Days Like These – Part 4
Friday 16th December
11 pm GMT
The Babbage Home
"Can I ask a question love?" Mike Babbage asked as Sherry and he climbed into bed.
Sherry lowered her glasses and said “of course you can.”
"Are you still doing bits of work for Kay and the SIS?"
"Why do you want to know darling?" Sherry smiled as she pulled back the covers.
"Curiosity I guess,” Mike said with a smile. “Now that I know you turned down a career in the field when we left Oxford because of your personal ethics, I'm surprised that she may have talked you into doing more for them."
"Let's put it this way, I've signed the Official Secrets Act shall we say."
"Oh," Mike paused for thought, "and I guess that means you are doing things you can't tell me about?"
"Only in the broadest terms," Sherry smiled again, "I wish in a way I could say it was glamorous and exciting work, but really it's just looking at some raw data that Kay sends me occasionally and asking if I can see anything in that data which should raise a red flag."
"Well, you are a very talented statistician."
“You remembered? Well… it's an alternative to crosswords that gives my brain a workout, and I can fit in with both my housework and the bit of helping out I've been doing at Aggie's school." Sherry lay down, "I think doing both things have given me a new interest for a few hours a week."
"Life as a mere coppers wife was getting dull, eh?" Mike took a turn to smile.
Sherry turned over and looked at him. "No, I love you, I love the kids, but I guess I hadn't realised quite how routine my life had become."
"So are you being paid for this little bit of work?"
"I refer you to my original statement regarding the Official Secrets Act," Sherry giggled, "and why do I think I sound like Catriona saying that?"
"Seriously?" Mike asked as he climbed into bed, "how deep are you in this now Sherry?"
"Well I'm not needing to be fitted for naval uniforms, shall we say that?"
"Okay, that reassures me a bit," Mike kissed her.
"I've already had them made," Sherry smiled inwardly as she kissed him back.
1 AM Central European Time
The British Embassy, Paris
"That finished far later then I thought it would," Donald smiled as he passed Agnes a brandy.
"That kind of official function often does darling," Aggie took it and collapsed into one of the comfortable old armchairs in the Ambassadors private drawing room. “At least the girls did not have to be there. and could get to bed at a reasonable hour.”
"Mike texted me earlier, he thinks that despite all her denials that she would never do anything more for Kay and the Security Service that she is in fact still working." Donald said as he sat on the chair’s broad arm, "do you know what is going on?"
"I do know a little Donnie."
"But you won't or can't tell me about it?"
Aggie sighed as she looked at her fiancé. "Let’s just say that events in New York at Shirley's wedding may have changed Sherry's mind a little shall we."
"Oh?" Donald thought. "Does that mean what I think it does?"
"Darling I can't really say."
"And what about you Aggie, are you still helping Kay just informally, or is it rather more now?"
"Donald you are jumping to conclusions," Agnes laughed.
"Yes, but are they correct conclusions?"
Looking at him, Agnes said "Would I be able to tell you if they were?"
“Look – if you mean am I working for Kay now in a formal sense, then no. She asks my advice from time to time, but not on high security stuff – honestly.
“Now, let’s drink up, and then bed – we have that reception tomorrow for the rugby team…”
“So these are the famous lodges, Sister,” Maisha said as she and Ama walked into the long dormitory room.
“Indeed they are,” Erica said as she and Mel carried their bags in, “indeed they are. Take a look Mel – you’re probably not going to see a lot of this this weekend beyond sleeping.”
“Young Miss Burton doth speak truth to wisdom,” Abby said as she sat on the lower bunk of one set, “so get yourselves ready, and then we go for cocoa and chat before bed.”
“Yes it is,” Natasha said as she stood at the window, Alain pointing at the lit white covered ground as he grinned. “And all of you are going to have fun in it tomorrow, aren’t you?”
Alain nodded as Allan sat with Gale, April and Judith playing with their dolls on the floor as Clint started to carry in trays of hot cocoa.
“Did I hear the younger generation start to arrive,” he said as he put the first tray down.
“You did indeed,” Jo said as she came in with Nell and Ally Rochermann. “Susan?”
“Helping me in the kitchen – the others should be back from the restaurant soon. In fact, the only people I have not heard from are…”
“Well HELLO EVERYONE!”
“Mom?” Sandy and Heather looked at Nessa as she led the party into the chalet, Sands giggling as Katy Carter looked at her.
“What the… Bestie, are you all right?”
“Never better,” Sands giggled as she looked at Katy. Paulie, Lee and Glenda smiled as they whispered to each other at the side.
“Mum, tell me you have not?”
“No, I have not taken anything – but we had a fun and interesting trip up. What I am ready for is bed – so where are we sleeping?”
“Your rooms are upstairs,” Sandy said, “while Sands goes into the dormitories under the tender care of Jo and Ally.”
“When she gets here,” Jo said with a sigh.
“Hey Smith – you need your eye prescription changing?”
“Scratch that – come on,” Jo said as she took the Rochermann twins into the dormitory.
“No – I hope I’m not interrupting?”
"I didn't think that you were going to make it," Heather smiled as Krys came in, dropped her bag, and slumped into a chair.
"I nearly didn't," the model paused, then smiled. "I think having so many of you speeding on your way up meant by the time I drove up every traffic cop was on high alert."
"Whoops," Heather laughed as she poured a cup of warm milk. "How many tickets?"
"Two, and I flirted my way out of a third."
"Not bad," Heather laughed, "Sandy actually collected three herself, and even Holly got one."
"Yeah I think they know that a sinners ski weekend is a great way to replenish their state coffers at our expense."
"Well I'm here now."
"Yep better late then never."
"So any more news on that matter you talked to me about?" Krys reduced her voice to a whisper.
"Yes, and very little of it is good."
“I see – if there is anything I can do…”
“Hey hey – time to par-TAY.”
Abby laughed as Ally and Nell came back in from th dormitories, Nell walking over to kiss Mick Harran as he came in. Looking round, he said “very nice – so where do I put this?”
“I’ll show you and Nell your room,” Sandy said, “while Ally helps Heather take drinks to the girls.”
“And so it begins,” Ally said with a laugh as she headed to the kitchen,
"So who was that arriving Heather?" Sands asked as Heather brought in the hot milk drinks into the dormitory.
"Krys Ernst, she got delayed by some encounters with assorted county Mounties."
Sands raised an eyebrow before she said "You didn't say she was coming?"
"Oh it was a last minute change of mind by her."
"Well it means I can introduce her to Britt," Holly smiled as she climbed down from a top bunk. “I think she's a fan of Krys's."
"She is?" Sands giggled," "then that might be interesting."
Heather shook her head as she caught the glimmer in the young woman's eye. Inwardly she prayed that Sands was sensible enough, and sober enough not to cause a major scene.
"I see we weren't the last to arrive then," Ally spoke as she came in with another tray of drinks. "And how come my dear twin gets a room, and I get to bunk with this lot?"
"Because she and Mick are a couple, and Ju allocated them a room together."
"Well it’s an excuse, not a great one, but an excuse.” For a moment Ally paused to think, "so if I brought a guy along next time I might get a room as well?"
"Only if there's an engagement or wedding ring on your finger," Heather laughed.
"Damn I knew there had to be a catch," Ally laughed back.
“Right, drink up and into bed – early start tomorrow…”
“Good morning Mel – looking forward to today,” Ama asked as she and Maisha watched the young teenager walk in with Erica and Poppy.
“Oh yeah – Erica warned me of the early start, but I’m really the last one up?”
“Almost – but not quite,” Maisha said as Diana started to bring food through from the kitchen.
“Oh my god…”
Paulie slowly opened her eyes and turned over to see Nessa sitting on the other side of the bed, her knees drawn up and her chin resting on them. She slowly turned her head to look at her oldest friend, before she said “hey – how are you feeling?”
“My mouth could pass for the Sierra Madre – but… Ness, what happened on the drive up yesterday?”
“Which part – the part where Glenda was kissing your breasts, the part where Lee made my granddaughter have an orgasm, the part where the young men…”
“Whoa, whoa – back up a second.” Paulie slowly sat herself up and said “what happened with me and Glenda? And what did Lee do?”
“You really cannot remember?”
“It must have been the champagne – or was it…” Paulie’s eyes opened wide, before she said “oh – did you…”
“No – and I don’t think I want to after seeing what happened.”
“Is the old Vanessa coming back?”
“No,” Nessa said as she smiled, “but perhaps I do need to learn my limits. What it does mean is I cannot discipline Sands for what she did – but I do need to keep a close eye on her…”
Krystle looked at herself in the mirror, the ski suit open to just right the amount to show her white silk jumper underneath, the snow boots fashionable, but functional.
“See, I told you we needed this time off.”
“Perhaps,” Tommy said in reply in her head, “but remember - one day, and we go back Sunday.”
“We’ll see,” Krystle laughed as she heard the knock on the door. “Hey,” Heather said as she looked in, “ready for some breakfast?”
“I am,” the blonde said as they walked down to the central room – and then Krystle stopped before she said “Holly, darling – I did not know you would be here?”
“I am – Krystle, this is Britt Boynton. Britt, Krystle Ernst – I understand you have a bit of the fan girl about her.”
“Well – any friend of Holly’s is a friend of mine,” Krystle said with a smile. “Where do you know each other from?”
Britt was silent for a moment, before she said “my brother is… was… “
“Is my boyfriend, Tommy – but he’s not here, so we thought we’d have a girls’ weekend away. Is that fresh bacon?”
Sniffing the air, Krystle said “I do believe it is – shall we?”
“There you are,” Diana said as they walked into the main room, the table surrounded by Sinners as they sat and talked.
“Britt,” Susan said as she looked over, “this afternoon, would you mind helping with the younger ones? It will give the mothers a chance to hit the slopes.”
“And show us how to really use a snowboard,” Marina said with a smile as she nudged Kylie.
“Darling! I do not think you should give Maisha the impression we are not good instructors?”
“It is all right,” Marisha said with a smile, “I am eager to learn from all this weekend.”
“Really?” Ally and Nell exchanged glances before Ama said “she means of the sporting type, my friends.”
“Well, with Mick here, I’m behaving myself,” Nell said as Ally saw Sands walk in. She exchanged a glance with Jo, who also noticed the rings round the young girl’s eyes.
“I was wondering where you had got to,” Jo eventually said. “Everything all right?”
“Hmm? Oh – yeah,” Sands said quietly as she took some coffee from Katy.
“So, what does everyone have planned for this morning?” Juliette said as she looked round.
“Maisha and I will join Marina and Kylie to try snowboarding,” Ama said as she put her mug down, “and then join you at lunchtime. Doc?”
“We’ll join Jeannie doing the slopes,” Anna said as the others nodded.
“Good – Mel, your lessons with Erica are booked.”
“Jean-Claude,” Erica said quietly, her eyes closed as Poppy shook her head.
“As for we older ladies,” Lee said as the others came in, “we shall head to the café and enjoy the view.”
“Among other things…”
Sands giggled as George looked across the table, then at Jo and Heather.
“George, want to join us today,” Jo said as she drained her mug. He slowly nodded as Katy said “mind if I tag along as well?”
“Oh – George and Katy…”
“Under adult supervision,” Sandy said as she looked at her daughter. “So cleanse those thoughts from your mind, young Padawan.”
Sands giggled again as she looked round the table.
Stowe Mountain Resort
“Oh wow,” Mel said as she, Erica, Denise and Eva looked at the mountains rising from the Nursery slope.
“That is a usual reaction,” Jean Claude said with a smile as he looked over, “so take a moment to understand the beauty – and then we may begin. This is your first time, Mademoiselle Eckholm and Madame Eckholm?”
“Yeah, first time,” Eva whispered.
“Bon – let us first try to walk…”
Mel nodded as she started to copy the instructor.
“Are you sure it is all right for me to come with you,” George said as he skied alongside Katy, Heather and Jo, “I mean, this is good exercise, but…”
“We need to talk – the four of us,” Jo said as she looked at him, “in a private place.”
“Hey, the two of us…”
“Not about you,” Heather said as she looked at Katy.
“Oh…. OH. Right.”
“What an amazing view…”
“The mountains or the men?”
“Both,” Lee said with a laugh as she looked at the group. She, Paulie, Nessa and Glenda were sitting at a table outside the Waffle, steam rising from the mugs of coffee in front of them.
“You are incorrigible,” Glenda said as Lee unscrewed the top of a small flask and poured some brandy into her coffee. “Some for me as well?”
“Not for me,” Nessa said with a smile, “I need a clear head for this clear air.”
“I’ll pass as well,” Paulie said as she looked round, large sunglasses covering her eyes.
“Feeling under the weather?”
“Merely resting my eyes…”
“Ladies, your order…”
“Thank you,” Lee said as the waiter placed the plate with cake in front of her, and then she heard him say “well, this is a surprise.”
She turned to see Steve standing behind her, smiling as he said “so you are all staying here?”
“Indeed – your friend?”
“He works in the main building – enjoy your stay,” Steve said as he walked off, the four women looking at each other.
“Oh god, did we…”
“Oh yes,” Nessa said quietly, “we may have a problem here…”
“We may have a problem here.”
Heather looked at George, Katy and Jo as they stood in the shelter, hot mugs of coffee in their hands.
“You mean sis? What have you three seen that I haven’t?”
“George,” Katy said quietly, “you have to promise me you won’t lose your temper.”
“Okay, I promise – so what’s going on?”
“Well,” Jo said quietly, “we think Sands is courting trouble.”
“What sort of trouble,” George said quietly.
“Do you know she’s carrying a gun with her?”
George stared at Katy before he said “I did wonder – I know Gran has one as well. I haven’t said anything to Dad though – given what happened with Allyson.”
“There’s more,” Heather said, “we think – no, we’re sure she has taken some cocaine.”
“My little sister is using drugs – who’s supplying her?”
“Not the most important question,” Jo said, “the most important question is why she is doing it. Katy?”
As she looked round, Katy said “Well… The other day I saw her get something from a man at the station. I challenged her about it the next day, and she said she had got it for her and Liz. I think it’s Liz who got her on this.”
“Liz…” Heather shook her head as she said “I can ask someone about that – but for this weekend, I need you three to try and distract her as much as possible.”
“Tricky – you’re assuming she will listen to me,” George said quietly, “and she’s under the influence of Gran and her friends.”
“Your grandmother is concerned as well, so I think she’s on our side,” Jo said as she sipped from her cup. “But I take your point, George. Katy, I hate to say it, but…”
“Yeah – the wild child has to be momma. Mom will laugh the place down when she hears about this…”
“Oh wow – this view is spectacular,” Briit said as she stood with Krystle and Holly at the top of the slope.
“How long is it since you have been up here?”
“Two years,” Tommy thought to himself as he lowered his snow goggles.
“But I did not know that, did I?” Krystle purred.
“No, I know that,” Tommy replied before Krystle said “well, this is my first time here, and I’m only here for today, so I intend to enjoy.”
All three nodded as they pushed off, Britt watching as Krystle took the lead, watching the way she skied and moved. There was something familiar about it, but what she could not put her finger on…
“You have a natural skill,” Jean-Claude said as Eva glided to a stop at the bottom of the nursery slope. “And you have improved greatly as well, Madame and Mademoiselle Burton.”
“It feels easier,” Erica said, “what about you Mel?”
“How many times did you fall over when you first tried?”
“Point,” Erica laughed as Eva hugged her daughter, “but you got the hang of it in the end.”
“So, we break for lunch, and meet again at two.”
“You were right about one thing though,” Mel whispered as she picked her skis up.
“He is yummy…”
West Central Park
“All right,” Adam said as he sat down at the table, “we know why we are here, so let’s lay our cards on the table. Mom?”
Eleanor Ball smiled as she said “well, you know what I think, Adam, but I’m open to suggestions.”
“I’m not willing to convert to Judaism,” Jan said as she sipped her coffee, “so it can’t be the full Jewish ceremony.”
“But,” Eleanor said as she looked at them, “if you agree to follow Jewish tradition in your home, I am told that Tom and Clare’s Rabbi is open to doing a blessing as part of the wedding ceremony – and he knows Alex. Unless you are going fully civil?”
“Oh no,” Katherine said with a smile, “she’s not.”
“So much for eloping to Vegas,” Adam said as he shook his head. “It does sound like a compromise, Jan – and the ceremony could be on natural ground.”
Jan nodded as she said “all right – we find a venue, talk to Alex and Rabbi Jacob, and then we plan…”
“Excellent – now the wedding feast… I presume a mixture of Kosher and traditional is going to be in order?”
“Ah – and how did you enjoy the snowboarding,” Penny said as she saw Maisha come in with Ama, Marina and Kylie.
“An – experience,” Maisha said with a smile, “and at least the snow is soft to land in.”