Heroes and Villains – Part 3
Thursday 20th October
“Thank you for spending time with me today,” Helen said as she and Penny walked along the path, “the party last night was what I needed to restore my focus and the downtime to restore my love and energy.”
“So you forgive me for not telling you?”
“Penny, of course I do,” Helen said with a smile, “you did so with the best of intentions. Shall we call on Charlotte after our walk?”
“That sounds good – but a coffee first I think,” Penny said as they walked into a café. “I’ll be back in a moment.”
“I’ll order the drinks,” Helen said as the waitress came over, ordering two coffees as she looked out of the window.
“Yelena – how are you?”
She snapped her head round to see Andre Kanninikov sitting opposite her. “Uncle Andre,” she said quietly, “you do not have rehearsals this afternoon?”
“We are taking a lunch break,” he said with a smile. “I did not get a chance to say goodbye properly on Sunday.”
“Well, I imagine you were busy with other things,” Helen said quietly. “Other matters that demanded your attention.”
“Regretfully, yes – Helen, I need to talk to you, can I buy you dinner tomorrow.”
“I do not know at the moment, may I call you later Uncle Andre?”
“Of course – I look forward to your call,” Andre said as he stood up. Something was wrong, something was different, but he could not put his finger on what it was.
As he walked away, Penny came back. “You all right,” she said as she sat down.
“I am – but I fear when I next see Uncle Andre, I will need support to control myself – more than Marina or Kylie can provide…”
As Kylie walked into the Cave, she closed the door quietly, and walked slowly to the table Mary usually worked at. As she came closer, she saw the Wizard sitting at a table, looking at a binder.
The older woman turned her head suddenly and said “Kylie – my goodness, is that the time?”
“It is all right, Mary darling – I know the news,” Kylie said quietly as she looked over, “what is that you are looking at?”
“This? A British magazine for girls called Jackie – this is a collection of some of the editions Fiona worked on when she was a fashion correspondent there. Come and have a look.”
Kylie came over and flipped through the pages. “A lot of denim and bell bottoms, or hot pants.”
“AI, that was the fashion then,” Mary said with a smile, “but you can see her influence there. See the way the models are shot in those denim maxi skirts?”
“I do – the way they are presented, the clean symmetry. She was a true genius, if an unsung one – much like you Wizard.”
“I know – and now I will never… Never…” Mary started to cry again as Kylie stood by her, neither of them hearing Juliette as she came in.
“Mary… Are those the legendary Jackie editions?”
“Ai they are Ju Lass, I was reliving memories. Come on – I’ll get us all a drink and we can talk…”
West Central Park
“Kylie, is that you?”
“It is Marina,” Kylie said as she saw her housemate holding the phone, “who is calling?”
"Kyles its yer Mum."
Marina handed the handset over as Kylie rubbed her eyes, and then sat down.
"Hi Mum, it’s kind of late for you to be ringing isn't it darling," Kylie said as she looked at her watch.
"I've got Gio and your Aunt Kerry at my place,” she heard her mother say, “he's got himself in a bit of a state."
"Oh yes, I
forgot that Fiona had been his mentor when he started out."
"I have Mum, and tell Gio he's not alone, Jeannie for one is extremely upset."
“Oh yeah – she was kind of discovered by Fiona, wasn’t she?”
“That’s right – she’s already made it clear she will come over for the funeral when it is held.”
Friday 21st October
8 am BST
“Yes, the party is still on, and we will have a wake as well,” Aggie said into the phone as she looked over to where Laura and Miley were sitting at the breakfast table.
"Down Tippy, I'm trying to eat my breakfast," Miley complained as the cat tried to jump on her lap.
"Tippy Toes...You know better," Agnes looked sternly at the cat as it jumped down and slunk into her basket.
pet being a pain in the rear end darling?" the voice on the other end of
Agnes's phone asked.
little Mandy," Agnes laughed a little chuckle. "Anyway what were we
Donald's party, and the arrangements for Fiona's funeral."
the funeral, I suppose I can at least ring Uncle David and see if he will see
me now..." Aggie's voice trailed off as she rubbed her eyes.
he's one of your few relatives who hasn't made his peace with you yet darling,
but he is the Dean of St Paul's, you are his niece, and you truly are our best
point of contact for asking if they will let us hold a memorial service in the
and I do realise that."
was in London she'd try seeing him, but she can't get away from New York for at
least a couple more days, so she rang me, to get me to ring you darling."
said "the best I can promise Mandy is that I will try and see if he will
that Fiona's actual funeral will be quiet and rather private, but the whole,
and I do mean whole darling, fashion world, wants to honour memory in some
"I'll tell him that...if he will see me. Let me call him and then call you back."
“Thank you darling,” Mandy said as the call ended, Laura saying “is everything all right, Mum?”
“Just one of those impossible things I end up doing,” Agnes said as she dialled another number.
“The Old Lodge.”
“This is Agnes McAdam, can I speak to Mrs Mahan-Gaunt please?”
Agnes stood, drumming her fingers, before she heard her sister say “Aggie – what can I do for you?”
Agnes said quietly, “do you have Uncle David's private phone number?"
I do Aggie...Why are you asking?"
that Fiona MacKenzie the fashion editor died."
Paula phoned and told me. She was very upset."
"She was a
much loved person. I didn't know her really myself, but a lot of our
"I know, but anyway why do you need Uncle David's number?"
Sighing, Agnes said "because her friends want to hold a memorial service for him at St Paul's, and they thought because I'm his niece I might be able to arrange it."
"They don't know he smacked your face when all that crap came out about Lady D'Eath do they darling?"
I'd rather they didn't."
would it perhaps be better if I phoned him?"
"Yes,” Agnes said at first, but then continued “but no… It's time I at least tried to make contact with him. So I had better do it, and this is at least a valid reason for me to speak to him."
"Well it's up to you,” Tamsin said, “but don't say I didn't offer."
"I know Tam," Agnes smiled.
"Let me get my phone book." The line went dead for a few minutes, before Tamsin said “ready?”
“Let me have it – and I’ll see you all tomorrow.”
10 am BST
“Morning Boss,” Sue said as Agnes came in, “correspondence on the desk for you.”
“Thank you Sue – would you bring some coffee in ten minutes? I need to make a phone call first.”
“Personal,” Agnes said quietly as she went into her office, closing the door before she sat down. Looking at the piece of paper, she thought for a moment, and then picked up her telephone, waiting as she dialled the number.
The sound of the ringing tone made her pause, before a voice she had not heard for many years said “hello?”
“Hello Uncle David.”
There was silence for a few minutes, before the voice said “Agnes – how did you get my number?”
“I got it from Tamsin, Uncle David, and please do not hang up.”
“I would not do that, Agnes – whatever I thought of what you did, we are taught to forgive those who repent of their sins.”
Agnes looked to the ceiling for a minute, before she said “look, Uncle David, my story is out there now, and the reasons why I did what I did. I really do not want to go over them again just now.”
“I know – I read the article, and Simon and others have spoken to me. Perhaps… Perhaps I did overreact and I ask forgiveness for that.”
“We do need to have that conversation,” Agnes said quietly, “but I wanted to talk to you for another reason. I presume you have heard the news about Fiona MacKenzie.”
“The fashion editor? I saw the news this morning, a sad time indeed.”
“Well, arrangements are been made for her funeral, and I understand that will be a quiet affair, but a number of friends of mine are in the fashion industry, and they tell me there is a desire to have a memorial service for her. A proper and large one, and…”
“And they wish to know if they may have the service in the cathedral?”
“Yes, Uncle David. I am asking you on behalf of them.”
“We can certainly discuss that. Perhaps, if you are free for lunch?”
“I can be – I have offices in the Bank now, but if you prefer neutral ground?”
“Let’s both go neutral – they have a very acceptable café in Southwark. I will meet you there at one?”
“I’ll be there, and thank you Uncle David.”
“Until then,” he said as the line went dead. Agnes breathing a sigh of relief as she put the phone down.
“There you go, Boss,” Sue said as she came in and put the mug down.
“Thank you Sue – now, what’s first?”
1.30 pm BST
The Very Reverend David McDonald stooped as he came under the doorway that led to the cafe. At 6' 6" tall he wasn't exactly the kind of man such buildings as this had been designed to cater to, but the fact that this building had once been a pilgrims meeting place on the road to Canterbury was one of the reason he had chosen to meet his long estranged niece here.
Younger than his brother Simon, the Dean though shared a strong family resemblance, and the same strong devotion to public service and duty. He was dressed in the "uniform" of a dark grey suit over the black shirt and white collar, the shoes highly polished. Approaching the counter, the man there recognised him and said "can I get you anything?"
"Not yet, thank you," he said quietly. For a second he paused to let his eyes get used to the light, and he wondered if, after all these years, he would still recognise Agnes? The answer though made him smile as he saw her sitting in a corner looking hardly a day older then she had at their last unfortunate meeting. She was wearing a grey jacket and skirt, her red hair still magnificent.
Smiling he walked towards her, feeling slightly guilty as he saw the look of trepidation on her face as she recognised him. He knew there were things he had to say, to confess...
Agnes looked up to see him as he walked over. The hair was greyer, thinner, but she knew him instantly. "Hello Uncle David," she said as she stood and offered her hand to him.
"Hello Aggie," he says as he ignored the hand, and instead stooped slightly and kissed her on the cheek.
"Oh!" Aggie for a moment looked shocked. This was unexpected…
"Can I say how well you are looking?"
"Thank you Uncle David," Aggie let a smile escape, "and you look well yourself, how are Aunt Clarissa and the family doing?"
"They are fine, I’ll be sure to pass on your good wishes," he said as he signalled, and two coffees were brought over.
"I must say, I was surprised you agreed to come," Agnes said as she held the cup, "much less to be greeted like that..."
"Agnes... My behaviour back then was far from Christian," the churchman took a deep breath, "I rang Simon after you rang me and we discussed the whole thing..."
"Uncle David you did what you thought was right and proper," Agnes interrupted.
"No," David said as he shook his head, "I did what an outraged moralist does, not what an uncle should do. Amelia must have turned in her grave when I slapped you and slammed the door in your face like that." Taking a sip from his cup, he said "Your mother would have understood you did only what you thought you needed to solve problems, not that you had done it as a matter of preference and enjoyment. My sister had an understanding of the human condition that I've always envied. I truly should have..."
"Uncle David," Agnes interrupted again, "it's all water that long since flowed under the bridge."
"Still, I want to apologise, and to ask you to forgive me Agnes. I was in the wrong, not you..."
"The past is the past, Uncle David," Agnes said quietly, "I had to forgive myself first."
"I think, looking at you, you have," David said with a smile.
"I'm getting there, but of course I forgive you," Agnes said as she took another sip.
"Anyway, before we change the subject," the Dean said, "can I say it's wonderful that at long last you and Donald are getting married...I do hope that I will be invited to the wedding?"
"As I asked many years ago, even if it’s in a Catholic cathedral?" Aggie asked with a little smile.
"Even in an 'opposition' place," the Dean laughed. "I got over whatever prejudices I had in that direction when Amelia converted so as to marry Angus."
"Well it's all basically the same, we just change some of the bits compared to you Anglicans," Agnes smiled again.
"So is Donald converting now?"
"No, he is staying firmly C of E, but he's going to let me raise the girls RC."
"Simon said you had adopted two girls, I look forward to meeting them Aggie."
"Yeah, Laura and Miley."
"How did you meet them?"
"They came to my school, and I realised I was caring for them more than any of the others..."
"The children you and Donald never had..."
“After I was revealed as a prostitute…”
“Aggie, that’s the past,” David said as he took her hand.
"Because of what I did, who I was, and yes, I was what they called me..."
"But you have left that behind now..."
"Uncle David," Agnes whispered, "there is no such thing as an ex-whore. I might be out of the business now, but I can never change the facts about what I used to do."
"Meaning what Aggie?"
Agnes looked at his face for a moment, before saying "That there are many people who will never forgive and forget."
"And you think I'm one of those?"
Nodding, Agnes whispered "I did until today."
"Well, I hope I have changed your mind?"
"You have," Agnes said as she squeezed his hand, "Thank you."
"So, family business aside," David said as he sat back, "Fiona MacKenzie. I spoke to the chapter, and they agree that the Cathedral can be used for a memorial service, at a date to be arranged."
Agnes nodded as she said "Grace Gresham-Fox Brand is here next week as executor of her will. I can arrange for her to see you."
"Is there any word yet on her funeral?"
"Not that I know of..."
"Are you sure," Francesca said as she looked at Janice.
"My contact says so, he's been given a month to wrap up and head home Kelly Rochermann is saying he is giving a farewell performance in three weeks."
Nodding, Francesca said "Okay, this means it is time for me to prep the endgame. Thank you Janice." As Jan left, she picked up the telephone.
"Kay" Francesca said quietly, "I'm calling in favors."
"You are Francesca? May I ask why?"
"Because matters are coming to a head between Helen York and The Dancer regarding the circumstances surrounding her family's defection, and I'd like if she asks to be able to supply her with what the agencies know or surmised about those events."
"So you want me to ask Central Registry to authorise releasing what’s in our files to you?"
"If they will, I've already asked the CIA, and my old friends at La Citadella."
"Have you asked the French, and most importantly the Finns, after all it did all happen in Finland."
"I was going to contact them next."
Helen was sitting on the floor, playing with her doll as her mother sat in her dressing gown, her head in her hands
"I tell you, Andre, I have to do this... We have to do this. They are never going to let us leave or be ourselves, and I want Yelena to have what I never had."
"And what is that, my dove?"
"Freedom, Andre, freedom" her mother said as Helen looked at her and smiled.
"Madame Federova, your husband needs you on stage"
"Look after her a minute," her mother said as she kissed her on the head, and walked out. One of the dressers came in and said "they are running, aren’t they?"
"I fear so, but we must stop them." Her uncle Andre looked at her as she said "I pray she understands...”
Penny came in to see Helen sweating as she looked round.
"He is a dead man" Helen growled as she stood up
"I understand," Wilhelmina said as she looked at Grace, "when do you head back?"
"Tonight, Pippa’s aunt Margaret has offered to put me up. I see the solicitor first thing on Monday, but I should be back for the Halloween party, then back over for the funeral. Mary Thomas is coming to act as editor for the UK edition as they put together a tribute one."
“Well, we can manage while you are away, I remember when my father died it was a difficult time…”
5 pm CET
Military Intelligence Centre
The tall woman looked up from her desk, the slight grey in her hair, and set "Yes, lieutenant, what is it?"
"There's a call from New York for you, private line, but the caller gave a code phrase"
"And that phrase is?"
"Remember the days of the old school yard."
The Colonel looked up, smiling as she said "put the call through." She waited until the phone rang, before picking it up and saying "we used to laugh a lot."
"We did indeed, Frikka, we did indeed."
"Francesca, I thought you were safely retired, and a grandmother now. What have I done to earn this honour?"
"The honour is mine, and you know it Frikka, but what you say is true, I have a beautiful granddaughter named Frances Eleanor Charlotte."
"Okay, two of those I get, but Eleanor?"
"I have been working with Eleanor Ball recently."
Frikka thought for a moment. "You're both retired, yet working together again. Should I be worried?"
"No, but I need a favour from you. I need to see why you can show me the records of a Soviet defection."
"Just a small favour then," Frikka laughed, "who was it?"
Frikka was suddenly very alert. "That was a messy one Francesca, why the interest?"
"Without going into details, I think an agent in that one is active in the US, and need confirmation. Code name Dancer."
As she looked up from her desk, she saw Alex is, wearing a black jumper and pants, as she said "Jeanne Beckmann is here."
"Show her in," she said as she stood up, walking round and hugging her old friend as she came in.
"How are things here Pelican?"
"We’re still in a slight state of shock, if truth be told," Juliette said as they sat at the couches, "how are you coping, Titi?"
"I've just kept busy, preparing for Sunday - we're going to run a special. I was hoping to get a few words from you and Countess, about the Paris days. Do you think she will be up for it?"
"You can but ask, and I'm sure Abby can share something with BS, but I'll share a few thoughts as well. Who else have you talked to?"
"I did a phone interview with Eve Pollard before I came over here. She worked with Fiona at DC Thomson on Jackie magazine before she joined CS. I need to sit with Mary after thus as well."
"Best catch her now then, she's flying to London with Grace tonight, to help start planning a memorial service..."
Saturday 22nd October
10 am BST
Complete Style UK
The pink haired receptionist was, unusually for her, fairly modestly dressed, in a sleeveless black jumper and short skirt, but as she looked at the main entrance as it opened she stood up.
“Miss Thomas – the staff are ready upstairs.”
“Ai, good,” Mary said as she stood in a dark cardigan over her grey dress, “you okay coming up for a few minutes, Palomino.”
“I will,” Grace said as they walked to the elevator, adjusting her blazer as they walked in. When the doors opened, they came out onto the editorial floor, the quiet conversation stopping as they walked in.
“Good morning,” Mary called out. “I know these last few days have been a terrible shock for you, they certainly have been in the New York office, and across the world. Fiona was a unique and wonderful person, and we are all going to miss hearing her voice, and her presence.
“BUT, and this is a big but, she would not have wanted us to shirk our duty. The process, sadly, has started for a replacement, but for the next fortnight I will be here to help edit a tribute issue to her. We have Anna doing the editorial, and the other editors are contributing, but we need memories collected, interviews done, and an issue laid out. I will use the conference room – senior editors, meet me there in thirty. Chloe, you in here girl?”
As a blonde girl stood up, Mary smiled. “Get Fiona’s assistants in there now please, I need to talk to them.”
As she nodded and walked off, Mary and Grace walked in, Mary shaking her head as she saw the tea urn. Putting her hand to it, she poured two mugs and handed Grace one.
“Come in, all of ye,” she said as Fiona’s Pas came in. “Look, I want you to continue to handle any of Fiona’s outstanding correspondence, and only let me see anything that pertains to the magazine, understood?”
As they nodded, Chloe said “what about her office?”
“It is to stay as it is, until the will is read. We should know details of the funeral itself early next week, but Grace will be talking to you sometime next week…”
“Tuesday,” Grace said as she nodded.
“Tuesday about a memorial service. You will have to take point on informing and getting people involved. Anna will make sure you’re treated right after that.”
The girls nodded as she said “good – now, get me the urgent correspondence.”
11 am BST
“Hello Aunt Tammy,” Miley said as Tamsin came in with Kit, and hugged them both. “Mum and Laura should be back soon.”
“You’re looking well,” Kit said as she looked at Miley, “working hard?”
“I was just finishing a sketch – come and see,” Miley said as she went into the drawing room with Kit, while Tamsin went into the front room, Donald standing up as he said “hey – good flight?”
“No complaints, ready for tonight?”
“Yes and no – the caterers will be here soon, and then we leave the kitchen alone. Join us at the local for lunch?”
“Sounds good – Paula and the others will be over later. Did she talk to Uncle David?”
“Put it this way – they’re coming tonight…”
1 pm BST
Lovibird and Bond
“Mister Harper? Grace Brand is here to see you?”
“Ah yes – show her in,” the thin grey haired man said as he stood up, waiting as Grace was shown in by the secretary. “Mrs Brand – Raymond Hunter, Miss MacKenzie’s solicitor. We spoke on the phone.”
“We did indeed,” Grace said as they shook hands, “I only wish we were meeting under different circumstances.”
“Indeed – would you fetch some coffee please,” Raymond said as they sat down. “Thank you for agreeing to see me today.”
“Well, it would be nice to be updated on the situation.”
“Indeed – well, a post-mortem has been performed,” Raymond said as he opened a file and looked at a pink piece of paper. “They confirmed she suffered a heart attack – she would have died instantly, no pain. In that, there is some comfort.”
As Grace nodded, she said “so we can proceed with funeral arrangements.”
“Yes, but it will take some time,” he said as he looked at a letter. “Miss MacKenzie left instructions that her funeral should take place in her home town of Stonehaven, followed by a cremation, and for her ashes to be scattered over a loch. I have started the process of getting the required permissions, but I am informed the earliest it can be is the 7th of November.”
“That is understandable – do I need to meet with anyone?”
“No – I will have the arrangements in place before you return at the end of this week. I suspect a few people will need to make arrangements to travel and so on.”
“Indeed – so, her will?”
“Ah yes – I need to confirm which of the name persons will be at the funeral so a reading can be arranged, but at this time, as her executor, there are certain legal documents you need to read and sign.
“Before that, however, I have been instructed to give this to you.” He handed Grace a sealed letter, and as she looked at it she saw “Grace” in Fiona’s handwriting. Opening it, she took out the letter and started to read, almost hearing Fiona as she did.
Grace my darling,
If you are reading this, then what I feared would happen has, and I’m gone. I hope in the end it was quick and painless – I always wanted it to be that way. I’m sure others will have said this, but I’m saying it to you now, and I want you to tell the others.
I always, always lived life to the full, and these extra months I was granted have been amongst the best I have ever known – especially seeing you again. You, Caroline, the others who have re-appeared or like wee Jeannie have burst onto the scene, you reminded me why I came into this business in the first place.
So say goodbye, be sad, and drink a toast to me, but I want no tears at my funeral, only happy memories. I suspect Mary is going to be the worst hit – wouldn’t surprise me if she is there with you – so tell her to do what I would do – drink tea and keep going.
Mister Hunter, my solicitor, has my instructions, and I know he will do a good job. Just as you will, so make a brew and think of me. I will miss seeing your smile – seeing all of you smile – but I will be watching. Especially when Mary gets to work. Make me proud.
PS Mister Hunter has something for you to remember me by.
Grace looked over, crying as Raymond handed her a box. Opening it, she saw a framed photo of her at 21, standing next to Fiona, and in the frame was a white index card.
Definitely one to watch.
And a Postscript added later
I was right, wasn't I?
6 pm BST
“Well, the night is here,” Donald said as he came in, adjusting the cuffs of his shirt, “ready?”
“I will be in good time,” Agnes said as she adjusted his tie, and looked to the door. “Alright girls how do those new dresses look?”
“You tell us Mum,” Laura smiled as she and Miley came out of their bedroom and did a twirl, the skirts of their evening dresses rising as they did so.
“Oh I think you both pass inspection darlings,” Donald said as he embraced his daughters.
“Do we look okay? Really?” Miley queried as she looked critically at herself in the mirror.
“Girls you look WONDERFUL!” Aggie let a little tear out as she hugged the two youngsters.
“Just one thing,” Laura said as she smiled a teasing smile, “aren’t the engagement party, and the wedding supposed to come BEFORE you have children?”
“Normally yes,” Donald laughed, “but sometimes things need doing the wrong way to make them work.”
“So how long till we need leave?” Miley sat down and looked at her watch.
“Oh give your Mother a chance to finish getting even more beautiful,” Donald said as she looked happily at Agnes.
“And girls I need all the time I can get to look even half presentable…”
“Oh in what alternate universe is that?” Laura interrupted and burst out laughing.
“That’s true Mum,” Miley laughed as well, “you really are incredibly beautiful…and Tippy you climb on my lap and ruin my dress and I’ll strangle you.”
“Come on Tippy, you come with me,” Aggie said as she left the room, smiling at Kit and Tammy as they came in wearing their dresses.
“Going to be some night, isn’t it?”
“Oh I think so Tammy,” Donald said with a smile.
“Did she tell you about the late addition?”
“David? Oh yes, that is going to be fun when he and Simon get together…”
The Babbage Home
“Richard if you keep still I’ll put a bit of concealer on it,” Sherry said as she dabbed at her sons face.
“Makeup Mum?” the boy looked horrified at the thought as he stood in his shirt and trousers.
“It’s that or let Miley see you have an enormous zit,” Alice laughed at her little brother.
“Which is worse?”
“I’m not sure Mum,” the boy said as he weighed his options.
“Well make up your mind darling.”
“Oh the problems of puberty,” Mike laughed at his son deep in thought, “thank God I never got spots.”
“Liar,” Sherry laughed loudly, “I’ve seen your Mother’s photo album remember Mike Babbage.”
“Well, there was a reason for that – all that chicken pox going round…”
The Connaught Rooms
“It’s all clear Mrs. Cornwall,” one of the uniformed policemen said as he walked up to Kay, “you can go ahead with the party.”
“Thank you Inspector,” Kay smiled, “I know it seems a pain, but given who will be here tonight I thought it prudent to have a security sweep done.”
“Understood Ma’am,” the policeman turned and signalled to his people, “with royalty and so many other VIP’s I think Special Branch may have insisted anyway. I’ll inform them.”
“Again, my thanks,” Kay said as she looked round the room, the band rehearsing in the corner, then glanced at her watch.
“We have a little time, Commander Cornwall.”
Kay smiled as she saw Simon McDonald walk into the room. “Sir Simon,” she said quietly, “I trust the preparations are to your liking.”
“The security measures are discrete and complete – as I expected they would be. You are aware of who is coming tonight?”
“Their Royal Highnesses Queen Teresa and King Rudolf for two,” Kay said quietly as Donald walked in. “Donald – you’re early.”
“Agnes and the girls will be along shortly – I said I would come ahead to meet the Irish and Scottish contingents. Sir Simon?”
“Lord Donald. Let me offer my congratulations once again on the engagement – and I hear my brother will be along later.”
“His Grace? Well, he may have some company – Will and Mandy are bringing the Bishop of Ordford and his wife with them.”
"Have you had any credible threats Commander?" Sir Simon asked quietly as Donald went to greet some guests.
"I'm not sure I can answer that Sir," Kay looked seriously at the Permanent Secretary, "without revealing some operational information."
Simon whispered quietly, “I'm within my rights to say that I need to
Sir, but I'd rather if you didn't force my hand."
general terms who are we talking about?" Sir Simon lowered his
voice, "Islamic, Irish, or others?"
others Sir, and it would be against selected individuals, but I'm pretty
confident that we can handle this."
dear," Lady Fiona McDonald kissed the younger woman, "what are you
and my husband whispering about so intently?"
nothing really Lady Fiona..."
"Or in other words, shut up Fiona it's none of your business. Kay, I've been around long enough to know when something 'official' is being talked about."
“Exactly,” Simon said with a smile as he turned and smiled. “Your highness, I am honoured.”
“The honour is mine,” Itzu Buthelesi said as she and Liz appeared in evening dresses. “As Charlotte and Francesca are otherwise detained, my friend Liz and I were asked to attend to behalf of the di Cambrello African Fund.”
“Wow, this is some room,” Mike Babbage said as he and his family came in.
“Hello Niall,” Bridget Babbage said as she saw Kay’s son, “you’re early as well?”
“We just got here with Dad – Mum came earlier to take care of something,” Niall said as he looked at his mother talking to the French Ambassador.
"Is your Mum really a spy?" Bridget asked Niall as they watched.
"She says she's just a civil servant," the tall young man smiled.
that what all spies say?" Bridget pondered her Mother’s friend.
Niall looked at his father. "Dad works in the Cabinet Office, but Mum
rarely mentions just where she works."
she really needs keep it secret."
"Well I know we have a large safe at home, and Niall and I have always been told things that we can't look at, and also things we should never tell anyone."
“We’re here,” Agnes said as she came in with Tamara and the girls.
“Well, there you are,” John Gaunt said as he kissed Kit, “got a pass?”
“And so did you – come and dance with me…”
“And here is the woman of the moment,” David McDonald said as he came over and kissed Agnes on both cheeks, followed by a tall sandy haired woman in a simple blue dress.
“Clarissa, now that is a smile I have missed.”
“Thank you Aggie – and these must be your girls.”
“Indeed – Laura, Amelia, this is my Uncle David and Aunt Clarissa.”
“Just call us by that and we’ll be fine,” David as Clarissa kissed both girls on the cheek.
it's not possible Amelia,” David said as he looked at her, “but you are really
very like your Grandmother."
Uncle David," Miley blushed, "from the stories everybody tells about
her I wish I could have met her."
"She was a
very special and talented woman Miley," Clarissa McDonald smiled,
"and I've heard that you share her passion for art?"
"Well I'm not in her class, but yes i do love drawing, and i'm just starting to paint."
“Keep practising, that’s the main thing…”
“You made it,” Paula said as she and Tom embraced Eve and Stephen Stone.
“We did indeed,” Eve said before she whispered “did Aggie…”
“I believe so, but some people are coming tonight who know more,” Paula said as Mandy and Will came over…
burning question ladies," Arabella Lomax said as she passed the group
of women drinks, "are we going to be your bridesmaids this time
"I rather wondered that," Tamsin said as she took a sip of champagne.
"Well," Aggie took a breath, "I was going to ask Kits, Laura, and Miley to be the actual maids...BUT I want you to all also accompany me as my Matrons of Honor."
I think I can live with that," Olivia de Sally smiled.
too," Fiona Douglas-Warren laughed, "if any of us claims to still be
a maid then she's lying."
"Hey I'm still a maid," Agnes laughed.
“Rory, why are we here,” Sheilagh McAdam said as she came in on Rory’s arm.
“We were invited, that’s the main thing,” Rory said as he felt a tap on his shoulder. He spun round, then automatically stood to attention as he said "Sir!"
Sergeant Major," the man smiled and extended his hand, "how are you
fine Sir," Rory relaxed, "you remember my wife don't you Sir?"
indeed, how are you Sheilagh?" the tall man kissed her on the cheek.
both fine Colonel," Sheilagh smiled as well, "and I was saying
to Rory that while I was happy that Miss Agnes invited us, I rather felt out of
place amongst all these real ladies and gentlemen."
McDonald stood and smiled, his close cropped grey hair showing his standing and
position. "Nonsense, you belong
here just as much as anyone."
Clive, Hello Martha," the man turned and greeted the Bishop and his wife.
three McDonald brothers together for once?" Martha smiled.
thought we all needed to support our niece yes."
right thing to do."
"Oh Clive, Martha, can I introduce Rory and Sheilagh McAdam, Rory is Aggie's Factor at Ardray, and used to be the Sergeant Major who prevented them knowing how incompetent an officer I really was."
"The Colonel is joking your Grace," Rory laughed.
“I think he meant that as praise Rory,” Stephen said with a smile. “Ah Jessica – look who I found.” He looked at the brown haired woman who walked over, smiling as she kissed Sheilagh on the cheeks.
“It has been a long time, Mrs McDonald,” Rory said as he bowed, “I trust you keep well?”
“I do now – but I have regular checkups…”
“Grace, Mary,” Olivia Treharran said as she walked over to greet the new arrivals, “how are you both?”
“Still in a wee bit of a state of shock,” Mary said quietly, “but we did the good thing today – seeing people and getting things going.”
“Any word on…”
“We think the 7th of November, but that will get confirmed in the next day or two – in Stonehaven.”
“Ah, there you are,” Agnes said as she came over, “I need to make the introductions. Uncle David, this is Grace Gresham-Fox Brand and Mary Thomas. Girls, my Uncle, also know as the Right Reverend David McDonald, Dean of St Pauls.”
“Brand, Miss Thomas, my condolences on your loss,” David said as she shook both their hands, “perhaps we can find a moment to talk later?”
“I’ll introduce you to those who knew her as well as I did,” Grace said with a smile.
“So how did the meeting at the solicitor’s office go?”
“This is Fiona we’re talking about – everything has been planned out and arranged, the only thing I really have to do is talk to some people here, and some in the US at the party. When are you coming over Agnes?”
“We going to fly over midweek, but I’ll see you on the Saturday…”
“So any further news on that golf resort project Tom?” Charles Treharran asked as they watched their wives talking in one group, and their daughters in another.
“Not too much, but at the price Shirley Xavier has negotiated for the sale we truly are getting a steal.”
“So I’m led to believe,” the Cornish baronet said as he shook his head, “I’m almost tempted to say that I wished you’d both invited me to invest with you.”
“We will need to invest a fair amount of capital up front, but because we are purchasing at such a low price I think it’s fair to say we will certainly end up making money.”
“And that of course is what investing is all about Tom.”
“So what do you think they are talking about?” Charles said as he looked at Fi and her friends.
“I’d take a pretty good guess and say Fiona,” the Duke took a sip of champagne. “They might not have known her quite as well as our wives did, but at least on some level Fiona had been there all their lives.”
“Indeed Tom,” usually once a year she’d come stay with us all at the Hall and talk to my wife not only of old friends, but also what was going on now in the fashion world.”
“She did the same when she was in Ireland, she’d drop in and chat with Paula, or Eve.”
“Fiona truly will be missed by so many people.”
“Boys remember this isn’t just in a way a wake for Fiona, it is supposed to be Donald and Aggie’s engagement party.”
“We know Cat,” Tom Gaunt smiled as he kissed the glamorous blonde barrister on the cheek.
“Agreed,” Charles kissed her as well, “we can’t ignore the happy couple.”
“No we can’t,” Catriona took a glass of champagne from a waiter, “so who is, and who isn’t here yet?”
David McDonald smiled as he sat with the models in a corner.
was so special about your friend that you asked Agnes to ask me about a
service at St Paul's, Your Grace?" the Dean asked as he looked at
“Uncle David you've known me since I was a baby, knock off the title please."
"Alright Paula," the clergyman smiled, "but can you give me a sense of her please?"
"She was a
unique person David," Eve interrupted, "if she was here tonight
she'd be standing to the side dressed in a long out of fashion dress, just
standing and talking to friends."
watching and seeing everything," Paula added.
sounds as though she was an interesting person."
she was," Paula chuckled at a memory, "Fiona knew what she
liked, she knew the fashion industry backwards and forwards, but what really
made her special was that she loved people, and she loved to spot and
many, many famous people in fashion who owe everything to Fiona seeing
something in them and helping them fulfill their potential," Olivia
all owed her a huge debt darlings," Mandy smiled.
service will be well attended?"
be standing room only Uncle David," Paula looked serious, "with lots
of people maybe not even able to get in."
then, i'll try get you a date for the service quickly."
appreciate that David," Eve smiled, "people will want to come from
all over the world, and they need make plans."
"I will see what i can do."
“You may wish to factor in our presence as well.”
“Your Highness,” David said as he stood and bowed, “we did not hear you announced?”
“Deliberately,” Teresa said as she hugged the others. “Fiona was one of those who encouraged me when I was younger, before I married – of course I will wish to attend and remember her.”
“You know what it feels like?” Angel Fitzstuart said as she put her glass down. “It’s like if a bit of Ordford fell down and was suddenly no longer there. She was always there and now she’s gone.”
“Pretty much,” Fi Treharran replied quietly as she took a sip from her glass, “Mummy says that while she never said so directly she always thought all of us would eventually model.”
“My Mother says most models around the world would kill to know just what she wrote about us all on those famous file cards of hers,” Princess Charlotte smiled.
“I would for one,” Samantha laughed, “in my case something like ‘gangly girl who might make it if she ever develops a figure’.”
“Or in my case ‘if we can ever get her out of riding clothes’,” Angel laughed out loud.
“I guess we have to tell ourselves that we were lucky that we are a part of the last generation of models to have received her guidance in shaping our careers,” Fi spoke seriously.
“It’s true,” Charlie nodded. “How did they take the news over the water Angel?”
“From what I heard, Jeannie took it hard – after all, it was Fiona who really discovered her. So she’ll be over for the funeral – same with Caroline. The others are just like us…”
Donald smiled as he saw Miley dancing with Richard, and Laura talking to Kay’s son, and then saw Will walk over.
“Have you spoken with the palace about that matter we were discussing Bro?” he asked as he handed Will a glass.
“I had a quiet word Will,” Donald whispered back, “and they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, give me an answer.”
“Now why doesn’t that surprise me Donnie?” Will shook his head.
“Because you know as well as anyone that Aggie’s conviction and record create etiquette problems that nobody has as yet thought fully out.”
“Well they need decide what they are going to do, and quickly, so you and Agnes know whether the wife of Her Majesties ambassador to France remains persona non grata at the Court of St James.”
“Have the political types said anything?”
“Not to my face,” Donald said as he took a sip, “and Sir Simon hasn’t said anything to me either Will, so I’m hoping that they at least have decided to ignore Aggie’s history.”
“I think on a personal level there isn’t really a problem, otherwise Rudi and Terri wouldn’t be here tonight, nor Daffy and Jimmy.”
“But they are here as private people aren’t they? It all comes down to whether the heavy hand of tradition and protocol will allow Aggie to be ‘officially’ recognized Will?”
“Yes it does.”
“Well, that might not be a problem now.”
“Oh,” Will said as he looked at Catriona who had come silently beside them, “and why not?”
“Tell you later…”
“Jessica – how are you darling,” Fiona said as he and Clarissa greeted the Colonel’s wife.
“I had the all clear last week, for which we give thanks – and then we were invited to this party. Look at her – age does not wither, indeed.”
“Oh she’s a very different person from the one we first knew,” Fiona said with a smile, “and somehow the better for it.”
“I must agree – and I was so glad when David told me they had finally talked,” Jessica said as she sipped her champagne, “that had festered for far too long.”
“Is it my imagination, or is that the Princess Buthelezi over there?”
Fiona nodded as she said “I believe she and a couple of others are here as representatives of the fund set up by Francesca and Charlotte di Cambrello.”
“The Admiral? Why is she not here?”
“Small matter of her daughter giving birth – amongst other things…”
“Sorry we are late Agnes, but someone kept changing her mind which dress she really wanted to wear,” Colin Gresham-Fox said as she kissed Aggie on the cheek.
“She kept us all waiting,” Kay smiled as she took a drink.
“This is a big night for Aggie,” Sue said as she stood in her evening dress, “and I wanted to look good…”
“Sue you would look good in a sack, and I’ve been telling you that for years.”
“I used just those words,” Colin smiled at his wife.
“Well it isn’t like the old days, I have more than one good dress to choose from now,” Sue laughed.
“Yeah she’s gone up in the world,” Bobby laughed as well.
“I think you all look wonderful.”
“Not as wonderful as you do Aggie,” Sue hugged her boss.
“Thank you darling,” the redhead blushed as Penny came over to join her. “Shirley and John send their regards, Aggie, but they have to be in New York this weekend.”
“Well, when you see them, tell them we are more than pleased to accept their invitation – or I will next week, one or the other…”
“Well, this is unusual attire for you,” Margaret said as she walked to where George/Georgette was standing at the bar, for once in a fitted suit, his pink tie matching the handkerchief in the jacket pocket.
“Indeed – returned to work for us all, Margaret?”
“It was a wonderful party for Poppy,” Margaret said as she looked round. “There’s the star of the moment – I wonder…”
“So what is your opinion Dame Margaret,” George said as he stood talking with the MP.
“Do you condone Aggie turning a blind eye to a lot of what the kids at the school are doing?”
Sighing, Margaret said “I’m conflicted Georgette…”
“Darling just call me George when I’m in civvies so to speak,” the entertainer laughed.
“Alright George. Yes I know Agnes knows that a lot of the kids are breaking laws and regulations, and personally I don’t like that illegality. But sometimes you need to turn a blind eye so as to further a greater good.”
“If I know The Lady she would try and adopt every single one of them,” George looked over to where a few of the children from the school were dancing with the other young people.
“But because that is impossible, and given the circumstances, and monetary constraints, Agnes does what she can, and takes a realistic view of what the kids do to survive.”
“Exactly.” George nodded.
“What we need is a way to recognise all her good work…”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, honoured guests…”
The room fell silent as Eve Stone stood at the microphone.
“Before we drag Donald and Agnes up here, I wonder if we could take a moment and recognise the passing of someone who was a friend to many of us here – Fiona MacKenzie, who died last Wednesday.”
The room fell silent before Eve raised her glass.
“Taisteal Sábháilte Fiona - an bhféadfá a bheith ar an eolas faoin gcuid eile atá tuillte agat.”
“Gun glèidh e na h-ainglean agus gun cùm thu sàbhailte thu.” Agnes returned the toast as the room drank to her.
“Right – Agnes, Donald, Laura, Amelia, get up here!”
As the room clapped, the four of them joined Eve on the stage.
“We are here today to celebrate the fact that Donald and Agnes are, albeit a few years late, finally going to be married, and to celebrate that with their family. And we have a number of gifts – and for some reason, Catriona wants to speak first.”
Agnes and Donald looked at each other as Catriona came forward. “Well, I was going to tell them quietly, but perhaps this is as good a time as any. Clarissa and I spent the afternoon in closed session with three Appeal Court judges, reviewing your case Agnes.”
She turned and smiled as she said “you will be informed formally in due course, but your conviction has been squashed, and your criminal record expunged. Our engagement present to you.”
Agnes stood dumbfounded for a moment, before Donald and the girls embraced her as the room exploded with applause.
“Allow me to add my congratulations.”
Agnes suddenly turned and curtseyed as she said “your highness, this is an unexpected honour.”
“I can only stay for a moment,” Charles said as he took her hand, “but I convey the personal congratulations of my mother, and her assurance that the Court of St James will welcome you in your future capacity as the wife of the Ambassador to France.”
Sir...Thank you..." For a couple of minutes Agnes stood there in shock,
not quite able to absorb the news that at least officially she was no
longer a convicted felon as the room looked at the recent arrival, smiling as
he stood there.
"Thank you sir," Donald also smiled as he shook the Prince's hand, "you have caused something very rare to happen."
"And what might that be Lord Donald?"
wife-to-be unable to utter a sound."
"I seem to
remember she always had something to say," the Prince laughed gently.
sorry," Agnes said as she finally found the words to speak,
"it's just I never even in my wildest dreams thought that I'd hear this
"A lot of
people went to bat for you Dr McAdam, you have a lot of friends."
I think I've found that out...Can you convey my thanks to Her Majesty for her
wonderful gesture please?"
will...and I also have a message from my wife, as an old friend of your family
if you will take tea with her at Kensington one afternoon?"
"I'd be honored Sir."
that all mean Aunt Fiona?" Laura looked puzzled as they watched her
parents talking to the Prince of Wales.
your mother is no longer excluded from official events darling."
know this was going to happen?"
been nagging hard enough at your Uncle Simon to make sure it did,"
Lady Fiona smiled, "And I knew Cat and Clarissa had prepared a legal
appeal they knew the courts would uphold. It was just a case of would
everything come together in time for tonight."
can't believe the Prince of Wales is here," Miley shook her head.
"Well in part thank Dame Margaret for that, I believe she told the Prince about the incredible work Aggie does in Soho. It's the sort of project he takes an interest in anyway"
“So he is showing his support as well?”
“In his own way,” Lady Fiona said with a smile
“Well, I regret
to say I must depart, but I have another message for Her Grace the Duchess of
Lardarn.” He walked over to where Paula
was standing with Tom and said "While I'm here Paula can I pass on my
condolences to you and your friends at the passing of Fiona MacKinnon
sir," the Duchess nodded.
"She was a
particular friend to both my first wife and to the Duchess of Cornwall."
"She was a great friend to a lot of people Sir. We are discussing the possibility of a memorial service at St Pauls, if a date can be found.”
“Well, when it is know, I am sure we can arrange to be there if at all possible. For now, however, I wish you all a good night.”
"I think I
need a stiff drink," Aggie shook her head as the Prince made his
"Here," Catriona said with a smile as she passed her an exceedingly large whiskey.
"Thank you," Aggie took a sip and then turned to look at her sister. "Did you know this was going to happen Tippy Toes?"
did," Tamsin smiled.
didn't warn me?"
even tell Donald."
I both hate you and love you all so very much," Agnes took another
large sip, "I could have had a heart attack you know?"
"It was a risk worth taking just to see your face darling," Catriona smiled, "it was a picture."
“Look at her,” Simon said as he stood with David and Stephen, “I think we can finally, after everything, say she is fully back now.”
“Did you know the Commander in Chief was calling tonight, O brother of mine?”
“He might have let me know,” Simon said as she sipped his champagne, “and I might have decided not to tell certain other parties, some of whom are currently in the room.”
“Spoken like a true politician,” David said with a laugh. “In other words, you conspired with Cuthbertson and others to surprise them tonight!”
“Now would I do something as devious as that? Honestly, you clerics always think the worst of we civil servants,” Simon said with a twinkle in his eye.
“So who are the other older children talking to Laura,” Stephen asked.
“Some of the kids from her school – on which note, David, are you seriously telling me you did not know Agnes had that up and running your nose?”
“Oh I knew of the school, and so do a lot of my fellow priests in the area, but that Agnes was responsible for it? I genuinely did not know until I read the article in the Sunday Times earlier this year. One of the things that made me realise I had been a truly awful relation.”
“Well, I think she’s doing an amazing job,” Stephen said as he looked round. “The wedding?”
“Soon to be announced, now the last barrier had been removed I hope…”
“Something wrong, Sue,” Kay asked as she and Bobbie came over, “you’re not exactly drinking your wine tonight.”
“No, I’m savouring it,” Sue said with a smile smile, “because I have an appointment Monday, and if I’m right…”
The two Dolls looked at her, and said “no…”
“Not a word to anyone, I’ll know for certain Monday…”
Agnes looked round to see Miley standing there with Richard, smiling as she said “Richard was asking if I would go with him to see a film on Tuesday night. Is that all right? He says his mum will drive up to the cinema and back.”
“I think so – ask your mother to come and talk to me Richard…”
West Central Park
“Now who could that be,” Kylie said as she heard the knock on her apartment door. Putting her pen down, she stood up and walked over to the door, looking through the spy hole and then opening it in surprise as she said “Penelope, darling, what are you doing here? I thought you would be with Helen.”
“I should be,” Penny said as she came in, “but she didn’t meet me in the park. I came to see if she was here.”
“I’m afraid not darling,” Kylie said as they walked to the kitchen. “Would you like some coffee…?”
“Yeah – look, Kylie, has Helen been all right?”
“I have not noticed anything in particular, except she seems to be more focused than usual. Why?” Handing Penny a mug of coffee, Kylie looked at her and said “Is there something wrong?”
“Yes – and no,” Penny said quietly. “I don’t suppose you know much of what is going on with us at the moment?”
“I’m sorry, I am out of the loop on that one,” Kylie said quietly, “why?”
The knock on the door made both of them look to the door, as Kylie left, returning with Cathy Lu.
“Penny – is Helen not with you?”
“I’m afraid not – oh no, you don’t think…”
“Darlings,” Kylie said quietly, “what is happening here?”
“Forgive me, Swan,” Cathy said quietly, “I think Helen is about to do something she may feel is necessary, but she will regret. Summon the Mongoose.”
As Kylie bowed and walked out, Penny dialled a number on her phone. “Francesca? We have a Code Black, Helen may have gone rogue…”