Ladies Choice – Part 2
Saturday 27th February
The young redhead was uneasy. Something was telling her that she was not alone in her apartment, but she was too scared to open her eyes, in case she was right.
She gulped quietly as a soft female voice said “open your eyes, or they stay closed.” Opening them, she saw her bedside light was on – and she most definitely was not alone.
The woman was about five foot nine tall, but the four inch heels on her knee length black patent leather boots made it difficult to tell. She wore a black latex catsuit, sipped to her throat and hugging her body like a second akin, and a pair of black elbow length gloves covered her hands and lower arms. Finally, a black silk scarf was folded into a triangle, and covered the lower half of her face, the dark hair falling to her shoulders, her clear blue eyes gleaming.
“Who... Who are you?”
“The one in charge,” the intruder said as she held the gun in her hand, “lie on your stomach, and put your hands on your head.”
As she rolled over, she looked to her side, watching as the woman took some rope from a small bag, and then pulled her hands above her head, lashing her wrists tightly together before she tied them to her headboard.
“If it’s money you want,” the redhead whispered, “I can give you money – all the money you want...”
“Hush,” the masked woman said as she stroked the back of the gloved hand down her cheek, “what is your name?”
“All right Wendy – stay calm,” the intruder said as she took from the bag a sponge ball, “open your mouth.”
Wendy considered resisting, but something told her it would not be worth it, so she opened wide, allowing the woman to push the compressed sponge into her mouth and feeling it expand behind her teeth. She then heard the soft peeling sound, and grunted as the white medical tape was wrapped tightly round her head, covering her mouth as it formed a white band.
“There – isn’t that nice,” the intruder said as she stroked her gloved hands down Wendy’s legs, and then pulled them apart, wrapping a length of rope around each ankle and tying it tightly before securing them to opposite ends of the foot of the bed,
Wendy was wearing a short white nightdress, which she felt the intruder’s hands on before she moved the skirt up, and her gloved hands started to caress her bottom, squeezing and massaging as Wendy tried to move out of the way – with little success.
Instead, she felt the sharp sting as her bottom was smacked, and then the caress of the gloved hand.
“Does that feel good, Wendy,” the woman said. The trssed captive wasn’t sure what she wanted to say – she felt humiliated, but something else, something – different...
She then felt the cold air on her back, as the intruder used a scalpel to cut down her nightdress, exposing her back as she felt the soft silk of the gloves, the touch of her fingers...
The sting of the leather crop as it was brought down on her back.
“I am going to rob you,” the woman said, “but first, I’m going to have some fun...”
She brought the crop down again and again, her eyes blazing as she did so....
“Good morning,” Kelly Rochermann said as she came into the main room, seeing Rachel McNally as she waxed her skies.
“Hey – I guess I’m not the first up.”
“Hardly – are the others stirring?”
“Coming to – just how much did we have last night.”
Rachel just smiled and put the wax down.
"How is the bride
to be this morning?" asked Kelly.
that she is too old to party like that any more." Rachel laughed.
"And as per usual
I suppose Diana is already at the stove cooking breakfast?"
"She is, and Ju is
threatening her with actual bodily harm if she gets her to sniff the bacon
again to see if it is fresh."
"Oh it's going to
be one of 'those' days is it?"
"Yeah - teach Juliette she should have married him years ago when she was young enough to relish all this."
“Is my name being taken in vain,” Juliette said as she brought the coffee in.
“Oh no – plenty of time to do that,” Kelly said.
“Just how much wine did we drink last night,” Juliette said as she lowered herself into a seat.
“Enough,” Cari said as she and Ingrid came in. “Is that fresh bacon Diana?”
“I do not know – perhaps...”
“Diana darling, are you seeking a fast trip down the expert slope today? Without skis?”
“Are you a little hung over, Mom?”
“No – just getting used to having all of you here. So I presume we’re going to hit the slopes and the resort today?”
“That’s right,” Sigi said as she and Nessa came in. “Obviously, it’s up to the ladies what they decide to do, although I see Rachel has made her choice.”
“Naturally,” Rachel said, “Sigi and I are leading the party for the Huntingdown Bridal Stakes.”
“Hey,” Sandy said as she came in, “Ju’s skis are ready to go – is that food Diana?”
“Coming up – any sign of the others stirring?”
“Slowly – I think Alexis and Janine are egging them along. Shirley – will you be joining us on the slopes today?”
“Sadly no – Maddie and I have promised to take Sandra round the shops today. But we will be there for lunch.”
“I leave the snow sports to Susan,” Maddie said with a smile.
“Morning Ju,” Janine said as she came in with Alexis, “did you get much sleep?”
“Some,” Juliette said with a smile, “but it would appear I am being taken onto the slopes this morning – and if it involves Sigi, I may need some assistance later.”
“First batch of food on the tables ladies,” Diana called out, “get it while it’s hot.”
“All right,” Ju said as she sat next to Sigi, “the Huntingdown Bridal stakes?”
“Relax, Juliette,” her old friend said with a smile, “it will be fun!”
The Burton Apartment
“Hey,” Jeanne said as she opened the door, and let Caroline come in, “we were all just having some breakfast before the girls go off to the Y. Want some?”
“I won’t say no,” the blonde said as she followed Jeanne to the kitchen, where Pepsi and Ama were making pancakes.
“Hi mom,” Ama said with a smile, “you’re not checking up on me, are you?”
“No – I need to consult with Jeanne on the Dublin trip, but I figured with all of you here, she would appreciate the early company. Everyone else awake?”
“Oh yes – any word from Stowe?”
“Nope – and I’m not expecting any until they get back tomorrow.”
Spruce Peak Base Camp
“All right, we’re here,” Juliette said as they went into the reception building, “now what?”
“First, you put this on,” Sigi said as Carina and Ingrid handed her a white bib. She looked at it, and then burst out laughing before she put it on, the words “Princess in Training” emblazoned in gold on the front.
“Right – those of us who want height without skiing, we’re heading up to the mountain top cafe. Line up outside.”
Nessa led a group including Paulie, Emma, Grace, and Kelly out.
“We will head for the shops, and see you later,” Shirley said as she went off with Maddie and Sandra.
“And the rest of us?”
“We’re going to the slopes, to show the world Sinners Together. Grab your skis and let’s go!”
The Burton Apartment
“Peace and quiet at last,” Jeanne said as she and Caroline sat down.
“Did they give you a hard time last night?”
“Not really – I got some clothes from Mary, got some of them to play robber and victim, see if they could figure out who did it.”
Caroline raised an eyebrow as Jeanne chuckled. “Ama and Poppy cried off – not surprising really – but some of those girls are very inventive...”
“I can imagine,” Caroline laughed. “Anyway – to business.”
said, “as I personally see it, your problem at the castle falls into two pieces
Caroline. The first is the security of the main building and its
"Which from what
I've seen isn't too bad."
"I agree, it
certainly is of a high standard, but I suspect the Duke will welcome
suggestions... The second part though is
the personal security of The Duke, his family, and their guests, in the private
residence... Am I right?"
"Pretty much. The same concerns surround their town house,
but that I believe I have a plan for."
said, “I've been wracking my brains as to the setup in various houses I know,
as well as consulting with a couple of colleagues."
"I'm grateful for
that. Any help is going to be most
"Well, in my
opinion, the castle security should be left to the local police and the
existing security firm...with them acting on such upgrades as you think are appropriate."
"But the internal
security should be entrusted to a completely independent outside source with no
ties to the existing security."
reasoning behind that is Jeanne?"
Jeanne took a measured breath. "The first point is that with a completely
independent system, intruders must compromise two different security nets to
get in, and breaching one is hard, seeing to two is EXTREMELY hard."
"I get that, and
therefore two different monitors, with different electronics leading to
"That is the
"Alright I think
that is both a great idea, and I can do it."
something a friend has in Sardinia in his 13th century castle."
"These places have
usually hidden spaces and corridors, Secure them as to external security, but
also create at least two, hopefully more panic rooms so that if they do get
invaded again by people intent on causing harm, they have hiding places."
"It is, my friend
learned the lesson the hard way after his daughter was kidnapped by Sardinian
bandits." Jeanne shook her head.
"I think I know
who you are talking about." Caroline shook her head.
"And thirdly get
an outsider who you trust to test your system once installed and make sure they
can find no weaknesses."
"I do that as a matter of routine." Caroline smiled.
“The same for the town house?”
“Of course – and I have some contacts who can test any system to the most exacting standards.”
“Do I want to know who?”
“Perhaps best if you do not,” Caroline said with a smile. “Frau Strecher made similar suggestions. So, how are you?”
“Wondering how big this child is going to be,” Jeanne said as she stood up, and held her back.
“I think Annie is wondering the same thing,” Caroline said with a smile.
The Huntingdown Lodges
As Diana put the last of the plates away, she heard a light tap on the back door, and made her way over to see who was calling.
Diana said as she saw the tall, graceful Irish model standing there, “what are
you doing here?"
Eve looked over Diana’s
shoulder and said quietly "Is she?"
"No,” Diana said
as she stood back and allowed Eve to come in, “they are on the slopes."
"Good,” Eve said
as she removed her coat, “because officially I'm in Montreal with Stephen, we
did a show celebrating success of the disabled nudes book last night."
said as she put the coffee maker on, “so why have you driven down here?"
"To get some
blackmail organized." Eve giggled.
"Oh? That sounds
intriguing." She handed Eve a mug
of coffee bfore they both walked into the main room.
"You know Ju has
always wanted to be photographed by Stephen, but claims now her boobs sag too
"I have heard her
"Well,” Eve said
as she sipped from her mug, “my thought is if you gals get her drunk enough
tonight, maybe I can slip in with MY camera and get her shot in a few... suggestive pictures shall we say."
"She would have to
be VERY drunk..."
"...Or a loser in
a game of strip poker with Pru."
Diana laughed along.
"Well with the
incriminating material, which I'm sure you'll all enjoy setting her up with,”
Eve said with a smile, “I'll threaten to send them to the press if she doesn't
sit for Stephen."
"I see just one
major problem...” Diana sat back as she
said “What will Klaus say?"
darling, it was HIS idea."
"Oh well then." Diana burst into loud laughter at the thought.
“So, can we do this?”
“I’m going to have lunch with them in a little while,” Diana said with a smile, “but with Tonia, Kelly AND Liz Lodge here, what do you think?”
Eve grinned as she said “I’ll be at the lodge in town – send a message with details.”
Spruce Peak Base Camp
“So it would appear,” Shirley said as she sat with Maddie and Sandra in the coffee shop. “And I have to say, it is a name I for one hoped I would never hear again.”
“Tell me about it,” Maddie said as she sipped her drink. “So he may be behind this problem you have in the Fulton market?”
Shirley nodded as she sat back. “It’s funny isn’t it?”
“The last time we had to deal with Rey, he was running that kidnapping ring in Paris – and who was it we stopped him taking?”
“Her Serene Highness Princess Sigrid von Furstenheim,” Sandra said with a smile. “I’m amazed she hasn’t recognised Maddie or me?”
“Who says she hasn’t? Sigi is a very astute and clever woman, after all.”
“So now he is high up in one of the Marseilles families, and he is responsible for the fish market problems?”
“I think he’s moved up to – harder imports,” Shirley said. “I need you both to find out anything you can through your contacts. Sooner or later, he will come to New York – and I want to be ready for that.”
“Well, we’ll see what we can find out,” Sandra said. “What about Penny?”
“She’s already dispatched someone to Marseilles to do some digging. I’ve got Charlotte priming Piet to have a look as well – never hurts to get input from the Third Estate.”
“THERE you are.”
The three women turned to see Nessa and Paulie walk towards them.
“We wondered why you didn’t come to the high lodge.”
“Ah – my fault,” Shirley said, “I wanted to do some clothes shopping. How was it up there?”
“Cold and cloudy – coming for lunch?”
“Why not – have you seen the others?”
“Ju’s just outside.”
The group went out, Shirley laughing as she saw Juliette posing with Sigi, Ingrid and Carina.
“Princess in Training? How appropriate.”
“These girls know how to have fun,” Emma said as she came over, and kissed Maddie.
“Aye, they certainly do.”
“CASS! You made it,” Ju said as she hugged Cassandra Stone.
“I did – Mum and Dad send their love, and I have to say, you look radiant in that.”
“Enough – let’s go eat!”
The New Calabria Bar
Tommy looked up as the three men entered the bar, smiling as he said “fanks for calling in youse guys. Annie – we’ll be in the back if ye needs me.”
“Go, talk business,” Annie said as Gerry Infanti, Eddie Garibaldi and Portuguese Joe went to a back booth, Tommy grabbing four bottles of beer as he followed them.
“So what do the feds say Tommy,” Joe said as he took a bottle.
“I talked wif Ball today,” Tommy said, “Carter’s off on a womens trip. Anyways, he says dese Frenchies are not on the ball – but dey’re serious.”
“In what way,” Eddie said as he took a swig.
“Serious Frenchie crime – the holding company’s from down Marseilles way.”
“So it’s a front for import export?”
“Yeah,” Tommy said, “and the crew behind RoideMer are serious enuf he warned us off. Interpol’s interested as well.”
“What about vengeance?”
“He understands – dat’s a PD matter. Gerry, you’re in good with the guys at de 43rd. Ere anyfink?”
“Only that Moletti’s got the case – and he’s a dinosaur. Word is he don’t like feds muscling in on his patch.”
“Well, we got ofer resources,” Tommy said. “I ain’t at liberty to say who, but we got some heavy hitters watching our backs as well. If fings get nasty, we’re protected.”
“Good man,” Eddie said, “wif de guys on walkout der as well, wese gotta chance to make ourselves heard.”
“’scuse me a minute guys,” Tommy said as he left the booth and came out the front. He was surprised to see Tom Callaghan standing there, with Gale beside him.
“Hello Tommy – I don’t think we’ve met, but I’m Tom Callaghan, Janice and Adam’s boss. We were passing, and thought we’d drop in.”
“Pleasure to meet youse,” he said as he nodded at the three men leaving, “wot can we get youse?”
“Coffee,” Tom said, “and five minutes of your time. It’s about the docks.”
“If its business, you boys go in the back,” Annie said as Tammy and Allen looked at each other, “we’ll drink coffee out here.”
“Don’t worry, Allen’s making a friend,” Gale said as Tommy took Tom over to a booth.
"So you understand
what's goin' on down in der fish market?" Tommy asked as they sat down.
"I think we have a
handle on it, but the pictures still far from being fully clear."
Callaghan looked at his drink. "I had a call from a lady in the Coast
Guard this morning, they have wind of a boat that has left Europe bound for Canada,
but which seems to be coming in on a course that will put it just outside
territorial waters off of here."
"Yeahs we sorta
thought that they must be usin' der market docks to do summit dat aint
"What we can't
work out is how the product is actually moving through the Fulton."
"Could be several
ways, but we aint sure either."
“Look - Would your
people be amicable to someone from outside coming into the market to watch and
like any real law."
"The woman I have
in mind is someone the Coast Guard recommended,” Tom said with a smile. “She's retired US Navy, but she'd blend in
well working say as one of your new clerks down there?"
"That might work,”
Tommy said, “so who is dis broad?"
"Ball's mother, and I'd never call her a broad to her face." Tom smiled, "she's a real piece of work."
“Ball’s Mudder?” Tommy sat back and laughed, before he said “all right – tell her to come see me in de office tomorrow about six, we’ll see what she can do. Do me a favour though?”
“And that is?”
“Don’t tell Ball – I wants to see his face...”
Spruce Peak Base Camp
“Now that,” Heather said as she sat back, “was a lunch. Anyone up for a ski this afternoon?”
“After that wine, no way,” Juliette said with a smile. “I need to rest for a little while...”
“Ah – well I am afraid I cannot allow that,” Carina said. “We will be gathering at the ice rink at three to do a few turns, but before that comes a time when Ingy and I need to take Mom off on her own.”
“Oh – and where might you be taking her?”
“Secret location,” Ingy said, “but we will be back at the ice rink for three. Come on Mom.”
“Can I lose the bib?”
“No.” With that, Cari and Ingrid helped Juliette up and escorted her out of the restaurant.
“Right,” Sandy said, “Diana, the word?”
“Sigi, Nessa, you have the booking sorted for tonight?”
“We have the private room booked upstairs, with food, drink and dance music planned.”
“Excellent. Sandy, Heather the entertainment?”
“Special guests booked, why?”
“Cassie, did you know?”
“About my mom? Oh yes.”
“Right,” Diana said, “I have a job for the party girls.”
Kelly, Liz and Tonia looked at each other, and then said “and that is?”
“Let me explain the plan...”
“All right, where are you taking me now,” Juliette said as she was guided by her daughters.
“Not far – just in here,” Carina said as Ingrid opened the door to the APCO store. Juliette allowed herself to be pushed in, as some of the customers turned and looked at the three new arrivals.
“Ah – good. How difficult was it to get her here?”
“Not too bad – we’re just making sure she does what we tell her.”
“Including the bib?” Alice McKinnon had to stop herself from laughing as Juliette looked at her.
“Excuse me, Mrs McKinnon,” Juliette said, “who is the one getting married?”
“That is true, that is true – which is why I asked your two chief bridesmaids to bring you in for an hour, and then I will be joining you to see who can stay upright on the ice longest. Bring her through, girls.”
The trio followed Alice into a back room, Juliette stopping as she saw what was on the shop dummy in the room.
“Oh my god,” she whispered, “Bats, by the Goddess, it’s...”
“Yeah – yeah it is,” Cari said as she and Ingrid looked at the garment.
“Right – you two can step out for a moment while we do the final fitting. Don’t worry – I’ll make sure she puts the bib back on.”
As they walked back into the main shop, they saw Sandy and Diana come in.
“Figured this is where you were coming – is she in the back?”
“Yup – and we’ve been kicked out.”
“So come on – what does it look like?”
“Sorry,” Ingy said, “sworn to secrecy...”
“Well, perhaps we can just take a...”
“Nah, ah dinnae think so lassie.”
Sandy stopped as she saw the figure of Fiona Mackenzie guarding the door.
“Fiona – you can travel?”
“If ah tak it eese, aye – ah there ye are lassies.”
“Fiona,” Anna said as she came in with Pippa, “let’s go grab that coffee.”
“In ah wee while – once these ladies leave.”
“I think we got outvoted,” Sandy said with a laugh, shaking her head as she and Diana left.
“I take it you got turned back,” Grace said as she met them outside with Eve.
“Oh yeah – which means it’s the final fitting. Don’t worry – we’ll get it out of Ju later tonight.”
“Oh yes – so what is everyone doing?”
“Caroline and Susan went off with Shirley and her friends to hit the bookstore, but the gathering is coming soon.”
“This... is a mistake. I know you girls love skating, but do you know how long it has been since I have been on skates?”
“Mom,” Carina said with a smile, “who said you were going on skates?”
Juliette looked at Carina and Ingrid, as she and some of the other women put on their skates, and said “then what am I going on?”
“Ah, Mademoiselle Huntingdown,” the ski instructor said as he and two others came in, “would you follow me please?”
“What have you girls got planned,” Juliette said as she looked at her family.
“Who us? Come on,” Sigi said with a smile, “I’ll come with you.”
Juliette watched as Sigi took her arm, and then led her out to the ice, Carina giggling as she heard her mother say “You have got to be joking!”
“Well, I think it’s a good plan,” Shirley said as she walked with Caroline, “when do you speak to Frau Strucker?”
“Monday morning – I have... Oh my giddy aunt.”
“What is it,” Emma said as she and Maddie came alongside, Susan and Sandra looking in the same direction as the others, before they started laughing and cheering.
A very red cheeked Juliette was sitting on a sledge, being pulled across the ice by Jean Paul and two other instructors, while Sigi, Carina and Ingrid skated beside and behind her, the rest of the woman either on the ice skating or standing with Natalya watching and clapping.
It was the banner above the sled that said “BRIDE-TO-BE” that really topped things off...
West Central Park
“Oh my sweet lord...”
“What is it,” Rose said as she watched April play on the floor.
“Some pictures from Jan,” Katherine said as she showed Rose her phone. She looked at it, and quietly chuckled as she looked at Juliette been pulled across the ice.
“I hope they have their answers ready for when Juliette has a chance to challenge them,” she said as she handed the phone back. “Mind you, it’s still better than a weekend in Margate or something like that.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Katherine said, “when I agreed to marry Janice’s father, my friends took me to Coney Island for the day, and we had a meal afterwards.”
“Well, at least you were married,” Rose said with a smile.
“Oh – oh forgive me, I never meant to...”
“It’s all right – I made my mistakes, Katherine, and I live with them. I just give thanks every day I got out the other side and can enjoy life again.”
“As we all do,” Katherine said as she picked up April. “Her first birthday is coming up soon – will you and Maeve be over for that?”
“Oh yes,” Rose said with a smile, “it’s a pity Marina and Kylie won’t be here, but Kylie has her exams, and Marina has several meeting she can’t get out of.” She tickled April’s chin, before saying “I do know they are sending a very special present over for this little one though.”
“I saw Tonia the over day,” Katherine said as she picked up her coffee mug, “they’ve started the renovations on the upstairs apartment for both of them.”
“It’s good of Nessa to let them have a place here,” Rose said, “they can be close to friends and where they need to be for work – and school.”
“Indeed – with Kylie going to St Angela’s, it’s going to be very interesting. When is her sixteenth birthday anyway?”
“I think it’s next month. Did you get an invite to the party in July?”
“Maeve said she got one for both of us today. Imagine – me at a fancy castle.”
“Oh come on Rose – you’ve earned your place there, as have we all.”
“Still seems strange to me, isn’t that right little one?”
“She really loves that word, don’t you?”
Rose looked at her granddaughter, the smile growing wider on her face as she said “that’s right – thank you, little one.”
April nodded and smiled before she put the ear of her toy bear into her mouth.
“Are you hungry, little one?”
She nodded as Katherine handed her a biscuit, smiling as the toddler sucked on it.
“So is Katie staying with Erica and the other again tonight?”
“So I understand – she called me earlier from the street market. I think the call of tonight is pizza and films.”
Rose nodded as she said “It’s good she has friends to be there for her.”
“Oh yes, very good friends and her family as well.”
“I hope you have just as good a set of friends, little one?”
“Well, I think Judith is almost a big sister for her,” Katherine said, “and then there’s John and Alain and Edgar, and I’m sure plenty of other girls as well.”
“Well, we will see what life brings you, won’t we April?”
Stowe, the Huntingdown Lodges
“Tell me nothing else is going to happen to me today,” Juliette said as she came in with the others, taking off her coat and hanging it on the rack.
“Nah – can’t do that,” Ingrid said, “but we can have some downtime now.”
“Carina, can you give me a hand with the coffees please?”
“Sure, Aunt Natalya,” Carina said as she followed her into the kitchen.
“So how are you, my dear,” Natalya said as she started the machines.
“I am well – and Gale would say so as well, if she was here.”
“I’m surprised she’s not – I trust she is all right?”
“Oh yes – she and Tom had a prior commitment this weekend.” Carina started the second machine, as she said “I’ve been reading Lexa’s diary – listen, did Pops talk to you about this film maker?”
“The one who wishes to make a documentary about Furstenheim? He did tell me of it – I cannot stop him, but I want no part of it, and neither does Willy.”
“I have an – uneasy feeling about it as well,” Cari said quietly. “Her diary mentioned a murder in the mid-thirties in the area around the palace – a young man called Breitz.”
She saw Natalya nod. “Possibly one of Birgitte’s kills. If she were here, we could ask her, but alas...”
“I know – but it was a coincidence, I’m sure.”
“What would be?”
“This filmmaker sharing the same name.”
Cari watched as her great-aunt stood quietly for a second. “Sorry, my dear,” she finally said, “I was just thinking about something. Tell me, what do we know about this man?”
“Edwin Breitz? Award winning documentary maker, beyond that, not a lot else – why?”
“I’ve seen that look before, Aunt – what’s wrong?”
“Hopefully nothing – Carina darling, I know you have – shall we say, some unofficial contacts. In particular, the Hidden Hand. Would she be amenable to a request from me?”
“I can try and get word to her – what is the request?”
“All she can find out about Edwin Breitz – family, where he has worked and studied, whatever she can find.”
“Aunt Natalya, what are you not telling me?”
“That the first pot of coffee is ready – we will talk later, when things are quieter.”
“That’s better,” Sandy said as she drank the hot liquid. “Did everyone enjoy their day?”
“Oh yes,” Alexis said as she stretched her legs out, “Thanks for inviting me and Janine, Mary.”
“Ai it’s my pleasure – and I had a very relaxing day as well,” Mary said with a smile. “So, what is the plan for the rest of the day?”
“Don’t look at me,” Juliette said as she drank her coffee, “I have no idea what’s next?”
“Good,” Diana said, “I brought something for you to wear when we go out for dinner tonight.”
“Please, tell me there’s not a sash as part of that...”
She looked at the room as they looked at each other.
“Trust us,” Kelly eventually said, “would we do anything to embarrass our classmate?”
It only took her raised eyebrow for everyone to burst out laughing.
“We meet at seven thirty, ready to go out,” Sandy said as she stood up. “To work ladies!”
“Not you, Juliette,” Heather said, “you come with Diana and me.”
“Hey – can I come in?”
“Of course you can,” Juliette said as she sat on the bed, slipping on her heels. Carina came in, wearing a silver short sleeved dress, and smiled as she saw her mother standing up, looking at herself in the mirror.
“Not bad at all,” she said as she turned round. “A loaner from Mary?”
“Indeed,” Cari said with a smile. The dress was a white halter neck dress, with a scallop style skirt, and matching heels. “So, enjoying the day so far?”
“Surprisingly yes – but I want the negatives,” Juliette said with a smile. “So what exactly is happening tonight?”
“Oh, a night of surprises,” Cari said, “which is a nice way of saying I have no idea Mom – only Sigi and Nessa know everything.”
“I should have seen this coming, you know,” Juliette said as she slipped on her engagement ring, looking at it as the diamond glistened in the light.
“The ring or the weekend?”
“Both – but if I find out Klaus knew what was going to happen?”
“I suspect he’s getting reports from some people,” Carina said with a smile, “but whatever, I’m glad you’re happy. You deserve it, Mom.”
“Oh I do so agree.”
Both Juliette and Carina suddenly turned round when they heard the cultured English voice. They had been joined by a grey haired woman, who looked like Carina, and wore a high collared white blouse, a knee length grey skirt and grey shoes. Her hair was up in a bun, and her eyes sparkled behind her wire rimmed glasses.
“Aunt Lexa? What are you doing here?”
Juliette looked at her daughter, and then at the smiling woman, before she said “Goddess... Princess Alexandra?”
“In the flesh – well, not really,” Lexa said with a smile, “but I am sure you know what I mean. It’s a real pleasure to finally say hello Juliette – I’ve been watching for some time.”
“I heard you when we got the ring,” Juliette said quietly, “but to see you...”
“Well, I cannot stay for long,” Lexa said, “but I wanted to wish you all the happiness you and Klaus deserve. You really were meant to be together, you know.”
“Thank you, I think,” Juliette said quietly as there was a knock on the door.
“Are you two ready?”
Juliette and Carina looked at the door, before they heard Lexa say quietly “we’ll be watching on the day.”
Juliette stared at the empty room as Cari smiled. “We’ll be right down,” she said as she took her mother’s hand.
“Did that just happen?”
“Oh yes,” Cari said as she opened the door, and they joined the others.
Spruce Peak Club House
They were an amazing sight as they went past – the women of all ages, all wearing party or evening dresses, as they walked up the stairs and into the private dining room.
“Welcome ladies,” the head waiter said, “please, help yourself to drinks. The meal will be ready shortly.”
“Thank you,” Nessa said as the girls all took a glass of champagne, before Sigi said “A toast again ladies – to Juliette!”
As they drank, Nessa said “let’s take a seat round the tables here.”
As they sat down, Sandy saw the glint in Tonia’s eye and said “uh oh...”
"I think it's time
we got a few embarrassing secrets out in public." Tonia smiled.
"Let's see how well we all know each other...or think we know each
"Oh my God...do we
need to answer truthfully?" Liz Lodge gulped.
"Well if you tell
a fib,” Tonia said as she leaned back, “I have this dunces cap, and the
offending woman gets photographed wearing it and we publish it online."
"So honesty may be
the best policy loves." Claire giggled.
plays," Tonia looked at Alexis and Janine.
"OH CRAP!" Janine whispered. “Mary, what have you told her?”
Mary Thomas just smiled as the women looked at each other.
"We will start with a simple question...Who amongst us was still a virgin when she got married?"
"Well that counts
all of us single girls out." Carina mused aloud.
"Tonia, Liz, and
Kelly we all know certainly weren't." Diana thought aloud.
"Is this one of
those questions that is going to depend on a technical definition of what a
virgin is?" asked Ingy.
"Tonia you are
being WICKED!" Grace giggled loudly.
"Well I walked up
the aisle 4 months pregnant darlings." Mandy drawled.
smiled, "so that lets both of us off the hook."
"Was it you
Harriet?" asked Heather.
"Nope,” Harriet said, “I was also knocked-up, but I did end up losing my baby."
“Still birth – after that, we never wanted to face the agony again.”
Grace hugged her friend as Juliette looked round.
"You all know I was preggers." Barbara looked up as people looked at her.
frustrating," Juliette looked from face to face. "Hold on, I have an
idea," she giggled, "technical virginity is right...The answer is of
course the former Miss Alexandra Richmond."
"If you define
virginity as no man having..."
Ju," Sandy laughed, "even I'd experimented."
"Okay, that knocks
down that idea."
"So whom then?" Diana asked.
“Well, it’s not me or Paulie,” Nessa said, before she smiled. “On the other hand...”
“Oh strike me for an idiot,” Carina said. “It’s you isn’t it – Maddie.”
“And the girls wins a kewpie doll,” Maddie said as she looked at Emma. “I was that woman.”
“Really Really,” Emma said. “I had known a few men, but Maddie was pure as the driven snow – in that respect.”
“Okay,” Tonia said, “next question.”
“Refills first,” Sigi said as their glasses were refilled.
"I’ve got one - Who
has slept with a member of the British Royal family?" asked Alice.
darlings," Mandy said as she sipped her drink and put her hand up.
"Oh my God does Will
know?" Sandy exclaimed.
"Of course,” Mandy
drawled, “he's even seen the pictures."
Liz Lodge all but screamed.
Sarah's jaw dropped.
"And yes we look
so cute both asleep in the same cot...Aged about three months darlings."
Mandy laughed aloud.
UNFAIR!" Carina laughed loudly.
"Well the question
was who has SLEPT with a member of the Royal firm."
"Maybe I need re-phrase that then." Liz giggled, "who amongst us has had sex with a member of the British royal family?"
“Well, at least it’s the British royal family,” Janine said as she emptied her glass, “it means I’m off the...”
She suddenly realised everyone was looking at her, as Diana said “My dear young Janine, is there something you wish to tell us of your trip to Paris?”
“Well, His Excellency was a very – prodigious man...”
“Nikolai?” As Janine nodded, the room burst out laughing.
“So it might not have been just Jeanne?”
“I was lucky – I think.”
“Well it wasn’t me,” Sigi said, “and if you don’t believe me, ask Charles in Munich.”
“I will,” Diana said as she poured more wine into Juliette’s glass.
“So we need to be talking about those with contacts on that side of the pond – Mary?”
“Me? Now come on Ju, I may have had a few wild moments in my life...”
“Of which more later,” Tonia said.
“But no, i never slept with a Royal Prince. Now Tony Armstrong-Jones, I got close to, but after, not before.”
“Do you know something?”
“I know many things,” Anna said as she looked at Diana.
"I'm beginning to
smell a Carrow sized rat here darlings," Diana looked at the Brit.
"That earlier confession was designed to eliminate yourself from all this,
but on top of baby cuteness I am willing to bet..."
"Not with me you
won't." Sandy laughed, "I think you are onto a cert."
Mandy said with a smile, “would I mislead you?"
"Yes you damn well
would Amanda." Pippa smiled, "and I've just remembered something I
once heard concerning a certain randy prince and you Grace Gresham."
Grace struggled to maintain a straight face.
"Well that's a confession if I ever saw one, but Mandy spill your guts or I'll tickle you till you own up." Karen threatened.
“You wouldn’t dare – NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSSTOPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!”
The room filled with laughter as Karen jumped over and started to tickle Mandy’s sides.
“While Karen is forcing Lady Ordford to admit,” Heather said, “Grace?”
“Okay, okay – I cannot tell a lie. I did have a one night stand with Andy – but then, who didn’t?”
“Well, Your Ladyship?”
Mandy gasped for breath before she said “All right... All right... It was a certain younger brother of the one Grace met...”
“Right – correct answer,” Tonia said, “refills!”
As the glasses were filled again, the starters were brought through on platters, laid out so they could help themselves.
“So we eat these here, then get to the tables?”
“That’s the idea,” Tonia said, “so here’s the next question. One of you was naked in their first ever published photo – but who was it?”
“Now if Eve was here,” Juliette said as she drained her glass, not noticing as Kelly refilled it.
“But she is not,” Sandy said, “but given the focus on the British and German branches so far, I think we need to look closer to home.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll confess – it was me.”
The room turned and looked at Rachel, as she said “it was the sixties, my parents were into the Village scene – and a picture of me, new born and butt naked, was in the Village voice to announce my arrival.”
“She’s not,” Diana said, “Abby has the magazine.”
"By the way who
was the only person here who was born Rich?" Tonia laughed again.
"Most of us were...depending
on what you consider rich I suppose?" Paulie spoke.
"I think though
that this one is aimed at me." Alexis looked up a little shyly. "I
changed surnames when my Mom was divorced and re-married...but I was born
"Oh VERY clever
Tonia," the group laughed.
"Well thank you to Janine for telling it to me."
“Okay okay,” Juliette said as she nibbled on a canapé, “I’m wondering when it’s going to be my turn.”
"Oh I know a great
question to ask, especially to so many rich, famous women. Who has and hasn't
had plastic surgery...Pru?" Sarah looked hard.
"Hey my girls are
ALL natural," Pru said with a smile as she looked down proudly at her
"They might be
darling," Mandy drawled, "but we have known you long enough to
remember your rear-end was different."
Karen smiled, "and I even know the name of the doctor who did her ass
knowledge is cheating," Pru giggled, "but yes it is true I did get my
said, “I'll own up that like a lot of Jewish girls I got a nose job for my 16th
"I thought that
was a myth Claire."
"No way Barbara,”
Claire said, “I can tell you that most of our Jewish girlfriends had it
"Alright so Pru's
ass, Claire's nose...who else?"
lift," Paulie smiled, “but Nessa - curse her luck - is just as nature
"Now we are
rolling," Sarah looked at other faces.
"I had a mole
removed from my face...does that count?" asked Ingy.
Carina nodded, "and I have to confess to having had my nose seen to when
it got broke."
"Yes, but you were
still a small child," her mother added.
"That is all small
time... Who is carrying silicon on her
chest?'" asked Liz as she drained her glass.
"You know very
well I had a boob job Liz," Kelly put her hand up.
"And one of mine
is silicon." Harriet looked serious, "I had one removed because of
"Sorry." Liz patted her hand. "But I sense we have only scratched the surgery list here as of yet."
“Now what is she talking about,” Juliette said as she looked round the room.
“Well... I did have some liposuction a few years back,” Alice said, “biggest mistake I ever made. Duncan nearly flipped when he heard.”
“Dare I ask where,” Juliette asked as she emptied her glass again – and it was refilled.
“I had to stand for some considerable time...”
The other women laughed as Natalya said “I will confess, I had a small amount of work done on my eyes a few years ago, to remove some loose skin, but that is all.”
“Well, in the interests of full disclosure,” Karen said, “I also had some work down – but it was reduction for me.”
“Well, this is all well and good,” Liz said, “but I know who has had the really surprising work. Isn’t that right – Ton?”
“Oh she’s got you now,” Sandy said with a laugh, “she’s talking about the tummy tuck Tonia.”
“You swore to keep that secret!”
“And she did,” Liz said, “but Kelly and I knew...”
“Right,” Juliette said as she looked round the table, “my question is...”
“Dinner is served ladies.”
“Going to be asked at the table,” she said as she very slowly got to her feet, and walked to where the food was waiting.
“So – the question Ju is?”
“One of the ladies at this table,” she said as she looked round, “had a hit single written about her by a British band. Who was it?”
“Well, that leaves me out,” Maddie said, “because Emma is many things, but Ladydown were not British.”
“We know that Mandy, Ju, Karen, Alice and Diana all appeared in a pop video in the nineties, but that song wasn’t about them,” Grace said.
“Perhaps this is one for the younger generation,” Alexis said. “Nessa, you’re the one with the singing voice. Any ideas?”
“Nice switch,” Nessa said as she and Paulie looked over the table. “But it’s not me Alexis. I think you need to look to somewhere between you and me, dear.”
“By the way, Mom – how did the recording session go?”
“It went well – I enjoyed every second of it,” Nessa said with a smile.
“It’s a pity Fiona was too tired to come out,” Grace said, “she would have known in a flash – hang on...”
All eyes turned on Mary, as she said “what?”
“Mary Thomas, friend to the stars, a woman who Tom Jones invites to tea and biscuits – A woman who legend has it knew Mick Jagger very well. I think it was you.”
“Oh,” Mary said with a smile, “and if it was me, what was the song?”
“All I will say is it was written by David Bowie – work the rest out for yourself...”
The room looked at each other, before Pippa said “please, tell me it’s not Fashion...”
“You’re a decade too late, my dear,” Mary said with a smile as they started eating.
“Okay then,” Tonia said, “we’ve all heard about Eve’s forays into film – but one of us had a similar experience. By the time we’ve eaten the main course, I want to know which of you have appeared in a movie – of any form.”
“Apart from the one or two ones I’ve appeared in,” Juliette said as she saw her glass refilled by Liz.
“Oh yes – which reminds me. If you are ready?”
Juliette looked as a television was wheeled in, and the waiter turned it on. “Let us enjoy, for a moment, Juliette Huntingdown, the actress...”
“Oh goddess no, you haven’t...”
“Oh yes I have,” Tonia said as they started to watch clips from old films. They shrieked with laughter as they saw Juliette walking round in flimsy costumes, or very short pants.
“I am never going to be allowed to forget this, am I?”
“Ah, but that is not all,” Tonia said as she pressed a remote, and a coded menu came up. “You all now have the opportunity to come clean, before I start to show the other clips I have.”
“What other... Oh lord, no, not that...”
“Oh yes that, Mary Thomas,” Tonia said as she selected an entry – and the screen showed Mary, Fiona and others sitting by a stage as Marc Bolan sang Life’s A Gas.
“Mary – you were that slim once?”
“All right, all right, yes I was,” Mary said with a laugh, “but that was a lifetime ago...”
“Well, there is hope for me yet,” Anna said with a smile.
“Now it is funny you should say that, Anna Mitchell...”
“What? What on earth could you have... Oh dear god, you didn’t...”
“Not the infamous Fashion Week Fall ’91 interview? I’d heard the rumours, but never saw...”
“How much not to show it!”
“Oh come now, Anna,” Pippa said, “how bad can it...”
The group stared at the screen as they saw Anna – but a very different Anna, with permed light brown hair, and wearing a white top, tight blue skirt with rows of belts, a pink tweed jacket and leggings, and white high heels. She was smiling as she talked about her first Fashion Week as a reporter...
“I need to thank Jeanne Beckman for this – took her some digging,” Tonia said as Anna shook her head.
“I need to review our agreement with FTV,” she said with a smile as the clip ended.
“So – anyone else, or do I have to deploy the hat and reveal the truth?”
The women looked at each other, before Tonia said “three... Two... One...”
“All right, All right – I confess!”
The room turned and looked at Sigi, as she said “Go on – show the clip.”
“Well, that wasn’t the one I was thinking of, but hey,” Tonia said as she showed the fencing clip from Die Another Day – and everyone recognised Sigi in the background.
“So what were you thinking of?”
There was no response, as Tonia pressed the button, and they saw a scene set in a dungeon. A young, blonde haired woman was strapped to a St Andrew’s Cross, as a woman dressed like Michelle Pfeiffer in Catwoman appeared, whip in hand.
“I don’t recognise her,” Cari said, “so it must be... Hang on, I just remembered something a certain Ms Rochermann told me...”
Everyone turned and looked, Tonia and Liz staring at Kelly.
“It was a long, long time ago,” Kelly whispered, “where did you...”
“Our reach is long,” Tonia said with a smile.
“Or in this case, as far as Hertfordshire,” Sandra whispered to Shirley and Maddie, “Penny uncovered it...”
“If I buy the next round of drinks, can that be my penance?”
“Agreed,” Tonia said as the plates were cleared, Kelly shaking her head.
“Well, I think the time has come to move things up a level” Carina said as more drinks were handed round.
“Oh goddess – what?”
"Oh I have worse
things here." Tonia grinned as she
waved the remote around, “far worse things than a young Mary Thomas.”
Juliette looked panicked.
"Well,” Tonia said, “who is this odd looking child, with half the world’s steel on her teeth, just before her opening day in First Grade?"
The women saw the picture come up, as Juliette went very very red...
"Carina,” she laughed out, “I'm going to KILL you..."
"Oh my God Ju," Claire laughed, "I'd have thought you would have destroyed every print of that..."
"...I thought I
had," Juliette glared at her daughter.
“Well, not all of them,” Carina said with a smile, “and given that photo you and Mandy have of me and David, this was the insurance policy.”
“Still, I hope that is the last one...”
"Possibly it is
the last, possibly all the others were destroyed - just like you thought you
had Miss Montefiore?"
"I will so kick my daughters’ asses," Claire shook her head as a similar picture of her popped up.
“And just to prove how this is not just Juliette’s night...”
Sigi groaned as the picture of her as a toddler, wearing a dirndl and standing with a young looking Klaus in lederhosen, appeared on the screen.
“I always knew that photo would come in handy,” Natalya said with a contented smile.
“Thank goodness none of us exist,” Sandra said as she shook her head.
“Oh god, no...”
“No we didn’t,” Tonia said, “but we did get this.”
“Aw, you make such a cute pussycat,” Paulie laughed as she looked at a very young Nessa dressed up for Halloween.
“Right,” Tonia said as the desserts were brought round, “we come to deep, dark secrets. Starting with one for you all to figure out. We all know Nessa is a great singer, and Diana can carry a tune – but who in this room sang backing vocals to a Michael Jackson song and was not credited?”
Immediately, all eyes looked to Emma, who blushed and said “right idea – but one I was credited, and two I sang on the Bad album, before we formed Ladydown.”
“I always meant to ask,” Juliette said in a slightly slurred voice, “what do you guys in the industry think of Weird Al?”
“Oh we loved him – you should hear his parody of our song,” Emma said with a smile.”
“A clue – it was recorded for Dangerous, but actually appeared on HIStory.”
“Oh god,” Janine said, “you’re talking about Earth Song, aren’t you?”
“Oh lord,” Grace said as she looked at Pippa, “Do you remember the Brits?”
“Oh yeah – Jarvis Cocker running on stage and saluting him while he sang that song? It was the funniest thing I had seen since the 1989 Brits!”
“Okay,” Janine said, “so one of you sang backing vocals on that pile of guano? Who was it?”
“Not me,” Grace said, “I had done my disappearing act by that point.”
“Sorry Grace – if it was recorded for Dangerous, that was 1991.”
“Damn – but I promise you, it wasn’t me. I was UK based, after all – you need to look this side of the pond for that one.”
“Well, we’re all too young,” Ingrid said as she looked at her generation. “So which of you lovely ladies was it?”
“Well don’t look at me,” Nessa said, “I was firmly Vanessa by then.”
“Not me,” Juliette said with a lop sided grin.
The room then turned and looked in the direction of the director of APCO.
“Aw damn – ya found me out.”
“I did it as a favour for a friend – honestly...”
“Okay, okay,” Tonia said, “you get the next question.”
said, “seeing that most of us are either fashionistas, or in the fashion biz,
what was the single worst outfit you ever bought and wore."
heeled, boots." Paulie groaned, "Gus threatened to divorce me if I
wore them a second time in public. Not
the velvet hot pants or the crop top – just the boots..."
"Dear Goddess they
sound AWFUL!" Janine giggled.
"Well one good thing about having become Vanessa, I spared myself the excesses of early seventies fashion." Nessa laughed. “Mind you, I could try now.”
“Don’t – you’ll break
your ankle,” Juliette laughed.
"What was your
biggest mistake Kelly?"
"Last year, trying to wear as short a skirt as my daughters."
"Now you are being harsh on yourself darling," Mandy sipped her drink, "your legs are first-class."
"Yes, but she
forgot she was wearing crotchless panties." Tonia giggled.
Natalya burst into laughter.
"If I can be
serious for a moment, in my case it was anything showed the tracks on my
arms." Karen spoke.
"Aye Lassie, they
weren't over attractive." Fiona nodded.
"Well what about
you Fiona, you were a fashion student at the height of punk?"
"Aye, that I was,
and Vivienne has several photos of me in outfits of hers that I'm glad Tonia
"Ditto." Mary Thomas laughed with her friend.
“I used to love that look,” Mandy said, “but – well, there are the photos of the time Alice and I swapped places...”
dresses count?" asked Barbara.
Juliette insisted, "very few of us can ever look good at eight and a half
"Though you went
pretty close Cherie." Diana remarked.
"Well I know better, but thank you darling," Juliette spoke as Claire surreptitiously topped up her glass.
“Are you trying to get me drunk, Mrs Morse?”
“Moi? Which reminds me – Tonia, is our special guest entertainment here?”
“I believe he may be,” Tonia said, “let me go and look.”
“So come on Ju,” Janine said, “what could be the most embarrassing thing we could reveal about you?”
Juliette glanced over at Alice, shaking her head as she saw her old friend smile.
“That will have to wait,” Tonia said as she came in. “For now, we are going to reunite Juliette with an act she appeared with as a young model, the first time she walked the Victoria’s Secrets show. Ladies, I give you – The Chippendales!”
The girls whooped and cheered as the two male strippers came in, making Juliette stand up and dance with her. As they did so, they started to move togetjer, while Eve came in and started to take photos.
“Thank you boys,” Tonia said as they went off, and Pru took out a deck of cards.
“Now, as you ladies know, I tie the knot in a couple of weeks, and Ju a couple of weeks after that, so why don’t we play a little poker, loser takes off something?”
“Is Mom seriously going to try taking on Royal Flush at poker?”
“Looks like it,” Ingy whispered to Carina as they started to play.
The women watched as Juliette lost the first hand, and removed her shoes. The second hand, and it was her gloves, then her dress, revealing her bra and panties.
“Getting what you need,” Diana whispered to Eve.
“Yes, thank you – oh now that is good,” Eve whispered back as Juliette removed her bra.
“I think you’ve had enough now,” Pru said with a smile.
“I could... I could still beat you,” Juliette said as she was helped back into her dress by Carina.
“Ladies, I think it is time we headed back – shall we?”
Sunday 28th February
The Huntingdown Lodges
“What... What happened last night,” Juliette said as she came in.
“We had a great deal of fun,” Diana said from the kitchen as Juliette sat with the other women.
“I can imagine we did – so are we having a quiet morning?”
“We are,” Diana said as she brought a plate through to Juliette, and sat down.
“Well, so long as I didn’t make a complete prat of myself...”
“Oh we have the photos.”
“Eve? What the heck are you doing here?”
“Surprise Ju,” Eve Stone said with a smile, “I dropped by last night, but you were having so much fun, I barely noticed.”
“You dropped by? Oh no, what did I do...”
“Oh it was great,” Sandy said, “and we have the photos.”
“Which will not become public,” Eve said, “provided you fulfil a little request for me, Juliette Huntingdown.”
“And that is?”
“Sit for my darling husband.”
“Okay okay – I submit,” Juliette said with a laugh.
said quietly, “I've never had the courage to ask this, but why is the only
consistent male escort I ever see you with my brother, who just happens to be a
Diana stopped and looked at Nessa, the other woman seeing the strange look in her face.
complicated to explain Nessa," Juliette suddenly went serious.
"You don't want to
go there Nessa." Alice looked similarly somber.
"But I hear
rumours about your love life back in Paris..."
"That was before
things went bad." Sigi looked up.
can we change the subject?" Mandy spoke.
"But you weren't
always a man-hater?"
IT!" Sandy spoke quietly, but insistently.
Diana looked skywards, "most of you know anyway, and those of you who
don't probably should hear..."
"I still think
it's not right to talk about it." Alice looked up.
"Well maybe it's time I got it off my chest, because even those of you who were there only know half the truth." Diana sat down, her coffee mug in her hands, as she said “it’s funny really – we’re going back to the de Ros mansion for Abigail’s eighteenth, and in a way, that’s where all of this began...”