Happy Families – part 4









8 pm



They made a striking quartet as they walked down the street.  The tallest of the women had jet black hair, and was wearing a black leather jacket with trousers that left nothing to the imagination.  Then there was the brunette, in her red jumper and blue jeans, her height added to by her stiletto heeled sandals.  She was looking round as she walked, as if she was experiencing the looks and smiles for the first time in a while.


Then there were the two smaller women, wearing grey leather jackets, white jeans and knee length grey boots with four inch heels.  The smaller was a redhead, the taller with chestnut brown hair, as they walked arm in arm.


“Do you get the scent, cousin,” the black haired woman said as she inhaled.


“I do indeed,” the brunette said, “ripe and ready for the hunt.”


“Remember we hunt as a pack tonight,” the redhead said, “this is for our benefit, and it gives my love a chance to see what we do.”


“Oh i am ready for some fun as well – even if I have to watch what I am doing,” the fourth woman said as she looked round.  Each of the women carried a large shoulder bag with them, as they moved into a wine bar.


When they left twenty minutes later, they looked at each other.  “All either not suitable, or unwell,” the redhead said as she looked at them.


“What about over there,” the black haired woman said as she pointed to a nightclub, with “THE SPEAKEASY” in neon lights by the door.


“Now that may show some promise,” the taller woman said, “shall we ladies?”


As they walked into the nightclub the dark haired woman sighed.  “Ah, now this is more like it,” she said as a tall thin blonde walked over, wearing a silver flapper dress.


“Hello ladies – can i get you a table?”


“By all means,” the tallest woman said as she walked over, all four looking round as they sat in a corner.


“What will it be?”


“Four Sidecars.”


“Coming right up – I’m Louise, if you need any more drinks, just call.”


“Who are they,” Tracey said as Louise came to the bar?”


“Out of towners I think – can’t fault their clothes sense though.  Or their taste in drinks – I need four Sidecars, Jed.”


“Coming up,” the barman said as he reached for the Cointreau and Cognac.





“I like the atmosphere,” Gale whispered as she looked round the room, “those seeking a long lost time, or seeking to lose themselves.”


“Indeed,” Natalya said as she looked round from under the black fringe, “but there is something else – can you feel it?”


Carina nodded as she looked at Annie.  “It’s as if there si something else here, something that appeals to me as well as making me cautious.  I wonder what it could be?”


Annie looked round and glanced at the table to the back, raised up with a group of women sitting round it.  She turned back and indicated to Carina, who nodded to show she had seen.


“It may be the atmosphere, it may be the owner,” she said as Louise brought the drinks over.


“My thanks,” Natalia said as she paid Louise, and then looked at Carina.  “What do you think?”


“I think the staff are off limits – they are busy, they will be missed – and also that table over there.  The scent from there is power – they possibly own and run this establishment.”


“You speak wisely,” Natalia said as she sipped her drink, and then looked at it.   “They know their cocktails, at any rate.  Annie, my dear, I ask you to allow us to hunt, but you will be part of the – entertainment after that.”


“Of course,” Annie said quietly as she poured her drink into the other three glasses, and slipped some diet coke from her bag into her glass.  “I need something given that I cannot do.”


“And you will have that as well, Monster Momma,” Carina whispered.  “You have been patient, and that needs to be rewarded.”


“So how does this work?”


“We sit, we watch, we select, and we invite,” Natalia said, “patience, my friends – they will come to us...”


Miss Lynx walked from the raised table towards the bar, where Louise was talking to Jed.


"Who are the four strangers?"

Louise looked over and smiled as she said "Mantraps on the prowl."

"Aha, well some guy or guys are going to get VERY lucky tonight."

"Yeah, I checked hands when one removed her gloves, little marks where her wedding ring usually sits."

"I wonder if her husband knows she's out looking for some casual sex?"

"What do you think?" Louise smiled.


“Okay – boss lady says keep the customers happy...”




“Do you see them?”


Natalia looked in the direction Gale was looking, and saw the two young men standing by the bar.   They were wearing suits with open necked shirts, and they were trying hard not to look as if they were looking.


“What do you think cousin?”


“They do indeed look suitable – we watch for a while, as I am sure you used to, make sure they are alone.”


“They’re not alone, not in that sense anyway.”


Carina looked over as Annie noticed the two younger men joining them, and then looking in their direction.


“So they are a group of four, we are a group of four.  Waitress?”


“Yes ladies,” Louise said as she came over, “what can I get for you?”


“Three more Sidecars, but my friend here is feeling somewhat the worse for wear,” Natalia said as she looked at Annie, “so a club soda as well.”


“Got it,” Louise said as she looked at Carina.  “the four guys?”


“Do you know anything of them?”


“Local jocks, come in because they think it makes them look big.”


“Thank you,” Gale said, Louise shivering a little at the way she said it, before she walked back to the bar.


“Three Sidecars and a Club Soda.”


“One enough for one of them?”


Louise nodded.  “They asked about the kids over there.”


“Cougars?  Well, good luck to them...”






Carina looked up at the young man as he stood next to her.


“Hello – can I help you?”


“Well – it’s just my friends and I saw you sitting here.  Visitors?”


“Could be,” Gale said as she looked at him, “why?”


“Well, we’re locals, we could show you a good time if you wanted...”


“Intriguing – why don’t you come and join us,” Natalia said, the man waving to his three friends as they came over and sat at the table, talking to the women...





“According to Louise, they’re four women from out of town and on the prowl.”


Miss Panther looked at the group as the four man talked to the well dressed women.


“So nothing to worry about?”


"No - I guess I'm getting paranoid about undercover agents watching us?"

"Well,” Miss Panther said, “tomorrow we turn the tables and we put someone close to Janice Carter and her daughter."

"And how did you arrange that?"

"Let's just say a friend in Los Angeles arranged for someone to have an accident on the basketball court."

"Meaning what?"

"That come tomorrow night we will have a far better idea what we are dealing with in Miss Janice Carter."




“So,” one of the men said, “would you be up to going somewhere else?”


“Oh,” Gale said quietly, “got somewhere in mind?”


“Well, that would depend on what you want?”


Carina smiled as she said “I don’t know – the four of us were looking for a little excitement, a little danger...”


“Oh?  What sort of danger?”


“No – you’re nice boys, you wouldn’t want to know...”


“Try us?”


“Well,” Natalia said in her East Coast accent, “we are mature ladies, we like thing s a little – adventurous.”


“Well,” another of the men said with a smile, “I think we can accommodate that.”


“But it would need to be somewhere quiet, dscrete,” Annie said, “to spare embarrassment on both sides.”


“We could use the basement at the church hall – nobody would be there now.”


“You can do that?”


“Sure – we’ll make sure you all have a real good time.”


The for women looked at each other, before Carina said “okay then – you lead the way.”



“Well, looks like they got lucky,” Maria said as she and Louise watched the group leave the nightclub.


“I’ll clear the table,” Louise said as she walked over, smiling as she picked up the fifty, and then saw the note left under it.  Picking it up, she read quickly and then picked the glasses up, placing them on the tray.


“Better clean these now Jed – we may have a new influx in a little while,” she said as she thought of the note.


“Thank you Louise – The Hidden Hand sends her regards.”














5.30 pm Pacific Time

Nob Hill


As the cab headed North and West, David and Mary looked out at the apartment blocks, “I don’t think I’ve ever been up California Hill,” David said as the cab continued the climb.


“Well, this is the way we have to go,” Trina said as the cab turned and ran along the edge of Huntington Park, David looking at the Victorian mansions that ran along the road there.


“this is the place folks,” the cab drive reventually said as he pulled into a driveway, going between two metal gates as he approached the ornate entrance, the columns holding the cover over the stairs.


"This is where Trina lives?" David looked overwhelmed as the cab let them off at the Culver Mansion.

"Yeah,” Mary said, “we certainly aren't in the 'hood here David."

"Why did the House say we'd have the lesson here?"

"So he could work on my dancing as well." Trina laughed as she came down the front steps to welcome her guests, "and we drove in from school together."

"Didn't I once hear you call this place a shack?" Mary shook her head as she lifted up the bag with her things in.


“Well, it is – sorta – come on in, we’re in the main room for this...”


Mary and David walked in, looking at the marbled hallway as they came into a large open room.  House was standing at one end, putting a CD into the player as he looked round.


“Ah – hi.  Big, isn’t it?”


“Is your home this big?”


“My home?  Oh no, I am nowhere near the same league as Trina – so the three of us can be overawed at the same time.  Deal?”



9.30 pm



“Well, it’s basic, but it’s quiet,” he said as he turned the lights on, Natalia leading the women in as the other three men followed them.   She looked at the camp beds that were standing in the corridor, and smiled as she said “a church basement – definitely a new one for us, isn’t that right girls?”


“Indeed,” Gale said as she looked at the man next to her.  “You never told us your names?”


“Mine’s Steve – the one next to the black haired friend of yours is Bob, then there’s Derek and Clive.”


“Well, you seem strong young men,” Annie said as she looked at Clive, “so I’m sure we’re going to have a wonderful time here.”


“Oh yes,” Natalia said as she looked at Gale and Carina, “this will be perfect, but we have one request of you fine, strong, young gentlemen.”


“Oh yeah,” Derek said, “and that is?”


Carina smiled as she said “Get on your knees and put your hands on your heads.”


“I beg youoooommppffffff.”


Derek collapsed to the floor as Carina’s gloved fist drove into his stomach, and her knee into his groin, the other three looking on dumbfounded as Annie said “my friend asked nicely, get on your knees and get your hands on your heads.”


“Who the fuck are you,” Clive gasped.


“The night of your lives, boys,” Gale said as she reached into her large bag, and drew out a Magnum, pointing it at the other three as she said “now, get on your fucking knees, before I blow them away.”


“Oh shit,” Bob said as he looked at Natalia, and then dropped to his own knees, an acrid smell filling the air as the other two followed suit.


“Now that’s better,” Annie said as she put her bag down, and pulled four industrial zipties from her bag, walking behind each of the boys in turn and securign their wrists together behind their backs.  “We promised you a night full of new experiences, and this is just the first of them.”


“Who the hell are you,” Steve said as Gale stroked his cheek with her gloved hand.


“Well, that is for you to discover – and i promise you, it will be a voyage of discovery,” she said with a smile, before she shoved a red rubber ball into his mouth, and fastened the straps tightly round his head.  Carina and Natalia gagged Bob and Derek in the same way, as Clive whispered “oh God, please...”


“Hush,” Annie said as she shoved the ball into hsi mouth, and fastened the straps round his head, “I think we should start with a little game.”


“Oh – what did you have in mind?”


“Did you bring them with you,” Annie said as she looked at Gale, who nodded as she took four riding crops out of her bag.


“Thank you,” Natalia said as she accepted one, and then walked behind Bob, pulling his shirt open and yanking it down his arms so that it hung loosely on his secured wrists.  The other three felt their tops part as Carina used a hunting knife to cut them away, before they were made to kneel facing each other.


“Let’s see which of them faints first, but backs only” Annie said, the other three nodding as the four men looked at each other – and then screamed as the riding crops were brought down on their backs by the four women...



“Plssstpppp,” Bob whimpered as the crop came down between his shoulders again, Natalia smiling as she said “Oh, have you had enough?  Would you like to try something stronger?”


Bob nodded and then whimpered as Natalia pushed him over, and pulled his shoes and socks off, bringing the crop down on the soles of his feet as the other three continued to whip the three men, the red weals starting to bleed.


“Well, that’s got me warmed up,” Carina said with a smile as she put the crop down, and took a bottle of clear liquid from her bag, as well as a cloth, “but that’s some nasty little cuts you have there.  Let me clean them up for you.”


“SHTTTTTTTTNHLLLLLLLLLLLL!”  Derek screamed as she pressed the vinegar soaked cloth onto his back, almost passing out from the pain as Gale kept whipping Steve.


“Plslstptppp,” Clive whispered as the droll ran down his chin.  “Well, I think you are the winner of that game,” Annie said as she looked at Gale, then knelt behind Clive and put her hand between his legs.  “My my – you found that exciting didn’t you?”


“Whrrddndtmmm,” Clive said as she felt Annie’s gloved hand massage his groin, and to hsi shame felt himself stiffen.  “Hmm – I knew you would be excited.  What about you ladies?”


“Well, now that his back is nice and clean,” Carina said with a smile, “I guess we can find out.”  She slipped her hand between Derek’s legs and smiled as she said “Oh yes – what about you, sister?”


Natalia looked at Bob, his feet raw and red, and nodded as she forced him to his knees again.  “They all seem so strong, but I wonder how strong they are.  Get them on their feet.”


The four men whimpered – well, three whimpered, and Bob cried as his soles were made to stand on the floor, before all four pulled their trousers and underwear down.  They then gasped as the gloved hands massaged their cock and ball sac, realising through the pain that they were been turned on.


“Make sure all four are primed,” Natalia said as they looked at each other, and then they worked their cocks until all four could feel them throbbing.




Bob screamed as he felt the clamps fasten onto his ball sac, the other three following suit as they stood facign each other, and swa the weight shanging between the legs of their friends.


“Whoever moves first, will earn the fourth prize, and so on,” Natalia said as the four women stood, watching the pain, the fear, the torture in the faces of their four victims.  Carina walked to the side and set out four camp beds, then came back as they looked at each other.


“Who do you think will fall first,” Gale said as she looked at Carina.


“Oh i think it will be a close run thing,” she said as she looked at Derek, his sac turning purple as the weights pulled down on him.  He looked at the small woman with pleading eyes – but only saw a cold, gleaming look in them, one of enjoyment as he groaned, and looked at the others.


“Hffkkkkk,” he finally said as he crumpled to his knees, Gale walking over and pulling his head beck by the hair and slapping his cheek.  “No stamina – what is his reward?”


Annie picked up the hunting knife, Derek watching as she flashed the blade in front of him, and then pulled it down his torso in a vertical line, the blood starting to run as she carved two slanted lines into his chest as well.


“Number four – very appropriate,” Carina said as she lifted his chin up.  “Bring him over to the bed.”


Gale forced him to his feet, the other three watching as Derek was frogmarched to one of the camp beds, and then his wrists cut free as he was forced to lie on his back.  The rough cotton of the cloth rubbed on his red raw back as his wrists and ankles were lashed to the sides fo the camp bed with thin rope, before Carina stroked his cheek.


“You’re mine now,” she whispered as she took from her bag a leather purse, and opened it up, before she took out a pair of pliers.  Derek shook his head as she knelt by the bed, and held his left hand in her gloved one, before the first nail was wrenched from the nail bed...



“You see, boys,” Natalia said as she looked at Bob, Steve and Clive, “we all have our preferences.  So, who is going to be next?”


“I think we have an answer soon,” Annie said as Derek screamed again, and Steve dropped to his knees.  “Oh goody,” Gale said with a smile as she pulled his head back, and Annie carved three straight lines into the young man’s chest.  She then pulled him to a second bed, adn tied him down to it, before picking up the riding crop again.


“Oh, does it hurt,” she whispered as she caressed his swollen sac, Steve nodding and praying it would soon be over.


“Not nearly enough.”


Steve’s eyes almost popped out of his head as she brought the crop down between his legs, then rolled back as Gale continued to hit him there, while Natalia and Annie watched the other two – Bob noticing the bump in Annie’s stomach as she removed her jacket.




“Oh yes,” Annie said with a smile, “so who will be next?”


Bob and Clive looked at each other, before Derek and Steve screamed again – and Bob fainted.  Natalia and Annie carried him between them to a bed, and then tied hm down, before Annie carved two lines into his chest, Natalia watching as he barely whimpered.


“Would you help me,” Annie said as she looked at the older woman, Natalia nodding as she helped her carry Clive to the final bed, and tie him down.  She watced as Annie smiled, and drew a deep, red, single line down his chest.




“Oh dear – does it hurt here,” Annie said as she looked at his crotch, clive slowly nodding.


“Would you like me to make it stop hurting?”




“Well, you won that challenge, so you deserve a reward,” Annie said, smiling as she looked at him, and then picked the knife up.”




“There,” Annie said as she held up the weights, the ball sac still attached to it, “all gone...”




“Oh dear – all out of nails,” Carina sang as she pulled the nail from Derek’s big toe.  She looked at him as he tried to raise his head, and then poured some more of the vinegar onto the exposed nail bed, laughing as he squealed and tired to move.


“But we’ve only just started,” she said as she looked at her gloved hands, the blood on them, and licked it off her finger.  “Now, what shall we do next – oh I know.”


She took from the purse a small tazer, turning it on as the sparks started to fly.  Derek shook his head, and then arched his back as she pressed the device to his abdomen.


“Go on, you can scream for me,” she whispered, “it makes it so much more exciting...”




Gale was hot, sweating, and incredibly aroused as she looked at the black and blue body of Steve.  He looked at her through swollen eyes, and whispered “pllssnmmrrr...”


“Oh I agree,” she said as she threw the riding crop down, and took a knife from her bag, “I think i need to get up close and personal on you now.”  He barely whimpered as the knife cut into his flesh, Gale laughing as she stroked it down his side.




Bob looked at Natalia as she tapped the needle, and then stuck it into the side of his neck, the clear fluid flowing into his body as she said “this is a blood thinner.  IT will make what is about to happen much easier.”


“Whtrgntdttmmm,” he said as he looked at the bamboo slivers stuck under his fingers and toes, and the tight leather strap around the base of his already engorged cock.


“Show you true ecstasy,” Natalia said as she showed him the cannula, and then stuck it into his jugular vein, his head jerking as he felt the device going on, and then watched as she slowly opened the tap on the side, his blood slowly dripping into the goblet...



And Clive?  Clive was slowly slipping into unconsciousness as Annie pulled the hunting knife across his abdomen, smiling as she kissed the ball gag at the same time...







Carina threw her head back and gasped as she experienced a true orgasm, and picked up the gun, laughing as she pressed the barrel against Derek’s crotch and fired off a single shit, watching him as his head fell back and his eyes rolled into his head, so delirious was he from pain.


“Are we feeling better Cousin?” Natalia said


“Very much so,” she said as she pulled the safety back, and fired a second shot into his head, laughing as it exploded in grey and red.


“Then come join me,” she said as she started to fill a second goblet, and then let the blood flow from Bob’s neck.  He was feeling strange, light headed, ecstatic as she handed the goblet to Carina.


“So that is how you do it,” she said as she sipped the drink.  “Unusual taste.”


“It takes time to develop the desire,” Natalia said as she looked at Gale and Annie.


“Thank you, but no,” Gale said as she looked at Steve, and then slit his throat – as Annie decapitated Bob, both of them looking at each other and then giving a shout of pure sexual delight at the sight of the mutilated and eviscerated bodies.


“I think we will all feel better for that,” Carina said as she walked over, kissing Annie as they embraced.


“As much as I know your desire,” Natalia said, “we must wait for later.  We need to move the beds together, and then we need to change.”  She attached a tube to Bob’s neck and started to fill bottles as they brought the other three over.





Thirty minutes later, the four women looked at the bodies, their outfits laid on them as Carina poured petrol over the group.


“I do feel so much better,” Annie said as they stood back, and Carina lit a rag, tossing it to the pile as the four of them walked out and onto the main street.


As they walked away, the fire started burning, as Gale looked at Carina and Natalia.


“Until next time?”


“Until next time, cousin,” Natalia said as Annie watched all three close their eyes, and then open them again.


“How long will the stock last you,” Carina said as she heard the bottles in Natalia’s bag.


“Enough time – but now we go to rest.”


As they walked along, Natalia whispered to Carina, “young Annie is indeed a monster like us, is she not?”


Carina nodded.  “It’s hard to think that two years ago, she was my math teacher.  But since then she has become a true sadist, a stone cold killer – and I love her more each day for it.”


She looked at Annie as she joked with Gale, and smiled, knowing the new life in her was in safe hands...




Saturday 30th January

10 am

The Huntingdown Apartment




“Well hello there,” Ingrid said as she came out of the kitchen, seeing Carina coming in with Judith as Annie closed the door.  “How are you little one?”


“Good,” Judith said, giggling as Ingrid kissed her.


"So how was your girls night out?" Ingy asked as Annie and her sister carried Judith into the kitchen.

"Great,” Carina said, “but little one here was happy to see us this morning."

"I miss my Mama's." Judith said in a definitive tone as her Mom sat her in the high chair.

"So where are Klaus and Juliette?" asked Annie as she took her jacket off.

"Moms is dropping into her office,” Ingy said, “and Pop is visiting this damn film maker."

"I take it then he's still keen?"

"He is Annie, and he will not take no for an answer."

"Mom said we needed to talk it out this weekend." Cari slumped into a chair.

"There's coffee in the pot."

"Okay," Annie poured cups for herself and Car, and gave Judith her milk.


“How do you feel about it?”


“It depends – if he’s focusing on Brigitte or the dark side, it’s not on.  If the estate, you know who he has to deal with.”


“So long as he doesn’t interfere in April.”


“Amen to that,” Cari said as she drank her coffee.



11 am

Village Studios


“This has got to be the strangest day I have spent in a long time,” Adam said as he and Jan watched Katy sitting in the chair.


“I know,” Jan said with a smile, “but the rules are she needs responsible adults nearby.”


“So why are we here?”


“Well, I’m her mother, and you’re the responsible one,” Jan said as she looked over.


"Now with the bare minimum of makeup," Lori the makeup artist stepped backwards.  “I think that’s it.”

"She looks perfect." Nina Schmidt the stylist replied.

"I feel NAKED!" Katy looked at her reflection and scowled, "I wear more makeup then this for school."

"Just remember these dresses are for a niche market please Katy, 13 year old girls wearing them for a very important time in their spiritual lives." Nina smiled as Katy got out of the chair, wearing the short sleeved white dress.

"You look angelic darling." Jan smiled.

"I look like a dork Mom."

"Is she ready?" Thomas Veret the photographer asked.

"Unhappy, but yes ready." Jan answered.

"Okay, now Katy remember what we talked about?"


"I've seen some of your other pictures...these must be totally sexless."

"I know," Katy said aloud, "the things I do in the name of modeling."


She walked into the studio, took a deep breath and smiled, a simple smile as Thomas said “perfect – here we go...”


1 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment


“Fakew Grammy,” Judith said as Juliette passed her a sandwich, and then looked round the table.


“He’s serious,” Klaus said, “Not even Frau Strecher could dissuade him from the idea.”


“So I guess the question is, Pops, will you let him,” Carina said as she sipped her coffee.


“A film crew following us around all the time?  I don’t know...”


“I’ve asked him for a detailed outline of what he is planning,” Klaus said, “but if he does do this, he has already indicated he wants to cover the wedding as part of it.”


“Wonderful,” Ingrid said, “it’s bad enough that most of Europe’s Paparazzi will be covering the event...”


“Talking of the wedding,” Annie said, “When is the next fitting for your gowns?”


“Alice is in town tomorrow, to deliver the gowns to Diana and Abby, so we’re meeting up here tomorrow afternoon.  Hopefully Katy will have recovered from the shoot today by then.”


“Has she dropped any hints?”


“Not really – i think tomorrow is to check her measurements and try some simple gowns on.”


“Well, I think I will make myself scarce at that point,” Klaus said, “it will be the last opportunity I have for a while to meet up with John and Jack.”


“Ah yes – man talk,” Carina said with a laugh.


“We will talk of manly things,” Klaus said with a smile.


The telephone rang, and as Juliette went to answer it Klaus looked at her granddaughter.


“So what will you be wearing for the wedding, little one?”


Judith looked at her mothers, and then said “pretty dress, grappy.”


“Of course it will be,” Carina said with a smile.




10 am Pacific Time

Oakland Hills


The salesman watched as the trio looked at the car.  The woman was familiar from somewhere, dressed in a blue blouse, jeans and heels – but it was equally obvious the two men with her knew what they were doing as they looked critically over the car.


"Well? What do you think Pop?"

"It's over-priced a little, but yeah it's what you need Poppit." Dave walked round the 6 year old Nissan.

"Needs new tires." David observed.

"Probably," his father squatted down.  “We’d expect that to be included in the price.”

“Of course,” the salesman said, sensing a deal.


"Well if it can get me and my stuff from A to B then its pretty perfect." Mary nodded.

"Will ya take an offer?'" Dave stood up and asked.

The salesman nodded before he said "I aint going below 7 g's"

"Well Pop?"

"That's about book for a 2011 Sentra," Dave whispered back.

"Well we had more like 6 g in mind." Mary spoke quietly as she looked at him.



"6.50 but you’re breaking my heart," the seller moaned.

"Six thousand four hundred take it or leave it?" Mary made her final offer.

The salesman looked at her, before she said "I suppose you have a car lady."

"Nice negotiatin' Poppit," Dave whispered.

"I take it you'll take cash?" Mary pulled out the notes she'd got from the bank earlier.


“Of course, if you’ll come this way...”




The salesman looked at David as he said “new tyres?”


“Sure – Jake.  New tyres on the ’11 Sentra.”


“I’ll go with him, make sure it’s done right,” David said as his father followed Mary into the office.



"You know there aren't a lot of the extras on this Mary?" Dave spoke as Mary took her car into traffic.

"I know,” Mary said, “but I'm not looking to live in my car, just drive."

"When can I borrow it?" David asked eagerly from the back seat.

"When I don't need it."

"Well let's go get it insured and registered." Dave pointed where Mary needed to turn.





“Okay Miss Clarke – you are now insured, registered, and legal to drive.”


“Thanks,” Mary said as she collected the paperwork adn walked out of the office.


"So pleased with the car?" her dad asked as she unlocked it.

"Yep, it will get me round town,” Mary said as he got in, “and give David something in which girls can slap his face..."

"Hey not every girl I've been out with has ended up doing something like that."

"Just most of them," his sister laughed.

"So what does your friend Trina drive?" Dave asked.

"An Italian sportscar...it's red."

"It's a Ferrari Pop." David added, "and boy does it look SWEET!"


“But not for me – I’m happy with what I’ve got,” Mary said with a smile as she drove off...



1.30 pm

Village Studios


“Hey Lori, can we get a touchup in here,” Thomas called out as the makeup artist came in, applying some powder to Katy’s face.


“Good – right, go and put the next dress on please Katy.”


"Well despite my reservations before, Katy has proved she's very professional." Nina chatted with Jan whilst Katy changed again.

"Demure, but cute."

"Exactly Jan, just what my clients want."

"As her mother it's just nice seeing her looking her real age for once."

"I take it Katy moves with a more 'adult' set of friends?"

"You might say that,” Jan said, “but she does have a little gang of girls at school who are her main group."

"So other then the usual teenage things, what does she do for a hobby."

"Believe it or not she shoots..."


"Well air pistols technically,” Jan said, “but yes she's into sport shooting in a big way."

"Now that as a hobby would never have occurred to me." Nina shook her head.

"It suits her, its largely about self discipline and training yourself. It's more cerebral then physical and that fits her temperament."


“Well, it seems to help with this business,” Nina said as Lori looked on.


“Sorry – I gotta take this,” she said as her cell phone went off, and she looked at it, leaving the room as she said “yeah?”


“Ready, Katy?”


“Coming,” she said as she appeared in her baptism gown – as two familiar faces came in.


"How is she doing?" Abby put her glasses on as she and Doc stood next to Jan.

"Well they say it's great,” Jan whispered back, “but Katy is hating it."

"Been there..." Abby grinned. "Not all shoots are fun."

"So what are you girls doing here?"

"We both had shoots...we thought we'd drop in and see you guys though as we'd finished early." Doc looked intently at Katy in the simple white dress.

"Oh what were you doing?"

"Boots for Macy's." Abby answered.

"While I was doing gym shoes." Doc looked heavenward. "Just think on that as a contrast."

"Yeah I get that." Jan laughed. "Still one day you'll start getting the glamour jobs Anna."


“One day, one day,” Doc whispered.  “We passed someone on their phone outside – looked agitated.”


“Probably her boyfriend,” Jan said as Lori came back in.


“Okay – can we get Katy into the last of the dresses please, and then I think we may be done for the night.”


“Come along Katie,” Nina said as she took Katy into the changing area.


“No word from Buffalo yet,” Doc whispered as she, Jan and Abby went into a corner.


“No – which means we need to remain vigilant,” Jan said quietly.


As her cell phone rang, Adam said “who’s calling you here?”


“Good question,” Jan said as she took it out.  “Jan Carter?”


“Jan?  It’s Edie Corben?”


“Edie – what can I do for you?”


“I don’t know if it means anything, but I’ve been looking into the activities of Robert Harkness – he’s the Buffalo PD detective who was killed in Niagara earlier this week.”


“Is this a case you’re assigned to?”


“No – but given he was found dressed in women’s clothes, I wondered if he could be connected in some way to this Pussycat group?”


“So what did you find?”


“He has a sister in the State Police – but he was involved a few years back in a drug sting that went bad – and Peter welch was involved.”


“Edie, keep this to yourself for now – we’ll talk on Monday,” Jan said, “and don’t worry.  We’ll sort this out.”




“I don’t think so,” Jan said quietly.




5 pm

Central Park West


Katherine looked out of the kitchen as the apartment door closed.


"How did it go?" she asked as she watched them take their coats off.

"Don't ask!" Katy called out.

"That bad?"

"No that good." Janice laughed. "She just doesn't like that the pictures show her as this sweet, cute, thirteen year old."

"Gran,” Katy said as she rubbed her arm, “I looked like a child."

"Well in legal terms you still..." Katherine didn't finish her words as she caught Katy's glare.

"Can I get anyone drinks?" Adam tried to change topics.

"I'll take a large shot of vodka with lime juice."

"Oh no you won't Katy," it was her mother’s turn to glare at the teenager.

"So coffees all round?" Adam offered.


“I suppose so,” Katy said as she flung herself into a chair.  “What’s for tea, Gran?”


“I’m making some stew for all of us,” Katherine said as Jan took Adam into a corner.


“That call – Edie Corben is Welch’s partner, and she says there’s a connection between that detective who was shot in Niagara and Welch.  Adam, I think we need to call in IA.”


Adam nodded.  “I concur – we’ll go and see Tom tomorrow, see what he says.”


“Adam – are you staying for dinner?”


“If that’s all right,” Adam called out, “I’d love to.”





“Well, looks as if the cameras and recording devices are working fine,” Caroline said as she and Susan looked at the monitors.  They were in the apartment above, a team of four monitoring cameras in the apartment, as well as the entrance hall, lift and corridor.


“How severe is the threat, Susan?”


“Serious enough for Madame to authorize the hotline to us,” Susan said as she looked at Caroline.  “Anyone who calls, do facial recog and find profiles.  All calls to be traced and recorded.  I want no surprises.”


“Go it,” the girl said as she looked at the screen.


“Right – I need to get back and see Ama.  We have a couple of things still to sort out for Wednesday.  Good luck everyone.”


“Be seeing you,” Susan said as her old friend left.




8 pm

4th Avenue, the Ashley Apartment


“Okay, I think I get it now,” Denice said as she looked across at Pippa, “but I think I’ll stick to what I understand most, thank you.”


“But does what I said sound ridiculous?”


“No – but then I’m not a magazine owner or a fancy dresser,” she said as both women heard the door to the apartment open, as their daughters came in.


"So how was the movie?" Pippa asked as she looked up.

"Pretty crummy." Poppy answered as the girls took their coats off, and she hung her and Erica's coats up.

"Oh?" asked Denice

"The guys loved it, they never stopped laughing," Erica said as she sat down.

"But what they were finding funny I'll never know." Poppy shook her head.

"Ah,” Pippa said as she nodded, “the great mystery of the teenage boys sense of humor."

"Are they all like that Mom?" Poppy asked.

"Pretty much,” Pippa said with a smile, “what's worse is some never grow out of it."

"OY!" Poppy looked disgusted.

“Let’s hope they’re not like that,” Denice said as Pippa stood up.


"Changing topics, how did you guys quiet study afternoon go?"

"Pretty well darling," Denice smiled at her daughter, "we've been taking turns questioning each other."

"So I've learned something about the function of pistons." Pippa laughed.

"And I've learned something about how a fashion magazine is put together." Denice laughed back.


“Well, Monday is a big day for both of you,” Poppy said, “in different ways.  Are you worried Aunt Denice?”


“Not as much as your mother is I suspect,” Denice said.  “So have you girls eaten yet?”


“Not yet, but I’ve had enough for today,” Pippa said, “let’s order something in...”


8 pm

The Speakeasy, Buffalo




“Yeah boss,” the blonde said as she put her tray down.


“Big boss wants you to take these upstairs, and then you’re done for the day.”


“Got it,” she said as she took the tray and walked to the office.  Knocking on the door, she heard the owner say “come in.”


As Louise came in, she smiled at Lynx, the other two young women scowling at her as Miss Panther said “so she shoots an air pistol?  I should be so scared.  Very well – come and see me tomorrow.”


“You asked for the drinks, M’am?”


“Thank you,” Miss Panther said, and then she said “Louise?”


“Yes M’am?”


“come in early tomorrow – I want to talk to you.”


“Yes Boss,” she said as she backed out, and then went to change.


“Got plans for tonight?”


“Nah – quiet night in, why?”


“Did you see this?”  her friend showed her the Buffalo Criterion, and pointed to the report of the fire in the church.


“They say they found four bodies in the basement, mutilated – makes me shiver.”


“Darling, I come from LA – nothing spooks me,” Louise said as she headed home – she had a call to make.




9.30 pm

The Richmond Mansion


"Well both my darling children are tucked up for the night?" Sandy said as she collapsed down besides Heather.

"Good because I have something important to talk to you about."

"Oh what?"

"Louise isn't sure,” Heather said quietly, “but she thinks she might have overheard that THEY had an agent at Katy's shoot today."

"Oh crap!"

"Well Louise isn't sure, but is it enough that I contact Juliette and Susan?"


“I think so – they’re watching them 24/7, so just let them know.  Now, how about we have some us time, hmmm?”


“Sounds good,” Heather said as she closed her laptop, and the two women kissed...




Sunday 31st January

10 am

4th Avenue – the Ashley Apartment


“Poppy, could you see who that is at the door please,” Pippa called out from her room.


“Got it Mom,” Poppy said as she walked out of her own room, wearing a pair of joggers and a t-shirt, and looked in the spy hole before opening the door up.


“Hi Jess,” she said to her friend as she stood to one side, “after the notes for American History?”


“That and other things,” Jess said as Pippa came out, pulling a sweat shirt down herself.


"Hey Jess,” she said with a smile, “what brings you over on a Sunday morning?"


"I have something from my Mother she hopes you will use."


"Oh,” Poppy said, “and what might that be?"


"This," Jessica pulled out a huge scarf or shawl from her bag.  "My Great Grandmother had it bought for her at the Balenciaga boutique in San Sebastian in 1931."


"Oh my," Pippa shook her head as she looked at the art deco inspired design. "This is amazing."


"Well it has become a token of luck for the women of our family, and my Mother hopes you will wear it tomorrow to bring you some of that luck."


"Oh I couldn't Jess,” Pippa said, “it's far too precious."


"She will be offended if you don't Mom." Poppy gave her opinion.


"She will," Jess nodded.


"Oh my," Pippa stroked the silk, "but how should I wear it?"


"Mama wears it both as a shawl and as a scarf."


"With the suit you were planning to wear how about like this Mom?" Poppy asked.  She folded the scarf into a triangle, and placed it loosely round her mother’s neck, the point just below her left shoulder.


“Hmmm – yeah that might work.  Want some coffee Jess?”


“Please – then Poppy can tell me how to do the latest assignment from Miss Kelly...”



11 am

The Burton Apartment


As Erica looked in the library, she saw her mother poring over an old leather bound book.


"What's that you are looking at Mom?" Erica asked as she stood in the doorway.

"It's one of the books Mary had put in the library."

"You look interested?"

"I'm very interested...” Denice looked up and said “it's a British book from the 1930's on the design and building of steam locomotives."

"Okay," Erica laughed, "not really my field."

"Well you wouldn't like these tables on compression ratios for certain, but they fascinate me."

"Alright I'll bite...why?"

"Oh,” Denice said, “because of the efficiency that the British engineers were getting, they were on the way to building the very best steam locomotives ever built."

"The Brits were? I thought the best engines were built in the US?"

"No, here in the US the switch to diesels and electrics was already underway by then. The British though were still trying to get the very best out of the older technology."

"So those old designs have been largely forgotten I'm guessing?"

"Yes, but this data is still so relevant, even if it is half forgotten, especially the things on super-charging steam engines."

"Well I'll leave you to your tables, want a coffee Mom?"

"Please," Denice smiled back.  “What are you doing today anyway?”


“History assignment – the Battle of Bunker Hill.”


“Oh deep, deep joy,” Denice said as she shook her head.




1.30 pm

The Village


“Paul... the police were here yesterday looking for you.”


“Did they say they were coming back?”


“No, only that I should phone if...


“Paul, I know you stole that car. It has a local license plate. I know it must be very serious. I don't mind. You can tell me what you've done. You can stay here, it's safe. But you must tell me, Paul. I won't say anything...”


"I need a break." Ama wandered into the living room rubbing her eyes as she looked round.

"Shakespeare tiring you out?" Caroline looked up from the TV and paused the movie she was watching.

"Yes...and you aren't watching the Day of the Jackal again are you?"

"She is." Annie shook her head, "she practically knows it word for word."

"But it still serves as a great inspiration for what to do right and wrong for anyone in my business."

"If you say so Mom," Ama said as she went to the kitchen.

"Did I hear you on the phone to the Duke and Duchess earlier Dom?"

"You did Annie,” Caroline said as she stood up, “we were just setting up the dates for me to fly to Dublin."

"Well after my birthday I hope Mom."

"Yes darling, I will not forget you." Caroline smiled, "this will be after Fashion Week.  It should be an interesting task - the Dublin house is fairly routine, but I've never designed a security system for a whole castle before."

"Is that why Charlotte is helping you?"

"Yes I figured two heads were better than one."


“I imagine Shirley is very happy with the approach for an insurance quote as well?”


“Well, that as well, although it’s the UK office who will handle it,” Caroline said as Ama brought some coffees in.


“Time for a break anyway,” Annie said as she put her book down. 


3 pm

The de Ros Mansion


“Miss Carter, Madame,” Edith said as she opened the door, Diana smiling as she stood up.


“Jan – are you here for Katy,” she said as she kissed her friend on both cheeks.


“If she is finished – where is she?”


Diana indicated the rear of the house.  "She's taking out some of her pent up aggression down there with a shotgun Jan."

"Why did I guess that might be the case Diana."

"I took it from Abigail,” Diana said as she sat down, “that Katy did not enjoy her work yesterday?"

"No,” Jan said with a smile, “I think it conflicted with her self-image just a little bit."

"Well the reason I'm glad you dropped in to pick her up, is that we think the Buffalo people had someone at the shoot yesterday."

"So Juliette told me?"

"Any clues?"

"Well Heather is running background checks looking for connections, and I've initiated a meeting with Internal Affairs to lay out what I've found out."


“So your contact in the Buffalo office?”


“He’s been off work with a leg injury – I keep hoping it’s coincidence, but...”


“I understand – tread carefully Jan.”


“I always do – I just fear for Edie?”


“The agent in Buffalo?”


Jan nodded as she accepted the drink.  “So, ready for the flight on tomorrow?”


“As ready as we can be – Tony will join us for lunch tomorrow, and we fly over as a party.”



3 pm

Geneva – Hobart William Smith



Jo was pulling on her tracksuit bottoms in her room when her cell phone rang.


“Hey,” she said as she recognised the number, and answered the call.  “What’s up Missy?”


"Oh good Jo - I caught you in."

"Just about Missy,” Jo said, “but I'm due to go out training soon."

"Alright I'll get to the point, I just got off the phone to Alice..."

"Am I going to hate this?" Jo butted in.

"Not really I hope, but earlier Caroline phoned to say that she will be going over to Ireland to design a security system for the Duke and Duchess of Lardarn."



"Well my thoughts were that while she was working on the castle, it might make a great backdrop for the next Fitzstuart woolens campaign."

"Here it comes..." Joanna giggled slightly.

"And Alice thinks it's a fabulous idea."

"i guessed she might."

"So do you fancy a week in Ireland?"

"Yes, I loved France and England when I was there, so seeing more of Europe interests me, but, and it’s a big but, it all depends on what the school says."

"I understand Jo...Can you ask them?"

"As soon as you give me a set of firm dates yes."


“Good – be in touch soon.”


“The things I do to pay bills,” Jo said as she grabbed her kit bag, and headed off.




3.30 pm

The Village


“Hey – anybody in?”


“Well now,” Harriet said as she came out of her room, and saw Grace standing with her case, “welcome back.  How was the trip?”


“Emotional, tiring – and a lot better than I expected it to be,” Grace said as she slipped her jacket off.  “I got what you asked me to get though.”


“Excellent,” Harriet said as Grace threw the box of strong mints at her.


“Is that a certain fellow teacher back,” Sarah said as she came in.


“It is – why don’t I make some coffee?”


“So – spill Mrs Brand.  Just how bad was it?”


“It wasn’t that bad at all,” Grace said as she went to the kitchen, and switched the machine on.  “I spent a lot of time with my parents, and they’re hoping to visit here during Spring Break.  So what did I miss?”


“Not much – hope you don’t mind but we took this into work,” Harriet said as she held up the copy of New Mode.  “Ingrid was suitably embarrassed.”


“I’ll bet she was,” Grace said with a smile as she inhaled.  “Ah – I’d forgotten the worst thing about transatlantic flights was either awful coffee, or tea too strong to drink.”


“Well, you’re going to need that,” Sarah said, “Ju Huntingdown is coming round later, she wants to sound us out about something informally?”


“Us?  The three of us?  Just the three of us?”


“Yeah,” Harriet said, “All she said was it was a possible issue at St Angela’s, and we were the best placed to advise her...”



3.30 pm

The National Arts Club


“So, John, ready to be the subject rather than the artist?”


“No I am not,” John Hammond said with a smile, “but I do have one thing to communicate.”


“And that is,” Klaus said as he swirled the amber liquid round his glass.


“I’m going from Munich to London with Shirley, to doff the head and bow the knee,” John said with a smile.


“Ah – you have the date then?”


“I do indeed,” John said, “but as you will doubtless be somewhere very warm and doing far more important things, then it doesn’t really bother you, does it?”


“That, my friend, is very true indeed.”


“So who is going to stand beside us?  I mean, Juliette has the complete entourage...”


“Ah yes – well...”






6 pm

The Village


“Hey,” Juliette said as Grace answered the door, “how was your trip?”


“Invigorating – although I’m surviving on coffee at the moment,” Grace said as she closed the door behind her old friend, and followed her in, “want some?”


“Please – thanks for agreeing to meet me tonight,” Juliette said as she looked at Sarah and Harriet, “I need to discuss a possible scenario, and you three are actually the most knowledgable people I can think of in this area.”


“We are?  Now that’s something you don’t hear very often,” Sarah said with a laugh as Juliette sat down, and Grace disappeared into the kitchen.


“So what’s the scenario,” Harriet said. 


“I’ll explain once Grace comes in,” Juliette said, “in the meantime – Harriet, I was wondering if you and the Jazz band would do something for me personally?”




“There we go,” Grace said as she came in with a tray.


“Yeah – we’ll sort that out,” Harriet said as she took a mug, and Grace sat down.


“Right,” Juliette said, “you’ve met Susan’s niece, Kylie Mitchell, haven’t you Grace?”


“Of course – she came on the weekend up in Stowe with her friend Marina, didn’t she?”


“Yeah,” Juliette said, “and you’ve met her as well Sarah, but Harriet hasn’t.”


“Kylie Mitchell is currently a pupil at the Hong Kong Girls Grammar school,” Grace said as she looked at Harriet.  “To make a long story short, the UK system let her down, and she’s been playing catch up.  She’s doing extremely well, and is expected to come out with a clutch of A and A* International GCSEs by the end.”


“How did we let her down?”


“She was short sighted,” Juliette said, “and one or two other things.  Anyway, when Marina was offered a secondment to my company in Hong Kong, it was agreed that Kylie would accompany her and attend the school.”


“And she has flourished?”


“Dramatically – you may have seen her name in APCO as a designer.  Anyway, the plan up till now has been that, at the end of the year, both Marina and Kylie would return to London, Marina to work for Shirley Xavier and Kylie to go to a school there and study for her A-levels.”


“There’s the killer phrase,” Sarah said, “up till now.”


Juliette nodded.  “Grace, you know Anna is taking on a new role at Complete Style?”


“I heard – I met Fiona when I was over in the UK.”


“Well, she wants to offer Marina a position as one of her personal assistants.  She was incredibly impressed with her work on the St Petersburg shoot, and her language skills would be an asset to her.”


“I can imagine,” Grace said, “but if Marina is offered the job, she’d have to settle in New York, wouldn’t she?”


“That’s right,” Juliette said, “and I would be fairly certain if that happened, that Kylie may also select to stay here – if we can find a suitable school for her to attend and complete her education.”


“And I think we know where most of her friends in the city attend school,” Grace said as she looked round.  “So, let’s summarise – an incredibly bright, erudite and personable sixteen year old may need a school she can attend for two years, and one which can offer the sort of qualifications she wishes to attain.”


“Which,” Sarah said, “to me sounds like International A-Levels.”


“Which are?”


“Basically what she would sit if she was in London,” Harriet said, “but they allow some tweaks.  For example, English Lit?”


Sarah thought for a moment, and then said “slightly different rules around set texts, and it’s an exam rather than a mix of exam and coursework.  Any idea what she might be looking at?”


“English Literature is on the list, as is History – but the first question is, would St Angela’s allow this?”


“I think so,” Grace said, “she’d still need to attend other classes, but it can be arranged so that the focus is on supporting her through the exam process.  And I have to admit, given the current Sophomore year, Kylie coming in as a junior would not be a huge upheaval.”


“So it is a possible?”


“I’d need to give Kate and Wilhelmina a heads up, and we’d need to talk to Kylie as well.  Is Susan her guardian for the process?”


Juliette nodded as she said “they’re coming over next weekend for a ten day visit.  I think Anna will ask her then – and if she says yes, I want to be able to start things moving.”


“I’ll talk to them this week,” Grace said, “purely as a hypothetical at this stage.  Best to lay the groundwork and not need it, then do nothing and play catch up.”


“Thanks – now, tell me how Eve is...”


8 pm

The de Ros Mansion


“So how did it go with Grace,” Shirley said as Juliette came in.


“Well, it’s not impossible,” Juliette said as Diana handed her a drink.


“What is not impossible?”


“The idea,” Juliette said as she sat down, “of Kylie spending the last two years of her school life at St Angela’s, but sitting the exams she wants to sit.”


“Kylie?  Has there been a change of plan?”


“I’ll let you know in about ten days,” Shirley said as she looked at Diana. 


“Hey,” Doc said as she came in with Abby, “so who’s joining us?”


“I have Carina and Jo on the network,” Diana said as they sat down. 


“Hey Abby,” Carina said, “all set for the trip?”


“Just about – were you this nervous?”


“Well yeah – for different reasons.”


“We’re here guys.”


"Okay Heather what do you have for us?" Juliette asked on the secure service.

"Well a lot of coincidences probably, and relatively little real evidence Ju."

"Not what I wanted to hear Heather."

"Well that's the frustrating nature of things in the real world, people can hide their allegiances in plain sight."

"So what are these coincidences?"

"First that Katy's photographer Thomas, makeup artist Lori, AND the stylist Nina all have ties back to the Buffalo area."


“So does Billy Joel, and I don’t think he’s a suspect – is he?”


“Very funny Jo,” Carina grinned.

"But anything discernible to our suspects Heather?" Carina asked.

"Yes and No."

"Meaning what Cherie?" Diana spoke.

"Well first that the company that puts out this range of dresses is a subsidiary of Schulmann's..."

"Who I did that catalog shoot for." Doc interrupted.

"The one in Buffalo?" Abigail joined in.


"Alright Heather so that is one connection." Juliette nodded.

"The stylist Nina only moved down here three months ago.  She left after a drug raid in her building turned into something of a bloodbath."

"Something to note," Carina scratched something on her pad.  “Any history of drugs in her life?”


“None that I can find, but that means nothing.”

"What else Heather?"

"Well Jan, this might seem very tenuous, but while she was a traffic cop, Rochelle Anderson gave them all speeding tickets at one time or another, but that is spread over a 5 year period."

"Damn that is tenuous Lover." Sandy shook her head on the screen, "just think of all the traffic cops have ticketed me over the years, maybe she once did me?"

"I said it was tenuous."

“You did say Buffalo was where Nina lived, right Sis.”


“Yeah,” Heather said to Jo, “why?”


“Just checking something...”


"Alright,” Juliette said, “go on Heather."

"Well Ju, Lori and our lady cop were at Buffalo State College at the same time, but no evidence at all they knew each other."

"It has 30,000 students Big Sister."

"I know Jo, but as I said these are just tiny coincidences."

"So what ties the photographer to Buffalo Heather?"

"He used to be a crime scene photographer for the Buffalo PD when he first got out of college, but that was 10 years ago."

"I know him though Heather," Juliette looked at the screen, "he's a well-respected pro."

"Doesn't mean though that someone was able to call in an old debt with him though Ju?" Jan looked serious.


“True – but as far as...”


“I thought I recognised that name from somewhere.”


“What name?”


“Nina – She’s a William Smith graduate.  She was a counsellor in my hall.”


“Really?  What can you dig up?”


“Model student – but had some run-ins with campus security for drugs.  It’s who the arresting officer was at the time – the name may be familiar to you Jan?”


“Who was it?”


“Robert Harkness.”


Jan looked at the other women in the room, and said “shit.”


“Heather, we need a full profile.  Jo, good work.  Jan...”


“I know – I have a meeting tomorrow, and then I need some help with my good, good friend Welch...”


“Hang on a minute,” Heather said as she took a call on her cell phone, pressing the voice modifier to her throat.


“Louise darling how may we help you?


“Is there now – and you placed the bug?


“Thank you – leave it with me.”  Ending the call, Heather said “our fake Miss Panther has a visitor.  Susan and the team are listening in...”



9 pm

The Speakeasy, Buffalo


“I do not like what you made me do,” Nina said as she sat opposite the well dressed blonde.  “That was in the past, and I’ve been clean for years now.”


“Funny thing about the past, Ms Schmidt,” Miss Panther purred, “no matter how hard we try to fight it, it will come back and hit us when we least expect it.  The recent death of a good friend and colleague, for example, has led me to review some of the files, and imagine my surprise when I saw your name there.  Nina Schmidt, top designer of dresses for the devout, with a record for possession and dealing...”


“In the past – and the only reason I did this for you was that you promised this would go away forever.”


“And so it will – as soon as you tell me what you know of Jan Carter and her family.”


Nina rubbed her eyes.  “Well, young Katy Carter is what they like to call in the profession hot – in every possible meaning of the word.  But she was a true professional – the photos we took are sensational, and she looks like an angel in them.”


Nina passed a book over to Miss Panther, who flipped through them.  “Very different from the image from the fashion show,” she purred.  “So she is a good actor?”


“Most top models are in one form or another,” Nina said.


“What else?”


“She tends to hang out with older girls, but she does have a tight knit group of friends at her school – one of which is an Alexandra Richmond Jr.”


“Her mother is one of the Richmond Trust Richmonds?”


“That’s right – apparently his boyfriend is her brother George.  She also has an interesting sport – 10 metre Air Pistol shooting.”


Miss Panther raised an eyebrow.  “Well, her mother has an excellent aptitude for guns as well, by all accounts.  Did you visit their apartment?”


“This morning – I left those things you asked me to.”


“When do you return to show her the pictures?”


“Tomorrow night – why?”


“Curiosity – nothing more.”


“So am I done?”


“Not quite,” Miss Panther purred.


“What the hell do you mean,” Nina said angrily.


“Only that I will not pass this information on – but I will not destroy it.  Enjoy your drive back, Miss Schmidt.”


Nina stared as Miss Panther smiled, and then walked out, nearly knocking Louise over as she brought a drink in.


“Friend of yours, Boss?”


“Not really – sit down Louise.  I wanted to talk to you about something.”


“Yeah Boss,” Louise said as she took a seat, “is there something I’m doing wrong?”


“No – not yet,” Miss Panther said.  “Miss Lynx speaks very well of you, Louise – I want to put a proposition to you...”


Monday 1st February

10 am

Conde Nast


“Miss Ashley?”


Pippa looked up from her seat in the lobby, and then stood up, smiling as she shook the hand of the smartly dressed man.  She had the scarf Jess had brought round tied loosely round her neck, covering the shoulder of her blue jacket and the front of her cream camisole top.


“Thank you for coming in today – if you will come this way?”


She followed him to the elevators, stepping in as he pressed the floor button for the executive offices of the publisher.


“So what is the schedule for today,” Pippa said as the elevator car went up.


“This morning you will have one to one interviews with our head of Human Resources, one of our other Chief Editors, and myself.  Then after lunch, there will be a meeting we wish you to chair – you will be given the initial briefing information – before a final panel interview.”


“So, nice easy time of it then?”


The man smiled as the lift doors opened, and they walked into the reception area.  “Would you care for a coffee or something while you wait?”


“Perhaps later.”


“Very well – if you will wait here?”


Pippa nodded as she sat down, looking round and taking several deep breaths as she calmed herself down.




10 am

FBI Field Office, New York


Adam looked up as Jan came into the office.


“You’ve got a visitor,” he said as he nodded to an interview room, “and Tom has visitors as well.”


She looked to Tom’s office, and the two men sitting opposite his desk.


“Is something wrong,” Jeanne said as she brought a mug of coffee to her desk.


“Not yet,” Jan said as she went to the room, and opened the door.


“Hi Edie,” she said as she saw Edie Corben sitting there, “did you manage to get things done?”


“Mom has gone with Sis and her family for a long trip,” Edie said as she fidgeted.  She was wearing the regulation black jacket and skirt, with a white blouse, and black heels.  She looked at Jan, in her designer trouser suit, and said “have you ever had to do this before?”


“No – doesn’t make it any easier however.”


The knock on the door made them both turn their heads, as Tom looked in.


“Agent Corben, Jan, step into my office please.”


The two women stood up, Edie carrying her file as they went into Tom’s office, Adam whispering “good luck” as they went in.


“Agent Janice Carter, Agent Edie Corben,” Tom said, “this is Special Investigator Jarvis, and Special Investigator Kirby, Internal Affairs.”


“Agents,” the taller of the two said, “AD Callaghan has briefed us on the steps you had taken recently to investigate the apparent block of information from the Buffalo office.  I understand why you wished to keep this internal, but what has changed?”


“You know of the shooting in Niagara last weekend?”


“We have heard the details,” SI Kirby said.


“Agent Corben?”


Edie took out a file and handed it to the two investigators, Jan and Tom watching.


“This is documentation of the connections between the two men killed in the shootout, and my partner, Special Agent Peter Welch.”


The two investigators looked at Edie, then at the file, before SI Jarvis said “tell us more...”




10.30 am

Conde Nast


Pippa looked at the middle aged woman sitting on the other side of the desk, wondering what her next question was going to be.


“Your record in public affairs and the magazine industry is certainly impressive, Miss Ashley,” she said as she looked up, “but I am curious.  What was it that made you move from modelling to PR and journalism?”


“Recognising where my true strengths lay,” Pippa said with a smile.  “I was never in the same league as the likes of the top girls at the time, and I realised my future was not really in modelling.  There were other factors – a couple of girls I knew either died or just quit.”


“I see,” the interviewer said.  “So you started to work for your father’s company.”


“That’s right – doing promotional material and show stands, while learning the business, what worked as a commercial hook and what didn’t.  It provided me with the skills I have brought to my career since.”


The interviewer nodded as she made some notes.  “What, to you, is the key skill necessary to running an efficient office?”


“Trust – trust in your staff, and in their ability to do their work.  If you can trust them, and show that trust, they will trust you.”






3 pm

Conde Nast


“Miss Ashley – please, take a seat.”


“Thank you,” Pippa said as she was shown into the boardroom, looking at the three people sitting opposite – the three most powerful people in the Complete Style empire.


“Would you care for some coffee?”


“No, thank you – but if I could have some water?”


“If you could bring some water please?”


Pippa smiled as the secretary walked out, and she saw the notes and reports in front of the panel.


"We will try and keep this informal as possible Miss Ashley," William Kirby the Chairman of the Complete Style division smiled, a smile Juliette had once compared to the look of a cobra about to bite its prey.

"That suits me," Pippa said as she relaxed a little.

"Now you know you are the third candidate we are interviewing in making our final decision?"

"Yes I was aware of that." Pippa nodded.

"And I have to say before we start,” William said as he looked at some papers, then back up, “that the other two candidates were very impressive."

"Well I know both of them well enough to realise they would be."

"So why should we hire you?" Andrew Herd the publisher of Complete Style asked.

"Because,” Pippa said, “I have the vision needed to maintain CS as the leader in its market, and to work well in conjunction both with Anna in her new position, and with the existing staff."

"That is taken for granted Philippa,” Andrew said, “else you wouldn't be here."

"Well that's nice to hear Andrew."

"What I'm more interested in are such changes as you think need making?"

"Well on staff very few.” Pippa looked at the panel as she said “I'd bring over a couple of my current PA's, should I be successful and offered the position, but I believe all the department heads not only know their jobs, but are very good at them."

"And as to content?"

"Well, I have a few ideas Andrew." Pippa paused. "I think CS connects with a slightly younger audience then Vogue does, but their web presence is stronger than that of CS. So to boost CS's web presence, I'd give Ben and his division more resources and seek to use the page to draw more readers to the publication."

"That has been suggested by all the candidates," Marjorie Post, the Chief Operating Officer spoke.

“Then let me give a specific example, if I may?”


Marjorie nodded as Pippa said “I think there is an opportunity to use live blogs during Fashion Weeks to give instant response to the shows and presentations, and use them as a lead in to the more in depth articles in the published magazine.  Having that presence along with comments from Juliette and the fashion team will be a major attraction.”


The panel looked at each other and made notes as Andrew said “Any other initial suggestions?”


"I think I'd like to give CS slightly more edge, take it closer to the changing face of fashion while maintaining the same standards."

"But hasn't it done that with issues on Fetish Leather and such other themes?" Andrew Herd asked another question.

"It has...But there are still a lot of things going on in the worlds of music and street culture where I feel CS has maybe lagged behind a trend rather than leading and championing it."


“Could you provide an example?”


Pippa thought for a moment, before saying “I have to admit, this is coming from my daughter and her friends, but the street style does seem to be returning to that we saw in the 1980s.  The recent passing of David Bowie has also given a chance to re-evaluate his career, and the music at the time.  I would consider looking into a way that style is reflected in the current street music scene, looking for input from the likes of Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Harry and Belinda Carlisle.  The renewed interest in the girl bands of the time, fuelled by the proposed film of LadyDown, would fit into that?”


“You don’t mean day-glo colours and track suits?”


“No – I mean, for example, leather skirts with loose fitting blouses, jumpers and skin tight trousers, those style lines.”


William nodded as he made some further notes. 


"Another important thing I believe in is maintaining Anna's rule that CS, was, is, and remains at heart a FASHION magazine." Pippa collected her thoughts, before continuing "now I have nothing against celebrities, but I do believe that CS's Anna's policy of virtually exclusively using models on the cover, rather then what the other Anna does in all but exclusively using celebrities, does separate CS from Vogue on the newspaper and magazine stand."

"You are criticizing Vogue Miss Ashley?"

"No Marjorie, it's a brilliantly produced magazine, I just feel that sometimes maybe it overdoes the non pure fashion components in its content to the detriment of the other content."  Pippa paused again and said “every magazine needs a focus, an anchor on which to build the content.  Look at the sales from the tribute issue, and the role appearing on the cover played in establishing Abigail de Ros, Caroline Jameson.  I would want that important role to continue.”


“What would you see your role as in relationship to us,” Marjorie asked, “as Editor of the US Complete Style.”


“I would see my position as working with Anna to ensure we deliver the best publication possible for our target audience.”


“What are your views on the role of the editor in the financial management of the magazine, Miss Ashley,” Andrew asked.


“If you mean in terms of the compensation package for the staff under me, I strongly believe in paying the best possible rate that I am allowed to.  I also understand the current going rate for the best photographers and stylists out there, so i would seek to cooperate wherever possible with the other editors to spread the costs. 


“As for decisions above that level, I've always been content to stay out of the Publishers realm and to leave the business management side to them." Pippa looked straight at the man and smiled.  "You tell me what I can spend and I'll produce you the best possible publication for that money."

"What about advertising?"

"Again not really the editors responsibility,” Pippa said as she looked at Marjorie, “but I do know that the better the magazine the more people will read it, and the higher rates the advertising department will be able to charge and the more prominent the companies we will attract."  Pippa looked at each person in turn, before saying "I'm an editor, I produce well written, beautifully photographed, and I hope commercially successful magazines. That's an editor’s job...


“Yes I have opinions on the wider world of the publication, but I will only give opinions if asked. I would not meddle in YOUR jobs.  All I would ask is the same respect in return, and the trust that I will do my job to the best of my ability."


The three members of the panel looked at each other, before William said “one last question, Miss Ashley.”


Pippa sipped her water as she watched them.


“If someone was to play you in a film based on Complete Style, who would you want it to be?”


Pippa raised an eyebrow, before she said “if a film was written about Complete Style, I would not want a star to play me.  The stars of this magazine are the department heads, writers, photographers and the other staff, not me.”


William looked at Andrew and Marjorie, before he asked “do you have any questions for us, Miss Ashley?”


“Only one, if truth be told – how soon will you make a decision?”


“You have no other questions?”


“I managed to have all my other questions answered in the interviews this morning,” Pippa said with a smile, “so the only thing left is to thank you for the opportunity to meet you and for the interview – and, as I say, an indication of when a decision will be reached.”


William looked at the other two, before he said “it is our hope that we will let you know, one way or another, in the next 48 hours.”


“In which case,” Pippa said as they all stood up, “thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you.”


She shook their hands as William said “thank you – the secretary will show you to the elevator.”


Pippa nodded as the door was opened, and put her Jameson bag over her shoulder as the secretary showed her to the lifts.  As it went down, she took a deep breath, before handing her visitor’s pass into the desk and stepping outside.


She took out her cell phone and dialled.


“Poppy?  I’m finished – I’m going to come home and get changed, and then we’ll go round to have dinner with your Aunt Grace.”


7 pm

The Village


“Well, I’ll bet you’re glad the day is over,” Sarah said as she followed Pippa and Poppy into the main room, and took their coats.


“Tell me about it,” Pippa said as she stretched her arms up.  She was wearing a Harlequins rugby shirt and a pair of jeans, while Poppy had on an Angels hoodie and grey trousers.


“Well, sit down,” Grace said from the kitchen, “Harriet is cooking, and I’m making some cold drinks.”


“That would be wonderful,” Pippa said as she sat down.


"So how did it go?" Grace asked as she brought in a tray of drinks.

"About how I thought it would.”  Pippa took a glass and had a long drink.  “The main interview in the afternoon, they kept trying to ask me for opinions on subjects that are really not editorial."

"Which means what?"

"That I think at least one of the others perhaps blotted their copy book and gave answers telling them what he or she would do in their position."

"Ah,” Grace said, “I take it that's a no no."

"According to Juliette, yeah they are very protective of their own turf."


“So their take home message from you was?”


“I’m an editor – if you hire me, let me do my job.”


“My mom, the truth speaker,” Poppy said with a smile.


“So when do you think they will let you know?”


“They said within the next 48 hours – that smells amazing Harriet, what is it?”


“Chilli – my way,” Harriet called back.


“That would be wonderful – the best way to spend an evening after today is with a bowl of comfort food.”  Taking another drink, Pippa put her glass down and said “anyway, how did it go with the family?”


“Surprisingly well,” Grace said, “mum and dad said to pass on their best wishes to you – once we got through all the tears and things.  I almost gave Uncle Stephen a heart attack by turning up earlier than expected – Sophia as well.”


“Sophia?  She is still there?”


“Oh yes – i think she’ll outlive all of us, truth be told.” 


“Hey – remember when she caught us trying to steal those cakes?”


“Oh good grief yes,” Grace said with a laugh.


“Who is Sophia?”


“Sorry, Poppy – she’s the house keeper at Momford Place, my ancestral home.  Chief cook, bottle washer, and a force to be reckoned with.  Put it this way – she and Mary Thomas would get on like a house on fire.”


“Right – food’s ready,” Harriet said as she looked out.  “Everybody happy to have it in bowls on their lap?”


“I’ll get the tortilla chips,” Sarah said as she went into the kitchen.


“There we go,” Harriet said as she handed two bowls to Poppy and Pippa, and then went back to the kitchen, Sarah returning with a large bowl of chips and her own bowl, before Grace brought through her bowl with Harriet.


“So when does Abby fly out to Vienna?”


“Tonight – they have two full days of rehearsals, and then the ball on Thursday.”


“I’m sure she’ll look fantastic.”


“I’m sure she will, Poppy,” Grace said, “but I still gave her some assignments to complete while she is away.”


“And she loves you for it, doesn’t she?”


“Yes she does,” Grace said with a smile.


“Now this hits the spot,” Pippa said as she sat back, “I didn’t realise how tired I was until I got home to change.”


“So you’ll give Jess the special scarf back?”


“I’ll have it cleaned and return it personally,” Pippa said as she took a couple of chips.


"So what is this I hear that you had to admit to a student you didn't know something Harriet?" Grace spoke.

"Oy Vey...  Yeah, to Doc Carlton," Harriet shook her head, "she asked a biochemistry question that I had no idea of the answer to."

"Ouch," Pippa laughed, "so what did you tell her?"

"The Truth...That I'd have to research the question and then give her the answer."

"All you could do Harriet." Sarah nodded.

"Still I hated having to say it...”  Harriet took a forkful of chilli and ate it, before she said “but she does ask some very tough questions."

"Is she helping tutor the other girls?"

"Yes she is Pippa.  Grace, you have a real task on your hands next year."


“Maybe, maybe not – we know she’s not infallible in all areas.  Is she Sarah?”


“Hmmm?  Oh don’t get me wrong – she’s very very good in English Lit class – but Ama and a few others easily outshine her.”


“So what are you getting Ama for Wednesday?”


“Oh I took care of that on behalf of all three of us last week,” Grace said with a smile, “One thing I knew I’d have to do while I was over there.  What about you Pip?”


“Well I know Poppy has gone in with some of the girls on a simple gift,” Pippa said, “but I arranged a little something for the party.  Caroline knows, and that’s all I’m saying.”


“Fair enough,” Grace said with a smile.  “I will say this though – she was a difficult girl to think of a present for.”


“I know,” Poppy said, “which is when Jeannie reminded us Ama is probably the one girl who would appreciate simplicity rather than money.  Then it became much simpler.”


“Before I forget,” Grace said as she wiped her chin, “we ladies need to discuss our plans for the weekend.”


“The weekend?”


The four older women looked at each other, before Pippa said to her daughter “Three weeks Friday, and without her prior knowledge, we are taking one Juliette Huntingdown away for the weekend.  Moms and women only.”


“So are you heading up to the lodge?”


“That is the intention – but not a word in her presence,” Grace said.  “Diana and Sandy are finalising the arrangements, and they’ve given us specific tasks.  Ours is to consider what we will do on the Saturday night.”


“In Stowe?  I would imagine the nightclub would be involved – but if you’re doing that, what are Carina and Ingrid doing?”


“Figuring out a way to get her there without her knowing she is going there,” Sarah said as she finished her meal.


8 pm

Central Park West


“Yeah, I figured it was getting to the time we had to do this,” Jan said as she sat next to Katy, the pair of them looking at the online catalogues for competition air pistols.


“What did they recommend at the range,” Adam said.


“Well, they said if it could be done, go for the best.”


“And that would be?”


“Well,” Jan said, “they say it is Morini in most of the sites I visited.”


Jane showed her mother and Adam the web page, as they looked at the pistol.


“Exclusive is right – only one company sells them in the UK,” Adams aid.


“Well, if that is what you want, that is what you will get,” Katherine said.


"Gran are you sure about getting me a Morini,” Katy said, “they are dreadfully expensive, especially with customised grips."

"Katy,” her grandmother said, “if you are serious about this then it’s what you need, and besides I do have a few extra dollars in the bank."

"And I'll help out as well." Adam smiled.

"You do remember it's Ama's birthday coming up...not mine?"

"We do, but you have worked hard at your shooting, it's time to get some decent equipment."

"Thank you so much Uncle Adam."

"What about me?"

"And you too Gran!" Katy kissed both of them.

"Well we can go to the range tomorrow daring, and get them to assess the grip you need.”


As the apartment doorbell rang, Adam said “I’ll get it,” and went to the door, returning with Nina.


“Sorry to call so late,” she said, “but I wanted to bring the final photos to show you for your approval.”


“Would you like some coffee,” Katherine said as she stood up.


“Please,” Nina said as she sat down.  “So, ready to see your natural beauty?”


“Go on, I bet I look awful,” Katy said, but as she looked through the book she raised an eyebrow, and said “all right, I guess I do look all right in these.”


“So you’re agreeing to our using them?”


“Of course,” Jan said with a smile.


“Good – and thanks,” Nina said as she accepted a coffee.  “You really do have a very nice apartment here.”


“I was given a very generous discount,” Jan said as she sipped her coffee, her eyes fixed on the young designer.   Nina looked nervously at her, before she said “well, I’ll be on my way once I have finished this.”


“Allow me to walk you out,” Jan said, “when the time comes.”


A few minutes later, Jan walked with Nina to the elevator.


“It was very good of you to bring the book back tonight, Nina,” Jan said as they waited for the elevator to appear, “it saved me calling you about something.”


“Oh,” Nina said as she looked at her cell phone, “and what was that?”


“Who it was who was blackmailing you into spying on me?”


Nina turned and looked at Jan as she handed her a clear plastic bag.  “I found these after you called yesterday,” Jan said quietly, “and I know you didn’t plant them of your own volition.  Who made you do it?”


“I have no idea what you’re talking about Jan...”


“It’s all right – you lose them in your own time.  I just want you to know i understand you were forced to do it, and tell you not to worry – nobody is ever going to know.”


As the elevator doors opened, Jan said “enjoy your drive home,” Nina nodding as she stepped in and the doors closed.




9 pm

The Village


“Oh I would loved to have seen that,” Pippa said with a laugh as she sat back, Poppy shaking her head.


“I can imagine you would,” Grace said as she put her empty mug down. 


Looking at her watch, Pippa said “is that the time?  I think we need to...”


The sound of her cell phone ringing caught everyone by surprise, as Pippa fished it out of her bag and looked at the caller ID.




“Grace, do you mind if I take this call in your room,” Pippa said as she looked at her old friend.


“Go right ahead,” Grace said, watching as Pippa said into her phone “William, what can I do for you?”


“Who’s William,” Grace said as she looked at Poppy.


“I don’t know,” the young girl said as all four looked at the door.  A few minutes later, Pippa came out, staring at the display of her phone as Sarah said “Pippa, what’s happened?”


“I...  I’m not quite sure,” Pippa said quietly, “that was William Kirby, the chairman of the Complete Style division at Conde Nast.”


“Didn’t he interview you today,” Grace said quietly.


“Yeah – yeah he did.”


“So why is he calling you?”


“Well, he tried my home number, and when I didn’t answer called me on my cell.  He...”




“Poppet, he wants me to go in tomorrow morning to meet with the panel again, and to see Anna, but...”




“I think I was just appointed Editor of Complete Style US.”


The others all looked at Pippa before Poppy punched the air and said “YES!!  WELL DONE MOM!!!”


“Are we allowed to say anything,” Grace asked as she looked at her old friend.


“No – not yet, I need to cross the I’s and dot the T’s.  I mean dot the...”


“Never mind,” Grace said as she hugged her friend.


“They’re going to announce it tomorrow at CS, after I talk to them, and then I can talk to my bosses.  I...   I think I need a drink.”


“I’ve got a bottle of Cava in the icebox?”


“That will do for now,” Grace said as she looked at Pippa.


"I better phone Mum and Aunt Maggie..."

"Best to do it tomorrow, it's the dead of night there."

"Oh yeah you are right Harriet," Pippa looked at her watch.

"Will your mother though ever forgive you for not telling her straight away?"

"Aunt Grace is right," Poppy nodded, "that sounds just like Gran."


“True – and knowing what this is going to lead to...”  Pippa looked through her contacts and pressed on the screen.


“Three...  Two... One... Hi Mum it’s Pippa.


“Yes, I know it’s after two in the morning, but I just got some news, and I want you to pass it on to Aunt Maggie.


“No, I’m not engaged, Mum.  So you don’t need to buy that new outfit yet.”  Pippa rolled her eyes as she said “I was interviewed today for the editor’s job at Complete Style and – they offered me the post.”




“Okay then – I’ll talk to both of you tomorrow, and thanks Mum.”


“What did she say,” Grace said as Pippa ended the call.


“She said congratulations, and told me to tell you the money’s yours.”  Pippa suddenly opened her eyes as she said “oh – the bet?”


“Yup,” Grace said as she hugged her friend, “better get ready for a visitor over the weekend...”







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