Fresh Starts – part 3







7 pm Local Time

Sydney Opera House


“I can’t eat,” Suzie said as she sat in the make-up chair.


“Very few of us can,” Mary said as she looked over, “but you have been drinking water?”


Suzie nodded as Mary said “good – there will be a buffet afterwards, but keep drinking.”


“Awl reet,” Fiona called out, “ferst groops get ready!”


“Showtime,” Jo said as she got up, “let’s do this ladies!”




9 am BST


“Right – the show is starting,” Penny said as they sat down and watched the Sydney skyline, as the announcer said “Ladies and Gentlemen, live from the Sydney Opera House, it’s the 2016 Complete Style Awards – and to open the show, please welcome Shannon Noll!”


The scene shifted to the runway as the audience cheered the singer, who called out “Please welcome Abigail de Ros, Jo Smith, Karen Boyd, Lily Cole, Juliette Huntingdon and Poppy Ashley!”


“Showtime,” Abby said as he began to sing C’Mon Aussies C’Mon and they walked out, each wearing the cricket outfit of a state team as the audience cheered, and they made their way along, posing and waving as they did so while Shannon finished and said “Ladies and Gentlemen – Mike Brady!”


The audience cheered as the veteran singer came out and started to sing his most famous song, as the second group of girls came out, in cut down Aussie Rules strips and tight shorts – then as he started into Up There Cazaly Trina and Joey led out the AFL group.


As he finished, Mike said “and finally Ladies and Gentlemen – Miss Tina Turner!”


The audience went wild as Tina came out and started to sing You’re Simply The Best, as the last set of girls came out, the full group forming two lines as Tina finished, and said “Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome your host for tonight, The Body herself, Elle McPherson!”


The models applauded as Elle walked down to the stand, then moved quickly backstage as Mary said “move it, move it – we need some of you up in a few minutes!”


“Welcome everyone,” Elle said “to the 2016 Complete Style awards, coming to you from the beautiful city of Sydney, Australia!”  She was wearing a low cut gold dress, and smiled as the audience cheered.


“It has been an amazing year, and tonight we celebrate…”




"Mommy...look it's Mommy," Judith pointed at Carina on the television.

"It is," Annie smiled, "and there is Aunty Ingy, and your Gramma."

"They look bewtiful."

"They do that darling...and one day you'll be probably doing that," Klaus said as he lifted her onto his lap.

"I will?" Judith looked at him.

"Yes," her grandfather laughed.


“I see Mom is there as well,” Ama said as she came in with a mug of coffee.


“Indeed she is…”





“The usual opening speeches?”


Susan nodded as she handed Agnes a pastry.


Sydney Opera House


"It's not a secret that this past year has seen the arrival on the scene of more than is normal fresh new faces who will be with us for many years to come, some of whom are here tonight,” Elle said, “as well as the re-emergence from retirement of a large number of women who are finding out they are still superstars." Elle smiled as she finished her introduction.

"To the music of Frank Ifield, can we welcome a parade of living legends wearing classic French Couture...can I ask you to stand for all these dear old friends of mine.  Starting with Olivia Savage as was, Olivia Treharran as of now!”


As the music started, the veteran Australian singer came out and started to sing.


I remember you-ooh, You're the one who made my dreams come true, A few kisses ago

Olivia stepped out, smiling as she looked through her glasses, wearing a classic Dior dress as she stopped and posed.


“Please welcome Glorious Grace Gresham and Victoria Gordon!”


“Walk it, Mum,” Sam said from the side as Victoria stepped out, wearing the bar skirt and jacket, the audience applauding as she stopped and posed with her umbrella.  Grace was wearing a white halter neck dress with a split skirt.


Darling I remember you-ooh


“Please welcome a very dear friend, back for one night only, Eve Stone!”


The audience cheered as Eve walked out, wearing a classic trouser suit as Frank started to sing another song.


“Doutzen Kroez!”



Pretty woman, walking down the street,

Pretty woman, the kind I like to meet…


“What the…”  Abby turned round at the side of the stage as she saw who was next out.


“I know, I know – time to pay some dues I think…”


“She has graced the Mother and Daughter issue of CS, and she is here for one night only – please welcome Diana de Ros!”


Diana stepped out, wearing a sheer silver fishtail dress, smiling as the audience clapped and cheered.


“She has just been appointed the US editor of Complete Style – please welcome to the stage Philippa Ashley!”


“Go MOM!” Poppy called out as Pippa smiled and walked out, her tight skirt rippling with each step.


As the music changed, Frank heard a cheer as he started to sing.


There she was, just a-walking down the street


“Ladies and Gentlemen, her Grace the Duchess of Lardarn, but I know her better as Paula Priest!”


“Why am I doing this,” Paula said, but she stepped out and smiled as she heard the cheers, wearing a strapless dress with a pleated skirt.  She walked down and joined the others as Elle went up to them, and the music finished.


“And my very, very good friend, Eva Herzigova!”


“Ladies and Gentlemen, please thank my friends, and Frank Ifield!”



The Priory, London


Catherine seethed as she watched the fashion awards in the television room. The doctors had obviously thought it might calm her down, but seeing all those faces she hated, and hearing voices that she loathed, were just stoking the inner fire.

“Oh let them have this night,” she thought to herself, “but just wait till she got free, this time she wouldn't pussyfoot around, people were going to die for this.”



The Hyatt Sydney


"They look to be pretty occupied," the man in black turned off his TV, "maybe I'll just chance another visit?"





Sydney Opera House


“I mentioned earlier that this year has seen an explosion of new faces, and Complete Style are proud to have played a part in bringing these fresh faces to the world.  In outfits designed by Alice MacKinnon and Kylie Mitchell, please welcome first to the stage Trina Culver, Sam Gordon, Brigitte Karonsky, Charly Elphburg – and leading them out, Mary Clarke!”


The audience cheered as the line of models came out in summer gowns from the APCO collection, stopping and posing as they did so.


“Now, please welcome Lauren de Graaf, Caroline Reagan, Julee Huang and Shelby Hayes!”


The second group of young models moved out as the final group gathered…


“And for the younger generation…”


“I really am nervous,” Poppy said as she fiddled with her white lace gloves.


“You look fabulous darling,” Kylie said as she adjusted the pleated skirt of her polka dot dress, “now go out and be fabulous!”


“Please welcome to the stage in designs by Kylie Mitchell for APCO, Katy Carter, Orion O’Ryan, Poppy Ashley, Peyton List and making her debut tonight, Suzie Clarke!”


“Deep breath and step out,” Poppy whispered into Suzie’s ear, “and remember to smile.”


“Showtime, right?”


“Right,” Poppy said as the group stepped out, Suzie smiling and remembering Mary’s advice, to wave to the cameras.



“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the announcer said, “please welcome to the stage Guy Pearce and Annie Jones.”


The Neighbours theme played as the couple walked out, Guy smiling as he said “Can we ask the amazing designers of these outfits, Alice MacKinnon and Kylie Mitchell, to come out and join us please?”


The audience applauded as they came out, Alice wearing a cream trouser suit and camisole, Kylie a short sleeved sundress as she looked round.


“Was this in the script,” Andi said as she stood backstage with Marina and Anne.


“Wait for it,” Marina said with a smile.


“Kylie,” Guy said, “thank you for joining us here tonight.  How did the girls present your clothes?”


“Beautifully darling,” Kylie said with a smile.


“We’re so glad,” Annie said, “because we want to let you know that the award for Young Designer of the Year for 2016 is going – to you.”


Kylie for once was struck dumb as Guy handed the award over to her, Alice and the models clapping and cheering as she came to the microphone, taking off her glasses and cleaning them before she put them back on and looked at the award.


“I…  I truly do not know what to say,” she said finally, “except thank you for this wonderful honour, and for allowing me to part of this amazing business.  Mother, if you are watching – this one is for you.”


As she walked off the stage, Marina and Rose embraced her and walked off.




“Well done that girl,” Penny said with a smile.


“You know her?”


“She came from the streets, like us – and look what she has done…”




“Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to the stage the Wizard herself, Mary Thomas, and thankfully fully recovered now, Fiona McKenzie”


The audience stood and applauded as Fiona and Mary slowly walked out, and came to the podium.


"This young lady and maself wanna now giveaway an award that’s never been given before." Fiona tried to smile as she spoke.

"It's in memory of someone who was a close personal friend of ours from way back in our student days." Merlin continued.

"From the most senior of us in this room, ta the youngest, ahm sure he was influential in sahm way or other, be it his style, his acting or his music."

"In memory of David Bowie we'd like Iman to come and receive this special award," Mary wiped back a tear as Let’s Dance played, Imam coming and hugging them both as she took the award before she escorted them off.


“I think it’s time for some more music – please welcome to the stage one of our National Treasures – Miss Kylie Minogue!”


The audience cheered as Kylie came out, wearing a pair of micro shorts and a gold polo shirt, and called out “Who wants to get up and dance!”  There was an immediate response as she started to sing.


Everybody’s doing a brand new dance now

Come on Baby, do the Locomotion…


A group of dancers ran out and joined her on the stage, doing the dance with her as they sang along.


“Please welcome Carina and Ingrid von Furstenheim!”


Carina and Ingrid walked out in shorts and t-shirts, walking arm in arm and smiling as the song continued.


My little baby sister can do it with me
It's easier than learning your A-B-C


“Mary and Suzie Clarke!”


“Let’s do this,” Suzie said as both of them danced out, wearing summer dresses and heels as Kylie invited them to join her.


They were joined on stage by Kate and Lottie Moss, as Kylie said “Please, welcome my own sister, Danni!”


The band played the opening bars as Danni came out to applause and started singing


Now there was a time when they used to say
That behind every - great man.
There had to be a - great woman.
But in these times of change you know
That it's no longer true.
So we're comin' out of the kitchen
'Cause there's somethin' we forgot to say to you (we say)


Sisters are doin' it for themselves.
Standin' on their own two feet.
And ringin' on their own bells.
Sisters are doin' it for themselves.


As Kylie joined in, Cara and Poppy Delevingne came out in leather trousers and jumpers.  They started to dance with the others as the Minogue sisters kept singing, and then launched into We Are Family as more pairs of sisters came out.


Gigi and Bella Hadid came out with Immy and Suki Waterhouse, ending the parade as the last note was hit, and Danni said “Please welcome Russel Crowe!”


The audience cheered as the Oscar winning actor came out, the models applauding as he said “weren’t they wonderful!  I’m here tonight to present the award for International Model of the Year.”  He stopped and smiled as he said "She's making a habit of winning these - Complete Style's International Model of the Year is Gigi Hadid."




“It really seems to be going well,” Agnes said as she sipped her fresh coffee.


“It is indeed – but the age range of these models…”


“I know,” Penny said, “From Katy and Orion up…”





"Tonight we have celebrated beauty and style in all its many forms," Elle stood at the main microphone. "Many people dismiss fashion as something ephemeral, not really worthy of consideration as anything but a series of passing fads. However, the industries that we are showcasing are one of the world’s largest sources of employment. From those who harvest the raw materials, to those who turn it into fabrics, etc, to those who turn what they make into things we can wear, and finally to those who work in the stores from which we buy, clothing and fashion are more than just passing trends, they are their life's blood."

Elle paused as the audience stood and applauded.

"There is a scene early in the film 'The Devil Wears Prada' where Meryl Streep’s character explains to Anne Hathaway the roots of the outfit she thinks she just casually put on for work that day...I'm sure most of you have seen it?"

"Yes," cries came from the audience.

"Well, to give this next award can I ask one of our own home grown superstars...Nicole Kidman to join me."

Huge applause rang out as the platinum blonde walked out and stood at the microphone.

"This next award is for a lifetime of helping shape this whole industry, and to celebrate her transition to Global Editor of Complete Style, it is a fitting reward to a woman who I call both a friend, and a great influence," Nicole paused, "Anna Mitchell."


Anna blushed as she came out and accepted the award, looking round as the flash bulbs went off.


“Thank you for this,” she finally said, “and I’m glad we can support everyone who works in this great industry.”




"You look relaxed Marina," Andy smiled as they stood watching a monitor backstage.

"Do I? Well I suppose while the show is in progress I don't have anything to do."

"Unlike Kylie," the journalist pointed as Kylie checked out how models looked in some of her outfits.


"So when do you restart working?"

"At the after party as Anna circulates, and ideas are discussed and deals made."

"And then two more days of business meetings?"

"Plus some socialising getting to know my equivalents at the various editions," Marina nodded.


“An assistant’s work is never done…”


“Indeed,” Marina said as she nodded, “indeed…”



“Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to the stage Jack Linklater and Jeannie Brewster.”


The audience applauded as Jack came out, wearing for once a sober suit, shirt and tie, while Jeannie wore a leather dress and high heels.


“Thank you,” Jack said, “as Elle said earlier tonight, this has been an incredible year for young talent to explode on the scene.  Which has made the decision of who to make this award to all the more difficult.”


“Last year,” Jeannie said as she held the award, “I was lucky enough to receive this award – and it gives me huge pleasure to pass this award on to an amazing young woman.”


“I wonder who she’s talking about,” Orion whispered to Katy as they stood at the stage side, wearing tennis outfits.  She didn’t hear the other younger models gathering behind her…


“Complete Style is delighted to announce that the Young Model of the year for 2016,” Jack said with a smile, “is Orion O’Ryan.”




The redheaded teenager was gently pushed out onto the stage by Katy as the audience cheered, walking to the podium as Jeannie kissed her and handed her the award, and Jack showed her to the microphone.


"You rotten bastards," Orion laughed, smiled, and cried all at once as she stood visibly shaking at the microphone. "Oh My God...and yes Sister Benedict I will say my Hail Mary's for that...I never dreamed that my so-called friends might be conniving to give me this."

The Irish girl shook her head as she looked over to where the others were cheering.

"You know there are others far more deservin' then me of this award..."

"No there aren't." Katy shouted from the side of the stage.

"And that is one of them..." Orion took a deep breath to collect herself.

"Anyway… Thank you to Complete Style, thank you to ma Dad, thank to ma Auntie, and just thank you to everyone who has helped a wee girl from Belfast be lucky enough to win this.”  She looked to the heavens, raised the award, and said “Ma, this is for you.”

Orion started to cry as the Londonderry Air started playing softly in the background, House coming out to wheel Jeannie off as Jack put his arm round Orion’s shoulder.


“Oh Dad…” she said quietly as she hugged him, and handed him the award.


“Your aunt will be so proud of you,” Janice said as she went to have her make-up checked.





“Please welcome to the stage once again, Kylie Minoque, in a tribute to burlesque – and also welcome our special dancers!”


“Here we go, darlings,” Mandy said as she and Tracey took Sarah by the arms and they walked out behind Kylie, wearing a showgirl costume as she started to sing.


“Whoever they are,” Kay said as she watched, “they’re good.  Do you know any of them Penny?”




“Well, we have Mandy Carrow and Tracey van Roon – and that looks like Sarah, a friend of their son, but – they got Deeta there as well?”


“It would appear so,” Penny said with a smile, “and they can certainly move…”





"Well Sarah hasn't disgraced herself H," Augie van Roon smiled as he watched his wife do her routine with the other dancers and Kylie.

He nodded as he said "I can see why Mrs van Roon asked for her to be included."

"Mom was nervous, but she felt having Sarah there, who after all does take burlesque classes with her, would help." Blair smiled as Tracy and the singer peeled off each other’s glove.

"Doc being there as well I'm glad we agreed to stay up late and watch it," Chet munched on a snack.


“Indeed – and it is Saturday, so no harm in getting up a little later,” Augie said.



Sydney Opera House


"Can I ask a favor Miss Minogue?" Suzie stood nervously with a small book in her hand as they came off.

"Sure," the petite star said as she looked upwards.

"My sisters and I have an autograph collection that Mary helped us get started with,” she said as she held her pen and book out, “can I ask you to sign my book please?"

"Will condition though," Kylie said as they walked to a chair, and she reached into her handbag, "you sign mine as well Miss Clarke."

"You," Suzie shook her head, "but I'm not a..."

"Who says you aren't? and see I already got your sister," the Australian pointed.

"Alright," Suzie shook her head as they exchanged books.





“Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to the stage Hugh Jackman!”


As Hugh came to the podium, he smiled and said “well, it’s been one heck of an evening so far – and I’m here to present the next two awards, celebrating the art of salesmanship.


"It's my pleasure to announce that the winner of the Advertising campaign of the year goes to APCO and Fitzstuart Woolens, and can I ask Alice Mackinnon, Kylie Mitchell, Amanda Fitzstuart, Jo Smith, and Kevin Ryan to join me please?"


The band began to play Me and You and A Dog named Boo as the five walked out, Jo smiling and shaking her head at the same time as they accepted the award.


“On behalf of all those who work to provide Fitzstuart Woolens,” Mandy said, “thank you, and my personal thanks to both Alice for her marketing, and of course Jo for been a wonderful model…”


“They deserve that one,” Doc said as she and Nikki stood in the wings with Missy, both wearing leather dresses for the next walk. 


“And now,” Hugh said as they came off, “the award for the most Original Advertising Campaign – and this goes to a campaign where the important thing is not who the models are, but what you can see of them.


“The winner is the campaign for Magnilash by LerraBella, and I’m going to ask to come out and receive their award on behalf of LerraBella the Magnilash Bandits – Anna Carlton and Nicola Colman!”


“Told you you were here for another reason,” Missy said as the girls looked at each other, and walked out, smiling as Hugh kissed them both on the cheek and handed the award over.  Nicola looked at Doc, then went to the microphone and said “thank you very much” before they walked off with Hugh.


“Well done you two,” Missy said as Janice came over with Katy.


“I don’t like it, but you’re right – it’s no worse than Tracey,” she said as Elle said “It would not be an Australian show without the bikini section – and welcome as they lead out the models Pru Levin-Stratton and Katy Carter!”


Benenden School


"I can't believe you've met so many of these people," Liz shook her head as she, Kits, and the Gaunt girls watched the show on Aileen's tablet while they ate their breakfast.

"Well I'm sure we will get the chance to introduce you sometime," Eve smiled as Katy walked round the catwalk in her bikini.

"If I'm sentenced to spend the summer in my family prison in Scotland there is no chance."

"Is it that bad?"

“Let me see Ailsa,” Liz said, “where are you probably spending your hols?"

"Mummy and Daddy were talking about hiring a house in America, close to where some of her friends go."

"And maybe sometime in Germany," Eve added.

"And you Kits?"

"In London getting to know my Aunt Aggie."

"See you get to do all that while I'm in the dungeon."


“Nope, not gonna happen,” Kit said, “I’ll talk to Mummy when she comes on Saturday.  We are going to sort this so you get the summer of a lifetime!”





“Oh dear God," Bobbie practically spilled her coffee as Winston came on stage wearing just speedos, carrying a surfboard above his head with Jeannie wearing a bikini, posed kneeling on the board.

"Oh Goddess I bet Barbara is having kittens seeing her up there like that," Penny rolled her eyes. "Jeans keeps pushing the limits..."

"Who is the muscle Penny?" Bobbie asked, "do you know him as well?"

"Actually I do," Penny laughed, "That's Winston Brewster, Jeannie's boyfriend...He's a college gridiron football star...and Oh Goddess I wish I could see the faces backstage."

"Why?" Agnes asked.

"Because until Jeannie is safely back in her chair they will be petrified she's going to fall."


“And does she?”


“Not really – but she loves proving she can do things like this…”


Sydney Opera House


“Now how did I know you would be watching,” John said as he was joined by Jack Linklater at the stage side.


“Oh come on – I discovered most of the girls out there,” Jack said with a smile as Luke joined them.


“Yes you did – Luke, you know what to do?”


“Oh yes,” Luke said as John walked out onto the stage, Jack saying “and what are you meant to do Luke?”


“Keep you here…”


“Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen,” John said as he stood at the podium, “our next award is to honour a man who has sent a lifetime in one of the toughest and most rewarding industries in fashion – that of the photographer.  He may be best known today for his work with the likes of Pru Stratton, here tonight, but his career has spanned over forty years, and a wide range of subjects.”


“Oh no…” Jack backed away to feel Luke’s hand on his shoulder.


“So I’m going to ask Pru Stratton and Katy Carter to bring out to accept this lifetime achievement award Jack Linklater.”


He started the applause as the two models walked over and brought Jack out, Pru whispering “Gotcha” as John shook his old friend’s hand and gave him the trophy.


“Oh my,” Jack finally said, “I really have no words to say, except thank you to all the models and others who have made this job, this life, so fulfilling.  Thank you all…”





“Ah thought ah might find ye back here,” Fiona said as she saw Rose talking to the fitters and dressers, a cup of tea in her hand.


“Of course, I’m here,” Rose said with a smile, “why?”


“Want to come with me for a minute?  Something I want you to see…”



“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Elle said, “please welcome to the stage Juliette Huntingdown.”


The band played a Viennese waltz as Juliette came out, wearing a high collared coat dress.  Smiling, she came to the microphone and put on her glasses.


"Thank you…  Too often at this sort of event we concentrate on the stars of our industry...The models...the designers...the companies...etc." Ju paused, "but as virtually everyone will tell you the 'real' work is done by literally unknown hundreds of thousands of craftsmen and women, who make the designers ideas real and fit to put on the back of models, and to be sold by the companies."


“I did a good job on that seam,” Rose said as she watched with Fiona and Mary.

"So, this year, Complete Style is going to institute a new award in craftsmanship to celebrate the skills that make us all look good."

Juliette paused while the applause rang out.

"For the first recipient of this award, we decided to look to the ones who actually make the clothes.  As some as you might know I got married earlier this year," a picture flashed up on the big screen, followed by more applause.

Juliette looked to the side of the stage and saw Fiona flash her a signal.

"Good they've got hold of her,” she said, “and it's the only way we will ever get her out here, but the award for craftsmanship goes to the lady who did the incredible embroidery on my wedding dress that has been so widely praised all round the world...Rose Harper."




Rose was taken by surprise as Kylie escorted her out in front of the cameras, Juliette smiling as she handed her the award, and then stood by her as went to the microphone.


“I…  I suspect a few students are cheering now,” Rose said, “but I just want to say this last year has been amazing for me as well, but Maeve, if you’re watching, put the kettle on, I’ve a story to tell…”


“You truly deserved this darling,” Kylie said as they walked off, Fiona hugging her and saying “More tea, lassie…”





“It has been an amazing evening,” Elle said as she stood at the podium, wearing a black evening gown, “but we are coming towards the end.  To introduce the final award, please welcome to the stage a true living legend – Judith Durham!”


The audience cheered as the veteran star came out, in a purple evening dress, and smiled as she said “the final award tonight is for a woman whose career spans fifty years – and I can’t think of a better way to introduce her than to show her first ever film appearance, while singing this song.”


She smiled as the piccolo was played, and started to sing.


Hey there, Georgy girl
Swingin' down the street so fancy-free
Nobody you meet could ever see
The loneliness there
Inside you

Hey there, Georgy girl
Why do all the boys just pass you by?
Could it be you just don't try
Or is it the clothes you wear?

You're always window-shopping
But never stopping to buy
So, shed those dowdy feathers and fly
A little bit

As she sang, the big screen showed the opening credits to the film, Vanessa Redgrave walking down the street as a curtain was raised at the side.


“Please welcome my best friends in the world, Bruce Woodley, Keith Potger and Athol Guy!”


The rest of the Seekers started to play as the audience went wild, joined by the orchestra as they planned and sang.

Hey there, Georgy girl
There's another Georgy deep inside
Bring out all the love you hide
And, oh, what a change there'd be
The world would see
A new Georgy girl

Hey there, Georgy girl
Dreamin' of the someone you could be
Life is a reality
You can't always run away

Don't be so scared of changing
And rearranging yourself
It's time for jumping down from the shelf
A little bit

Hey there, Georgy girl
There's another Georgy deep inside
Bring out all the love you hide
And, oh, what a change there'd be
The world would see
A new Georgy girl

On the screen, the main character entered a shop, as a familiar face appeared playing the part of a sales assistant.

(Hey there, Georgy girl)
Wake up, Georgy girl
(Hey there, Georgy girl)
Come on, Georgy girl
(Hey there, Georgy girl)
Wake up, Georgy girl
(Hey there, Georgy girl)
Come on, Georgy girl



“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Judith said as the band kept playing, “Complete Style tonight honours a true living legend, the woman you see on the screen – Eve Stone.  And to present the award, please welcome Miss Panther and Miss Bobcat, the stars of the Pussycat Gang movie – Cassandra Stone and JD Carlucci!”


The audience cheered as Paula came to the side of the stage with Eve, her face in shock as Cassie walked out in a long gold gown, and JD in a grey evening dress.


“My mother has been a fixture of the fashion world – well, bad as it sounds, all my life,” Cassie said, “but she has always supported me, and now it’s my turn to say thank you.  Please, welcome her onto the stage, accompanied by my aunt, Paula Gaunt.”


Eve was crying as her friends applauded her onto the stage, Paula walking with her as she accepted the reward.


“Oh my…  I can only say thank you, and I’m not quite ready to retire yet, so I will see you at future shows,” Eve said as Judith came over and kissed her on the cheek.


“That’s all we have time for,” Elle said, “but I wonder if I can ask The Seekers to end the show in an appropriate manner.”


“Do you mind if we have a little help – age and all that,” Judith said as the violins started to play.


“Of course not – shall we?”


“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Judith said as the curtain was raised, “please welcome Andre Rieu and the Johann Strauss Orchestra!”


The famous conductor turned and smiled as his own singers came forward to join the Australian legends, the models walking out as Judith sang.


Say goodbye my own true lover
As we sing a lovers song
How it breaks my heart to leave you
Now the carnival is gone

The audience cheered as the models waved and smiled, while the other three members of the group joined in

High above the dawn is waiting
And my tears are falling rain
For the carnival is over
We may never meet again

Andre’s singers came along side as Katy and Orion led out the younger generation, and joined in as well.

Like a drum, my heart was beating
And your kiss was sweet as wine
But the joys of love are fleeting
For Pierrot and Columbine

Now the harbour light is calling
This will be our last goodbye
Though the carnival is over
I will love you till I die

Like a drum, my heart was beating
And your kiss was sweet as wine
But the joys of love are fleeting
For Pierrot and Columbine

Now the harbour light is calling
This will be our last goodbye
Though the carnival is over
I will love you till I die
Though the carnival is over
I will love you till I die


All of them bowed as the audience cheered and clapped.


“From Sydney, this is Elle McPherson saying thank you for being here, thank you for watching – Andre, play us out please.”


As he picked up his violin, and started to play Waltzing Matilda, the audience joined in as the credits started to roll…




“Well, that was fun,” Penny said as she stood up.  “we have a lunch appointment with Shirley and Catriona, Agnes.  Kay, we’ll meet up with you later.”


“Got it,” she said with a smile as they left.  “Bobbie?”


“I’m meeting up with Susan later – she wants some company…”


Sydney Opera House


"Darlin' I'm so proud yer can have as many of these as you want tonight," Mick O"Ryan passed his daughter a glass of champagne as she finished removing her makeup.

"Maybe a couple Dad," Orion smiled, "Did you know that they were givin' me an award?"

"Yeah, Fiona rang me a coupla weeks ago."

"And you didn't tell me?"

"And miss that look on your face?" Mick laughed.

"Do you think she saw?"

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure she did precious," Mick hugged his daughter. "I'll have to make you a trophy case if you are going to keep winnin' things like this."



Suzie was sitting in a seat, still wearing the Kylie Mitchell dress in white lace with a black collar and black gloves, as Mary sat next to her.


“Hey – someone wants to say hi,” she said with a smile as she handed Suzie the phone, her younger sister nodding as she took the phone and said “hello?”


“Hey poppet – how did it go?”


“Pops,” Suzie whispered, “Did you watch?”


“Along with a couple of very tired young girls,” Dave Clarke said as Vicky and Alison both said “YOU ROCK SUZIE!”


“Thanks,” Suzie said, “I can’t believe I actually did this tonight – and the people I have met.  It’s amazing.”


“We saw you dancing with Kylie Minogue, what was that like,” Vicky asked.


“Amazing – I just cannot believe it,” Suzie said in an excited voice as Emma Ferrer said “nice job kiddo – welcome to our world.”


“Who was that?”


“Emma Ferrer -  but I’ve met a bunch of stars, our autograph book has many more – and Kylie Minogue asked for my autograph as well.  Seriously, girls, I don’t know if I’m going to sleep for a week.”


“Well, you looked fantastic,” Vicky said as their father said in the background “go and get into bed girls, let me talk to her.”


“Talk to you tomorrow sis,” Alison said in the background before Dave said “do me a favour poppet – don’t go swimming, got it?”


“Sure pops – and thanks again for letting me do this…”  The grin on Suzie’s face was as wide as it could be as Mary took the phone.


“Don’t worry Pops – she’ll get some sleep, and we all get tomorrow off anyway.”


“Well, take care of her poppet – and I’m sure Mom was loving every second of it as well.  I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”


“Looking forward to it Pops,” Mary said as she ended the call, and handed Suzie a glass of champagne.  “I might see about buying that for you – right, get changed.  We’re all going to a party.”




Midnight Local Time

Hyatt Sydney


As a band played on the stage, the models and presenters were doing the traditional thing to do after this type of show – decompress, relax, usually have the first food of the day, and discuss matters…


“Oh that feels so much better,” Suzie Clarke said as she stretched her legs out, now wearing shorts and a t-shirt, watching as Mary stood talking to Trina.


“Enjoy tonight?”


Suzie turned to Missy and smiled as she said “When do I wake up?”


"I’ve heard that before…  We are going to have to start putting a book together for you Suzie," Missy said as she sat with her newest client.

"Like Mary has?"

"Yes," Missy smiled, "and with so many great photographers here I think maybe tomorrow is the best time to start."

"So you think I have a future for weren't just being nice because I'm Mary's sister?"

"Suzie darling she doesn't sign up models...just to be nice." Merlin sat down and hugged the youngster. "I need to say well done darling."

"Thank you," Suzie shook her head, “I still can't believe I did this.”

"Well I bags first shoot with you tomorrow," Luke brought over some food on a tray.


“What do you do for the book?”


“A variety of poses and shots – different costumes, but we’ll raid the stores for that…”





“You as well Greyhound?”


Jo nodded as she stood with Caroline, taking a glass from a passing waiter.  “I found out when I dropped my bag off.  We need to find out who else has been visited?”


Caroline nodded as she looked round.  “Agreed – and then talk to those who have not been…”




"Orion - you can put Paula and me down as definites to walk the Linen Show in Belfast," Eve Stone walked over towards the redhead. "I'm all for supporting Irish fashion."

"Thank you Eve,” Orion said with a smile, “I'll tell the organisers in the morning."

"And if Mum's doing it I'll try and fit it round filming the episode of Game of Thrones I'm going to be in." Cassie smiled. "I'm not a professional model..."

"But my daughter does know how to find the end of a runway and get back," Eve laughed.


“So what are you playing?”


“Let’s just say I make an impression,” Cassie said with a smile.

"Mandy and Bats told me to say they are in as well Emerald," Katy was playing waitress as she brought drinks over.


“Thank them for me will you…”




"So where next Jo?" Marnie asked Jo as they sat at a table, nibbling on the canapes.

"London...I have three weeks with my work...and Curt is coming over to hear one of Big Sis's lectures."

"Your idea of heaven."

"Pretty much," Jo said with a smile.

"What about you Abs?" Jo asked as Diana and Abigail joined them.

"The same as Jo, family time in London but most importantly back to Munich for my own photography work.  Which reminds me – excuse me a minute.'


She stood up and spoke to Mary, then went to sit next to Suzie.


"Suzie,” she said, “can I ask a favour please?"

"A favour from me Abigail?" Suzie looked shocked.

"I know Missy is going to want book photos for you...I know I'm not a professional photographer, but would you let me shoot you tomorrow?"

"I'd love it," Suzie beamed, "but it will have to be after Luke Heller...he's already asked."

"I don't mind going second," Abby laughed.



Noon BST

Bank, London


“There you are,” Catriona said as Shirley came over, “what happened?”


“Some business I had to deal with,” Shirley said with a smile.  “What have you two been up to today?”


“Watching a fashion show – did you hear about Kylie?”


“Young Designer of the year – we are incredibly proud of her,” Shirley said as she looked at Catriona.  “Kylie went with one of my staff to Hong Kong to catch up on her education, and is now one of the most exciting fashion designers around.”


“Well, putting that to one side for a moment,” Catriona said as menus were handed round, “I have some news for you Aggie.  I’ve done some asking at the FCO.”


“Oh?  And?”


“Let’s order first,” Shirley said, “I understand you have found some office space now as well?”


“Yeah – the old Stock Exchange building.  Good location for the work I’m going to be doing for third world investments.”


“Good – well, I made some enquiries on your behalf, and the flag against your name banning travel to Commonwealth countries is lifted, effective immediately.”


“Which includes Canada,” Shirley said with a smile, “so convenient for Chicago…”


“You’re kidding?  Who did you talk to?”


“Well, I cannot lie – Donald pointed me in the direction of someone.  No names, but when I mentioned yours, he became VERY helpful.”


“Well, I have to admit, that would be a huge help – I’d need to renew my passport, of course…”


“Let me take care of that for you,” Sheila said, “legitimately, of course.”


Agnes smiled as the main courses were brought round, and Penny looked at her phone.  “Packing is almost down – they’re just trying to coax Tippy Toes into a travel case.”


“Tell them to use some fresh meat from the fridge,” Agnes said with a smile.  “so what about the US?”


“Trickier – we’re asking for some support from a congressman, but what would really help is you getting your story out there.”


“I know,” Agnes said quietly as she cut into her food, “I’ve offered to talk to a journalist from the Sunday Times, and tell my story that way.  Nothing about the school if at all possible – just what happened, why I did what I did, and the cost to me.”


“But the school…”


“Is off limits, Cat – the last thing those kids need is journalists nosing around.”


Penny nodded in agreement, before Cat said “well, that helps as well.  The fact you have retired, and the truth about why you did what you did, may heal some wounds and go some way to getting you into the US.  Failing that, we have an inconvenient, but possible way for you to work.”






3 pm

Bayswater Road


“Well Tippy Toes,” Agnes said as she opened the door to the travel box, “welcome to your new home.”


The cat slowly walked out, looking round and padding across the deep carpet before she walked to her basket and settled in, purring as it dozed off.  Shaking her head, Agnes brushed her hand over the leather couch.


“Right – I’m going with the girls to get the rest of your stuff,” Penny said as she came in with Kay, “think you’re going to be all right for a little while.”


“I should be,” Agnes said, “Tammy is due to arrive in a few minutes, and if you’re right, then someone else is watching.”


Nodding, Penny said “right then – let’s go,” as she and Kay went out, Aggie closing the door behind them before she went towards the kitchen.  She smiled as she saw the coffee maker, and started to make a pot.


The sound of the doorbell brought her back out to the doorway, smiling as she said “Tam, you’re early…”


“Hello Agnes,” DS Bennett said as he stood in the doorway, “decided to move up in the world have you?”


“Oh you have got to be kidding me,” Agnes said under her breath, “what do you want?”


“A word – nothing more,” he said as he pushed past Agnes and walked in.  “I remember the last time I was here – that night you had the break in and fire.”


“I’ve heard about the last time you were here,” Agnes said quietly as she walked in behind him, “but that’s the past.  I’m making some coffee – want some?”


“Why not – this won’t take long,” he said as he sat down, the suit jacket opening as he did so.  “I wanted to see what happens to an old prossie like you when some friends decide to help out.”


“I’ve retired, Bennett,” Agnes said as she brought two mugs in, “or hasn’t the word reached you yet?”


“Pros like you don’t retire – they die or disappear,” Bennett said with a sneer, but he accepted the coffee and watched as Agnes sat down.  “Are you saying you’re really quitting?”


“I am – selling up and moving on.  I’ve had enough of letting others dictate who I am – so say what you’ve got to say, drink your coffee, and then get out.”


“Oh got some backbone now have you,” Bennett sneered.


“Well, once I discovered a few home truths.”


“And what’s with the red hair anyway?”


“Part of becoming who I was meant to be,” Agnes said quietly, “before you and others decided to make my life hell.”


“You deserved it, you little…”


“Why are you here Bennett – Catherine manage to get a message to you, tell her to do your dirty work again?”


Agnes smiled as Bennett looked at her, then sneered.  “So you know about that?”


“Oh I know a lot about a lot of things now,” Agnes said quietly, “thank to good friends.”


“And the brats at your ‘school’ – how are they going to take you becoming society again.”


“I spoke to them already – I told them the truth.  I’m retiring as Lady D’Eath, but not from my desire to keep them healthy and safe.  In fact, that is going to be one of my main focuses from now on.”


“Along with all your upper crust friends – next thing you know you’ll be going abroad.”


“Funny you should mention that – turns out I can travel, once I have an interview with the relevant embassy.  I have received top legal advice on that.”


Bennett stared at her, before he said “you little bitch…”


“Ah – there’s the truth,” Agnes said with a smile.  “So, anything else you want to say before you go?”


Bennett smiled, and then said “you could die…”


Agnes watched as he took a silenced pistol out of his jacket, stood up and aimed it at her.  “Such a pity – just coming back, and then…”


“Don’t even think about doing that, asshole.”


Bennett turned to see Helen standing in the doorway, smiling as she said “the door was open – I let myself in.”


“And who are you?”


“Your worst nightmare,” Helen said quietly, “if you do not put that gun down, walk out – and never return.”


“Why should…”


He didn’t get a chance to finish his sentence, Agnes watching as Helen almost flew across the room and kicked him in the stomach, Bennett dropping the gun as she did so.  She then turned and pulled his arm up his back, as Mike Babbage and Tamsin came in.


“Bennett?  What the hell are you doing here?”


“He was threatening to kill Miss McAdam,” Helen said, “I stopped him, but we have everything recorded.”


Babbage looked at the detective, and then said “I knew you were a bastard, but this…”  He then took a phone out and dialled a number.


“Are you all right,” Tamsin said as she sat with Agnes.


“Yeah – now,” Agnes said quietly, “but how…”


“The security system,” Helen said as they heard Mike say “this is DCI Babbage – I need a squad car to the following address…”




“This gentleman,” Helen said, “was on the alert list.  When he came to the door, I was alerted and on my way.”


“I should recommend Xavier Insurance to everyone,” Aggie said as Tamsin gripped her hand.  “What’s going to happen to him Mike?”


“Can I get a copy of the security tape?”


“You will have it within the hour DCI Babbage.”


“Very well then – I warned you what was going to happen,” Mike said as he looked at Bennett, and a police officer came in.  “Robert Bennett, I am charging you with attempted murder, possession of a firearm and intent to pervert the course of justice.  You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.  Now get him out of my sight.”


The officer signalled to a colleague as they marched Bennett out, Penny and Kay returning as they said “what happened?”


“Unwanted visitor – he’s gone now.”


“Good – let’s get you settled in then…”





8 pm BST

Kensington High Street


As Colin sat at a table near the window with Tiffany Pettypiece, talking to her, Sue sat in a car outside, watching as the rain fell.


"Am I the only person in this world thinks it's creepy that we are sitting outside a restaurant on a wet night watching your ex-husband on a date?" Bobbie enquired as she sat in the front passenger seat.

"You can go home if you want?"

"And leave you to cry on your own?  No bloody way – I know what happens when you get that way."

"I'll be alright...It's just this is where he brought me the very first time we went out." Sue rubbed away a tear. "Colin loves Thai food."

"You are sobbing your heart out because he is out with a woman you forced him to go out with...It's SCREWY!"

"Well he needs to find a wife..."

"He had a wife?" Bobbie interrupted... “YOU!"

"But he needs the right kind of wife now...that poor gentleman is dying and if Colin's to succeed him as MP, he at least has to have a girlfriend who looks and sounds just right."

"You look and sound great..."

"Until someone remembers 'didn't I have you once'?"


Bobbie shook her head as they saw Colin hold her coat, before they walked out.


“Right – your place Susan,” Bobbie said, “we open a bottle of wine, and you get past this…”


“Not yet,” Sue said as she started the engine.







Saturday 2nd July

9 am Local Time

Hyatt Sydney


"Who else is up for babysitting a group of teenagers at the zoo?" Barbara asked as people came in for breakfast.

"Not me I'm afraid," Juliette looked up from reading a newspaper, "today is the day Elle and I spring our real surprises on each other."

"I've got a nasty little pervert to help catch," Caroline said as she poured herself some coffee.

"Darling I've been so many zoos it literally stinks," Mandy crinkled her nose.

"Mummy thinks animals should flush loos after themselves," Angel giggled.

"What about you then Angel?"

"Sorry Barbara, I have an invitation to be photographed at a racing stable at Randwick, and I am NOT missing out on that opportunity."

"Nor am I," Marnie smiled contentedly.

“Did I hear your names and racing,” Missy said as she passed the table.


“STABLE, Missy, Stable – maybe sitting on horses, but no racing them,” Angel said as she shook her head.


“Well, good,” Missy said, Angel and Marnie giggling as she walked off.


"I'll come along Barbara," Luke sipped his tea, "I want to photograph Suzie for her book, that should give me some great backgrounds."

"Count me in as well," Abigail spoke, "I want to take some pictures as well."


“Mary C is coming as well, as well as Mick O’Ryan – Katherine?”


“Sorry, Barbara – I promised Rose I’d spend the day with her, and Janice is staying here with Caroline.”


“Oh go on,” Mary Thomas said as she sat down, “I’ll come along.  I like to pet the animals…”






"Last night they were bein' called the world’s most beautiful women," Mick O'Ryan laughed as he sat drinking tea and eating a fried breakfast..."Now look at them?"

"I know," John Hammond smiled, "the transformation is amazing."

"Suddenly mah little Orion is a giggly teenager again getting excited about going to the zoo with her friends."

"Are you going to go along Mick?"

"Yeah Sir John, justa tell the boys back home I went ta Australia and saw real life Koala's, Wombats, etc."

"Leaving out that they were in the zoo." Jack looked up from his computer.

"Hey why spoil the illusion," Mick chuckled.


“And in the meantime?”


Mick looked at the group of girls, and said “Wha could possibly go wrong?”




"So how is Annie doing?" Ingrid asked her sister as she sat down.

"They are fine," Carina laughed, "she says Judith is learning some German because she's sure her pony doesn't understand English."

"I'll have to teach her the right commands," Ingrid laughed along.

"The babies are fine, though Rudi has a tiny cold, but the doctor says he will be okay."

"Sniffles and coughs, Annie is a new mother, she's going to worry darlings," Olivia sat down and started to drink some milk.

"How are you spending your day off Olivia?"

"I'm going with my daughter and a few other girls to have lunch with the Prime Minister Carina."

"Very nice..."

"How come we didn't get invited?" Ingrid smiled.

"Probably because it was Aunt Paula who was asked to find 10 models to drag along, and she just lumbered the first victims she saw." Fiona grunted.


“Oh relax Fiona, you’ll be fine,” Olivia said, “unless you’d rather go to the Zoo with the younger ones…”


“On second thoughts, this sounds good…”




“Okay girls,” Barbara said, “twenty minutes in the lobby, and you may want light jackets.”


As they went off, Luke and Abby came down in the lift, carrying their camera bags with them.


"Thanks for saying you'll come along Merlin," Barbara slipped on her lightweight jacket. "Even with Mary and Mick, this isn't going to be a picnic."

"I'm just surprised Kylie is coming along."

"Why not? Don't forget she is still actually only just 16," Marina looked up from her notes, "and besides she wants to have Suzie photographed in one of 'her' tops."

"While you work hard in meetings all day Marina?"

"Tell me about it Barb," she held up the thick portfolio she was studying.

"Well I'll help Barbara," Mary Clarke volunteered, "someone needs to help get little sister pretty to have her picture taken."


“True – well, prettier,” Mary said.  “By the way I got a message from Denice and Erica – they’ve met with family in Cardiff.”


“That’s good – did it go well?”


“Apparently – no bad feelings by the sound of it.”



10.30 am Local Time

Circular Quay, Sydney Harbour


Other than the fact they were taller and thinner than average, they could have been just any excited group of teenage girls looking for the right birth at Circular Quay for their ferry. Most of the other people hurrying through the terminal didn't even give them a second glance. The range of accents from English to Irish to American stamped them as visitors, so they were part of the furniture.


“It’s a beautiful day,” Doc said as she looked over the harbour with Nikki, “the sun is shining, it’s not too warm, and the air is clean.”


“And we’re all in mufti,” Nikki said as she looked round the group, virtually all in jeans and tops.


“So what’s Kylie doing?”


“Helping our latest recruit…”





"You are actually a pretty good makeup artist as well Kylie," Mary Clarke smiled as the young designer helped Suzie do her face while they waited for the ferry to leave.

"Oh I'm not bad, but I had a good teacher," Kylie smiled at Abigail and remembered that night Abby had shown her how to apply makeup properly.




"This is like the Staten Island Ferry back home," Jeannie noted as Doc wheeled her on board.

"Yeah its similar," Doc looked round trying to absorb the sights smells and sounds.

"It's nice that we get to do something ordinary at least for one day," Jeannie smiled as Doc found her a bench on the outside of the ferry and lifted her out of her chair.

"And tell me again why I'm doing this and House isn't?"

"Because his coach at Stanford is a friend of that Rugby League coach, and Winston got invited to go train with them."

"Well I think he's shirking his duty," Nikki shook her head as she sat down as well.


“Oh he deserves his day off as well…”



"So I hear you are running a little book on which of them gets recognised first Mick?" Mary Thomas grinned as she sat next to him.

"And I might be Mary...Why?"

"Having seen the Morning Herald can I get twenty dollars on Kylie?"

"Yes, but she doesn't look much like that picture in the paper today."

"I know, but I still have a feeling."




"You look beautiful Suzie," both Luke and Abigail snapped as the youngster leaned over the ships rail, her hair blowing in the wind, the blue water of the harbour behind her and rising above that the iconic form of the bridge.


“Well this is fun,” she said as she turned and leaned bac against it, the assymetric top of Kylie’s slightly moving in the breeze.


“That’s great Sis,” Mary called out, “remember to smile and look at the camera…”


“Like this,” Suzie said as she leaned her chin on her hand.




“Wow – so this is the zoo,” Katy said as they alighted at Bradleys Head.


"So we have three ways of getting up to the zoo," Barbara read from her guidebook, “we can walk up this cliff, we can catch the bus up, or we can ride up on the Sky Safari cable cars."

"Cable cars," Jeannie checked faces, "far better for me then a bus or walking up there."

"Agreed," Doc nodded.

"Alright the Sky Safari it is.  There’s a lift over there we can use…"




11.30 am Local time

Taronga Zoo



"Goddess they smell," Doc tried holding her breath while they looked at the Tasmanian Devils.

"Those have to be the nastiest looking animals I ever saw," Orion shook her head, "and I'm from Belfast so I know nasty when I see it."

"I don't even want to imagine being in a cage with one of those," Jeannie started to wheel herself away.


“Nothing like what Bugs Bunny met,” Nikki said as she shook her head.


“Reminds me of one or two people I have met,” Katy said with a grin.




"At least in our world most of the things that will prey on you Mick walk on two legs," Merlin said as she stood with Mick looking at the Komodo Dragon, “can you imagine being chased by one of these flesh-eating monsters?"

"At the speed they can run? Only if I'm in a fast car and they aren't."

"Ditto," Mary Clarke laughed. "Did you ever see so many deadly creatures as there are in this place?"

"No...and outside of a zoo I never want to," Kylie shook her head.

"You finished sketching that tigers stripes then Kylie?" Merlin asked, "thinking on animal prints?"


“Thinking about it darling – I can see that on gold silk…”




"Did you see the size of their claws Suzie?" Nikki asked as they looked at the koala bears, "I thought they were like all cuddly."

"So did I, but I suppose it’s the claws that help let them climb trees like that."

"I guess so."

"What do you think Jeans?"

"I still think they look lovely Suzie," Jeannie said as she sat back in her chair.

"What is that bird I keep hearing by the way?"

"It's called a Laughing Kookaburra, or Laughing Jackass, and if you'd ever heard Beth Pollard laugh, then you'd know why we call her kooks." Abby grinned.


“Kookaburra sit in the old gum tree,

Merry little bird of the bush is she.

Laugh Kookaburra, Laugh Kookaburra,

Sing your song for me.”


“Where did that spring from,” Jeannie asked Suzie.


“Judith Durham taught me it after the party last night.”


“You know you’ve got a good singing voice.”


“She said that as well,” Suzie said with a blush.


“Right then – drink time I think…”




“Now that is better,” Kylie said as she sipped her cold drink, “I…”


“Sorry – but are you Kylie Mitchell?”


“Excuse me – are you Suzie Clarke?”


Kylie turned and smiled at the two teenagers, and said “well yes I am.  How can I help you?”  At the same time, Suzie slowly turned and looked at the two girls behind her, before she stammered “eeryessswhyy….”


“We saw you last night – can we have your autograph?”


Jeannie shook her head and laughed as Kylie nodded and signed the book, Suzie rather more nervously, before they all said “thank you” and headed off.


“Do you ever get used to it,” Mary Clarke said as she looked at Jeannie.


“I’ll let you know if I do,” Jeannie said with a smile as another girl approached her with a book.


“This is where you and I go and buy the drinks Mick,” Mary Thomas said as a small crowd started to gather, “they may be some time…”


"How does anyone know who I am?" Poppy shook her head, "I've barely done anything yet."

"By the company you keep Poppy...AND by the fact you just LOOK like a model." Mary Thomas said as she passed her a bottle of water.

"She's got you there Poppy," Orion smiled as Jeannie signed yet more autographs. 

"How does she manage to smile and be so friendly to them all," Poppy shook her head.

"It's a very special talent, girls." Mary nodded sagely, "and it helps that Jeannie genuinely loves doing it."



Noon Local Time

Manly Beach.


"You know Katherine this was a great idea," Rose breathed in the air as they paddled in the edge of the Pacific and watched the surfers doing their thing.


"Yes," Katherine smiled, "with Jan helping Caroline, and Katy at the zoo, it means we can just relax."


"I never in my life thought I'd see the Pacific Ocean."


"It is magical...and a bit warmer than the Atlantic."


"That's for sure," Rose laughed.


"So we do some shopping as we go back to the ferry terminal?"


"Yes - I need to get Maeve something, and I want to get April a toy Koala."


"Katy is getting a bit old for stuffed toys...I think she'd rather I got her something like him," Katherine smiled as she looked at a very handsome surfer.


"Wouldn't we all prefer something like him," Rose laughed.


"Here let me take a photo and see if we can get him in the background," Katherine pointed her camera as Rose posed in the water.


Noon Local Time

Downtown Sydney


"MacPherson you are a RAT," Juliette whispered as the makeup artists fussed over her. "I guessed you had something planned, but this is ridiculous."

"Just be glad it's not a photo spread in the depths of the outback Pelican..."

"I've done that...and this is WORSE."

"Is she protesting Body?" Sheila smiled.

"Of course she is."

"Ju it's for CS...and we did get Missy's okay."

"Missy and I are going to be having words..." Juliette fumed, "no wonder she took the early flight out this morning."

"Would you rather we did a feature on the fact that you worked as a showgirl at the Crazy Horse Saloon in Paris Ju?" Elle laughed.

"You were sworn to secrecy on that Elle," Juliette hissed.


“Then enjoy – I mean, when was the last time you got to do this?”




“Probably when I passed my test.”


Juliette looked round and sighed as she said "Cassie Stone how did I know you were tied up in this.”

"I was talking to Elle a few weeks ago and she was surprised when I told her that you had taught me Aunt Ju."

"Don't Aunt Ju me young lady, you might be a mother of three, but I can still bend you over my knee."

"Mmmm that might make an interesting picture..."

"Oh Crap Jack she hasn't roped you into photograph this has she?"

"What do you think Darling," Jack Linklater said as he pointed his camera.

"It's been so long, what if I've forgotten how to do this?"


“It’s just like riding a bike, Ju…”


Juliette groaned as they removed the poncho, and she stood up, adjusting her boots as they fitted over the leather trousers, and then picking up the leather jacket.  “Okay then – what have you got for me?”


“Nothing big – a Kawasaki Z1000…”


“Okay then,” Ju said as she fastened the jacket, and pulled on the gloves, “showtime…”



Noon Local Time

Hyatt Sydney


“So we know the rooms that have not been hit yet,” Janice said as she sat with Caroline in the security office.


“Correct – and we’ve planted a special surprise in each of the rooms.  We also have cameras on all the corridors – if the alarm goes off, we have him…”




As he walked down the corridor, he stopped outside one room he had not visited before.  Taking the master key card, he slid it down and quietly opened the door, waiting to hear if anyone was in, and then slipped inside.


Moving slowly, he looked round.  Seeing the award on the table, he looked and smiled.  “Kylie Mitchell – she’s a real stunner as well,” he said as he opened the drawer, and took out the blue panties.




“We’ve got one,” Jan said as she looked at her phone.  “Kylie and Marina’s room.”


“Right – get the fifth floor cameras on the screen,” Caroline said as the security guards typed into the terminal, and they looked at the screens.  “Okay – there’s Kylie’s room, and with any luck.”




He put the folded panties into his pocket, and then reached down, slowly opening the second drawer – before the compressed air exploded into his face, making him cough as he stepped back.


“What the hell…”  He blinked for a minute, and then quickly left the room, closing the door behind him and looking round.


“And there you are my friend,” Caroline said with a smile as he looked up at the security camera, the security staff taking a still.  “Can we follow him?”


“Oh yes,” the guard said as he walked casually off.


“Good – let’s see where he goes next…”





2 pm Local Time


"These palm trees are incredible," Rose looked up as she and Katherine window-shopped as they slowly walked back along The Corso in Manly towards the ferry station.

"Another thing we never had back in Ireland?"

"True...well not that I ever saw anyway."

"I think I'll nip in here and buy a couple of books for myself as souvenirs," Katherine stopped outside Humphreys.

"Good idea, maybe I'll get one for Susan and Clint."

"They'd like that probably."  As they walked in, one of the assistants looked over, and then approached.


“Forgive me, but did you receive an award last night at the Complete Style show?”


“My infamy precedes me,” Rose said with a smile, “my friend and I are looking for books as gifts for friends about Sydney?”


“This way please – my mother was a seamstress, so I know what you do is vitally important…”



2 pm Local Time

Hyatt Sydney


They were on to him – that much was certain.  Maybe it was a mistake to try to get as many of the models as he could, but it was just too sweet a temptation to ignore…


Still – it had been a good week, and as he closed the case, he smiled.  Another day, another town…


Walking to the door, he opened it – and heard a female saying “well now, what do we have here?”


Caroline and Jan looked at the dark skinned man, who said “can I help you?”




He watched as Jan ran a small hand held device over him, and heard the crackling noise.


“A low level radioactive gas mixed into the compressed air – it’s not going to cause you any harm, but it does mean we know you visited the room of a friend – and my room – and other rooms.  Gentlemen?”


He watched as the security guards came over, before dropping the case and running – straight into two policemen.  Caroline bent down and opened the case, shaking her head as she saw the neatly wrapped and labelled collection.


“All yours boys – this was too easy…”






2 pm Local Time

Downtown Sydney


“Now why on earth did you stop doing this,” Jack said as he took a photograph of Juliette leaning back on the bike, the top of her jacket open as her hair flowed freely.




“Biking, Ju darling!”


“One word – Carina.  When she arrived, I had to stop – well, that and Mom explaining a few things.”


“And you taught Cassie?  Good job there – but you only ride on the movies now, right?”


“Yeah – gotta love studio insurance policies,” Cassie said with a smile.


“Okay then – we got what we need,” Jack said.


“Great – Elle, you and I have a dinner to go tonight, and I need to get into something more suitable.”


“Agreed - although before you go…”







“Oh now this is different,” Luke said as Cassie and Juliette came out, both wearing leather mini-dresses and thigh high boots.  “Recreating biker magazine shoots?”


“Oh yes,” Jack said with a smile, “to work ladies.”


“I hate you,” Juliette whispered to Cassandra.


“Save it for London – then Miss Sidhe can help,” Cassie whispered back.





9.30 pm Local Time

Sydney Hyatt


“Well, it’s good to see everyone here,” Juliette said as she stood at the front table, “and I want to thank you for joining us here at this meeting of the Fashion Writer’s Guild.”


As the applause died down, she said “we are here today to honour a living legend, who is loved by people both here and around the world – especially for her role in promoting our industry to a new generation.”


“Who’s she talking about,” Elle said as she looked at Mary.


“Ladies, Gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to give this Lifetime Achievement award to my old and dear friend, The Body – Elle McPherson.”




Elle stood up as the room applauded, Juliette hugging her and saying “you deserve this – and payback’s a bitch,” before handing over the trophy and sitting down.




"So how were your meetings darling?" Kylie looked up from her sketchpad as Marina came in.

"Long...Tiring...and a true test of my languages."


"Having to simultaneously translate a meeting held in three different languages. Basically having to translate into two other languages simultaneously what someone was saying."

"Ouch darling...that does sound like a test...But did it all work out?"

"It seemed to, I think the whole editorial control and content has finally been hammered out, but tomorrow it's all about the money."

"The business side?"

"Exactly Kyles." Marina slipped off her jacket, "anyway how was the zoo?"

"Pretty cool darling, especially when we weren't being pestered for autographs."

"The price of fame..."

"That's just what Merlin said."

"So did you get any ideas?"

"Oh a few," Kylie smiled, "including something I think has true potential."


"I saw this girl wearing what looked like a military uniform jacket, but made in faded denim. I think I'll ask if HK can make one for me to wear, and if people like it, then I'll explore the idea further."


7.30 am BST

Susan’s Flat


Susan opened the front door of her flat, yawning as she did so, and then stopped short at the sight that greeted her.


“Hello Susan,” Lady Roberta Gresham-Fox said as she stood there in a long brown coat, “may I come in?”


"I'm sorry Your Ladyship, but I was up very late last night," Sue yawned as she showed Lady Roberta into her little flat.

"You waited outside till he took her home?"

"How did you..."

"I flew over to see both you and my son...I expected to find you at Rutland Street, but he told me that you and Vicky set him up with a date last night."

"Can I get you some tea,” Susan said quietly, “I seem to remember you prefer it to coffee?"

"Tea will be fine, and why did you change the subject like that Sue?" Roberta sat down and crossed her long legs, "he didn't sleep with her you know?"

"It's no business of mine if he did or didn't Your Ladyship." Sue said as she turned on the kettle.

"Why are you torturing yourself Sue?"

Sue stood with her hands on the edge of the work surface, before she turned round and said "because Colin needs a 'respectable' woman he can take down to Chase Valley… I was reading up, selection committees play a lot of attention to the partner of the candidate."

"They do," Roberta nodded.

"So did he tell you what he thought of her?"

"A bit...but do you really want to hear?"

"Not really," Susan said as she poured the boiling water into the mugs, "I can't make his decision for him."

"But aren't you doing it anyway?" Roberta took the mug.

"How? He's the one who has to choose the right girl." Susan sat down, "You know I looked up a word in the dictionary."

"Which word?"

"Endogamy...I heard it on a telly chat show. What it basically means is that men like Colin screw women like me, but they marry women like Miss Pettypiece....Colin made a mistake when he married me in the first place, even if I hadn't been a tart, I was really out of his league."

"Says who Susan?"

"Says me Your Ladyship."


“I don’t think so,” Roberta said as she sipped her tea, “but I know what you know, and sadly…”


Sue nodded as she said “I am glad you called though.”


“Susan,” Roberta said, “I need to say how truly sorry I am about what happened to you.  Is there any chance…”


Sue shook her head.  "Oi'll never be a mum Lady Roberta... that might just be a good thing though... not another kid growin' up to live a life like mine."


"It was far too early to know if it was a boy or a girl wasn't it?"


"Yeah, Oi asked the doctors but they didn't tell me nuthin."


"Have you thought how you'll cope if Colin does eventually have a family?"


"Yeah," Sue shook her head, "Oi'll be jealous as hell, but though they'll never know it, Oi'll keep an eyeout for them as much as i'm able to till Oi die."


Nodding Roberta said “Victoria is right – you are a truly exceptional person Susan.”





11 am BST



"So did Colin tell you how his date went last night Mummy?" Victoria smiled as the waiter handed her a menu.

"He did Darling."

"She's an awfully nice girl you know?"

"Yes she is,” Roberta said, “and there was a time when I'd have been overjoyed at the idea of him one day marrying someone like her. After all I've known her family for many years, her father is a friend of your fathers, and I've known her mother since we were both children."

"I hear a but coming Mummy."

"The but is that I have always wanted your brother to do just what you did, and marry the person he fell in love with."

"Who says he won't fall in love with her?"

"I do...his heart will always belong with Sue," Lady Roberta looked at her daughter.


“I know – but it would take a miracle for her to be accepted.”


“And miracles seem to be in short supply – I heard Daffy was trying to get her known as well.”


“Indeed – listen, did she tell you she has been offered a new job?”


“Really – what as?”


“Executive assistant for a new financial advisory service, specialising in financing third world projects.”


“Really?  And who is the head of this new service.”


“Are you sure you want to know Mummy,” Victoria said with a smile.


“Go on – what could shock me more today?”


“Doctor Agnes McAdam.”


Roberta stared at Victoria, and then whispered “I thought…”


“She’s also retired – and I hear on the grapevine she’s going to be finally telling her side of the story in a reputable newspaper.  At any rate, she’s putting her past behind her as well.”


“I wonder how Catherine Fitzstuart took that?”


“Not very well,” Victoria said as the coffee came, “not very well at all.”




1.30 pm BST

Leicester Square


“Well, this is neutral ground after…  I don’t believe it,” Catriona said as she looked over to the other table.


"Now there is a pairing that I have not seen in many a long year," Roberta Gresham-Fox stood and took her sunglasses off to reveal an amused look in her eyes. "There was a time when seeing you chatting like that I'd automatically recommend you got de-merits."

"Well it's a good thing we aren't still at Footscray Lodge isn't it?" Shirley stood and kissed the newcomer.

"Bobby, it's been far too long," Catriona stood and kissed her as well.

"Can I join you for lunch?"

"Please." Shirley signalled to a waiter, "Can we add a place setting for Lady Gresham-Fox?"

"Of course."  He went off as Roberta sat between them.

"Do you know there was a time when your voice alone could make me quake in my shoes Bobby," Cat laughed.

"Well that was because like all first years you had something guilty on your conscience Cat...and besides it was the half the fun being a prefect terrorising new girls."

"I thought you were in Washington?" Shirley asked.

"I was but I came home to help sort out some family matters."

"Colin's life?"

Roberta nodded as she took a menu.  "I head you were in France Shirl."

"Well I also know Sue - principally via my aide Penny who I know you've met Bobby."

"I have," the slightly older woman nodded.  "I did also want to see my grandchildren though - both the girls and Peter, it's his birthday next week."


“Listen,” Roberta said, “I heard that Sue is being offered a job working with Agnes McAdam – has she truly given up that side of her life.”


“She has indeed,” Catriona said, “Sue was not the only one to make some life changing decisions last weekend.  She’s moved back into Bayswater Road…”


“… and she will be working with a number of prominent businessmen on third world investment projects, as well as chairing a new charitable trust being set up by the daughter of the Marchesa di Cambrello for small business loans in that area.”


“Just how did a certain wife of a peer of the realm take that?”


“Not well,” Shirley said, “I believe she is currently undergoing therapy at a clinic.”


“Interesting – I know the stigma has stuck with her for many years, but something tells me she will make a success of it.”


“And hopefully, give some support to Sue as well,” Catriona said.



1.30 pm BST

Medlar, King’s Road, London


"Why does Catriona go by Catriona Cuthbertson, and not Catriona Arden, or Lady Sithwell?" Penelope asked Agnes and Tamsin as they ate lunch.

"Because remembering her husband breaks her heart," Aggie spoke sadly.

"You know Jamie was killed before Liz was even born?" Tam shook her head.

"Jamie? That was Lord Sithwell the war hero?"

"Her husband...yes," Aggie shook her head. "She was Jamie's girl from when we were children, just as I was Donald's."

"He was like a big brother to Aggie and me, just as Cat was our big sister."

"Didn't he win the Victoria Cross?"

"Yes he did Penny, and Cat has never forgiven him for doing so." Agnes cried two little tears.


"He had resigned his commission...he was supposed to be out of the army...but by his honour he couldn't let his men go without him."

"He promised Cat he'd come home safely," Tam finished Agnes's words.

"Oh," Penny looked saddened herself.

"It doesn't help that Liz is the image of her father."


“She sounds as if she needs a lesson in how to get past grief…”



3.00 pm BST

Leicester Square


"What do we do about us Shirley?" Catriona asked as they had their after lunch coffees.




"Our friendship,” Catriona said, “now you know I know who you are, and you know who I am."


"I was trying not to over-think it Cat...people say I have a tendency to do that."


"You always have Shirley," Cat said with a smile.


"I suppose we need to define what we are going to, and aren't going to do in our alternate existences."


"You will continue running a criminal empire," Catriona whispered.


"And you will?"


"To quote the bard...that is the question," the barrister looked skyward. "Shirley you know the teachers back at the Lodge used to say I was a bad influence on you?"


"I seem to remember words to that effect."  Shirley smiled as she sipped her coffee.


"Would it surprise you if I said I know I have a bad streak in me?"


"Partly yes, partly no...  Cat, remember we are each other’s oldest friends."


"And for a little while more than that," the Scotswoman laughed.


"I remember." Shirley smiled fondly at the memories.


"Shirley can I go along on a major heist one day?" Catriona looked into Madame's eyes.

"I guess...If you wish...but you know the risks?"

"I do, but I also know how thrilling and exciting it is."


“Well, let us see what happens…”





6 pm BST

Rutland Street, Kensington


"So how was your day Sue?" Colin called out as Sue took her jacket off in the hallway.

"Well other than my ex mother-in-law calling before I had to go to work, and spending most of the morning trying to track down a parcel that was supposed to go to New York, but ended up in York instead...not so bad."

"Oh,” Colin said as he looked out from the kitchen, “so would you like a drink, tea or coffee?"

"Coffee please," Sue came into the kitchen and sat down. "Colin I think I better give you back these," she produced two small boxes.

"What are they...OH!" Colin shook his head as he opened them.

"My wedding and Engagement rings...I know whoever she is will want to pick out her own, but it seems wrong that I have these."

"Why? I gave them to you to have for ever."

"Well, forever didn't turn out to be very long did it?"

"I guess not...but why give them to me?"


“To give the luck lady…”


“No – you keep them,” Colin said, “I can get others.”


"No I'll not keep them Colin, I made a promise to myself on the way home from work to do what I should have done back then, and return these." She pushed the boxes across the table towards Colin. "This I'll keep though because you gave it to me purely as your friend," she held up the think 24 carat gold ring she wore on the middle finger of her right hand. "It's all the symbol I need of our connection."

"It's the one the thieves didn't steal."

"And that makes it even more precious to me," Sue said with a smile.

"What do you expect me to do with these though?"

"Sell them, or give them away to someone, I don't mind, I just want them out of my life so I don't look at them each morning and pinch myself to see that it wasn’t all a bad dream and that they mean we are still married."


“As you wish,” Colin said as he put them into the drawer.  “Listen – Mother wants to take us out tonight as a surprise.  She’ll pick us up at seven thirty…”





8.30 pm Local Time

Wakeman's Club



"You know they won't let me in Colin." Susan shook her head as they stood outside. 


"And why wouldn't they darling,” Roberta said, “you look rather underdressed for a club, but you are with an ambassador’s wife, her two children and her son-in-law."


"They still won't let me in...  No way the bouncers will ever let someone like me even in the door."  Sue tried to smile, "you really ought to have asked a proper date like Miss Pettypiece."


"Sue, at this moment I'm still not yet a public figure,” Colin said, “I can go out with who I like."


"Sue of course you'll be fine," Roberta Gresham-Fox tried encouraging the younger woman.


"Well it's not too far to walk home, you all have fun, and I'll see you later."


"Victoria can you talk some sense into her?" Colin urged his sister.


"I've tried, and so has Martin."


"I have," Lord Milnford said as he came back from parking his car.


Sue shook her head, and said “look, I’ll come in, I will head for the toilet – if I do not join you after that, ask what happened.  And in case I do not see you after that – thanks for inviting me to join you.  I really do appreciate it…”


The doorman nodded as they walked in, Sue excusing herself and heading to the toilet as Roberta spoke to the head waiter.  As he showed them to a table, the under manager came out from behind the bar and spoke quietly to a well dressed, and well built, coloured gentleman.


Sue looked round as she came out, and then sighed as she heard “Evening Sue.”


“George,” she said quietly, “I know what you’re going to say, I’m not going to argue.”


"An old hand like you Sue, I'm surprised you even tried."


"I told them George," Sue said as she let the large man discreetly guide her out, "but they insisted…"


“Rules is rules, Sue – however much I think it stinks.”


“Don’t worry, you’re just doing your job, but would you do me a favour?”


“Of course.”


“Inform Mr Gresham-Fox that I was sorry I could not stay.”


George looked almost tenderly at her, before he said "This mean you are back on the game?"


"No...  Mr Gresham-Fox asked me if I wanted to go to a club, I told them I'd get shown the door..."


"Well at least you know the rules, and not to make a scene."


"What good would it do George?" Sue smiled at the large black man, "If they ask what happened just say I walked home please."


"Will do...  You know if it was up to me I'd let you in Sue."


"I know you would, but the rules are the rules, and a place like this aint for the likes of me."


"Yeah even retired tarts like you get seen in a place like this it can be bad for business. The owners want this to be a real classy joint."


“If they only knew,” Sue said quietly as she turned and walked quietly down the road.


George shook his head before he walked in, to see Colin standing there.


“Excuse me – I seem to have lost one of my party?”


“Mister Gresham-Fox?”


Colin nodded as he said “Damn – she was right, wasn’t she?”


“Regretfully – if you wish to complain, I suggest you talk to the under manager at the bar.”


Colin nodded as he went back to the table and spoke quietly to the others, then watched as Martin and Victoria went to the bar.


“Can I help you Your Lordship,” the under manager said as he came over.


“Yes you can – one of our party was asked to leave I understand.”


“If you are referring to the other young woman, then yes, we did ask her to leave,” he said quietly.


"You did what? Why?" Martin demanded.


"We did so with due discretion, Your Lordship."


"How far inside the entrance did she even get?"


"Your Lordship,” he said with a sigh, “I hate to have to tell you this, but that 'person' is shall we say, ‘known to us'?"


"You mean you know she used to be a prostitute?" Victoria said loudly.


"Quite so Your Ladyship," the man looked round to check no one had heard. "We keep lists and pictures of such undesirable women so that our clientele are not embarrassed by them."


“We were not embarrassed by her,” Martin said quietly, “but I am ashamed.”  They both turned and walked back to where the others were sitting.


"Well I didn't believe her, but Sue was quite right," Roberta Gresham-Fox said as they sat down. 


"Further proof in her own mind as to her unsuitability to be my wife." Colin shook his head.


"We have two choices," Roberta looked round the table.  “Either we stay and enjoy ourselves..."


"Which is what Sue told us to do."


"Quite so darling...  Or we leave and follow her home."


"Which she won't like because she will see it as her having ruined our party." Vicky nodded.


“Some party – but I don’t want to upset her any more than necessary,” Colin said.  “Shall we?”





10 pm BST

Bayswater Road


“Agnes McAdam, Can I…”  Aggie stood for a moment as she heard the sobbing, and then Sue say “I’m sorry Aggie…”


"Why are you crying Sue?" Agnes said as she sat down and listened to her phone.


"Lady Roberta tried to be nice tonight..."


"Well that doesn't sound bad."


"She wanted to go to Wakeman's...  I told them no way I'd be let in, but she insisted, and it must be so embarrassing for her that someone she was with was refused entry."


"Who else was in the group?"


"Colin, and the Milnfords." Sue cried again, "I told them before going in to stay and enjoy themselves, that I'd walk home."


"Where are you Sue,” Agnes said, “at Rutland Street or your flat?"


"My place,” Sue said quietly, “I figured that was better."


"It was...look do you want to come over here?"


"Not really Agnes, but I wanted to hear a voice of someone who understands what my life is like."


"Yeah,” Agnes said, “as much as my life has changed in the last week, I still have places that I'm barred from, and will always be."


"Yeah, oi knows...sorry I mean I know..."


"I know what you meant Sue," Agnes smiled.  “Look, if you want some company, let me come to yours.  It’s not the worst place I’ve ever been in, after all…”


“Would you,” Sue sobbed. 


“I’ve been there Sue – and I told you, that’s why I want you working for me, so we can support each other at times like these.  Give me twenty minutes.”  Ending the call, she sent a quick text, and then stood up and looked for her coat.



10.30 pm BST

Susan’s flat


As the door was opened, Agnes looked at Susan, and said “hey – want a shoulder to cry on?”


She simply nodded as Agnes came in, Sue closing the door as the older woman took her coat off, and then held her, gently stroking her head as the tears came…


Eventually, Agnes said “how about some cocoa while you tell me all about it?”


“How did you cope Agnes,” Sue said quietly as they walked to the kitchen.


“Sue, can you by any stretch of the imagination believe I coped?  Really?”


“No, I guess not – but since last week…”


“I realised people still wanted to know me, and that once the truth is out, people understand.  They understand your position as well – if anything, I think you’re getting the truly raw end of the deal, but like me, there’s not a lot you can do about it.”


“So we stay in the background, not able to express our love?”


“Until and unless there is an enlightenment on the bar with the Italian Renaissance, I’m afraid so,” Aggie said quietly.


“Have you seen him yet?”


“No – he’s been in meetings all week.  You’ve done better than me on that score.”


“True,” Sue said with a smile as Aggie’s phone went off.  She looked at the phone, then at Sue as she said “I’m sorry – that was Maggie…”



Sunday 3rd July

10 am Local Time



"What's that Grace?" Juliette asked as the teacher looked at her phone while they sat down on the bus for the short journey from the Hotel to the Opera House.

"It's an e-mail from poor Sue Fletcher."

"What does she have to say?"

"It's about bondage and the knots and ropes we tie ourselves up with in life."

"Sounds grim?" Juliette said quietly.

"It is grim, it’s basically her pouring her heart out about a life most of which has been spent unloved and friendless."

"But isn't she friends with Penny and her set?"

"Yes, but even that's something she fears one day losing." Grace shed a tear at the latest bit she had read. "She's just telling me about something that happened when she was about nine. It was her first day at a new school, and all the other girls divided up to play a game in the playground, and she wasn't asked to join in, so she sat on a step watching as all the other little girls ran and laughed. She decided she wasn't wanted so that night she ran away for the first time."

"Oh Goddess that is AWFUL Grace."

"When she was older she'd go sit in the National gallery in London...not to look at the paintings, but to look at the imagine being one of the group...imagining what it was like to have a friend."

"It's no wonder she was so easily recruited by a food, and people to talk to," Ju observed.

"Exactly...She's telling me that again she's putting herself into bondage by making sure she stays invisible in Colin's life, and that of his family."




Noon BST

The Ivy


Roberta Gresham-Fox talked to the head waiter, who pointed in the direction of a slim, fair haired man in his early fifties.  She smiled and nodded as she walked over, her pleated skirt flowing as she did so.


“Bobby it’s so lovely to see you?” Sir Peter Latimer said as he stood and kissed his guest on the cheek, before holding her chair for her to sit down.


“And it’s lovely to see you Peter,” Roberta said as she adjusted her jacket, “even on such a sad day.”


“You heard then?” the politician said as he sat back down.


“Yes on the radio…Poor Jack, I’ll have to send Marjorie a note of condolence.”


“Well I hate to sound insensitive,” Peter said as a waiter brought Roberta a drink, “but I do wish he could have hung on another month…This is a lousy time to have to be having a by-election.”


“I can guess, this soon after the referendum with UKIP riding high?”


“You understand perfectly as always Bobby.”


“So,” Roberta said quietly, “will my son be the Tory candidate?”


“If I get my way,” Sir Peter smiled. “His support for Lord Fitzstuart did not go unnoticed in the days after the referendum.  If he was to put his name forward, I think his nomination is secured – so long as he follows my advice.”


“About what?”


“I think you know what Bobby,” Sir Peter said as he sipped his drink, “just as well as I do.”


“You mean Sue?”


“If that is actually her name,” Sir Peter snorted, then apologised when he saw Roberta’s look.


“It is…Susan Jane Fletcher…I’ve seen her birth certificate Peter.”


“You have?” Sir Peter lifted an eyebrow.


“Yes…did you know Peter she was actually born in Helmstone?”


“Was she,” Sir Peter said, “I had heard she was from Northampton originally.”


“Yes,” Roberta said with a smile, “she was born in the hospital at Eden Grange…”


“The woman’s prison,” for a second the man lost his customary poise.


“Yes, it wasn’t exactly the most auspicious start to life.” Lady Roberta smiled as their waiter approached and took their orders.


“Now,” Roberta said as she picked up her drink, “what were we chatting about?”


“Colin’s ex…” Sir Peter left the word hanging.


“The word isn’t poison Peter…Sue is my son’s ex-wife.”


“From what I hear,” he said quietly, “that’s one of several labels she can bear.”


“Be kind please,” Roberta said as she sipped her gin and tonic.  “I actually like my daughter-in-law.”




“Yes my daughter-in-law, because in an ideal world that is what she would still be Peter.”


“Well this is the real world Bobby,” Sir Peter said, “and in this universe she will always be just a common whore.”


“She knows that,” Lady Roberta shook her head, “it’s why despite the fact that she and Colin are still desperately in love that she will now hide both herself, and that love, for the sake of his career.”


“Well at least that is good news,” Sir Peter said, “I heard a couple of whispers they’d been seen together again.”


“You might think it’s good news, but it’s breaking both their hearts, especially that poor girl…you know she’s even trying to find him a ‘suitable’ wife?”


“I do have some sympathy for her Roberta – but the fewer people as possible actually know about her, the better it is all for Colin’s good.”


The conversation paused as the wine waiter brought the wine for Sir Peter to try. He sipped the chardonnay and nodded as the wine was poured into two glasses.


"You know Peter,” Roberta said, “last night I tried to give Sue a treat, so I arranged a family night out at Wakeman's."

"Was Colin there?"

"Yes, but you needn't be concerned that they were seen together...she never got past the lobby before the bouncer escorted her out."

"She didn't make a fuss did she?"

"No, nor did Colin,” Roberta said, “but I was profoundly insulted that one of my guests had been refused admission...and what made it worse was that she had warned us it would happen."

"These places keep 'Tart Lists' you know?"

"Is that what they call them," Lady Roberta shook her head.


“Impolite, I know – but if she is no longer in that profession, what is she doing?”


“Office Management – in fact, she’s starting a new job as executive assistant at new firm in the City, but given your views, better you do not know who she is working for.”


“Oh?  How damaging would my…”  Sir Peter suddenly looked at Roberta as he said “Agnes McAdam?  We had heard she was going back to her work as an economist.”


“Have you spoken to Donald?”


Sir Peter nodded as he said “believe it or not, that is a good move.  Don’t ask me how, but the word has been spread that she is no longer persona non grata.”


“And that cannot be done for Sue?”


“Bobby dear Colin has a choice," Sir Peter smiled, "he can either have a career in politics, or he can marry his ex-whore...He cannot have both."

"Peter you know you can sound just as smug as Daddy used to...It's not nice."

"I apologise Roberta,” Sir Peter said, “but as your own husband no doubt has told you, Susan and the scandals that would definitely come out about her life would be shocking to most people."

"That she was hungry, living on the streets, and she was offered a chance to eat regularly and put a roof over her own head?"

"They'd only think of one thing...she sold her body Bobbie."


“Well, just be glad she is out of the sight of those who would be offended…”




Noon BST



Sue looked up as the bar door opened, and the tall muscular dark skinned man walked in.


“George, thanks for meeting me,” Sue smiled as the big black man eased himself into the seat opposite her.


“Is this about me having to chuck you out last night Sue?”


“Yes…”  Sue fidgeted for a moment, before she said “but not really…”


“Alright now you have me interested,” George sipped from his pint of Guinness.


“Look - You know I told you Mr. Gresham-Fox had invited me?”




“Did you wonder why, when you know I used to be a pro?”


“Not my job to think about things like that Sue love.”


“I thought you bouncers knew all the secrets,” Sue smiled as she sipped her white wine. “I used to be his Missus for a while…”




Susan gestured nothing was wrong as people looked.


“Keep it down George…please…but yes for a few short weeks I was Mrs. Colin Gresham-Fox.”


“Gawd ‘owd you keep that a secret?” the black man’s accent slipped as he looked at her.


“I didn’t stay his wife for very long George, he found out, threw me out, I lost the baby I was carrying…”


“I’m sorry Sue.”


“To put it simply though, I still was in love with the idiot, and turns out he was with me too.  We met up a couple of weeks ago, and accepted how we felt for each other.”


“Meaning what?”


“That he’d like to give marriage another go…  To be honest so would I, but it can’t happen.” Sue took another sip. “Did you hear an MP called Sir John Channing died this morning?”


“Yeah, but what’s that got to do with this?”


“Colin is likely to be the Tory candidate to succeed him.”


“So...Oh…” the penny dropped, “His connections to you will come out.”


“Yeah…Inevitable…but can you put out the word George to keep chatter to the press to a minimum please…I know you know the right people.”


“I can try…and what will you do…you know they’ll never let you be an MPs wife?”


“I do, so I’m going to become all but invisible…I love Colin and I’ll be his bit on the side, but I’m going to make sure no one ever connects his name again with a brass like me.”


“An ex-brass Sue,” George passed his handkerchief as she started to cry.




“So how are you earning a crust these days?”


“Oh that’s the really funny bit…  Have you heard about Agnes McAdam?”


“Of course I have – word is she’s retired as Lady D’Eath, and devoting her time to the school and establishing herself in her academic trade.”


“All true – and I’m her number one.”


“Good for you girl,” George said with a smile, “but I guess I had better keep that one secret, right?”


“I would if I was you…”


Noon BST

Lancaster Gate


“She…    She will do that because society will not allow them to be together as they clearly so desire?”


Charlotte nodded as she sipped her coffee.  “It is the way they work Mamma – and…”


"It will not do...I will not stand for it," Francesca proclaimed passionately. "If no one else will do anything about it then I must."

"Mama I know you mean well," Charlotte smiled, "but sometimes things are best alone."

"Pishhh! that is your father speaking Carlotta, so properly Scottish...well I'm Italian...I'm very rich, and I have lived with unhappiness far too long to see others suffer.  Mrs Harris!"


“You called Marchesa,” Betty said as she came in.


“I know it is Sunday and short notice, but I am hosting a dinner party tonight for a few people – so we have sufficient supplies?”


“Of course Marchesa – when and how many?”


“I’ll let you know in an hour – Carlotta and Piet will certainly be coming…”




3 pm BST

Rutland Street, Kensington


“You were ejected as soon as you got out of the toilet?  How did they recognise you?”


“Most of those places have a tarts list Colin,” Sue said as she held her coffee mug, “why do you think I always wanted to go out to little restaurants, or to quiet pubs?  It was so that you wouldn’t have to find out why I wasn’t let in the door in a lot of places.”


“But I know for a fact that I’ve seen…girls…plying their trade in clubs like that.”


“Yeah they are the high-class tarts on the ‘approved’ list, little scrubbers like me are verboten, but the ‘Belles de Nuit’ of this world, they get in.”


“You mean that there is a class system even in hooking?”


“You didn’t know?” Sue shook her head.


“No I didn’t.”


Shaking her head, Sue said “but you had a good time anyway?”


“Not the same without you there…  I’d love to read the riot act to them.”


“I’d like to have seen that,” Sue said.  “Want to know something about me?”


“That I don’t know already,” Colin said with a grin.


"Did you know that I really was illiterate until I met Kay love?"

"Surely not?"

"I was," Sue looked serious, "it was Miss Posh who taught me how to read and write properly."

"Well she did a great job."

"Well Penny helped, when we all lived together they made sure I read newspapers and books, they taught me how to use a computer, and how to do Maths."

"How had you never not learned before?"

"Being moved from school to school all the time, I could never catch up, so teachers paid attention to kids that wouldn't be leaving the school for another anytime quick...and then when I ran away that last time i just stopped going."

"But what about Agnes's school?"

"I wasn't really a Soho kid,” Sue said quietly, “I used to sleep in Cardboard City, Agnes never found me to try and help."

"You know the more I hear Sue, the more of a miracle it seems that you made yourself the person you are today?"

"Well as we agreed,” Sue said as she put her mug down, “now Chase Valley is looking for a candidate I'll move back to my place."

"Running away from home again."

"I guess so," Sue started to cry and ran out when Roberta appeared.

"What happened Colin?"

"I said something stupid."

"What this time?" Roberta stood hands on hips.

"That this was Sue running away from home again....leaving like this."

"Colin," his Mother rolled her eyes, "sometimes you can be so stupid darling."


“I know – Sue…”


As he went off, Roberta took her mobile phone out and said “hello?


“Of course I have heard of you Marchesa – how can I be of service?


“Eight tonight – very well then…”




7.30 pm BST

Lancaster Gate


“Lady Gresham-Fox,” Francesca said as Betty showed her in, “thank you for accepting my invitation.  My daughter, Charlotte Gordon, and her fiancé Piet van der Byl.”


“A pleasure to meet both of you,” Roberta said.  “Please, call me Roberta.”


“Only if you call me Francesca.  May I offer you some wine?”


“The Marquis of Ordford,” Betty said as Will came in.


“Francesca – and Roberta.  Let me guess – family business.”


“Indeed – where is Mandy?”


“With Angel and most of the modelling world in Sydney – but I was invited, so I came.  Pepsi is looking after the boys.”




“Nicola Broadhurst – Jack’s girlfriend,” Charlotte said with a smile.  “Thanks for coming Will.”


“Miss Agnes McAdam and Mrs Tamsin Mahan-Gaunt.”


“Francesca – thank you for the…  Lady Gresham-Fox?”


“Well now, this is the weekend for running into old friends – Agnes, I heard you were coming in from the wilderness at long last.”  Roberta kissed Agnes on both cheeks, as well as Tamsin, before she said “so are you part of the reason for tonight?”


“I have no idea of the reason for tonight, beyond a good dinner,” Agnes said quietly.


“Their Royal Highesses, King Rudolf and Queen Teresa of Ruritania.”


"Terry...Rudi...has she dragged you into this?"

"She has." Teri smiled as she hugged Francesca.

"And us too," Daffy smiled as Betty took hers and Jimmy's coats.

“Okay, why is this beginning to look like an intervention,” Agnes said.


“In a way – but not for you.  Come and have a drink,” Charlotte said as she took Agnes and Tamsin into a corner.




“Welcome,” Francesca said as Mike and Sherry Babbage, “thank you for coming at such short notice.”


“Well, the invitation was unexpected,” Mike said as he nodded to Agnes and Tamsin.


“Do you know Lady Roberta Gresham-Fox?  Roberta, DCI Mike Babbage and his wife Sherry.”

"A pleasure…”


“Sir Peter and Lady Clarissa Latimer.”


“Peter, Clarissa, what the hell?" Bobby said as she met the politician and his wife.

"You tell us Bobby darling, all I know is we got invited to a party by the Marchesa di Cambrello, and you know Peter never turns down a free party," Lady Latimer kissed her old acquaintance on the cheek.


“DCI Babbage…”


“Sir Peter,” Mike said as they shook hands.  “Anyone else coming we know?”





"You know most of the women in this room were at Footscray Lodge at some time or another," Tam sipped her drink as she talked to Sherry Babbage.

"I'd noticed,” Sherry said as she looked round, “we may have been to different public schools, but as you say it’s amazing how many of us were at the same prep."

"It's where you make a lot of your best friends." Will smiled, "I know most of the men who went to other places then Harrow who I can at least tolerate went to Winterfields like I did."

"So how is Catherine doing Will?" Tam asked.

"From what Donnie has been saying, she's doing badly."


“Not responding to the therapy?”


“Not really – I’m not sure what the next stage is going to be, but I know he was talking to his lords and masters at the Foreign Office today to explain the situation.”


“Will it affect his chances,” Tamsin asked.


“He’s been 100% open within the office about it - that allows some credit and covers many things.  We can only wait and see…”




“I had heard she was returning to the social circle,” Sir Peter said, “but to see her here, and welcomed…”


“Makes you think doesn’t it,” Clarissa said as Agnes said them, and walked over.


"Peter, Clarissa, it's been an extremely long time," Agnes wasn't sure what to do next as she looked at them.

"It has been Agnes," Sir Peter looked very uncomfortable. "I wasn't aware you knew the Marchesa?"

"I haven't for long,” Agnes said as she rubbed the rim of her glass, “but we do have several friends in common it turns out."

"Ah...So how are you keeping?"

"Small talk never was your strength was it Peter," Aggie laughed. "Let's just put it this way, I'm no longer a dominatrix, yes I'm still involved in helping homeless children, and also yes I'm opening up my own consultancy business specialising in advising clients on investments in the third world."

"It's what you always hoped to be doing Aggie."

"It was Clarissa.  Now that I know what really happened, I can move on.  But I need to you to take a message back to the powers that are for me."


“And what is that message,” Peter said.


“I am not going to say anything, and anything that can be said is where it cannot be touched.”


Peter nodded as he said “I understand – I hope you make a success of everything, Agnes.”


“I will do – if I am not impeded again.  It’s time past hurts were forgotten – wherever they may be, Peter…”





"On your own Shirley?" Bobby asked as Shirley took a drink.

"Not really," Shirley smiled, "with their wives all in Australia I'm keeping an eye on Tom, Will and Charles."

"I see.”  Bobby looked at where Tom Gaunt, Will and Charles Treharran were talking.  “Is John out there as well?"

"Yes, but he's starting to pack up and get ready for that horrendous flight."

"Rather him then me…"


“Indeed – Hong Kong is bad enough…”


“So where is Catriona tonight?”


“Would you believe, with her daughter?  Something happened last night that finally broke the ice…”




"So how did you spend your day Tam?"

"Shopping Sherry," Tamsin laughed.

"More new clothes for Aggie?"

"No," Tam laughed some more, "the one thing that my genius sister forgot as she moved in."


"Yes while she remembered to get things in for Tippy, she forgot things as basic as teabags, breakfast cereal, other essentials..."

"Don't rub it in sister dear," Agnes sighed, "I've had a lot of other things on my mind."

"Well it's not like it hasn't happened before," Sherry giggled, "I'm the one always had to make sure our room was liveable when we were at Oxford."


“Big brains forget things,” Agnes said with a smile.


“Aggie, you would forget your own head if it wasn’t permanently attached…”




"From what I've heard you will be a star one day Hannah," Clarissa sipped her wine as she stood with Francesca’s assistant.

"Well I don't know about that,” Hannah said, “but I'm learning an awful lot of law working for Francesca."

"The opinion you largely wrote on Maritime Salvage was passed on to me for any comments i might have."

"Oh don't say I got it wrong...Did I?"

"Not as far as I could see," Clarissa smiled, "it was a masterful summary of the precedents and case law."

"Well a lot of that was down to the boss and to the Baroness."

"Sigrid told me differently."

"Well," Hannah blushed, "she was being kind."


“Nonsense – Sigi is many things, but modest she is not.”



"The Princess Itzy Buthelezi...Miss Elizabeth Egwegwe...and Mrs Marianne Vosloo," Betty announced more guests.

"Oh now other than a couple of you I'm not sure you all know each other," Francesca spoke, "but Marianne is my best friend, and the other two young ladies are friends of Charlotte' that sufficient introduction?"

"I think so," Marianne grinned.


Hannah and Charlotte smiled and nodded as the new arrivals took their drinks, Marianne joining Shirley as Itzy and Liz went towards the other two.


“Welcome Sisters,” Charlotte said in a low voice.


“Greetings Little Mother – why are we here tonight?”


“To support me and Agnes – but the real topic of discussion will be revealed later…”



“Dinner is served.”


“Ah excellent,” Francesca said as she smiled at Betty, “Shall we ladies and gentlemen?”



As Agnes took her seat, she realised she was sat next to Sir Peter Latimer.


"Peter,” she said as Betty served the starters, “I know you probably want to get over the shock of me being here."

"Well I was a trifle surprised Aggie," the politician replied with a practiced smile.  “I had heard you were moving on, but to see you as you are…”

"Quite…  Look, I need to draw on your professional expertise..."


"You know your way round South-East Asia don't you?"

"Well I used to when I was still with the company."

"I've been asked to make recommendations for Torware in siting a new factory and distribution complex in that region, but they want it to be a 'clean' operation."

"No backhanders, decent wages..."

"Exactly Peter. Can I make an appointment to come see you next week to discuss this?"


“Not at Central Office?”


“No – but my offices are not ready, and I suspect you would not want to be seen at my home.  Suggest neutral ground, and we can meet there?”


Peter nodded.  “Still the soul of discretion Agnes – very well, call this number tomorrow.  It’s my direct line.”


“Thank you,” Agnes said as she started to eat…





"So what do you do to earn a crust Elizabeth?" Tom Gaunt asked as they ate.

"Well I was in the South African army, but they had me behind a desk, so I resigned."

"Not enough action?"

"No," Liz smiled, "but anyway I fetched up working indirectly for Xavier International looking at their African projects...I guess you can say I do troubleshooting for them."

"Now that sounds more exciting?"

"If you call flying into places and trying to find out why deliveries are not getting in or out, or why we have a problem with local authorities exciting." Liz glossed over the true nature of what she did.

"Well its better than being behind a desk I'd guess.  Your friend – is that really the Zulu princess?"


“It is – although she tends not to use the title.  I suspect Betty – Mrs Harris – was been formal, given this is a formal dinner.  She works with Marianne on a horse ranch she is setting up.”





“I see you slipped in as well,” Charlotte said as she sat next to Karen Kumalo.


“Well, I never was one for introductions,” Karen said with a smile, “and I prefer the quiet chat and company.”


“So have you found what you were looking for?”


“Oh yes,” Karen said with a smile.  “So much work for me to do here…”


“So what do you do Karen,” Mike Babbage asked.


"Oh many things…  When I was at Cambridge Mike my friends described me as a witch doctor," Karen sipped her wine.

"A racial slur?"

"No," Karen laughed, "reflective of my position as a hereditary spiritual leader of my people."

"Now that sounds VERY interesting."

"She is the Great Great Great Granddaughter of the Great Elephant," Charlotte explained.

"Alright I remember enough colonial history to know that makes you a direct descendant of King Lobengula," Mike shook his head.

"I am."

"And it’s why she has such an important spiritual role in the traditional religion of her people."

"As Charlotte says, hence why some people call me a witch doctor," Karen laughed.

"Well I'm so impressed to meet you..."

"You have made my husband glad he came Karen," Sherry joined in. "You'll give him something to talk about at work other than catching people."

"You are with the Murder Squad aren't you?"


“That’s right,” Mike said.


“May you know success wherever possible…”



"Perhaps we need to inaugurate a London branch of The Sinners?" Charles Treharran spoke. "This room is full of just the same variety of people that we meet when we are in New York."

"It is isn't it?" Will replied, "and I think the conversation is all the better for it."

"Maybe just a trifle top heavy on lawyers," Sherry Babbage smiled. 

"Oh I wouldn't say that is true Sherry darling." Will smiled. "There are just enough of them to add a certain gravitas to the chat."


“So long as it is as egalitarian as the main group,” Francesca said.  “which brings me to the reason I asked you all to join me here today.  I think most of you know each other better thean I know you," Francesca smiled, "but I think this really needs someone who is on the outside to bash some heads together."

"Meaning what Marchesa?" Lady Roberta smiled.

"It's Francesca please...and what it means is that I'm going to use all the tools I have at my disposal to hopefully bring some much needed happiness to some people known to many of you in this room."

"What my Mother means is she's poking her nose in, and using the lure of Mrs Harris' wonderful cooking as a lure to get you here so she can do so."

"Well what I have had so far is to die for," Tamsin Mahan-Gaunt smiled.

"Betty has been an incredible find," Shirley shook her head, "she can have a job with me anytime she wishes to leave Francesca."

"And this wine is superb...  You say it’s from your family vineyards Pieter?" Tom Gaunt smiled appreciatively.

"It is indeed."

"I think I need ask my wine merchant in Dublin to get me some."

"Well I'm glad you are all enjoying my food and wine, but can we please start to discuss all the problems?" Francesca asked.


“Okay then,” Agnes said, “many of you have welcomed me back – but a friend of mine is in danger of being badly hurt as well by events, and I like Francesca want to help them.”


“Let me guess – Colin, Roberta?”


“Indeed,” Roberta said, “you will all have heard the sad news this morning, but…  Would it be betraying a confidence, Sir Peter?”


“No – Colin is the likely Conservative candidate for the upcoming by-election.  And if he is selected, then we need to make sure certain facts are kept – quiet.”


“He is talking about Colin’s former marriage to Susan, and her past – shall we see career choices,” Roberta said.


“Indeed,” Francesca said, “a young woman very much in love, who has made a success of herself, but because of her past…”


“A past that cannot be just ignored,” Sir Peter said.


"I thought the Conservative Party believed in self help Sir Peter?"

"We do Marchesa..."

"Well can you think of anyone who presents a better example of self-help then Sue?"

"The sex trade isn't self help."

"Why are you British so hung-up on sex?" Francesca shook her head.

"I think you can safely say that it’s our protestant heritage," Shirley said quietly.


"In my life,” Francesca said, “I slept with literally dozens of men Sir Peter, but while I have a certain notoriety no one treats me as though I was a piece of scum."

"It's the money thing..."

"So it's alright to be a billionairess and give it away, but not to be a poor girl and do the same thing as a way of keeping body and soul together."

"Marchesa,” Sir Peter said, “you are a lawyer - you know very well the history of how prostitution is viewed."




"Your mother is giving my husband a hard time Charlotte," Clarissa Latimer looked across.

"Well she feels VERY passionately that couples in love should not have obstacles put in the way of their happiness."

"So you approve of Susan Fletcher?"

"I don't really know her, but one of her best friends is also one of mine, and I know her well enough to think she and Colin deserve to have a full life together, not a hidden life of secret assignations, and her hiding out of sight so she doesn't bring him trouble."



“Perhaps,” Agnes said, “we should approach this from a different angle.  Most of us here have met Susan, and know whatever she was in the past, now she is a working woman with a good job.  Sir Peter, I am not a politician either, but I know many have – shall we say, secret lives?”


“Very true… Ah,” Sir Peter said, “your question is, what steps could we take to try and keep the private and the public faces apart?”


“Precisely – it’s not as if it has not happened in the past.”


“Usually for different reasons,” Sir Peter said with a smile.


“So let us walk through it – if Colin’s name is put forward,” Will asked, “where are the major stumbling blocks?”


“In my opinion,” Sir Peter said as he sipped his wine, “James Raeburn the constituency party chairman will be the person who will raise the most objections to Colin."

"Who is he Peter?" Shirley asked.

"Local factory owner, a Scot, very Presbyterian, very moral."

"He does sound like the type who would object to 'his' candidate having a whore as his ex wife."




"Am I right in thinking Mr Raeburn is a rather 'taciturn' man shall we say?" Agnes's eyes danced merrily.

"It sounds a fair description," Sir Peter looked at her, "in my experience he is certainly a man of few words...Why?"

"Oh, I just know the type Peter.  Is he married?"


“Oh yes – quiet little woman.  As for him, he devotes Sunday's to his church, Monday's to the Conservative Party, and the rest of the week to his business." Sir Peter shook his head. "I'm never sure which means more to him."


“Agnes, what are you thinking?”


“Nothing – for now,” Aggie said with a smile.


"Is there any help that you can suggest Karen?" Sherry tried to broaden the conversation.

"Well if any of you were believers in the faith of my people,” Karen said, “then I'd say let's get a goat, I'll open it up and read its innards."

"Can you honestly do that?" Tamsin asked with a shocked expression.

"I can...but since I was also raised as a Methodist, let me just suggest we might all try praying for a happy outcome."

"If I knew that Mrs Harris knew of recipes to make goat taste this wonderful then I'd rather like the first option." Francesca laughed.


“You just might,” Hannah said with a smile.


"You've been very quiet Itsy," Marianne whispered.

"Oh have I? I'm sorry but I've been listening."

"And what do you make of all this?"

"Speaking in what capacity?"

"As a young woman who has been the unfair victim of traditional prejudices?"

"Then I'd say that I feel truly sorry for the two of them, and hope a way can be found."


“We have been – shall we say, considering suitable partners for Colin in public,” Daffy said, “and a few girls have come to mind.  Ones that look good in public, but may be – understanding of the situation.”


“Please tell me they are not…”


“No – but we are still looking…”




“I have to say, Marianne and your friends are fascinating women,” Roberta whispered to Charlotte.


"Oh I agree.  They are three superb examples of the bright future that can be there for African women." Charlotte spoke.

"Well both Itsy and Karen though have inherited status among their respective tribes."

"But it wasn't that status that saw them both do so well at university Roberta."

"Yes but it helped get them initial educations at elite private schools."

"True, but Liz on the other hand…  Her parents were both servants, and she went through the conventional schools, then to University, and into the army."


“And now she is a consultant for you?”




9 pm BST

The Reform Club


“Donald – thank you for meeting us here,” Phillip Hammond said as he stood up to greet Lord Donald Fitzstuart.  “I understand this is a difficult time for you.”


“As my political master, I could not refuse the invitation,” Donald said as the shook hands.  “Sir Simon.”


“Good to see you Donald,” the dark haired man said.  Sir Simon McDonald KCMG KCVO as the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Head of the Diplomatic Service was one of the most powerful men in Great Britain.


“Have a seat,” Phillip said as they sat round the low table.  “Glenmorangie?”


“Please,” Donald said.


“So how is Catherine,” Simon asked as the drinks were brought over.


“Not good,” Donald said quietly.  “According to the doctors, she is still fixated on those she thinks are unworthy.  The mood swings seem to stabilise, and then…  You know they showed the Complete Style show from Sydney yesterday?”


Both men nodded as Donald said “well, they let her watch it – but when she had a session with the psychiatrist after, he recorded her comments.  They were not pretty.”


“So the official line is still she is resting in the country,” Sir Colin said.  “Donald, I want you to know that, despite what has happened, we are minded to recommend to Her Majesty that you be appointed the new French ambassador.”


“It is indeed an honour,” Donald said, “and if I am appointed, I will serve with due humility.”


“We want to do it before the end of the week,” Phillip said, “and the likely change in leadership.  There are, however, some questions and assurances we need answers to Donald.”


“Ah – I can imagine what they are,” Donald said quietly before he took a drink.  “Go on then.”


“Donald,” Sir Colin said quietly, “what exactly is the current relationship between you and Agnes McAdam.”


“Exactly?  At this time, we are rediscovering our feelings for each other.  Having said that, she has sworn not to interfere in any way publically between Catherine and myself, or seek to break up our marriage.”


“You have heard the news?”


“I have, Sir,” he said as he looked at Phillip.  “As you will have seen from my reports and young Gresham-Fox’s, she has decided to – retire from one of her previous occupations, and has been approached to act as an expert on a number of third world development projects.”


“So I have heard,” Sir Colin said, “the communique from the French Foreign Minister was most effusive of her input into your discussions.  Having said that, Donald…”


“Let me head off the question with total honesty, Sir Colin, Minister.  Yes, we are also rekindling our previous intimate relationship, but with all discretion and behind closed doors.  As I am sure you are aware, the McAdam of McAdam is legendary for her discretion.”


Both men nodded as he said “but publically at least, she will not be visible.  Catherine is my wife, and will remain so when she is finally allowed to join me.”


“I think that is the answer we wanted to here,” Sir Colin said.  “She is now resident in Bayswater Road?”


“Indeed – the flat has excellent security measures.”


“And her past history?”


Donald sipped his whisky and smiled.  “I commend the Sunday Times Magazine next week to you both – you will find it most enlightening.  So let me give you a taster – it will reveal the fact that an old acquaintance of Agnes was behind the way she was unmasked twenty years ago, and the effect that had had on her, as well as the full story of why she did what she did.  Something that never came out at her trial.  No-one currently in office is involved in that story, but certain police officers have been charged with perverting the course of justice and attempted murder.”


Phillip looked at Sir Colin, who nodded as he said “the Commissioner informed me. My colleagues in the Home Office and Ministry of Justice are at work on those matters.  Lord Donald, your answers have allayed my fears.  Please make yourself available tomorrow to visit Her Majesty at the palace.”



9.30 pm BST

Lancaster Gate


"Mama can you imagine Dad here tonight?"

"No darling," Francesca blinked back a tear, "he would have hated it. James really preferred smaller social gatherings."

"Yes he did." Charlotte took a sip, "but there are several people here he would have liked though."

"Agnes McAdam for certain Carlotta, he and she would have found things both to argue about..."

"And to agree about," Charlotte finished.

"I think Will as well."

"Yes I think he would have soon seen how kind Will is to everyone Mama.”


"Does Simeon Leecaster wield much influence in Chase Valley?" Tom asked.

"Not in the way his ancestors did when it was a seat in their gift," Peter spoke seriously, "in the 19th century the Earls of Leecaster simply told the people of Helmstone who their MP was going to be."

"Simeon isn't exactly a Tory anyway," Charles spoke, "he's far too independent minded to support a particular party."

"Agreed," Bobby nodded, "on some issues he's to the right of UKIP, on others he's redder then red."

"So his endorsement wouldn't help Colin?"

"Not very much Tom, though he's the biggest landowner his political influence I would think is virtually nil."

"Yes," Bobby nodded, "it's not like in my father-in-law’s time when even then the Earl could still sway a lot of people."

"It's a pity, because i think Simeon is the sort of chap would understand Sue and Colin."

"You mean because his own sex life has been so scandalous?" Shirley laughed.

"Well it was a thought," Tom smiled.


“I have to say,” Sir Peter answered, “for all the problems her past has caused, Susan is doing the right thing if she wants to stand by Colin.  The issue is, unless she is very careful, someone will find out.”


“So we need to be very careful.”


“Forgive me Marchesa – your additional guests have arrived,” Betty said as she showed Colin and Susan in.


“It’s all right Mrs Harris,” Francesca said as she stood up, “we’ll take coffee in the lounge.  Susan, Colin – welcome, come and join us.”


“Are you sure I should be here,” Susan said as Sir Peter looked at her.


“Yes we are,” Roberta said as she took Susan by the arm, “we’ve been talking about how we can help you, and we have some ideas to share…”


“Oh god – Sir Peter, Lady Clarissa, don’t tell me you were asked to come as well?”


“We were,” Clarissa said, “but all I have heard of you, Susan, tells me you are the right person for Colin, if only a way of getting past your younger life could be found.”


“Which it cannot – and that is the problem,” Susan said as she held Colin’s hand.


“Well, if I can find a way out, so can you Sue,” Agnes said, “we just need to lay the groundwork…”


“Could we get Margaret Harker involved,” Shirley said to Will.


“Possibly – but she is not the big voice we need,” Will said, “so we need more.”


“Colin,” Sir Peter said as he and Clarissa sat with Colin and Susan, “you heard about the death this morning?”


“Mother told me – am I up for the seat?”


“You will be, if you want to stand – but there are going to be difficulties, so I need honesty.  Are you in love with Susan?”


Colin looked at her and said “Yes?”


“And you are truly prepared to step back, to meld into the shadows to help him succeed,” he said as he looked at Sue.


“I am, Sir Peter – as I am sure you have been told by many people here.”


She wondered why Sir Peter was looking at her so intently, before he said “Okay – we will find a way to make this work, and I am personally sorry this has had to be the way.”


“I…  I don’t understand, Sir Peter,” Colin said, “I thought…”


“As I have been reminded tonight, Colin, we are all humans and need to recognise our failings as well as our strengths.  I know this is painful, but Susan is doing the right thing – in public.”


“So the question becomes divorcing the public from the private,” Clarissa said, “which is what we need to try to do.”


“But how do we do that?”


“Slowly – in the meantime Colin, we talk about getting you through the selection process…”



“What are you looking at Karen,” Charlotte said as she sat with the South African girls.


“A girl who is lost,” Karen said quietly, “would you excuse me for a few minutes?”  Standing up, she walked over to where Sue was standing, having left Colin talking to the Latimers.


“Forgive me,” she said quietly, “but I could see you were a little left out of the conversation, Susan.”


“It’s Karen, isn’t it,” Susan said quietly.  “You know Charlotte from Africa?”


“Indeed,” Karen said with a smile.


“Penny talks about you, says you are some kind of witch doctor…”


“Well, that’s not quite true…”


“How does it look to you?”


"Susan, my people revere me as a seer," Karen spoke quietly. "While a lot of what I am able to predict is simply the result of being a highly educated person, with excellent analytical skills, and a formidable range of sources of information. I do genuinely seem to have the skill of prophecy using the traditional methods that my grandmother taught me."

"Oh?" Sue looked intrigued.

"Do you want me to use all my skills and knowledge to give you and Colin a prediction that might give you some clues how to proceed?"


“Well, we’re having coffee instead of tea,” Susan said with a smile.


“Tea leaves?  I am aware of the technique, but it is a charlatan’s trick,” Karen said with a smile.  “No – Marchesa, would you object if I tried a little experiment while the menfolk talk?”


“Of course not,” Francesca said, “what do you need?”


“Will the ladies please sit in a circle round me and Susan?”


“Why not,” Victoria said as Charlotte put a chair in the middle of the room, Karen sitting in it as Sue sat opposite her, and the other women gathered round, some of the men watching as well.


"Sooth...Sooth...Sooth...Sooth," Karen said quietly as she let her eyes glaze over.

"Is this part of the ritual?" Colin's sister whispered.

"No Victoria," Karen's eyes popped open and she started to laugh, "it's just indeed to prove I am a soothsayer..."

For a second there was quiet, then laughter, smiles, and groans broke out among the guests.

"Alright we fell for that one," Shirley Babbage laughed.

"Yes, and now you are all relaxed then you are in a lot better place for me to start this," Karen shortened her breath, closed her eyes, and went into a real trance.


"Those of you who have questions of the Umlimo should ask them," Itsy spoke quietly, "but as I was warned many years ago, be aware you may not like her answers to your enquiry."

"Is she even breathing?" Martin asked Charlotte in a whisper.

"She is...I've seen this before, but she's has slowed her vital signs down to a point they are barely perceptible."


"Will I have any more children?" Victoria asked the first question.

"In seven and a half months, as you are fully aware," the words came from Karen's mouth in the sounds of an ancient woman.

"Oh God how did she know that?" Vicky covered her mouth, "I only saw my doctor this afternoon, I haven't even told Martin yet."

Martin looked at Victoria as he said "I'm to be a father again?"

Roberta whispered "I'm to be a grandmother again?"


“Indeed – all will be well.”


“Tell me Umlimo,” Marianne said, “will John and I be happy in our retirement?”


“You and your husband are thrice blessed,” Karen said as she looked over, “and you will prosper, but there will be times of great pain as well.  In these you will grow stronger.”


Marianne nodded as Daffy looked over. 


“Umlimo, may I ask a question of a friend rather than of myself?”


Karen turned to Shirley, and said “you may?”


“Will my oldest friend in the world finally find happiness?”


“It has already begun – it will take time, but yes, she will be reconciled and happy at last.”  Turning her head, she said “there is one here who has a burning question to ask.  Let her ask it without fear.”


"May I look forward to a life of happiness with Colin Gresham-Fox?" Sue barely dared whisper the words.

"Depending on the choices you make, you will have either incredible happiness, or a lifetime of sadness and regret."

"What choices will be presented to us?" Colin asked.

"A myriad of opportunities await you, young man,” Karen said, “but many of them lead you towards bitterness and sadness."


“But how do we decide,” Sue asked as Agnes and Francesca looked at them both.


Looking directly at Colin and Sue, Karen said “the road of safety brings initial happiness but long term pain, the risky route causes immediate trouble, but ultimately will bring you true happiness.”


As they looked at each other, Agnes said “I think I understand.”


“You do,” Shirley said quietly.


“Yes – Umlimo, as they consider, may I ask a question?”


“Indeed,” Karen said.


“I ask the same question as my young friend – May I look forward to a life of happiness with the man I love?”


“You have come down a similar path,” Karen said, “but you have already taken the first steps on the risky route.  To you, my answer is yes – but only after you have both felt great loss and pain.”


“I see what she is saying now as well,” Sue said quietly.


“So do I,” Colin said, “and I thank her for her words of wisdom.  Sir Peter, I also thank you for your guidance, but there is only one way I can stand for the seat, and be true to myself.  And that is if the local party are prepared to accept me and my partner, the executive secretary of McAdam Financial Advisers.”


“And that would be?”


“Peter darling,” Clarissa said quietly, “he’s talking about Susan.”


Peter looked at the couple, and slowly nodded.  “If that is your choice…”


“It is – if you are happy with it Sue.”


“But your career Colin…”


“One other thing,” Karen said quietly, “I said one person here would be a grandmother again.  I did not say how many times.”


Sue stared at Karen as she said “but the doctors…”


“Doctors can be wrong,” Karen said, “be prepared.”


“I cannot be happy living a lie,” Colin said as he took Sue’s hand.


“Well, if you are willing, so am I,” Sue said as she looked into his eyes.


"So if we start discussing this in the knowledge Colin wants to be with Sue for the rest of his life, what do we do next?" Peter Latimer asked. "Are you both willing to face the crap that will probably be flung your way if you seek the conservative nomination for Chase Valley?"

"Most people who know me know my background anyway," Sue said, "at least at that level nothing really is going to change."

"No, the greatest shock will be among my acquaintances and friends," Colin shook his head, "My family of course already know."

"And are by and large willing and ready to be supportive," Bobby held the couple’s hands as she spoke.

"However bad the scandal will be," Vicky held Martin's hand, "then we are united in supporting Colin and Susan."

"You are going to have to be," Karen said in a strained voice as she came slowly out of her trance. "People are going to say the foulest things about you Sue, and Colin you will need face a mountain of insinuation and innuendo."

"I get that," Colin shook his head. "Your words though Karen just made me sure of what I was already going to say anyway, that a life of political career success...if it is without Susan being there as my not something I'm willing to do."

"Well it's dreadfully romantic, but I have to operate in the world of reality," Peter Latimer looked at faces.  “It makes the battle even more difficult.”

"Can I ask a question?" Mike Babbage asked, "were you ever arrested for anything related to prostitution Sue?"

"No...I have a juvenile record in which I got done for shoplifting a couple of times, but no I never ran foul of the law for being a whore." Sue looked upwards, "Why?"

"Because whatever might be said is therefore not really a case of you having broken the law Sue."

"But it is a moral law Mike," his wife reminded him.


“I know – and that is the perception that has to be won over.”


“Sue,” Roberta whispered, “are you…”


“I honestly don’t know Roberta…”


“You just called me Roberta, Sue.”


“Well, if you are willing to let me back into the family, despite Rupert….”


Roberta nodded as she said “in that case, you see our doctor.  I still remember what you said, so let’s take everything one step at a time.”




“Speaking as a barrister," Clarissa Latimer said, "I have had more than one celebrity client who has had to admit to a lifetime of drug addiction, or of extreme sexual misbehaviour, and at least in those cases the court of public opinion has been shown to be both often forgiving...and to have a short memory."

"One of Francesca's friends, a top media consultant, has advised me that I need to go public with my get my version out there," Agnes mused.

"The Sunday Times I believe?" Karen asked, as Itsy gave her a drink of water.

"Yes, and from what I've seen tonight I'm not going to ask how you know that Karen."

"But it still doesn't get us away from the fact of the huge double standard regarding prostitution," Will spoke softly, "a man has sex with countless prostitutes and it will be at worse regarded as something people tut-tut at... but a woman sells her body and she is seen as the living representation of all evil."


“Yes,” Itsy said quietly, “to use a slightly inappropriate idiom, Eve really screwed the pooch for womankind on that one.”


The women burst out laughing as Marianne said “another good reason for the Sisters” to Charlotte.


"Sir Peter, speaking not as the Umlimo, but as Karen Kumalo, the woman with the degree in part in politics…  Am I right in thinking that another death that will cause a by-election is imminently expected?"


"You mean one caused by the fact that Jane Ross is very sick?"


"That was what I read in today’s paper," Karen said as she stood up.


"Yes,” Sir Peter said, “as and when she dies I guess the writ will be moved so that the by-elections are held the same day both at Chase Valley, and Kensal and Queens Park."


"Have you considered putting Colin's name forward not for Chase Valley, but for the other seat?"


"Why?" Sir Peter looked bemused, "it's one of the safest Labour seats in the capital, our candidate will take a hammering."


"Precisely.  That was just my thought as to why Colin should stand there."


"My son should seek election in a place he's going to lose, rather than in a place at least a couple of generations of his family have sat before?" Bobby asked.


"Indeed," Karen's eyes sparkled.


"Oh it's twisted, but I see her logic," Agnes suddenly smiled.


"Well it's more than I do," Vicky looked confused.


"Okay Victoria think of it this way,” Agnes said, “wherever Colin stands there is going to be publicity about him and Sue...right?"




"Well in Kensal and QP most of the public attention will be on the infighting within the Labour ranks.  With the current unrest again around Corbyn…"


"Oh now I begin to see," Charles Treharran looked like a lightbulb had gone on over his head, like in a cartoon.


"The Tories I take it find it hard to recruit a candidate willing to take a heavy loss don't they?" Karen asked.


"We do," Sir Peter shook his head. 


"Well, a potential star candidate like Colin taking on such a thankless task?" Karen grinned.


"Will usually earn the gratitude of the party," Peter looked round the room at faces.


"So if all the information about Colin and Susan should come out, it's one, going to shock a lot less local supporters being in 'sophisticated' London...Right Sir Peter?"


"I guess so..." suddenly Peter got the idea. "and secondly because the media will pay relatively little attention to 'our' candidate anyway, we can put all the information out there without harming Colin's chances at the election..."


"Meaning that you can find him a 'safe' seat...perhaps even Chase Valley at the next election and everything will be by then 'old news'." Bobby grinned. "You know Karen the whole idea is actually brilliant."


"Well don't go off half cocked, it might be rough going for you Colin," Peter warned.


"But what was it the Umlimo said?" Martin smiled.


"The risky route causes immediate trouble, but ultimately will bring you true happiness.” Shirley recited.


“Precisely,” Susan said, “and what’s more, I can relate to many of the people in that area who have struggled as well.  In fact, get Maggie in to help you, and you can even make a good show of it.”


“What do you think Mum,” Colin said.


“It think it’s devious and dirty – and it might just work,” Roberta said with a smile.  “Talk to your father, he’d say it is worthy of Trump.”


“Please, no comparisons with him,” Colin said as Agnes looked in her purse.  “Excuse me a minute,” she said as she left the room.


"Look you two," Bobby grinned, "a lot has been said tonight, but one key fact has been left out...Do I get to plan a wedding for you both?"

"And a quick visit to a Registry Office isn't going to cut it this time Bro," Vicky laughed. "We are welcoming Susan home to her family, and we do it PROPERLY!"


“Roberta, Victoria,” Susan said quietly, “I don’t know what to say…”


“Well, for starters it’s Bobby and Vicki,” Bobby said as Agnes came back in.


“And secondly, I learned a long time ago not to go against my mother and my sister when they agree,” Colin said with a smile.


"Well how about, as my gift to you both, that I pay Elia my friend the PR guru a retainer so you can meet her and plan out how you are going to let the story come out?" Francesca smiled benignly.

"And if she hadn't suggested it then I was going to," Charlotte chuckled..."and no objections because YES we can just so easily afford it."


“We can talk,” Colin said, “so, a proper wedding?”


"Well one thing is for sure I can't wear white at my wedding," Sue laughed.

"And as divorcees most churches will not remarry us." Colin smiled.


“Are you thinking what I’m thinking Mamma,” Charlotte said with a grin.


“I do believe I am – I’ll call George later and ask his advice.”



"I'm dreadfully sorry for that," Agnes apologised as she turned off her phone. "It was Mr van Roon of Torware setting me a fresh batch of questions to answer."

"Wasn't life rather more civilised before we had these damn things," Will smiled, "it's become so hard to grab even a few hours where one is incommunicado and able to just relax."

"Even the club is no longer the sanctuary that it once was." Charles sipped from Francesca's fine brandy. "Used to be once you could retreat behind its walls, and for at least a few hours if one wished it enjoy total privacy."

"Do you ever watch young people in the street," Roberta spoke, "especially in the US it looks like they are genetically attached to their devices."

"Shirley's principal aide Penny - she went to all the expense of buying a country cottage for herself just so she could have a place where she could just lock the world out." Sue smiled.


“Sane woman – but I bet she has a link to the office.”



“Colin, Susan, can you come with us for a minute,” Victoria said as Roberta dialled a number.


“Who’s she calling – oh no…”


“Oh yes,” Roberta said as she listened.  “Lady Gresham-Fox for the ambassador please.


“Charles?  Roberta – if you’re in a meeting, end it.  Family business.”


After a moment, she put the phone onto speaker as they heard Sir Charles Gresham-Fox say “Okay Roberta – what’s happened now?”


“Well,” Colin said, “Dad – how would you feel about a wedding?”


“You’ve found someone already?”


“Yes, Dad,” Colin said with a smile, “but for this wedding to happen, there’s a price, and the price is I do not stand for the seat at Chase Valley.  Not in the by-election anyway.”


There was a moment’s silence, before Charles said “I presume Susan is listening in.  What does she say?”


“Would it be all right if I called you Charles?”


There was a chuckle before he said “so the heart did win out in the end.  But if you marry Sue, Colin, then where…”


“Kensal and Queen’s Park – Jane Ross is not going to last much longer?”


“But you’d…  You’d…  Oh dear lord, I see what you are getting at now.  Stand there, take one for the party, and at the same time you and Sue…  It’s genius, my boy, genius.”


“Good,” Roberta said, “because we need to lay some plans, Charlie – I’ll call later.  Clear August in the calendar.”


“August?  But that’s…”


“Plenty of time,” Victoria said, “where are you thinking of Mum?”


“Do I get a say in this,” Sue said as she looked at Colin.


“Sue, I’m glad to have you back in the family.  I will see you soon…”


“So what are you considering,” Francesca said.


“I wonder if we can talk to the Bishop of Oban.”


“Come on Mum,” Colin said, “we only just…”


“Actually, little bro,” Victoria said, “you haven’t formally yet.”


“She has a point,” Colin said as he fished into his pocket, and took out the ring box.  Removing the engagement ring, he went on one knee and said “Susan, will you do me the honour once again?”


“Of course I will,” Susan cried as she put the ring on her third finger.


“Now then,” Daffy said, “we have a wedding in Italy, and…”


“You two are coming, no question,” Charlotte said.


“Goodwood is the following Tuesday,” Daffy said, “I’m hosting a small party for a few days – come to that Susan, we get you introduced to a few people.”


“After Ascot, I’m not sure…”


“I am,” Daffy said, “face it Susan you need to meet some of these women.”


“Okay – it normally takes six to eight weeks for a by-election, and they never call them for August as a rule, so we’re looking September for that.  I know it seems like I am rushing you,” Bobby said, “but we have so much to make up for.”


“May I offer a suggestion,” Will said, “we gather for the Glorious Twelfth which is a Friday this year.”


“Yes – that’s a Friday, so if we said the 13th?”


“Five weeks?  Is that possible?”


“It is if we get on to the provost at St John’s.”


“Oban?  St John’s Cathedral?”


“Oh no,” Susan said, “that is…”


“Not a real Cathedral, but it’s an idea.  We can talk more later…”




“Lord Donald Fitzstuart,” Betty said as she took Donald’s coat.


“Forgive the intrusion Marchesa,” Donald said as he kissed Francesca’s hand, “but when I called, I was told Will was here, and I need to talk to…  Am I interrupting something?”


“An evening that turned out very well, if very differently from what I had planned,” Francesca said as Will came over.  “Donnie – join us, we’re celebrating an engagement.”


“Oh, who…  Colin and Susan?  But I thought…”


“You need to be caught up,” Tamsin said as she came over with Agnes.


“So I see – is that Peter Latimer?  What has been going on?”


“Simply put, Colin said he would not take the offer of standing in Chase Valley without Sue, so we came up with a plan B.”


“Well, I will congratulate him later,” Donald said, “but I need to talk to you Will – and you two as well, if you can be torn away from wedding planning.”


“Oh most definitely,” Agnes said as they retreated to a quiet corner.  “What’s happened?”


“A few things – I went to see Catherine tonight.”


“How is she,” Tamsin asked.


“I really have no idea – she seems perfectly lucid at times, but when you or any of you are mentioned, apparently she gets very aggressive…”


“Donnie, she’s in the right place,” Will said.


“I know, but to see her, and know she has done so much hurt to you Aggie…”


“I know, but we need to move on Donald.”


“Which is the reason I came to see you Will, I’ve got the Paris job apparently.”


“Despite Catherine’s problems?”


“Indeed – I got the third degree from Sir Colin and the Minister, principally about you Aggie, and our plans.”


“You had to be honest with them?”


“I did – but they have accepted the situation, so I may get called to the Palace tomorrow to receive the commission.  Aggie, it means you have to be, as they said, the most discrete person in London.”


“I understand,” Agnes said as she put her hand on Donald’s cheek, “I think I’ll be busy anyway.”


“So – Colin and Sue?  What is plan B?”


“Kensal and Queen’s Park – take one for the team.”


“Smart move – the kid does have a future after all.  And the small problem of Sue’s past?”


“Hide nothing – Francesca is getting the same person who is helping Aggie onto it,” Tamsin said.  “Hey – what time is it in Australia?”


Looking at his watch, Donald said “just after ten, why?”


“I want to give her the good news…”


Monday 4th July

10.15 am Local Time

Sydney Hyatt


“So you are travelling back tomorrow Juliette Darling,” Mandy drawled as they sat by the poolside.


“We are – we have been invited to the party at the US Consulate tonight, but we should be back in London on Wednesday, for the first of Heather’s lectures,” Juliette said as she sat with Ingrid and Carina. 


“Diana and Abby coming with you?”


“She is – Doc’s also coming as well with Caroline, while Nikki flies back with Pippa and Poppy, but they’re all coming to the party as well.”


“I’ll come along after the store opening,” Alice said as she sat down, and the sound of a phone ringing played.


“It’s Will,” Mandy said as she looked at the display, while Angel sat down.  “Will darling, I was just going to finish packing…


“Ah ha…


“I see…”


The others watched as she started to smile, and said “that is wonderful news Will – please, pass on my congratulations to all concerned, and I will see you tomorrow.”


“And who is been congratulated,” Diana asked as she put her phone away.


“Well, firstly Donald – he is to be appointed the Ambassador to France.”


“How is Catherine,” Angel asked.


“Not good Darling – but apparently we may have a wedding to attend in August at the Scottish estate.”


“Oh – who?”


“Colin Gresham-Fox has asked Susan to marry him again.”


“But I thought…”


“We all did, Juliette darling – but he has let his heart rule the day, and plans are in place…”


"Where is the wedding to be?" Juliette asked.

"Oban in Scotland in mid-August darling."

"Well I'm very happy for them."

"I wonder how Bobby Gresham-Fox is ever going to keep the guest list down in size?” Mandy said as she sipped her coffee.


“But I was under the impression Colin could not stand for a parliamentary seat if Sue was his partner, because of her past,” Alice said.


“True – but a number of things have changed.  Firstly, he is not going to stand for the family seat, but one he is almost certainly going to lose.  Second, he and Sue are using Francesca’s PR team to get their story out, before the wedding.  And finally, he will use Dame Margaret and others to support him.”


“So the wedding in Oban, and a gathering after that?”


“Indeed – a particularly poignant one for Agnes as well I suspect.  She had not been home since she was imprisoned…”



Sunday 3rd July

11 pm BST

Lancaster Gate


"Aggie are you going to be okay going 'home'?" Tam said.


“Ardlay?  I need to do it at some point, Tam,” Agnes said quietly, “and at least I have time to prepare myself.”  She looked over to where Susan and Colin were talking with Bobby and Victoria.  “Look at them – suddenly the obstacles are cleared enough for us to see a way through for them.”


“Indeed – Karen seems to have guided them on a path that will work eventually.”  Looking across the room, she said “and what she said to you?”


“That one day there will be happiness, but only after great pain?  So what’s new in my life Tamsin?  I can wait.”


“It sounds as if Catherine is not going anywhere though.”


“True – but at least she is somewhere she can be helped now…”


“So Sue is going to work for you?”


“Indeed – it’s going to be very interesting.”







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