Duck Soup – Part 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 30th October

Lexington, KY

10 am

 

For those who managed Bluegrass Airport, this was one of the busiest, if not the busiest weekends of the year.  They had been arriving since the early morning, coming in every few minutes and taxiing to the massive airpark that was set aside to serve the needs for the most discerning of clientele.

 

“Well, there it is,” Ray Razinski said as he looked out of the window, “Keeneland Course the home of the Breeder’s Cup meet.”

 

“Oh my, it looks so small from up here,” Denice said as she and Erica looked out, the shape of the track and the buildings clear on the vast green plains.  She had chosen for the occasion a fitted grey jacket and knee length skirt, with three inch grey leather heels, a dark blue camisole top under the jacket and a matching hat next to her.

 

Erica was wearing a blue dress with a white floral print, and black shoes, a black bolero jacket folded over her lap.  “This is amazing,” she said as she looked out, “and are we the first to arrive.”

 

“I think so,” April said as she sat with Grant and Pepsi.  Pepsi and April had chosen dark blue coat dresses, with white heels and hats, while Grant and Ray were both in the regulation suits and jackets, their shirts neatly pressed, their ties properly knotted.

 

“We should be landing in a few minutes,” Tonia said as she sat down, buckling herself into the seat.  Her peach sleeveless dress came down to her knees, with her gold-strapped sandals adding the extra height.

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re beginning our final descent – please strap in...”

 

Erica gripped the seat as the plane landed, and soon taxied to the designated spot on the park.  As the door was opened, Ray led the way to a waiting limousine, before making the short trip to the racecourse.

 

“Your passes – make sure they are around your neck at all times,” Ray said as he handed them round.  “They give you access to all areas.”

 

Hanging it round her neck, Erica watched from the window as the next private jet landed.

 

 

“So this is Kentucky,” Mary Thomas said as she looked out of the window while the jet came to a halt.

 

“Never been here,” Grace said as she smiled in the next seat.

 

“Nope – what about you Ju?”

 

“Many years ago,” Juliette said as she sat with Klaus, her engagement ring on her finger.  Her crimson dress had cap sleeves, and was complimented by the shoes and gloves, her jacket hanging in a closet.

 

“She does not like to talk about it,” Carina said as she tickled Judith.  The toddler was wearing a dress that Alice McKinnon had made especially for her, a copy of Carina’s own electric blue dress, but with a pleated skirt as opposed to the straight skirt of Carina’s dress.  Judith also had on a blue cardigan, as opposed to Carina’s bolero style jacket.

 

Grace was wearing a white dress with black details and gloves, while for the first time in years Mary had foregone her usual skirt and cardigan, wearing instead a long pleated skirt in dark blue, a blue blazer with white piping and a cream blouse.

 

Behind them sat Pippa and Poppy Ashley, Pippa wearing a long purple dress made with silk, and Poppy a white dress with a grey jacket and shoes.  Janine was sitting with Henri Marais, the skirt of her light blue dress riding up slightly, while Ingrid was wearing a white cap sleeved dress with purple heels.  Finally, Jeanne Marais was wearing a peach shift dress with a white jacket and hat.

 

The jet came to a stop as the door opened, and Klaus led the way out, the others coming towards the car.

 

 

 

 

“Hello Augie,” Liz van Roon Lodge said as she walked into the Keeneland Clubhouse, and let her cousin kiss her on the cheek.

 

“Tracey…Hi.” Pussy said as she came in, and kissed her cousin’s wife on both cheeks.

 

“You made it then.” Frieda smiled.

 

“Well I thought that the Chicago branch of the Saints and Sinners should be represented here.” Augie said as he kissed the pregnant scientist.  “How are you?”

 

“The morning sickness seems to be passing, at any rate.”

 

“Well I know everyone will be glad to see you.” Liz looked round. “How was your flight?”

 

“A few bumps, but the bad weather cleared the further south we got, so it should be beautiful this afternoon.”

 

“I know that Roy’s one real worry was a sloppy track.”

 

“Well it won’t be that Aunt Liz.” Chet said as he walked over followed by H and Sarah.

 

“Sarah you get more stunning,” Sam Lodge smiled.

 

“Thank you Mr. Lodge,” Sarah smiled as she glanced down at her white dress with black detailing, matching black gloves, heels, and hat.

 

“You put the rest of us to shame?” Liz laughed as she admired Tracey’s smart suit in a hunter green, with a knee length skirt.

 

“Well you aren’t exactly in rags yourself.” Tracey checked out the matching maroon and white ensembles worn by Pussy and Frieda, and Liz’s gold halter dress with matching black belt, gloves, heels, and very smart small hat.

 

“So who else is here?” asked Augie.

 

“Oh most of the gang is here or in the air,” Liz waved her hand. “This is something big, I think most people have made the effort to get here.”

 

“Hello young Augie.” Gus and Paulie said as they arrived followed by Nessa.

 

“Only round you can I be young.” Augie shook his uncle’s hand.

 

“Did you fly yourself?”

 

“I did uncle, I was just telling everyone the bad weather will pass north of here…and you?”

 

“No I insisted Andrew flew the plane.” Paulie smiled. “Gus is getting a bit doddery for my taste in pilots.”

 

“She can race her sportscar, but I can’t fly?” Gus raised his eyes to heaven.

 

“Not when we had guests,” Nessa said as she was followed by Sandy, Heather, and the kids.  Nessa was wearing a black jacket and short skirt, while Paulie had on a white coatdress with black stripes and a pattern at the waist.

 

“So this is the clubhouse,” Nessa said as she looked round, “very nice.”

 

“I have to agree,” Sandy said as she looked round.  Wearing a white halter neck dress with a thin red belt, she was a complete contrast to Heather in her purple flapper style dress, and Jo who had on a red halter neck with white polka dots, and a white belt.

 

Curt and George were wearing smart new suits, while Little Sandy blushed as she stood in her grey houndstooth pattern dress, with stockings and heels, her red hat matching her handbag.

 

“You get used to it,” Katy giggled in her floral print dress, with a black jacket and heels.

 

“Honest?”

 

“Honest.”

 

“She really is beginning to look grown up,” Gale said as she came in with Jan, Adam and Tom following.  Gale was wearing a yellow dress with her bump showing, while Jan was wearing a fifties patterned smock dress with a red flower pattern on white.  Her mother had on a black and grey flecked dress.

 

They all also had their hats on – Katy in a black cloche hat, and Little Sandy in a large crimson hat with a matching handbag.  The bag was the same colour as Sandy’s purse, while her mother’s hat was white with a red trim and decoration.

 

Gale and Jan had small black purses and gloves, Gale wearing a gold pillbox hat while Sandy had on a red hat styled like a top hat.  Jo was carrying a red and white bag with a small white hat fixed to her head.

 

“So have you seen any of the others,” Paulie asked.

 

“I know Ray has arrived, and I just heard from Juliette to say they are on their way.  Guess Guy and friends will be right behind them.”

 

 

“I really wish Winston could be here,” Jeannie said as Barbara pushed her in, followed by Anna and Nikki with their mothers, “but he has to play this weekend.”

 

“Well, you get to enjoy the fashion statements instead,” Becca Morse said as she came in with her mother and father.  Becca was wearing a short sleeveless purple dress with a black leaf motif, with a large black hat perched on her head, and matching gloves and shoes.  Her large clutch bag was the same design as that worn by Nikki only hers was purple to match her strapless dress and matching short jacket, a pink rose in the centre of her hat to match the motif on her dress.

 

Jeannie was wearing a black strapless dress, with a red and black striped skirt that covered her legs and a matching jacket, her black and red hat and purse offset with a string of pearls and pearl earrings.  As for Doc, her white dress was held up by a black halter strap, while the flowing chiffon skirt was edged in black.  A large white cloth creation with a black brim sat carefully on her head.

 

“The girls have really gone to down,” Frieda said to Barbara as she sat with Jeannie near the balcony.

 

“Indeed – we decided to go for the simple approach.  Tomorrow – that’s another matter…

 

 

 

 

At the airport, Valeria looked out of the door of the plane and walked down, smiling as Guy waited at the bottom.  The ladies of the party had decided to dress predominantly in white, in her case a white slip dress with a black lace overskirt, and black sandals.  Natasha had gone for a pure white sleeveless dress with black heels, holding her white hat to the side of her head as she handed her mother the black and white hat to wear.

 

“Just promise me, this time, I do not have to present a trophy,” Abigail said as she descended the stairs, holding up the skirt of her black cap sleeved dress to make sure she did not catch it on the heels she was wearing.

 

“Not today, ma Cherie,” Diana said as she walked down.  She held a white and black clutch purse in her hand, before handing Natasha her black purse and Valeria her fan.  The top half of Diana’s dress had black circles in a print, while the skirt had black vertical stripes.

 

“Thank you,” Natasha said as she took the purse in her black-gloved hands.  “I trust you enjoyed the flight, Mandy?”

 

“Of course I did, darling,” Mandy Carrow said as he walked down the stairs, wearing a metallic black and silver knee length dress, black heels and gloves, and a large hat in matching shades in her hand.

 

“Well, it may not be the sort of event I usually go to, but it should be fun,” Angel said as she and Marnie Paget climbed down.  Angel was wearing a black lace and silk dress, with a knee length skirt and a plunging neckline, black suede pumps and a wide brimmed hat, clutching a black purse in her right hand, while Marnie was wearing a white sleeveless dress with a flowing skirt, black gloves and pumps, and a white hat on her long hair.

 

“A most unusual place,” Natalya said as she walked down, Willy waiting to take her hand.  The Countess was wearing a pale grey high collared jacket and skirt, with matching heels and gloves.

 

“Well, these are our cars,” Guy said as he and Jack opened the doors.  “Shall we?”

 

 

 

“We are beginning our final approach to Bluegrass now, Miss Xavier – apologies for the delay.”

 

“I cannot thank you enough for offering to bring us here, Miss Xavier…”

 

“Shirley, Sarah,” the brunette said with a smile, “and it is my pleasure.”  She looked at the teacher, who has chosen to wear a white dress with an overskirt of white lace.  Her black hat sat on her lap, as she fiddled with her fingers.

 

Relax, Sarah,” Harriet said as she sat back, “you weren’t this nervous when we flew over.”  The older teacher was also wearing a white dress, in her case with a wide black band around her shoulders, and black pumps, while she held a new black purse by her side, and a black and white hat on her lap.

 

“You all look fantastic anyway,” Shirley said as she crossed her legs.  Catherine had sent her the dress she was wearing – a dusky red sheath dress with a low neckline, which came to her knee, paired with grey heels.  A wide brimmed black hat and a handbag was in the overhead locker.

 

Ama and Maisha were looking out of the window as the plane began to descend.  Ama had chosen a light blue dress, held over one shoulder, and heels, while Maisha wore a light pink coat style dress, the top half like a waistcoat with a centre panel.  Their purses were on their laps, as Annie and Caroline looked over.

 

“So this is a particularly important meeting, Mom,” Ama said as she looked over.

 

 

 

“I guess so,” Caroline said, “I think it’s the equivalent of the Derby meeting for the Americans.”  She was wearing a black gown with a white belt, the back of which acted like a cape, while Annie had on a white dress that came below her knees.  Both had matching hats and shoes, as well as clutch bags.

 

“I hope April will be all right today,” Susan said to Clint as the plane landed.

 

“She’ll be fine – just enjoy today,” her husband said as he looked at her.  Her black dress was sleeveless, with a wide leather girdle, and the hat and shoes were the same shade.

 

“Well now,” Shirley said as the plane came to a stop, and the door opened, “shall we join the others?”

 

 

 

Noon

Keeneland Clubhouse

 

“You made it – great,” Grace said as Shirley’s party came into the room, “have a drink.”

 

“Hey Jess,” Erica said as her school friend came in, “You made it.”

 

“We did – we came down with some of Dad’s colleagues” she said, as she stood in her red dress and jacket.  “You look wonderful – where did you get that dress?”

 

“Trade secret,” Erica said with a smile.

 

“The first race starts in thirty minutes,” Ray said, “but help yourselves to food and wine.”

 

“So how does this compare to the Royal Enclosure at Ascot?” Harriet asked Grace as they sat down.

 

“Now how would I know about the Royal…?”

 

“Grace!”

 

“Oh okay,” Grace laughed, “I did use to go to the races when I was younger. This is a lot more relaxed then I remember, but Ascot may have changed, I was a humble schoolteacher for many years don’t forget so I haven’t been for yonks.”

 

“How many of the group are dressed courtesy of the Complete Style wardrobe?” Sarah Nightingale asked.

 

“Oh I think a good few of us,” Grace smiled, “or designers have just leant outfits, this is a high profile group, the designers will get their reward from photos and glimpses on TV.”

 

“That’s true you know.” Pippa Ashley said as she brought over a bottle of champagne, “I don’t own a thing I’m wearing, it’s all on loan.”

 

“Well I live and learn.” Harriet shook her head.

 

“Anyway to the serious business of the afternoon,” Grace smiled, “Any tips for the first race Pip?”

 

“Well I was talking to Guy du Grechy, and…”

 

 

 

 

“Looks like your Mom is having fun,” Jess Murchado spoke to Poppy, as Pippa and the teachers buried themselves in the race programme.

 

“They do,” Poppy looked round. “You know this is fun, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it, but I am.”

 

“My parents often took me to the races when we were in Spain.”

 

“So do you know how to pick winners?”

 

“I wish,” Jess sighed.

 

“So where is Bones?”

 

“She said she was going to look at the horses with two of the models.”

 

 

 

“Now that is a magnificent sight.”

 

“Isn’t it just – tall, strong, and so well endowed.

 

“Are you talking about the men or the horses,” Erica giggled as she watched Angel and Marnie gaze in rapture at the horses walking round the ring.

 

“Bit of both,” Marnie said with a smile as Angel looked round, and then smiled.

 

“Well well, it looks as if British television is covering the event as well.”

 

“How do you know,” Marnie said as they saw two people walking over.  The blonde haired woman was a little taller than Erica, and wore a grey jacket and skirt with a white blouse, while the man was dressed in a grey suit shirt and tie – but he was barely five foot tall.

 

“Well, is this Angelica Fitzstuart I see before me,” the woman said as Angel hugged and kissed her on the cheeks, “what brings you over here?”

 

“I could say the same to you – business or pleasure?”

 

“Business” she said as she showed Angel the press pass.  “Your turn?”

 

“Mother is one of the group of friends behind SaintsnandSinnerz in the Juvenile sprint today?”

 

“Oh yes,” the man said, “one of the favourites.  And your friends?”

 

“OH forgive me – Marnie Paget, Erica Burton, meet Claire Balding and Willie Carson.  I presume you’re working for Channel 4?”

 

“We are – the races and background.  Listen – do you think some of your friends might be up for a little chat later?”

 

“I’ll ask them – where can we find you?”

 

“Media village,” Willy said, “enjoy the day girls.”

 

“Are they famous over there,” Marnie said as they walked past.

 

“Very – both in the racing and the wider arena.  I had better go and let Mother know they asked…”

 

“Asked what?”

 

“Hello Tonia – British Television want to interviews some of the real Saints and Sinners?”

 

“Do they now?  Well, you go and tell them – once you tell me which horse looks good in this race…”

 

 

 

“Princesses may we get some photos?” a photographer asked as Ingrid, Carina and Jeanne walked towards the parade ring.

 

“If you must.” Carina said a trifle impatiently as they stopped and posed for the camera.

 

“How did you know I was a princess as well?” Jeanne asked.

 

“I’m from Hello magazine,” the young man laughed, “I do my research.”

 

“Well full marks for that.” Jeanne laughed.

 

“So do you have any ideas for this race?” Ingrid asked.

 

“Well the hot tip in the press room is Brabant Star,” the photographer finished taking his photos.

 

“Thanks!” Jeanne laughed.

 

“My card,” the young man handed them each a card, before he walked away to look for other people.

 

“Now he was nice…”

 

“…And CUTE!” Jeanne finished Ingrid’s sentence.

 

“Girls we are here to look at horses…NOT studs,” Carina laughed, “now Brabant Star did he say?”

 

“He did,” Jeanne said as she stopped and held her stomach for a moment.

 

“Everything all right, Jeanne?”

 

“Yes – I just felt a little unwell this morning, but I’m fine now.”

 

 

 

 

“Well the weather has certainly co-operated.” Shirley spoke as she sipped her champagne.  “It is a glorious day for a race meeting.”

 

“That it has my love,” John smiled back at her, “now if only the horses I’m backing would do the same.”

 

“That bad John?” Henri asked.

 

“I haven’t backed a winner all afternoon Henri. I am actually thinking of backing something other than Sinnerz so as to not ruin his chance.”

 

“Oh dear,” Janine smiled as she slipped her arm into Henri’s, “well thanks to my escort here, I am well up on the day.”

 

“It is my pleasure Janine.”

 

“So with so many senior people here, what happens if there is a crisis at the magazine today?”

 

“Alexis will have to cope Shirley,” Janine giggled.

 

“Poor girl.” John shook his head, “she is missing out on a great afternoon.”

 

“Yes she is,” Henri said as she poured Janine a glass of champagne.

 

“Enjoying yourself?” Shirley asked as Denice and Mary entered the box, their heads deep in the Daily Racing Form.

 

“Yes,” Mary smiled. “We aren’t doing too badly.”

 

“Is there more of that to go round?” Denice nodded at the champagne bottle.

 

“Certainly,” John signaled to a waiter who came over with more glasses.

 

“What were you both looking at so intently?” Janine asked.

 

“We are trying to pick the Trifecta, there’s not going to be a lot of value just backing Sinnerz to win.” Mary sat down.

 

“Agreed.” Henri glanced at the tote board. “He’s going to be heavy odds on.”

 

“So where is Erica?” Shirley asked.

 

“Down watching the horses being saddled with Marnie and Angel.” Denice took her glass of champagne.

 

“Oh is that how she’s picked so many winners already?” Roy Razinski said as he joined them.

 

“Oh it’s you who’s been putting her bets on for her?” Denice laughed.

 

“No actually it’s been me,” Tonia laughed “and thanks to those three young ladies I am WELL ahead.”

 

“Well Marnie and Angel both know their horses.” Mary looked up again from the form guide.

 

“So has anyone seen Grant?”

 

“He hasn’t left the horse’s side since we arrived,” Roy answered.

 

“I swear if he could he’d run the race beside him to make sure he’s okay.” Shirley spoke.

 

“Oh that is certain.” Tonia picked up a drink.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Tempting isn’t it?” Heather whispered in Juliette’s ear as they watched the lines of people waiting to place their bets.

 

“All that nice untraceable cash…It’s drawing me.” Juliette laughed, “but let’s be realistic - heisting the Breeders Cup might be a bit beyond even us.”

 

“Oh I’m sure between us we could work out a plan.” Carina giggled as she picked Judith up.

 

“Don’t tempt me darling daughter.”

 

“And what are you all talking about,” Jo said as she walked over, counting her winnings.

 

“Making sure you could not claim your ill gotten gains.”

 

“No good here – security is too good…”

 

“So are you all up to no good?” Klaus came over and said, “I have your winnings from the last race.”

 

“We were thinking how to get all that lovely money darling,” Ju kissed her fiancé.

 

“Well you won’t get it backing Sinnerz, the odds are going to be ridiculously short.” Klaus looked at the odds.

 

“I was just saying the same to your aunt dear boy.” Willy Buchenwald said as he joined them.

 

“Oh where is she?” Klaus looked round.

 

“Somewhere over there with Guy and Valeria,” the Baron pointed, “they were chatting to John Magnier about his horses chances tomorrow.”

 

“It’s a pity in a way we can’t be here.” Klaus spoke, “but the Halloween Party is important.”

 

“Ah there you are,” Tonia said as she walked over, “Juliette, may I borrow you for a few minutes?”

 

“Oh – why?”

 

“British Television want to talk to some of the group behind Sinnerz – nothing serious just a general fluff piece.  Can you help out?”

 

 

 

 

 

“I’m not sure which I’m enjoying more, the fashions or the racing.” Nikki said as she sat with Becca and her mother.

 

“Well I’m enjoying both.” Claire looked round and smiled as she continued “and it means a long weekend with your dad at home as well.”

 

“I can’t pick a winner to save my life.” Becca looked exasperated as she leafed through the guide.

 

“And Billy couldn’t get the weekend off school either…you lose all way round.” Nikki giggled.

 

“Don’t rub it in.”

 

“Hey I’m flying solo as well,” Jeannie wheeled herself over and joined the conversation. “Did you hear the twins finally arrived?”

 

“I heard their flight from Boston was delayed.” Nikki replied.

 

“Have you seen those black and gold hats they have on?” Claire asked.

 

“And the vintage dresses with the long black gloves…I have.” Jeannie sighed enviously.

 

“They can upstage any occasion Bobbi always says.” Becca laughed.

 

“Well they are Kelly’s daughters, she has always dressed to stun as well.”

 

“True Mom.”

 

 

“This is the 2015 Breeder’s Cup Meeting on NBC – with Mike Battaglia and Trevor Denman!”

 

“Welcome back – and let’s go down to Donna who has the team behind Saintz and Sinnerz, one of the hot favourites for the Juvenile Sprint, with her.”

 

“Thanks Mike, I’m here with trainer John Todd, and the group of owners. From left to right, Guy du Grechy, Grant Broadhurst, Roy Razinski, and George Saunders.”

 

“Hello,” they spoke as the blonde haired former jockey put the microphone under Grant’s face.

 

“Now I’ve known Grant an awful long time, your father was one of the first trainers to give me regular rides.”

 

“I remember.” Grant smiled, “back when lady jockeys were still a rarity.  It’s good to see you as well Donna.”

 

“Now I understand you are the brains behind the team?”

 

“Oh I’d not go that far, Guy, George and Roy are all experienced racing men.  We prefer to think of this as a team effort.”

 

“Is it true that you were looking at another horse when you spotted this one?”

 

“We were Donna,” Roy spoke, “But we liked the look of Sinnerz more, and Grant cracked his reference books and was amazed at the pedigree, and we ended up paying a lot less then we were prepared to.”

 

“So a bargain horse from Florida, what did you think of him when he arrived at your stables Toddy?”

 

“He was still a big baby,” the tall trainer said, “but he had a very sweet action. I thought he might turn out to be something if and when he finished growing up a bit.”

 

“Now you started him out in fairly easy company, then quickly brought him on, but his only loss came at Saratoga, what happened that day?”

 

“He wasn’t quite right Donna,” Grant said, “he’d been off his feed after travelling, so we were actually more than pleased at his race that day.”

 

“Now Guy, you are far better known for the horses you race back in your native France, how does this horse compare?”

 

“He’s very fast, we will know more after he winters, but we thought the main race might be a little too far for him still, so we chose this race.”

 

“And his chances?”

 

“Oh I think the odds say everything,” George smiled.

 

“And on that note back to you Tom.”

 

 

 

 

In a side room, Claire Balding and Willy Carson were sitting with Juliette, Klaus, Mandy, Angel, and Grace.

 

“Well, in the time between the races,” Claire said, “we’ve been looking into the story behind some of the favourites in today’s meeting, and one of the most eagerly anticipated races today is the Juvenile Sprint over six furlongs, the hot favourite for which is Saintz and Sinnerz.  The horse is owned by a consortium that are part of what was called ‘the in group to be part of’ in society reviews in the US – and we’re pleased to be joined today by a number of the group.  With us are Lady Amanda Ordford and her daughter Angelica, international fashion writer and model Juliette Huntingdown, Grace Gresham, and Klaus von Furstenheim.  Thanks to all of you for agreeing to spend a few minutes with us.”

 

“It’s our pleasure, Claire darling,” Mandy drawled.

 

“Juliette, first of all, my congratulations on the engagement of you and Klaus.  Has it sunk in yet?”

 

“If I am honest, not totally, but I am a very happy woman,” Juliette said as she took Klaus’ hand.

 

“So can you tell us something of how this group came about?”

 

“Well, it just crept up on us – it started as a group of mothers whose daughters all went to the same school, St Angela’s in New York, and we socialized together.  As new girls came in, other parents joined, and suddenly we realized we had become a social grouping.”

 

“So all this was almost a Mother’s Union,” Willie said as he sat back and smiled.

 

“In essence, yes – but it was an article in a magazine that gave us the name Saints and Sinners.”

 

“So the men are the Saints…”

 

“And the women are the sinners, correct,” Mandy said as she sat back as well.

 

“So Grace Gresham, you are part of the group as well?”

 

“I am indeed Clare – but I am a school teacher – others are florists, clerks, receptionists, just ordinary working men and women who are mutual friends.”

 

“So the horse is part of that friendship – I must say, the film I have seen of Saintz and Sinnerz show she is a lovely little runner.”

 

“You will need to ask the other men in the group,” Klaus said, “but they got together by discovering a mutual love of racing.  That is true about a lot of what the group does – we do it because we enjoy it.”

 

“And Angel, you could be considered one of the younger members – do you play any part in the racing side of things?”

 

“No – my love is still dressage, as you know Claire,” Angel said with a smile, “but many of the girls my age in the group also do modeling, so we have a sort of support group in there for each of us.”

 

“So do you think you will win today?”

 

“That is in the hands of the gods and our rider,” Klaus said, “but if nothing else, we have come to support her.”

 

“Well, thanks for talking to us today.  We’ll take a break at this point – back in a few minutes.”

 

As the director signaled, Claire stood up and said “So any thoughts on next year yet Angel?”

 

“Still thinking, Aunt Clare.”

 

“Well, see hello to Will for me,” Willie said as he looked at them.

 

“I will, darling,” Mandy said as she hugged him.  “Why don’t you come through if you have time – meet some of the others in the group.”

 

“Sounds good,” Claire said, “both of us will be round later.”

 

 

 

“Torture over,” Pippa asked as Grace came back in.

 

“Oh yes – Claire hasn’t changed that much from when we met all those years ago.”

 

“Here,” Pippa said as she handed Grace a glass, “you deserve this.”

 

“Can you imagine your mother here today?”

 

“Oh! Unfortunately I can,” Pippa looked pained. “She’d be IMPOSSIBLE Gray.”

 

“Glad you got her back to England?”

 

“More then I can possibly say.  At least she and Maggie are talking again.”

 

“Has you aunt told her yet?”

 

“No – she’ll wait until the right moment.”

 

Grace sipped her drink and said “So where is Poppy?”

 

“Well,” Pippa said as she looked round, “last I saw she was being photographed by a rather nice young man from Hello along with several of the other girls.”

 

“What Barbara calls the pack.

 

“The pack?” Pippa asked.

 

“A group of young lionesses on the prowl.”

 

“Oh now I get it.” Pippa giggled. “I suppose they are in a way.”

 

“Well there is safety in numbers.”

 

“Yes, it’s nice to see her enjoying herself.”

 

“Well like at the Freshman dance, it’s another chance for them to practice being grown-ups.”

 

“Well I know Poppy enjoyed that.”

 

“She and the others all looked amazing in their high fashion…certainly better then we did at that age.”

 

“I guess some good did come from her suggestion after all,” Pippa said with a smile.  “My father used to compare us to racehorses you know?”

 

“He did?”

 

“Yes he said that we were two young fillies, with too long legs till the rest of us caught up.”

 

“That sounds like Sam.” Grace smiled.

 

 

 

 

“Alright Papa, take us through the race.” Diana asked, “Is there any way that Sinnerz loses?”

 

“As I taught you as a child there is no such thing as a certainty,” Guy looked down at his notes. “But this is how I see things going. Nabarra is a very speedy little filly, and from that inside draw she will go off like a rocket.”

 

“Isn’t her Granddam Evarra?” Jack asked, “like New York Baby?”

 

“Very good Jack,” Guy smiled, “but like Baby 6 furlongs is really too long for her.”

 

“Alright so she sets the pace then tires.” Pepsi spoke.

 

“That is what I think,” Guy nodded. “Dorsetman will also be on the pace, but the one horse who worries me a little is Techlar from California, I’ve only seen him run on film, but he should push Sinnerz home.”

 

“Any other outsiders to consider Guy?” Will asked.

 

“Sky Nip intrigues me. I’m not sure though how good the horses he has beaten in England are though.”

 

“And racing on dirt for the first time?”

 

“True Will.”

 

“And can I throw Niagaran into the mix?” Jack spoke, “I was looking at his form in Canada, he might be good enough for a place.”

 

“And he has worked well here,” George said as he arrived, “I was talking to his trainer.”

 

“Well darlings you have given me lots of ideas,” Mandy made a note on her race programme.

 

 

 

 

“Enjoying yourselves?” Doc asked as Ama and Maisha came into the box.

 

“Hugely,” Ama flopped down, “though I cannot tell a good horse from a bad one.”

 

“Join the club. I am well down on the afternoon.”

 

“We have only had little bets, but I have made fifty dollars.” Maisha smiled broadly.

 

“Hey good for you.” Doc high fived the African girl.

 

“We also met Jess’s parents.”

 

“What are they like Ama?”

 

“Well, her father looks a bit like Gerard Depardieu as a younger man…”

 

“…And her mother looks like Jeanne Moreau.”

 

“That’s quite a good description,” Caroline interrupted as she came in. “They are both nice people.”

 

“They sound glamorous and high-powered.” Doc sat back in her seat.

 

“Very!” Ama’s eyes twinkled.

 

“So where is Aunt Shirley?” Maisha asked.

 

“She was taking a telephone call a few minutes ago – ah, here she is now,” Caroline said as she came in, smiling broadly.

 

“Has something good happened Aunt Shirley?”

 

“Exceedingly so – that was Charlotte.  She just arrived in New York with Piet – I need to ask Barbara if they can gatecrash tomorrow.”

 

“Are they alone?”

 

“For now – but others are coming.  I will be hosting a small reception next week…”

 

 

“Well, if it isn’t the Duc du Grechy!”

 

“Hello Willie, I heard you were here,” Guy reached out a hand as they greeted each other.

 

“And I heard you were here Sir, it’s nice to see you.”

 

“You too dear boy…so what do you think of him?”

 

“Still maybe a little leggy Your Grace,” the veteran jockey said, “but he’s a very nice sort of colt.”

 

“That’s what we think…  Does an event like this make you wish you were still riding?”

 

“You might say that...but then whenever I see a nice horse I get that feeling.”

 

“How is your stud doing?”

 

“Rather nicely, and yours?”

 

“We will know in late winter.” Guy laughed, “When we get our first crop of foals.”

 

“I’ll maybe pop over and see you in the spring.”

 

“Willie dear boy you’ll always be welcome.” Guy for a second looked worried.

 

Your Grace?”

 

“Oh nothing, I suddenly felt very old remembering when you rode your first winner for me.”

 

“Silver Arrows at Deauville, and yes Sir that was an awful long time ago…makes me feel old as well,” the diminutive Scotsman laughed.

 

“Someone once told me you are only as old as the lover you have.” Clare Balding joined them, kissing Guy on the cheek.

 

“Clare darling, that at least cheers me up.” Guy laughed again.

 

“Is Valeria nearby?”

 

“She’s somewhere here,” Guy looked round.

 

Well tell her I’m looking for her please.”

 

“I will do,” Guy kissed her before she walked away.

 

“Clare is still a handsome girl…the trouble is that I once dated her mother.” Guy shook his head.

 

“I know, she makes me feel old as well. I knew her as a baby.”

 

“Ah, the perils of growing old gracefully,” Guy said with a smile.

 

 

“Countess Buchenwald,” Gale said as Natalya came onto the balcony, “It is a pleasure to see you again.”

 

“And it is a pleasure to see you,” Gale said.  “Have you seen Carina and Judith?”

 

“Indeed – and may I say you are looking as if the baby is growing?”

 

“Oh yes,” Gale said as she looked out over the racecourse.

 

“Hello cousin,” Natalya whispered to Gail, “how are you coping with your host and the baby?”

 

For a few moments Gale closed her eyes. “We are doing better than I thought cousin, thanks to Carina I have been released a couple of times safely.”

 

“So I have heard – and on those occasions it was to avenge a wrong.  I confess, as much as I enjoy the hunt, to also avenge a wrong done is satisfying as well.”

 

“Indeed – and the little one grows stronger every day.  I find it strangely satisfying to know we are tending her.”

 

Gale nodded slowly.  “Carina has been good for all of us – we are lucky she was here.”

 

“Good – rest now, be at peace.”

 

Gale closed her eyes again and smiled as she said, “thank you – I suddenly need a drink.”

 

“So do I – let us join the others.”

 

“There you are,” Carina said as they came in, “Pops was looking for you.”

 

“Then I shall look for him,” Natalya said as she walked across the room.

 

“So, no Rose and Maeve today Susan?” Barbara asked.

 

“They both decided they’d rather watch on TV.”

 

“They are both still VERY jetlagged.” Clint added.

 

“And of course it gives Rose extra time to spoil April.” Barbara sipped her drink.

 

“True!” Susan accepted a top up from a waiter.

 

“Did you know she and my Dad have been exchanging letters?”

 

“I did,” Susan took a sip. “Turns out they have a bit in common.”

 

“I know…Dad was telling me that they worked out they went to some of the same concerts back in the day.”

 

“Mum remembers shopping at your Gran’s stall on Camden Market.”

 

“It’s funny how small a world it is really.” Barbara shook her head.

 

“Now that sounds like a tip?” Clint looked up from the Racing Form, “Small Worlds is 20-1 for the Marathon, and I think I’ll put a few bucks on it.”

 

“Sounds good to me, can you put 30 bucks on it for me.” Barbara reached in her purse. “Win, place and show please.”

 

“Alright.” Clint took the money and headed towards the betting windows.

 

“Are you all set for tomorrow?”

 

“I think the caterers are finding it better to work in an empty house Susan.”

 

“If last year is anything to go by, it should be a hell of a party.”

 

 

 

 

“You realize this is the first time we’ve been in the same room since we went to college?”

 

“I know – we come home for a reading week and don’t get a chance to all meet up,” Jo said as she sat with Carina, Ally and Nell.

 

“How time flies when you’re having fun,” Ally said, “and we most certainly are, aren’t we Nell?”

 

“In moderation – but yeah we’re having fun.  How are you doing Marnie?”

 

“Can’t complain – Brown’s a good place to go.”

 

“Amen, sister,” Sandy and Nessa said as they walked past.

 

“Ignore them – they’re in a good mood.”

 

“So how goes the reunion,” Annie said as she joined them at the table.

 

“So far so good, how are you dong Mis  Sorry, Annie.”

 

“So far so good – as Doc and Bones will tell you, it is a matter of understanding probability.”

 

“Bones?”

 

“The girls’ nickname for Erica,” Jo said as she looked at Nell.  “Given she’s the second Kirkham girl.”

 

“I don’t know – no imagination,” Ally said as she shook her head.

 

Gotta say though, Katy and Sandy are showing the way for the next years,” Marnie said as she looked over.

 

“Yeah – I wonder how long it will be before Sandy realizes she’s becoming a good looking young woman.

 

“How many have you seen?”

 

“Four at least – including that young man over there…”

 

 

 

“That boy was checking you out?” Katy whispered in Sandy’s ear.

 

“Who? Why?”

 

“Sandy if you have to ask you didn’t look in a mirror today.” Katy giggled.

 

“But...  I don’t want boys looking at me.”  Sandy quickly looked round as the younger boy turned away.

 

“Why? Do you prefer girls like your Mom?”

 

Oooh No!”

 

“Then what’s the problem?” Katy paused and got her small mirror from her handbag.

 

“He’s still looking you know,” she used the mirror to look behind them, “and he’s pretty cute.”

 

“I just still think all this is a bit yucky.” Sandy glanced down at herself.

 

“Well I bet he thinks you look pretty good.” Katy touched up her lip-gloss.

 

“Problems girls?” Heather asked as she came over.

 

“Sandy has a boy checking her out, and she’s not sure she likes it.” Katy giggled again.

 

“Oh is that all,” Heather smiled. “Sands you are a pretty girl, boys are going to look.”

 

“But why?”

 

“Can you explain to her Heather? I’m tired of trying to.” Katy said as she rolled her eyes.

 

“Sands darling we have had this talk…but come sit with me and your Mom if you are worried.”

 

“Okay.” Sandy looked relieved.

 

“Pity, he is cute.” Katy took one last glance in her mirror before putting it away as the next race started.

 

 

 

As Janine and Henri sat at a table, taking quietly, another group were watching with interest.

 

“Janine seems to be enjoying your father’s company darling,” Mandy drawled as she sipped from her glass.

 

“And I think he’s enjoying hers.” Jeanne looked over. “A lot of girls can’t get past the scars, but he really is pretty terrific, and I’m not just saying that because I’m his daughter.”

 

“Are you talking about Henri?” Adam and Curt said as they brought over some fresh drinks.

 

“We were darling.”

 

“I nearly choked a guy earlier who I heard making comments about beauty and the beast.” Adam grimaced.

 

“I know, I have heard them for several years,” Jeanne shook her head. “Poor Papa.”

 

“Well Janine is having fun with him.” Jo came over and kissed Curt.

 

“Janine is nice, I got to know her quite well while we were in Paris.”

 

“I heard the rumours darling.” Mandy lifted an eyebrow.

 

“Greatly exaggerated I’m sure.” Janine looked down at her race programme and blushed.

 

“That’s not what I heard – Diana said something about you and Valeria’s cousin…”

 

“Moving swiftly on,” Jeanne said, “it’s the big race next, isn’t it?  The Disorrano Juvenile?”

 

“It certainly is, Grant’s probably having kittens by now…”

 

 

 

In the paddock, Grant and the others were gathered around Saintz and Sinners, the stable boy in his blue jacket holding the bridle.

 

“Grant you are as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof.” Roy tried to calm his partner down.

 

“Oh he’s worse then that Roy, and he has been for days.” April put an arm round her husband.

 

“Toddy says he’s been getting 20 calls a day…”

 

“Oh come on it hasn’t been that many.”

 

“Alright 19 a day.” George laughed.

 

“The horse is as fit as a fiddle, the track is good, and if he doesn’t win it just wasn’t meant to be.” Roy looked as the horses were brought into the parade ring.

 

“Amen.” Tonia spoke.

 

“So what catches your eye Guy?” Valeria asked, “And I don’t mean that,” she smiled slightly as Guy’s eyes wandered down towards her legs.”

 

“That Irish outsider Details Devil,” Guy looked up. “He looks exceptionally well in himself.”

 

“I’d noticed that…another horse to worry…”

 

“Stop it Grant,” everybody spoke.

 

“Well Toddy no last second problems?” Roy asked as he lifted Jorge Ennisada in the blue silks with the white diamond up onto the horse.

 

“No – we have done all we can.  It’s now in your hands Jorge – good riding.”

 

“Thanks Toddy,” he said as he took the horse slowly round the paddock, the stable boy leading the way…

 

 

“How are you going Dad?” Jack asked as he came in.

 

“Oh I’m ahead boys.” Will looked up from the form guide.

 

“Doing better then I am then.” David sat down.  “I’m not really a racing man, but I do enjoy days like today with plenty of such wonderful company.”

 

“How is your fight with your professor over our ancestor going bro?”

 

“Badly,” David grimaced. “Even with the evidence from our archives he will still not see my point of view.”

 

“Well Americans see their revolution in a different manner to how we do.” Will smiled, “And remember that Judy is American so don’t antagonize her.”

 

“Oh we have talked about such things and we agree to disagree.” David looked over to where Judy was chatting with Pepsi.

 

“Did I see the man from Hello photograph you and Pepsi Jack?”

 

“Yes, and I explained to him that we are a dating couple.”

 

“Well now she is 16, let people think evil if they wish. Your mother and I both adore her.”

 

“Thank you Dad.” Jack smiled. “I think she’s pretty wonderful too.”

 

“All right ladies and gentlemen,” Shirley called out, “time to place your bets.”

 

 

 

At the front of the clubhouse, a man in a red riding jacket, breeches and black boots, walked out onto the balcony as some of the crowd turned to look at him.  With an air of pomp and ceremony, he lifted the trumpet to his lips and started to play the call to race for the horses.

 

“And there’s the trumpet call, we’re only a few minutes away from the start of the Disorrano Juvenile.  Current prices have Saintz and Sinnerz at 6-4 on, Dorsetman even odds, Techlar and Nabarra fives, Sky Nip seven, Details Devil 15, and 30 bar.”

 

The stable boy handed Saintz and Sinnerz to the young jockey, wearing a purple coat and riding helmet, as he urged his pony on and led the horse, with the others, out onto the dirt track.

 

 

 

“You both look amazing!” Katy admired the twin’s outfits as they all did their makeup in the powder room.

 

“Well that isn’t very shabby either.” Nell looked at the younger girl.

 

“It’s as grown up as Mom would let me wear,”

 

“Sorry we missed your birthday party.” Ally said as she reapplied some mascara.

 

“Not a worry…It was actually only a small party, Mom and Gran both persuaded me that sandwiched between Pepsi’s party and Halloween, maybe another big party would be one too many.”

 

“She has a point.” Nell checked herself out in the mirror.

 

“So basically it was a girls only party.”

 

“No George?”

 

“No Nell.” Katy laughed. “After disgracing myself at Pepsi’s party I am taking it slowly with George.”

 

“It can be frustrating, but strange as it sounds coming from us, waiting is maybe good.” Ally smiled.

 

“Now if I can just get the dreams to stop…” Katy chuckled.

 

“Oh and who is the lucky boy in your dreams?”

 

“George usually Ally, but can you keep a secret?”

 

“If we try?” Nell laughed.

 

“Well recently Uncle Adam…”

 

“OH! Those kind of dreams,” Nell laughed.

 

“Are they normal then?” Katy looked a little worried.

 

“According to my Psych professor they are.” Ally finished her lipstick. “It’s called an Oedipal complex.”

 

“Can you explain that?” Katy asked.

 

“Basically girls get a thing about their dads. Adam is sort of your father figure.”

 

“Jo can probably explain it better.” Nell picked up her handbag. “Well ladies we look wonderful, time to go show the world again.”

 

 

 

“So where is Alexander?” Augie asked Nessa as they took their place on the balcony.

 

“My brother had a meeting with the archbishop that he couldn’t get out of.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Not that I think he totally minded, horse racing has never really been his thing.”

 

“I’ve been reading his wine columns faithfully in Complete Style, he’s actually persuaded me to try some different things.”

 

“The next one to appear is on the cellar out at Curragh Park,” Nessa sipped her drink. “He’s finally finished cataloguing it. Papa and Gramps it seems knew their wine.”

 

“Indeed they did.” Valeria joined the conversation, “Alexander has invited Guy and I to go inspect the cellar on Monday.”

 

“He told me.” Nessa replied.

 

“I wonder if I might wangle an invitation as well,” Augie mused, “I’m sure Tracey and Chet won’t mind extending our visit a day.”

 

“Nor will H and Sarah.” Nessa looked over at the young couple. “She has bloomed so beautifully.”

 

“She has,” Augie looked, “and we can also go see some of my daughter’s work.”

 

“I had Blair over for supper last week with your aunt Augie, she is so full of enthusiasm. It’s rather infectious.”

 

“What is that saying, ‘youth is wasted on the young’?” Valeria asked. “It sounds like young Blair is an exception.”

 

“Oh I agree with Alex on that, age is just a number, it does not govern how one feels.”

 

“So says my mother, who since she got her Mustang is getting nearly as many speeding tickets as I am.” Sandy joined the group.

 

“I think most of you ladies love the fast life.” Augie laughed.

 

 

“So where are Letty and Mags?” Marnie asked Abigail as they found a vantage spot to watch the race.

 

Mags has a paper due today and a test, she was going to come down with the twins, but she couldn’t get out of it. Letty’s mom couldn’t get the day off work, so Letty decided to stay home as well.”

 

“Oh well that explains it.”

 

“Got your bets on girls?” Annie asked as she and Carina joined the girls.

 

“We have.” Abby looked through her binoculars.

 

“He looked trained to the minute to Angel and me.” Marnie spoke. “I’d love to just get to ride him, if only once.”

 

“Angel was saying the same thing.” Carina glanced round. “Well virtually every real Saint or Sinner is here, fingers crossed the star of the show realizes it.”

 

 

Saintz and Sinnerz, running as number 7, owned by a consortium including noted breeder the Duc du Grechy and Grant Broadhurst, whose father was a dependable trainer in the day.  He looks good for today…”

 

“Well, they look good for today,” John said as he looked through the glasses.

 

“Indeed – they’re approaching the starting stalls now.”

 

The group gathered as Saintz and Sinnerz went without incident into the gate.

 

“Only three more to go now,” Gus said as the voice of Trevor Denman came over the tannoy.

 

“And two more to load for the start of the Disoranno Juvenile.  Nabarra just giving her handler a little trouble – the hood is been used to help her in…”

 

The crowd fell silent as the last horse was put in, the bell rang and Denman called out “And awaaayyyyy they go in the Disoranno Juvenile.  It’s Nabarra with the early lead from Techlar, Sky Nip and Saintz and Sinnerz, as they approach the bend…”

 

“That’s it,” Grant whispered as he watched from the finish line, “nice and steady…”

 

“And they round the bend and Nabarra is fading, Nabarra is fading as Sky Nip takes on, and Saintz and Sinnerz is neck and neck with Techlar with Dorsetman coming from behind.  Three to go, and we have Saintz and Sinnerz starting to make a move on Techlar, Sky Nip from Saintz and Sinnerz gaining ground, and Dorsetman taking third at the moment as they enter the final furlong.”

 

“Come on,” April whispered, “come on…”

 

“And Saintz and Sinnerz is catching up, yes, she’s caught Sky Nip with the last few yards, it’s neck and neck, as they approach the line and…”

 

“COME ON!” Juliette screamed as the two horses neared the line…

 

“And it’s Saintz and Sinnerz by a nose from Sky Nip, Dorsetman taking third.  A photo has been called for confirmation, but I say Saintz and Sinnerz has won the Disoranno Juvenile – and it is confirmed.  First, Saintz and Sinnerz, second Sky Nip, Third Dorsetman…”

 

The rest was lost in the screams of celebration from two places – the room in the clubhouse where the Saints and Sinners had gathered, and in the winner’s circle where Grant, Guy, Roy and George were embracing each other.

 

 

The horses continued round as red jacketed riders went out to escort them to the circle, the crowd cheering as Jorge waved and smiled.

 

“And we have Jorge Ennisada, the winning Jockey, with us now.  Jorge, tell us how it felt.”

 

“This is a magnificent horse,” Jorge said as he patted his mount, “and a joy to ride.  But on a day like today, it is a privilege I thank the owners for.”

 

“Thanks, Jorge,” the presenter said, “Donna is with the winning trainer.”

 

“Toddy how does it feel to have trained a Juvenile winner?”

 

“I feel proud for the owners and for the team, Donna, we all play a part in this.”

 

As they spoke, Jorge rode Saintz and Sinnerz into the winner’s circle, where the winner’s blanket was placed over her, Roy and Grant walking over to escort their horse to where Guy, Valeria, April and George were waiting with the presentation party, Toddy coming to join them.

 

“We did it,” Grant said as he hugged April, “we actually did it!”

 

“As if you ever had any doubt,” Guy said as he clapped Grant on the shoulder.  “We chose well, and we have done well.”

 

“You don’t seem to be celebrating too much George,” Roy said.

 

“Just keeping a low profile, for professional reasons,” George said with a smile as the presentation party came forward.

 

“To present the trophy, please welcome Angus Jackson, Brand Manager for Disoranno.”

 

“On behalf of Disoranno, it gives me great pleasure to present the Juvenile trophy to the owners of Saintz and Sinnerz.”

 

Picking up the horse statuette, he handed it to Grant, shaking his hand as he held the trophy high and then passed it to Roy.

 

“That’s my pops,” Pepsi said with a smile as the room applauded.

 

“Well, we all need to celebrate once they get up here,” Klaus said as he looked at Gus, “shall we?”

 

“Oh yes,” he said as they went to talk to the waiters.

 

“Klaus, let me help as well,” Shirley said as she walked over.

 

 

 

“Jorge, you were magnificent.  Will you join us and Toddy in the room?”

 

“I must decline, Grant, I have another race today – but thank you for the invitation,” Jorge said as he headed for the changing room.

 

“Now will you relax, Grant?”

 

“Once I have her stabled and rubbed…”

 

“I’ve got it, Grant – go and celebrate with your friends, we’ll talk tomorrow.”

 

“That’s an order, Grant,” April said as she took his arm “come on…”

 

“So do you think they’ll be pleased to see us,” Roy said as they made their way through to where the others were gathered.

 

“Possibly,” George said as he opened the door, to a huge cheer as they were pulled in.

 

“Way to go Pops,” Pepsi said as she hugged Grant, and then April.  Little George had his arm round Katy as he stood with Little Sandy and Jan.

 

 “Hail the conquering heroes come!” Augie van Roon called out as Guy and the others brought in the trophy.

 

“Three cheers for Sinnerz’s” Will yelled out.

“HIP HIP!”

“HOORAY!”

 

“HIP HIP!”

“HOORAY!”

 

“HIP HIP!”

“HOORAY!”

 

“I think they know we won.” Valeria laughed as Henri Marais pressed glasses of champagne into her and the dukes’ hands.

 

“We do Mama!” Natasha spoke.

“Willy my boy, you nearly missed it,” Guy hugged his son.

 

“I know, we had so many problems getting here, but we did get to see the race.”

 

 

 

“What was the prize money for that race, Roy?”

 

“A very respectable $2.5 million – so I think the stabling and training fees are taken care of for the winter now.”

 

“So no more horse races this year?”

 

“Nope – but if anyone wishes to visit her…”

 

Roy wasn’t that surprised to see Angel and Marnie walking straight to him, a determined look in their eyes.

 

“Oh dear, darling,” Mandy said with a laugh, “you just said the magic words…”

 

 

 

“Oh dear Goddess I do hope they have enough champagne on ice.” Juliette hugged Klaus, “I think this will be some celebration.”

 

“Oh I know it will my love.” Klaus kissed his fiancé.

 

“Hugs please,” Judith said as she put her hands up.

 

“Oh we can’t forget to include you,” Juliette picked up her granddaughter.

 

“He did it!” Carina yelled as she made her way through the group with Annie and Ingrid towards her parents.

 

“That he did darling.” Klaus said as he hugged Cari.

 

“He won!” John Hammond suddenly appeared with Shirley, each carrying a magnum bottle of champagne.

 

“Oh John, can I have some of that, my mouth is dry from shouting.” Annie held up her glass.

 

“You may Annie.”  John popped the cork and poured the sparkling champagne out.

 

“I thought he was going to be beaten for a few seconds.” Shirley shook her head. “But he hung on.”

 

“It was a thriller.” Juliette said as she took a glass of fizz from Shirley’s bottle.

 

“Bubbles!” Judith smiled as she looked in the glass.

 

“Yes bubbles darling.”

 

“Here do you want some juice,” Carina said as she reached into Judith’s bag.

 

“Please.”

 

“Well here is to Sinnerz’s” John made a toast as everyone a drink. “Cheers!”

 

“Cheers Grappy,” Judith imitated the grown-ups by clinking her juice on his glass.

 

“Oh that is so cute,” Ingrid laughed.

 

 

 

“That was BRILLIANT!” George said as he hugged his sister.

 

“Hey I hope we all get hugs as well?” Katy asked.

 

“YES! Get him off me.” Little Sandy laughed.

 

“Well celebrations tonight, and a double reason to party tomorrow night lover.” Heather said as she hugged Sandy.

 

“Did you see?” Adam came into the box with a tray of drinks.

 

“We did.” Heather hugged both Adam and Jan who came in cradling a bottle.

 

“Can we have some?” Katy asked.

 

“Now you can, but be careful.” Jan looked a little sternly at her daughter.

 

“Oh I think she knows her limit now.” George hugged his girlfriend.

 

“I do…Promise Mom.” Katy crossed her heart.

 

“Well okay,” Jan passed her and George a glass each. “And you Sands?”

 

“I think just one,” the young girl took a glass.

 

“To the winner!” Adam made a toast as Sandy took a sip.

 

“It tickles,” she giggled as she hugged her mother.

 

 

 

 

“AMAZING!” Harriet called out as she fought her way back to her friends through the celebrating horde.

 

“I know, that was so much fun.” Denice embraced her.

 

“You know that was almost exactly how Marnie and Angel worked it out, and I won the trifecta.” Erica held up her winning betting ticket.

 

“Well good for you Erica.” Grace hugged her.

 

“Champagne everyone?” Sarah held up a bottle. “Guy just rang up and told the bar this is all on him.”

 

“Well good for Guy!” Pippa held out a glass.

 

“He won Bones!” Poppy hugged Erica.

 

“Did you do the trifecta as well?”

 

“I did…my winnings should pay for that dress I was looking at last week.”

 

“Well before you spend your winnings, I’d better go collect them.” Harriet held out her hand, “winning tickets please ladies.”

 

 

“Champagne Charlie is my name

Champagne Charlie is my name

There's no drink as good as fizz, fizz, fizz

I'll drink every drop there is, is, is

All round town it is the same

By Pop! Pop! Pop! I rose to fame

I'm the idol of the barmaids

Champagne Charlie is my name.”

 

Will sang the lyrics decidedly off cue as he poured drinks for his own family, the McNally’s and for Pepsi.

 

“Darling can you please shut up,” Mandy laughed, “the horse won, we don’t need to be tortured.”

 

“This is not torture – this is high art,” Jack said, “isn’t that right Pepsi?”

 

“I am a biased judge,” Pepsi said as she sat with her parents, “but yes, it is for you.”

 

“What?”

 

“High art – but torture for us…”

 

 

“You must be a happy man as well George,” Caroline said as she sat with her number two.

 

“I am – but I’ve gotta say, it also helps quell the idea of trying to rob this place.”

 

“I don’t think you’re the only one who has considered that – but I think today, the legitimate side of our business takes precedence,” she said as she sipped her drink, and looked at where Ama and Maisha were sitting with Jeannie and the others.

 

“She’s beginning to grow up as well, isn’t she?”

 

Caroline nodded as she said “Indeed – so, the party tomorrow?”

 

“I got ahold of a Dick Turpin costume – I felt it was an appropriate choice…”

 

 

 

“There are going to be a lot of very happy people flying back from this room tonight,” Curt said as he sat with Jo.

 

“Including me – I’m glad you got away today.  It means a lot you can be with me this weekend.”

 

“Hey – I still remember the party from last year – how are we going to top that?”

 

“Oh I think you know a way…”

 

 

“I think I know a way we can celebrate,” Anna said as she looked at Chet.”

 

“Oh – and how would that be?”

 

“On the flight back to New York,” she said as she whispered into Chet’s ear, “you can initiate me into the Mile High Club.”

 

“I beat you in,” Abigail leaned over the table and whispered.

 

“Oh and how was it?” Doc laughed softly.

 

“Well Tony and I have done it in more comfortable places,” Abby smiled, “but it was an experience.”

 

“And what if I don’t want to…”

 

“You get no choice,” Doc surreptitiously felt Chet’s cock under the table. “And by the feel of that maybe we need to find a quiet spot right now…”

 

“Doc you are incorrigible.” Tony laughed, “And Chet I got no choice either,” he smiled at Abby.

 

“I think they have something more on their minds then horses.” Heather said as she looked over from an adjacent table.

 

“They are young and in love.” Sandy laughed, “and besides we long since did it in the…”

 

“Mother!” Little Sandy glanced round with an embarrassed look on her face.

 

“We don’t need to know certain things you know?” George tried to sound grown-up.

 

“All right – point taken,” Sandy said with a laugh.

 

 

 

 

“So are the preparations all in place for three weeks time,” Valeria asked as she sat with Diana.

 

“They are indeed – Abigail and I will fly out on the Tuesday with Jack, and we will stay at the Royal George for the duration of the pre-event.  The rooms have already been booked at the hotel for the event itself.  We meet with Alice on Tuesday for a fitting of the gowns – I think you will approve.”

 

“And on the subject of next year?”

 

“We had an interesting conversation some weeks ago – you are aware that Blair van Roon is studying a prestigious college in New York?”

 

“I am.”

 

“Well, Cooper Union offer a course that interests Abigail greatly in photography, both on a technical and on an artistic level.  It has the advantage of requiring a one year placement at the Sorbonne and the Paris College of Art…”

 

“Ah,” Valeria said with a smile, “A very acceptable compromise.  Do you support this idea?”

 

“I have always said that Abigail will choose her own path in life – so if this is what she wants, I will support it.”

 

“Then so shall I,” Valeria said quietly, “so shall I…”

 

 

 

 

“YES!!!”

 

“Success?”

 

“Oh yes – we will be going to the winning horse on Sunday, and give him a little ride out.”

 

“And so is my daughter totally satisfied,” Mandy said as Mary came in smiling.  “Good news Mary?”

 

“Oh yes – I got the 1-2-3 on the Juvenile.  Not too bad a return even with the short odds on our horse.”

 

“Well, you’re well in,” Marnie said as she sat down.  “Now, about the Marathon…”

 

 

 

“Hello Grandmamma,” Abigail said as she sat with Jack, “I presume Grandfather is happy?”

 

“Immensely so – now if only he could win the prix...  Your Mother was telling me of your interest in attending a place called Cooper Union?” Valeria sat down next to Abigail.

 

“If they will take me…It might not be socially elite Grandmamma, but it is one of the most academically elite schools in the US…certainly in the fields of art and design.”

 

“Well du Grechy’s have always aimed high,” Valeria said, “and the year in Paris I will admit pleases me.”

 

“I guessed it might.”

 

“So, realistically, what are your chances of doing what you wish?”

 

“Oh about fifty/fifty, and I’m going to apply to Cambridge as my main backup choice.”

 

“Well that would please Guy immensely, your Grandfather was at Peterhouse you know.”

 

“I know - he told me, he says he got a gentleman’s degree in the history of horse racing.”

 

“Well from what he has told me he spent more time at Newmarket then he ever did in Cambridge.”

 

“Well Valeria it pays off on days like today.” Diana joined them.

 

“I can see.” Valeria smiled. “Diana I need to apologize to you, I was a nasty person to you for many years…”

 

“Valeria you don’t need to say anything,” Diana looked at her mother-in-law, “I’m just glad we are friends now.”

 

“As am I – I think as I grow older, I realize just how important my family is to me…”

 

 

 

 

 

“Should I tell your coach you are breaking training rules Jo?” Annie said as she hugged her former student.

 

“I’m not the only one it seems,” Jo said as she put her phone away, “she and the squad are having a party tonight to celebrate as well.”

 

“Oh well that makes it okay.” Annie laughed. “So how is life with Lisa?”

 

“Challenging…”

 

“I thought it might be.”

 

“But,” Jo said as she sipped from her glass, “I’m running far better than I ever thought I would.”

 

“She wrote me to say you were invited to the Northeastern Freshman Invitational Race.”

 

“I have been, I didn’t realize it was such a big deal at first.”

 

“Oh it’s certainly big. You’ll be racing against Liz Silowski and a lot of other top girls from Division One schools.”

 

“I know,” Jo took another sip from her glass. “I’m looking forward to see how I match up now.”

 

“I am as well, it should be an interesting race for your old coach.”

 

“Hey less of the old Monster Lady.” Carina planted a kiss on Annie’s lips.

 

“All right, all right,” Jo said, “Get a room you two?”

 

“For what,” Curt said as he came over, and then was taken by surprise as Jo kissed him.

 

“And she complains about us,” Annie said as she shook her head…

 

 

 

“So I presume we are not going swimming tomorrow,” Becca said as she sat with the other girls.

 

“Not this week – I can’t anyway with the party at our place,” Jeannie said.  “And I suspect we may all appreciate the late morning tomorrow.”

 

“Very true – I do like a good Halloween party,” Doc said as she sipped her drink.

 

“I am looking forward to this – it should be enjoyable,” Maisha said as she stood with Ama.

 

“Indeed – and you are so much more confident in yourself than last year.”

 

“I am – do you remember Flower?”

 

Ama nodded as Maisha said “I have been invited to travel to Los Angeles on a weekend trip – will you come with me?  I am to meet with more like her who have been freed.”

 

“If Caroline agrees, then I will be happy to, but only for the weekend – I have school, after all.”

 

“I’ll ask Aunt Shirley to talk to Caroline,” Maisha said with a smile.

 

 

 

“Are any of us going to be sober enough to climb on Monday night?” Caroline asked.

 

“Well if we aren’t, going up the wall will be an experience.” Jan said as she sipped more champagne.

 

“Good thing your series finale wasn’t Sunday, but is next weekend?”

 

“Oh if it was we’d all have been on ginger ale.”

 

“What are you girls talking about?” Annie said as she hugged her friends.

 

“Climbing at the gym Monday night?”

 

“Oh don’t remind me Caroline.”

 

“Did you hear Charlotte will be here?” Jan asked.

 

“It will be good to see her.”

 

“Yeah according to Shirley she and Piet will be at the party tomorrow Annie.”

 

“Well that’s her settled Caroline, but who is your lucky escort Dan or Dominic?”

 

“Dan,” Caroline smiled at her roommate.

 

“And Ama is bringing her boyfriend?”

 

“She is, Alex is coming over to our place first.”

 

“Well it looks like we all have dates tomorrow.” Annie smiled as she topped glasses up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday 31st October

9 am

The Marais Apartment

 

“Juice Janine?” Jeanne offered as Juliette’s PA walked slowly out of Henri’s bedroom, wrapping a dressing gown around herself.

 

“Please…” Janine said as she stood still and tried to focus her eyes.  “…Did I?”

 

“You did,” Jeanne laughed.

 

“Oh my God! What must you think of me?” Janine moaned as she slumped into an armchair and buried her head in her hands.

 

“I’m hardly in a position to criticise after Nikolai am I?”

 

“Oh I need to file away AGAIN how drunk I get on champagne,” Janine whispered as she started sipping the orange juice. “I really do need to learn.”

 

“I was rather the worse for wear myself…I threw up a couple of times this morning.”

 

“So where is Henri?”

 

“Bicycling in Central Park, it’s how he keeps fit.”

 

“Well he certainly has great stamina…” Janine suddenly realised what she was saying and blushed.

 

“Don’t apologise Janine, he likes you, you like him. I’m just happy for you both.”

 

“Thanks!”

 

“Anyway,” Jeanne said as she glanced at the clock, “I had better go and get dressed, I should at least put my nose round the door at the office.”

 

“Oh crap,” Janine looked at her watch, “I promised Juliette I’d do the same.”

 

“You can borrow some clothes from me if you want – provided you let me shower first.”

 

Janine nodded, then groaned as she held her head again.  Sipping her juice, she stood up and walked slowly to the kitchen, mumbling one word.

 

Bisodol…”

 

10 am

Martino’s

 

“Good morning, Cari!”

 

“And what are you looking so damned cheerful about?” Carina said as she tried taking her dark glasses off, but decided again that the light of day was far too bright.  Wearing sweats, her hair in a mess, she was in no fit state for witty repartee.

 

“Oh did someone get out of the wrong side of Annie’s bed this morning?” Holly Berryman smiled as she took off her jacket and sat down.  To Carina, even her yellow jumper was causing a headache.

 

“You just wait till tomorrow Miss Berryman.” Carina growled, “tell me how you feel after tonight’s party?”

 

“What will you have?”

 

“I’ll have four eggs, scrambled, with whole-wheat toast.” Holly told the waitress.

 

“Scrambled eggs,” Carina groaned again, “you are asking to get punched this morning Berryman.”

 

“Oh dear,” Holly giggled. “And here I thought we were going to have a nice friendly breakfast.”

 

The door opened and a very bleary eyed Abby came in, looking round before she walked slowly over.

 

“Oh Goddess you look too cheerful Holly.” Abigail slumped into the booth.

 

“I was saying that.” Carina growled.

 

Holly looked at both of them, before she said “How much champagne did you all drink exactly anyway?”

 

“Let’s put it this way, we didn’t walk off the plane, they just poured us out.” Abby grimaced as Holly’s eggs arrived. “Just coffee for me,” she told the waitress, “NOTHING to eat.”

 

“So where are Judy and the rest?” Holly asked as she started eating.

 

“Who knows, somewhere between here and Kentucky is all I can tell you.”

 

“I think they are here in the city.” Abby sipped her coffee.  “I had a very quiet call from Tony, saying something about a headache like Vesuvius.”

 

“Oh am I glad I missed out what you all did yesterday.” Brooke Paget said as she slipped into the booth along with Marnie.

 

“Want to help me beat up my cousin here?” Marnie asked. “The bitch has already run four miles this morning.”

 

“Hey I’m in training.” Brooke laughed.

 

“You are a pain in my ass.” Marnie looked at Holly’s eggs, “and you Berryman are a sadist.”

 

Aint I a stinker?” Holly laughed.

 

“Will anyone mind if Brooke crashes the party tonight?” Marnie asked, “her folks are away and she’s staying at my place.”

 

“I’m sure there is room for one more.” Ally Rochermann said as she sat down looking fresh as a daisy.

 

“Agreed.” Nell said as she slid into the booth as well.

 

“Now I know you had as much champagne as I did…how the hell can you look so good?” Abby moaned.

 

“Sluts secret.” Abby and Nell both laughed.

 

“So, who’s for following Holly’s example?”

 

“Oh god,” Carina said, “I hope Annie is feeling better than I do…”

 

10.30 am

Park Avenue

 

“For he himself has said it,
And it's greatly to his credit,
That he is an Englishman!
That he is an Englishman!”

 

Hearing the sound of movement, John put the paper down and looked over to the door, watching as it slowly opened and a hand appeared.

 

“Coffee?” John Hammond offered as Shirley walked in, her auburn hair a mess, and her dressing gown only half done up.

 

“PLEASE!” Shirley shook her head, “Oh I have never in my life got that smashed.”

 

“I rather guessed that,” John said as he stood up and kissed his lady.  “Sit down, I’ll get you a mug.”

 

“Were you just singing Gilbert and Sullivan?”

 

“I was – there’s a gala performance of Pirates of Penzance next week.  I have tickets for it.”

 

“Sounds good…  Where is Maisha?” Shirley looked round as she started sipping her coffee.

 

“She spent the night at Ama’s place…”  John sat down and said “don’t you remember dropping her off darling?”

 

“Vaguely.” Shirley tried hard to remember the events of the previous night. “I remember getting on the jet fine, I remember getting back to New Jersey…It’s what happened after that damn night air hit me as we got off, that is a bit hard to remember.”

 

“You weren’t the only one.” John smiled. “It was a good thing that you’d ordered the limos, no one was in a fit state to drive.”

 

“I’ll have to ring Clint later and see if he can help reunite owners with their vehicles.”

 

“Not till later I would suggest, or maybe tomorrow.”

 

“It might be an idea.” Shirley shook her head. “How much champagne did we all drink exactly yesterday?”

 

“Just enough I think.” John smiled, “I think the whole group had a fabulous time.”

 

“Well as long as none of us really disgraced ourselves.”

 

“I saw a whole new side of you my love, and I must say I liked it immensely.” John kissed Shirley again.

 

“Oh dear,” Shirley said with a giggle, “and we party again tonight…”

 

“So when are Charlotte and Piet expected here?”

 

“Noon – I have time to recover some form of self-composure.  I think they were going to call on Susan first.”

 

“Poor them,” John said as he shook his head…”

 

 

10.30 am

The Huntingdown Apartment

 

Juliette walked in, putting on her jacket as she kissed Judith in her high chair.

 

“Thank you for staying the night and looking after Judith Katy.”

 

“My pleasure Aunt Juliette.” Katy said as she looked up from the breakfasts she had done for herself and Judith.

 

Gramma!” Judith shouted as she reached up.

 

“A bit quieter darling, Grandma has a headache.” Juliette picked up the toddler and hugged her.

 

“Did your Mom and Adam…?”

 

“Make it home safely? Yeah I just phoned Gran and she says but for hangovers they both just left for the office.”

 

“I’ll run you home on my way into my office.”

 

“Thanks.” Katy grinned. “Then I’ll start phoning round and see who else ended up sleeping in odd beds.”

 

“Katy you have an evil mind,” Juliette laughed, “You are just like your mother.”

 

“Well one advantage of only having two glasses of champagne this time I got to watch the adults misbehave.”

 

“Did we misbehave,” Ingrid said as she walked out, and poured herself some juice.

 

“Not too much – Cari went on to meet the girls from Annie’s.”

 

“How can she eat?”

 

“She can’t, she is in a somewhat delicate state this morning.”

 

 

 

 

10.30 am

Susan and Clint’s Apartment

 

“There,” Maeve said as she handed Susan some coffee, “how are you feeling?”

 

“Surprisingly good – a gallon of water last night and two paracetamol usually work for me.”

 

“Well we had great fun yesterday, didn’t we April,” Rose said as she bounced her granddaughter on her knee, April giggling as she went up and down.  “We took her to the zoo, and then had dinner out, didn’t we?”

 

“Sounds as if you had a great day,” Susan said as she looked at her mother and aunt.  Both were wearing sweaters and slacks, but she had seen the bags with their costumes in the room.

 

“Good morning,” Clint said as he came in, “is that fresh coffee?”

 

“It is – so where’s the car?”

 

“Still at the airport probably, I’ll head out later and get it, as well as sort out the extra fees for the others.  I managed to get a quick word with the powers that be last night while everyone else was decanting into the cars.”

 

“Oh yes,” Susan said with a smile, “the way Shirley…”

 

“Saved by the bell,” Maeve said as she went to see who was at the door.  Opening it, she was confronted by a man mountain, his beard making him look wilder than usual.

 

“Good morning Maeve,” he said in his South African accent, a much smaller red haired woman appearing beside him, “I trust we’re not interrupting.”

 

“Of course not,” Maeve said as she stood to one side, “come away in.”

 

“Well, you are a sight for sore eyes,” Susan said as she hugged Charlotte, and whispered, “Well done – how are you?”

 

“Tell you later,” Charlotte whispered back before she said, “I have missed you lot so much – and is that April?  You have grown little one.”

 

“Susan said you’d been in South Africa since August,” Rose said, “was it a successful trip?”

 

“In many ways, yes.  I brought you a little present,” she said as she held a stuffed antelope out to April, the young girl smiling as she reached out for it.  “I hear you all had a fun night as well.”

 

“Some more than others,” Clint said “wait until you see Shirley later and ask her what happened…”

 

 

10.30 am

The Village

 

“Did Cari leave?” Annie said as she walked slowly into the living room.

 

“She did,” Ama looked up from watching TV. “Something about breakfast with friends? She took a cab.”

 

“I think I remember.”

 

“Are you alright?” Maisha said as she came in from the kitchen with coffee and juice on a tray.

 

“No, but if that’s what I think it is, it might help.” Annie slumped into a chair.

 

“My father and his friends used to have what is called a beer drink,” Maisha looked serious, “but I never saw so many people as drunk all at once before.”

 

“Blame the evils of champagne Maisha.  Girls, do yourselves a favour – avoid too much.”

 

“I am so glad we only had one glass each.” Ama laughed as Maisha passed Annie some juice.

 

“Who’s that at this ungodly hour?” Caroline came out of her room as the doorbell rang.

 

“Wig on Mom,” Ama shouted as she ran down the stairs to answer the door.

 

“Here let me.” Maisha said as she helped Caroline to don the blonde hairpiece, as they heard Ama say “come on up.”

 

“Oh you look as bad as I feel.” Pepsi shaded her eyes as she and Jack came in.

 

“I feel worse than that.” Caroline groaned.

 

“And to what do we owe the pleasure?” Annie asked.

 

“April wanted to know if you guys wanted to come over for brunch.” Jack asked. “Is that Turkish coffee?” he sniffed the air.

 

“It is, can I give you some?”

 

“Please Maisha, and I think Peps needs it more then I do.”

 

“You look hung-over…and tired.” Ama talked to her friend.

 

“Well yeah, this evil bastard kept me awake doing evil things with my body.” Pepsi tried to giggle before she moaned, “Oh my head hurts.”

 

“Give us a few minutes and then we will decide on what we are doing guys.” Annie gradually recovered her wits.

 

“Do we need to tell Aunt April to do sausages mom?” Ama had a twinkle in her eye.

 

“Sausages? No why?”

 

“Well you made a phone call to Dan when we got home, and you told him how much you were looking forward to his sausage today…”

 

“Oh I didn’t?” Caroline groaned.

 

“Yes,” Ama nodded as everyone else started to laugh.

 

“I’m surprised the telephone company hasn’t had you arrested for making dirty phone calls.” Maisha laughed.

 

“OH DEAR GODDESS! I phoned Dominic as well didn’t I?”

 

“You have a double booking for tonight Mom.”

 

“Kill me, kill me now,” Caroline moaned as she sat down, and sipped her juice…

 

“Have your coffee, and we’ll walk back round with you,” Annie said.  “Has she invited Grace and the others?”

 

“I think so – they sounded even worse than you do…”

 

 

11 am

FBI Field Office

 

“Oh, and what time do you call this,” Tom Callaghan said as Jeanne slowly walked in.

 

“Please, Tom, I am not quite awake yet,” the young French woman said as she sat down, “and I have another party tonight.”

 

“We all do,” Adam said as he downed another cup of water with two paracetamol.  “We need to recover as best we can.”

 

“Amen,” Jan said as she shook her head – and regretted it.

 

“Well now, this is an interesting sight,” Gale said as she came in, “I know Tom had a little bit of a headache this morning, but how are you all feeling?”

 

“Gale,” Jan said as she looked at her, “I love you, but this is really not the morning, and you are not the person, to be telling us about sobriety.”

 

“Indeed,” Gale said, “so it is a good thing I was sober enough to remember my dear father’s hangover cure.  And I have a large jug of it here.”

 

She put down on the table a large jug of something that looked like swamp water.

 

“What,” Jeanne said as she looked at it, “is that?”

 

“The recipe is a secret, but it has in it molasses, egg yolks, Worcestershire sauce, Jack Daniels, and a special blend of herbs and…”

 

The party watched as Jeanne made a hasty exit.

 

“Is it meant to be an emetic?”

 

“She’s been sick a few times this morning, apparently – still, at least you don’t have to drink it.”

 

“Oh you do Adam,” Gale said as she poured two glasses.

 

“Hey – what about Tom?”

 

“I had mine earlier,” he said quietly, “I’m just going to stand back…”

 

Adam and Jan looked at each other, and then swallowed the drink, waiting before they went “oh… my… god…”

 

“There – better now?”

 

11 am

Complete Style

 

“Now just be good for Alexis while Grandma goes and sees Aunt Mary Judith.”

 

“She’ll be fine Juliette,” Alexis smiled as the youngster sat on the floor scrawling with a crayon on paper, her face screwed up in concentration.

 

Seeing the movement in the outer office, her grandmother walked to the door.

 

“And what time do you call this?” Juliette laughed as Janine tried to creep in discreetly.

 

“BUSTED!” Alexis smiled.

 

“BUTTED!” Judith tried to imitate.

 

“I’m sorry Juliette…I…I”

 

“Don’t worry Janine, I only just made it in myself,” Juliette smiled, “Want to go check out Merlin’s hangover and pick up our costumes for tonight?”

 

“If she has the coffee pot going down in her cave…”

 

“I’m hoping she has as well.”

 

 

11.15 am

Greenwich Florist

 

“I didn’t – tell me I didn’t,” Caroline said as April laid out the bread.

 

“Your mother would be amazed by some of those words you know Caroline?” Grace said as she tried to contemplate the buffet April had prepared.

 

“Oh don’t tell me you were there too?”

 

“We were – and a real education it was as well.”

 

“Why didn’t I sell tickets for it?” Caroline groaned.

 

“Do you remember Sarah telling you she’d take one of them off your hands?”

 

“No!”  Caroline looked over to Sarah, who was trying not to show her head was bursting.

 

“Oh dear,” Grace smiled. “I had a little too much to drink, but compared to others it was nothing.”

 

“Do I remember Harriet ‘borrowing’ one of the trumpets at the track, and playing it on the plane?”

 

“You do, and trying to play it is probably more accurate.”

 

“And finding Chet screwing Doc in the toilet?”

 

“You do Caroline, and do you remember saying to Doc if she finished with Chet to pass him on to you, because he had the biggest…”

 

“Oh this gets WORSE!”

 

Grace laughed. “Well you were far from alone darling.”

 

“Do you remember Mandy doing her striptease?” Sarah asked.

 

“Was she on our plane?”

 

“No, on the tarmac at the airstrip Caroline.” Grace added.

 

“And Tracey van Roon joining her?” April smiled.

 

“Oh dear Goddess how will we all be able to face each other tonight?”

 

“Who knows Caroline, but I’m betting there will be just as many stories tomorrow morning.” Grace laughed.

 

“Right – eat up,” April said as Grant came in, “nothing like a good meal to take the edge off a hangover.”

 

 

11.15 am

The Richmond Mansion

 

“Hey Little Sister,” Heather looked happy, “good sleep?”

 

“Yeah - where is Curt?” Jo looked confused.

 

“He’s taken Sandy and George out for a walk in the park.”

 

“Okay…Good.”

 

“Coffee?”

 

“You are reading my mind again.”

 

“So what do you remember of last night?”

 

“Bits…I remember…well you can guess.” Jo blushed.

 

“Do you remember agreeing to do the apartment challenge with Annie, and betting her five grand on it?”

 

“No, that slipped my mind,” Jo was suddenly awake, “did I?”

 

“No you both made sure that ‘honest’ ears didn’t hear.”

 

“Well thank the Goddess for that.”  Sipping her coffee, she said, “Did we agree on a date, and the two blocks?”

 

“You did, Didn’t she lover?” Sandy came in.

 

“End of the month, and two buildings on Third Avenue.” Heather laughed, “Caroline will referee.”

 

“I have to stop drinking…” Jo shook her head.

 

“Well at least you didn’t do a strip.” Heather giggled.

 

“OH GOD – that really happened didn’t it?”

 

“Oh yes – and I stand to profit handsomely by it…”

 

 

11.20 am

Pussy and Frieda’s apartment

 

“Now that  that was a party…  Where am I?”

 

"Way to go Mom!" Blair laughed as her mother emerged from one of the spare bedrooms in Pussy and Frieda's apartment.

"OH NO! So it really happened?" Tracey groaned.

"Yep," Blair laughed some more. "Chet rang me from Anna's and gave me the complete lowdown."

"Where is your father..."

"Gone to buy you that costume."

"What costume? I have my fancy dress for tonight."

"For your striptease match with Mandy."

"MY WHAT?"

"Don't you remember Tracey," Frieda came in. "The only way you'd stop last night was if Mandy and you got to do it tonight."

"Oh dear Lord...and bets were made weren't they?"

"They sure were Mom." Blair grinned. "Sandy Richmond is running a book on it."

"OH MY REPUTATION!" Tracey flopped onto the sofa.

 

“Is perfectly safe,” Pussy said as she brought in coffee.  “Although I hear Kelly has plans to buy the book…”

 

 

Noon

The Brewster Brownstone

 

"One of Chicago's highest society ladies and a Marchioness having a burlesque match...we have to stop it Dad."

"Barbara darling,” John said as a waiter passed by, “bets were made, challenges issued."

"You are just dying to see Tracey van Roon in the nude you dirty old man." Barbara shook her head.

"Well she's a beautiful..." John laughed as his daughter hit him on the arm.  Jeannie looked over and shook her head.

"People get all out of shape about me doing tasteful nude pictures, then get all excited by two old..."

"Less of the old Jeans...they are both only my age or so."

"Maybe you should mum?"

"JEANNIE!" Barbara looked shocked.

"I just thought three might be more fun than two." Jeannie ducked as her mother threw a cushion at her.

"Barbara may I have a word?" the caterer said as he came out from the kitchen.

"Coming," Barbara looked crossly at her father and daughter.

"Well my real worry isn't burlesque," Jeannie looked at her grandfather, “but how are we going to get everyone in?"

"Clearing the basement helps, we can have the dancing down there...Talking of which, shouldn't the deejay be here setting up?"

"Should be," Jeannie glanced at her watch.

"I’d better ring them, find out what the delay is…"

 

As John walked off, Jeannie looked at her own phone.

 

“House?  That’s fantastic – I’ll see you later.  You’re going to love my dress…”

 

 

Noon

The de Ros Mansion

 

“And a very good afternoon to both of you,” Diana said as Abby and Tony came into the front room, “Edith, some coffee please.”

 

“Of course,” Edith said as the two teenagers sat down.

 

“I trust you both feel better now for the walk?”

 

“Well, I feel better,” Tony said, “I joined Will and the boys for their standard hangover cure.  As for Abby…”

 

“I met with the girls and watched a far too sober Holly eat a scrambled egg breakfast.”  Abby shook her head as Edith brought in the coffee.

 

“Are you ready for something to eat, Miss Abigail?”

 

“A toasted ham sandwich please,” Abby said, Edith nodding as she went out again.

 

“So what’s in the paper today,” Tony said as he looked at the Times.

 

“There is a rather amusing article from Jane in the social magazine – you will be pleased to hear you are both mentioned in it,” Diana said.  “I am more interested in what you remember from last night.”

 

“It’s starting to come back,” Abby said, “with some help from Caroline.  Is there really going to be a stripping contest tonight between Tracey van Roon and Mandy Fitzstuart?”

 

“There is indeed – although I confess, I remember little of what preceded it,” Diana said quietly.

 

“Well, according to Blair, they will indeed compete tonight – I understand Barbara has been told.”

 

"So who are to be the judges?" Diana asked.

"Jack, Luke, and Antonio." Abby giggled.

"Three gay men to judge striptease?"

"Well at least they'll consider each performance on its artistic value, and not be influenced by other things."

"Oh this will be hilarious." Diana shook her head.

 

“On which note,” Tony said, “when do I see your outfit?”

 

“When you come tonight,” Abby said as she looked at her phone.  “You need to go to your aunt’s place – something about a surprise visitor?”

 

“Damn phone must be dead,” Tony said before he kissed Abby and stood up.  “I’ll see you later.”

 

 

 

12.30 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment

 

“Well, you certainly look better,” Klaus said as he saw Carina come in, putting her keys on the table before she hung her coat up.

 

“Momma!”

 

"Hello darling," Carina said, holding her arms out as Judith toddled towards her.

"Is the magazine still there despite you all taking yesterday off?" Klaus kissed Juliette as she came in.

"Just about.  Alexis managed to hold the fort."

"So any other gossip?" Ingrid asked as she leaned on the kitchen counter looking expectant.

"What have you already heard?"

"That Merlin has said she's giving up drinking?"

"No longer true, she had an Irish coffee Ingrid."

"That resolution lasted a long while." Klaus said as he started making fresh coffee.

"Caroline got a bit naughty last night...?"

"I was there remember Mom so I know all about it."

"Is it true she has two dates tonight? Asked Ingrid.

"And neither knows she has been dating them both for months sis."

"I foresee fireworks." Ingrid laughed.

"Anything else Mom?"

"Janine and Klaus..."

"Old news." Carina laughed as Judith showed her the drawings she'd done. “Those are beautiful darling."

"This is new?" Klaus looked up from his phone, “we may have a second match, Kelly versus Tonia, Adam just..."

"What is it with men and striptease Pops?" Carina shook her head. "Would you still approve if it was me and Ingy?"

"That's different...You are my daughters."

"Klaus darling your double standards are showing." Juliette laughed.

 

“Nevertheless, the contest is apparently on.  I have the feeling this will be a most memorable evening…”

 

 

12.30 pm

Park Avenue

 

“Charlotte,” Shirley said as she stood up, “it is so good to see you safely back.”

 

“It’s good to be back,” Charlotte said as she hugged Shirley, “John is talking to Piet, but I wanted to see you in private first.”

 

“As it should be – how goes the repatriation?”

 

“Slowly – the supplies are helping with rebuilding villages, and Teacher is welcoming new recruits to the Sisterhood.  Those who helped lead the effort will be visiting next week, and I hope you will meet them as well.”

 

Nodding, Shirley said, “I would be honoured and humbled to meet with them.   From what I heard however, you had as much to play in events.”

 

“Not really – I played a part, but you need to meet the real leaders.”

 

“Very well then – let us go and join the men.  There will be plenty of time to discuss matters over the next few days.”

 

2 pm

The McNally Apartment

 

“Oh this is hopeless darlings, I might as well just concede and let Tracey win.” Mandy grimaced at her own attempts to do a strip in the mirror and covered up again.

 

“Well you looked pretty amazing last night Mother dear.” David laughed, as Judy hit him in the arm.

 

“David darling I was more drunk then I’ve ever been in my life…I didn’t realize what I was doing, and from what everyone says Tracey clearly did.”

 

“Mother, we may have lost the revolution to the damn Yanks, and apologies to you my love,” David said as he kissed Judy, “but there is no way we let them win at this.”

 

“I agree with David Mandy darling, you must do it to uphold the honour of England.” Will laughed, “we will fight them on the beaches…” Will started do a Churchill impression.

 

“Someone hit him for me, and besides that was the Germans Will.”

 

“Look I’m a neutral,” Judy smiled, “even if I am a Yank, but look at these burlesque performances on YouTube Mandy. You were a trained dancer…how hard can this be?”

 

“I suppose it is not that difficult,” Mandy said as she looked in the mirror, “but it has been a long time…”

 

“Visitor,” Rachel said as she showed Tonia in.  She smiled as she said “Hello Will. How are you feeling Mandy?”

 

“Is it true that you and Kelly are going to…?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Oh God I hope you are better at it then I am?”

 

“Kelly and I have both been taking burlesque classes to keep fit, it’s fun and our husbands love it.”

 

“Oh that makes it worse, you both actually know what you are doing.” Mandy buried her head in her hands, “I am going to look like a total idiot darling.”

 

“Well that’s why I’m here.” Tonia smiled again, “And Kelly and her girls are going to see Tracey.  We have three or four, or if need be more, hours, to teach you a routine each. Though from what I remember from last night’s haze you looked a natural to me.”

 

“I was well oiled then,” Mandy said as she looked up.

 

“That may also be done – now, let’s get started….”

 

 

2 pm

The van Roon Townhouse

 

“You know,” Frieda said as she sipped her coffee, “I am so glad I am in purgatory with Gale Callaghan at the moment.”  She looked at Tracey, who was sitting on the chair, her family round her.

 

Augie, do you really want me to display everything I have in front of all our friends?” Tracey looked petrified.

 

“Mom you have an amazing body…”

 

“Chet, that is not helping - and you can keep your mouth shut as well H.” Sarah put her arm round the older woman and glared at her boyfriend.

 

“There is no disgrace in not competing Mom, it was a silly idea anyway.” Blair said as she sat on the other side.

 

“We cannot let the Brits win, where is your patriotism woman?” Augie laughed.

 

“Now my mind is clearer, I remember just how big that bet between you and Will is my love.” Tracey glared at her husband. “Even for that much cash I am not about to open myself up to ridicule.”

 

“Well she is a trained dancer, and you saw how sexily that dress came off her last night…”

 

“Aunt Puss, was that relevant?” Blair glared.

 

“I’m just saying…and besides she is a top model…her body is…”

 

“And are you saying my body isn’t good enough to compare?” Tracey growled.

 

“No, no of course not, but if you don’t feel you can compete…”

 

“Oh I can compete,” Tracey said as Pussy went to the apartment door, “and I will – there is pride at stake here now…”

 

“Good – because the cavalry is here,” Kelly Rochermann said as she came in with the twins.

 

“We are here to show you how to win for the good old US of A,” Ally said.

 

“We have started a Harvard Burlesque club…” Nell smiled proudly.

 

“We have about 20 girls taking lessons from us.” Ally finished.

 

“Striptease at Harvard? I definitely need better grades…” Chet was cut short by his sister punching him…again.

 

“Look all men out…Now!” Kelly said as she cleared Augie and the boys out. “Go to the club, I’m sure you’ll find other fans of the Terpsichorean art to talk to, it does seem to be the main topic of conversation today.”

 

“But?”

 

“OUT AUGIE!” his wife shouted.

 

“Come on boys,” he said, “The club awaits.”

 

 

 

3 pm

Washington Heights

The Burton Apartment

 

“Hey Mary.  Feeling any more human?” Denice asked as she helped Mary into the apartment with the garment bags.

 

“Just about?” Mary looked skywards, “How was Erica?”

 

“Up and doing homework at seven-thirty…either she was drinking ginger ale, or she has a better tolerance for alcohol then a 14 year old should have.”

 

“I’d shake my head, but it still hurts.”

 

“So are they finished?” Denice asked excitedly.

 

“Ai.”

 

Mary laid out the bags and opened one.

 

“Oh that is wonderful – I am really looking forward to tonight now.”

 

 

3 pm

Grammercy Park S

The National Arts Club

 

“I almost wish Eve and I had been able to come yesterday,” Stephen said, “but with Cassandra coming into town…”

 

“You missed one heck of a party,” Will said.

 

“So I hear,” Jack Linklater said, “lucky bastards.”

 

"Well how about I spice this up by offering the winner a once in a lifetime chance to be photographed by the renowned Stephen Stone?" Stephen stood at the bar of the National Arts Club surrounded by friends. "I'm sure both your ladies would love that?"

"Well I know Mandy would regard it as an ambition fulfilled," Will paused to think.

"I'm not sure about Tracey..."

"You know Stephen's work," Adam Cabot spoke, "high class photos of a high class lady, and remember I'm a relative of Tracey's on our mothers side Augie."

"I don’t..." Augie paused as his Uncle Gus whispered in his ear. "Alright Stephen we graciously accept the prize."

"Barry me bhoy, Bushmill's for all me chums." Stephen laughed.

 

 

 

 

6 pm

The Brewster Brownstone

 

“Hey, Grace – come on in,” John said as he opened the door.  “I need to finish getting ready, but Jeannie and Barbara are in the front room.  Nice costume, by the way.”

 

“I thought so,” Grace said as she slipped her coat off.  She was wearing a red minidress designed to look like a beefeater tunic, black fishnet stockings and heels.  “So are they ready yet?”

 

“Jeannie yes, Barb yes – come away in.”

 

“Oh that is CHEATING!” Grace burst into laughter as John showed her into the main space.

 

“White mini-dresses, white stilettos, isn’t this the national costume of ‘Essex Girls’,” Jeannie grinned.

 

“I guess so,” Grace shook her head. “I just wish I’d been that inventive.”

 

“Well that Beefeater outfit probably shows more leg then these do.” Barbara stood and looked. “I take it Harriet and Sarah are wearing the same?”

 

“They are. They’ll be here later.”

 

“Well thanks for coming over early Grace and offering to help get ready.”

 

“My pleasure, and it was good to escape all those hangovers.”

 

“Were they pretty bad?” John asked as he moved a chair.

 

“Poor Caroline is praying for death…  Does that tell you something?”

 

“I heard about her conundrum.” Jeannie giggled. “Two boyfriends at the same party…How will she get out of it?”

 

“Never mind that, there’s a strip off…”

 

“Don’t start her – help me move these chairs Grace…”

 

 

6.30 pm

Park Avenue

 

Piet looked at himself in the mirror, adjusting the white tie and tucking it into the front of his brown shirt.  A black waistcoat was over the shirt, and he wore a pair of rough brown trousers with black boots.

 

“You look good,” Charlotte said as she came in.  The redhead was wearing a long pink dress, with white lace sleeves and a scarf tied over her shoulders, and a white cap tied over her head

 

“So do you,” Piet said as he kissed her, and them put on his wide brimmed hat.

 

“A voortrekker and his faithful wife.” John looked at Charlotte and Piet in their costumes as he walked in.

 

Ja, I had ancestors do the Great Trek, but over time you verdamte rooineks eventually caught up,” the huge man smiled.

 

“Well just think - if we hadn’t you’d never have had rugby football?”

 

“That is true John.” Piet laughed.

 

“Is Shirley’s Russian court dress as spectacular as I hear?” Charlotte asked.

 

“I haven’t seen it yet, she’s had all the fittings done in private.” John finished pulling on his boots of his Parliamentary English Civil War officers’ costume.

 

“Does that represent your ancestor who seized himself part of Ulster after William of Orange’s win at the Battle of the Boyne John?” Charlotte asked.

 

“It does indeed Charlotte.”

 

“Oh dearest God,” Piet’s voice caused every head to turn as Shirley emerged from her dressing room.

 

“Do you like it,” Shirley said as she turned round, “I had it modeled on a dress Xenia Alexandrovna wore.”

 

The dress was made from brown silk, with long sleeves and a skirt that barely showed her black lace up boots.  The skirt had a fitted outer layer, pen at the front to reveal the inner panel, and the bodice sat square over her upper body, tapering to a point at the front.

 

The material itself was decorated with a gold brocade design, studded with small diamonds at the front, and a train ran from her shoulders to a short distance from her at the back.

 

“It’s exquisite,” John said, “truly exquisite.”

 

 

6.45 pm

The Richmond Mansion

 

“These Mountie outfits are cute.” Jo said as she pulled on the long black thigh high boots. “Far more sexy then the real thing, but I’m guessing my man will appreciate that…”

 

“I can’t even walk in these heels?” Little Sandy complained as she came in wearing a feminine leprechaun styled outfit in shades of green.

 

“Well at least you look better then I do.” George complained as he tugged at his false long beard in his full leprechaun outfit. “This damn thing ITCHES?”

 

“Persevere, Sands, and George – try not to scratch.  I’m sure Katy will offer to help.”

 

“Are you all but ready?” Sandy came in wearing a green pinafore dress over a long sleeved white blouse.  The dress was split from her waist at the front, showing a white underskirt, and a pair of red heels was on her feet.  A green and white braided cord was tied round her waist, the ends hanging to the side in front of her.

 

“I am,” Nessa said as she came in.  She also had on a long sleeved white blouse, with green ribbons on the sleeves, and a green petticoat dress fastened at the bodice with golden clasps.  The skirt of the dress opened out to show a blue and black checked skirt.

 

“Very nice, Grandma,” little Sandy said.

 

“Why thank you dear,” Nessa said with a little curtsey, “but I’m not the one showing the legs tonight.”

 

“That would be me.”

 

“Very nice,” Jo said with a smile as she looked at Alex.  He had a green military jacket on, with a matching cloak and beret, and a tan Irish kilt, a large purse hanging in font.  Knee length green socks and black leather shoes with silver buckles completed his outfit.

 

“Very cool,” George said as Sandy sat down and looked at her phone.

 

"How is the betting market going lover?" Heather looked over Sandy's shoulder.

"Mandy is the slight favorite, then Tracey, but both the draw, and the proposition that they will never dare do it, both are also attracting good money."

"You are loving this," Heather pulled one of her boots on to try.

"I like bookmaking..." Sandy smiled.

"You should get Shirley to let you ran a gambling operation for her."

"No, that would be work...This is FUN!" Sandy scribbled another note as a text came in.

 

6.45 pm

West Central Park

 

“So I take it Susan and Clint are not going in the green?”

 

“No,” Rose said as she headed for the bedroom, “Something about costermongers…”

 

"You know it was ever so good of letting us dress over here Janice?" Maeve shouted

out.

 

"Well Mom picked out the costumes for you when she got hers."  Jan came out of her bedroom and smoothed down the skirt of her black dress, checking the laces on the bodice were tied properly and checking the collar on the white underdress.

 

“How do I look mom,” Katy said as she came out.  She had on a black waistcoat, laced like her mother’s, over a white blouse, and a long red tartan skirt.  Her heels kept the hem from the floor.

 

“You look fantastic,” Jan said as she put a dark red and black tartan shawl over her shoulders.  She then saw Adam come in, wearing a long black cassock with a rope belt, a wig which made his hair look like a Hassidic Jew, and a black skull cap.

 

“Not bad – covered, but not bad,” Jan said as she kissed Adam, before the older women came out.

 

All three were wearing white blouses, Katherine having a blue Celtic pattern on the front and cuffs, and wearing a green dress with a low cut bodice, and a red girdle and design on the front of the chest.  Maeve had a silver brooch at her neck, and an elaborate patterned waistcoat held at the front by two clasps.  Her long skirt was made from blue velvet.

 

Rose had a hold brooch fastened at her neck, while her dress had a red and gold embroidered bodice and a long black skirt, a white lace apron hanging in front.  Both Katherine and Maeve had a large traditional purse attached to their skirts.

 

“Looking good ladies,” Jan said as she looked at them.

 

7 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment

 

Klaus came into the drawing room, adjusting the straps on his lederhosen, to see Juliette pulling on her knee length white socks.  Her black mini dress had a white trim and off the shoulder top, a wide black leather belt and an apron stitched on the front.  A pair of black heels with gold buckles on her feet, white cuffs and a white hat, and she was every inch the Pilgrim Mother she wanted to be.

 

“Why good evening kind sir,” Juliette said as she bowed, “how may this goodwife help you today?”

 

“Maybe later – have you seen the girls?”

 

“These three?”

 

Klaus turned and smiled as Sigi, Ingrid and Carina came down the staircase, dressed as Bavarian peasants.  Sigi’s dress had a blue skirt and black leather corset, with white puffed sleeves and underskirt, and white four-inch heels.  Ingrid’s was similar, with a laced corset and gold heels, while Carina had on a red minidress with her black corset and small white apron, black over the knee stockings with a little red bow, and black high heels.

 

“Well, I suppose it is to be expected,” Klaus said with a smile, “but what will your aunt say?”

 

“I will say it reminds me a little of my youth.”

 

“Aunt Natalya,” Sigi said, “you look decidedly regal.”

 

“Yes I do,” Natalya said as Wilhelm removed her cape to reveal her white lace dress, the tiers of the skirt falling down, and a large gold and jeweled brooch on her chest.  A gold tiara sat on her grey hair, as she smiled and said “Shall we have a drink before we go?”

 

7 pm

The Marais Apartment

 

“Ah L’Amour, Toujours L’Amour,” Henri said as he adjusted his blue scarf, tied round his neck above the neckline of his red and white striped jumper.

 

“Father, I see you went for the traditional tonight?”

 

“And you did not, my youthful Apache lady,” he said as he turned and looked at Jeanne.  The young inspector was dressed in a red blouse with sleeves off her shoulders, a black satin skirt with a slit to her hip at one side, black fishnet stockings and high heels.  With a black beret on her head, she smiled as she said “would I be out of place on the cafes at Montmartre tonight?”

 

“No you would not, and I would be watching,” Henri said as he put his own beret on.  “Come, we go together.”

 

7.15 pm

The Village

 

“So this is what the St Louis girl wears,” Caroline said as she looked at Annie, in her Daisy Dukes and knotted cheesecloth blouse.

 

“Well, it’s more my Blue Mountain ancestors,” Annie said as she looked at Caroline.  “And as for you – nice dress.”

 

“Well, Barchester is the area I came from,” Caroline said as she posed in her Victorian dress, while Ama was adjusting the blanket over her shoulder, which formed part of her traditional dress.  “Maybe I can become Mrs. Proudie and the guys never find me.”

 

 “Look, as long as you keep them separated, neither need know the other is even there.” Annie counseled her roommate.

 

“And I’ll be there to help…” Sarah Nightingale added.

 

“Whilst so will Aunt Karen,” Ama finished.

 

“It would be better though if you just made a choice.” Harriet looked in the mirror at herself.

 

“I can’t…I’ve tried.”

 

“Well from the descriptions I’ve heard they both sound incredible, I’d happily take your reject.”

 

“Sarah love, that does not help.” Annie cast her a warning glance.

 

“Can someone get that please,” Caroline said as she looked in the mirror, Sarah walking down and escorting the last of the party up.

 

“Hello Miss Jameson – I hope Ama is ready,” the dark curly haired boy said as he came in.

 

"Oh Nick? I must get a photo," Harriet rushed for her camera as the young man arrived in the dress uniform of a Greek soldier.  The black waistcoat was decorated in gold, and worn over the white long sleeved tunic and knee britches.  A red sash was tied round his waist, and a red hat on his head, but it was the white socks and long shoes with the black pom pom on the toe that caught everyone’s eye.

 

“Nick – you do look handsome tonight.”

 

“And you look wonderful,” Ama said as she stood with her beaded dress and blanket.  “Shall we go?”

 

 

 

 

7.30 pm

The McNally Apartment

 

“Oh Pearly Kings and Queens!” Rachel McNally smiled as the Fitzstuart’s assembled in her drawing room. “Nice costumes!”

 

“Mother is just putting hers on,” Angel said as she looked up the stairs.

 

“And her other outfit?”

 

“Safely in this box.” Will nodded, and indicated the package under his arm.

 

“I must say I think all the various Irish sports outfits were a clever idea.” David wolf-whistled as Judy came in wearing the purple and yellow shirt of County Wexford Gaelic games players combined with white satin micro shorts and black high heels.

 

“Well with so many Irish families it was hard to think of something original,” Rachel smiled at her own Irish international rugby shirt.

 

“Still, I hope Abby forgives me,” Tony said as he appeared in his Irish football strip.

 

“Come on – you’ll be lucky if she’s heard of Thierry Henry,” Judy said, “but if she has, smile and forget it, all right?”

 

 

7.30 pm

The van Roon apartment

 

“New York becomes Nieuw Amsterdam again.” Pussy smiled at the variety of costumes based on traditional Dutch dress her family was wearing.

 

“And we all avoided the cliché of clogs and white caps.” Paulie said as she looked round proudly.

 

“I think I look rather dashing.” Gus posed in an outfit made him look as though he had stepped straight out of a Rembrandt painting.

 

“I think I need a steadier before we leave,” Tracey said as she came in wearing an 18th century Dutch rural costume with a white top and apron over a red skirt, with a broad black hat over the white cap that held her hair.

 

“I think you’ve earned a steadier,” Frieda said as she passed the Chicagoan a large whiskey.  She was the only one so far not dressed in traditional Dutch clothing, instead wearing a brown dress with a scarf wrapped across her chest and tied round her waist, her bump just starting to show.

 

“Where are H and Sarah?”

 

“Just coming,” Chet said, “Blair’s just helping her into her dress.”

 

8 pm

The Brewster Brownstone

 

“Any sign of any press?” Barbara asked anxiously as John looked out the window.

 

“Not that I can see love.”

 

“Now the drivers do know that we have paid for them to have an open bar at Dougan’s don’t they?”

 

“They do my love, so there won’t be any tell tale limos parked outside.”

 

“What about the cops?”

 

“Tom has arranged for a couple of plain clothes guys to hang about, and a squad car to cruise by regularly.  Don’t forget we have Caroline here as well.”

 

“Make sure they are all catered for Dad, Adam says it helps.”

 

“Already arranged.”

 

“So when are people due to start arriving?” Grace asked.

 

“Right about – now,” Jeannie said as the doorbell rang, and they heard voices.  The door opened as Ken and Karen came in, dressed in Highland outfits, along with Alice and Duncan in similar outfits.

 

“Well, at least we’re not the first,” Karen said as Grace kissed them, only to turn and smile at the next arrivals.

 

"Jack Linklater that is OUTRAGEOUS!" Jeannie burst into laughter at the sight of the photographer in the shortest kilt a man ever dared wear.

"You aren't the only one with great legs you know." Jack posed as though for one of his own photos.

"At least mine looks respectable." Luke took his overcoat off.

"You look very handsome Luke," Jeannie reached up and kissed the young photographer on the cheek.

Barbara ushered another arrival in.

"Maestro you look AMAZING!" Jeannie exclaimed at the sight of Antonio in the costume of an Argentinean gaucho.

 

“For you, I do my very best,” Antonio said with a deep bow, as Barbara welcomed Caroline and the others.

 

 

“Madame, I understand we have you to thank for the invitation this kind evening.”

 

“Welcome,” Barbara said as she hugged Guy and Willy, both wearing the blue tunics and black boots of musketeers, while Natasha was dressed in a female version, with a long blue and white skirt in place of the black pantaloons.  By contrast, Abby, Diana and Valeria were dressed in white dresses, with shawls tied over their shoulders and crossed at their waists, aprons and white caps.

 

“It was good of you to invite us,” Abby said as she hugged Jeannie.  “So where’s Winston?”

 

“Hello Abby,” House said as he appeared in the doorway, dressed as a Redcoat.  “You look well.”

 

“Forgive Me,” Barbara said as she went to the door, curtseying as she said "Your Graces," greeting the couple in the armour and dress of a 13th Century Anglo-Norman warlord and his lady.

"It's Tom and Paula Barbara," the Duke of Lardarn kissed his hostess.

"Okay that it is." Barbara smiled, "I'm still a bit unsure round the aristocracy."

"Well there are going to be plenty of us here tonight from what I was reading," Paula Gaunt looked round. "This place is nice."

"Well I don't think it compares to Lardarn Castle from what Eve was telling me."

"Lardarn is nice, but try as best as I have I can never make it a cozy home," the tall celtic redhead smiled. "It's why I prefer our little house in Dublin.”

"Which is?"

"A little Georgian terrace near Trinity College, in a way reminiscent of this."

"That sounds nice." Jeannie wheeled herself over.

"It is."

"Tom, Paula, meet my daughter Jeannie."

"It's a pleasure," the Duke kissed the models hand.

 

It was eight thirty, and already the house was busy, as more and more guests arrived.

 

"Isn't it amazing how parties seem to go from being empty to full almost at a flick of a switch," Jeannie asked her mother.

"I know," Barbara shook her head. "By the way who is Dick Turpin, with his female accomplices with silk scarf masks on?"

"Would you believe Doc and her family?"

"It is..."

"It seems the first Carlton to arrive in America was transported as a convict for being a highwayman."


"Oh dear...well that might be an appropriate costume." Barbara laughed as Anna stuck a pistol in Chet's back and told him to 'Stand and Deliver'.

 

“Oh my goodness, we have three Welsh washerwomen,” John said as Mary arrived with Denice and Erica.

 

“Pit women, if you please,” Mary said as she waved to Juliette.

 

“Hey you made it,” Doc said as she hugged Erica.  “I hear the others are on their way – oh wow.”

 

The room turned and applauded as Shirley came in with John, Maisha following with Charlotte and Piet.

 

“You look amazing,” Juliette said as she came over.

 

“Thank you – you look stunning…”

 

 

 

“Good evening Senor and Senora Murchado. Welcome to the party.” Barbara said as she welcomed Jess and her parents, costumed as Spanish nobles of the time of Philip the Second.

 

“I’m Amelia and he is Juan,” the strikingly beautiful blonde smiled.

 

“Hey Jess.” Jeannie said as she came over and greeted the new guests.

 

“Mom, Dad, this is Jeans,” Jess made the introduction.

 

“It is lovely to meet you,” Juan Murchado smiled down from his great height.

 

“And you.” Jeannie smiled, “Mum, I just got a call from the Mancini’s to say they have made it and should be here soon.”

 

“Giorgio Mancini from Lerrabella?” Juan asked.

 

“Yes, do you know him?”

 

“My firm represents some of their banking interests, we are old friends.”

 

“Oh well, that will help.  They are bringing Sandra as well.” 

 

 

 

 

 

“Caroline if you want to have a threesome tonight with Chet it will be quite okay with me, or will it be you and I entertaining three guys in a fivesome?”

 

“Anna!” Caroline glared at the highwaywoman.

 

“I couldn’t resist. Take it as payback for interrupting my getting fucked last night.” Anna laughed under her mask.

 

“I’ve got enough problems tonight keeping Dan and Dominic apart, without coping with you.”

 

“Anyway I can help?”

 

“If you could arrange for one of them to be hijacked…”Caroline looked up despairingly as Dan arrived in Rumanian national costume.

 

“So you want Dominic to disappear?”

 

“Anna I know that look in your eyes…what are you…?” Caroline’s words stopped as Dan came over and kissed her.

 

“Are you up for a little fun girls?” Anna gathered round her a group of her friends.

 

 

 

“Ah, an oasis of calm in the European mayhem,” John said as he and Rose found a quiet corner of the room.

 

“You only get an Ooh with Typhoo,” Rose laughed as she and John sat drinking tea.

 

“Ouch - knowing that slogan ages us both a bit.”

 

“True, but it still makes a good cuppa.”

 

“Finish these and then a dance?”

 

“I’d be delighted Mr. Bowden.” Rose sipped some more. “I like your vintage Hansom cab drivers costume by the way.”

 

“Well I was thinking just how beautiful you look tonight.”

 

“Flatterer!” Rose blushed.

 

 

“John and Rose?” Adam asked Maeve as they looked over.

 

“Who knows, but if they are I say good for Rosie.”

 

“I agree.” Katherine sipped some champagne.

 

“Well I’ve seen you chatting rather intently with Toddy the trainer?” Maeve asked with a twinkle in her eye.

 

“He’s a nice man.” Katherine sipped some more.

 

“Another one-night-stand on Halloween Katherine?”

 

“Adam Ball you have a filthy mind!”

 

“Who me, the good rabbi?” Adam asked in mock horror.

 

“Yes you sir.”

 

“Oh leave him alone,” Jan said as she watched Katy dancing with George.

 

 

 

 

“A Spice girl, Poppy?”

 

“I know,” Poppy said as she stood in her Union Jack dress and knee length black boots, “mom and I decided to go for our icons from when we were born, so she came as Twiggy.”  She looked over at Pippa, who was wearing a fawn coloured sleeveless mini dress and white boots.

 

“Well, to each their own,” Pepsi said as she stood in her hunt outfit, April and Grant dressed in the same manner.  “Turns out dad’s great grandfather was a master of the hounds, so we chose this.”

 

“Well, our family came over from Norfolk,” Nikki said as she walked over, dressed as a Victorian girl, “so we get the crinoline and…”

 

“Hello Sandra – I am so glad you and your parents could make it today.”

 

The girls looked over to see Jeannie talking to a second girl in a wheelchair, wearing a Venetian dress, and accompanied by a man and woman in Venetian court dress.

 

“Please, meet some of my friends.  This is Sandra Mancini – Sandra, meet Erica, Pepsi and Nikki.”

 

“It’s a great pleasure to meet you,” she said as she looked up.

 

“The pleasure’s ours – come with us and we’ll do the honours,” Pepsi said as they wheeled her in.

 

 

 

“Gale, Tom, thank you for coming,” Barbara said as they came into the main room.  Tom was dressed as a British officer, but it was Gale’s dress that drew some amazed gasps.

 

“Klaus,” Sigi said as she touched her brother’s arm, “does she know…”

 

“Gale as the Blood Princess?” Klaus seemed staggered as the FBI mans wife arrived in a blonde wig looking the image of the picture that hung in the gallery at Furstenheim.

 

“Well she has German ancestry herself…a coincidence?” Juliette glanced round at both Cari and Natalya who were both watching Gale closely.

 

“Juliette, Klaus, it’s good to see you again.”

 

“And you Tom – we were admiring your wife’s costume…”

 

“I know – she surprised me with it tonight.  I think she wears it well doesn’t she?”

 

“Indeed – I must pay my compliments,” Carina said as she walked over.

 

“Carina,” Gale said, “you look nice.”

 

“So do you – may I ask a question?”

 

“Of course.”

 

"Who’s here tonight - Gale or Cousin?" Carina whispered.

"For once both of us Carina." Gale whispered back. "We reached an agreement to allow us both to enjoy ourselves tonight...And I will behave cousin I promise."

"Well just do please."

"It seems strange both of us being together."

"I know, it's happened to me and The Beast...By the way your costume has more than intrigued certain people who don't know you are a distant relative."

"I was just going to say I saw the picture online and liked it."

"That might be safest."

 

 

“Tracey.”

 

“Mandy – fantastic party isn’t it?”

 

“It is – everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.  I just hope…”

 

“Me too…”

 

“Why on earth did we agree to this?”

 

“I don’t know – I don’t even remember that much of last night.”

 

“Me neither – but did he tell you?”

 

“The Stephen Stone offer?  Gotta admit, it’s tempting.”

 

“Agreed.  So it’s on?”

 

“Oh yeah, it’s on…”

 

 

 

 

Sandy was watching as Katy and Little Sandy danced to the music.

 

"Do you remember their attempts at putting makeup on at your place the summer before last Sandy?" Jan asked.

"When they said they were going to become models like Abby and Jeans?"

"Yes."

"Oh yes," Sandy laughed, "what a mess they made of themselves." For a second she paused, "Well Katy at least is now far more skilled."

"Little Sands is getting there."

 

“I know – it’s strange seeing her becoming a young woman before my eyes.”

 

“You and me both.”  Jan looked over at Pepsi, who was standing with Doc, Chet and Jack.

 

“She’s really growing into a beautiful and talented young woman as well,” Sandy said with a smile.

 

“Yeah – yeah she is…”

 

 

 

“Hang on,” Doc said as a tall dark haired man walked in.  “Ama, is that our target?”

 

“It is indeed – shall I bring him over to the girls?”

 

“If you would be so kind.”

 

“Hello Dominic,” Ama said as she came over, “Mom has been delayed, but you can sit with us for a while if you want.”

 

“Oh – all right then,” the dark haired model said as he came over.  “Dominic, this is Rebecca Morse and Nicola Colman.  Girls, this is Dominic – I believe Caroline has told you to take care of him until she gets here?”

 

“She has indeed – in fact, she told us exactly what to do.  Have a drink, Dominic, and we’ll make sure you’re nice and comfy…”

 

 

 

 

“So you have no problem with us joining you, Alex?  I would love to visit your treasure trove.”

 

"I'll be delighted if you drive out with us Augie." Alexander looked pleased. "Fellow wine enthusiasts are always welcome."

"So what particular treasures will you be showing?"

"Wait until Monday," the priest smiled, "don't spoil the experience with too much anticipation."

"Alright - So what do you think of our entertainment tonight Alex?"

"Oh it should be fun..."

"A priest who isn't condemning striptease?"

"Oh burlesque is an art form, and it's all more in the mind then anything. One day get your uncle to tell him about he and I sneaking into the old Alhambra to watch the show."   Alex laughed at the memory.

"Is he talking about when we saw Beverley Hills?" Gus asked as he came over.

"I was Gus."

"It is so hard to remember that was over 50 years ago," Gus shook his head.

"Can you think what my mothers reactions would be if she knew that perfectly respectable women take burlesque lessons as an exercise class Gus?"

"I know, I think she'd have apoplexy at the mere thought."

 

“I think she’d have a heart attack now,” Alex said as he saw Pussy introducing Barbara to a dark haired woman in a black lace dress.

 

“She looks familiar,” Augie said as he looked over.

 

“Oh my – Augie, if I was you, I wouldn’t mention seeing her to Tracey or Mandy – or the Rochermann’s for that matter.  That lady is Dita von Teese…”

 

 

 

 

Liz smiled as she saw her son dancing with Erica to the DJ, trying not to laugh too much at how he coped.

 

“I see Simon is dancing with young Erica Big Sis.” Pussy said as she sat next to her sister.

 

“Yep, she’s better at this sort of dancing then ballroom.” Liz said as she looked towards her younger son. 

 

“I hear she is taking lessons though.”

 

“Indeed – Simon said she wasn’t as scared at the Freshman dance as she was at Pepsi’s party.

 

“Do you remember trying to get boys to talk at parties?” Kelly walked over and stood with them.

 

“About ANYTHING other then sports.” Liz shook her head.

 

“Well your Simon and Erica are talking about Math.”

 

“Oh dear Goddess!” Pussy burst into a laugh, “that is worse than sports.”

 

“Don’t knock it – they’re enjoying themselves,” Liz said with a smile.

 

 

 

“I have to say, this is an amazing party,” Jason said as he and Letty stood at the buffet.

 

“It is – you forget when you see Jeannie every day at school how many people she knows outside.  I’m only just discovering some of them myself.”

 

“I can understand that – I mean, yes, she’s a model, but so many others as well – I didn’t know you knew Curtis Richardson?”

 

“Curtis… Oh you mean Jo’s boyfriend Curt?  I kinda know him – where have you come across him?”

 

“We had to discuss one of his research papers in a class – he’s a man who really knows his stuff.”

 

“Well, from what Jo told me, this time last year he told me he felt the same way you and I do now – then he told me something very important.”

 

“What’s that?”

 

“They’re people too – and friends.  We just have to remember that.”

 

“Hey,” Abby said as she came over with Tony, “having fun?”

 

“Oh yes.”

 

“Good – come on, let’s dance.”

 

“How can you keep going after what I heard about yesterday?”

 

“Practice – and a bucketful of coffee,” Tony said as they moved to the dance floor.

 

 

 

 

“The young lady in the formal dress,” Valeria said as she stood with Natalya, “she is a most striking presence, no?”

 

“Very much so,” Natalya said quietly as she looked at Gale, standing talking to Jan, Adam and Tom, “she has a very regal way of standing, doesn’t she?”

 

“Could she possibly be from one of the old families?”

 

“No, Valeria,” Carina said as she came over, “I spoke to her.  Gale is the wife of Adam and Jan’s superior – she came across the picture in a reference book, and liked it so much she copied it for tonight.”

 

“Well, in that case she is a naturally poised woman,” Valeria said, “and is to be complimented on her presence.”

 

“Ah there you are,” Guy said as she came over, “Vanessa is wishing to discuss Monday with us.”

 

“Excuse us please,” Valeria said as she left Natalya and Carina talking.

 

“Copied from a book?”

 

“That is the reason we are giving Aunt,” Carina said quietly, “it appears our cousin and Gale are indeed coming to an understanding.”

 

“Good – I like it that she is progressing – and the child?”

 

“Healthy and growing.”

 

“Good – then let us enjoy ourselves as well…”

 

 

“Hey – you girls made it as well, and you look fantastic!”

 

“Thank you,” Dawn said as she stood in her cheongsam, “my mother and father are talking to Mrs. Brewster.”

 

“While mine are talking to that couple over there,” Lynn said as she looked at her parents talking to Clint and Susan. 

 

“I didn’t know you had Native American blood in you,” Jess said as she looked at her friend dressed in a buckskin dress and moccasins.

 

“My great great grandfather was Cherokee,” Lynn said, “and it meant I could be different.”

 

“Well it suits you,” Poppy said as she joined the group.

 

“Look at us,” Jess said, “where else in the city could you find four very different people as friends?”

 

“Amen to that – so, are we allowed a drink?”

 

“So long as your parents have approved it, yes – let me show you.”

 

 

 

“Giorgio!”

 

“Juan - it is good to see you old friend.” Giorgio Mancini embraced the big Spaniard.

 

“And you old friend.”

 

“I had forgotten that Jessica would be of an age to know someone like Jeannie.”

 

“I think it is more a case she knows girls who know Jeannie, and so we were kindly invited.”

 

“Well she seems to be having a good time, and I know Sandra liked seeing a familiar face.”

 

Juan put his hand on Giorgio’s shoulder and said, “How is Sandra my friend?”

 

“She’s having one of her good periods, it is why we brought her with us, she is back at school, and she seems quite happy.”

 

“Well, the younger girls are certainly making a fuss of her,” Giovanna Mancini said as she looked fondly across the room.

 

“I’d noticed,” Giorgio kissed his wife.  “See who else is here?”

 

“Good evening Giovanna.” First Juan, and then his wife embraced the Italian lady. “How are you?”

 

“Less worried now, thank you Juan.”

 

“I told you she’d be fine,” her husband smiled.

 

“Just look at her laughing.” Amelia Murchado nodded.

 

“I know, and I am so proud – but some people can react negatively around my daughter being in a wheelchair.”

 

“Well with one of our hostesses being disabled I think people here are used to it.” Juan said as he poured drinks for everyone, while the tall man in the Irish kilt walked over.

 

“I hope I’m not interrupting, but I’m Father Alex Richmond,” he said as he came over, “Senor Murchado, would you be related to a family from Jerez by chance?”

 

“I would Father,” Juan said, “why do you ask?”

 

“I’m a wine enthusiast and writer among other things, and I believe the Murchado sherries are among the world’s best.”

 

“Well thank you Father,” the big man smiled.  “Now, what led you to that conclusion…

 

“If Juan is going to talk about wine, then I’m taking Giovanna to meet some people,” Amelia laughed, “Father you get 30 minutes, then I am grabbing my husband for a dance.”

 

“I’ll try not to be longer.” Alex smiled.

 

 

 



"Ama,” Caroline said as she crossed the room and stood next to her daughter, “have you seen Dominic?"

“Well,” Ama said carefully, “I saw him when he arrived, I introduced him to some of the girls, and they may have introduced him to the Rochermann twins…”

 

“Ama?”

 

"Well, last time I saw him, he was a little tied up Mom," the dark-skinned girl giggled.

"Oy,” Caroline said as she rubbed her eyes, “do I need to know this?"


"Let me put it this way mom,” Ama said with a smile, “you go and enjoy your date with Dan, leave it to others to entertain Dominic."

"I knew I should never have spoken to Doc." Caroline shook her head.

"Is my name being taken in vain?" the highwaywoman asked.

"How embarrassed am I going to be in front of Dominic next time I see him Anna?"

"Oh it might be more like how embarrassed he is in front of you." Doc giggled.  “On which note…”

 

“There you are,” Dan said as he came over, “your drink, Madame.”

 

“Why thank you kind sir,” Caroline said with a small curtsey, “you are most considerate towards me.”

 

 

 

“Hello Juliette,” Cassandra said as she came over, wearing a green smock dress and ankle boots, “can I be one of the last to say congratulations?”

 

“You may,” Juliette said with a smile.  “So how are the preparations going?”

 

“Oh we’re all ready – we’re going to start some night shooting next week, external shots of the gang beginning one of their raids.  It should be exciting.”

 

“Talking of exciting, I heard about how you helped a mutual friend in Los Angeles.  I trust you found the experience educational?”

 

“Very much so – I’m hoping we can get together again while I am here.”

 

“I’ll see if I can set up drinks with a few friends – they are anxious to talk to you as well.”

 

“Thank you?”

 

“So are Rick and the family here?”

 

“Somewhere…”

 

 

 

“And who is this, darling,” Giovanna said as she found her daughter talking to a red haired girl.

 

“Mama this is Leonora Delaney,” Sandra introduced the other young girl, “her mama is Cassandra Stone the actress.”

 

“It is nice to meet you Leonora,” the Italian woman said as she shook the young girl’s hand. “I am a great fan of your mother’s work.”

 

“Thank you Mrs. Mancini. I can introduce you if you like?”

 

“In a moment perhaps Leonora.” Giovanna looked carefully at her daughter, “You aren’t too tired darling?”

 

“No,” Sandra laughed, “I am having fun, and there are just so many nice people to meet here.”

 

“Well that is good.” Giovanna smiled.

 

“Giovanna I fixed a couch up in Dad’s apartment if Sandra needs a rest,” Barbara came over.

 

“She’s fine for now, but thank You Barbara.”

 

“Well just tell me and I’ll show you how the lift works if you need it later.”

 

“Thank you Mrs. Brewster,” Sandra smiled as she looked up.

 

 

 

 

 

Winston grimaced slightly as he walked over and took two glasses of champagne from the barman.

 

“The ankle not quite right Winston?” Gus van Roon asked.

 

“Oh it’s only a minor sprain, but the coaches thought it better I sat out today’s game against Washington State, I should be back next week against Colorado.”

 

“Well it enabled you to come to this party, so an ill wind and all that.”

 

“It did,” Winston said with a smile, “so I asked permission not to travel with the team as I wasn’t playing.”

 

“Jeannie looks more then happy that you are here rather then in the wilds of eastern Washington.” Gus sipped his brandy, and said “so a mixed season?”

 

“We have played some good games,” Winston said, “but we still aren’t as strong as our fans hoped for.”

 

“I’ve made a special effort to look at the videos, and if I might venture an opinion you at least are having an all-conference season yourself.”

 

“Well I don’t know about that,” the huge young man blushed.

 

“Gus knows a bit about the game himself Winston,“ Alexander said as he came over from chatting with Senor Murchado, “He was All-Ivy League at Harvard.”

 

“I know, my grandfather played against him for Yale.”

 

“That he did Winston,” Gus laughed, “how is the old devil?”

 

“Preparing to argue another case before the Supreme Court sir, and showing no signs of retiring.”

 

“You old football players can never tell when it is time to retire,” Paulie said as she kissed her husband, “and Thomas is no exception.”

 

“I’m always amazed he never became a judge,” Nessa ventured an opinion.

 

“I think he enjoys arguing and badgering witnesses too much to ever have been a judge.” Winston laughed.

 

“Well I trust I’m not being talked about?” Brooke Hatton asked.

 

“No, we were talking about old Tom Brewster Brooke,” Alex said as he gave her a kiss.

 

“I was saying some people don’t know when to retire,” Paulie added.

 

“Well I worked as a clerk for Tom, “ Brooke smiled, “I think he taught me far more real law then Harvard Law School ever did, when he does retire it will be a loss to the entire profession.”

 

“So any news Brooke?” Nessa asked.

 

“No I’m still waiting to hear, I am hoping to corner our congressman soon and ask if he’s heard any rumours.”

 

“Well I think you’d make a fine arbiter on the federal bench Judge, and be a beautiful addition.” Winston spoke.

 

“Young man you have a future in the law with flattery like that.” Brooke laughed.

 

 

 

“Mandy,” Kelly said as she put her hand on her friend’s shoulder, “it’s time.”

 

“Tracey,” Paulie said as she put her hand on the young woman’s shoulder, “it’s time.”

 

 

 

“Well I hope you aren’t bored as you thought you might be darling?”

 

“No I’m not,” Juan Murchado smiled as he danced with his wife. “I have met several very interesting people.”

“I noticed you and Father Richmond having fun.”

 

“I think the good father knows more on the history of our sherry company then I do.”

 

“Well I’m just glad you met someone you liked.” Amelia Murchado smiled.

 

“I was afraid it was going to be another one of those terrible parties full of no one who can talk of other then business.”

 

“Oh I think it is too diverse a group for that.”

 

“It seems so.”

 

“And our daughter is having huge fun.”

 

“I’d noticed,” Juan laughed. “Who by the way was the young woman she introduced you to?”

 

“A Miss Sarah Nightingale, her football coach at school. She seems rather impressed with Jessica.”

 

“I am happy, Jessica is a fine player.” Juan looked round, “And a young lady who played for England can only help make her better.”

 

“Oh, she is that Sarah Nightingale?  How very interesting…”

 

 

 

“Shirley are you enjoying yourself?” Barbara asked.

 

“I am,” Shirley said as she sipped her drink, “and I’m being a bit more sensible about what I drink then I was last night.”

 

“I think a few of us overdid it,” Barbara said as she shook her head.

 

“I saw your father dancing with Rose…any worthwhile gossip?”

 

“Not as far as I know…YET!”

 

“Oh,” Shirley said as she turned her head and raised a perfectly sculpted eyebrow.

 

“Ask me tomorrow.”

 

“I will do,” Shirley’s eyes twinkled.

 

“Are you two gossiping perchance?” Charlotte said as she brought over a tray of sandwiches.

 

“Not about you Charlotte…”

 

“Though Barbara we might ask her about Piet?” Shirley interrupted.

 

“Well - we are going to give it another try,” Charlotte blushed, “He will be moving to a new job in London after Christmas so hopefully we will be able to be a normal couple.”

 

“Congratulations!” Shirley grinned as she hugged her subordinate.

 

“Yeah – at least I can try and stop him putting his life in danger.”

 

“I know – his reports on the liberation of those poor enslaved workers in Mogola.  The concept of an all female mercenary army,” Barbara said, “scary and also – comforting?  Does that sound strange?”

 

“Not from what I read of his reports,” Shirley said, “it sounds like what any mother or sister would say.”

 

“So where will he be working?”

 

“The Telegraph – he couldn’t refuse their offer…”

 

 

“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!!!”

 

The room fell silent as John walked into the centre of the dance floor.

 

“Tonight, we are going to witness a competition between two willing volunteers, to see who can perform the best burlesque routine and claim the title of Queen of the Sinners for one night only.  To judge the performances, your panel – Jack Linklater, Luke Heller and Antonio Bell!”

 

The three men smiled and waved to acknowledge the applause as they took their seats.

 

“Our first contestant tonight, representing the Windy City, dancing to the music of the incomparable Rita Hayworth singing "Put the Blame on Mame, the Pride of the Windy City’ please welcome to the dance floor Mrs. Tracey van Roon!”

 

Tracey walked into the centre of the room, a large black cape covering her, to a chorus of whistles and cheers from the van Roon's and friends.

 

“Hit it,” John said, and as the music started Tracey threw the cape off, to reveal a floor length black strapless dress, her leg extending through the slit from waist to floor as she put her black opera gloved hands through her hair, and started to shimmy across the floor.

 

“She looks like Rita Hayworth in that,” Chet said as she danced across the floor, throwing her bottom out and shimmying along, until she put her head down and threw it back, unzipping her dress as she stepped out of it and revealed a black basque, the garter belt holding her stockings up, and her high heels.

 

“Go MOMMA,” Blair shouted out as Tracey sat n the floor, doing an old fashioned bump and grind as she kicked her legs into the air, and then slipped out of her shoes, smiling as she unfastened and rolled her stockings down, before throwing them at the three judges.

 

“Work it Tracey,” Pussy called out, Dita watching and smiling as Tracey danced round the floor, kicking her legs out and thrusting her chest out to applause and cheers, before she shook her chest in front of the three judges.

 

“She really took your lessons to heart Mom,” Ally said as she and Nell stood with Kelly.

 

“Not bad, nor bad at all,” she said as Tracey reached behind her, and pulled on the knot holding her basque up.  She opened it out, her bare back visible to one side of the room, the other seeing her hold it in front of her as she smiled and walked forward – and on the last note, threw the garment away, dropping to her knees and throwing her head back as she shimmied over the end of the music.

 

“Okay folks, give it up for Tracey,” John said as Augie handed her a robe, and she stood to one side, panting and smiling.

 

 

“Well for a mother of two Tracey has nothing to be ashamed of.” Barbara shook her head, “I wish the body I saw in the mirror was still that firm.”

 

“Mum you have nothing to be ashamed of.”

 

“Jeannie is right Barbara,” Nessa spoke, “But I might just have a thought or two about getting some bits nipped and tucked.”

 

Nessa for your age you look amazing.”

 

“Ah but there is the problem, I just want to look plain amazing.” Nessa giggled.

 

“You know since Curragh Park, my sister is trying to have the life she was denied Barbara.”

 

“Oh you realize that do you Alex.”

 

“I do darling sister, and I for one say if you feel like a little plastic surgery go for it.”

 

“Maybe get my boobs lifted,” Barbara glanced in the mirror and looked wistfully.

 

“I’ll make an appointment for us both Barbara.” Nessa smiled.

 

 

 

“Now then,” John said as everyone applauded, “let’s welcome our next contestant, Mandy Carrow!”

 

The English contingent cheered as Mandy walked out, wearing a white dress with a halter neck tie, white opera gloves and a white feather boa.

 

“Mandy will dance to Marilyn Monroe’s classic ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’.  When you are ready?”

 

As the music started, Mandy posed as Marilyn would, and started to lip sync along, dancing from side to side as she used the boa as a rub on her back and behind.

 

She then ran her hands up her arms, smiling as she nodded and then reached behind her neck, turning her back to the audience as she unfastened the halter neck, and then unzipped her dress, letting it fall to the ground to reveal her white bra and panties as she moved, her legs kicking and the boa moved over her body.

 

“Oh MOMMA,” Jack called out as he hugged Pepsi, watching Mandy as she shimmied across the floor, taking the boa between her legs as well as around her back and shoulders.

 

“She’s still got it,” Karen whispered as she watched with Juliette and Alice, Mandy kicking her legs up in their white stockings before she draped the boa over her neck, turned her back and then her head, smiled and started to undo her bra straps.

 

Removing the garment, she turned to reveal the tassels taped over her nipples, moving her chest to turn them as she kept dancing.

 

“Will,” Guy said as he clapped her husband on the shoulder, “a truly magnificent effort.”

 

“Wait,” Will said as Mandy started to shimmy, using her gloved hands to pull her panties down – and revealed the g-string before she threw the panties into the crowd, and then danced in front of the judges.

 

As the song came to an end, Mandy jumped in the air and landed doing the splits, shaking her chest and the boa above her head, before she fell forward, the crowd whooping and cheering her as well.

 

“And there she is Mandy Carrow!”

 

Everyone clapped and cheered as Mandy took a robe from Jack and walked over towards Tracey.

 

"Ladies before the judges make up their minds, can we have a few words?" John Hammond asked.

"Oh dear GOD! That was one of the most exhilarating things I ever did in public." Mandy laughed,

"I really thought I'd be terrible out there," Tracey smiled, "But for one afternoon of lessons, that wasn't only not bad, but also huge fun.  I was dreading that we had agreed to do it last night when we were so drunk, but I think I might take some lessons."

"Oh and I agree darling," Mandy hugged her rival, that was amazing fun."

"So any regrets?" John asked.


"Only at using muscles I haven't used since I quit dancing darling." Mandy laughed again.

 

“Well, it looks like the judges have reached their verdict, Jack?”

 

“Thank you John,” Jack Linklater said as he looked round the room.  “Well, I think we’ve seen some remarkable things tonight, and this was a tough decision.  I understand some money was running on it, and also there were two special prizes.  One – an offer from our friend Stephen Stone to do a shoot for the winner…”

 

“What,” Mandy said as she looked at Jack.

 

“And second, an offer from one of our guests tonight for some lessons – Miss Dita von Teese!”

 

“WHAT!!!”  It was Tracey’s turn to scream as she looked at Pussy and Frieda with the dark haired woman.

 

“And so, the winner is…”

 

Jack looked at both women, smiled and said, “We can’t separate you – it’s a tie!”

 

Once the applause died down, Tracey and Mandy looked at each other, before saying “rematch?”

 

“Rematch – New Year’s Eve, after the lessons.”

 

 

 

 

 

“No Katy, and once again NO!”

 

“What is the problem Jan?” Heather asked as she walked over to where Katy as looking at her mother.

 

“Oh,” Jan said quietly, “the twins have Dominic tied to a bed upstairs to keep him out of the way…”

 

“HOLY ARTEMIS!” Heather exclaimed as she nearly spilled her champagne.

 

“It’s to help Caroline.” Katy explained.  “Keep him out of the way while Dan is here.  She did ask us to help…”

 

“She asked Doc to help,” Jan corrected her daughter.  “It seems various nymphets have been up there, teasing him, and performing certain lewd acts…and my barely teenage daughter wants to go up and join in.”

 

“You what Katy?”

 

“Look I wouldn’t do anything…except maybe undress…see what hot true jailbait does to him,” Katy started giggling.

 

“How many glasses Katy?” her mother asked accusingly.

 

“Just three, and I know fully what I’m doing…It’s not like Nikki jacking him off.”

 

“She did what?”

 

“Or Doc blowing him?”

 

“KATY!” both Heather and Jan exclaimed.

 

“I just want to see if I can get him all hard…”

 

“Katy Carter, if you dare…”

 

“Trouble ladies?” Paulie van Roon came over and asked.

 

Paulie,” Jan said quietly, “will you please explain to my daughter why she cannot go and join the mini party upstairs?”

 

“Do you want an honest answer,” Paulie said as she looked round.

 

Heather and Jan looked at Paulie, before Heather whispered “Why?”

 

“There’s a queue…”

 

 

 

“Well hello there.”

 

Dominic looked up, a strip of duct tape over his mouth as Nessa slowly disrobed.  He was stripped naked, his arms above his head and his wrists tied to the headboard, his legs spread apart and his ankles tied to the foot of the bed.

 

“I understand these young ladies have shown you their talents,” Nessa said as she took his cock in her hand and began to stroke it, smiling as he responded; “now it is time for experience to show them how to do it.”

 

Dominic groaned as Nessa leaned over and kissed his neck and chest, kneeling between his legs as she looked at him, and whispered, “Does this feel good?”

 

Hmmysss…”

 

“Good,” she said as the younger girls watched, and she pulled her panties down, “because I want you to learn a big secret, young man.”

 

Hmmmmmmgdddd…”

 

“Yes, that’s right,” Nessa whispered as she kissed his member, and gently stroked it, “class is in session, and this is my lesson.”

 

“Way to go Mrs. Richmond!” Nell laughed as Nessa positioned herself above Dominic.

 

“Young man there is one thing you need to know about women my age…We don’t yell, we don’t tell, we don’t swell,” and as she lowered herself onto his large erection, “we are as GRATEFUL AS HELL!”

 

Ally, Nell, and the others stood in stunned silence as Nessa rode the bucking bronco, the cries from her lips of pleasure, echoes of things she had long since missed.

 

“Young man, you are better than my husband ever was,” Nessa said, throwing her head back and panting with pleasure as the feelings inside her built, as she practically raped the young stud forcibly tied to the bed.

 

“Is she really?”

 

“Uh-huh,” Ally whispered as she heard Dominic moan.

 

“YES!”

 

For a second her eyes glazed over and her body shook, before she fell forward to lie on the breast of the young man.

 

“You look like you needed that mother,” came the amused voice of Sandy from the doorway.

 

“I did – and I am most grateful young man,” Nessa said as she kissed his gagged lips, and then slipped off the bed, dressing herself as the others watched.

 

“Girls, give him a chance to rest,” Sandy said as she escorted them out – and locked the door behind them.

 

 

 

“Did you enjoy that?” Henri said as he brought his daughter and Janine over glasses of champagne.

 

“YES!” both girls laughed.

 

“How did Tracey ever learn how to bump and grind like that?” Jeanne asked.

 

“I want to learn how to peel my gloves off…just like that.” Janine smiled sexily at Henri.

 

“Jeanne, Juliette said you wanted a word?” Karen walked over.

 

“I do…Do you think Barbara will mind if we go upstairs?”

 

“I’m pretty sure not.”

 

“Now what is all that about?” Henri asked Janine as the other two women walked away.

 

“All right Jeanne,” Karen said as she closed the door to the bedroom, “what can I do for you?”

 

“Karen, I need your professional advice,” Jeanne said as she sat down. 

 

“My…  How long?”

 

“Three weeks.”

 

“Have you done a test yet?”

 

“No – I’m scared to,” Jeanne said as she sat on the bed.

 

“Okay – we’re staying locally tonight.  Meet me at ten tomorrow, by the MOMA – we can do a quick test together, all right?”

 

“Thanks – and not a word to anyone else, especially papa,” Jeanne said.  “If this is what I think it is, I need to talk to someone first.”

 

 

 

 

 

"It's official, your husband dances worse than mine Eve," Paula Lardarn said as she stepped gingerly off the dance floor.

"Wait till you ever dance with Doctor Ken." Eve smiled happily, "even my baby brother and husband are great compared to him."

"You mean the guy who looks like the stork?"

"I do indeed."

"That man can really dance though..." Paula nodded in Piet's direction.

"You mean Piet?"

"Is that his name?  The guy with the tiny red-headed girlfriend."

"That's him, and yes he is an amazing dancer.  The House too," Eve said as she watched Winston dance Jeannie round.

"So what is Piet’s story?"

"He's that South African journalist who won all the awards writing about those poor slaves..."

"Oh and the recent fights over mining."

"Exactly."

Paula shook her head, "You know for a young woman Jeannie knows some amazing people."

"That she does."

 

 

“Tom, are there any other Old Etonians here apart from you and I?” John Hammond asked the Duke of Lardarn.

 

“I’d have to think…Why?”

 

“Because that large posse of Old Harrovians here have the cheek to say their school song is better then our boating song.”

 

“Damned cheek!” Tom started looking round.

 

“Did I hear you mentioning Slough Comprehensive?” young Luke Heller asked.

 

“You Luke?” John asked.

 

“For my sins, and please keep it quiet, but yes.”

 

“Well that’s three of us.” Tom sipped his drink.

 

“And I just remember a fourth…Go grab Professor Fife Luke.”

 

“But isn’t he American?”

 

“Hale did his A Levels in the shadows of Windsor Castle, just as we did.” John smiled. “The four of us should be tuneful enough.”

 

As they gathered in a corner, Will and the boys started to sing…

 

When Lyon walked the Hill, I ween,

He saw our church and steeple,

And looked on many a league of green,

With here and there a farm between,

And scarcely any people;

“I’ll build,” quoth he, as he looked down,

“A road to far-off London town.”

 

And build he did: the roadway came,

And Harrow link’d to London,

A path for those that sought a name,

A link with fortune and with fame

That never should be undone:

And many a foot has worn the road

From School to life that Lyon showed.

And does it bring us any gains,

 

Now London’s here and round us,

And gives us trams and cars and ‘planes

And ‘buses and electric trains

To carry and confound us;

Arterial roads where’er one roams,

And quite a lot of aerodromes?

 

The Hill’s grey spire still greets the day,

The old road still goes winding:

And if the houses all the way

No touch of ancient days betray,

The secret’s there for finding:

On Lyon’s road is always Spring

For souls that go a-journeying

 

 

“Men and their songs,” Mandy said as John went “one two three four…”

 

Jolly boating weather,
And a hay harvest breeze,
Blade on the feather,
Shade off the trees,
Swing swing together,
With your bodies between your knees,
Swing swing together,
With your bodies between your knees.

Rugby may be more clever,
Harrow may make more row,
But we'll row for ever,
Steady from stroke to bow,
And nothing in life shall sever,
The chain that is round us now,
And
nothing in life shall sever,
The chain that is round us now.

Others will fill our places,
Dressed in the old light blue,
We'll recollect our races,
We'll to the flag be true,
And youth will be still in our faces,
When we cheer for an Eton crew,
And youth will be still in our faces,
When we cheer for an Eton crew.

Twenty years hence this weather,
May tempt us from office stools,
We may be slow on the feather,
And seem to the boys old fools,
But we'll still swing together,
And swear by the best of schools,
But we'll still swing together,
And swear by the best of schools.

 

“Swing Swing together with your ladies between your knees it should be more like.” Doc moaned as the four Etonians finished singing.

 

“Oh that is terrible Anna.” Harriet giggled behind her.

 

“Am I the only one who sees something a little homosexual in that song?” asked Becca.

 

“I’m afraid most boys school songs are like that.” Jeannie shook her head.

 

“Well are girls schools one any better?” Billy asked.

 

“Yes with so many old and current girls here, “how about a performance of the St Angela’s school song?” Guy du Grechy shouted out.

 

“Oh now we are in trouble!” Pepsi’s eyes rolled.

 

“Challenge – accepted,” Paulie said as she looked round.  “Gather round, Angels – you too Brooke.”

 

“And you Juliette,” Rachel called out, “you may be a honorary Angel, but you are one.”

 

The room split in half, girls and Angels on one side, the rest on the other.

 

Nessa, do the honours please,” Rachel said, as Nessa led the angels to the tune of We Plough The Fields and Scatter…

 

We gather here all Angels, Young Ladies proud and true,

For we are young and eager to learn our lessons through.

We face the snows of winter, the heat of summer time.

To learn the one true lesson of your great God sent sign.

 

For all your gifts around us

That you dear God did send

We thank you please, Oh Thank you please

For all that we receive.

 

It is our holy mission, to learn to do things right,

And save our souls forever from Satan’s evil blight.

To listen to our teachers, to do as we are told,

In sweetness and in goodness, each other’s hands we hold.

 

For all your gifts around us

That you dear God did send

We thank you please, Oh Thank you please

For all that we receive

 

We strive dear Lord to please you, our virtues shining bright,

We ask our Saint to help us, maintain us in your light.

To live by her example, be honest, good and pure

For in true love and in friendship, our future then is sure.

 

For all your gifts around us

That you dear God did send

We thank you please, Oh Thank you please

For all that we receive

“Chet, should we…”

 

“No you do not, H,” Sarah said as she leaned against him, “you do not.  Your signing voice is not to be heard – trust me.”

 

"Oh the school song!" Nessa finished laughing, "Between us all here how many times do you think we have sung that damn thing."

"Thousands." Alex gave his sister a glass of champagne. "I didn't quite realise how many Angels were here at the party."

"One day you need to write a better song Harriet," Barbara joined in the laughter.

"Why? I think that says everything that the school tries to do."

"It's a bit outdated, and no one sings the unofficial fourth verse." Judy McNally, said as she poured herself a drink.

"Alright I'll bite," Shirley spoke, "what is the fourth verse?"

 

Nessa and Judy looked at each other and sang


St Angela we pray you, to watch behind our back.
For we are sorely tempted, to climb right in the sack.
We ask that you protect us, to make sure rubbers hold,
To keep our reputations, if we might be so bold.


“Oh dear,” Shirley giggled, “I see what you mean…”

 

 

“Hey Holly – enjoying yourself?”

 

“I am Carina – I like the dress.”

 

“Thanks – yours is good as well,” Cari said as she looked at Holly, in her servant girl’s outfit.

 

“I wonder if Nell is up for a rendition of our school song?

 

“I don’t think so – she still feels a bit strange with what happened.”

 

“I can imagine – did you go to the funeral?”

 

“No – I went to the memorial afterwards.  Poor Kelly, to go like that…”

 

“Well, she’s at least at peace now – I heard the man who killed her goes on trial in San Antonio next month?”

 

“He does – I hope he pleads guilty.”

 

“So do I,” Carina whispered, “so do I…”

 

 

 

“Susan, have you seen my father at all,” Barbara said as she looked around the room.

 

“Maybe he and Rose went to get some more tea,” Susan said as she looked as well, “I can go and see if you want?”

 

“No – no it’s all right.  Leave them alone, wherever they are…”

 

 

 

“Have you heard about what’s going on upstairs,” Heather said as she finally cornered Sandy.

 

“Oh yes – I saw what was going on for myself,” Sandy said as she picked a glass.

 

“We had to stop Katy going up.”

 

“Good – I wouldn’t let Sands in there, even if I wanted to.”

 

“Ah good – you’re here,” Juliette said as she walked over with Diana, “can you two come round to Diana’s place on Monday?  It’s time we had a chat with Cassandra Stone.”

 

“Of course,” Heather said, “any thoughts on if she can be involved in Toronto?”

 

“Depends on her shooting schedule, but it’s a thought.  Right now, this is introducing her to you lot on a firmer basis.”

 

“I also think we need to decide how much we bring Tommy in – if he knows some,” Diana said quietly, “do we trust him to know at least of us?”

 

“I know – but we can discuss that then as well.  When Shirley and I talked with him, it was clear he had worked out who I was, and guessed who she was – but I’m not sure about all of you yet.”

 

“Okay then – seven at my place Monday, and we get Jo and Cari on line then as well.”

 

 

 

 

 

“Jeanne, my dear, are you all right?”

 

 

The young Frenchwoman looked at her father and said “Yes, I’m fine Father – I wanted to ask Karen about something related to a fund raising event for her unit.”

 

“And that is all?”

 

“For the moment – Father, I will tell you if anything is wrong, you know that don’t you?”

 

 

 

 

“I think this is about the best party I ever went to.” Brooke Paget laughed while she danced with her cousin.

 

“Even though Coach Kelly is here as well?”

 

“Yes, even if Coach is here. We had a word earlier and she told me training rules don’t apply on Halloween.”

 

“And why should they?  I saw you dancing earlier with that guy from St Augustine’s,” Marnie smiled, “what’s his name…Bing?”

 

“That’s his nickname, his real Christian name is Schuyler, Schuyler Dickenson.”

 

“Okay I know one of his sisters.” Marnie smiled again, “are you and he?”

 

“In his dreams,” Brooke giggled, “we’ve been out a couple of times, but I’ve told him I am not getting serious with anyone till after the Indoors.”

 

“Quite right,” Annie spoke as she and Cari danced by.

 

Letty and I are determined that we will be the captains who lift that trophy this school year.”

 

“Good for you,” Marnie told her cousin approvingly.

 

“So how’s college?”

 

“Going well – and the modeling is proving quite useful for expenses as well…”

 

 

 

“Oh I need that…Thank You!” Mercy Kinman gratefully took the glass of champagne that Denice pressed in her hand.

 

“You dance well.”

 

“I used to,” Mercy said, “but I’m out of practice.  My late husband used to go to the clubs with me, before Letty came along.”

 

“Well you looked good out there to me.”

 

“You aren’t too bad yourself Denice.”

 

“And I’ll second that.” Amelia Murchado said as she joined the conversation.

 

“Well I’ll take that as a compliment, especially from a woman who can tango like that.” Denice looked at Amelia who was blushing.

 

“Oh I’m not too bad, but any woman will look special dancing with Antonio Bell in a tango.”

 

“He certainly knows how to dance it, but then that football player Winston, and that big South African man both looked like they got the passion of the dance.”

 

“That is true Mercy.” Denice nodded.  “Pity they’re both taken, in a way.”

 

“Well, there’s always Father Alex – good dancer and socially safe.”

 

 

 

“Thank you for the dance Madame,” Piet bowed as he delivered Shirley back to John after the waltz.

 

“That was exhilarating,” the auburn-haired lady smiled as she sat and sipped a drink.

 

“He can certainly dance well.” John smiled. “Are you enjoying yourself my love?”

 

“Immensely darling.” Shirley kissed her partner. “I like having fun and seeing my friends doing the same.”

 

“Even while drumming up a little business?”

 

“Well, perhaps a little.”

 

“I caught a few words about your company transporting some furs…”

 

For a few seconds Shirley stiffened.  Surely he hadn’t heard what she and Heather had discussed…

 

“Also about insuring APCO’s collection when Karen takes it to show in Russia, offering the Murchado’s a free quote…that is quite a bit of business my love.”

 

“Well enough that I hope I didn’t bore anyone.” Shirley relaxed.

 

“No – this is the sort of place we mix business with pleasure.  On which note – Stephen.”

 

“John, my man,” Stephen Stone said as he came over, “are you going to be there Monday as well?”

 

“The big review?  I would not miss it for the world.  I hear Jeannie excelled herself.”

 

“Never mind her – if what I hear is correct, both your partner and the Countess are the stars of the show.”

 

Shirley blushed as she heard this, and made her way across the floor…

 

 

“Signore and Signora Mancini?”

 

Jess’s parents turned and smiled as the blonde joined them.