Dancing in the Dark – Part 2
Wednesday 30th November
“There I think you might need that young Thomas,” Mary smiled as she put the cup of tea in front of the young man sitting on the sofa in her lounge.
“Thank you, I think I might,” Tommy shook his head, “Courtney gave me so much to think about.”
“I guessed if anyone could it was her,” Mary sat down as well.
“I knew that she was a famous female impersonator, I didn’t know though that at times she has lived as a woman, and worked modeling…”
“And that it was she who outed herself, much to the surprise of some of the people and companies she had worked for,” Mary interrupted.
“As well as some of the men she had dated who never guessed that she was actually male.” Tommy took a sip of tea. “I’m totally sure I’ll never be brave enough to do this and then reveal the truth, but I think once I process in my mind just what she told me in my own mind that I might have a clearer idea what I’m doing.”
“The new ultra realistic breast forms aimed at women who have to have mastectomy’s aren’t cheap Tommy, but if Courtney is right about how realistically they can now match skin tones, and that with makeup all trace of a seam can be made invisible, then if needs be I’ll buy them for you if you want.”
“I can’t ask that Mary…”
“You can pay me back out of your earnings as a model Krys,” Mary smiled.
“And what about my hair?”
“Wigs that can go undetected as hairdressers work on them, or a unisex real life hairdo. Both sound practical to me.”
“And her tips on concealing my manhood so I can do fittings, etc, do seem to have worked for Courtney.”
“That they do boyo,” the Welshwoman smiled, “so are you now happier?”
“Well I will be after tomorrow night and going out for dinner with Courtney and she gives me her honest opinion.”
“You’ll be fine,” Heather said, “but I may get Abby or someone to keep Missy busy.”
“From what I heard in the office today,” Mary said quietly, “she already is…”
W 32nd Street
Brooke Hutton was not in a good place. She had managed somehow to get through the rest of the day, but…
“Lousy fuckin’ bastards,” Brooke slurred her words as she finished the latest glass of whiskey, and looked at the bottle trying to judge if there was enough left to make her go totally blotto so she could stop remembering all the things that were rumbling around her brain.
“This isn’t helping,” a tiny voice in her head spoke.
“And what do you know?” Brooke asked herself as she looked in the mirror, “Did it happen to you?”
“Now you are being stupid,” the little voice spoke, “it was me that they began with.”
“I know,” for a second Brooke remembered the once innocent young girl whose voice she was hearing, the her that lived before it happened, and who had had her innocence torn away and destroyed.
“Go away…PLEASE!” she practically pleaded with the voice in her head, “Let me just get so drunk I pass out, and then hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to control myself again.”
“You know that is not the answer…”
“GO AWAY!” Quickly she poured herself some more whiskey and took a large gulp.
Control, it was the most important word in Brooke’s vocabulary. It was the self-control that had let her hide her reliance on alcohol all these years to blot out the bad memories.
For a moment, she had a memory of a morning many months ago, in a church hall.
“I’m Brooke, and I’m an alcoholic…”
She had once tried going to an AA meeting, but while it had helped she’d been too scared to ever go back, just in case it had ever come out and hurt her legal career.
Over the years she had worked out many ways to buy the booze that helped her forget, and to dispose of the bottles so no one ever saw the evidence of her drinking.
She’d been drunk THAT night; she remembered, that night when she’d shot that man and killed him. The drink had given her the courage; the control had let her she thought cover up all the evidence. Still Caroline had worked it out, and she having survived all she had at least understood.
The conversation at lunch had triggered all this tonight, and so she had taken the steps she always felt she had to take. She’d cancelled her date, disguised herself, and gone and bought two bottles of cheap whiskey from a liquor store in Brooklyn. She was already well into the second bottle.
Control – Control of her life, that was what was important, and right that moment, this was the way she…
The doorbell took her by surprise, as she walked over and opened the front door. She was surprised to see the grey-blonde haired woman standing there, looking stunning even in a jumper and slacks with a grey leather jacket.
Diana looked at Brooke, wearing grey sweatpants and a white vest, and said “Brooke – may I come in?”
"And what are you doing here Diana?" Brooke opened the door and let the woman in, swaying as she did so.
"I was worried darling," quickly Diana took in the whole scene, the obviously drunk Brooke, the half empty whiskey bottle sitting next to the empty one, the smell in the air, and the way her friend was holding the glass.
about what?" Brooke staggered over to the sofa and sat down, or more
you said Cherie," Diana sat down.
Brooke offered her the bottle.
you," Diana quickly thought about and assessed what was happening -
something was wrong, very wrong.
"Well I'm going to have another," the judge poured herself another large one.
“Brooke, Cherie,” Diana said as she sat down, “how much have you had to drink?”
“Not enough – so what did I say that worried you, Diana?”
“At lunch – when we were talking about some of the problems we have faced in the fashion industry. You said something that left me – concerned.”
“Concerned? About what?”
“That you have been a victim as well, Brooke.”
“And what would you know about that,” Brooke said as she drained the glass in one go. “How could you possibly know what it is to be abused and for nobody to believe you?”
“Because it happened to me as well – not my father or my mother, but someone else. Brooke, I know how you feel about those who hurt the innocents – I know it drives you, and when those boys attacked a friend of Katy Carter, I sensed you would have stepped outside the law to punish them.”
“Fucking right I would have,” Brooke said as she slurred her words, “they deserved to be castrated, they all did.”
“I understand that – but I never really understood why you did. I think I do now, though – but if I’m wrong Brooke…
Diana watched as the judge slowly closed her eyes and slipped onto the floor, the glass falling as she did so. Standing and walking over, she checked her pulse, and then took her cell phone out.
you get over to Brooke's please. I need your help, SHE needs your help,"
Diana glanced at the woman passed out on the floor.
"What has happened?"
rather not say Cherie, can you just get over here as quick as possible."
late, I have work in the morning..."
"SCREW WORK!" Diana shouted, "a friend needs yours and mine help, get your derriere over here now Ju."
“Give me fifteen minutes…”
Diana let Juliette in, motioning to her to follow her as they went into the main room of the apartment.
“Goddess,” she whispered as she took in the scene, “Diana, what happened to her?”
“Nearly two bottles of cheap Whiskey,” Diana said quietly, “can you help me to get her into bed and changed? When that is done, I will call Edith to inform her I will not be back tonight and to tell Abby I will see her tomorrow?”
“Of course – where will we be?”
“Here – and I will also ask Edith to come here tomorrow morning when Abby has left for her class? I will need her help…”
Juliette looked at the unconscious Brooke, and said “all right – make the call.”
Diana nodded as she left the room, Juliette pushing Brooke’s hair back and saying “Goddess…”
“Okay,” Diana said as she came back in, “that’s arranged.”
do we do?"
tonight,” she said quietly, “we stay here and watch her so she doesn't do
something stupid like choke on her own vomit."
"Then in the morning Juliette, is the difficult part.”
“The difficult part?”
“We try to get her to admit that she has done this, because her first instinct will be to deny it all."
"You think she will do that?"
she will," Diana stood thinking, "it really would be useful if we had
Charity here to help."
"I agree, but Karen is at home in Boston."
"I know, so you and I do what we can, and then you phone Karen for her advice."
Diana nodded, "we help and above all we try keep this a secret for now.
Brooke's life and career are too important to destroy with us in an unguarded
moment telling people about this."
agree," Juliette said, “but if you are right then she is going to need a
lot of help and therapy."
"Eventually," Diana looked over as a moaning sound came from Brooke's lips, "but before all that she must first admit she has problems and needs that help."
"First let's get her into bed," Juliette stood up and looked at Brooke, her lips moving but no noise coming out. "I'll get her into the bedroom, you find something for her to wear Diana."
“Agreed,” Diana said as Juliette picked Brooke up and carried her into the bedroom, Diana following as she laid the drunk judge on the bed and started to undress her. They eventually got Brooke into a nightdress and then laid her on her side, before they left with the door open.
“I need coffee,” Diana said as she rubbed her head.
"So why, if
you are right does she do this Diana?" Juliette asked as she passed her
best friend a cup of Brooke's coffee.
she had been carrying around inside her a very deep and dark secret..."
someone molested her when she was a child?" Juliette interrupted.
guessing right then yes, and not just once but over a long extended period of
her drink from her own mug, before she said "So was it Heather gave you
this insight darling?"
"No," Diana shook her head, "I knew someone else who had suffered, and in their case, unlike with Heather, masked the secret with alcohol."
Diana sighed as she sat down, and then said “did I ever tell you about my Uncle Rupert?”
“Your mother’s brother? I remember you went to his funeral.”
“He was my favourite relative when I grew up, the father I needed when my own was not there,” Diana said quietly, “then I spent a month in his home when I was sixteen – and I discovered he was an alcoholic. I saw him sitting alone, the bottle in hand, and I learned how he had been treated by someone during the fifties. By several men, in the name of the church.”
“Did… Did your mother know?”
“I never asked her – I did not know how to ask her. But that month opened my eyes to true fear and what it can do.” She looked up, starting to cry as Juliette held her.
Diana dried her eyes. "If I'm
right, and that is a huge IF Ju, then Brooke is angry at whoever hurt her, but
she's also ashamed, and in large part blames herself for what happened."
that in part after I was raped," Juliette nodded, "I blamed myself
instead of those bastards."
"Part of me blamed myself rather than Jacques. Uncle Rupert – he blamed himself because what he had been taught to believe. The trick, I suspect, is to get her to see another view – and for that, we need Karen."
Thursday 1st December
11 am GMT
The Aldwych, London
“Good morning, Madame,” Angela said as Shirley came out of the lift, “Penny is waiting for you in your office.”
“Excellent – can you get me some coffee please,” she said as she removed her greatcoat and walked in, Penny turning as she did so. She was wearing a black trouser suit and red jumper, in contrast to Shirley’s light blue dress coat.
“Good morning Madame – the morning report is on your desk. So, how did your meeting at Sutton and Grafton go Madame?”
“Very well Penelope,” Shirley said as she hung up her coat on the stand, “and I’m sorry I am late but our little session overran.”
“I guessed it had,” Penny smiled.
“Sally Grafton and I were looking at some of my drawings and ideas for the new house and time seemed to fly by.”
“It isn’t a problem.”
“Thank you, it’s become important to me to do this.”
“I know,” Penny smiled again.
“So is there anything urgent that I need to do right now?”
“Can you call Francesca about the Norstar takeover thing?” Penny looked at her notes, “and I got a rather mysterious and enigmatic text from Diana asking if you could ring her about a personal matter.”
“I wonder what that might be?” Shirley sat behind her desk. “It’s still early in New York, so I’ll call Francesca first.”
“I will leave you to it, and see you at twelve for senior staff,” Penny said as she left the room.
Shirley sat down and picked up the telephone, waiting until she heard “Di Cambrello Consultants.”
“Peri, can you put me through please?”
“Of course Madame,” she heard and then Francesca as she said “Good morning, Shirley. Thank you for calling?”
“Not a problem – so what is happening currently with NorStar?”
“I will be having lunch with Agnes, to explore some things Eleanor sounds, and then I have a meeting with his lawyer in the UK to formally request official notice of the bid. But everything, everything is screaming fight this.”
“So will you require assistance from me?”
“Not at this stage, no – but I will keep you informed. So what else do you have planned for today?”
“I need to make a call, and then staff meeting. You?”
“I’ll answer that after lunch. Thank you Shirley,” Francesca said as the line went dead, and Shirley dialled another number.
“How are you Diana? Penelope said you texted her asking me to call.”
“I did, and thank you for doing so,” Shirley heard the Frenchwoman take a deep breath, “we have a situation that is not ‘business’ related in any way, but which is going to require a lot of us coming together to help a friend.”
“Really? What is the situation, and who is the friend?” Shirley said as she sat at attention.
“It’s Brooke,” Diana said in a low whisper. “We were discussing sexual abuse at lunch yesterday and she seemed to act strangely. I was worried and dropped by to see her last night.”
“I see – and?”
“And discovered her drunk - to the point she quickly passed out.”
“That isn’t good.”
“No, it is not. I called Juliette, we got her to bed and have watched her overnight. However…”
Shirley heard Diana take another deep breath.
“What makes it worse is I’m convinced, by what I have seen and can guess, that this was far from being the first time.”
Brooke had a drinking problem?”
“A severe one Cherie, and I think she does it to blot out memories of abuse.”
“Given who and what Brooke is that is not something easy to deal with.”
“That was mine and Ju’s thought, and why I rang you Shirley. We are going to need every single one of her friends who cares pulling together to get her treatment, and protect her career and reputation.”
“I agree darling.” Shirley paused, “so who have you called?”
“You are the first. Ju is going to call Karen Boyd and get her advice later, but I need you to do something in advance. Remember when we were dealing with the Peverill problem?”
“Of course – we needed to ensure the Ashley family were kept safe. But it was Dominique who handled most of that, not me.”
“True – and I remember Brooke was brought in at one point. Shirley, is it possible for you to phone Dominique, and find out what she knows? It may be of a great deal of use for us.”
“Of course – allow me to do that, and I will call you back.”
“Thank you,” Diana said as she ended the call, and Shirley pressed a button.
“Angela? See if you can get Caroline Jameson on a secure line for me…”
A few minutes later, her assistant looked in and said “Line 2, Madame.”
“Thank you, Angela,” Shirley said as she picked up the phone. “Caroline, thank you for taking my call.”
“Not at all, but this is an unexpected early call Madame.”
“I’m not interrupting filming am I?”
“No,” she heard her enforcer say, “I’m in my caravan waiting to be called.”
“Are you alone Dominique?”
“Because I need you to tell me what you once hinted really happened the night that Margaret Harker’s ex-husband died.”
“What has triggered this if I may ask?” Caroline asked cautiously.
“Diana found Brooke drunk last night, and she thinks the judge is a closeted alcoholic. She believes that it traces back to Brooke being abused as a child. You once hinted she was at the hotel that night and that she played a role in another matter regarding one of Katy’s friends being raped. What can you tell me about Brooke Caroline?”
There was silence for a moment, before Caroline said “I take it we are secure?”
“Very well then – let’s start with the fact it was Brooke who killed Martin Peverill.”
Shirley sat in shock for a moment, before she said “Brooke? Why?”
“Honestly, when we brought her into the sting operation, none of us knew about her past,” Caroline said quietly, “but that night she opened up a little bit to me. It was afterwards, when Jan and I put the case together, I realised it was one of two people – her or Amelia Ashley. If it had been Margaret, that’s another story – but she didn’t deny it when I laid the case out.”
“I see – and she told you she had been abused?”
“She did – I’m not going to go into the details, but what happened to her is what drives her to do what she does. But a drink problem? I’ve never seem any signs of that… Although…”
“You asked about when Katy’s friend was assaulted – we never went after the three boys once they had been charged with possession, but I did hear one of them was attacked in prison. Kingston Brewer.”
“Attacked? In what way?”
“Badly beaten – near death, but it wasn’t us or any of my contacts that enforced it. Could she have ordered it, especially if she was drunk, and not remember it? Absolutely.”
“I see – thank you Caroline, I won’t take any more of your time. And I will let you know what happens?”
“Pass my best wishes onto her – and I’m there if she needs to talk…”
“No sign of her stirring yet,” Diana said as Juliette listened to her cell phone.
“Ken – can I talk to Karen please?”
“Sure Juliette… Hang on…” The line went quiet before she heard “hey Pelican – what’s up?”
“Karen if I said I need you urgently in New York would you be in a position to come down here today?”
“Why?” Do you need me for a shoot?”
“No, something far more important Sweets.”
“Can I ask what that might be?”
“You’ve met my friend Brooke haven’t you?”
“The judge who used to be a model? Then yes of course I have darling. Is this to do with her?”
“Yes,” Juliette took a deep breath, “Diana caught her binge drinking last night, and we both think this wasn’t a new thing.”
“You think she has an alcohol problem?” suddenly there was urgency in Karen’s voice.
“I think so, she got through nearly two bottles of whiskey before passing out…”
“That’s not good,” the doctor interrupted, “it means she is used to drinking a lot.”
“That was our thought.”
“Well, I can come down, but if she’s that heavy a drinker it’s more a case of me talking to her, and seeing what happens. Anything else I need to know?”
“We’ll talk when you get here – and thanks Charity.”
The Richmond Mansion
“Heather – Aunt Diana for you.”
“Give me the phone… Good morning Diana, and how are you today?” Heather asked as she cradled the phone under her chin whilst she started making the breakfasts.
“I’m fine, but there is a problem I might need your help with, can you spare some time this morning?”
“Well I’m supposed to be meeting Krys later, and of course I have the school run to do first, but I guess I can spare some time, my Lover is spending the day out in Oyster Bay looking at a potential clients house.”
“That sounds perfect darling, can you come to Brooke’s apartment after you’ve dropped the kids off?”
“Why her place?” Heather heard a heart-rending moan at the other end of the line.
“I’ll explain when you get here, but try and hurry please.”
“Okay I’ll do my best.” Heather wondered what was going on.
“I wonder what the hell this is about?” Heather asked herself as she heard Diana hang up.
“Is breakfast ready?” Sands’ voice floated down from upstairs.
“Almost,” Heather shouted back. “Your brother is already down here.”
“Only because I have German to bone up on,” George said as she sat at the breakfast bar, looking at his book. Sands came in wearing her uniform and sat down, smiling as she said “soon be Christmas.”
“Don’t remind me…”
The Boynton Apartment
“So any plans for tonight son?” Thomas Boynton asked his son as they ate breakfast. “Do you have a date?”
“No. Holly is going to a baby shower being given for a girl she was at school with.”
“Okay,” his father said as he drank from his mug, “so what are you planning then?”
“Work,” Tommy laughed, “one of the guys has an experiment that needs monitoring all night so I said with Holly otherwise occupied I’d keep him company.”
“You work too hard dear brother nerd,” Britt Boynton laughed at her older brother. “Now me on the other hand…”
“Actually could do with attending to your studies,” Thomas looked hard at his daughter, “your last report card was very disappointing.”
“Only in this family is a B average considered poor,” the 16 year old rolled her eyes. “I am entitled to some sort of social life you know?”
“You have a far better than B brain Britt,” her father scowled slightly, “you need to be more like your brother.”
“Dad I love Tommy,” Britt said with a smile, “but he really is such a nerd.”
“Well, this nerd needs to get going,” Tommy said as he stood up and picked his jacket off the back of the chair, “I’ll see you all in the morning.”
A few minutes later, Tommy shook his head as he left the apartment building. As he walked to the subway Tommy wondered what his sister would think if she knew that her ‘nerd’ brother was leading a double life in which he was literally being chased by model agencies that wanted to sign his female alter ego to a modelling contract?
“What would she think if she saw that I look better in a pair of Sharamel’s then she does?” Tommy laughed lightly.
“She’d be as jealous as anything darling – and you know it.”
Glancing to the side, Tommy shivered as he saw Krys in the glass. “You get out to play later,” he said to himself, “I need to be me today…”
Brooke slowly opened her eyes and looked at the wall of her bedroom, her mouth feeling as if she had swallowed three packs of Graham Crackers, her head throbbing – but it was by no means the first time she had felt this way.
What was different was that she was in her bed – and what was more, she had been changed. As her eyes slowly came into focus, she tried to remember what had happened the previous night. She could remember the trip to the liquor store, and drinking…
From outside her door, she heard women talking, so she slowly sat and then stood up, pulling a dressing gown round her as she walked out. There was someone in the kitchen – but as she looked in she saw the grey haired woman at the stove.
“Ah – good morning, your honour,” Edith said as she turned her head and smiled, “May I get you some water?”
“Coffee would be better…”
“Water first,” Edith said as she poured some from a pitcher into a glass and handed it to her. “I will bring coffee through presently.”
“How… How did you get in? Why…”
“Madame de Ros and Her Highness are in your lounge, and they wish to see you.”
1.30 pm GMT
“SO the date is set?”
“Indeed – Wednesday 25th January, I become Baroness Ardray, the McAdam of McAdam.”
“Well, I will be sure to clear the diary,” Francesca said as she looked at Agnes. “And you are wearing white?”
“Well, I’ve asked Nick if he will do the designs for me – Kylie is no position to do so just now.”
“Alright enough small talk Agnes,” Francesca smiled as the waiter served their lunches, “what background do you know about Oleg Byushin that I haven’t been able to find out from my more conventional sources?”
“What makes you think I might know anything?” Aggie smiled.
“Don’t be coy Aggie, I know very well that you know many, many, secrets, and while I respect your reputation for integrity, in this case I’m appealing, I hope as your friend, for you to share some of what you know.”
Agnes slowly put her glass down and sat back. “Francesca,” she eventually said, “I’m aware that Byushin is involved in a takeover battle for Norstar, and I’m not sure I feel comfortable getting involved in a routine commercial matter like this.”
“May I ask why?”
“I guess because I have a code of honour, and that I’m not sure if it is right that I betray confidences just because I’m friends with the people on one side.”
“What would your reaction be if I offered to hire you as a consultant on this then, make it a matter for your business?”
“Then I’d be very offended that you’d considered that my scruples could be bought,” Agnes said quietly before she stood up and made a move to leave.
“Please sit down Agnes,” Francesca looked chastened “I did not mean to offend you.”
“Apology accepted,” Agnes said as she sat back down.
“Look – our concern isn’t just that he wants to take over Norstar,” Francesca said as she cut into the sole, “it’s a more fundamental thing. We’re worried about why he wants the company – something is nagging at all of us about how he may treat the models.”
“You’re worried he is like Epstein – and others?”
“That’s one way of putting it, yes,” Francesca said as Agnes ate some of her veal, “so let me appeal to the Angel of Soho – if you knew this man was taking an interest in your charges, what would you do?”
Agnes chewed on her food for a moment, and then said “I would be extremely worried, and would want to warn them appropriately. What does that say to you?”
“As much as you hoped it would,” Francesca said with a nod of her head. “Let me ask you another question – and forgive me for this – but in the less well controlled areas of your previous business area?”
“The person you named may have contacts who are less than scrupulous.” Taking a drink from her glass, Agnes said “I don’t want to dwell on this. Let’s talk about other matters – ready for Shirley’s wedding?”
As Brooke walked slowly into the room, she saw Diane and Juliette sitting in her armchairs, concerned looks on their faces as Edith brought a tray in.
“Thank you Edith – would you take care of that task now please?”
“Of course, Madame,” Edith said as Brooke sat down.
“Diana, Juliette, what are you doing here?” Brooke tried to project a brightness that she wasn’t really feeling. “Why is Edith in my kitchen?”
“You don’t remember last night?” Diana asked as she gestured for the judge to sit down.
“Last night?” As Brooke sat down, Juliette poured a cup of coffee and handed it to her. “Why, what happened?”
“You don’t recall letting me in? Or Juliette and I undressing you and putting you to bed?”
Brooke took a sip from the cup, trying not to let her hand shake as she said “You did?”
“Brooke,” Diana said as she leaned forward, “I came over because I was worried by what you said at lunch yesterday, and I think what I discovered last night just confirmed things.”
“That you are keeping a deep, dark, secret inside you darling,” Diana said quietly, “and that to try and blot out that secret then you are using alcohol as a way of numbing your pain.”
“Diana,” Brooke said as she put her cup down, “I have no clue what you mean…”
“She means these Brooke,” Juliette held up the two whiskey bottles.
“Those? I have no idea where those might have come from. Where did you find them?”
“Please don’t lie Cherie,” Diana said as she held the judge’s hands. “We are your friends, you can admit the truth, and we aren’t going to feel any less about you.”
“I still don’t…” Brooke’s voice trailed off as Edith came in carrying a black bin bag full of bottles.
“I found these hidden in the laundry room Madame, as you hinted they may be.”
“Thank you Edith,” Diana said as he housekeeper handed the bag to Juliette, “will you let anyone who comes straight in please?”
“Can you explain why you were hiding this Brooke?” Juliette asked as she glanced at the variety of whiskey, brandy, and vodka, bottles.
Brooke looked at both of them, and then said “I honestly have no idea…” Juliette’s phone ringing made her stop.
“Excuse me a minute,” she said as she stepped out and took the call.
“Sweets? Where are you?”
“I’m at the airport Pelican,” Karen spoke into her phone as she waited in line or a cab. “Is she awake, what has she said?”
“Yes, she’s awake, and despite us finding a hidden bag of bottles she’s denying that she knows anything.”
“That’s pretty common Ju. A woman in her position finds it very hard to acknowledge the truth even when confronted with the evidence. She will hate admitting the weakness, and worse still she will do anything to hide the underlying causes of her drinking.”
“So what do we do?”
“She might try and leave, whatever you do don’t let her.”
“Is Heather there yet?”
“Hopefully soon, she’s dropping the kids off at school.”
“Okay, with any luck she should get there before me.”
“What else should we do?”
“Just keep her talking – I think Heather may get her to open up a bit, but I will be there as soon as – TAXI!”
“I’m telling you, Diana, I do not know where they came from,” she heard Broke say as she ended the call. “Now, I appreciate the visit, but I have to get going…”
“No you do not, my friend,” Diana said as Juliette came back into the room. “I checked with your office – you are free today, so I told them you had a stomach bug.”
Brooke looked at both women as she slowly drank her coffee, and then put her cup down. “I don’t know quite what’s going on here,” she eventually said, “but I assure you, I have nothing to hide, and nothing to…”
“It was my uncle who did this, Brooke,” Diana said quietly, “and when I discovered why he did, I felt so powerless, because nothing I could do could heal that wound. I do not wish to see what happened to him happen to you as well.”
Brooke looked at Diana before she said “Diana, with all due respect, I am not your family, and you have no idea what I may have experienced…”
“No – but I might.”
Brooke suddenly turned her head to see Heather standing in the doorway, Edith nodding as she closed the door. Brooke started to shake as she said “what is this, an intervention?”
“Yes,” Heather said quietly as she sat down, “I understand you know something of my story, Brooke – and I heard about the lunch yesterday from Diana and Sandy.”
“And you think I have a problem?”
“Honestly, Brooke – I think you have several problems, as we all do, but I think I share one with you. How old were you?”
Brooke looked at the other three, before she said “did Caroline say anything?”
“No,” Heather said, “but as someone told me a while back, I had to deal with what happened to me before I could deal with other things. I was eleven – how old were you Brooke?”
“Twelve – it was a friend of my father, but…” Brooke started to shake as Heather came over and held her…
“I know just how it feels Brooke, the fear, the shame, the agony, but above all those feelings of helplessness and powerlessness.”
“How did you cope Heather,” Brooke eventually whispered, “I’d never guess…”
“Who says I cope?” the nanny smiled, “but things came to a climax just before Jo was due to start college, my nightmares got out of control and Sandy and Karen finally got me to see a therapist.”
“And the therapist helped?”
“Serena Gleb is a survivor just like we are, she’s been in those very same dark places, and she knows just what we all feel.”
“Yes,” Heather knelt in front of the judge, “She taught me I had to both admit what had happened to me, and confront it. Brooke you need do the same.”
“How did you block it all out Heather, it’s in my mind every moment of every day.”
“I internalized it and tried to tell myself not to let it ruin my life, and for long periods that seemed to work.” Heather took a deep breath, “I didn’t do what I think you are doing though and using alcohol as a form of medication.”
“Do you think I do that?” Brooke gave Heather a challenging look.
“From what I can see and from Ju and Diana said, then yes you are using alcohol because you think it helps Brooke, and while you probably do think at times it does help, I have news or you…It doesn’t.”
“But how do I forget?”
“You don’t – you face it and you admit it – but someone’s coming who can speak to that…”
“Mmmm she doesn’t wear it badly, but I’d look better in it,” Krys evaluated Professor Watson’s dress, while Tommy and the rest of the class watched her slip on her lab coat.
“Stop that,” Tommy told the woman inside him as the professor instructed the students what the experiments they were doing should produce.
“For a bio-chemist she actually has a sense of style,” again Krys’s voice popped into his head. “She’d look better in blue though.”
“Who me?” Bill Nagy his lab partner whispered, “or the professor?”
“Neither,” Tommy tried to collect himself, “I was just thinking about something else.”
“Yeah, you looked distracted. Are you still coming tonight?”
“I might be late, but I’ll be here,” Tommy nodded.
“After I’ve had a chance to change and remove all my makeup,” Krys laughed in his head.
“Dr Boyd,” Edith said as she opened the door, allowing Karen to come in, “you will find Madame and the Princess in this room. Her Honour is currently changing with Miss Smith.”
“Thank you Edith – any chance of some coffee?”
“Of course,” the housekeeper said as Karen walked in, Juliette standing and embracing her.
“How is she?”
“Scared,” Diana said quietly, “but Heather has at least got her to admit she was abused as a young girl. It explains much of her drive.”
“And possibly the root of the problem,” Karen said as she saw Brooke walk in, wearing a grey track suit.
“Karen – you roped in to tell me what to do as well?”
“Not exactly – ladies, can you give us the room for a few minutes?”
“We’ll be waiting outside,” Heather said as the other three left, Brooke sitting down and rubbing her head as she said “honestly, I’m fine. I must have just had too much to drink last night…”
Karen looked at the two whiskey bottles, and the black bag, before she said “I understand you and Heather have been talking.”
“Yeah – did you know?”
“I did – I asked a friend to help her, to deal with what was happening to her, but right now I just want to talk to you. I understand the ladies were talking about the worlds of modelling yesterday?”
“I think so – I can’t really remember for some reason,” Brooke said as she started to wring her hands, “but I do remember talking about those who preyed on young models.”
“The Look of the Year?”
Brooke nodded as she said “I had a lucky escape there.”
“Brooke,” Karen said quietly, “you may have heard that when I was just 14 years old that I was already having sex with older men, some of whom are famous celebrities?”
“I had, yes. Your name did come up yesterday – it was hinted the person who got you into that would shock me.”
“I was told I had to do it or I’d never have a modelling career,” Karen took a deep breath, “do you know who was telling me that?”
“It was my Mother,” Karen said as she started to cry, “my own fucking mother was telling me I had to do that and not only was she making me dress provocatively, but she was also coaching me in how to please a man in bed.”
Brooke stared at the doctor before she whispered “She did that?”
“She groomed me to please these men who might ‘help’ my career,” Karen took a deep breath, “and because I was a good, and dutiful daughter I did it.”
“That’s just evil,” Brooke shook her head.
“Well I worked that out eventually, and that is when I started to both drink, and do drugs, Brooke. It helped me forget all the nasty and degrading things that I’d had to do to please Mom.”
“Did it help?”
“No, and by the time I worked all that out or myself I was both a heroin addict, AND an alcoholic.”
“But you got out of it?”
“Only after a long hard struggle, and a lot of counselling and support,” Karen said quietly.
“Did you ever confront your mother?”
“No – we haven’t talked or seen each other since I started to get clean and sober. Part of the program is cutting off those things that can be triggers – and she certainly was.”
“So she’s never seen John.”
“No – but that first step was the hardest of all.”
“The first step?”
Karen picked up the bag and put the whiskey bottles in. “The first step, Brooke, was to admit I had a problem. My two best friends at the time also had their problems – one eventually quit everything, the other…”
Karen slowly nodded as she said “Brooke, forgive me for being blunt, but there are five groups of alcoholics - young adult, young antisocial, functional, intermediate familial and chronic severe. I was young adult when I checked into the clinic, but…”
“I’m not an alcoholic.”
Brooke looked at Karen as she said quietly “Yes you are, Brooke – the bottles, the way Diana found you last night, that all says you are in the functional group. You need to talk to someone about what happened to you, but first you have to take that first step, and admit you have a problem.”
Taking the judge’s hands, Karen said “my name is Karen, and I am an alcoholic and a drug addict. I need you to admit who you are, Brooke, before someone else finds out.”
“I… I’m scared…”
“I know – but you have to do this.”
Taking a deep breath, Brooke closed her eyes and said “my name is Brooke…. And… And I’m an alcoholic.”
“Thank you,” Karen said quietly before she hugged her. “How does it feel?”
“Strange – but if I go to meetings, won’t I be recognised.”
“Have some more coffee – I have two things to suggest, and I want to invite you to take a walk with me and Heather.”
The Holiday Inn
Eleanor smiled as she sat at the desk in her room, waiting for her call to be answered.
“Good morning, is this Professor Rucker?”
“It is,” the well educated voice with the faintest of Appalachian hillbilly twangs replied.
“My name is Eleanor Ball, you helped prepare me…”
“To go undercover in Agnes McAdam’s dungeon. I do remember you Eleanor. What can I do for you? Are you still with Naval Intelligence?”
“No, I’m retired, but I still keep my hand in by doing some off the book jobs for people.”
“I understand. So how can I be of help to you in your unofficial, off the books capacity?”
“Oleg Byushin is mounting a takeover bid for Norstar Models, and I’ve been asked to help do some background checks.”
“And you were wondering if I knew anything that might be relevant?”
“Well before I even start,” Professor Rucker said, “I need to inform you of a possible impediment.”
“Yes, John my husband does legal work for some of the Byushin companies.”
“That I didn’t know,” Eleanor thought for a few seconds, “does that mean you can’t answer questions?”
“No, it means you must ask the right questions Eleanor,” Katy replied, “and make sure I won’t refuse to answer because of a conflict of interest.”
“Understood.” Eleanor thought for a second. “From what you may, or may not know, of his sexual proclivities, would him purchasing Norstar be just a way of getting women into his bed?”
“I’ll put it this way, he does have a voracious sexual appetite from what I’m told.”
“Would these appetites also crossover into the world of politics and national security?”
“It might be logical to assume that.”
Eleanor made a note before she continued. “Does he use sex as a way to get access to certain circles? And does he use sex to blackmail others, and to cover up his friends misdeeds?”
“Given his contacts in certain intelligence groups in other countries, I would say that is a fair assumption.”
“Is he into bdsm Professor Rucker?”
“Well let me put it this way, he has been known to frequent certain establishments.”
“I see – so logically, it is possible the two worlds could cross over, accidentally or otherwise.”
“Logically, one could assume that, yes.”
“Thank you, Professor, you have been a great help. Perhaps I can buy you a drink some time?”
“I would appreciate that, yes.”
“Thanks for holding the fort girls,” Juliette smiled at Alexis and Tricia as they followed her into her office, “a friend of mine had a personal problem, I needed to see if I could help.”
“Not a problem Juliette,” Alexis smiled while her boss hung up her own coat.
“So what is on deck, and what needs my urgent attention?”
“Well the Marchesa di Cambrello asked if you could ring her regarding the takeover bid for Norstar,” Trish glanced at her notes.
“Okay,” Juliette sat behind her desk, “what else?”
“Merlin says can you give her thirty minutes to go over an idea she has had for the February edition?” Janine asked.
“If we can put it off till after lunch?”
“I’ll say that.”
“Next…” Juliette smiled, after dealing with Brooke’s matters it was relaxing to get back to routine.
Brooke Hutton’s Apartment
“I just hope we have done the right things Serena,” Heather sat at the kitchen table and tried to relax as she talked on the phone.
“You seem to have,” her counsellor said, “but I think you’ve been helped by the fact that on some level the judge subconsciously knew that she had reached her limit and that she now desperately needed help.”
“I think she was crying out for someone to come help her in a way. I’m just glad that the Countess picked up her signals.”
“Diana is a very sensitive and caring woman,” Heather paused for a second, “so what do you think we need do next Serena?”
“Truthfully, the judge needs to go into rehab and therapy…”
“Brooke won’t do that, her career means everything to her, I’m pretty sure if we try and force her to go public with her problems that she will revert to what she has been doing and deny everything.”
“Then a way must be found to give her the help she needs without it becoming general knowledge,” Serena paused, “it’s very unethical and unprofessional, but I’m almost willing enough to say damn it to ensure that a wonderful voice or progressive ideals like hers should stay on the bench.”
“What do you advise we do then?”
“Well, I think she needs support – real support – and the chance to know she is not alone.”
“We have that in hand – what else?”
“I would like to come and see her – in confidence – to see what I can advise. But above all, she needs to be with others these next few days.”
“Diana is ‘inviting’ her to spend a few days in her place. I have to go, Serena – I’ll talk to you later,” Heather said as Karen looked in.
“Diana is staying here with Edith while some bags are packed – you ready for a little walk?”
“So in conclusion,” Francesca said over the phone, “I’ll just add that the commercial lawyers in Zurich that Sigi and I have briefed to act for us are truly first rate.”
“That’s always reassuring,” Juliette swung round in her chair, “so have you learned anything else about Byushin’s motives in this?”
“Only that on top of all the political and criminal crap that he is also considered to be unsafe with a lot of women, especially slightly younger ones.”
“That isn’t good news Francesca.”
“I know Juliette.”
“What else can we be doing to stop him?”
“Legally? Or illegally?” Juliette heard a tiny chuckle.
“Oh legally of course,” Juliette laughed herself, “It’s not like we know anybody who might be able to do anything about this outside the law.”
“Of course we don’t, and I’m shocked at the very idea,” the American could almost swear she could see the Italian struggling to keep a straight face. “I am going to meet with his representative here tomorrow now, but other plans are been laid – elsewhere.”