thinking as a group, but he could see the barriers already.  They were not elitist – High Society here was the concept of being in a penthouse, not the people.  More, even those who were likely to be supporters of him were not – mainly because they knew him.


Not that he could blame them either – from what he had seen in the file, he was not the – ideal candidate for any role, never mind the one his masters wanted him to fill.  But he had been assigned a role, and he was required to fill it.


Perhaps the answer was not to try and influence this group, and influence people’s perceptions of this group?  There was certainly some room for that, come possible weak points, but their love and appreciation for each other would make it difficult.  Not impossible, but difficult.


What of the children?  He was not sure – nor was he sure of the younger women he had not talked to yet.  Some were never starters – the teenage design sensation and her friends could not vote.


Others – maybe, but again he was not sure.  Maybe he should research further.  See what little secrets they had.


And in the meantime, there were people – he recognised the Romanian.  He needed to talk to him.


But there was one other problem, one person here he needed to avoid at all costs.  He had no idea why she was here, but she would be a potential issue to raise with his contact…



“So do you need Sigi and I to draw up pre-nups for you?” Francesca smiled as she hugged Shirley.


“No,” Shirley said with a smile, “we talked about it and decided we didn’t need them.”


“Good. They can be nasty things to have in my opinion.”


“I can imagine.  Did you and James have one?”


“No, but he never made a claim on my fortune when we divorced. He wanted to hurt me personally, not I think the thousands of people who might have been affected if he’d asked for a formal division of my fortune.”


“And it’s little bits like that which should have told you that deep down he still loved you Francesca, most men would not have considered that,” Shirley said.


“I guess you are right.”


“I know I am.”


“Anyway the past is the past and the future is you and John together.  CONGRATULATIONS Shirley.”


“Thank you Francesca.”


“Congratulations Boss,” Charlotte said as she kissed Shirley, “so does that mean a company wide pay rise in celebration?”


Shirley merely raised an eyebrow as the others laughed…



“You knew?”


“I did Klaus, but they asked me to keep it a secret so they could tell everyone at the same time.  I wanted to tell you, but it was a solemn vow.”


“No – I can understand that,” Klaus said with a smile.  “So who else knew?”


“Originally?  Agnes, Cat and me.  She wanted to tell Maddie, Sandra and John herself – and now we all know.”




“Well, it finally happened,” Caroline said as she stood with Susan and Penny.


“Should have seen it coming – they were acting very strangely at the wedding,” Penny said as she looked at her phone.


“Who are you calling?”


“Someone who needs to know – who gets to tell Lily?”


“I’ll do that,” Susan said with a smile, “is it worth waking her up for?”


The other two looked at her as a male voice said “silly question, right?”


“Right George.  Do you want the honours?”


“Oh no – as I understand it, I am needed for next weekend when she and her team visit.  You may have the honours.”



“Does this mean we have another wedding to go to Mum,” Laura said as she looked at John and Shirley.


“Oh yes – and don’t worry.  Whenever Uncle Donald and I marry will not affect us going to that one.”


“When did he ask her,” Miley asked.


“Honestly?  The day of Susan and Colin’s wedding, but they wanted to keep it quiet.  But there is another reason why I knew – when the wedding takes place, Aunt Shirley wants me to be one of her attendants.”


“Like a bridesmaid?”


“Yes,” Donald said, “except they are a bit old to be called that.  It makes them sound like old maids – which they are not,” he hastily added.






“Do you want me to do some pictures to release to the media John?” Jack Linklater said as he shook his old friend’s hand.


John looked surprised, as he said “You know I hadn’t even thought of that Jack.”


“Have you even prepared a media release to announce this?”


“To tell the truth,” John said as he shrugged his shoulders, “I think both Shirley and I were so bound up in keeping this secret till tonight that neither of us really thought about those sort of things.”


“Well if you let Jack take some pictures I’m sure I can put together a few words,” Jane Molloy spoke.


“I suppose we ought to…” Shirley paused to think, “can you do that please Jane?”


“It’s not going to be a lot of trouble is it Jane?” John asked.


“I served my apprenticeship at the Times in hatching, matching, and dispatching John, I can do a release like this standing on my head,” Jane laughed.


“Now a photo of Jane standing on her head might be interesting,” Jack laughed.


“And one you are never going to get to take Jack Linklater.”


“Spoilsport,” Jack laughed some more.


“So where do you want to shoot these pictures Jack?” Shirley asked.


“Well, I would say here, but…”


“Perfect – we can fix up a time later!”




“Okay, darling,” Diana whispered to Heather, “how did the book pay out?”


“Are we going by the announcement or the decision?”


“You have to go by the decision darling,” Diana said to Sandy.


“Well, in that case – it’s not my mother, although she had today, and it’s not Eve.”


“Oh – who was it?”


“I’ll take my winning in the morning,” Juliette said as she walked past, the most beatific smile on her face.




“Congratulations Shirley,” Adam said as he kissed her on the cheek, “I know you and John will be very happy together.”


“I know we will, and thank you.”


“Congratulations John,” Adam then said as he shook the older man’s hand.


“Thank you Adam. You do realize though that this is going to increase pressure on you to make Janice an honest woman?”


“Not really John,” Adam smiled.


“We are happy and content as we are,” Jan said as she took his arm.


“That was what I was always telling people Jan, but then he goes and gets down on his knee, and I’m both saying yes, and asking myself why the hell we hadn’t done this ages ago.” Shirley beamed with happiness.


“The way these two are going I’ll be married before they are,” Katy laughed as she congratulated the couple.


“Now that might make for an interesting betting proposition,” Sandy laughed as she added her congratulations. “Will my son marry Katy before Adam finally asks Jan?”


“Mum!” George blushed as everyone laughed.


“Aunt Shirley – there is a telephone call for you and Uncle John in the den,” Maisha said with a smile.


“We’d better go and see who this is – we’ll be back in a few minutes,” John said as they followed Maisha into the den.


“I have them here now,” Maisha said as she put the phone on speaker while they sat down.




“Congratulations John,” the male voice came out of the speaker.


“Congratulations Shirley,” the female one followed.


“Thank You Colin, Thank You Sue,” John called back.


“What are you both doing up so late?” Shirley asked.


“We only just got back from a meeting, and Sue got a message from Penny so we thought we’d ring and add our congratulations.”


“Thank you both.”


“It’s our pleasure Shirley,” Sue replied.


“So how is campaigning going?”


“It’s not going badly John, though after a long day knocking on doors, I think both of us could have done without a late night event.”


“Well tomorrow is Sunday you can take the day off Colin.”


“In our dreams John,” Sue sighed, “we need be up in about five hours, fresh and ready to get out there again.”


“Rather you then me Sue.” Shirley shook her head.


“So we’ll let you get back – congratulations again,” Colin said as the line went dead – and then rang again.


“Who is it now,” John said as Shirley pressed the speaker button, and said “Shirley Xavier?”


“So THAT’S what was going on with you two at the wedding?  Getting engaged yourselves?”


“I’m afraid so Margaret,” John said with a laugh.  “Let me guess – Grace?”


“She called us,” they heard Amelia say, “and we had to call to offer our congratulations.”


“Thank you,” John said, “and let me guess – you were with Colin and Sue?”


“Actually, no – we were talking about what to get Poppy for her Sixteenth, when Grace sent her message…”





"So did you see that coming tonight Doc?" Nikki asked as the girls sat with Jeannie.

"Nope,” Doc said as she held her glass, “even with all my powers of deduction it never occurred to me that tonight was actually an engagement party."

"Well if last year was a year of Sweet Sixteen parties, what odds on this being a year of engagement parties?" Becca asked.

"Don't look at me," Pepsi smiled, "Jack and I won't be having a formal engagement party as such."

"Will Mick and Nell?" Jeannie asked.

"According to Ally they haven't decided." Doc answered.

"Lemachine are recording a new album in LA, and of course Nell will be at Harvard. They talked about it while we were in Scotland," Pepsi sipped her champagne, "they might have a small celebration at either Thanksgiving or Christmas."


“Nick and Ama?”


The girls looked over, as Ama shook her head and Uma giggled beside her.




“There you are,” Will said as John and Shirley came back in.


“Sorry – calls from London,” John said with a smile.


“So any thoughts as to a date darlings?” Mandy asked.


“And a venue,” Penny spoke as she joined them.


“We were sort of thinking about the last Saturday before Christmas,” John smiled as so many of their friends started to check their schedules, both online and in books.


“And since so many of our friends gather in New York at that time of year, we were sort of thinking here.”


“What religion are you Shirley?” Alex asked, “I’ve never known.”


“I’m a Catholic Alex, and while John is Church of Ireland, I was sort of hoping that maybe you could marry us at St Martha’s?”


“I’d be delighted.” Alex smiled.


“And there will be no argument – I am arranging the Wedding Breakfast,” Nessa said as she hugged both of them.  “Consider it a long promised present.”


“I am not going to argue with you,” Shirley said with a laugh.


“Have you ever seen her so happy John?” Sandra asked as they looked over.


“I’m not sure I ever have. Young John is in so many ways the perfect man for her.”


“Only you could describe him as ‘young’ John?” Maddie smiled.


“Well he is young compared to me.”


“True – he is our age after all,” Sandra said with a smile.  “Do you ever consider the path not taken?”


“What might have been?  What if Shirley had never been kidnapped?” John said.


“None of us would be who we are – and I don’t like that idea,” Maddie said quietly.  “I like the woman I am – the women we all became.”


John nodded as he said “for better or worse, you three have become the fine examples you are – even if you do work in very shady ways at times.”


“I know he can never know about her ‘other life’,” Maddie said, “and  that she will have to continue to keep secrets from him, but he has drawn herself out of herself so much.”


“On that I think we all agree Sandy.”  John took a sip as he said “you are the same with Emma, Maddie, having to keep parts of your world secret from her.”


“I know – but we manage,” Maddie said with a smile.


“So – you next John?”


The older man shook his head as he said “no – Coco and I are the closest of friends, but that s genuinely as far as it goes.”





"How comes Aunt Shirley never got married before?"  Kits looked thoughtful as she stood with her friends, "she's so amazing I'm just amazed she's been single all this time."

"Well according to Mummy," Angel took a drink, "many, many years ago there was a man Shirley was deeply in love with."

"There was?" Eve Gaunt asked in surprise," why didn't they ever get married?"

"I don't know all the details, but I do know he was killed somehow."

"Oh Christ, that sucks," Lizzie shook her head.

"Mummy says that for years she almost literally hid herself away. It's only a couple of years ago she started to go out again and meet people..."

"And one of the people she met was Uncle John," Aileen interrupted Angel.

"It's both romantic, but also in so many ways so sad." Fiona spoke.


“She must really have loved him – I wonder…”  Lizzie walked over to where Catriona was standing.


“They really are happy, aren’t they?”


“Yes they are,” Catriona said as she sipped her drink.


"Did you know Aunt Shirley's boyfriend Mummy, the one who was killed?" Lizzie asked.

"Yes I did know Robert, and I'm not sure boyfriend is really quite the right term."

"Were they as deeply in love as you were with my father?"

"Yes they were darling." Catriona for a moment let a string of memories play in her brain.

"Was he the first person she ever fell in love with?"

"As far as I know Lizzie," Cat crossed her fingers behind her back.

"Do you think you'll ever find someone else Mummy?" Elizabeth looked her square in the face, "Gran says you owe yourself some happiness, and I wouldn't mind."


“Who knows?  I have lessons to learn from all of them…”




"Is Alice enjoying herself Sherry?" Olivia asked.

"I thinks she's starting to since Abigail noticed she was looking a little out of it."

"Well she's 18, she has more in common with girls her own age like Abby."

"I know, Bridget and Richard fit in with the younger group fine."

"Well Alice should be okay now."



"So you are going to Somerville are you Alice?" Marina asked.

"I am.  In just over three weeks," the oldest Babbage girl said.


"Marina got a first in Russian at Oxford," Abby smiled.

"Wow,” Alice said, “you did?"

"I did," Marina smiled.  “So if I can do it, anyone can.”

"What college were you at?"


"My dad was next door at Lincoln."

"So he told me earlier."

"Abs did you have to get them talking about Oxford?" Angel smiled, "remember more ordinary sized brains like me and Fi go to places like Glasgow and Newcastle."


“Nothing wrong with them,” Alice said with a smile.


“Why do you say that anyway,” Abby asked.  “I mean, I know we have the Ivy League, but…”


“It’s kind of an inverted snobbery,” Marina said, “because Oxford and Cambridge are the oldest universities in England, and because most of the leaders in politics and society seem to have gone there, they are seen as the best.”


“In England?”


“Correct,” Angel said, “St Andrews and Glasgow are the two oldest in Scotland, alongside Edinburgh.”


“So what is the third oldest university in England?”


“Aberdeen is a century older than Edinburgh, but in England?  Durham university, the only other Collegiate one.”


“One of the colleges of which was Kings, which in the sixties became the University of Newcastle upon Tyne,” Fi added.


“So what are your equivalent of the Ivy League?”


“Much as I hate to say it, Abby, Oxford, Cambridge, London and St Andrews.  But remember we don’t have the same sort of degrees – Glasgow is an Arts university primarily, Newcastle a Science one.”


“You also need to remember, at least now in the UK, Universities also include the old Polytechnics and Local Colleges,” Fi said.  “In Newcastle, we have Newcastle University, the University of Northumberland…”


“Glasgow has Glasgow Uni, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow Caledonian University…”


“Which makes it a different creature from here – here, I guess because university first degrees are general one,” Jo said, “the Ivy League can claim a certain academic superiority.  Wrongly – I don’t go to one of them.”


“True,” Abby said, “but I think you could have, and I could have, and Ingy and Cari both do.”


“We chose to go to colleges where we could learn the way we wanted to,” Jo said, “much as you girls did.”


“So they’re really not that different?”


“I guess not…”



“May I say you look wonderful Beverly?”


“Why thank you Eleanor,” Beverly said with a smile.


“I must agree,” Francesca said as she came over, “you have changed a great deal.”


“I still have a great deal to learn though – but I wanted to thank you both for putting me on the right path.”


“Eleanor – do I recognise one of your friends?”


“I suspect you do Francesca – and I think you should have a word with him.”  She glanced over to where Ed was standing, looking round.


“Ah – a night for seeing old faces.  Excuse me, both of you,” Francesca said as she headed across the room, before saying “well, it has been a long time, hasn’t it?”


“It has indeed – would you like to talk over old times?”


“Perhaps you will appreciate the view from the terrace?”


“That sounds like an excellent idea,” Ed replied as the two of them went outside, Francesca leading the way.


"So do you want me to call you Marchesa, or Admiral?" Ed Preminger asked Francesca as they found a quiet corner of the terrace.

Smiling, Francesca sat down and said "I suppose that depends on the nature of the conversation Sir."

"I heard that the Devil Fish is officially retired."

"I am Sir, but I know just who and what you are, just as you know all about me."

"Yes you do don't you?"

"Si," Francesca nodded, "and I know that this is the last sort of place that you are usually seen, so your presence must mean you are here for a reason."

"Your instincts remain sharp I see."

Smiling, Francesca said "I've not been retired long enough for them to have dulled Sir."

"Look given this is a party, please just call me Ed."

"In that case please call me Francesca."

"Alright Francesca," the Admiral paused as he sat down beside her, "Have you heard that over recent years that our old friends have managed to learn a whole new set of tricks?"

"I went to a few briefings while I was still with La Citadella on that."

"Good." Ed Preminger took a drink, "for quite a while we've trying to piece together little bits of a story suggesting 'they' might be trying to undermine and influence the democratic process in several countries."

"I got briefed by our cyber security people on that,” Francesca said, “though I can't say I understood most of it."

"Well in addition we think that they are also using things like agents of influence, as well as good old fashioned crap like blackmail, to try and get outcomes that they like."

Looking at Ed, Francesca said "You think some of that is going on here in the US?"

"We think it was also going on in the UK to influence the referendum there."

"Mmmmm it does sound like they've got a lot more sophisticated than they were in the old days doesn't it?"

"Yes. Anyway thanks to a piece of private work done by someone British you might remember from Moscow, we are scrambling to discover IF one of the presidential campaigns has been compromised in any way."

"Understood," Francesca thought deeply, "so do you think that certain people at the party might be playing a role in all this?"

"We aren't sure Francesca, its why I'm here just watching and listening. I have suspicions but no proof."


“You are aware I know many people here, and I can vouch for most of them?”


“I suspect you could – I saw John Vosloo was here for example, and I do need to have a word with him.”


“Even though he’s retired?”


“Precisely because he’s retired – I’ll try and get time to see him tomorrow.  What about you?”


Francesca paused before she said “I have seen one old face I never expected to see again – and I am wondering…”


“Enough to act on it?”


“Enough to lay a test…”


Nodding, Ed said “I understand, and I shall watch with interest.”


“We may talk later,” Francesca said as she stood upm and went back to the party, Ed shaking his head as he followed.



As she walked in, Eleanor took Francesca by the arm and took her to one side.


“Okay Francesca,” she whispered, “why are you and Ed Preminger talking?  I could see he wanted to see you.”


“Did he say why he wanted to be here,” Francesca whispered back, “when you met earlier?”


“He dropped his hint – what’s going on?”


“Old history with a new coat of paint,” Francesca said, “excuse me a minute.”


Francesca smiled as she walked over to where Juliette was talking to Andre.


“Francesca – have you met the current Artistic Director for the Metropolitan Ballet?”


“I haven’t had the pleasure – perhaps you will do the honours?”


“Francesca, this is Andre Kannenikov.  Andre, Francesca, Marchesa di Cambrello.”


“It is an honour,” Andre said as he took Francesca’s hand and kissed it, “I hoe we see you at the ballet soon.”


“I will have to see if my schedule allows it,” Francesca said with a smile.  “You know, now we have been introduced, I do think we have met before?”


“Have we?”  Andre looked at her, his face a mask.


"Oh I do think so.  You don't totally remember me do you Mr Kannenikov?"

"Should I?"

"Maybe not, I was still quite junior when our paths last crossed.  I saw you dance several times in the early and mid nineties, you were superb."

"Thank you.  May I ask where that was?"

"Well, I served at the Italian Consulate in St Petersburg for a while."

"You were in the diplomatic service?"

"Only after a fashion,” Francesca said as she continued to smile, “I was actually in the military."

"Oh?" suddenly a small alarm started to go off in the dancers head.


“But as I say, a very junior officer.  I do hope we have the chance to meet again during your time here, Mr Kannenikov,” Francesca said as she walked off, smiling as both Eleanor and Ed watched.


“Well,” Eleanor said to her old friend.


“I’ll let you know – why haven’t you spoken to him yet?”


“I may be on his list – I’ll let you know,” Eleanor said as she left, and Francesca came over.


"Okay I think he now knows that somehow I know he was once KGB, and subsequently that he joined the FSB Ed."

"Thank you Francesca, now let's see how he reacts, and what he does shall we."


“Just be aware – if he does anything that may harm me or my family…”


Ed nodded as he walked off.




“Right ladies,” Claire Morse said as the group gathered round here, “we have a party to organise.”


“We don’t have a date yet though Cherie,” Diana said as she looked round.


“We have a latest time though – before Thanksgiving,” Rachel said.


“Indeed,” Kelly said as she stood with Tonia and Liz, “the lodges?”


“I imagine so,” Sandy said, “though we’ll have the Dickens of a job surprising her…”




“Ed – enjoying the party?”


“I am actually Veronica,” Ed said with a smile as he joined them, “Adam, I haven’t had the chance to say hello yet.”


“With my mother around, that’s not surprising,” Adam said as Eleanor walked over with Jan.


“Ed – I don’t think you’ve met Adam’s partner, Janice Carter, have you?  Jan, this is Ed Preminger.”


“It’s a pleasure to meet you Sir,” Jan said as Ed shook her hand.


“I saw your name in connection with that Pussycat Gang movie – you did a good job advising them,” Ed said with a smile.


“You were wanting to ask Jan about something Ed,” Eleanor said as she took a drink.


“Indeed – why don’t we step outside for a few minutes,” Ed said as he guided Jan onto the balcony.


“Okay – why do I get the feeling I get when I have to see Director McKay,” Jan said as they looked out over the city.


“Am I that scary?”  Ed took a sip of his drink, before saying “can I open by saying Jan that you might be surprised at a couple of the compliments that have been inserted in your file following your work in helping free those African slave girls."


“You’ve seen my file?  Well, I didn't play that big a role..."

"Nonsense," Ed smiled as he interrupted, "your work liaising with your mysterious friends was actually crucial in breaking the whole thing open."

"Well thank you for the compliment Ed, but can I ask why you asked Eleanor to introduce me to you?"

Looking round, Ed said quietly "did she tell you what i do Janice?"

"Not precisely, she basically told me that you operate in a part of the intelligence and security apparatus that is way above my pay grade as a humble FBI agent."

Nodding, the Admiral said "It's one way  of putting it."

"What she didn't say, and what you still haven't even hinted at Sir, is how and why a humble FBI agent gets asked to talk to a man in your position?"

"She gets asked Janice” Ed said quietly “because we need your help, and we need it urgently."

"I don't see what help I can be in matters..."

"Let's cut the crap shall we Jan? I know that you know how to contact the Hidden Hand and ask for their help. I also know that you know how to contact the Sisters of Maisha."

"The what Sir?"

"Don't insult my intelligence Jan," Ed looked testy for a second, "I know very well who and what the Sisters are."

"Alright,” Jan said, “let me say I do, why would they wish to talk to you?"

"Because while they might resort to extra-legal methods, the Sisters are basically on the side  of the Angels."

"Okay," Jan nodded.

"Janice can you set me up meetings with both The Hand and the Sisters?"

Looking at him, Jan nodded and said "I can ask Admiral, but be aware they will be suspicious."

"I know that, just tell them upfront that I'll agree to whatever security measures they wish to put in place, and that I'm a man of honor and integrity. I'm not out to get them, I'm trying to confront what might be one of the biggest challenges our civilization has ever faced."


“I understand sir – I’ll get word through Eleanor if the Sisters agree to meet.  As for the Hand…  Trust me, if she is in agreement, she will contact you.”




“She will – shall we go back in?”




As they walked back in, Jan looked round and then took Eleanor to one side.


“Did you know what you were getting me into Eleanor,” she whispered quietly.


“I had an idea – he asked you for help, didn’t he?”


“Oh yes – am I in trouble doing this?”


“No – he’ll cover your back, but I only have an inkling of an idea what it’s about.”


“All he said was national security.  I presume you don’t want your position advertised?”


As Eleanor shook her head, Jan said “oh boy – right, I need to talk to some people.”  Walking over to where Heather was talking to Charlotte, Jan said “I need to talk to both of you about something for George and Katy.”


“Both of us?”


“Oh yes – somewhere quiet.”


“I’ll see if we can use the den,” Charlotte said as she went to talk to Shirley, then nodding as they walked in, Heather closing the door.


“Okay, what’s going on Jan?”


“I just had a chat with a friend of Eleanor’s – Admiral Ed Preminger.”


“THAT’s who he is,” Heather said as she sat down in the leather armchair.  “You know who he is, right?”


“I know he’s way above my pay scale,” Jan said with a sigh as she rubbed her eyes.


“Educate me,” Charlotte said, “who is he?”


“Chief of Military Counter-Intelligence for the US Armed Forces – direct line to Obama, seat in the War Room, on a level with the NSA.  A very serious person – and he wanted to talk to you?”


“Actually,” Jan said, “he wants to talk to you Heather – or rather, The Hidden Hand.  And he wants to talk to representatives of the Sisters.”


“He does?  Why would he…”


“All he said was it was an urgent matter, and it concerned a national threat.  He also said he would accept any terms and conditions either group set.”


“You are telling me he needs our help?  That would be serious – we need to have a group discussion.  What did you say?”


“That I’d send the message, and get back to him.”


“Okay,” Heather said, “Charlotte, we need to get John and Shirley in on this.”


“Well, Aunt Marianne will have to go shopping herself tomorrow,” Charlotte said quietly.  “What about Mamma?”


“Ask Shirley first,” Jan said, “although I know she and Eleanor were talking earlier.  We keep Eleanor out of this for now – she doesn’t want her connection known.”


“I’ll talk to Madame now,” Charlotte said, “as well as Uncle John.  I’ll let you know the time and place.”







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