Dancing in the Dark – Part 1
Tuesday 29th November
11 am CET
As the door opened, Lucia Bianchini looked over and stood as Maria walked slowly in.
“Aunt Maria,” she said quietly, “I take it you have heard?”
“I have – not the way I would have arranged things, but I do think it is for the best all things considered. How are you feeling, Goivanna?”
“Strange still – but it was worth the shock to know that my family now know I am alive. They have agreed, however, that I stay as Lucia for the moment – when I am not with them.”
“I believe she has finished talking to your colleagues – we both plan to return to America with her son next week, and the rest of our family will come and visit us in Los Angeles and in Victoria.”
As they sat down, Lucia said “I hear you will be coming to a wedding in a few weeks?”
“A week on Saturday, yes. You will be there?”
“I will – I have a conference to attend for the few days before. For the moment, however, I remain to renew my relationship with Mother and Father – after they take care of one little bit of business.”
“And that is?”
Lucia looked to the door as her parents entered. “Talking, alone, to you – I will go and have some coffee. You should all join me when you have finished…”
1.30 pm GMT
The House of Commons
“So, as I said apart from a little excitement, it was a nice, peaceful, restful weekend, and we all headed home yesterday.”
“Well I’m glad to hear that everyone had a good time at Shirley’s big weekend Kay.” Margaret Harker said with a smile as she gestured for the waiter to serve coffee.
“Yes everyone seemed to have a great time, and most importantly Shirley did,” Kay Cornwall paused while the waiter finished and walked away, “but I’m sure you didn’t invite me for lunch at the House of Commons Dame Margaret purely for social chit-chat. What can I do for you?”
“Well…” Margaret took a sip from her cup, and put it down before she said “you can assure me that the Intelligence Service was not responsible for a recent break-in at an Irish government building in Dublin Commander.”
“Even if that was my area,” Kay said with a smile and a shake of her head, “you know very well I can neither confirm nor deny operational details.”
“I know Kay, and my contact in the Security Service told me exactly the same thing on Friday.”
“So,” Kay said as she sat back, “why are you asking Margaret?”
“Firstly because an old friend in the Irish embassy asked me…”
“Ah that explains that lunch with Padraig O’Bannon at the Red Lion,” Kay thought to herself.
“And secondly,” Margaret continued, “as we negotiate on whether we are going to leave the EEC relationships with the Irish will probably be the major sticking point.”
“Agreed,” the woman from the SIS said as she sipped her coffee.
“Look I’ll lay it on the line. Someone broke into Lardarn House in Dublin recently, and as you probably know that building houses some very sensitive Irish government departments.” Maggie took a sip herself. “Nothing seems to have been stolen, but their government asked a friend of mine, to ask me, if I’d heard this was a British intelligence gathering operation.”
“Because you sit on the select committee on Anglo-Irish security matters?”
“Exactly,” Maggie finished her coffee. “Look Kay I want to keep this quiet and not haul anyone in front of my committee, but given that we need their co-operation in the coming difficult times, I want irrefutable proof that this was not down to ‘our’ people. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Kay nodded, “I’ll pass what you’ve said along Maggie.”
“Thank you, and the quieter and more informal we can keep this the better.”
“I understand. So, you and Amelia are flying over next week?”
“For the wedding? Most certainly…”
“Didn’t you see enough of me at the weekend Sigi?” Francesca smiled at the small woman on the screen. She had returned the previous night, after discussing matters with certain authorities, and now she was in her office, Peri and Hannah working in the outer office.
“Probably,” Sigrid von Manschen laughed, “but I have a problem that I must hand off to you because I have a conflict of interest.”
“Oh?” Francesca instinctively reached for a pen and pad.
“You know that my family trust is a shareholder in Norstar SA?”
“The Swiss holding company that owns the Norstar agencies?”
“Yes,” Sigi nodded. “Well a Russian company has quietly been acquiring a holding in Norstar, and I fear that we may be facing some kind of hostile takeover. As a shareholder myself I think it appropriate that I ask you to handle this for us Francesca.”
“I understand. So does this have the approval of your brother, Juliette, Missy, etc?”
“I’ve rung them all, and they agreed we place this in your hands.”
“Well it seems fairly straight forward…”
“Well, there is one small fly in the ointment…”
“Oh? Tell me more.”
“It’s complicated by the fact that the Russian company is owned by Oleg Byushin,” Sigi said with a rueful smile.
“OUCH!” Francesca looked worried, “and I apologise for that expression I seem to have picked up.”
“It’s not a problem, but I know that you know very well that his name was at the forefront of ‘certain matters’ this past summer.”
“I do indeed,” Francesca took her glasses off and started to play with them. “He’s a very big time player, and has very powerful connections in many places.”
“I thought you would know who he was.”
“So why would he be interested in something as relatively small-time as a model agency?”
“I don’t know,” Sigi said, “but for a man accustomed to investing in companies with multi-multi million dollar balance sheets it makes little financial sense, even as a front for laundering some of his ill-gotten.”
“So this could be purely a personal motive?”
“That’s what I’m hoping you can tell us Francesca,” Sigi smiled. “Given your sources, and resources, I’m hoping you can give us an explanation quite quickly.”
“Well I can try,” Francesca’s mind leapt to all the files still safely secured in the offices of Jameson Security in New York. “Let me call a few people, and I’ll report back with a plan of action later today.”
“Sounds good – I’ll talk to you then,” Sigi said as she ended the call, Francesca sitting back and thinking…
“What the hell ever possessed me to go see that band play as Krys?” Tommy Boynton asked himself for the ten thousand and twenty fifth time since he’d been dragged onto the stage the previous Saturday night.
Up until then he’d actually been thoroughly enjoying the experience, but having all those people looking at him, and then worse, Krys’ name and picture appearing in the Sunday editions of the newspapers, and even a couple of magazines, had turned what had been a fun night out into a recurring nightmare.
So now it was Tuesday morning, and thanks to Heather and Sandy, he now knew that not just Missy Auerbach was on his trail as a potential model, but most of the other agencies in the western world.
“I did look hot though,” a thought passed into Tommy’s mind and made him smile, and he hadn’t been insulted that both the lead singer, and the drummer has tried their luck. Still far too many people now knew his secret identity and he wasn’t sure how he could both keep that identity secret, especially from Holly, and deal with the pressure that was starting to build from Missy Auerbach and her colleagues.
The good thing was that whatever Heather had done to create the identity of Krys seemed to be holding up to scrutiny, and no one other than the Tripp sisters seemed to have worked out ‘she’ was really a ‘he’.
“How the hell had she done it?” Tommy asked himself. He was far from dumb himself but he knew he couldn’t have manipulated all the computers that Heather had done to give Krys the appearance of reality.
“I’m just glad she did,” Tommy smiled at his reflection on the other side of the subway car, “I do actually love being Krys.”
Still what to do next? Looking at his schedule for the day, he smiled and dialled a number.
“Hey – can I come and see you at about four?
“Before you leave for your classes,” Miss Tennant said as she looked round the room and smiled, “I wish to congratulate both Ama Jameson, and Jessica Murchado, both of whom have been selected to join the under 18 women’s squads for Scotland and Spain respectively. Please, join me in wishing them well.”
Jess and Ama blushed as the assembled school clapped and cheered them.
“So, let us sing the school song, and then set forth for a new week of learning…”
“This is beginning to frustrate me,” Missy looked pained as she slumped into a chair in Juliette’s office.
“Oh? And what particular thing is frustrating you today Missy,” Juliette said as she looked across from her desk. “This Russian who is buying in?”
“Well, I admit, I could have done without coming back to that…”
“It’s too early to get upset yet,” Juliette said with a smile, “I’m sure Francesca can do something to get this Russian off our back.”
“I trust her to do that,” Missy sighed, “no, it’s this whole Krystle Ernst thing. Heather Smith is being totally uncooperative, and neither the Yale, nor Boston University alumni offices will give me her either her phone number, or her address.”
“You know that legally they can’t hand out that sort of information darling.”
“I know,” Missy sighed again, ‘but in the meantime I know my rivals are also trying to hunt her down, and I worry they are having better luck then I am.”
“You know you are totally obsessing again?”
“I know, I know,” Missy said as she stood up and paced the room, “but you’ve seen that clip of her on stage dancing, and just as appearing to be pulled out of the crowd by Bruce Springsteen on the Dancing in the Dark video helped make Courteney Cox a star, so that little clip is working magic for Krys Ernst. I can already book her solid for months if she signs.”
“It has reached England already I know,” Juliette nodded.
“You know something I don’t know Ju?”
“Only that Rebecca Wesley rang and asked me if I knew Krys because she sees her as the perfect girl to be Lady Dorothy on the covers of the new paperback editions of her books.”
“See,” Missy almost screamed, “even more work we could book her for.”
“First if we can find her, and second if she signs,” Juliette grinned, “and Sandy is offering no better than even money that we can do either thing.”
“No – I signed Caroline, and if I got her into an agreement, I can do it with Krys. But Ju, darling, I need you to talk to Heather…”
5 pm GMT
filming going this week Caroline?" Francesca asked as she spoke into the
think I'm starting to understand what they want from me and how this works
that's good. Look I'll get straight to the point - a Russian oligarch is
starting to sniff round Norstar, probably looking to buy, and Sigi has asked me
to lead the legal defence.'
"Okay,” Caroline said, “and this affects me how?"
“Apart from the fact you work for NorStar?”
“Well, technically, they represent me, I don’t work for them – but go on…”
"Well… It's Byushin who is doing the looking..."
"CRAP!" Caroline didn't allow Francesca to finish what she's saying.
"I know,” Francesca said with a sigh. “Anyway, I can't remember all of what we dug up on him, can you tell your people to give Eleanor access to the files?"
"Of course," Caroline paused, "I'd look myself but I'm tied up with this filming."
"It's why I'll get Eleanor to do it."
“All right – I’ll let the office know she is coming in…”
"What has you laughing Hol?" Tommy asked as they sat down to eat their lunch.
"Oh just an e-mail from Heather,” Holly said with a smile, “complaining about all the phone calls asking about her friend Krys?"
"From that Missy Auerbach woman?" Tommy tried to not sound nervous as he put the straw in the juice carton.
"No, it seems from a lot of people, somehow it has leaked out that Heather knows her."
Heather, it's not going to be fun until all this dies down."
this woman, what did you make of her?" Tommy now tried to sound relaxed as
he asked the question.
"She's gorgeous, and she's truly nice..." Holly giggled, "if I wasn't already in love with both you and Sands I might even be interested myself."
Tommy raised an eyebrow as he looked at his girlfriend. "You liked her that much?"
"Yeah,” Holly laughed. “In a way she reminds me of you, but in other ways she's very different."
take this wrong darling, but she's comfortable in her own skin in a way that
you often aren't."
"Okay," for a few seconds Tommy tried to think out the implications of that statement.
Complete Style magazine
“Okay, young Thomas,” Mary said as she stood at her table, her hands in her waistcoat pockets, “what is on your mind?”
“Merlin there is a question I want to ask that never in my life did I ever think I’d be asking,’” Tommy took a deep breath, “is there any possible way that I can have even a partial life as Krys without it coming out that I’m really Tommy Boynton?”
“Oh? And what has you asking this?”
“I guess because I really have fun being Krys, and I’m more than just flattered that so many people seem determined to believe that I could be a top model.”
“You’ve heard of the stampede to sign Krystle then?” Mary smiled a very amused smile.
“Of course I have, and do you know what? I actually think I want to do it, but then I remember that before a model is photographed, or goes down a catwalk, that she has to have clothes fittings, hair done, makeup done, etc. How can I do all that without someone noticing I have silicon breast forms on, that I wear a wig, and most importantly, that I have a penis?”
“Not easily,” Mary conceded. “If the shoot was for me then I could run cover for you and ensure that no one knows, but…” She cocked her head to one side and said “I think you are dreaming of a proper modeling career aren’t you Tommy bach?”
“In a way…oh I don’t know,” Tommy put his head in his hands, “since I took that damn dare I’m not sure I know anything anymore.”
“I think I implied it might be life changing.”
“I know, and at times I’ve been thinking about going as far as a sex change and really becoming Krys, but then I remember Holly and my parents, and I know they’d never understand.”
“So what do you want me to tell you Tommy?” Merlin looked him straight in the eyes.
“I guess, is there something practical I can do.”
“So you can have everything,” Mary laughed.
“Is that so bad?”
“No, but is it doable? Let me be honest, even I don’t know the answer to that.”
“Well if you don’t, then who does?”
“Someone does come to mind, but they would need to be read in. Are you willing for me to do that?”
“Sure – but who?”
“I’ll call you tomorrow if I can fix a meeting up.”
“Okay folks,” Juliette said as she sat in her office with Missy, “let’s collect our thoughts. Sigi?”
“Well according to what Francesca was able to quickly find out, Byushin may owe his huge fortune to mining and chemicals but he seems to be something of a model chaser,” Sigi smiled at her screen, “he has dated a lot of mid-level Russian girls Ju, and even the odd top girl.”
“So he wants Norstar as his personal harem?”
“I’m guessing it’s something along those lines yes,” Sigi giggled slightly.
“Several Russians have done this,” Juliette looked grim, “and in the process they have bankrupted and killed several great agencies.”
“No offense to you Klaus, but the business was so much better back in those days of yore when the agencies were owned and run by women and gay men.” Missy too stared at her screen.
“None taken Missy, and I do get your point. I’ve read enough, and talked to enough people, to know that sex has been as bad for your business as drugs.”
“So do we try
buying him off?” Juliette asked, “Make him an offer for his shares at above
market price and hope he takes his profits and go’s away?”
“That or some kind of whitemail strategy,” Klaus said quietly. “Either way we make it economically unfeasible to keep trying to acquire Norstar shares.”
“Well we have to do something,” Missy declared, “I don’t want this man in MY agency. I have enough trouble signing promising girls anyway…”
“Which brings us round to Krys Ernst.” This time Ju did laugh.
“I was thinking more of the Mel Eckholm’s of this world Juliette. Remember what we talked about in Italy?”
“The Gross book and sex with underage girls.”
“Exactly. How can I in good conscience sign a kid like Mel Eckholm to a contract when I’m working for a man who is just in the biz for sex with the girls?”
“I do get your point darling.”
“So are we all agreed I tell Francesca to contact Byushin and try to present a way of getting him out of our company?” Sigi asked.
“Yes,” Klaus said, “and quickly.”
The Richmond Mansion
“As Krys he is totally conflicted,” Mary Thomas sipped the coffee that Heather put in front of her. “He knows all the dangers and problems, but he finds it all just so tempting.”
“Thanks for coming over tonight and telling us,” Heather said as she picked up her own drink, “I hadn’t realized quite how things had developed.”
“I think at first those who knew thought it was all quite amusing,” Sandy looked at her daughter, “but it really now is a very serious matter.”
“Ai that it is,” Mary looked at the other three women. “He wants advice and help, and I’m honestly not sure what I can do.”
“I guess it really was bad of me and Katy to ask him to come with us on Saturday,” Sands spoke, ‘but honest we never even hinted that he should come as Krys, we expected him to be there as Tommy. All we really wanted was to go see that band.”
“Now that you hadn’t told me before darling?” Heather looked at the young woman intently, “going as Krys was ‘his’ idea?”
“Yes, we just wanted an adult who could vouch for us and buy drinks.”
“It doesn’t let you totally off the hook young lady,” Sandy said as she looked at her daughter, “but it does put things in a slightly different perspective. Put simply, Krys has created a situation for herself and needs make some decisions.”
“That’s why I used the word conflicted,” Mary nodded.
“Well I’ll have a word with him tomorrow,” Heather paused, “the immediate problem is dealing with the agents, if I can help Krys buy some time and space with them, then maybe a solution to the bigger picture might emerge.”
“There is a logic to that I have to agree lover.” Sandy nodded her approval.
“Call me if you need help Heather,” Mary put down her cup, “but while you see to Missy et al I’ll apply myself to the problem of how to give Tommy a real life as Krys without gender surgery.”
“I think Holly would appreciate it if he doesn’t have his cock removed,” Sands laughed.
“Sorry, I couldn’t resist…”
“So what is your first likely move Mary?”
“A call to Australia…”
Ed Preminger looked up from his desk as his adjutant said “call on line 4 – the Marchesa.”
“All right,” he said, waiting for the door to close before he picked up the handset. “Francesca – how can I help you tonight?”
“Admiral can I please beg a favor?”
“Is it one I’m going to regret doing Francesca?” Ed Preminger asked cautiously.
“In so far that I can see it blowing up in your face Sir? Then no.”
“Well ask then please.”
“Is Oleg Byushin still a name that you are interested in?”
Ed sat straight up before he said “you could say that. Why are you interested in him?”
“At this moment for a reason that as far as I can tell has nothing to do with intelligence matters.”
“He is acquiring shares in the Norstar model agencies, and Sigrid von Manschen has briefed me to handle the legal part of any defense if a takeover bid is launched.”
“Alright, that I understand, but why ask if I’m still interested in him?”
“I guess I’m basically doing due diligence,” Francesca paused, “my initial research indicates that his motive in this is that he sees an agency like Norstar as a private stock of beautiful women for him to date.”
“That occurred to me.”
“However given what we learned earlier this year, and that your new man himself has had more than flirtations with the model industry, I’m just I guess curious about things.”
“I certainly would like to know everything you can find out on Byushin Francesca, I get the distinct feeling that my time in this position might be limited…”
“You think they will go after the agencies?” Francesca interrupted.
“I hope not, but given the stated views of the incoming administration.”
“Plus what we found out?”
“Then I think that a lot of us might be on borrowed time.”
“Okay if I find anything you might need know I’ll pass it on Ed.”
“Thank you Francesca, at least I can get in the official record, even if it is never acted upon.”
“I will keep you briefed, Admiral,” Francesca said before the line went dead.
Looking out over the bay, Eleanor shook her head before she took a sip from her glass. The call from Francesca had been unexpected, but when she explained why she had called, Eleanor understood perfectly.
"Can you go in, look at what we put in the files, and prepare me a report on Byushin Eleanor?"
"Easily darling, but why the rush?"
"I have to
talk to the guy regarding his interest in Norstar, and put basically the more I
know about him the happier i will be."
tell Ed Preminger that you are about to start talking to a man who we had
pretty near the top of our hit parade?"
him, and he's still interested in anything that i can find out that goes above
and beyond a takeover bid for a model agency."
he might be."
remember several of our incoming president's 'friends' know Byushin, even if he
rather what i remember, and i also remember we reported him making frequent
phone calls to the embassy, the consulate, and to their UN delegation."
a well-connected man."
"Alright I'll go in to Caroline's place first thing in the morning."
“Thank you Eleanor…”
Wednesday 30th November
8 am GMT
“There you go, Tippy Toes,” Miley said as she put the cat’s water and food bowl down, hearing the purr as it rubbed against her and then started to eat.
“So what is on the timetable for today,” Agnes said as she drank from her coffee cup.
“English – Mrs Coombe is sitting down with us to watch To Kill A Mockingbird, and then we talk about what we saw,” Laura said with a smile.
“Then Suzanne is coming this afternoon for my art class, while Laura has a history lesson.”
“Well, a productive day,” Agnes said with a smile as the phone went. “Let me go and see who that is.”
The girls sat and listened as Agnes went into the hallway.
“Donnie – a little early for that call isn’t it?
“OH. Yes, I can see that.
“Of course – we can talk when you get here on Saturday. And congratulations.”
Miley and Laura looked at each other, wondering what was going on.
"Girls there is a secret I need to tell you," Agnes smiled as she put the phone down, "and you must promise me you will tell no one."
"We promise," Laura smiled, "is it what you were just talking about to Dad?"
Agnes smiled back, "Donald has been officially informed that he will get a
peerage in the New Year’s Honours list, and we agreed that he will take the
title of Baron Ardray."
be Lady Ardray Mum, and we will be Honorables?" Miley smiled broadly.
your father and I are married yes."
is like something out of a fairy tale," Laura's smile turned to a broad
grin. "It's hard to remember how recently it was Mile's and me were living
in that rotten room in Paddington..."
wasn't much better you know," Agnes shook her head.
"At least you
weren't having to sell yourself Mum."
people will always think domination is prostitution you know darling."
is behind us," Miley said with a decisive tone, "from now on we only
"Well forward means the wedding," Agnes sat down, "I'm sure you have questions about that, what do you want me to tell you darlings?"
“What sort of wedding will it be like – like Sue and John’s?”
“No – for one thing, it’s a Catholic wedding, so it’s going to be a bit more like when your father and I finally tie the knot. The church is Father Richmond’s own parish, so he will conduct the wedding.”
“What’s it like in New York in December,” Miley asked.
“Cold – very cold, which is why we will all have warm dresses on.”
“Do you know what Aunt Shirley will be wearing?”
“No – I think the only person outside of the party who does know will be Kylie, and that’s because she designed it. Anyway, after the wedding, we all go back to the hotel for the reception. I know Katy Carter and Sands Richmond are coming, so there will be some girls your age Mylie, as well as Ama and her friends.”
“I wonder if it will be snowy?”
“Who knows,” Agnes said as she stood up. “When I get back tonight, we’ll start to sort out what we need to take – but for now, time for work girls…”
8.30 am GMT
“So why aren’t we going to this wedding,” Clodagh said as she and Edwina Treharran collected their books in their room, “and our parents do? More to the point, Laura and Miley get to go?”
“I guess because they don’t have a headmistress who said we could not get the time off,” Edwina said with a sigh, “but there is one point to bear in mind.”
“And that is?”
“You’re not the only ones,” Aileen said from behind them as both of the year 7 girls turned round, to see Elizabeth Cuthbertson, Christine Mahan-Gaunt and Eve Gaunt with her.
“So we have to spend the weekend here?”
“Yup – but it means we get our Christmas shopping sorted out…”
The Bank, London
“Surely the baby is not kicking already,” Agnes said as she saw Sue holding her back.
“No – we started to put a crib together last night, and I overstretched,” Sue said with a smile as she brought in the post and a coffee. “You might want to look at the letter on the top first.”
“Oh – why… Ah, the Oban postmark?”
“And the seal of the cathedral – does that mean the date is set?”
“I hope so,” Agnes said as she opened the letter and looked at it, then dialled a number on the phone.
“May I speak to the ambassador please? It’s Agnes McAdam.
“Donald? The cathedral have confirmed – the 25th of January…”
“The director will be with you shortly, Captain Ball,” the receptionist said as she handed Eleanor her identity card back.
“Thank you,” Eleanor said as she looked round the lobby. Since she was last there, the entrance had been redesigned to look like a typical office front, from the reception desk manned by the two smartly dressed women, to the security guards in discrete, but efficient positions.
She saw the doors open behind the reception desk and a grey haired man come out, his beard neatly trimmed, wearing a tailored suit, the silk tie knotted under the collar of his white shirt.
"Hello Captain, and welcome back," George Simpson said as he came through the gate, signalling to one of the guards to come forward as he shook Eleanor's hand.
"Thank you George," Eleanor stood still as the security guard passed a wand over her, while another looked at the contents of her bag.
this is a formality," George apologized, "but even for you we need to
follow procedures. The boss is very
insistent on that."
"I understand," Eleanor smiled as the girl gave her back her bag. "So did Caroline tell you what I'm here for?"
"Only that you are needing to look at something in the vault, and that I should not ask questions," the Englishman laughed softly. "I took that to mean this wasn't any of my business."
"Well it might be something serious, or it might just be a very horny Russian trying to find a way to meet beautiful women," Eleanor walked with George towards the elevator. "The problem is we can't be sure which it is."
have to do some background checks?"
reduce it to basics then yes."
know what to do down in the basement, I'll leave you here."
"Thanks George, and if i need help I'll call out. Although – any chance of a coffee?"
“I’ll get a pot sent down,” George said as Eleanor stepped in. the doors closing as the car went down. When the doors opened, she stepped out into the corridor, noting the security cameras as the female at the vault door stood up.
“Captain Ball – Caroline has assigned me to find any information you need.”
“Good to see you again Valerie – shall we begin?”
The Eckholm home
As Missy Auerbach pulled up outside the house, she looked round before getting out. It was a nice neighbourhood, so different from the city – and as she inhaled, it was a wonderful change.
She started to walk up the pathway from the sidewalk, the hells of her three inch leather pumps clicking on the flagstones, and as the door opened she looked at her designer suit, then at the other woman’s grey NYPD sweatshirt and grey pants. Never was the contrast more clear – or more welcome.
“Hello Eva,” she said as she came into the house, “I was surprised to get your call, but I’m glad you did.”
“Thank you for coming out here Missy,” Eva Eckholm replied as she gestured for her guest to sit down, “but I think it is time that you and I talked.”
“About my thoughts that Mel could have a career as a model?”
“Yes,” Eva paused while she started to pour coffee. “I’ve always had an interest in fashion…It’s why I buy so many magazines…and I know that Mel has also been a bit of a model fan.”
“Okay,” Missy said as she took the offered cup. “What does that mean?”
“Basically that,” Eva said as she put some sugar in and stirred her cup, “that your industry has always been a little glamorous fantasy of mine.”
“Well, in that you’re not exactly alone,” Missy said with a smile. “almost every mother in this state – heck, in this country probably had the same dream at one time or another.”
“Fair point. However… I’m not naïve enough to be blind to the fact that the fashion world has had far more then it’s share of tragedy, exploitation, and scandal. I’m flattered you think my daughter has the looks to be a model, and I guess I can see what you see in her, but before I even really start to think if I’ll let her model I need you to convince me why I should consider this?”
“I understand Eva, and yes if I was a mother myself then I’d probably thinking just what you are. Our new president elect has brought all those concerns to the fore.”
“And could you convince yourself?” Eva took a sip from her cup, and continued “my daughter above all wants to be a doctor. She loves playing soccer. Even if I didn’t have all these objections I’d maybe be questioning if she has the time to fit being a model into her life.”
“I’m not proposing she quits school or anything stupid like that,” Missy smiled, “but I do think she can make some good money for herself just basically fitting in jobs around her current life.”
“Or in other words if she treats it like a little part-time job?”
“Exactly,” Missy took a deep breath, “let me be totally honest with you Eva, I’m an agent, I make money for the company I work for by finding models and marketing them. It’s all about money, it’s not a charity.”
“Even with the Jameson clause?”
“Okay, you got me with that one,” Missy laughed. “That aside, however, NorStar profits by me doing my job.”
“So you make money while Mel would be making money?”
“That is how it works, and I think Mel can do just as well as she wants to doing this, and in the meantime Norstar will make money as well.”
“Alright I appreciate all that, and I do understand agencies work and have no problem with all that. What worries me is all the crap that seems to accompany the model industry. Can you totally guarantee me this will not adversely affect my daughter’s life?”
“Can I totally guarantee it? No. But if you ask Jeannie or Abby or Doc, they will tell you the part of my job that never gets seen in the public eye. I work hard to ensure that nothing happens to my girls that is illegal, or is likely to harm them. If I did not do that, I would not be able to look them in the eye and say I have their best interests at heart.
“You know I was ill earlier this year, before Rhenia was hired?”
“I remember – you seem to have made a full recovery.”
“Well, let me tell you a secret – part of the reason I was working so much then was to get two of my girls out of a connection with a certain Eastern European company. I was so focused on that, I didn’t realise how tired I was.”
Eva nodded. “Okay, you’ve convinced me of your intentions. So what happens now?”
Tavern on the Green
“Did you ever do that ‘Look of the Year’ contest Ju?” Claire Morse asked as the friends started to gather for lunch.
Juliette looked across the table and said “that thing Elite ran? When?”
“Back when you were a teen model I guess.”
“I was already signed with another agency,” Juliette said as she perused the menu. “The prize of a contract with Elite didn’t have that much appeal.”
“It had launched several major careers though…”
“And gained a word of mouth reputation that to get anywhere you were expected to put out,” Ju shook her head. “No way my Mom was ever going to let me do anything like that.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Brooke – this is a rare treat.”
“I have a clear day,” Brooke Hutton said as she sat down. “So that is the topic of conversation?”
“The Look of the Year.”
“Oh lord – two minutes and he enters the conversation?”
“Park that for a moment,” Claire said as some of the other Sinners sat down. “If it had such a bad reputation why did so many girls do it then?”
“I can tell you why I did it,” Brooke shook her head, “I knew that I’d never be able to afford law school if I had to rely on my parents paying for it. A friend of mine had heard about it and she suggested we audition.”
“Did you get anywhere Brooke?”
“No,” the judge shook her head.
“Because you are a Lesbian?”
“No,” Brooke said with a smile, “because it was intimated that aged 19 I was too old.”
“Ageism that young?”
“Have you read the papers recently, Claire?”
“Did either of you know girls who did the main contest?” Kelly joined the conversation.
“Yes, and I heard some of the horror stories,” Brooke paused a few seconds, “I ended up getting signed by one of the small agencies that did everything by the book, but I got to know what several girls who did do that contest said they were forced to do.”
“A lot of hopeful girls saw it as their way into the biz,” Juliette looked grim briefly, “a lot of very nasty men took advantage of those girls hopes and dreams.”
“So Jeannie’s quote about the models still needing to be freed?”
“For some of them, it almost ended up like that.”
“Were any of the girls we know victims in all that?” Rachel McNally asked quietly, “and if they were why have they never spoken out about what some of these men did?”
“It wasn’t just men who were involved,” Brooke took a drink, “there were women who helped recruit and groom these kids for sex with the sicko’s.”
“You actually might know a couple of them,” Diana added.
“We might?” Paulie asked.
“Ask Karen just who it was who drew her into all of that,” Juliette nodded, “it will shock you.”
“Karen was one of the victims?” Claire asked as she watched Juliette quietly nod her head. “Why did she never tell?”
“She tried Claire, but these were rich, powerful, and famous men. She was 14 years old, who back then was even prepared to listen, let alone believe her.”
“It’s an age old story,” Brooke quivered inside, “and it’s not just the celebrities of this world who get away with molesting girls because no one listens to the youngsters.”
Diana noticed Brooke’s comments, and said “which is why we always, despite what we say, thank Missy for her protective eye. On which note, you know Allison and Vicky Clarke are coming this weekend? Abby and Jeannie will be spending the weekend with them as well…”
“Good – so what are you doing this afternoon Ju?”
“I’m talking to my publisher about Fiona’s book – and he wants me to meet with someone.”
11 am PT
Xavier International, Los Angeles
Maddie looked up to see Tracey at the door.
“I have Missy Auerbach on the video line for you.”
“Okay,” Maddie said as she sat back, “put her through.” She watched her laptop screen as Missy appeared in a window.
“I’m sorry it has taken me this time to get back to you Maddie,” Missy said as she sipped from a mug, “but I was out in Tottenville talking to Eva Eckholm about her daughter maybe signing with Norstar. I got your message when I got back to the office, what can I do for you?”
“Well there are a couple of things I want to chat about Missy.” Maddie said as she looked at some papers on her desk. “The first is that I’ve had an offer from the Russians to buy my little personal stake in Norstar.”
“Of course I’m not going to sell,” Missy said with a smile, “but I think it’s time that Sigi filed a formal complaint with the Swiss authorities forcing the Russian to formally declare if he is launching a takeover bid.”
“In that I think you are right Maddie,” Missy replied as she nodded, “I will tell Ju to tell Sigi, to tell Francesca it’s time to start filing our defence documents. I know they were doing some background checks on the person of interest first.”
“I think you have to do it, whether or not they’ve completed the checks.”
“We’ll get onto that. So what else do you want to talk about?”
“You know that the two younger Clarke sisters are flying into New York to shoot this young teen catalog thing?”
“Yes,” Missy said, “it’s a nice piece of work for them. I’ve already lined Jeannie and Doc up to be there with them.”
“Well the advertising agency that is managing this has decided that it wants a third girl on the shoot. They don’t like any of our girls, and I was wondering if you have someone suitable.”
“Have you had a word with Ashley,” Missy said, “she books our young models board?”
“Well… I thought I’d have a word with you first.”
“What are they looking for?” Missy reached for a notepad.
“Tall, blonde, athletic, and very clean-cut.” Maddie laughed lightly, “They think all our possibles look too much like models.”
“A model who doesn’t look like a model…They don’t want anything easy do they?”
“I agree – and yes, I thought of Jo, but she has exams. Anyone leap to mind?”
“Actually there is someone who might just be perfect,” Missy said as she rubbed her head, “if I can ever convince her mother.”
“Nope – not with Allison and her sister. Thing is, I’m still in the process of negotiation.”
“Oh… OH. Right – well, can you try and get back to me?”
“I can – talk to you later,” Missy said as the line went black.
“I have to admit,” Iain Brookes said as he looked across the table at Ju, “this is going to be a blockbuster. We’d be proud to act as the publisher – we’ll have the contracts drawn up in the next day or two.”
“All profits to go to the charities I stated?”
“Of course – as you said in your initial letter, her wishes were very clear.”
There was a knock on the door, and Tracey put her head in. “Your next appointment is here Juliette.”
“Well, I need to be on my way,” Iain said as he stood up, smiling as he left and the couple came in.
the tall blonde haired woman said as she came in and held out her hand,
"I'm Alexandra Head, and this is my husband RJ."
"Ah Doctor Head, Professor Rucker asked if we would meet," Juliette smiled as she indicated the seat.
"She told you that RJ works as an editor at Snetterton's?"
"Indeed she did," Ju shook the thin, bespectacled, man’s hand. “I’m glad you were open to coming into a rival’s office for the meeting.”
“Not a problem,” RJ said as they sat down.
"I know you are busy, so I'll get to the point," Alex smiled, "this idiot husband of mine wants me to write a book about pioneering women in academia, and I'm rather hoping you will let me look at some of your research on Jane Huntingdown's academic career."
"It's a book I'd like to read so i nagged her into writing it," RJ laughed gently.
"And since I'm at that stage of my own career where I need to have something published if my own career is to progress to the next level, I was stupid enough to agree."
"Well I don't have any problems with sharing my notes," Juliette smiled, "as long as i get a proper thank you.”
make sure she does that," RJ also smiled.
make arrangements to see your research then your Highness?"
call me Juliette, and yes if you can give me a couple of days to get things in
order then I'll send you what i have."
Alex relaxed and looked around. "Is that a picture of you with Rebecca
"It's a small world," RJ laughed gently, "she and Milly are friends of ours, and I'm about to supervise the publishing of the new paperback editions of her books."
"She and I spoke just recently about a certain woman she'd like to play Dorothy on the book covers."
“Oh – who do you have in mind?”
“Very, very good question…”
“Hey Heather,” Tommy said as he got into the car, “I got your message.”
"I have a little secret if you want to hear it Tommy," Heather asked as they sat in her car.
"And what might that be, and is it going end up getting me deeper in trouble."
"In itself then no," Heather smiled, "Juliette was telling me that new paperback editions are being published of the Lady Dorothy Paine mystery novels."
affects me how?"
that Rebecca Wesley has seen a face she'd like to be Dorothy on the new
covers...Guess who?" Heather couldn't resist laughing.
no!" Tommy couldn't stop himself groaning.
like it's not the only work on offer out there if Krys Ernst wants to become a
much as I'd love to that it can't be done. Even Mary Thomas can't see a way to
overcome the problems."
"Actually she had an idea and asked a friend. It's this friend of Mary's I'm taking you to see."
“Her place,” Heather said as she pulled in on the kerbside on Lafayette Street, and stopped the car. As she and Tommy got out, Mary Thomas opened the door.
“Ai you made it, good – come in, come in,” she said as she showed them into her drawing room, a thin blonde haired man standing as she did so.
“Shane, this is Tommy. Tommy, Shane.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” the young man said with an Australian accent as they shook hands.
“Likewise – have we met before?”
“In a way – you may know me better as Courtney. Mary has told me of your problem – Let’s talk…”
9 pm BST
“So have you learned anything Eleanor?” Francesca asked quietly as she sat in her lounge, the screen showing Eleanor in her home in Annapolis.
“Only that I’d be far happier knowing that my granddaughter wasn’t under contract to an agency that man has anything to do with.” Eleanor actually grimaced as she said that.
“You think he’s that bad?”
Eleanor glanced down at a notepad and nodded. “I think he’s a vicious, nasty, totally ruthless operator who has a history of being involved in things that as a former intelligence officer interest me greatly.”
“And is all that why he wants to buy Norstar?”
“Probably not,” Eleanor said as she sipped from a cup. “I think he enjoys being with, and being seen, with beautiful women.”
“He’s trying to buy Norstar as a way of stroking his own ego?”
“Maybe,” Eleanor paused, “though I’d not put it past him using Norstar as a way to procure girls for some of his friends and other contacts.”
“So your suggestions old friend?”
“Force him to make a formal takeover bid and get this all in the realm of financial regulation.”
“I filed all the relevant paperwork today.”
“I’d also…” Eleanor stopped.
“You’d also what?”
“Oh it’s probably nothing,” Eleanor sighed.
“Let me judge that.”
“It’s just something nagging in my brain that some very powerful, and soon to be very powerful, men around this world, might benefit a lot from having someone they trust able to exert pressure on certain models, and former models, who might just have interesting stories to tell.”
“And you think?”
“That having one of their own running an agency like Norstar might be a very good place from which to make them keep their mouths shut.”
“But don’t these men get the girls to sign non-disclosure agreements?”
“It never hurts though to have another way of forcing them to keep quiet.”
“You make a good point,” Francesca paused for thought, “maybe you need talk to Juliette and ask her what she might know.”
“I’ll also ask a few of the other models I know.”
“It sounds like a plan Eleanor. Can I suggest that you maybe also contact Katy Rucker and see what the bdsm world knows of all this, I’ll ring Agnes myself and ask her if she knows anything.”
“Given how Agnes has – helped – organizations in the past, that makes sense. I’ll book a call with Professor Rucker tomorrow. By the way – how’s the boat?”
“It looks perfect – we hope to go out this weekend…”