Dancing in the Dark – Part 3
Thursday 1st December
The Richmond Mansion
“So where did you take her?”
“For a long walk in the park,” Heather said as she prepared the dinner, “Karen said she was going to arrange for someone to visit tonight, and Serena is going to come down to see her tomorrow with some thoughts of what happens next.”
“For now she has moved in with Diana,” Juliette said as she sat with Sandy and Heather.
“We are going to put it out that she’s having some work done on her place,” Heather added, “and that she has the flu and that Diana and Edith are going to look after her.”
“So it’s good luck that I had actually drawn up plans for Brooke…”
“And that Tonia has a work crew who can start work on Monday,” Juliette jumped in.
“Did you tell Ton what is really going on?”
“We felt we ought to Sandy, Tonia is one of her oldest friends and I think we can rely on her to keep her mouth shut.”
“While she’s at Diana’s we can arrange that she sees people who can start to help her,” Heather poured coffees. “And we can do it out of general view.”
“Edith will make sure that she doesn’t have access to alcohol, and I think is a good, strong, nurse, who can help Brooke though the inevitable bad times that are coming.”
“I agree Ju,” Sandy nodded, “Edith is almost the ideal person in this situation.”
The de Ros Mansion
“Thank you Diana,” Brooke looked around the bedroom as Edith put her suitcase on the bed. “You really shouldn’t…”
“Yes I should,” Diana smiled as she interrupted, “Brooke you are a friend, and friends help friends when they need it.”
“I’m not going to be an easy guest,” the judge took a deep breath, “I’ve actually done some reading on my ‘condition’ and what I think you are attempting will neither be easy for me, or for you all.”
“Which is where we are lucky that we can call upon several experts, and several of your friends will also help.”
“Who is this Serena Gleb that Karen and Heather says wants to see me?”
“A psychologist, who specialises in people like you – she is the one who has helped Heather a lot. I think she can help you a lot as well.”
“Why are we doing this? Because we are your friends Cherie, it’s as simple as that.”
“I could well be hell to be around you know,” Brooke said as she looked out of the window, “my moods will swing alarmingly, and I might even turn violent.”
“Karen warned me of that, but I think between us Edith and I can handle it.” Diana looked amused, “did you know Edith was a career military NCO before joining me? She is still a very tough woman.”
“You were Edith?”
The housekeeper looked round from where she was hanging Brooke’s clothes in the wardrobe, and said “I was, Your Honour. Gunnery Sergeant Edith Hargreaves.”
For a few seconds Brooke collected her thoughts.
“You know also as I dry out I may try to harm myself?”
“Again Karen warned me, I’m aware of what to look for.” Diana kept her own thoughts to herself about that.
“Will you tell Abby?”
“I have to Brooke, but I know my daughter well enough to know she will also do whatever she can to help.”
“I just don’t want to be a burden,” Brooke said as she sat on the bed, “I’ve always looked after my own problems.”
“This time you don’t need to darling, this time let others care or you the way you’ve cared for others. Now come – let us relax downstairs.”
Mary Thomas’ Apartment
“Thank you for letting me get ready here Mary,” Krys said quietly as she checked again how she looked in a mirror, “I’m almost getting to the stage where I wish I had my own apartment.”
“Is that Krys talking, or Tommy?”
“Who do you think?” the gorgeous looking blonde laughed before she touched up her lipstick. “He has been a pain in the ass all day each time I’ve tried to assert myself.”
“And please don’t look concerned Merlin,” Krys said as she looked at the Wizard, “I’m not turning schizophrenic, I still know there is only one person really, but thinking and acting as Krys is so much more fun than being dull, nerdy, Tommy.”
“Just so long as you keep it all under control darling,” the Welshwoman smiled as Krys eased on the 5” tall, stiletto heeled pumps and looked at herself. The white silk blouse hugged her upper body, while the skin-tight black leather pants looked as if they had been sprayed on. A folded white silk scarf was tied round her neck.
“I’m trying to, but as I was saying I really am getting to the stage where I need a safe base where I can be Krys when I want, and not have to worry about thinking of places I can change in and out of her personality.”
“Maybe Sandy Richmond can find you a little place?”
“I’d thought of maybe asking Heather to ask her.”
“Ask yourself girl, she can only say no.”
“Agreed,” Krys smiled at Mary’s use of the word girl.
“So any more thoughts on becoming a model?”
“Yes,” Krys paused, “I’m getting to the point where I not only want to do it, but I’m starting to think I CAN do it.”
“I think you can if that helps?”
“It does. I guess I’m also convincing myself now that I’m looking at the fashion magazines and realizing that as Krys I do look just as good as the models in the pictures.”
“So what else are you learning about my industry?”
“That I guess unbeknownst even to myself I must have subconsciously been absorbing a lot about fashion because I’m shocked to discover that I actually already know a lot, and that I have a sense of style.”
“I’d noticed,” Mary smiled as she helped ease Krys into her silver fox jacket.
“So I will call Ms Auerbach in the morning, ask for a meeting, and at least get some of the vultures off my back.” Krys suddenly looked at Mary, and said “how do I know she won’t be where we are going?”
“Not tonight – I know she has a conference call. Now go – have fun.”
“Well now I can see you Krys, I can tell what all the fuss is about,” Courtney smiled as Krys handed the cloakroom attendant her fur.
“Oh?” Krys asked as she pulled a mirror out of her handbag and quickly checked her appearance.
“Yes, and frankly I’m jealous darling,” the Australian smiled, “you truly are a beautiful woman.” Courtney was wearing a grey jersey dress, a wide belt round her waist, and black stilettos.
“Thank you,” Krys blushed, “coming from you I take that as a compliment.”
“Can I seat you ladies?” the maître d’ asked.
“Our dates should be here any second, do you mind if we wait?” Courtney smiled at the man.
“Of course miss.”
“Dates?” Krys whispered, “you didn’t say we had dates for tonight?”
“Darling I wanted to see how you cope with men who think you are a woman.”
“I wish you’d informed me.”
“No this will be natural.” Courtney put her hand on Krys’, and said “don’t panic – you’re doing great, and I assure you neither of them is going to get very far.”
“How can you be sure of that?” As Krys spoke, she saw two tall and good looking men walk into the foyer, as Courtney smiled.
“Because I guarantee it. Clive, Gerald, thank you for joining us tonight. This is Krystle Ernst.”
“Charmed,” one of the men said as he kissed Krys’ hand, “you never said how beautiful your friend was Courtney.”
“Oh I don’t know,” Krys said as she blushed.
“So – shall we go in?”
The von Furstenheim Apartment
“Who was the phone call from darling?” Klaus asked as he brought their coffees into the dining room.
“Mary Thomas,” Juliette replied as she took a mug, “she ran into Krys Ernst somewhere and Krys told her that she is going to come in and see about signing with Norstar.”
“Well,” Klaus said as he sat next to her, “that will mean Missy has bagged one of her targets.”
“And any news on the other?”
“Well, Missy is trying to get Eva to let Mel do a catalog shoot with the younger Clarke sisters at the weekend just to see what happens, and to see if Mel enjoys herself.”
“That sounds like a great idea.”
“Yes, and I think both girls will fit the agency perfectly.” Ju took a sip, “now if only this business with Byushin would resolve itself as nicely.”
“Sigi told me that the Zurich lawyers are circulating all the shareholders with our counter-offer to buy shares.”
“She told me. In addition Francesca suggested if we can buy up enough of the shares, then we offer to buy out all the public shareholders and take Norstar private.”
“It would prevent this happening again, and I have to say I had thought of that myself.”
“Of course before that happens we have to resist this takeover.” Klaus slipped his arm round his wife, “but hopefully everything will work out.”
“I am sure it will,” Klaus said, “so when is Carina due to call?”
“At about nine, once she has Judith settled. We need to agree the plans for Christmas…”
The Richmond Mansion
“With all that’s gone on today you haven’t told me about the Oyster Bay house yet Lover?” Heather said with a smile as she eased herself into Sandy’s arms, sitting in front of the open fire.
“It’s a gorgeous property,” Sandy said quietly, “but it’s really more a restoration project then a design one.”
“Yes, ‘Old’ Mrs. Peyton rather let the place go in her declining years, and now that ‘Young’ Mrs. Peyton has inherited the house she wants to restore it.”
“YOUNG Mrs.’ Peyton,” Heather could not contain her laughter, “I’ve met your Aunt Lee remember, she’s Nessa’s age.”
“True,” Sandy said once she had stopped laughing, “but the old lady, her mother-in-law lived to be 101, compared to her Aunt Lee is young.”
“And from what I hear on the gossip winds she’s aging as disgracefully as your mother is.”
“I think Aunt Paulie despairs of them both,” Sandy laughed.
“So will you take on the job?”
“I said I’d think about it. I don’t simply want to replace things, if I try this I’d like to add my own touches.”
“Will you tell her that?”
“Probably, I’m having lunch with her, Mom, and aunt Paulie next week. It may have some work for April as well – the garden needs a do over.”
“Well, she’ll appreciate that challenge – and Tonia is fine with starting next week on Brooke’s apartment?”
“She was surprised, but she’ll go and see her tomorrow.”
4 pm PT
Hilton Union Square
“Oh I need this,” Mary Clarke said as she sipped from her mug, still wearing the hotel uniform for the brochure shoots.
“Well, you work hard lass. New York next?”
“Yup, the three of us fly out tomorrow morning.”
“So just for once you get to be the chaperone and not the model?” Brenda asked as she and Mary sat in the hotel coffee shop.
“Yeah, my little sisters work while I watch. Suzie gets the apartment to herself to sor ta few things out.”
“Will they be okay?”
Mary raised an eyebrow and smiled. “Given how tough catalog shoots usually are they’ll either be too busy, or too tired, to get in much trouble.”
“Yes,” Mary laughed, “shooting editorial we can take our time to get perfect images, but for commercial work like this time is money and there isn’t room for either photographers, or models, to take their time searching for perfection.”
“So have you worked with this photographer yourself?”
“I have, Karl Pearson shot some of my very first ‘book’ photos. He’s pretty good at his job, and if nothing else Allison and Vicky will both get some bits for their own portfolios.”
Shaking her head, Brenda said “has Dave adjusted to the idea yet that he has four daughters who are models?”
“No,” Mary laughed, “I think he still thinks at times this is all a dream. But at least the business is doing well.”
“So when are you off working next Mary?”
“Next week I’m flying to Rome to do a spread or Italian Vogue, The good part is that at least I get to see Richard.”
“Is he still THE one?”
“Yes,” Mary blushed. “In fact, he’s coming to spend Christmas in San Fran, so we can get together then as well.”
“Courtney says you are a biochemist, Krystal,” Clive said as he sat next to Krystle, Courtney next to Gerald.
“I am – and it’s Krys to my friends,” she answered as she fluttered her eyelashes. “So what do you do for a living?”
“We’re both brokers – You know Jerry Levine don’t you Courtney?”
“Well, I know his wife really – I hear she is expecting?”
“She is,” Gerald said as the food arrived. Krys was feeling more comfortable, more relaxed now – this wasn’t going to be like the last time she went on a blind date, and ended up having to escape through the back door.
“I met Gerald and Clive at a dinner party – and when I was thinking of two people for dinner tonight, they came immediately to mind,” Courtney said with a smile.
“Well, I have to say I am glad you could come,” Krys said with a smile. “I haven’t been here before – is it new?”
“Relatively so – its why I suggested it to Courtney. I know the chef, and I wanted to come. Seems we’re not the only ones.”
“It is busy, but I see everyone is enjoying themselves,” Krys said as she looked round – recognising the two women at a table on the far side of the floor.
“I’ve got a question that I’ve been dying to ask or ages Ness,” Paulie said as she sipped her wine.
“Oh – and what is that,” Ness said with a smile. The two old friends were enjoying a dinner together, both wearing designer trouser suits.
“All those years when you didn’t talk to me,,” Paulie said as she looked across the table, “why did you talk to Lee and use her as a way of hearing what was going on with me, Gus, and the girls?“
“Because,” Ness said with a smile, “while Mother might disapprove of Lee’s lifestyle and use her as an example of all the things I couldn’t, and shouldn’t, do, she could never disown her own sisters daughter.”
“So just as I used to ask Lee what was going on with you…”
“She was doing the same thing in reverse for me.”
Paulie shook her head as she laughed. “Your mother was not a nice woman you know?”
“I know,” Nessa paused, “and of all the things she cost me, having to give up my best friend for all those years was probably the worst.”
“Well at least now we can do little things like having dinner like this.”
“True,” Nessa smiled as she noticed the party at another table.
“Who is the blonde you are looking at,” Paulie asked. “I think I’ve seen her around.”
“Oh that’s Krystle Ernst, Heather’s friend.”
“Now I place her,” Paulie took a second to think, “You know I really can see what all the fuss is about, she is quite stunning.”
“Indeed – and I hear she may finally have given in to Missy Auerbach as well.”
“So I hear you are considering offers to become a model as well as pursuing your career in science?” Gerald asked.
“Well suddenly out of the blue the fashion industry suddenly seems to view me as a hot commodity,” Krys laughed, “so yes I’m at least going to listen to Missy Auerbach of Norstar and hear what she has to say.”
“It’s not a combination that one hears about a lot, a model who is also a research scientist,” Clive noted.
“I guess I’ll be the one to test whether one can be both at the same time.”
“And your hypothesis?”
“That there is no real way, and I’m prepared to be proven wrong,” Krys said as Courtney nodded, the waiters bringing their food. “I must say, this looks delicious…”
“Those two men with Krys and her friend aren’t bad looking, you know,” Nessa gave both of them an appraising glance.
“NESSA!” Paulie hissed, “I’m not here to be your sidekick while you pick up a man.”
“Now would I do that?” Nessa asked with a twinkle in her eye.
“Once upon a time then definitely no, recently I’m not so sure,” Paulie shook her head.
“I wasted most of my life being the prudish bitch that my Mother demanded I be Paulie, now in my declining years I’m determined to enjoy myself.”
“DECLINING YEARS?” Paulie spluttered as Nessa reached into her bag and got a mirror out to check her appearance. “You know damn well that you can compete with women half our age on looks.”
“If I was man-hunting I’d have worn something with a short skirt,” Ness giggled, “For some strange reason men love my legs.”
“I despair,” Paulie rolled her eyes.
“No, they’re safe – I don’t want to upset either of their dates…”
“Who are those ladies over there who seem to be looking at us?” Gerald asked.
Krys smiled as she looked over. “Them? That’s Nessa Richmond, and Paulie van Roon. I’m a friend of Mrs. Richmond’s Granddaughters nanny, I’ve met her briefly a couple of times.”
“She’s THE Vanessa Richmond?” Gerald asked slightly breathlessly, “the real estate mogul?”
“That she is,” Krys smiled again.
“Is it true that she’s worth fifty times more than our incoming president?” Clive asked.
“I wouldn’t know,” Krys said as she adopted a bored expression, “it’s not my area of interest, but yes I know she’s extremely rich.”
“I just somehow never imagined she’d look like that,” Clive shook his head.
“She’s not bad I suppose…for an old woman…”
“Krys darling your claws are showing,” Courtney laughed.
“Alright, alright,” Krys laughed, “yes she still is incredible looking, and I hope I look half that good when I’m her age.”
“So say we all,” Courtney laughed.
The de Ros Mansion
“I’m glad we were able to let you stay, Brooke,” Abby said as she sat in her seat, her legs tucked under herself.
“Well, she was rather forceful,” Brooke said with a smile as Edith cleared the coffee cups.
“If there is nothing else tonight, Madame?”
“No, I think we will be fine Edith,” Diana said with a smile.
“Then I shall deal with this, and then ensure the house is secure,” Edith said as she picked up the tray and carried it out.
“I’m going to head up as well, Mom,” Abby said as she stood up and stretched, “I have a shoot tomorrow morning.”
“Good night,” Brooke said as Abby left after Edith, before she looked at her host.
“She was a Gunny? How on earth did she come into your employment?”
“I may tell you – someday,” Diana said with a smile, “but for now, let me say she has served both myself and Abigail well since before we formally came to the US.”
“But what was she – a bodyguard?”
“At first – but as I said, it is a story for another time,” Diana said as she put her cup down. “How are you feeling now?”
“Scared,” Brooke said as she rubbed her arm. “But I need to face my demons, don’t I? Otherwise this is never going to work?”
“Indeed – I mentioned my uncle, and that is where he failed. Nobody could help him deal with those demons – but we, your friends, between us have the strength to support you through this.”
Brooke nodded as she looked round the room. “You seem to be a lot calmer these days, Diana – what happened?”
Diana thought for a moment, before she said “you are aware I recently had a major operation?”
“I remember the others talking about it, but not what was involved.”
“Well, my late husband assaulted me, and injured me – grievously,” Diana said quietly. “I had to carry the pain and scars of that attack for nearly two decades – but recently, the operation meant the pain is gone now. I guess I needed to allow that to happen.”
“But the anger over certain things is still there?”
“I don’t think that ever goes away,” Diana said as she looked at Brooke, “but you learn to channel it somehow, let it get out safely. My prayer is you manage to find that balance as well.”
“Changing subjects,” Diana said as she reached to the side of her seat, “Juliette did some research about you Brooke?”
“What about me?”
“Oh she had one of her assistants go digging in the CS archives to see what there as about an old time model called Brooke Hutton.”
“Not an awful lot,” Brooke laughed and relaxed, “I didn’t have a lot of success.”
“I can’t understand why though,” Diana said as she pulled out some photocopies, “you actually weren’t bad.”
“Thank you,” Brooke said with a smile, “but at the time my face didn’t quite seem to fit.”
“That can happen,” Diana nodded.
“Oh Goddess I can remember the day we shot this,” the Judge said as she picked up a picture and shook her head, “It was one of those days shooting for a catalog when nothing seemed to go right.”
“I remember those myself,” Diana laughed.
“Really? I thought you were more editorial then commercial?”
“Oh I did the odd bits of commercial work.”
“That in many ways was the big disappointment of my modeling career,” Brooke said with a sigh “that I never really did much editorial work, and that I don’t have a single magazine cover to hang on my wall.”
“I have a few,” Diana said as she put the pages down, “but to be honest it never meant that much to me. For me it’s all the friends I made who mean the most to me, not the work I produced as a model.”
“I was always a bit of an outsider…”
“Yes,” Brooke paused, “I guess what I was studying in college, and the fact I was obviously a lesbian, meant I never really became ‘one of the girls’.”
“You might not like this question Cherie, but I’ll ask it anyway… Did you ever really try and fit in with them?”
“What do you mean?”
“I know enough victims of abuse to know they often have difficulty making new friends.”
“It’s a point,” Brooke conceded, “I guess I’ve always been happier with girls who knew me…well before it…”
“I know, I know,” Diana held her friends hand, “they are from the days of innocence.”
“It’s a good word for it, and I do try to overcome my reluctance with people…”
“You let me become your friend,” Diana smiled.
“And I’m glad I did, but I guess you are right in a way, I don’t find it easy always fitting in with ‘groups’.”
“I understand that – but trust me, this is when your real friends will stand with you, all of us.”
Friday 2nd December
The Burton Apartment
“At least you don’t have to do the ferry tonight,” Erica said as she finished her breakfast.
“No – but I wonder what made Mom agree to me taking part in that shoot this weekend?”
“The ways of Missy Auerbach are impossible to comprehend,” Denice said with a smile. “You’ll get to meet the Clarke girls tonight – they’re due to fly in at about four, and I asked Mary to bring them round for dinner.”
“I would imagine Allison is still on a short leash,” Erica said with a grin.
“True – but there are enough chaperones around anyway.”
“Listen – do you think we’ll get a chance to go present shopping this weekend?”
“Me, yes. You? I have no idea…”
“Pepsi is here,” Denice said as she looked out of the window, “go, have fun, learn new things.”
“See you later Mom,” Erica said as the two girls headed out, Denice shaking her head as she gathered up the breakfast dishes.
The de Ros Mansion
“I need to get going Mom – I have an early seminar,” Abby said as she grabbed a bagel and ran for the door. Diana smiled and shook her head as Edith went past.
“I am just taking Her Honour a breakfast tray, Madame,” she said as she looked in, Diana nodding as she headed up the staircase, pausing as she knocked on the bedroom door and then walked in.
“Good morning your honour,” she said as she placed the tray down, and then heard the retching sounds from the bathroom. She poured some iced water from the jug into a glass, and waited until Brooke came out, shadows under her eyes.
“Good morning Your Honour,” Edith said as she passed her the glass, “this will help you to feel better.”
“I think a large whisky would help me to feel better,” Brooke mumbled, but she took the water and drained the glass before she looked at the breakfast tray. “Toast and coffee?”
“I can cook something more substantial if you wish,” Edith said with a smile, “but this may be all you desire for now. I have to tell you that Dr Gleb will be here to see you at eleven.”
“What if I don’t want to see her?”
“She will be here at eleven.”
Brooke looked angrily at Edith, and said “did you hear me?”
“I did Your Honour - Doctor Gleb will be here at Eleven. I will let you know when she is here.” With that, she turned and left Brooke sitting on the bed, looking at her as she left.
“How is she this morning,” Diana asked as Edith came down.
“As you would expect she is, Madame,” Edith said with a smile, “I will prepare some coffee shortly.”
As Rhenia took her jacket off and hung it over the back of her chair, she was surprised to see two men walk into the main office. They were dressed for business, but as they looked round something seemed off. The suits were wrong for a model agency, and the way they were looking round was wrong.
She slipped her jacket back on and walked out, the two men looking at the woman approaching them in a grey jacket and skirt with a white camisole underneath.
“Gentlemen,” Rhenia said as she came over, “I am Rhenia Tripp, the comptroller for NorStar. May I ask who you are, and the purpose of your visit?”
“Ms Tripp,” the taller of the two men said, “my name is Aaron Svenson, and I am a legal representative for DamyKontrol Agencies. This is Mr Borodin, a representative for the owner Oleg Byushin.”
Rhenia nodded as she looked at one of the secretaires, who picked up the phone. “I see – may I ask the purpose of your visit?”
“You may be aware that the agency I represent have an interest in NorStar as an agency – we merely wished to conduct…”
“I need to stop you there gentlemen,” Rhenia said quietly, “I am aware of the current situation, but under the advice of our legal advisors I cannot hold nay discussions on behalf of the agency, or indeed any communication with you, unless it is through appropriate channels and one of our legal representatives is present. I must, regretfully, therefore ask you to leave, and if you wish to visit again to contact the firm of Di Cambrello Consultancy in London to make the arrangements.”
“Surely, Ms Tripp…”
“These gentlemen will escort you out,” Rhenia said as two building security staff came in.
“Of course – thank you for your time, Ms Tripp,” Aaron said as they turned and left.
“Inform Missy of the visit, and tell her I will contact the others,” Rhenia said to her assistant, before she walked back into her office and picked up the phone.
“Tracey? Get me five minutes with Maddie ASAP please…”
The Richmond Mansion
“So how did last night go?” Sandy asked as she and Heather helped Tommy to transform himself once more into Krys.
“Great,” Krys said as she finished applying her eye makeup, “the guys were gentlemen and Courtney reckoned that I more then passed the test.”
“Nice to hear,” Heather smiled.
“Anyway,” she said as she stood up, brushing down some lint from the lapels of her designer jacket, “thanks for letting me change here before I see Missy, I really do need to find a little place where I can safely be this me.”
“Funny you should say that,” Sandy laughed, “the trust has a tenant looking to sublet a studio apartment for two years while she is in Europe.”
“It’s in the East Thirties, in a very discreet building, and it would honestly suit a young part-time model very well.”
“If you’d like,” Heather said, “we can go look over the weekend?”
“Thanks for the offer Heather, but what would this cost me?”
“With what you’ll be making modelling,” Sandy said with a laugh, “don’t worry, you can afford it easily.”
“It does sound tempting, and it would give me a place where I could do this without having to rely on friends.”
“Well the place is vacant, and furnished,” Sandy said as she helped fix Krys’s wig, “so if you want it then you can move in anytime.”
“It sounds pretty ideal.”
“Good – then we can look tomorrow. For now, you need to get going – you don’t want to keep Missy waiting…”
The de Ros Mansion
“Serena,” Diana said as she greeted her visitor, “thank you for coming.”
“You’re welcome – and I’m glad I could answer Karen’s call as well.”
“Allow me to take your coat, Doctor Gleb,” Edith said as the two women looked to the stairs, watching Brooke as she slowly walked down. Serena noted the shadows under her eyes, and the jogging suit she was wearing with the white t-shirt underneath.
“Serena, this is Brooke Hutton. Brooke, this is Doctor Serena Gleb.”
“Okay,” she said quietly, “if we’ve got to do this, where?”
“My office,” Diana said as she indicated a door to the side.
“Thank you, Diana,” Serena said as Brooek quickly opened the door and waited.
“Well you come with a high reputation, is it deserved?” Brooke asked rudely as she ushered Serena into Diana’s little office room.
“I don’t know, maybe you’ll tell me sometime?” the psychologist looked the judge straight in the eye. “After all, we are only just meeting.”
“I probably will, after this,” Brooke said as she closed the door.” So… how do we do this?”
“Well – how do you feel?”
“How do I feel? I’m dying for a drink, and know I can’t have one, and I’m starting to get jumpy.”
“Fair enough. What would you like to talk about Brooke?” Serena said quietly as she sat on a sofa.
“I don’t know… How about the chances of the Rangers making the playoffs?”
“Not as good as the Bruins,” Serena laughed, “despite your goalkeeping being better.”
“Hmmm,” Brooke sat on the edge of the desk and assessed the other woman. “No notepad?”
“Not this time, no. As to what we can talk about… We can talk about whatever you like?”
The question was sudden, and took Serena by surprise. “How old what?”
Brooke took a deep breath. “How old were you when you were first molested?”
“I was eleven,” Serena said quietly.
“Similar age. My father’s best friend.”
Serena said nothing as Brooke folded her arms. “What – no witty comeback?”
“Probably not the right time for them, Brooke, so let me say what I’m thinking. You come from a legal family, so was he a figure in that community? A man with an impeccable reputation? Someone no one would have believed it was possible from if you’d spoken out?”
“Pretty much.” Brooke let a tear escape.
“I understand – so you felt you had no choice?”
“Nobody was going to believe me anyway. Did anyone believe you?”
“No – but I got lucky at University, and found someone I could open up to. I’m a rarity in that – others rarely get that chance so easily, and they have to deal with it themselves. And they all do it in different ways.”
“Drink, drugs, or sometimes they carry on the tradition, because they think it’s the only thing they can do. Is he still alive?”
Brooke laughed and threw her head back. “No – he died a few years ago, heart attack. I had to sit there with my family while my dad eulogised a monster…”
The Clarke Apartment
“Oh I really am not sure about this,” Mary both laughed and shook her head as she looked at some printed papers she was holding in her hands.
“Sure about what Poppit?” Dave said as he looked up from finishing his coffee.
“Some of the outfits the girls will be wearing this weekend.”
“Are they bad?” Dave looked concerned.
“They aren’t over sexy if that’s what you mean Pop,” Mary laughed as she sat down in an armchair, “but that’s half the problem, if these are being aimed at 12 to 16 year olds then they are very different to what I actually see kids wearing.”
“Ah,” Dave laughed, “but as I’ve heard you say yourself that’s not your responsibility as models, you just wear what you are told to, and try make it look as good as possible.”
“I know Dad,” Mary said as she shook her head, “but honestly I feel like showing these to Kylie and telling her she should design a range of outfits that kids might actually buy.”
“Why don’t you? You’ll probably run into her this weekend.”
“It’s an idea,” Mary paused for thought.
“Hey – any coffee made?”
“In the pot,” Mary said as she looked at Allison and Vicky, “got your bags packed?”
“Yeah – when’s the car?”
“In an hour – best get something to eat and drink…”
“So how if I did model would the money thing work Jeans?” Mel asked as they waited in line for food.
“Well in my case,” Jeannie said as she took a bowl of soup and placed it on the tray that sat across her lap, “what I earn is professionally managed by a management firm that Nessa Richmond put us in contact with.”
“Meaning what?” Mel asked as she paid for her food.
“Essentially, that my Mum gets a sum each month to pay for living costs and other expenses, while the rest is invested safely for the future.”
“Is that why you say you only get pocket money and a clothes allowance?”
“It’s the truth,” Jeannie grinned, “I live on a budget just the same as you all do. Well, most of you do.”
“Why does that sound so hard to believe?” the tall blonde shook her head as they sat at a table.
“Honestly it is true,” Jeannie became serious as she put her tray on the table, “but if you do model Mel listen to advice and put the money away for your future. I know the Kirkham pays for your education, but there will come a time when that money may come in useful.”
“I know, I talked to Mom last night and she said take it a step at a time, first see if I like doing it, and if Missy and the others are right and that I actually can model.”
“Well, you’ve got the Clark girls to support you – this is going to be just as new to them as well. But Mary will be there, and a couple of us are coming over to support tomorrow as well.”
“That’s what scares me a little – all those big names…”
“Let me give you a bit of advice Abby gave me,” Jeannie said as she put her spoon down and wiped her chin. “Forget the lights, forget the glitz – behind all that is a group of girls and women who all have to put their panties on in the morning and do their job. We’re all the same, Mel – trust me.”
“It is just as well we have a bye this weekend in the league,” Ama said as she and Pepsi joined them at the table, “it means you can do this, and I can prepare for Mom coming home on Sunday.”
“You’ve missed her, haven’t you?”
“More than I can say – and we have to prepare for the wedding next week as well.”
“Oh yeah – I still need to sort an outfit out for that,” Pepsi said with a groan.
“Well, perhaps we can visit the APCO store together after swimming tomorrow,” Ama said with a smile.
Inn on The Green
Missy looked up and smiled at the blonde standing by the table, wearing a powder blue trouser suit with a white blouse.
“Krystle – please, take a seat. I trust you are well?”
“Passing – may I have some mineral water please,” she said to the waiter as she sat down, smiling as he nodded and walked off. “I hear you have been trying to find me.”
“Indeed – which is why it was a surprise when you contacted out offices. A very pleasant surprise, but a surprise none the less. May I ask what happened with the job interview?”
“A mixed bag,” Krystle said as she placed her handbag on the floor, “I was offered a part time position, so I effectively have two jobs now.
“At the moment.”
“That so often seems to be the case,” Missy laughed as the waiter brought the water over. “But, as I said, I am glad you called, especially after your recent press appearences.”
Krys smiled and shook her head. “Had I known what might have happened… We cannot look back, however.” Glancing at the menu, she said “salmon salad, no dressing.”
“I’ll have the same,” Missy said as the waiter took their menus. “So, given you have contacted me, can I take this as a sign that you may be interested in joining our agency?”
“On a part time basis – I’m still a scientist first and foremost,” Krys said before she sipped her water, “but for the right idea, I would be interested. Out of curiosity, what would you see me doing?”
“At this stage, a book shoot – all models have to go through that,” Missy said, “but we have a potential offering for you already. Have you heard of Rebecca Wesley?”
Krys raised an eyebrow as she said “the author of the Lady Dorothy mysteries? I have – why?”
“Well, she has seen your photo,” Missy said with a smile, “and wishes to know if you could be signed to do some shoots for the covers of some new editions of the books.”
“Interesting, so you see me in that area?”
“Similar to the likes of Abby de Ros – yes, I can see that eventually,” Missy nodded as she started to eat her salad. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Alice McKinnon is looking at you as well, given your Boston connection.”
“That would be interesting – on that note, while I’ll be primarily base sit seems still in Boston, Sandy Richmond is offering me the chance to sublet a one-bedroom studio that I’ll use as a New York base.”
“That sounds ideal,” Missy looked at her notes. “When can you let me have an address and phone number?”
“I’m going to look over the weekend,” Krys smiled slightly, “and if I like it I’ll start getting all that together for you.”
“Excellent – so if you are interested, read this,” Missy said as she passed a brown envelope over, “and sign it if you are in agreement.”
“I have heard of this thing you do – the Jameson clause?”
“It is included in the contract – the group you are friends with here warned me this might be requested. So, shall we shake?”
The de Ros Mansion
Diana looked up as Brooke came in, wringing her hands as she looked round.
“Brooke – how was your talk with Selena?”
“Interesting – and I will talk to her again,” Brooke said as she sat down. “I hope yyou don’t mind Edith fixed me some food.”
“Of course not,” Diana said as she put her book down, “but how are you feeling?”
“Me? I’m stressed and I’m jittery Diana, and I’m truly craving a drink, does that tell you how I’m feeling?”
Nodding, Diana said “Karen said this is normal Brooke.”
“I know,” Brooke snapped back, and then shook her head. “sorry, Diana - I’m trying hard, I really am, but I’ve always had a bad temper, and this is just making it worse.”
“I know.” Diana paused for thought, “I’ve seen you at parties and other events Brooke and I never saw you obviously over drinking, or drunk, how did you control it?”
“By telling myself that I had to keep it together, and literally counting down the minutes to the time I would be alone and I could have a ‘real’ drink.”
“I think I understand,” Diana said as she sat forward, “but I know that must have taken huge self-control and discipline.”
“I suppose, but it was getting harder and harder to keep it up.”
“Which is why I am glad we are here for you now. I know it will be rough, but if I can get through my problems, I am sure you can…”
The Richmond Mansion
“Have you been practicing ‘her’ signature?” Sands asked as she came in and sat down, “just remember you can’t make a mistake and sign as Tommy.”
“I know,” Tommy said as he pulled on a shirt, “it was something I thought of and I’ve been trying to teach myself to write in her style.”
“I hope you don’t mind but I’ve taken the liberty of opening a bank account in Krys’s name, and getting ‘her’ credit cards.” Heather took a deep breath, “I’ve also taken the liberty of getting Krys a birth certificate, a social security number, etc…”
“Should I ask how Heather?” Tommy interrupted, “it’s not that I’m ungrateful, but to do that must have taken major league, and illegal, hacking.”
“Do you want an alternative life as Krys Tommy?”
“Then don’t worry,” Heather smiled, “just call it a favor from an old college friend.”
“But what if…?”
“Don’t worry Tommy,” Sandy smiled, “no one will ever find out that Krys Ernst is not a 100% real person.”
“Guaranteed,” Heather added.
“So do you have a lawyer who can look at this contract for me Sandy?” Tommy asked as he removed the last of Krys’s makeup.
“I’ll have someone I know look it over for you,” Sandy said as she glanced down the sheets of paper, “but from a quick glance it looks pretty standard.”
“So Krys isn’t signing her life away?” Tommy laughed.
“No, other than a Jameson clause it looks like what I signed when I joined Norstar.”
“So did Missy say she had any works or you?” Heather asked as Tommy wiped his face, and then turned round.
“She mentioned that Rebecca Wesley was interested in me for the covers of a new edition of her books.”
“I’d heard whispers about that,” Sandy nodded, “as first gigs go that wouldn’t be bad.”
“Mmmmm they’ll probably have you in some amazing 1950’s outfits,” Heather packed Krys’s wig in Tommy’s case. “I love the clothes of that period.”
“Yes it did rather appeal to me as well,” Tommy pulled a jacket on, “so when are we going to look at the apartment, and when will I need see this lawyer?”
“Tomorrow – you have a date with Holly tonight, right?”
9 pm GMT
“So we’re looking forward to next week so much,” Juliette said from the laptop as Shirley sat at her home. “When do you all fly over?”
“Tuesday,” Shirley said with a smile, “the final rehearsal with Alex is Thursday. Listen - can I ask you about something I once heard Ju?”
“No I never slept with Bill Clinton,” Juliette giggled.
“I’ll remember that.” Madame laughed, “but no it’s about another piece of gossip I once read, and since you know all the participants perhaps you know if it’s true or not.”
“Ask away,” Juliette said as she sat in her office.
“Is it true Billy Joel wrote Uptown Girl about Elle McPherson?”
“Yes that’s true. Fractures may be in the video and have married Billy, but he wrote it after meeting her, the Body, and Whitney Houston, and it was originally about Elle.”
“Well to use one of my father’s favourite expressions, I live and learn.”
“Most people are shocked when they hear that.”
“So what other secrets, gossip, and trivia do you know Juliette von Furstenheim?”
“Probably as many as you do Madame X,” the American laughed.
“I guess so,” Shirley paused, “but it’s not the things I do know that are currently worrying me, it’s the things I don’t.”
“Any news from Russia?”
“Natalya is working her contacts, and so is Francesca, but I do wish that Aggie would be a bit more forthcoming.”
“You think she knows something?”
“Maybe not, but she certainly knows people who do.”
“This is Aggie we’re talking about,” Juliette said with a smile. “She’ll tell us if it helps the cause, otherwise it’s a private thing.”
“True,” Shirley said as she heard the intercom ring. “Ju, I’ll see you next week.”
“Okay,” Juliette said as Shirley ended the call and went to the wall.
“Got a drink for a friend?”
Shirley smiled as she said “come on in” and pressed the button, waiting for a moment and then opening the door as Catriona Cuthbertson came to the door.
“And to what do I owe the pleasure of a visit from you today Cat?” Shirley asked as she ushered her oldest friend in.
“I needed a break darling,” Cat said as she took er coat off, “and what better way to brighten up what has been a horrid week then come and see you?”
“I read Mr. Justice Nuttley was doing his pedantic best to make a confusing trial, even more confusing.”
“I swear that old bastard just loves to have trials that go on forever.”
“Well at least the prosecution asking for time to review further evidence will give you the time to come to my wedding.”
“I know, I’m getting Aggie and Sherry to look at those new documents this weekend for me.”
“Please,” Catriona said as she sat down in a armchair.
“So will they change how things are going?”
“Probably not, but they will give old Nutcase an excuse to fuss and dither for at least an extra fortnight.” Cat sighed as Shirley passed her a coffee.
“You sound frustrated as much as anything darling,” Madame sat down as well.
“I’m bored as well Shirl.”
“Is there nothing you have planned as Lady C to pique your interest?”
“Nothing immediate, I was actually going to ask if you have anything ‘fun’ going on?”
“Not till after I get back from my honeymoon,” Madame shook her gorgeous auburn hair, “till then my organisation is just ticking over.”
“Pity,” Catriona sighed, “I could do with doing something dangerous, and naughty.”
“Let me think that over – after all, there are always opportunities....”
As Kylie emerged from Merlin’s Cave, she saw Erica coming from the lifts.
“Good afternoon Erica darling – what brings you here?”
“Aunt Mary asked if I would pop in – is she in there?”
“She is indeed – go on in,” Kylie said as she held the door open, “towards the back at her table.”
As Erica walked in, she called out “Aunt Mary?”
“This way lass,” she heard Mary reply as she made her way to her design desk.
“You wanted to see me?”
“Ai I did,” Mary said as she finished making some notes and looked round. “Alright young Erica, what are we going to do to celebrate your Mam’s graduation?”
“Not a clue Aunt Mary,” Erica said with a smile, “I’ve been saving my allowance so I can buy her both a Christmas present, but also a grad gift. My income doesn’t stretch beyond taking her to eat at McDonald’s though.”
“That’s about what I assumed,” Mary Thomas nodded.
“And I don’t think she wants a lot of fuss made anyway, what with Christmas, New Years, and the weddings.”
“It still needs a proper celebration though,” Mary said as she leaned back, “and I’ve been thinking over ideas.”
“As you say another major party might be one too many, but an old friend of mine is a chef who specializes in Welsh food, how about I ask him to cook for a dinner party for Denice and some of her friends?”
“Where Aunt Mary? Our apartment is nice, but you can’t get that many people round our dining table.”
“Which is why I was going to ask Sandy Richmond if she will open up that huge formal dining room of hers that rarely gets used.” Mary smiled, “plenty of room around that table.”
“True,” the black girl smiled, “but will Heather mind another person cooking in ‘her’ kitchen?”
“Leave Heather to me. Think that might work?”
In Juliette’s office, she was looking at Shirley on the laptop screen.
“They actually came into the offfices?”
“They did – Rhenia saw them off, but I don’t think this guy is above using muscle to get what he wants Shirley.”
“I hate to say it,” Shirley said, “but I tend to agree Ju.”
“So what can, and should, we be doing?”
“That’s the problem, we don’t want him realising that Norstar is ‘connected’.”
“True, but we equally can’t let him walk all over us and take the company.”
“It’s striking a balance.”
“Is there something we can be doing to divert his attention?” Juliette thought hard. “Can you use your connections to get the DoJ to investigate some of his other business activities?”
“I can try, but with the change of administration, there might be a distinct lack of interest in doing that, and the new people might well be openly hostile.”
“There must be something we can do?”
“I’m trying to think of anything,” Shirley sighed, “but with the political landscape changing both here, and in your country Ju, a lot of the influence I once had might be about to disappear.”
“It’s just a thought,” Juliette smiled as an idea came to her, “Russia’s still the same though, can you cause him problems back home?”
“Honest answer? I don’t know, but I’ll set Natalya to draw up some ideas in case we need them.”