Countdown...  to Munich







Sunday 27th March

8 pm BST

Sheraton Athlone


“Ah, there ye are,” Maeve said as Katherine came into the bar.


“Yeah – my last night to relax for a while I suspect.”


"So where are the girls Katherine?" Maeve asked as her friend eased herself up on to the bar stool next to her.

"In our room playing video games with Lady Aileen."

"Which proves the point I was saying to Rose,” Maeve said with a smile, “you see them in magazines and they look grown-up, but scratch the surface they are still only kids."

"That's for sure.  The whole flight over she watched cartoons on the plane."

"Now,” Maeve said, “what are you drinkin'?"

"I think I'll have a Guinness know when in Rome?"

"I do," Maeve smiled as she signaled the barman.  “Two pints.”

"So what lodge do you represent Maeve?" Katherine said as she sipped the dark beer.

"The worst named one in the world," Maeve's smile broke into a laugh, "It is called the Sisters of Purity Lodge..."


"Yes,” Maeve said, “and when you consider the sheer number of unwed mothers we have had over the years it is a total misnomer, we usually just call it Lodge 127 Edmonton."

"Well my lodge is called the Sisterhood of the Shamrocks, or Lodge 141 New York."

"That's not too bad a name."


“True – but this...  This is different for me, coming back.”


“Long overdue possible,” Maeve said as she raised her glass, “to the sisterhood.”


“The Daughters.”


As they took a drink, Katherine sighed and put her glass down.


“So,” Maeve said, “what else is happening?”


“Well, apart from the arrival of Adam’s mother?”


“Really?  That must have been interesting?”


“That’s one word for it – turns out Ball is a decorated navy vet and a Jewish mother.”


“Now that is an unusual combination – how did Janice feel?”


“Intimidated at first, but I think there’s an uneasy truce at the moment.”  Taking another drink, Katherine whispered "Did Susan tell you that Katy has had a stalker?"

"She did," Maeve nodded, "Any clue if he followed her here?"

"Not as yet, but I'll be watching the crowds as the girls shoot their pictures."


“I don’t think you will be the only one,” Maeve said as she saw Tracy slip into the bar.



“Dammit – you win again Katy,” Aileen said as she sat back on the bed.


"So now I know Katy does target shooting for fun,” Orion said as she took a drink, “what do you do Aileen?"

"I run, but I enjoy it more then I'm good at it."

"Not according to Jo, she says you aren't bad." Katy looked up from shooting things on the screen.

"Well I think she was being polite..."

"No Jo is usually extremely honest, especially when talking about running."

"I'm still not what about you Orion? What do you do?"

"Try and keep out of the way of the nuns who teach PE," the Ulster girl giggled. "I'm USELESS at all sports."

"Well I thought I was till I discovered shooting."

"I think I'd hate even my idea of fun is sleep and watching TV."


“BORING!  Let’s see who can kill the monsters now...”



Monday 28th March

10 am BST

Athlone Castle


“Okay,” the crew said, “instructions boss?”


Alice looked at Orion and Katy as they sat in the chairs.


"I want them to look relatively fresh faced and sporty Eedie," Alice supervised the makeup lady, "make them beautiful..."

"Oh now that's a hard job..."

"BITCH!" Katy grinned.

"But I'll see what I can do."

"Just don't make them look too mature."

"Gotcha." Eedie opened up her box of tricks.  “Right – you first Katy...”


"No dogs for us to walk?" Orion asked.

"No that's Jo's thing darling." Mandy fussed over Orion's hair. "Arlene I think this needs to go back in curlers...she needs more bounce, more body, more curls."

"Coming up yer Ladyship."

"How is mine?" Katy asked.

"Not bad darling," Mandy pursed her lips, "but back in rollers till we are ready please."




“Do they always take this long to get ready,” Aileen said as she stood with Paula.


“Alice and Mandy want perfection,” her mother said, “and that takes time.  But look at the results.”


Aileen looked over as Katy and Orion put on the jeans, both looking like incredibly beautiful young women.


"Are those the jeans we agreed Mandy?" Alice shouted.

"They are,” Mandy said as she looked at the two teenagers, “but I think the girls need a longer leg."

"With those heels on, then yes."

"Okay girls get them off," Tina the wardrobe lady shouted.

"Oh if my teachers could see me now," Orion laughed as she stood in the middle of the field wearing just brief panties and high heeled boots.


“And mine – this would look great in the yearbook,” Katy said as the longer jeans were brought out, and the girls put them on, followed by the first jumpers.


"Yuck...five inch heels in a muddy field Aunt Alice?"

"Just go with the flow Katy, they make you look like you have legs that go on forever."

"Yeah but every step I take I feel them sinking into the earth."

"Live with it Katy, I can tell you far worse stiletto horror stories darling." Mandy took one last look. "Well I think she's ready to go Alice."


"What do you think Kevin?"

"I think if Katy stops bellyaching and just starts to work, we can get some amazing shots."

"Agreed," Alice nodded.

"Okay left leg extended a bit Katy..." Kevin called out.


"That's chin a little higher...perfect!" Kevin smiled as he started to take pictures and Katy started to try poses, Orion watching from the side.


“Right – in you come me dear,” Kevin said as Orion walked over, and he started to shoot both of them.


"I remember you telling us that modelling was hard work, not all glamour and fun Mummy," Aileen stood watching the two girls work intently.

"It's true, just look at some of those poses that Orion is doing, they require real physical fitness."

"She was saying last night she runs away from doing PE at school though."

"Well I'd certainly never know,” Paula said, “she looks like a gymnast at times with her stretches."

"And what does Katy look like?"

"She's hampered in a way by her breasts, but in another way they make her look very sexy."

"Well I wish I had half her luck..."

"Well you take after me,” her mother said as she looked down, “nature condemned us both to be a B Cup at best."

"Wow look at Katy now?"

"That's what I meant Aileen darling, she uses her body differently to Orion, but she uses it to maximum effect."

"They are both pretty good aren't they darling?" Mandy joined in the conversation.

"Well better then I ever was..."

"Kick your mother for me Aileen darling, she's putting herself down again."

"Hey, I know what my limitations were as a model."

"Mainly a little lack of self-confidence darling," Mandy smiled. "Aileen your Mummy could have been a real top girl if she'd just believed in herself a little more, we all told her so at the time. She drove Missy crazy?"

"Who was Missy?"

"My agent." Paula looked upwards as she remembered.  “She’s not coming here, is she?”


“Nope – you’ll see her Saturday...”


As they talked Katherine walked round.  “No sign of him so far,” she said quietly to herself.



11 am CET



Heather was looking intently at the wall, so intently she did not hear the footsteps.


"How did I know I'd find you here lover?" Sandy sighed as she found Heather in the picture gallery.

"Oh I don't know how you could have possibly guessed," Heather laughed, but she kept her eyes firmly on the painting she was looking at.

"Balance of probabilities.  So, what is so interesting?" Sandy said as she looked in the same direction as Heather.

"This painting,” Heather said as she stroked her chin, “I am thinking its been misattributed."

"Oh - why?"

"Well it says by the school of Rubens, but I personally think it’s the work of the master himself."

"You do?" Sandy looked closely, "but why?"

"I can't explain it, but everything from the composition to the brushstrokes to me screams Rubens."

"Well wouldn't it if it was done by his pupils?"

"No, I've seen other real Rubens, and this just yells out at me that is by Peter Paul himself."


“What is?”


“Oh hello Natalya,” Heather said, “I was looking at the painting.  Who said it was the Rubens school?”


“That one?  I’m sure we have the documentation in the library – would you like to see it?”


“Oh very much so,” Heather said with a smile.



Noon BST

Athlone Castle


“Okay – get the next jumpers ready.”


"Oh some water...PLEASE!" Katy called out as Kevin called a halt.

"Here Katy," Alice tossed her a bottle.

"Thank you,” Katy said as she caught and opened the top, “I needed that so bad."

"Well Aileen what do you think of it?" Orion asked as she pulled a coat on.

"You work damn hard."

"Tell me about it..."

"Don't listen to Katy she's just bellyaching again Aileen." Orion took a bottle of water herself and sat down.

"Do I bellyache?"

"CONSTANTLY!" most of the crew shouted back.


“Okay, I suppose I do,” Katy said with a smile as Orion’s father came over.


“It’s Katherine isn’t it?  Your friend Maeve said to tell you it’s time – I’ll take over the chaperone bit.”


“Yeah – I was expecting this.  See you guys later.”


From a nearby seat, Tracy watched Katherine walk off, and stood up, starting to walk in a wide circle round the shoot...


12.30 pm BST

Sheraton Athlone


“There you are,” Maeve said as Katherine came in, wearing her badge, “registered?”


“All done,” Katherine said as she sat at the table with her.


"So what is on 'our' schedule?" Maeve asked as she looked inside the folder.

"Not sure," Katherine said as she opened up her welcome pack, "I know we are supposed to discuss funding in the future for the most beautiful Daughter of Erin beauty pageant."

"Should we really still be in the business of beauty contests?" Maeve asked as she scanned a document.

"Well part of me says yes, that it’s a chance for girls from the Irish diaspora to come home and show off, but the feminist in me says they are outdated relics, especially after hearing Donald Trump on the subject."

"You know,” Maeve said, “I truly hate that man..."

"And you aren't even an American voter Maeve," Katherine giggled.

"I think we should just listen to the arguments then make up our minds."

"Now promotion of Camogie overseas is something I do agree with, I played both before and after we left Ireland, but our clubs in New York are dying from lack of girls playing."

"Well you better speak when the topic comes up then."


“What on earth are we debating the UK Referendum,” Katherine asked.


“Because they may just decide to leave,” Brenda said.  “Mind if I join you?”


“Go ahead – Maeve O’Leary, Brenda O’Ryan.”


“So where do you know Katherine from?”


“Oh,” Brenda said as she sat down, “we knew each other in Waterford.”


“Oh – ah,” Maeve said.  “So where are you now?”


“Belfast – anyway, the question is, given we are an international group, should we take a view?”


“Okay – but I see they have a discussion on America as well,” Katherine said.


“Brenda?  Good lord, how many years has it been?”


“Orlagh!”  Brenda said as she stood up and hugged a thin woman.  “This is Maeve and...”


“Katy O’Dowd!  How long has it been?”


“Far too long,” Katherine said as they embraced.  “How are you?”


“I’m well – what brings you here?”


“Well, the reunion, I drew the short straw...”


“And her granddaughter is a model, doing a shoot at the castle,” Maeve said with real pride.


“A model?”


“As is my great niece,” Brenda said, “My niece is Orion O’Ryan, her granddaughter Katy Carter.”



"Are you a bridesmaid for the 'BIG' wedding Katy?" Aileen asked as they ate their lunch.

"I am,” Katy said with a grin, “my Mom is a friend of the family."

"You are so lucky," Orion looked a trifle sad.

"Well I'm not a bridesmaid..."

"No but at least you are a guest Aileen. I'll just be watching on my computer."


“I know – but we’ll send you some cake...”


2 pm CET

Munich International Airport


“Why are we here,” Emma Carlton said as she and Anna came through the arrival doors, Steve following with their luggage.


“You know why Mom,” Doc said, “to attend...”


“Herr Carlton.”


Steve turned to see a uniformed chauffer standing there.


“We’re the Carlton family,” he said as the chauffer bowed.


“Frau Strecher has sent me to meet you, and take you to the townhouse.  Follow me please.”


He looked at Doc and Emma, before they walked out of the terminal building, Doc whistling as he opened the door of a stretch Daimler.


“You will find refreshment inside – please, make yourself comfortable,” he said as he took the cases and opened the trunk.


“Is that champagne?”


“It is,” Doc said as she sat down, Steve opening the bottle and pouring some into three glasses.


“Welcome to Munich – we have  a short drive ahead,” the chauffer said as he got behind the wheel.


“Well, here’s to an interesting week,” Emma said as all three raised their glasses, and took a sip.


“Is this your first time in Germany,” the chauffer asked as they made their way into the city.


“First time out of the US if truth be told,” Steve said as they looked out of the window.  “So different from our home.”


“I can imagine – but you arrive in time to settle before diinner.”


“Have many people arrived?”


“Of the main wedding party, I believe we are only waiting for Fraulein Carter and her party.  But most of the others have arrived, and the rest of the guests have begun to arrive across the city.  Frau Strecher will be able to advise if his Highness or Fraulein Huntingdown are unavailable.”


The road swung to the right as they joined a road that ran thorugh a forest of pine trees, then past symmetrically laid out fields before turning onto the road south.


“I never expected to see so many farms,” Doc said as she sipped her drink.


“We are a farming community in many ways, Fraulein,” the chayffer said as they continued on, through towns and then passed a large stadium.


“That is the Allianz Arena,” the chauffer said, “home of Bayern Munich.”


“Well, Ama will be happy when she arrives,” Doc said as they entered Munich itself, and then onto LeopoldStrase, pulling up outside the townhouse.


“Welcome to the von Furstenheim residence, the chauffer said as he opened the doors, the Carltons getting out to see Cari coming down the stairs with Abby and Jo.


“You made it,” she said as she hugged Doc, “how was the flight?”


“Different – big place.”


“Well, you’re staying here as well.  This is Frau Strecher.”


“Welcome,” the steward said, “if you will follow me, His Highness and Fraulein Huntingdown are waiting in the drawing room.”


“It does take your breath away,” Jo said as she took the new arrivals to the room where Juliette and Klaus were talking.


“Emma, Steve, Anna – you made it,” Juliette said as she came over to greet them.


“This is where we’re staying,” Steve said quietly as he looked round.


“Of course,” Klaus said, “we insist.  Come – have a drink.”






The Village


Ama opened the door to the apartment, smiling as she said “you must be Sharon Kennedy.  Please, come in – Mom is expecting you.”


“Thank you,” Sharon said as she walked up the staircase, carrying her case with her.  She was dressed in a jacket and pants, with a blue blouse underneath, and smiled as she saw Caroline sitting at the table, looking at her laptop.


“Ah good – and good choice of outfit.  Appearances are the first and often most important aspect of this business, as I hope you will discover.  Ama, Sharon will be interning with me until the end of the summer – she will be observing my work and hopefully offering a few suggestions.”


“Of course Mom,” Ama said with a smile, “will Uncle George be involved as well?”


“In due course – but he’s down in Florida this week for the race, so that particular meeting must wait.”


“Uncle George?”


“George Sanders, my second in command.  Right – tonight we,” she said as she looked round the room, “will travel to Munich with Pepsi and her family.  I wanted you here early so that you could accompany me to a meeting I have – purely to observe.  They have been informed, and given you permission to attend.”


Sharon nodded as Ama offered her a coffee.


“Have you finished packing?”


“Yes Mom,” Ama said as she rolled her eyes.  “Pepsi and the others will join us at three.”


“Good – well, drink up Sharon.  We just have time to get to the offices for this meeting.”


“The offices?”


“Oh yes – first meeting is always at neutral ground.  In this case, Xavier International.”


7 pm BST

Burger King

Golden Island Shopping Centre



The customers didn’t bat an eyelid as the three teenage girls took their trays, walking over to the drinks dispenser as they talked to each other.


“What will it be, love,” the man said to the next in line.


“Chicken Royale, large chips, coffee,” Tracy said as she glanced round the restaurant.  “And throw in some mozzarella sticks as well.”


"I can't believe they are letting us out unchaperoned." Orion laughed heartily as they slipped into a booth.

"Well without all the makeup you just look like any other girls." Aileen stared at her friends, almost unable to believe the transformation away from the models she had seen working all day.

"Even like this though I have to sometimes resort to wigs back home." Katy took a sip of her diet Coke.

"That must suck..."

"It can do Aileen," Katy reflected, "at first it was fun being asked my autograph, but it soon gets old."  She took a bite out of her burger and slowly chewed.

"School uniforms are the best disguise." Orion took a bite, "somehow even fans can't identify girls in ordinary uniforms as models."

"I'll have to tell the girls back at school that." Aileen nodded.

"Well at least we don't have to sit through your Mom's speech Aileen."

"Yes, thank the dear God for small mercies."


Tracy took a seat and looked round.  It was like any other burger joint she knew – teenagers trying to escape from home for an hour or two, workers too tired to cook or even shop.  The one saving grace was her sandwich was almost edible.



“You know we’re been scoped out,” Orion said as she sipped her coke.


“We are?  Who by,” Aileen said as she looked up.


“No no – don’t look round,” Katy said.  “Talk to me, my Irish friend.”


“Three lads, two fair haired, one brown, about our age, and walking this way right now.”


“Are they,” Aileen said as the boys came over.


“Hey – mind if we join you?”


“Well, since you asked so nicely,” Aileen said.


“You’re not local, are you,” one of the other two boys said.  “We’d have seen you around if you were.”


“Damn – warn the Garda,” Orion said.


"So what are three out-of-towners doing out tonight?" one of the boys asked.

"Our Mom's are here for the Daughters of Erin reunion." Katy replied, "we escaped from the speeches."

"You are American?"

"I am,” Katy said, “but my friends here are both Irish."

"I'm from Dublin," Aileen said in an Irish accent, "and she's from Belfast."

"So where in the States?"

"New York City," Katy looked at the three boys, they were sort of cute. "Have you ever been?"

"He's never even been to Dublin," the third boy said.


“Well, there’s always time,” Aileen said.  “Tell you what  - but us a drink, and then sit and we’ll talk.”


From her spot Tracy watched closely. The three boys looked safe enough, three local lads they looked about 14 or 15, and they were clearly just trying to chat the girls up.


As she sipped her coffee, however, she saw a young man sitting at another table – looking at Katy.  Something seemed familiar about him, and she took out her phone, checking the records.


“Fuck,” she said to herself as she looked at the photo, and then back up – only to see the empty table.




8.45 pm BST

Strathdon Athlone


“Well, at least the chicken wasn’t rubber,” Katherine said, Maeve laughing as he plates were cleared away.


“My fellow sisters,” the chair of the organising committee said from the table at the top of the room, “Welcome, one and all to this Daughters of Erin reunion.


“We’ve gathered from the four corners of the globe to renew old friendships, and to talk and learn from each other.  So I thank you for coming, and spending the next two days with us.”


There was applause from around the room, as she said “Now, to deliver the keynote address, please join me in welcoming a true Daughter – Paula, Duchess of Lardarn.”


As the room applauded, Paula stood up, her green sash over her shoulder and falling over her light blue dress, and came to the microphone.


“Sisters,” she said as she looked round, “first, allow me to take a moment to thank the ladies here at this table who invited me to speak tonight.  It is a rare honour to be asked to address the Daughters, and it is an honour I appreciate and accept.


“We have come from many places, near and far, the length and breadth not just of this country, but of the world.  We sit here, young and old, married and single, but one thing unites us all – and that is a simple, plain and honest truth.


“You see, my sisters, this country has known so many years of conflict and hurt – and I can speak from experience in that, for I carry the name of Gaunt.  That is a name that has caused so much anger, so much hurt over centuries – and still does today.  It is not so long since someone had so much hatred of the name they siught to hurt me and my husband for having that name.


“But the story of this emerald isle, north and south, over the last few years has shown that if we can find it in our hearts to forgive, and to look past whatever hurt has been created, to work together to find a better way forward, then it is possible to find a new dawn.


“Why do I mention this?  Because at the heart of reconciliation is recognition – recognition of the one thing that unites us all.  And that is – we are Irish at our core, Irish at our heart.


“It doesn’t matter if we come from Waterford or Dublin, Cork or Linburn, Belfast or Armagh, London or New York.  Nor does it matter if we come from a privileged family, be it Ascendancy or endowed, or if you come from a fishing family or a farm.  We are all Irish, we are all Daughters of Erin, and in that we are one, in that we are united!”


She paused for a moment as the room applauded, before she said “so these two days, if there are things unsaid, things to forgive, let them be said and let them be forgiven.  Because together we are stronger, together we are one sisterhood, all Daughters of Erin together.


“And be proud of that, wear it as a badge of honour, so that you can show the world you are proud to be Irish, proud to be a Daughter of Erin, and proud to be with your sisters now and forever.”


As the room applauded again, Paula said “I have only one further thing to say - Do bheatha 'bhaile , deirfiúracha , agus taitneamh a bhaint an teacht le chéile.”


“That’s the best kind of after dinner speech,” Katherine said to Maeve, “short and to the point.  Do you agree, Brenda?”


“I guess so,” Brenda said as she swirled her drink round. 


10 pm BST

Sheraton Athlone


“Well now, is it raining pearls from heaven out there,” Brenda said as the three teenagers came in.


“It is a little damp, yes,” Aileen said as they walked into the bar.


“And how was your night girls?” Maeve asked.


“Three local boys tried chatting us up.” Orion took her jacket off.


“And how did that go?” Katherine asked as she sipped her drink.


“Not overly well, all they were really interested in was sport.” Aileen shook her hair to get rid of the raindrops.


“They had two of the world’s hottest young supermodels in their company, and they tried talking to you about sport?” Eve looked amused.


“Well they had no clue who we were.” Katy smiled, “we said we were here keeping our Moms company at the reunion.”


“I’m your Mom now darlin’?” Katherine asked.


“Well explaining I’m here with my gran would just have complicated things…And why are yours and Aunt Maeve’s Irish accents so much thicker tonight?”


“Well listening to a good speech from Her Grace helped, but then so did some really special Irish whiskey,” Maeve laughed.


“It was a well-received talk even if I do say myself?” Eve looked happy.


“I don’t suppose that there is any of that drink to be had to improve our accents?” Katy asked.




“Well it was worth asking,” Katy smiled as the two other youngsters started laughing.


“You need your bed, daughter,” Katherine said with a smile.


“And you don’t,” Katy said as she raised an eyebrow.


“Point,” Brenda said.  “Come on ladies – busy day tomorrow.”


As the group made their way out, Maeve glanced in the corner of the bar.  “I’ll see you ladies tomorrow morning,” she said as she waved them off, and walked over to where Tracy was sitting.


“Well now – how was your day?”


“All right – until I saw someone in the burger joint,” Tracy said.  


“Oh dear lord – he’s here?”


“Don’t worry Maeve – I’m watching...”


 6.30 pm

JFK Airport


“Hey Denice,” Caroline said as Denice and Erica came into the lounge, Mary Thomas following them, “welcome to the fun flight.”


“So I see,” Denice said as April handed her a drink.  “Who else is on the flight?”


“The McNally’s and the Morse’s are having a drink over by the bar,” Barbara said, as Erica joined Pepsi and Ama.


“Hello – you are?”


“Oh sorry – Sharon Kennedy, meet Denice Burton.  Sharon is interning with me for the summer, and this is her induction week.  I have business to discuss with a few people while I’m over there.”


“Well, with Alice and Mandy already out there, all we need is...”


“Ah good – I’m not too late for the drink.”


“Not at all Grace,” Mary said, “so who wants to bet on who will sleep on the flight?”


“When does Fiona get there,” Grace asked as she accepted the drink.  Harriet and Sarah hugged Denice as they all sat round a table.


“Wednesday – she is coming with the Irish contingent, and going to Dublin tomorrow to make sure everything is packed up.”


As Sharon looked round, she realised she was moving in different circles again, and she was amazed at the range of people greeting each other as friends.  A senator and a teacher?  A style consultant and a single mother?


Many looked tempting targets, but they had one thing in common – they were concerned for and looking after the younger girls.  And for that, she felt they should not be visited.


“So who amongst we single women hasn’t got an A.N. Other for the wedding?” Grace asked.


“I’m fine,” Caroline said with a smile, “Dan is flying in with some other big shot UN types.”


“Well good for you Caroline…What about you Denice?”


“Juliette has partnered me up with some guy called Erich, he’s a cousin of Klaus and recently divorced.”


“Sounds okay,” Grace nodded, “and you Erica?”


“She has Simon…Who else?” Denice laughed as her daughter turned red.


“What about Ama?”


“Maisha and I will be escorted by two nephews of Dieter and Sigi, as Nick was not able to come,” Ama said from the side.


“You aren’t saying who your escort will be Grace?”


“And I’m NOT telling,” Grace smiled, “let me just say he’s an old and dear friend.”


“Mmmm sounds mysterious.”


“Exactly,” Grace said with a smile.  “And you will all find out – on Saturday.”


“What about you Sharon?” asked Caroline.


“Kevin Troy from Lemachine…you know Mick Harran’s boy band?”


“Oh Wow!” Erica looked impressed, “he’s something HOT!”


“I called Fiona up, who called her brother.  There wasn’t time for Todd to get leave, so Mick asked Kevin to step into the breach.  Trina is coming with Alexis Tropov, and Mary Clarke with Izzy de Lupe…”


“So all of Lemachine will be there?”


“So I’m told Denice.” Sharon smiled.


“So who did your friend Sarah finally settle on Grace?”


“Oh Tony Camp survived the selection process, but I heard from Sarah only because he once played for Bayern Munich and can get her into the best clubs in town.”


“Well I’ve heard of worse reasons for wedding dates…What about Harriet?”


“She’s got my successor as head at Downwood to be her date.  So I think we’re all set up.”


“When do the van Roon party fly out?”


“Tomorrow,” Caroline said, “they only got the all clear for Frieda and Pauline to fly, and the new passport sorted out today.”


“Ladies and Gentlemen, flight...”


“Sounds like first boarding call for our flight,” Clare Morse said, “but we still have time to finish our drinks.”


Tuesday 29th March

10 am BST

Xavier International, The Aldwych, London


“Okay – I’ll authorise the equipment Tracey, it should be with you...”


Charlotte looked up as she heard the tap on the door and said “come in?”


“Charlotte just what do I wear for the wedding?” Lily smiled as she poked her head round the Head of Information Technology’s door.


“Tracey, I have to go – I’ll see Maddie at the weekend.”  “Why ask me Lily? I’m just a South African, I’ve never…”


“Yeah,” Lily said, “but I’m from a Northern council estate, and that means you are posher then I am.”


“Well point taken.” Charlotte smiled. “But still I’ve only bought things that I liked.”


“Can I see them, at least give me some idea I’m looking for.”


“Look Lily I have an even better idea,” Charlotte said, “let’s take a long lunch, and then we will have lunch on the Fifth Floor, and you can shop at Harvey Nicks…”


“Harvey what?”


“You really don’t know…Do you?” Charlotte shook her head, “all that money in your bank and where do you usually shop?”




“Well stand by for a whole new experience Lily.  Until then, let’s grab some coffee and enjoy the calm before the storm...”


“What storm?”


“Lily, we work for Xavier International – there’s always a storm just around the corner.”



11 am CET

The von Furstenheim townhouse, Munich


“Hey there,” Doc said as she saw Ama, Pepsi and the others come in, “welcome to chaos central.”


“This is – a big house,” Ama said as she looked round.


“Welcome,” Frau Strecher said, “coffee and pastries are laid out for all of you, and we will take you to your hotels in due course.  Fraulein Jameson – may I have a word with you please?”


“Of course – if it concerns this week, and you have no objections, my intern Miss Kennedy would like to observe.”


Frau Strecher nodded as she indicated to Caroline and Sharon to follow her, the others helping themselves as Erica and Pepsi walked round the large room.


“Takes your breath away doesn’t it?”


“Hey Doc,” Erica said, “how has your week been?”


“Different – and not just the cuisine.  Where are you guys staying?”


“We mere mortals are going to one of the hotels,” Pepsi said, “we find out which later.  So are we the first of the second wave?”


“Oh yes – the west coast contingents I think are flying in tomorrow.  And then there are all the others that the formidable Frau Strecher are expecting.”


“Hey – welcome all of you,” Juliette said as she came in.  “Forgive me that I cannot spend much time today, but I’m on a schedule.”


“Hey – I understand,” Grace said with a smile.


“Doc, we’re gathering in the breakfast room.”


“Be there in a minute, Juliette,” Doc said, “the girls are going out tonight.  Be ready for six thirty – I’ll let you know where.”


“I will need to ask Mom,” Ama said.


“I’ll let her know,” Juliette said, “she will be at the cathedral later.”


Ama smiled as Doc said “I’ll see you girls later,” and went off with Juliette.  As they entered the room, Judith toddled over and held her arms out for Juliette to pick her up.


"So when do we start rehearsals Juliette?" Doc asked as the bridesmaids assembled for lunch.

"I was thinking maybe this afternoon, the Cardinal says we can practice everything whilst security does its checks."

"Do we need to wear heels?" Sands asked.

"If we want to time it out right..."

"And who will stand in for Katy?" Carina asked.

"I will." Sigi smiled as she came in. "Girls meet our pages."


“Hello Erik,” Sands said as she smiled, the young German count smiling as he looked at her.


“You know Erik – but meet Rudi and Manfred.”


The two young boys looked round, wondering what to say before Rudi said “Mamma – are they all going to be bossing us?”


“Nope – that’s only me,” Sigi said with a smile.  “So we eat – and then we go.”




10.30 am BST

Athlone Abbey


“All right girls,” Kevin said as Orion and Katy stood at one end of the ruined abbey, “I want you both walking towards me, stopping and talking every few steps.”


The two girls were wearing sleeveless tunics over the jumpers, tight leggings and straight leg tight rainboots, smiling and whispering to each other as Kevin walked with them and took pictures.


“It worked well last year with Caroline and Jo,” Alice said as she stood to the side with Mandy, “interesting to see how this will work with the younger generation.”


“Well, it seems to be working well so far,” Mandy said, nodding as Orion’s father watched with a smile on his face.


“You must be so proud of her,” Paula said as she stood by him.


“I am – I just wish her mother had been alive to see this.”


As they reached the end of the wall, they turned and stood, leaning against each other as Kevin took some more shots.


“So where is Brenda?”


“My aunt?  With the other Daughters at their meeting.  I understand she knew Katy’s grandmother when they were little girls?”


“Apparently – does she say much about then?”


“No – I need to ask why...”



1 pm BST

Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge


“That is perfect,” Charlotte said as Lily stepped out of the changing area, and looked at herself in the mirror.  The dress was made from cream cotton, with a light floral print on it, and hung so that it came to just above Lily’s knees.


“Do you really think so?”


“Well, I do – what do you think,” Charlotte said as she looked at the assistant.


“It does complement your skin tone, Madame – may I try something with you?”


“Of course,” Lily said as the assistant went off, returning with a small hat in the same shade of cream, and a pair of gloves.


“Oh yes,” Lily said as she tried them on, “this I can make work.”


“Good – we’ll take them,” Charlotte said, “but do you have a pair of heels that would go with the dress?”


“I believe we may be able to assist – one moment.”


“Charlotte,” Lily said as the assistant went off again, “have you seen the price tag on this.”


“Lily,” the young South African said as she shook her head, “for once, forget the price tag.  I know you can afford it, you know you can afford it, so do it.”


Lily nodded as she was brought over a pair of cream high heels, sighing as she tried them on and walked around.


“Sold,” Charlotte said, “pack them for travel please.  Lily, get changed – we’re going to the fifth floor.”


“We will have them ready for you to collect on your way out, Madame – this way please.”



“Japanese tapas – classy,” Lily said as they sat either side of a wooden table, looking at the plates of food in front of them.”


“Ah shut up and dig in,” Charlotte said with a smile.


“So when are you and Piet flying over?”


“We’re going Thursday – you’re coming Friday right?”


“Right – got something I need to do in the office Friday morning.  So what have you bought the happy couple?”


“Piet’s sister has arranged a crate of their best wines to be delivered to them on our behalf,” Charlotte said as she slipped some tune into her mouth and chewed on it.






2 pm CET

Munich Frauenkirche


“Thank you for your help, Fraulein Jameson,” the priest said as he and Caroline walked into the cathedral, “it is always good to know the personal security of the wedding party is being so expertly handled.”


“Well, this is supplemental to the police and your own security,” Caroline said as she looked round, “which are excellent and extensive, by the way.  It just ensures the events outwith of the cathedral are covered as well.”


Sharon watched, taking in all that she could of the way Caroline worked.  She had an excellent eye for potential problems, but also the sort of analytical mind that came up with good solutions.


She glanced over to where Juliette and the party of bridesmaids were standing at the end of the cathedral, with Father Alex Richmond.


“All right then,” Sigi said, “Alex and Juliette first, then Cari and Ingrid.  Abigail and Angel, you take the next line, then Jo and Anna.  I go at the back with Sands and Judith.   If we can get into line?”


She took one of Judith’s hands, Sands taking the other, before she indicated to the organist, and he started to play the Trumpet Voluntary.  “Ready Judith.”


“Yes Aunti Sigi,” Judith said Alex and Juliette set they started to walk down the aisle.  As the music played, Abby looked at Cari.


“Like Venice?”


“Exactly like Venice,” Cari said as both pairs set off.  Doc and Jo followed them, while Sands and Sigi walked with Judith.


"You know this feels SO STRANGE Juliette." Alex whispered as he and Juliette walked slowly down the aisle, "I'm just used to standing up there."

"Well you think you feel strange,” Juliette said, “last time I was in here was for Klaus' wedding to Renate."

"It hadn't skipped my mind...Are you okay?"

"I think so, I don't think she's unhappy with Klaus and I."

As they reached the front, the girls lined up beside Juliette.


"Juliette can you slow it down just a fraction." Sigi stopped her watch as they reached the altar. "Then the girls will not have to totally dawdle to get into position just as the music ends."

"Okay." Juliette nodded.

"Once again Herr Breitner," Sigi called to the organist, "take it from the top as Father Alex and the bride start to process please."

"Yes Baroness."


“Can I have a swing, Aunty Sigi?”


“Of course you can,” Sigi said as she swept Judith up, the little girl giggling as they walked to the far end of the aisle again.




Caroline smiled as she watched the girls going back up the aisle, giggling and talking to each other.


“They make a real family, don’t they,” Sharon said as she stood beside her.


“Indeed – and I am privileged to call each one of them a friend,” Caroline said, “which is why I wanted you here to see how something like this works.  This is a once in a lifetime event and deserves only the very best.”


“I’m curious – how do you divide between the bride and the groom for this?”


“You don’t,” Caroline said as the protocol officer came forward.  “When you have the guest list we have here, protocol takes precedence.  Father, do you have the final guest list?”


“For your perusal, Fraulein Jameson,” he said as he handed the folder to Caroline.  She opened it and showed it to Sharon, the young woman’s eyes widening as she read down the list.


“Okay,” she finally whispered, “how do you do it?”


“You leave it in their capable hands,” Caroline said as she handed the folder back to the priest and nodded.  “Our job for the next couple of days is to act as the liason between Juliette and Klaus, and the office.”


“Caroline – I see you are hard at work.  And I see you have a new assistant.”


“Indeed – Sharon Kennedy, may I present Natalya, Baroness Buchenwald.”


“An honour to see you again, Madame?”


“Oh – have you met before?”


“In passing last year,” Natalya said with a smile.  “So you are working for Caroline?”


“An internship before I start college, Madame.”


Caroline looked between the two women, before she said “okay – I can tick off the respect and courtesy box already, in that case.  Sharon and I were just reviewing the final guest list for Saturday.”


“Yes - quite a gathering.  I understand you will personally be overseeing the civil ceremony in the morning?”


“Correct – we move on to there in a moment.”


“Who will be attending that,” Sharon asked.


“Apart from the bridal party and their partners or parents, only a very select few – far easier to handle.  For now, however, I need to talk with Sigi.  Good luck to both of you.”


“And to you,” Caroline said as Natalya made her way to the aisle.  Turning to Sharon, she raised an eyebrow.


“It’s a long story.”


“Tell me over coffee – I think the cafe here is open...”




4 pm CET

The Furstenheim townhouse


“Ah – I take it they have not returned from the cathedral yet?”


Diana and Sandy looked over to where Frau Strecher was standing, before Diana said “not as yet, Frau Strecher.  Is there a problem?”


“Not at all,” the steward said with a smile, “we have four new arrivals, but I am sure you will be able to entertain them as well.”


“Oh – and they are?”


“Absolutely exhausted darling,” Kylie drawled as she and Marina came in, “but elated that we have made it.”


“Well, we were wondering when you would get here,” Sandy said as she and Diana embraced the two young women, Helen and Catherine joining them as Frau Strecher stood to one side.


“I will have refreshments brought in,” she said with a low bow as she walked out.


“So this is the Furstenheim home,” Catherine said, “I am impressed.  Very different from my own humble abode.”


“Well, it’s our base of operations for the next few days,” Diana said as the door opened, and a maid brought in a  tray of cold drinks and some cakes, “Frau Strecher will direct you to your hotel in due course.”


“How is Juliette,” Marina said as she sat down.  She and Kylie were wearing linen jackets over light coloured dresses, while Catherine and Helen were wearing dark trouser suits with white blouses.


“More nervous every day,” Sandy said, “I think we need to take her out with Shirley tonight for a stress free dinner.”




“Good – because we’re already booked,” Diana said, “I’ll let you have the details.”


“Kylie – Doc is arranging a trip out with the other girls tonight, to which you are invited.  Katy’s not here yet, but just about everybody else is.”


“That sounds divine, darling,” Kylie said as she sipped her drink.


“Cathy – you made it.”


“We have indeed,” Cathy said as she hugged Juliette, “I trust you are well?”


“Getting more nervous by the second,” Juliette said, “but more excited too.”


“I can see that – you look so like you did back in Paris when we first met,” Cathy said with a smile.


“Hey Kylie and Marina,” Cari said as she came in.  “Doc just went to see her parents, but Pepsi, Nikki and Erica are around here somewhere.”


“I look forward to seeing them,” Kylie said as Ama and Maisha came in.


“Ah – welcome,” Ama said, Maisha nodding in agreement.


“Well, let us find out where we shall be staying,” Marina said, “and then plan accordingly from there.”


“An excellent idea,” Helen said as she saw Penny enter with Shirley and John, and smiled.


6 pm BST



“And that,” Kevin said as he looked up, “is it I believe.  Alice?”


“All done and dusted Kevin – well done both of you.  Have a well deserved night off.”


“THANK YOU,” Katy said as she stripped off the last jumper and put on her own sweatshirt.


“Give us ten minutes,” Orion said to her father, “and we can head back to the hotel.”


As the two girls walked off, Tracy was watching from the distance, taking in everyone.  She saw him there, watching from the other side of the abbey, and started to make her way over, as quietly and discretely as she could.


As she walked behind the crew, however, he disappeared from view, Tracy cursing as she took out her phone.


“Lily?  Inform Shirley – they may have an unwanted guest coming.”



7 pm CET

The Furstenheim Townhouse


“Interesting Text,” Heather said as she looked at Jo.


“Curt – he’s on his way to the airport and will be here tomorrow.”


“So you’re taken care of tomorrow night?”


“Oh yes,” Jo said with a smile.


“And that,” Heather said as she looked at her phone, “was Frieda.  They’ve all arrived at the hotel and we are on for tomorrow night.”


“Good – I hear it could be interesting,” Sandy said.


"Do you have any idea where this club is that Frieda wants us to go to Cari?" asked Abigail.

"No,” Cari said as she looked at her friend, “and are you sure you should be coming?"

"I'm safe as long as we do it before Tony arrives on Friday – and hopefully, I will have something to celebrate."


“Oh yes – you find out tomorrow morning, don’t you?”


“Oh yes – about 2 pm local time.”

"I take it this is a 'specialist' club?" Natalya enquired. "Am I invited?"

"If you wouldn't be too bored Aunt."

"According to Frieda it’s a pretty hard-core lesbian place." Annie spoke.

"And you are..."

"Carina,” Natalya said quietly, “never tell your uncle, but like Abigail here I have been known to enjoy the odd dalliance with a member of my own gender."

"AUNT NATALYA!" Carina laughed as she expressed mock horror.

"I'll tell Frieda that you are in as well." Annie joined in the laughter.


“Aunt Shirley?”


“Ah – you are on your way then,” Shirley said as she saw Doc, Ama and Maisha in the doorway.


“We are – we shall call when we are on our way back.”


“Have fun,” Emma said as they set off, and Frau Strecher appeared in the doorway.


“Dinner is served, your highness.”


“Good,” Klaus said, “I’m starving.”


8 pm CET

Zum Goldenen Kalb


“Danke scheun,” Caroline said, the waiter nodding as he walked off.


“I guess languages is one of those things I have to pick up,” Sharon said.


“Well, steak is steak in every language,” Caroline said, “but you need to know your klatretyv from your Fassadenkletterer in this business.”


“You’re going to tell me what that means, right?”


“Eventually,” Caroline said as she sipped her wine.  “So, your thoughts on today?”


“Well, you certainly seem to have covered all angles – what is the next stage?”


“That,” Caroline said with a smile, “would be the most important delivery of the entire event.”


“And that is?”


“The dresses – danke,” Caroline said as the two starters were brought in.


“You said earlier they were under secure guard in Dublin – why there?”


“Alice McKinnon, the designer, is supervising a shoot for Fitzstuart Woolens there.   That’s where Katy Carter, the last of the bridesmaids, currently is, and you’ll see her tomorrow with her grandmother.  Alice herself is taking no chances with the dresses."


“Oh?  Why not?”


“If anything happened to them, or anything leaked of the dress designs, it would completely spoil the surprise.  So, she's taking the ferry across from Dun Laoghaire, then driving to Dover, taking the cross-channel ferry, and finally driving here."

Sharon shook her head.  "She will be exhausted poor thing."

"Well she does have some professional bodyguards I recommended to drive the van,” Caroline said as she swallowed her Steak Tartar, “and I guess she can sleep in the little bunk the truck has in it.  Knowing her, however, I do not think she will sleep until they are safely here."

"Is it worth all that? Just to bring dresses to a wedding?"

"Oh Lady Goddess you aren't getting it yet are you Sharon?" Caroline looked in the younger woman's eyes, "for all her achievements this might be the single most important dress that Alice has ever designed."


“Oh – of course,” Sharon said.  “I saw the media presence already – it’s just going to get worse isn’t it?”


“Oh yes – the good security team stay invisible, so at an event like this, it becomes even more difficult.”


“So this is her crowning achievement?”


“In every sense of the word,” Caroline said.  Sharon nodded as she ate some of her soup.


“So Sharon,” Caroline said as the plates were cleared, “did you phone home?”


“I did – Dad is busy dealing with the Xavier bid at the moment.”  She looked at Caroline and said “I’m not sure I can say much, given you’re involved in that as well.”


“Probably best if you don’t.  I heard that someone on the AMININCO team was the victim of an aggravated burglary last week.”


Sharon nodded.  “I heard that as well – sounds nasty.  I guess I understand a bit of how she might feel, given our own robbery last year.”


“Still,” Caroline said, “you have to wonder what drives someone to want to do that to someone.”


“This woman must have felt she had a reason,” Sharon said quietly as the main courses arrived.


“Maybe I’ll ask Jo and Curt – they’re the criminal psychology experts in our little group.  Anyway – eat up...”



8 pm CET

L’Angolo Della Pizza, Munich




The party raised their glasses of soft drinks and toasted each other as the half eaten pizzas sat in front of them.


“So how are the exam preparations coming along Kylie?”


“Oh I think I am as ready as I can be,” Kylie said.  “I have my project work completed, so now it is the final revision schedule.”


“And your mum?”


“I’m going to see her after this,” Kylie said, “and then back to Hong Kong for the last few weeks.”


“Well, from what Katy said, they’ve almost finished refurbishing the apartment for you,” Pepsi said, “and it looks amazing.”


“What about you Maisha,” Doc said.


“I will be sitting some examinations this year,” the young African girl said, “but Aunt Shirley has agreed I need to learn by observing and doing more than by reading and learning on its own.  So I will sit the examinations I need to sit, and learn over them.”


“Well, given we don’t sit exams in that way, it sounds cool,” Pepsi said.


“So, sister,” Ama said quietly, “how was your visit?”


“Illuminating,” Maisha whispered back, “I was honoured to meet them.  Has Aunt Shirley spoke to you of my idea?”


“She has mentioned it,” Ama replied, “my one request is we include those who have provided support alongside those who fought for them.”


“I agree – it is important that The Heart and The Strength are equally visible.  Any thoughts?”


“I had considered the sisters in San Francisco.”


Maisha nodded silently as she sipped her drink, then said in a louder voice “and your trip to Spain?”


“Great fun,” Ama said with a grin, “good football, and a good game in Ireland as well.”


“She’s telling the truth,” Nikki said, “especially when her mom’s boyfriend turned up.”


“Oh yeah – which one,” Erica asked with a laugh.


“Dan – who will be here soon,” Ama said.


“And Simon is already here, Ms Burton – we got word the van Roon party are here.”


“Then I’ll see him tomorrow,” Erica said with a smile.


“It does promise to be a very different week,” Kylie said as she sat back and smiled.



9 pm CET

The Furstenheim Townhouse


“Ladies,” Natalya said as she stood up, “shall we?”


The cue was received as she led the women away from the dinner table, leaving Klaus and Alex to lead the conversation at the dinner table.  Making their way to the drawing room, they helped themselves to coffee.  Carina and Annie took to entertaining the younger women, while Diana and some of the others started to play cards.


“Alexis, I need a word with you,” Mary said as she took the young woman to one side, while Juliette sat next to Janine.


“Long day,” she said with a smile.


“Oh yes – but it is worth it,” her boss said as she sipped her coffee.


“So the schedule is in place?”


"Well with Frau Strecher here, and Sigi at the cathedral, I can relax a bit knowing that the organisation is in first-rate hands." Juliette sat back.

"So we are superfluous?" Janine asked.

"No, but just for once you and Alexis can just kick back and relax.  You are here as guests...NOT as my personal assistants."

"I think I can live with that," Janine sipped her brandy.

"Especially as you have your own, personal, prince?"

"You might say that." Janine laughed lightly.

Juliette put her cup down and looked at her.  "Is it as serious as it looks Janine?"

"Well I truly do love him Juliette,” Janine said with a smile.  “Once you get past the scars, he's an amazing man."

"I've come to know that."

"And,” Janine continued, “it helps that I love his daughter like she was family as well."

"Jeanne is a wonderful young woman."

"The only fly in my ointment is that her mother - you know Henri's ex? - is coming to the wedding."

"I know, we had to invite her as she is related to Klaus." Juliette breathed deeply, "I'm sorry for that though Janine."

"Oh don't worry, Jeanne has promised to keep her well away from me."


“It might be difficult – but if it happens, just be yourself.  Also, Diana knows her – so look to her for help.”


“I may just do that – if Mary and Fiona don’t step in first,” Janine said with a smile.


Wednesday 30th March

9 am BST

Sheraton Athlone


“Thank you Mrs Carter – we hope you and your granddaughter enjoyed your stay.”


“Immensely,” Katherine said as Paula’s chauffer collected their bags, and took them out to the waiting car.  “Are you sure you’re all right with taking us to the airport Paula?”


“Of course we are – we’ll be flying out tomorrow anyway, so we’ll see you soon.”


As they talked in the lobby, the young man sat watching them closely.




He suddenly turned his head to see Tracy sitting there.  He made to get up, but felt her hand on his arm as she said “no – sit where you are, and I’ll keep you company for a few minutes.  Allow the friends to say their goodbyes.”


“It’s been great to see you again Katy,” Orion said as they hugged each other, “let’s do it again some time.”


“Let’s see what the summer brings,” Katy said with a smile as she put her coat on. 


“Come on Katy – we need to get going,” Katherine said as she turned to Maeve.  “See you soon Maeve.”


“Oh yes – April’s birthday in fact.  We’re flying out on Monday.”


“Then my place for coffee next week.”


“Exactly,” Katherine said as they walked out.


“Now,” Tracy said to the young man, “listen very carefully to me.  We’re staying here for a little while, and then I am leaving.  For your part, you will leave the Carter family alone.


“Because if you don’t, I and some friends will come looking for you.  I trust I make myself perfectly clear?”



10 am CET

Munich International Airport


“Enjoy your stay, Fraulein Ashley,” the immigration officer said as she handed the passports back to Pippa and Poppy.


“I hope to,” Pippa said as they made their way to the luggage claim area, joining Adam and Jan, Roy and Tonia, and Curt as they waited for their luggage.


“Well, that was an interesting flight,” Jess said as she came through with her parents.


“Yeah – how many models does it take to change a light bulb?”


“You need to watch the parade to find out,” Pippa said as she looked over.


“Okay, bad joke,” Poppy said with a smile.


As the party collected their bags, Anna Mitchell followed them through, Curt putting his bag over his shoulder as he said “I wonder what they’re doing right now.”


“At a guess,” Tonia said as they walked into the arrivals hall, “waiting to meet us.”


“There you are,” Jo said as she came over and hugged Curt, kissing him before saying “how was your flight?”


“All the better for seeing you here.  How are the rehearsals going?”


“Day off today – if you’ll all come with me, there’s a van outside to take you to the townhouse, and from there you are going to be taken to your hotels.”


“Now this is a welcome,” Roy said as they got into the back of the SUV, the driver loading their bags into the back before he got in.


“So what is on the cards for today?”


“Well, the last of the American contingent are flying in tomorrow,” Jo said as she handed round some drinks, “and the first of the European contingent are due to arrive today.”


“And they are,” Tonia asked.


“Mandy and the family arrive this afternoon, and Olivia and her family are due to arrive tonight.  We got word that Alice is en route as of two this afternoon.  She is due to arrive between ten and eleven tomorrow, to be met by Caroline.”


“Twenty hours?  To fly from Ireland to Munich?”


“No – to drive.  Long story.   Finally, Jan, Katy and Katherine are on their way to Dublin Airport.  ETA at 3 pm.”


“Any problem with us staying at the townhouse until they arrive,” Adam asked.


“You’re staying there,” Jo said with a smile, “so no problem there.”


“How is Juliette?”


“You’ll see for yourself in a little while,” Jo said as they entered the city.




“Welcome, welcome,” Juliette said as she and Klaus greeted the latest arrivals, “come in and have some coffee...”


“Oh my,” Poppy said, “it’s so...”




Poppy smiled as she saw Erica come in, and walked over with Jess.


“So ready for the big day?”


“No I am not,” Juliette said, “which is quite right.”




“Valeria, Guy – thank you for calling today,” Klaus said as he shook Guy’s hand.  “Come through this way – I’ll explain in here.”


“Let me guess,” Pippa said, “a lot of side conversations going on and you have no idea what is being talked about?”


“None whatsoever – come and have some coffee.”


“Thanks,” Pippa said, “so what is everyone else doing?”


“Well, Heather has taken Sands and George for an art lesson, the girls have a plan to hit the Olympia-Einkaufzentrum once Katy gets here, and other things are going on.  You’re probably going to get a schedule today as well.


“So, changing the subject completely, how goes the transition?”


“Smoothly so far,” Pippa said.  “I don’t think you’ll notice anything save me appearing in the building every day.  Well, maybe a few things.”


Juliette smiled as she said “Well, not my problem for another two weeks.”


“So has he told you yet?”


Juliette raised an eyebrow as Pippa laughed.  “Stupid question, right?”




“Okay – who brought the palace into the city centre.”


“There you are,” Abby said as Ally and Nell came in with their parents, “how was Paris?”


“Delightful,” Nell said, “and then the train journey here.  So this is where Ingy lives?”


“It is,” Ingrid said as she hugged them.  “Welcome. Frau Strecher will get you to your hotel in due course.”


“Ah yes, the mysterious Frau Strecher.  Do horses neigh when you mention her name?”


“No, but I have been known to elicit the occasional groan.”


Nell and Ally slowly turned round to see the estate manager behind them.


“Ah – my apologies, I hope...”


“Fraulein Rochermann, I have heard much worse in my time, especially from His Highness.  I wish to welcome you and your family, and hope you enjoy your stay.”


“That,” Abby said as she walked off, “is a very forceful woman.”


“No shit, Sherlock,” Ally said quietly.





1 pm BST



Alice watched closely as the two men carried the clothes rack down, the leather covers hiding whatever was inside, and placed it inside the van, one of them getting in as the doors were locked and closed behind him.


“Okay Mrs MacKinnon,” the other man said, “one of us is in the back at all times, and the other two ride up front with you.”


“Sounds good – I hope you are all up to it, Donald.”


“Believe me Mrs MacKinnon,” the big man said with a smile, “we will not let you or Caroline down.”


“Right then,” she said as she turned and hugged Paula, “let the road trip begin.  I’ll see you all on Saturday.”


“Keep them – and her – safe,” Tom said as he and Paula waved the van off, Alice wedged between two very large men in the cab...




3 pm CET

Munich International Airport


“Nice flight,” Katherine said as she and Katy collected their cases, “smooth, and a decent drink.”


“True – even if they wouldn’t give me one,” Katy said.


“Katy, my love – your passport and ticket has you as a minor.  Accept that reality.”


Katy shook her head as they made their way through, then smiled as she saw her mother and Adam standing outside the exit to meet them.


“You made it,” Jan said as she hugged Katy, “how was Ireland?”


“Hard work but fun.”


“And for you too Katy?”


“It was good to see Orion again, and Aileen Gaunt was fun,” Katy said as Adam took their cases, “but here we are now in Germany.”


“Indeed – come on, the car’s outside, and the other girls are looking forward to seeing you again.”


As they walked out, Penny and Helen watched from a coffee stand.


“So Tracy thinks she scared him off?”


“For the moment,” Penny said as she took a sip, “but I don’t think it completely solves the problem.  We need to remain vigilant.”



3.45 pm CET

The Furstenheim Townhouse


“Hey – you’re here at last,” Jo said as she saw Katy come into the entrance hall, “did you enjoy Ireland?”


“Different – but this is another flip of the coin,” she said as she looked round.


“Ah, Frau Carter, and young Fraulein Carter – welcome.  I am Frau Strecher – the servants will take your bags to your rooms.”


“Hey Katy,” Cari said as she looked out of a room, “can you and Jo spare a few minutes?”


“Sure Juliette,” Katy said as she and Jo made their way in, Katy smiling as she saw Sands, Abby, Angel and Doc in there, Judith sitting on Ingrid’s knee.


“I know you’ve only just got here Katy,” Juliette said, “but I felt it was important you all hear the plan for the next three days, so that you’re clear in your mind as to when you need to be in some places.”


“Okay,” Katy said as she tickled Judith’s chin, “so what’s the timetable?”


“Let’s talk about tomorrow first,” Juliette said.  “We all need to be at the cathedral at ten tomorrow morning for a full rehearsal.  That’s us and Klaus with his attendants.”


“And the page boys,” Ingrid said.  “My cousins are SO looking forward to that.”


“Moving right along,” Juliette said with a smile, “we come back here for lunch.  By that time, a certain Mrs MacKinnon will have arrived in the van, with the most precious cargo.  So after lunch, final fitting for the gowns, and Jack will have arrived by then to take the first of the photographs.”


“Thursday night,” Carina said, “we are all going off to various places for the evening.  You’ll find out more about where you are going later.”


“So a nice full day,” Doc said as she took a glass and drank from it.  “Friday?”


“Friday is mainly free,” Juliette said, “while Klaus and I complete certain arrangements.  That changes at three o’clock however.  At that point, we dress for the Military Parade.”


“The Whatty What?”


“You’ll see,” Carina said with a smile, “but you are all invited to watch as the Furstenheim Jaegers welcome their new second in command.”


“The good news is, after that, the female party – that’s us – have a dinner here with our friends.  The menfolk are going to a restaurant in town.”


“Sounds fun,” Angel said.  “And then Saturday.”


“Saturday – the civil ceremony is at 10 am at the Neues Rathaus.  We then return here to prepare for the main ceremony.


“Alice will be here, as will the make up and hair artists.  We need to be ready to depart at one thirty, when carriages will take us to the cathedral for the ceremony to start at 2.15.”


“The nine of us will travel in two of the carriages” Ingy said, “while Juliette comes with Alex in the third one.”


“After the ceremony, and Jack takes photos, we return here for the reception.”





“And where have you been hiding,” Shirley said as John came into the drawing room.


“Not hiding as much as researching,” John said.  “Gathering stories for the speech.”


“Ah yes – the ritual humiliaition,” Shirley said with a smile.  “Any you can reveal?”


“Not yet no – who was the call from?”


Shirley smiled as she said “Maddie – she and Emma were heading off for the airport.”



4 pm

Munich Frauenkirche


“You know, if I was into architectural photography, this would be an amazing place to visit and take shots of,” Luke said as he looked around.


“Oh I’m sure it would be,” Jack said with a smile, “but you’re not, I’m not, and I need to consider lighting options.  What’s the weather forecast for Saturday?”


Luke checked on his tablet.  “Currently, dry with light cloud cover for that time of day.  What are you thinking?”


“I’m wondering if we can use the natural light through that window to backlight the photographs.”


Luke nodded as he said “if it is strong enough, yes.  If not, we have permission to use the Archbishop’s garden if it is dry.”


“Well, I see you made it early?”


“Your Serene Highness,” Jack said as he made a low bow.


“Jack Linklater, stop mucking about,” Sigi said with a smile.  “Still, I’m glad you and Luke got here.  What do you think?”


“I think it is a tableau fit for royalty,” Jack said, “which is just as well given who will be here.  So, the plan?”


“So long as you are at our townhouse for four tomorrow, I’ll leave you alone to your reasons and stratagems,” Sigi said as she looked round.  “Excuse me – someone I need to talk to.”


Jack smiled as she walked off to talk to a tall blonde woman.


“Isn’t that Ute Lemper?”


“Indeed – I believe she will be singing on Saturday.  Now, Luke my boy, we need to get ready for our work...”


“One moment,” Luke said as he looked at his phone, Jack looking on with his head to one side.




“Define problem,” Luke said, “my mother, confirming they are arriving on Friday.”


“Ah,” Jack said quietly.  “Well, one problem at a time, right?”


4 pm CET

The Furstenheim townhouse


“So this is how German nobility live,” Olivia said as she walked into the hallway with Charles, Fiona and Mick.


“Bit small isn’t it,” Mick said with a grin, earning a clip round the ear from Fiona as Mandy and Will walked in with their sons.


“Mummy – you made it,” Angel said as she came out to greet them, “did you enjoy Ireland?”


“Of course I did Darling – although my sympathies are with Alice at the moment.”


“Oh she’ll cope,” Duncan MacKinnon said as he came in, “she likes this sort of thing.”


“The girls are in there if you want to go and say hello.”


“Shall we boys,” Jack said as they went through, Mandy smiling as she heard the greetings inside.


5 pm CET


“Left turn – Pace turn.  Right... turn – pace turn.   And HALT!”


Ingy took one more step forward with her right foot and then came to a stop in the courtyard.


"Practicing your drill girls?" Eve Stone smiled as she entered the courtyard.

"We were." Carina laughed as she reached for a water bottle. "It's really just like learning dance steps you know."

"I could see."

"She's getting better at it." Ingrid too reached for some water.

"Well I'm sure Frau Strecher will still find plenty that's wrong."

“Of course she will,” Ingrid said, “she finds fault with Poppa, after all.”


"So where is Stephen?" Carina asked.

"He's photographing Jeannie at a couple of locations."

"Who for?"

"Harpers and Queen Ingrid."

"VERY NICE," Carina whistled.

"Yeah, he asked earlier, and she thought it would be worth doing." Eve looked up at the damp looking sky. "I just hope the weather cooperates."

"Amen to that." Cari nodded.

"So did I see Adam earlier Ingy?"


“You did – he arrived earlier today with Jack and Luke.  They went off to look at the cathedral, and Poppa dragged him into his study.”


“He’s not going to...”


“NO!  Probably just another surprise for Saturday.”


“So who else has to come from this side of the pond,” Carina asked.


“Well, most are coming Friday – except for two I know of.  Well, three if you count Alice but I don’t.  Fiona is due to arrive by train tomorrow – and then there is Mister and Mrs Levin.”



4 pm Pacific Time

LA International Airport


“I think that was the first call for our flight,” Emma said as Maddie walked back over.


“Well, we’ve got a little while still – ever been to Munich?”


“Dusseldorf, yeah – we played a few gigs for the forces out there – but never Munich.  I’m looking forward to it.”



7 pm Pacific Time

San Francisco International Airport


Mary smiled as she watched her brothers and sisters, standing at the window of the airport lounge and watching the planes as they left and arrived at the gates.


“This is a real adventure for them, isn’t it,” David said as he sipped his drink.


“Yeah – how are you feeling?”


“Nervous – I mean, it’s going to be the afternoon tomorrow before I...”


He stopped talking as Mary took out her cell phone.


“Hello, Mary Clarke.


“Well yes, he is here – do you wish to speak with him?


“One moment please.”


Dave looked over as Mary handed her phone to David.  “It’s for you – you’d better take this.”


“Who is it,” her father asked as they heard “David Clarke speaking.


“Oh – of course I remember you sir.  How can I help you?


“Yes – we’re flying over to Germany tonight at the invitation of Miss Huntingdown.


“I see.  Well, it was very good of you to let me know early sir.  Thank you for that.  I’ll be sure to tell the family now.


“Of course I will – and thank you again sir.”


Ending the call, David handed the phone back to his sister, and sat back for a moment, rubbing his chin.


“Who was it?”


“Hmm – oh sorry Pops.  That was Dean Ashton.  He’d got word we were out of the country tomorrow, so he wanted to tell me something before it is announced tomorrow.”




David smiled as he said “I got in.”


“Got into what Bro.”


“Tell you later,” David said as they heard the announcement, “we need to go to the plane, so gather your bags and we’ll go together.”


Thursday 31st March

Somewhere over the Eastern US


The cabin was in darkness, save for the lights on at least five small screens as the Clarke family watched a show each.


"Try and sleep kids," Mary whispered to her siblings.


“But we’re not that tired,” Vicky said.


“I know – but think of it this way.  Where we’re going, they may just be getting up for breakfast and you haven’t rested yet.”

"I think they are going to find that hard Poppit." Dave whispered back. "This is all far too new and exciting."

"Well,” Mary said with a smile, “their bodies will appreciate it if they can get some sleep."

"I know that, and you know that, but to them this is just the biggest adventure of their lives." Dave smiled as he looked at David, his eyes closed as he rested his head against the cabin wall. "Being honest, it’s the biggest adventure of my life."

"It's only a wedding Pops..."

"It aint like no wedding we've ever been to before Mary."

"Well only insofar as to the scale..."

"And the importance of the people...I just hopes I can remember all those bits Trina and Winston taught us 'bout the etiquette."

"You'll be fine Pop.  And besides – they will both be there as well.”


“Yeah, you’ll be fine Pops,” David whispered, “now get some sleep as well...”


“See – that’s both of us telling you,” Mary said as she watched the others slowly go to sleep.


8 am CET

The Furstenheim Townhouse


"So what are we going to do between rehearsals?" asked Katy as she sat down at the breakfast table.

"Well,” Sands said, “I'm going to one of the museums with Heather."

"Are you turning into a culture vulture Sands?" asked Doc.

"Sort of..."

"Her baron is going along as well," Katy interrupted.

"Ah,” Doc said as she raised her coffee cup to her lips, “that explains EVERYTHING."

Sands blushed as she went back to eating her bread and meat.


"Still need answers to my question though,” Katy said, “what are WE going to do?"

"I'm going to both the Bayern and TSV club shops to buy souvenirs." Ama volunteered.

"How many football strips do you need?" Pepsi laughed.


“As many as I can get,” Ama said with a smile.   “Besides, Mom and Sharon are busy all day.”

"Well I'm wanting to check out a few stores that Sigi gave me the names of." Doc replied. "I want to add some bits to my wardrobe and she reckons these places are chic but affordable."

"Does Chet know you are dragging him out clothes shopping virtually as soon as he arrives?" Pepsi asked.

"No, but I'll make it up to him later."

"Talking of making things up, when do you plan to let Jack out of your bed Peps?" Katy asked with a sly look.

"Hey, it's been ages since I've seen him. I NEED a good..."

"We all know what you need." Katy laughed.


“Well, why don’t those of us who don’t have other plans,” Doc said, “hit the stores later.  Might be the only chance we get...”



“Morning Grace,” Missy said as she came in, tablet in hand.


"Missy, PLEASE try and remember you aren't here working." Grace looked up at her agent scanning her computer.

"Well,” Missy said as she sat and poured herself a coffee, “it's convenient to see a few people whilst I'm over here."

"Like who?"

"She has a casting call set up for most of this morning." Mary Thomas said as she sat down, "and then business meetings most of the rest of the day."

"MISSY!" Grace glared at her, "you are supposed to be relaxing as a guest here."

"I know, I know,” Missy said as she put her cup down, “but old habits die hard."

"Anyway,” Mary said “I thought Carla handled Norstar's European signings?"

"She does,” Missy said with a nod, “but I'm looking for a couple of extra girls who can work in America as well as over here."

"And you don't trust Carla to find them?"

"Yes, well no...  I'm looking a couple of girls of a specific type."

"Missy you are incorrigible." Mary shook her head.


“I thought I told you to relax,” Juliette said as she joined them.


“Just one, two little...”


“3-4 hour meetings,” Grace said as she grabbed the tablet and looked at it.


“Missy...  Look, this is the last working day for all of you, got it!”


“All right, I understand,” Missy said with a smile, Mary and Juliette looking at each other and shaking their heads.




“Do we have to be there this morning, Mamma,” Rudi said as he and Manfred said with the rest of their family.


“Yes you do – you need to know how things will happen on Saturday,” Sigi said.  “But we will go shopping after that.”


“Well – all right,” Rudi said, “but why doesn’t Karl have to come?”


“Oh he is coming,” Dieter said, “and he’ll probably be more bored than both of you.”


10 am CET

Munich Frauenkirche


“So,” the young priest said, “you will stand at the front of the altar, Your Highness, with Major Hammond by your side.  The rest of your attendants will line up to the side.”


“Any particular order,” George Graham asked as she looked round.


“Whatever you feel comfortable with,” Klaus said with a smile, as Adam looked over.


“Might as well go in height order,” he said as they moved round, Dieter at the far end, then Willy, George, Will, and finally Adam.


“Okay, the archbishop will come from the side of the church and stand in front of you, he will give the signal to the congregation to stand, and the organ will begin.


At the far end of the aisle, Sigi was arranging the bridal party again, her sons standing behind Sands and Katy as they held Judith’s hands.


“Oh no – you two in the front,” Sigi said as she shunted them to behind Alex and Juliette, “your job is to hold up the train of the dress.”


“The what,” Rudi said.


“We’ll show you later – for now, walk two steps behind Juliette and Alex.  And – there’s the music.”


Juliette and Alex set off, keeping time with the music as the boys walked behind them, and the girls following.  The concentration on their faces was intense as they timed their arrivals, the girls stopping behind them as the music came to an end.


“Excellent,” Sigi said, “well done.  Now do that every time between now and Saturday!”


“Oh boy,” Katy said as she rolled her eyes – before everyone looked round as they heard clapping.


“Very very well done,” Pru Stratton said as she and Jerry appeared, “I couldn’t have done better myself.”


“Pru!  You made it!”


“We actually arrived last night, but wanted to get settled before we came to see the venue for Saturday,” Jerry said as Juliette and Klaus walked towards them.


"So how was the Crimea?" Juliette said as she hugged her friend.

"Ju dearest you would not believe how wonderful." Pru smiled broadly, "we saw a little of the political crap, but basically it was like my idea of heaven."


"Sounds like you hit a home run Jerry," Klaus shook the currency brokers hand, "as you Americans say."

"Well we did have a great time."

"Riding, swimming, sightseeing, making love...” Pru sighed as she said “Oh it was just AMAZING!"

"Well Pru if I come back from my honeymoon looking as happy as you do I will be content." Juliette laughed.

"And what about your tans?"

"Klaus they are all over." Jerry laughed. "she insisted."

"Hey I couldn't have tan lines on the girls...Could I?" Pru laughed out loud.


“Well my goodness – is this a content Prudence and Jerry Levin I see before me.”


“It is,” Pru said as she hugged Jack.


“Listen – the girls are gathering in a coffee shop nearby in a little while, if you want to see them.”


“Sounds good – what will you do Jer?”


“I have some shopping to pick up – remember?”


“Oh of course you do – we’ll let you get back to your rehearsal,” Pru said, “and catch up with you later.”


“All right,” Sigi said, “places everyone.  Let’s do this again.”



11 am CET

The Furstenheim Townhouse


“Caroline,” Natalya said as she came into the drawing room, “why are you still here with Sharon?  I thought you had an appointment at the Cathedral?”


“Not until later this afternoon, Natalya,” Caroline said as she sipped her coffee, “I am just waiting for a message?”


“Oh?  Are you expecting someone?”


“I am indeed,” Caroline said as Sharon put her cup down.  Looking at her phone, she said “and that person is about five minutes away.  Would you happen to know where Frau Strecher is?”


“I believe she is in the estate office – shall I ask her to join you somewhere?”


“At the main entrance please – Sharon, come with me,” Caroline said as they made their way to the front stairs.


“I take it a delivery is coming, Caroline?”


“Oh yes – the most important delivery of all,” she said as they stopped by the front hall, Frau Strecher coming out to join them.


“You wished to see me, Fraulein Jameson?”


“Indeed – Frau MacKinnon is just arriving,” Caroline said as the white van pulled up, Sharon watching a a very large man got out of the passenger seat, and helped Alice to come out as well.


“Hey,” Caroline said as she came forward and hugged her, “how was the trip?”


“Long – but these boys were great company,” Alice said as the driver got out, both men walking round and thumping on the back doors before they opened them.  They then helped to lift out the covered clothes rack, a third man coming out and helping them to bring the rack up the disabled ramp.


“Hey Caroline,” one of them said, “you should have said Mrs MacKinnon knew some rugby songs.”


“I didn’t know she did,” Caroline said as she raised an eyebrow.  “Alice, this is Sharon Kennedy.  She’s interning with me for the summer.”


“Welcome to an interesting world,” Alice said as Frau Strecher looked at the men.  “If you will follow me, I will show you where the rack is to go, and then offer some refreshment.”


“That sounds good,” the man said, “but one of us must stay with the rack from now until Saturday at all times.”


“Of course – I will have the refreshment brought to you while you discuss rotas,” the manager said as they walked in.


“So that’s Frau Strecher?”


“It is indeed,” Caroline said as they walked in, meeting Mary Thomas in the entrance hall.


“Alice, lass – you look like you need a drink.”


“I do – where can I get one?”


“Follow the men, make sure they get what they need, then come and find us in the drawing room,” Caroline said to Sharon, the young woman nodding as she walked off.


“So, where are they?”


“Rehearsals at the cathedral – we have a little while yet.”


“Good,” Alice said as she literally fell into a comfortable chair, and accepted a coffee.  “I need an hour or two to compose myself.”


“I think we can allow that,” Mary said with a smile, “some coffee, some food, and you’ll feel much better.”


“And what am I, chopped liver?”


“Of course not,” Alice said as she stood up and hugged Duncan.  “Heard from the kids?”


“They’re all fine.  How are you?”


“Stiff, sore, and with a surprising new line in songs for the car.”



Noon CET

Munich Frauenkirche


“So the ceremony is completed, and it is time for the procession out.  Klaus and Juliette, you lead off.”


“Probably the bit I’m looking forward to the most,” Juliette said as Klaus took her arm.


“John, will you escort Carina please, and then Adam Ingrid?”


“I would be honoured to,” John said as he took Carina’s arm, and Adam kissed Ingrid before taking hers.


“Willy with Abby, and Will with Angel.”


“I hope Natasha is not jeaous,” Willy said as he took Abby’s arm, and then looked at her.  “Is something wrong my child?”


“I learn where I go to college when we get back to the townhouse,” Abby whispered, “and I’m starting to get nervous.”


“Endure – it will soon be over,” Willy said as Will took his daughter’s arm.


“Next – Alex, will you escort Jo, and George will walk with Doc.”


“We will be honoured.”


“Dieter, my dear, you get the most beautiful bridesmaid of all.”


“Will you walk with me, my dear,” Dieter said as he took Judith’s hand, while his sons took the arms of Katy and Sands.


“And – the ceremonial march!”


“Here Comes the Bride, Forty inches wide...”


“John, I will kill you later,” Juliette whispered from the corner of her mouth as they started to make their way back down the aisle.


“Excellent – keep in time and place...  Remember the guests will be watching and applauding...  No need to curtsey to the royal guests, not yet anyway...”


As they reached the end of the aisle, Sigi stopped and said “excellent.  Well, I think we are done here for today – let’s gather things up and head back for lunch.”


As she looked at her phone, she smiled and said “And Alice has arrived safely.”



1.30 pm

The Furstenheim Townhouse


“Can I have a drink Momma,” Judith said as she came in with Carina.


“Of course you can little one – is Lunch ready Frau Strecher?”


“We have it ready in the dining room,” the manager said as she smiled at Judith.


“Good – come on little one,” she said as Klaus came in with Juliette.


“Alice,” she said as she embraced her old friend, “thank you, thank you so much.”


“Oh we’re not out of the woods yet,” Alice said, “not until Saturday afternoon.  Ask Jack.”


“You called, my dear,” Jack said as he kissed Angel, and then came over.


“We were just discussing the photographer issue, Herr Linklater.”


“Ah yes – I’m not surprised,” Jack said quietly.


“So Jack how bad is the paparazzi issue?"

"Klaus,” he said quietly, “are you sure you really want to know?"

"Not really,” Klaus said, “but I suppose I must."

"According to an old friend who works for Stern, there are over a thousand photographers in town trying to get wedding related pictures."

"That many?" Klaus said as he raised an eyebrow.

"Yes, and I'm afraid that the reward on pictures of the dress start at $1 million."

"No wonder Alice was taking such precautions." Klaus shook his head.

"Well what does your Highness wish me to do further?" Frau Strecher asked. "I am fairly confident in our security."


“I do not think we can do anything further, short of turning the townhouse into a prison.  Where are they?”


“Safely locked in a windowless room, with a guard at all times.”


“And for the fittings,” Juliette asked.


“The room will have all windows shuttered, and Frau MacKinnon with Fraulein Thomas will work under close guard from the three who travelled with the package.  Fraulein Jameson will also be outside with her assistant.”


“I really don’t think there is anything else we can do,” Juliette said, “let’s go and have some lunch.”


“How did the rehearsal go,” Valeria said as she saw Abby come in.


“It went well,” Abby said as Guy and Diana looked at her.


“Is she all right,” Diana asked as Jo came in.


“She’s nervous,” Jo said as she sat with her, “it’s almost time.”


“Of course,” Sandy said as she and Heather hugged the young blonde, “but you’ve got nothing to worry about.”


“Perhaps, perhaps not,” Abby said as Carina came in.


“Was this how it felt for both of you?”


“Oh yes,” Jo said as Grace looked in from the doorway.




“More a question of timing,” Grace said as she turned to look at Sarah and Harriet.  “The college offers will be sent to the students at eight today, and Abby is nervous as anything.”


“But don’t you know as Dean of Students?”


Grace nodded, as she said “I do, but I’m not allowed to say.”


“Isn’t Sharon Kennedy due to find out as well?”


“She is, but I don’t know about her,” Grace said as she watched Caroline sit with her intern.




“Does it show,” Sharon said as she looked at Caroline. 


“I’m afraid it does,” Caroline said with a smile.


“How were you when you were waiting for your college application?”


“I didn’t go to college – not in that way.  I did more of an apprenticeship,” Caroline said, “but I was there last year when Jo found out, and that was how I knew what to look for.”



"Hello Holly,” Heather said as the small blonde came into the room, “when did you and Tommy arrive?"

"Last night Heather.  Late last night."

"So where is he?" Sandy asked.

"Having a late breakfast with a lot of Englishmen," the bespectacled blonde shook her head.

"Oh he got roped into that did he?"

"Yep.  So what’s happening?”


“Lunch soon – but before that, Countess de Ros needs to check her e-mails.”




“Right – let’s do this.  If you will all excuse me?”


“Want us to come with you,” Carina asked as Abby looked up.


“No – this is something I have to do on my own,” Abby said as she walked off.


“Well,” Caroline said as she watched Sharon look at her phone.


“Simmons have accepted me,” Sharon said with a smile, “I’ll call Dad and let him know.”


As she stepped out of the room, Carina, Holly and Jo watched the door.


“Now I know how you felt,” Diana said as she stood with Juliette and Heather, watching as Abby came back in.




“Mamma,” Abby said quietly, “I must ask Grandpapa a question.”


“Yes, my child?”


Abby looked up, smiling as she said “may I use the Paris apartment for a year, when I spend my secondment at the Sorbonne?”


“You have been accepted?”


Abby smiled as she said “Cooper Union have offered me a place to study photography.”



3 pm CET

The Furstenheim Townhouse


“Okay – before we go to the fitting, who do we have down to come tonight?  Pussy apparently already has Blair roped in to come.”


“So it’s not just the Sapphic tendency,” Doc said.


“Nope – want in?”


“Why not – I could do with a laugh tonight,” Doc said.  “So – you and Annie, Sandy and Heather, Helen and Penny, who else?”


“Did somebody mention a party?”


“Maddie!”  Penny came over and hugged her old friend as she and Emma removed their coats.


“We’re getting a party up to go to a club tonight – you two in?”


“Sounds good – who else?”




“Nope – Curt and I are going out, but I think Abby might be up for it.”


“Count me in too,” Holly said as she sat with them.


“And no way the party goes without us,” Ally said as she sat with Nell.


“Peps!  Party tonight?  Think Jack can survive a night without you?”


“Sure – why not.”


“I heard from Fi – she’s in,” Abby said, “and apparently she’s persuaded a couple of Gaunts to come as well.”


“Eve and Ailenn?  Watch your step then,” Jo said.


“You guys going out tonight,” Katy said as she passed with Sands.


“Yeah – why?”


“Can we come as well – just to get out for the night,” Sands said.


“Ask your mom - both of you.”


“Hey – I need a word with all of you.”


“Sure Caroline – what is it,” Abby said.


"Girls if you are going out clubbing, just be aware that you are all public personages, and as such the photographers consider you fair game." Caroline spoke to the assembled group. "So for example a picture of you Abby in a gay club would be worth a lot of money to some paparazzi."

"You are saying I can't go out with my friends Caroline?"

"No, but please try and disguise yourself."

"It may be best that we all do." Natalya stood up, "but with wigs and makeup I'm sure we can all make ourselves unrecognizable."

"I was going to suggest that." Caroline nodded.  “I’ll talk to Pussy as well – make sure the security at the club are aware.”




As she turned to look at Sharon, Grace came over and said “congratulations Abby – and I can tell you Letty got in at Penn with a full scholarship.”


“Good for her,” Abby said as Caroline walked over.


“Okay – Carina, Ingrid, we need you for a few minutes.”


“Sure – catch up with you later,” Cari said as they walked off with Caroline, and approached one of the rooms off the main hallway.  As they walked in, they saw Alice and Mary standing there.


“Okay, come in and close the doors,” Alice said, Ingi closing the door as Mary said “Time for the final fitting – Thank you Caroline.”


“Put the rack over there,” Caroline said as two of the men wheeled in the covered rack, “and then keep watch outside.”


As they went out and closed the door, Caroline went over and stood by the window.  “Are you sure you want to do this, Alice?”


“We need to see how it looks with natural light Caroline – the two guys are outside, and Frau Strecher has the security staff roaming.  Do it.”


“Okay,” Caroline said as she opened the shutters – only to be confronted by a photographer who was positioned outside, the look of horror on his face matched by Caroline’s smile.


“Hey,” she said, “if I was you, I would start running.”


She watched as the paparazzo turned and started running – only to trip as Sharon stuck her leg out while he passed, and two security guards to grab him.


“Dear lord, is there no privacy,” Mary said as Caroline looked at them.


“There will be now – ready?”


“Ready,” Alice said as she opened the rack covering, both Carina and Ingrid smiling as they saw what was waiting.




“What’s going on Heather,” Sands said as she and Katy came out of the room.


“We’re planning for a party tonight, kiddo – why?”


“Well – Katy says her mom has agreed for her to come...”




“Can I come as well?”


Heather looked at Sandy, before Sands said “apparently some of the Gaunt girls are coming, and Pepsi and Doc will be there too.”


Heater and Sandy looked at each other, before Sandy said “all right – but if you feel uncomfortable at any time, someone brings you back, agreed?”


“Agreed,” Sands said with a smile as two more families were shown in.


“Trina, Mary – you all made it,” Abby said as she and Carina greeted the Culver and Clarke families.


“Wow – a flight and then a real German castle?”


“Well, a smaller version,” Sigi said, “welcome to our townhouse.”


“Still impressive,” Dave said as he looked round.


“Dave – so glad you and the family could make it,” Juliette said as she walked over.  “Listen, some of the party are going to a party at a club tonight – do any of you want to come?”


“What sort of club,” Trina asked.


“Well,” Sigi said, “it’s Pussy and Frieda van Roon who have organised it, and it’s – well, it’s a club for same sex partners.”


“Having said which,” Abby said quickly, “some of the other girls are coming – I’m going, so are Katy Carter, Anna Carlton and some of the other girls.”


“Not for me,” Mary said, “I need to make sure some of this lot can get some sleep.”


“I’m up for it,” Trina said, and then they all heard Suzie Clarke said “can I come?”


“Suzie, I don’t know...”


“Please Dad...”


David and Mary looked at Suzie, and the other five who were yawning.


“Well,” Mary said, “it might be fun for her...”


"Are you sure we should let her go out with all those women, well to such a club?" Dave shook his head.

"Look I know most of them, and they are straight women just looking to have some fun Pop." Mary shook her head, "and I trust Trina to look after her."

"Yeah I think I trust Trina...just about."

"This is Europe, the rules on drinking are a bit more relaxed, she'll learn a lot if nothing else, and I think it will be a life growing experience."

"Life growing experience? You sound like a teacher Poppit." Dave smiled.

"Well, I can't see her wanting to miss out on the I say we let her go."

"Okay Poppit but if things get screwy remember I told you so."

"I know Pop."

"So I can go?" Suzie shook her head, "to a night club?"

"Yes, as long as you are careful..."

"And don't get TOO drunk bratty sister," David laughed.

"But what do I wear?"

"Carina says you can raid her wardrobe?"


“Yeah – come with me,” Carina said as Sands walked with Holly.


“So you are coming tonight as well?”


“Yup,” Holly said as she tossed her blonde hair, “want some help with makeup?”


“Please,” Sands said with a smile as they walked off together.



“And what will the rest of you be doing while we party,” Sandy asked Diana and Juliette.


“We’re going to go out for a meal – try and draw some of the snappers away from you as you sneak off.”


“Sounds good,” Sandy said with a smile, “now to get ready...”




“Remind me why the hell I’m doing this,” Pepsi said as she adjusted her strapless top, and then stood up.”


“Because it’s going to be fun,” Doc said as she sat down and pulled on her over the knee leather boots, “even if you don’t think it is.”


“I didn’t say that,” Pepsi said, “it’s just a different thing.”


“Oh stop worrying,” Sarah said as she came in, wearing a pair of skin tight black leatherette leggings with a white Grecian style top and high heeled sandals.  “The guys are going to see a movie, so we’re safe.”


“Right – the deepest red lipstick, the darkest eye shadow – we really go to town tonight girls...”




“So what are you going to wear,” Holly said as she applied the eyeshadow to Sands.


“I don’t know yet – what about you?”


“I’ve got a white micro dress I can wear with some heels – you?”


“I’ll choose in a while.”


“Good – pucker those lips for me.”


Sands watched Holly as she applied the red lipstick, and then used some paper to blot it before she looked at the young girl.


“Right – you get ready, I’ll see you later.”


“Thanks,” Sands said as Holly went off, and she went to her wardrobe, opening it and taking to a white tie-front blouse and short skirt, smiling as she took them out.



“Find anything you like there,” Carina said as she watched Suzie.


“All these outfits are amazing,” she said as she looked out, “I don’t know what to pick.”


“Well, let me have a look,” Trina said as she joined the young girl, and then took out a leather mini skirt and a tight black top.  “Try these on, see what you think,” she said as she handed them to Suzie, and she made her way to the bathroom.


“Are you sure she’s going to be all right there,” Annie asked as she looked at Trina.


“We’ll keep an eye on her – and besides, aren’t some of the older women coming?”


“Yeah – just in case...”



“I can’t believe you agreed to do this Shirley,” Penny said as she watched her boss putting on the white silk blouse.


“Well, with Klaus taking the menfolk out, I get to act as a chaperone – but it is important I blend right in.”


“Hence the black wig?”


“Hence, as you say, the black wig.”


“And the outfit?”


“Will fit in with the theme for the evening,” Shirley said with a smile.  “I presume Kylie will come with you and Helen?”


“That is the plan...”




The girls looked at Suzie as she came out, saying “well – will this do?”


“Oh yes,” Annie said as she looked at Trina, “that will do very nicely...”


The young girl smiled as she heard the knock on the door.


“Dinner in fifteen minutes – and the cars will be here at eight.”







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