Duck Soup – part 2
The Richmond Mansion
“That’s better,” Nessa said as she came into the room, “a shower always helps wake me up.”
"How long had it been Mother?" Sandy asked
as she looked at her mother, in her jeans and open necked blouse.
"Do you really want to know darling?" Nessa replied as she sat at the counter.
"I think so."
"Well,” Nessa said as
she held her mug, “over 30 years..."
"Oh my Goddess...You mean for all those years you
"No,” her mother said as she put her mug
down. “I mistreated your father horribly
"No,” Sandy said quietly, “I think that Grandpa
and Grandmother are the ones who should really bear the responsibility Mom. You
were just conforming to what they wanted you to be."
"Your father called me a frigid bitch, and I
suppose I was, but after you came along darling it no longer seemed to have a
point to it."
"No...your poor father
was NOT a skilled lover, and I never had an orgasm with him. He'd finish then I
would go in the bathroom, and well I suspect you know what I did."
"Mom it must have been so horrible?" Sandy came
round and put her arms round Nessa.
"Well let me say that young man last night set me
thinking to what might have been..."
"...or what might still be." Sandy laughed.
"You have a filthy mind Alexandra." Nessa laughed.
"Well do I need find you a lover?"
"Darling I can assure you even at my age I can
find my own men."
"Oh I know you can." sandy joined her mother in laughing.
“What’s so funny,” Jo said as she came in with Curt.
“Nothing, nothing – when are you flying back?”
“Six o’clock flight tonight – we’re meeting up with the girls for lunch, so don’t cook for us.”
“Fair warning,” Sandy said. “So picked your classes for next semester?”
“Yup - I’ll sign up during the week. Once they’re confirmed, I’ll let you know.”
“Right then,” Nessa said, “I need to get back to the apartment. I’ll see you later Sandy.”
“Lunch will be ready in a few minutes, Aunt Shirley,” Maisha called through from the kitchen.
“Thank you,” Shirley said as she went into the den, “I’ll make this call and then come through.”
Closing the door, she opened up her laptop and made a call to the UK.
“Good afternoon Madame,” Penny said from her home. “What can I do for you tonight?”
"Have you briefed Natalya fully on her mission
Penelope?" Shirley smiled as she looked at the screen.
"I have Madame,” Penny said as she sipped from a
mug, “she will fly to Moscow and spend 48 hours negotiating the various
"Including the sale of the furs?"
"Yes, though I must say selling furs to Russia is
rather like sending coals to Newcastle."
"I know," Shirley smiled, "but as long
as Russian ladies have to endure their winters, and the current economy ensures
that at least a section of the populace has money to spend, then we are merely
helping meet the demand."
"That is true.
So we all profit from it."
"Precisely.” Shirley leaned back and said, “so how has
your weekend been?"
"Probably a lot more relaxed then
yours," Penny smiled, "I have talked with Helen, watched two new gore
movies, had lunch at a neighbors, and I am just
getting ready to drive back to town."
"So it was the kind of weekend that could have
been improved only by Helen actually being there?"
"Exactly!" Penny smiled again.
“Well, safe driving, and we will talk as usual tomorrow.”
“Juliette wants us as bridesmaids?”
“That’s right,” Carina said as she sat with Annie, Jo, Abby, Curt and Tony. “So once the date is settled, we’ll let you know so you can ask your counselors.”
“So I get Germany as well as France on my tick list,” Jo said with a smile. “Good thing I was considering German 101 for next term.”
“So you and Ingy as the seniors, me, Abby and…”
“Angel as the second line, with Doc, then three flower girls – Katy, Sands and Judith.”
“Sands? Little Sandy really is growing up, isn’t she?”
“That she is Tony,” Abby said as she ate a piece of her salmon, “that she is.”
“This is really going to be a grand affair, isn’t it?”
“Much against mom’s best wishes, I suspect,” Carina said.
“So back to college for all of you today?”
“True – but think,” Tony said, “three weeks and we will have been to your first ball.”
“Oh yeah – fitting Tuesday,” Abby said with a smile.
Susan and Clint’s Apartment
Susan and Maeve looked over, April sitting on Maeve’s lap, as the front door opened and Rose came in.
“Oh yes,” Susan said quietly, “and what time do you call this?”
“Lunchtime,” Rose said with a smile, “anybody want a cup of tea?”
“Go on, I’ll make a pot,” Maeve said as she guided her sister to the kitchen, and then said “well?”
Rose just smiled as she put a kettle of water on to boil. “We talked, and he brought me tea in bed.”
“He was gentle, loving, and I felt as if I was sixteen again,” Rose said with a smile. “Does that sound funny?”
“No – it sounds fantastic,” Maeve said as she hugged her sister. “Well done sis.”
“So is this going to be a thing,” Susan said as she appeared in the doorway, “you stopping out all night when you visit?”
“Maybe, maybe not – we’ll see…”
The Brewster Brownstone
"Did you make sure Pablo got that extra tip
mom?" Jeannie looked round as her mother entered the kitchen. "He
worked so hard looking after Sandra."
"I did, and I thanked him for all he did."
"It's nice when someone takes care like
"Well you would know my darling." Barbara
put her arms round her daughter. "Did the Mancini's bring Sandra to the
"They did, and Granddad kept her amused trying to
teach her some cockney rhyming slang."
"Oh I bet that was something to hear."
Barbara laughed, "How did you do?"
"Very well, champagne seems to have little effect
on me, but it was a bit boring just sitting round while the Lerrabella
makeup artists put my warpaint on. Then we'd shoot a
few frames, and then it was back to sitting again."
"Well just think how much all that sitting round
"Is Dad running House to the airport?"
"He is, they should be
at JFK as we speak." Jeannie looked at her watch. "You know if it
isn't me catching the damn redeye then it’s him."
"I know, this is just
such a huge damn country."
"Oh which reminds me, I need finish prepping for my American History test on the California gold rush."
“Well, to work young Padawan – I’ll start dinner.”
Monday 2nd November
The Richmond Mansion
"How did your bookmaking work out Lover?"
Sandy looked up from her book, before saying, "I've
paid those who bet on the draw, and I've come out well ahead."
"Well done that woman," Heather kissed her
"Mom where is my...?"
"Your homework is in the TV room George."
"Heather I can't find my..."
"Did you look in your bedroom Sandy?"
"I'd forgotten there...Thank you."
"Oh after a weekend like that, back to a normal
Monday morning." Heather giggled.
"Tell me about it. I have a meeting this morning, and then we’re gathering tonight to meet with Cassandra."
“Yeah – the kids are going round to Katy’s for dinner after school.”
The de Ros Mansion
"Mama where are my car keys?"
"By the door as always," Diana called out.
"Thanks," Abby ran into the kitchen looking
her usual Monday morning mess.
"Is that toast warm?"
"It is." Diana smiled as her daughter
grabbed a slice, and a mug of coffee.
"Oh I am SO LATE!"
"Not really Cherie, for you this actually isn't
too bad." Diana looked at her watch. "Do you have a yearbook meeting
"I do, so I'll be late."
"Not a problem. Don’t forget we have guests tonight." Diana laughed as the wreck that was Abigail first thing in the morning ran out the door blowing a kiss.
“Ama, are you ready?”
“Just let me grab my bag,” Ama called out as she ran to her room.
“What time’s your appointment,” Caroline said to Annie as she finished her coffee.
“Ten – I’ll let you know,” Annie said with a smile.
“Hey,” Pepsi said as she came up the stairs, “ready?”
“Ready,” Ama said as she came out, and Caroline grabbed her car keys.
“Wagons roll,” she called out as they went down the stairs, Annie shaking her head as she finished her coffee.
“Hi Erica,” Caroline said as she watched the young girl climb in, “have a good day yesterday?”
“Not really,” Erica said as she fastened her seat belt, “ a former friend left a present for us outside our door – a pile of bovine excrement.”
“Some friend,” Pepsi said, “any idea who it was?”
“Oh yes – the girl you met Ama?”
“Rochelle – the one who thought a knife made her a powerful woman?”
“That’s the one – and there’s not a lot we can do about it…”
Caroline listened to the girls talk, making mental notes as she headed to the school.
Dr. Helen Reichmann’s office
“Please have a seat Miss Kelly – Dr. Reichmann is running a little late.”
“No problem,” Annie said as she sat down, picking up a magazine as she flipped through it. As she heard a door open, she looked up and saw Jeanne coming out with Helen.
“I’ll see you next week Jeanne – right now, eat healthily, drink less, and stay healthy. Any problems, call me.”
“Thanks Doctor… Annie?”
“Jeanne – want to catch some lunch later?”
“Yeah – noon in the park?”
“Sounds good,” Annie said as Helen watched Jeanne walk out.
“Right – Come away in Annie,” Helen said as she escorted the young teacher into the surgery.
“Want me to strip off and lie down?”
“Not yet,” Helen said as she sat down, “and certainly not without Carina present. So let me make it easy – the procedure has worked, and you are approximately seven weeks pregnant. Congratulations.”
“Oh goddess,” Annie said quietly, “I guess life changes now.”
“In your case, not much,” Helen said. “Just watch the drinking, and I’ll schedule regular appointments.”
“What about sport?”
“Well, for now no problem, but later you need to step back a little. We can work it out in due course. So, go, tell Carina, and I’ll see you next week as well.”
Annie nodded as she stood up, and shook Helen’s hand, before she left the office, walking as if she was on a cloud.
“Hey there,” Annie said as she looked up from the booth, “how are you feeling?”
“Is it all right if I say I’m petrified,” Jeanne said as she sat opposite the teacher.
“I’ll see you and raise you with terrified – and exhilarated at the same time.”
“Have you told Carina yet?”
“I’m waiting for her to call me – she had classes all morning,” Annie said as she looked at the phone. “What about your father?”
“I will tell him at dinner tonight – I have a more difficult problem to consider than that.”
Jeanne nodded as the waitress brought over some coffee and a club sandwich. “I need to make a phone call – once I have told Papa. He may wish to take a different approach.”
“Anyone I know?”
“Yes, so please – not a word yet.”
“My lips are sealed,” Annie said with a motion of her hand.
The sound of Monster Mash made Jeanne smile as Annie answered the call.
“Hey Cari – how was your morning?”
“Busy – yours?”
“Well, I had this appointment, and…”
“Annie, if you don’t…”
“Yes – seven weeks.”
There was a moment’s silence, and then a whoop that everyone in the café heard.
“I’ll talk to you later,” Cari said, “Gotta go. Love you.”
“Love you too,” Annie said as she ended the call, and then looked at Jeanne. “So, how bad can seven months on soft drinks be?”
“Wait and see, wait and see…”
"Now for the difficult one...telling my in-laws
so to speak."
"You don't think Klaus and Juliette won't be
overjoyed as well?"
"Oh I know they'll be happy, but I made a promise
to Klaus that this child will also be a von Furstenheim,
and I'm not sure what it will all entail."
"If I know Sigi, and I
do happen to, then she has long since had all the relevant documents
"Well we will see...Here goes." Annie dialed a number.
“Ju? Its Annie – are you on your way out?”
“Okay, listen – I’ll be round later, but you’re going to have a brother or sister for Judith.”
“I think she’s happy,” Jeanne said as she heard the scream of joy.
"Any idea why Miss Kelly wasn't here for first
period math?" Hebe Adams asked as Erica and the girls joined the
"She had a doctors
appointment, and she's taken the day off, is what Ama told me." Erica
replied. "Nothing serious."
"Well we still didn't escape the test." Jess
complained, "and before you say was that a test
Erica Burton, I'm warning you…"
"Oh," Erica laughed, "it really wasn't
"Alright everyone - we beat her up after
"Threats of violence Jessica?"
Letty asked from behind them.
"Justified...she was saying this morning’s math
test wasn't hard."
"Oh in that case I'm not intervening." Letty joined the laughter. “But please remember – any physical violence will result in sanction.”
“So what can we do to make our views known in no uncertain manner,” Dawn asked.
“Oh I’m sure you can think of something…”
"The girls seem in fine spirits?" Wilhelmina remarked to Grace as they looked over.
"I know...Hold on please Wilhelmina." Grace said
as she looked at her phone.
"Annie Kelly?" the principal asked as a huge
smile broke out on Grace's face.
"Yes, she's 7 weeks gone."
"Oh now that is great news."
"What is?" Kate Hardisty
"Annie is pregnant like she hoped." Grace looked up from texting back a reply.
“That is fantastic news – I wonder how Carina will react?”
“You will probably hear the call from here,” Kate said as they looked round the room.
"How was the Shakespeare this morning with Miss
Nightingale?" asked Abigail.
"Easier then Chaucer was when we started
it." Jeannie said as she eased her chair in beside the older girl.
"We had a film on him that was actually
interesting." Becca sat down.
"So what are you doing as the set plays?"
"Macbeth, Henry V, and A Comedy of Errors."
"A history, a tragedy and a comedy."
"That's what Miss Nightingale says." Nikki
eased herself in.
"I started them already..."
"Stop boasting Doc." Pepsi groaned.
"Have you and Chet patched things up?" Abby
"Yeah, he's just about forgiven me for giving
Dominic a blow job."
"You are going to lose him if you aren't
"I know," Doc looked skywards, "It was
just an idea I got in my head, and well I did it."
"You have a reckless streak Anna." Abby's glance to the younger girl contained a hidden warning.
The New Calabria
“Hey Tommy,” Annie said as Tommy the Fish came in, “Can youse mind the bar for an hour? I need to go collect Tammy for her shots.”
“Yeah sure,” Tommy said as he took his coat off, “Business good?”
“Fairly good,” Annie said as she put on her leather jacket. “But yer need to do a stock take on the liquor. I fink we’re running low on whisky.”
“Gotcha – have fun at the docs,” Tommy said as they kissed, and Annie went out of the main entrance. “Youse okay here for a while,” he said as he looked at the two barmaids, both nodding as he went into the back yard.
As he closed the door, Tommy stopped for a moment and looked round.
“Okay, who’s dere?”
“My apologies Tommy,” Miss Leopard said – only the woman who came out wasn’t dressed as Miss Leopard, but wore a grey trouser suit with a white blouse, and three inch black heels. She still had black leather gloves on, but she was smiling as she stood there, a veil covering her face descending from her hat.
“Youse gave me a real scare dere, Miss,” Tommy said as he returned his .45 to the back of his trousers. “Checking up on me again?”
“Well, given our working relationship has moved to a new level – at least as far as we are concerned – I felt a more casual approach was appropriate. But thank you for suggesting we meet here.”
“Well, a bit more convenient, eh? So what can I do for youse?”
“We need to confirm your contact in Toronto can meet our needs – and that they understand the seriousness of our commitment.”
“Oh I thinks Maccy does,” Tommy said with a grin, “but I warned her of de consequences if youse get messed about.”
“Good,” Miss Panther said as she looked round. “Tommy, tonight we will meet to discuss some matters – and one of those is how much more we can tell you. It would help if…”
“One other for certain – my niece if you will.”
Miss Panther nodded as she said “Very well – we will discuss, but for the moment, you talk with me and me alone. I am not sure Miss Leopard is ready to fully trust you just yet. And if we meet as a group, we meet as a group.”
“Of course – may I ask youse a question?”
Miss Panther nodded as he said “dis film crew that are doing their version of you – what do you really fink of dat?”
“Let us say,” Miss Panther said as she stood up, “we are watching with close interest. I will be in touch in the usual way, Tommy.”
“Still want me to leave furst?”
“If you would,” Miss Panther said, the smile real under her veil as Tommy went back into the bar.
"Stick I have a little news for you - Annie is
"Oh my Goddess."
Abigail celebrated in the hallway.
"I take it you just got the news." Grace
smiled as she walked towards the younger model.
"You heard as well Palomino? Oh I'm sorry I mean
"Yes, and for once I'll let the name thing
slip." Grace smiled. "Were you waiting to see me?"
"Yes about doing a second pinup calendar."
"You had better come in then," Grace opened
her office door.
"Am I modeling, or just over-seeing Stick?"
she smiled, "and in private like this it's fine."
"I was sort of hoping both."
"I think I can be persuaded...When did you have
in mind for tryouts?"
"Say Wednesday after school."
"I think I can do that. Who do you have in mind to shoot it?"
"Well I approached Stephen, but he has his book
tour, so I was thinking of maybe asking Luke."
"That might work well." Grace thought, "he's a very talented young man."
The de Ros Mansion
“Is that you Abigail,” Diana called out as she heard the front door close.
“It is mama – let me grab a drink and I’ll come and join you.”
A few minutes later, Abby came through to the drawing room to see Sandy, Heather, Juliette, Janice, Annie and Anna sitting there.
“Hey Abby,” Jo said as she waved from her computer screen, “back to the grindstone?”
“All of us are,” Carina said as she appeared in a second window.
“Hey – before I forget, congrats you two.”
“You’re welcome Jo,” Carina said as Annie blushed.
“Did I miss something?”
“Annie’s pregnant with my second grandchild,” Juliette said to Jan, who looked at Annie, stunned into silence.
“All right ladies, we have a lot to get through tonight, so let’s get down to the first order of business,” Juliette said. “Our next target – the Beaufort Cold Storage unit in Mississauga, just outside Toronto. On the weekend of Saturday 14th November, the Toronto Convention Centre is playing host to the annual Toronto International Fur Festival – and the Beaufort Cold Storage unit is where all the furs for the convention are being stored.”
“Cool,” Doc said, before a barrage of seat cushions descended on her.
“Very different,” Diana said quietly, “both in Canada, and the gains.”
“But very, very substantial. Both in monetary terms, and in the bulk of what we take. That is why we have had Susan, Janice and Sandy taking their truck driving lessons.”
“Retail value? Over 250 million US dollars.”
The women looked at each other, before Heather passed round the initial briefing documents. “Jo, Cari, I sent you these earlier. The essential details are in these packs.”
"One question Ju, how
long is it going to take us to load the trucks with all that fur?" Janice
asked. "How long do we have to take over the building to get
"Good question...I did some calculations and came
up with three hours, I asked Doc to do the same math, and she..."
"I had just over three hours, but it all depends
on the amount of women on the raid, and how well we can secure the
"It will not be in and out then?" Diana
looked at the brief.
"No it won't." Juliette looked at faces.
"Well it's certainly a challenge." Sandy
"It is that Sandy."
"So how big a crew and just whom?"
Annie looked up.
"Are you sure you want to come along Annie?"
"Juliette I'll be under three months...I will be
"I know you will Monster Mama." Cari laughed on the screen.
"And that Thursday night is our only window of
opportunity?" asked Jo.
"The day after everything gets moved from the
Cold Storage facility to the exhibition hall where it will be under constant
armed guard." Ju answered.
"And even we don't have the numbers to take the
job on there." Heather added.
"Alright so we have a date, we have a place, what practical things do we need to do?"
"Well the girls taking truck drivers lessons has helped Diana, but we really do need to talk this through and work out just how many women we do need precisely."
“So, broad strokes first – the unit is manned by a staff of eight in the evening and through the night – the manager is Claude Villeneuve. French Canadian, married for twenty years, one teenage daughter. Head of security is Jake Humphries, ex-Mountie, lives with his twenty nine year old second wife and her twelve year old daughter.”
“When do they start?”
“Villeneuve usually starts at eight, Humphries at nine. The idea is by ten or so, two teams of three hit their homes, take the wives and daughters hostage, and this is communicated to them in no uncertain manner.”
“Okay. That’s six and three truck drivers – nine so far.”
“Those three and whoever else we can find hit the unit, and secure the staff in one room while our tech experts deal with the alarms and security. By twelve, we start loading.”
“So we need at least two to stand guard, and a conveyor line for the goods.”
“Shirley has offered the use of a private airfield and plane for transport, an hour’s drive north of Mississauga, and a team to load there. We may have to stagger departure.”
The group sat back and thought for a moment.
“So we can call on the ten of us,” Annie said as she looked round, “as well as Dom I assume and Susan.”
“That’s twelve,” Heather said. “I think we need a minimum of fourteen.”
"However we do the figures we come up at least
one, probably two women short." Janice sat back in her chair.
"All right - let's go through things one more time."
Juliette closed her eyes.
"Shirley and Charlotte are both out because they must be in London for the launch of the South African office.”
"Penny can travel, but not Lily."
"We know Jo."
"Maddie has a job fixed
and timed for that day, and she can't make it, nor can we borrow any of her
"Except maybe JD Ju?"
"And that's a big maybe Janice,
I'm really not sure about bringing in someone who is not immediate family so to
"Your Aunt Natalya Cari?" Jo asked.
"Not really her thing robbery,
and I also know she has to be in Germany."
"Scratch her then." Jo sighed.
"Oh come on between us we must know someone with
a highly larcenous streak?"
"Who would be cool if she was approached by the Pussycat gang Aunt Ju?" Abby asked.
"We may well have to ask Susan and Madame to find
someone for us then?" Diana threw her hands up.
"Just a thought...Clint in a dress?"
"Get serious Doc." Abby glared at her
"My mother would have a fit," Sandy smiled.
"And can you imagine mine toting a sawn-off
shotgun?" Janice laughed.
"Oh Goddess no!" her friends joined in the laughter.
“Unavailable – ditto for Helen. Marina however – worth considering…”
"And at all costs we avoid the number 13."
Juliette looked up from re-reading her notes.
"You really do have a phobia don't you?" Sandy took a sip of drink.
Juliette suddenly sat forward. “There is one other possibility – one other person who knows what’s involved, and we can call on relatively easily.”
“Who,” Annie said as she looked at Juliette. There was a knock on the door, and Edith came in.
“Excuse me, Madame, but Miss Cassandra Stone is here. She says you are expecting her?”
“Yes I am Edith – can you show her in and then bring through the wine and glasses please?”
“Yes Madame,” Edith said as she stood to one side, and Cassandra Stone came in, wearing a large sweater and jeans.
“Well,” she said as she looked round the room, “this answers as many questions as it poses.”
“Welcome Cassandra,” Diana said as Edith brought in the trolley. “We were just going to take a glass of wine – will you have one?”
“Thank you, yes,” Cassie said as she looked at the screen on the laptop. “Hello Jo, Carina – were you part of the…”
“Thank you Edith – that will be all for tonight,” Diana said as she showed the housekeeper out, and then stared at Cassandra.
“Ah – sorry about that,” she said quietly as she sat down. “So, nice to see you all again – especially you Janice. You and I need to have a long chat over a bottle of wine at some point.”
“Well, Tom wishes me to continue as FBI Liaison during the filming, so we’ll find an evening,” Janice said with a smile. “For the record, it was a total surprise to me that night as well.”
“Really,” Juliette said as she sat down. “So, everyone, you know Cassie, and she knows us, but now that she is here, she needs to know us as we appear – professionally.”
“All right then,” Sandy said, “I’ll go first. Miss Puma, and Heather is Miss Cheetah.”
“Okay – and you Diana?”
“Miss Leopard – Abby here is Miss Tigress.”
“And Ju is Miss Panther – which leaves Miss Bobcat and Miss Lynx from the team in our film.” She looked at the computer screen and raised an eyebrow.
“Why dahlin, ah have no idea what you are talking about,” Jo said, Cassandra smiling until she suddenly looked at Cari.
“Carina? But I’ve known you since you were an infant…”
“Well, you’ve only known half of me,” Carina said quietly, “but the implications of that are a discussion for another day.”
“Agreed – so how do you fit into this Jan?”
“They’re the core team,” Jan said as she sipped her wine, “Annie, Doc and I are part of the expanded team. Annie and I got involved summer last year, when the fight over the slavery ring was underway.”
“And Doc? She’s what fifteen?”
“Sixteen next month – which is still older than both Abby and Cari when they started,” Anna said with a smile.
“She’s got us there,” Abby said as she watched Cassandra look round the room, and then drain her glass in one go.
“Oh yes,” she said quietly before smiling. “Okay, that clears quite a few things up in my mind, as to the who. The how and the why come later – but thank you all for taking me into your confidence.”
“Well, from what Maddie told us, you did a fantastic job in LA,” Abby said.
“Which leads me to ask another question – if Maddie has worked with you, who else on Shirley’s staff have done so?”
“Well, that’s a question you really need to ask Shirley,” Juliette said, “and I’m going to set up a separate meeting for that. Right now, however, I have a question for you – how do you feel about fur?”
Cassie looked round the room, and said, “you’re serious aren’t you?”
“Oh yes – but it means heading north for a day or two. Think you can get away for it?”
“I can make the arrangements,” Cassie said with a smile, “so Miss Sidhe can make an appearance.”
“Good evening Charlotte.” John Hammond said as he kissed the petite redhead on the cheek, and then turning shook Piet’s large hand.
“And where are Shirley and the others John?”
“The ladies are in the kitchen, and we are trying some rather excellent vintage bottles that Alex brought back from Curragh Park today.
“Oh I definitely think I will go gossip and leave you gentlemen to your wine,” Charlotte smiled as John hung up her coat.
“I will join you in the wine tasting in that case,” Piet said as they made their way to the drawing room.
“Mmmm that smells good.” Charlotte sniffed the air as she walked into the kitchen.
“Doesn’t it? And just for once my husband didn’t cook it.” Susan said as she embraced Charlotte.
“I can cook, I just sometimes find it a chore.” Shirley said as she kissed Charlotte, and then opened a fresh bottle of wine, adding some to the casserole, and pouring the rest out for her friends.
“Well from the smell of that you can cook divinely Shirley.” Natalya Buchenwald said as she sipped her drink.
“Thank you,” the look on Shirley’s face one of true pleasure after the compliment. “It may not quite be Haute Cuisine, but it is good solid French food.”
“Well I am looking forward to it immensely after working out, even if Charlotte isn’t.” Caroline smiled as she arrived.
“I beat you up the wall tonight and then beat you here,” the redhead said as she handed Caroline a glass.
“That was only because Annie dropped her little bombshell Charlotte. I was momentarily in shock.”
“She and Carina must be so happy.” Maisha said as she came in from dressing.
“I spoke to both of them, and as the saying goes ‘they were over the moon’.” Natalya said as she finished her wine.
“And Klaus and Juliette?”
“I rang Klaus to congratulate him,” Baron Buchenwald said quietly, sniffing the vintage Premier Cru, “he is making all the arrangements so that legally the baby will be born a von Furstenheim.”
“I am glad for all of them,” John said as he looked at the colour of the freshly poured wine in his glass. “The question will be – a boy or a girl?”
“I think they will settle for a safe arrival,” Clint said with a smile.
“That is rather excellent.” Piet tasted the wine, “but maybe not quite up to the standard of a couple of their even better vintages.”
“I would agree Piet,” Alex smiled, “but still a more then excellent wine to toast such great news.”
“And by the way - how does someone who tries hard to be Mr. Typical Platteland Afrikaner know so much about such great wine?” John asked.
“My father, on top of our place in Joburg, owns a property called Vallenhuis in the Cape…”
“Oh dear Lord God, why did you never say Piet?” Alexander almost choked on his wine as he looked at him.
“I paid a fortune recently for a dozen bottles from there…and I could have got them wholesale from you?” John spluttered.
“I’d have had to ask my sister Sarina for a favour, she runs the winery, but yes probably.”
“Piet we really need to become better friends.” John smiled as he draped his arm over the shoulder of the big South African.
“So does this mean Annie will have to adopt the name as well?”
“No,” Shirley said as she checked the potatoes, “I think one wedding in that family is enough next year, don’t you? I believe it happens by Carina being the registered parent, and as she is legally Klaus’ daughter…”
“That is correct,” Natalya said, “the new child will be a von Furstenheim. I must say, it will be good to welcome the new arrival as well…”
“So how are the arrangements going?”
“Klaus goes to see the Cardinal next week, and they will announce the date after that. I still think after Easter is likely, but we shall see.”
“So when do you and Charlotte head back, Shirley?”
“Thursday – John will follow after that.”
“You miss Firework night then,” Caroline said with a smile.
“Yes – but I think I have seen enough fireworks for a while,” Charlotte said, “there was a massive display in Joburg before we left.”
“Clint your family doesn’t perchance own property in the Napa Valley?”
“Unfortunately not Alex.” The Californian laughed. “My father owns a couple of auto shops in Long Beach, and that’s all.”
“Well that explains the love of cars, and proximity to the beaches the surfing, but where did you learn cookery Man?” Piet asked.
“At school…my auto shop teacher said there was nothing more he could teach me after sophomore year, so for my final two years, the school made me take Home Ec.” Clint smiled, “just me and 25 girls…I tell you I studied HARD so I didn’t flunk out and miss all that time alone with the ladies.”
“Clint that is a marvelous story,” Willy Buchenwald laughed. “I might have enjoyed a similar situation myself.”
“Well I tell you what there are plenty of chicks out there who get impressed with a guy can both fix her car, and cook her a meal afterwards.”
“Oh does Susan need to learn that?” John laughed.
“She knows – now if only I could teach her…”
“And not just to cook,” John laughed heartily, “I’ve driven with Susan also,” he rolled his eyes.
The de Ros Mansion
“Rick and I have a pet theory about the Pussycats, and while I have the real ones here, may I ask a question?”
“You can, if we answer might be a different question.” Diana asked.
“How many of you were hookers at one time? We sort of think that a lot of women first get into crime by selling their bodies.”
“Well you know us all Cassie, who do you think?” Juliette had an amused look as she spoke.
“That’s the problem, I do know you all, I’ve known some of you like forever,” Cassie shook her head, “maybe its just a bum theory…”
“Actually no it isn’t.” Anna put her hand up.
“WHAT!” Cassie almost screamed.
“Me too.” Janice put her hand up as well.
“And among our associates there are others.” Juliette sipped her wine, “plus from what Maddie told me I’ve learned you actually turned a few tricks yourself once Cassie…right?”
“Yes, but only to research a movie role.”
“Well, apart from Jan and Anna, none of us have,” Sandy said. “We all have our demons, but that’s not amongst them.”
“So what really drives you?”
“You know already,” Juliette said, “the thrill, the power, the feeling of being in total control.”
“And the money is nice as well,” Jo said from her room, and then looked round. “Gotta go – I’ll talk to you tomorrow Sis.”
“I need to go too Mom – Judith needs her bed,” Carina said as she saw Judith curled up in a chair.
“Okay girls – see you later,” Juliette said as they closed the laptop.
Tuesday 3rd November
The girls listened as Miss Tennant read through the announcements.
“And finally - Mrs. Brand has informed me that following the runaway success of last year’s pinup calendar, auditions for this year’s edition will take place tomorrow after school in the large music room,” the principal smiled. “And with that, you may go to your classes.”
“I presume you are going to try out for that Poppy?” Erica asked as they made their way down the corridor.
“And why would I do that?”
“Because there needs to be a freshman and you are probably the most beautiful…”
“…And best endowed,” Jess interrupted.
“Girl in the class.” Erica finished.
“Face it Pops,” Dawn spoke, “If there must be a freshman we’d all far rather it was you then some of those bitches you used to hang around with.”
“That’s true.” Jess nodded.
“Alright, alright I’ll talk to my Mom first, but if she says yes you are all coming to the audition to support me.”
“Fine by me,” Erica said.
“I can’t – coaching session, but I’ll be there in spirit,” Jess said as they entered the music room.
“Thanks,” Jan said as the waitress put the order down in front of them in the booth by the window. “So what do you want to talk about Caroline?”
"Janice what can you tell me about the
Pack-Wolves?" Caroline asked as they ate their Tuesday lunch.
"Oh there is a name from the past," Jan
shook her head, "You know before the Pussycat Task Force,
I worked the federal anti-gang initiative?"
"I did, it's why I asked."
"Well, the Pack-Wolves are truly nasty bitches,
who at times make us look like little angels." Janice paused, "armed
robbery, murder, drugs, prostitution, they have fingers in everyone
"How young do they recruit?"
"How young does a kid have to be to stand on a
corner and sell drugs?"
"That's what I was afraid of," Caroline said as she looked skywards.
“Okay, I’ll bite – why are you asking?”
"There’s a group of bitches giving Erica a hard
time, and I think at least one of them, probably all have ties to the
"That neighborhood,” Jan said as she looked at
her friend. “Yeah, that's part of their
"I can see trouble brewing for Denice and Erica, it's sort of like an instinct I
"We need to get them out of there."
"I agree Jan, but you know Denice she isn't likely to take charity."
“Yeah – but I’m worried if we don’t, one or both of them are going to get hurt.”
Jan sat back for a moment, before she said “at the very least, we can put some safeguards in place?”
Caroline nodded in agreement. “I’m going to see Denice when I drop Erica off tonight, and offer to set up an alarm system for her – one with a link to the office as well as the precinct. In the meantime, can you do some checking for me?”
“What do you have?”
“Only one name – Rochelle. Rochelle Mayflower.”
“Okay – I’ll talk to some of my colleagues on the task force, see if she’s known to them.”
The Waldorf Astoria
For Itsy Buthelezi, it was the first time in a long while she had not been in combats, but they would have looked out of place for the journey here. As she walked into the private dining room, wearing a grey jacket over a blue dress and grey flat shoes, she felt strangely out of place, as if she was expecting a shot to come any moment.
“Hey – would you like a drink Leader?”
“Thank you,” she said as Liz handed her a glass of wine, “why do I feel so nervous about this?”
“How long were you in the combat zone – months,” Liz said as she stood in her long sleeved dress.
Itsy nodded as she took a sip. “Good wine – but why have we all come here?”
“Charlotte wished to introduce us to someone – when I spoke to Uncle before we came here, all he said was be prepared to be surprised.”
“So will you return to Teacher after this?”
Liz nodded as Shelby and Petra came in. The two women were wearing blouses over roll necked sweaters, trousers and heels.
“Well met by electric light,” Petra said. “Quite an eclectic group, are we not?”
“So Marigold chose not to come,” Shelby said as she took a drink.
“No – she feels her place is with her fellow women, before she joins the others at the training compound. I accept and applaud that commitment,” Itsy said as she looked to the door.
“Hey – did you think I would be the only man here.”
“Of course not,” Liz said with a smile, “but I didn’t expect to see you here John.”
“Well, Razzie said he was coming, and I had some time to spare,” John Vosloo said as he hugged Liz, “so will you do the introductions?”
“We can introduce more formally later – for now, Leader, Fireball, this is Uncle.”
“An honour,” John said, “especially to meet you, your highness.”
“Please – I am Leader or Itsy, until my family accepts me back,” Itsy said.
“So where is our hostess?”
“I am sure they will be here soon,” Lucia said as she came in. She was wearing a floor length green dress, and smiled as she embraced the others.
“Doctor, it is good to see you again – how are your colleagues?”
“Coping well – but I happen to know our hostess personally,” Lucia said with a smile. “May I propose a toast – to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
The group stood in silence for a moment, before Razzie said “To those who died so they may live,” and raised his glass, the others following suit as they drained their glasses.
“I echo that sentiment, ladies, gentlemen.”
The deep rich voice took most of them by surprise, as they turned to see the tall brunette standing with Charlotte. While Charlotte was wearing a blouse and pants, the stranger was dressed in a silk sweater and knee length skirt.
“Thank you all for making it,” Charlotte said as she closed the door, “we will eat shortly, but as Little Mother I wish to introduce all of you to one of the major financers for the Sisters of Maisha – Miss Shirley Xavier.”
“The honour is mine,” Shirley said, “to meet the true heroes and heroines of Mogola. You will never receive official recognition and honours, so allow me to make this small gesture to you. John – thank you for coming.”
“My pleasure, Madame,” John said with a bow, “May I introduce Major Erasmus – Rassie to his friends. He headed the team of volunteer pilots. Rassie, Miss Shirley Xavier.”
“Thank you for all you and your colleagues did,” Shirley said as she took his hands. “And you Lucia – you went above and beyond your oath.”
“We felt it was right and proper,” Lucia said as they hugged.
“And this is?”
“Liz Egwegwe – it was a pleasure to help in their liberation.”
“Ah yes – our tactical expert,” Shirley said as Charlotte nodded, “and former assistant to John. I trust you have found a new purpose now?”
“I have indeed – my former colleague Petra Nguyen, who helped with intelligence gathering, and Shelby MacKay, our missile specialist.”
“The thanks of myself and those you liberated cannot be enough, but please accept them,” Shirley said, “which leaves Leader.”
“I serve The Heart and The Strength,” Itsy said quietly as she bowed.
“As do we all,” Shirley said, “so I felt it was appropriate that I should bring an additional guest to our dinner tonight.” She turned as a tall African girl came in, wearing a black dress.
“Ladies, Rassie,” Charlotte said quietly, “I have the honour to introduce you to Maisha.”
Liz and Itsy looked at each other, and instantly dropped to one knee, their heads bowed.
“No,” Maisha said, “please, I am one of you, and greet you as a sister. Please, stand, and let us break bread together.”
“Of course – forgive me,” Itsy said as she stood up, “it was just a surprise to finally meet you.”
“So THAT’s the Maisha, as in the sisters of Maisha,” Lucia said to Shirley as Charlotte introduced her to the others.
“Indeed – so do you return to Victoria after this?”
“I do – but should you ever have need of my services again, Charlotte knows that I too also count myself a Sister.”
“In the same way as Blondie?”
“Indeed – I too serve The Heart and The Strength, as they all do.”
“Thank you – we constantly pray this will not happen again, and yet…”
Lucia silently nodded as John came over.
“They did a great thing,” he said quietly, “but I for one am glad Charlotte will be back in London with Piet.”
“Indeed – I will feel much happier with her there as well,” Shirley said quietly. “They travel back with me this week, while Maisha follows next week. She and some others are spending the weekend in Los Angeles first, visiting some of the women we liberated from there.”
“Will they be repatriated as well?”
“In due course – as happened last year here, a trust has been set up and a centre found where they can receive all the counseling and help they need, and then they will be taken wherever they desire.”
“Including the Sisters?”
“Those who wish to join them,” Charlotte said as she came over, “will be assessed and offered the chance if they still desire it. After that, they will be sent to join Liz at the training camp, and from there sent on their own paths. But many wish to return and join their families, and we can do that as well.”
“I heard you held a ceremony to honour those who died.”
“We did,” Itsy said as she joined them. “The Oracle and the elders read the names of the Mogolans who died resisting, and we named those from the Sisters who gave for all. We then heard some music – Red was a lover of Handel, so we played the organ recital she heard under the stars that night. A pyre was lit, and we shared our memoires before feasting.”
“So let us do the same now,” Shirley said as the doors opened. “Ladies, Gentlemen – please, join us at the table.”
The Richmond Mansion
“When’s the next lesson?”
“On the trucks,” Heather said as she cleared the last of the plates, “tomorrow.”
“Good,” Sandy said as she heard the front door, and Heather went through to the kitchen. Opening the door, she saw Caroline standing there, dressed for business – a contrast to her jeans and blouse.
“Hey Caroline - to what do we owe this pleasure?”
“Hey Sandy,” the blonde said as she came in, “am I interrupting supper?”
“No, Heather is just cleaning away, and the kids are upstairs starting their homework.”
“Good. I need to talk to you.”
“This looks and sounds serious. Come through to the drawing room.”
“It is,” Caroline said as she sat down, “but not as such for us, if you get my meaning.”
“Intriguing,” Sandy said as she sat opposite, “so what can I do to help?”
“Does the Richmond Trust have any decent apartments in the better parts of town available at a friends and family rent?”
“Denice and Erica…We… well, especially me are getting worried about the kids that are hassling them, according to Jan they may run with one of the nastiest female street gangs in the country.”
“Did you hear any of that lover?” Sandy asked as Heather came in from loading the dishwasher.
“I did, and you know that Denice will not take outright charity?”
“That’s what Jan said.” Caroline nodded. “But I just have that nasty gut feeling – the type that won’t go away.”
“Which gang by the way Caroline?” Heather asked.
“Alright,” Heather nodded as she sat down, “I’ve heard of them.”
“You have lover?” Sandy asked.
“I saw a show on TV a couple of years ago. They can give us a run for or money for terror, but basic and primitive.”
“Well Jan is looking for what is officially known about them, Heather can I ask you to look for what is out there on the black web?”
“I’ll start in the morning.”
“And I’ll look what properties we have currently available,” Sandy said as she looked at the others.
“Thanks, I will owe you both one.”
“Hey, this is for a friend – but how are we going to sell Denice on this?”
“Let’s see what we can do first – in the meantime, we’ll keep an eye on both of them.”
4th Avenue – the Ashley apartment
“Another calendar? And you wish to audition, poppet?”
“The girls practically twisted my arm,” Poppy laughed.
“Well if I can step into my magazine editor persona darling then I can see their point.”
“So you won’t mind me auditioning?”
“The Mom in me says no,” Pippa said, “but I was doing teen bikini’s when I was 15, and I am sure that these will be in wonderful taste, so I’m guessing I’m saying its okay.”
“Thank you Mom,” Poppy said as she hugged her mother, and the doorbell rang.
“Now who is that at the door?”
“I’ll go look.” Poppy went to the door as Pippa finished washing the dishes.
“Mom we have a visitor.”
Pippa looked up as Poppy ushered Janice into the kitchen a few moments later.
“Janice, we don’t often get to see you,” Pippa wiped her hands, “Is this a social or a business call.”
“Well it’s mainly business, and its Poppy I wanted to talk to…”
“Oh…” Pippa handed Jan a mug of coffee and said “is she in trouble?”
“No nothing of the sort.” Taking a sip from the mug, Jan said “it’s the Burtons, and particularly Erica that we are worried about.”
“We as in who?” Poppy asked.
“Other friends. Have you heard there have been incidents with one or two local girls?”
“They tried to hassle me when I went to visit with Bones once.”
“You never told me that Poppy?”
“My martial arts training soon frightened them off.” Poppy laughed. “They thought they were so tough.”
“Well I’d advise against doing it again Poppy,” Jan spoke seriously, “we think those girls are on the fringe of a street gang called the Pack-Wolves…and they carry guns.”
“Precisely Poppy, now can you tell me anything more about the girls you encountered?”
“Mainly Black, a couple of Latino’s…my age…tattoos on their wrists…”
“What about on their necks?”
“The wrist tattoos mean they are initiates, they get a tattoo on the neck when they become full members.”
“And what does the initiation involve?”
“That’s what worries me,” Jan said as she sipped her coffee. “Listen, Poppy – keep an eye on Erica. Be a friend for her, all right?”
Poppy nodded as she looked at her mother.
Susan and Clint’s Apartment
“Hi Caroline this is late for you to be out and about?” Susan said as she answered the door.
“Well, I was over at Sandy’s when I got an idea.”
“How advanced in her training is Tracy?”
“Now why would you ask that?”
“Because I am frightened about those street kids menacing Erica and Denice, and I’d like to put someone close who could just melt it to the background.”
“You better come in then and explain.” Susan said as she took her friends coat. “We can talk in the kitchen.”
“Hello Caroline,” Rose said as she looked at the new arrival, “business call?”
“I’m afraid so Rose – something I need to brief Susan on for tomorrow, and I didn’t have a chance earlier today.”
“I’ll make some cocoa before I come back in,” Susan said as she closed the door, and took a seat. “All right, start at the beginning.”
“There’s a group of girls that have been hassling Erica for a while, led by one called Rochelle. At first it was big talk, but since then Ama, Poppy Ashley and Doc have all had run-ins with them as well. There’s also been other incidents – Sunday morning, someone left a load of bullshit on their front door.”
“That sounds worrying – has Denice been threatened?”
“Not overtly no – but they’ve been following both of them around, and I’ve seen them outside the apartment block the last few days when I’ve picked her up.”
Caroline nodded. “Ever heard of the Pack-Wolves?”
“Oh yes, I’ve heard of them,” Susan said quietly. “So you want eyes and ears on the place?”
“Yeah – I can give Denice a lift to work the next few nights, and I can enlist Mary’s help as well, but that would help.”
“Well, she’s done basic surveillance techniques, so she can fulfill that role, but she hasn’t done a firearm proficiency test yet.”
“I just need the eyes and ears Susan – get her on a plane tomorrow, and I’ll call round in the morning.”
Wednesday 4th November
"So Dominic has a little taste for bondage
Dom?" Annie said as she sat at the kitchen table. "I'd lend you some
of my leather, but I think it's a bit too small."
"One day I'll have to teach young Anna a
lesson," Dominique shook her head, "last thing I need is Dominic
going kinky on me."
"Oh like you don't enjoy playing dominatrix
Mom?" Ama laughed as she ate her corn flakes.
"Occasionally...but not on too regular a
"I heard him screaming for mercy last
night." Annie laughed.
"Sorry, I think we both got carried away a
"I was almost tempted to come join you..."
"It would have been the last thing you ever did
"I sort of figured that." Annie laughed
"But that's three times now he's had me dominate him, I'd like just a routine date next time."
"He's getting you exclusively Mom while Dan is
out of town."
"He is Ama darling."
"Well if things do happen I can recommend a first
rate BDSM store."
"How did I know you'd know one Annie?"
"Hey when you have a beast for a girlfriend..."
“And on the revelatory note – we need to move in ten Ama,” Caroline said with a smile…
“Have you got everything you need Erica,” Denice called out as she put her cleaned cup in the cupboard.
“Think so Mom,” Erica said as she grabbed her coat and put it on.
“Right – I’ll be out in a few minutes as well,” Denice said as Erica saw Caroline’s car pull up outside.
“I’m gone Mom,” Erica shouted as she headed out of the apartment and down the stairs – but as she headed to the exit, she heard a familiar voice say “Hey Homegirl.”
“Oh lord not today,” she said silently to herself as Rochelle and some of her cronies blocked the exit.
“You been avoiding us Homegirl,” Rochelle said as she poked the young girl, “and after we left you a present as well.”
“Very thoughtful,” Erica said with a grimace, “the super had great fun cleaning it up.”
“Well, we left another little present,” Rochelle said, “hope you like that too.”
“Rochelle,” Erica said quietly, “what are you talking about?”
“I’m watching you Homegirl,” Rochelle leaned in close to whisper, “and some day soon…” she made a gun with her fingers and waved at Erica, who suddenly went very quiet.
“Another of your posh friends, Homegirl?” Rochelle turned round and then looked up at the blonde Amazon.
“Do yourself a big favour,” Caroline said quietly, “and disappear, otherwise I forget who I am.”
“Caroline? You guys not on your way yet?”
Rochelle smirked as she slinked off with her friends. “Mom – are you all right,” Erica said as she hugged Denice.
“Yeah – why wouldn’t I be?”
“Denice, let me give you a lift in today – Erica, get in the back with the girls please,” Caroline said as she escorted them out, and then drove off…
The Brewster Brownstone
"Did you see it darling?" Barbara asked as
Jeannie wheeled herself out of the lift ready for school.
"The lovely thank you letter from Sandra? Yes I did." Jeannie smiled, "It was
wonderful that she enjoyed herself so much."
"Well according to Cassie, she and Leonora are
exchanging e-mails several times a day."
"I thought they might be." Jeannie smiled
again. "Now you do know that I have the calendar meeting tonight?"
"Yes, I'll hold tea for you."
"It's going to be fun seeing who's
"After last year, just about maybe every girl in
"Darling don't be silly, just think of the
modeling careers that have opened up for the girls who posed."
"I suppose so." Jeannie picked up her school
bag. "But last year we were lucky, so many beautiful girls..."
"And teachers don't forget." John spoke as
he came in from outside.
"Well, Miss Kelly has ruled herself out this year
"But you add Mrs. Brand." Barbara
"That's true, well anyway I'll tell you tonight
just who comes to audition and who we pick."
The honk of a car horn from outside caused everyone’s
head to turn.
"Alright there's my lift...love you both." Jeannie wheeled herself towards the door.
“Thanks for the lift Caroline – I owe you,” Denice said as they got out.
“Owe me some more – come round for dinner tonight with Erica. I’ll cook lasagna.”
“Is that okay mom?”
“All right – we’ll come,” Denice said.
“Good – ask Miss Kelly to bring you later Erica,” Caroline said as the older girls walked past. “Doc – a word.”
“Sure Caroline,” Anna said as she went to one side.
“I need you to keep an eye on Erica – those girls hassled her again today.”
“Could be – just be around, all right?”
Doc nodded as she went in, and Caroline made a call.
“Heather? Did you manage to do that favour for me?
“Good – see you at the office later.”
“Morning Juliette – you invited to this meeting as well?”
“I appear to be,” Juliette said as she met Janice in the lobby. “So what is this about?”
“Find out in a minute,” Jan said as Susan came out of the lift. “Juliette, Janice – come up please,” she said as she opened the door, “the others are already here.”
“Erica and Denice,” Juliette said as she sipped her coffee. “So what do we know?”
“From what the girls have said, Rochelle is an initiate into the Pack-Wolves, and she wants to be the local leader. They operate on a cell basis.”
“Okay, so we need to find a way to get the two of them out of their gaze. So Richmond Trust, Jan?”
“There is an apartment available a block down from you Jan – same deal as the others, and I’ve put it on hold for now. The issue is convincing Denice to move.”
“And in the meantime?”
“Tracy is in the air,” Susan said, “I’m sending Pamela to bring her straight to the office.”
"The problem is,” Jan said, “that with a nod that
most of you are actually Catholics, you are virtually all WASP's. In that part
of the world you'll stick out like sore thumbs."
"Hence why I used City Hall's computer and found
a vacant apartment in the block for Tracy." Heather smiled.
"Tracy will at least blend in," Susan said, “and I trust her to do the job. She’ll keep an eye on them, and let us know of any trouble. I was wrong, by the way Caroline – she has her basic proficiency, so she can be armed.”
“Good – when can she take the apartment?”
“The supe’s expecting her tonight,” Heather said with a smile.
“So – the Pack-Wolves. Find anything Heather?”
“Enough to make me certain there is a real risk,” Heather said as she passed round a printout.
"Susan you are the nearest thing we have to an
expert on street gangs." Jan looked at the Englishwoman.
"Well,” Susan said as she flipped through the
sheets, “the Vipers aren't exactly in the same league as these bitches. We were
into burglary, shoplifting, and the odd mugging, but guns were out of our
league. At the time I thought we were tough and nasty, but well compared to
these girls, we were pussycats."
"Not in my time, Marina never liked hard drugs,
and we might have moved a little mj sometimes, but as
I said Juliette, we were really just low level punks."
"Drugs are where the big money is for these
girls," Heather looked at her notes. "Cocaine, Heroin, Meth, they
seem to have sources for everything."
"Any idea who the top
woman is Jan?" Susan asked.
"Outside or Inside?
We have a fair percentage of these bitches behind bars."
"Outside?" Caroline asked.
"One Keshia Greaves
seems to be running things on the street, but we still think she takes her
orders from Alessia Hooper, who's doing 20 to life
currently for second-degree murder of one of New York's finest."
"I'll be honest - simply getting Denice and Erica out of there seems the best option to
me." Juliette looked at the papers Heather had passed round.
"But what if these damn kids follow, and remember you get in fully by whacking someone Ju. I can almost see these bitches eyeing the Burtons as their targets."
“We need street level Intel,” Jan said as she looked at Juliette. “I think we need to ask our contact.”
“I’ll make an appointment – I need to pass on our order anyway,” Juliette said without looking up. “In the meantime, can Annie and Abby do a virgin at their apartment tonight – usual surveillance?”
“I already authorized the equipment,” Susan said. “As soon as Tracy gets here, I’ll brief her and get her into the block.”
“The last thing we need to do is let them know we’re looking, so hands off on Greaves and Hooper until we have to,” Jan said. “We need to minimize the risk – focus on Erica, Denice and Rochelle.”
The women nodded as she stood to pour herself some coffee.
"By the way, Dom, Susan, are
you available for Toronto?" Juliette asked.
"Yes and so is Penny." Susan nodded.
"Madame flies out as she flies in."
"Only am I fit enough to haul my share of those
furs to the trucks." Susan smiled.
"I'm looking forward to it." Dom looked up,
"it will be nice to get out of town for a couple of days."
"We do not need anyone though noticing we are all
in Canada though Caroline." Diana added.
"Don't worry...Officially at least Susan and I will be in Boston. We will fly to Toronto on passports that Heather has prepared."
"And by the way what is Maddie's
"Would you believe a wild west train
robbery?" Susan grinned.
"A what?" Jan asked.
"There is going to be a big charity event on a
restored Wild West train, mega bling on the
"If you've ever seen the movie The Legend of Frenchie King starring Brigitte Bardot, and Claudia Cardinale, that is how they are going in."
"Ooooh that sounds like FUN!" Sandy laughed. "We must try that one day perhaps?"
“Let’s get through next week first,” Juliette said as she shook her head.
Susan looked up to see Pamela at the door of her office.
“Did she arrive safely?”
Pamela nodded as she showed Tracy into her office, dressed in a pair of jeans and a grey sweatshirt under a black leather jacket.
“Hey,” she said as she walked round and hugged her old friend, “thanks for coming over at such short notice.”
“Well, Lily said it was important – and I get to fly first class, which was a bonus. So why do you need me?”
“Last bit of luxury you’ll get while you’re here I’m afraid,” Susan said as she held up a file. “The full details are in here, and you’ll get a chance to read them in a minute, but essentially some friends of ours are under threat, and we need someone to watch over them.”
“And you need me because?”
“Washington Heights – low rent, high ethnic, and the girl we’re worried about has been marked because she goes to St Angela’s. You met Doc when you came for the christening?”
“Small, blonde, very bright?”
“That’s her – well Erica is also a scholar, like Doc, but comes from the Heights.”
“And the threat comes from?”
“They’re called Pack-Wolves – very nasty, very dangerous, and we’re worried they’re been lined up for their full membership task.”
Tracy nodded as she glanced at the pictures of Erica and Denice. “So they’re good people, the kid gets a break, and now the local wannabes want her to be their example?”
“In essence, yes.
We have put a cover together for you Trace." Susan checked the
documents one last time. "You have a job working at a coffee shop near
Columbia, you are single, but you've had a couple of run ins
with the law for trivial things."
"Which is probably pretty standard eh?"
"Right, the idea is you'll blend right in, just
be absolutely typical of a poor single girl, trying to stay honest, working
hard to stay alive in the game of life."
"I think I can do that," Tracy smiled.
"We just need you to be our eyes and ears, and be
there if we need instant action to protect our friends. Some of our associates are going to set up a
surveillance system tonight, and you’ll have a link to that as well."
"So I keep out of trouble and if I can be almost
"That is the idea."
"Well it's not Park Avenue,” Tracy said, “but I
am here to help."
"I know, it's not the best area, but these girls
are gangster wannabes, and we don't want our friends to be the ones they kill
to move up in the Pack-Wolves."
"You want me to watch and note gang
"It might help Trace."
"Fine, well when do I go in?"
Looking at her watch, Susan said “the super is expecting you at six. Until then, read and learn.”
“Well, we certainly have a lot of potential volunteers,” Jeannie said as she sat at the front of the room with Grace and Abby. The room was filled with some of the teachers, and a lot more pupils.
“All right, everyone, settle down,” Abby said. “First things first – the photographer this year will be Luke Heller, and he has indicated he will take his inspiration from the style of Vargas pin ups. Google it if you are selected, and you’ll see what he is aiming at.”
“So,” Jeannie said, “we are looking for a range of faces and people to represent the school. First things first – Doc, Miss Muller, are you volunteering again?”
“If you will have us,” Ingrid said with a smile.
“Of course we will,” Grace said, “so we need to select the remaining positions.”
Abby looked round the room, and said “can the freshmen step forward please?”
The younger girls came forward, the three models looking over them. “I think Poppy is a shoo in,” Dawn whispered to Erica as they sat at the back of the room.
“So do I,” Erica whispered as she noticed Jeannie looking over at them.
“Okay,” Abby said quietly, “Ronnie, can you step forward please?”
Ronnie Macy stepped forward, nervously wringing her hands as she stood in front of the room. The redhead looked round the room as Jeannie and Grace smiled.
“Excellent – do you want to do this Ronnie?”
She nodded slowly as Poppy smiled.
“Great - and Poppy, you’re in as well. Congratulations.”
Erica and Dawn clapped as Poppy’s old friends glared at her.
“Now – We need a couple of juniors. Any thoughts Grace?”
“I have actually,” Grace said. “Melody, come forward please.”
“Me,” Melody Hardy said as she walked forward.
“Consider the poses – can you see her with her clarinet?”
“Or striking a pose with a microphone,” Jeannie said with a smile. “Want in, Melody?”
“Why not,” Melody said with a smile.
“Now, Seniors,” Abby said as she looked at Brooke.
“What? Oh no – oh no you have got to be joking…”
“Hey – want the chance to outshine both Jo AND Marnie?”
“Well,” Brooke said, “when you put it that way…”
“Sold,” Jeannie said with a smile. “Now, the break out from last year was young Kadeeja – but she’s not available this year, so…”
Looking round the room, she smiled as she said “Xian, would you come forward please?”
The young Vietnamese girl walked slowly forward as they looked at her.
The dark haired girl nodded as she stood with the others.
“Hey Suzie,” Doc said as she looked at the sandy haired Junior, wearing black rimmed glasses as she read her text book, “are you here to volunteer as well?”
“Me? No, I’m here with Xian…”
“No excuse – what do you think, boss ladies?”
The three models looked at her, before Jeannie said “Yeah – secretary?”
“Or something – let Luke decide. Right – come join us Suzie.”
Suzie Rolfe walked slowly forward as Grace did a head count.
“Okay – we need a couple of standbys as well,” she said as Sarah Nightingale walked in with Annie.
“Oh sorry – thought you had finished,” she said as the room looked at her in her soccer strip, and Annie in her jumper and skirt.
“Oh I don’t know – let me consider that…”
“Sarah,” Grace said as she took her roommate by the arm, “let me get you a coffee…”
“All right,” Abby said, “thank you everyone else, if we need replacements, we’ll let you know…”
“Well, that’s the last of them,” Tracy said as she banged the side of the panel van, and made her way into the lobby.
“Can you hold that for me please?” she yelled as she struggled with the last of her cases towards the elevator.
“Can do,” a young girl’s arm in a red blazer held the doors open.
“Thanks.” Tracy said as she dragged her case into the metal box and breathed out.
Tracy looked at the young dark skinned girl, and said “The fifth please.”
“Just moving in?”
“Yes, is it that obvious?”
“Pretty much so,” the girl laughed, “now I have a friend talks just like you, so let me guess you are from London?”
“Well my name is Erica.” The girl held out her hand.
“I’m Tracy. Nice to meet you, Erica.”
“This is your floor,” Erica smiled as the doors opened. “Do you need some help?”
“If you can open the door for me while I drag this in…It’s 5C.” Tracy said as she held out her new keys.
“Not a problem.” Erica said as she walked towards Tracy’s new front door. “And don’t worry too much,” she continued as she noticed Tracy looking at some of the gang graffiti.
“Well there is less then there was in my old place.”
“Here, let me help drag in this.” Erica opened the door and helped Tracy with the case. “This your stuff?” she indicated the pile of boxes and cases.
“Yeah, all my worldly goods. Great start to life, true?”
“Well before you unpack,” Erica said, “come up and meet my mom, and an English friend who is visiting. My Mom makes real British tea.”
“Well, I must admit that sounds tempting.”
“Alright, follow me.” Erica smiled as Tracy closed and locked the door behind them. “So have you lived here all your life?”
“Yeah – it’s not as bad a neighborhood as it gets painted some times,” Erica said as she headed to the lift. “We’re only one floor up, but better to take the lift.”
“Just – it’s better,” Erica said as they went up one floor, and into her apartment.
“There you are – what kept you,” Denice said as she looked out from the kitchen.
“Sorry Mom – I met the girl taking the empty apartment, and I thought she might like some tea. She’s from London.”
“Is she? Well, come in.”
“They must be in here,” Erica said as they went in, Tracy looking at Denice and the tall blonde with her.
“Mom, Caroline, this is…”
“Tracy – Tracy Beddows,” she said as she shook her hand. “Erica very kindly helped me get the last of my stuff in.”
“Well, welcome to the block, Tracy. I’m Denice Burton, you’ve met Erica my daughter, and this is Caroline Jameson.”
“The model? I’ve seen your face around,” Tracy said as she shook Caroline’s hand.
“I need to talk to my agent about that,” Caroline said with a smile. “Why don’t you go through with Tracy, Denice, and we’ll bring the tea in.”
“This way,” Denice said as she and Tracy went through to the main area. “So what do you do Tracy?”
“At the moment,” Tracy said as she sat down, “I wait tables in a coffee shop over by Columbia, and I’m taking classes to get my high school diploma.”
“Mom works at Columbia in the records office.” Erica said as she brought in the teas with Caroline.
“So how did you end up here?” Denice asked.
“Me mum kicked me out cos her new boyfriend started looking at me…you know…”
“Yeah I do.” Denice looked downwards.
“I was in temporary housing, then by some miracle the city found me this place.” Tracy smiled, “compared to my last dump this is luxury.”
“So I hear London Tracy?” Caroline asked.
“I was born in Barbados, then we moved to London, then we came here to New York a few years ago.”
“You’ve travelled.” Erica smiled.
“My grandparents were Bajan, but they moved to Cardiff in Wales, not London.” Denice said as she sipped her tea.
“I’ve never been there,” Tracy said truthfully, “all I know is what I’ve seen on Dr. Who and Torchwood.”
“Oh don’t get Erica started on those shows.” Denice laughed. “They are her favourites.”
Caroline smiled inwardly. Susan had kept Tracy’s cover fairly simple and true to life. It had been a stroke of luck Erica running into her and helping her, now her being friendly and keeping an eye open, would look like anyone in a new place and knowing just a couple of people.
“Listen – when’s your shift tomorrow?”
“Nine – why?”
“I’ll go in with you,” Denice said, “let you see the quickest way in.”
“Thanks – that would be a big help,” Tracy said with a smile.
“Well, thanks for the tea, Denice – I’ll see you tomorrow morning?”
“Of course,” Denice said as Tracy and Caroline stood up.
“I need to get going as well – see you tomorrow Erica.”
“’bye Caroline,” Erica said as the two women left the flat, and walked to the lift.
“Nicely done Trace,” Caroline whispered, “spend some time unpacking – you’ll have a couple of visitors in the early hours.”
“Gotcha – how will I know them?”
“Three one two. Don’t scream too loudly when you see them.”
“Why would I?”
“Because for this to work,” Caroline said as the lift door opened, “you need to meet a couple of our associates. You’ll understand when you see them.”
Thursday 5th November
Tracy was watching her television, wondering what the hell Adult Swim was about, when she heard the knock on her door – three, then one, then two.
Looking through the spyhole, she slowly opened the door, letting the two black clad women walk in. Closing the door behind them, she turned round, and then whispered “Damn…”
“Surprise,” Abby said as she looked at Tracy. “You remember Annie Kelly, Carina’s partner.”
“Yeah, but – Dom wasn’t talking shit when she said I’d be surprised. How…”
“That’s a story for another day,” Annie said, “it’s a school night and I need to get Abby back. You need this.” She handed Tracy what looked like a transistor radio.
“What is it?”
“A receiver, tuned to the devices we just installed upstairs. You can listen in if needed – but more important, it will sound an alarm if anyone breaks in, and Dom is empowering you as the first line of defence.”
“You’ll need this,” Abby said as she handed Tracy a leather purse. “It’s clean and untraceable, but only as a last resort.”
“Gotcha,” Tracy said as she put it down. “Hiding in plain sight – damn.”
“Like I said,” Annie said as she went to the door with Abby, “story for another day. Stay safe Tracy – and good luck.”
As they slipped out, Tracy locked her door, and shook her head as she headed to bed…
“Oh come on Tommy, how tough can these ladies be, eh?”
Tommy the Fish shook his head as he made his way down the road, his passenger looking out of the window. He had known Maccy through his contacts for some years, so when the message had been received, he trusted her to come through – but he hoped she had listened when he had told her the conditions.
“Listen Maccy,” Tommy said as he turned off the road, “I wasn’t joking about dese ladies. Dey speak real proper, but whatever youse do, do not underestimate dem.”
“Oh come on – how tough can they be,,.Tommy?”
He involuntarily felt his gnarled finger as he said “trust me – youse don wanna know Can you open dem doors for me?”
Maccy got out, her boots crunching on the ground as she opened the door, and waited for Tommy to drive in before she closed them again. As Tommy turned off the engine and got out, Maccy walked over and looked round.
“Nice place – come and do business here often Tommy?”
“Only for one customer,” Tommy said.
“Oh – whose?”
“Good morning Tommy – is this our Canadian contact?”
Maccy turned and looked at the three women who appeared out of nowhere. They were identically dressed – blue tailored jackets and knee length skirts, dark stockings and four-inch patent heels. Each had a dark blue scarf tied as a cravat, tucked into the front of their jackets, and wore a cat shaped brooch on their lapels.
What struck Maccy most, apart from their poise and grave, were their looks, their short black hair held down by the stockings that covered their heads, and were tucked into the scarves.
“Morning Miss Panther,” Tommy said with a nod of the head. “This is Maccy, the contact youse asked for north of the 49th. Maccy – meet three of the Pussycats, Miss Panther, Miss Leopard and Miss Cheetah.”
The three women looked at Maccy, in her combat jacket, black top and jeans, and her Doc Martens, before Miss Panther said “Tommy speaks very highly of you, Maccy. I pray his confidence is not misplaced.”
“You want weapons, I get them – clean, untraceable, for the right price,” Maccy said as Miss Leopard looked at her.
“And did Tommy explain,” she said as she walked over and looked Maccy up and down, “what happens if we ask someone to do something, and they fail to meet our expectations?”
“He mentioned something about you crocking him and others,” Maccy said. “I get the picture – you’re safe with me.”
“I hope so,” Miss Leopard, “because if not, I will personally take great pleasure in sending you over the Niagara Falls in a barrel, having first removed your hands and your life.”
Maccy looked at the three women, their faces unmoving, and swallowed as she said “yeah, I get the message.”
“Excellent,” Miss Panther said. “Miss Leopard, Miss Cheetah, please complete our discussions with Maccy. Tommy, a word if you please.”
As the other three walked to one side, Tommy whispered, “if she lets you down, I’ll kill her, never mind youse ladies.”
“Your loyalty and concern are touching Tommy. I have another matter to discuss – one that requires your specialized knowledge.”
“Go ahead, Miss.”
“What do you know of the Pack-Wolves?”
“Trouble – pure, simple trouble Miss Panther. Why are youse interested in them?”
“They appear to have turned their eye towards some friends of ours – and you know how we feel about those who threaten those we consider our friends.”
Tommy nodded as he said “Well, deyre mainly youngsters – that group, very few live past thirty, and those who do end up enjoying a State Vacation.”
“Like Alessia Hooper?”
“Oh she was one tough boid,” Tommy said, “I knew her in passing. Listen, if youse are going after dem, youse really need to cut off the head – and watch your friends real close.”
“The matter is in hand, Tommy – but if you hear anything, let us know please.”
Tommy nodded as the other three women walked back.
“Thank you for meeting us here today, Tommy. Maccy – we will meet next week at the agreed point. Do not let us down.”
Maccy nodded as Miss Leopard said “you will leave first – Tommy knows the rules.”
“Come on Maccy – Ladies,” Tommy said as they got into his pick-up and drove off.
“Jesus Tommy,” Maccy said when they got back to the main road, “those are stone cold killers.”
“Oh yea,” Tommy said, “youse don’t mess wif dose ladies…”
“This way,” Kate said as she showed Luke to Grace’s office. Knocking on the door, she smiled as it was opened and said “your visitor, Grace.”
"Hey Luke, thank you for dropping in."
Grace said as she showed him into her office. "These are your prospective
"Hello ladies it is so very nice to meet
you." Luke smiled at each in turn as he looked round the room.
"And you say he's gay?" Brooke whispered in
"What a pity," Brooke sighed quietly.
"Now ladies I'm sure that you know what we are
going to try and do this year. We are going to recreate the work of the
legendary pinup artists Alberto Vargas and Gil Elvgren."
"But weren't their pinups drawings? asked Melody.
"They were indeed,” Adam said, “but with modern
digital technology I can create images that look like they are right on the
boundaries of being drawings from the photographs I take."
"That sounds technically fascinating." Doc spoke.
“It is,” Abby said, “I can’t wait to see how you do that.”
"Now, have you any thoughts about the type of pinups you want to be? And which month you wish to represent?"
"Not really..." a few voices murmured.
"I guessed that, which is why I brought these in," Luke reached in his bag and pulled out six books of pictures of classic pinup art. "Share them round, let's discuss and talk, and by the time we go home I hope I'll know what wardrobe I need to obtain and for which girl for the shoot this weekend."
“Oh my,” Sarah said as she looked at one of the books with Ingrid, “these are amazing…”
“Can you see yourself in any of them?”
“Some yeah,” Sarah said as she looked at one drawing, of a woman in a yellow dress, the thin straps off the shoulders as she revealed her chest.
“Very nice – I like this one,” Ingrid said as she looked at the one of a woman in a blue dressing gown, open enough to titillate as a pair of dogs worried on one of her bras. “Very in line with last year.”
“What about Grace?”
Both of them looked at the book, at the picture of the redhead in the black dress, and said “YES.”
“Okay – before anyone says it, I want that,” Doc said as she saw the Christmas themed drawing.
“Figures – you open last year, and end this year,” Abby said, “but all right – you get that one Anna.”
“Some of these gowns are amazing,” Poppy said as she flipped through the book with Ronnie and Jeannie. “I can really see me in one of them.”
"I know someone who owns a garage full of vintage
cars Luke. Do you want to ask what we can borrow as props?"
"That would be amazing Jeannie."
"And Mary Thomas and her legendary cave can help
with outfits I'm sure, or Mary will at least know where we can get them
from." Abby looked up from the book she was looking at.
"So anybody have a month preference yet?
"I think Poppy as the new girl so to speak does January." Grace replied.
“Really,” Jeannie said as she hugged Poppy, “and I think you’d look great in this.” She showed the young girl a picture of a dark haired girl in a long white strapless gown.
“Wow, that’s fantastic,” Poppy said, nodding as Abby looked at another picture.
“Sorry folks, but I’m taking this for February,” she said as she held up a picture of a woman, in black lingerie and a white dressing gown, sitting on a seat with a heart shaped back.
“Dammit,” Jeannie said with a grin, “well I’m taking July.” She held up a picture of a seated girl in a red sundress.
“We teachers have been talking,” Sarah said, “we have our outfits, but fit us in.”
“Okay,” Abby said, “thinking thematically – Brooke, how would you like to be a cowgirl?”
“Looks good,” Brooke said as she looked at the photo, “For when?”
“June – and Melody, this one, but holding an instrument instead of a book for March?”
“I like it,” Melody said with a smile.
“Okay – We have January, February, March, June, July and December. How about September?”
“Back to school – Suzie the Sexy Librarian?”
“Well, I can try,” Suzie said quietly as she looked at the picture.
“I like this pose,” Xian said as she looked at the picture of the woman in the evening gown, “if I may do this is traditional dress?”
“Good idea,” Jeannie said, “Pencil you in for May?”
“Which leaves me,” Ronnie said as she held up a picture of a girl on a boat. “We always go cruising in August – so this one?”
“Which leaves April, October and November for the teachers. We can discuss this separately,” Luke said as he glanced round the room. There was a brunette sitting at the back, reading a book.
“Do you have an extra girl, Jeannie?”
“Oh sorry – Lindsay is waiting for me,” Brooke said.
“Well,” Luke said as he looked at Lindsay, “she would be a great cover girl.”
“You would,” Abby said as she looked at the senior. “Let’s talk about it…”
“Thanks for the heads up Lily – I’ll tell her when she arrives,” Susan said as she ended the Skype call from the UK, and then started to look through the file on her desk.
“Yes,” she said as she pressed the button on her intercom.
“Your two o’clock is here Susan.”
“Show her in Pamela and fetch some coffee – she’ll need it,” Susan said as she stood up, brushing down her red skirt as she waited for her assistant to show the new arrival in.
“Hey Penny – looking good,” she said as Penny came in, wearing a soft grey leather jacket over a white blouse and gray slacks.
“Feeling good, Susan,” Penny said as they hugged each other, “how’s April and Clint?”
“Both great – Mum and Aunt Maeve are still here until a week Sunday as well,” Susan said as Pamela brought in a fresh pot of coffee. “Madame has arrived back safely as well – Maisha is staying with Ama until they fly out to LA on Saturday.”
“I heard they were visiting the Mogolan refuges out there,” Penny said as she sipped the coffee. “Oh I needed that – thanks for arranging the room at the Waldorf.”
“No problem – just don’t tell Tracy you’re staying there if you bump into her.”
“Yeah – I heard you asked for her to fly over at short notice. What’s the problem?”
“Some friends are in trouble of finding themselves in - forgive the phrase – a shitload of trouble, and we need eyes and ears on the scene. Tracy can fit in, none of us can. Dom and I will brief you at her place tonight, as well as about next week.”
“Sounds good – Pamela fitting in?”
“Very much so – so what about you? How was the Hong Kong trip?”
“Heavenly,” Penny said with a smile, “we’ve arranged to meet up here for Christmas as well this year. I also saw Kylie and Marina – they have changed so much again.”
“Tell me about it – this is going to be a very interesting holiday when it comes round, but first – a trip up north.”
“And you don’t mean Manchester,” Penny said with a smile.
The de Ros Mansion
“Alice MacKinnon,” Edith said as she showed Alice in.
“Ah there you are,” she said as she kissed Diana, “ready to look fantastic?”
“You always manage it Bats,” Abby said as she came in.
“All right – no menfolk around? Guy and Valeria not likely to drop in?”
“Natasha and Willy are taking care of them,” Diana said. “So – may we see them?”
Alice smiled as she went to the door and ushered her assistant in, carrying two dress bags. Opening them, the de Ros women looked at each other, before Abby said “Alice ce sont vraiment incroyable. Carina sera tellement jalouse...”
“Je ne sais pas comment vous le faites, mais vous avez vraiment fait,” Diana said as she looked at her gown.
“Good – then let’s do the final fitting…”
Some time later, Alice stepped back and looked at the two women.
"You know the problem with you being over six
feet two Abs is we can't put you in a decent high heel without you towering
over people even more then you currently do." Alice smiled. "I'm bad
enough, but I'm only six feet."
"I know, and I apologize,” Abby said as she
looked down from her perch, “but I think I have stopped growing at last."
"We can but hope." Diana sighed as she looked
"Have you talked with Juliette yet about her
wedding dress Bats?"
"No,” Alice said as she took some pins, “but by
the sound of it I must."
"Well Tom Ford is pitching very hard."
"He is,” Diana said as she stood down, “he has
twice rung Juliette in person."
"Has he?" Alice smiled as she made
alterations. "It’s a good thing then that I know Juliette's
"You wouldn't Alice?" Diana shook her head.
"We all said we would take that to our graves."
"Well all is fair in love, war, and securing the
rights to make the most high profile wedding dress of 2016 Diana, and if I have
to resort to blackmail then I will."
"I don't suppose I get let in on this secret do
I?" Abigail asked.
"NO!" both older women all but shouted
“I see the problem,” Penny said as she held her glass of wine, “but I think you’re doing all you can without tipping your hand. We just have to pray we can stop anything before it goes too far.”
“Yeah,” Annie said as she sipped her Coca Cola, and then looked at the glass. “Do I seriously have to limit myself to this and water for the next seven months?”
“Yes you do,” Dom said with a laugh, “because Carina would kill me if I let anything happen to you.”
“Endure,” Susan said with a smile, “it tastes all the sweeter when you can have it again.”
“Oh trust me – I am looking forward to next September already,” Annie said with a smile as she sipped her drink.
“And where are you going,” Dom said as Ama and Maisha appeared in their coats.
“Pepsi called and asked us to come round,” Ama said, “to discuss something for Thanksgiving. We will be back in an hour, mom.”
“Okay – but don’t be late. You have school tomorrow and need to pack tomorrow night.”
“We will be back on time,” Ama said as they headed out.
“I was telling April that Pepsi was been looked at a future head girl a while back,” Annie said, “Another name has come up in conversation as well.”
“Who,” Dom said, and then realized Annie was staring at her. “Ama?”
“Oh yes – the way she helped Poppy was noticed,” Annie said seriously.
“Hmm – well, we shall see,” Dom said. “So Penny – happy with the initial outline for next week?”
“Seems fair – what about a meeting point?”
“We’re finding a suitable location – one thing about vans is we can change in them. We’ll have to get one vehicle to the airstrip, but Heather’s looking through the logistics.”
“Okay then – but what about this extra person?”
“Ju’s thinking through options – but Cassandra Stone is in.”
“The actress? The one making the film at the moment? How did she?”
“You read Maddie’s report for the Holly Golightly raid. One Consumpta O’Clare joined them?”
“Yeah – that was her?”
“Oh yes,” Dom said, “she’s really getting into the spirit of the affair.”
“Takes all sorts,” Penny said as she shook her head.
Friday 6th November
St Angela’s – Teachers Lounge
"I brought in some copies of the new
glossies." Annie announced to the other teachers. "Great pictures not
just of my girlfriend, and a certain redhead most of us taught, but also a
great picture of our dean in a slinky evening gown I'm sure she would never
wear for a school function."
"What is it - APCO's advertisements?"
"It is, and I think all concerned will be happy
"Well that's the main thing Annie." Mrs. Hardisty looked at the picture of Grace in the tiger striped gown, "and you are right, even Grace could never get away with that for a school event."
“So will you see Cari this weekend,” Ingrid asked.
“Yup – which is why I’m not doing the calendar this weekend. We have a lot to talk about, and I have some plans to sort out.”
“Does Judith know yet?”
“No – Carina wants to tell her when we see her together.”
“Well, I still don’t know how I got talked into this calendar,” Sarah said as she looked round.
“Don’t worry – Ingrid will look after you,” Annie said with a smile.
Tavern on the Green
"Have you heard the news regarding Brooke?"
Claire asked as the group gathered for Friday lunch.
"No. What’s happened?"
"According to my husband, no senator will bring her nomination to the floor because they don't want to be seen proposing an openly gay woman for a federal judgeship."
"Oh that is RIDICULOUS!" Tonia looked
"Brooke was out even while we were at
school," Kelly complained. "Everyone has always known she's a
"Well in the world of voters out there beyond
Manhattan they still aren't quite as tolerant as we are." Jane Molloy
arrived with Nessa and Paulie.
"Did you hear that Mother?" Sandy asked as
she kissed her parent.
"I did, and it’s ridiculous."
"Agreed," Juliette looked up from the menu. "Is there no way we can help put pressure on to support Brooke Jane?"
“Write your local senator, is about the only thing – unless you want to get the ACLA involved?”
“Maybe not them,” Jane said, “but the fuel of publicity has some merit. Brooke can’t say anything – but we could contact some people who can.”
“Oprah, Ellen, others…”
“Go public on the lack of diversity on the bench?”
“Precisely. Maybe Cassandra can help with that.”
“Help with what?”
The ladies looked round as Cassandra and Eve joined them.
“Brooke is being blackballed because of her sexuality,” Diana said, summing up the situation succinctly.
“Well, I can place a few calls, get the right people interested,” Cassandra said as she sat down, “where’s the block?”
“Okay – let me make some calls later,” Cassie said as she ordered.
“So Annie is expecting Ju – ready to be a grandmother again?”
“Oh – and how long do you think it will be until it is your turn, Rachel?”
“She’s got you there,” Paulie said, “after all, I’m going to be one soon as well.”
“It’s wonderful,” Nessa said. “Hey Gale – ready to drink water?”
“Do not rub it in,” Gale said, “although I hear I may not be the only one now.”
Jeanne tried to look away as Gale sat down, and said, “Mind you, Annie can only be here at holidays, so…”
Breathing a sigh of relief, Jeanne said, “Indeed, but I have to moderate today – I have a meeting this afternoon.”
Gale looked over at the young French detective and smiled.
"Is everything set for Sunday Sandy," Paulie asked as the entrees arrived at the table.
"Pretty much, we are lucky the final is being
raced on our home track, but it's a stroke of bad luck that Shirley will be in
London, she's been something of a lucky talisman for us."
"So last alcohol for you till after the
race." Tonia warned the driver.
"And for Jeanne and me."
Jan smiled at her co-drivers.
"Well Tom and I will be there to see you
hopefully win." Gale Callaghan said as she looked up from her Fillet
"I'm hoping most of you will be." Nessa remarked. "How often does
my daughter and her friends win a major trophy?"
"Hardly major Mother, it's a series for amateur
"Well to me it is major," Nessa smiled.
"So what else is happening this lovely Friday afternoon?" Rachel McNally started a new conversation thread.
“Well, we’re still speculating who is going to do a certain wedding dress for next spring,” Jan said as she looked at Juliette.
“Keep wondering – we haven’t even fixed the date yet.”
“Well you can’t have the second weekend in March,” Caroline said.
“You haven’t picked up your mail yet – the invites start to arrive today for Pru’s wedding.”
“Okay – one to look for,” Sandy said with a smile.
“Anyone got their plans in place for Thanksgiving yet?”
“NO SHOPPING,” Juliette and Sandy shouted in Unison.
“Apart from that, not a lot,” Juliette continued, “I have to go to Toronto next week, and the week after Klaus and I fly to Munich to talk to the Cardinal.”
The Waldorf Hotel
“So how is San Francisco darling?” Eve asked as she sat in her hotel room.
“Windy…cold…still full of old hippies.”
“Well you are right at home then.”
“I guess so.”
“Are you okay? You sound tired.”
“A bit,” Stephen sighed, “a book signing, TV interviews and tonight a literary party, I’m not as young as I once was.”
“Do I need to fly out and join you?”
“No, the guy from my book company is doing his best to keep a check on me. You stay and enjoy the time with Cassie.”
“All right, dear – if you insist,” Eve said, “I’ll see you next week.”
The Huntingdown apartment
"If we are going to be doing hard labour moving all those furs into the trucks, then I think
we need to abandon our customary elegance." Juliette looked at the group
gathered in her kitchen.
"And no heels either." Abigail spoke,
"with all that walking to do."
"So any suggestions Ju?"
Sandy munched on a cookie.
"Overalls are logical..."
"But so un-chic." Diana interrupted.
"I was going to say that Diana, so how about a
leather jacket worn over figure hugging black jeans?"
"Well it would look better then overalls!"
"Anything is better then
overalls Diana." Cassie agreed with the French woman.
"Leather has just the right combination of tough, yet sexy." Doc ventured a statement.
“Well, we can organize that, but we still need that extra person. Anyone got any ideas yet?”
“Still thinking it over – I’ll call Jan in the morning…”
Saturday 7th November
West Central Park
“No I’m still wracking my brain.” Jan whispered into the telephone, “I can’t think of anyone…”
“Who are you talking to Mom?” Katy appeared, as if out of nowhere and catching her mother totally by surprise.
“Don’t creep about like that Katy!”
“Why, are you keeping secrets Mom?” Katy asked with a twinkle in her eye.
“NO! I’m actually talking to your Aunt Sandy and we are discussing tomorrow’s race.”
“So if it’s about the race why can’t you think of anyone?”
“Anyone to worry us tomorrow.” Jan could hear Sandy laughing at the other end of the line as she wriggled.
“Okay…I just thought it might be something to do with Toronto?”
“Now why would I have anything to do with Toronto Katy?”
“You tell me Mom…I’ve heard you a couple of times murmuring to yourself about doing something there.”
“Oh you have been gabbing round quick ears,” Sandy laughed on the phone.
“I haven’t,” Jan, answered the phone.
“You have Mom,” Katy smiled inscrutably. “So is there anything going on?”
“Get out of this one.” Sandy laughed again online.
“Oh it’s just something to do with work darling?”
“Is it? And there was me thinking it was to do with a pussycat gang heist…Silly me.” Katy grinned and walked into the kitchen.
“…Fucking Goddess!” Sandy finished the expletive.
“Sandy I need to run and have a talk with someone.”
“Yes it sounds like you must…Ring me straight back.”
Ending the call, Jan got up and followed her daughter into the kitchen.
“Want some OJ Mom?”
“Katy…” Jan looked at her daughter, wearing a jumper and jeans, as she sat at the breakfast bar and handed over a second glass of orange juice.
“Sorry- it’s just what you said when I was talking to Sandy. What did you mean by that?”
“Well, at least I can shock you as much as Grandma,” Katy said as she sipped her drink. "Mom, it wasn't hard to work something was going on, I'm just amazed Adam and Grandma haven't cottoned on."
"Meaning what Katy?"
"Mom,” Her daughter said as she looked at Jan, “you
wear twelve hundred dollar shoes. Even with discounts and what you get from Huntingdown's you cannot buy them on an FBI agent’s income
"You'd be surprised..."
"Oh please Mom," Katy rolled her eyes. “I think you look fantastic in them, but I have seen the cost as well.
"Then there are your clothes, you spend a fortune each month at a luxury store like APCO. True you snip the designer labels out and say they were made in Hong Kong, but Mom I am 13 years old, NOT STUPID!"
“I never said you were stupid,” Jan said, “but how do you jump from that to a crack about pussycat raids?”
"Well, I started thinking about how we were living so well, and suddenly it clicked.”
“Yeah - that you were always not quite here during raids by the gang you are supposed to be catching." Katy sipped her drink again and looked at her mother as she sat there, trying to think over what was being said.
"Mom I'm not condemning you,” she continued. “I remember how it was before. When you had
to shop at Wal-Mart for clothes, and how other people looked at both me and you
like we were cheap."
"And let us say,” Jan spoke carefully, “for the
sake of argument that you are right Katy darling..."
"Then you have only been doing your best to provide for me you and Gran. Mom I know honesty can be morally right, but… Well, I lie in bed at night and imagine the thrill of doing robberies."
"Well it's true Mom, the young girl giggled, “Being
bad is a turn on, almost as big a turn on as having all the nice things we have
nowadays. And besides, they have done
some good as well – I read the papers last year, how they were involved in some
of the things that helped Ama and the other girls."
Jan couldn’t believe what she was hearing, that Katy
had spotted all this and kept it to herself.
Eventually, she said "have you talked to your Gran about
"God no, she buys your cover story
completely...so does Adam."
"Look - would it disappoint you if I said this
was all a product of your fertile imagination darling?"
"You might say it Mom, but my theory is the only
thing that fits all the facts...”
Finishing her drink, she then looked at Jan before saying “and if the
gang needs someone else for Toronto, well then how about me?"
"Hey I know its
dangerous, I know it's bad..."
"It's against the law."
"But Mom,” Katy said, “I can pass for a lot older
then I am, I've proved it, and I'll do anything I need to help and protect you,
because you and Gran are everything to me."
"Darling, even if it's true,
and I'll not admit anything..."
"Just put my name forward to Aunt Sandy, Diana,
Juliette and the rest...PLEASE MOM!"
"What made you say those names?" Jan went white.
Then she realized Katy had gone pale as well, as she said, “oh my god – I didn’t think they were…”
“Katy,” Jan said quietly, “can you go and get your coat please?”
“Mom, I’m sorry, I won’t tell anyone I promise…”
“You’re not in trouble Katy,” Jan said quietly, “but I think you and I need to go and see Aunt Sandy first. Is that all right?”
“Okay,” Katy said as she went to get her coat, Jan putting her head in her hands as she left the room.
The Richmond Mansion
“Hey Jan,” Heather said as she opened the door to the mansion.
“Hey – we’re here to see Sandy,” Jan said as she and Katy came in.
“Yeah – she told me. She’s in her office – would you like something to drink Katy?”
“Maybe in a little while,” Katy said quietly, “after I’ve talked to Aunt Sandy.”
“All right then – I’ll bring something through in a few minutes,” Heather said as the Carters hung their coats up, and went into the studio Sandy used for her design work. They found Sandy at her drawing table, dressed in an old sweatshirt and jeans.
“Oh hey,” she said as she looked over, “let me finish this and I’ll be right with you. Close the door please Katy.”
As she walked over, Jan saw that Katy was shaking a little as well, but she closed the door, and then came back over.
Sandy finished the sketch she was working on, and then turned round, drawing her knees up as she looked at Katy.
“Aunt Sandy, I’m sorry,” Katy eventually said, “when I mentioned your name to Mom…”
Sandy looked at Jan, who said “Let’s take a step back here Katy dear. First things first – you are not in any trouble, is she Sandy?”
“No,” Sandy said as she looked at Katy, “but you know, don’t you?”
Katy slowly nodded her head as Sandy stood up and stretched. “All right – so let’s get a couple of things out so that you know what’s going to happen. You’re right Katy – your mom and I are both Pussycats.”
Katy slowly nodded as she said “Diana and Juliette?”
“Yes – but as to who else, I’m not going to tell you that yet. Would you like to know why?”
“Yes please,” Katy said quietly as Jan looked on.
“Well, for one thing, you have discovered a very big secret Katy, one a lot of people would like to know. Now the fact you haven’t told anyone except your mom tells me you can keep a secret, but can you keep this one?”
“Yes – I told Mom I’d do anything to keep her safe.”
“She did,” Jan, said quietly. “She’s kept another secret – she knows about Pepsi.”
“Do you now,” Sandy said with a smile, “well, you haven’t told Sands or George that, have you?”
“No, Aunt Sandy.”
“Well, that is a good sign,” Sandy said as she folded her arms. “So what else did you tell your mom?”
“That I’ll do anything to help and protect her. Also – sometimes, in bed, I imagine things and…”
“Okay – no need to share that,” Sandy said with a smile. “As I say, I’m not going to tell you anything else at this stage, because I need to talk to Diana and Juliette, but you must keep what we just told you a secret from everyone – and I mean everyone Katy. Do you think you can do that?”
Katy nodded slowly before she said, “I asked Mom if I could come to Toronto to help you…”
“Not this time Katy,” Sandy said, “partly because I need to talk to Diana and Juliette, and partly because we need to talk to some others – and we cannot do that. Your mom will be taking a trip next week – and if you really want to help, the best thing you can do is come and spend the weekend with Sands and George here, while their grandmother looks after them.”
“But after that?”
“I promise I will talk to the others, and we will talk to you after that,” Sandy said, “but please, for now, do what your mom and I ask.”
“Okay – I can understand that,” Katy said as there was a knock on the door, and Heather looked in.
“Katy – Sands has just come back with her grandmother. She heard you were here, and wonders if you can come up to her room?”
“All right,” Katy said as she hugged her mother, and then Aunt Sandy. “Thank you.”
“On you go,” Sandy, said with a smile, watching as Katy ran past Heather, and then indicating she should come in.
“Well,” Heather said as she closed the door.
“Oh she’s worked it out,” Jan said with a sigh, “and she’s pegged Sandy, Ju and Di. I know she won’t say anything – but what do we do now?”
“She offered to come with us next week – she’s serious Heather?”
“Yeah – and we don’t have time between now and next Thursday to bring her up to speed. Do we Juliette?”
“No we don’t” Juliette said over the speakerphone.
“Sandy called me when you rang the doorbell, Jan – and yeah, we need to bring her in, but not for this. In the meantime, we need to tell the others.”
“Agreed,” Jan said as she rubbed her eyes. “You know, compared to this, Pepsi’s Sweet Sixteen was a picnic.”
“True – but remember how old Abby was when she first appeared.”
“All right – she’ll be with you and Sandy from now on anyway,” Ju said. “I’ll see you all tomorrow.”
As the line went dead, Jan looked to the door.
“Right then,” she said quietly, “I’ll get her back to the apartment, get our stuff packed. Thanks for doing that Sandy.”
“Well, it’s going to happen sooner or later with Sands anyway – right, how about we have some lunch together before you go.”
“Want me to call Jo?”
“Later – I got to do this call first,” Sandy, said as she picked up the phone.
"Diana? It’s Sandy. We are driving over this evening, any chance of you coming and helping us load up the RV?"
She held the handset out as a string of French came over.
"Darling even in French that is a most unladylike expression." Sandy laughed, "but it is important you and Abby at least drop in...We have HUGE news to impart.
“Very well – we will see you later."
Putting the phone down, she looked at Heather.
“Lunch – let’s make some coffee and talk while I do that.”
The Marais Apartment
“You look as if you’re about ready,” Annie said as she looked at Jeanne Marais, “where’s Henri?”
"My father is at the track already, with Clint
and the crew, making sure everything is prepared for tomorrow." Jeanne
looked up from the notes on braking she was memorising
"Have you told him yet?" Annie asked.
"No,” Jeanne said as she sat back, “I was sort of
waiting till after the race."
"Have you told the father?"
"No, I really don't think it is his
"Because it was a one night thing and I'm not
sure I want to re-visit the subject."
"Won't your father want to know?"
"Probably, but I'll decide at the time how much I tell him."
“Your choice,” Annie said, “I can understand. We were asked if we wished to know who the sperm donor was, but we declined.”
“At some point, he may ask to find your baby.”
“We’ll deal with that when we come to it,” Annie said, “on which note I need to get going.” As she went to the door, she looked back at Jeanne.
“He’s French isn’t he?”
“No comment, not yet,” Jeanne said, but as Annie left she slowly nodded.
The Richmond Mansion
“All right,” Diana said as she and Abby came into the RV, “what was so important we had to come over and interrupt our shopping trip?”
“Shopping trip,” Sandy said as she looked at Diana in her blue dress and jacket, and Abby in her jumper and jeans.
“Supplies for the Internationale,” Abby said as Jan and Heather carried some things in. “So?”
The de Ros women looked at Jan, and then at Sandy and Heather.
“She worked it out,” Jan said quietly as she put the cases down. “She worked it out, she outed me, and then she outed you, Sandy and Ju.”
“Oh,” Abby said with a smile, “does Ju know?”
“Yeah – she’s going to tell Carina, and I’ve told Jo. They all had the same reaction as us.”
“Damn,” Jan said with a sigh. “I always thought if anyone would guess, it would be Mom, but Katy…”
“You’d better tell her the best bit.”
Abby looked at Jan as she said, “she wants in.”
“Now why could I see that coming,” Abby said with a smile. “What do the others say?”
All three of them nodded as Diana looked at them.
“Well, it is not without precedent,” Diana said. “If the others are in
agreement, then so am I. Will you
want me to start her firearms training Jan?" Diana asked.
"No I think I can teach her how to use a
"Like you teaching me Mama." Abby smiled,
"you know I bet she feels just like I did when I first found out by
reading Cari's diary. Overwhelmed,
but somehow as excited as hell at the idea."
"I remember." Diana looked heavenwards.
"I could not believe Carina had been so indiscreet...and you were still a
"Mama I was 13, just like Katy is."
"If we had more time I'd say take her..."
"SANDY NO!" Jan shouted.
"Well face it,” Sandy said, “she's family, and
"And as you yourself said, she's just 13."
Jan looked daggers at her co-driver.
"Well we do need someone, and at the moment I
can't think of anyone still." Abby spoke. "I spent the entire shoot
this morning trying to think of ideas."
"Perhaps an idea will come to one of us before
the race ends tomorrow."
"Well an 8 hour race, there is plenty of thinking time." Heather smiled as she stowed her computers. “But if not by then?”
“A last resort – and we’d have to consider what she’d do. My preference would be to give her time with Doc first.”
“I know – but let’s see,” Diana said as she rubbed her eyes.
"So what is the prediction on track
conditions?" Janine asked as she sat on the pit wall, looking like several
other decorative blondes who were hanging round. Unlike them, in their short dresses and high
heels, she was wearing a roll neck sweater and a pair of jeans.
"Well you won't need those
sunglasses, that is for sure my darling," Henri kissed her.
"Wet and cool is the prediction."
"Which luckily the girls know all about driving on
this track." Clint said as he rolled a tire into the garage.
"Yes,” Henri said, “we have a setup,
we know all about how the tires react, we should be good to go."
"So why do you start at the back?"
"Because darling Janine, we are the series
leaders, each car starts in reverse order to its placing in the series."
Clint nodded as he came over. "They want to make it slightly difficult at first for the leading cars."
“Well, I can imagine that makes sense in any world except Formula 1,” Janine said as she flicked through a brochure that was on the table. “What is this?”
Clint smiled as he watched Janine flip through the booklet. "Have you seen the race programme Henri?"
"I have Clint," Henri chuckled, "the
glamour girls of endurance racing...I'm not sure what the girls will say to
being described as that."
"Well I think it's pretty apt." Janine crossed her legs. "They do all look great."
The Richmond Mansion
“Hey Heather, I got your text,” Doc said as she looked into the RV.
“Oh hi Doc – can you hand up that case,” Heather said as she pointed to a pilot’s bag.
“Sure - are you getting ready to go?" Anna asked
as she came in.
"Yes, it's a pity you cannot come watch."
"So do I, but time, tide, and Miss Nightingale's
English Lit class..."
"I understand." Heather laughed. "So
you will be immersing yourself in Shakespeare all day tomorrow?"
"Yes,” Doc said as Heather stowed the bag, “especially
with the fact I'm taking a couple of days off at the end of the week."
"Well I have a rather serious secret to tell you." Heather pulled the RV's door tight.
“Serious? Don’t tell me he’s resurfaced again…”
"No, not that. Katy has worked out who her Mom is and what
she does, as well as who a couple of the others
Doc shook her head and then smiled.
“I knew she was a bright kid...but how?"
"She figured out her mother’s outgoings exceeded her income, and then put two and two together."
“So what’s been done about it?”
“Under discussion at the moment – but the chances are, as the junior member, we may get you to talk to her at some point.”
“Oy – all right, just warn me in advance please.”
“Thanks,” Heather said as she opened the door. “Enjoy Shakespeare.”
As Doc headed down the road, Heather closed the door and went back into the mansion.
“Katy, are you and the others ready,” Katherine called up the stairs as she came in.
“Coming,” she heard Katy say as she carried some bags out, and then heard “Katherine Carter, get right back up those stairs and change!”
“What’s going on,” Jan said as she joined Heather and Sandy, and then looked to the doors of the mansion.
“Oh boy,” Sandy said as the thirteen year old walked out.
"Katy there is NO WAY I'm letting you wear
those." Jan shook her head as her daughter sauntered down the steps in a
pair of faded skintight jeans, and black boots with a four and a half inch
"It's what I said." Katherine said as she
climbed into the RV.
"What's the problem? The jeans
or the boots?"
"BOTH!" her mother and grandmother said in
"Well I bet George and the boys on the pit crew
will like me in them." Katy did a sexy wiggle.
"What do you think Sands?" Jan asked the
young girl who followed, wearing a pair of jeans and normal shoes.
"She tried to get me to wear the same...but no...It’s
still not me yet."
"But it is me mother." Katy grinned as she sat down and crossed her legs.
"My daughter is pushing it." Jan complained
to Sandy as they checked everything, and everybody was loaded into the
"She figures she has you between a rock and a
hard place Jan darling, until you have something good to threaten her back
with, then you are in trouble."
"Guilt and threats is that what parenting comes
"It worked for my Mom." Sandy laughed,
"and I didn't work out too bad."
"OY!" Jan rolled her eyes.
“HEATHER!!! WE’RE GOOD TO GO!!!”
“Be right there,” Heather said as she looked at the computer screen. “Well, what do you think Jo?”
"It sounds like Katy on top of everything is
turning into what I was before you came and rescued me...a top class
cock-tease." Jo looked at the screen.
"She is." Heather nodded, "and poor Jan
has all this crap and a race to worry about."
"Not to mention our little excursion this
"So how was training today little sister?"
"Tough, but I think I'll be ready for my big race
"Well I hope so, remember we are coming to watch you run."
“Right – go and win for the team, and let me know the timetable.”
“Talk to you tomorrow, Jo,” Heather said as she closed the laptop, and locked the front door before she came into the RV.
The Coffee Shop, near Colombia U
“Regular Americano for table 10.”
“I got it,” Tracy said as she walked over, wearing the blue polo shirt and knee length skirt all the female staff wore. She carried the cup over to the small brown haired woman sitting by the window.
“Can I get you anything else,” she said as she put the cup down.
“Let me have a look,” the customer said as she looked at the menu, Tracy waiting by her side.
"You'll be getting tomorrow off Trace."
Susan whispered as her friend stood with her pad. "Denice
and Erica are driving out to the track with Roy and Tonia this evening and
staying the night."
"Okay, well that will give me a chance to do some
observation on the gangs."
"How bad is it?"
"Not as bad as I hear the South Bronx is, but
there are drug dealers on most corners, and I'm beginning to see who is who
from the graffiti."
"Just like back 'ome eh?" Susan laughed.
“The tags are easy enough to work out – but I’ve seen the persons of interest every day when I leave in the morning. I may listen in tonight anyway – just in case they try anything.”
Nodding, Susan said, “Can I get a toasted muffin as well?”
“Coming right up,” Tracy said as she made a note, and went back to the pass, handing the note over as she rang the bell.
"Have you seen the new edition of Hello Cari?" Ingrid asked her over the telephone.
"No it's not exactly regular reading for
me," Carina sat down and picked up Judith whilst cradling the phone to her
"Because they have several pictures from the
"That one of me, you, and Jeanne?"
“Not really – but somebody should tip the nod to Erica and some of the younger girls. Their photos are in there as well.”
“I’ll call Sandy later – I need to pass a message on anyway,” Carina said as there was a knock on the door, and Annie came in. “I’ll call you later Ingy – my guest just turned up.”
“Momma,” Judith said as she held her arms out.
“Hey little one,” Annie said as she hugged her, “had a good week?”
“I dance today,” Judith said as Cari put the phone back.
“I don’t suppose you saw Hello did you?”
“Sorry – I bought the usual glossies, but not that. Why?”
“Breeder’s Cup spread. So, how are you feeling?”
“Wonderful – listen, if I tell you a secret, can you keep it?”
“If you can keep one as well.”
“Okay - Jeanne is expecting as well.”
Cari stared at her partner, before she said, “Okay – that almost trumps mine.”
“And that is?”
“We may have a new recruit – one we weren’t expecting.”
“JD joining us next week?”
“Nope – it’s Katy Carter.”
Annie looked at Carina for a moment, before saying “All right – want to tell me what happened?”
7 pm Pacific Time
Santa Crista campus, outside LA
“It is good of you to allow us to stay with you, Madeline, and also to bring us out here.”
“It was the least I could do Ama,” Maddie said as she drove through the gates, Maisha sitting in the rear of the car. “When we liberated them, they were told of who we represented, and I for one am honoured that you have the opportunity to visit them.”
“How are they,” Maisha said as Maddie drove up the long road.
“Physically, they are all on the road to recovery. Mentally, emotionally – well, I do not need to tell you.”
“Indeed,” Ama said quietly, “which is why I wished to come.”
Maddie pulled up outside what had been the main entrance to the school the building once held, the three of them stepping out and looking round. Maisha and Ama were wearing blouses and skirts, while Maddie had on a grey woolen jersey dress. All three wore flat shoes.
As they walked up the stairs, the doors opened as Ama and Maisha recognised Becca and Flower.
“Welcome, sisters,” Becca said as she hugged both of them, “we are so glad you could come.”
“As are we – Flower, you look well.”
“I am,” the young Mogolan girl said. “When my fellow countrywomen started to arrive here, I was honour bound to come and assist.”
“How many do we have here at the moment,” Maisha said as they went in.
“Around two hundred – the police free more every day, and they are brought here, while some of those you rescued from the boat have returned,” Becca said as they walked along the corridor. “Here they have rest, food, and treatment, before they make their choices.”
“And you have all the assistance you need?”
“Indeed – the fund that was set up has been more than sufficient to get the expert help we need, and Doctor Lucia has been very helpful in that aspect,” Flower said as they entered the assembly hall. “We also have volunteers to help with cooking, tending or just talking.”
Small groups of women were sat around the room, talking quietly to each other, but all looked up as the small party came in.
“Please, do not let us interrupt,” Becca said. “Our sisters are here to visit and see what is happening here.”
“Are they former captives, like us?”
Becca looked at Maddie, who nodded before she said “they are much more than that, sister. You have heard us speak of The Heart and The Strength, those for whom our sisterhood was formed to honour and carry on the work we do.”
As the women looked on, Ama said “we are The Heart and The Strength, and we greet you as our sisters.”
The murmur that went round the hall was intense, before two came forward, an older woman leaning on a young teenager.
“On behalf of all here,” she said, “thank you for what you and the Sisters have done.”
“It was our honour to do so,” Maisha said quietly. “I hope we have a chance to talk later.”
“Come,” Becca said, “some others are dining, and you will see how they are.”
They walked towards what had been the cafeteria, walking in to find other Mogolans eating and talking to each other. As they walked in, those who were serving and clearing looked up, and started to sing the Song of Maisha.
“Those who have come to assist sing this song every morning,” Flower said, “as do I.”
They walked round the tables, stopping and talking to some of the women, before they heard a gasp and turned round.
“Are you all right Sister,” Becca said to the teenager who was standing there, wearing a white apron over her polo shirt and jeans. Ama looked at her, and then cried out as they ran and embraced each other.
“I do not know,” the young woman said as Ama and the girl looked at each other.
“Nyala? By the Holy Father, is it really you?”
“It is – and I am overjoyed to see you again, and also to call you sister. Why are you here?”
“We serve each other – come meet my friends.”
“Do you know each other,” Becca said as Ama brought her over.
“I do – Nyala came to this country with me. I prayed you had survived – what happened to you?”
“The same as you, I suspect – years as a slave, then freedom. I was freed by two agents of what they call the FBI, and then allowed to recover. When given the choice, I asked to stay, and was adopted by a couple who live near here. So when the news broke, as a sister I felt I had to come and help. But what of you – you look so well!”
“I am,” Ama said quietly, “and mine is a tale as well, but this is not the place to tell it. Let me say this,” she said as she beckoned Maisha over, “as The Heart, I am overjoyed to see you again.”
“And as The Strength,” Maisha said, “I greet you as a Sister, and as the friend of my friend. Thank you for helping these women as well.”
Nyala looked to both of them, before she said “Now I know I can serve as a Sister here with a glad heart. When must you leave?”
“Tomorrow,” Ama said, “I live in New York now, and Maisha in London. But, if you are free, you must join us for breakfast tomorrow, and hear each other’s tales.”
“I would like that very much,” Nyala said, “very much indeed.”
Sunday 8th November
“Good morning gentlemen,” Henri said as the pit crew gathered in the garage, “breakfast will appear momentarily.”
“Or now,” they said as the door to the RV outside opened, the men looking on as Katy, George and Sandy started to bring food and drink out. All three were wearing their team coveralls, But Katy had hers slightly open at the top, and had her stiletto heeled boots on.
“Whatever happened to that little kid who started the season?” Nick Devillo, one of the mechanics asked as Katy handed round breakfast sandwiches and coffee.
“I know…it’s amazing.” Clint shook his head
“Oh to be that fresh this early in the morning,” Rick Priest said as he gratefully sipped his coffee.
“Well gentlemen it is 5.15, we have four and a quarter hours till the flag drops. Let us not waste a moment.” Henri eventually announced. “Let us double check everything.”
“He’s right,” Nick sighed, “this is the big one, so I suppose let’s get started.”
“Morning everyone,” Jan said as she came in with Sandy, Jeanne and Heather. “How are things looking?”
“Ask us nearer the time,” Clint said. “When is the driver briefing?”
“Seven thirty – we’re going to be in the RV checking things one more time,” Sandy said as Heather started to set up the computers.
“Thanks,” she said as she took the mug from Katy, and then looked at her again.
“Don’t say it – it may distract the other pit crews as well.”
“Well, when the race starts, cover up – safety,” Heather said, Katy nodding as she walked slowly off.
Heather looked over at Jan, who just shook her head and went back to the RV.
“Good morning team!”
“Good morning, Roy,” Henri said as he shook Roy’s hand, and kissed Tonia. “Well, the preparations continue apace…”
“So I see,” Tonia said as Jan came out.
“Hi Tonia – driver briefing. Ready?”
“I am – Denice, Erica, I will see you later,” Tonia said as she waved and walked off.
“You,” Clint said as he looked at Roy, “are not dressed for the put today Roy.”
“Sadly, no,” Roy said as he adjusted his silk tie, “today is a business day for me. As for our guests…”
He looked at Erica, wearing a blouse and pants, who raised an eyebrow and looked over at her mother. “Mom?”
“Hmmm – I will be with you in a minute,” Denice said as she started to look at the open motor.
“If you are going to look at that, Madame Burton,” Henri said, “I suggest you put something on over that lovely dress. Clint, could you possible assist?”
“I have a spare set of coveralls, Denice – want to borrow them?”
“Oh yes,” Denice said quietly, “you don’t mind do you darling?”
“I’ll take her upstairs,” Roy said as he put his hand on Erica’s shoulder, “and we will see you later.”
“Charles, is everything ready in the buffet?”
“We are ready, Mrs. Walker,” the head caterer said, “hot and cold food, orange juice and buck’s fizz, other juices, water and plenty of coffee.”
“Excellent – thank you,” Susan said as she looked out over the track. She could see the diehard fans already taking their places, but this was a different day for her, as she stood in her dark jacket and skirt, with a white blouse and two inch heels.
“Remind me again why we are here at this ungodly hour,” Penny said as she came in, adjusting her grey fitted jacket over her white sweater.
“One of those things directors have to do, Penny,” Susan said with a smile, “whether we like it or not.”
“Well, whatever happens today, I am having a very stiff drink tonight,” Penny said as Roy came in with Erica. As the young girl went to look out of the panoramic windows, Roy greeted both women.
“So is Tonia in the team meeting Roy?”
“She is Susan. Now I’m more concerned with how things are going here?”
“Our corporate hospitality is fully ready to go,” Susan said as she looked round, “the executive boxes, the catering, everything is ready.”
“It was a good idea of yours to invite clients along for today.”
“Well it combines work and fun, and raises our profile as sponsors a bit higher.”
“That is true.” Roy nodded. “So Penny are you ready to schmooze people?”
“Yes…if I have too.”
“Oh you must, you must – on which note,” Susan said as she handed Penny a badge.
“Penelope Harker, Executive Director, Xavier International,” Penny said as she looked at the writing, “accurate and concise.”
“Just like you Penny – and you’ll be fine,” Susan said as she hugged her colleague.
“And away we go,” Roy said as he went forward to greet the first arrival
“Roy, it’s nice of you to invite me along for breakfast.” Mario Andretti said as he walked in.
“Well it’s better that you accepted. This by the way is Clint’s wife Susan, and this is Penny, they represent Shirley’s interests today.”
“Charmed to meet you.” Mario kissed both women on the cheek.
“And you – Clint and Shirley both speak very highly of you,” Susan said as she smiled at Mario. “Why don’t you come and help yourself to some food, and we can talk later?”
“Let me accompany you,” Roy said as Susan walked over to where Erica was looking out.
“Where is your mom Erica?”
“Wearing a team overall down in the pits…that part of her that once wanted to be a mechanical engineer took over when she saw what was going on, and she begged to be allowed to help.”
“Oh dear,” Susan shook her head, “well do you want to help up here?”
“If I can.”
“Well, can you stand by the door and give out the presentation packs as guests arrive?”
“I can do that.” Erica smiled.
“If anyone asks questions you can’t answer, direct them to Roy, Penny, or me.”
“Right.” Erica started glancing at the materials in the packs.
“Hey – get something to at first. You can have a few minutes grace,” Penny said with a smile. As Erica walked to the buffet, she whispered to Susan “Is that the girl?”
“Yeah,” Susan whispered back, “nice kid, and Caroline wants her to be safe.”
Denice smiled as she turned round from
inspecting the replacement shocks.
"I am Heather,” she said with a smile, “it's amazing just looking, listening and learning."
"I've heard that you've already suggested a
couple of tweaks Henri and Clint hadn't thought of."
"Oh just minor things," Denice
blushed, "very minor things."
"Well do you want to work the computers with me
during the race? I've really needed a
second who actually understands what all the figures say all season long."
"I'd be honored Heather – but Erica?”
“If I know Susan – and I do – she’ll have her helping out and enjoying herself. Anyway, let’s check things are working…
“Welcome,” Erica said to the well-dressed couple, “please accept this pack, and help yourself to the buffet.”
“Erica? I did not think you were helping today?”
“Working visit, Miss Huntingdown, Your Highness – would you like a pack?”
“No thank you,” Klaus said politely as they went in.
"Just you and Klaus Ju?"
Susan asked as her friends walked over.
"Ingy has a paper to
write, and Carina and Annie are having a family day as they discuss the future."
"I saw Erica, but where is Denice?"
"Working in the pits...I just heard she's going
to assist Heather on the computers."
"Well as long as she is having fun..."
Juliette lowered her voice, "and back in the Heights?"
"Tracey is spending a day doing reconnaissance and intelligence gathering." Susan whispered.
“Good – I can relax for today then.”
“On behalf of Shirley, thank you so much for joining us today,” Caroline said as she rose from one of the tables and walked round. Dressed in a black dress and boots, she was the professional business woman she had to be today.
If she was honest with herself, she felt as comfortable doing this as she knew Penny was – but she could see her smiling and talking, so she knew she could as well.
"So are you here as a spokesmodel
Miss Jameson?" one of the Wall Street types asked as he came over.
For a second Dominique bit her tongue, the implied
sexism and denigration in the man’s question annoying her to the extreme.
"Actually no," she said as she pasted on a
false smile, "I also run a renowned Private Security company, and am a
director of Xavier International. Clients of theirs are often referred to my
company for advice on, and installation of security systems."
"So not just a beautiful face
eh? How about one night you come around and investigate my
"I would but only if your wife is there..."
Dominique said quietly as she walked away.
"Problem?" Susan asked.
"A damn lecher...can you get his address for
me...I'll investigate his security for him."
"Oh dear, he could find that very
expensive," Susan laughed.
"I take...I mean charge...double when I work after midnight."
“Well, perhaps I can cheer you up – Maddie told me Ama ran into a very special young woman yesterday.”
“I know – she sent me a text today. I’m going to get her contact details, see if she and her family would like to visit for Thanksgiving.”
“Are you ready to take her out for the 45 minute free practice Sandy?” Henri shouted above the engine noise.
“In position Tonia?”
“Telemetry working Heather?”
“Loud and clear.”
“Alright the lights just went on, head her on out there Sandy and tell us everything you feel.”
“Nerves? Heather whispered to Denice as Sandy took the car out.
“I’m always especially nervous when Sandy is out there ate nearly 200 mph,” Heather said as she looked at the screens.
“So what are we looking for?”
“Anything odd on these graphs, etc…We also listen to what she says she is doing and trying.”
“The tire temperatures look as though they are getting right Sandy.” Denice spoke on the com.
“Okay, well I’ll try and see what she can do for a few laps with a full load of fuel then.”
“Roger that.” Henri climbed on the pit box to watch.
"Well Mario what did you think?" Henri asked
as they re-fuelled the car and changed tires.
"Sandy was looking great out there,
and oh before I forget I have to say it was nice of your sponsors to treat me
to perfect Eggs Benedict this morning."
"I'm glad they looked after you old friend, down
here where the work was being done we had breakfast sandwiches and
"But prepared by the divine Mrs. Carter I am sure
they were excellent."
"Mario Andretti as I have told you all season,
you are a silver tongued old flatterer." Katherine smiled, "but you
did look in need of one of my real Italian coffees."
"Bellisimma!" the great old driver grinned as he sipped his drink.
“Our usual problems in that one corner.” Sandy took off her helmet as the seat was switched out to allow Janice to start the race.
“Well we have tried everything,” Clint nodded, “I think we just have got to accept that we are slightly slower in that section then we’d like to be.”
“Agreed,” Henri nodded as he strapped Janice in prior to the car being wheeled out on to the grid. “No setup is ever 100% perfect.”
“36 cars is a full grid.” Jan observed as the mechanics wheeled her into place.
“Yes but we have beaten everyone of them at least once this year.” Sandy reminded her.
“Papa will you do the honours?” Jeanne said as she held her hands up in prayer.
"Hey do you need a hand handing them out
Bones?" Jess asked.
"If you don't mind?"
"Not at all."
"I see your father and mother chatting with
Roy." Erica nodded towards Juan and Amelia.
"Papa will be fine if everyone just talks about the car and racing, his pet-hate is people who come to this sort of thing just to talk business.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Susan said over the PA, “the drivers are now taking their places on the starting grid, and the race will start in a few minutes. We will, of course, have the race on television in here, but the corporate boxes are also open for your use.”
“It’s an overcast day here at Pocono, but we’re looking forward to great Finals race here today.”
“We certainly are Jack, and the question on everyone’s lips is whether or not the Carter-Richmond team can take the title in their debut year.”
“Well, they qualified first, and so start from the back of the grid, but with six hours racing, it could be anyone at the end of the day.”
"So are the mechanics all paid?"
"Goddess no Denice,
they are volunteers just like us all...This is amateur racing."
"So what are they,” she said as she looked over,
“people who work all week in garages?"
"Some are, but Nick for example runs a chain of
bakeries, and Rick is a broker on Wall Street. This is their hobby just as much
as it is the girls. The only truly
professional driver here is Henri – and he doesn’t drive anymore."
"I'm impressed." Denice looked at her screen. "I just wish I could have got involved before."
“Well, there’s always Florida in January…”
“Well, Janice Carter is leading off for the team, so as we wait for the lights, we allow a moment to prepare.”
The crowd fell silent as the lights started to turn red in sequence, before…
“And they are off!”
The sound was terrific as the cars moved off, Janice taking the two in front of her before the first corner…
"Hello Mrs. Richmond," Erica smiled as she
gave Nessa a pack.
"Hello Erica, did they drag you into helping
It keeps me out of mischief, I suppose."
"Oh and I hope that wasn't volunteering army style," Gus laughed as he and Paulie took packs.
"No," Erica grinned, Mom is helping in the pits and I like being useful as well."
“Denice is down there as well? This is proving to be a most interesting day already…”
"What was that lap time Janine?" Henri asked
as he glanced at the blonde’s stopwatch.
"We seem to be a little faster then we were last time we were here." Heather added
over the com.
"When we can get clear air," Jeanne came on
line, "each time I get stuck in traffic my laps
times must drop considerably."
"And the engine temperatures go up." Denice remarked.
"Well that's racing ladies, and that is why we
need to think on our feet." Henri watched as Jeanne passed the stands
"Now that was FAST." Heather whistled.
"I had a clear run."
"But you are rapidly coming up on traffic again
Jeanne," Tonia called out, "the Alfa seems to be having troubles
getting by the Thomas's Ferrari."
"Tell their spotters to tell their drivers I'm
coming through Ton and fuck their private race, they need give way to faster
"I'll kick them up their damn ass." Tonia laughed.
Denice was smiling at the banter and team talk – she felt really at home here, able to forget troubles for a while…
“It’s eleven o’clock on Sunday 8th November, and this is Meet The Press…”
Tracy sat on the window sill of her apartment and
watched the life on the street down below her as the television played in the
background. In between sipping her
coffee from her cup, she trained her binoculars on what was going on. The nice looking cars pulling up on street corners, the kids
hustling to the window, the quick conversation and the exchange of money and
It might be Sunday morning but the street corner drug trade knew no respect for the Sabbath.
Training her binoculars down the street a couple of blocks she spotted Rochelle and her friends standing on the street like they were waiting for somebody. They all wore leather jackets and jeans, with ankle boots, and even from this distance Tracy could see their wrist tattoos.
"Alright who are you expecting?" she said as she crossed the room and picked up the camera with the telephoto lens, training it on the young girls, just as a black Lincoln pulled up. As a woman got out of the car Tracy started taking photos.
The new arrival was certainly better dressed, if still dressed to blend in – leopard skin pants and a leather jacket, but even Tracy could tell they were designer clothes. Her flaming red hair was a strange contrast to her dark skin, but as she turned and looked to the building while Rochelle pointed to it, Tracy could see the elaborate tattoo on her neck.
“Now where might you ladies be going,” Tracy said to herself as they stood there, talking. On impulse, she grabbed her coat and headed for the lift – following them may tell her something.
“We’re a third of the way through the race, and already the Richmond-Carter team are building up a lead over the rest of the field…”
As the commentator’s voice went round the balcony, Erica and Jess took a cup of coffee each and sat by a low table, sighing as they took a drink.
"Hey you two."
Poppy slumped into a chair besides her
two school friends, and looked at them both. "How's
"Great, with all the guests here we finally get a chance to put our feet up and have a coffee." Erica replied. “And while I can’t speak for Jess, I need this.”
"Well imagine you are Susan or Caroline having to be nice to all these people?"
"Point taken." Erica giggled. “Have you talked to Penny, the English lady?”
“Not really – she doesn’t look as comfortable, but she is pressing the flesh as well,” Poppy said. "So how is your Mom doing?"
"She phoned a few minutes ago, sounds like she is having the time of her life down in the pits."
"My father is quite jealous." Jess added.
"Did you see Hello?"
"Caroline brought in a copy,” Erica said, “it was a major shock seeing my face in a magazine like
"My mom says we will all have to get used to it, being young Sinnerz's will get us noticed.”
“Poppy seems to be enjoying herself,” Juliette said as she stood with Pippa.
“Indeed – she had great fun yesterday as well. Luke had her wearing this silver strapless gown, with gold shoes and red gloves, and…”
“And she looked astounding,” Pippa said with a smile.
“So who else was there?”
“Grace, Abby, Anna, Sarah Nightingale, Melody and Xian – the others should be arriving about now…”
Jack Linklater’s studio
"Well half the photos shot yesterday, the rest to do today." Grace looked round as she and Abby reached the doors of Jack's studio.
"The pictures Luke sent me this morning looked great, I can't wait to see how they come out after he has manipulated them."
“I'm going to be fascinated as well… All this technology wasn't really around when I was having my first modeling career.”
“It wasn’t that long ago Grace, but I know what you mean.”
"Good Morning ladies." Brooke spoke to them as they pushed through the double doors into the studio. "I thought I was too early."
"Only a fraction." Abby smiled as she kissed her classmate on the cheek. “The others should be here soon.
"We are all out back," they heard Jack yell, "Come and help sort the wardrobe out for today."
"Jack darling, do not overwork the
"Luke he's not going to change at his age darling." Grace laughed as they entered the wardrobe area, "and beside Abby and me were both shot yesterday, we really are only here today to help out."
“So I get to wear what,” Brooke said as she looked at the racks.
“This,” Abby said as she held up a white blouse and short skirt, “with a few well chosen accessories…”
“Well, I found the place,” Suzie said as she came in, “what do I need to do?”
“Have some coffee and relax,” Luke said as he walked past.
The Carlton Home
"Do you have the race on?" Pepsi asked as
she and Becca came in carrying their school bags.
"Yeah we get the regional feed for the Autorace network, so I've had it on while I've been
reading." Doc looked up.
"How are they doing?" Becca
looked at the screen.
"They are leading overall by about half a lap.
Janice is currently driving."
"Well we can watch and read Shakespeare."
Pepsi pulled out her copy of Macbeth and settled into the seat.
"Drinks girls?" Mrs. Carlton put her head
round the living room door.
"This is pretty heavy stuff," Becca said as she pulled out her book, "you can really
see that ultimately he is going to end up destroying all he has achieved."
"That is why it’s a tragedy...” Pepsi stopped and took her phone out. “Whoops I am in trouble with Janice over lending Katy those boots yesterday," she whispered as she glanced down.
“I’ve never seen a girl change so much in a year,” Doc said, then looked at the way both Pepsi and Becca were looking at her.
“Yeah – girl who’s changed the most over the last year,” Pepsi said as she shook her head.
“Okay Janice – box on next lap,” Henri said as Sandy fastened the top of her driving suit, and slipped on her helmet.
“Good luck mom,” George and Sands said as Janice brought the car in, unbuckling herself and jumping out as the seats were swapped.
“Ton, what’s the weather looking like?”
“Some darker clouds on the horizon, nothing to worry about just yet.”
“Go,” Clint said as Sandy drove off, and Janice removed her helmet.
“Here you go mom,” Katy said as she handed her a bottle of water.
“Thanks,” Jan said as she took a drink. “How are we doing?”
“Holding our own,” Heather said as she looked at the displays…
"What's that?" Caroline asked as Susan
stuffed a piece of paper into her hand.
"The name and address on your lover boy. He's a
junior partner in Roy's firm, not a client of ours, so he is fair game."
"Good,” Caroline said as she slipped it into her
purse, “I think he will be getting an unexpected visit this week before we go
"Well it should put you in the mood."
Caroline nodded as she said "changing the subject, can you go rescue Penny from that old bore who's talking of nothing but rates and percentages."
"Rescue Juan Murchado,
he's cornered over there and I know they aren't talking about the race to
"I can see...okay rescue missions here we go."
Walking over, Susan smiled as she said “my apologies for interrupting, but there is a phone call for you from London Penny.”
“Right – please excuse me,” she said as Susan guided the broker to the bar.
“Juan,” Caroline said, “Roy was wondering if her could discuss that sponsorship proposal you had with him.”
“Of course – if you will excuse me gentlemen,” Juan said as he took Caroline’s arm, whispering “thank you,” as they walked off.
Jack Linklater’s Studio
“I swear,” Jeannie said as she wheeled herself into the studio, “I am going to kill someone soon.”
“Coffee for Miss Brewster,” the assistant called out as Jeannie made her way to the prep area, while Barbara collapsed into a chair.
“Hi Luke,” she said as the photographer came through, talking to Jack,
"Barbara,” Luke said as he kissed her, “I haven't
had a chance to thank you in person for inviting me to such a wonderful
"Well it was a pleasure having you there
"So how is Jeannie?"
"In a foul mood, her first shoot this morning the
photographer was hopeless, she ended up virtually directing the shoot
"I'll step carefully then."
"So many of these damn newcomers think it's all
as easy as pointing the camera, snapping an image, then playing with it on a
computer." Jack observed.
"You and Grace both agree on that." Barbara
"I hope that wasn't a remark on my plans
darling?" Luke asked Jack.
"No dear boy, you have been trained
"So to speak," Barbara giggled.
"...You know how to take a great picture," Jack ignored her. "What you do later is just playing with effects."
“Luke – Brooke is ready.”
“Thank you Grace, Luke said as they walked in to see Brooke sitting across a fence panel.
“All right, Brooke darling,” Luke said, “I want you to imagine you’re won the lottery and you’re celebrating.”
10 am Pacific Time
“She is here,” Maisha said as she looked to the doorway. Ama nodded as she stood up, smiling as Nyala walked towards them.
“I still cannot quite believe it is you,” she said as she hugged both of them.
“The feeling is mutual – are they…?”
“My adopted parents,” Nyala said as she looked at the African American couple who sat at the bar. “When I told them I had met someone from my old life, they were more than pleased to bring me.”
“Come, sit,” Maisha said, “we will order in a moment.”
As they sat, the waitress came over and took their orders, before Nyala said “so where were you taken after – that day?”
Ama looked round the room, before she said “do you remember the woman from our home who oversaw us that day?”
Nyala nodded before she said “oh no – with her?”
“Yes,” Ama said quietly, “and I went through my own horrors, as I think you did. Where were you? I was in New York all the time.”
“As was I – but as I said last night, I was freed when the FBI raided the home I was working in. You?”
“I cannot tell the full tale –not here. I was rescued by those who eventually exposed what had happened.”
“So you and Maisha…”
“We played our part,” Maisha whispered, “but as Ama said, we cannot tell the full tale here. After, however, we both were taken into homes where we are loved and supported.”
“Ama said you are based in London now?”
“Officially yes – my guardian, Aunt Shirley, runs a multinational company, so I travel a good deal.”
“And you, Ama?”
“I also was adopted – my name now is Ama Jameson, and I live with my mom in New York, as well as attending school there.”
“Then we are all indeed fortunate – but we must not lose touch with each other,” Ama said as she took her phone out, “let us share our numbers.”
“Mister and Mrs. West?”
The couple looked to their left as Maddie smiled.
“Allow me to introduce myself – my name is Maddie Moore, I’m acting as host for Ama and Maisha this weekend.”
“Dave and Sonia,” the tall man said, “so where do you know them from?”
“Mutual friends – Maisha is the ward of my friend and boss, and Ama’s adopted mother is a personal friend.”
“And they were both Mazengwean slaves as well,” Sonia said.
“Indeed – and as such they and their guardians do all they can to support the work of those who help those who have had similar experiences. Hence the visit.”
“Have we heard of them?”
“Possibly – Shirley Xavier and Caroline Jameson?”
“Oh god,” Sonia said as she opened the copy of Hello on the desk, “I thought I recognized them, but…”
“They like to keep a quiet profile,” Maddie said, “but I’m glad I met you. Caroline, Ama’s mother, has heard the good news, and would like to invite you and Nyala to visit them for Thanksgiving – unless you have other plans?”
“In New York?”
“All expenses paid – what can I tell her?”
Getting the nod from the caterers, Susan made her way to a microphone.
"Luncheon is about to be served ladies and gentlemen."
"Well the girls are running well Juan." Gus
sat next to the Spanish banker.
"Indeed they are, that
type of car I've only had a chance to drive a few times, and never in a
"He won't let me even try," Paulie complained.
"Well if you say I'm too old to fly a
"My husband is suffering from a combination of
envy, excitement and boredom." Amelia said as she looked up from watching
"Oh I can understand the boredom, far too many
people here just trying to network as the saying goes, I'll never understand
why they can't just kick back and enjoy themselves."
"Well said Gus." Juan nodded. "I see
the ladies are coming in to refuel and change drivers, shall we take advantage
and go eat?"