Comings and Goings – part 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday 23rd August

Midnight local time

The Compound, training centre for the Sisters of Maisha

 

Liz sat next to Sunburst in the circle that surrounded the sixteen women, ranging in age from sixteen to fifty, they in turn surrounding Helga.

 

“All of you,” she said as she walked round the group, “have learned from us, shared with us, and now you are ready to carry on the fight for us.  I could not be prouder of you – all of you – and of what you have become.  The time has now come for you to speak the oath, as all before you have done, and all who come after you will do.  As I have done, and as the first did.

 

“When she addressed those who were freed, the Strength told them that they would be supported by the women who freed them, and they should trust them.  Do you now swear to be supported by your sisters, to support each other, and to trust them and each other?”

 

“We do so swear,” the group said as one.

 

“She told them that the women who had freed her and The Heart from their bondage did this from a sense of natural justice, so do you now swear to show that same sense of natural justice?”

 

“We do so swear.”

 

“She also told them that she had slain the tyrant who had caused her to suffer, and told them to tell their daughters and their daughters’ daughters.  So do you swear to spread that message to your daughters, and their daughters and all those who need to hear?”

 

“We do so swear.”

 

“Will you swear to seek out those who will threaten the innocents, and bring them to the same justice the Strength demonstrated?”

 

“We do so swear.”

 

“And to you who watch,” Helga said as she looked outside the inner circle, “will you also follow in their footsteps?”

 

“WE WILL” Liz called out with the others.

 

“Then in the name of The Heart and The Strength, I charge you to go forth, fight alongside your fellow sisters, and protect those who cannot fight back.  May you know success, and may you know peace as you do your work.”

 

The outer group cheered as all sixteen women grinned in the firelight.

 

“All of you,” Helga said, “will be going to join our group on the border with Mogola.  The time is coming to strike a decisive blow against those who threaten our sisters and their families there, and your presence is needed.    You will go, with supplies, in two of the helicopters that have arrived, and go with the blessing of Little Mother as well.  The Leader has been informed, and waits to welcome you.”

 

“I understand she is the one who escorted you and that Piet fella in,” Sunburst whispered to Liz.

 

“She did – she is an exceptional leader, like her grandfather and his father before him.”

 

“Yea, she is at that,” Sunburst said as Helga said “For now, let us celebrate, that these, your sisters, are ready to go out, and also that your training continues, so one day you will join them.”

 

 

 

 

 

11 am

The Village

 

“This is a fascinating place,” Sarah Nightingale said as she walked along the street with Grace Brand and Harriet Craig.  Wearing a blue sweatshirt and jeans with a blue and white bandana over her hair, she seemed part of the local scene already.

 

Harriet was yawning as she stretched, looking round through her glasses at the people moving round.  She was as casually dressed, with a sleeveless green jerkin over a white top and cream coloured trousers, while Grace had on a short sleeved blouse and shorts.

 

“Is it always this warm,” Harriet said quietly.

 

“It’s cool now – you should have been here earlier in the month – but trust me, come January, you’ll be wishing it was like this,” Grace said as they stopped outside a brownstone.  Ringing the doorbell, they waited a moment before a thin blonde haired woman came in.

 

“Hello Grace – this must be Sarah and Harriet,” Annie said as she looked at them, “come on up.”

 

“Hey,” Caroline said as she came out of the kitchen, “welcome to your new neighbourhood.”

 

“Thanks,” Grace said as they came in.  Annie and Caroline were both wearing sweatshirts and joggers, as they hugged the three new arrivals.

 

“Girls, you remember Caroline Jameson from the London show, but this is Annie Kelly, Caroline’s roommate and our fellow teacher.  Annie, meet Sarah and Harriet.”

 

“Pleasure – how’s the jet lag?”

 

“Not too bad,” Hattie said, “we stayed up late last night, and woke up as normal this morning.”

 

“Best way of dealing with it,” Caroline said as she went into the kitchen, returning with some mugs of coffee.  “Ama should be back soon – she went to get some fresh bread and pastries.”

 

As if on cue, the apartment door opened and closed, and the fifteen-year-old African girl came up the stairs, wearing a New York Red Bulls strip and trainers.

 

“Oh hello,” she said as she came into the room, “it is nice to see you again, Mrs. Brand.”

 

“And you Ama – Sarah, meet the star of your football team.”

 

Ama looked at Sarah, and said, “So you must be Miss Nightingale, and you must be Mrs. Craig.  Welcome to New York – shall I put these on some plates Mom?”

 

“Please do,” Caroline said as Ama went to the kitchen, and then she looked at Sarah and Harriet.  “Ama is my adopted daughter – a story for later,” she said before she sipped her coffee.

 

“So are you looking forward to going back to school, Ama,” Grace said as she came back with the pastries on some plates, and some napkins.

 

“Very much so, but Mom and I need to go and get some uniform next week,” Ama said with a smile as she sat down.

 

“The hazard of growing teenagers,” Caroline said with a smile, “there’s going to be a steady stream to Saks all week, I think.”

 

“Before I forget,” Grace said as she picked up a Danish, “Wilhelmina and I have asked Annie here to be a kind of mentor for you over the next few weeks.  She’ll take you through the differences in work practices and so on.”

 

“On which note,” Caroline said as she stood up and went to the bureau, opening a drawer and taking out an envelope, “your Green Cards.  Mother sent them to me yesterday.”

 

“Mother?”

 

“Model talk – but at least you can legally work here now,” Grace said with a laugh. 

 

“So you teach mathematics, Annie?”

 

“That’s right – and you’ll hear this anyway, but I’m also the partner of a former pupil, Carina Huntingdown.”

 

“The Illux girl?”  Harriet took off her glasses and looked at them, before putting them back on and saying “None of my business really.”

 

“Mine neither,” Sarah said.

 

“That’s what I hoped you’d say,” Annie said as she relaxed.  “So, we’ll take you round the block later and show you round, but right now, let’s just have some food.”

 

“So what s going to happen this week,” Harriet said as she sipped her coffee.

 

“Well, Monday to Wednesday is preparation – then Thursday and Friday the freshmen come in, with the head girls, so they have a chance to settle before the main hoard descends on Monday week.”  Annie sipped her coffee, before she said “so enjoy the peace while you can…”

 

“But not this afternoon,” Ama said quietly.  “When we are finished here, and you return home, I must ask Miss Nightingale if she will come to the rec ground.  I have asked some of the team to meet for a kickabout, and I would be honored if you would act as referee.”

 

“Sure – gives me a chance to stretch my legs,” Sarah said, “just tell me where.”

 

 

 

 

2 pm

The Richmond Mansion

 

“Well, I guess the holiday really is nearly over,” Jo said as she carried the bags into the hallway, Heather nodding as Little Sandy and George ran past them.

 

“It’s not over yet though – we’ve got a few days still,” Heather said as they walked into the kitchen, John bringing the rest of the bags in as Sandy and Nessa joined them.

 

“Indeed,” Sandy said as she put her arm round Jo’s shoulders, “let’s make this an incredible time – provided you have slots in your busy social schedule?”

 

“I have to do some shopping, but I can spare some time,” Jo said with a grin.

 

“Right – let’s get unpacked, sort some dinner out – and then we can plan for the rest of the week.”

 

 

 

 

Noon PT

Victoria

 

Looking out of the window of her suite, across the harbor, Maddie smiled to herself,  There was something about the old world charm of the legislature building, and the city centre, that appealed to the girl from Yorkshire who grew up visiting York and the Dales. 

 

“Amazing – that there can be so much British so near to the border,” she said to herself as the door opened and closed.

 

“Maddie?”

 

“Oh, sorry Lucia,” Maddie said as she turned round, “just losing myself in the view.  Have a seat.”

 

As Lucia sat down, Maddie poured coffee and passed a cup over.  “So what do you think, Lucia,” Maddie said as she sat down.

 

“They all grow stronger each day,” Lucia said as she sipped her coffee.  “One or two of the older ones still need further supplements, but by and large they are eating normally, and putting on weight again.  The antibiotics seem to have worked in the sense of preventing any further infection, and their wounds are drying nicely.  So physically, getting better.”

 

“If only it were that simple,” Maddie said quietly.  “My girls have told me of the screams, and how the women are coming together to support each other.”

 

“The injuries to their psyches and their minds – those will take much longer, and are outside my area of expertise.”

 

“I know, and I’m grateful for all you have done for me and Shirley, Lucia.  You and your staff are performing a miracle here.”

 

“Who…  What manner of man would do this to someone,” Lucia said quietly.

 

“The worst kind,” Maddie said as there was a knock on the door, and Marigold came in.  The teacher was looking much healthier, and was now wearing a blouse and skirt as well as flat shoes.

 

“Marigold – is there a problem?”

 

“Not with my fellow travelers, no – I wished to talk to both of you of something.”

 

“Of course – what is it?”

 

“You have been very kind to me and the others, and I wish to repay this in my own way.  You said you represent those who brought down Old Man Kimba?”

 

“That is correct,” Maddie said as she looked at the woman.

 

“And is it your intention to bring down the Oriental bastards who did this to us?”

 

“As surely as we dealt with those who tormented you on the voyage, yes.”

 

“Then you need someone who knows the area to help you – I wish to return to my homeland to help you.”

 

Maddie and Lucia looked at the teacher, who said “there is another in the group – Nuala – who has recovered sufficiently to speak, and can speak English.  If you allow me to go and help, she can take my place.”

 

 

“Marigold are you sure that you are up to doing this?” Maddie asked the teacher.

 

“Yes, thanks to you and Doctor Lucia I am a lot better, and you need someone there on the ground who both knows the area and the language. Our dialect is quite hard you know?”

 

“So a friend of mine tells me,” Maddie said with a smile.

 

“I’ve added weight, I’m far healthier, and I need to strike back.”  Marigold looked at them as she stated “I can do this.”

 

Maddie looked at the African teacher for a second.

 

“I both want…and need to do this.”

 

“Lucia?”

 

“She can survive the journey, so long as she eats and rests on the plane.”

 

“Okay Marigold.” Maddie sat up straight. “I’ll make the arrangements, we will fly you to London, and from there to Johannesburg. Our representatives there will try to get you to the person leading the assault on the devils.”

 

“I ask and want no more than that,” Marigold said as she walked backwards from the room.

 

“There are others who feel as she does, aren’t there?”

 

“More than you can imagine Lucia – on which note, I must return to LA myself soon.  I will leave my girls here to supervise and help under your instruction.”  Standing up, she said “When this is done, you must come to New York with me, and meet with Shirley again.  I am sure she will want to see you too.”

 

“I would enjoy that as well – let’s set that up.”

 

 

5.30 pm

The Village

 

Grace picked up another of the boxes and carried it through to her room as Harriet carried the paper bags into the kitchen.

 

“So what did you manage to pick up for dinner tonight,” Grace called out as she passed the door.

 

“I managed to get some chicken breast fillets, and a few veg – so one chicken casserole on the way,” Harriet said as she put the carrots and onions on the chopping board.

 

“Right – I’ll be sorting the rest of my clothes out,” Grace said as she headed into her bedroom, Harriet smiling as she started a CD and hummed along while preparing the food.

 

The sound of the apartment door opening and closing made her put the knife down, and look into the main room as the footsteps came up the stairs.

 

“Well?” Harriet asked as Sarah came in wearing her tracksuit.

 

“Well,” Sarah said as she came in the kitchen, taking a bottle of water from the fridge, “the reviews on Ama if anything underestimate her talent. She can more then play a bit. Pepsi will be a good solid tackler and defender, and some of the other squad members they invited over aren’t too bad either.”

 

“So it doesn’t sound like a hopeless cause?”

 

“Not at all.”  Sarah took a drink, and then put the cap on the bottle.  “They need some structure, and maybe some positional changes, but I can see grounds for hope.”

 

“Well,” Harriet said as she picked up the knife again, “you go grab a shower, I’ll continue with making dinner.”

 

“Okeydoke,” Sarah said as she headed to her room, Harriet humming to herself as she found a large pan and started to heat the oil.

 

Twenty minutes later, Grace came out of her room and took a long sniff.  “That does smell good – what did you put in it?”

 

“Wild garlic and tarragon,” Harriet called out, “I’m slicing some of those potatoes up to sauté.”

 

“Looking forward to it – did I hear Sarah come in?”

 

“In the shower,” Harriet replied as the front door bell rang.  Heading down the stairs, she opened the door to see a tall, dark haired woman standing there.

 

“Can I help you?”

 

“Hello Grace,” the woman said with a slight accent, “I’m Ingrid Muller, I teach German at St Angela’s.”

 

“And from what I remember make a very sexy pinup model.” Grace laughed as the blonde teacher blushed slightly.

 

“Well we all tried hard…”

 

“And John Hammond made you all look amazing.”

 

“Thank you.” Ingrid smiled.

 

“Come on up,” Grace said as she stood to one side, “although you will have to forgive the state of disarray – we’re still unpacking at the moment.”

 

“I understand – it took me some weeks to get sorted when I first moved to the city.”  As they went into the main area, she looked round and said, “this is a nice apartment.  All three of you will be living here?”

 

“That’s right – so, what can I do for you Ingrid?”

 

“Wilhelmina asked me to drop by with these.” Ingrid pulled a sheath of papers from her bag.

 

“Okay classroom assignments, teaching times, etc, etc.” Grace glanced quickly. “I’ll look properly later and share with Harriet and Sarah.”

 

“I look forward to meeting them.”

 

“Can I offer you a coffee Ingrid…I have real Turkish?”

 

“You do? I think I ought to drop by more often,” the German woman laughed.

 

“Well I know how bad American coffee is…As Europeans we know better.”

 

“True…So where are my new colleagues?”

 

“Come through and meet one of them now,” Grace said as they went into the kitchen.  “Ingrid, this is Harriet Craig, chemistry and jazz.  Harriet, Ingrid Muller, German and bringer of our schedules.”

 

“Hey,” Harriet said as they shook hands, “forgive me if I continue to chop.”

 

“I’m making coffee – want some?”

 

“Sure, if it’s the proper stuff,” Harriet said as Sarah appeared in the doorway, drying her hair.

 

“Visitors?”

 

“Sarah, this is Ingrid Mueller.  Ingrid, Sarah Nightingale, English Lit and soccer coach.  She was looking at some of the St Angela’s team play earlier.”

 

“Nightingale?  Didn’t you play in the Ladies European Championship five years ago?”

 

“Yeah – don’t tell me you’re related to Hanna Mueller?”

 

“My younger sister – she spoke highly of you.  I think you are going to do very well here, Sarah.”

 

“Well, let me get changed, and we can all have coffee together,” Sarah said as she headed to her room.

 

 

 

7 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment

 

“Hey Jude,” Carina said as she opened the door, “what brings you here tonight?”

 

“Looking for worthy supporters to spend money on concert tickets,” Judy said as she waved a set of tickets in her hand.

 

“Aunt Jud,” Judith said as she walked over, holding her hands up.

 

“Hey little one,” Judy said as she handed Cari the tickets, and picked the little girl up, “are you ready to go and see all your friends in the nursery again?”

 

Judith nodded as Cari looked at her.  “Come on you,” her mother said as she took the child, “bath time.  If you want to sell tickets, the money is in there.”

 

“By by Aunt Jud,” Judith said as she waved at Judy while Carina carried her up the stairs, and she opened the door.

 

“Knock Knock.” Judy called out as she entered the drawing room. “I’m here to relieve you of some of your cash.”

 

“What?” Klaus asked in surprise as he looked up from the seat.

 

“I’m selling tickets for my concert.”

 

“Oh now I get it.” Klaus smiled. “Well I’ll take 8 please.”

 

“Are you sure?” Judy asked a trifle in amazement.

 

“Juliette and myself, Ingrid and Adam, Carina and Annie, Sigi and Dieter…” Klaus said as he counted on his fingers, “yes I’m quite sure.”

 

“I hope they know what you are letting them in for.” Judy giggled.

 

“An evening of fine music and entertainment – and a chance to visit Ingrid in Princeton,” Juliette said as she came in.  “Where’s David tonight, Judy?”

 

“He’s seeking willing attendees in other avenues – Park Avenue to be precise…”

 

 

7.30 pm

Park Avenue

 

“Of course I will purchase some tickets,” Shirley said as she stood up, “just let me find my cheque book.”

 

“Thank you Shirley,” David Fitzstuart said with a smile, “I hoped you would come as well.”

 

Coming back with her purse, she sat down and picked up a pen, starting to write.

 

“Well did Jack enjoy his summer job David?”

 

“I think so…getting a conjugal visit from Pepsi of course helped.”

 

“I suspected it might.” Shirley smiled.

 

“I think he learned some practical skills, and Billy says his French is now a lot better. Dad says that after horse manure, Jack has even stopped complaining about the pigs.”

 

“Well,” Shirley said as she tore the paper free, “I’ve written a cheque and made it payable as you said.”

 

“And here are your tickets…You know with so many friends of Judy’s coming to the concert I think we can perhaps sell out?”

 

“Oh I’m pretty sure you can David. Judy is delightful, talented, and so very well liked.”

 

Looking up, she saw John come in, his nose deep in a book of vintage fashion photographs.

 

“Good evening Mr. Hammond,” David said as John walked past.

 

“Hello David,” the reply came as John sat down, not looking up.

 

“John?”

 

He looked up at Shirley, then at David, before he said “Oh – sorry, but when I get into research I tend to develop tunnel vision.  Take a look at this photo.”

 

He showed them a photo of a line of women, dressed in fifties fashion, the Flatiron Building in the background.

 

“Nice picture – who are they?”

 

“The crème de la crème of fashion in the fifties,” John said, “and I want to recreate that.  Can’t you see Abby there, and Cari next to Holly in the middle?”

 

“Hmm – I see what you’re thinking, but you have less than a week to get the likes of Jo, Maggie and Marnie in this.”

 

“Oh I won’t get it done this week,” John said, “this is a research week…”

 

 

Monday 24th August

9.30 am

Complete Style Magazine

 

Janine and Alexis looked up as Juliette came into the office, Marina looking over as she looked round.

 

“Ten minutes ladies,” she said as she went into her office, Marina going to join them.

 

“She seems to have recovered from the party at any rate,” Jeanne said with a smile.  “Got your tickets sorted?”

 

“Yup - we’re all on the same flight.”

 

“Did I hear Helen was away for most of last week?”

 

“Yeah – she had to go to Europe on business, but she’s back now.  She’ll pop in before we go to say goodbye.”

 

“Janine, Alexis – in here please.”

 

The two girls looked at each other, Marina smiling and shaking her head as they went in.

 

“Close the door,” Juliette said as she sat behind her desk, glancing through some papers.  As Alexis closed the door, Janine coughed and said “Problem, Ju?”

 

“Hmm,” she said as she sat back and looked at both of them, before breaking into a big smile.

 

“Girls you are miracle workers.” Juliette smiled at her assistants. “I take a summer vacation, then come back and find this office has functioned perfectly without me.”

 

“Thank you.” Janine smiled, “but if you’d seen the chaos last week.”

 

“Janine, chaos and you are two concepts that never go together.”

 

“Again Thank You.”

 

“Now just don’t tell Anna that I’m dispensable, else I’ll be looking for a new job.” Juliette laughed.

 

“Promise.” Janine smiled again.

 

“Okay so what is on my schedule?”

 

“Well,” Janine glanced at her notes, “An editorial meeting to discuss the homage issue, then Merlin wants to see you, after that you need to sign a pile of correspondence, and to finish the morning Cassandra Stone is dropping in to take you out to lunch.”

 

“Sounds good.” Juliette smiled though she was quaking at the thought of her conversation with Cassie.  “Alexis, John Hammond called me this morning – he needs a research assistant to help him this week.  I know it may sound like archive work again, but I suggested you for the job.”

 

“No problem Juliette – it would be an honour to work with him, if Janine can spare me.”

 

“I can manage for a week,” Janine said.

 

“Good – he's expecting you at his studio at eleven.  Right – editorial meeting?”

 

“In the boardroom.”

 

“And away we go,” Juliette said as she left the office.

 

“Summer’s over, isn’t it?”

 

“Oh yes,” Janine said as she looked at Alexis.  “Come on – I’ve got John’s address.”

 

 

10 am

St Angela’s

 

 

“Good morning everyone,” Wilhelmina Tennant said as she came into the teacher’s lounge, “I trust I find you all rested and ready to get back to work – at least those of you who are late back?”

 

“Did we just get burned,” Tom Brady said as the room laughed.

 

“Right – first things first.  For those of you who have not heard yet, we have finally after a gap of two years appointed a Dean of Students.  Please welcome formally Grace Brand.”

 

“Hi everyone,” Grace said as she sat, wearing a jacket and skirt with a camisole top, “I look forward to getting to know all of you over the next few weeks.”

 

“Grace will also be taking the sophomore Spanish class this year, the language faculty will find their schedules adjusted accordingly.  We also welcome two new teachers – Sarah Nightingale for English Literature, and Harriet Craig for Chemistry.  They still need a little time to adjust, but feel free to welcome both of them as well.”

 

Both women blushed as there was a round of applause in the room.

 

“Right – onwards, as they say.  This year’s freshmen class arrives on Thursday, and we need to be ready for them.  Homeroom leaders, I have booked time with each of you to talk with me, Kate and Grace today to identify potential issues.  Everyone else, prepare your study plans for September.  Harriet, your supplies have arrived and need to be stored.”

 

“On it,” Harriet said as she looked up.

 

“We will also be adding a few new after-school activities, which you will find detailed in your pre-semester plans.  If any wishes to join in the organization, feel free.  Annie, Alicia, winter training?”

 

“Commences next Wednesday, Wilhelmina.”

 

“Excellent – now, as is traditional Annabelle, Rachel and Letty as Head Girls will join us on Thursday and Friday, but we have also asked Abigail and Jeannie to call in on Thursday afternoon, to talk to the new girls about the Jamie Kirkham fund.”

 

The room nodded in agreement as Kate said “Right – to work, ladies and gentlemen.  Lots to get done still…”

 

 

1 pm

The Tavern on The Park

 

Cassandra looked up and smiled as Juliette came in, walking across and joining her at the table.  The young actress was wearing a soft black leather jacket over her red jersey dress, her black boots hugging the shape of her legs.

 

“Thanks for meeting me today,” she said as Juliette sat down, “I wanted to touch base with you before we head back to LA later this afternoon.”

 

“So what did Brian think of the script,” Juliette said as she accepted the menu from the waiter.

 

“He was stunned – but he loved it, so we’re now into final casting, and start rehearsals next week.  I think we may have a real modern classic on our hands.”

 

She then leaned over and said “and I have you to thank for that, Juliette.”

 

They were sitting in a corner table, with a lot of others sitting round, as Juliette said “I don’t know whether to thank you or take you somewhere quiet.”

 

“Would it help if I said I’m not sure what you should do either?”

 

“Let’s eat,” Juliette said as the waiter came over, “and then we can go for a walk – and talk.”

 

 

 

“You know, I forget how beautiful this place is in the late summer,” Cassandra said as the two women walked through Central Park, “and just how normal everyone is in it.  It doesn’t have that plasticity you see sometimes in tinsel town.”

 

“I guess that is one of the things I love about this city,” Juliette said as she looked at the young woman.  “So, I guess there are things you want to ask me.”

 

“Surprisingly, no – not in the way you think,” Cassandra said, “I’m just amazed it’s you.”

 

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Juliette said with a smile, “but at the same time, what would you do if you were me and I was you?”

 

Cassandra thought for a moment, and then said “I really don’t know – but I’d love to find out.”

 

“You want in, Cassandra, you need to know there are things you will find out you may not like – are you sure you want to do this?”

 

“To get that feeling of elation and power again – oh yes…”

 

Juliette smiled and said “look – for now, please, concentrate on the film, and direct your considerable talents to that.  In the meantime, I’m going to put you in touch with someone, based in LA, who can offer you some further advice.”

 

“And after that?”

 

“After that,” Juliette said as they stopped by the lake, “when you’re filming back here, we can talk again.  It gives me a chance to talk to the others, sound them out, but until then we have to trust each other.”

 

“You never find it easy to trust do you?”

 

“I trust those I trust,” Juliette said, “and I feel I can trust you.”

 

“Can’t ask for more that that,” Cassandra said with a smile. 

 

“One thing though – if we do this, you become Miss Sidhe.”

 

“Cat Sith?  I can live with that…”

 

 

2 pm

Saks, 5th Avenue

 

“Hello Louise,” Diana said as she walked into the schools supply department with Abigail, “here we are again.”

 

“Good afternoon Countess – a pleasure to see you again, if sadly for the last time.  Abigail – you’ve grown an inch or two again, haven’t you?”

 

Abby shrugged her shoulders as she said “I guess so – so for one last time…”

 

“Long blazer, but not necessarily in a small size,” Louise said as she looked at the model, “let me get a couple for you to try.”

 

“Hey BS,” Abby said as Jeannie wheeled herself in, Barbara and John following her, “here to get the new clothes?”

 

“Oh yes – another lovely year in…”

 

“MOM – I look horrible in this!”

 

The two of them looked over to a young dark haired girl who was looking at herself in the uniform, turning from side to side.

 

“Now Poppy – it could be worse, and red does seem to suit you.”

 

“I still think it looks horrible.”

 

“Now you know it is you that makes the clothes, not the clothes you…”

 

“Hello Philippa,” Diana said as the quartet came over, “and is that Poppy?  My goodness, she has grown.”

 

Pippa Ashley turned and smiled as she said “Diana – how long has it been?”

 

“A few years certainly – so Poppy starts at St Angela’s this week?”

 

“She does indeed – Abby is a Senior this year, correct?”

 

“Correct – so they will see each other there.”

 

Poppy was staring at Abby and Jeannie, as the wheelchair bound girl smiled and said “Okay – which one of us is showing her knickers?”

 

“Sorry – it’s just strange to see you two here, buying school uniform.”

 

“We’re just kids as well,” Jeannie said as Louise brought two jackets over, “even if one of us is abnormally tall.”

 

“Har de har,” Abby said as she tried one jacket on.  “It’s a bit tight, Louise.”

 

“I agree – try this one.”

 

Diana nodded as Abby put on the second blazer and said “that is a much better fit darling.  We’ll take that Louise – and now the rest of the clothing I presume.”

 

“Miss Brewster, if you would come with me,” one of the assistants said as a second one walked towards another mother and daughter.  Diana looked at them – the mother in a grey sweatshirt and jeans, the fourteen year old daughter in a v-necked jumper, denim shorts and leggings, looking round as if they had never been in the place before.  Both were African American, and turned suddenly as the assistant said “can I help you, Mrs…?”

 

“It’s Miss – Miss Denice Burton,” the mother said.  “This is my daughter Erica – St Angela’s said we were to call here today for a fitting?”

 

“Ah yes – Erica Burton, the Jamie Kirkham scholar.  Right this way, please…”

 

“So that’s the second Kirkham girl after Anna,” Barbara whispered to Diana.  “She looks as lost as I was last year.”

 

“Agreed – shall we introduce ourselves?”

 

“I think we should,” Barbara said as they walked over to the young woman.

 

“Excuse me,” Diana said, “But we could not help overhearing, and wanted to introduce ourselves.”

 

The woman turned and stared at them, and said “You’re here with Abigail de Ros and Jeannie Brewster?”

 

“Hi I’m Barbara Brewster, Jeannie’s mum, and Diana here is Abby’s.” Barbara introduced herself.

 

“I’m Denice.”  She smiled as she shook their hands and said “It’s nice to meet you.”

 

“So is your daughter looking forward to St Angela’s?” Diana asked.

 

“Yes and no…”

 

“Oh,” Barbara said, “why?”

 

Denice looked round and whispered “because it’s such a posh school and she’s a black kid from a housing project.”

 

“But,” Barbara said, “she arrives with the prestige of having won the Kirkham, that gives her instant status and celebrity.”

 

“It does?”

 

“Certainly,” Diana smiled and continued. “If she does half as well as Anna Carlton is doing she will be a true adornment to the school.”

 

“And Diana speaks as chair of the Board of Trustees.” Barbara smiled.

 

“So scholarship girls don’t get looked down on at St Angela’s?”

 

“Not that I’ve ever noticed.” Barbara looked at Jeannie making a face in a mirror. “Jeannie’s little posse includes two girls on scholarships, three who aren’t, and herself…and she’s paying her own way through school.”

 

“Are there many other single moms?”

 

“Both Barbara and I are widows. We both lost our husbands in car crashes.”

 

“Oh I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to pry.”

 

“It is not a problem – it happened a long time ago in my case, and Jeannie is a very strong young woman.”

 

“We know plenty of other single mothers with connections to the school. So don’t think that is a problem.” Barbara nodded.

 

“Just a warning, watch out for that little madame.” Diana discreetly pointed towards Poppy. “According to some friends daughters she has a very high opinion of herself, and I’ve known her mother long enough to suspect Pippa indulges and spoils her.”

 

“Okay I’ll pass on the warning.” Denice smiled. “Anyone else I should tell her about?”

 

“First, look at your daughter,” Barbara said as Erica came out, wearing the blouse, jumper, skirt and blazer.

 

“Oh… Oh my, look at you,” Denice said quietly, “it really does look good on you.”

 

“Do you think so,” Erica said as she turned in the mirror.

 

“Mums are always right,” Jeannie said, “first rule of this sort of thing.  Hi – I’m Jeannie.”

 

“Erica – Erica Burton.”

 

“Jeannie, we are going to the coffee shop with Erica’s mother.  Can you and Abby bring her down when you’re all done up here?”

 

“Gotcha,” Jeannie said as Pippa took her daughter to the counter.

 

“Come – we always put the world to rights over coffee,” Diana said as she took Denice’s arm.

 

 

 

“So what do you do for a crust Denice?” Barbara asked as they all sat in the store’s coffee shop.

 

“I work at Columbia in the records office…I spend all day putting information on students into a computer.”

 

“Sounds a bit like my job, I work at Temple Hill doing similar work a lot of the time.”

 

“So you aren’t…?”

 

“Rich?” Barbara laughed, “Lord no.  I have a wealthy daughter, but I’m determined to keep both she and I anchored firmly, so no I have a regular job, and a sympathetic employer who lets me have time off to chaperone my daughter wherever she goes.”

 

“Anna Carlton’s mother Emma works as a receptionist, another friend of Jeannie’s has a mother who is a florist, and a father who works for the local transport.  Not all of them are rich like Abby.”

 

“I need to remember that.”

 

“Hello they said you were down here.” A tall blonde woman said as she approached, Denice’s jaw dropping as she recognized her.

 

“Caroline darling.” Diana stood up and kissed her, followed by Barbara.

 

“Denice can we introduce Caroline Jameson, her daughter is a sophomore at the school.” Barbara made the introduction.

 

“Denice’s daughter Erica is this year’s Kirkham winner.” Barbara added.

 

“It’s nice to meet you,” Caroline shook hands, “You must be terribly proud of her.”

 

“I am.” Denice smiled.

 

“So any thoughts on this year’s school runs?” Caroline asked as she sat down and ordered herself a coffee.

 

“Well Abby cannot pick up everyone…”

 

“We know that Diana…”  Caroline thanked the waitress as she bought her coffee, and then said “Letty has volunteered to help, but I think I’ll be doing the Westside run myself.”

 

“You’ll have to add Erica to your list.” Diana smiled.

 

“Oh where do you live Denice?”

 

“Washington Heights.”

 

“I can do that then cut across town to the school.”

 

“Are you sure Miss Jameson?”

 

“It’s Caroline, and yes of course.”

 

“We will see if you can also make our Friday afternoon coffee sessions as well then.” Barbara smiled broadly.

 

“A few of us get together at a friend’s house and chat while the girls plan their weekends.”

 

“Oh – and whose home do you have this in?”

 

“Neutral territory actually – we meet in the house of another friend, Sandy Richmond.  Why don’t you come over on Friday and join us – about four?”

 

“Well, I have the afternoon off – why not?  Hello darling – do you have everything?”

 

“Yes Mom,” Erica said as she came down with her bags, Abby carrying others as she and Jeannie followed her in.

 

“Pepsi just arrived with Doc and their moms,” Jeannie said, “so they’ll come down with Ama.”

 

“Good – gives you a chance to meet them as well, if you have time Denice.”

 

“Well, let me get Erica a drink…”

 

“No need – this is on me,” Abby said as they sat at a separate table.

 

 

 

“Emma, April, this is Denice Burton, Erica’s mum.  Denice, this is Emma Carlton, Anna’s mum, and April Broadhurst, Pepsi’s mother.”

 

“So Erica is the Kirkham scholar,” Emma said as she saw the young girl talking to Anna, “Welcome to the wacky world of St Angela’s.”

 

“Thanks, I think,” Denice said as their coffees were brought over, “so how do I cope with a daughter who has won such a prestigious scholarship?”

 

“You don’t Denice, you just go with the flow,” Emma Carlton replied. “I suspect I had every question that’s currently racing round your brain at this time last year, and as it turned out they were all the wrong questions.”

 

“Oh in what way?”

 

“I wondered how Anna would fit in with the others, when the question became how the hell are they fitting in with my daughter.”

 

“Eh?” Denice tilted her head.

 

“Anna quickly became one of the strong personalities in her class. The fact that she’s a math prodigy caused her to evoke a certain awe, and she soon just became one of the schools stars.”

 

“Very much so.” Barbara smiled. “In a way she and Jeans confronted similar problems, but they both very quickly found a niche for themselves.”

 

“And just look at her with the gang,” Diana laughed, “she’s already falling in with some people.”

 

“Mom can I go swimming with everyone on Wednesday?” Erica came over and asked.

 

“I’ll pick her up and bring her home.” Abigail vouchsafed.

 

“I guess that’s alright.” Denice looked a trifle unsure.

 

“Swimming with the girls, I think she’s going to fit right in.” Caroline laughed lightly.

 

“Looks like it,” Denice said with a smile.

 

3 pm

St Angela’s

 

“Well I’ve run into a familiar problem straight away.” Sarah sighed as she sat next to Grace in the teachers lounge.

 

“Let me guess…Chaucer?”

 

“Got it in one.”

 

“We have had this discussion before…”

 

“It’s still the same issue, should the girls read Chaucer in Middle English, or in translation?”

 

“It’s Kate’s department really, not mine.” Grace smiled as Mrs. Hardisty sat down with them.

 

“Passing the buck already Grace?” Kate smiled. “But I did overhear Sarah, and yes it is a problem.”

 

“And the solution is?”

 

“I think you ask them to do it in Middle English…we are here to stretch and extend the girls minds, and I’ve always thought Chaucer in translation was a cop out personally.”

 

“Oh well then.” Sarah looked visibly pleased, “Middle English it is.”

 

“Good – now, have you considered Macbeth in the original Klingon?”

 

“She’s joking,” Grace said as she saw the look on Sarah’s face, “aren’t you?”

 

“Guess,” Kate said as she got up and walked off.

 

“Y’know, I think I’m going to like this place,” Sarah said with a smile.

 

 

In the mixing studio, Harriet looked round, and then picked up a clarinet, launching into Stranger on the Shore as she closed her eyes.

 

“Acker Bilk?  I applaud you.”

 

“Oh sorry,” she said as she opened her eyes and saw Wilhelmina there, “just checking the acoustics in here.”

 

“No problem – I just wanted to ask if you had received everything you need.”

 

“Yes, thank you,” Harriet said as she put the clarinet back in the case, “now I just need to double check the lesson plans.”

 

“One thing – Jeannie Brewster is in your sophomore chemistry class.  Will that pose a problem?”

 

“Not really – there’s an adjustable bench in the room, so I’ll assign her to that and make sure people work around her, not above her.  It’s not the first time I’ve taught her – but the first time she can actually take part properly.”

 

 

8 pm

Adams Street, Hoboken

Joe’s Diner

 

The American Diner is a dying establishment – and at this time of night, with the clientele inside, Joe’s Diner could certainly be said to be dying.  The seats in the booths were in desperate need of re-upholstering, and the tables had certainly seen better days, with several decades of graffiti and initials carved into the surface.

 

The woman behind the counter had once been considered a beauty, before the years living in this neighborhood had taken their toll, but she still smiled and talked to the customers – partly to distract them from the cockroaches, but also because it made her day go faster.

 

“Youse wanna refill,” she said as she walked with the coffee pot to the two young women sitting in one of the booths.  The smaller of the two wore an old brown leather jacket over a grey t-shirt, jeans and trainers, her untidy black hair sticking out from her head.  The taller girl had shoulder length red hair, and wore a black waistcoat over a dirty blue jumper, jeans and short boots.

 

“Yeah, go on,” she said as she held her mug out, a half-eaten double cheeseburger with fries in front of her.  She watched as the waitress re-filled the mug she held in her gloved hand, and then turned to look at her fellow diner.

 

“Well this wasn’t quite what I expected when you said you’d take me out to supper Carina?” Gale said as she looked round the rather shabby diner.

 

“When I told you to wear a wig and jeans,” Carina said, “did you honestly think we were going to La Maison?”

 

“I got the disguise bit, but really…Hoboken?”

 

“If we are going to find a human being who isn’t going to be missed in this world,” Carina whispered as she leaned forward, “can you think of a better place to look?”

 

“I could easily kill the short order cook who did this burger, this is so bad I might actually be saving a few lives.”

 

“It’s a thought to keep in mind.” Carina giggled.

 

“A definite thought.” Gale pushed away the remains of her food.

 

“I have to agree with you – maybe we can catch something later,” Cari said as she looked at the remains of her omelet.

 

“Eating while we wear gloves isn’t easy you know.” Gale complained.

 

Raising an eyebrow, Carina said “I’d have thought a top FBI mans wife would have been more aware of fingerprints.”

 

“I know...” Gale said quietly, “and by the way, whose car did we borrow?”

 

“I don’t know,” Cari said with a smile, “I just got it in the parking lot at Columbia.”

 

“I’ve been driving in a stolen car all night?” Gale hissed the question.

 

“Gale we are planning to murder someone, and a teensy little stolen car worries you?”

 

Gale thought for a moment, and then laughed quietly as she shook her head.

 

“Okay it is time to meld Gale and her.” Carina whispered seriously. “We both need our hunters instincts operating.”

 

“I understand.”  Both women closed their eyes and breathed deeply for a few moments, before they looked at each other.

 

“Hello Cousin,” Gale said quietly as she looked round, “I have missed our talks.”

 

“I hear you have been restless,” Carina said quietly, “and I know how that feels, but your host is not as strong as mine.  Tonight, I will help you.”

 

“It frustrates me, and then I hear the small heartbeat – and I know it is for the best,

But you are right cousin.  I need to have my time or I will not be able to control myself again.”

 

“Then let us hunt together.  Is there something here which appeals to you?”

 

Gale looked round the room, and then at Cari.  “One or two – you?”

 

“Have you seen the young man sitting at the counter?”

 

Gale picked up the metal sauce stand and looked at the reflection.

 

“Early twenties, nursing the same drink for the last thirty minutes?”

 

“Yes – I was watching as well.  I think he is the sort of lonely young man who deserves the night of his life.”

 

Cari then put her cup down, and threw some money on the table.  “If he is the one, he is moving,” she said, smiling as Gale stood up.

 

“Then let the hunt begin,” Gale said as she picked up her bag, and the two women followed him out.

 

The street was getting darker as they walked a short distance behind him, Gale looking at his swagger as he talked to a couple of girls on the street.

 

“Look at him,” she whispered, “he looks at these women as his own, as playthings.  The way he glances at them, the glint in his eye of desire.”

 

“Indeed – where do you think he is heading?”

 

“Let us follow and find out…”

 

They got into the car and followed him from a distance, as he went into a liquor store, and then into an apartment building.

 

“So which one do you think,” Carina said as they got out of the car.

 

“That light just went on,” Gale said as she looked at the second floor, on the left hand side.

 

“Well, shall we?”

 

Popping the trunk, Gale watched as Carina took out a bag, and the two women crossed the road, looking at the name plates before Carina took a set of skeleton keys from her pocket.

 

“How long,” Gale said as she watched, and then smiled as the outer door swung in.

 

“No time at all, cousin,” Carina said as the two women walked into the building, and then walked up to the second floor, standing outside the apartment door.

 

“I can smell him,” Gale said quietly, “he is inside?”

 

“Then let us join him,” Cari said as she knocked on the door, and then pulled from inside her jacket a Luger.  They both held their breath as the door opened, and the man from the diner appeared, a can of beer in his hand.

 

“Can I help yo…?”

 

“Shut it, fucker,” Carina growled as she pushed him back in, the barrel of the gun against his neck.  “Is anyone else home?”

 

He slowly shook his head as Gale closed the door.  “Good – after you,” she said as she produced a gun from her bag as well, “into the main room.”

 

“What the fuck is going on here,” he said as Carina pushed him into the room, grinning as she looked at Gale.

 

“Never you mind big boy,” Gale said as she stroked her gloved hand down his cheek, “You’re going to do what we tell you, right?”

 

“Like Hell I willlmmmmgggggdddd.”

 

He crumpled to the floor as Carina hit him in the stomach, looking up as she grinned at him.  “Wrong answer fuck face – you’re going to do what we tell you, RIGHT?”

 

“Who the fuck are you two bissshhsssmmgfkkngggdddd.”

 

“We told you to be quiet,” Gale said as she forced the red rubber ball into his mouth and then tore the tape free from the roll, wrapping it tightly round his head as Cari held the gun to his stomach.  After she had torn the end free and pressed it to the back of his head, he was forced to his feet, his arms yanked behind him and his wrists cuffed together before a black cotton bag was pulled over his head.

 

“Now here’s the deal, arsehole,” Carina said, “I’m going to take a look round this place, and my friend is going to keep you company.  Try not to hurt him too much.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Of course – this is to be savoured,” Carina said as Gale smiled, and started to unbutton his shirt.

 

“My my, you are a strong young man,” she said quietly as she took a scalpel from the bag, and pulled the shirt down his arms, before cutting sleeves down the seam and removing it, “do you like to be the strong man?”

 

She smiled at his whimpering as the flat of the scalpel was pressed to his cheek, before she said “well, I can tell you want me to continue…”  Pulling him back against her, she pushed her hand in between his legs and started to stroke him, his moans increasing as she felt him respond.

 

“You sick little prick, you’re getting off on this, aren’t you,” she said quietly as he nodded, Carina passing through as she went to fetch several black bags from the kitchen. 

 

“Well, you have to beg for me to continue – are you going to do that,” Gale said as she produced a riding crop from her bag, and stood over him.  “Say ‘Yes, mistress.’”

 

“Gthlhlll.”

 

“Wrong answer,” she said as she brought the crop down on his back, the man yelping as it hit his back.

 

“Say it.”

 

When he refused, she hit him again.  And again.  And again, the excitement inside her growing as she whipped his back, the feelings of delight rising as he began to plead and beg for mercy.

 

“How is the prick?”

 

“Softening up,” Gale said quietly, “why?”

 

“Bring him through here,” Carina said, as she forced him to his feet and made him walk into the bedroom.  Gale saw the black bin liners which had been laid out on the bed, covering it as Carina said “cuff his hands in front of him.

 

“And in case you get any ideas,” she continued as she held the blade of a second scalpel against his throat, “do anything stupid and my hand slips.  Understand, fuckwad?”

 

He nodded slowly as Gale released his wrists, and then recuffed them together in front of him, before the two of him walked the man to the bed and made him lie down, his screams as the cold plastic hit his back muffled but still there as Carina raised his hands above his head and secured them to the top of the bed with rope.

 

“Such a strong young man,” she then cooed as she unbuckled his pants, and pulled them down as Gale traced along his chest with the blade of the scalpel, “do you think he knows his own potential?”

 

“I know what he has the potential to be,” Gale said, “a games board.”

 

“Possibly,” Carina sighed as she pulled his shoes and pants off, before tying a length of cord to his left ankle, pulling it to the side and tying it to foot of the bed before she did the same to his other foot, and then stroked her gloved hand up the inside of his legs, “what were you thinking of?”

 

“Tic Tac Toe.”

 

“Hplsgdddnttt,” eh mumbled, only to let out a muffled scream as Gale made a grid with slight strokes of the scalpel on his chest, and then said “you may go first.”

 

“So kind,” Carina said.

 

He writhed with each cut of the scalpel, never deep enough to cause real damage but enough to hurt and for the thin red line to appear, as the games continued.

 

Eventually, Carina said “I think we’ve run out of playing space.”

 

“So it would appear,” Gale said as she looked at the red chest, “well, what shall we do now?”

 

“I wonder if he is responsive to the right sort of stimulation?”

 

“Oh – what did you have in mind?”

 

Carina stroked his cock, feeling it harden as he moaned under the hood, and then said “well, this seems to work.  Did it work with his back?”

 

“I believe so, why?”

 

Going to the bag on the floor, Carina picked up a small leather cat’o’nine tails, and said “I wonder what will happen to his feet.”

 

He felt the leather thongs as they stroked up the soles of his feet, and then screamed again as Carina whipped the bare soles of his feet, as Gale used her hand on his cock.

 

“Oh he does seem to like this,” she said with a grin as she looked at Carina, “do carry on!”

 

In his mind, the man was losing all sense of control, the pain on his back, chest and

Feet mingling with the pleasure he was feeling between his legs.  He could also hear, through the hood, the moans of the two armed women, as they seemed to be getting pleasure from his agony.

 

“Yes,” Carina called out as she whipped the now red soles of his feet, “oh yes, can you feel it?”

 

“I can,” Gale said as she finally released him, his semen spreading over his body, “oh yes I can, but I still crave that last release.”

 

“As do I,” Carina said quietly, “but we must do it together.  Are you ready?”

 

Gale nodded as she released his hands and made him sit up, before she wrapped a length of rope around his neck and started to slowly tighten it, hearing his muffled groans and gasps as the hood went in and out where his nose was, while Carina picked up one of the two pillows that lay on the floor and put it on the bed.

 

“My turn,” she said as she looked at Gale, the taller woman nodding as she heard his gasp and let his head fall to the pillow.  Carina placed the Luger against his head and fired three shots, his body jumping before it fell silent.

 

“Ahhhhh,” Gale said as she looked at Carina.  “Does that not feel better?”

 

“It does Cousin – but we need to clear now.  Observe.”

 

Carina lifted his head to show the hole, and then the cushion to show the black sheet was undamaged.  “We wrap him in the bags, and then the cover, and tape it.  We then need to take him somewhere and leave him – for now, let us wrap him.”

 

 

 

 

Thirty minutes later, Carina opened the door to the apartment and looked out, then walked out with Gale carrying a package over her shoulder.  They walked down the stairs and out, Carina popping the trunk as Gale put the package inside, and then closing it as they both got in and drove off.

 

Reaching the banks of the far side of the islet, Carina stopped the car at a deserted pier, and opened the trunk, using a length of chain to secure a set of dumbbells to one end of the package before they both lifted it out, and walked to the edge of the river.

 

“Goodbye, dickwad” Carina growled as they let it drop into the water, watching as it slowly sank, and then she looked at Gale.

 

“So we have sated our appetite, and disposed of the end result.  Do you think you have an idea of what you need to do in the future?”

 

“I think so – although I do enjoy our time together.  Will we hunt again?”

 

“I think so yes, until your host feels confident in herself.  Ready?”

 

Gale nodded as they both allowed themselves to fade into the background, and then Carina and Gale looked at each other.

 

“Oh God,” Gale breathed, “That feels so, so much better.”

 

“I know – now let’s ditch this car somewhere, and get the sub back home.  I feel like I could sleep for an eternity now.”

 

Tuesday 25th August

9 am PT

Xavier International, LA

 

“Welcome back Miss Moore,” the receptionist said as Maddie walked in.

 

“Thanks – Tracey and Rhenia here yet?”

 

“Both waiting for you in the top office,” she said as Maddie went through the security gate, and up to her office.

 

“Hey boss – welcome back,” Tracey said as Maddie stepped out of the lift.

 

“You too – looking good,” Maddie, said as she looked at her number two, wearing a red leather skirt split up the side and a white cashmere sweater.

 

“Feeling good – Rhenia did a good job.”

 

“I hope so – she’s your number two now, to handle the office based side of things while you are on assignment.”

 

“Sorry, did I just get promoted,” Rhenia said as she joined them.

 

“We’ll sort out the formalities later - my office,” Maddie said.

 

“So how are things going in Victoria?” Rhenia asked as she and Tracey entered Madeline’s office.

 

“Very well thank you.” Maddie looked at her two main assistants. “I need to thank you both for holding the fort together while I supervised matters up there.”

 

“It’s our pleasure.” Tracey smiled.

 

“One of them is on her way to liaise with Charlotte’s ladies, the rest are in Lucia’s tender care until we can get them moved here.”

 

“We have an update on the LA end which we can make later.”

 

“Good.  Now, before we get down to the routine business, there are some outstanding matters that we need to review.”

 

Both assistants nodded.

 

“First, Rhenia – update from Tokyo?”

 

“Natalya says the situation remains tense. Lou is still in place and seems to have recovered a bit from the shock. He does seem to be making some amazing acquisitions in the way of clothes.”

 

“So nothing that we have to deal with here?”

 

“Not right this second.”

 

“Good,” Madeline nodded, “And the Galleria?”

 

“Our surveillance says everything is as was…we just need a date and a go time.” Tracey smiled.

 

“Are the costumes here?”

 

“Yes, and Catherine’s people did an amazing job.”

 

“The weapons?”

 

“Are in the security locker.”

 

“Alright,” Maddie looked down at her papers, “now for more routine business, why are Simmonds, Simmonds and Hay, giving us a problem?”

 

“Marietta it seems misbehaved on that soap powder commercial shoot, they are threatening never to use one of our models again.” Tracey answered.

 

“What did Kathy say?”

 

“She is upset, to put it mildly, and has removed Marietta from her books.  She’s already spreading the word.”

 

“We do not need a major advertising agency pissed at us. Do whatever it takes to calm them down please.” Maddie relaxed - it was nice to just get back to the routine of running her businesses.

 

 

1 pm EST

Complete Style

 

“So John is determined to re-create that group shot?”

 

“Looks that way,” Juliette said as she looked round the table.  He’s selecting models to talk to now, and then we need to get them in the same place at the same time.”

 

“The place being 5th Avenue near Madison Square Park?”

 

“Precisely,” Juliette said with a smile.  “How about the other photographers?”

 

“Jack would like to do some of Willy Maywald’s classic pictures with the model posing with a car in the background.” Anna spoke.

 

“That sounds good…”

 

“Ju darling we will need to borrow some period cars – classic 50s models.”

 

“I’ll ask Roy what he has in his garage,” Juliette said, “If he can’t help I’m sure Henri knows someone who can.”

 

“Alright next,” Anna checked her notes. “Adam Cabot wants to try and do some Louise Dahl-Wolfe style pictures.”

 

“He and I have discussed it.” Mary nodded, “I am trying to round up some extras to appear.”

 

“That classic trick of someone in the picture watching the model?”

 

“Exactly Anna.”

 

“Stephen Stone rang and asked if anyone is shooting in the style of Dick Avedon?” Juliette spoke again.

 

“Even John Hammond was a little intimidated by the thought of trying to capture Dick’s work Ju.” Mary looked at her.

 

“And he does realize the models will be wearing clothes?” someone asked.

 

“He does, but I think we let him run with it, he wants to work with Jeans Brewster.”

 

“Alright Ju, give them the commission.” Anna nodded.

 

“George, Amanda, you are both flying to Paris to supervise the shoots there.”

 

“We are,” George Barbera the deputy editor nodded.

 

“Fiona is styling a shoot with Justin Adams in London.” Mary spoke.  “Cara and Lily have agreed to take part – as has Jerry.”

 

“She has?”

 

“Yup – almost demanded it, if truth be told, and offered to pay to take part.”

 

“Well, I think we have most of our bases covered.” Anna smiled. “I know it’s been a long meeting everyone, but I think we made some very real progress on this issue.”

 

“Great,” Juliette said as she stood up, “Mary can you round Kylie up?  We’re taking them to lunch today?”

 

“I think she’s going over some sketches with Alexis – ten minutes?”

 

Juliette nodded as they walked out of the meeting room, and found Marina and Janine in conference.

 

“I’ll call you Monday once I’ve settled back in,” she said as she looked up.  “Hey Ju – the lunch date still on?”

 

“It is – Mary has gone to pull Kylie out of the cave, and we’ll head over to the park.”

 

2 pm

Park Avenue

 

“Thank you for coming over,” Shirley said as her two visitors came in, “I hear you have news for me?”

 

“Well it wasn’t easy, but I think I’ve done it.” Heather said as she collapsed into one of Shirley’s armchairs.

 

Shirley sat up as she said “You’ve cracked the encryption they are using in Mogola?”

 

“I’ve barely slept, but yes we can now read their traffic.” Heather yawned.

 

“That is wonderful,” Shirley said as she looked at the young woman, and then to the other seat.  “I’m sorry this has spoiled some of your family time Joanne.”

 

“It’s not a problem Madame.” Jo smiled, “I’ve sat up with big sis and Sandy, and we’ve been laughing and chatting while Heather works.”

 

“Anyway thank you for bringing Heather over here.” Shirley glanced at Heather. “Ummm Heather?”

 

The blonde was sitting with her head back, her eyes closed as she breathed in and out.

 

“Let her sleep.” Jo laughed softly, “I can take you through the intercepts so far…and she needs the sleep.”

 

She started her laptop and sat with Shirley as they walked through the messages from the last twenty four hours.

 

“Good, good,” Shirley eventually said, “this needs to be shared.  Is Maddie on line?”

 

“Looks like she is,” Jo said as she placed a call, smiling as Maddie’s face appeared.

 

“Well, Miss Smith,” Maddie said with a smile, “Ready for the move?”

 

“Almost – but this is a business call.  I’m here with Shirley.”

 

“Go on, put her on,” Maddie said as she saw Shirley come into view.

 

“So how are things going Maddie?” Shirley asked.

 

“Well,” Maddie said, “if I tell you the worst problem on my plate was caused by a nine-year old having a temper tantrum on set…?”

 

“I would say you are welcome to it,” Shirley laughed.

 

“Did you see the reports from Tokyo and Hong Kong?”

 

“I did…reading them it felt I could almost cut the tension with a knife.”

 

“I don’t think either the Japanese, or the Chinese, now trust each other.”

 

“Agreed,” Shirley smiled at the camera. “Well we may be in a position to drive an even bigger wedge between the two parties.”

 

“Oh how?”

 

“Heather finally cracked their encryption algorithms.”

 

“She did? My techs here told me that was impossible.”

 

“It probably was for any other person in this world.”

 

“True,” Maddie shook her head, “that young woman is amazing.”

 

“That she is.” Shirley smiled. “Anyway now we can look in their communications…”

 

“We can send false messages.” Maddie laughed.

 

“Exactly…we can sow even further distrust.  And we have another arrow in our quiver – I have spoken again to Colonel Vosloo today.  We have indeed identified their base port in South Africa – he has it under surveillance now.”

 

“Msssllright Jo I’ll make coffee in a minute.”

 

“Was that Heather?”

 

“Yeah,” Jo said, “Big Sis is tired.  We’re letting her sleep.”

 

“Fair enough.”

 

“Maddie, your contact from the boat landed in London this morning, and is now on a flight to South Africa.  Charlotte herself will meet the plane at Jo’burg, and hand her over to a guide to get her to the force over there.”

 

“Excellent – keep me posted Shirley.”

 

“So what else is on your cards for today?”

 

“I have a lunch date – someone Juliette asked me to talk to and coach through something.”

 

“Should I be worried?”

 

“No – this isn’t a company thing as such…”

 

1 pm PT

Spago, 176 N Canon Drive

 

“Good afternoon Miss Moore,” Bertram said as Maddie came in, “I take it you have a business meeting today?”

 

“I do indeed Bertram  - so a quiet table if at all possible?”

 

“Of course,” the maitre d’ said as he took Maddie over to a side table, “A drink while you wait?”

 

“Bring me a bottle of the Chateau de Ros Chardonnay, ’07.  Two glasses.”

 

“Obviously an important client, Miss Moore.”

 

“Indeed – thank you Bertram,” Maddie said as she consulted the menu.

 

“Hello Miss Moore.”

 

Maddie looked up to see Cassandra Stone standing there, wearing a grey trouser suit and tallow blouse.

 

“Hello Miss Stone,” she said as she stood up and shook her hand.

 

“My name is Cassie.”

 

“Maddie.  Please, take a seat.”

 

As Cassie sat down, Bertram appeared with the sommelier.

 

“Miss Stone,” he said with a smile as the wine was poured, “A pleasure to see you again.”

 

“And it is always a pleasure to see you Bertram.  I will have the usual please.”

 

“Miss Moore?”

 

“Same for me, thank you,” Maddie said as Bertram bowed slightly and headed to the pass.

 

“Alright,” Cassie said, “now we have the formalities out of the way, can I say that I believe we have a mutual friend?”

 

“I think we have several mutual friends Cassie.” Madeline smiled, “but yes a certain model and writer did ask me to meet you.”

 

“Are you a…”

 

“Cassie,” Maddie said as she leaned forward, “please remember this is a public restaurant, who knows who is listening?”

 

“Alright.” Cassie nodded.

 

“But I think that I can put your mind at rest by saying that I have worked with the people you have in mind a couple of times…in Boston, and Philadelphia.”

 

“Oh!” Cassandra’s eyebrows lifted.

 

“Does that satisfy your curiosity?”

 

“In some ways,” Cassie said, “in others it creates whole new questions in my mind.”

 

“Well just maybe one day I can give you some answers.” Madeline smiled as she raised her glass.

 

“This is excellent.” Cassie remarked as she sipped her white wine.

 

“Diana introduced me to Chateau de Ros, I have to say it has become my drink of choice.”

 

“It reflects the personality of its growers, years of quality.” Cassie smiled. Inwardly she began to understand the game she was playing, Madeline would say nothing incriminating, but she was prepared to talk in a sort of code.

 

“So, how is the casting going for your movie Cassie?”

 

“Very well,” Cassie said as she sat back, “I think we have some very strong people in mind for the various parts.”

 

“Could I beg a favour?”

 

“Can I ask what?”

 

“I have an aspiring actress who works for me, she’s done a couple of commercials, and a couple of tiny bits in TV shows, would you let her audition for you please?”

 

“Well I think we have all the female parts cast?”

 

“I think you might find that JD brings a certain - realism shall we say - to the role? And no she’s not… but she has done some very similar work for me.”

 

“Oh?” Cassie again lifted an eyebrow.

 

“Yes.” Maddie smiled.

 

“Well then,” Cassie said, “I think I can persuade Brian to look at her.”

 

“In return, would you maybe be interested in doing some work for me Cassie?”

 

“You will need to talk to my agent…”

 

“It’s not that kind of work.” Madeline said with a smile, before she sipped her wine.

 

“Oh…Oh!”  Cassie put her glass down and looked at Maddie.

 

“One of my girls,” Maddie said, “has come back from Australia with a nasty case of the flu, I need someone who can take over the role she was going to play…are you interested?”

 

“When?”

 

“Oh shall we say Saturday morning?”

 

“I could fit that in, but would your girls want to work with Cassandra Stone?”

 

“I was thinking maybe that to stop them being overawed you might pretend to be someone else?”

 

“It sounds like a role I’d be interested in creating.”

 

“Well, I have some suggestions on the matter – perhaps we could talk as we eat?”

 

“Oh Good…oh that looks amazing.” Cassie smiled as the waiter served their lunches.

 

“Tell me,” Maddie said as she cut into her sole, “are you an admirer of the works of the late Audrey Hepburn?”

 

“Naturally – although I actually think Roman Holiday was her best film.”

 

“Good – may I suggest some time watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s?  You will find it, I believe, most educational.”

 

“Well, I do believe in thoroughly researching for a role, no matter how small.”

 

“Good – please, enjoy your meal, and listen very carefully to what I say.”

 

 

6 pm

The Brewster Brownstone

 

“Missy – what brings you out on this cool August evening?”

 

“Business – of a good kind,” Missy said as she came in, “is Jeannie home?”

 

“In here – just sorting out stuff for next week,” Jeannie called from the main room, smiling as her agent came in and sat down.

 

“Coffee, Missy?”

 

“Please,” Missy said as she sat back.  “Before I forget Jeans, we’re sorting out Fashion week again.”

 

“Please, Missy, no overseas trips this month,” Jeannie groaned.

 

“It’s all right – you’re safe.  You and the gang are only doing New York this year.  For one thing, Maggie’s parents would, and I quote, lynch me if she leaves Boston for more than a day in her first term.”

 

“So you’re having fun setting up the schedules,” Barbara said as she brought two coffees in.

 

“It does mean they will earn top dollar, but that’s not why I’m here.”

 

“It’s not?”

 

Missy shook her head and said “Okay Jeans I know you are enough of a student of fashion history to know exactly who Richard Avedon was?”

 

“Probably the greatest fashion photographer of all time.” Jeannie nodded.

 

“Yes he was.” Missy smiled. “Well CS is doing an issue that will be a tribute to the many great photographers it has published over the years.”

 

“I’d heard mumblings about that.”

 

“Well,” Missy said, “Stephen Stone is doing the homage to Dick, and he wants you to be his model…”

 

“She’s not doing…”

 

“No this time she will be fully clothed Barbara.” Missy looked up, “And in some fabulous fifties outfits.”

 

“Well…”

 

“This sounds amazing.” Jeannie interrupted her mother. “I adore vintage fashion.”

 

“I know.” Missy smiled again. “It’s why I knew you’d be happy that Stephen had asked for you.”

 

“He asked for Jeannie particularly?” Barbara asked.

 

“He did,” Missy, said as she sipped her coffee, “I think Jeans made an impression.”

 

“I’ll have to get my old magazines and books out and look at poses.” Jeannie let her mind race ahead.

 

“My only worry Jeans is that there can’t be a wheelchair in these pictures.”

 

“I get that Missy, I’ll find poses I think I can do, and train to do them.”

 

“Nothing too dangerous.”

 

“No Mum,” Jeannie said with a smile, “but they must look authentic.”

 

“So I take it you want the booking?”

 

“I’d pay you to do this one Missy.” Jeannie grinned.

 

“Good – I’ll get the paperwork done and let you have dates.”

 

“So who else is getting involved?”

 

“Cari and Ju, Abby, even Jo – I’m talking to the others over the next couple of days.  This is a mammoth task, and we will get this done.”

 

 

Wednesday 26th August

11 am Local Time

Tokyo, Ginza District

 

“It is so good of you to bring us back here, Taki,” Louise said as she and Victoria walked arm in arm with Yoshimi.

 

“Nonsense – I have neglected you both recently, and with poor Charlene still in hospital, it is important we spend time together, in public.  Victoria, my dear, are you still nervous?”

 

“A little – but I feel better when you are here with us,” she said as she held his arm.

 

Smiling, Yoshimi passed a café with both of them, as Natalya and Niki sat with Jill.

 

“He’s certainly putting on a brave face,” Jill said.

 

“I do not think it will last long,” Natalya said with a smile as she sipped her coffee.

 

“Oh – and what gives you that idea,” Tamiko said as she joined them.

 

“He will soon receive a message saying the Chinese State have ordered a full inquiry into his building plans.  At the same time, his Chinese contact will receive a message from him, stating that unless they guarantee security of the next delivery, he will withdraw his funding.”

 

“Neither message is correct is it?”

 

“No – but we hope it will make them careless here and in Africa, where others are watching them on two fronts.

 

“The dispute should build nicely in that case – and we stand ready,” Tamiko said as she sipped her drink.

 

 

 

9 am Local Time

Johannesburg Airport

 

Charlotte and Maria walked into the Arrivals hall, looking round and then approaching the coffee stall, where a young African woman was sitting, carefully holding the cup as she drank from it.

 

“Good morning,” Charlotte said as she stood by the table, “may we join you?”

 

The woman looked cautiously at the new arrivals, before she said “You may – although I am afraid I have only this coffee to share.”

 

“That’s all right,” Charlotte said as she sat down, “I like my coffee strong anyway.”

 

“I was told someone would meet me here – I am Marigold.”

 

“Indeed – this is Maria, I am Charlotte.  Let me start by saying you are a very, very, brave woman Marigold.”

 

“I do not know if I am brave,” Marigold said quietly, “but I have a debt I must repay.”

 

“I can understand that,” Maria said quietly, “this woman and the others who freed us from the tyrant Kimba last year did a very great thing, and I too felt there was a debt I had to pay.”

 

“So you are from the angels?”

 

“We are not angels,” Charlotte said, “but we seek to free others like you.  My friend who rescued you says you wish to help us – is that true?”

 

Charlotte watched as Marigold slowly nodded.

 

“We do not have time to train you Marigold – you are needed now.  If this is your wish, Maria here is going to take you now to join those who fight to free your fellow countrymen and women, and we ask you to help them as much as you can.  In return, they will protect you, and when our work is done, if you wish, you may join us.”

 

“This is what I want,” Marigold said quietly.

 

“What clothing did you bring?”

 

“Your friends loaned me some clothes, but this bag is all I have.”

 

“Good – then go with Maria, and I will inform the Leader you are on the way.  The Sisters welcome you, Marigold – I hope to see you again.”

 

Marigold nodded as she stood and left with the two women, Charlotte waving them off before she hailed a taxi.

 

 

 

10 am

St Angela’s

 

Grace reached over and picked up her phone as she glanced down the schedule for Freshman day.

 

“Hello?

 

“She is?  Well, show her in please.”

 

Standing up, she brushed the pastry crumbs from the skirt she was wearing and opened the door, which had “Mrs. Grace Brand, Dean of Students” freshly painted on it.

 

“And to what do I owe this pleasure Missy?” Grace asked as she ushered her agent into her office.

 

“I do occasionally visit my clients at home or their workplace you know?”

 

“Juliette I understand, and I have heard the stories of you meeting Abigail and Jeannie in a car outside, but coming to me here?”

 

“More convenient than the Village?”

 

Grace raised an eyebrow as Missy raised her hands.  “All right - I have a booking for you if you want it?”

 

“No audition, or go see, a straight booking?” Grace looked surprised.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Well I can do with some extra cash…where do I have to be and when?”

 

“Ummm Grace, before you bite my hand off in eagerness, maybe I need to explain a few things.”

 

“Okay,” Grace said as she sat down in her chair, “Why do I get the impression I’m not going to over like this?”

 

“Well most of it you will. Complete Style are doing a tribute to the great fashion photographers over the years.”

 

“And?”

 

“They want you to model for the pictures paying tribute to the work of the Baron de Meyer.”

 

“That’s not exactly a problem,” Grace said with a smile.  “I love early 20th century and twenties clothes…in fact I’m rather excited at the thought of modeling them…”

 

“The problem lies with the photographer Grace.”

 

“Oh? Who is it?’

 

“You never worked with Antonio Bell did you?”

 

“No he was after my time, but his work is incredible, though I hear, he can be…”

 

“Exactly.”

 

“Well I’m a professional, and as tough, temperamental, and as rude as I hear he can be, I guess I accept the challenge.”

 

“Well the good news is that Mary is styling the shoot, and she stands for no crap from the maestro, but I wanted to give you an out if you wanted it.”

 

“No I’ll take the booking,” Grace laughed. “I better just remember to relax and let his crap not affect me.”

 

“That might be the right attitude you need.”

 

“Listen, while you’re here,” Grace said, “let me run an idea I’ve had past you…”

 

10 am

Park Avenue

 

“Well, I believe our business here is concluded for now – I return this afternoon to Hong Kong, to oversee affairs from there.”

 

“I wish you a pleasant journey,” Shirley said as she stood up and bowed, Catherine returning the bow as she looked to Helen.

 

“If you will allow me a moment, Catherine, there is a matter I wish to discuss with Shirley.”

 

“Of course – I will go and say goodbye to Maisha,” Catherine said as Shirley returned to her armchair, but Helen remained on her feet.

 

“Well, Helen,” Shirley said with a smile.

 

“I thought that before I flew back to Hong Kong, that I should do the honourable thing and ask your permission Madame.”

 

“For what dear?”

 

“For my continuing to have a relationship with Penny.” Helen cast her eyes down. “This one is sorry to say she initiated something without asking your permission first as Penny’s boss.”

 

“Penelope is her own woman Helen,” Shirley smiled kindly, “neither of you need my permission if you’ve fallen in love.”

 

“Penny informed me as much, but my code of ethics and morals means I had to ask.”

 

“Well you certainly have my approval, may I put it that way. You two are very much perfect for each other, and I wish you both all the happiness in the world.”

 

“Thank you Madame, I can just but hope that Catherine, and my Master, are just as content.”

 

“Oh I think they will be.  Now go – Marina and Kylie will be waiting.” 

 

 

1 pm

JFK Airport

 

“I cannot believe the summer has come to an end already darling,” Kylie said as she stood with Susan and Clint.

 

“Well, it has, and you return to school next week, so work hard, and we’ll see you again at Christmas.”

 

“I look forward immensely to it,” Kylie said as she hugged Susan, and kissed April on her nose.

 

“Time to leave,” Marina said as she hugged Susan.  “I’ll be in touch when we get back.”

 

“Keep her safe,” Susan whispered as she looked at the young blonde.

 

“I think it should be the other way round,” Marina said with a laugh as she put her Jameson bag on her shoulder.  “Come on Kyles – they will be waiting at the other side.”

 

Susan waved them off as Clint held April in his arms.

 

“It’s going to be so quiet now,” Clint said as he looked at his wife.

 

“Yeah – I need some excitement.  Wonder if Ju has anything planned…”

 

 

1 pm

Vanderbilt YMCA

 

“So do you have all your packing done?”

 

“Just about,” Ally said as she and Nell sat with Jeannie at the edge of the pool.  “It’s actually crept up on both of us, but yeah – two days time we head up.”

 

“Heather and I are heading up Friday as well, and they’re stopping overnight up there,” Jo said as she eased herself into the water.  “It’s going to be some road trip – we’re taking my jeep and Heather is coming back with Sandy.”

 

“It’s certainly going to be different around here,” Jeannie said as she was helped into the water, and then saw Erica Burton walk in, looking nervous in her blue swimsuit as Ama followed her out.

 

“Hey Erica you made it?” Jeannie smiled as the black girl climbed into the water.

 

“I did,” Erica said as she looked round, “and thank you for inviting me.”

 

“Where’s Abs?”

 

“She’s just coming, a couple of little kids recognized her and she’s doing a couple of pictures with them and signing autographs.”

 

“It’s one of the hazards of being who she is.” Jeans smiled.

 

“You must have the same problems?”

 

“Sometimes, but I think I enjoy it more than Abby does, she’s actually a bit shy.”

 

“I’d noticed that.”

 

“There you are,” Ally said as Abby emerged from the changing rooms.

 

“Hey Stick. Erica was telling me you met some fans?” Jeannie grinned as Abigail approached, tucking her hair under a bathing cap as she walked.

 

“Yes, they were really polite, unlike so many adults, so I did a couple of little pictures with them.”

 

“Good for you.  Right – some laps I think,” Jeannie said as she set off.

 

 “So this is Doc Mark Two, is it,” Jo said as Doc and Pepsi came out, Becca just behind them.

 

“Nope,” Anna said, “this is Erica, and I’m Doc.  But yeah, she’s the second Kirkham scholar.  Erica, Jo was one of the head girls last year, while Ally was a senior.”

 

“Nell here was a Nun,” Ally said as she pointed to her sister.

 

“A Nun?”

 

“I went to Sacred Heart – you’ll learn all about it tomorrow,” Nell said as she pushed off as well.

 

“I guess St Angela’s and Sacred Heart do not get on very well?”

 

“Long standing rivalry,” Jo said, “but not part of my life any more.”

 

 “Erica, got a minute?”

 

“Sure,” Erica said as she looked at the others.

 

“We have someone for you to meet.” Pepsi said as she beckoned over a young girl with long black hair. “Erica meet Jess…Jessica meet Erica. The two of you will be classmates at school.”

 

“Nice to meet you.” Erica shook the other girls hand.

 

“And to meet you.”

 

“So where is home Jess?” Jeannie asked as she joined them.

 

“Originally Madrid, my parents though have moved here to New York.”

 

“I met Jess in France,” Pepsi smiled. “Her father is a friend of Guy’s.”

 

“So are you into racehorses Jess?” asked Abby.

 

“No football, what you call soccer is more my sport.”

 

“Ama says she can play rather well.” Pepsi slid into the water.

 

“Well Miss Nightingale will be pleased at that.” Abby laughed.

 

“Are you as nervous as I am about starting St Angela’s?” Jess asked Erica.

 

“To tell the truth, I’m terrified.” Erica smiled.  “I come from a public school, and then to end up in a place like this, with a full scholarship for school and university afterwards – it was quite a shock.”

 

“Well, they seem nice enough,” Jess said, “but I understand.  It will be nice to have at least one friendly face tomorrow.”

 

“Yes it will…”

 

2 pm PT

Beverley Hills

 

“Thanks for meeting me here Maddie,” Cassie Stone said as she kissed her guest on both cheeks, before they sat at the café table.

 

“No problem – I wanted to catch up with you after yesterday anyway.  I was curious as to why you wished to do this?”

 

“Apart from that incredible sense of power?”

 

“Yes – apart from that,” Maddie said with a smile.

 

“You might say crime is in my blood.” Cassandra giggled lightly.

 

“Oh?”

 

“You haven’t read much Irish history have you Maddie? According to a lot of writers my Gaunt ancestors stole a large chunk of Ireland when they acquired their estates.”

 

“Oh surely that is all irrelevant nowadays?”

 

“In other countries perhaps, but in Ireland the events of 600 years ago are almost like last week to a lot of people.”

 

Madeline shook her head.

 

“To this day Dad has relatives who will not talk to him because he married my mother.”

 

“Oh that is stupid.”

 

“You don’t remember the uproar a few years ago when I was supposed to play Constance Markievicz in a film?”

 

“Faintly…”

 

“There was outrage in some nationalist circles that a Gaunt, even a generation removed, might play a ‘true’ Irish patriot. The fact that she was herself a Protestant, from an ascendency family, and also a distant relative of mine meant nothing it seems.”

 

“So are you a Protestant?”

 

“Church of Ireland born and bred. Dad was raised Catholic, but he’s long since been an atheist, so Mum got to determine what church we joined.”

 

“Well putting all that aside have you crafted a character for yourself that I can introduce you to my team as?”

 

“I have indeed,” Cassie said before she adopted a light Irish brogue and said “I’m Consumpta O’Clare, fresh from the sod and eager to ply my trade in this fine city.  Things got a little hot for me in County Kildare.”

 

8 pm Local Time

The South Africa/Mogola border

 

The group of women looked on as the van pulled up, Maria jumping out before she helped Marigold to climb down.

 

“Welcome,” one of the women said as she came forward, her arms extended in greeting, “I am told you are Marigold, and I am told you wish to aid us.  I am the Leader.”

 

“I am honoured to meet you,” Marigold said quietly, “although I may not be able to fight, I wish to help in any other way I can.”

 

“The very fact you have returned to aid us speaks of your courage – come, sit and eat with us, and we will talk.”

 

Marigold looked round as the Leader escorted her to a tent, and showed her in.

 

“Sisters – welcome Marigold, a Mogolan who has returned to aid us in our cause to release her sisters from tyranny.  Show her respect, and allow her to sit on the table as an equal.”

 

The group of women rose as one, and allowed Marigold to sit with the leader as they came to the table.

 

“First, we eat,” she said quietly, “and then we will show you our plans.  We await word from Little Mother, and the arrival of supplies and more of our sisters for the final push.”

 

 

Thursday 27th August

1.30 am local time

 

“It is an audacious plan,” Marigold said as the Leader sat back, “especially when you describe the other plans for the main points.  I see you have done well so far.”

 

“It is the best we can do for now,” the Leader said quietly, “but what we really need is intelligence from within the compound Marigold. It’s all very well us looking in from outside, but nothing is better then actually hearing what people are saying.”

 

“I understand Leader.” Marigold looked at her in the dim light, and asked “So how is it you wish me to proceed?”

 

“We obviously need you here with us on the outside, but we have observed that they allow some of the older women to sometimes go sit up there,” she pointed to a spot. “Do you think they might talk to you through the fence?”

 

“I can try,” the teacher thought hard for a minute, “What is it you wish to know?”

 

“Everything.”

 

“Everything Leader?”

 

“Yes, what’s in those huts for example?” again she pointed. “What is morale like? Are there any leaders in there we can work with? Even just good gossip might help us.”

 

“I can try,” the local woman smiled. “I may not be able to fire a weapon, but talking, yes that I can do.”

 

“Another matter we need help with is recruiting local people who aren’t in there to help us.”

 

“Most of them have gone into the bush I think, they are too scared to do anything.”

 

“There must be some people, somewhere, who are prepared to stand up and fight?”

 

Marigold thought for a moment, and then smiled.  “I know of a holy place, some people might be using it as a refuge, if you and I were to go there?”

 

“We might make some contact.” Leader stopped to think. “How far is this place?”

 

“About a four hour walk.”

 

“Okay if we set out now...”

 

“We can be there by daybreak.”

 

“Good,” Leader nodded.  “I do like a moonlight walk.  Come – let us move on together.”

 

6 am Local Time

Southern Mogola

 

Marigold looked from the bush at the ruined temple, the Leader listening carefully as she did so.

 

“Little sign of life here,” she whispered.

 

“You would be wrong,” Marigold said quietly as two people emerged from within the temple, carrying large branches, “follow my lead.”

 

She stepped out from the bush, hands held out palms up as she said in her native tongue “greetings to you.  I am Marigold, and I seek those who run this refuge.”

 

“Marigold?  Is that really you?”

 

The former teacher looked through narrowed eyes, and then said “Nyala?  I thought you had been captured as well!”

 

“No – I was lucky, and found my way here,” the woman said as they embraced.  “How do you come here?”

 

“I come to offer aid and to ask for help from anyone here – who is in charge?”

 

“How did you escape?”

 

“I did not – I was sent to a foreign land, but I was rescued, and I have returned to rescue others.  I have a friend – may I introduce her?”

 

As the two women nodded, Marigold motioned and watched as the Leader came out.  “This woman leads those who have fought against the yellow devils,” Marigold said, “and she comes now to parlay with your leaders.”

 

“Come – come,” Nyala said, “any help is most welcome.  We will talk inside.”

 

Marigold and Leader followed the two women through a concealed entrance, and past guards, before they emerged in a large underground cavern.  Sitting there were old men and women, children, and a few wounded men.

 

“Goddess,” the Leader said as some more women approached her, “How long have you been here?”

 

“Some of us have been here months,” one of the women said.

 

“We must get you to a place of safety,” the Leader said quietly, “but in the meantime, may we share your space with you and talk?”

 

“Of course – we do not have much, but what we have we will share.”

 

 

 

 

 

“We rejoice in the news you bring,” Marigold translated as she looked at the three older women, “but we do not know how much help we can be.  None of us are fighters, or we would join you.”

 

“There may be those among you who wish to help us – and like Marigold, we do not necessarily seek for them to be warriors, but listeners, seekers, to talk and to learn as Marigold will do.  I know this is a frightening situation, but we ask no more than your experience to aid our mission.”

 

She waited as Marigold translated, before the former teacher listened and said “they need to consult with the elder, the Oracle, to see if she will bless such an endeavour.”

 

“Of course,” the Leader said as they stood and walked over with the group as they sat round a woman who sat with three younger girls.

 

“They will explain the situation to her, and your request,” Marigold said, “and await her decision.”

 

“And her word is law,” the Leader said, Marigold nodding as the conversation stopped.

 

"What does the oracle have to say?" Marigold asked, the Leader watching as they gathered round the old woman.

As if on cue a whistling sound started. The Leader with the eye of a modern educated woman guessed it was caused by the breeze coming through the narrow hole in front of which the old woman sat, but she was still African enough to understand how magical it was to these people.

 

The old woman opened her eyes and talked, Marigold translating.  “She says I am returned on the wings of an angel, and you are from the same angels who freed me.  If I can return from so far away to serve, how can they refuse?  We will ask for volunteers to aid you, if you in return will aid us.”

 

The Leader smiled, and said “assure them I will have food and water brought in the next day or two, and we will try to protect all who volunteer to aid us.  And we thank the Oracle for her wisdom and generosity.”

 

The old woman smiled and nodded as Marigold spoke, and then motioned to the three girls who sat with her.

 

“She bids you stay until dusk, and they will find those who will help,”

 

The Leader nodded in return and bowed before the Oracle.

 

8.30 am

St Angela’s

 

Erica Burton looked at the gates, shaking slightly as her mother stood with her.

 

“Time to go in,” she said quietly as she put her hand on her daughter’s shoulder, “I’ll come and collect you when the time comes.”

 

“Hi Erica.”

 

The young coloured girl smiled as she saw Jess walking up, her parents watching from the car.  “Hello Jess – this is my mom.  Mom, this is Jessica Murchado – we met yesterday at the swimming pool.”

 

“A pleasure to meet you,” Jess said with a smile.  “Come on Erica – we’ll face this together.”

 

The two girls waved to their mothers as they entered the gates, joining the lines of other freshmen as they made their way into the assembly hall.

 

“Wow – this is where they had that parade of bras at the end of the year,” Erica heard one girl say as they took their seats, wondering what was going to happen.

 

Eventually, the hall was filled with noise before the doors opened, and Miss Hardisty and Mrs. Brand led the faculty out, taking their seats on the stage alongside Annabelle Petrie, Rachel Merriman and Letty Kinman.

 

The girls watched as Miss Hardisty came to the dais.

 

“Freshmen of St Angela’s Academy for Young Ladies,” she said quietly, “please stand for your principal, Miss Wilhelmina Tennant.”

 

Miss Tennant walked in as the faculty and girls stood, smiling as she walked up to the lectern and stood behind it, surveying the room through her glasses.

 

“Be seated,” she said as she nodded, the girls and teachers sitting as one.

 

“Ladies, welcome to your first year here at St Angela’s Academy.  I am Miss Tennant, and it is my most sincere hope that over the next four years we will take a journey together to educate and prepare you for adult life.  I am the Principal of the School, and alongside me in the leadership team is Miss Hardisty, the Deputy Principal, and Mrs. Brand, the Dean of Students.”

 

“The Dean looks very like that model, Grace Gresham,” Erica whispered to Jess.

 

“To aid you in this journey, we have the faculty,” she said as she turned and indicated the teachers.  “They are dedicated to helping you fulfill your potential, so learn from them, study hard, and show them what you have to give.

 

“You also have your fellow students, and each other.  Many you will meet next week when they start here, but for these first two days Annabelle, Rachel and Letty, the head girls for this year, join us.  Today, they will help introduce you to the school and the facilities, and one will come to talk to each of you in your home rooms.  They are here to lead and inspire you – and hopefully, keep you out of trouble.

 

“For today, you will remain in your homeroom classes, and be able to get to know your classmates and the head girls.  Your lessons start tomorrow – so be prepared.  This afternoon, you will have a chance to see some of the after school clubs and activities, and see if any interest you.

 

“Above all, ladies, always remember – you are the representatives of St Angela’s to this city, and we expect you to behave as such.  Now, please draw from your induction packs the words to the school song.”

 

As the music started, Erica caught Poppy looking out of the side of her eye at her.  Shaking her head, she started to sing along, before they all finished.

 

“You may all go to your homerooms now,” Miss Tennant said, “and begin your time with us.  Good luck to all of you.”

 

 

 

12.30 pm

The Refectory

 

“Well, as a first morning goes, that wasn’t so bad,” Jess said as she took a seat at the table with Erica.

 

“Hey – mind if we join you,” two girls from their class said as they came over.

 

“Sure – grab a seat.  I’m Erica and this is Jess.”

 

“I’m Dawn,” the Chinese girl said as she shook their hands, “and this is Lynn.  That was some talk Letty gave us today, wasn’t it?”

 

“About how we would be friends forever, and Angels first and foremost?  Yeah – I really believe it as well.  So where do you girls hail from?”

 

“I live in the Village,” Dawn said, “my parents run a Chinese restaurant down there.”

 

“Lower East Side for me – Dad is in the US Diplomatic Corps,” Lynn said with a smile, running her hand through her long red hair.  “So do you know any of the older pupils?”

 

“We met a few of the sophomores at the pool this week,” Jess said.  “I met one of them in Paris over the summer, but Erica here met them when she went to buy her uniform.”

 

“Collect her uniform more like,” Poppy said as she walked past, “poor little Heights girl.”

 

“A little uncalled for, don’t you think,” Lynn said as she looked at the young girl.

 

“It’s all right,” Erica said, “I’ve no need to be ashamed of where I come from, or what my mom does.  I’m here on merit.”

 

“Oh yeah – the Jamie Kirkham scholar.  Have you met Anna Carlton,” Dawn said.

 

“We met at the pool yesterday – she’s a nice kid.  They all were – so can you be Poppy if you want.”

 

“I don’t need to be…”

 

“Is there a problem, girls?”

 

Dawn and Lynn’s jaws dropped as the two girls appeared, the six foot three girl in jeans and a t-shirt, the other girl wearing a blouse and long skirt as she sat in her wheelchair.

 

“You…  You…”

 

“We’re going to get that a lot this week aren’t we,” Abby giggled to Jeannie.

 

“I think so – so yes, I’m Jeannie, she’s Abby, and what did Letty or Annabelle or Rachel say to you this morning?”

 

“We’re all angels,” Erica said.

 

“Exactly – so here, we’re all angels, whatever we do outside.  Now, can we join you for lunch?”

 

“Of course,” Jess said with a smile as Poppy walked off, “so why are you both here?”

 

“This afternoon is the club and after school fair – we’re here to talk about the scholarship that both Anna and Erica won, and to explain how people can help, as the patrons of the fund.”

 

“Besides, Mrs. Brand wanted to see us about something else,” Abby said as they sat down.”

 

2 pm

Xavier International

 

Susan looked at the phone for a moment before picking it up.  “Yes?

 

“Right – I will come down with Shirley to meet him.”

 

Standing up, she smoothed down her skirt and left her own office, knocking on Shirley’s door.

 

“He’s here,” she said as she put her head round.  Shirley nodded as she stood up and walked to the lifts with Susan, descending to the first floor and walking into reception.

 

“John,” she said as she extended her hand to John Vosloo, “Thank you for coming to meet with us today.  May I introduce Susan Walker, the head of my New York office?  Susan, John Vosloo, Charlotte’s godfather.”

 

“A pleasure to meet you sir,” Susan said as she shook John’s hand, “Charlotte has told me a lot about you.  I trust you and your wife are enjoying your vacation?”

 

“Very much so – she has decided to shop this afternoon, and Shirley was kind enough to invite me to see where my goddaughter spends half her working life.”

 

“Well, if you will come with us, I have coffee ready upstairs,” Shirley said as they walked with John into the lift, and then into a conference room.

 

“I take it,” John said as Susan closed the door, “that you are a senior partner in Shirley’s business interests?”

 

“I am indeed,” Susan said quietly as she poured some coffee and handed him a cup.  “Charlotte has told us of your integrity and honesty.”

 

“Charlotte is a most intriguing woman as well, but off my radar in most senses,” John said as he sat down.  “So, allow me to speak first, if I may?”

 

“Of course,” Shirley said as she sat down, “this room is secure.”

 

“How secure?  No, don’t answer – I can guess,” John said with a smile.  “My superiors tell me that port is indeed in the hands of some form of Chinese unit – given the sensitive diplomatic nature of this, we cannot move, but we are observing.  My former assistant has also informed me that she has begun to work with your people, and that two of the helicopters will be heading to a rendezvous with supplies and fresh fighters.”

 

“That is correct – we hope to send them in the next few days.  I can also tell you that a very brave woman, who we rescued from the slave boat, has returned and is going to help to gather more local information.  With luck, we will be able to move soon to end this, as I confidently predict a breakdown in communications between the Chinese and Japanese supporters.”

 

“I cannot imagine how you would do that…”

 

“A sign of goodwill,” Shirley said as Susan handed him a USB stick.  “This program here will allow your monitors to decode their radio transmissions and messages.  It took considerable effort, but we broke it – and now we are sending false messages.”

 

“Just who do you have on your side doing this?”

 

“Classified, Colonel.  When do you return to Johannesburg?”

 

“Sunday afternoon.”

 

“Then I hope we can communicate further through Charlotte after that.  It takes time to solve and cleanse a disease like this, John – but our preparations are nearing completion.”

 

2 pm

St Angela’s

 

 

The noise was more of a gentle murmur, as the new students made their way around the tables, looking at the various societies and clubs as they tried to get them to sign up.

 

“Any caught your eye yet,” Dawn said as the four new friends walked round.

 

“One or two,” Lynn said, “I like the look of the media club for one thing.”

 

“Hang on,” Erica said as she walked over to a table where Doc was standing, next to where Annie was signing up new members for the track team.

 

"Which club are you representing?" Erica asked Doc, as she and the others stood in front of her.

"Not a club, a team." Doc smiled, "Miss Kelly here as well as being a track coach also runs the Mathletes, we compete against other schools."

"Are you interested Erica?" Annie asked.

"Would I be good enough?"

"Well I know I'm not." Jessica shook her head. "Math and me have a love hate relationship."

"I'm interested, but..."

"Come along to a meeting next week, and if you like it you can sign up then." Doc grinned.

"Okay I will." Erica smiled back.

"Now that is more me." Jessica pointed to the table with the soccer ball on, being manned by Sarah Nightingale and Ama.

“Doc told me Ama is really good,” Erica said as they walked over.

 

"Hello, where can I sign up for tryouts?" Jess asked.

"Here" Sarah Nightingale smiled as she pointed to the sheet on the table.

"Good." Jess signed her name.

"So do you play?"

"I do Miss."

"Well now, I detect a Spanish accent, who have you been playing with?"

"Oh,” Jess said nonchalantly, “I got a few games with Atletico Madrid's Women’s Under 19 team."

"Impressive," Sarah nodded as she appraised the girl. "What position?"

"Striker...I like to score goals." Jess laughed.

 

“We could use a good striker,” Ama said with a smile.

 

“What position do you play,” Jess said as she looked at the tall dark skinned girl.

 

“Mainly winger, but I move around,” Ama said with a smile.

 

“Well, I look forward to playing with you,” Jess said as the girls walked on.

 

“Now this looks interesting,” Dawn said as she wondered over to where a variety of instruments were laid to next to Miss Craig, “a jazz club?”

 

“Well, I’d like to start one,” Miss Craig said, “do you play?”

 

“A little – may I?”

 

 

 

 

"Find much talent?" Sarah asked Harriet a little while later as she poured herself a coffee.

"Well,” Harriet said with a smile, “Dawn, the Chinese girl over there is an excellent trombone player of all things. One girl can play piano boogie woogie style, so she is someone who I can certainly use. A couple of other girls seem enthusiastic.

 

“So I'm reasonably happy,” Harriet said, “now I just need to see who I can find among the other older girls next week."

"Well,” Sarah said with a smile, “I found myself a striker."

"Oh - Who?"

"Jess Murchado, the kid's been a phenom at Atletico Madrid, at 14 she's been playing under 19 level, she's been invited to tryout for the national Under 15's."

"Wow, she told you all that?"

"No I googled her." Sarah smiled.  “With Ama working alongside her, I think she will bring her along nicely.”


"How has your afternoon gone Grace?" Harriet asked.

"Not too well,” Grace said with a sigh, “I'm watching closely and I can see a snobby little clique starting to gather round young Poppy."

"Really?" asked Sarah, "or are you just projecting because you don't like her mother."

"No, Poppy was teasing Erica earlier about her being from a low rent district, I think I need talk to a few well placed older girls and try to nip this in the bud."

 

“Well tread carefully – the last thing you need in the first few weeks is an angry parent,” Sarah said as Kate walked over.

 

“You are talking about young Poppy Ashley?”

 

Grace nodded.  “Any thoughts on how to handle her?”

 

“Last year I’d say turn her over to Jo Smith – but I need to think this one over.  Maybe Letty can get alongside her – she’s been through a lot, after all.”

 

“Well, let’s see how tomorrow goes.  GIRLS!”

 

The room turned and looked at Kate as she said “Your first day is at an end.  We will see you tomorrow morning, at the normal time.”

 

“Yes, Miss,” the room said before they started to file out.

 

 

6 pm

The Richmond Mansion

 

“Hey – how’s it going?”

 

“I think I’m almost there,” Jo said as she looked at Abby and Cari, before closing the case.  “Enough clothes to get me through the term, along with use of the Laundromat.”

 

“Books?”

 

“In there,” Jo said as she pointed to a holdall.  “Tomorrow we’ll be off at seven.”

 

“Good – tonight, you’re coming with us.  One last night on the town before we all go back to school?”

 

“Sounds like an idea to me,” Jo said as she grabbed her leather jacket.  “Got anything in mind?”

 

“Pizza at Dino’s and a movie?”

 

“That is a plan, Stick,” Jo said as they went down the stairs.

 

“Going out?”

 

“Yeah – back in a while,” Jo said to Sandy as the girls headed out.

 

“Was that the girls taking Jo out?”

 

“It was,” Sandy said as she went to where Heather was sitting with little Sandy and George.

 

“All right you two – go to it,” Heather said as they jumped up and ran out of the room.

 

 

Friday 28th August

5 am local time

The Mogola/South Africa Border

 

“Stand to!”

 

The women looked round as Marigold and the Leader returned to the camp, with four other women.

 

“These women will work with Marigold to get information from the area,” Leader said as some women came forward, “give them food and rest.”

 

“At once Leader,” one of them said as they took the women to one side.

 

“You should rest as well,” she then said to Marigold.  “We’ll get you on your way tonight.”

 

“Thank you,” Marigold said quietly as she went to join the other women.

 

“I need squad leaders in my tent in fifteen minutes,” Leader called out as she grabbed some bread and meat.

 

 

 

“Well Leader how did it go?” Green asked as the squad leaders assembled.

 

“Satisfactorily,” Leader said.  “The Holy Woman has pronounced in our favour, and I suspect we can start expecting active help.  In return, we need to get some supplies – food, medical supplies – to them.  Yellow, I need you to take care of that tonight – Marigold will show you where.”

 

“Yes Leader,” Yellow said with a nod.

 

“Good,” Green said, “well I can report that something must be happening inside the compound, we have observed some very angry arguments among some of the sliteyes.”

 

“I’d like to know what those were about…”

 

“They spoke in their own languages, we had no way of understanding.”

 

“Yes.” Leader squatted and thought. “I need to speak to the Little Mother.”

 

“We explained what you were doing when we made our routine check-in,” one of the radio operators reported.

 

“Good.”

 

“They have stepped up their patrolling as well.” Red spoke.

 

“And?”

 

“Our girls stepped back and hid just as instructed Leader.”

 

“The reinforcements?”

 

“Should be with us by morning.” Green answered.

 

“Alright,” Leader said, “I hate to do this, but we will need to create two fresh sticks at least. I know you have got used to being alongside each other, but we need to teach these newcomers right here on the ground.”

 

“Understood,” the various group commanders nodded.

 

“Pick your best instructors and tell them they will be commanding these new units.”

 

“Yes.” All the other women nodded.  “For the Heart and the Strength.”

 

“Good – now let us prepare for the new arrivals.”

 

 

 

11 am

The Quad, Hobart William Smith

 

“I hate early starts, but at least we made it,” Jo said as she, Sandy and Heather walked towards the matriculation tent.  “I’m glad Sandy and George got up to see us off though.”

 

“Looks like this queue here,” Heather said as they joined a short queue under a sign saying “P-S”

 

“Hi there,” the young girl said, “name and school please.”

 

“Joanne Smith, St Angela’s Academy.”  Sandy and Heather were wearing jeans and blouses, while Jo had on an Angel’s hoodie with a denim skirt, leggings and trainers.

 

“Let’s see – ah yes, Psych Major, and on the track team already.”

 

She walked to the table behind her and pulled out a pack.

 

“All right - here’s your orientation pack, student pass, key card and timetable,” she said as she handed it over to Jo.  “You’ve been placed in Hirshson Hall, room 214.  The map inside will show you where you can park your car to unload your things.”

 

“Thanks,” Jo said as the three of them walked out, and then looked inside.

 

“Seems you get the parents talk at 2 – what say we walk over to the Hall and have a look at the room before I bring the jeep over?”

 

“Sounds good,” Heather said as they made the short walk to the main entrance of Hirshson Hall, and walked in.

 

“So what do you have on today?”

 

“Seems I have an orientation group at 2, while you get the mum and dad chat,” Jo said with a grin, “and then a meet at the hall at six.”

 

Hearing her phone go off, she looked at it and smiled.  “Curt says welcome, and he’ll see us at seven,” she said as they looked round the entrance hall.

 

“Can I help you,” a young girl said as she came over.

 

“Yeah – room 214?”

 

“Through those doors, up one flight, turn left.”

 

Following the directions, they made their way along the corridor.   “210… 212… Here it is, 214,” Heather said as Jo passed her key card through the reader and opened the door.

 

“Big enough room,” Heather said as they came in, looking at the two large beds, tables, wardrobes and drawers sets.

 

“I think so,” Jo said as she looked round, “and my new roommate has obviously arrived.”  She nodded at the bed by one side, which had a large rucksack on it.

 

“Oh – hi.  I guess you must be Joanne.”

 

The three of them turned to see a girl with curly red hair standing in the doorway, holding a box as a grey haired man stood behind her.

 

“Yeah – yeah I’m Jo Smith,” she said with a smile, “and you are?”

 

“Sorry,” the other girl said as she put her box on the bed, “I’m Hope – Hope Johnson.  I’ve seen your face somewhere before…”

 

“We can discuss that later,” the man said as he carried another box in.  “Danny Johnson, Hope’s dad.  You are?”

 

“Heather Smith – I’m Jo’s sister, and this is my partner Sandy Richmond.”

 

“Pleasure,” Danny said as he shook their hands.  “So where do you hail from?”

 

“Upstate originally, but we live in Manhattan now.  You?”

 

“Maryland – we had quite a drive up here.  So why did you choose William Smith, Jo?”

 

“Psychology is my major, but I was also invited last year to join the track team.”

 

“You were?  What’s your speciality?”

 

“800, working up to 1500.  Do you run?”

 

“No – I throw.  Shot put.  I’m majoring in English Lit.”

 

“They must have put us in the same room for that reason,” Jo said with a smile.  “Well, we’d better get my stuff in, and then enjoy the delights of the box lunch.”

 

“You go and bring the jeep round,” Heather said as she took the envelope, “we’ll wait downstairs to give you a hand.”

 

“See you later,” Hope said as they went back downstairs, Jo heading for the main car park as Sandy and Heather looked round.

 

“She chose well, didn’t she?”

 

“Hm-hm,” Heather said as she nodded, “she’s going to do well here.  I’m thinking we can come up for the Family weekend at the beginning of October.”

 

“We’ll try to at any rate – and she comes home for a reading week soon after.”

 

They watched as Jo drove up, and then jumped out, Sandy and Heather coming to collect boxes as she took two bags out.

 

“Oh my god,” Hope said as she came back into the room, “I know where I’ve seen you before.  You’re the face of Big Box.”

 

“Yeah,” Jo said quietly, “I do a bit of modeling and commercial work on the side to help pay the bills, but honestly?  Here, I just want to be another student.”

 

“Oh sure, sure,” Hope said with a smile, “it’s just a surprise, that’s all.”

 

Jo shook her head and put a bag on her bed, opening it before she took out a brightly wrapped parcel and a card.

 

“What’s this,” she said as she looked at Sandy and Heather.

 

“Something from the kids,” Heather said, “go on, open it.”

 

Jo opened the parcel, and took out a small bear with an Angel’s hoodie on, and then looked at the homemade card.

 

“Come on,” Heather said as she put her arm around Jo, “let’s go and enjoy a lunch together.”

 

“Yeah – yeah, once we’ve unloaded the car,” Jo said as she put the bear on the desk, wiping away a tear as they headed out again.

 

1.30 pm

Scandling Campus Centre

 

“Goddess, save me from Box lunches,” Sandy said as she looked at the turkey roll, and poured some of the sachet of mustard on it.

 

“Well, I suppose it fills a gap until later,” Jo said before she heard a voice call out “Jo!”

 

“Coach Waterman,” Jo said as she saw Lisa Waterman walk over, “you’ve met Heather before, but this is her partner Sandy.”

 

“Nice to meet you,” Lisa said as they shook hands, “so you’re settled in?”

 

“Not yet, but I will be.  My roomie apparently is on the team as well, Hope Jackson?”

 

“Oh yeah – field events specialist, so different coach.  But I’m sure I’ll meet her around.  Well, I’ll see you Monday night.”

 

“What’s happening Monday,” Sandy asked.

 

“Track team meet – find out training sessions, events schedule and so on.  The crowning glory of my first full day as classes start.”

 

Looking at a sheet of paper, Jo said “and I need to attend this orientation group, while you go to the Campus tour.  Meet up again at 4?”

 

“Sounds good – which way do we go?”

 

“You head that way, I head this way, and I’ll get to my room afore ye…”

 

 

2 pm

Complete Style

 

“Hello Jack boyo,” Mary Thomas said as Jack Linklater came into the office, “come to see the commander in chief?”

 

“I have been summoned, and so I come,” Jack said as he looked at his old friend.  “Although I have come off my sick bed to do so.”

 

“How many last night?”

 

“None at all,” Jack said as he walked over, Janine standing up and knocking on Juliette’s door.

 

“Jack Linklater’s here.”

 

“Send him in – and get some coffee will you,” Juliette said as Jack came in.

 

“Ju, my dear, what can I do for you today,” he said as he sat down.

 

“I’m just checking in with all the photographers for the special issue,” Juliette said as Janine brought the coffee in.

 

“Well, if I get five minutes with Carina and Ingrid, along with Holly, I should be fine.  Can we do that?”

 

“Jack you know we are getting ready to take the girls to school this weekend?” Juliette spoke as she gave the photographer a cup of coffee.  “Jo’s already up at Geneva.”

 

“One going south to Princeton, the other north to New Haven.”

 

“Yes, but in both cases well able to drive into the city next weekend for you to shoot.”

 

Jack threw his head back and said loudly “Why does everybody think of nothing but work?”

 

“Jack?” Juliette narrowed her eyes, “What is wrong now?”

 

“Juliette I am running a temperature, just feel my forehead.”

 

As she put the back of her hand to his head, Juliette smiled and said “Jack you are slightly warm and that is all.”

 

“I’m dying…”

 

“You are not.”

 

“You said I am…”

 

“Jack no man is as hot as he thinks he is…”

 

“Bitch…”  Jack pouted as he drank his coffee, and said “do you have no sympathy for the sick?”

 

“For the real sick yes, for hypochondriacs like you Jack, then none at all.”

 

“Well, I feel really out of sorts…”

 

“Jack,” Juliette said as she sat down, “have you had a fight with Luke?”

 

“No, to fight I have to see him.” Jack pouted.

 

“Well you were the one asked us if we could find him any work?”

 

“I know, but I didn’t think you’d send him to Canada for this extended period...”

 

“Jack, it’s been three days.” Juliette sighed.

 

“Well I’m off my food, I am sure I’m running a fever…Are you sure I am not sick?”

 

“Jack you are just lonely and bored.”

 

“I could be dying and you wouldn’t care.”

 

Juliette shook her head. “Look why don’t you go and chat to Alex, I’m sure he has more time, and patience, than I do.”

 

“Did I hear my name mentioned?”

 

“Timing,” Juliette said with a smile as Alex looked round the door, “Alex, can you help pull Jack here out of his misery?”

 

“Well, I just handed in my article, and I’m on my way to meet up with Steven to discuss a charity match.  Care to join us?”

 

“Ah, now that sounds like fun – give John a call and we can make a foursome.”

 

“Thank you,” Juliette said as Jack left, “any word from Jo?”

 

“She’s settling in – Sandy is going to call later.  Ready for peace and quiet?”

 

“What – with Klaus?”

 

Alex smiled as Jack called out “Alex, minister to me!”

 

“I’ll leave you to it,” Alex said, Juliette shaking her head as she went back to work.

 

3 pm

APCO, 5th Avenue

 

Jan stood watching anxiously as she watched Betsy measuring Katy, and taking done some notes.

 

“So, the verdict Betsy,” she said as the store manager looked at Katy.

 

“Well it’s definitely a B cup she needs Miss Carter.”

 

Janice shook her head as she looked at her daughter. “She needs that already Betsy?”

 

“I’m afraid so, young Katy has grown to be a big girl this summer.”

 

“Well if that’s her size, then I suppose that’s what we need to buy.”

 

“I’m sorry Mom.”  Katy looked at Jan, still very much the tween, and yet…

 

“Don’t be sorry darling.” Janice hugged her daughter, “It’s just Mother Nature working her magic.”

 

“Mom, what we also discussed…?”

 

“Oh yes…Betsy my daughter is going on her first real date, young George Richmond asked her to his school dance. Do you have anything suitable?”

 

“It’s not really a date Mom?” Katy blushed.

 

“It sounds like one to me Katy, and it does just happen that we have the new winter line in teen dresses in.” Betsy smiled, “come with me and I’ll show you some of them.”

 

“Hello Janice.” The FBI woman heard a voice over her shoulder.

 

“Oh hey Judge.” Jan smiled as she turned and saw who the voice belonged to.

 

“In a place like this it’s definitely just Brooke,” Judge Hatton smiled back, “So are you shopping for yourself?”

 

“Not me this time, this is for Katy, new bras…It was only really yesterday we got her first training bra, and would you believe now she needs a B cup?…and a dress for a school dance.”

 

“Children grow up so damn quickly.” Brooke shook her head. “What do you think of this?” the judge held up a cocktail dress and looked in a mirror.

 

“With legs as good as yours, it will look sensational. What do you need a dress for?”

 

“A bar association luncheon, the Mayor and the Governor will both be there.”

 

“Didn’t I also see the Attorney General, and someone from the White House as well are coming?  We get the security memos,” Janice explained as the judge gave her a quizzical look.

 

“They are…and,” Brooke took a breath, “Rumour is they are looking me over as a candidate for a vacancy on the federal bench.”

 

“Well congrats Brooke, but in that case nix the cocktail dress, I think something more conservative.”

 

“Pity,” the judge sighed as she returned the dress to the rack.

 

“On the other hand, conservative does not mean it cannot be stylish – have you thought of this,” Jan said as she picked up a cap sleeved black silk dress.  “Combine this with a nice jacket, and…”

 

“Hmm – some of Juliette is rubbing off on you, you know that don’t you?”

 

“Possibly – oh my goodness, you so look nice in that Katy.”

 

Katy smiled as she twirled round in a green dress influenced by Ancient Greek designs, a detailed belt round her waist, the dress coming to the middle of her thighs.

 

“I like it too Mom – can I get it please?”

 

“All right – we’ll take that as well Betsy.”

 

“Judge Hatton – that dress might look good on you.  Would you like to try it on?”

 

“Why not,” Brooke said as she headed to the dressing rooms with Katy and Betsy.

 

 

7 pm

Hirshson Hall, Hobart William Smith

 

“Hey there,” Curt said as he saw Heather and Sandy come in, “welcome to my den of influence and teaching.”

 

“Hi Curt,” Heather said as she kissed Jo’s boyfriend on the cheek, “how has your day been?”

 

“Busy – I had a faculty meeting all day to discuss the courses this year – and don’t worry, I excused myself from discussing the freshman year.  Did you manage to settle at the hotel?”

 

“We did – had a chance to clean up and read the parent information.  At least we know how to get in touch with her by post now.”

 

“Are you talking about me already?”

 

Curt smiled as Jo came down, wearing a smart pair of trousers and a short sleeved blouse.

 

“How did the hall meeting go?”

 

“Not bad – I at least know now what to do if someone sets the alarm off in the middle of the night.”

 

“And that is?”

 

“Behave yourself, go back to bed, find out who did it and share your thanks the next morning?”

 

“She’s a fast learner,” Heather said with a laugh.

 

“Come on then – I’m taking you to this seafood place I know round the lake.  I think you’ll all like it.”

 

“Sounds good,” Jo said as she took Curt’s arm.  “So are you driving?”

 

“I was planning to – but remember, you are a freshman – no alcohol on campus.”

 

“Are we going to be on campus?”

 

“Not tonight, no – come with me,” Curt said as he opened the door.

 

8.30 pm

The Red Dove Tavern,

Castle Street, Geneva NY

 

“I discovered this place as a senior,” Curt said as the waiter placed the well cooked Teres Major in front of him.

 

“Well, it looks delicious,” Heather said as she looked at her perch, while Sandy smiled as the plate of rockfish and spiced couscous was placed in front of her.

 

“Indeed – my last good meal for a few weeks I suspect,” Jo said as she looked at the lamb chops, “I get the feeling Coach Waterman is strict on diet.”

 

“Lisa?  She’s not that bad – just avoid the fast food joints when she’s around.”

 

“She’s already talked to you,” Jo said as she cut into the chop.

 

“I cannot tell a lie – she cornered me yesterday,” Curt said with a smile as he drank his beer.  “So what do you think of where she will be living, Heather?”

 

“It’s not my old alma mater, but I think Jo’s going to be just fine here,” Heather said with a smile.  “Even if I am going to miss her.”

 

“Don’t worry, I’ll keep an eye on her,” Curt said with a smile as he gripped Jo’s hand.

 

“I’m glad the faculty have no problem with you dating Jo,” Sandy said with a smile as she ate her fish.  “This is exceptional – locally caught?”

 

“Yup – and so long as I don’t teach her, it’s fine.  At least this year it doesn’t mean she can’t take any of the classes.  What have you signed up for anyway?”

 

“Apart from the psych course?  English Lit 101, Math 102, and the First Year seminar on Monsters in America.”

 

“Interesting choices – being on the track team takes care of the phys ed part, and it means come October you can pick next semester to compliment that.”

 

“That’s what I’m thinking,” Jo said, “there’s an art appreciation next semester that appeals to me.”

 

Heather almost choked as she looked at Jo.  “Art Appreciation?  You?”

 

“And Computer Science as well.”

 

Her sister took a drink of her wine as she looked at Sandy.

 

“Don’t look at me – she must have got the art bug from you,” Sandy said as she leaned back and smiled.

 

 

 

9 pm PT

Beverley Hills

 

“Why are you watching that episode of CSI New York over and over again darling?” Rick asked as he entered the darkened screening room.

 

“One of the girls in, it is someone we are considering for the movie.”

 

“Oh…Okay.” Rick lost interest.

 

“Casting really means very little to you does it?” Cassie snuggled next to her husband.

 

“I have a vision of what something will look like when I write it, the faces never correspond to those that are actually used…I sort of prefer the movie that I play in my head.”

 

“I always knew you hated actors.” Cassie giggled.

 

“So what are you doing tomorrow morning?”

 

“Putting on my executive producers hat and meeting again with Madeline Moore, the partner of Emma Cromwell who sang with Ladydown.”

 

“Oh Brian’s next idea…”

 

“Exactly.”

 

“You know Brian wants me to write the script.”

 

“I do, so I am meeting with Madeline who is their representative so we can set up interviews, etc, so you can get a feel for the material.”

 

“With no offence my love, you aren’t…?”

 

“You’ve heard me sing?” Cassie giggled, “no this film I’ll be strictly an executive on, and I will spare the world the joys of listening to me try to hold a note.”

 

“GOOD!” Rick laughed as he kissed her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Return to the Pussycat Gang index

 

Return to the main index