Fresh Starts – Part 1
Saturday 25th June
9 am CET
Kay walked out of her room, locking it before she went to the next door.
did you sleep Agnes?" Kay asked as she knocked and came in to find the
older woman sitting at the tiny dressing table, staring into the mirror.
round, smiled and said "Not great..."
"A lot to
think about eh?"
Penny and Helen's lovemaking didn't help either."
Kay laughed, "these walls are pretty damn thin, they woke me up a couple
of times as well."
"Do I look
alright?" Agnes turned and looked at the younger woman, "I so rarely
wear makeup other than work, that I'm rather out of practice."
fine...and anyway you don't need a lot of makeup."
love, your crowning glory is that magnificent hair...he really did a fabulous
job colouring it as it used to be...you don't need a lot of powder and
Agnes said as she looked back in the mirror, “I know better, but thank you for
saying that… So is this good?"
"Your makeup is wonderful Agnes,” Kay said as she sat on the bed, “but your clothes really do need working on. How about I hire a car this morning and we drive into Bordeaux and get you some nice things? On me."
“I can’t ask you to do that…”
“I’m not asking – I’m insisting,” Kay said. “So come on – down to the café, coffee and croissants, and then we head off.”
“All right, all right,” Agnes said as she stood up, “if you insist…”
9 am CET
Chateau de Ros
“Ah Penny and Helen,” Shirley said as she descended the stairs to see them come in, “I hope you enjoyed the rest of your evening?”
“We did,” Helen said as she kissed Penny on the cheek, and went up the stairs.
is Agnes this morning Penelope?"
taken her to go buy some new clothes Madame."
persuaded Agnes to spend some money on herself?" Shirley raised an
said she'd treat her."
good of her...now I hate to play boss, but is there a lot of news from the outside
world I need to know?"
preparing a situation report as we speak."
did you get a chance to find out about our little meeting with Lady Donald last
"Lady Davina briefed me...and I understand we are meeting over breakfast to discuss the matter."
“Indeed – many things are suddenly a lot clearer…”
“Come – we’ll get some food and find a quiet corner…”
"Help yourself to breakfast Colin, we are being very informal this morning," Diana said as she welcomed her guest downstairs. "And where is Susan this morning?"
"Sitting in my room crying again before she goes back to her hotel and gets changed."
dear...and Good Morning Grace," Diana said as she kissed her friend on
same to you both," Grace smiled as her cousin kissed her. "Did I hear
Sue is crying again Colin?"
did a lot of talking last night, both at the party, and afterwards."
you make any decisions?"
lot, other than she is adamant she will never marry me again."
way Grace have you heard she was pregnant when I threw her out, and she
miscarried two days later?"
whispered it in my ear...Yes."
having your baby Colin?" Diana asked in surprise.
out that she was…"
"No, and when I think she had to hitchhike to London, then she seems to have had a small breakdown, it's no wonder she lost the child."
Catherine opened her eyes with a start and sat up, looking round the small room as she heard the sound of a shower running.
“Hey,” Duncan said as he looked into the bedroom, “good morning. You were out like a light.”
“I don’t remember going to sleep that easily,” Catherine said as she rubbed her arm. “what time is it?”
“Just after nine – I have an eleven o’clock with the minister, so get up and get ready and we’ll have breakfast together.”
“No idea – but you cannot let her dictate your life Catherine. Come on – busy day ahead…”
"Susan. Well did you and Colin?" Helen asked as the
English girl came out of his room.
talked a lot, we both cried a lot, but we didn't make love."
Sue,” Helen said quietly, “he really does adore you."
and I adore him back, but it just can't be done…"
can't be done?"
remarrying." Sue looked up and down the hallway, "where are the
Penny is seeing Madame for breakfast, and Kay has taken Agnes into Bordeaux to
I’ll slip quietly out, head back and change…"
"Sue,” Helen said quietly, “I'm not British, I'm not in a position to judge anyone’s life. and I have an ancestor who married one of his serfs and scandalised Russian high society...If you need to talk to someone who sees things really from the outside, then I'm here you know?"
“Thanks – I’ll remember that.”
“Do I even want to know where your sister was last night?” Dave whispered in Mary’s ear, as Nikki and Suzie came in from the terrace holding hands with the two younger Trachtenberg boys.
“Probably not Pops,” Mary whispered back, “but Nikki told me last night that she’d make sure whatever happened it didn’t have bad consequences.”
“Suzie is growing up Poppit.”
“Probably faster than I am,” Mary smiled gently.
“Well that aint such a bad thing,” Dave reached out and held his daughters hand.
“So… I’ve made an arrangement for us all to see Dr. Boyd later though.”
“You think you all need to?”
“Yes, I can’t even certify in my own mind that Ally doesn’t need birth control as well, so it’s probably best we all start.”
“Hi Mr. O’Ryan I’m Clint Walker.” The American held out a hand as they both entered the breakfast room, “someone told me last night that you are restoring a 71 Stingray?”
“For my sins…are you a car man as well?”
“You might say he is,” Susan groaned, “and if you are going to talk automobiles then I’m glad I have a breakfast business meeting.”
“Don’t mind her Mr. O’Ryan - cars and my wife do just not mix,” Clint laughed.
“Ma name is Michael…Mick to my friends,” the Irishman shook hands.
“Well as I said I’m Clint.”
“So what’s your interest in cars Clint?”
“Well among other things I’m chief mechanic for RCM Racing.”
“Yeah,” Mick said as he put some meat on a plate, “Davey Clarke said last night there were a few people from that team here.”
“Did he introduce you to Henri?”
“You mean Henri Marais? No.”
“Well when he comes down I’ll do that.” Clint picked up a tray, “so what colour is the Stingray?”
“Gonna be the original burnt orange one day, at the moment though it’s in many, many pieces in the garage.”
“Well, that’s the plan,” Linda said as she sat with Diana, Abby, Sandy and Sands, “what do you think?”
Abby could not stop herself from smiling at the look on her mother’s face. “No, No, and again No Linda,” Diana waved her arms. “Even for you, I won’t do it.”
“And you Sandy?”
“Linda you know I was never that enthusiastic even before I got all these years older.”
“But you are both still stunning, and in your hearts you both know you quit on careers that would have made you both stars.” Linda sipped her breakfast orange juice.
“I am immune to flattery Linda darling.” Diana looked straight at her old friend.
“Well if you want my opinion you should both do it,” young Sands smiled.
“And why might that be darling?” her Mother asked.
“Because first it’s for Aunt Linda, and she’s one of both of your bestest friends.”
“But secondly it’s a Guy Champion shoot, and even I’ve seen how amazing his photos are, if I was you I’d be so honoured to be asked to be photographed by him.”
“She has a point there Diana,” Sandy nodded. “Alright Linda, I’ll do it if Diana does.”
As she looked at her daughter, Diana sighed and said “I need my head examined – very well, I will do it if everyone else does.”
“Don’t worry,” Linda said with a smile, “it will be fun…”
Linda talk to you yet Pippa?"
and I got her to explain it to Anna as well."
you going to do it?"
guess...If CS will give its permission."
they've never had really any problems with me doing non Conde Nast
titles." Juliette picked up some toast, "so how did she sell it to
it was Guy Champion photographing it...I am little bit of a huge fan of his
"Yeah, I saw that spread in French Elle last month, it was breathtakingly beautiful."
“All right then,” Shirley said as she sat in the quiet corner with Davina, Caroline, Penny, Lily, Charlotte and Heather, “let’s recap what we have discovered.”
“Thanks to our interview this morning,” Caroline said, “we now know it was indeed Lady Catherine Duncan, as Catherine James, who broke into the Bayswater Road apartment Agnes lived in, stole her diaries and sold them on to the News of the World. She also, as we now know, was responsible for the continued harassment of Agnes by the police, and also said she was the one who set Carlin Kardecki onto Tom Gaunt.”
“And she took joy in revealing it,” Davina said. “I have rarely seen such concentrated anger.”
“But what can we do,” Lily said.
“In the open, very little, but behind the scenes a great deal. I have an immediate question, however – where is the diary now?”
“I spoke to Piet briefly before the meeting,” Charlotte said, “when the News of the World went under a few years ago, he reckoned any resource and research material they had would have been transferred to the secure archive of News International.”
“Heather, would it be possible to check if that is the case?”
“Should be,” Heather said as she made a note, “what are you thinking?”
“Another possible diversion in a few weeks’ time – if at all possible, I want that diary recovered intact. See what can be done – but more immediately, we need to support Agnes and Susan. Let us discuss Agnes first – I understand from Tamsin the Bayswater Road flat may soon be occupied, and hopefully this weekend has shown Agnes that she can come back. Penny, I look to you, Susan and Kay to help with that. Caroline, the Police side?”
“I think we can get DCI Babbage on side, if we send some information about her pet DS. Let me see what can be done on that line.”
“Charlotte, I understand she needs specialist research help stateside?”
“I have the feelers out,” Charlotte said quietly, “as does Ingrid.”
“Good – for the rest of the weekend, we can trust to Tamsin and the others to keep her occupied. And Catherine…”
“If we told Paula, she’d kill her.”
“So would Veronica,” Caroline said, “and Mandy…”
“I think we need to being her down – but not yet. Caroline, you planted the suggestion she was being watched – let us see if she makes a mistake. In the meantime, Charlotte, ensure a copy of the interview is securely stored in various locations, just in case. Davina, I wish you to meet Agnes later today.”
“I’d be honoured,” Lady Davina said, “rehabilitation?”
“Precisely – and I need your help with another matter. Susan and Colin Gresham-Fox…”
10.30 am CET
“How did I let you talk me into buying those jeans?” Agnes laughed as she and Kay walked out of the boutique back onto the Rue Margaux, “I haven’t worn anything that tight out in public since I was at Oxford.”
“Maybe,” Kay said, “but you’ll agree with those boots more than a few people will take a second look?”
“Probably, but I’ve spent twenty years trying to avoid people giving me a second look,” Aggie laughed at her reflection in the window of one of the chic little shops. “You know I’d forgotten the pleasure of going and buying clothes just for myself.”
“You feel sort of guilty about it don’t you?”
“Yeah in a way, but I know how much Catherine is just going to love me looking like this…and annoying her rather overcomes the guilty feelings. Also, if the offers I have received come through, I can probably afford to treat myself a little more often.”
“I thought it might.” Kay smiled.
“Kay if you were me what is the one thing you’d do next?” suddenly Aggie looked ultra serious as she turned round.
“Me?” Kay stood in thought for a moment, before she said “There’s a lot I’d do if I had your looks, and your brains…Hmmm…I guess the first thing I’d do though is sell Cherry the dungeon, cut your ties with all that.”
“I’ve been thinking about it,” Agnes said quietly. “I’m certainly giving up working at the old business, an old domme like me needs to realise when she’s really too old to be doing it anymore.”
“Too old?” Kay laughed, “Aggie you are only 45 years old.”
“Yes, but it’s a business that’s really best left to younger women.”
“So what about the actual business?”
“I was thinking about just having the financial interest in the place, but I have also thought about selling it to Cherry.”
“So why don’t you?”
“Well first the income,” Aggie said. “If I’m going to become a consultant I’m still going to need some money coming in at first, especially to help fund the school…And second because in a way it’s me being Lady D’eath that gives me credibility with the children, they see me as one of them so to speak, someone outside of ‘straight’ society.”
“Those are both valid points I guess,” Anne said, “but I still think you need to do it, not just for your own sake, but for Tamsin and Christine…”
“And Donald,” Aggie added quietly.
“Yes – for Donald. On which note,” Kay said as she dragged Agnes into another shop…
10.30 am CET
Chateau de Ros
“I need to go to see the Minister now,” Donald said as he stood up, wiping his chin before he left the napkin on the table, “I’ll see you later.”
“Of course,” Catherine said as she watched him walk out of the room, and then sipped her coffee.
“We need to talk.”
Catherine looked up and said “Victoria darling – and how are you today?”
“Not here – outside,” her sister said as she waited for Catherine to stand up, and then walk out into the courtyard with her. Once they were alone, Victoria turned and said “what the hell were you playing at yesterday, Catherine?”
“Whatever do you mean…”
“You know damn well what I mean,” Victoria said quietly, “the way you acted and spoke to Agnes, after Valeria had made it very clear she was a welcomed and honoured guest here.”
“If you think I am going to change my opinion of her just because she gets her hair dyed and is suddenly accepted by all of you…”
“No, that would be too much to ask for,” Victoria said quietly, “but if you want to be the wife of the British Ambassador to France, you need to learn the fine art of diplomacy – and lesson one, sister, is knowing when to shut up and accept a situation.”
“And what would you know about that sort of thing? When have you ever had to shut up and accept something you knew was wrong?”
Victoria glared at her sister, before she said “trust me – I’m better off not telling you. But right now, you need to apologise to Valeria for upsetting her yesterday, and is you see Agnes again today, say nothing.”
“Or you can kiss goodbye to that cushy new home in Paris,” Victoria said before she walked off, Catherine watching as she walked away.
sit and chat Richard," Dave said as he saw Richard Metz come into the
Dave," he smiled. "And what do you have planned for today?"
now just getting a buzz from this coffee...Far stronger then we drink back
to be, I'm sorry if I offend you but American coffee is one of the reasons I
try and keep my trips to your country to a minimum."
understand," Dave chuckled. "So what do you actually do to earn a
"I buy and
they sell them at the post office back in Austria?"
is a very, very, old joke." Richard smiled.
"No I find
postage stamps of value, and sell them on to collectors."
to what John Jacobs does, except he deals in antiques, he was telling me a bit
about it last night."
principal I think."
"So if I
aint being rude,” Dave asked, “much money in stamps?"
living...and I understand what you are saying Dave...no I'm not a fortune
hunter. I inherited some real estate from my family, but living on my income
isn't quite my style."
Marchesa...all that money and she works?"
understand from a friend she has been hiding a very keen legal brain from the
world for a number of years."
was telling me last night."
before, or after she threatened me with extreme injury if I hurt Mary?"
Dave said as he smiled, “but yeah, her company manages Mary's business affairs,
and she and her wife have become sort of family friends."
liked them both, and Mary told me how much she trusts them both."
do you go from here, while Mary jets off to Australia?"
direction...The Montreal International Stamp Expo is coming up, it's one of the
events I cannot afford to miss."
be taking Mary out to eat tonight, and if all goes well?"
talked of me being in Venice while she goes and shoots some TV things."
main worry about you Richard,” Dave said quietly, “not that you'll hurt her,
but that you guys are going to find dating pretty hard with you both traveling
"She and I
talked it over last night....and we are just going to try and see if it works
"Good Boy Richard, at least you have your head screwed on right."
“So I am informed…”
"I think I'm in heaven..."
"I think we noticed Mom," Ama laughed as her mother finished her second breakfast helping. "You do know that Missy was glaring at you every second you were eating."
weekend,” Caroline said quietly, “Missy can go suck a lemon, I'm eating what I
like and not worrying if I add a couple of pounds."
models allowed to say that?" Ama laughed some more.
case then most definitely yes,” Caroline said as she looked over, “and hey
darling, you had three breakfasts."
said, “but whatever I eat I can never gain an ounce."
may I kick her please?"
don't Nyala then I will."
"Did you hear that one of Cari's old school friends is playing rugby?" Ama decided it was maybe time to change the subject.
“I did indeed – do you want to go and watch this afternoon?”
“If we may – it should be interesting,” Maisha said, “Uncle John took me and Aunt Shirley to see Harlequins play, and I wish to compare the atmosphere.”
did you enjoy yourself last night?" the Bishop gave him a hearty slap on
the back as he sat down.
can remember Clive," Jack forced his eyes open, "and with all due
respect to a man of the cloth, how can you look so disgustingly cheerful when I
know you at least drank just as much as I did of that vintage brandy?"
Christian living Jack."
to try it sometime," the photographer groaned lightly.
Bishop you look well today," Alex beamed as he joined them.
God I get the message..." Jack looked skyward, "just tell them to
think, is regretting that we took Monsieur Trachtenberg up on his offer to go
to their chateau and sample his brandy Alex."
not the only one," Alex smiled as Luke accompanied into breakfast his
Mother, Nessa, and Glenda.
"If anyone suggests I have anything other than coffee for my breakfast I will not be responsible for my actions," Martha slumped into a chair.
“You do not have a game of rugby to play this afternoon, mother,” Luke said with a groan.
“Youngsters today,” Glenda said with a laugh, “no staying power…”
“Madame Comtesse,” the Minister said as he and Natasha saw Valeria open the door, “is there something I can do for you?”
“Forgive the interruption,” Valeria said quietly, “but I have a message for Lord Donald.”
“For me? What is the message,” Donald said as he looked round to Valeria.
Donald, there is a Miss Jill Hudspeth in the hall." Valeria whispered in
the diplomat’s ear.
"Ah yes, I was expecting her – if you will excuse me a few moments?"
the Minister said as Donald got up and followed Valeria out into the large
entrance hall. A dark haired woman was
standing there, holding a briefcase in one hand that was attached to her wrist
with a set of cuffs. She wore a dark
jacket and skirt, with a white blouse, and three inch heeled shoes, and looked
round with a mild interest.
meet you,” Donald said as he shook her free hand, "the office said you'd
be dropping by...So what do you have for me?"
Sir," Jill indicated the case discreetly chained to her wrist, "and
I'll be glad to get it off me."
usual line of work Miss Hudspeth?"
I'm with the High Commission in Ottawa, but I was on leave at home when all
this blew up and I got pressed into service as a courier."
have any idea what is in..."
above my pay grade so to speak." the dark-haired woman smiled.
can I beg a private room for a few minutes?"
Lord Donald," Valeria smiled, "please just follow Jacques, he will
ensure you aren't disturbed." she signalled to a footman.
“Miss Hudspeth – when your business is concluded, and if His Lordship has no urgent reason for your return, will you take some refreshment before you depart?”
“Thank you – I accept your gracious offer, if I do not need to depart quickly,” Jill said as Shirley, Susan and Lily looked out, watching her and Lord Donald follow Jacques.
that Jill?" Susan whispered in her boss’s ear, "she isn't the courier
Shirley looked carefully through her glasses, "but she is at least for
today being one...just not for us."
real work eh?"
like it to me."
want to talk to her privately before she leaves Madame?" Lily whispered.
Lillian, assure her this has nothing to do with what she's carrying, but that I
would like a little chat."
"Will do Madame."
is your father Pepsi?" Jan asked.
all the other 'horsemen'..."
couple of models of our acquaintance," Katy added in as she sipped her
"To go see
the stud farm of a friend of Guy's," Pepsi said as she sipped her coffee.
Jan said with a groan, “not more racehorses?"
Mom," Pepsi smiled, "a breed called Percheron's...if I got the name
right...Dad said they are carriage and riding horses."
never heard of them," Jan shrugged her shoulders, "and your other
Madame Trachtenberg up on a chance to go see her gardens."
she doesn't step in what I left there last night," Veronica replaced her
dark glasses after she tried looking at the world without them.
about the late-night brandy sampling." Katy laughed.
grandmother is an evil woman for dragging me along to that," Veronica
tried to focus on her coffee.
and Eleanor have already eaten and were thinking of where they might eat
lunch," Adam said as he put down the copy USA Today he was reading.
as they don't expect me to join them." Veronica started to sip her coffee.
did your crib robbing go last night?" Yvonne Leventhal asked as she joined
Veronica groaned, “that wasn't a dream!"
"No, from what I hear you really showed Nicholas Trachtenberg JUST what an experienced woman knows..."
“Kill me, kill me now,” Veronica groaned as Francesca came in.
“Good morning everyone – what have I missed this fine morning so far?”
“The sordid revelations from last night,” Katy said with a giggle.
“So where is Aggie this morning,” Olivia said as she sat with Paula and Mandy.
“From what I understand, one of Penny’s friends has taken her into Bordeaux to shop for some clothes.”
“And Agnes agreed,” Mandy drawled.
“I believe the friend offered to pay,” Paula said quietly, “is that right Tamsin?”
“It is true – Agnes has agreed to get some new clothes,” Tamsin said. “Yesterday does indeed seem to have released the old Agnes at long last.”
“It has been noticed,” Victoria said as she sat with them, “so our job today is going to be simple. Keep them apart.”
“Is she really going for her?”
“Not if I can help it,” Tamsin said quietly, Paula nodding in agreement.
“Very well,” Lord Donald said as he and Jill came out of the room, “if you can wait a short while, I should be in a position to inform you of a reply soon.”
“Thank you, Your Lordship,” Jill said as they shook hands.
“If you will follow me Miss,” Jacques said as he indicated the main room, Jill following as Catherine came over.
“Catherine darling,” Donald said, “sorry I’ve been in meetings all morning.”
not just your old fancy piece Donald," Catherine glared, "who is the
she's a diplomatic courier, she brought a confidential brief from the Foreign
Secretary that was for my eyes only," Donald sighed.
"Well she looked like a whore to me."
“Are you sure you’re feeling all right,” Donald said quietly, “because believe me, that is not the way for the wife of a potential ambassador to speak.”
Catherine stared at Donald for a moment, before she said “Of course not – I apologise. I guess I’m more tired than I thought.”
“Well, this is a gathering,” Jill said as Charlotte walked over, “I wanted to thank you for the invitation to the wedding – and I accept.”
“Excellent – got time to join me and some friends for a coffee?”
“Of course,” Jill said as she walked over. “Heather – I am glad we finally got to meet.”
“Likewise,” Heather said as they sat down.
explain to me why, when we have the ability to be in simultaneous contact
with people all over the world, they send a courier carrying a briefcase out
from London?" Charlotte asked.
"Because of people like me and you Charlotte," Heather smiled, "governments have learned that even the strongest encryption can be broken with the right tools, and that a trained person like Jill carrying a locked case the old fashioned way is still usually safest if you having something truly private to pass on."
"That's essentially it." Jill sipped some coffee, "now I just wait in case I have to carry anything on my flight back."
“Jill,” Lily whispered quietly, “if you can spare a few minutes, a walk in the courtyard may prepare you for the trip home.”
“Understood,” Jill said quietly as she sipped her coffee. “So Heather – can I score a ticket for one of your lectures?”
"I think I
need to sign up for rehab," Maeve groaned as she sat down gently at a
table with her sister and Sami.
don't think you are at that stage yet," Rose laughed.
'appened that I missed last night?" Sami asked as she looked at the two
I enjoyed an early night..."
Bolden's bed," Maeve interrupted.
reprobate sister here went drinking 100 year old brandy with Katherine and some
Sami laughed, "is booze that old still drinkable?"
was wonderful," Maeve tried a smile, "but I discovered it does have a
funny effect the next morning."
just glad I found me own way to bed and got a solid kip then."
bloody glad you did Cuz," Kerry sat down.
you drinkin' as well Ker?"
she shook her head, "in my case Gio and I just screwed..."
Kerry darling, remember I'm just 16," Kylie came in looking daisy fresh.
got you Marina?" Kerry asked.
had to be up twice in the night to make calls."
"Well darling you can have a nice relax this morning."
“I really hope so,” Marina said as she rubbed her head, “but this morning’s workout certainly helped.”
“I must admit, this courtyard has a most pleasing and calming effect,” Shirley said as she walked round with Coco.
“I agree,” the smaller woman said, “but I have to admit I am beginning to get somewhat concerned.”
“I must admit, I had hoped the courier would have arrived by now,” Shirley said, “but I am not concerned. If there was a true problem, word would have reached me.” Looking at Coco, she said “are you sure it is not the other two you are concerned about.”
“In a way – they should never have been involved,” Coco said, “but the one thing I had not factored in was a youthful desire for a private viewing.”
“The unknown – I know someone else who fears that above all else,” Shirley said with a smile.
“Still, I will be happier when they are on their way – and then I can pass young Miss S and Miss B on to others who can assist them.”
“I will speak to Dominique on that,” Shirley said as a maid came out.
“Miss Xavier – there is a gentleman here to see you?”
“Excellent – see my dear Collette, all will be well.”
“Okay… Okay, I see the situation now,” John said as he looked at the sheet.
view is what John?" Archie asked as he looked over.
with Piet and House in that second row they are pushing off our own feed, and I
think we can win a lot of line-out ball as well."
Jason can get up a bit for sure."
will be tackling and tactical awareness."
"Plus fitness," Alex joined in, most of them don't play regular sport enough."
“We can work with that – team meeting in thirty, gentlemen – spread the word.”
Shirley turned and smiled as she saw Lily and Jill approaching.
“I asked Miss Hudspeth if she would like to meet you before she went – you had mentioned expanding our business operations into Canada,” Lily said, “and as a member of the High Commission staff there, I felt she may be able to advise on one or two things.”
“Of course – it is a pleasure to meet you Miss Hudspeth,” Shirley said as they shook hands, “if you can spare a few moments?”
“I stand ready to advise any of Her Majesty’s subjects,” Jill said as they found a quiet corner. “How may I be of service to you, Madame?”
“On this occasion, I merely wished to thank you for your work on our behalf,” Shirley said, “and to ask a question. There is an old friend who, even though she has served her time for her crime, is unable to travel freely, and for her to succeed in life change that needs to be dealt with.”
“Are we talking within the Commonwealth or outwith?”
“Both,” Shirley said quietly.
“And the offence?”
“Common Prostitution, twenty years ago.”
“Well,” Jill said quietly, “within, that should not have been a restriction now, unless someone has put a flag. Her name?”
“Doctor Agnes McAdam.”
“Let me make some enquiries. Externally – the main issue would be the US, correct?”
“That is correct?”
“Their law is if she has a conviction, she cannot get entry on a visa – but there is a way round it, if she can be granted an interview and prove she is no longer working in that area.”
“A longer term goal then.”
“I regret to say so, Madame – I will see what help I can offer from our viewpoint, but as far as the US goes, that is the way – and she will need some powerful friends on that side.”
“That I may be able to help with – thank you Jill, you have been most helpful.”
“Thank you Madame,” Jill said as they walked back in.
you go Jill a couple more questions...First you've met Tamiko Tanaka - what do
you think of her?"
I liked her, but I wouldn't trust her, and certainly if I knew she was after me
then I'd be deadly scared."
and secondly in your opinion can she be discouraged?"
"No," Jill shook her head, "once she starts something she finishes it....one way or the other."
“I believe you – thank you Jill, and safe journeys.”
Jack Linklater sat back, playing with the collar of his shirt as Linda Evangelista looked at the results of Luke’s latest shoot.
she said as she looked over, “you know Luke has true talent?"
Linda my love...but more importantly, what do you think of the subjects?"
look incredible... but how much did Luke retouch these?"
all." Jack smiled, “but my question is, do they both fit your theme?"
Glenda in her time was something of a star, and Nessa never modelled, but damn
I would like to use them both for my shoot.
And given we just got Sandy to agree as well…"
might darling,” Jack said with a smile.
“Now, what will be my fee for spotting some talent for you?"
paying Jack?" Linda laughed.
no… I want you to sit for me for a private project of mine."
whisper it in your ear?"
Linda sat still
for a couple of minutes as he explained his idea.
she said as she looked at him, “you cannot be serious?"
"Oh but I
am darling," Jack grinned.
do it, but ONLY if you get Claudia, Ju, and Elle to do it as well."
"That sounds fair to me darling. Guess what I’ll be doing when we land in Sydney.”
“Oh I am not going to miss this one…”
Lying back on the sun lounger on the patio, her sunglasses covering her eyes, Sandy was enjoying a quiet moment of peace as the sun warmed her. She sensed rather than heard the new arrival, reaching up and removing her glasses as Grace sat next to her.
and Lily are looking at drawings that Valeria's late husband bought seeing if
they can spot the good from the bad."
have me puzzled...good from bad?"
or fake Grace...all the current scandal about the fake Rodin sketches that had
been accepted as being by him for years, they are trying to give Valeria an
opinion on what is in the collection here."
now I understand." Grace said as she poured herself a glass of lemonade,
"so it means you get time to work on your suntan?"
“I heard a rumour Mother had persuaded you and Diana back in front of the camera?”
“It’s true – Goddess help me – I will do it as a one off.”
“Sands not showing any thoughts that way?”
“Nope – she looks at Katy and Orion, and shakes her head a little.”
As Juliette and Klaus crossed the entrance hall, they heard a lot of excited chatter – and then saw some of the younger children coming in, looking as if they had played with water pistols filled with coloured water.
our granddaughter look so messy darling?" Klaus asked as she looked at
like a lot of the other children,” Juliette said, “she's been having fun
Valeria as a very clever hostess arranged for a demonstration of how grapes
were at one time crushed, and then had the little ones have a go."
Juliette laughed, "and compared to a lot of the kids Judith is actually
relatively clean...poor Jennifer fell over and her T shirt will never be got
bet they all enjoyed it," Klaus laughed as well as he looked at Jennifer
holding Orlagh’s hand.
"I think for most of them it will be the highlight of the weekend...And it wasn't just children," Juliette laughed as Annie walked in with stains all over her clothes.
“First rule of teaching – be prepared to do what the kids do,” Annie said as Carina came in.
“You’re going to love that wine when it matures,” Annie said, “but now I need to wash and change…
Chateau de Ros
“Hey – did you have a good morning,” Penny said as Kay came into the room.
“We both did,” Kay said with a smile. “Come on Agnes – there’s no avoiding this one.”
Penny looked to the door as Agnes came in – a transformed Agnes, wearing an open necked blouse, tight jeans and high heeled boots.
whatever happened to the Agnes McAdam I've known for so many years," Penny
smiled as others came over.
know - it took me a few minutes to readjust as well," Agnes said as she
looked in a mirror, her lustrous hair tied back in a ponytail, the large framed
sun glasses and the deeply red lips.
Swift eat your heart out darling," Mandy carefully kissed her old friend.
people will notice?" Aggie laughed.
noticing for one," Tom Gaunt smiled and also kissed her.
supposed to be the ones making the great modeling comebacks?" Olivia asked
we were darling."
"Well if Linda wants me to do her shoot I'll insist that you do it as well Aggie," Paula gestured for her friend to do a twirl.
“Oh no – it may well be time for Agnes McAdam to come back a little, but that is definitely not going on the…”
“And what are you doing here, dressed like that?”
The room turned as Catherine Fitzstuart came in, staring at Agnes.
“Well, I am a guest of Valeria de Ros,” Agnes said quietly, “and as for the clothes, I reckoned twenty plus years was enough time to go without a new wardrobe. I can recommend the stores if you would like to visit, Catherine DARLING.”
As she looked at Lady Donald, Agnes smiled at the look on her face before she turned and left the room.
“Right - let’s sit over here and talk before lunch,” Tamsin said as she guided her to a table.
“Excuse me – are you Sue?”
Sue looked round at the cultured voice and said “yeah – and you are?”
“Call me Daffy – I know Shirley well, and I may be in a position to offer you some help…”
“May I join you,” Eleanor said as she walked to where Agnes was sitting with her friends.
“Of course – for those of you who do not know Eleanor she – spent some time in my employ. Purely for professional reasons.”
“How intriguing,” Paula said, “and was it successful?”
“Ultimately, yes,” Eleanor said with a grin.
“So who was on
crew when you worked for me Eleanor?" Agnes sipped her wine.
she make it?"
she was one of the very first when they finally got around to ordaining
women," Aggie smiled.
for someone who didn't work for you Aggie?" Tam looked at each face.
called Jane Meadows, she was a theology student when she worked for me under
the name Hellfire. Now she’s the
minister at a church near Warwick."
got away with it?"
then I'd learned by bitter experience what the penalty was of getting caught,
and I was able to help girls stay anonymous...And Eleanor I get birthday and
Christmas cards from her still."
a surgeon at Barts."
employ a lot of students back then Aggie darling?" Mandy asked.
Agnes smiled, "they were hard-working fully motivated girls, and I could
relate to them."
remember Candy Stripes Agnes,” Eleanor said, “does she stay in touch?"
Yes, she drops in for a chat occasionally."
finally get rid of that arsehole?"
Agnes smiled, “She's got six kids now and her husband works for the Ministry of
guy she was seeing was a real bastard hitting her like that." Eleanor
paused for a thought, "does the 'talker' still come in?"
Agnes rolled her eyes, "once a week."
Talker?" asked Olivia.
Agnes said as she looked at the ceiling, “a man who is a living example of how
sexless domination can be."
have to explain Aggie?"
every Monday afternoon for nearly 20 years I have had this regular customer. He
books me for 45 minutes and all he wants is for me to just tell him what a bad
boy he has been...He doesn't want me to dress up, he doesn't want beating, he
just listens as I tell him off."
be serious darling?"
"Oh she is
Mandy," Eleanor laughed, "we used to listen sometimes."
him years and years ago that he could have saved himself a fortune if I'd made
a recording of myself and he just listened to that once a week."
talk back?" Paula enquired.
listens in silence...just sits there...and when his time is up he stands up and
walks out without saying a single thing."
to laugh so hard as poor Lady D'eath came into our 'den' after a session, she
would look so bored, and she was also dying for a cup of tea."
talking for 45 minutes makes your throat dry." Aggie shook her head.
good a dominatrix was Eleanor?" Veronica asked.
was pretty decent at it...I had no complaints and the other crew members liked
have made a living at it probably," Eleanor grinned, "but of course I
was working undercover..."
a lot of girls do she just disappeared one day." Agnes nodded, "you
get used to it, girls come, girls go."
"So do you
ever have girls work for you for whom it’s not just a job Aggie?" Olivia
do get girls doing it for whom it’s a lifestyle choice...they get pleasure
causing pain," Agnes glanced to where Penny was chatting to Kay,
"they either make superb dommes, or truly lousy ones."
ones?" Tam enquired.
often lack professionalism, they are so wrapped up in it all that they forget
they are on a time schedule, etc."
yourself excluded, who was the best domme you ever had?"
"Oh that's easy dear sister, one girl stands above them all, and I'll not say her name, but yes she was a girl who got real kicks from it."
make the women who work for you sound so...well normal."
large that's what they are Tam...Students, office workers, the odd young wife,
they are all really just doing a job that earns them some extra cash."
you did back then...and which I never let you explain Aggie."
"None of us did Tam," Paula said softly.
Eleanor remembering the camaraderie with the other girls. You are doing
something that is really, and just basically, absurd, because there are men out
there who get sexual, or other, kicks from it. Most pro dommes as i said
basically soon forget that what they do each day is even remotely sexual. they
do what the customer wants, but behind their backs they don't realise that we
have absurd nicknames for them, and that we laugh at their foibles while we
kick back, have our tea or coffee, gossip, and just have fun.
once said to me Lady...a good crew is a crew that laughs a lot."
“So what do you
think Madame?" Penny whispered in her boss’s ear.
that Catherine is not going to like it one little bit Penelope."
think that if we don't get her tied up soon, that just as with you Madame when
you were on the loose, a lot of wives will be worrying about their
"I know Susan." Shirley smiled happily. "Those TV makeover shows have always looked so blatantly fake to me, but what has happened to Agnes since she arrived proves that a total transformation can be done...And yes she is going to start turning some male heads"
gentlemen did you enjoy yourself this morning?" Maddie asked as the four
men came round the corner from the garages.
might just say so," Mick O'Ryan grinned, "isn't everyday you get to
go over a 1927 Rolls Royce Phantom 1 like that."
"It is in
truly amazing condition," Henri kissed Madeline, "especially when you
consider that Valeria still uses it reasonably frequently."
able to get under her in the inspection pit..." Dave shook his head,
"they certainly don't build cars that way any more."
had no concept of built in obsolescence back then," Clint shook his head,
"they built to last."
imagine the cost if all that hand crafted stuff was used on cars
prohibitive Mick," Clint shook his head.
is Denice? I thought she was out here with you?"
"I was, but
unlike these gents I had the sense to wear an overall," Denice came round
the corner, "and I needed to change out of it again."
did you think of the car Denice?"
"Oh it was
SUPERB, I could spend hours just working out how that supercharger works."
"You sound as bad as Heather talking about a painting," Maddie giggled.
“I know – but it’s my passion…”
"I have to
say Valeria,” Nessa said as they sat on the terrace, “that laying on the grape
crushing for the little children to do was an inspired idea."
rather thought that otherwise they might be getting a bit bored by now Nessa
Nessa said, “this hasn't exactly been a children's party."
"So as one
of America's leading hostesses,” Valeria said, “tell me - do you think I did
the right thing inviting Agnes McAdam to join us?"
think so,” Nessa said, “she's lovely and so bright, and virtually no one has
snubbed her...I'd certainly invite her into my own home in a heartbeat if it
were possible for her to come to the US."
I'm thinking that more than a few London doors will now open as well."
Francesca has made friends and so has Daffy, they'll persuade a lot of people
to imitate them."
"Just my thought on the subject," Valeria nodded. “I understand she will also have a place to stay soon where she can host parties as well.”
“So I am led to believe,” Nessa said with a smile, “and I look forward to visiting.”
girls will be well on their way to Zurich by now Carina?"
Cari smiled as both Annie and Judith emerged from the bathroom, towels round
their heads and bodies.
"So was it
fun stomping grapes Judith?"
Mommie...squish, squish, squish," she made the sound as she pretended to
be treading the juice out.
"Well I'm glad you both enjoyed yourselves."
“Oh I certainly did,” Annie said, “so family walk this afternoon?”
“Sounds good to me…”
did you lose yourself to Sue?" Kay asked as she spotted her friend sitting
on the terrace.
said with a smile as she looked up, “I just went for a walk round the estate,
it's magnificent you know?"
with all the political and civil service types...long meeting been going
been on your own?"
– I had a chat with Helen. But yeah, it
gave me a chance to think Kay."
still keeps coming back to the fact that my background would be a career killer
good Tory moral outrage...I hope he can get away with that explanation."
seems like I'm going to have to get used to only seeing him when he can slip
away in secret...be the 'other' woman."
speaking from recent experience is not an easy thing to be," Kay shook her
still have my job...and the Dolls to keep me busy." Sue turned to her
friend and smiled, "You guys are a secret I daren't even tell Colin
thought of giving it up?"
Sue said seriously, "but I'll not let you, Bobbie, and Jane down. Besides
a girl does need a hobby."
know i at least will understand if you just want to give it up."
Kay," Sue embraced her friend, "but let me deal with just one problem
at a time."
"You know for a girl who never went to school after she was 13, you aren't so dumb Sue." Kay hugged her back.
“So Penny keeps saying – besides, I got an offer of some inside help if you like, to find Colin the suitable Trophy Wife…”
did your looksee go Lover?" Sandy smiled as Heather joined her on the
honest I'm not sure...both Lily and I thought we had some reasonable knowledge,
but twentieth century drawings really are just so very hard to
couldn't tell at all?"
"Oh one or
two we were both sure are fakes, but the majority need someone who is far more
of a specialist than either of us are in this area to look at them and give
Valeria an opinion."
tell her that?"
going to." Heather sat down, "so where are the children?"
and Katy are somewhere with a whole group of teenagers..."
"Is moping about and pining for Holly...our daughter has not really enjoyed this trip too much."
“Yeah – we need to distract her,” Heather said, “and I have an idea as to how…”
Yale what next Carina?" Francesca asked as they walked into the dining
to give my modeling career all my attention, at least for a while, but I do
think that, one day, grad school is where I'll end up."
twin will be an economist, the other a historian?"
"Yeah... Ingy and I both see those as what we will be
doing after modeling."
knows?" Carina smiled, "that is in the hands of the Goddess."
now...three little handfuls of trouble are enough to be going on with."
not going with you to Sydney?"
talked about it, but all that flying for the children wouldn't be nice, so
she's going back to Munich with Pops."
"That's logical I suppose."
“Besides, we have a busy schedule…”
der Byl, I have spent half my lifetime it sometimes seems watching you play
rugby - so no, I'm not coming."
will you be doing instead Roo?" Piet asked as they walked in.
your business Piet, just say it involves me, Mama, Kylie, Alice, Katherine and
I'm not allowed to see eh?"
comment!" Charlotte laughed, "hey I'm getting pretty good at those
"Yeah I think
we both are, just nice that the security here has kept the press well
been nice that we can just relax totally," Charlotte looked out of the
window, "and this place is pretty beautiful."
need check out some of the beautiful places that you own soon."
looking forward to that."
"Me too," Piet stood behind her and but his huge arms round her.
“Piet! Team lunch!”
"So who is
Serena Watson-Carleton Colin?” Sue asked as she put some salmon on her fork, “Grace
said you and she have been seen going out."
Colin looked across the room at the attractive blonde.
"Oh just a
friend," Colin laughed gently as he took a sip of his water.
you think you are pairing she and I together,” Colin said as he shook his head,
“then her husband might object."
husband?” Sue put her knife and fork
down and stared at Colin. “I looked -
she aint got a wedding ring."
my friend Tom Baxter were married just before he shipped out to Iraq a couple
of months ago...they are keeping it secret till he gets back...I've been her
minder so to speak."
remember Tom, the big Royal Marine? I'm too much of a coward to get on his
now I place him...well scratch her off my list of potential wives for
Colin looked amused at the idea.
there been anyone else?"
Sue said as she rolled her eyes, “different bloke every week."
"Sue you are
a terrible liar, Kay told me you've not seen a single man since...well you
"Yes I remember Colin, and don't say I'm celibate to anyone I have a perfectly good reputation as a slut and a whore to maintain."
“Yeah – I get that…”
"Oh thank you,"
Maggie smiled at the maid as she took the folder and opened it up.
is that Maggie?" Grace asked, "more material for your
something strictly speaking I shouldn't have...It's Sue's welfare file, I got a
friend to download it and send it to me."
naughty Auntie," Pippa chuckled.
bad was it?" Grace looked across the table as Dame Margaret scanned the
much as I expected," the older woman shook her head, "fifteen foster
homes, nine schools, numerous runaways."
Pippa shook her
head as she said "God that's awful."
"It's not untypical though our Pippa." Margaret looked at the final page. "she was labelled as 'incorrigible'."
"Meaning Grace that when she ran away the last time, because she was 13 by then they didn't put much effort into finding her. This comment from one of her social workers pretty much sums it up, 'good riddance to bad rubbish'."
worker said that?"
exactly, but it’s what she implies in her comments."
she...molested?" Grace whispered.
she might or might not tell you...but was she neglected? Then yes, Was she
loved? No. Was she the exception to the rule? Not by a long way."
13 she ended up living on the streets of London." Pippa shook her head.
"Well she did better than a lot of kids do...She survived and found a good support network. She might not have been of Agnes’ kids, but she is now."
“I admire your bravery,” Alex said as he sat next to Miranda.
“It’s not a question of bravery – I go out and do my best,” Miranda said as she sipped her water, “although a hot scented bath at the end of this would not be out of order…”
“Excuse me a minute,” Sue said as she looked at her phone.
“I’m not sure,” Sue said as she walked out onto the patio, and answered the call.
“I have Sir Charles Gresham-Fox on the line for you,” an American voice said, “will you accept the call?”
Sue looked heavenwards, and then said “of course.”
“One moment please.”
“Here we go,” Sue mumbled to herself before she heard a clipped voice say “Do you know how hard it was to get one of your friends to finally let me have this number Susan?”
“Yes, I do,” Sue said quietly, “I’d told most of them never to give it out Sir Charles, especially to Colin or any member of his family.”
“Well be that as it may,” he said kindly, “how are you?”
“Not so bad, and you and Lady Gresham-Fox?”
“Oh we’re fine. Old age starting to catch up, but otherwise…”
“Sir Charles,” Sue said as she sat down, “before you ask about the weather, why have you phoned me?”
“You know, I always liked that about you Sue – your forthright approach. Very well then – I called you specifically to hear from you just what has been happening there.”
“And will you believe me if I tell you?”
Smiling, Sue said “well, we have cleared the air if you will - and Colin wants to remarry me.”
“And do you wish to marry him?”
“Do I want to marry him? Of course I do. Will I marry him? Then the answer is no.”
“Have you told him that?”
“About a hundred times Sir Charles…we’ve been going over and over it since last night, trying to...”
“Looking for a way it doesn’t cost him his career?”
“Exactly,” Sue said in agreement, “but since neither of us can think of a solution then the answer seems to be that I stay very much hidden in the shadows.”
“I have heard that he’s going to be shortlisted at Chase Valley for a by-election.”
“Dame Margaret told us…even more reason that I keep my head down, it would be hard enough him explaining why he married me once, let alone twice.”
“Yes – regretfully, I can see why that would be the case.”
“If I was more respectable and more ‘one of you’ Sir Charles, I might have been an advantage to him being a local girl, but the good Tory ladies of Chase Valley would probably walk a mile out of their way to avoid me.”
“So what are you actually going to do Sue?”
“For now, I am going to move back home to Rutland Street, but as soon as things start to happen for Colin I’ll leave and stay discretely in the background.”
“Hardly fair on you?”
“To be honest, Sir Charles, nothing in this is fair on either of us. But it is still better than my story getting splashed all over the media and hurting the man I love.”
“Do you love him Sue?”
“Do I really need to answer that Sir Charles?”
“No I guess not.” There was a pause on the line, “Sue you were once just calling me Charles.”
“Well I figure it aint polite I do that any more. Might have been okay when I was your daughter-in-law, but if I’m just your son’s bit on the side, better I say Sir Charles”
“Sue – Colin told us about what happened after that unfortunate night. I and my wife are truly, truly sorry – had we know the whole truth…”
“Thank you,” Sue said quietly, “but that is the past. All of us have to consider Colin’s future.”
“You know,” Sir Charles said, “you really are a unique girl Sue.”
“Not really Sir Charles – but I have accepted the hand we have been dealt, and I believe Colin has as well.”
“Perhaps, when we are next in the country, we can meet for a meal – somewhere discrete, to use your own words.”
“I… I would like that very much,” Sue said. “Do you know Lady Davina Hatton, Sir Charles?”
“I do indeed – you have made her acquaintance?”
“I have – she has offered to, well, help me and Colin find an arrangement we can both be comfortable with.”
“A good idea – she is the soul of discretion, Sue. You may trust her. Forgive me – official business must take my attention now, but thank you for accepting my call, and for talking. I look forward to when we can do this face to face Sue.”
“Thank you, Sir Charles,” Sue said quietly as she ended the call, and then walked back in.
“Who was it,” Colin said as she sat back down.
“Your father – I’m sure he’ll call you later. Did you give him me number?”
“Sue – I don’t even have your number.”
“Point,” Sue said with a laugh…
“Guy,” Shirley said as she approached the Duc and Valeria, “I wonder if I may ask a delicate, and somewhat personal question.”
“Oh? This I do want to hear,” Valeria said as Guy smiled.
“Were you acquainted with Pamela Harriman?”
“Did I know La Belle Pamela?” Guy smiled as he said “Define in which sense you mean ‘know’ Shirley?”
“Out of curiosity… I suspect I had better ask in both senses Guy.”
“Well the answer is that yes I knew her socially, but no I never shared her bed.”
“You surprise me.”
“He surprises me,” Valeria smiled. “I would have been willing to bet…”
“I was slightly the wrong generation,” Guy looked a trifled flustered.
“How did she get away with it? Everyone knew what she had done for most of her life yet she ended up as American Ambassador to France.”
“I’ve never quite understood either Shirley,” Valeria shook her head, “I remember the old me being morally outraged that Clinton made her US ambassador.”
“Well sex is something he’s never let upset him.”
“It still doesn’t change the basic question of how with so much evidence against her she still triumphed as she did?”
“Basically Shirley by realizing that she’d by and large burned her bridges with ‘old society’ and latching on to both the Americans and the so-called Jet Set.” Guy smiled, “her background, and the wealth of her men insulated her from the morally uptight of the world.”
“And she cultivated politicians.” Valeria added, “she knew a lot of secrets that she might have revealed and embarrassed an awful lot of people…that shut a lot of mouths you know?”
“It did didn’t it…Hmmm,” Shirley thought deeply.
“Out of my own curiosity,” Valeria said “why are you asking Shirley?”
“An idea – nothing more… Excuse me a moment,” she said as she saw Ama walk in with her mother, Maisha and Nyala.
“Girls, do you mind if I have a quick word with Caroline?”
“Of course not, Aunt Shirley,” Ama said, “We’ll get you some food Mom.”
“You have that look,” Caroline said quietly, “the one that says you have an idea forming.”
the beginnings of a strategy in mind Dominique, but it is more urgent than ever
that we retrieve Agnes's diary."
would oblige Madame, but I do have another commitment in Australia."
a first rate burglar, or you need someone on the inside to steal it."
thought of the burglar, but an inside person, now that might have
need me draw up a list of people we know might be able to help Madame?"
"Please Dominique. Now to broach the subject with Agnes herself…"
Catherine sat with Donald, fuming as she saw Agnes laughing as she sat with her old friends, looking younger and happier than she had done for years.
woman...” she muttered under her breath, “dressed like that..."
dear,” Donald said quietly, “is it really any of your business how Agnes McAdam
choses to dress?"
it’s my damn business,” she snapped back.
“You think it’s a coincidence that she revamps her whole image just when
you are around Donald...come off it. Even you aren't that stupid."
Donald said as he looked up from his tablet, “I have eyes only for you…"
you must think that I'm fucking stupid...I've always known you never got over
her Donald...Just never forget though she's a damn whore, I blackened her name
once, I'll do it again."
at her for a moment, and then said in a quiet voice "What do you mean YOU
blackened her name?"
"Oh not in
the literal sense Donald," Catherine realised her mistake, "but I
made sure plenty of people I knew read that article."
"Oh, Okay..." Donald started to read the fresh e-mails on what was unfolding in London. "Was it possible Catherine actually had something to do with it?" he thought to himself though while he read.
“Look at her,” Davina said as she sat with Charlotte, “I have never seen a clearer case of pent up hatred for one person in another.”
“You’re not the only one who has noticed,” Charlotte said as she looked at Victoria, who was looking at her sister with a mixture of concern and confusion. “I wonder if she suspects something?”
“I think she might do,” Charlotte said, “but without the proof…”
“So how do we get the proof out?”
“We’re thinking that one over…”
2 pm CET
Chateau de Ros
“The Rugby team has already left,” Colin said to the Minister, “but he has delegated Dame Margaret to consult on, and Doctor McAdam is in the building.”
“Excellent – Natasha, you have the responses from Brussels?”
“Right here,” Natasha said as Colin went towards Jill.
“Lord Fitzstuart thanks you for coming today – there is no response at this time, save he is consulting. Safe journey back – the car is waiting outside.”
“Thank you,” Jill said, nodding to some of the others as she went out of the chateau.
“Well, you seem a bit happier now,” Maggie said as she came out of the main room with Sue.
“I guess coming to a decision has…”
“Sue! Good lord, it really is you!”
Sue turned at the sound of the voice, and saw the slim redhead standing there, wearing a fawn coloured jacket over a white blouse and skirt.
“Lady Milnford,” Sue hesitated as she walked over, “what are you doing here?”
“Well I heard brother dear was here and that you were too so I thought we’d try and drop by,” the attractive redhead smiled, “and I rang Cousin Grace and she okayed it with your hosts, and well here we are.”
“Alright, but Colin is in a series of meetings, and I’m pretty sure that you haven’t come to see…”
“You?” The new arrival smiled again as she said “well, actually - it was you I wanted to see very much.”
“To warn me off?” Sue shook her head as she said “Well Colin and I already worked out that I aint going to be exactly welcome.”
“No,” the visitor shook her head, “actually I came to apologise.”
“No need, you only did what every one else did.”
“Yes, but I shouldn’t have.”
“It’s all water under the bridge now,” Sue tried smiling but inside she was shaking.
“You look well?”
“Oh I’m not so bad,” Sue said quietly, “a little older, but I hope a lot wiser Your Ladyship.”
“Daddy said you’d reverted back to strict formality Sue…Why?”
“Because it int right me talkin’ to ma betters if I don’t.”
“Your Northants accent is showing Sue,” Lady Milnford laughed.
“Yeah I knows it, but youse stressin’ me out a bit Yer Ladyship.”
“And when you stress you lose that slight London accent you usually talk with and you slip into accent and dialect.”
“Oi,” Sue nodded.
Shaking her head, Lady Milnford said “We aren’t your betters you know?”
“According to what I remember youse shoutin’ at me…Oi’m the lowest er the low.”
“God I was hoping you’d forgotten that…” She put her hands on Sue’s shoulders and said “I’m sorry, I was angry, I thought you had so badly betrayed and hurt Colin, I really didn’t mean it you know?”
“It’s gone Your Ladyship…in the past.” Sue looked round and fidgeted.
“The girls have missed you Sue.”
“They did…well oi…I mean I… I’ve missed them.”
“They are waiting in the car.”
“They are here?”
“I can call them?”
“How are Antonia and Ambrosia?…and oi int sure they really oughta see me.”
“They are fine…and why not?”
“You Ladyship knows very why, oi’m a whore remember…Oi might infect ‘em.”
“I made sure they saw their birthday and Christmas cards from you you know?”
“Thank you for that.”
For a full two minutes both women stood in awkward silence, before a masculine voice called out.
“Victoria, what the earth are you doing here.”
“You said they were outside?”
“I did – but…”
“Let me go and see them there,” Sue said as she quickly walked to the doors, Lady Milnford looking at her brother.
“Why did she run away so quickly Colin?”
“Because Vicky darling,” Colin said as he walked closer, “other than Grace, you are the first one of the family she’s met face to face since that night.”
“Is it true what Daddy told me? Was she having a baby?”
“It seems so,” Colin said as he stood with his hands in his pockets, “the stresses caused her to miscarry two days later.”
“Col,” Victoria said, “would you still have thrown her out if you’d known she was preggers?”
“It’s a question I’ve been asking myself Vicky…That night I was embarrassed and angry, I threw her out because I couldn’t cope with the thought of what people might say behind my back.”
“That you’d married a prostitute?”
“An ex-prostitute…turned out Sue was long retired.”
“Yes, but if I’d known she was having my baby it might at least have forced me to think before I did what I did.”
“But despite the sniping at each other you’ve done since, both of you were still in love with the other?”
“Yes,” Colin nodded. “We both finally admitted it last night.”
“And you’ve done a lot of talking I hear?”
“Even to the point I’ve really not been up to my job today, luckily Dame Margaret is covering my arse.”
“I hear Sue’s agreed to become your mistress and to help get you a wife?”
“Now I know father didn’t tell you that,” Colin chuckled, “has Grace been telling stories out of school?”
“Well we did talk a bit.”
“Yes, Sue will move home but leave as soon as my life comes under scrutiny, and from then on she will in her own words stay in the shadows.”
“And what do you think of that brother?”
“I hate it, but she’s determined that I’m the important one, and that her happiness comes second to my career.” Colin shook his head. “She’s doing all the giving it seems and I’m doing all the taking.”
“That’s how it looks to me.” Victoria smiled, “oh and by the way how did she react to Daddy’s phone call?”
“With surprise, she couldn’t work out how he got her number.”
“From me,” Victoria giggled, “and I got it from my darling daughters.”
“Who had it why?”
“Turned out Sue had sent them a note with the number and an instruction that in a true emergency they were to ring her.”
“That sounds like my Susan,” Colin shook his head.
“Victoria? What in blue blazes are you doing here?”
“Looking after little brother, as I always used to do,” Victoria said as Grace kissed her on both cheeks. “Sue just went out to see the girls.”
“She was surprised to see you?”
“At the very least…”
3 pm CET
The two teams lined up as the national anthem was played, and then shook hands as they took up their positions on the field.
“So what is the main difference between this and American Football,” Nyala asked Maisha.
“Less padding? The main difference is that the ball has to be thrown back rather than forward, and the ways of scoring are different. I will explain why things happen as we go on.”
“I heard you had been to the Stoop for the home games this season,” Ama said as she sat beside Jeannie.”
“I find it a fascinating game,” Maisha said as John kicked off for his team.
Chateau de Ros
As she watched Sue talking to her daughters, Victoria smiled and then turned at the sound of a friendly voice.
darling,” Davina said, “no one told me you were here."
only really just arrived Daffy," Victoria grinned as the two women kissed,
"and how are you?"
is playing rugby down in the village."
dear," Victoria smiled.
Peter with you?"
just me and the girls...I was in the area and I thought I'd drop in."
area Vicky?" Daffy lifted an eyebrow, "then how do I know you were at
Matthew's party in London last night?"
flying my own plane,” Victoria said with a smile, “most of Europe is really
to check up on your baby brother?"
oldies are worried about him..."
Susan?" Lady Davina interrupted.
what have you heard?"
had the lousiest of starts to life, but that she dragged herself up..."
say darling...via the oldest profession, but despite that I rather like her,
and she and Colin really are in love don't you know?"
that, but what will they do?"
that hopefully will allow them both to find happiness, even if that is Susan
becoming his very secret mistress."
my girls have always adored her?"
see what Sue did as something that in the same circumstances they might have
understand that," Daffy nodded, "if I was freezing, hungry,
desperate, and a Madame offered me a way to put some food in my stomach and
some money in my purse, I'd probably have done the same if I was in her
"Yes," Lady Davina nodded, "I just thank God I was never in her position. On which note – there is someone else I want you to meet, if you have a few minutes. A friend of a friend who, like Sue, needs to be re-accepted if for slightly different reasons."
“Oh? What happened in her case?”
“She got caught – and here she is,” Davina said as Agnes walked past. “Agnes, can I introduce you to my friend, Lady Victoria Milnford. Vicky, this is Doctor Agnes McAdam.”
“THE McAdam of McAdam? I am honoured,” Victoria said as she took Agnes by surprise, and kissed her on both cheeks.
“Thank you – you’re a relative of Grace and Colin, right?”
“That’s right, but don’t worry about that. Perhaps we can talk later?”
“Of course,” Agnes said as she saw Shirley walk by. “Excuse me – Shirley, you were looking for me?”
“I was indeed,”
Shirley said in her deep voice, “Agnes, do you know who the late Pamela
other than the fact that she was a very distant relative of mine? I have a Digby ancestor," Aggie smiled
at the look on Shirley's face as she explained.
"No not at all," Agnes chuckled. “As I said, a VERY distant relative, but yes I know who you are talking about.”
"Did you ever meet her?"
"No, but I
once danced with her son young Winston Churchill at a deb ball."
But anyway getting back to her, have you thought her triumph over her career as
a courtesan might be an example to you?"
"Tell the truth Shirley I've not given it any thought."
“I think it is worth consideration, especially if we manage to get you in a position where your discretion is, shall we say, fully appreciated.”
“Well, those who know, know” Agnes said, “but they’re not in a position to use that influence to support me.”
“Not yet,” Shirley said with a smile, “not yet…”
“What’s the score,” Shirley asked as she joined Mandy and Olivia.
“Three all darling – but they all seem to be having fun,” Mandy drawled as Piet took down one of the Rosville forwards.
On the field, two brothers were having a quick discussion…
Will said as they stood watching the scrum, “do you ever think Catherine
cheated on you?"
pretty sure she has Will."
you've never said anything to her bro?"
the point? it was pretty clear early on in our marriage that she didn't love
the name of creation did you never divorce her?"
saw Catherine as my penance for my cowardice with Agnes, and besides whatever
else I might have to complain about she has been the perfect partner in my
career. She never even complained about any of the foreign postings."
prepared to wait for what is probably going to happen next?"
think all along she's dreamed of being the wife of an ambassador to a major
ON REF!" Will shouted, "that was a forward pass."
is French bro," Donald laughed, "he probably can't understand
know," Will laughed, "so what will you do now?"
and see if I get offered Paris."
won't divorce her?"
truly wish I could marry Aggie, but she is insisting that I stay with Catherine
so as to not deprive me of the ambassadorship."
will move into her old flat, and you'll try go see her and have some quickie
makes it sound cheap and nasty."
what exactly you think it is Donnie...I know you too well, you really will only
ever be happy with Aggie if it’s as man and wife."
so bro, but diplomacy is the art of compromise…"
"GO MIRANDA!" Will switched attention to the game as the black soldier flew down the wing to score a try in the corner.
Chateau de Ros
“So,” Kylie said as she stepped back, and walked round Charlotte while she stood on a stool, “is it what you dreamed of, Charlotte darling?”
She looked at the young woman, who in turn looked at Francesca and Caroline, as she said “Mamma, I…”
“I know,” Francesca said as she wiped a tear from her eye. “Kylie, you are a true miracle worker.”
“Thank you,” Kylie said with a smile, “Mary, those last minute adjustments?”
“Ai, all noted,” Mary said, “the others?”
“I have already seen to Ama and Maisha – Penny and Helen I will see tomorrow. We need to add one last thing – Rose darling?”
“Here we go,” Rose said as she draped the lace veil over Charlotte’s head, and placed a small tiara on her head. “I think it has come out rather well.”
“Oh yes it has,” Caroline said quietly.
“Excellent darlings – we are ready for next month, with perhaps a last minute adjustment the day before if we need to let the waist out any more. Thank you, everyone.”
Agnes said as she sat with the MP, “would it offend you if I said I'm not
really a political animal, that I actually find the day to day struggles of
politicians as boring?"
wouldn't offend me at all Agnes," Maggie laughed. “I would have to admit I feel the same way at
policy has always fascinated me,” Agnes said quietly, “but the act of getting
support for, and passing legislation, no that's not my cup of tea."
policies do you favour out of interest Agnes?"
of a generally Utilitarian mindset, so basically I'm looking at things that
bring the greatest happiness, or the greatest good, to the greatest
your work personally with the poorest and most disadvantaged of
in my theses I argued for targeted investment in poorer nations by private
capital as not only a charitable good, but which if done correctly can raise
living standards and create fresh markets."
“A radical view still…”
years,” Agnes said, “the views of people like myself were very out of fashion
as both economic theory, and as a guide to policy, but thanks to people like
Professor Krugman at Princeton, liberal capitalist theory seems to be staging a
agree with you on policy Agnes, I just wish that the blind faith of so many of
my colleagues in totally deregulated free markets could be tempered with more
policies targeted to help the needy."
“We need people in positions of influence to support that.”
“Apart from me?”
“Apart from you.”
said "Have you met Colin Leventhal yet this weekend?"
"I met his
wife Yvonne, but not him." Agnes sipped her tea.
"I'll make a point of introducing you to him and his son later - I think they will both enjoy talking to you on this subject."
“I look forward to it,” Agnes said with a smile as Penny came over.
“Colin Gresham-Fox was looking for you Dame Margaret,” she said, smiling as Maggie set off, and she took her seat.
“Thank you,” Penny said as she accepted a cup. “Quiet afternoon, Agnes?”
“A little more settled than yesterday, so I’ve had time to consider things.”
has been the biggest surprise of the weekend Agnes?" Penny sipped her
rediscovering myself, Donald, and my friends?"
"Yes other than that." Penny smiled. “Which reminds me – my friends have finished repairing and cleaning up the Paddington flat, so you can safely go back.”
Agnes said with a smile. "The
biggest surprise? I guess it’s been
finding out that my economic theories have attracted such a devoted band of
disciples. Twenty years ago my neo-liberalism was criticised as both being
utopian and impractical. To my utter amazement I now find that while people may
not agree with me always, my ideas are at least discussed, and have in some
ways been implemented."
to your ego?"
guess," Agnes picked her own cup up. "But also an affirmation that my
career aims of 20 years ago are the ones I really want to pursue."
have at least sorted one thing in your mind this weekend?"
"Oh yes, I
am definitely going to be changing my work when I get home. I called Sylvie and told her I want to meet
her for lunch on Monday."
course while maintaining the school?"
"Penny you know better than to even doubt my commitment to that work. But thanks to some very generous offers, it will be on a much firmer financial footing."
“So that you can look after yourself better? After all, if you are not there, the work suffers.”
“So I’m realising…”
“Abby – got a minute?”
“Of course,” Abby said as she walked over to where Sue was standing with two teenagers.
“I hate to impose, but this is the Honourable Antonia and Ambrosia Milnford – their mother is Lady Milnford, and is here to see her brother Colin. Girls, our hostess’ granddaughter, Abigail de Ros.
“Welcome – would you like me to take them round?”
“If it is not too much bother,” Sue said as they walked off, and she went over to where their mother was standing.
“Sue – how are you feeling now?”
“A little better, thank you. The girls told me that it was you gave your father my telephone number after you wheedled it out of them Your Ladyship…How did you guess that I’d made sure they had it?”
“Simple deduction Sue,” Victoria smiled, “If I learned one thing about you while you were married to Colin then it was how important being part of a family was to you.”
“Well when you don’t have one growing up…”
“I know…Anyway It seemed logical that even though you and Colin had parted as you had, and how the family had treated you, that inside you’d still think of us as being your family, and like all family members you’d ensure there was somehow some way of getting hold of you in an emergency.”
“Alright, but how did you work out that I’d give it to your girls?”
“Again logic, you’d not give it to any of the adults, and you and my children were always very close. So even though at the time they were only eleven and twelve, I guessed that they’d be the two you trusted with it, and that they’d keep the secret for you…They idolized you you know?”
“They are both pretty special themselves…they are the type of girl I wish I’d had the chance to be myself.”
“Anyway I put two and two together this morning, and after a little bit of parental persuasion and bullying they told me.”
“And you phoned your father,” Sue smiled.
“I did. He desperately wanted to talk to you personally.”
“Well I just hope he understood what I told him?”
“He will – he’s actually quite an understanding guy, even if he doesn’t show it from time to time.”
Agnes was walking slowly round the walled garden, enjoying the peace when her mobile phone went off. Looking at the caller ID, she smiled as she accepted the call.
“Hello C,” Agnes said with a smile, “I thought I’d hear from you this afternoon.” She glanced round to make sure she was totally along in the garden.
“I guessed you were expecting my call,” the full rich voice on the other end chuckled, “so are you enjoying rediscovering yourself?”
“Very much…and before we go any further I looked at my bank account this morning… thank you for the donation, it will be put to good use.”
“I know it will, otherwise I wouldn’t do it Agnes dear.”
“Nevertheless, it’s still good of you.”
“So,” the deep voice said, “did ‘she’ also make a donation?”
“Last week, she and the Marchesa both wrote me large cheques.”
“Bigger than my donation?”
“C,” Agnes said with a laugh, “you know very well that I won’t tell you anything specific about Madame, just as I never tell her what I know of you.”
“You’ve been a model of discretion all these years Aggie darling.”
“Well as long as you insist on playing silly games, then I have to be don’t I?” Sitting down and shaking her head, she said “Honestly - you two are as bad as each other, so alike in so many, many, ways.”
“That’s what makes the little game she and I play so much fun, we can basically anticipate what each other will do in any given situation.”
“Yes, but you are playing with a marked deck C, while Madame thinks the game isn’t rigged.”
“But you know better don’t you Aggie?”
“Yes,” Aggie said quietly, “and its only my faith in your character C that prevented me ever telling her everything.”
“Yes, you have a fine character, even though I hate that all this gives you such a kick.”
“Well,” C replied, “when we started the game I assumed given her smarts she would very quickly work out who I was.”
“But as days turned into weeks, then months, and now years, you’ve just kept it up.”
“Well its fun that she thinks I’m the Holmes to her Moriarty.”
“And I’m caught in the middle between two of my dearest friends.”
“I know Aggie, but after all this time I can’t give up before she actually works the puzzle out.”
“And in the meantime you rattle her cage and keep her on the hop?”
“Someone has to,” C laughed, “and I’m sure she’d find life a whole lot more boring if I wasn’t out there.”
"C… You know that most of what I know about the
real world I learned initially from you...
If I was Tam's big sister, then you were mine. It was you who gave me
the sex education talk, it was you made me take puffs of both regular
cigarettes and marijuana. You let me taste my first whiskey as well."
"That for all the years I've known Madame I've known you several more on top of that."
“I know, I know. Sometimes I find it hard to believe as well.”
to remember that the 'game' started out as you simply trying to see if you
could outsmart Madame."
"Well Agnes everyone always assumed that I wasn't in my old rival’s league brains wise. I set up my business to attract her attention and much to my surprise I'm still befuddling her. But it never was about me wanting to put Madame behind bars, it would be like cutting off my own arm to do so.
“Changing the subject...With you moving back home do I still have an open invitation to drop in any time I want to?”
“Of course you do…I know you remember the address, just make it when Donald isn’t there please?”
“Oh I know better than to disrupt the two of you together,” Lady C laughed.
“You have known me for far too many years C.”
“And I’m just so happy that at long last you and Donald are doing the right thing. BTW you know Madame asked me a ‘personal’ favour to make sure ‘my side’ kept as far as possible from harassing you.”
“Oh I bet you enjoyed that terrifically?”
“I actually did rather.” Lady C laughed again, “I love ‘her’ feeling like she’s indebted to me.”
“Like she wasn’t already in so many ways?”
“Yes but those bits of help she must never know came from me, this is the first time she openly owes me.”
“God I’m just so glad that I’m not a games player.”
“And that is just why you have such good friends Aggie, you keep secrets, but you don’t use them.”
“Anyway I had better go.”
“Alright, you have fun tonight, we’ll maybe speak soon.”
“I’m sure we will C.”
“You have a great afternoon Aggie, and remember not a word to Shirley.”
“I KNOW C” Aggie laughed and turned her phone off.
3 pm BST
The blonde haired woman smiled as she looked at her phone, and then returned to examining some papers – only to look at her phone as it rang again.
“Cat? It’s Shirley.”
“Oh hi Shirley,” she said with a smile, “how’s the party?”
“Going well – where are you?”
hell are you doing in your chambers on a Saturday afternoon Cat?"
up on some paper work Shirley."
far too hard...even for one of London's best QC's."
is it may,” Cat said with a smile, “to what do I owe the pleasure of hearing
your voice darling?"
"I want to
ask a hypothetical question of you..."
said as she picked up a pen, “should I be on the clock and billing you for
want," Shirley laughed, "just add it to my account."
we are talking on your money then."
"Look Cat - if a newspaper has in its possession private documents that they purchased from a third party many years ago, and those documents were stolen by the third party, does the original owner have the right to go into court and sue for the return of his or her property?"
“Hmm – depends if they can prove the items were taken without their consent, and they are the original owner. Got an example in mind?”
“Say – private diaries?”
“Well, it can be done, but it would need some background research. We’ll talk at the club next week…”
4 pm CET
Chateau de Ros
Shirley talking to on the phone Maisha?" Maddie asked as they looked
across the room.
what are they talking about on a Saturday afternoon?"
working out new ways to cheat when Uncle John and I play them at tennis next
don't cheat Maisha," Maddie laughed, "it's just they have played as a
pair for so many years they know automatically what the other will do."
"Well I still think its cheating."
“Thanks, Cat,” Shirley said as she walked over.
were you talking to Catriona Shirley?"
"Oh it was
just a social call Madeline, nothing for you to worry about."
Xavier,” Maddie said, “when you tell me not to worry about something, that's
when I start to worry the most... Cat
might be your oldest friend, but I've known you an awful long while as
well...and I know secrets about you that she has no clue about remember?"
"Point...but seriously I was actually asking her opinion on legal remedies for getting Agnes's diary back from the evil empire. And I don't think that is something to worry about too much."
“This is Penny Harker.”
“Good afternoon Penelope.”
Looking round, Penny walked outside as she said “I thought you would only call in an emergency?”
“This is more of a social call, Penelope,” the voice said as Penny found a quiet corner.
“It’s not like you to make social calls though,” Penny said as she sat down. “You’re usually too busy.”
“As are you – how is the divine Helen enjoying her visit.”
“Very much so,” Penny said as she rubbed her eyes. “Explain to me again Lady C why I go along with this?”
“You go along with it Penelope,” the voice replied, “because if you remember LC Securities was in large part your idea.”
“I know,” Penny groaned, “I thought it would be something to take Madame’s mind off all the things that were depressing her at the time.”
“And it was a good plan - it had the desired effect at the time - thanks to some very convincing acting by yourself.”
“And by you as well Lady C,” Penny said. “Whatever happened to the staff you hired?”
“Well compensated, I assure you. But the way you watched when I had that conversation with her – that was beautiful.”
“It worked because Madame was focused on you,” Penny said as she looked round. “I just never anticipated it all going on this long.”
“Well I’ll have to admit, that as I said to Agnes, I thought she’d figure it out quickly.”
Penny smiled as she said “I’m not sure she really wants to any more, you’ve become her conscience.”
“I’ve tried to be, to stop her occasionally crossing the line too badly.” Lady C paused, “Madame has led an unusual life…”
“Oh like yours has been that different?”
“By which you mean Penny?”
“You both went to top schools, and in your case went to Oxford – where you met Agnes – and then took the Bar exams in London. A leader in your field.”
“Yes - but I never had those years in France.”
“I know, they certainly changed her.”
“For the better? or the worse? You know I’ve never been sure.”
“Who can tell? In many ways, she had the best and the worst of both of us.”
“My education, your street experiences?”
Penny nodded as she said “Anyway, while you are on the line, Project Aggie is proceeding.”
“I know,” she heard the woman reply, “various people have kept me up to date.”
returning to my original idea Lady C, part of it was just to remove some pretty
undesirable characters who were giving this line of work a very bad name."
we've continued to do Penelope."
know given what lurks inside me that really I have no right to be
"You cannot help it Penelope, these people know better."
“True – but soon, I hope, I can bring this to an end.”
“Strangely enough, so do I. There is something in the air, and I feel it may be time for us all to come together to face this. But for now, let Agnes be our focus.”
“C… We have evidence of who is behind her troubles. Can you help?”
There was a moment’s silence, before Cat said “thank you Penny. Leave this with me – it helps address something Madame asked me to look into.”
up that isn't so bad at all Lady and Gentlemen," John Hammond smiled as
his team drank their half time drinks.
that John Gaunt can kick goals that well," Piet laughed, "he might
look completely unlike a rugby player, but he has his uses."
an Etonian he's not so bad," Jack smiled.
can you run Miranda," David smiled.
"That pass you gave me, the guy just slightly bit on the fake, like in basketball when I dip my shoulder one way then drive to the hoop the other. Once he was wrong footed I was always going to get to the corner."
Dad was going to lose his voice as he shouted at you from the sidelines
Miranda," Billy laughed.
and your Uncle are having good time watching." John smiled.
bastard wearing number 4 is asking for trouble," House nursed a couple of
bruises, "he's been after me in every ruck."
"Ja, so much for this being a friendly social game," Piet nodded.
“Ah good,” Maisha said as she looked at the group arriving, “you made it for the second half, Aunt Shirley.”
“We did indeed,” Shirley said as she led a group of the ladies in, “how are things going?”
“We are ahead,” Maisha said, “but I am concerned they will tire soon…
Tamsin said as she sat with her sister, “how did you come to know Shirley
introduced us Tippy Toes."
"Cat? As in Catriona Cuthbertson?" Tamsin
Agnes smiled, "we've always been discreet in keeping in contact, but yes
she wasn't one of those who put me into Coventry."
didn't you ask her to defend you that time?"
Agnes said quietly, “first because I didn't think they'd throw the book at me,
and secondly she was in Exeter with her head of chambers as they defended
Samaal Brooks on that murder charge."
he got off?'
Aggie took a breath, "she came to see me in Holloway when the trial was
over, and it was her putting pressure on some people at the Home Office that
got me released on compassionate grounds."
"She's been a truer friend to you then I was," Tam started to weep slightly.
“She was there, true, but I understand why you did what you did, what you all did – and as I keep saying, it is the past, and we need to get beyond that. I need you all now, because if I’m going to do this, I need you all there with me.”
Kit yelled as John kicked a long range penalty goal. "Come on our
getting into this aren't you," Eve shook her head, "I thought you
were strictly a football girl?"
it’s MY man out there playing," Christine smiled.
"He would be about the oddest looking rugby player I ever saw in my life," Aileen laughed. "I know he's my brother, but I've always thought that I was tougher then he is."
“Appearances can be deceptive,” Kit said with a smile.
teach them to play clean," Will smiled as John Gaunt kicked his second
penalty of the half.
young John having his kicking boots with him they can't afford to give up
penalties bro," Donald clapped his hands. "Did you know he could kick
don't think anyone out here did."
"Well seeing the look on Tom's face I'm pretty certain he didn't know."
is the hero Paula darling." Shirley remarked as she stood on the clubhouse
who'd of thunk it," the Duchess shook her head.
daughter is practically having one each time he's even near the ball,"
TAMSIN!" Angel shook her head, "rudeness what?"
"Yes darling but it’s true," Mandy laughed at her daughter’s reaction. Angel looked at Kit, and then said “yeah – I can see that…”
beginning to flag a little?" John Hammond whispered to himself as the French
player converted the try with an easy conversion from right in front of the
16-10, and five minutes to play, can they hold on?" Charles asked.
"I hope so...but win or lose its been one hell of a good game...GOOD BOY SIMON!" John reacted as Simon Leventhal made an accurate kick that bounced into touch just inside the French 22..."Keep the ball down their end."
are you doing sitting here in the clubhouse Heather while everyone else is
enjoying the excitement outside?' Caroline asked as she came in.
Heather simply said "putting the life of Catherine James/Fitzstuart under
the microscope Dom."
hopefully get rid of this nagging little thought in the back of my mind."
"Okay… Nagging thought? What nagging thought?"
thought,” Heather said as she sat back, “that someone with that much hatred
bottled up inside them will have had a lot, lot more enemies in her own mind
beyond her sister’s friends."
Caroline said "and does she?"
only running brief checks, I need my other computer to do more detailed
analysis,” Heather said, “but yes - at least circumstantial evidence points to
Catherine pursuing a whole lot more 'dirty tricks' then you got out of her with
Heather said quietly, “there are at least a couple of bodies out there."
more likely one of her tame policemen."
more than one?"
"So I'm guessing." Heather looked up. "I think you need to tell Madame that we need put a maximum security shield round Agnes."
“Dammit – all right, I’ll let her know,” Caroline said, “we may have to pull some extra help in as well…”
“That's what I
was afraid of," John Hammond groaned as one of the Trachtenberg boys blew
a hole in the defensive line, before passing to the fleet-footed winger who had
left Miranda stranded as he cut in from his wing, and ran 65 metres to score
under the posts.
wasn't sure if she could follow him in," Charles Treharran shook his head.
was that tactical naivety I was worried about...Still as I said win or lose it’s
been a great game."
one last chance," Tom clapped the conversion.
17 to 16 to them," Donald looked at his watch.
about to get worse," Will groaned as the ref blew up after seeing House
extracting some personal justice in the ruck following the kickoff.
the bastard number 4 didn't deserve it."
but I bet his gridiron coach would have him for such ill discipline.”
"Okay boys, and for this Miranda you are boy," Piet lectured as his team huddled, "nothing fancy, just get the ball to me or House and we will try running right through that little fly half of theirs...just make sure you are all back up if we need to pass."
“How hard do you want us to go in,” Miranda asked.
“Hard – do everything within the rules to get through. Understood?”
“Got it,” Miranda said as the forwards lined up, John and Alex watching as the scrum went down before John fed the ball in and it was kicked back. Alex collected the ball and passed it to Harry, who set off down the field, before been brought down.
Inch by inch, foot by foot, they got the ball closer and closer to the try line, the girls and women cheering them on until Miranda was brought down five yards out. John fetched the ball, passing it to House who ran forward, and then at the last minute passed to Piet…
“YES!” The cheer was deafening as Piet went over the line, levelling the score.at twenty all, and the clock passed eighty minutes.
“Tom – bring us home with a conversion,” John said to the young man, Kit watching with Eve and Aileen as he lined up the kick, took several steps back, and…
“That’s it,” John said as the final whistle went, “23-20. Well done everyone.”
“Good game,” Piet said, House nodding as they shook hands with the opposition.
"So what are we doing for after match entertainment?" Billy asked as the made their way to the changing room, "And more to the point do we as gentleman let Miranda have first use of the plunge bath while we wait?"
“Well, the answer to the second question is obvious,” Alex said, Miranda nodded as she headed through while Jack handed round drinks.
the local restaurants is going to host a grand celebration if I translate what
the programme said correctly," Jason smiled.
"Oh how do
I know I'm going to get another hangover?" Billy groaned.
Billy me bhoy no good afternoon of sociable sport is complete without
one," Stephen Stone laughed.
"Look at these damn teeth marks?" House pulled his shirt off, "I knew that bastard was biting me."
“Well, the tailor will cover that for your wedding suit,” John said, “you going for the full formal look?”
“For the chapel, ja,” Piet said, “as is Winston and my brother.”
“Complete with brocaded jackets,” House said as he took a drink.
“I look forward to seeing this,” John said with a smile.
darlings,” Mandy said in the club house, “it seems we have two choices - we can
stop and watch our men indulge in an orgy of beer and wine drinking, passing as
male bonding, or we can adjourn back to the chateau for something far more
Mandy, I for one want to stay and celebrate with John and the team." Kits
for keeping Kits company?"
"I will I guess,” Aileen stuck a hand up.
“And I’d better keep an eye on her,” Eve said with a smile.
“The rest of us, however, are heading back to the chateau – in due course…”
“Donnie,” Will said as he sat with his brother, “when are you going to tell Aggie about Ardray?”
“I always said on the day we were married Will.”
Looking over, he smiled and said “doesn’t that thinking need a bit of changing bro?”
“I guess so…but at least she’d be happy to know the entire estate goes to Christine in my will.”
“Have you even set foot in the New House Donnie?”
“No Will…just too many memories,” he shook his head, “Agdon have kept Rory and Sheilagh McAdam as the housekeepers and to watch the farms.”
“Do they not know it’s you who are the owner?”
“No, I’ve always ensured they just deal with faceless lawyers.” Donald smiled, “and of course they keep the estate running beautifully.”
5.30 pm BST
Catriona looked out of her window onto the Inns of Court, sipping her coffee and considering what her next move should be.
“No – this is too important,” she said to herself as she walked back to her desk, put the cup down and then dialled a number on her mobile phone.
“Hello?” The voice was Chinese, but the English was perfect.
Lady C, can you and Anna meet me at the country house tonight please?"
My Lady,” she replied, “may I ask why?"
friend of mine needs some aid, and whilst I can probably work something in
court that will take time, I am thinking on a more immediate remedy."
bring extra aid?"
"I suppose that you ought to...just two extra girls though." Catriona smiled, "with Madame and most of her team outside the country it's time that we were the ones applying extra-judicial methods."
“I understand My Lady. What time?”
“Ten – and thank you Cho.”
Ending the call, Cat smiled and said “and now for the official response.” She dialled another number and waited.
Babbage," the voice answered on the phone.
disturb you at home on a Saturday afternoon when I'm pretty sure you were
watching the cricket, but it’s Catriona Cuthbertson."
you ringing to gloat about the McNair trial Cat?" the policeman laughed
I do that Michael?"
sometimes think you would Cat," the detective laughed some more, "but
you really gave my team a lesson in how crime scene evidence should NOT be
sloppy Mike...that's all I will say."
agree with you there... Anyway Cat as
lovely as it is to hear from such an old and dear friend... why have you phoned?"
you that I am going to commit a crime tonight Mike..."
strictly speaking,” Cat said as she sat back, “it’s returning some property to
its rightful owner."
not do it the legal way Cat?"
if I take it to court it could take months, and Agnes needs her diaries
returned to her now."
in Agnes McAdam Catriona?"
both know another woman called Agnes Mike?"
exactly a common Christian name."
Aggie from all accounts has undergone a magical restoration this weekend in
happy to hear that at least. I saw her
the other day – she looked so sad and almost beaten."
“Yes, well – she met some people and that took her right down, so a mutual friend got her out of London and amongst old friends."
“And that’s worked?”
“To the extent that I understand she may finally be returning to working as an economist, and not as a Madame.”
“Hmm – if that is true, it may stop some problems from recurring.”
"Anyway - A
certain news group that has never been above using dirty tricks themselves have
Aggie's diaries, and I'm going to liberate them."
you thought to give me a heads up."
"Well I know your concern for Agnes is as deep as mine is Mike."
“Yeah – all right, I’m forewarned,” Mike said, “just take care all right?”
“I always do,” Cat said, “see you tomorrow Mike.”
8 pm CET
Chateau de Ros
Susan,” Agnes said as she sat down, “how are you juggling being mother,
businesswoman and student?"
allowed to say I find it challenging?"
are to me," Agnes patted her hand. "I did the business and student
parts together and that was tough enough, Lord knows how I would have managed
with a baby as well."
by having a great husband, and a plentiful supply of willing
babysitters," Susan laughed.
mother has asked a special favour of me for tomorrow."
Susan looked round and said “and what might that be?"
"I am the
guardian of a family relic," Aggie whispered, "It's a remnant of a
flag that's over at least a thousand years old."
enough said, that is precisely the kind of thing my mother would love to
she teaches at a university?"
an academic subject, but she teaches fashion students some of the seamstresses
not be academic but it’s still a vital part of their education." Aggie
smiled, "it's great when someone finds a niche that is perfect for
her spare time Mum does embroidery."
"I know - I saw her work on Juliette's wedding dress...It was truly magnificent."
“She’s working on the von Furstenheim christening robe at the moment…”
“Caroline – an interesting call,” Missy said as she saw her looking at her cell phone.
sure - I take it they approached you first Missy?"
Missy said with a smile, “I told them I doubted you'd want to give up that
amount of time, but that they should contact you direct."
admit to being tempted," Caroline smiled, "It isn't every day one
gets asked to play a Viking goddess in a major feature film."
what they said,” Missy said, “it isn't a huge part, but it would be three weeks
on location, and I knew that would be a problem with you."
"Yeah it's a huge drawback, but I think I'll just ask a couple of people their opinions on it.”
“Of course,” Missy said, smiling as Caroline walked over to Ama and said “Listen – I’ve got this offer, and I want to talk to you about it…”
Ama listened to Caroline as she talked to her, and then said “well?”
on Mom - it's working with Mads Mikkelsen, you turn it down and I'm never
speaking to you," Ama stood with her hands on hips.
never acted in my life..."
play parts all the time," Ama whispered, "in your life you have
"I suppose so. But still…"
“Mom, if you’re worried about me, Annie and the twins, I think we can cope for a few weeks.”
“All right, I’ll admit it,” Veronica said as she sat with Eleanor and Katherine, “rugby can be almost as exciting as football.
“Ach you just don’t appreciate true sport,” Katherine said with a smile, “but I bet some of them will be very stiff in the morning.”
“In what way?”
Katherine burst out laughing as she stood up, and made her way to where Katy was sitting with Orion.
“Eleanor, Veronica,” Shirley said as she walked over, “may I take a moment of your time?”
“Of course Shirley,” Veronica said, “wha can we do for you?”
“Keep an eye on Agnes while she is here – I am concerned that someone may wish to do her harm, and that must not happen.”
“You’re serious, aren’t you,” Eleanor said as she looked at Shirley.
“I am – I ask you as Sisters to watch over one of our newer members.”
The two women nodded as Shirley said “thank you” and walked off.
at her work colleagues, and said "What is your opinion girls?"
you said yourself it’s three weeks out of your life." Penny spoke
on – it’s three weeks with Mads Mikkelsen," Lily shook her head, "how
can you even think of not doing it?"
going to be in December, Ama will be in school still."
"So I'm sure she and Annie can get by without you for three weeks." Charlotte spoke.
“So you all think I should do it?”
“If Cara can get away with it, I’m sure you can,” Penny said with a smile.
"Holly, do you have a moment?”
“Of course Sandy – what can I do for you?”
rang your parents earlier,” Sandy said quietly, “your Mom said if you want
to stay in Europe with us while Tommy does that internship in Japan, that they
have no objection."
Holly said as she smiled, “spend the summer with Alexandra?"
"Of course, you know she's been going through agony the past couple of days," Sandy smiled, "and what could be more respectable then you spending the summer with friends of your family?"
"Did you actually have anything planned?"
"No, I was
just going to stay at the Easthampton house and see what trouble I could get
you are just going to see what trouble you can get into in London and Germany
instead. Oh – and there is a wedding in
must admit,” Holly said, “it sounds like a plan to me."
"Alright go tell my daughter the news I'm sure she will be happy to hear it," Sandy smiled as Holly walked off.
your professional opinion Cass?"
looked at Caroline before she said "Well… I'd like to see the script first, but speaking
slightly unprofessionally, Mads is a joy to work with, and so is Olaf Bengtsson
"So you think I should do it?"
“Put it this way – I think you can do it, so yes you should do it if they will have you.”
“Well then, I guess I’ll accept – and start planning round it…”
“You still are the most magical of lovers Colin,” Sue smiled happily as they lay naked in Colin’s bed.
“And you,” Colin said as he turned and kissed her neck, “are still the sexiest woman that I have ever met.”
“Liar,” Sue gave him a playful poke, “In a mansion crowded with so many fabulous women I know my limitations…but it was lovely of you to say it,” she said as she kissed him gently.
“So did you take…?”
“Yes, this time I’m safely on my pill,” Sue said with a laugh, “the last thing you’ll need is headlines blaring ‘New MP has secret love child with ex whore’.”
Sighing, Colin turned onto his side and said “Why are you so prepared to be the one who gives up everything darling?”
“Because I’m the one with the least to lose.”
“Having a husband, having a family,” Colin said, “that seems an awful lot to give up to me?”
“Yes,” Sue said with a smile, “but knowing that you will be so successful will make up for that. Besides, I’m not the only one in this position, am I?”
“Fair enough – so, what do you want to do now?”
“Oh I’m sure you will think of something…”
“Mummy it’s so unfair that Uncle Colin and Aunt Sue just can’t go back to being married,” Ambrosia shook her head as they sat round the table. “Anyone can tell they are in love.”
“I know,” Victoria spoke softly, “but unfortunately most people don’t know your Aunt Sue as we do.”
“She did what she needed to do… Can’t people see that?’ asked Antonia.
“Prostitution, however dire the need, remains one of the great taboos we still have darling.”
“Well I think it’s silly.”
“And I agree with Amby,” Antonia shook her head, “anyone ever saw them together would know it’s real love.”
“I know Toni,” her mother smiled, “but it’s a love you must never tell anyone about, especially when Uncle Colin becomes an MP.”
“Why do we have such hypocrisy in our leaders?”
“One definition of politics is hypocrisy for the public good,” Victoria said.
“Who gave it that definition?”
“John Oliver I think…”
“Hey – what brings you out here?”
someone - I thought you would have gone back to your hotel by now Aggie?"
Donald smiled as he found her sitting alone on the terrace in the moonlight.
sleeping in Helen's room here at the chateau tonight,” Agnes said with a smile,
“whilst she and Penny keep half the hotel awake."
as he said "well, they seem very much in love."
were badly hurt in life...they can understand each other."
hurt? That is hard to imagine someone so
mother died of cancer and her step-father was murdered, all within one year,
while she was just 13."
"Alright I understand," Donald nodded gravely, "And I know Penny eventually fetched up with you."
"She did. She was a young teenage runaway when I first met her, who had survived alone on the streets. Her character was clear even then."
"Well you helped her become a fine woman Aggie."
"Yes I am
rather proud of what she's done for herself Donald."
The two sat on the low terrace wall as Donald put his arm round Agnes's waist. “You truly are a remarkable woman Agnes McAdam.”
“I am what I had to be Donald – but now, I really do feel I have the chance to change again, be a better person.”
“You already are Aggie – you always were…” Looking up at the stars, Donald sighed and said “do you ever wish we could go back?”
“Not where – when. Go back and not make the same mistakes.”
Shaking her head, Agnes said “there’s no point in thinking like that Donnie. What happened, happened, and all we could do is make the best of the cards we are dealt. In my case, I had to survive, so I went back to that job, but I tried to help those who could not help themselves at the same time.”
“I heard – Dame Margaret told me of the work you do. Is that why you live in that…”
“Yes it is – every spare penny I have goes to them. But if I have learned anything this weekend, it is that I need to stop punishing myself while helping them.”
“So the old Aggie is coming back?”
“In part – and yes, it is possibly time for Lady D’Eath to retire from active work. The name, however, is why those kids trust me, so she won’t disappear completely…”
Donald nodded as Aggie said “and you – the succesful diplomat, what regrets do you have?”
Sighing, he said “A loveless marriage, no heirs to my name, my work is my life – what do you think?”
“Apart from the marriage part? It sounds very disturbingly familiar… Oh come on Donnie – look at us. We’re too old to start to regret what happened.”
Nodding, Donald said “true – but there is one thing I need to say.”
“And that is – although if it’s to say you want us to marry…”
“No – no I know that’s not possible, even if I could do it,” Donald said with a sigh, “but I do still love you, Aggie, and I always have. I think I always will, but I am married to Catherine. A loveless marriage, and I know she is seeing other men…”
“What makes you say that?”
“Oh I know – she has her own little bank account, disappears for nights, but I know.”
“Have you ever…”
“No. I don’t want to know, if truth be told.” Sighing, he turned and kissed Agnes gently on the cheek.
“You know – I won’t mind if you kiss me a little more properly.”
He looked at Agnes, and gently pressed his lips against hers, and she returned the gesture.
“You’re going to move back into the flat?”
“Yes I am,” Agnes whispered quietly, “and I’ll look forward to the times you can visit.”
“So will I…”
11 pm BST
News UK, London Bridge Road
“Well, this is our objective,” Lady C said as she pulled up in a side street, looking at the thirteen floor building. “Are we all clear on what we need to do?”
“Yes, My Lady,” Cho said as she checked the dart gun she was carrying, and looked at the other three women. All of them were wearing black roll neck sweaters, leggings and knee length boots, as well as leather gloves.
“I’ve got the system ready for the security bypass My Lady,” the brunette said as she looked over.
“Excellent – Anna?”
“I have the schematics on my tablet, My Lady, the route clearly mapped out.”
“Very well – Cho, Elaine, you will act as forward party and security. If you encounter anyone, sedate and place them somewhere comfortable.”
The other two nodded as Catriona reached up, and pulled the balaclava down over her head. “All right ladies – let’s do this,” she said as they left the van, and walked down the alley to a side door.
“Elaine, you have the honours,” Lady C purred, the young woman nodding as she went to work on the lock. By day she was one of her paralegal associates, but her knowledge of the law was informed by her past as a cat burglar. Lady C had learned the same lesson as her esteemed friend – use talents as they are required.
“We’re in,” she said as she opened the door, the five of them slipping inside as Elaine closed the door. Vanessa looked along the corridor, and then walked quickly to a panel, removing it and opening a laptop as she attached some cables to the wires inside.
Vanessa had been recruited by Lady C after the first main encounter with Madame – she recognised she needed a security and alarms expert, and she had come highly recommended by one of her clients. She smiled as Vanessa typed into the keyboard, and then said “okay – loops are up and running for this floor and those below.”
“Excellent work Vanessa – Anna, lead the way.”
As the former journalist led the group down the corridor, Catriona smiled. Quiet efficiency, they were traits Lady C very much admired in her subordinates. She might not maintain as many operatives as Madame did, but for the quality of their work she’d match any group of hers against the same number of Shirley’s any given day.
If Lady C acknowledged one weakness however it was the lack of anyone near as skilled as the Hidden Hand at handling security systems and computers. Her own little team were good, but they weren’t the very best, and as in all things Lady C strove for the very best in every aspect of her life.
Anna held her hand up as they came to the foot of the stairs, and opened the door, looking into the empty corridor. “Allow me,” Cho said as she walked past, her dart gun raised – and then fired a single shot. As Lady C walked out, she saw the security guard slump to the floor, Cho walking over and removing the dart.
“Help me put him in there,” she said to Elaine, the two of them placing him in the store cupboard before closing and locking the door. Cho had been with her since the start of this project – she had been recommended by Penelope herself, a fellow graduate of Aggie’s school, skilled but compassionate as well. A most valuable friend to have.
Aggie… Aggie McAdam was in many ways the girl next door as she had grown up. Her father’s little estate on Loch Rechin butted up to Ardray, and her parents had been close friends of Angus and Isabelle McAdam. The five years that she was older then Agnes, and the eleven years that she was older then Tamsin had made her rather like a big sister to both of them.
Her affection for both was boundless, and her love of Agnes total. If she had known that her famed diaries were still intact she would have indeed embarked on what she was doing tonight a long while ago.
laughed at the joke implied in calling the estate’s main building the 'New'
House. It was Mid 18th century after all and a masterpiece of the Palladian
style of country house building. Why it had stood largely empty for 20 years
disturbed her, it had always been such a vibrant place, it made her sad that
all that was left now were the McAdam's just taking care of the place.
She knew the secret that it was in fact Donald Fitzstuart had bought the estate, intending she had always guessed to give it back to Aggie. Hopefully that day would come closer…
“How much further, Anna,” she said as they walked down the corridor.
“Two more doors on the left,” the young masked woman said, before she stopped and said “this one.”
They watched as Elaine unlocked the door, and then walked in.
“Okay,” Vanessa said as she looked at the rows of shelves running down the vast room, “want to pick a shelf?”
“Where on earth do we start My Lady?”
“Be at peace Cho – Anna?”
“Give me a minute to get into the system – that back door I built in should still be active,” the masked woman said as she sat at a computer terminal and started typing.
“Well,” Catriona said as she tapped her foot.
“One moment, my Lady – here we are,” Anna said as she looked at the screen, then typed on her tablet. “This way.”
“Guard the door,” Lady C said to Elaine, the masked woman nodding as they descended into the bowels of the archives.
“Just how much stuff is in here,” Vanessa asked as they moved along.
“I suspect,” Lady C said, “we could make a lot of people very happy if we had time, but we need to focus on the task at hand.”
“Here,” Anna said as she stopped and looked up, “we’re going to need the steps.”
“On it,” Cho said as she and Vanessa walked a short distance, and wheeled a set of steps over to where they were standing. Anna slowly climbed the stairs, as…
“HEY! Who the hell are you?”
Cho turned and fired the dart with one smooth movement, the guard staring at them and then slumping to the floor as Anna lifted and carried down a cardboard file box. She took it over to a table and laid it down, the others watching as she lifted the lid off and took out a plastic wrapped package.
Lady C took out a pen knife, and slit through the plastic before she removed a brown leather covered book. Opening it, she smiled and said “yes, this is what we are after,” placing the book in the bag with three others, and slipping the whole package into the holdall Cho was carrying.
“Please replace the box carefully,” she said as Anna went to put the lid back on, and then drew out a manilla folder. Opening it, she said “Vanessa – the camera please.”
“What is it,” Cho asked as Anna started to take photographs.
“Journal notes and payment advices – we have the name of the person who sold the diaries.”
Lady C looked at the paper, and nodded as she said “good – return this and the box to the correct position, and let us be on our way.” Oh ringing Shirley and telling her that she had retrieved the diaries was going to be fun...truly something to be relished
Sunday 26th June
1 am CET
Chateau de Ros
Shirley stirred as she heard her phone ringing, and looked at the clock, then at the empty half of the bed next to her.
“Are they not back yet,” she whispered, and then she picked up her phone. “John? Where are you darling?”
“I’m afraid it’s not John,” a familiar voice said.
“Hello, old friend,” Shirley said as she sat up, “and why are you calling me so early? Do you need my assistance now?”
you now owe me for two favours," the voice practically purred.
might the second be Lady C?"
because my associates 'liberated' Agnes's diaries earlier tonight."
what?" Shirley looked at the clock, thankful that John had stayed in the
village with the rugby team.
you heard me."
is it going to cost Agnes to get them back?"
"Agnes? Nothing, they are on their way to her as we speak, but you on the other hand..." Lady C laughed lightly.
“You know,” Shirley said quietly, “we really should meet for a drink some time – face to face.”
“I would enjoy that – but not yet, my friend, not yet. One thing – I know who sold the diaries in the first place, and I suspect you have unearthed that information as well.”
Nodding, Shirley said “I have, but I have not communicated that beyond my inner circle. We are watching closely – because she is here as well.”
“So I was led to understand – I am glad Agnes is among such a good group of friends. I’ll be in touch.”
Shirley heard the click and looked at her phone, before she quickly dialled a number.
“Penelope - are
was Madame, but you sort of interrupted something," Shirley laughed as she
heard Helen's voice.
"Sorry," despite herself Shirley smiled. “I need to speak to her.”
"So what is so urgent Madame?" Penny asked.
"Lady C has beaten us to the diaries."
“She just called me – apparently they are on their way to Agnes now. You and Helen should come here before the service tomorrow – if they arrive while someone else is in the same room…”
“Understood Madame – we will see you for breakfast.”
As she ended the call, the door opened and John slipped quietly in.
“I trust it was a good celebration,” Shirley said as she put her phone down.
“Oh – sorry, did I wake you?”
“No, I had a business call. Come to bed John – we have a busy day tomorrow.”
8.30 am CET
Chateau de Ros
“No, No, NO!”
The shout from inside the bedroom made both Paulie and Gus van Roon look over, Paulie adjusting the shoulder caps on her dress, and Gus tying the blue silk tie round his collar.
“Mom if I was you I’d give Pattycake a wide berth for at least a few minutes.” Liz shook her head as she came in and closed the door.
“Is she that bad?”
“You know Patricia - the more panicky she gets, the more things start to go wrong, the end result being a near breakdown.”
“So what is it this time?” Paulie asked as she rolled her eyes.
“Well,” Liz said as she counted off on her fingers, “her hair won’t stay in place, she can’t get her hat to sit right, there is the faintest of scuff marks on one of her shoes…do I need to go on?”
“No darling, I know your sister well enough to get a mental image.”
“Well Frieda is doing her best to calm her down, but if she doesn’t cool down soon I think we will need ask Karen to give her something to help.”
“So how does Frieda look?”
“Every inch the German aristocrat, she looks absolutely beautiful.”
“Is giggling as Pattycake has her meltdown.”
“Well at least two out of the three of them are alright,” Gus said as he handed round glasses of champagne. “To Pauline,” he made the toast.
“Well I’m glad that I’m nowhere near Pussy this morning,” Juliette said as she shook her head.
“That bad eh?” Ingrid turned round from checking her reflection in the mirror.
“So Nessa says.”
“How can a research physicist get so highly strung?” Carina shook her head. “You’d think by nature that she would be calm.”
“In her work she is,” Ingrid smiled, “it’s just her private life that can get out of control sometimes.”
“Anyway there is one lady who is ready…right Judith?”
“Yes Gramma,” Judith smiled as she sat quietly in her smart little dress, a large blue bow in her hair.
“Alright little lady, you be good for your Mama’s today.”
“Are the babies dressed Annie?” Cari asked as her partner walked in.
“Changed, fed, and asleep in the stroller. Time for me to change now…”
Catherine Fitzstuart walked slowly down the stairs, looking round as if she was expecting to see someone. Her husband had not got home until late, but the way he had smiled in his sleep told her all she needed to know.
What was worse was the news she had from London – someone had broken into the vaults of that toerag of a paper. Nobody had been able to find anything missing, but with HER coming back in all her painted glory, she felt as if she would have to take matters in her own hands again. Besides, none of her – male friends – could get over here without explanation. No, she’d have to take the initial steps herself.
She quickly walked down and along, hoping her research had been correct. And it was – as she opened a door, and found herself in a gun room. Catherine smiled as she selected a pistol, and slipped it into her handbag…
8.30 am BST
wish I was there," Catriona said as she paced up and down. Chateau de Ros
today would be where all the action was going to happen - and she was stuck in
London. While she trusted Shirley to have to have taken appropriate measures to
guard Agnes, she would feel reassured if she was there herself.
have accompanied the courier," she tried sitting down and buttering some
toast. "At least that way I could have kept an eye open." She had a bad feeling…
that?" she jumped as her telephone went off.
Cuthbertson," she answered.
"Oh hey Mike.” As she sat down, she said “how are things at Scotland Yard this Sunday?"
“Interesting – apparently, a group of masked women got into the archives of News International last night. Two guards knocked out. You would not know anything about that, would you?”
“Thought not,” Mike chuckled, “but for some reason it’s really got one of my DS’s spooked.”
“Oh? Which one?”
“Bennett – he’s not himself at the moment. When he heard, he made a call.”
“Mike – can you find out who he called?”
“I already did – does the name Catherine mean anything to you?”
“Shit,” Catriona whispered under her breath, “it does. Mike, I need a favour – a lift somewhere.”
9.30 am CET
Chateau de Ros
“Good morning everyone,” Colin said as he and Sue came in – only to be guided into a corner by Grace and Victoria.
“We need to talk,” Victoria said as she sat with them.
“What about,” Colin asked nervously.
"Look - I
have precisely 12 hours in London tomorrow before my flight to Sydney," Grace
looked serious. "Vicky and I think we need to gather as many of the family
together as we can at Rutland Street and to hold a big Pow Wow with you
Grace said quietly, “you have to face them sometime, better when I'm there to
too." Victoria nodded.
expected in the office you know?"
"After working all weekend Colin,” Grace said, “I'm sure they'll understand if you take a Monday off."
“In fact, I insist on it.”
“Son, I’ll clear it with your boss,” Donald said with a smile, “you have provided magnificent support to all of us. You need to get this straight before you are announced…”
Catherine stood by Donald, looking at the others. Grace Gresham – the woman who ran away, and then came back stronger. Victoria, Lady Milnford – she hardly knew her, but like her namesake her sister, she hated her because she was supporting the whore.
And then there was her… She could see a look of steel in her adoration of Colin. Someone to fear? No – another obstacle to clear from the way if need be…
“We’re not getting a choice, are we?”
“No you’re not – I’ll see you tomorrow.”
going to a rugby party darling?" Tamsin smiled as Kit put her glasses on
and tried to pour herself a cup of coffee.
alright while it was just beer,” Kit said quietly, “but the brandy chaser was
an evil idea."
you'll know better in the future."
"Yes I learned my lesson. I’ll be fine for today though…"
"So what is this I hear you had a fight with a French girl?" Tam laughed, "was she getting too close to John?"
“Oh dear – has the fighting McAdam spirit come out,” Agnes said as she joined them.
“Well, she was trying to get to know him better – and to be fair, the boys from next door tried to stop her – but I had to step in eventually and convince her she needed to change her mind.”
Shaking her head, Agnes poured herself some coffee as she saw Catherine on the opposite side of the room. “She looks as if she’s ready to kill someone,” Tamsin said quietly.
At another table, Eleanor and Veronica were also watching her carefully.
Heather gone already?" Alexandra said as she came in, looking the happiest
she had all weekend as she adjusted her jacket.
up trying to help calm your Aunt Puss down."
a truly LOVELY day for a Christening Mom," the younger woman beamed as she
sat down and took a glass of orange juice.
good mood isn't just because Tommy has left already is it?"
how could you even think such a thing?" Sands held a hand to her chest as
she looked at Sandy in mock horror.
can you be so happy?" George grunted.
"Well for one thing brother dearest,” Sands said with a smile, “I wasn't up till some ungodly hour doing nasty things to Katy."
“No, you have a point,” George said, “but has something else happened?”
“Has something else happened,” Jo said as she sat with Holly.
“Well, I’m going to be staying with Sandy and Heather for a few weeks, while Tommy is in Japan,” Holly said with a smile.
“And with the kids as well, a built in babysitter?”
“Listen,” Jo said, “when we get back to the city, there is a matter I think needs to be dealt with, in relation to you and Sands.”
“Yeah – did you hear she was robbed?”
“No – and no, I didn’t do it…”
“All right, Heather,” Frieda said as she came in, and closed the door.
“So we don’t need to find Karen?”
“No – I think
she’s going to be fine… Gus, Paulie,
there is something I need to tell you," Frieda fidgeted.
what is that?" Gus grinned.
Serena Witt, Leonie… and Serena's Mother."
is here?" Gus's usual joviality vanished as he looked over.
Frieda said, “I know the Witt's are the black sheep of your family Gus, but I
see a bit of Serena on the young mothers’ circuit...and well I like her."
I haven't spoken to my niece in many long years," Gus shook his head.
and Nessa told me a bit of the history, but just for today can you forgive past
"Gus my love it’s been a weekend of reconciliation," Paulie looked in her husband’s eyes, "maybe it's time you and Jacks buried the hatchet."
Gus sat down and rubbed his eyes for a moment, before he said “Well, it has been a long time, and you’re right – it is time to let bygones be bygones… Does Augie know?”
“Yes – and he’s open to welcoming her as well. She married for love – what happened after that was not her fault, and she had to look after Serena as well.”
“Yeah, you’re right – let’s see what happens, all right?”
“My apologies for interrupting you,” Valeria said as she walked to where Tamsin, Kit and Agnes were sitting, “Agnes, there is a courier here who wishes to see you.”
“Me? Who would have something delivered here for me?”
“Well, if you will come with me…”
“We’ll come as well,” Mandy said as she, Paula, Olivia and Victoria Gordon came over, “if that is all right with you Darling.”
Catherine watched as she slowly sipped her coffee. How easy it would be to end her misery now – but it would ruin Donald. No, she must bide her time…
As the group came into the entrance hall, Agnes saw Shirley coming down with John, Terri and Rudi. A smartly dressed young man stood in the doorway, smiling as he said “Miss Agnes McAdam?”
“That’s me,” Agnes said, “The Duchess de Ros tells me you have something for me?”
“I do – if you will sign here,” he said as he held out a pad, and then handed to Agnes a large padded envelope. As Valeria showed him out, Terri said “what is it Agnes?”
“I’m not sure,” Agnes said as she opened the top, and then stared inside.
“Oh my god,” she whispered as she looked at the others.
“Aggie? Are you all right?”
“Tami, Terri – could I possibly have a word with both of you? In private? Forgive me – I’ll explain everything to you girls later.”
“Of course – Valeria?”
“Use the office you were in yesterday – the Minister has not surfaced yet,” she said as the trio walked off, Shirley nodding to Penny and Helen as they came in.
“They’ve arrived,” Penny whispered when she came over.
“They have – let us see what happens next…”
“Oh – good morning Luke darling.”
happier Kylie?" Luke asked as he sat with the young designer at one of the
really...and I'm not looking forward to the flight."
"So who is
she?" Luke whispered.
don't tell anyone..."
won't tell, but do you want to share your troubles?"
love with Anna."
she said softly, "darling she and I have had a little affair going
behind Chet's back."
"Yes," Kylie shook her head. "Anna and I are both bi, but I think this means a lot more to me than it does to her."
“Your first time?”
Kylie looked over and slowly nodded.
“May I offer some advice? Talk to someone who may know how you feel.”
“Such as you darling?”
“Oh no,” Luke said with a smile, “and besides, Jack and I are with my parents today. No – I’ll get someone to come and talk to you…”
“What is in the package,” Tami asked as she and Terri sat opposite Agnes. They watched as she slowly put the package on the table, and drew out a series of brown leather bound volumes.
“What are they,” Terri said as Tamsin stared at them. “It… It’s not them, is it?”
“Oh yes it is Tam,” Agnes said quietly, “My diaries. All of them up to just before the story broke.”
“Your diaries? I don’t understand,” Terri said quietly.
“Neither do I - I’d always assumed these were destroyed in the fire at our flat Tam,” Agnes said as she withdrew a short note from the package and looked at it.
“Well clearly they weren’t Aggie,” Tamsin fingered one of the volumes, “you know I always was fascinated by these things, but I never had the courage to dare read them.”
“No,” Agnes said quietly as she read the note, and put it in her bag.
“Did you put EVERYTHING in these Aggie?” the queen asked.
“Yes, including what you and Rudy were getting up to behind the boathouse at Esperance.”
“Well thank God my parents never saw them,” Terri laughed.
“Oh Lord I’d forgotten that,” Aggie shook her head and laughed as she picked one of the volumes up, and glanced at an entry.
“Oh,” Agnes said as she closed the book, “something a member of the government probably hopes has been erased from all memory.”
“At your…place of work shall I call it?”
“No darling,” Aggie laughed again, “something that happened at Oxford, and it’s not sexual, just very amusing and highly embarrassing for the individual concerned.”
“I take it though that you did record a lot of what you did at Countess Sylvie’s though, and with whom?” Therese asked.
“Yes,” Aggie nodded, “several of these people are dead, but a lot of them are still very much with us.”
“So why have the diaries been returned to you Aggie? And why just now?”
“I don’t know Tam, but I will feel a lot happier if we can put these somewhere VERY safe while I think this all out.”
“I’ll ask Valeria if I can put them in her safe,” Terri nodded.
“That will do for now, but long term these need to be kept out of reach of everyone,” Agnes said quietly. “Terri, I need to ask a very large favour of you, and ask you to trust me.”
“And that favour is?”
“When you leave this weekend, take these with you,” Agnes said as she put them back into the package, “and keep them safe. I will leave instructions in my will for their disposal if anything happens to me.”
“Of course,” Terri said, “but why?”
“We have thought for twenty years these were destroyed,” Agnes said, “but they were not – and that article quoted these diaries. That meant the paper had them, which means…”
“Which means whoever robbed you, and set fire to the bureau, took these at the same time,” Tamsin said.
“And they never found out who it was… If they find out, I want these where they can never be taken again.”
“I understand – leave it with me,” Terri said as she looked at Agnes. “But why now?”
“I wish I knew,” Agnes said as Tamsin looked closely at her.
"Hey back," the older girl smiled at Sarah as she collected some food, "all ready?"
Sarah said, “It's going to be a lovely Christening.”
you calmed down yet?" Sarah whispered.
"Yes, now we no longer are holding the stuff. I just saw your uncle Gus – he was talking to your dad in low whispers."
“Yeah – some family history is about to be raised.”
“Oh – who.”
“My aunt Jacqueline – they have not seen each other for some time, but her daughter and Frieda have got to know each other, so she invited Serena and little Leonie – and Jacqueline.”
“I didn’t know you had an Aunt Jacqueline.”
“Mum and Dad don’t talk about her much. She married someone her mum and dad – and Uncle Augie – did not think was suitable, and she walked out.”
“Choosing love over family? The opposite to Klaus in some ways.”
“I know – this could get interesting…”
9 am BST
Mike, I'm afraid this literally could be a matter of life and death,"
Catriona spoke as she strapped herself into one of the passenger seats of the
thank Martin more than me," the policeman smiled, "it's his
I'm extremely grateful Lord Milnford."
worry about it Miss Cuthbertson,” Martin said as he turned from the pilot’s
seat, “Vicky and the girls are out there anyway, no-one is going to think it
suspicious that I drop in."
you for coming as well Sherry," Cat smiled as Mrs Babbage climbed in.
"Oh come on,” Mike’s wife said. “It will be nice to see Aggie after all these years."
“So any idea where they will be?”
“By the time we get there, they should be at a christening. We can join them for lunch.”
“So what is this really about?” Mike whispered as the plane moved off.
“I’ll explain everything when we get there…”
10 am CET
Chateau de Ros
seem to be bucking the fashion," Katy smiled as she glanced round the
so?" her grandmother asked.
every other woman is wearing a large 'picture' hat, this little pillbox stands
out as being different."
"I can see
what you are getting at now," Katherine smiled as Mick O'Ryan and his
"You look so Wow! Orion," Katy said in honest admiration. The Irish model was wearing a dark blue trouser suit, with a light blue blouse underneath, and black heels, with a black beret, while her father wore a new suit as he looked proudly on.
“Well, I have to be myself,” Orion said with a smile.
“So any news Mermaid?” Shirley whispered as they gathered in the room.
“Only that the diaries have arrived, and I think Terri just made sure they got locked in Valeria’s safe.”
“Well that should keep them secured for now.” She looked at Agnes as she talked to Paula. “Our concern for now must be to protect Agnes.”
“Someone has had the foulest looks on her face when she was sure people weren’t looking at her,” Veronica spoke, “I’ve seen looks like that before and they never portend anything good.”
“I know,” Shirley nodded as Caroline and Diana came over.
a word with both the Gendarmerie and the local police to be aware we might have
a situation developing," Diana spoke quietly.
to keep this from even remotely affecting the Christening." Caroline
“Agreed,” Shirley said, “whatever we do has to be… Abby? What’s wrong?”
just checked the gun room," Abigail looked concerned, "a pistol is
Diana shook her head, "I've always told Valeria that all Jacque's
collection should be kept safely under lock and key."
"I think it's
time that we availed ourselves of your late husband’s weapons Diana."
Eleanor looked round.
agree...Round up some of our friends Abby darling and meet me in the gun room
in ten minutes please."
As Catherine watched Donald put on his jacket, she was thinking over the events of the night and day. First the break in, and now Agnes the whore gets a surprise package. And the word was said package was now in the safe of the Countess de Ros.
"How could she get those damn diaries?" Catherine racked her brain. With this many people around it wasn't going to be easy. Who did she know could crack a safe? Who might want those diaries out of Agnes's hands as much as she did?
“Ready,” Donald said with a smile as she turned round.
“Ready,” she said as she smiled and stood up, holding her purse, “let’s go.”
“What’s the emergency,” Jo said as she and Carina came into the room with Janice.
“There is little time to explain,” Shirley said, “but we have reason to believe there is a clear and present danger to Agnes McAdam.”
“Who from,” Cari said quietly. “Actually, scratch that, I can guess – but why?”
“We’ll explain later,” Caroline said, “but for now, arm up with something small and suitable from the room. Diana will clear it with Valeria – but for the love of the Goddess, be discrete – local law enforcement are aware of a threat, so they cannot know we are protecting as well.”
“I got the message,” Heather said as she came in, closing the door behind her. “Arm up?”
“Yes – not Sandy, she needs to watch the kids today,” Diana said as Eleanor selected a Luger.
“If the person of interest makes a move on Agnes, prevent her,” Shirley said. “I want at least two of us to have eyes on her at all times.”
“What about Helen and Penny?”
“I’ve briefed them – they are watching as well, but do not need a gun.”
Jo nodded as she loaded a Magnum. “Understood – extract and prevent with minimal fuss?”
“Precisely – let’s go to work.”
Over the English Channel
we can all do with some of this," Sherry Babbage retrieved a flask from
inside her bag, "good strong coffee."
know I can do with some." Catriona smiled.
a cup as well," Martin Milnford spoke.
"Here Mike, pass him this," Sherry passed her husband a cup. "Anyone wants cream or sugar just say please."
“Okay Cat,” Mike whispered quietly, “what have you not told me?”
“I know who sold the diaries to the press – and seeing that name made a lot of other things suddenly make sense,” Catriona said as she held the mug, “but the bigger problem is this person must also have been the mystery burglar to get them.”
“And that woman is in Rosville?”
Nodding, Catriona said “and the reason I have to get there fast.”
do you think they will say to me Colin?" Sue spoke softly as they got off
the bus at the church.
not sure,” Colin said, “but at least you'll have Grace and me, as well as Vicky
and Martin on your side."
God I'm hoping that I'm not about to create another disaster though?"
think Grace will at least ensure everyone keeps a civil tongue in their
pretty sure she will...I've only known her a short while, but I've learned
she's not someone who takes any nonsense."
her being a teacher," Colin laughed.
so," Sue looked round, “so do you know any of these German's?"
of people I recognise, but no one I really know very well."
hope no one asks who I am? We are
gatecrashing a little."
"Well Gus van Roon invited us both personally."
“I just feel as if we’re gatecrashing…”
Serena Witt smiled as she held Leonie’s hand, the young girl wearing a floral print dress while her mother was in a blue coat dress. “Mom, we were invited by Frieda – we’re not gatecrashing.”
Jacqueline looked round, recognising one or two people as she said “Still, I wonder if…”
“Jacqueline? Is that really you?”
The older woman turned, putting a hand through her brunette hair as she looked at the elegantly dressed woman.
“Tracy? Tracy Richmond, is that really you?”
“It is, Jacqueline,"
Tracy van Roon said as she kissed the tall brunette.
my brother here?"
talking to the priest."
he react when he heard?"
Augie..." Tracy smiled, "I'm happy though that you are with the
family for this occasion."
Serena has become a friend of Frieda's."
"So I had heard...and
I see Leonie is a doll."
biased," Jacqueline smiled. "but yes."
grandmothers should be."
“We’ll head in, see if some of the other kids are here,” Serena said as she walked on with Leonie.
Jacqueline said, “how are Blair and Chet doing?"
Blair has just finished her first year at Cooper Union...she wants to be an
Chet is entering his senior year in the fall, and he dates a young New York
girl who is part genius, and part emerging top model."
"She sounds impressive."
“She is – she’s on a scholarship that covers all fees through medical school as well. So – ready to come in?”
“Are Gus and Paulie already in there?”
As Tracy nodded she asked “did you ever hear from him again?”
“No – but I don’t want to talk about him. Not today.”
Judith called out as she spotted her friend.
Judit," the other young child replied as they hugged each other.
Judith," Serena stroked the little one’s hair.
"Hey, didn't expect to see you here," Carina kissed the other young Mum.
“We’re surprised as well, but Frieda made the invitation. Mom’s outside talking to Tracy now.”
remember standing outside that church near the Houses of Parliament when I
got to London that last time, looking at all the people in their smart clothes
as they arrived for something like this," Sue shook her head as she looked
round the church, "God was I jealous."
seen me Colin you'd have understood. I had on all the clothes I owned, an old
pair of jeans with a ripped knee, a T Shirt, an old sweater with a couple of
holes, and this dirty old anorak...No socks, just an old pair of training shoes
that were too small for my feet really."
just envied that people actually had brand new clothes. I don't think I'd ever
worn anything new, always hand me downs, or things that had been donated to
social services. maybe the odd thing that whoever my foster mother at the time was
had bought at a rummage sale or in a charity shop. Even my bra and pants were
can't imagine anything that terrible." Colin shook his head.
"A couple of people thought I was begging, they gave me a couple of quid. I bought a pair of socks with the money...I'll always remember those, they were the first brand new thing I'd ever had."
“Now – here we are, and I still feel as if I’m that teenager,” Sue said quietly.
“Not any more,” Colin said quietly. “You’ve grown from that, blossomed…”
hang out with the Bullingdon Club guys when you were at Oxford Colin?"
Donald asked as he and the others joined them while they stood outside the
sins," Colin smiled, "and as much as Sue has several embarrassing
stories to tell of herself, I do have a few of my own thanks to them."
Oxford...bad combination," Donald laughed gently.
Harrow and Cambridge is much better," the Duke of Lardarn interrupted
them. "And yes Donald I was a member of the Bullingdon as well in my
chauvinist pigs," Agnes laughed.
your little dining club was much different except that it was all female."
comment," Agnes laughed some more, "at least we didn't go in for
often," Tom grinned broadly.
"Oh what I
missed by not going to university," Paula joined the laughter.
"From what I remember darling we did our own share of misbehaving in Paris," Mandy drawled.
Dame Margaret said as she joined them. "Sue…
just for my information, how did you escape the drugs and the pimps on the
there was never any way that I was going to give any bastard most of what I
earned.” Sue said quietly, then
continued “A lot of bastards tried to make me their bitch, but no way it was
ever going to happen."
never try to hook you on drugs?"
again no way that was ever going to happen...Even though I was little I
remembered what my Mum was like when she was spaced out on smack."
were able to resist?"
Sue grinned, "it's one of the few things I'm genuinely proud of myself
for...I've never taken any drugs, AND I never even took a single puff of a
"Well considering neither Dame Margaret, nor myself, can kick the habit, good on you," Glenda said admiringly.
“Well, this is another first in a long time for me,” Agnes said as she took her seat with Tamsin and Kit. Mandy, Will, Paula, Tom, Stephen, Eve and Cassandra sat behind her – Archie, Victoria and Sam, in front, and Olivia with her family in front of them. “Is this an honour guard or something?”
“Just friends surrounding you with love,” Shirley said as she sat behind her with John and Maisha.
“Yeah – what I need,” Agnes said with a smile.
As Catherine took her seat, she looked round. This was too crowded, too open – she needed to find a way to get Agnes on her own – and in the meantime, her contact may be able to retrieve the diaries again, while everyone was here…
sideways at his wife, "was it possible that Catherine had been the one who
betrayed Aggie all those years ago?"
"Surely not," he told himself, "whatever I might think she isn't that evil...Is she?"
van Roon, this is plain stupid," Paulie whispered in her husband’s ear,
"Jacqueline and the girls on Frieda's side of the church rather than with
their own family?"
technically they are Frieda's guests."
"Augustus if you don't put this right this second, then I may never speak to you again."
Sighing, Gus stood up and walked over. “Jacqueline?”
“Uncle Gus,” Jacqueline said quietly, “how are you?”
“Good, good – please, come and join us.”
“Are you sure?”
“I have been – counselled – that we should put things behind us. Please – join us.”
"So who is watching at the house?"
"Kay is Eleanor," Shirley whispered, "she wasn't invited so she volunteered to keep her eyes open back there."
“Well, she’s not the only one…”
Kylie I officially hate you," Nikki whispered.
letting the Clark sisters get to those amazing polka dot dresses with the
matching gloves, and not me."
look very chic don't they?"
"Suzie Clark is already big competition without her having this advantage."
“Jealous? Very unlike you Kitten.”
Anna smiled as she said “oh yes it is Kittycat…”
"Well here goes," Alex adjusted his vestments, "Showtime."
Walking out, he stood in front of the church as he said “welcome – welcome, one and all…”
Rosville," Martin spoke, "starting my approach."
down soon." Mike Babbage turned his head to speak.
"It's a little local strip folks so it might be a bit bumpy, you better strap yourselves in again."
As Cat did so, she fidgeted nervously, counting the seconds until they landed and taxied to where Victoria was waiting. As he brought the plane to a stop, Mike unbuckled and went to open the door, Martin getting out first.
Martin why did you radio for me to meet you here?" Victoria asked as she
kissed her husband.
Mike Babbage asked me to deliver him and these two good ladies."
Sherry...what the hell?" Victoria looked quizzical.
before I explain Vicky, have you met Catriona Cuthbertson?"
"No I'm not sure I have," Vicky extended a hand, "but of course I know who you are?"
“Pleasure – and
thanks for coming to meet us,” she said as they walked to her car. As they moved off, she finally said "So
has anything happened yet at the chateau Lady Milnford?"
Miss Cuthbertson? The guests going to the Christening all left earlier."
saying that in relation to my brother?"
"No Agnes McAdam."
“Agnes? Well she apparently got a package today, but a few people are a bit jumpy around her.”
“Where is she now?”
“At the christening, surrounded by friends. Mike, what’s going on?”
“We’ll explain when we get to the chateau…”
Chateau de Ros
“Make sure everything is ready for when the party returns,” the butler said as he watched the staff working – not noticing the fair haired man as he slipped down the corridor, looking carefully from side to side as he did so. He had received the call two hours earlier – the woman was someone he had done work for before, but this was a simpler task than those times.
The celebrations at Chateau de Ros had been public knowledge for some time, and the fact they had needed extra staff also well known, so slipping into the chateau had not been a problem. He was banking on not been noticed – and as he entered the business office, he knew everyone else would be in the house.
The safe was there – an old fashioned floor standing one, and not the most difficult to handle. Closing the door quietly, he passed the large doors that opened onto the centre courtyard, and knelt by the safe door.
From his pocket, he took what looked like a set of phone earbuds – except for the rubber sucker, which he placed by the dial of the safe before putting the ear buds in. Slowly, carefully, he started to turn the dial…
“Good afternoon – very slowly, stand up with your hands in the air.”
He stopped for a moment, turning his head to see the blonde standing there, the pistol pointed at him. For a moment, he considered his options – and then drew the pistol from his own shirt and pointed it at her, smiling as he said “I think not, Mademoiselle. I think you will lower your gun…”
“No – you will lower yours.”
Kay looked at Veronica as she stood in the window, her service pistol levelled, her stance firm as she aimed at the intruder. “Move away from the safe, hands behind your head.”
He looked at both of them, before he lowered the pistol to the floor, then put his hands behind his head as Kay and Veronica moved in. As Veronica used a zip tie to secure his wrists behind her back, Kay picked up the gun in her gloved hands and put it on the desk.
“You are not police?”
“No we’re not,” Veronica said quietly as she forced him to his feet, “and that should really scare you right about now.”
“What are we going to do with him,” Kay asked quietly.
“Take him somewhere quiet and ask a few questions. Stay here Kay – just in case.”
Kay nodded as Veronica dragged him into the courtyard…
"The advantage of a wine chateau is that it has a plentiful supply of quiet, dark, cellars," Veronica indicated with her gun where she wished the man to go.
“I demand my rights are met,” the man said as they walked in, Veronica closing the door behind herself.
“Shut up and sit down,” Veronica said as she indicated a barrel.
“Oh you really took a stupid pill today,” Veronica said as she shook her head – and then kicked him in the groin, the thief falling to his knees. Walking behind him, she secured his ankles, before knocking him out with a blow to his neck.
As he fell to the floor, she took out a mobile phone and dialled a number. “Eleanor? Someone tried – inform the right people.”
“Go in peace, Amen.”
The congregation stood as Alex walked down the aisle, followed by Pussy and Frieda, Pussy carrying Pauline in her christening robe.
As they made their way out, Christine paused to put her gloves back on just outside the church gates.
“That was a beautiful service Kit.”
“I beg your pardon,” Christine said as she turned and looked at Catherine Fitzstuart.
“I said it was a beautiful service Kit – I hope we can talk a little about…”
Donald I don't like you," Christine smiled, "and I haven't given you
permission to call me by my Christian name.
So if you wish to address me, then address me as Knight."
In a flash,
Catherine’s face hardened as she whispered "Why you..."
"I'm not a
Sir, I'm not a Dame, I'm not a Madame, so if you wish to address me then use correct
clear to me you don't wish to talk civilly, so I bid you a good morning"
Kit said as she turned round and walked away.
"Donald did you just see what that little bitch did to me?"
“She’s right, my dear,” Donald said quietly, “as the Knight of the Red Knife, she needs to be addressed by her title unless instructed otherwise.”
“So you take the side of that whore’s bastard…”
“That’s enough Catherine,” Donald said quietly, “do not embarrass me or yourself any further…”
did my niece just put Catherine in her place?" Agnes laughed.
miss something?" Tam asked.
calling her Kit, and Christine firmly told her that if she wished to talk to
her then she must call her Knight."
"Oh I bet
that went down well?" Tam winced slightly.
correct though," Tom smiled, "strictly speaking one should only call
"I know, but as a rule she hates that formality," her Mother shook her head.
“As a rule, she doesn’t deal with people like Catherine,” Agnes said quietly…
“Acknowledged – maintain position until we return,” Eleanor said as she ended the call and walked to where Tom Callaghan was standing with Janice and Adam.
“Intruder at the chateau – we have him secured.”
"Someone go fetch Jeanne - If we are going to interrogate this man, then let’s do this legally," Tom said quietly, "her Interpol role gives her full legal standing."
“She’s talking to Henri and Janine – I’ll get her to the chateau ASAP,” Adam said as he walked quickly over.
“Look at them darlings,” Mandy said as she stood with Will, Donald and Catherine, “they look so wonderful together.”
“Who, David and Judy? I didn’t know they had got engaged.”
“I don’t think they have, darling,” Mandy drawled, “I meant Jack and Nicola.”
“Yeah – they do look very happy,” Donald said as Catherine stared at the young couple. “So do David and Judy, of course…”
Donald was surprised to find his arm grabbed as he was dragged to a quiet corner.
did you know that Jack is engaged to be married to that little American slut of
his." Catherine narrowed her eyes viciously.
I did, Jack told me weeks ago...I thoroughly approve, Pepsi is a delightful
girl, and she and Jack are very much in love."
you? and you never told me?"
Donald said quietly, “I was asked to keep it private."
"God it’s bad enough that one day an idiot like Jack will inherit Ordford,” Catherine almost shouted, “but that his Marchioness will be a little American nobody!"
“Aunt Catherine, I think you are seriously misjudging both of them.”
Catherine whipped round to see David and Judy standing there. “First, Jack is apparently heading for a first,” David continued.
“And secondly, Pepsi is a talented and wise young woman, who puts family above all else,” Judy continued, “and is a model of discretion.”
“Come on,” Donald said as he took Catherine by the arm, “let’s get the bus back with the others.”
“Is your aunt all right, Dave,” Judy said, “she’s beginning to sound a lot like Allison Graham did.”
“Yeah, I know,” David said quietly, “let me talk to mum and dad…”
Chateau de Ros
“Veronica,” Adam said as he got out of the car, Jeanne getting out as well, “where is he?”
“He’s in one of the cellars,” Veronica said, “I had to restrain and knock him out, but he hasn’t come round yet.”
“What exactly happened,” Jeanne said as they walked up the stairs.
“Kay – Penny’s friend – came and told me she thought she had seen one of the staff sneak into Valeria’s office. I discovered him trying to open the safe, stopped him, and made sure he is here for questioning by the appropriate authorities.”
“Well, I understand why Valeria wants to keep this quiet for now,” Jeanne said, “let’s go and talk to this gentleman.”
“I’ll take you to him,” Valeria said as they walked into the chateau, while a second car pulled up.
“DADDY!” Ambrosia and Antonia ran down to greet Lord Milnford as he got out from the front passenger seat.
“Hey you two – enjoying your surprise trip,” Martin said as he hugged them both.
“Come on in – the church party should be back soon,” Antonia said as they led him by the hand.
“So this is the headquarters of the de Ros wine business,” Mike Babbage said as he and Sherry looked round. Cat nodded and then smiled as she saw a tall man walk down.
“These must be your guests, Lady Milnford,” he said with a bow, “I have heard that the Countess is on her way back now with the first of the guests. If you will follow me, we have refreshment available.”
“Tell me,” Cat said, “have there been any incidents in their absence?”
The butler stopped and looked before he said “we have had an intruder. Inspector Jeanne Marais of Interpol is currently being taking to talk to him.”
“May I possibly join her,” Mike said as he showed his warrant card, “as a professional courtesy?”
“Of course, Chief Inspector. Allow me to take you first for the refreshments I mentioned earlier, and then I will take you to her.”
“Thank you,” Catriona said as they walked into the chateau…
“Well, here we are,” Frieda said as she and Pussy led the two families in behind Valeria and Guy, “are you all right now Pussy?”
“yeah – I have no idea why I reacted the way I did earlier,” Pussy said as she held Pauline.
“Well, it’s over now – and she can be the centre of attention for everyone,” Maria said as she tickled her granddaughter’s chin.
“Will you excuse me a moment,” Valeria said as she saw a tall man leaving with her butler, and heading to the wine cellars.
The man looked up as his captor returned, alongside a thin brunette who fished a wallet from her purse.
“This woman has assaulted me – I demand she be arrested?”
“Is this true, Commander?”
“I may have had to use physical force to restrain him,” Veronica said with a smile, “but no more than necessary.”
“Well, formalities first – I am Inspector Jeanne Marais of Interpol,” Jeanne said as she showed him her card, “and this is Commander Veronica Joyce, US Coast Guard Intelligence – and a guest at the event here, such as myself. She and a number of others offered to stay behind this morning to provide additional security, given the guest list here – and from what I hear, this was a good move.”
There was a knock on the door, and as Veronica opened it Mike Babbage walked in. “Forgive the interruption, Inspector,” he said as he showed her his warrant card, “Detective Chief Inspector Mike Babbage, London Met. Would you object if I witness the interrogation? I may have some further information to provide that is pertinent.”
“Of course – Commander Joyce, USCGI. She was one of the people who apprehended the gentleman here.”
Mike nodded to Veronica as he stood against the wall. “Let’s start with a name,” Jeanne said quietly, “now, you can tell us, or we can get one of the local gendarmerie to come in and see if they can identify you. Given you were caught red handed attempting to open the safe of one of the local major land owners, and while her granddaughter is celebrating her eighteenth birthday with most of the most famous models in the world, I suspect they may take a very dim view on it.”
“Of course,” Veronica said with a smile, “we could always dust the safe for prints – might pick up something.”
“Possibly,” Jeanne said with a smile. “So – name?”
“Well now Claude,” Jeanne said with a smile. “Let me ask a very simple question – why did you try to open the safe of the Duchess de Ros?”
“You said it,” he smiled, “lot of over famous people here. I decided to take a chance.”
“So you’re a chancer? You must have known there would be additional security here.”
“It didn’t stop me getting there, did it?”
“True,” Veronica said, “but have you considered the possibility that you were allowed to get there?”
Claude suddenly looked at her as Jeanne said “well, did you?”
“We were warned someone may attempt to extract items from the protection of the Countess de Ros,” Veronica said, “and allowed the possibility of someone doing that. And you, Claude, you walked right into it.”
Claude mumbled something in French under his breath – and then looked sharply up as Jeanne smiled.
“So tell me,” she said as she squatted next to him, “who is the bitch who called you today to do this?”
Claude shook his head as he said “no – she would kill me?”
“May I ask a question?”
“Please do, Inspector,” Jeanne said as Mike stepped forward.
“Tell me,” Mike said with a smile, “when you retrieved the items you were told to take, what were you to do?”
“Leave them to be collected in a locker at the train station…”
“And were you told not to read them?”
Claude suddenly looked up as Mike smiled. “Thank you – Inspector, this man was hired to steal the contents of a package delivered to a guest this morning. I am not at liberty to say who, or what the contents are, but accept my word on this.”
Jeanne looked at Claude as he muttered again, and said “he just confirmed that. Thank you. Veronica, would you ask the local law enforcement officials to come in please?”
“So when do you head back Agnes,” Paula asked as they walked back into the Chateau.
“Later tonight I guess – I’ll have to find out from the… Cat? What in the name of all that is holy are you doing here?”
“I heard this was the place to be seen,” Catriona said with a smile, “and when I was invited to come over for the afternoon, how could I refuse?”
“Invited? Who with?”
“There you are Aggie – girl you look good?”
“Sherry? Good lord, is Mike here as well?”
“He’s somewhere around – so come on, what’s happened this weekend?” As she dragged Agnes to the corner, Tamsin said “Cat! Does Agnes know you are here?”
“I just surprised her. And this must be the Knight of the Red Knife. An honour.”
“Catherine, meet Catriona Cuthbertson – almost the girl next door when we were growing up.”
“Pleasure – and call me Kit. So you’re an old friend of Mum’s?”
“And of mine.” Cat smiled at the sound of the deep voice as she said “Shirley Xavier – could not wait until next week to play our game?”
“Oh, we’ve played together far too long for that to matter,” Shirley said as she embraced Cat. “But seriously, what brings you here?”
“Gatecrashing a party I think – a christening?”
“Yes – Patricia and Frieda van Roon’s daughter. Would you like to meet them?”
“Perhaps later – Maisha, ready to lose on Tuesday?”
“I think not Aunt Cat - but it is good to see you here,” Maisha said with a smile. “May I introduce my friends, Ama Jameson and Nylala West. They – well, they were like me at one time.”
“I understand, and it is a pleasure to meet both of you,” Cat said with a smile. “Why don’t we all go and get a drink…”
“So our granddaughter will have the best of both her American and European heritage.” Maria von Melz said with a smile as she held Pauline in her arms.
“She’s so pretty,” little Leonie looked up.
“Yes she is darling,” Pussy said as she lifted up her cousin’s daughter so she could get a closer look.
“Can I look too,” Judith tugged at Frieda’s dress.
“Of course you can Judith.” Frieda lifted her up to look as well. “She sleeps like Mags,” she said with a smile.
“And who are these two delightful young ladies?” Klaus von Mettenheim asked as he came over.
“Uncle Klaus, this is the Princess Judith von Furstenheim,” Frieda laughed as Judith suddenly went shy and buried her head in her shoulder.
“And this is…well technically she’s my second cousin,” Puss smiled, “Leonie Witt.”
“Well I’m charmed to meet two such beautiful young ladies,” the Baron said as he took each child’s hand and kissed it.
“So who is the charmer?” Tracy van Roon whispered in Paulie’s ear.
“The Baron von Mettenheim, he’s Maria’s uncle…and his reputation as a lady’s man stands comparison with Guy’s.”
“Well I think he just made two new conquests,” Tracy laughed as the older gentleman walked towards the food with two little girls reaching up and holding a hand.
“Hello Orlanda, Hello George,” Sandy smiled as they joined her. “How is Jennifer enjoying herself today?”
“Well she nodded off during the Christening…Alex said that she was just following in a long tradition of him putting people to sleep while he is conducting a service,” George laughed softly as the toddler rubbed her eyes.
“Oh dear…But since I used to do just the same when I was a child…”
“So where is Heather?” Orlanda asked.
“Where do you think…She’s checking her damn computer.”
“That sounds like Heather.”
“She’s also changing her shoes. She broke her own rule about wearing unbroken in high heels.”
“Ugggh she has my sympathies,” Orlanda shook her head.
“Listen – so you know, we’ve invited Holly to travel with us over the next few weeks.”
“Oh? Tommy otherwise occupied?”
“Japan – need I say more?”
“No I guess not – well, she can help with Sands, can’t she?”
“So who is your Aunt Cat Maisha?” Nyala asked.
“Well other than someone who cheats at tennis,” Maisha said as she looked over, “she is one of London’s most famous barristers.”
“She and Aunt Shirley seem like old friends.” Ama watched the two women smiling as they talked.
“I know they were at prep school together.”
“That is a few years ago.”
“Why do you say she cheats at tennis Maisha?” Nyala asked.
“Because I’m a better player than Aunt Shirley,” Maisha said as she sips her drink, “Uncle John is a better player than Aunt Cat, but when we play doubles we can NEVER beat them.”
“Okay I get it,” Nyala giggled.
“Why is she such a famous lawyer?” Ama asked.
“Because she’s been the lawyer who has represented several people in trials where she proved there has been a miscarriage of justice.”
“Now that impresses me,” Ama looked keenly at the blonde woman, “she must be a formidable lady in court.”
“Well I spent a few days at her office and watching in court, she certainly works very hard.”
“Sherry darling, what the hell are you doing here?”
“That is what I’d rather like to know Paula,” she said as she kissed the Duchess.
“Oh?” Tom asked as he kissed his old Oxford friend, “what do you mean?”
“Well no one is telling me anything, but before breakfast this morning Mike told me that we were going to fly to France with Cat Cuthbertson, and that it was to help my old roommate.”
“To help Aggie?”
“That’s what he said.”
“So how did you get here so quick?”
“Martin Milnford flew us out from Northolt Paula.”
“Is this anything to do with the package she got today,” Paula asked.
“Ask him – Mike, where did you get to?”
“Sorry – I was side tracked. Paula, Tom – long time no see.”
“Well, you’re kept busy,” Tom said as they shook hands. “Sherry was saying you came over to help Aggie?”
“Yeah – where is she…”
“Look at her, revelling in the attention,” Catherine hissed, “Why did she have to be here? Why did we have to be here?”
“Because virtually none of us saw that result coming,” Donald said as he sipped his drink.
wouldn't surprise me if she organised the whole thing," Catherine ranted,
"I bet she organised it so the Leave side won so she could get you out
here this weekend."
darling,” Donald said quietly, “do you know exactly how insane that
has always said how clever she bloody is Donald, I bet you she planned this
"Catherine I know there are some doctors here, are you sure you shouldn't...?"
“Should not what,” Catherine said as she stormed off.
“Is everything all right, Sir?”
“Colin,” Donald said quietly, “find Victoria Gordon – tell her I need to see her urgently.”
“Someone tried to open the safe?”
“I’m afraid so Valeria,” Jeanne said, “the local gendarmerie now have him in custody, but he did admit he was asked to steal the diaries.”
“And who employed him for this task?”
“That he would not say, but some people have arrived today who may know.”
“Ah yes – the visitors from London. You must introduce me Jeanne.”
“Will you excuse me a moment,” Maisha said as she saw Agnes walking out into the courtyard with Penny, and followed them out.
“Donald – what’s wrong,” Victoria said as she walked quickly over.
“Vicky – I’m worried about Catherine. I know she’s on edge with Agnes here, but something’s seems to be driving her… Well…”
“More over the edge than usual?”
Donald nodded as Victoria said “we’d all noticed. It seems to have got worse – her reaction to Kit’s rebuke was over the limit.”
“Can you and the girls keep an eye on her – despite your feelings? I just fear her hatred of Agnes might boil over…”
“Lady Milnford, may I ask a – somewhat personal question,” Sue said quietly as she joined the blonde.
“I thought we were past that Susan – but go on…”
“What would you say was your brother’s type Your Ladyship?”
“You know,” Susan said quietly, “what kind of woman would he like to marry.”
“You mean other then ex-hookers with amazing eyes?”
“Yeah,” Susan allowed herself a smile. “What kind of girls did he use to go out with…well before me?”
“Hmmmm,” Vicky paused to think, “He went out with Belinda Atherton for a long while.”
“What’s she like?”
“A typical Chelsea blonde with lovely blue eyes.”
“So why did they stop going out?”
“Because when Colin joined Central Office,” Victoria said, “he stopped being fun.”
“So she aint political?”
“No Sue, and anyway she got married this past spring.”
“Alright, so anyone else?”
“Oh a variety of women,” Vicky smiled, “but no one ever lasted very long…either he lost interest, or more often they lost interest in my brother.”
“Why? He’s amazing.”
“You know that…I know that…but to far too many people he’s just not the type of person they can see themselves spending a lifetime with.”
“And I can see it, but it’s impossible.” Sue shook her head.
“Yes,” Victoria said softly.
“Anyway though… there must be some perfect girl out there that he can marry…any ideas Your Ladyship?”
“Oh a couple who would definitely make great politicians wives.”
“You’ll have to fix him up with one of them…”
“You know Sue,” Victoria said quietly, “you are incredible, just talking so calmly about finding the man you love another woman.”
“He needs a ‘proper’ wife if he’s going to have a career and children,” Sue said quietly. “Inside I’ll probably cry every time I see her, but I aint important in this, Colin is though.”
“Martin,” Catriona said as she looked over, “who is that rather sad looking young woman standing over there with Vicky?”
“She’s my former sister-in-law Cat…”
“You mean the prostitute?” Cat interrupted.
“Yes,” Lord Milnford shook his head, “she is the one true love of Colin’s life.”
“I thought that was politics?”
“Politics is his career, Sue is the girl who he adores.”
“But he threw her out…didn’t he?”
“Yes, but her clothes are still in a closet at Rutland Street, he’s thrown nothing of hers away, he sleeps with her photo by his bedside.”
“Ah,” Catriona shook her head, “not the actions of someone who ever fell out of love.”
“Oh he pretended he had burnt them all, but he didn’t – they’re there now, and apparently they are getting back together, in all but name.”
“She will be…”
Martin nodded as Tamsin came over. “Come on Cat – time you saw the new Agnes…”
“So how is the next week looking to you, Agnes,” Penny said as they sat on a bench.
“Intriguing – Tam says I can have the keys to Bayswater Road before I go back, so I hope to move things over in the next few days.”
“Well, if you need some help…”
“Thanks – I’ll let you know,” Agnes said with a sigh. “Then Francesca wants to talk to me, and both the Minister and Augie van Roon want a book deal. Also, I need to deal with the business, and see the kids again – I need that part of my life.”
“May I say, you really do seem invigorated now,” Penny said with a smile.
“Yeah, she really does.”
Both women stood up as Tamsin came over, with…
“Cat? What on earth are you doing here?”
“Come to see the miracle,” Catriona said as she hugged Agnes. “Forgive me – have we met?”
“Penelope Harker,” Penny said as they shook hands, “I work as Shirley Xavier’s assistant.”
“Oh you work for Shirley? We’re old school friends – I wonder could I impose on both of you to tell her I’m around? I need to ask Agnes how this miracle has occurred.”
“Sure – you’ll be all right out here, right,” Penny said to Agnes.
“Go on – what’s going to happen to me out here,” Agnes said as she and Catriona sat down, and the other two walked off. She waited until they walked out of earshot, before she whispered “Okay C – what are you doing here?”
“I trust you got my present?”
“Yeah – only two people could have pulled that sort of thing off, and one of them has been here,” Aggie said quietly, “where were they?”
“In the archives of News International – and don’t worry, apart from a couple of headaches, nobody got hurt,” Catriona said quietly. “But I had to come over – because I know who sold them to the paper. I saw the paperwork.”
“Who was it, C?”
Both women turned to see Shirley standing there, a bemused expression on her face. “Well, now,” she said quietly, “what are we going to do next?”
“Where’s Agnes,” Caroline said as she joined Abby and Jo.
“I think she went outside with Penny,” Jo said.
“No – Penny just came in with Tamsin.”
“Dammit – we lost eyes. Find her – quickly…”
“Well, can I make a suggestion,” Agnes said quietly, “this is not the place or the time to have that discussion – but yeah, you both need to have it. How do you know Shirley?”
“Because I found out from the person themselves – so thank you, Catriona, for liberating the diaries. What did you see as well?”
“The paperwork authorising payment for the diaries.”
“Okay – enough pussyfooting around, both of you,” Agnes said, “who did it?”
Catherine watched from behind the screen, and took careful aim. One shot – that would be all it took, and then her troubles would be…
Her eyes suddenly went blank, and then fluttered closed as she slumped to the ground, Maisha standing behind her.
“Nobody threatens my saviour, or her friends,” she said quietly as she picked up the gun in a gloved hand, and then saw Caroline and Jo run over.
“What happened,” Jo asked.
“Lady Donald suddenly fainted as I walked over. Perhaps someone could come and help her?”
“I’ll find Curt and Karen,” Jo said as she walked off, and Caroline took the gun from Maisha.
“I will see this is returned – thank you Maisha.”
“It was Catherine,” Shirley said quietly as Agnes sat down.
“Catherine – Donald’s Catherine?”
“I’m afraid so,” Catriona said, “the paperwork showed a substantial payment to a Miss Catherine James.”
“Catherine… She broke into my flat, set fire to the bureau after stealing my diaries, and then sold them to the papers? Why? Why would she do that? I mean, we don’t get on, and she’s jealous as…”
“Agnes, she’s insanely jealous of you,” Shirley said quietly, “I think she always has been – and not just of you. When we talked to her, she revealed she was behind a number of other hurtful things that have happened to our friends.”
“When you say talked to her,” Cat said as she looked over.
“Best I not say how, but I have the recordings,” Shirley said.
“I… I’m going to kill her,” Agnes said in a quiet dangerous voice, “to do that to me, and then…”
“Sorry, am I interrupting something,” Caroline said as she came into the area with Paula.
“No – it can wait,” Agnes said.
“Good – Sherry want to see you Agnes.”
“Sherry – Sherry Babbage? Well lead on Paula – and let’s get some champagne on the way,” she said as they walked off, Caroline looking at Shirley and Catriona.
“Is everything all right?”
“Yes,” Shirley said quietly, “Where’s Lady Donald?”
“Maisha found her unconscious on the ground – she must have fainted. Karen is tending to her. Coming in?”
“In a minute,” Shirley said as she walked off. “I think you and I have a lot to talk about – but today, here, we put that to one side and care for Agnes.”
“Agreed,” Catriona said, “why do I think Maisha has other skills?”
“For the moment, let’s shelve that, My Lady.”
“I agree entirely Madame – let’s get back in…”
“Aileen do you know Lady Milnford’s daughters?” Katy asked as she looked over.
“Unfortunately, I do” Aileen said as she bent down and rubbed her shin.
“Alright… why unfortunately?”
“Because they go to Wycombe Abbey,” Eve joined them, “and my darling sister bears the scars from playing hockey against Ambrosia last winter.”
“Ouch,” Katy looked down at Aileen’s shin.
“It was Aileen’s fault,” Eve said with a laugh, “you NEVER play inter-school hockey without shin pads.”
“Will you introduce me please?”
“I will Katy,” Eve smiled as they walked to where the girls were standing.
“Ambrosia, Antonia, meet Katy Carter.”
“Are you THE Katy Carter?” Ambrosia asked as they shook hands. Katy smiled as she said “Define ‘the’?”
“Of that ‘the’,” Katy laughed, “Yeah I’m guilty of that.”
“Good God,” Antonia said, “wait till the girls back at school hear I met you.”
“Well you know a famous model from your own family.”
“You mean Aunt Grace?” Antonia asked.
“Well she’s kind of ancient.”
“Oh never let her hear you say that,” Katy shook her head and laughed.
“You though are sort of our age.”
“There are a couple of models here who are, do you want me to introduce you to Orion and to Poppy Ashley.”
“Oh please,” the girls said as they walked off.
“What happened,” Ken Boyd asked as he came into the room with Victoria Gordon and Donald.
“We don’t know, Maisha found her in the courtyard,” Caroline said, “she was unconscious – but I saw Agnes on the other side of the bush where she was.”
“Agnes,” Donald said, “what was she doing there?”
“I hate to say it, but from what I’ve seen, Catherine has been obsessed about Agnes since she arrived,” Caroline said quietly.
“Oh God and we all thought she was cured all those years ago,” Victoria Gordon shook her head.
“Cured?” Ken Boyd looked up from checking Catherine’s vital signs.
“When she was a little girl if another child played with a toy she wanted then Catherine would literally go berserk.”
“Oh dear God,” Donald looked amazed.
“She would get so jealous of other children that my parents had to get her professional help…Everyone thought with the drugs and therapy she had been cured.”
“And they never thought to tell me? Vicky, is it possible that she saw Agnes and…”
“Yes – I’m afraid if she regressed, she may have been the one Donald.”
“I see,” Ken said, “well, we need to make her comfortable, but I suggest she gets a full evaluation when she gets back Donald.”
Nodding, Donald sat as Victoria slipped out of the room…
“There you are,” Sherry said as Catriona and Shirley joined the group. “I was just explaining how I knew you Cat – and… Are you Shirley Xavier?”
charged. So how does Mrs Babbage know
you all?" Shirley tried to divert attention.
Honourable Mrs Babbage if we are being correct," Olivia laughed.
"Well for starters she's related to a lot of us."
to be the Honourable Sherry Newsome-Butler, her father was the late Viscount
and I are cousins a couple of different ways." Daffy said as she kissed
"I think we all are...at least those of us who are Anglo-Irish," Paula laughed. "You need a copy of Debrett to really sort it out Shirley."
“I can imagine – and you Catriona?”
“Well, I grew up next door to the McAdam’s which is my in.”
“Where do you know Shirley from?”
“We were best friends at Prep School, and we have kept in touch on and off ever since……”
“In fact, we’ve been competing all our lives in one way or another,” Shirley said with a smile.
“So the immediate threat has been neutralized,” Diana said as she stood with Caroline in the gun room.
“Indeed,” Caroline said as she handed over the pistol, “I don’t think Catherine will pose a mortal threat for today, but the longer term is another matter.”
“Well, that is not my concern for now, I will inform Valeria the missing pistol has been located – and advise she discusses future security with you.”
“Why has she never got rid of them – she does not shoot.”
“The issue is Jacque’s will – he left instructions that Abigail should decide the disposal of the items when she is of age, which is not for three more years.”
“Ah – a problem, I agree,” Caroline said. “Still, some simple secure cabinets will take care of things.”
“I’m leaving that to others…”
Catherine slowly opened her eyes, wondering what happened as she heard Donald say “Catherine, are you all right?”
“What…” She suddenly sat up and looked round the room, as she said “I was outside… What am I doing in here…” She suddenly looked round as she said “Where is it? WHERE IS IT!”
“Calm down,” Ken said as he held her by the shoulders, and looked at her, “deep breaths Catherine – you were found unconscious outside.”
Catherine looked at him and slowly calmed down as Donald said “do you think you’re up to travelling back tonight?”
“I think so,” Catherine said quietly, “I fainted?”
“Maisha found you,” Victoria said, “Ken, physically?”
“She’s fine,” Ken said quietly.
Catherine looked at her sister and said “Physically?”
“Catherine,” Victoria said quietly, “I’m worried. All weekend you’ve been obsessing over one thing, and… Well…”
“You think I’ve slipped?”
“I think,” Donald said, “it would be better if you talked to someone when we get back Catherine. I would be happier if you did that – and with the Ambassadorship almost confirmed, I think you would be the better for it too.”
“I will be the judge of…”
“Catherine – how would it sound of word got out the wife of the new Ambassador had a documented history of mental illness?”
Catherine looked at Victoria, before she recovered herself and said “very well – if it will help you Donald.”
“Good – now come on, we need to be the bright couple,” Donald said as he helped her to stand up, and they left the room.
“I’ll make sure she’s seen,” Victoria said to Ken as she followed them out.
Colin said quietly, “why did Kay just say that I was to insist that you show me
what is on the long chain you wear?"
she wants me to show you this I guess." Sue pulled out a golden locket
from inside her dress and showed it to him.
is," Sue sprung the clasp to show the picture of Colin, and the engraved
words, "to be worn close to your heart till the day you stop loving
ever take it off? I thought you might have thrown it away."
never been off since the day you put it round my neck."
when we were feuding...You still had that on?"
"I hope we
don't look like a group of old crones sitting down like this together?"
Nessa sipped from her tea as the four women sat at a side table.
three serene beauties, and one old crone maybe," Margaret Harker answered.
"I feel distinctly dowdy compared to all of you."
Margaret - you look pretty good to me," Nessa smiled. "We have a lot
in common because, other than Paulie, we were all forced to make the best of
our lives after love and marriage in some way or another blighted our
now each of your stories now, I feel distinctly lucky to have always had Gus
and his love," Paulie shook her head.
love and happiness," Glenda poured herself a second cup of coffee,
"unfortunately I knew it wasn't with the man I'd really wanted to live my
life out with."
just think what wouldn't be in this world if the bad things hadn't
happened," Margaret smiled, "Our Poppy, Your Sandy and her kids
Nessa, all those grandchildren of yours that you are so proud of Glenda?"
"That is very true," Paulie looked across the room. "At least you had some consolation...What does that young woman have to look forward to?" she pointed towards Sue.
“Penny for them, Mister Gresham-Fox?”
Colin smiled as
he looked at Francesca. "I can't
believe that she has never taken it off,” he said as he shook his head.
attach a lot of importance to the tokens of our love," Francesca smiled.
"I myself have always carried my engagement and wedding rings with me in a
box, ever since it became obvious that James was never going to come to
told me of your tragedy Marchesa."
some advice to you Colin - do not let yours and Susan's love end in a similar
"I'm going to try not to," Colin said as he looked at Sue with Penny…
“She’ll see someone when we get back,” Victoria said as she came into the room, finding Archie talking to Jeanne Marais.
“Vicky – where is Catherine now?”
“With Donald – why,” Victoria said as she looked at Jeanne. “What’s going on?”
is not easy to say."
Taking a deep
breath, she said "There is mounting evidence that your sister was
responsible for a home invasion at Agnes McAdam's flat 20 years ago, and that
she stole the diaries that were used in large part to smear Agnes."
God!" Victoria exclaimed as she slipped onto a chair.
Archie said as he slipped his wife a small glass of whiskey.
Victoria whispered, “this isn't just a relapse on her part?"
to look like she has carried out a long campaign to blight Agnes's life
darling," Archie tried to stay calm.
"Truly?" Victoria looked at Jeanne.
“I’m afraid so. The package Agnes received today was the diaries, and apparently they were sold to the paper by Catherine.”
“All these years – what are we going to do about it?”
“Not a lot we can do until someone else makes a move,” Jeanne said, “except watch out for her…”
true darling?" Mandy whispered her question to Will.
"It seems to be," Will shook his head. "No one is saying too much, but Jeanne spoke to me briefly because I'm Donnie's brother."
She looked at Donald and Catherine, and shook her head.
we are all stuck in school you three get to jet round the world to do the
Complete Style awards show?" Ambrosia shook her head, "you know life
happy you haven't got those long flights," Orion grinned.
with you." Aileen Gaunt adjusted her glasses.
take my place," Poppy adjusted her glasses almost automatically as Aileen
did hers, "my Mom says the jet-lag can be horrendous."
you were English Poppy, but you say Mom?" Eve remarked.
was born in England,” Poppy said, “but I've lived most of my life in the US,
and I'm an American citizen, so hence the accent."
the oldies all looking so worried about?" Antonia asked as she and
Christine brought over a tray of soft drinks.
"Haven't got a clue?" Katy looked at several faces. “Must be serious though…”
“Mike,” Catriona said as Mike Babbage came into the room, “I don’t believe you know Shirley Xavier?”
“Of Xavier International? No, I’ve never had the privilege,” Mike said as he shook her hand. “What’s this about, Cat?”
“Cat and I are old friends,” Shirley said, “and we have a mutual friend in Agnes McAdam. DCI Babbage…”
“Please – call me Mike.”
“Mike, I want you to listen to this,” Shirley said as she started to play a recording…
“So it was you who broke into her flat, tied her up, and set fire to her bedroom?”
“All to cover the fact I’d forced the lock on that precious cabinet of hers, and found her diaries. I had to do it, to cover that up, let her think they were destroyed in the fire.”
“She could have died if she had not been able to free herself.”
“No – I called the fire brigade when I was far enough away. I wanted to destroy her, not kill her – but the diary, what wonderful stories it held…”
“And it was you who sold it to the Journalist – he gave your name when he was asked.”
“Yes – the jewellery and the fee paid for some clothes, then all I had to do was sit back and wait. I did not know it would happen when it did – but the weekend before the wedding was wonderful, wonderful timing.”
“And you moved in?”
“I comforted Donald, told him to end the engagement, to avoid the disgrace, and he listened like the little puppy dog he is. For an intelligent man, he is far too easily led.”
“And when she was arrested?”
“I knew the judge – and so did she, although she did not recognise him. He wore a mask when he visited as well. I told him I knew, and he came down hard on her to cover his own indiscretions…”
“So you brought her down, ruined her – and you were pleased?”
“I was ecstatic – I bided my time, and then ensnared Donald for myself. And all was well – until she appeared yesterday, and then today it was like she had not changed.”
“I see, the diary – did you ever make use of the contents?”
“Why would I? But I made a note of a few names – they have proved useful over the years. But with Agnes gone, and disgraced, I had my main revenge.”
"Do I want to know how you obtained this Miss Xavier?" Mike asked as she stopped the recording.
"Just say that I know it isn't admissible in court eh?"
“Catherine Fitzstuart,” he said quietly.
“There is more – she claims she has one of your officers in her employ.”
“Mike,” Cat said, “this is reliable – trust me on this – and it shows we were right to be here. When Aggie goes back, we need your help to keep her safe.”
Mike nodded, as he said “what else are we going to do?”
“A couple of calls are been made,” Shirley said, “and then Agnes wants to have a word with her.”
“After what I just heard?”
“We’ll be there,” Cat said quietly.
what is going on?" Abigail hissed as she and Carina cornered Joanne.
should I know?" Jo shrugged.
seen you having quiet chats with Shirley, Caroline, and my Mother." Abby
answered, "so what gives?"
have a certain someone ask you Jo?" Carina smiled.
'she' is the last thing we need round here at this moment," Abby hissed.
spill what is going on...please?"
"It's to do with Agnes McAdam and Lady Donald isn't it...and that mysterious package that arrived this morning," Abby said as she glanced across the room.
“Yeah,” Jo said quietly, “I’ll explain later, but all I’ll say is there was a situation, and it is contained – for now.”
darling,” Ken said as the couple stepped outside, “can you ring Serena Gleb at
home and let me speak to her please?"
ask why Ken?"
not, just say I sincerely wish Serena was here right at this moment."
Karen pulled out her phone and found a number on speed dial.
ringing," she said as she passed her husband the phone.
Serena please be at home," the tall man whispered under his breath,
"don't put me through to voice mail."
Gleb," he heard a voice answer.
"Serena… Thank God I caught you, it's Ken Boyd."
Serena said, “what's wrong? You sound
panicked… nothing has happened to Karen has it?"
fine, but I desperately need to access your expertise, we have a situation here
A few minutes later, Ken said “Well?”
- she sounds both a highly disturbed, and a highly dangerous woman. First thing
is to make sure that she is kept under permanent observation, for both her
security, and the safety of the other woman."
was here I'd be ordering a bed and a full evaluation for her in a psychiatric
were in the UK, and her own doctor was there I'd agree. But given we are in
"You'll have to have a quiet word with her husband and get him to have their doctor meet their plane on arrival."
“I can do that – and in the meantime?”
“Do not leave her alone with the other woman…”
“I have enjoyed the opportunity to talk this weekend,” the Minister said as he stood with Donald and Catherine, “but I know you have to journey back tonight.”
“I will brief my masters tomorrow,” Lord Donald said with a smile, “but I am sure we will be talking again.”
“When do you leave,” he asked with a smile.
“In an hour or so – the car will pick us up,” Catherine said as Colin came over.
“Lady Donald,” he said quietly, “Miss McAdam was wondering if she could have a word with you.”
“Agnes wants to talk to you?”
“It’s all right Donald, this won’t take long,” Catherine said as she kissed him on the cheek, and walked with Colin. He waited as she walked in, seeing Agnes standing by the fireplace.
“Catherine – thanks for dropping in,” Agnes said quietly, “I wanted to have a word with you before you go.”
“Oh, Aggie,” Catherine said with a voice like ice, “and why are they here?”
“Catriona and Shirley? They are two of my oldest friends,” Agnes said as Catherine stared at the other women, “and they are here as my friends, my witnesses – and as the executors of my will.”
“The what,” Cat said as she and Shirley looked at Agnes.
“Indeed – and they are here because they need to hear of a change I am going to make in my will. A change I have you to thank for, Catherine.”
“You? Thank me?”
“Oh yes,” Agnes said as she sat down, “after all, it was you who set me on the life path I have walked down.”
“What do you…”
“I know Catherine. My diaries will be where you can never get them again, but I can. I know it was you who stole them, you who sold them, and you who used the influence you had to ruin me.”
“And what are you going to do about it,” Catherine sneered.
As Catherine looked at her, Agnes said “I would not do anything to hurt Donald, and if it was revealed that his wife was a borderline psychopath with major anger and jealousy issues, that would ruin his chances. So I am going to do nothing – but I want you to know I know. I want you to know I refuse to hide any more, and although Lady D’Eath is retiring as of now, Agnes McAdam will continue her work with those who need help the most.
“But if any harm should come to me, or if I find out in any way you have tried to stop me, then my will authorises Catriona and Shirley to release certain documents to the press. It also authorises them to act in my interests if I am unable to act for myself through injury or harm.”
Catherine stared at Agnes as she said “so enjoy your life with Donald, the prestige, the role of the Ambassador’s wife. I intend to enjoy mine.”
“I’ll kill you,” Catherine snarled, “I should have done so earlier.”
“No you won’t.”
Catherine span round to see Penny standing there, her arms folded.
“Agnes saved me, gave me purpose, gave me life – and she knows all sides of me,” Penny said quietly. “Don’t do anything to make me reveal my bad side.”
“Thank you Catherine,” Agnes said quietly, “you had better join Donald. I look forward to hearing of his appointment.”
Catherine looked at all four women, and then turned, leaving the room without another word.
“Right,” Agnes said as she stood up, “I need to say some goodbyes, make some arrangements, and then go and pack. I’ll see you three before I go – play time is over girls,” she said as she walked out, leaving them looking at each other.
get home, you, me, and Penelope, have a lot of talking to do Catriona
Cuthbertson." Shirley scratched her head as she looked at them.
"After we have sorted out Agnes's problems permanently... I agree Shirley,” Cat said with a smile.
“Shirley, I should have said something earlier…”
“No – it’s all right, you can tell me later. My trust and confidence in you has not been compromised Penelope,” Shirley said as they walked out of the room.
“For now,” Penny said to Helen as she came out.
Helen said quietly to Shirley, “Mistress Catherine has asked me to pass on the
word, that Mongoose, Swan, and of course this humble one are at your
for the offer Helen, but for now let things play out as they are."
"I understand," Helen nodded slightly.
As Catherine walked out of the room, she saw Paula, Victoria, Tamsin and Mandy watching as she walked over to where Donald was talking to Will.
“I’ll call you in the morning, Donnie,” Will said as he looked at Catherine, “safe travels.”
“And you brother – stay safe,” Donald said as the footman took their luggage out.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Colin said to Sue, “be brave.”
“You too,” Sue said before she kissed him, and watched as they walked down to the car.
“Happy,” Kay asked as she and Penny joined her.
“Yes – and no. Let’s see what tomorrow brings,” Sue said. “Ready to go back to the hotel?”
“In a little while – Agnes is saying her goodbyes. You mind if we doss down on her couch tonight, while some arrangements are made?”
“Thank you for doing this favour for me Terri,” Agnes said as she stood with her old friends, “this way I am assured they will never be taken again.”
“Is it true – what they are saying about who took it?”
“I’m not going to deny or confirm anything – the key thing is I know, and I’m taking the right steps to deal with it?”
“And you and Donald,” Rudolf asked.
“Well, I’ll be back in Bayswater Road by the end of the week, let’s see what happens after that,” Agnes said with a smile. “But hopefully, we can see a little more of each other. Besides, I have my work to keep me busy.”
“Well, when you can, come and visit us,” Terri said as she kissed Agnes on the cheek.
“Well, that might take a miracle or two, but if I can, I will,” Agnes said with a smile. “Once I move home, and settle some other things, my first visit is already planned.”
“Oh? Where to?”
“To visit us,” Paula said as she came over, “it’s time she got to know her family properly again.”
“True – right, forgive me,” Agnes said as she kissed the three of them, and then walked off. As Paula went to rejoin the rest of the group, she saw Olivia talking quietly to Steven Stone, and then nodding as she walked back to join her own friends.
darling,” Mandy said with a smile, “what was all that about?"
"That? It was me giving in to Stephen and agreeing
to pose with Fiona for the second edition of his book on disabled women."
"I sit on
the board of one of the charities the book is supporting, we were amazed that
the first edition sold out like that." Paula smiled.
to talk him into including Nyle di Marco so we ladies could have something to
look at," Eve laughed, "but despite the fact that he is such a
shining example to other deaf people my dear husband says he only photographs
from me he's a spoilsport darling," Mandy drawled.
"He has found
a couple of interesting deaf girls to photograph though."
Paula said as she closed her eyes, “think of Nyle's muscles..."
"EVE!" her sister-in-law laughed as well.
“Well, I have to admit, it has been a most – exciting weekend,” Valeria said as she sat with Guy, watching the friends say goodbye to each other.
“Indeed, my dear – and Abigail has been radiant throughout the weekend, with the perfect ending of a christening.”
“Indeed – even if we had a little incidental excitement.”
“So they fly to Sydney tomorrow?”
“Indeed – Diana and Abigail will fly out tomorrow, but the others return to London today, and fly on from there. Pussy and Frieda are heading to Hamburg with Frieda’s parents, and Klaus takes Annie back to Munich with the babies.”
“But all in all, a very special weekend?”
“Oh yes, a very special weekend…”
9.30 pm BST
RAF Northolt, London
As the plane taxied to a stop, Donald looked out of the window and said “Colin, would you mind going first, and making sure the files are securely placed by the driver?”
“Of course, Lord Donald,” Colin said as he unfastened his seat belt and stood up, collecting the briefcases as Donald looked at Catherine, who was sleeping in the chair. As the plane door opened, she woke, looking at Donald as she said “we’re back already – good, I have things I need to do…”
“I beg your pardon, Donald,” Catherine said as she looked at the door, watching Colin leave before a grey haired man came in. “Stuart? Donald, why is our doctor here?”
“I asked him to meet us – I’m concerned about what happened over the weekend Catherine, and…”
“You bastard! You want me out of the way so that you can be with HER! I knew she was…”
“Catherine,” the doctor said quietly, “you need to calm down.”
“CALM DOWN!” She almost ripped the buckle from her belt as she violently stood up. “That whore has spoilt my entire weekend, and now she’s going to take Donald away. Well I won’t allow it – I WON’T!”
“Why don’t you come with me, Catherine,” Stuart said quietly as he signalled, and a nurse came in, “and you can tell me all about it. Donald will follow us later, I promise.”
“Go on ahead darling,” Donald said as he stood up and looked at her. “I promise, I will be at Stuart’s place as soon as I can.”
“Come on,” Stuart said as he took Catherine’s arm, “I’ve got some tea you can have…”
Monday 27th June
12.30 am BST
As she heard the door to the flat open, the ginger cat stood up and stretched, then looked over as the light was turned on. The red headed woman looked familiar, but she wasn’t sure.
“There you are Tippy-Toes,” she said as she sat down and picked the cat up, stroking it as it purred, recognising the voice of her mistress. “I have had a really busy weekend – and you look as if you have been well cared for.”
Kay looked round, and smiled as Aggie said “well, I see the girls have cleaned up nicely. The kitchen is well stocked as well, we’ve got cocoa if you want some Aggie?”
“You know, that sounds wonderful,” she said as she stroked the back of Tippy-Toes, who purred contentedly along. “A rare treat before the fun begins.”
“Penny said she and Helen would be over in the morning, talk over the move plans,” Kay said, “but for tonight, I’m here.”
“And you’re welcome – sorry it’s the couch or chair…”
“Fine by me,” Kay said as she put the kettle on, “fine by me…”
3 am BST
Susan’s London Flat
Penny looked over at Helen and gently kissed her cheek, before she got up and put on a short robe, heading to the bathroom. As she came out, she heard the sound of the television, and looked into the main room.
“Can’t sleep Sue?” Penny whispered as her friend sat drinking a glass of milk.
“Not really,” Sue said with a smile, “and I’m sorry I woke you up.”
“You didn’t,” Penny said as she sat in the chair opposite. “Thinking about meeting ‘the family’ again?”
“Yes…among other things.”
“Such as what?”
“Such as, what’s going to happen ‘after’ this meeting this morning.” Sue took another drink and looked over.
“Well that you surely can’t predict…” Penny sat back and said “won’t it depend on what gets said?”
“Mostly I guess.”
“At least you’ll have some allies this time,” Penny said quietly.
“Yeah, having Colin, Grace, and Vicky and Martin there will hopefully help.” Sue took a sip, “but there are an awful lot of things that can’t be controlled, that might just happen, or might come up unexpectedly.”
“If you can’t control them,” Penny said as she sat forward, “are they worth worrying about like this?”
“I guess not.”
“Well then – try and get some sleep, go to the house in the morning, and let nature take its course,” Penny said as she stood up. Sue nodded as she lay down, watching the television as she left the room…
8 am BST
Complete Style, London
“Come in,” Anna Mitchell said as she looked out of the office window, smiling as she turned and saw Marina come in.
that is your provisional schedule for Australia," Marina said as she gave
her boss a folder.
she said with a smile, “I'll glance at it further after we've eaten breakfast. Fiona swears she knows where the best café in
London is, and she’s coming in a few minutes to take us all. A chance to stretch the legs before the
"Okay." Marina relaxed a bit. “At least with Hong Kong I know half the distance.”
"So,” Anna said as she sat down, “I hope in between putting this together you had a chance to enjoy yourself a little in France?"
I did in the end,” Marina said as she sat opposite, “I panicked about having to
schedule calls at all hours, but Helen gave me a pep talk and it actually went
to hear that,” Anna said as she sat back.
“Remember that while I do like dedication from my assistants, even I
know you do need some down time, so please don't overdo it Marina."
"I'll try not to – and besides, I have my guardian angel watching me.”
“Indeed... Can I ask a question Anna?"
Anita dislike me?"
noticed," Anna paused, "it isn't you personally that she dislikes
Marina, it's what you represent."
does that mean boss?"
the background of a top private school, then as famous a university as Oxford,
plus you do have more than a certain social standing."
Marina said, “I'm still no wiser."
got to be my assistant the hard way,” Anna said with a smile. “She never got to college, she joined the
company in our mail room, and she's fought her way up the ladder to get where
she is now...She has a certain chip on her shoulder about girls with your
"Oh!" Marina laughed at how ironic what Anna had just said compared to her real life.
“Give her time – she may have that chip, but when she sees what you do, and why I hired you…”
They both turned as they heard the knock on the door, and Fiona McKenzie looked in. “Reet ladies,” she said with her Scots accent, “ready fer ae real fry-up?”
“My gut is going to love me,” Anna said as they stood up. “Come on Fiona – make us so full we don’t need to worry about the airline food…”
8 am BST
“There we go,” Kay said as she passed Agnes a mug of coffee. The older woman was wearing a white blouse and grey skirt, Tippy-Toes curled up on the couch beside her.
“Ah thanks,” Agnes said as she took a sip. “I needed this.”
is the plan for this morning Agnes?" Kay asked as she sat opposite.
"Well… First, to meet Cherry at my solicitors and to go over setting up the sale of the dungeon to her."
"I know she won't have the cash to buy the business up front, but if I arrange that she pays me in instalments over a one year period, then I have income both for myself, and for financing the school, whilst I build up my new business."
sounds like an excellent idea to me."
Agnes said with a smile, “I think it will work nicely."
Francesca wants me to have lunch with her and an old friend of hers at
Lancaster Gate, and I'm still not foregoing a free lunch."
"I don't blame you." Kay laughed. “Never refused one myself.”
"After that,” Agnes said as she looked round, “I was going to come back here and start packing my books ready for the move."
Kay said as she looked at her phone, “well I'm going to spend the day with you
whilst Penny works out a security plan for you.
Better let Peri know I’ll be stopping for lunch."
“You know,” Agnes said as she held her mug, "I really did have no idea that Catherine was doing all that, and that she still hates me so badly."
“Well, you’re not to worry about her for now,” Kay said, “and that’s an order.” Hearing the knock on the door, Kay stood up and walked over as Agnes went to her room.
it at the door Kay?" Agatha called out as she put on her jacket.
"It was me
out from the room as she heard the South African accent, and smiled as she saw
the smaller woman standing there. "Hello
Charlotte, and what are you doing here so early?"
wanted a quick word with you."
actually - on behalf of myself."
"Oh? How do you think I can help you?"
“Kay, can I speak privately to Agnes for a minute?”
“Sure – I need to get my act together,” Kay said as she went to the bathroom, and the others walked into the front room.
“So this is Tippy Toes?”
“It is,” Agnes
said as they sat down, “so what can I do for you?”
"Well… Piet and I have been talking on and off for
days about putting some of my private fortune to use in Africa."
know you are a Sister?"
Charlotte said as she shook her head, “but that does play a role in what I want
"To set up
a scheme to provide small capital loans to aid women and young people in Africa
set up small businesses... Or as Piet
says, to put my money where my mouth is."
Agnes nodded as
she sat back, saying "It's a very worthwhile idea, and what they really
so...Look Agnes I'll cut to the chase, will you serve on the board of the
organisation I'm going to set up, and act as its strategist?"
eyebrow, Agnes said "You know I have travel problems Charlotte?"
"I do, but
I listened a lot this past weekend, and everyone seems to say this is a project
that you are one of the few people in this world who has both the vision, and
the skills to be involved in. As for
travel – there are ways round that given time…"
could be modest and blush,” Agnes said, “but realistically Charlotte this
sounds the perfect way to put some of my ideas into practice."
"Subject to clearing any legal hurdles, but yes I'd like very much to be involved in this."
“Excellent – I’ll be in touch when the legal documents are ready,” Charlotte said as she stood up. “I’ll let you get back to your day now.”
“Oh it’s getting better and better,” Agnes said as Kay came in. “Right – time to go to work and surprise Cherry…”
8.30 am BST
is everybody?" Anna said as she sipped her coffee and looked out of the
out over half of London's hotels." Marina smiled.
they are," Fiona looked at her empty teacup and decided she would drink
another, pouring it from the large teapot.
do know which flight..."
darlin' they are all top girls, they're used ta makin' sure they catch
Fiona,” Anna said quietly, “it's just that I want this show to be perfect."
to impress the new teams at the various startups," Marina smiled again.
"Oh I get
that Marina lassie – but she needna worry."
"Because, if they don't catch this plane, they'll get my shoe up their dainty derrieres." Merlin smiled as she slipped into the booth. "This year’s show has to top last years."
"So do you have a surprise in mind to match the re-emergence of Grace?" Anna asked.
yet, and that was a surprise to all - but there is still time...isn't there
said as she sipped her tea, “there is."
"Why do I start getting nervous when the two of you start talking like that?" Anna rolled her eyes.
“Relax,” Merlin said with a smile, “what could possibly go wrong?”
8.30 am BST
Katherine asked as he walked into the restaurant, “looking forward to the
really," the Belfast man shook his head as he sat down, "I'm never
going to be the world's greatest traveller."
"Have you ever been to Australia?" Jan asked.
"No,” he said as a waiter poured coffee, “the furthest I've been so far is Morocco, when Orion did that shoot for the Italian jeans people."
is quite a bit further," Katherine sipped her tea.
is," Rose shook her head, "I can't believe I'm actually going to
Alice insisted that you do Rose." Jan looked up from the newspaper.
can't think why?"
you are a key member of her team now," Katherine replied.
"Well I'm just glad I have you for company Katherine."
“Aye – we’ll wile away the hours together…”
“Look at them,” Katy said to Orion as she stood at the buffet, “who’s going to be the worst?”
“Whoever doesn’t sleep,” Orion giggled…
8.30 am BST
The Dorchester Hotel
Daddy and the boys be alright without us?" Angel asked as they sat round
Pepsi there, don't you think that's a bit of a redundant question
darling?" Mandy lazily drawled.
"Oh yes, I
forgot," Angel giggled, "She'll make sure they stay on the straight
that formidable?" Olivia asked as she sipped her tea.
Mandy said quietly, “inside that cute exterior is one very strong willed young
certainly strikes me that way." Fiona said as she looked up from eating.
too," Paula Gaunt smiled.
to fly darlings?"
hated this trip when I was a full-time model." Paula shook her head.
"What makes you think that time has changed anything?"
there is a worse trip?"
"There is Olivia?"
Auckland...It's an hour further on."
I'll give you that one," Paula smiled some more.
looking forward to it," Fiona remarked.
"Oh you've never done it have you?" Angel looked heavenwards, "Sydney is a great city, but damn this is a truly lousy flight, they don't give nearly enough leg room for girls as tall as us."
“So what do you do?”
“Get up and walk as much as possible,” Mandy drawled, “it’s a plane full of models, after all…”
8.30 am BST
"So who is
Lord Donald's main rival likely to be in getting the Paris embassy?" Nessa
asked Dame Margaret as she poured coffee.
"Word is,” Margaret said as she sat down, “it’s between him and Sir Malcolm Oliver."
"Who is he?" Glenda asked as she sat back. All three women were wearing casual trousers and short sleeved blouses.
British Ambassador to Ruritania,” Margaret said, “another high flyer."
money would be on whom Maggie?"
"If I was
a betting woman, then I'd currently say Lord Donald, but..."
to see what fallout there is from this past weekend first."
"Exactly Nessa." Sipping her coffee, she said "changing the subject, I'm glad you've both decided to stay in London for a while."
"Well just happy that you can put us both up Maggie," Glenda laughed.
“And it means I can attend Heather’s talks,” Nessa said as she looked round.
may not be the Savoy,” Margaret said, “but I think the three of us can share at
least for a couple of weeks."
"As long as you both smoke those foul things outside," Nessa shook her head.
8.30 am BST
The Hilton Metropole
“So – what’s the game plan Mom?”
we need to catch our train from Paddington Station tomorrow morning at
9.15," Denice read from the itinerary, "and we get into Cardiff
Central Station at 11.23."
gives us all day to sightsee in London today?" Erica smiled as she spread
some jam on her toast.
my darling...So anything you particularly want to see?"
Palace for certain."
that is here," Denice pointed out the location on the map in her guide
book. "How about we go to Trafalgar Square and then walk?"
what Nikki, Doc and the others did,” Erica said, “they said it’s a good
that's one place," Denice looked at her daughter, "Would it bore you
too much going to the Science Museum?"
really," Erica laughed, "I'm sure there is plenty of stuff to
interest me as well as plenty of mechanical things for you to look at."
a few stops on the Piccadilly line from Green Park - and they have a restaurant,
so we can eat lunch there as well."
"Sounds good to me Mom."
“Then tonight – the concierge has got some tickets for a show if you want. Book of Mormon?”
Erica grinned as she said “oh yeah…”
8.30 am BST
Rutland Street, Kensington
Colin opened the door of his house to see Sue standing there, wearing a blue jacket over a grey dress, Penny waving as she drove off.
“Hey – can I come in,” she said quietly, Colin nodding as he stood to one side.
had breakfast Sue?" Colin waited as she walked through to the kitchen.
yet...too nervous," Sue said as she looked round, "hey you got that
new fridge we talked about?"
did," Colin fingered his collar, "I tried not to change too much
though, I guess in my heart I always thought you'd be back here one day."
Sue said with a smile, “it's not my house, it's not even 'our' house, it's your
house love, you do whatever you want to do...Remember I'm just here for a short
darling,” Colin said as he held her, “but honestly I hate the thought of ever
letting you go again."
will do what we have to," Sue instinctively went to the correct cabinet
and started to prepare the coffee maker.
"You look so right doing that," Colin came over and put his arms round her.
“Thanks – so who
is coming later?"
and my sister...Grace of course...Uncle Arnold and Aunt Geraldine."
hated me even before he knew what I'd done."
not your best friend."
about your Mum and Dad?"
going to try join in the discussion from Washington."
about Lord and Lady Standerton?"
"Uncle Stephen and Aunt Annabelle will try to make it...my cousin Tommy is coming though for sure." Colin laughed, "who knows who else will turn up...Grace practically made this a three line whip."
“Should be – interesting,” Sue said as she poured the coffee. “Here – let’s prepare ourselves…”
9 am BST
your Father, Annie, Ingrid and the kids safely home darling?"
Mom,” Carina said as she joined Juliette at the table, “and did you notice you
just called Munich home?"
did...didn't I?" Juliette shook her head and smiled.
happens Cherie," Diana smiled, "I'll be thinking of Rosville as home
for a while."
Carina said, “Judith is going to the park with Ingy later, and I promised I
would call as soon as we arrive at the… Oh
dear Goddess," Carina started to laugh, "where are all the world’s
photographers when you need them?"
Carina von Furstenheim - yuck it up, but you know very well that I am NOT a
morning person." Abby peered through her glasses, "Is the coffee
darling," Diana laughed, "but did you even look in a mirror before
you came down?"
"I know, I
know,” Abby said as she down, “I look a mess, but as all I'm doing today is
catching an awful long flight what does it matter?"
paparazzi gets a picture you'll know," Cari laughed again.
"I got a
text from Heather," Jo said as she decided to change the topic, "she
and the family are safely in Amsterdam."
Holly realize how many museums your sister will drag her to?" Ju asked.
as she's getting time with Sands I don't think she will mind."
"Now while I have you all here, I need tell you we still look on schedule for when we return here," Juliette whispered.
“When do we agree the schedule?”
“We meet when we all arrive…”
10 am BST
Rutland Street, Kensington
“Hey Grace,” Colin said as he opened the door, “I see you brought Uncle Arnold and Aunt Geraldine with you.”
“Of course she did,” Uncle Arnold said as he shook Colin’s hand, “she explained as we came over from the station – quite a story Colin, but we’re behind you on this as well.”
“Good – because the biggest problem is still to come,” he said as they went into the front room, Victoria looking over and saying “hey Grace – and you got your parents along as well?”
“Oh I think we need to be here for this one,” Geraldine said, “so where is she?”
Victoria nodded to the kitchen, Grace taking her mother by the arm as they walked in. Sue looked over from where she was preparing cups, and said “Mrs Gresham-Fox – it’s good to see you again…” Her words were cut off as Geraldine hugged her, Grace smiling as she watched.
“Welcome back,” she eventually said as she stood with her hands on Sue’s shoulders.
“Thanks – I think,” Sue said quietly. “Who are we waiting on?”
“Well,” Geraldine said as she heard Simon at the door, “I think the senior relative has arrived.”
“Oh boy – this is the one I’m not looking forward to,” Sue said as she looked at them.
“Mum, will you go and tell Simon to start – we’ll be through in a few minutes…”
“Uncle Stephen, Aunt Annabelle,” Colin said as he greeted Lord and Lady Standerton, “thanks for coming with Tommy today.”
“Well, from what we hear, you need the support,” Lord Standerton said as Martin looked at the laptop. “Good morning Charles, Roberta - how is Washington?”
“Dark – Stephen, Arnold, you both there?”
“Present and correct Charlie – how are you both doing?”
“How much have you been told?”
“Enough,” Arnold said as the doorbell rang, “and I think we’re out of time.”
The room turned as Colin showed in a tall, grey haired man in a dark suit.
“Uncle Rupert – thanks for coming,” Stephen said as they shook hands.
“Damn waste of time if you ask me,” he grunted, “but come on – let’s see her.”
“In a minute,” Grace said as she came in and kissed the older man. “First, you listen to my tale, Uncle Rupert, and then Colin’s…”
“Okay,” Rupert eventually said as he looked at Grace, “I get why you did what you did Grace – we all do. But Colin? What did he do that was so wrong?”
“He jumped to conclusions, Uncle Rupert,” Tommy said as he sipped his coffee, “we all did.”
“He made a decision based on what he was told!”
“And what I was told was wrong,” Colin said as he stood up.
“So she wasn’t a whore,” Uncle Rupert said quietly, dangerously.
“I was – but at the time I met Colin, I had stopped, and was working on the job I currently hold.”
Rupert looked at Sue as she stood in the doorway, wearing a short sleeved summer dress with a black belt round her waist. “I worked then, and still work, for Harman Couriers. But I never got the chance to explain when that private eye made his report public.”
“A report,” Grace said quietly, “which we now know was – shall we say, directed by a third party who could not stand the idea of Colin and Sue been together.”
“Not someone in the room,” Charles said from the laptop.
“No – and who is not important right now,” Grace said.
“Sue and I literally bumped into each other at Ascot,” Colin said, “and then when I had to accompany Lord Fitzstuart to the meeting over the last weekend, we met again – and we talked. We also had words with a number of the more – senior people at the party.”
“Guilty as charged,” Grace said with a smile, “I wasn’t the only one, but all of us shared our views and experiences with both of them.”
“I’ll bet you did,” Arnold said with a smile.
“So we cleared the air,” Colin said as he put her arm round Sue’s waist, “and we realised how we truly felt about each other.”
“But we also realised,” Sue said, “given Colin’s current and future career, that I cannot be seen publically with him, nor can I ever re-marry him. So I will be there, quietly supporting in the background, but there for as long as he wants me to be.”
“Not publically,” Charles said from the screen.
“No – I will not ruin his chances,” Sue said quietly. She looked round the room, seeing everyone nod – except for one person.
then… How much will it take to get a
blood sucking little vampire like you out of my Grand-Nephews life?" the
elderly gentleman asked.
Rupert..." Colin looked appalled.
cost anyone a penny Sir Rupert," Sue looked in turn at the members of the
family. "If Colin wants to get rid
of me, all he need do now is tell me to leave, and I'll go and he will never
see me again."
if I have difficulty believing you young woman," the elderly gentleman
gave her a hard look.
me or not Sir Rupert it’s the truth," Sue shrugged her shoulders. "I
can't ever be his wife, once he tries for parliament I can't even be seen with
him, so as I've done for most of my life I'll make my own way, Colin will never
give me a penny."
back to your old profession I take it?"
Susan shook her head, "I'll never go back to that. I make enough to live
on with the job I do."
"Uncle Rupert, all of you," Grace looked at her family, "don't you get just what a sacrifice of her own life Sue is prepared to give so that Colin has his life?"
“I do,” Geraldine said.
“And so do I – it’s not the first time someone has had a strong, supportive woman in politics behind them that has never been seen,” Charles said, his brothers nodding in agreement.
understand what Sue is saying?" Colin asked quietly. "She's prepared
to give up all the things that most women dream of...A family...A
Husband...Being with the person she loves...and all because she thinks only of
what is good for me. Good God she's even prepared to help find me a wife who
can pass your 'smell test' people, so don't think that Sue is getting anything
much really out of what we are going to do."
“I don’t understand then – why gather us to tell us this,” Rupert said.
“So that you know the full story – and the consequences of what happened last time,” Colin said, “consequences I was not even fully aware of until this weekend.”
“Consequences? What consequences,” Rupert sneered.
"Because we reacted the way we did, I lost a chance to have another grandchild," Roberta spoke on the screen. "I am going to go to my grave always thinking of that poor lost child."
“Your…” Rupert looked at Colin and Sue, before he said “very well then – if you must do this, I cannot stop you, but I do not approve.”
“I only ask for your understanding, Rupert,” Grace said quietly, “not your approval.”
“I won’t say anything,” Rupert said as he walked out of the room, Stephen nodding as he followed him out.
“Welcome back, Sue,” Tommy said as he came over and hugged her, the others following…
I have a word please," her Mother asked as they left the house.
nothing that can be done to let them have their happiness together?"
know Mummy, I really don't." Grace shook her head as her father came to
what do you think?"
my love I really don't know,” he said quietly, “but I for one am determined that,
if I can, they get a happy ending to this."
while I'm in Australia can you keep an eye on them for me Daddy, and please,
please, keep me informed."
I will darling," Arnold hugged his daughter.
discussing what I think you are?" Vicky joined them.
"If you think we are determining what we can do to help then yes we are Vicky." Geraldine smiled. "Do you have any ideas?"
actually went better then expected," Colin put his arms round Sue.
Sue said as she started to cry.
"Hey,” Colin said quietly, “what's wrong now?"
"Oh so much, and yet so little."
Sue smiled as
she said "It just means the world to me to be part of a real family."
think most of them are happy to have you back darling."
say...apart from him." Colin grinned. "He's an old bastard at
"Well as the last of your grandfather’s generation of the family I suppose he has the right to be." Sue sniffed. "Anyway shall I prepare us brunch, now that's over I'm hungry?"
Bond and Lovebird Solicitors, Soho
“I have to admit,” the tall blonde said as she sat next to Agnes, “this is the second big surprise today – the first seeing you with red hair Agnes.”
“Well, I must have really blown your mind with my proposal,” Agnes said with a smile.
“At the least – but I accept the offer.”
you draw up all the necessary paperwork please Nigel?"
"Yes,” the solicitor said, “but are you sure this is what you really want to do Aggie?"
"It's both what I want to do...and what I NEED to do Nigel. It’s time for me to move on and put this behind me."
nodded as she looked across. "Are
you truly sure you want to sell the dungeon to me like this?"
darling,” Agnes said with a smile, “you've worked for me for ten years, there
is no one better to take on running the dungeon then you, and I know you'll
make a success of it."
worried that you have been over generous both with regards to the price, and
the re-payment schedule."
"You can always make contributions to the school if it will ease your conscience," Agnes smiled.
“Okay, okay, I give in,” Cherry said with a smile.
“Good – you will have to forgive me, I have a lunch date,” Agnes said as she stood up, “I’ll hear from you Nigel?”
“Within the week,” Nigel said as they shook hands, and Agnes walked out.
“Where did she spend the weekend?”
“In France,” Cherry said quietly as she saw Kay stand up, and walk out with Agnes.
11 am BST
The Dower House
“Welcome back, Ma’am,” the grey haired housekeeper said as Tamsin walked in, the taxi driver placing her bags inside the door before he left.
"It's good to be home Mrs Hennessy," Tamsin said as she put her gloves and handbag on a side table.
"So how was your trip Ma'am?" the housekeeper said as she took Tamsin’s coat.
"Good in many ways, not so good in others,” she said quietly, “but I've buried the hatchet after all these years with my sister."
"Well that is good news," the Irishwoman smiled, "Miss Kit too?"
"Yes, she actually likes Agnes very much."
"Well it's important to have family Ma'am."
"I know," Tam smiled as she looked round. "Now I am going to London again at the end of the week for a small party so can we organise my week around that?"
"We can," Mrs Hennessy nodded, "so when you've had a chance to clean up and refresh yourself do you want to see Mr Harty?"
"Yes, can you tell him I'll see in an hour please."
"I will do."
"So no emergencies while I was away?"
"Nothing that Mr Hardy and I couldn't cope with."
"What would I do without the pair of you," Tam sat down, "you running the house, him running the estate, it makes my life so much easier. Some coffee, if that is all right Mrs Hennessey?"
“OF course, Ma’am – the mail is on the table,” she said as she took the case up the stairs…
“Welcome Miss McAdam,” Mrs Harris said as she opened the door, “and this must be Kay – I was told to expect you.”
“Thank you,” Kay said as the housekeeper closed the door.
“If you will follow me,” she said as she walked to the office, knocking and entering as she said “Peri, Hannah, this is Kay. Can you look after her while I take Miss McAdam upstairs?”
“Of course,” Peri said as she came round from her desk, “any friend of Penny’s is welcome here. Come on in…”
“This way, Miss McAdam,” Mrs Harris said as she led Agnes up to the first floor, and knocked on the door of Francesca’s sitting room.
“Miss McAdam,” she said as Agnes came in, recognising Francesca as she stood with a tall brunette.”
Francesca said as Mrs Harris closed the door, “welcome. Can I introduce a very old friend, this is
to meet you," Aggie said as she shook the Italian's hand.
a hugely successful media and public relations company back in Italy."
doing the press and PR for Carlotta's wedding, and despite the odd hiccup I
think we aren't doing too badly on that."
what I've read and seen I'd have to agree." Agnes nodded.
also managing the re-shaping of my public image," Francesca smiled.
"Helping to try and bury La Bionda Idiota."
are actually finding that Francesca has become something of a spokeswoman for
those who have suffered from long-term forms of severe depression." Elia
smiled, "even I'm surprised at how real the reaction to Francesca's story
served in the dining room Marchesa."
"Thank you Mrs Harris. Well, let’s eat and talk."
"Francesca you know,” Elia said as they ate, “has asked me for some advice on your reemergence as a public figure Agnes."
"Well I'm not sure even someone with your talents Elia can make both my past, and my reputation, appear better." Agnes sipped the white wine, "oh this is good...from your vineyards Francesca?"
Francesca said with a smile, “this is actually from the vineyards of Piet's
family near Cape Town."
"I have to
agree," Elia took a sip, "but coming back to you Agnes you know that
in my business we soon learn that you don't lie and try hide a bad story, but
you spin it and try to turn it into a positive."
"Oh? How would you turn being a dominatrix into
something positive Elia?"
with the street kids of London?"
Aggie shook her head, "my work is best done well hidden from the public
gaze, these kids usually have severe problems with authority figures,
better that my school remains an underground institution."
was a thought," Elia shrugged and thought hard. "What about simply
telling the truth?"
that a 'novel' thing to do in PR?" Agnes couldn't resist the little jab.
said as she put her knife and fork down, “believe it or not we do tell the
whole truth sometimes, but if you simply tell the world the truth about your
financial history, I'm pretty sure that whilst you will shock people, a large
segment will just absorb the information and think, well she did what she had
"I see the
logic in that," Francesca spoke seriously.
"It might work with ordinary people," Aggie smiled, "but as you both know I'm also by birth, just you both are, a member of a social class that imposes its own rules and standards."
“Ah yes – the Noblesse Oblige,” Elia said, “so we turn that to our advantage. Some close friends who would be willing to speak out in support of you?”
“That’s an idea – but there is a downside.”
“It would ruin my father’s reputation,” Agnes said, “what little there was of it left. But if we could get Tamsin to join us, and also Paula Gaunt…”
“And a few others, plus emphasise your re-emergence as a figure of influence in third world economics… I see a possible plan, and I know the perfect vehicle for it, if you can swallow it.”
“The Sunday Times…”
Peri smiled as she, Hannah, and Kay sat eating lunch, "this is truly
"I have to
agree Mrs Harris, far better then what I usually eat," Kay looked up.
Betty love, and I'm just glad you are enjoying it."
are you shadowing Agnes?" Peri asked between sips of water.
it Peri because of some very unpleasant things that got said and done in France
over the weekend." Kay replied.
you need help just call, I owe Agnes an awful lot."
"Thanks Peri but I think Penny will have it all setup by close of business."
“Okay then – but the offer still stands…”
1 pm BST
As she looked up from her desk, she saw Angela standing in the doorway.
“Shirley, Catriona Cuthbertson is here – she said you asked her to call?”
“I did – oh yes I did, sorry – I should have told you. Show her in – and make sure we’re not disturbed after you bring some tea,” Shirley said as she stood up, smoothing down her grey skirt as she walked round.
“Shirley – sorry to spring this on you this morning,” Catriona said as she came in, wearing her usual black jacket and skirt with a white blouse.
“Not at all – you all managed to get back safely last night,” Shirley said as she indicated the seats.
“It was late,
but yes we got back. So - Too soon for
us to talk Shirley?" Catriona asked as she sat down on the couch in her
"No I suppose not,” Shirley said, “but I'm still trying to absorb the news and try and work out the ramifications." She looked up as Angela brought in the tea, and then closed the door behind herself.
"You know,” Catriona said as Shirley poured, “we all thought you'd guess within days."
"All?” Shirley put the pot down, and said “How many
"Yes,” Shirley said as she handed over the teacup, “she and I must have a little chat."
Cat raised an
eyebrow as she said "You know she is the world’s safest repository of
but go on...who else?"
at her old friend, before she said "Did Madeline?"
no,” Cat laughed, “Madeline would have run and told you straight away."
said as she sipped her tea, "She's a good friend."
hope we all are." Catriona smiled.
"But why? Why do this?"
Putting her cup down, Catriona sat back and sighed. "Okay… You remember that you were going through that very depressed stage, when you were doing all that crying about Robert and lamenting that you'd never find love and real happiness again?"
"You mean that weekend at your father’s place in Scotland?"
"Exactly. Well, Penelope was getting distressed seeing you like that and she decided that what you needed was something to distract you, to give you fresh interest in life. I could see it as well, so I confided to her that I knew.”
“And she didn’t try to kill you then?”
“That Penny would not – she was more worried about you, so she called Sandy.”
“And together, you created Lady C?"
come on Shirley...” Cat said with a laugh.
“Catriona Cuthbertson...Lady C...
Could I have given you a more obvious clue?"
not,” Shirley said with a laugh, “but, dear old friend - how the hell did you
even know I was Madame X?"
deduction my dear Moriarty."
"Alright explain Holmes?" Shirley laughed.
“Well, to tell the truth, we need to go back to Footscray Lodge Prep School – that detention with Miss Atkinson. Well, more the fact she disappeared a few days later…”
“What about that,” Shirley said as she sat back.
“Only the two of us knew what happened – and the fact you said to leave everything to you,” Cat said. “I heard she reappeared some days later, in custody, with a file of evidence at Golders Green police station.”
“But what did that have to do with me?”
“Not you – your father. I talked to Atkinson years later, when I was doing my law degree, and she told me he held her captive in his ‘health farm’. So I knew your family had – shall we say a tradition?”
“Shirley – I know some of the history of YY, and the role your great grandmother played. Your family has served with honour for decades – as have you, in your own small way Shirley.”
“And then you disappeared.”
“Yes,” Shirley said quietly as she rubbed her arm, “I was snatched.”
moving heaven and earth to find you when you disappeared Shirley, but everyone
seemed to just clam up...including your own family. No one would tell me anything."
Catriona paused, "You remember you phoned me that day that you were going
to leave for Cambridge?"
remember - just as I was about to finish loading that old 2CV of mine."
UGLIEST car ever made," Catriona laughed, "but anyway you said you'd
phone when you got to college and that we'd compare how bad our rooms