Building Bridges – Part 2







“Forgive us, Shirley, John, but it has been a long day,” John said as he and Marianne stood with their hosts.


“Of course – Charlotte, is everything all right?”


“Good question – I apologise, Aunt Marianne, but the board need to have a meeting tomorrow at the offices.”


“Oh – on what subject,” Shirley asked as she raised an eyebrow.


“We need to finalise our expansion plans for the West Africa project ahead of schedule.  Shall we say Noon?”


Shirley looked at Charlotte, and said “Very well then.  Will Francesca join us?”


“I will bring her as well.”


“I guess my new job starts now,” John said with a smile, “I’ll see you all then.”


“Let me show you out,” John said as Shirley looked at Charlotte.


“It is a matter of the Sisters, a serious one – and we need Uncle John and Mamma’s expertise to decide what to do.”


“Very well then – we table it until tomorrow.”



Sunday 4th September


Xavier International


“Not quite how I envisioned spending today,” Caroline said as she came into the conference room.  Ama is taking Uma and Rhona to meet Donald and the girls in Central Park.”


“I know,” Agnes said as she poured a coffee, “so why am I here?”


“Partly to maintain the cover,” Susan said from the table, “but also because, according to Charlotte, this may involve the Sisters, and you have some specialist knowledge that may be of use.”


“Well, tell me to leave when it gets too secret,” Agnes said with a smile as the door opened, Francesca coming in with Charlotte and John Vosloo.


“Not what I expected for a first board meeting – but this isn’t a full board meeting, is it,” John said as he looked round.


“We’ll explain when Shirley gets here,” Charlotte said as the door opened, and Shirley came in.


“Is everyone here Charlotte?”


“Apart from our Tech consultant – they will dial in later,” Charlotte said as Susan closed the meeting room door, and then pressed a button on the desk as they sat round the table.


“Thanks for coming in,” Charlotte said, “Jan Carter had an interesting conversation with one of the party guests last night – one I believe is known to you Mamma.”


“Indeed – as well as Eleanor, and I suspect you as well John.  Admiral Edward Preminger, USN.”


John let out a low whistle as he said “I thought I recognised him.  Why would he want to talk to Jan?”


“I know why,” Francesca said quietly, “but I’m not sure I can reveal much.”


"Alright Francesca what CAN you tell us? What WILL you tell us?" Shirley asked.

"That when someone like Admiral Preminger starts ringing alarm bells many, many people start to worry...Am I right John?"

"You are Francesca," Colonel Vosloo nodded, "and while you and I were once both insiders, the mere fact he's reaching out like this means this is a matter of the gravest consequences."


“Hang on,” Agnes said, “I know the name – he’s very senior military intelligence in the US.  And he’s asking for help?  Are you sure you want me in the room for this?”


“I think so Agnes,” Charlotte said, “you’ll understand why later.”

"Okay I understand the seriousness of this can't be underestimated," Shirley played with her glasses, "but what exactly is the threat?"

"The rise of the machines Shirley?"

"You mean like in Terminator Francesca?"

"Not quite,” the Marchesa said, “it's more to do with the omnipresence of damn computers, etc in our lives, and the power that can be exercised by controlling the content people get on their machines."

"You are talking in riddles Francesca." Shirley wriggled in her chair. "Does this make sense to you Caroline? or to you Charlotte?"

"Unfortunately yes it does," Charlotte took a deep breath.  “He’s talking about the 1984 method.”


“I’m familiar with the book,” Shirley said, “but surely NewSpeak was a concept that does not really work?”


"Look at it this way Shirley,” Francesca said as she looked round, “when we were growing up what were our major sources of information?"

"Let me think," Shirley was quiet for a few seconds, "I suppose newspapers, magazines, television, radio."

"All of which more or less had common standards on what constituted the truth?"

"I guess so Francesca."

"Now think of today, just ask any of the kids where they get most of their information from. It's largely from places like so-called social media..."

"And if if it isn't that, then it’s from the incredible diversity of information sources that are available online," Charlotte interrupted.


“And unlike the BBC and our news channels in the UK, the US news channels are not afraid to show their…”  Caroline looked at Francesca and nodded as she said “Oh God – I think I see where this is going.”

"What they are getting at Shirley,” Francesca said, “is that there is increasingly not a standard 'truth' and it’s very easy even for what seem obviously crackpot ideas to gain traction online.  What was it Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf?"


“The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed,” John asked.


“Misquote.  It’s actually ‘that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily,’” Agnes said.

Shirley looked over as she said "this still doesn't explain to me why Admiral Preminger is asking for help?"

"He thinks that the Russians are using the media in other countries to manipulate and distort public opinion in favour of certain pro-Russian policies and politicians Shirley."


"Oh crap," suddenly Madame paled as the penny dropped.  “That, if it is true, is a major problem.”


“And would explain why he is asking for outside help,” John said.


“He thinks that’s already happened, doesn’t he,” Agnes said as he looked at Francesca.


“He suspects it was used in the UK, yes.  But he has no proof.”


“Agnes, this is why we asked you – are you aware of any backroom discussions of this possibility?”


“I know the question has been asked of some of the Facebook pages and campaign groups,” Agnes said, “but it would require a degree of coordination that is truly frightening.”


“So,” Charlotte said, “he has asked to speak to two people – well, one person and the representatives of one group.”


“I understand the Sisters – who is the other person,” John asked.


“Our IT consultant,” Shirley said, “who should be on the line momentarily.”


“Have I heard of them?”  As he looked round the room, seeing the others nodding, Susan pressed the button on the speaker phone.


“Good morning, old friend,” Shirley said, “have you been listening?”


“I have indeed,” a deep female voice purred, “and I now fully appreciate why the good Admiral is concerned.  Colonel Vosloo – a pleasure to finally speak to you.”


“Have we met?”


“I hope not – you will know me as The Hidden Hand.”


The other women looked at John as he stared at the phone, and then said “remind me never to tell Hennie we have had this conversation.  You really do use the very best, Shirley.”


“Where needed  - my first question, old friend, is the Admiral right to be concerned?”


“He is – but if he is right, it will be a phenomenal amount of work to track and tackle.  More than even I can handle.”


“He wishes to meet with you, under any conditions you set,” Charlotte said.  “Are you open to such a discussion?”


“I am always willing to help my home country where necessary, but I fear it would be more pointing him in where to look and how to look.  If you are in agreement, I will establish contact with him, and share the results of my discussion with those he is proposing with the Sisters.”


“I can ask no more at this stage, thank you,” Charlotte said.


“A pleasure, as always,” the voice said as Susan ended the call.


"Do I need to ask my husband and even maybe Jane what is being whispered on the journalistic winds Shirley?"

"Given that we have no definitive evidence then can I suggest that collecting and sifting through even gossip might give us an angle Shirley?" John Vosloo smiled.


Shirley nodded as she said “given some of the things I have heard from the Republican candidate, I think Jane may have some good insights.  Which leaves the question of the Sisters.  I think we can make some arrangements, if the room is in agreement?”


As she looked round and watched them all nod, she looked at Charlotte.  “Who would be the best person?”


“I would have said Teacher, but she is expecting a new group next week.  It may be time for Saree to make a re-appearance, let me think on that.”


“Very well – tell Jan to get word to Admiral Preminger the two parties will be in touch.  I think we are done here  - Agnes?”


“I can put feelers out, see if anything is suspected alongside my consultancy work.  You as well Francesca?”


The Marchesa nodded as she said “When should we meet again?”


“Let the discussion take place first, then we shall see.  Thank you everyone.”



1 pm

The Inn on the Green


"So,” Eleanor said as she sipped her drink, “did you enjoy yourself last night Veronica?"

"I did," the Coast Guard officer smiled, "and I truly do wish John and Shirley all the happiness in the world."

"I think all their friends do," Eleanor smiled.

"As to what was going on underneath the surface,” Veronica said after she swallowed some spaghetti, “I suppose one day it might trickle down to me what was going on."

Wiping her mouth, Eleanor smiled as she said "Meaning what Veronica?"

"Whatever it was that drew Ed Preminger of all people to New York, and to just why I saw him in deep conversations with some very interesting people."

"You spotted that?"

“Of course I did Elly, I've known Ed as a dear friend for several years, and I know he just doesn't do that type of party."  Veronica sipped her coffee, "anything you want to tell me?"

"Not really,” Eleanor said, “I know very, very little more than you do. Ed approached me at bridge night and asked if I could get him invited. Why, and what he was up to last night - all I can do is make the same kind of guesses that I bet are in your mind."


Veronica nodded as she looked round.  “Something bad is coming, isn’t it?”


“I hope not…”





The de Ros Mansion


“So the most senior Intelligence officer in the US outside the cabinet has asked the Sisterhood for help?”


“That’s all Jan told me,” Juliette said as she sat back, her eyes closed.


"All this is a national security matter Cherie," Diana sipped her coffee. "I'm not sure that as Pussycats we either have a role to play, or any expertise that might be of use anyway."

"Well Heather in her alter ego as the Hand certainly has a role to play," Juliette reopened her eyes.  “She’s taking to the meeting today.”

"Agreed, and those of you involved in the Sisters might well get called in as well, but for those of us who are more or less purely and simply Pussycats, I don't see why as a group we need concern ourselves?"

"Aunt Diana I think merely as citizens we have a need to be concerned if someone is tampering with our elections." Carina looked up from feeding Mags from her bottle.


“I agree, but more active involvement?”


“Unlikely, I agree,” Juliette said, “and besides, we may be rather busy ourselves soon.”


“You have a plan,” Abby said as she looked up from her book.


“I have a plan – I’ll reveal more after the next weekend.”


“Ah yes – when do they arrive?”


“The team arrive Thursday – and we get to work Friday morning…”



The Richmond Mansion


"Wendy Kakurian was telling me some of the dreadful things that Hillary and the Democrats have been getting up to..."

"Oh come off it Elly you don't believe that crap do you?" Sandy looked across the table at her potential customer.

"And you don't Alexandra?" the woman lifted an eyebrow, "do you want me to send you some sites with all the evidence on?"

"I don't get a chance to even look at the computer," Sandy laughed, "I'm snowed under with work."

"Oh is that why you scheduled our little meeting for a Sunday?"

"Yes," Sandy sipped the coffee, "now did you look at those fabric swatches?”


“Well, I do like this one,” Elly van Dyke said as she pointed to a dark brown, “for the main room.”


“Okay,” Sandy said as Heather came in.


“Apologies, I had a call to take.  Do we have a decision?”


“I think so,” Sandy said with a smile.


“What about you Heather – do you think Hillary is a crook?”


“With very rare exceptions, all politicians have dark secrets – on both sides,” Heather said with a smile.  “Besides, you should always read stories from multiple angles.  Remember, History is written by the winners.”


“Who said that,” Elly asked.


“Winston Churchill,” Sandy said.  “Let’s talk about the bedroom.”


Heather smiled as she looked at the client – she had no idea of what would be happening to her soon…




7 pm

The Burton Apartment


“Can I come in,” Erica said as she knocked on the bedroom door.


“Sure,” Melinda said as she looked over, “I was just checking my bag for tomorrow.”  She closed the rucksack, and sat on the bed, smiling as she said “I can’t believe I am finally going there.”


“Well, Caroline will pick us both up with Ama in the morning,” Erica said.


“How was it for you, last year?”


“A mixture of fear and excitement,” Erica said as she sat down, “but I didn’t live here then, and I had a few problems at first.”


“They got sorted though, right?”


“Oh yes – and I’m looking forward to getting back as well,” Erica said as she stood up.  “Anyway – Mom says she’ll have some food ready in a little while.”


“Sounds good,” Melinda said as she stretched her arms up, “I need to unwind, and once Mom and Pops have called to say they’re back, I may have an early night…”


Monday 5th September

7.45 am

The Brewster Brownstone


"Why does it feel like last school year only finished a couple of days ago?' Jeannie asked as Barbara put the shoes on her feet.

"Because,” Barbara said as she stood up, “you've had such a busy summer that it's just flown by darling?"

"I guess it has," Jeannie grinned, "I've been to a lot of interesting places since school broke up haven't I?"

"You have, and you've got some fresh places on the schedule coming up."

"Mum I routinely get to San Francisco..."

"I was thinking more about Ireland," Barbara lifted her daughter into her wheelchair.

"That's true, I'd forgotten I'm doing those two shows."

"What are you talking about?" John asked a couple of minutes later as his daughter and granddaughter entered the kitchen.

"Not school Granddad," Jeannie laughed.


“Oh – and what is your complaint for Monday going to be about this year?”


“Do you know, I’m not sure if I will…”


John looked at Barbara, and raised an eyebrow as he said “that is a frightening thought.  Jeannie enjoying Monday mornings…”



8 am

The de Ros Mansion


“Well, this is a new experience,” Diana said with a smile as Abigail sat at the table, wearing a light blue polo shirt and jeans.


"Well this is going to be a huge improvement," Abigail smiled, "Monday morning and my first class isn't until 10.30, it gives me a chance to wake up properly and get ready."

"Unlike you rushing out the door to get to St Angela's in time."

"Exactly Mama," Abby said as she leisurely sipped her coffee, while Edith served pancakes. "Gives me a chance to read the battlefield dispatches from all my friends."

"How are things going?" Diana had an amused look in her eye as she asked.

"The usual complaints about having to get up early and get ready for school," Abby replied to a text, "Doc finally seems to have noticed that her Monday's are going to start with the joys of Philosophy."

"I remember you taking that class as well darling."

"It's challenging," Abby remembered, "especially for girls like Doc whose speciality is science and math."


“You attend St Angela’s to be challenged,” Diana said with a smile as she looked at the paper.  “Ah – the announcement of the first shown under Maestro Kannenikov.”


Abby shook her head as she cut into her pancakes, and started to eat.



8 am

West Central Park


"All set Kiddo?" Marina asked as Kylie checked her bag.

"I hope so darling," the blonde said as she closed the bag, and slipped on her blazer.

"Well it's not like you are starting a brand new school and literally don't know anyone."

"That is true," Kylie said as she looked down at her phone.

"So when will Pepsi be here to pick you up?"

"She says she's less than ten minutes away and that she will pick me and Katy up outside."


“Better head down then – see you tonight…”


The Burton Apartment


“Ready to begin,” Caroline said as Erica and Mel jumped into the back of her car.


“Mom and I will share the driving,” Ama said as she looked round.  “So you have what you need?”


“I think so,” Erica said, “although Bugs here is having that moment of clarity.”


"Whoever set up my timetable is a sadist, Math first period on Monday morning should be illegal." Mel shook her head as she looked at her diary.

"Ah the perennial complaint of the St Angela's freshman," Caroline smiled as she pulled out into traffic.

"Well I'm not at all bad at Math,” Mel said as she put her diary away, “but I still think it could wait till Monday afternoon."

"Ask Jeannie's opinion on that topic," Ama laughed as she rechecked her bag.

"Why - did she like it?"

"Nope," Ama giggled, "Jeannie's reaction to Monday morning math is almost a school legend."

"I've got something far worse to look forward to," Erica complained.

"Yep," Ama laughed again.

"What's that?"

"The joys of studying Chaucer," Caroline herself laughed.





Hobart William Smith


“GOOD morning roomie!”


"God I'd forgotten how disgustingly cheerful you can be first thing in the morning Smith," Hope Johnson said as she tried to open an eye and look at her roommate.

"It's because unlike certain slackers I've already been out for a 4 mile run," Jo said as she started to remove her running shoes.

"More fool you."  Jope put her pillow over her head and groaned.

"When is your first class?"

"9.15, and yours?" Hope sat up and gave herself a shake.

"The same."

"What are you starting with?"

"Moral Philosophy," Jo grinned, "I thought it would give me insights into concepts of things like right and wrong, good and evil, etc."

"With you wanting to be a criminal psychologist I can see the point.  I have European History to look forward to."


“Right – shower, drink, and then ho for the fields of learning.”



8.15 am

St Angela’s


"Welcome back ladies and gentlemen," Wilhelmina looked cheerful as she entered the faculty lounge. "Is everyone set for the new year?"

"I'll know by the time the bell rings this afternoon," Harriet said as she looked up from what she was reading.

"Well at least you aren't teaching Anna Carlton this year Harriet," Kate Hardisty smiled.

"For which I'm eternally grateful Kate," Harriet smiled at the deputy principal.

"Do I have the full list of groups and teams meeting tonight to announce at Assembly?" Wilhelmina looked round the room.

"As far as I know Wilhelmina," Grace poured herself a coffee. "Are we all set for our usual Management Committee meeting?"

"I think we are," Wilhelmina nodded.


“Ready to face the class, Princess Annie?”


“Ha Ha Sarah,” Annie said as she looked over, “it’s going to be Miss Kelly – no more, no less.”


“They’re starting to gather,” Ingrid said as she looked out, “game on…”


8.30 am

The Richmond Mansion


"Both George and Sands safely dropped off lover?" Sandy said as she offered Heather a cup of tea.

"They are."

"Any problems?"

Taking a sip, Heather said "only that getting to the entrance at St Augustine's is a nightmare at that time of the morning."


"So many parents, as well as boys driving their own cars, traffic was backed up for three blocks."

"No fun."

"Definitely not fun," Heather took a sip. "Just hope that it’s just a first day problem and that it gets easier."

"I'll keep my fingers crossed."

"What's on your schedule today?"

"More work on the van Dyke's new apartment...and what about you Lover?" Sandy put her arm round Heather's shoulder.

"Well on top of all my normal stuff I'm going to try and work out how otherwise sensible women like Elly can be brought to believe absolute crap, how they are being influenced, and how I can trace who is doing what and where."

"Rather you then me," Sandy shook her head.


The Astoria Waldorf


"So with Dad having to fly back to Paris yesterday, what are we going to be doing today?" Laura asked.

"Well you both know that I have a couple of business meetings."

"We do," Miley looked at her plate and wondered if she could find room for another pancake.

"Maisha said that while you were busy that maybe she'd take us do some more sight-seeing and shopping," Laura finished her juice.

"Would that suit you girls?"

"Yes," Laura nodded, "Maisha's fun to spend time with."

"What are your meetings about Mum?"

"I'm explaining to the Torware board of directors just what my research has discovered, and giving them some recommendations as to what they might like to do next Mylie."

"Don't be cross but let me say that going up the Empire State Building with Maisha sounds rather more interesting," the younger girl giggled.

"If I was your age i think I might agree," Aggie smiled.

"A lot of the girls at the party were complaining about starting back to school today Mum," Laura paused, "I have to say I was a bit envious of them though."

"Well just wait for January darling."




8.35 am

St Angela’s Academy


“And here we are,” Caroline said as she pulled in, the girls getting out as Melinda looked at the gates.


“Childe Rolande to the Dark Tower come.”


“Hey Jeans,” Ama said as she looked at her friend, “ready to start?”


“I am – Pepsi and Kylie, I’m not sure of.”


“Oh I think I will manage, darlings.”


“Welcome to hell,” Nikki said as she and Doc joined the group.


“Hey Doc.”


“Well, if it isn’t the star scorer from the soccer trip,” Erica said as she high-fived Jess, while Poppy waved goodbye to her mother.


“So, another year?”


“Indeed – shall we?”


As they walked through the gates, Mel looked at some of the other freshmen, who were talking quietly in groups as they looked over.


“I wonder which of them are in my home room?”


“Find out in a few minutes,” Erica said as they made their way to the assembly room, taking their seats as the buzz grew louder.  As the doors at the front of the hall opened, however, they fell silent as the faculty walked out, Annie nodding to Pepsi as Miss Hardisty, Mrs Brand and Miss Tennant came out.


The principal came to the dais at the front, smiling as she looked through her glasses and said “Good morning, and welcome back to the first day of the new year to most of you.  Our Freshmen, for the most part, were here last week, but today marks the start of our formal year, and as I look out, I see we are all eager to start.”


There was a ripple of laughter as Miss Tennant looked round.  “Some of our freshmen were on tour last week with the football team – to those girls, I offer a particular welcome on this, your first day, and ask you at lunch to come here to meet our Head Girls for a few minutes.”


“See you later on then,” Erica whispered to Melinda.


“For all of you, I have to announce that the following teams will be meeting after school this evening, and that societies will be taking membership…”


“Are you Melinda Eckholm?”


Melinda turned to see a red haired girl looking at her.  “I’m Casey Keller – we’re in the same home room, and Miss Jones asked if I would be your guide today.”


“Thanks – I appreciate it,” Melinda said as Miss Tennant finished.  “So let us sing the school song, and then you will repair to your home rooms and then your first classes.”



9 am

Xavier International


"The Morning Report Madame," Penny said as she put the file on Shirley's desk.

"Thank you Penelope," Shirley said as she glanced at the cover page, "before we start though I think I owe you an explanation as to what yesterday's meeting was all about. I hope you didn't feel insulted that you weren't asked to sit in?"

"Not at all Madame."  Penny stood in her red jumper and black leather skirt as Shirley looked at her.

"But you are still very curious?"

"You might say so," Penny smiled," Maddie, Susan, and I were talking about it on the phone last night."


“We have been – approached – by a senior US intelligence head who wishes to have a meeting with the Sisters and the Hidden Hand.  We met yesterday to discuss why he may want this, and what to do?”


“It must be serious if that was the meeting topic – what has happened?”


“Maybe something, maybe nothing – we will know once the meetings have taken place.  In the meantime, the arrangements for Lily?”


“They arrive Thursday afternoon.  It should be an – educational experience for all of them.”



10.30 am

Complete Style


“Where’s Alexis,” Marina said as she stood by Janine’s desk.


"In a meeting with Helen and Catherine.  So did Kylie get safely off to school Marina?"

"She did Janine, Pepsi swung by as arranged and picked both her and Katy up."

"What was her mood like?" Mary Thomas asked as she joined them.

"Pretty great.  She really wanted to get started."

"Unlike young Anna," Mary smiled, "I got a text from her asking why in a million years she'd elected to do Philosophy."

"I think a few girls who chose that as one of their electives are wondering just that," Marina laughed, "I'm just happy I had the sense to not do ANYTHING that even resembled Philosophy."

"Caroline was saying that Ama was looking forward to first period because starting Italian with Grace." Juliette said as she came over and sat down.

"Knowing Ama i can understand that," Mary smiled again.

"So what is Kylie's Monday morning elective class Marina?"

"Design and fashion Janine."

"She could practically teach that subject herself you know," Juliette observed.


“I don’t know – she would say she still has a lot to learn…”



11 am

St Angela’s



"So how did it go Roz?" Harriet asked as she sat down with her mid-morning coffee.

"About as I expected," the blonde-grey haired teacher said as she sat down.

"Meaning what?"

"That teaching fashion design to a class including Kylie Mitchell and Jeannie Brewster is as challenging for a teacher as teaching Doc Carlton chemistry was for you."

"I get what you are getting at," Harriet said as she sat down in an armchair.  "How was Italian Grace?"

"Not too bad, it helps that most of the girls have done Spanish, that gives them a little head start."

"And how was the incredible brain of Anna Carlton Tim?"

"I may have found her Achilles’ heel,” the dark haired man said, “she just can't remember facts, she has to think and make values assessments and judgments. I think the subject is going to actually stretch her."


“Good,” Annie said as she sat down, “it will be what she needs.”


“And the Monday morning Math class?”


“I think we have a replacement for Jeannie…”



12.45 pm

Bishop Walden


"Off please?" Katy smiled at a couple of new girls who were sat on the wall. "This is OUR place."

"Thank You," Sands grinned as the girls moved away and she sat down. "Fancy them trying to sit in our place?"

"They are new, they don't know any better," Liz smiled as she hopped up.

"Well hopefully they'll know better from now on." Katy smiled as she got up beside Liz.

"Listen to us sounding like we think we own the school," Shawnee laughed.

"We are seniors, for the next year we do own this place." Sands looked content at that thought.

"But then we change schools and we go back to being insignificant freshmen again."

"Speak for yourself Laura."

"Alright you won't be insignificant Katy,” Laura laughed, “but the rest of us don't have the status of being world famous models."

"Who says that in a year you won't be, just think what has happened to me in the last year?"

"Yes but you have certain 'natural' advantages," Cassie grimaced as she looked at her own chest, "are these things ever going to really start growing?"


“Give it time,” Sands said as she looked down, “after all, if mine can come so quickly, so can yours.”


“What happened to you over the summer, girl,” Shawnee said, “you look and act so different.”


“I discovered myself,” Sands said with a smile.


Xavier International


“Please, accept my congratulations on your engagement, Madame,” Natalya Kosolov said from the screen of Shirley’s laptop.”


“Thank you Natalya – how is the London office?”


“Quiet for now.”


“Excellent.  The reason I called, Natalya.  How good nowadays are your contacts within the FSB and GRU nowadays?"

"Not as good as they once were," Natalya smiled on the screen. "Certain of my activities on your behalf Madame have pissed a few people off."

"So no one there will talk to you?"

"I didn't say that Madame," Natalya laughed, "still plenty of big mouths prepared to let me have information, especially if I pay them for it."

"Good," Shirley smiled at the screen, "that was rather what I was hoping to hear."

"I'm here to serve."

"Thank you Natalya.  Can I ask you and Selena to put yourselves on 6 hours notice to fly here to New York if needs be."

"I'll inform Selena."

"Can you also get Illyana Kirkova here by tomorrow lunchtime?"

"I can try Madame, but you remember that she's working that thing in Vienna?"

"This is more important," Shirley looked straight at the screen. "Get Illyana out of there straight away please."


“As you wish Madame – that does mean few Senior staff on the office over the weekend.”


“We will cope, I am sure…”



1 pm

St Angela’s


“And so the routine begins anew,” Pepsi said as she sat at the table, Ama and Doc joining her.  “How was your morning?”


“Oh I long for the days of English Lit first thing,” Doc said as she bit into her wrap.


“It was your choice,” Nikki said as she and Becca sat next to Pepsi.


“Don’t remind me – I thought it would be a nice easy change of pace.”


“What would be darlings,” Kylie said as she joined them.


“Philosophy – at last you and Jeannie have a subject you both enjoy.”


“Design and Fashion – a dream come true, and the curse of Monday mornings is lifted,” Jeannie said as she joined the group.  “But I have Math this afternoon.”


“We can suffer together darling,” Kylie said with a smile, “before I have to take my American History lesson.”




“Is that really Kylie Mitchell over there,” Dawn said as she sipped her drink.


“It is indeed,” Poppy said, “She’s actually quite nice.”


“You’ve met her?”


“A couple of times,” Erica said, “very sweet, and she designed Nikki’s dress for the film premiere.”


“Wow – and she’s a student here now.”


“She is – although I suspect swamping her with dress requests is a little out of our price range…”


“There you are Melinda,” Casey said as Melinda brought her tray over, “had the word from the Head Girls.”


“I have indeed,” she said as he sat down.


“Anyway – this is Zoe Ball and Georgia Hale.  Girls, meet Melinda Eckholm.”


“Charmed,” the small blonde said as she shook hands, “so you’re one of the Kirkham scholars?”


“I prefer Mel – where do you live Zoe?”


“Downtown – Georgia’s dad works at the Port Authority.”


“I’m on a scholarship as well,” the dark haired girl said, “but we all know the first lesson.”


“Angels all?”


“Angels all.”


"So what is 'our' first big social event of the year?" Kylie asked as they all ate their lunch.

"The same as it is every year...Pepsi's birthday." Ama poked at her ravioli.

"Is anything planned yet?"

"Well it won't be a huge event like last year Kylie," Pepsi smiled, "but I'm hoping we can put a small party together."

"That would be fun darling."

"It's their year this year," Doc looked over towards Poppy, Erica, Jess and their friends.

"Well after all our Sweet Sixteen's they have a hell of a lot to live up to," Becca smiled at the memories."

"And thinking of last year’s parties, when do you go for your pilot’s license Nikki?" Ama asked.

"Should be the first week in October."

"I thought it was a thing when I got a driver’s license," Jeannie shook her head, "but can you imagine having a pilot’s license?"

"It is rather mind blowing isn't it?" another English voice spoke.

"It is Miss," Jeannie looked up at Grace Brand.

"Can I have a few words in a bit please Jeannie?"

"Certainly Miss."


“What does Miss Brand want to see you for,” Kylie asked.


“At a guess – Kirkham fund business…”





"What can I help with Shirley?" Agnes spoke while the cab she was in ground to a halt in the mid day traffic.

"I hope you can help with a recommendation Aggie."

"What kind of recommendation?"

"Who if I want to quickly assemble information on all the leading players in Russia is the best person for me to talk to?"

"That is not an easy question Shirley," Aggie smiled as her cab driver honked his horn. "Russia has never really been that strong an interest of mine personally."

"Does no one come to mind?"

"A few darling, but largely it depends on how much are you prepared to reveal about yourself to this consultant?"

"As much as we need to, so as to help stop what is going on."

"Hmmmm," Agnes smiled again as her taxi finally moved. "There is a professor at Northwestern University who has published some very spot on analysis of both people and events in Russia."

"He sounds ideal."

"Not a he Shirley, it’s a she. Her name is Clarice Webber."

"Do you know her Aggie?"

"No but I know someone who does."

"Who is that?...Hold on isn't Augie a trustee at Northwestern?"

"Exactly...I'll talk to him after our meeting...If I ever get there," Agnes groaned as her cab came to a halt again in the traffic.


“I’ll let you enjoy the traffic,” Shirley said with a laugh, “I have a lunch appointment.”


FBI New York Field Office


"So where are you and Jeanne heading to Janice?"

"Lunch with the girls,” Jeanne said as she put her jacket on, “now everyone is finally back in the city we can get back in our routine."

"Oh?”  Tom Callaghan smiled as he said “is that where my wife was meeting Tonia to discuss the new apartment?"

"I guess so," Jan pulled her suit jacket on and smoothed down her skirt. "Heather said that Sandy and Gale have finished agreeing on the furniture."

"Yeah, it's costing what to me is a fortune, and taking forever for the renovations and decoration to be completed, but I think it will great when we finally move in."

"How is Alan doing?" Jan said as she checked her face in her hand mirror.

"Trying to prove his grandfather right in claiming he'll pitch for the Orioles."

"What does that mean?" Jeanne asked.

"He threw his ball yesterday and shattered an ornament."

"Ouch!" Janice laughed. "So any message I need pass on to Gale?"


“Tell her to try and keep the cost down, and I’ll see her tonight…”



The Inn on the Green


"Using control of the media to influence public opinion probably shocks me as an Italian a lot less than it does Americans and Brits," Francesca said as she sipped her pre-lunch drink. 

"Without I hope sounding too slanderous, we like to think we are superior to you guys in that respect," Paulie spoke thoughtfully.

"I'm not offended Paulie,” Francesca said with a smile, “like an awful lot of Italians I've always thought that many aspects of our political culture are shockingly corrupt."

"Most Americans think of themselves as strong individuals who think for themselves and speak their mind," Caroline looked up from her menu. "They hate the thought that they can be mis-led and used."

"Oh you aren't talking politics are you?" Claire groaned as she sat down, "don't I get enough of that at home?"

"Blame me Claire," Shirley smiled, "I started off by asking a question about how people make up their minds who to vote for and it sort of mushroomed."

"Well can we end the conversation right now? I'm sure we can think of many more interesting topics for our first big lunch together in weeks."

"So what would you like to talk about Claire darling?" Juliette said as she sat down.

"Well engagements and babies are always nice," the congressman's wife smiled.


“Engagements?  Who got engaged,” Gale Callaghan said as she and Tonia joined the group.


“Oh,” Francesca said with a laugh, “where do you want to start?”


“Start with what,” Kelly Rochermann asked as she and Rachel McNally sat down.




“I thought you all knew,” Kelly said as she looked round, “about Nell and Mick.”


“I heard,” Gale said, “so who else?”


As one, the women looked at Shirley as she smiled and said “you missed an amazing party on Saturday Gale.”


“I know, but we had a previous engagement and…”  Gale suddenly looked at Shirley and said “no…  Really?”


“Oh yes,” Juliette said with a smile, “they did.”


“We have to start attending your parties more – congratulations, Shirley.”


“Thank you Gale,” Shirley said with a smile, “and as for the birthday front?”


“Carlotta is fine,” Francesca said with a smile as the waiter took their orders.


“Sorry we’re late,” Jan said as she and Jeanne gave their orders, and sat down.


“Right – on to other matters.  Who is coming to our gala at the Civic Ballet?" Kelly Rochermann asked. "I need names if you want tickets, we are selling out fast."

"What is being danced?" Juliette asked.

"Andre has choreographed a new production of Orpheus as the appetizer, and Symphony in C as the main dish."

"Two of Balanchine's greatest achievements as a choreographer," Juliette smiled, "I'll certainly be interested to see Andre's vision for both ballets, put me down for four tickets please."


"Yes, I know Shirley and John will probably come with me and Klaus."

"Oh I think you can count on that," Shirley laughed.

"Nothing for the girls?" Gale asked.

Raising an eyebrow, Juliette said "you do remember how much Carina loves ballet darling?"

"That is true."

"So who else wants me to reserve tickets?" Kelly asked.


“But Gus, Nessa, Alex and me down for four,” Paulie said.


“What about Diana?  And where is she today anyway?”


“She said she had an appointment,” Juliette said, “but I imagine she will come as well.”


“As will I,” Francesca said, “if I am in the city.  I would love to see the Maestro at work again…”



1.30 pm

St Angela’s


"It was something I knew we'd have to consider Miss, I just didn't figure we'd end up doing it on the first day of the year," Jeannie paused to think as she and Grace sat in her office.

"With Abby having graduated, I wanted to see if you wanted to take on the responsibilities she's always undertaken before to organize the calendar?"

"Is the school still sure it wants to do a calendar?"

"Oh I think so," Grace leaned back in her chair, "even after only just two years its already become traditional, and also a major fund-raising tool for the Jamie Scholarship."

"I know Miss." 

"It takes quite a bit of work I know, but I'll chip in and do what I can."

"Thanks Miss," Jeannie grinned, "I may well need that help."

"I guess the first thing is try-outs to see what the talent pool looks like?"

"It is, can you make Thursday evening Palomino?"

"I probably can BS," Grace laughed.


“Well, we’ll do that – and now I must face my nemesis.”


“Enjoy the Math class,” Grace said with a smile as she opened the door, and let Jeannie out.




3 pm

The Richmond Mansion


"Somehow the Monday Afternoon Coffee Club doesn't sound quite right," April Broadhurst said as she helped Heather fill the coffee maker.

"I know,” Heather said with a smile, “but I figured that if we met today we can iron out all and any glitches in what we are all doing."

"Well I think it's an excellent idea," Barb said as she sat down at the breakfast counter, "we have a lot to think about this coming year."


“I know – engagements, another round of sweet sixteens…”

"I'm not sure I should still hold a membership even," Mercy Kinman said as she laid cookies out on a couple of plates.

"Call it an Emeritus membership Mercy," Heather smiled, "and is Letty settling in okay down in Philadelphia?"

"She seemed to be though she didn't much like the idea of a class at 7.45 on Monday mornings."

"I can't say I blame her," Denice took her jacket off as she came in, “that is positively uncivilized."

"Talking of college Denice are you still on schedule to graduate in January?" asked Emma Carlton.

"I am," the black woman looked proud of herself as Heather started to hand round mugs of coffee.

"Well done you," Caroline put her arm round her friend.

"So do we have a schedule for ski weekends, parties, etc?" Pippa asked.

"Not yet, it's one of the things we need to talk about," April smiled happily, "and how did your colleagues at CS react to you leaving early today Pip?"


“I wasn’t the only one – Marina took the afternoon off to spend time with Aggie’s girls.”




“Oh we need to get you caught up on gossip,” Barb said as she looked at Mercy and Denice, “our UK branch has some new members – Dr Agnes McAdam, Lord Donald Fitzstuart, and in the very near future, Laura and Amelia Fitzstuart.”


“Is he Will’s brother?”


“He is Denice – and that is one of the engagements we were talking about.  But that – that is not the big one Mercy.”


“Oh – what is?”


“Shirley and John,” Caroline said with a smile.


Mercy looked round the room, and said “no…”


“Yes – so we need to pen a weekend away in for early November before we get started.”  Heather poured and handed round mugs of coffee, before she said “so – birthdays.  April?”


“Pepsi’s sad she wants to keep it quiet this year, which is fine.  If we are being honest, the two women we need to talk to are sitting over here.”


Erica looked at Pippa, before she said “I’ll be honest, we have not discussed it yet.  When is Poppy’s birthday?”


“Not until January.  Erica?”


“End of October.  I guess that means I should ask her…”


“So we know we have those two – and then there is the Derby, and this year’s Halloween party…”


“Which Kelly, in a moment of weakness, has agreed to host,” Caroline said with a laugh.


“For which I am very grateful,” Barb said as she sipped her coffee.




“No idea yet…”



3.30 pm

St Angela’s


"Oh I am always so happy at this point in time," Kate Hardisty said as she collapsed into a chair.

"Happy about what Kate?"

"That the first full day of teaching is over, and that St Angela's has not ground to a halt somehow Ingrid."

"Yes apart from the odd tiny timetable glitch everything worked pretty much to plan." Grace spoke as she sat down with a cup of tea.

"Just after school meetings to do, and we can all celebrate a great start to the year." Annie smiled.

"How are your Mathletes looking Annie?" Sarah asked.

"I'll know more when we have our meeting, but that's not till tomorrow. When are your soccer girls starting training?"

"Wednesday, I think the varsity is pretty much set, but I'm holding tryouts for the JV's in 15 minutes from now"

"How is the jazz band looking Harriet?" Wilhelmina asked as she came to collect Kate and Grace for their management meeting.

"I've got some good musicians already, and some keen girls i can maybe teach some bits to. I think it's going to be an interesting year."


“Excellent – well, Grace, Kate, we have things to discuss.”


“No rest for the wicked,” Grace said as she stood up.



4 pm

Complete Style



Mary Thomas looked up as the doors to Merlin’s Cave opened, and she heard a familiar English voice say “are you in here Mary darling?”


“At the table, Kylie,” she called out, smiling as she saw the blonde walk over in her school uniform.  "How was your first day at St Angela's then?"

"Not bad at all darling, though it's going to take me for ever to stop saying Maths instead of Math."

"I still think Maths after all the years I've lived in America," Merlin smiled. "Many difficulties?"

"Not really,” Kylie said as she put her shoulder bag down, “I think that I'm more or less at the same level as the girls here, though I truly need do a lot of reading on American history to get up to speed."

Mary nodded as she said "It sounds like you are going to be fine."

"I hope so," Kylie smiled.

"So what are you doing here?"

"I thought I'd drop in while I wait for Marina to get back from showing Agnes McAdam's daughters round, I told her I would at breakfast."

"Have you spoken to her since?"


"She's fought another battle in her war with Anita this morning."

"Oh dear darling, Was it serious?"

"It didn't quite come to hair-pulling and scratching..." a voice spoke.

"Though I heard it was a near run thing," another voice added.

"Janine, Alexis, how lovely to see you both darlings." Kylie stood up and embraced both women.

"It's lovely to see you as well."

"So Alexis did you enjoy your time in Hong Kong?"


“Immensely – but it is good to be back home as well,” Alexis said with a smile.  “Mind you, seeing the transformation in Beverley…”


“I know – it is truly amazing,” Kylie said as the doors to the storeroom opened and closed again.


“Oh my lord,” they heard a young girl say, “what is this place?”


“Ah, the sound of inquiring young minds,” Mary said with a smile as Marina appeared with Laura and Miley, the two girls staring at the dresses.


“Well, hello there,” Kylie said, “have you had a good day?”


“Yeah,” Miley said with a shy smile, “is that your school uniform?”


“It is indeed – and I need to introduce you to someone.  Mary, this is Laura and Miley, two young ladies that are in the process of been adopted by Dr Agnes McAdam.  Girls, allow me to introduce you to Mary Thomas – this is her domain.”


“You are responsible for all this,” Laura whispered as she looked round.”


“AI – did you say Agnes McAdam, as in?”


“Once, but no more,” Kylie said quietly.  “She is in New York for some business, and has brought the girls so they could have the experience.  On which note, did you go up the Empire State Building today?”


“We did,” Miley said as she looked at some of the drawings on the table, “I was a little scared, but Laura was with me.”


“It was amazing,” Laura said quietly, “but what is this place?”


“My office?”  Mary laughed as she said “it’s where we keep outfits and clothes sent to the magazine.  Why don’t you come with me, and we’ll see what we can find?”




“Really really – come on…”




4.30 pm

St Angela’s


"Alright before we start our little meeting," Wilhelmina said as she sat down, "I'd like to report I had my first meeting with Ashley, Melody, and Suzie at lunchtime."


"I thought I didn't see them in the Refectory." Kate sat down as well, "how did the meeting go?"


"Very well," Wilhelmina smiled, "I think they are taking their new duties quite seriously."


"So did they bring up anything we need to consider?" Grace asked.


"A lot of it was individual complaints from girls about lockers, parking permits, that sort of thing Grace. I told them to arrange to see you and work all that out."


"Fair enough,” Grace said as she made a note, “those are all fairly routine bellyaches."


"Nothing truly significant Wilhelmina?"


"One thing Kate, school hasn't even really started yet but there are already complaints about the availability of facilities for intramural and 'social' sports."


"Uggh I remember this from last year," Grace shook her head.


"As we discussed last year the school really does need some more playing fields," Wilhelmina looked serious, "I've raised it again with Diana and the trustees, but as always the problem is just how expensive land is."


“And that is going to be an issue,” Kate said, “we can investigate and get some initial plans drawn up, but I suspect without a large donation or fund raising initiative, we will face an almost insurmountable hurdle.”


“Well,” Wilhelmina said, “let’s find out what would be involved.  Now – the calendar…”




Complete Style


“What have you done with the girls Merlin,” Kylie asked as she and Marina found Mary at the changing rooms.


“Oh, I thought the girls might like to try a few things on,” Mary said with a smile as Laura came out, wearing a light blue slip dress and black knee length fabric boots.  She looked at herself in the mirror, and said “wow – I never thought I would wear something like this…”




“Coming,” she said as she went into the room, and came out again holding Miley’s hand.  She had on a sleeveless floral print top, tight black leggings and black ankle boots, and blushed as she looked at herself.


“What do you think Merlin darling?”


“I think you both look wonderful – now go and change back,” Marina said, “I need to get you back to Agnes.”


“they look as if they have never worn things like those outfits,” Mary whispered to Kylie, “are we talking another two girls who are new to this?”  As the young blonde nodded, Mary said “Ai – theu take those clothes with them.”




5.30 pm

4th Avenue

The Ashley Apartment


“Mom – Jeannie Brewster wants a word,” Poppy called out as Pippa came out of the kitchen.”


“Keep an eye on the risotto will you,” Pippa said as she took the handset, and said “Jeannie – what can I do for you?”


"Aunt Pippa can I ask you for an opinion please?"

"Me Jeannie?"

"Yes," the young model laughed, "Grace Brand corralled me at lunch and asked me if I'd given much thought to this year’s St Angela's calendar?"

"And had you?"

"No, but I have had one idea, and that's what I wanted to ask you about."

"Alright shoot."

"Would Christian Wellmann be open to shooting it if I asked?"

"That's an interesting question," Pippa sipped her coffee cup. "Do you have a theme idea?"

"Well sort of," Jeannie both giggled and blushed, "I was sort of thinking about posing mothers and daughters together. Can you see yourself doing a pinup pic with Poppy?"

"Do you think even you can talk Barb into doing such a thing?" Pippa laughed.

"Well for months we can't get Moms and daughters I was thinking of pairing teachers and students in a scene somehow."


“Okay – it’s a possibility.  Let’s talk…”


6 pm



“And the first day is over,” Carina said as she took the dinner plates to the kitchen.


"So how was nursery Judith?" David said as he sat in the chair.

"It was good Uncle David," Judith said as she climbed onto his knee.

"What did you tell them about?"

"Mags and Wudi, Germany," Judith paused to think. "My pony," she clapped her little hands.

"You had a lot to say didn't you?"

"I did," Judith nodded.

"Did you speak to Abs yet?" Judy asked Carina as they washed up.

"Yeah, she had an interesting day."

"In what way?"

"Her photography tutor tore her portfolio apart and she thought she was deep in the crap, but then at the end he added it was one of the best he'd ever seen from an incoming freshman."

"Uggh I hate teachers who do that," Judy shook her head.

"I guess they think that they need be critical so as to make you know there is always room for improvement."

"I suppose so."

"Ingrid had her first session of her Economics Seminar group, and she sounded thrilled at what she learned."

"Only your sister can get that turned on discussing economic theory," David laughed.


“Oh yeah – and how as your American Literature lecture?”


“Amazing – the depth of thinking…”


“I rest my case,” Judy said with a laugh.


6.30 pm

The Astoria Waldorf


As the room telephone rang, Agnes picked it up and said “Yes?”


“I have the British Embassy in Paris for you Dr McAdam.”


“Thank you,” Agnes said as she sat down, and then giggled as she said “Donald Fitzstuart, is that any way to start a telephone conversation?”


“Gotcha.  So how were your meetings Aggie darling?" Donald asked.

"Harder work then I expected."


"Yes - the Torware people had clearly done their homework and they asked all the difficult questions."

"Darling knowing you that means you really enjoyed the mental challenge."

"I guess so," Agnes laughed, "it does mean that I have a lot more questions to answer before I eventually make my final recommendations."

"Well it sounds better than my meeting today. It was another one of those sessions top heavy on questions and very short of answers."

"I warned you that you'll be having a lot of those didn't I?"
"You did,” Donald chuckled. “Anyway, changing subjects - how are the girls?"

"Overloaded with junk food after an afternoon sightseeing with Marina and Maisha."

"Did they have fun though?"

"I think so.  They came back with some new clothes as well."


“You gave them your credit card?”


“No,” Agnes laughed, “they went with Marina to the Complete Style offices and met their Style Director, who let them try some outfits on – and then gave them to them.”


“So how is the move going?”


“Karen is arranging for their things to be brought to Bayswater Road, and Tammy is getting their room ready for them when we return on Friday morning.”


“Are you sure you want to be there for this Aggie?”


“I have to, Donald – after all she did, I want to be sure I say a proper goodbye to her.”


“So what are you doing tonight?”


“The concierge managed to get us tickets to Hamilton – they should enjoy that.”


“I’m sure they will – have a good time.  I need to get some sleep before I return tomorrow for the final arrangements.”



Wednesday 7th September

8.55 am

St Angela’s


"Are things slipping into a routine yet Kylie?" Pepsi asked as they both stood at their lockers.

"A little,” Kylie said as she found her book of poetry, “but I figure in a few more days I'll know just where I have to be and when without even thinking."

"Yeah we all get that way I guess."

"So how was Jack? Did you ring him?"

"I did," Pepsi giggled, "he and one of the sows had had an argument about getting her out of her sty and he lost."

"Sounds messy," Jeannie laughed.

"Doesn't it just darling," Kylie giggled a little.

"So how goes planning on the calendar Jeans?" Doc asked as she got her books out of her locker.

"Well Christian says he'd be happy to do it because it’s for such a worthwhile charity."


"Did you talk to your Mom Doc?"

"She said, and I quote, ‘don't you think people would pay NOT to see me in a pinup calendar?’"

"My Mum said something similar."


“Your mom did it already, Jeannie.”


“Once – and her emphasis was on that word.  Once.”


“And when are you going to try again?”


“Tonight – isn’t that Agnes over there?”


“Yeah – the girls were coming in today…”



“In here,” Grace said as she opened the door, “this is Mrs Koller, our assessor.  Mary Beth, meet Agnes McAdam.”


"I'm sorry we had to rearrange this from yesterday to today Dr McAdam,” she said as she shook Agnes’ hand, “but I had some unexpected problems come up."

"It's not a problem Mrs Koller."

"Alright I'll leave all of you with Mary Beth."

"Thank you Grace," Aggie nodded.

"Alright this is I presume Miley and Laura?" the counsellor asked as Grace closed the door behind herself.

"It is," Aggie looked proudly at the two girls.

"Well Grace told me a bit about their background and that you want some tests done to both assess their educational levels currently, and their future potential."

"Yes I want to be able to give them all the help they can get so they can resume normal school in January."


“Okay – well, don’t worry girls.  I’m going to give you some questions to answer, while I talk to Agnes, and then I’ll have a chat with each of you while the other is shown our library.  Shall we begin?”




10 am

Xavier International


Shirley sat at her desk, looking across at Illyana as she sat, her slim legs crossed as the hem of her silk skirt fell over it.


"So Illyana?" she finally said.

"Honest answer Madame?" the Russian looked up from the papers she was reading.


Nodding, Illyana said "are you sure this isn't way above even our level as an organisation?"

"It probably is,” Shirley said, “but hopefully acting in concert with others we can at least do something to at least partly counter this."

"Alright – that I can understand."

"Professor Webber has agreed to meet with you tomorrow. Officially you are picking her brain about Russian commercial espionage and dirty tricks in the west, but I want you to try and pick her brain about political interference and whether she's the type who might listen to an offer to be further engaged in all this."

"I understand Madame."

"Susan has all the details regarding your travel to Chicago.  In the meantime, relax and enjoy the office today."


“I understand Lilian’s team are arriving tomorrow for a training course.  Anything interesting?”


“Oh I think so,” Shirley said with a smile as she stood up, opening the door as Illyana went out and Penny came in.


“She’s going tomorrow?”


“Indeed – I wonder how Agnes is getting on?”


"Oh yes – the assessments.  So while the girls are being tested what is Agnes doing Madame?"

"She's talking to a couple of officials at the United Nations on the subject of ethical investment in the third world and picking their brains Penny."

"Why did I guess it might be something like that."

"What is Helen doing?"

"She's out at Diana's farm checking out the various explosives she's using as teaching aides for Lily's team."

"Is she going to teach them how to make improvised explosives as well as how to use commercial ones?"

"Yes, given that they are our emergency response people we are stressing having to do things when you are less than one-hundred percent properly prepared."

"Has George told Lily anything?"

"No," Penny smiled, "he knows that Dom will not be happy if they are tipped off just what is going to happen in any manner."

"I'm going to be so interested both in the teaching aspect, and how they use the skills when we put them into stressful real world situations."

"I think we all are Madame."


“I do hope they get some sleep on the flight…”



11 am

The Richmond Mansion


"You look harassed Diana?" Sandy said as Diana sat down with Juliette.

"I feel just that Sandy."

"Should I ask why?" Juliette spoke. "Abby is alright isn't she?"

"Yes she is, I think college is going to suit her very well."

"What is the problem then?" Sandy asked as she passed her two best friends mugs of coffee.

"Oh it's a problem to do with my position on the board at St Angela's."

"Anything we can help with?"

"Only if the Pussycat Gang can pull a couple of fund raising jobs for the school?"

"Not sure that's possible," Sandy laughed.

"Why does St Angela's need to raise funds Diana?" Ju asked as she took a sip.

"Because we badly need to invest in some additional sports facilities and playing fields, and the costs involved in doing so are astronomical."

"Ouchers!" Juliette shook her head, "that is a big headache."

"Does the Richmond Trust own any vacant land not too long a journey from the school  that we could buy at a reasonable price Sandy?"

"Not that I'm aware of.  But we may be the wrong people to ask.  I’ll get Mom to have a word with Gus and Paulie, see if they can suggest anything."


“Would you?”


“I would,” Sandy said as she looked at Diana.




“You missed lunch on Monday – is everything all right Diana?”


Putting her mug down, Diana sighed and said “not really, no.  I saw Helen Reichmann on Monday and she told me I may need to have a small operation.”


Juliette put her hand on Diana’s and said quietly “is this related to what Jacques did?”


Oui – I may need to take a short sabbatical from our plans at some point…”




12.30 pm

St Angela’s


“How has it been so far,” Agnes said as she looked ta Laura and Miley, standing in their track suits and t-shirts.


“Not too bad,” Miley said as Anna walked past.


"Anna, do you mind taking Laura and Miley with you to lunch in the refectory while I talk with Dr McAdam please?"

"Not a problem Mrs Koller," Doc smiled, "follow me girls."

"I'll see you shortly darlings," Aggie smiled at her daughters as she went in the assessor’s office.

"Please sit down," Mary Beth said as she closed the office door.

"Is it good news or bad news?" Agnes asked as she sat down.

"I hope in the longer term it will be good news," the counsellor smiled.

"Please,” Aggie said, “go on."

"Well, when you consider just how long the girls have been out of formal education then they aren't overly sufficiently behind. Your little school at least gives them the basics."

"Thank you," Aggie smiled.

"First the IQ testing. I need to crunch the final figures but I calculate that Laura's IQ is between 130 and 140, and that Miley's is between 115 and 120."


Aggie nodded.  "About what I'd guessed."

"Both I think are eminently teachable, though Miley I suspect will always find creative subjects more to her taste then things that are heavily factually based."

"Yes, she and I have talked a little about that, and the school I am looking at can cater for that."


"So what are the weaknesses that I need work on Mrs Koller?"


“We need to start from the premise your education system requires them to do certain subjects, such as Math and English, to a certain standard.  With Miley,” Mary Beth said as she looked at her papers, “I would suggest some tuition in math, and also a program of reading for the English side.”


“And Laura?”


“Laura I feel has a great learning capacity for humanities subjects – history, geography – and an aptitude for maths already.  Where I think she does need work is in written English.  It strikes me she takes her time in considering answers, but needs helps sometimes in expressing them fully.”


“They both have trust issues,” Agnes said quietly.


“Indeed – which brings me to my other suggestion – the social side.  They are going to need friends at this time – have they any?”


“In my school yes, but they are making friendships more widely.”


“Good – encourage that wherever possible Dr McAdam.  That will be the greatest help to them – feeling they can trust others.  Another weakness Is foreign languages, neither has studied them."

"French is the first language taught at Queen Charlotte's, and I'd already deduced a way to help get them a little up to speed."

"And that is?"

"My husband-to-be is the British Ambassador in Paris. While the girls and I will live mainly in London, we will spend most weekends in France and I'm hoping that I can use that time to at least give them both at least a basis in the French language."

"I have to agree that sounds like an excellent method for them to learn."


Nodding, Agnes said “I understand – thank you.”


“I’ll send me detailed report to London in the next few days – until then, good luck.”





“Have a seat,” Doc said as Laura and Miley sat at the table with her.


“So how old are the girls here,” Miley asked as she looked round.


“The Freshmen are fourteen – so a couple of years older than you – and the Seniors seventeen or eighteen.  I’m a Junior – as are these two ladies here.”


“We meet again,” Kylie said as she sat down, and Jeannie put her tray on the table, “so are you enjoying the day so far, darlings?”


“We are,” Laura said, “but we have to fly back tomorrow night.”


“Mum has a funeral to go to,” Miley said as she looked at Kylie, her head to one side.


“Oh – who died?”


“Jack’s aunt – Lady Catherine Fitzstuart,” Pepsi said as she joined the group, “I know Jack is going as well.”


“I never met her, did I?”


“She was at Abby’s party, but kept to the background,” Pepsi said, “apart from the fact she and Agnes really did not like each other.”


Laura looked at Kylie, who shook her head slightly before she said “as harsh as this may sound, darlings, she has past on now, and the past belongs in the past.  Would you agree, Laura, Miley?”


The girls looked at each other and nodded as Doc said “so, where is your mother thinking of sending you?”


“Queen Charlotte’s.”


“Ah – an excellent school,” Kylie said, “I am sure you will do well there.  Any thoughts on what you would like to study?”


“Well, I like drawing and art,” Mylie said, “Mum’s mother apparently was an artist as well, and she showed me some paintings.”


“I love to read of other places and learn of them – so I guess something that encompasses that,” Laura said as she drank from her bottle.


“Well, I am sure they will help you do all that…”


Thursday 8th September

8 am

The Brewster Brownstone


“So,” Christian Wellman said as he sat back and sipped his coffee, “what do you think?”


"Well I have to say that personally I love the idea Christian," Jeannie sipped her coffee, "the big question is can we get everyone to agree?"

"We can but try."

"Thanks for inviting Christian and I to breakfast Barbara," Grace said as she pushed her plate away, "as always it's a pleasure eating in this house."

"No need to soft soap me Grace," Barbara shook her head, "I've already agreed to pose."

"And thanks for that Mum," Jeannie said as she finished her drink. "I think Christian's idea of taking bits of everyday Angel's life and turning them into pinups will really work."

"Hence you and Jeans getting her ready for school," Christian finished his bacon.

"Me looking like a fantasy teacher with a couple of the girls in a teaching situation," Grace laughed.

"It's going to be innovative for sure." Jeannie looked happy.


“So who do you think will be involved?”


“We’ll see who turns up – I suspect Pippa and Poppy Ashley are a lock-in, and I am going to see if a certain Miss and Miss Jameson want to of it.”


Ama?  You’ll be lucky,” Grace said, as Jeannie smiled.


“We’ll see – and we need to get going folks.  Wagons roll!”



10 am

Complete Style


“Everything is in place for the weekend, Shirley,” Juliette said as she sat in her office, “and the transport arrangements have been agreed.”


“Excellent – and the first instructors?”


“I’ll be there to meet them with Diana and Susan.”


"Is Diana up to doing the weekend Ju?"

"She says she is Shirley,” Juliette said as she sat back, “and let’s be honest - do you think there is any way that she'd miss out on conducting the firearms exercises herself?"

"I only ever saw that bastard husband of hers from the descriptions she gave,”  Shirley said quietly, “but somehow from all I know it seems thoroughly in character for him to be reaching out from his grave to mess with her life even now."

"Jacques was truly evil personified."


“Well, they will be here this evening, and I will be having dinner with them – I hope they enjoy it.  It will be the last restful thing they do for a few days…”


3 pm BST

Heathrow Terminal 5


“If this is coffee, we are in hell darlings,” Louise said as the group sat round a low table in the BA lounge.


“Don’t say that,” Lily said quietly, “if half the stories I have heard of this place..”


"I remember when Kylie came back from her training course,” Tracy said as she crossed her legs, “and how stressful she said it had been…  This is going to be far worse though isn't it Lily?"

"I'll lay you odds on that," Lily said as she again checked her bag, "this is going to be a long weekend that none of us will ever forget."

"What do you think they'll throw at us?" Louise asked.

"It could literally be any kind of situation." Lily looked round, "I've trained you all the best that I can. I've trained myself to a level even I wasn't sure I could reach. We are good, very good, but if there are any chinks in our armour I'm sure they've designed a way to discover them."


“And if we fail – I remember hearing Tracey in the LA office…”


“Let’s not go there – because we will all pass, right?”


The other women nodded as they heard the first call for their flight…”



11 am

St Angela’s


"So how many models do you think will be needed Grace?" Ingrid asked as the teachers all took their mid-morning break.

"Well given that each tableau will have at least 2 people in it I think we are talking at a bare minimum 25."

"Well I like the idea that this year’s calendar will feature all aspects of our St Angela's community," Wilhelmina smiled, "if I was 25 years younger, and 60 pounds lighter I might have even tried out myself."

"Me too Wilhelmina," Harriet smiled, "but in both our cases I think our pinup days are just a little behind us."

"Are you doing it Annie? your figure is back at its wonderful best," Sarah looked at her mail.

"My wife has dared me to."

"I guessed Carina would do that," Grace smiled.  “See you later…”



Xavier International


"What news Illyana?" Shirley asked over the speaker phone.

"We've had a meeting Madame and she's invited to her apartment this evening to talk more."

"Good. What were your first impressions?"

"That she understands my country and its people far better than most native Russians do.  I admire that."

"Is she up to working on somehow confronting political intrigue?"

"At this moment I'm not totally sure Madame, I should get a firm impression tonight. She certainly has an excellent grasp of crime and economic corruption both within and outside Russia's borders. We talked quite extensively, she even reference some events in St Petersburg and elsewhere that we have an intimate knowledge of."

"Was that her telling you that she knows precisely who you work for Illyana?"

"I don't think so."


“Good – let me know later of the outcome Illyana, and good work.”   As she ended the call, there was a knock on the door.




Charlotte came in, and said “I have arranged for the Admiral to meet with Teacher – she had flown over for some reason.”


“She’s escorting Maisha on Saturday to the camp – good idea…”




1 pm

St Angela’s



"Are you going to try out Kyles?"

"No way Doc darling," the blonde shook her head, "it's bad enough I've been talked into doing the thing modelling my own designs. There is no way I'm doing pinups."

"Well I'm pretty sure I have my Mom thinking about it."


"Yes,” Doc laughed, “I caught her trying a couple of poses in the mirror this morning."

"That does sound promising." Kylie grinned.

"Has anyone yet dared tell Ama that Jeans has in mind her and Caroline posing?" Nikki asked.

"No and I DEFINITELY want to be there to see her reaction." Pepsi chipped in.




"Did you ask Missy Schwimmer to come to tryouts Miss?"

"I did Jeannie,” Grace said “and though she's not sure why we'd like her to come as she's merely office staff, I'll make sure she is there."

"Good - if this will work it’s because it shows the whole school community, including office staff like her, and while she's not that tall she is both beautiful and has an amazing figure as well."


"What about Mothers?"

"Well like Mum said at breakfast between her and Aunt Pippa,” Jeannie said with a grin, “they know a couple of the mothers who are obvious choices with their daughters."


The Grimacy


"I know who'd adore doing it as a representative of the school alumnae Christian," Jack smiled as the two photographers stood at the club bar.

"Oh - whom?"

"Judge Brooke Hutton."

"I'll agree she is a stunning looking woman."

"Brooke even modelled professionally way back when you know?"

"I didn't."

"What you are both forgetting though is that Judge Hutton is just that," Luke sipped his dink, "a sitting federal judge. Even for a cause like the Kirkham Scholarships they'll never let her do pinups."

"I know," Jack nodded.

"Anyway Jack any hints on an alumna who I could maybe approach?"

"Let me think Christian dear chap."



4 pm

St Angela’s


As Jeannie wheeled herself into the hall, she was surprised to see the number of girls who were there, and smiled as Annie and Grace stood at the front with her and Christian.


“All right,” Jeannie said as she looked round, “as you know, we are going for the third year running do a calendar, and the theme this year is St Angela’s itself – the girls, the school, the parents and the community.  So we want to thank you all for coming – especially those who were not expecting to be asked.  And yes, I’m looking at you, Ama Jameson.”


Ama looked at Jeannie as she said “I’m sorry, Jeannie – I was only here because Doc wants me to…”  She then looked over at Anna and said “oh no – no, no…”


“Yes, yes,” Jeannie said with a smile, “we want you and Doc to represent the Juniors with your mothers.  Christian?”


“I’m thinking Anna and her mother at the reception desk, and you and Caroline in the sports hall,” the photographer said as Ama blushed.


“But I am not a model…”


“Neither was I when I first did this,” Doc said.


“And will Mom agree?”


“Leave that to my mom,” Jeannie said, “so that’s three of us with mothers.  Miss Schwimmer – thank you for coming.”


“Well, Miss Brand was most persuasive, but I’m not sure how much help I’m going to be,” the financial officer said quietly.


“You’ll be great, because I have someone specific in mind to match you with – Ella?”


“Ella – my daughter Ella?”


“That’s right,” Grace said as she looked at the blonde haired Freshman, “if you are interested.”


“What do you think, Mom?”


“Oh go on then…”


“Great.”  Jeannie looked round the room and then said “Poppy – I know you and your mom are up for this, but I want to ask another of your group.”


“Not Erica – she’s too busy…”


“Nope – Dawn.”


The young Chinese girl looked at Jeannie, as she blushed and said “I don’t know…”


“At least think about it – and talking of new faces in the Juniors, apart from Doc and Ama, I have another suggestion – one that might solve the question you were posing earlier Christian.”




“Indeed – I was going to ask Becca and her mother, but she reminded me of the election, so I’m looking at you – Nikki Colman.”


“The Magnilash girls together?  Okay – but you’ll never get my mother to agree to it.”


“I don’t have to – I’m thinking of pairing you with Miss Kelly…”


“And the Alumnus?”


“I have a call in to the NY Times…”




5.30 pm

JFK Airport


"I wonder if I'll get a chance to see Erica and Denice?" Tracy asked as she and Lily stood in the Arrivals Hall waiting for the others.

Shaking her head, Lily said "I wouldn't count on it."

"So what are the arrangements for right now?"

"I wish I knew," Lily shook her head, "all I know is that we were told to wait here for further instructions."

"And how are we supposed to get these instructions?"

"Your guess is as good as mine Tracy."

"I can deal with most things if I know all the facts,” Tracy said quietly, “but I hate uncertainty."

"You and me both." Lily smiled as Kelly and Frances joined them.

"Louise will here in a few seconds," Frances smiled.

"Good," Lily tried to project some confidence that she actually wasn't feeling.

"Alright that's all 9 of us," Louise said as she did a head count.

"Yes it is," Tracy looked round wondering what might happen next when someone accidentally bumped into her.

"Sorry," a female voice mumbled.

"It's not a problem," Tracy replied, and then realised that there was now an envelope in her hand.

"Hey, is this yours?" she called out to the woman who seemed to have just vanished.

"What's that?" Lily asked as Tracy glanced at the envelope.

"Our instructions I think. This is addressed to you Lily."

"Alright," Lily took a deep breath and then opened the message.

“Well, darling,” Louise said with a smile.


“Welcome to New York Ladies, you have exactly one hour to make your way to the map reference provided. You must NOT use taxi's or hire cars to do so. If you do not arrive inside this deadline then you will be deemed to have failed the test and appropriate action will be taken.”

"Oh crap,” Kelly said as she looked round, “what are we supposed to do if we can't take taxi's or hire cars then?"

"I think the idea Kelly darling is that we have to get innovative?" Louise smiled.

"Meaning what?"

"Meaning that there is a huge parking structure out there full of vehicles, that we need take what we want." Lily smiled.


"Okay ladies there are camera's everywhere, time to make ourselves unrecognisable." Kelly pointed to the powder rooms.

"Quick changes please girls, we are going to be tight for time," Lily reminded her team.


Ten minutes later, the group walked out, looking different as they headed for the parking area, unaware they were being watched.



"Well Penelope?"

"The message was passed Madame," Penny said into her phone.


"After a few adjustments to their appearance I suspect they are sizing up what vehicles might fit their needs."

"Given all their past records stealing cars is hardly the hardest test we will be setting them."

"No Madame." Penny smiled.

"Did our watchers comment on how they reacted at the method of contact?"

"Momentary surprise, but they seem to have taken it all in their stride."


“Excellent – let us see what happens when they get there…”




Ten minutes later, three cars left the parking area, driven by Louise, Tracey and Frances.  Two other girls were in the back seats as Frances took the lead, and they drove to the freeway.


"Not back home an hour yet and I'm already in a hot car," Frances said as she shook her head.

"Oh like you in a stolen car is such a strange thing Fran?" 

"I know," the American girl shook her head, "but what happens if we get pulled over?"

"Then we get creative and eliminate both the threat and any evidence," Lily spoke seriously. "Just get it in your head - this weekend is going to be all about our ability to react to any situation and to think on our feet."


Frances nodded as she drove onto the freeway, checking the SatNav as the others followed…


6.40 pm

New Caanan


The cars came to a stop by the side of a small lake, Louise getting out and looking round as she said “Well, this is the place, Lilian darling, and I think we made it in time.”


“I think we did as well,” Lily said as the group looked round, “but where here is…”


"Why have we been brought to a field in the middle of nowhere?" Tracy looked round.

"And what are we expected to do next darling?" Louise asked.

"I wish I had a clue," Lily checked the car gps, "but this is definitely where we were directed to come to."

"I suppose we ought to look round for clues then?"

Yes," Lily looked at her team, "fan out girls and do a systematic check please."

"Understood." As the group fanned out, a figure watched from the edge of the field and smiled.


“They’re here dahlins,” she said into her microphone, “instructions?”


“Watch and wait, Miss Bobcat – they should find the information soon enough.”



The Farm


“Roger that dahlins,” Dominique heard through the radio as Susan looked out of the window, and then said “she’s here.”


The door opened to the farmhouse as Janice Carter came in, looking at Shirley, Susan and Dominique as they sat round.


"Thanks for dropping in Janice," Shirley said as she stood and welcomed the newcomer.

"It's okay Madame," the FBI agent smiled as she nervously brushed a piece of lint off her suit jacket.

"Still no confirmation as to who she is Jan?" Susan asked.

"No, and I can't be seen to be enquiring too deeply otherwise I might raise questions about myself."

"That I understand," Dominique said as she recrossed her legs, "at least you were able to inform us that the Washington FBI office has someone planted in our organisation. It's up to us now to deal with her."

"I wish I had a name,” Janice said as she sat down, “but this woman is really very deep cover, her orders are to not even communicate with her handlers until she's ready to come in from the cold."

"Well thank the Goddess at least for that," Shirley sat down again, "when Lily works out who she is and eliminates her, then at least we can be assured the problem has been cauterized."

"Hopefully so," Dom shook her head, "we will know just exactly how bad things are when Lily interrogates the bitch."


“Well, of the group, we have three we know are not candidates, right?”


“Indeed – Tracy is not a US citizen, and Louise is cleared.  But which of the other six…”



New Caanan


“Well,” Lily said as the group started to gather together.


“Nothing,” Kelly said as she walked over, “it looks as if it is a clear field.”


“Not quite.”


The group looked at Tracy as she carried over a small metal box.


“I found this buried by the lake shore over there,” she said as she set it down, and Lily looked at it.  Opening the hasp, she looked at the contents, and then drew out an envelope, marked “for Lilian – eyes only.” 


“Must be our instructions,” Frances said as Lily looked at the message inside, and then put the envelope away.




“We need to make camp here for the night,” Lily said quietly, “you six, go and see what you can find in the woods over there to make a shelter with.  Louise, Tracy, let’s see if we can find some wood for a fire.”


As the group walked off, Tracy said “they expect us to camp out here?”


“That’s the excuse,” Lily said quietly, “there’s a rat in the nest – the instructions are to find the rat and find out what they know.”


“What sort of rat,” Louise asked quietly.


“The worst kind – here’s what we are going to do…”



7 pm

The de Ros Mansion


"A deep cover mole?  I personally didn't credit the FBI with the intelligence to run such an operation Cherie." Diana shook her head as she looked at the others.

"I'm just glad our 'recruitment' practices are different to Madame's," Sandy said as she sipped her coffee.  “I know Jo is helping to monitor this, and then she’s back to college later.”

"Well we are a much smaller and tighter operation, Shirley employs vastly more people," Juliette said with a smile as she cradled Rudi.

"Be happy that whoever this is doesn't seem to have been part of the Manchurian Gold operation," Annie said as she hugged Mags, "just imagine what information might be out there in the wider world if she had been?"

"It's a frightening thought," Juliette shook her head.  “But it also limits the field – to only a couple of people, I suspect.”



7.30 pm

New Caanan


“Not a lot in the woods,” Frances said as she walked back over, “at least you got a fire going.”


“We got a fire going,” Tracy said quietly, “but we have a bigger problem to discuss.”


“Oh,” Kelly said as she looked round, “What?”


"One of us is a traitor," Lily said in a flat tone as she looked each woman straight in the face. "One of you it seems is an FBI plant."


The group looked at each other as Louise said “Lily has been tasked with unmasking the mole and discovering how much they know.  Given my past, I am cleared.  Similarly Tracy – but one of you six is.  So, we have a choice.”


“And that is,” Frances said quietly as she watched Tracy take a set of knuckle dusters from the box.


“Work by a process of elimination,” Lily said quietly.  “Starting with the fact three of you were chosen from the UK office, and three from the US.  So I’m offering the chance to the mole – confess now, before this gets messy.”



The Farm


"Any news?"

"Not yet Juliette," Shirley said as she looked at the screen.

"Carina isn't too happy that she won't be the one doing the interrogation."

"I rather guessed that,” Dominique said, “but it will provide Lillian and her crew with a chance to show us how they would do this.  Besides, I understand she has already prepared a very special test for them for tomorrow night."


“Oh yes I have – so may seventies songs,” Carina said with a grin.


“We’ll let you know when we have any news, Juliette,” Shirley said as she ended the call.  "Did you get hold of Charlotte and Francesca Susan?"

"I did."

"And?" Dominique looked up and asked.

"Francesca will work her contacts to monitor what is already known, and what the fallout is."

"Catriona will be doing the same," Shirley joined the conversation.

"I'll have my ears open in the New York office..."

"While my people in FBI HQ will tell me what is going on there Jan."

"We hope Madame."


“Now we need a name…”


"How are things going with regard to the matters the Admiral raised Shirley?" Caroline tried changing the subject to help ease the tension.

"Illyana is meeting the professor again tonight. Let's get this rat business dealt with, and the weekend over and done and we can return to our attention to those matters fully."



8 pm

West Central Park


"So where exactly is Mom?" Pepsi asked as she sat in the Carter apartment.

"Some private thing with Caroline, Susan, Aunt Shirley and the others," Katy sipped her drink.

Pepsi looked at her half-sister, and whispered "why am I suddenly worried?"

"Worried?" Katherine looked up from her knitting.

"Yes worried," her eldest granddaughter grinned, "when little groups of Sinnerz meet it’s usually to plot a MAJOR event...some MEGA party."

"That's true," Katherine acknowledged.

"Uncle Adam?" Katy asked.

"Hey don't look at me, I'm usually the last one told about these things."


New Caanan


The six women looked at each other, kneeling on the ground, their wrists and ankles secured with the manacles that had been placed in the box as Lily stood in front of them.


“I asked for the person to reveal themselves, and I would have hoped in the spirit of team unity, they would have done so.  A great pity.  We have to do this the old fashioned way.  In a way, I’m grateful for the loyalty, but this is the wrong time for that.  Tracy.”


“I first met Lily when the group I ran with were called in to talk to a recalcitrant little girl,” the black girl said as she rubbed the brass knuckles on her gloved hand, “and Louise is a special recruit, so we are fully cleared.  If I was to ask you who the mole is, what would you answer?”


She looked at Frances, who stared right back at her as she said “It’s not me – and I have no idea who it is.”  Tracy nodded as she moved down the line, before she stopped in front of Kelly.  “You think it’s one of the US recruits – but if they have planted someone, it could be through the UK office.”


“Very true,” Tracy said as she looked at the other three, and then hit Kelly in the stomach.  As she gasped, Lily said “I am considering that as well, but this could be a diversion tactic…”


Louise smiled as he looked at Evey, the third US recruit.  Evey, darling,” she said quietly, “what do you know of the way Rising Stars was brought into the Xavier organization?”


“Madame stepped in when she heard they were been used as a front for child model abduction.  I joined soon after.”




“Because she rescued my sister at the time.  I wanted to pay the debt our family owed.”


Louise looked at Lily, who nodded as she said “what happened to your sister?”


“She’s with my parents in California.”


Nodding, she looked at Tracy, who knelt and released Evey.  “How do you know I’m not the mole,” she said quietly.


“I can tell – but that leaves five of you.  There is just one thing though Evey.”


“And that is?”


She never saw the blow from Tracy as Lily said “we never publicised the fact Madame broke that ring up…”


The other five looked round as Louise watched closely.  “Kelly – you seem particularly happy the mole has been found.”


“Of course I am – it means we can get on with whatever this test is.”


“Yes we can,” Lily said quietly, “and it means you and I get to have a nice little chat Kelly.”


“Me – why?”


Lily smiled as she said “because you are the mole, Kelly.  We made it very clear who broke that gang up at the time – and the fact you said nothing just gave you away…”



The Huntingdown Apartment


"Nothing obvious in your cross-checking of FBI files with Madame's personnel files lover?"

"Not that I can immediately see," Heather yawned. "Whoever created and ran this operation is pretty damn smart. I think they assumed that Madame X had both sources within the FBI, and me looking at their computers, and panned accordingly."

"That had occurred to me as well," Juliette said as she opened her eyes. "We can rely on Lily to extinguish the immediate threat, but in the medium term we need identify this person within the bureau with the brains to do this..."

"And either turn or recruit them?" Diana interrupted.




The Farm


“Madame, dahlin?”


“Miss Bobcat,” Shirley said as the others looked over, “you have news?”


“Ah do believe they have their target – Kelly, they called her.”


Shirley looked at Susan and Dominique, before she said “thank you Miss Bobcat.  When they have finished, direct them to us.”


“Understood,” the Southern voice said as they ended the call, and the others looked at Shirley.


"When they've finished torturing her and extracting information,” she finally said, “I want the body collected and then dumped on the steps of FBI headquarters in Washington as a warning."

Jan looked over as she said quietly "Isn't that pushing it a bit far Shirley?"

"I don't think so Jan."

"It's a bit more public then our usual style Madame?"

"I know Dominique, but as our friends have so successfully demonstrated over the years terror can be a potent weapon, and I want the FBI to fear us."


“As you wish Madame – I’ll take care of it personally…”


New Caanan


Kelly looked at the eight girls surrounding her as she knelt on the ground, saying quietly “so, you found me out.  What happens now?”


“We’re fortunate that your operators said only to contact them when you had everything,” Lily said, “which is why Susan put you forward for this assignment.  She had some suspicions of where your loyalties lay, but this is more than she had realized.”


Frances looked over and said “what now?”


"We need information from her ladies," Lily smiled. "This will be a field interrogation, we need to know what she knows, who she told things to, and we need that information quick."

"Are any of you squeamish about torture?" Louise asked.

"No," a couple of voices spoke, and every head shook.

"Good," Louise smiled as well, "prepare the bitch."


Kelly and one of the other girls stood either side of Kelly and pulled her blouse open, as Tracy stood in front of her.


"Let's start with something very easy," Tracy said as she grabbed the FBI woman's head and pulled it back, "what is your real name?"

"Drop dead."

"As amusing as the thought that any parent might name their daughter that is darling, it isn't the truth is it?" Louise stroked the woman's cheek, then suddenly slapped it with all the force she could manage.

"Name please bitch?" Lily repeated the question quietly.


“My name is Kelly…”


“No it’s not,” Tracy said as she hit her in the face, while Frances took from the box a set of pliers.


“I read in the files of a certain group who use these to great effect,” she said as she knelt behind the agent, placing the blades over the knuckle of her left index finger and then suddenly closing it, shattering the bone as she screamed out.


“Your name,” Lily said quietly as Kelly looked at her, and then whispered quietly “Fuck you.”


“What a good idea,” Louise said as she took the dildo out, “remove her pants.”


The Farm


"I'm more than a little unhappy with this Shirley," Janice shook her head. "I know she posed a huge danger, but she is after all still a fellow agent."

"I understand Jan," Madame stood with a hand on her hip, "but just think of both you and Katy both spending the rest of your natural lives in prison."

"I know..." Jan's voice trailed off.


“Madame Dahlin?  We have a name for you?”


“Do tell, Miss Bobcat,” Dominique said as she noted the name, and then sent a text to Heather.  “What’s happening now?”


“Ah do believe they have studied the methods of Miss Lynx – the boxcutters and lemon juice are now been deployed.”



New Caanan


"Why did the FBI go to all this trouble?" Lily asked.

"Because Madame X was starting to crop up as a major player in far too many investigations, and we weren't getting the type of information from insiders ratting on the boss that we get from other organized crime gangs," the prisoner said as she looked in Lily’s eyes defiantly.

"Or in other words if they couldn't get anyone on the inside to turn, then they'd put one of their own in a place to do so," Louise smiled. "That has a certain logic I suppose."

"Yes," Lily said as she hit the FBI agent, "are there other law enforcement plants in Madame's organization?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?" the agent involuntarily giggled.

"I'd very much like to know," Lily spoke softly, "and you are going to tell me?"




“Oops - butter fingers,” Frances said as she poured the finger over the fresh cuts.


“Aww  did that hurt?  Let me rub it better,” Louise cooed as she walked behind their captive, and started to eub the clear liquid into her breasts, smiling as she did so…


"Is it me, or is Louise enjoying this just a little too much?" Tracy whispered in Lily's ear as they watched the tall blonde squeezing the rats nipples and causing her to cry in pain.

"Just a bit," Lily grinned as a hitherto hidden streak of sadism began to appear in the actions of the tall Californian. "I may have to recommend a 'specialist' training course with Penny after all this perhaps."


Tracy nodded as Kelly screamed in pain while Louise attached heated clamps to her nipples, then asked “how did you know even how to start to infiltrate the organization?"

"The FBI isn't quite as dumb as you seem to think we are..." Kelly screamed as one of the women held a burning match to her foot.

"I'll accept that darling, but I want the who, what, where, and why? of how you first knew how to contact our grouping, and how then you were able to pass the checks and infiltrate?"

"Or in other words we need to know everything that you know the FBI knows about us, and just how you put that to use," Tracy smacked the traitor again.

“I…  I moved to New York, got a rep, then I was FUCKING HELL…”


"Get this all written down," Lily nodded to the woman holding a note pad and pen, "security will want to analyze this with a fine tooth comb."

"Right let’s start at the beginning," Louise resumed questioning, "how did you first make contact, and how did you know that you contacting Madame's people?"




The Farm


"In a way I'm flattered that they consider me such a threat to law and order that they've gone to all this trouble," Shirley smiled, "but I've spent too many years building my operation, and I'm at long last truly enjoying the benefits in my life too much, to let them either close me down or capture me."

"We are going to need to rescreen every employee and associate to check backgrounds and loyalty Madame."

"I know Dominique.”  Shirley sighed as she rubbed her eyes.  “It isn't a task that I relish taking on while we are just starting on the Russia thing, but it will have to be done."

"Am I the only one who finds it ironic that we are going to all this trouble to help secure the American electoral and political systems at the same time as they are trying to punish us for being gangsters?" Susan asked.

"It had occurred to me," Shirley smiled again, "but it's the nature of what we do I'm afraid."

"Bad guys, who are also covert good guys," Janice laughed. "My agency is still trying to even start wrapping their heads round that idea."  The sound of a car drawing up outside caught their ears, as Susan picked up a gun and looked out of the window.  Annie got out, escorting an older woman who was wearing a blindfold, and brought her in before she left.


“Okay – where am I?”


“With friends,” Janice said as the new arrival reached up and removed the blindfold, and then looked round as she blinked.


"Thank you for coming so quickly Eleanor," Madame said as she kissed the newcomer on the cheek, "and i apologise for having to bring you to this facility in this fashion."

"Well I can't say that being blindfolded like that was fun Madame."

"I know, but until the people who own this facility agree to identify themselves to you it was I'm afraid a necessary precaution."

"Especially with your background Eleanor," Caroline shook her head, "and I apologise in case you read any implications into that, I don't mean to say that you are a plant."

"I understand fully," Eleanor looked round, "any chance of a coffee while you bring me up to speed on what has happened?"


“I’ll get it,” Susan said as Janice looked at Adam’s mother.  “Ten second version – we discovered the FBI had planted a mole in one of Madame’s specialist teams, and with the team coming here for a training course, they have taken the opportunity to uncover the mole and are interrogating her.”


Ooof.”  Eleanor sat down and said “where is the mole from?”


“Washington – and very deep cover,” Shirley said, “but one bit of good news – she was not involved in London, and hasn’t probed too deeply.”


“She’s not going to walk away from this, is she,” Eleanor said.


“No – but we need your advice.  How to let them know we know…”



New Caanan


“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH  I swear, that is all I knew – the New York operation, and then this group!”


“You’re lying,” Lily said quietly, “because if you know of the Rising Stars story, you know who is in charge in LA.  What else do you know of that group?”


Kelly panted and grimaced, the red lines visible on her bare chest and arms, her arse cheeks throbbing as the dildo stayed in place, and said “nothing… I swear, nothing…  Please, I’ve told you all I know…”


“Watch her,” Lily said to Frances, the girl nodding as she took the group to one side.  “I think she’s telling the truth – Trace?”


“I agree,” Tracy said quietly, “but that puts Susan in the spotlight, as well as Madame – and that I do not like.”


“Me neither – Louise?”


“I think she’s telling the truth – the only people who know about Tracey’s team outside LA are myself and senior management.  But, and it’s a big but, she knows each of us.”


The other girls nodded as Lily looked over at Frances, who nodded in return as she pulled Kelly’s head back.  The last thing she felt was the metal blade of the box cutter as it sliced through her jugular vein, Francs letting her drop to the ground as the others watched her walk over.


“Okay,” Tracy said quietly, “now what?”


“Congratulations ladies, y’all have passed the next stage.”


The group turned as they watched the woman walk forward, dressed in combats and with a balaclava over her head, a gun in her hand.


“And you are,” Louise said quietly.


“Wahl that’s a very good question, but y’all can call me Miss Bobcat.  This,” she said as she looked at the body and the abandoned cars, “will be dealt with, and your bags brought to where y’all are going.”


Lily nodded as she said “thank you – and where are we going?”


“This way, sugahs,” she said with a smile as she indicated the group should go with her, and led them to a minivan parked nearby, “get in, get comfy.”


As they sat on the floor, the masked woman said “we’ll take ah short drive…”



The Farm


"Well it took some digging,” Heather said as she looked up, “but I found her files."

"Excellent Heather, can we see them?"

"I'm forwarding them to Jan's computer Madame."


"So anything urgent Heather?"

"Only that this was not some off-the-cuff thing Caroline. They've been plotting this a long time. They even got Dr. Allesandro Riva to give her a brand new face."

"Francesca's friend?" Shirley asked.


“Indeed – we may need to have a word with him at some point.”


Jan looked through the file, and whistled as she said “this must have come from high up – we’ve got her former supervisor’s name, but not the contact.”


“Well, we have something to work on,” Shirley said as she stood and looked out of the window, “and our guests have arrived.  Shall we?”


Susan nodded as she and Shirley walked out of the building, waiting as the van stopped and Miss Bobcat jumped from the cab, walking round and opening the rear doors.


“Welcome,” she said as Lily led her team out, “I regret you have lost a member, but trust you understand why we asked you to take care of it this way.”


Lily nodded as Susan said “go to the barn over there – you will find camp beds, and hot food.  I will come in a short while to talk to all of you, along with Dominique.  You have an early start tomorrow, so warm up and get some sleep after we talk.”


As they walked over, Shirley said “get some sleep?”


“I know – but they don’t…”



10 pm

The Farm


Lily and the others looked over as Susan came into the barn.


“Well ladies,” she said with a smile as she walked over, “that wasn’t quite the opening test we originally had in mind for this weekend, but can I say before the truly difficult exercises begin…”


“That wasn’t difficult Susan?” Evey asked in shock.


“I don’t know, you tell me when it’s all finished eh?”


“Oy Fucking Vey!”


“Exactly,” Susan let a laugh escape.


“May the Goddess help us all.” Louise said as she looked round.


Susan smiled as she watched faces.  “Anyway let’s just say that as a group you all passed the first problem with flying colours shall we? You did just what we need this rapid response team to be able to do. You identified the cause of the problem, you brought all your talents and skills to bear, and you created a solution.”


“It was a bit more improvised and messy then I would have liked Susan.”


“I know Lily, but that is the nature of the beast, if we have time to properly plot and plan a response then it’s not likely to be the sort of thing you girls get called in to do…Understood?”


“Yes,” several voices responded.


“So is this whole weekend goin’ to be about solvin’ problems?” Tracy asked.


“No, it’s going to be a mixture of training and skill learning, with a few practical things thrown in so that our assessors can see what your strengths are, and what if any weaknesses you have that we need think about.”


“Is there a penalty for failure?” a brunette called Gail asked. “I heard once…”


“That was a different kind of thing Gail.  Girls you aren’t facing a death penalty.” Susan interrupted, “If we deem you are not up to the standards we are hoping for this team you will be reassigned to other duties, we will not be killing anyone of you girls.”


“Do you understand ladies?” Lily spoke.


“Yes Lily,” Tracy spoke for the group.


“Don’t get the impression though that we are going to go soft on you though,” Susan resumed speaking. “This weekend will be physically demanding, mentally exhausting, and yes potentially lethally dangerous. While we may not ourselves be intending to kill you, just remember that you will be facing real life situations requiring often life and death decisions, and you’ll be facing adversaries who will not be seeing this as a training exercise. Mistakes can be both fatal for both you, and your colleagues. I cannot overstate this ladies, you aren’t here to play ‘games’, this is all going to be very real…I hope you all understand that?”


The group nodded as Susan said “good – get some sleep.  You have an early start tomorrow.”


“How early,” Frances asked.


“No comment…”



Friday 9th September

11 am BST

Ordford Crematorium


The small group gathered round the entrance watched as the line of cars slowly came up the long driveway, the first stopping as the second pulled up, the chauffer stepping out and opening the doors as his passengers got out and made their way over.


Donald and Agnes stood and watched as the hearse stopped, Donald in a dark suit, Agnes wearing a black jacket and skirt.  As the car came to a halt, the undertaker stood at the rear, waiting as the men got out of the car. 


Victoria Gordon wiped a tear from her eye as Archie, Donald, Will and Jack bowed their heads before stepping forward, waiting as the casket was removed before they lifted it onto their shoulders and carried it through the doors, Angelica and Mandy walking behind Agnes and Victoria as the congregation followed them in.  The Bishop of Ordford stood at the front, bowing in turn as the coffin was laid on the surface. 


As the doors closed, Clive stood at the dais and said “we are gathered here today to say goodbye to Catherine James Fitzstuart.  We start with the hymn Amazing Grace.”


As the organ played, Agnes gently squeezed Donald’s hand, Sir Colin noticing and nodding as the people sang…





“Catherine,” Donald said as he looked out across the gathered congregation, “Catherine – was not the easiest of women to know, and I suspect I am betraying no secrets in saying that.  And particularly, in these last few months, she was not well.  What she did – is known to most of us here, and I do not wish to dwell on that here.”


Tamsin sat with Olivia and Charles, nodding as Donald took a breath.


“But she was my wife for twenty years, and in a strange way, I am going to miss her.  I shall choose to remember some of the good things she did, and walk forward in life knowing whatever happened in these last few months, whatever was driving her, she is now at peace.”


Folding the paper, he stood to one side as Victoria stood up and slowly walked forward with Archie.  She stood at the lectern, the veil covering her face, taking  a deep breath before she said “today, I say goodbye to my sister, the person I shared my life growing up with, and I pray she finally is at rest, free from the demons that drove her while she was alive.  When she was well, she was a good friend at times, but…   But…”


Archie came forward and out his arm round her wife as they and Donald walked back, the Bishop stepping forward.


Taking a deep breath, Clive said “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger and of great goodness.  As a father is tender towards his children, so is the Lord tender to those that fear him.   For he knows of what we are made; he remembers that we are but dust.  Our days are like the grass; we flourish like a flower of the field; when the wind goes over it, it is gone and its place will know it no more.  But the merciful goodness of the Lord endures for ever and ever toward those that fear him and his righteousness upon their children’s children.


“Will you please stand.”


He turned to the coffin as curtains slowly started to close round the stand it sat on.


“We have entrusted our sister, Catherine, to God’s mercy, and now, in preparation for burial, we give her body to be cremated.  We look for the fullness of the resurrection when Christ shall gather all his saints to reign with him in glory for ever.”


As the curtains closed, Duncan gripped Agnes’ hand as they all said “amen…”


“Lord Donald and the Marquis of Ordford invite you to join them at Ordford Castle for a social remembrance,” the Bishop said, “go in peace.”





“I always hated this part – especially today,” Archie said as he stood with Agnes, watching as the congregation came out and talked to Donald and Veronica.


“I know – but they wanted to be the ones to do this,” Agnes said quietly, “I can’t be part of his life to that extent until after today – not really.”


Archie nodded as he said “true – but this is the start of the rest of your life, and all of us think you are going to be incredibly happy.”


“So what happens now,” Tamsin said as she walked over.


“Will and Donald will see to the internment – in the meantime, Mandy and I play host at Ordford.”  Wiping away a tear, Agnes said “I never thought I would cry at her funeral.”


“Well, I understand – even if she never did,” Tamsin said with a little smile as Mandy came over.


“Agnes – will you come with Jack and I?  We can then be there for the others.”


“I’ll be along with Veronica in a few minutes,” Archie said quietly as they walked off.





1.30 pm

Ordford Castle


The room turned and looked as Will came in with Donald, Mandy and Agnes coming over as Douglas said “she is at rest now – I want to thank all of you for coming today, and I hope to get to talk to you.”  He saw a familiar face and walked over to greet her.


"Thank you for coming Dr Gleb," Donald shook the psychiatrist's hand.

"I rather felt I needed to Lord Donald," Serena half-smiled. "I still think a lot of you have questions about her mental health that you want to ask, and while I don't have all the answers, I thought it was important I be here to help as much as I can."

"Well it's much appreciated."

"So are you and Agnes starting to put her behind yourselves?"

"I think we are starting to,” Donald said with a smile. “She's accepted my proposal, and we are in the process of adopting two rather special young girls."

"So I'd heard, and I'm more then happy for you both."

"They were both deprived of a life that they should have had Serena," Will intervened, "now they can at least have some of that life together."


“Indeed – I take it the girls are not here today?”


“No – they are with Susan, Agnes’ assistant, hopefully having caught up on their sleep before they settle in at the flat.  We’ll return tonight to spend the weekend with them, before I have to return to Paris.”


Agnes walked over and said “How was it Donald?”


“Strangely peaceful – Agnes, allow me to introduce Dr Serena Gleb, who was trying to treat Catherine.  Serena, this is Agnes McAdam.”


“Ah,” Serena said as they shook hands, “I regret we were unable to prevent what happened to you.”


“I don’t think anyone could have stopped her,” Agnes said with a small smile, “not really…”


“Still, as you say, it is over now.  What will your next move be?”


“Get the girls settled, and get back to work – and we see what happens after that…”



“So it really is over now,” Olivia said as she stood with Victoria and Mandy.


“Hopefully, she is at rest now,” Victoria said.   “Archie and I are going to go to the States for a couple of weeks, get away from everyone.”







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