Caught on Film – part 3







4 pm

Complete Style




“Janine,” Mary Thomas said as she looked over from her desk, Janine entering the depths of her cave, “what’s got you all flustered?”


“We just got word – Annie gave birth this afternoon?”


“Ah,” Mary said as she put her pen down, “and with Ju out of the country?  Should have seen that one coming.  So – a boy or a girl?”


“Yes,” Janine said with a grin.  Mary looked at her for a few minutes, and then said “Twins?”


“Oh yes – Rudolf and Margaret, although that is allegedly becoming Rudi and Mags.”


“Oh little Judith is going to be over the moon,” Mary said with a grin.  “Will ye let Anna know, I need to make a call?”


“Sure thing,” Janine said as she left, and Mary picked up the phone.


“Mother?  It’s a boy and a girl – Mount Pleasant.  Let the word be spread…”




5.15 am Local Time

The Peninsular Hotel, Hong Kong


“Any updates,” Juliette said as she came out of the shower, towelling her hair.


"Ingy just texted out that the girls are already calling the babies Rudi and Mags." Jan looked up from her screen.

"I guessed they might," Juliette smiled happily.


“So, we’ll tell the others this morning?”



“Yeah – let them sleep a little more…”



9.10 pm BST



“Aunt Shirley?  It is Diana de Ros,” Maisha said as she handed the handset to Shirley.


“Good afternoon Diana – what can I do for you,” Shirley said in her deep rich voice, then smiled as she listened.


"TWINS!" Shirley shouted, “and I heard you say Caesarean Diana… are they all alright?"

"From what I'm hearing from the hospital they are perfect...Annie will have to stay in a couple of extra days, but by then Margaret and Rudolf's grandmother should be back from Hong Kong, and her Great-Aunt will be here from Natalya I suspect."

"Well it’s an occasion that merits the fuss Diana dear…”



"I suspect Klaus is over the moon....he has a grandson and heir."

"Yes its sexist, Judith as the oldest grandchild should succeed...but they still have these damn family traditions."


“Can you tell me where they may be found?”


She picked up a pen and scribbled something down, before she said “I will pass the word round here – Penny is currently in Hong Kong, but I am sure she will hear soon as well.


“Yes, I heard that as well,” she said as the door opened, and John came in, “I will call her and Carina later.  In the meantime, do send my love.”


“Carina,” John said as he took his coat off, and Shirley put the handset down, “I take it Annie did not get to Munich first.”


“No, she did not – Rudi and Mags were born this afternoon.”


“Rudi and…  Twins?”


“So it would appear,” Shirley said with a smile.


“Then we should celebrate,” John said with a smile.


“You get the bottle, I want to arrange some flowers and make a phone call,” Shirley said as she dialled a number.


9.20 pm BST

The Savoy Grill


“That was a wonderful meal,” Gordon said as he pushed his plate away, and sipped his wine.


“Indeed,” Francesca said as Charlotte took her phone out.


“Shirley?  Is there a problem?”


She looked round the table and said “that is fantastic news.  I’ll send something tomorrow – thanks for letting me know.”




“Indeed Lover,” Charlotte said as she looked at Piet.  “Annie Kelly had her babies this afternoon in New York.”


“That is…  Hold on – babies?”


“Twins – a boy and a girl.”


“OH now that does call for celebration,” Francesca said as she waved the waiter over.  “A bottle of the Bollinger and four glasses – I am sure you can have one, darling.”


5 pm

The Richmond Mansion


“Hey – I guessed we’d all be gathering here after the events of the day,” Denise said as she came into the kitchen.


“Well, Caroline sent the word out,” Heather said as she poured a mug of coffee and handed it over.  “I take it you’ve heard?”


“I have – how did they manage to keep that secret?”


“By only telling the two people they could trust to keep it a secret – Caroline and Ama.”


“And I am so pleased to be able to talk of it now,” Ama said as she came in.  “May I take some more bottles through Heather – Erica and Poppy have just arrived.”


“Good,” Pippa said as she came in, “I just called Mum and Aunt Maggie – they’re going to send some flowers in the morning.  How are they anyway?”


“All happy,” Heather said, “Jo is taking Judith to meet them now, but Abby and the other seniors have gone to her house to celebrate both today and their safe arrival.”


“So it’s Rudi and Mags?”


“It is,” Sandy said as she came to join them, “Prince Rudolf Klaus Richard Alexander and Princess Margaret Renate Juliette Natalia.”


“I think Rudi and Mags will be easier to remember,” Caroline said with a smile as she came in.


11 pm European Time



“Sigrid,” Willy said as he stood at the telephone table, “what on earth is the matter…


“Ah – of course, that is indeed good news.  I will let her know, and we will join you in travelling over,” he said with a smile as he looked at Natalia, “just let me know when.”


“What has happened,” she said as he put the telephone down.


“Annie has given birth – Rudolf and Margaret were delivered by Caesarean Section this afternoon.  Mothers and babies doing fine, and Judith is on her way to meet them.”


“Twins?  I should have expected that,” Natalia said with a smile.  “Come to bed Willy - we can send our congratulations in the morning.”



5.30 pm

Mount Pleasant


“Knock Knock.”


“Hey,” Annie said as Jo appeared at the door, Judith holding her hand, “come on in – and especially you, little one.  Have you had a good day with Auntie Jo and Auntie Heather?”


“Yes Momma,” Judith said as she looked round, “are you all right?”


“Oh I’m fine, but I’m a little bit sore,” Annie said as she sat up, “would you like to sit next to me?”


“Come over this side,” Jo said as she held Judith’s hand, and then lifted her up so that she was sitting next to Annie.


“Now, I have two very important people I want you to meet,” Annie said, “Jo, would you bring her baby brother over first please?”


“Sure thing,” Jo said as she carefully lifted Rudi out of the cot, and handed him to Annie.


“Now this is Rudi,” Annie said as Judith looked at him. 


“Hello Rudi,” she said quietly as she waved at him.


“And this is Mags.”


“Hello Momma,” Judith said as she saw Carina holding her baby sister, “and hello Mags.”  She put her tiny hand on the cheek of Rudi and stroked it, and then stroked Mags as she lay in her blanket.


“Now Momma Annie and the babies need to stay here for a couple of days,” Carina said, “but when they come home, we will throw a big party for them, correct?”


“Yes Momma,” Judith said as she looked at the door.  “Hello Unca Jack.”


“Well now, this is a fine family collection, and no mistake,” Jack Linklater said as he and Luke came into the room.  “Mind you, you have looked better Annie.”




“I jest, I jest – you look wonderful, Carina looks wonderful, Judith looks radiant, and they look so peaceful,” Jack said as he looked round the room.  “And Jo is as always athletic perfection.”


“My cue to go grab a coffee – find me when you’re done,” Jo said as she left the room, Jack saying “now then Luke – the hairbrush, if you please…”



6.30 pm

Mount Pleasant – the cafe


"Frau Strecher has ordered the ringing of church bells on the estate lands," Klaus said as she sat down next to his daughter, "just as they did when your birth was announced."

"In the middle of the night,” Ingrid said with a smile, “people will think war has broken out Papa."

"Not according to Frau Strecher. She says corks are already popping and cheers being proposed to a new prince."

Ingrid looked at him, and said quietly "Nothing for a new princess?"

"Darling,” Klaus said as he shook his head, “you know as well as I do that, to the tenants and retainers, it’s boys that matter."

"And I know because Carina is slightly older, and you had her legitimized as your daughter, that her first son would be the next Prince."

"Ingrid,” Klaus said as he put his arm round her shoulder, “we talked this over and you agreed darling."

"I know Papa...and as you said at the time I may never have a son, still..."

"What is done is done darling, but I'm going to now insist Carina and Annie get legally married, and that the children do, though Annie did promise, take the von Furstenheim surname."


“Well, you may need to convince Annie of that…”


“I accept the task with honour…”





7.30 am Local Time

Catherine Lu’s Apartment


“Come in,” Marina said as she opened the door to Juliette and Jan, “I’m glad you could join us this morning…  Are you all right, Juliette?  You look tired.”


“I am – but I’ll explain everything when we come in,” Juliette said as Marina closed the door, and they made their way to the breakfast bar.


“Good morning darlings,” Kylie said as she sat in her school uniform, “how are you feeling this morning?”


“Exhausted and elated at the same time,” Juliette said as she sat down.  “Where are the rest of your house guests?”


“You called?”


“Shirley said you had flown over,” Jan smiled as Helen and Penny walked in, hand in hand.


“So why the mixture,” Marina said as she handed Juliette a glass of orange juice.


“I’m a grandmother again,” Juliette said with a smile, “Annie gave birth a few hours ago.”


“She did?  I must send something,” Kylie said with a smile, “so is it a boy or a girl?”


“Yes.”  Juliette took out her cell phone, and showed them the picture she had been sent.


“She was expecting twins?  Did you know,” Catherine gasped.


“Nope – she and Carina decided to keep it secret, but Rudi and Mags are here now.”


“Then we indeed have cause for celebration,” Catherine said with a smile, “on so many fronts.  Come – we will eat together, and then to work.”


“One moment, darling,” Kylie said as she looked at her phone.  "Darlings I just had a text message from Ingrid, I need to ring Rose."

"What's that about?" Marina asked.

"It seems the Furstenheim christening robe has got a little worse for wear since Ingrid was christened, she asked me if she thinks Rose could refurbish it?"

"That's practical thinking by Ingy," Penny nodded. "You'd better try get hold of Rose."

"I'll duck into my room if none of you mind darlings?"


“Go – but be quick, you need to leave for school soon,” Helen said, Kylie nodding as she went off, and Juliette answered her phone.


“Ingrid darling – how are they?


“The robes?  Kylie is calling Rose now, or leaving a message…  Oh I agree totally Ingrid, Mags should wear the one Judith was christened in, and Rudi the Furstenheim one. It's where having two family christening robes comes in useful."


"Jan asks if they've given any thought to godparents yet?"  Juliette listened, "I can understand those thoughts, and given they have six to name I think it’s right to sleep on it at least.


“Well, give them both my love, and kiss Judith for me.  I’ll call later tonight…”


“Coffee,” Marina said, Juliette nodding as she accepted a cup.


"So where will the christening be Juliette?" Penny asked.

"Well I know Klaus will want it to be in the family chapel at Furstenheim."

"If you have your own chapel you might as well use it," Penny half-laughed.

"The problem though may be the number of guests, the chapel is not that huge, and the baptism of a Furstenheim heir is going to attract crowds."

"Crowds?" Helen looked perplexed.

"Well it’s not just family and friends...the tenants and the people who work for us have a certain right to be there as well..."

"Plus other highnesses?" Marina broke in to ask.

"Yes, the King of Bavaria as our overlord so to speak MUST get an invite...  And there are others..." Juliette let her voice trail off.

"Well it sounds to me like you and Klaus, and the mothers, have to have a long conversation Ju." Catherine spoke.




8 pm

Mount Pleasant


"Jack dear, Annie is starting to get tired," Luke smiled at the new mother, "I think we got enough great pictures to make up a tremendous album."

"You're right of course," Jack sighed, "but once I get going..."

"You can never stop." Carina laughed.

"I like havin' my picture taken." Judith smiled and yawned all at once.

"Yes but it’s getting past your bedtime Miss Judith," Jo smiled back, "I'll take her home and put her to bed at your place if you want to stay longer Cari?"

"Oh would you Jo?" Carina smiled, "I'd like a little longer with Annie and the babies, and Pops and Ingy."

"Well no one is in here the next few minutes," the magisterial voice of Karen came from the doorway, “I need look at my patients… so Shoo, everybody out please."


“You need to eat,” Ingrid said as she took Cari by the arm, “we’ll be back later.”


“Bye bye baby briffer and sister,” Judith said as she waved, and Jo took her hand.


“Back in a bit,” Cari said as Karen shook her head.


“Ow,” Annie said as she moved round.


“Yeah – it’s gonna hurt for a few days – with luck, the tube can come out tomorrow, and you can move round a bit.”


“I’m not sure I ever want to let them out of my sight,” Annie said as Karen looked at the babies.


“Oh I know that feeling – but you need sleep, so get some.  The nurses will…”


“My apologies, Doctor Boyd,” a nurse said as she came in, “but these just arrived.”


“I see the word is getting around,” Karen said as two bunches of flowers were brought in.  “But all looks good – try and kick them out tonight before it gets too late…”


“So who are these from,” Annie said as Karen passed her the cards.  "These flowers are from someone who signs them-self as Fractures Karen...Do you have any clue who that is? It sounds like a silly model nickname."

"I do know, and I'm not supposed to tell...let me just say she was an uptown girl eh."

"Oh Goddess...I got flowers from HER?"

"Well Cari's Mom is one of her very best friends, I guessed she'd be among the first."



8 pm

The Village


“Hey there,” April said as she opened the door, “you guessed Ama would be here, right?”


“Seemed a logical guess,” Caroline said as she came up.  She smiled as she saw Ama sitting with Pepsi.


“How are they Mom,” Ama said as she stood up.


“Mother and babies doing fine – I said we’d go and see them tomorrow night after school.  Thank you, Grant,” Caroline said as she took the hot drink.


“I’ve already got a load of orders to fulfil in the morning – I’ll need to get down to Page first thing in the morning,” April said as she sat down.


“So – raise much today?”


“We met the target is my understanding – according to Queen Abigail,” Pepsi said with a grin.


“Good, good – and Annie?”


“Carina bought that one out,” April said with a grin.  “I wonder what our neighbours made of today?”




“Well,” Sarah said as she tossed her keys into a bowl, and slumped into a seat, “that was one hell of a day.”


“The girls did raise a lot of money,” Hannah said as she took her coat off, “so in that sense, it went well.”


“True – and Annie giving birth as well.  Remind me to get some flowers sent via April in the morning,” Grace said.  “Eating out tonight was a good idea as well.”


“Anyone want some cocoa?”


“No thanks,” Grace said as she sat down, “I still need to figure out why I was asked to do what I have been given…”



8.30 pm

West Central Park


"Oh My Goddess," Katy said as she came into the living room laughing.

"Who was that on the phone darling?" Katherine asked.

"My sister."

"And what did Pepsi say that has you in such raptures of laughter?" Adam asked.

"Annie called her and they talked about the babies...then Miss Kelly kicked in, and she reminded Peps that she still hasn't had her end of year assessment paper back from her."

"Once a teacher...always a teacher," Katherine chuckled.

"So why did Pepsi rate a call?"

"Well she is sort of one of Annie's favorites I hear...I won't be surprised Pepsi isn't asked to be a godmother." Katy smiled.

"To a prince?" Adam questioned.

"Remember she will be Marchioness of Ordford one day Adam...and I think my granddaughter would be a fine choice as a godmother."


“I am sure she would,” Adam said, “I am sure she would…”



9.30 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment


“Hey,” Jo said as Carina, Ingrid and Klaus came in, “Judith’s asleep.”


“Thanks for sticking around,” Klaus said as Jo picked up her coat.  “Do you need a lift?”


“Nah – I’ve got the jeep downstairs.”  As Jo left, Ingrid said “Do you want some cocoa?”


“No – I’m going to call Juliette, and then retire.  Good night girls.”





"So who are you considering as godparents Sis?" Ingy asked as they sat alone in the kitchen nursing their cocoa.

"Well you for one of course..."

"Thank you," Ingrid grinned.

"Pepsi Broadhurst is a favorite of Annie's, and I think a younger woman like her in the mix..."

"She's only four years younger than me," Ingy broke in.

"I know, I know,” Carina said, “but she seems like a different generation to us."

"So what other than the fact she will be Jack's wife recommends her?"

"Well Annie is pretty sure she'll be Head Girl at St Angela's not next academic year, but the one after, and she's bright, and she has spunk."

"True," Ingy sipped her warm drink. "And on the male front who are you considering?"

"David and Tony seem logical, especially as Abs is of course guaranteed to be a godparent this time round."


“Which leaves one – an older person?”


“Oh yes,” Carina said with a smile, “most certainly an older person…”



Tuesday 17th May

4.30 pm Local Time

Catherine Lu’s Apartment, Hong Kong


“Ah, that feels so much better,” Kylie said as she sat at the breakfast bar, sipping from her glass of milk and putting the plate on the bar.


“Did you have a good day today,” Helen said as she looked at her young protégé.


“I did – I was discussing with our form tutor my plans for next year, and apparently Mrs Brand has suggested some texts to read for next year – some of the Shakespeare plays the girls have studied, and other things.”


“Have you heard back from Rose yet,” Marina asked.


“I did indeed Darling - Ingrid has put Rose in touch directly with Frau Strecher, and they are arranging shipment of the christening robe to London," Kylie nibbled on her after school snack, "did you know its nearly 500 years old Penny?"

"It is?" Penny shook her head, “you know in a way that blows my mind… that it has seen so much of their family history."

"Mine too," Catherine poured herself a coffee, "like most Chinese I was brought up to revere my ancestors, but even I am astonished at the care European aristocrats take to cherish their past."

"You know Helen my love,” Penny said, “we ought to maybe start work on our combined family histories, see who we relate to back through the ages."

"Well according to my mother,” Helen said as she sat back, “her family was of serf descent from the Archangel province."

"And your father?"

"Do you mean Bruce?"

"No,” Marina said, “your actual father."

"Ah… Well, he was a closet aristocrat mother always said, his family knew how to keep it quiet in Soviet days but they actually traced back to one of Peter the Greats generals?"

"Wow," Penny smiled, "see we can all find out more about each other by talking about where we came from."

"Well my family were historically merchants and members of the secret society," Catherine nodded.

"So you just keep up the tradition honoured mistress?" Marina bowed.

"Yes...and what of you Marina, you never talk of your family?"

"Be honest I don't know so many of the girls my father to revert to the Tottenham vernacular, 'did a runner', and my Mother was raised in an orphanage."

"That is sad," Catherine put an arm round her.


“Not really – I found my family in the Vipers, and now with Kylie and the others.  Sometimes Family is who you are with, not where you are.”


“Indeed Darling,” Kylie said, “on which note, I have also heard from my Mother.  She hopes to visit once we are in situ in New York.”


“Of course – now, we are joining Juliette tonight, and our flowers should have been delivered by now…”



“Apparently they have.”


“Juliette,” Catherine said as Helen showed her and Jan in.  “I trust you have everything packed and ready for the early flight tomorrow.”


“We have,” Jan said, “but we have something to show you.”


“And that is?”  The women gathered round as Juliette showed them a video of the two babies.


"So who took the video Ju?"

"Ingy and Adam...”  Juliette smiled as she said “honestly they both look so beautiful."

"Where does Rudi get that tuft of red hair from?" Kylie asked.

"Well not my side of the family..."

"But Mags you can already tell is going to be a true Huntingdown... blonde and beautiful."

"I think so," Juliette stopped for a second, "You know I'm so proud of them, and really proud of Annie for giving the family this gift."

"Katy texted me that my other daughter is short listed as a godmother?"

"It wouldn't surprise me...Annie really likes her."


“So let us order in, and talk of other matters…”



8.30 am BST

The Savoy


“Guid morning Francesca.”


As she looked up and saw George Gordon standing there, she smiled and said “Please, join me for breakfast.  More coffee please.”


“Thank you,” the clergyman said as he took a seat.


"Did you sleep well George?" Francesca poured him a coffee.

"I did thank you...and thank you so much for switchin' ma reservation ta here."

"You'll have to pray for the sin of enjoying the luxury,” Francesca chuckled.

"Aye I will.  But I will endure."

"Did you phone Aileen?"

"I did,” George said as he put his cup down, “and she's feeling better today, she has been walking round with just her stick."

"You know I really take my own good health too much for granted," Francesca shook her head.

"Aye I think we all do," George took a sip from his cup. "So where are the happy couple?"

"Carlotta after her long lunch yesterday decided she had to be at her desk this morning by 7.30 to catch up...she has a protestant work ethic just like her father...while Piet was going to interview Michael Yabalela this morning."

"The human rights campaigner?"

"Yes it’s for this article he is writing on people smuggling."

"He's a top notch journalist."

"He is." Francesca nodded. "I'm glad she has found someone outstanding."

"Well he was literally the boy next door and he used ta tease her mercilessly while they were growing up."

"I'd guessed that," Francesca delicately nibbled at a pastry, "so what time is your flight?"


“One – I have plenty of time.  Why?”


“Something I want to ask you about…”



7.30 am

St Martha’s


“Vanessa my dear,” Alex said as he came down the stairs, “to what do I owe the pleasure of this early visit?”


“I have a breakfast meeting of the Richmond Trust,” Vanessa said, “but I wanted to call on you first.  How is Annie?”


“I imagine she is somewhat sore today – but open to visitors.  Thank you Martha,”

Alex said as they sat at the breakfast table, and she served coffee.


"How are preparations going for your flying visit to Naples dear brother?" Nessa asked as she sipped her drink.

"Very well,” Alex said, “and it is going to be such a kick - if I can use a slang term - to meet the good father."

"From what you told me,” Vanessa said, “he was indeed a genuine hero."

"And an inspiration to so many."

"Indeed."   Alex buttered some toast, before he said "by the way… I think I have worked out his and Dona Carlotta's little secret."

"You have?"

"Well I think so...but please tell no one in case I'm wrong."

"Promise...”  Nessa leaned over the table and smiled before she said “so the kids say."

Alex smiled as he swallowed his toast, and wiped his mouth.  "There is within Santa Chiara a chapel that is both physically part of the basilica, but not of it."

"Now you lose me Alexander."

"I read of it in a paper… It's a chapel dedicated to all faiths and religions, designed to give tourists a place where they can spend some quiet time in contemplation..."

"Oh now I think I get you,” Nessa said, “Dona Carlotta endowed it so services could be said in any faith within the complex."

"That is what I'm willing to bet on. The Father came off of Monte Cassino a believer in a universal god after he ministered to so many people of all faiths, making no distinctions who were Catholics and who wasn't."

"So it would be a project close to his heart as well, a truly ecumenical chapel in such a great house of worship."

"That is my thinking, and Nessa dear I'll know more when I get to Naples."

"So Charlotte may be able to get married at Santa Chiarra, and have a blessing in the huge nave of the main church that all the guests might see."


“Precisely – solving both problems with true elegance.  I pray I am right, I really do…”



10 am

The Huntingdown Apartment


“Cari?  Is that you?”


“It is,” Carina said as she came in, looking at her father.


“Busy morning?”


"I've already been to see Annie and the babies," Carina parked her Jameson on the kitchen counter, "all doing very well according to Helen and Karen, though Annie needed painkillers to sleep."

"Coffee darling?" her father offered as he brewed a pot.

"Please," Cari sat down, "so where is Ingy?"

"She took Judith for a walk in the park...Judith needed distracting."

"I know," Cari smiled, "she so wanted to come to the hospital with me."

"So can I drop in and see my grandchildren?"

"You can Pops...I'm going to let other people visit this morning, I told Annie I'd see her after lunch."

"So who is going?"

"Well Missy was arriving as I left, and I told her Mags is not signing a modelling contract yet..."

"Oh very funny," Klaus laughed, "and what was Missy's reply?"

"Just wait a few weeks."

"That sounds like her."  Klaus shook his head as he drank his coffee.

"David, House, and Tony said they'd drop by with gifts from their families, and Bobbi, Judes, and the twins are going in about three this afternoon."

"Well Annie won't be bored for lack of company then?"

"Nope Pops.  And I get the morning to relax.”


“Out of curiosity – has she had many flowers?”


“Quite a lot actually – why?”


“Have you looked in the drawing room?”


Cari put her mug down, and walked in, standing and looking at the bouquets.


“Oh wow,” she said quietly, “now I know how Diana must have felt when Judith arrived.”



10.30 am

Mount Pleasant


“Well now, I see the florist trade is booming in town today.”


“Hello April,” Annie said as April Broadhurst came in, “you just missed Missy with flowers from the girls at CS.”


“Yeah I know – I just made the day of the nurses out there with more deliveries,” she said as she handed Annie a box, “but these are yours and yours alone.”


“Brilliant, thank you,” the new mother said as April looked in the cribs.  “They look so peaceful there – how was feeding them?”


“A bit sore the first time, but I’ll get the hang of it eventually.  I have to admit, the pain killers are helping me cope a little bit…”


“Well, you’re going to get all the love and support you need once you get out of here – even from my daughter, who has told me to tell you she will hand in her end of term assignment today.”


“Fair enough,” Annie laughed, and then winced slightly as Sandy and Heather came in.


“Oops – the pain of seeing us…”


“I’ll leave you to it – I have other deliveries to make,” April said as she left the room, Heather hugging her friend and saying “well done.”


“Red hair?” Sandy said as she looked at Rudi.


“I know, I know – I guess that’s from the sperm donor.  Thanks for taking care of Judith yesterday.”


“It’s our pleasure – I see you’ve not exactly been neglected with flowers.”


“Not really no – Cari said there are almost as many at the apartments.”


“How are you feeling anyway,” Sandy said.


“Sore – apart from that, the docs say I’m doing fine.”


“She is,” Helen said as she came in.  “So how are they?”


“Probably about to wake up for a feed,” Heather said as she looked at Mags, “she’s wrinkling her nose in the same way as Judith does.”


“Excuse me Miss Kelly – these have just been delivered,” one of the nurses said as she carried in two bears, one wearing a kilt, the other a tartan dress.


“Annie,” Sandy and Heather said as they looked at each other.


“You’re right,” Helen said as she picked up Mags, wrapped in a pink blanket, “ready Annie?”


“Oh yes,” she said as she sat up and adjusted her robe, smiling as Mags attached herself to her right nipple.


“Maybe we should…”


“No you’re good – we don’t need to check Annie for a while,” Helen said as she signed a sheet.  “See you later.”


“Well, Ju’s got a full house waiting for her when she gets back,” Annie said as Helen went out, before whispering “what made her fly out there anyway?”


“A very angry Honoured Father by all accounts,” Sandy said quietly, “but the air has been cleared now.”


“Is this to do with her mystery project?”


“Yup,” Heather said, “and it’s a doozy.  I somehow think you’re excused boots for this one, however.”


“I know – Cari would kill me if I hurt myself now,” Annie said with a smile as Sandy picked up Rudi.  “But I get to know what it is?”


“Oh yes…”


“And how was the film anyway?  I mean, my chances of seeing it just went to Zilch, so…”


“You should – Cassie had created a masterpiece, even if it made Cari, Doc and Diana a little uncomfortable.”


“It’s that good?”


“It’s that good,” Heather said.  Annie nodded as she looked at Mags, whispering “you are part of a very special family now, Margaret, and you are really going to be loved.”


“You both are,” Sandy said, “and you should be glad you are not the only boy any more.  I’m Aunt Sandy, and this is Aunt Heather.”


“And this is Allen – you’ll meet Alain later, but we’re gonna work out how to handle that.”


“Gale,” Annie said with a smile as Mags let go, and she handed the young baby girl to Heather before taking Rudi, “welcome to Feed Station central.”


“I thought I was in the Botanical gardens,” Gale Callaghan said as she came in with Allen in her arms.  “So you didn’t make it to Germany?”


“Nope – but we will in a few weeks,” Annie said as Gale kissed her.  Allen waved at the newly born baby boy as he suckled on Annie’s right breast.  “So I get to join you and Freida in blessed joy now?”


“You do indeed – I believe a crèche is been arranged in Rosville for all the babies.”


“Well, one less thing to worry about,” Annie said with a smile, “always assuming their passports can be sorted out in time…”







12.30 pm

The Refectory, St Angela’s


“This meeting is now called to order.  Well… what are we going to give Annie, Carina, and the babies as a present?" Jeannie asked the gang as they all sat down to eat lunch.

"Not a clue," Becca shook her head, "what can we possibly give that no one else has already thought of?"

"Well I sort of have an idea," Doc said as she looked up from her burrito, "how about we get a group picture taken of the girls who were in her Monday morning class last year."

"And that way it includes thing Anna," Ama smiled, "I think she'd like that."

"And it wouldn't be yet another christening mug or similar?" Jeannie thought carefully. "So who do I ring?"

"Ring Luke," Doc said, "I already sort of asked him."

"You guessed we'd have this problem?" Nikki grinned.

"Okay Luke it is," Jeannie reached for her phone, "just make sure all the girls stay after school."

"Right," Ama nodded, "I'll see to that."




“Thanks for stopping back everyone,” Grace said as she sat in the Faculty lounge, “we need to decide what we are going to get Annie as a present.”


“How about a get out of jail free card,” Ingrid Mueller said with a smile.


“Very funny,” Grace said, “but seriously – anyone have any ideas?”


“A year’s supply of Horlicks,” Harriet offered.


“A direct line to a good babysitting service,” Sarah said with a smile.


“Actually, there’s something we could do – book a weekend for her and Cari at the spa we went to last year.”


“That’s a great idea Peter – let’s do that!”




“Well, now we have a successful day out of the way,” Letty said as she sat with Abby and Celia, “let us turn our attention to other matters – all set for Friday?”


“Oh yes – the dress is bought, Tony has his tux pressed, and I am looking forward to it so much,” Abby said with a smile.  “What about you Celia?”


“Well, given my boyfriend has gone to ground,” Celia said, “my cousin is stepping in.  Letty?”


“Tony’s friend is coming with him.”


“Then we at least are sorted out,” Abby said with a smile.  “It’s going to be one hell of a night – and then a week later, our time here is done.”


“And we become mature responsible adult women.”


The three friends looked at each other, and then burst out laughing.




1 pm

Mount Pleasant


“Hey – is there room for three men to call and look at newborns?”


“Of course there is – this is an equal opportunity come and admire the newborns zone,” Annie said as Winston, Tony and David appeared in the doorway.  “Of course, if they need a feed…”


“Doesn’t bother me in the slightest,” David said as he looked in the cribs, “they really are cute.”


“Anyway, Aunt Rachel asked me to pass these on,” Tony said as he put three boxes on the bedside table, “one for each of you.”


“And I’ve been asked to leave you this for the babies,” Winston said as he placed an envelope on top of the boxes, “Jeannie is sending something with the girls later.”


“Thank you – I’ll open it when Cari gets here later,” Annie said with a smile.


“Mum and Dad sent me these some time ago,” David said as he held up a parcel, “apparently it’s both male and female clothing, given you never said.”


“Has she been told now?”


“I spoke to her this morning,” David said, “and her exact words ‘The poor darling – give her my love and my sympathy.’”


“I’ll have words with her later,” Annie said with a smile.  “Still, you must be looking forward to Friday Tony.”


“I am actually,” Tony said.  “Pity you will miss it, but…”


“I was not going to go anyway,” Annie said, “I get the other disco normally, but that’s next Monday anyway.”


“Cari will say you miss it anyway,” David said with a smile.  “Your mission, and you will accept it because Bobbi and Judy will tell you the same thing, is it rest, recover and enjoy the adulation of your children.”


“I know,” Annie said with a smile, “My summer recess has started two weeks early, and my life just became so much more interesting.”




3 pm

Mount Pleasant


“Hey,” Judy said as she looked in, wearing a Yale hoodie and jeans, “this a good time to call?”


“Yeah – I just fed them” Annie said as she smiled at Judy and Bobbi, “come away in.  They’re ready to be adored again.  So how did your years go?”


“A minus on both sides,” Bobbi said, “oh wow – he has your eyes.”


“Don’t – we’re already debating who has whose eyes – but Mags is definitely a blonde.”


“Has she signed her up yet?”


“She was going into the office this afternoon before she came here – though where Rudi may go I have no idea,” Annie said as she stroked his chin.


“Place is full of flowers – again,” Bobbi said.  “I see the model network has been busy once more.”


“Apparently, her apartment is worse – and I have no idea what ours is like.  Caroline’s due in with Ama, so I will find out then.”


"So what are you going to do for living arrangements Annie?"

"Well…  Carry on pretty much as we have been, at least till Cari graduates from Yale Bobbi."

"That's going to suck, her not seeing the babies except at weekends, and you not seeing Judith."

"Yeah,” Annie said as Judy picked up Mags, “but I love teaching, I love St Angela's, and Caroline, and especially Ama are looking forward to having the little ones round the house."

"But for the summer?" Judy tickled Mags chin as the little girl waved her arms round.

"Germany all summer for me and the children. Cari will be there when her modelling doesn't take her away, her rowing friends are there as well, and Abby is coming for some of July."

"Well at least that's good quality family time," Bobbi said with a smile.


“What about you two?”


“I’m going over to Ordford before Abby’s party, along with Pepsi,” Judy said.  “We’ll meet up with you in Rosville.”


“As for us, we’ve got a race on our hands – trying to convince the voters Dad is not like another New Yorker,” Bobbi said with a sigh.


"Do you think the latest von Furstenheim's will pass inspection with Frau Strecher?"

"Probably, but at the moment its Juliette's approval I'm waiting on Judy."

"Well you know she's going to be over the moon...three little ones for her to spoil rotten."


“I know – of all the rotten timing as well.  Hopefully she’ll be here tomorrow afternoon with Jan…”


3.30 pm

Bishop Ramsey School


As Sands collected her belongings and put them into her bag, she looked up to see Katy standing next to her.


“Remember I’m coming round with Doc at seven to go to see the film,” Katy said as she watched Sands put her bag over her shoulder, “you’ll be ready?”


“Yup – looking forward to it,” Sands said as they walked out of the school, “but we have a visit to do first, right?”


“Of course we do,” Katy said as they saw Heather waiting outside.  “Right you two,” she said as she held the door open, “let’s get going…”



3.30 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment


“What are you doing darling,” Carina asked as she saw Judith walking in, a big smile on her face.


"Mama I drew this for you to take ta the babies," Judith announced. "This is Rudi, and this is Megs."

"Well isn't that pretty," Carina lifted her daughter up on to her lap. "Pops look at the picture Judith drew of the babies."

"Oh it looks just like them," Klaus looked then kissed his eldest granddaughter. "So how were they after lunch?"

"Determined to have more lunch...Annie had to feed them again whilst I was there."

"Well strong appetites are a good sign." Klaus smiled.  “And at St Angela’s?”


“Mags is on the list,” Carina said as she tickled Judith’s chin, “I’ll think about Rudi later.  But I do have the applications for their passports in, now we have the birth certificates.”


“Good – I think Annie will enjoy recuperating in Munich, and Frau Strecher apparently has an army of babysitters lined up already.”


“When are we going Momma?”


“Oh in a few weeks – but I do have some good news.  Grammy is on her way home, and she is looking forward to seeing you tomorrow afternoon.”



9 pm BST

The Savoy Hotel


"I'm sorry it was such a long first couple of days girls," Francesca said as she and her staff finished their after dinner coffees, "but I think we worked a lot of the bugs out of the system."

"Agreed," Hannah smiled and sipped her coffee, "and you say this is Ethiopian coffee Francesca?"

"It’s where they say the coffee bean came from originally,” Francesca said, “and I find it a little milder to drink at this time of night."

"Well thank you for the tip."

"What do you think of it Peri?"

"It's lovely,” the young admin assistant said, “but I bet I can't just buy it in Tesco's..."

"No you'd need to shop around," the Marchesa laughed lightly.

"Yeah I bet?"

"Apparently, there is a store in Covent Garden that is recommended by Lily…  So any problems we haven't covered?"

"I'll probably be thinking of a few overnight," Peri yawned, "but getting me to ring Silken in Frankfurt was a great idea, I can pick her brains so we adopt the same practices as the German office, it will make standardised reporting and accounting far easier."

"Speaking to ones opposite number is always a good idea." Francesca said as she finished her cup.

"I've identified a few reference books we forgot to order, but I can purchase them in the morning...”  Hannah looked at her notes, before saying “and I think we need things like Who's Who, and some of the trade directories as well, so we can do background checks more easily on clients."

"Good idea...  Now are you going to stay the night here, or fight your way home, only to return in a few hours?"


“Lily is expecting me,” Hannah said, “what about you Peri?”


“Oh I live off Brick Lane – I could almost walk home from here, but I’ll take a cab instead.”




5 pm

Mount Pleasant


“Oh my – the room looks so like April’s workroom.”


“I think I’ve cleared her out,” Annie said as she put down the latest cards to arrive, holding her arms out as Ama came over and hugged her.


“How are you feeling Annie?”


“Not as painful as yesterday, but definitely sore…  So what is the apartment like Caroline?”


“There are quite a few parcels and gifts for you to look at,” Caroline said as she put her bag down, “where are they?”


“Having their check up,” Karen said as she came in.  “Right, young mother – my work here is about down, and apparently John is asking where I am, so I am leaving tonight.  But I will be coming down to see you in a week or two – and I’ll bring John that time as well.”


“Thank you for everything Karen,” Caroline said as she hugged her, Ama smiling as the babies were brought in.


“Now then,” Annie said as they were laid next to her, “this is you Aunt Ama, and she is a very special person, who is going to help to take very good care of you.”


“I am indeed,” Ama said as she smiled at them, “and you are two very special young people, with two wonderful mothers.”


“I see you have a lot more flowers,” Caroline said as she looked round.


"I stole Mom's PTA handbook so I could translate some of the aliases on the flowers..." Ama grinned.

"Without my permission," Caroline gave her daughter a slight rebuke.

"Well anyway,” Ama said as she looked at them, “the flowers are from so many famous people."

"I know, Karen gave me hints who some of these are from," Annie looked so proud, "and that's without all those from royalty and the aristocracy."

"I see Rudi and Terri remembered," Caroline fingered a huge display in the Ruritanian national colours.

"Yes, and aren't they lovely flowers?"


“So have you decided on the godparents?”


“We have,” Annie said, “and we’ll let them know in due course.  You may have to consider a stopover in Munich over the summer.”


"Caroline please translate...”  Ama looked over as she stood by Annie’s bed, and said “who is the plant with the wonderful furry leaves I can't resist from stroking from?"

"Let me see," Caroline looked at the note and smiled, "I should have guessed… They are from Olivia Savage, her daughter, and the rest of the Treharran's...with Olivia and Fiona being legally blind, I bet they chose it because it was a plant you could appreciate by touch, not just by sight."

"Oh how clever," Ama whistled under her breath.

"Well I love the plant, and knowing that story makes it more special." Annie again touched the leaves.


“Oh lovely – appreciation by touch now as well?”


“Of course,” Ama said with a smile, “how are you Jo?”


“Tired – had a busy day helping Curt with something,” Jo said as she came in.  “Oh my - from Australia?”


“Yup - With all the excitement Jo I never asked how the race at Rutgers went?"

"I won, the time was reasonable, but I didn't beat anyone of real note," Jo said as she held Mags in her arms, and Ama held Rudi.

"Problem with club races, it's only the odd summer invitational meet that you get a decent field together." Annie nodded. "How did Upside do in the overall club standings?"

"We won...but…”


“But,” Annie said as she looked at Jo.


“Anita Evans says she wants you to run a couple of 5K's for the club before the fall."

"Oh no, Coach Evans has two chances of seeing me on the track running...FAT AND NONE!"

"It would help shift those excess baby pounds if you did run a bit Darling," Cari walked in.

"I am retired from running...Sheesh!" Annie grinned.

"Well I just thought you might join our little rowing team jogging this summer?" Cari teased.


“Enough already – how’s our older daughter?”


“She drew this for the babies,” Cari said as she showed Annie the picture.


“OH that is adorable,” Annie said, “and your Mom?”


“I talked to her before she and Jan left for the airport, they have a pile of gifts from others as well,” Cari said as she took Rudi.  “How are you tonight, Monster Momma?”


“Recovering very nicely,” Helen said as she came in, “give us a few minutes will you ladies?”



8.30 pm

The Elysees Nightclub


Roberto Romanov smiled as he saw Vanessa McCabe walk into the club, wearing a black tight fitting strapless dress with a front split, her legs moving the skirt to the sides as she approached.  “I am so glad you could make it – and I apologise for the delay,” he said as he held a chair out for her.


“Well, your offer was most persuasive,” Vanessa said with a smile as she sat down.  “Your friends are not with you tonight?”


“No – I wanted to get to know you,” he said with a smile as he signalled to a waiter, “May I offer you some champagne?”


“How very kind,” Vanessa said as the bottle was brought over, and the champagnes poured into two glasses.


“And what of your friends?”


“Oh, I don’t spend my entire life with them – although tomorrow will be fun,” Vanessa said with a smile.  “So tell me something about yourself Robert…”


“Vanessa McCabe?  That’s almost as bad as what I did with Angelic Escorts,” Doc whispered under her breath as she sat at the bar with Katy.  Doc was wearing an electric blue dress with mid-length sleeves and a pleated mini-skirt, dark hose and four inch heels.


“Perhaps – she made it up on the spot, according to her,” Katy whispered back.  She had her hair covered by a long black wig, and was wearing a black leather bustier dress, her chest forced up and out, combined with five inch stiletto heels so that she looked much older.


“Well, so far so good – they’re making conversation,” Doc said as she looked over, and then sipped her drink.  “I just hope she manages to find out what we need quickly – the longer this takes, the more I imagine Sandy and Heather taking me apart piece by piece.”


“Could be worse…  Could be Carina…”


“Has it crossed your mind they may ask her to do that?  She’s a mother as well, remember?”


Katy silently nodded as the two girls watched the couple across the floor – unaware they themselves were been watched.



“Would you care to dance?”


Vanessa nodded as Roberto took her by the hand and led her onto the dance floor, smiling as he placed his hand on her bottom as they waltzed round.  Katy and Doc looked at each other, before the younger girl said “I need to go powder my nose.  You good for a few minutes?”


“Yeah – I’ll text you if anything happens,” Doc said as Katy walked across the dance floor, and into the ladies restroom.  She entered one of the stalls, emerging a few minutes later and walking over to the washstand.  Rinsing her hands off, she looked in the mirror and adjusted her lipstick.


“I hope there is an outstandingly good reason for you been here Katy.”


She paused, her lipstick in her hand, and then turned slowly round to see Eleanor Ball standing in front of the door, wearing a gold short sleeved dress, and with a face that somehow mixed anger with curiosity.


“Crap,” she whispered under her breath, “what are you doing here Gran?”


“Visiting with some friends,” Eleanor said quietly, “so start talking young lady – what are you doing here?”


For a moment, Katy considered lying, but then swallowed as she said “if I tell you, do you promise not to tell anyone else?”


“I’m listening…”




“You are a very beautiful young woman,” Roberto whispered into Vanessa’s ear as they danced, and then she felt his hand moving over her crotch.  “I wonder if you would be open to going somewhere more private – if you are willing, that is.”


“Well now,” Vanessa said with a smile, “I’m not sure my boyfriend will like that.”


“I have no intentions of telling him,” Roberto said with a smile, “you?”


“No – shall we?”


“What kept you,” Doc said as Katy came back over, “I think they may be about to move on.”


“His place?”


“I’d imagine so,” Doc said as she sipped her drink.  “You have it?”


“His address?  Sands gave me it just in case.”


“Okay – so we hop a cab and follow them.”


“Half right,” Katy said as she looked round, “we’ll follow them, but not in a cab.”


“Katy, if you are suggesting we take the El…”


“I’m not – and don’t shoot me when you hear this – but I got made.”


“Tell me on the hoof,” Doc said, “they’re on their way.”


They watched as Roberto helped Vanessa to put on her fur coat, and then leave the club, the two of them finishing their drinks before they left, watching as the couple drove off.


A second car then pulled up, as Katy said “Get in” and opened the front passenger door.  Doc got in the back, as Katy said “follow that car.  You remember Anna Carlton, Gran?”


“Anna,” Eleanor said as she drove off, “want to tell me how up got mixed up in this particular pile of guano?”


“Right person in the right place at the right time,” Doc said.  “”What did Katy tell you?”


“Everything,” Eleanor said, “and you can be assured I will be having a long discussion with a couple of people on the subject.  At least the two of you were keeping an eye on her, but…”


“I know this looks bad, Mrs Ball,” Doc said quietly, “but Sands is doing this for the best of reasons.”


“Whatever the reasons she is doing this, you are in a very murky position,” Eleanor said as she turned a corner.  “Looks like we’re heading uptown – the right direction?”


“We’re heading to his apartment I think,” Katy said.  “What are we going to do when we get there Gran?”


“Nothing – is there a pre-arranged safety signal?”


“I gave her one,” Doc said, “to text me a one word message.”


“Okay then, we pray she doesn’t send it, and then I’ll take both of you home,” Eleanor said, “then taking Katy home for a little chat.”


“Not something I’m looking forward to,” Katy said as she looked at Doc, while Eleanor stopped the car.  They all watched as Romanov helped Vanessa out of the car, and then into the brownstone.


“Which floor?”


“Third,” Katy said as the light went on, and they sae Romanov looking out before he closed the curtains.


“What I wouldn’t give for a directional mike right now,” Eleanor muttered to herself before she turned and looked at the two girls.  “Why do I get the feeling you’ve got a bit of a past, Anna Carlton?”


“I would prefer not to answer that question, Captain Ball,” Doc said as she looked round.


“Okay – fair enough,” Eleanor said with a nod.  “Given neither of you were in on this at first, I commend your support for her.  But I will be having words…”


“We were not going to let him hurt her, Gran…”


"And would you have done…  Katy there are times that big nose of yours will get you in real trouble..."

"Hey Gran, it’s not's perfect...Vogue said so," Katy laughed.

"Be that as it may young lady," Eleanor took a deep breath, "at least your listening at keyholes this time means we are intervening in a great cause."

"And she had the sense to get me involved." Doc nodded as they watched lights.

"One day I will have to hear your full story Miss Carlton."

"In the meantime though,” Katy said, “we may be here a while, so she can get a look round and question him, Sands was planning on sleeping with him."

"But she's what...Twelve?"

"Thirteen next week," Katy smiled.

"Oh and I suppose that makes this alright?" Eleanor looked daggers.

"Mom found out the one thing he cannot resist is very young beautiful women," Katy looked up again.

"So she sacrifices one of her best friend’s daughters?"

"After what happened to Laura, I think Sands volunteered."


“And Fergus McLean?”


“Yeah – I didn’t know about that,” Katy said as Doc looked at her.  “She promises she’ll make everything good in the end…”


“Financially, I can see how she could, but the emotional, the psychological impact…  Anyway, if we’re going to have to wait, may as well make myself useful.”  Taking out her cell phone, she dialled and waited for a moment.


“V?  E – need a favour for tomorrow please.  Anything you have on one Roberto Romanov, currently resident in New York.


“Yeah, that’s the one.  See you tomorrow for brunch – got a late night ahead.”  Putting her cell phone down, Eleanor asked "So what did she tell you about him Katy?"

"Well the Romanov bit is an affectation. He's not a real member of the Russian Imperial family like Abigail's grandmother. His real name is Bakhushin, and he's Georgian, not Russian."

"Like Stalin," Eleanor murmured to herself.

"He's been in the US about 8 years, and he traffics in exotic and designer drugs, not the Heroin's, Cocaine's, etc....Means the law has somewhat let him be since they concentrate on those other drugs."

"Is he violent?"

"According to the report I found in Moms desk..."

"Katy what were you doing in her secure files?"

"Hey I was curious."

"Curiosity killed the cat..."

"Be that as it may, he's not been afraid to fight the competition, and eliminate rivals...maybe also some law enforcement."

"Plus he's a paedophile," Eleanor shook her head, "Real nice guy."


Wednesday 18th May

12.45 am


As Vanessa slipped out of the building, she looked round, wondering where her ride home was.  Seeing the flashing headlights, she walked quickly over and got in the back.


“So, how did you…”


“Good evening Alexandra,” Eleanor Ball said as she looked round, “I am taking you and Anna home, and then having a little chat with Katy here.”


“How…  Please, don’t tell mom or Heather…  There is a good reason…”


“I’ve heard it,” Eleanor said as she started the car, “let’s get you all home.  It’s a school night.”


"What did you learn Sands?" Anna asked.

"Other than that he's pretty hopeless at satisfying a girl?"

"Impatient...won't wait for her?"

"Yep," Sands smiled before whispering, "I take it in your past life you..."

"Yeah, you just have to fake it with men like that...useless bastards."

"Much as I'd like to know what that conversation means," Eleanor broke in, "what of use did you find?"

"He has a very large safe behind a very tasteless nude painting."

"Okay," Eleanor made a mental note.  “Anything else?”


“He sleeps with a gun under his pillow – I could feel it.  No idea what type or make, but it’s big.”


“Okay – also useful to know.”


“Oh – and he’s got a funny scar on his shoulder.  Looks like a fish…”


11 am BST

Xavier International, Aldwych, London


“Come in,” Francesca called out as she heard the knock on the door.


"Are you working on the references to potential legal challenges should there be a yes vote to Brexit Francesca?" Hannah asked as she found her boss, a legal note pad on her knees, sitting on the floor consulting a huge volume in front of her.

"Well as much as I'm hoping the British people will not be stupid, we are being paid for our opinions on a potential vote to withdraw." Francesca looked up. "Are you drawing up those adoption papers?"

"Yes," Hannah smiled, "I'm getting Peri to type them up for your approval."

"Thanks..." Francesca scribbled a note on her pad. "Withdrawal would be a legal jungle you know?"

"So I had guessed," Hannah looked at her own notes. "Oh there was a message for you overnight, can you ring Eleanor Ball in New York today?"

"Eleanor?  Did she say why?"

"Only that something devilishly fishy had turned up over there..."

"Now I wonder what that might be?"  Francesca checked her watch and said “Very well – get Peri to place the call at one, will you?”



8 am

The Holiday Inn Express


Eleanor looked at her cell phone as it started vibrating, picking it pu as she said “Captain Eleanor Ball?”


“Captain Ball?  I have the Marchesa di Cambrello for you.”


“Ah – thank you,” Eleanor said as she waited a moment, and then said “Buon pomeriggio, Francesca.”

“Buongiorno, Eleanor.  I trust I find you well this morning?”


“Tired, but well.  Are we secure?”


“Let me put it this way – I am calling from Xavier International.”


“Good – If I said the name Roberto Bakhushin to you?”


“Hmm – a very interesting week in Tiblisi.  Why?”



"Yes,” she heard Francesca laugh, “I was brought in by the Georgian authorities..."

"I thought they had plenty of their own assassins?"

"They do...but again as with so many other things, if you want deniability then you ask another intelligence service for help."

"So why was he in trouble with his own government?"

"His ties to Moscow were becoming too obvious, they wanted him out of the country."

Nodding, Eleanor said "Are you saying he was a Russian Intelligence asset?"

"More the kind of guy they keep funded to keep up trouble in countries they aren't always on the best of terms with."

"So Russian Mafia ties?"

"Loosely, but more importantly a couple of the oligarchs seem to find him shall we say amusing?"

"And why might that be?"

She heard Eleanor pause, and then say "You have heard he has a taste for very young women?"


"Well, so do they…"

"Are you saying,” Eleanor said quietly, “he procured girls for those people?"

"Yes...a lot of very attractive eleven and twelve year olds simply just disappeared while he was still in Tbilisi."

"FUCKER!" Eleanor swore.


"So what was your task?"

"Frighten him out of business and out of the country."

"Were you successful?"

"Oh yes, with the aid of a couple of very brave local youngsters I got him in a sting operation."

"Did you leave your signature on him?"

"Yes," Francesca paused, "you know he was one of my few victims I did actually feel no remorse about hurting."


“I can believe that,” Eleanor said as she thought some things over in her mind.  “So what happened, Francesca?”


"The Georgian secret court I delivered him to gave him 24 hours to leave and never return, or face a firing squad for kidnapping."

"He took the 24 hours I take it?"


"Well he's fetched up here in New York, calls himself Romanov now, and he's in the designer drug business."

"Is he one of our loose ends from Marseilles?"



After a moment’s silence, Francesca said “if I was free to do so, I’d say expect me tonight.  But I cannot – so I give you this piece of advice.


“End it before it gets to the stage where someone like me would be called in.”


"Would he kill to prevent being captured again Francesca?"

"After what I did to him, I think he'd do pretty much anything."

"Damn that means he really is more dangerous than I thought."

"Who is on his trail?"

"My daughter-in-law..."


"Yes - she's doing it off the books, but I'm not sure she had a true assessment of this man when she started."

"Is she in danger?"

"No but I very much think the kid she's used as bait might be.  Thank you Francesca – I may call you later with news.”


“Eleanor, do you need me over there?”


“Oh no,” she said quietly, “this one’s mine…”


As she ended the call, she thought for a moment, and then dialled another number.


“Katherine?  When are you expecting Jan to return home?


“Excellent – I’ll come round and see you then.”


10.30 am

Times Square


Veronica looked up and smiled as Eleanor came over, and sat opposite her in the booth.


“You look like you haven’t slept,” she said as the waitress brought over a coffee.


“Only a couple of hours,” Eleanor said as she started to look at the menu, “it looks as if our work on the date rape drug may not be quite done yet.”


“Yeah – I figured as much when you mentioned Romanov.  He was known to have contacts with the three main suspects, but they haven’t mentioned him.”


“What do your records say?”


“He travels out and into the country once a month…  We suspect he is a kingpin in the designer drug market, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was the lynchpin here, but we come up against the old story.”


“Nothing we can move on officially?”


Veronica nodded as she slipped a USB stick over.  “Do I want to know what you are going to do?”


“I’ll call you later…”


12.45 pm



“So, what do you think she will say when she comes through,” Ingrid said as she stood with Klaus in the arrivals area.


“Well,” Klaus said quietly, “if she has managed to get some sleep, which somehow she manages to do, I imagine she will walk very quietly and demurely towards us, ask how everything is, then suggest she goes home and changes before we visit the hospital.”


“Ah-ha,” Ingrid said with a smile, “and just how likely do you imagine that is going to be?”


“As likely,” Klaus said as he looked at his watch, “as Sigi doing the same when she arrives in a few hours.  We therefore resort to plan B.”


“And plan B is?”


“We drop her and Jan at the hospital, get back and deposit their luggage, and return here to face the second wave.”


“Probably a wise move,” Ingrid said, nodding her head as she saw the doors open, and a very awake Juliette walking through, Jan beside her as she pushed the luggage trolley.


“Hey Moms,” Ingrid said as she looked at the large case, “did you do some shopping over there?”


“Hmm – oh the case?  A loaner from Cathy – I needed something to bring the presents back from everyone.  So, how are things?”


“Oh all right, everything is calm and quiet,” Klaus said with a smile, “so I think we take you back to the apartment and…”




“All right, all right,” he smiled as he looked at his wife, tapping her foot as she stood in a white blouse and blue trouser suit, “Jan, do you need to head home?”


“Oh no – I’m acting as the controlling factor,” Jan said as Juliette hugged Klaus and Ingrid.  “I strongly suggest…”


“I know, I know – come, I will drive you to the hospital, and then take these to the apartment.  We have to be back here at three to collect the next set of arrivals.”




“She, Natalya, Willy and Dieter are in the air,” Sigi said as Klaus took the trolley, “so come – let us take you to the rest of the family.”



2 pm

Mount Pleasant Hospital


“There you go,” Annie said as she fastened Rudi’s baby suit up, and tickled his tummy, while Cari was changing Mags’ nappy.  “I bet that feels a lot better, little one?”


“You’re obviously feeling better, if you’re up and about,” Carina said as she fastened the front of Mags’ Babygro.


“I am – at least I haven’t had to take any painkillers today,” Annie said with a sigh as she looked around the room.  “So when are you expecting…”


“Sorry to interrupt Annie,” Helen said as she looked in, “but are they decent?”


“The babies or me?”  Annie smiled as she said “don’t worry – they’re fed, changed, dressed – and I’m covered up as well.”  She was wearing a loose fitting pair of pyjamas, while Carina was in a short sleeved blouse and skirt.


“Well, now this is a reversal of roles, isn’t it?”


“Hey Mom,” Carina said as she turned round and saw Juliette standing in the door, “how was the flight?”


“Long – but that’s not important right now.  How are you Annie?”


“Healing – so any hugs need to be gentle ones,” Annie said with a smile as she was embraced by Juliette.  “It’s not me you want to see though, is it?”


“With all due respect – no it’s not,” Juliette said as she walked over to the bed.


“Mom – meet Rudi and Mags.  Rudi, Mags – this is your…”




“Hey there little one,” Juliette said as she turned and picked up Judith, Heather standing in the door as they hugged each other.  “I was just meeting your little brother and sister.”


“As I was saying,” Carina said as she took Judith, “Rudi, Mags, this is your grandmother.”


Juliette looked at the two babies as they waved their arms round.  “Well now, you are two very beautiful babies,” she said as she looked at them, “but seriously – red hair?”


“We know, we know,” Annie said with a sigh, “we’ll just have to live with that.”


“I wouldn’t worry – after all, Judith had black hair when she was born,” Juliette said as she took Mags hand.  “So you are Margaret Renate Juliette Natalia?  I’m very pleased to meet you – although I hope you like Mags.”


The newly arrived granddaughter seemed to smile as Juliette said this, and then she let Rudi hold her other finger.  “And then there is Rudolf Klaus Richard Alexander – you are a very special young boy as well.”


He smiled as Juliette leaned over and kissed both of them on the forehead.  “Welcome to the world, little ones – and I see people have sent you lots of flowers and toys as well.”


“Tell me about it – have you been home yet Mom?”


“Nope – I came straight here, and Jan is having a coffee before she comes up.  Why?”


“The study is full – and I mean full.”


“Apparently there’s a lot of stuff at the Village as well, according to my live-in babysitter,” Annie said with a smile. 


“Well, I had to borrow a suitcase to bring back the presents from Cathy, Helen, Marina and Kylie – and Penny.”


“Penny?  Why was Penny in Hong Kong?”


“I’ll tell you somewhere else – but she and Helen have made their bond stronger,” Juliette said with a smile.


“Safe to come in?”


“Yeah – come in, both of you,” Juliette said as she saw Jan beside Heather in the doorway.  “Thanks for helping with looking after Judith Heather.”


“Well, it was me and Jo jointly, but she’s got a meeting with Missy today,” Heather said as Jan looked at the babies.  “You are real beauties, aren’t you,” she said with a smile.


“So are we good with Hong Kong now?”


“Yes we are,” Juliette said quietly in response to Heather’s whispered question.  “Can we gather the ladies tomorrow and I’ll explain everything then?  Today is about these two – and I’m the quiet beginning.”


“Oh?  When do they arrive?”


“In about an hour…”


7.30 pm BST

Odeon Leicester Square, London


“It is quite an occasion,” Maisha said as she walked along the red carpet, with John and Shirley as the crowds cheered and asked for autographs from the arriving actors and actresses.


“Indeed,” John said as he looked at the giant poster at the front of the cinema, showing the group of ladies in their costumes, their backs to the crowds as Cassandra had her head turned and smiled.  “From the reviews in the American press, this is going to be quite an occasion as well.”


“Ladies and Gentlemen,” an announcer called out over the PA, “please welcome Cassandra Stone and Brian Delaney!”


Shirley smiled at the entrance as she saw Cassandra and Brian walk along the carpet, then went in and joined the people waiting inside.




“Hello Charlotte, Piet,” Shirley said in her deep voice as she hugged both of them, “I’m glad you could accept the invitation as well.”


“I know – Mother sends her apologies, but she is dealing with some clients tonight,” Charlotte said with a smile.  “So this is the moment of truth?”


“Indeed – I know some of our American friends were at the premiere last week, but they have not spoiled anything,” John said as JD came over.


“Ah there you are,” Shirley said with a smile as she looked at the young actress, “have you settled in?”


“Yeah – and I need to thank Lily for letting me crash at her place,” JD said with a smile, “I did not want to spend the next few weeks in a hotel.”


“I hear you recorded the Graham Norton show yesterday?”


“Yeah – I went with Cassandra.  Quite an experience…  But we are been called in.  Are you coming to the party afterwards?”


“Cassandra has invited all of us.”


“I’ll see you there – enjoy the movie,” JD said as people started to make their way into the theatre.


3.15 pm

JFK Airport


“Suddenly,” Ingrid said with a smile, “I understand how Susan feels when she’s seeing people off and welcoming them back.”


“True,” Klaus said, “but I cannot shake the feeling…”




Ingrid smiled as she saw Willy push a trolley through, Sigrid almost running beside him as Dieter and Natalya followed.


"Brother,” Sigi said as she quickly kissed him, “I hope you have the car started and ready to go, I literally cannot wait to meet the newest members of the family."

"And it's nice to see you again Sigrid," Klaus laughed.

"Look we can do silly things like greet each other, AFTER I've seen these adorable babies..."

"Has she been like this the entire way Aunt Natalya?" Ingrid kissed her aunt.

"She has..."

"You know my wife...the unstoppable force," Dieter shook his brother-in-law’s hand.

"Now what are we doing standing round here?" Sigi started tapping a foot.


“If I was you, my boy…”


“Of course – this way,” Klaus said as they left the terminal building…


“Right,” Sigi said as she settled back, and they drove out of the car park, "I've asked Francesca to draw up the adoption documents...and you know you can't force Annie to marry Carina brother dearest."

"No,” Klaus said as they moved onto the road, “but I think they'll both realise it’s important that Annie becomes a legal member of our family as well as being one completely in spirit."

"Does New York allow women to marry each other?" Natalya asked.

"It has since 2011...I looked it up," Klaus explained himself.

"Well let me talk to Carina," Natalya smiled to herself, "and you talk to Annie Klaus."

"Why you talk to Carina Aunt?"

"Because I think I might be able to persuade her."

"Sounds like a plan to me," Ingrid called out from the driver’s seat.  "So, how much crap did Lufthansa give you this trip aunt?"

"Not as much as usual Ingrid..."

"Not nearly as much as American Immigration gave me," Dieter interrupted, "I think they thought I was bringing a child into the country for immoral purposes."

"Yet again they had to triple check my passport," Sigi sighed. "You, know one day I'll write a book on the perils of always looking like I'm aged 16."  Shaking herself, she said, “enough already – get me to the hospital now!”


“Okay – don’t say you weren’t warned,” Klaus said as Ingrid pressed down on the accelerator…



3.45 pm

Mount Pleasant


As Carina looked to the door, she smiled and said “And in five…  Four…  Three… Two… One…”


“Right then,” Sigi said as she came in, “where are they?  Where are the babies?”


“Hey Aunt Sigi,” Carina said as the party came in, “and how was the flight?”


“Details, details,” Sigi said as she kissed Annie, “well done you – and keeping it secret from all of us?  Why?”


“To stop us all worrying,” Juliette said as she hugged her sister in law, “Where are the menfolk?”


“Seeking refuge in the cafeteria,” Natalya said as she kissed the proud grandmother.  "So I heard you just got back from Hong Kong Juliette?"

"I did of our biggest suppliers picked the darndest time to have a hissy fit, and Catherine said that only my personal approach could cool him down."

"Which I take it you did?"

"Yes, it was good for the business,” Juliette said, “but worked out lousy timing for Grandmother."

"At least you got back now," Natalya smiled.


“True – and to be greeted by these two…”


“This is Mags, Aunt Sigi,” Carina said as she handed the baby girl over.


"I know that it’s technically impossible, but you know I see both my family, and yours Juliette in them," Sigrid looked up as she rocked Mags in her arms.

"Mags will be a great beauty I think," Juliette smiled as she passed Rudi to Natalya.

"While this young man I think will be a handsome devil," Natalya looked closely, "Look at the set of his jaw, he'll probably be very stubborn as well."

"Oh not another Judith," Annie groaned. "Our daughter can be such a little madam when she wants to be."

"Well we can hope not," Natalya smiled.

"For mine and Carina’s sake let the Goddess hear that please," Annie looked upwards.


“Heather took Judith back to play with the kids for a while, and to pick up Katy and Sands from school,” Annie said, “which means you get them all to yourselves for now.”


“They are truly beautiful,” Natalya said.  "So the future Annie?"


"Well,” Annie said as she sat down, “I have two years left on my teaching contract at St Angela's. Cari has two years left at Yale, so I think until those are both finished that we will needs go on as we have been."

"Who will look after the babies while you are at work?" Sigi looked up.

"George Graham employs the most wonderful nanny,” Carina said, “and he's kindly said that we can drop the babies off and she will care for them along with his daughter."

"Ah, well at least that is practical." Sigi nodded.

"Cari and I will get to play full-time Mommies during holidays and vacations, and most weekends."

"What about this summer?"

"Other than when she's flying to Sydney, Cari's only scheduled a little modeling and most of that is being done in Munich. I'll be with the family all Summer."

"And I can step in while my daughter is away, and spoil them rotten," Klaus laughed as she came in.


“Oh stop worrying about that now,” Willy said as he looked at Rudi, “I am very pleased to meet you, young Rudolf.  Welcome to the world – and you Fraulein Margaret.”


“So when are you been discharged,” Sigi said as she handed Mags to Annie.


“With luck on Friday,” Annie said as she rocked her daughter.


“Good – if that is confirmed, it means we have a welcome party on Saturday,” Sigi said with a grin.


"Frau Strecher sends her personal well wishes Annie," Natalya passed the baby prince back to his mother. "I heard that people on the estates and in our villages are overjoyed as well."

"Who'd of thunk little me giving birth to twins could provoke so much interest," Annie grinned as she looked at Rudi.

"Well talking of interest Jack phoned me earlier," Carina suddenly remembered, "Hello are offering serious money for Mom and Babies we want to let him sell them some...we'd get a cut of what Jack makes."

"That's a bit crass Cari darling..."

"I know Pops,” Carina said, “but at least we'd avoid the paparazzi, who if you didn't noticed have started staking the hospital out."

"I don't like it," Annie breathed deeply, "but get Jack to handle selling pictures Cari darling...I don't want this all being ruined by the press."

"I'll phone him in a minute." Cari nodded.


“Rudi and Terri sent flowers,” Sigi said as she looked round.


“They did indeed – a lot of people have,” Carina said as they looked round.


4 pm

West Central Park


“I’m back,” Jan said as she closed the apartment door, and put her bag down.  “Have you missed me?”


“Like you would not believe,” Katherine said as she came out and hugged her daughter.  “How was the trip?”


“Long and tiring.  Katy?”


“Has gone round to Sands’ house with the rest of the Power Six.  Come in – we were just having coffee.”


“We?”  Jan walked into the main room to see Eleanor sitting there.  “Hello Eleanor?”


“Jan – are the babies as cute as everyone says?”


“They are indeed,” Jan said as she sat down, and Katherine went to the kitchen.  “What brings you here?”


“Oh visiting,” Eleanor said before she whispered “I need to talk to you and Juliette – you may have inadvertently put someone in a great deal of danger.”


“What the…”


“Not here – Katy told me what is going on, before I talked to Doc and Sands.”


“Katy?  Doc?  Eleanor, what the hell happened?”


“Not here – get anyone who needs to be got to a neutral place tonight.”


Nodding Jan said “I’ll call Ju, we can meet at her place.  She knows as well, and Klaus is taking his family out to dinner.”





10.30 pm BST

Odeon Leicester Square


The end credits rolled, and as one the audience stood and applauded, Sheila and John joining in as Brian Goldstein came up onto the stage.


“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he eventually managed to say, “thank you for welcoming our little morality story.  Please, welcome to the stage Cassandra Stone, and the ladies of the Pussycat Gang!”


“I have to admit, as difficult it was to watch that, it was an amazing performance,” Maisha said to Charlotte as they joined in the applause.


“Oh yeah,” Piet said, “and all seven of them are deserving of praise.  It is a true classic in every sense of the word.”


“Thank you everyone,” Cassandra said as the applause died down, “it has been the challenge of my – no, our lives to make this film, and I am so pleased you appreciated the result.  I thank you, we all thank you…”


The theatre applauded again as they left the stage, John saying “so we are going to the party at The Ivy?”


“We are indeed – it should be a fun time.”


“So when do you fly to Italy Charlotte,” Maisha asked as they made their way out.


“Friday night – I have a fun weekend ahead…”


As they stepped out, John and Shirley smiled for the paparazzi as Maisha stayed in the background with Charlotte and Piet.


"Sir John...Lady please," a shutter-snapper called out as John and Shirley awaited their car outside.

"It's still Miss Xavier boys," Shirley laughed as she shook her immaculately coiffed dark auburn hair and showed her left hand. "See no ring."

"Can we get this done with quickly Nick," John smiled at the photographer.

"I'll try John, but hey you've been on this side of the lens yourself."

"I know, I know," John chuckled as they got into the car, the other three joining them.


“That was a little intense,” Maisha said as the car moved off.


“I know – but we can relax now,” Charlotte said as they moved around the square.


11.30 pm BST

The Ivy


The doormen looked at the invites, and then opened the doors to allow the five latest arrivals into the premiere party.


“John my boy,” Stephen Stone said as he came over, “welcome to the party.  You know Paula and Tom of course?”


“Of course I do – how are you both,” John said as he greeted the Duke and Duchess of Lardarn. 


“Shirley Darling – how are you?”


"Hello Will...Mandy," John kissed the Marchioness, "so what did you make of the film?"

"Darling,” Mandy drawled, “it's a classic."

"I hear a but Mandy."

"Well I might like just to have seen the violence turned down a few notches darling.  Having said that, for what I hear of these women, I accept it had to be this way."

"What did you make of it Tom?" Shirley smiled as the Duke of Lardarn kissed her on the cheek.

"Well…  Having been taken prisoner in our own home I suppose Paula and I had a different perspective to you."

"He means that it frightened us both more than a bit...what our American friends call a Nam flashback," the Duchess jumped in. "However I actually was able to put that aside and I did appreciate that it’s a great film."

"What did you think Shirley?" Will asked.

"I got past the violence and just focussed on the acting."

"Yes they were all brilliant."

"Exactly John my love, if Cassandra doesn't win Best Actress it will be a great performance to beat her.”  Shirley said with a smile as the doors opened, and Cassandra came in with Brian, the other six following as the room applauded.


“Uncle Tom, Aunt Paula,” Cassandra said as she came over and kissed them both, “I am so glad you came over to see this.”


“Well you have certainly outdone yourself – both of you,” Paula said as she kissed Cassandra.


“All of us – this is a team piece,” Cassandra said as she kissed Mandy and then looked at Shirley.  “Did you enjoy it?”


“I did - it was a disturbing, but fascinating film,” Shirley said with a smile.  “Excuse me a moment – I would like to talk to JD.”


Shirley made her way over to where JD was standing with Carolina McHugh and Lindsey Fletcher.  “Would you mind if I borrowed JD for a few minutes?  I wish to offer my congratulations personally,” she said, the other two nodding as she took JD to one side.


“I do wish to offer my congratulations,” Shirley said quietly, “I see our faith in you has been fully justified.”


“Thank you Madame,” JD said quietly, “but be assured, I still wish to retain my place in your organization where appropriate.”


“And I welcome that – no matter what may happen.  For now, however, your instructions from Maddie are to rest.  Lily will look after you and make sure you get to the offices for your appointments.”


“Yeah – I understand you wish my help with something else when I am here?”


“We will talk more of that…”


"So I take it you've met JD before Charlotte darling?"  Mandy said as she looked at Shirley talking to the young actress.

"I have Mandy, she works in our LA office, I met her when I was out there last year putting in the new computer system."

"And is it true that the only reason she got an audition was that Maddie asked Cassie to see her as a favour to her?" asked Tom.

"So I hear."

"Well thank god that Maddie did so," Paula Lardarn smiled, "the girl is wonderful in the role."


“Cassandra darling,” Brian said as he came over, “I thought you might like to see what we have been given to hand to the guests tonight.”


“Empire Magazine?”  Cassandra looked at the cover, showing her as Miss Panther with the headline “Crime so bad, you have to watch.”


“Well, you have made the cover darling,” Eve said as she hugged her daughter, “congratulations.”


“What does their review say?”


“You can read it later – but you know they do this interest graph, plotting how much the film engages them?”




“Have a look – page 41.”


Cassandra flipped to the page and looked at it, then handed it to her parents.


“You mean the graph…”


“Never falls into the boring part – and they praise the realism and the way everything is presented.  We’ll get the other reviews for the papers tomorrow, before they go to print on Friday.”



7.30 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment


“Hello Jan,” Klaus said as he let the FBI agent come in, “so you and Juliette need to discuss something from the trip?”


“It’s all right,” Juliette said as she came through, “I know I would love to have dinner with the others, but with Carina taking Judith to see Susan and April, we get the house to ourselves for a couple of hours.”


“Well, we should not be too long,” Klaus said as he went to see if Ingrid was ready.


"So what news on the Sands front?" Juliette whispered to Jan.

"You don't want to know Ju," Jan rolled her eyes, "but at least they've made progress without us."

"But what don't I want to know?  And why did you want to meet with me and Grace tonight?"

"Because,” Jan said quietly, “my dearest daughter was spying on her best friend, and she made executive decisions to let Doc....and then her Grandmother Ball in on the secret."

"Oh CRAP!"

"Well the good thing is we know all three of them are motivated and can keep secrets, but beyond getting invited back to his apartment and having sex with him, Sands has made little progress cracking his secrets."


“And let me guess – Eleanor has information and an opinion to impart?”


Jan slowly nodded as Ingrid and Klaus came back to pick up their coats.  “See you later Moms,” Ingrid said as they waved and made their way out.




“Oh yes,” Jan said, “I’ll save anything else for later…”  As they walked through, Juliette said “so how the heck did this happen?”


“From what Katy told me, Sands got an invite to meet the target alone.  We were away, so she called Grace to ask advice – and Katy got suspicious…”


“So she listened in, realised what was happening…”


“And understood why.  She then tapped Doc to provide backup while Sands met Romanov – and by sheer bad luck, Eleanor was at the club.  Having said that,”

Jan said before she took a drink of the coffee, “she did some digging.  We need to bring this to a quick conclusion.”




“She’ll tell you,” Jan said as the doorbell rang, Juliette leaving and returning with Grace.  “Hey – thanks for coming round.”


“What’s happened,” Grace said as she accepted a coffee.


“Things have happened in our absence.”


“I know – Katy found out and offered to help last night, but…”


“Others know – so get yourself ready,” Jan said, “because we are about to get the professional opinion.”  She went to answer the doorbell, Ju and Grace hearing her say “you made it – thanks for coming,” before she reappeared with Eleanor Ball.


“Grace, Juliette,” Eleanor said as she took her coat off.  “Is this everyone Jan?”


“We’re taking the adult responsibility,” Jan said quietly as Juliette handed Eleanor a mug of coffee.  “Take a seat, Eleanor.”


“Okay,” Eleanor said as she looked at the other three.  “Let me tell you what I know.  To help get revenge for her friend Laura, Sands agreed to become a pre-teen lure for one Roberto Romanov, to try and get information that could lead to his arrest as the kingpin of the date rape supply line.  Have I got that right?”


As all three nodded, Eleanor said “Okay – start at the beginning, explain everything to me…”





“Well, that’s everything we know about,” Jan finally said, “but I have to remind you, Sands agreed to doing this.  What I…  None of us expected is how it played out, but once it was started, we had to let it play out.”


Eleanor raised an eyebrow and nodded, before she said “Well, I have to admit as a plan it had merit – but I’ve been doing a little digging since then.  You had no way of knowing, but Mister Romanov has history – a bad history.  And then there is, for want of a better word, collateral damage.”


“Fergus and Holly?”


Eleanor nodded in response to Jan’s comment.


"What's your opinion Grace,” Juliette said.  “Fergus has to a large extent served his purpose...Should we let him and Holly in on the secret?"

"I'm thinking so Ju...”  Grace rubbed her eyes as she said “He's racking himself with guilt...I know he'll maybe need a little therapy, but I think it’s time he knew what has been going on."

"I agree," Eleanor nodded, "you were very bad using him like that Jan, Grace, and I expected better from you Juliette."

"It had to be as secret and as realistic as possible to work Eleanor," Jan tried to half smile.

"Well it was too darn real. Poor Fergus has been abused terribly...and Holly really was an innocent bystander..."

"Yeah,” Juliette said, “but she has a thing for Sands it seems it seems just like Sands has for her."

"Well that's something for her mother and Heather to sort out...Now" Eleanor paused, "let's work out how we bring all this mess to a successful end?"


“Just how dangerous can it get, Eleanor?”


“Seriously?  We need Sands to do it one more time, but this time she gets some proper help.  You say she identified a safe in his apartment?”


Grace nodded as Eleanor said “okay – let’s see if we can get it set up for a couple of days’ time, and in the meantime we get Fergus and Holly off the hook.”


“And what are we going to do,” Juliette asked.


“This is my bulwark, ladies – let me deal with it,” Eleanor said quietly.  “But I will tell you the general idea of what we’ll do.  Better if you don’t know the specifics.”


“But it will end the threat?”


“It will end the threat – and after that, you need to tell Sandy and Heather what’s been going on.”


“Agreed,” Grace said as she looked up.


“Does anyone want some more coffee,” Jan said as she stood up.


“I’ll give you a hand,” Grace said as she followed Jan into the kitchen.  Juliette looked at Eleanor, before she said “I know you’re worried – so were we.”


“Well, it can be managed – but it does need to end quickly,” Eleanor said quietly.   “Juliette – the way you and Jan put this together…”


“Yes Eleanor?”


"Juliette,” Eleanor said as she leaned forward in a low voice, “if I was to ask 'are you a sister?'. What would your answer be?"

"That I am," Ju whispered, "but that Grace isn't."

"I guessed as much...and you knew I was?"

"No,” Juliette said with a smile, “but we rarely do know who other sisters are?"

"I take it that Jan...?"

"Since the slave liberation operation...Yes, but you can't tell her you know that Eleanor?"

"I know.  Similarly, I cannot say I am – I get used for rather…  Delicate operations."


“I am aware of the group, but your secret is safe with me,” Juliette said with a smile.  “So how dangerous is he?”


“A fellow sister had cause to have dealings with him some years ago in his native Georgia.  I consulted with her – her message was Finish The Job.”








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