Lead and Old Lace – part 3
The de Ros Mansion
“Edith, you are a miracle worker,” Abby said as she stood in the drawing room, looking at the tables of food and the waiting tea pots. The young model was wearing a silver grey cap sleeved dress, the skirt coming to the floor, and grey slippers.
“It is a pleasure, Miss Abigail,” Edith said as she stood in her black dress, the white apron tied on the front.
“How long do we have,” Fiona said as she came in, smoothing down the skirt of her cream dress.
“A few minutes,” Diana said as she and Olivia came in. Diana was wearing a light blue jacket and skirt with dark blue trim, a set of pearls around her neck, while Olivia was wearing a white dress with a black jacket.
"So what is the
protocol for this Diana?"
"We entertain the
Mothers in the dining room,” Diana said to Olivia, “while Abigail and Fiona
serve tea to the girls in the drawing room."
come up and Heather can't make it over to help." Abby looked up from her
said, “well I suppose I'll have to help Edith..."
"No need Diana,"
an Irish-American voice came from behind her. "Heather rang me, I can help
"Katherine you are
a life-saver." Diana said as she kissed her friend’s mother.
"I'd not say that, but you know what they say about a friend in need?" Katherine took her coat off to reveal her own black dress. “May I borrow an apron Edith?”
“I will fetch one,”
Edith said as she stepped out.
"Olivia, Fiona, this is Katherine Carter, she's the mother of a friend of mine." Diana relaxed as she made the intros.
“A pleasure ladies,” Katherine said as she accepted the apron from Edith and fixed it around her waist, as the housekeeper went to fetch more plates.
"I gave Charly a
slightly later time Mama," Abby said as she looked at her watch.
"Good darling, it really is right that she and the Queen arrive last, nobody should follow royalty.”
looking okay Edith?" Abigail asked.
Carter's help I should not have any troubles Your Ladyship."
“Your Ladyship? Edith how long have you known me? You’ve never called me that.”
“I know, Miss Abigail, but this is a very different occasion. Please, relax and enjoy the evening.”
"I know,” Abigail
said, “I'm just a bit nervous."
"Abby you'll be fine." Sigi gave her a hug as the doorbell rang.
“Showtime,” Abby said as Edith went out, and returned to stand by the door.
“Miss Allyson and Miss Eleanor Rochermann, and Mrs Kelly Rochermann.”
“The cavalry’s here,” Ally said as she and Nell came in. Ally was wearing a red dress with a pleated skirt, while Nell wore a blue version of the same dress.
“Welcome, both of you,” Abby said as she kissed them on both cheeks. “This is my co-host, Miss Fiona Treharran. Fiona, my old friends Allyson and Eleanor.”
“Okay, let’s stop that now – I’m Ally, she’s Nell.”
“Fi – and it’s a real pleasure to meet you.”
“Hello Kelly,” Diana said as she kissed their mother on both cheeks. “May I introduce you to Lady Olivia Treharran. Olivia, this is Kelly Rochermann, a very old and dear friend.”
“Charmed,” Kelly said as she hugged Olivia, taking her by surprise.
“Right – Elders to the dining room, we’ll leave them to the tea,” Sigi said as she accompanied them out.
“May I offer you some tea,” Abby said as she indicated the table to the side, as Katherine appeared in the doorway.
“Lady Angelica Fitzstuart and Amanda, Marchioness of Ordford.”
“Hello Angel,” Abby said as her friend came in, “would you like some tea?”
“Thank you – it’s a real pleasure to be here,” Angel said as she accepted a cup. “Ally, Nell, Fi – so we form the advance guard do we?”
“It certainly looks that way,” Nell said as she sipped her tea. “So who else can we expect?”
“I think most of them are here. The one who couldn’t is...”
“Lady Samantha Gordon.”
“Sam!” Angel embraced the young Scot as she walked in. “Is your mother here as well?”
“Sadly no – but she suggested I come and attend at least your tea party, Abby.”
“Well, if you’re here for a few days, come to our party on Friday,” Abby said.
“Sorry,” Angel said, “where are my manners? Sam, meet Ally and Nell Rochermann.”
“A pleasure. So you are fiends of Abby’s?”
“From nursery, if truth be told, although we’re a year older,” Nell said as Katherine appeared at the door.
“Miss Elisabeth Silowski and Mrs Deborah Silowski.”
“Hello Betsy,” Ally said as she embraced her old friend. “How’s Dartmouth?”
“Not bad – Harvard?”
“Can’t complain – where do you attend university, Sam and Fi?”
“Law at St Andrews – and art at Newcastle, right Fi?”
“That’s right,” Fi said as Abby heard Katherine say “Miss Sharon Kennedy.”
“Sharon,” Abby said as she gathered herself, “I am so glad you were able to come from Philadelphia to attend my party.”
“I was honoured to be asked,” the young woman said. “I noticed the mothers in the next room, but...”
“It’s all right,” Sam said, “I’m on my own here as well. What happened?”
“She died – some years ago,” Sharon said with a smile as she accepted a cup of tea.
“I just saw Samantha Gordon,” Mandy said as she sipped her drink, “without Victoria.”
“I know,” Diana said, “she was unable to get away, but she is not the only one here on her own. There is a girl from Philadelphia whose mother died some time ago, but she is here.”
“Alright who invited Buffy McGeorge?” Ally scowled as she looked at the guest list.
“I had to, she invited me to her tea…Okay?” Abigail looked at her friend.
“You know that bitch and I hate each other’s guts?”
“Everyone knows it dear sister.” Nell ate a cucumber sandwich. “Compared to you two the rivalry between Holly and Carina was positively civilized.”
“Well, just keep her out of my way, because one crack from her and those blonde extensions of hers will be ripped out…”
“Please NO FIGHTS! I’m nervous enough anyway.” Abby tried to smile.
“The Countesses Karonsky.” Edith announced at the door.
“Hey Brig,” Abby embraced her cousin.
“Mrs. Rebecca Culver, and Miss Katrina Culver!”
“Mother this is Abigail, the Countess de Ros, one of our hostesses.”
“I see more guests have arrived,” Diana said as she came in.
“Mrs. Culver this is my mother Diana.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Countess.”
“And you Mrs. Culver, the girls have the drawing room, we are relegated to the dining room I’m afraid. If you will follow me?”
She led Trina and Brigitte’s mothers to the dining room, before handing them each a glass of wine.
“Kelly Rochermann,” Diana said, “this is Katerina Karonsky who is married to a cousin of my late husband, and this is Mrs. Culver.”
“Alright Rebecca Culver.” Diana smiled.
“This is a nice place Diana, if I can call you that.”
“You can, and yes it’s nice, but I’ve driven past your home on Nob Hill and this... well, this pales in comparison.”
“I’d hardly say that, but thank you.”
“Did both of you meet Olivia Treharron?”
“We met in Paris.” Katerina said as she kissed the English woman.
“Miss Buffy and Mrs Susanna McGeorge.”
“Let’s go over here,” Angel said as she and Nell led Ally into one corner, as the young blonde walked in.
“Welcome, Buffy – may I offer you some tea?”
“Thank you Abby,” Buffy said with a smile.
“May I also introduce my co-hostess, Miss Fiona Treharran?”
“Oh, another visitor from the United Kingdom?”
“Indeed – Sam Gordon and I were at school with Angel Fitzstuart.”
“So who else is...” Her eyes narrowed as she saw Ally talking to Nell and Angel.
“Buffy,” Abby whispered, “play nice – please. If Holly and Cari could get on, so can both of you.”
“I’ll keep out of her way,” Buffy said quietly.
“Allow me to introduce you to Trina Culver,” Abby said as she steered her in the other direction.
“Is that Sukie McGeorge’s voice I can hear?” Kelly asked, “Please tell me you didn’t invite Buffy?”
“We had to Kelly darling, she invited Abby.”
“Well standby for fireworks if she and Ally clash.”
“Is that champagne?” the dark haired woman said, “I may need a fortifier…”
“I think I will join you Sukie.”
“Hello Kelly,” she said as she kissed her old friend, “well I’ve warned her to be on her best behaviour.”
“I’m sure Nell warned Ally.”
“How, when we have been friends so many years, can they hate each other so badly?’
“Oh? Do I sense a story here?”
“Honestly, Olivia, you would not believe me if I told you.”
Kelly looked at Sukie, and then said, “Believe it or not, it started with a boy...”
“Doesn’t it always, Darling,” Mandy said as she sipped her drink.
“How far back does it go?”
“That would make her, what – eleven?”
“Just before her eleventh birthday,” Kelly said as she rubbed her eyes. “She had been out a few times with a young lad called Eric Zimmerman, and they had got to the cuddling and light petting stage.”
Diana raised an eyebrow as Kelly said “She was that innocent once Diana. Anyway, one day she came in to say that Eric had asked her to attend his birthday party. She was so excited, and wanted to look her very best for it.”
“So what happened?”
“The day before the party, she and Nell were having lunch with Buffy, and Ally was telling her all about the new clothes she had bought. Well, when she got home that night, she got a call from Eric to say that he had fallen ill, and his birthday party had been cancelled.”
“Oh lord,” Olivia said, “this isn’t...”
“It was,” Sukie said as she drank half her glass. “Buffy came home that night to say she had been invited to the party by Eric. It was only later we found out she had talked him into playing a joke on Ally.”
“Ah,” Olivia said, “and when Ally discovered the truth?”
“You would think she would pick a fight, but no – she went to school the next Monday, and was all sweetness and light with Buffy.”
“Until she discovered the bottle of water Ally gave her at lunch was laced with Ex-Lax.”
Olivia looked at Kelly and Sukie, before she said “what did...”
“I grounded Ally for a week, and made her apologise to Buffy, but from that day on – POW!”
was why we sent Buffy off to Miss Porter's..."
"And why knowing
Buffy was going to Wellesley, my husband and I worked so hard to make sure the
girls went anywhere else...e.g. Harvard."
"Oh dear lord," Olivia shook her head.
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Did I hear Sigi is in town?”
“She is,” Juliette said as she handed Missy a mug of coffee. “We talk business tomorrow. So, when does Mary Clarke arrive Missy?”
“Friday night Juliette. I spoke to her on the phone earlier - to say she’s nervous is putting it mildly.”
“Did you know among other things it will be her first ever flight on a plane?”
“No,” Juliette said, “I didn’t, but I’m not surprised.”
“Yeah,” Missy said “I don’t think she’s ever been more than 50 miles away from the Bay Area in her life.”
“She’s in total contrast to our jet-setting International debutantes isn’t she?”
“That she is Ju. You know I am hoping and praying for this kid to make it, if I’ve ever signed a girl who maybe for her own complete unselfishness deserves success more, then I can’t remember her.”
“No you are right there Missy, there are girls from humble roots in the biz, but few if any have Mary’s sheer goodness about them.”
“Well, the signing on bonus meant the family could have a weekend away, which helps her as well. So, what else do we need to discuss?”
“Alice wants Jo to do a shoot during her break – I haven’t contacted her yet, given this is exam week for her, but I’ll talk to her before she comes back.”
“Okay – I’ll liaise with Alice as well,” Juliette said, “I have a meeting with her and Cathy tomorrow.”
The de Ros Mansion
The room fell silent and turned as the door opened.
"Her Majesty Queen Therese of Ruritania, and Her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte." Katherine solemnly intoned the words as the royal mother and daughter made their entrance, causing every woman to drop into a deep formal curtsey. Charly was wearing a white dress with a silver grey belt and bolero jacket, while her mother was wearing a pearl coloured jacket and skirt with a cream camisole.
majesty," Diana said as she came forward and kissed the hand of the Queen,
followed by Olivia.
Countess de Ros, Lady Treharran for so kindly inviting us tonight."
Highness." Abigail and Fiona both kissed the princess on both cheeks.
"Thank you for
inviting me." Charly blushed.
“If you would care to accompany me, Abigail and Fiona will look after Charlotte,” Diana said as they made their way into the dining room.
formality Diana," the Queen relaxed and smiled as she entered, "you
are far too old a friend to do all that."
but what about everyone else?"
"Well despite my two shadows from your American secret service," the Queen nodded towards the men standing in the doorway wearing dark glasses, "I'm just another debutante’s mother, so PLEASE call me Terry and I beg you NO more curtseys."
“In which case,” Olivia said, “have a drink, and allow us to introduce you to some of the other mothers...”
"Thank God that's
over with," Charly smiled. "Hi I'm Charly," she held out her
hand towards Nell and Ally.
"We are the
Rochermann twins, I'm Ally, she's Nell..."
"Not the renowned
New York Sluts?"
"Oh don't say our
reputation has reached Europe?" Nell giggled.
"I'm sorry, but
yes it has." Charly joined in the giggling.
"OY!" Abby looked skywards. “Let me guess – Her Serene Highness Princess Ingrid von Furstenheim?”
“Amongst others – such as Sigi,” Charly said as she looked to the other room.
“This is Sharon Kennedy, from Philadelphia, and Betsy Silkowski, a old school friend.”
“An honour, Your...”
“Please – Charly, unless you absolutely positively have to.”
“Very well,” Sharon said, “please to meet you Charly.”
“So you are the mother of the twins,” Terry said as she stood with Kelly. “I admire a woman who has brought such brave and resourceful women into this world.”
“I take that as the compliment it was meant to be,” Kelly said with a smile. “So which mothers did not make it, Diana?”
“Victoria Gordon was unable to attend,” Diana said, “and there is one girl here whose mother died some years ago, and her father could not attend.”
“In the same way as Ingrid last year?”
“I believe she died some years ago,” Kelly said. “Her father re-married, but she died earlier this year.”
“The poor girl,” Terry said quietly.
"Why does one of
the twins keep exchanging such looks of loathing with that blonde over
there?" Charly asked.
"Because they hate
each other with a passion." Abby sighed.
"They look like
two tigers watching each other from adjacent cages at the zoo."
"That just about
sums it up Charly, and I am having to play zoo keeper."
"Poor Abby." Charly smiled.
West Central Park
“Katy, come and give me a hand with Dinner, will you please,” Jan said as she called out from the kitchen.
“Coming Mom,” Katy said as she came into the kitchen, Adam watching the news report of the bank raid.
"Well you all seem
to have enjoyed yourselves today?" Jan whispered to Katy, "was any of
redhead...stupid damn bitch." Katy shook her head. "We warned them
"Well Madame already confirmed a deposit in your trust fund."
“Excellent – Mom,” Katy said, “so how was work?”
“Interesting – but I need to head out, once Grandma gets back. Right now, let’s eat.”
“Annie has gone round to see Grace,” Caroline said as she sat in the man room, Doc and Heather sitting with her as Ama brought some mugs of coffee through.
“I will be doing my assignment in my room,” Ama said as she turned to go, but stopped as Doc said “Ama, we need you to hear this as well.”
“You do? It must be serious, but if Mom is happy for me to stay?”
“I think you need to, Ama – it concerns Poppy Ashley.”
“Ah – in the case, perhaps I should,” Ama said as she sat down, Caroline raising an eyebrow as she said “what about Poppy?”
“She heard you talking to her mother and grandmother yesterday Dom – about Peverell.”
“Ah,” Caroline said as she sat back, “so she knows about the apartment being bugged. Is that where you were this afternoon, Ama?”
“Along with Pepsi, Doc, Erica and Katy,” Ama said with a nod. “She asked for our help to keep an eye out for him, and report if we had seen him. I said I would, but also she should travel with Erica and Letty in the mornings for now.”
“Good suggestion,” Caroline said as she put her mug down, “so what don’t Ama and I know.”
“He’s in this country illegally for certain – I hacked his ESTA waiver, and it had a false address. I also looked into the reports at the time Poppy was conceived – the Ashley corporate accounts took quite a hit until that point, and then picked up.”
“The more immediate thing,” Doc said quietly, “is Poppy asked me before I left how I got a gun. Dom, I think she’s considering doing the same incredibly stupid thing I thought of doing with that sleaze ball journalist.”
“OH boy,” Caroline said, “I should have seen this one coming. I trust you said no.”
“Of course I did – Poppy’s no killer, but we need to sort this out fast. I think she may just do something stupid.”
“And you cannot tell Miss Ashley, Mom – then Poppy would now Doc has talked to us.”
“Yeah,” Caroline said as she sat back, deep in thought. “Heather, what else can we do?”
“Already done – I hacked into his laptop and I’m getting copies of e-mails. Here’s the PI he’s hired?”
“Well, that’s useful,” Caroline said as she looked at it, “I can take care of that end. Apart from that, we need to keep a close eye on Poppy. Let me drop in on Erica and Denice later tonight – but both of you, keep an eye on her as well please, and let me and Heather know if you think she’s going to do something.”
The de Ros Mansion
"Well despite the
tensions it's been a lovely tea party," Nell said as she kissed both the
hostesses good bye.
"You really do
need have a word with Ally though,” Abby said, “they will cross paths a lot in
the next few weeks."
"I know, I know,
I'll just have to do something I guess Abs."
"Well in the
meantime just think of Tony arriving in town tomorrow."
"Yeah, be great to see him." Abby smiled broadly, and didn't notice the look on Fiona's face.
“Right,” Diana said as Edith closed the door. “First things first. Katherine, very many thanks for your help tonight.”
“It’s my pleasure,” Katherine said as Edith came in.
“Katherine, if you can help me clear things away, I will offer some tea.”
“Sounds good,” Katherine said as Diana looked at the other three.
“All right – change, and then you may decide what we order to eat,” she said, Abby relaxing as she went off with Fiona.
“So will you be spending the rest of the week with David?”
“Of course not,” Abby said as she looked at Fiona. “But he is my boyfriend. You understand, don’t you?”
“Yes,” Fiona said, but as she gently kissed Abby thoughts were swirling through her mind...
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Hey Ju,” Ingrid said on the screen, “why did Adam call and say he wasn’t going to be able to take me out on Sunday?”
“My fault I’m afraid – I asked if he could do some book shoots for a couple of new signings, and he agreed if I let him shoot Olivia and Fiona Treharran on Saturday.”
“Well, such is life I suppose – so who are they?”
“Well, let’s start with Princess Charlotte of Ruritania.”
“Charly Elphberg? Maybe I’ll come along as well. Who else?”
“Okay – he said there were two more?”
“Yeah – a young Californian girl called Trina Culver.”
“I’m not familiar with the name – should I be?”
“Her father owns one of the biggest gem veins in the country?”
“Okay – so I guess we have three debs. Who’s the fourth one?”
“Someone completely different – a young girl Missy discovered called Mary Clarke.”
“I have not heard the name.”
“You would not have – she was a maid in Missy’s Hotel, but she’s the real deal.”
“Okay – well, Charly and Brig I know. Trina?”
“According to Abby she’s a nice girl, a little overawed.”
And this girl
Mary?" Ingrid asked.
"She's had to be
more like a mother then a sister to her siblings, poor kid." Juliette
paused and sniffed. "She and her father I bet between them work every hour
the Goddess sends, and it's not for themselves. She never said, but I'm willing
to bet they both have gone without food even so the other children haven't had
"Oh dear Goddess
that sounds like a hard life."
"Well I think for
both of them they are willing to sacrifice anything, and their satisfaction is
gained from what the other kids do and achieve."
"Looking at her
pictures, she has incredible bone structure."
"That she does darling, and I think she will go far, but self-confidence is not her strong suit, and that's why I warned Adam to take it gently with her."
“Then I shall be there as well, and I will step in if need be.”
“Thanks Ingy,” Juliette said, “I owe you several.”
“And you will pay, come Christmas,” Ingy said with a smile.
Jo and Annie sat either
side of the front room, glancing over at Dominique as she sat with Helen and
Penny. The three women were talking in
low whispers, looking at a laptop and checking notes.
"So what was the worst bit for you?"
Jo smiled as she said "the woman who surprised me. I thought the challenge was over until my ref stepped in. You?"
"The lovers," Annie said as Dominique stood up.
"Right, both of you - we've totalled the gains, scored accordingly, and come to a decision."
"In terms of style and the way you handled the various situations, you were fairly evenly matched – so it came down to the items you collected. To be specific, it came down to a painting or the doubloons. And - the painting wins out. Congratulations Annie."
"No hard feelings," Annie said as she looked at Jo.
"None whatsoever. I'll get Ju to transfer the money. Make a nice start for someone's trust fund?"
“That’s the intention,” Annie said as Penny produced a bottle of ginger ale.
“No,” Helen said, “in this, we will suffer together with the winner. Enjoy.”
“Is that the right word?”
“It is for me,” Annie said with a grin, “we suffer together.”
“Ladies,” Penny said as she raised her glass, “to the winner.”
As they drained their glasses, Jo looked at it and said “I have new respect for all the pregnant ladies.”
“Why thank you...”
“Next time we get drunk, just remind me not to issue a challenge to this woman.” Jo said as she hugged her old Math teacher.
“Well it won’t be till after baby is born then.”
“Should someone tell Sandy so she can start paying off the bets?” Caroline asked.
“I’ll call her,” Penny said as she took out her cell phone.
Thursday 10th December
“Why exactly am I here,” Sigi said as she and Juliette walked to the hot dog stand.
“I have been promising you the best hot dog in New York, and today seems as good a day as any,” Juliette said, “and besides, Caroline asked if we could meet her.”
The heels of their boots clicked on the cold stone as they came to the stand, Sigi nodding as she said “Your Honour? Have you come to sample the goods as well?”
“I was asked here,” Brooke Hatton said, “by Caroline. You as well?”
“Indeed – can you tell me why?”
“Hey,” Caroline said as she walked towards them, Grace and Pippa with her and Jan close behind. “Let’s order and then we can talk.”
“What’s this about Caroline,” Juliette said as they ordered their dogs.
“I can bring you up to speed – with Pippa’s permission – later,” Caroline said, “but in essence someone in New York is threatening to expose a secret of the Ashley family, and we need to deal with him.”
“What sort of secret?”
“The truth about how my daughter was conceived – and that’s all I’m saying around here,” Pippa said as she looked round. “A man from my past, called Martin Peverell, is threatening us.”
"Ladies I have an
idea that nobody is probably going to like, but which might be the clearest way
to get rid of Peverell, the threat to Pippa’s family." Caroline looked at
the small group gathered round the hot dog stand.
legal?" Brooke Hatton asked.
Caroline said, “so if you want to leave Brooke we understand."
"No, I believe in
both justice, AND the law, I'll listen."
"Well I can
understand why Judge Hatton is here, if this is a matter of criminal law, but
why am I?" Sigi asked. "I'm a German lawyer who specialises in
commercial law, I know very little about the criminal law, especially that of
"You have another
quality though that could be very useful though Sigi if I understand Caroline's
plan correctly." Juliette nodded as she chewed on her hot dog.
"And what might
"Look I'll cut to
the chase," Caroline broke in. “We know Peverell's intent is both to upset
and worry the Ashley family, and then to probably request a large sum in
blackmail to hush up the secret of Poppy's birth."
"Both my Mother
and aunt would pay him off." Pippa nodded.
"Well like all
blackmailers he'd be back one day for more."
"Just what I said
Caroline." Grace rubbed a bit of bun from her mouth.
effective way to stop a blackmailer, short of murder and I hope no one is
contemplating that." Caroline looked at each woman closely, "Is to
have something far worse to hang onto him then he has on you."
"Well it's not
legal, but I see the justice in it." Brooke nodded.
"Has anyone heard
of a honeypot sting?" Janice asked.
"Not really, but
what do you have in mind?" Grace asked.
"Ladies we know on top of everything Martin Peverell has a taste for girls, particularly young girls." Caroline paused."My plan is that we entrap him in a compromising situation with some jail bait."
Caroline saw the shock
on some faces as she bit into her dog.
"And we aren't
talking about my daughter." Jan spoke, "though she and her friends
will if needed provide window dressing for this..."
"Now I get why I'm
here." Sigi looked upwards, "I'm to be the bait."
"You might say that." Caroline said carefully. “But only if you agree.”
“Tell me more about him...”
As Sigi listened to the others, she began to understand both the fear that Pippa was feeling, and also the reasons why she wanted it kept quiet.
“Okay,” she said
quietly, “I get the picture. If I agree
to do this I need everyone’s solemn promise none of it will ever get back to my
husband, my children, or my family." Sigrid looked at her co-conspirators.
Sigi." Juliette hugged her.
"I will admit
though it will be sort of fun pretending I'm 14 again."
"Well I'll get my
daughter and her friends to set you up with a boy, and it will be a group
date." Jan spoke.
"Gray and I will
make sure we take Martin to the same restaurant." Pippa added.
"And I will have a
crew waiting to take the evidence." Caroline finished.
"How do you know
he will be interested in me?"
"Trust me Sigi," Pippa smiled “you'll be just his type.”
W 67th Street
“I still can’t believe you allowed me to do this for you, Miss Stone,” Nikki said as she sat in the makeup chair, Cassie sitting next to her.
“So, you understand the scene we’re going to do?”
“I think so,” Nikki said as she looked at the actress, wearing a tailored grey jacket and knee length pencil skirt. Her legs were in dark hose, a pair of soft Italian leather pumps with a three inch heel on her feet. A gold and red scarf was tied round her neck as a cravat, while a cat shaped pin was on her lapel. “I’m the younger daughter of the family, and we’re sitting watching television when you come in with the other women.”
“That’s right – I just want you to react to what happens, and when JD and Bobbi start to take you upstairs, you say your line as you look back. Okay?”
“Got it,” Nikki said as the make up artist finished with her. She was wearing a grey v-necked jumper and jogging trousers, with a pair of slipper socks on her feet, her hair pulled back in a pigtail.
“Good – right, for this scene, we really need to do this in one take, so deep breaths and relax, all right?”
Nikki nodded as she walked into the main room of the townhouse. The other actors were already in place. Her older sister was played by a young actress called Holly Bain, while her father was sat on the chair, talking to the director.
“Lia, you ready?”
“I’m here,” Lia Marcol said as she came in, wearing a blue short sleeved blouse and grey slacks.
“All right – places everyone,” Mike called out, “we’re going for a take.”
“Got your directions, kid,” Holly whispered to Nikki as they sat next to each other in front of the television.
“Yeah – I guess I just go with whatever happens, right?”
“Yeah – and be glad you only get these two lines,” Holly whispered as Lia sat in an armchair.
“Okay everyone – places. Roll camera...”
Nikki took a deep breath as the cameraman said “rolling.”
“And – ACTION!”
“All right, girls – it’s bedtime,” Lia said as she looked at Holly and Nikki.
“Aw mom,” Holly said as she stretched her arms up, “Just ten more...”
“Now who could that be,” the father said as he stood up to go to the door, as someone knocked on it again. Opening it, he said, “Yes, what is...”
“Inside, you fucking bastard,” the three women heard a deep female voice said as the husband was pushed back in, the barrel of a shotgun pressed against him by a women dressed in grey, the stocking over her head pressing down the dark hair. Lia, Holly and Nikki stared in that direction as six more women walked in, dressed identically, looking identical, as Cassie stood in front of them.
“Hello, cocksuckers,” she said calmly, “allow me to introduce myself, I am Miss Panther, and we are the Pussycat Gang. Do as we say, and only as we say, are we fucking clear?”
“Mom,” Holly said in a quiet voice as she hugged Nikki, looking at the masked women.
“Girls, Babs,” the father said, “just do as they say please...”
“Listen to the big man, sugahs,” JD said as she walked forward, “you do as we say, and we’ll all have fun, y’hear?”
“Miss Bobcat, Miss Tigress,” Cassandra said as she looked at JD, “take little Carly here upstairs – make sure she gets your full attention.”
As they started to walk up the stairs, Nikki turned and said in a quiet voice, “Mummy, what’s happening?”
“Just go with them,” Lia said as she watched another of the women take skeins of rope from a bag, as Miss Panther said “Right – truss the two sows up.”
“Come on Carly – best you don’t see,” the other girl said as they started to walk up the stairs, Mike waiting until they turned at the top and said “CUT! That’s great – set up for the next scene please.”
“Nikki, you were great,” Cassie said as she came back down, “well done. Ella, take Nikki and make sure she gets something to drink, will you? I’ll be along in a minute.”
“Well done,” Jan said as she went with Nikki, “let’s get you back home...”
West Central Park
“Remind me why I agreed to this,” Sigi said as she sat with Jan and Katy.
“We need to get something to scare Peverell off, and this is the safest, if nastiest way,” Jan said.
you to my friends as my German cousin Baroness." Katy spoke.
"Well you better
get used to calling me Sigi then."
"Where were you
thinking of taking this big date? And who do you have in mind for Sigi?"
"I already had a
word with Erica,” Katy said, “she's willing to lend you Simon for the night, as
long as she gets him back just as he is."
promises." Sigi giggled. "Who knows what I'll need do to maintain my
"If I know Simon
he has far too good manners to try anything Sigi." Jan smiled. "Now
Pippa has promised you access for clothes in her magazines wardrobe, and
whatever you use you can keep with her thanks."
"Ooooh additions to my closet." Katy rubbed her hands.
“My daughter the teenage fashion freak – I need to get you and Kylie together over the holidays,” Jan said as she shook her head. “So we fix this for Saturday night?”
“Okay – can we get together tomorrow with Pippa?”
“I’ll set it up,” Jan said as she stood up. “Now, Katy, you’d better tell her about Shawnee and Lynn...”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“A honey trap? It’s a good first idea but we may need a backup plan.”
“I agree,” Juliette said as she looked at Carina, “but the important thing is to stop Poppy doing something really stupid.”
"You know,” Carina
said, “as a final solution to the Peverell problem Mom, I'm sure that Helen,
Penny, Gale, or even my Aunt would oblige and do the honours. None of them has
a traceable link to him."
"That might raise
some questions as to coincidences among some of our friends Cari darling."
Juliette cuddled Judith as she said, "that really would be a last
remember you do have that option."
"I will darling."
“So, one more week and then the long vacation, looking forward to Christmas Judith?”
“Yes Gramma,” Judith said with a smile.
“Granddad and Aunt Ingy will be here as well.”
Judith beamed and nodded as she heard that.
Friday 11th December
West Central Park
Katy said as she opened the door, "come on in."
"So what's happening," Liz said as she and Shawnee took their coats off.
"I want you to meet someone," she said as they went into the front room. A young girl was sitting there, wearing a white jumper, jeans and short grey boots.
"Girls, meet my German cousin Sigi. Sigi, this is Shawnee and Liz."
"Hello," Sigi said, "nice to meet you both."
“I didn’t know you had a German cousin Katy?”
“I’m kind of a third cousin twice removed,” Sigi said with a smile, “Aunt Jan invited me to stay for a few days, and Katy wanted me to meet some of her friends. So, it is a real pleasure to meet both of you.”
“So what are your planes for your stay?”
“Well,” Katy said, “I wondered if we could take Sigi out tomorrow? Mom is going to book a table, and a friend’s mom has offered to let us have some outfits for the evening.”
“Oh yeah? Who?”
“Wow – High Class indeed,” Shawnee said with a smile. “Well, we’re in. Liz?”
“Hey – for a night on the town, I’m in as well. So tell us about Germany, Sigi...”
The Waldorf Hotel
The tall blonde stepped out of the lift with the desk clerk, looking round with a sense of wonder combined with fear. Her long coat had seen better days, as had the jeans and boots she was wearing.
“Norstar have reserved this suite for you, Miss Clarke,” the young man said as he swiped the card through the lock, and then opened the door. Mary walked in, looking round at the furniture and wondering what she was doing here.
“Sorry – thank you,” she said as she passed the clerk a note, and watched as he closed the door. She stood there for a few minutes, wondering what she should do next.
“Dad, you are never going to believe this,” she said as she walked to the window and looked out, and then heard the knock on the door.
“Come in,” she said, and watched as a maid came in, wearing the black coatdress and white apron.
“Good evening miss – I wondered if you needed anything?”
“No – no I think I’m fine,” Mary said as she looked at the dark haired Latino.
“I can take your bag through to the bedroom Miss,” the chambermaid said as she smiled and offered her hand.
“No – No, I can do it,” Mary stammered as she clasped her bag tight, catching the look in the girls face.
“Whatever you wish…”
“I’m sorry” Mary said as she sat in a chair and looked at her, “I know you are just doing your job. I do exactly the same job in a hotel in San Francisco, and I was just hoping to save you a little bit of work.”
“I wondered,” she said as she looked at Mary. “Forgive me, but this luggage is a little shabbier then we normally see here.”
“Yeah. The concierge at the hotel I work in leant it to me.”
“Miss,” the chambermaid said as she sat down, “if I’m not being too rude, can I ask what ‘one of us’ is doing staying at a suite in this hotel?”
“I’m wondering that myself. Well,” Mary took a deep breath, “a short while back I was turning down the bed of a lady at the hotel. Her name is Missy Auerbach and she’s with Norstar Models. Next thing I know is she’s arranging for me to be photographed, her partner Juliette Huntingdown is visiting and I’m signing a modelling contract.”
“Oh Geez,” the chambermaid held her hand to her mouth. “We know both Miss Auerbach and Miss Huntingdown.”
“So,” Mary said as she sat back, “I’m flown here to New York this weekend to a sit for a couple of photographers so we can add some pictures to ‘my book’ as they call it. Which is why I’m on this side, and still wondering how it happened.”
“Oh Holy Mother…you are so lucky.”
“Well at the moment,” she said with a smile, “I’m still Mary the chambermaid, and as I was trying to say work habits die hard.”
“I’ll let you do your own bag Miss…”
“No just call me Mary.”
“Mary.” The chambermaid smiled and said “if you need anything, you just ring the desk and ask for Carmelita.”
“Thanks – hey, Carmeltia?”
“What do I need to do to get a good burger and some Coke?”
“Leave it with me,” Carmelita said as she smiled again, and left the room, Mary taking off her coat to reveal an old USF sweatshirt.
“I’m going to wake up eventually,” she said as she looked out of the window again, and then went into the bedroom.
Saturday 12th December
The Waldorf Hotel
“Just a minute,” Mary said as she came through from the bedroom, wrapping a towel round her head as she opened the door
“Hello Mary,” Missy said as she looked at her, “May I come in?”
“Of course,” Mary said as she stood to one side. “Sorry, I was going to go and get a coffee and decide how I would spend today.”
“Oh I’ll take you to
get something. So how was your first
ever plane ride Mary?" Missy asked.
Missy said as she sat down, “but nowhere on the scale of checking into this
hotel. Are you sure I shouldn't be staying at a Motel6 Miss Auerbach?"
"For Norstar girls,” Missy said, “we always book the best hotels possible."
"Well I don't feel like a Norstar girl. I feel like a chambermaid just where I shouldn't ever be in the hotel. I keep thinking someone is going to find me, hand me over to the police, and sack me from my job."
“Not this weekend, Mary, not this weekend. Now. have you called home?”
“I did last night – Dad and the kids wished me luck. I also had something to eat in here – which reminds me.”
She picked up the tray on the table and left it outside the door, and then sat back down again.
“Well then,” Missy said, “breakfast. I know a great pancake place nearby – we just need to wait for someone to come.”
“Probably her,” Missy said as there was another knock on the door, and Mary opened it.
“Hello again Mary,” Trina Culver said as she came in, “Ready to eat?”
Mary looked at the heiress, in her designer jumper, jeans, jacket and boots, and Missy in her grey jacket and trousers, before she said “But I don’t have anything like...”
“Please, just get dressed,” Missy said, “let others worry about how you look.”
"So who are we seeing
today Missy?" Trina asked as she sat down.
he's strictly a commercial photographer, but he shot some of Jeans Brewster's
work here in the US, and it won't do either of you any harm having a pic or two
by him to show."
"Will we be there
long?" asked Mary as she came back in, slipping an old cardigan on over
"Probably till late afternoon. I've asked him to try you in various outfits and different makeups. He’s not expecting us until noon, so we’ll eat and then a couple of other things. So, if you’re ready?"
“Hey,” Abby said as she watched Poppy, Erica and Doc come through from the changing rooms. “How’s your week been?”
“Busy – how do the tea party go yesterday,” Doc said as Ally and Nell came out.
“Well, put it this way,” Nell said as she sat at the edge of the pool, “I was glad one Buffy McGeorge was not on the invite list. It made things a lot easier.”
“That’s true,” Abby said, “and with Fi doing the photo shoot with her mother today, I get some me time as well.”
“Where’s the younger generation today anyway?”
“Katy? She and some friends have gone shopping instead.” As Ally slipped into the pool, Letty wheeled Jeannie out, and helped her into the pool.
“A day off – hallelujah,” she said as she floated into the water.
“I keep meaning to ask – when is this fashion show at St Angela’s?”
“Friday – it’s been kept very low key, but I got a sneak peek at the entries,” Abby said, “they are – intriguing.”
“Well, we’re back in Cambridge tonight, then joining you lot at the ski lodges Friday before we come back for the holiday. I for one am looking forward to it.”
“True,” Poppy said, “one more week at school...”
The grey haired man looked through the window of the pool and then made his way to the cafe. Ordering a coffee, he sat and waited. He had a dinner appointment that night, but until then Poppy was his target.
“Thank you for staying out with me,” Ama said to Maisha as they looked over from another table.
“Is that the man who is causing such concern to Poppy?”
“It is – but for now, we watch, and we report back to Mom. She is with Mrs Brand and Pippa Ashley today...”
Near Conde Nast
“That was amazing – thank you Missy. I could have fed my family with that.”
“Well, hopefully you will be able to,” Missy said as Mary looked round.
“Well here we are...”
"Okay is the shoot
to be here?" Trina said as she looked up at the glass sided building.
"No, we are just
dropping in to see a couple of people before we head over to the West
Side." Missy led the way to the elevators as Mary watched people watching
"So who are we
seeing?" asked Mary as they stepped in, and they moved up.
"Well,” Missy said
as she looked at them, “Juliette wants to see you, and I want you to have a
little chat with Mary Thomas the Style Director of CS, as well as Adam Cabot,
the photographer who will be shooting you tomorrow."
"Hi I'm Janine," the assistant smiled as the two new models got out of the elevator on CS's editorial floor.
"I'm Juliette Huntingdown's PA." she said as she shook both girl’s hand. "Can you follow me please?"
"So this is where they write the magazine?" Trina spoke to herself, as Janine led them between the desks to Ju's office.
"This is Alexis by
the way,” she said as they passed the redhead, “she's MY assistant."
"An assistant with
an assistant?" Trina smiled.
"I know, it can get confusing." She knocked on the office door, looked in and said “Ju? Your guests are here.”
"Hey Missy, hello girls." Juliette came out of her room and kissed all three newcomers. "Come along in please, Mary and Adam are already here."
They walked in, Mary looking at the dark haired man with piercing blue eyes, and the short grey haired woman, dressed in a blouse and skirt with an old cardigan on.
"Interesting..." Adam stood up and walked over to look closely at each girl. Mary glanced sideways at Missy, who smiled and said, “it’s all right Mary. He’s just assessing you for the shoot.”
"Well score one point for you both, he didn't hate you both on sight." Mary stood up and extended a hand, "I'm Mary Thomas, or Merlin as some people call me."
"...and I'm also a
"And you are both
exceedingly beautiful girls...” Mary
smiled as she said “You know Missy sometimes your eye is as good as mine."
you?" Adam said as he walked back and asked both girls, "Five
"Well I can
certainly see no problems photographing them Juliette darling."
said, “just remember you are shooting Olivia and Fiona today please."
"As if I could
forget." Adam walked back over and looked closely at Mary's face.
"You know cheekbones this good are so rare."
"You can take that as a compliment Mary," Mary Thomas nodded.
“Well, thank you – I think,” Mary said nervously. Merlin looked closely at her, and said “Ju, why don’t I take these two and get them a coffee, while you sort out the details for tomorrow?”
“Is that all right, Missy?”
“Go, both of you,” Missy said as she watched Mary usher them both out.
“Right, breathe both of you,” Mary said with a smile. “Especially you, Mary – Adam Cabot frightens much tougher people than me.”
“Are all photographers that intense?”
“No – he’s on the extreme end. Come and have a mug of coffee in my cave, and we can talk.”
“Hello girls,” Pippa said as Katy, Liz and Shawnee were shown into her office, Sigi walking in behind them. “Looking forward to the evening?”
“We are,” Katy said, “especially if it helps you out Miss Ashley.”
“Well, we’re glad you could do this for me,” Pippa said as the door opened, and Grace came in. “Mrs Brand here is helping me out today, but I think we should start by looking at all four of you.”
They looked at the girls, Shawnee and Liz in jeans and sweaters, Katy in a pair of leggings tucked into brown Ugg boots and a hoodie, and Sigi in a grey top and pants.
“All right,” Pippa said, “tonight is a very special night, so you need to look your best. Let’s visit the wardrobe.”
“Oh my,” Liz said as they walked between the racks of clothes, “these dresses are amazing.”
“I could spend hours here,” Shawnee said as she looked at a silver mini dress.
“Perhaps I could try this,” Sigi said as she looked at a blue velvet gown.
“All right,” Grace said with a smile, “take one or two through to the changing areas, and then decide which suits you best.”
“And we really get to keep what we pick?”
“Yes,” Pippa said, “I’m going to do a Mary Thomas. Now get going.”
As they went through, Grace said “Caroline and Jan will be along later to explain things. You ready for tonight?”
“Yeah – I made the reservation for me and him tonight in the same restaurant. Brooke will be there with Caroline as well.”
“I just hope this works,” Grace said quietly, “because if he twigs what’s happening...”
“Hopefully we can keep him occupied,” Grace said quietly as a red haired woman came in.
“So where are the girls?”
“Coming out now,” Pippa said as the four girls came back, wearing gowns and smiling.
“We are going to wow them tonight,” Katy said with a smile.
"Right then" Pippa said as she shook her head, "this is Racquel, she's going to advise you on make up for the evening.”
“Come with me please
girls,” the redhead said as she opened the door.
As the girls walked off, Grace looked on. "I'd better get the warning in place for next year already."
"Were we ever like that Gray?"
"Nah we were still somewhat restrained... I mean, boarding school in England in the eighties and nineties? I know it wasn’t Four Marys then, but still...”
“True – we did blossom afterwards though,” Pippa said with a smile. “So how was Olivia?”
“Looking forward to today,” Grace said. “She and Fiona should be starting with Adam right about now...”
“So what do you want us to do, Adam,” Fiona said as she and Olivia came out of the tent. She was wearing a fawn coloured cowl necked top, matching jodhpurs and knee length suede boots, while Olivia was wearing a white blouse over a grey jumper, a knee length grey skirt and black boots.
“Come and stand over here,” Adam said as he escorted them to a spot in front of some bushes, checking the light as Ingrid stood with Juliette and Mary.
“So what are the speakers on poles for?”
“Direction, Ingy,” Mary said, “you’ll see.”
“Right ladies,” Adam said as he picked up his camera, “I want you to look at me, and keep looking at me until you hear some music. The music is going to come from speakers at different times, and when you hear it change direction I want you to look in the direction you hear the music from. Other than that, relax, talk to each other, do what comes naturally. Got it?”
“Got it,” Olivia said as they both looked at him, smiling as he started to take pictures. He then nodded to the technician who was sat to the side, who started to play music from one of the speakers.
As both Fi and Olivia turned and looked in that direction, Adam kept shooting, nodding to get a wind machine started and smiling as their hair flowed behind them.
“Oh this is going to be something special,” Juliette said with a smile...
“Practice makes perfect,” Jan heard Katy say as she sat in Pippa’s office with Grace.
“I just came from the hotel – the room is set up, Caroline is running some tests and then she’ll join us after lunch.”
“You know I have never enjoyed walking in heels this high.” Sigi came in and sat down, took off her shoes, and started to massage her own feet.
“Well they make your legs look amazing Sigi.” Jan spoke encouragingly.
“Oh come on,” Sigi rolled her eyes, “they aren’t bad, but they are hardly in yours or Jeanne’s league.”
“Mom stop it.” Katy said as she came in, “You know how great your legs are.”
“All compliments are gratefully received, especially when I see how stunning you look darling. Moms need a little bit of reassurance at times that we aren’t over the hill.”
“Well I’m even older then you are Jan darling…”
“Yes but you’ll always look just 14 Sigi.”
“Probably, and I’m not sure if that’s a curse or not.”
“Well in this scheme, it’s a virtue.” Katy finished fixing the ankle straps on her shoes.
“How much are we going to tell the other kids before we actually do this?” Sigi looked serious.
“Enough – when Caroline gets here, she’ll talk to both of them to explain some things, but not everything.”
West Side Studios
“That’s good Trina,” Karl Pearson said as he looked at the young Valley girl, who was sitting on a stool, resting her chin on her hand as she looked at him and smiled. She was wearing a blue jumper and skirt, with black pumps.
“Great - off and into the final outfit for now please,” he finally said as the other two watched.
“This is harder then cleaning hotel rooms can be?” Mary said as she sipped from the water bottle that Missy offered her.
“I told you he’s a commercial photographer, he specializes mainly in catalogues and other mass advertising campaigns for the major store chains. When you are doing that kind of photography time is of the essence.”
“I’m glad after he’s finished with Trina that we can both have a break.” Mary sipped further and then asked the question that was preying on her mind. “Miss Auerbach you haven’t said an awful lot, am I doing that badly?”
“It’s Missy remember…and Mary darling you are doing beautifully.’
“I am?” the San Franciscan tilted her head.
“I don’t usually comment till after a shoot is finished, but at the break I’ll show both you girls some of the images.”
“Okay,” Karl said as Trina came in, smoothing down the skirt of her dress.
“Right, look at me and smile,” Karl said as he started again.
Fifteen minutes later, he smiled and said “Okay – lunch break everyone. Make sure those evening dresses are ready for two.”
“Karl, darling, can you set up a slideshow for me,” Missy said as Mary handed Trina a bottle of water.
“This is very different from what I was expecting,” Trina said as she took a drink.
“I know – I’m just scared it isn’t going well...”
“You kidding? You looked great!”
“It’s nice of you to say Miss Culver – sorry, Trina,” Mary said as she saw the look she was getting.
“Okay girls, can you come over here please,” Missy said as she waved them over.
As the two girls walked over, Karl smiled and said “I’ll leave class in session,” going to grab a sandwich.
“Okay Trina – compare these two shots. You see how much stronger your face is in this picture?” Missy asked.
“Now that you’ve explained it to me,” Trina said as she looked over, “it’s pretty obvious.”
“And I can see why you like the position of my legs better in this one.” Mary said as she stared at the screen, looking at herself.
“There’s an awful lot we have to learn isn’t there?” Trina asked.
“Most of it comes with experience, but yes some research never goes for nothing. Young Jeans for example is a great student of poses.” Missy paused. “It also helps to study the work of the photographer you are sitting for. They all have their own preferences and it can help to know what, and what not, to give them. For example, Adam Cabot tomorrow – he seeks a natural look which you get by listening to his suggestions, and he can get upset sometimes when models don’t.”
“The basic idea then is that we enhance what we are wearing?” Mary asked another question.
“It is,” Missy said with a smile, “if the model looks striking, then readers, viewers, the audience - they are more likely to look at or register what the product being sold is.”
“Okay I’m beginning to get that.”
“Remember especially in commercial work Mary, that it’s all about pleasing the customer.”
“Just as in editorial it’s about pleasing the magazine people.”
“Exactly Trina. Right – go and get some lunch and relax. We’re over the hill – honestly.”
“I think it’s quite exciting actually – setting up someone to stop them hurting someone else.” Shawnee looked at the others in the changing room as she sipped her water.
“Still, it’s helping a friend as well,” Katy said as she smoothed down her black strapless dress. “So we get a night out, looking fantastic with our boyfriends, and not having to pay a penny.”
“She’s one scary lady though?”
“Who is Liz?”
“Caroline Jameson. Look at her eyes – she’s someone who knows how to look after herself.”
“She seems nice enough to me,” Sigi said as she adjusted the straps on her red dress, while Liz walked over to the side.
“Okay in these dresses we look easy.” Liz shook her head at her reflection in the mirror.
“Or in other words we look perfect.” Katy grinned.
“Hey I like my date to have to worry if he’s going to have me.” Liz posed. “Shane sees me in this he might just want to skip taking me out to eat and head straight to his bedroom.”
“Just face it we all look like under-age sex goddesses.” Sigi laughed as she zipped Shawnee into a dark green sequined cocktail dress.
“Well can I see girls?” Pippa asked from outside the changing area.
“Just remember we don’t have the really high heels on yet…”
“And that our makeup is wrong.” Liz interrupted Katy.
“Just come out and show me…please.”
“Alright you asked for it.” Sigi giggled as the four girls walked out, Jan and Caroline looking on as well.
“Oh dear God!” the editor’s eyes darted from one to another. “You look…”
“That bad?” asked Liz, suddenly filled with doubt.
“NO!...That GOOD!” Pippa shook her head. “You all look older, more sophisticated…”
“Sexier?” Katy asked in hope.
“You need ask?”
“If you want to back out girls we will understand.” Caroline said as she looked at each face in turn.
“Why would we back out?” Liz asked, “its Sigi has the difficult job, we are really just window dressing.”
“That is true,” Caroline smiled, “and you might also safely guess that Sigi is actually older then she looks.”
“I said just that to Liz.” Shawnee said as she looked up from painting her new long nails.
“Well we want to think he’s committing a criminal offence, not actually doing it.” Jan sat down.
“Otherwise we’d probably be using me as the decoy…Right Mom.”
“I’d have volunteered to do it.” Liz giggled.
“Alright dirty little secrets time, none of you is a virgin…right?” Sigi asked as she looked round.
“Nope,” Shawnee looked at Katy and Liz.
“Damn at least I was slightly older when I did it.”
“Be that as it may Sigi.” Caroline tried to get this back on track. “The important thing is that you get him upstairs to that room, and we get great sound and pictures of young virtue being violated.”
“When are the boys picking us up?”
“You’ll meet them at the restaurant at seven – on which note, Pippa?”
“Time I went home to get ready,” Pippa said, “and girls, I cannot thank you enough for doing this.”
“All right – you have plenty of time to get ready now,” Caroline said.
“Then we need to consider make up,” Sigi said, “come on ladies.”
West Side Studios
“You’ve got a couple of real finds there Missy,” Karl said as his assistants packed the equipment away.
“We think so – you’ll let me have the prints?”
“Hmhm,” Karl said, “and I sent that e-mail Mary asked me to. Whatever you do, don’t lose that freshness, all right?”
“We’ll try not to, and thanks,” Missy said as Karl blew her a kiss, and she shook her head.
“Well it was a long day girls.” Missy looked up a few minutes later as the two models emerged from getting changed, “and you have another session just like this tomorrow.”
“Yuck!” Trina sounded very tired.
“Look dinner at your hotel…on me, and then early nights?”
“That sounds good to me.” Mary yawned. “Who knew sitting round, having your hair done, being made-up, dressed up, posing, and then sitting some more could be so tiring?”
“Tell me about it.” Trina smiled.
“Okay – let’s head out to the car,” Missy said as she led them out, and hailed a cab. As they got in, her cell phone went off and Missy looked at the caller.
“Hello? Yes, she’s here – and as I promised, I am taking very good care of her, Mister Clark.”
Mary looked over with a smile as she said “Hang on, I’ll put her on.”
“Hi Mary – the kids and I just wanted to call and see how you’re doing. We’re not interrupting are we?”
“No Dad – we’re just finished for the day. I feel more tired than when I pull a double shift, but I’ve enjoyed it.”
“You sound tired,” one of her sisters said down the phone.
“I am Suzie, but I see why I needed to do it now.”
“So will you be in the catalogues Mary?”
“Probably not, Missy sees me doing more high fashion and editorial work.”
“Which means what?” her father asked.
“Advertisements and layouts in the type of magazine Mom used to buy when she could afford them.”
“You look SO beautiful in those pictures you e-mailed,” another sibling yelled. “Pop even cried.”
Mary looked over at the other two before she said “you cried Dad?”
“No, I just had some damn fly get in my eye, but yeah you didn’t look too bad kiddo.”
Mary for a second sat back in Missy’s car, and a few tears came down her own cheek. She was so happy that her father was so proud of her.
“Look – you have fun tomorrow, and I’ll see you at the airport Monday lunchtime.”
“Okay – and keep safe all of you.”
“Good luck Mary,” the kids called down the line as Mary handed the phone back.
“I envy you that,” Trina said.
“Envy me what?”
“Family – I’m an only kid, so...”
The de Ros Mansion
“Did you manage to get some shopping done,” Diana said as Abby and Tony came in.
“We did thanks – are they back yet?”
“Ju should be dropping them off – now,” Diana said as Edith opened the door and let Olivia and Fiona in.
“That – was amazing,” Fiona said, “Adam Cabot is a genius.”
“Don’t let him hear you say that, he’ll only believe it more,” Abby said as she hugged Fiona.
“I’m glad it went well,” Tony said with a smile, Fi nodding and smiling in return.
“Dinner will be in an hour,” Edith said from the kitchen door.
“Come on, tell us all about it,” Abby said as she and Tony took Abby to one side, Olivia going into the drawing room with Diana.
“So ready to return home tomorrow,” she said as she handed Olivia a sherry.
“Yes... No... I mean, to do what I did today after so many years, and everything Mary has done for me, and yet...”
“And yet? I know it has been a tiring week, but you seem to have enjoyed it.”
“Well,” Olivia said, “to be honest I’m not sure which is more intimidating, meeting so many old friends, or meeting the mothers of the other debs.” Olivia paused. “So many of my friends have done such interesting things with their lives.”
“And you haven’t darling?” Diana asked.
“Well I’m not a doctor like Sweets, or a dress designer like Bats, or a writer like Ju, or even a very successful investor like you Countess.”
“But you have a wonderful husband who loves you with all his heart. Four amazing children, and at least according to Mandy you are a powerhouse worker for charities in your corner of England. That sounds pretty wonderful to me.”
“Well then,” Olivia said quietly, “why do I always feel that I could have done so much more if not for my damn eyes?”
“Probably,” Diana said quietly, “because you could have, but within the limitations your illness has placed upon you, I still think you have done an awful lot Olivia.”
“Thank you old friend.” Olivia patted the arm of Diana. “It means a lot hearing that from you.”
“What’s more,” Diana said, “Missy dropped these off for you and Fiona.”
“What are they?” Olivia looked at the documents, and then said “but these are...”
“Draft contracts – you need to check they’re allowable in UK law, but I think you’re back, if you want to be Bandit.”
“Simon,” George said as he came in with Shane and Kevin, “thanks for stepping in tonight.”
“Well, how could I refuse when Erica asked,” Simon Lodge said with a smile. “I understand everything is pre-paid?”
“Indeed – and our adult mentors are watching,” Kevin said as he glanced round, “so where are...”
Simon noticed the way he fell silent, and looked round as Shawnee led the quartet of young women in. “Hello,” she said, “fancy meeting you here?”
“We did,” George said as he kissed Katy, “and this must be Sigi. Sigi, I’m George, and this is our friend Simon.”
“Very pleased to meet you,” Simon said as he kissed Sigi’s hand.
“Oh I like this one,” Sigi said with a smile. “So, shall we go to our table?”
“There they are,” Caroline said as she sat at the bar with Brooke.
“My god,” Brooke said quietly, “they look so much older...”
“I asked again if they wanted to back out – none of them did,” Caroline said as she sipped her drink. “Ama told me Peverell was at the Y this morning when the girls went swimming, but he didn’t try to talk to her.”
“Well, it adds to the weight of evidence against him,” Brooke said, “but we’re still not there. Let’s see how the night progresses...”
“Well, the girls are in position, Brooke and Caroline are over there,” Pippa said as she sat with Grace, “what we need now is the main event.”
“Well, you sent the message to his hotel,” Grace said, “I can’t see how he could refuse.”
“Martin Peverell does not strike me as a man who gives up,” Pippa said quietly as she looked to the other table, where the girls and their dates were looking at the menus.
“He doesn’t,” Grace said as she looked up, “he’s here.”
“You look amazing in that dress,” Shane said as he looked at Liz, “where did you get it?”
“Friend of a friend,” Liz said with a smile. Her blue dress had a see through top above the velvet bust, the skirt flowing out from her waist. “We all got new dresses today.”
“I like yours,” George said as he looked at Katy, her sequinned top sparkling in the light.
“Thank you,” Katy said with a smile, “you say the nicest things.”
“So you’re Katy’s German relation, Sigi?”
“That’s right Simon,” Sigi said as she looked at him, “visiting before the holidays.”
“Well, I’m glad we met – if I wasn’t already dating someone, I would have been tempted.”
“She sounds like a lucky girl,” Sigi said with a smile, “but if she is not here tonight?”
“Still,” Simon said as the waiter came over, “I am seeing someone. What shall we eat?”
“Martin – have a seat.”
As he sat down, Martin looked at Grace. “Still acting as the escort, Grace?”
“Not acting – as Dean of Students at St Angela’s, and as a friend of Pippa, I’m here to protect Poppy. And trust me, Martin, I will protect her.”
Smiling, Martin called a waiter over. “A bottle of de Ros ’67,” he said with a smile, “I always prefer to discuss business over a good glass of wine.”
“So this is what this is about – business?”
“We can talk about that over some food,” Martin said with a smile, a smile like that of a tiger.
Pippa shook her head as she looked at the menu. “Fine, let’s order – I don’t want to prolong this any further.”
“Same again ladies?”
“Please,” Brooke said as she looked at Caroline talking in her phone.
“All right George, we’re in play – wait for my signal.”
“My number one – he’s in the hotel room next door, waiting. Brooke, you could walk away now...”
“No – I want to see what happens...”
“This looks almost as good as you,” Kevin said to Shawnee as the appetizers arrived.
“Why thank you, kind sir,” Shawnee said with a smile, “it is very kind of you to say so – and absolutely correct.”
“You know,” Simon said as he looked at Sigi, “I can’t help thinking I’ve seen you somewhere before. Have we met somewhere?”
“I don’t think so, no – although I have been told I do have that sort of face,” Sigi said with a smile as she looked round the room. A few other men were looking in her direction, as Pippa and Grace looked at Martin.
“So,” he said as he put his knife and fork down, “am i going to be allowed to talk to my daughter?”
“No,” Pippa said quietly, “and that is not my decision. That’s hers. When I told her the story of that night, she made her disgust at you much clearer than I could ever manage.”
“She only heard one side.”
“Oh,” Grace said with a smile, “and what would your side be? I didn’t take advantage of your mother when she was both drunk and vulnerable?”
“I remember it as me comforting you,” Martin said with a smile, “and one thing led to another...”
“And Aunt Maggie?”
“Well, that was – unfortunate,” Martin said as he shrugged his shoulders. “Whatever the circumstances, Poppy is my daughter, and you cannot deny it.”
“Is that why you hired someone to break into my apartment and place listening devices?”
Martin stared at Pippa as she opened her handbag, and placed a clear plastic bag with the listening devices in front of him. “You can return them to Dick Spanner when you pay him next.”
“I meant to ask,” Brooke said, “what happened when you talked to the PI?”
“We had a professional chat, and he agreed to stop,” Caroline said, thinking of the way her gloved fists had made the point clear.
“So he dropped the case?”
“I believe so – but he hasn’t talked to his client since then...”
As Martin looked round, he saw Katy and the other girls sitting with the boys, laughing and joking. One of them, a dark haired beauty in a red dress, looked voer at him and smiled as he heard Pippa say “Just what the hell is it you really want Martin?”
“All right,” Martin said as he wiped his mouth and put his napkin down, “I suspect you have two questions in your mind, Philippa – where did the money go, and how did I get into the country?”
“I’ll answer the second for you – you lied, and if I could prove it, I’d have you arrested now.”
“And how did you manage to get a Green Card, Grace,” Martin said as he looked at her.
“Legally – all above board. So, getting to Philippa’s first question?”
“I lost track of where it all went, but that’s not what I want. I told you, I want to have contact with my daughter.”
“And I told you, she doesn’t want to, and I’m not going to force her to.”
“Well, then,” Martin said as he pushed his plate away, “the question becomes, what will it take to make me go away?”
“Excuse me a moment,” Grace said as she stood up. “Nature calls.”
As she walked away, Caroline stood up and followed her to the ladies room.
“I’ll be back in a moment,” Sigi said as she stood up, “don’t do anything I would do, Katy.”
She followed the other two to the ladies room, closing the door and saying “is it working?”
“Well, he can’t take his eyes off all four of you,” Caroline said. “What’s the dinner conversation like?”
“Getting on to the matter at hand,” Grace said as she washed her hands, “it’s looking like blackmail all right.”
“Right then – we need to get you and him together,” Caroline said, “so let’s get back to work.”
“I’ll go first,” Grace said as she went out.
“How are the girls coping?”
“Well so far,” Sigi said as they stepped out, “I’ll get back to...”
“Go, and join them,” Caroline said quietly as she looked in the corner of the lobby, “I’ll be back in a minute.”
As Sigi walked off, Caroline went to where a young girl was sitting.
“Poppy, what are you doing here,” she said as she sat next to him.
“Hey – what happened,” George said as Sigi sat down.
“Oh I got talking to one of the mothers who were in the rest room, she wanted to know if I was old enough,” she said with a smile as she looked at Katy.
“I thought you were a bastard, Peverell, but that is just flat out not going to happen.”
“That is what it will take to get rid of me,” Martin said as he looked at the two women. “Meet those terms, and you will never see me again.” As he spoke, he looked over to where Sigi and the girls were laughing with their escorts.
“He’s looking at you again,” Kevin said as he looked at Shawnee.
“Who – the older guy? Don’t worry about him, he’s not a problem,” Shawnee said as she rubbed her foot up her boyfriend’s leg. He smiled and nodded as she smiled at the other table.
George frowned a little as he took his cell phone out of his pocket.
“Not sure – I’ll go and take this call outside,” he said as he walked out of the restaurant, not noticing the girl and older woman sitting in the lobby.
From outside, Poppy looked into the restaurant as Caroline said “Does your grandmother know you’re here Poppy?”
“No – she thinks I’m at the cinema with Erica. She’s covering for me – I felt I had to be here when I overheard Mom talking to Aunt Grace.”
“I need to have a word with her,” Caroline said quietly as Erica looked in the restaurant.
“You know the closer I look at him the more loathsome he gets Aunt Caroline.” Poppy stared harder at the older man. “What could my Mom, what could my Aunt ever have seen in him?”
“A degree of superficial charm,” Caroline said, “and believe it or not he was once extremely handsome.”
“Well I think he is as ugly as sin.”
“Getting to the point though…what the hell are you doing here?”
“I came to kill him.” Poppy opened her purse to reveal a small but efficient looking pistol.
“Okay,” Caroline said in a tense whisper, “how the fuck did you get that?”
“The same way Anna got hers…illegally, and with no way of tracing it back to me.”
“And I’m telling you the same thing I would tell Anna – it’s a bad idea, and more to the point I cannot let you do that. No matter how much you may despise him, it’s murder Poppy.”
“It’s protecting the family...”
“Look,” Caroline said quietly, “how much has your mother told you of my family history?”
“Some – your mother tied of a drug overdose.”
“That’s right – and the man who gave her the stuff that killed her also threatened me. I wanted to kill him so badly it hurt – but someone else did it. I do know this – no matter how much you may hate him, you need to think about how the rest of your family will feel if you do this.”
“I know, but I cannot let him hurt them again.”
“Poppy, you must leave this to me and others – we’re working right now to make sure he cannot ever hurt you or your family again, but please, leave it to us. Now, give me the...”
She looked up to see Grace standing there.
“Poppy, what are you doing here?”
“She wanted to make you were both safe,” Caroline said, “but she’s heading home – now.”
Poppy looked at both of them, and nodded as she went out of the hotel.
“Pippa’s at boiling point – and did you see George coming out?”
“No – let’s go back in.”
“Sorry about that,” George said as he sat back down, “What did I miss?”
“We were just enjoying the atmosphere of the room,” Katy said as she sat back, crossing her legs as she looked round.
“Do you have to be putting on quite such a show Sigi?” Simon looked bewildered at the way his date was obviously flirting with the whole room, making eyes at any man who looked at her. Particularly one who could not seem to keep his eyes off of Sigi’s gorgeous nylon clad legs.
“Relax, Simon, it’s just a bit of fun,” Sigi said with a smile.
“Gentlemen I think we need a conference,” Simon whispered in George’s ear.
“Agreed,” George nodded as all four young men stood up and headed towards the men’s room.
“Okay girls, when the cats are away, the mice can play.” Shawnee giggled as each girl became even more overt in showing every man in the room just what she had to offer.
Looking at the four girls sitting there, Martin Peverell sized them up. Despite the way they looked, the way they dressed, he could see how young they really were. One thing about a life at Her Majesty’s Pleasure – you can learn so much from your fellow inmates.
It was the dark haired, laughing one that fascinated him the most. She seemed more mature than the other three – even the blonde in the blur dress. Obviously their leader – and he suspected the one who was the one to talk to.
Of course they were selling themselves – the little boys with them probably had their rich daddies pay for them, to prove their manhood. It’s amazing what you can find at the right contacts these days.
Looking at them, he began to wonder if he could get them back to his room. He’d just about got Pippa to her boiling point, and he calculated she would storm out soon.
Leaving him to pursue his reward for the night’s work...
themselves made life so much easier, you knew from the start everything was
just about setting the right price. So much easier then taking a girl out for
an expensive dinner and then having her slap your face if you tried anything.
No, Martin thought to
himself, these girls might be only 16 or 17, but yeah they knew their business,
all four at once in his suite could be the most fun he'd had since he got out
of prison...especially with that white powder he had safely stored in his room
to help lower even further inhibitions.
Yeah underage prostitutes and good cocaine, this might be a night to remember before he started to squeeze the Ashley family really hard.
As she watched the scene, Brooke found her mind drifting back to that time and place she always fought to keep buried. Her father had been a Justice on the New York State Supreme Court, as had been his best friend who Brooke had always been taught to call Uncle Frank.
Uncle Frank and her father had been a solidly liberal and progressive pair of justices, so closely aligned that they were sometimes referred to as “the twins’. Whatever he was in his public life, and in the image he presented to the rest of the world, Uncle Frank though was also a secret pervert, who got his kicks having very rough sex with extremely young girls…just like Brooke had been.
And as she looked at Peverell, she saw the same look in his eyes as he stared at the four girls. It took all her self control not to go up and slap him – but she managed.
“What kept you?”
“Poppy was outside – I had to get her out of here. What’s happened?”
“If he’s going to make his move, it has to be soon.”
“We’re done here,” Pippa said as she stood up and left some money on the table, “go to hell.”
Grace stood up and watched as Pippa collected her coat from the back of the chair. Glancing over at Brooke and Caroline, she followed Pippa out as Sigi stood up and sat next to Martin.
“You’ve been looking our way all night,” she said as she looked at the older man, “now why is that?”
“Well, I think you and your friends look quite lovely,” Martin said with a smile. “How old are you – really?”
“You will notice we stuck to soft drinks all night,” Sigi said with a smile. “Why do you ask?”
“Interest,” Martin said with a smile. “Tell me, are your – escorts with you for the night?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Would you and your friends possible be interested in a party?”
“Well, I do have a room booked here...”
“Hold that thought,” he said with a smile as he got up, “I’ll be right back.”
“George,” Simon said as the boys stood in the rest room, “just how old is Sigi?”
“Honestly? Simon, she is older than the other girls, but...”
The conversation was interrupted as the door opened, and Martin Peverell walked in, looking at the four of them before he made his way into a stall.
“Guys,” Simon said quietly, “leave the room. I’ll be out in a few minutes.”
“You sure,” George said as he looked at him.
Simon merely nodded as the other three boys stepped out.
“George, what are you not telling us?”
“I know there’s no Santa Claus?”
As Martin stepped out, he saw Simon standing there, watching with his arms folded.
“Something i can do for you son,” he said as he went to the basin and washed his hands.
“Yeah,” Simon said quietly, “you can stop looking at my date as if she’s a piece of meat for your pleasure.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You heard me,” Simon said as he unfolded his arms, “stop ogling my girl.”
“Well, now,” Martin said as he picked up a hand towel and started to dry his hands, “I’m afraid that might be a problem. You see she’s about to trade up.”
“How dare you,” Simon growled as he grabbed Peverell’s shoulder, and turned him round – only to gasp suddenly and double over as he felt the older man’s fist in his stomach.
“You stupid little shit,” Peverell whispered as he kicked Simon between his legs, “you need to recognise when you’re out of your league, and you are way out of your league. Now, are you going to be a good boy and stay down.”
“Go to hell,” Simon said as he rushed the older man, pushing him against the washbasins and kneeing him in the groin as well, before he fell to a punch to the side of his face.
“You asked for it,” Peverell said as he kept kicking Simon, “you stupid little idiot...”
“Well, there he is,” Caroline whispered as Martin Peverell came back and walked over to where Sigi was sitting with the girls.
“Where have the boys got to,” Brooke whispered to Caroline.
“I don’t know – watch them,” Caroline said as she walked to the lobby, almost bumping into George as he came back in with Kevin and Shane.
“Caroline, we can’t find Simon – we left him in the washroom with Peverell, and haven’t seen him since.”
“Hell,” Caroline said as she took her cell phone out. “George, I need you in the lobby now.”
Two minutes later, George came down the stairs, looking at Caroline and the boys. “What’s the problem?”
“Check the washroom – I think Simon’s in trouble.”
“You boys stay here,” George said as he went in, and looked round the empty room. Walking to the stalls, he opened the first two, before looking in the third one.
“Oh shit, kid,” he said as he helped Simon to stand up, “What happened?”
Brooke watched as Peverell talked to all four of the girls, before Sigi took his arm and walked out. It was as the other three followed them to the other exit that she stood up and walked over to the table.
“Brooke – we have a problem?”
“No kidding – all four of them just went with Peverell and left the hotel.”
“Fuck,” Caroline said, “we just found Simon in the washroom, beaten up. I’m going to have to explain that one to his parents.”
“Any idea where they may have gone?”
“I hope it’s his hotel – but much as I wish he hadn’t done this, I thought he might.”
Taking out her cell phone, she dialled a number. “Susan? It went south – track and let me know where they go.”
“Susan? Who has the tracer on them?”
“No comment. Let’s tend to Simon.”
From her seat outside the hotel, Poppy watched the girls get into a car with her father. Holding her hand out, she got into the first cab that stopped.
“Where to, lady?”
“Believe it or not,” she said as the other cab moved off, “follow that car.”
“Never thought I would hear that said to me,” the cab driver said as they moved off.
“We’ll look after him,” George said as he looked at Caroline and Brooke, “get after the girls.”
“You three boys stay with him - I’ll let you know what happens,” Caroline said as Simon looked up. “Are you going to be all right?”
“Had worse times on the lacrosse field,” Simon said.
“He’ll be all right – go.”
“Gone,” Caroline said as she and Brooke made their way to the car park.
“Heading back to his hotel boss.”
“Keep tracking and listening – I’ll let you know when I get there,” Caroline said as she started the engine, and they moved off.
“You okay Brooke?”
“Hmm – sorry Caroline, what are you saying?”
“Brooke, are you all right? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this intense.”
“You’ve never seen me in Family Court on a difficult case. No,” she said with a smile, “I’m fine, but I’ll be happier when we get the girls out of there.”
“He offered $3000 to spend the night with all four of us – and you accepted?”
Katy hissed this out as the four girls sat in the back of the car, as Sigi nodded and said “Yeah – it was the only way we could make sure he went with me.”
“Okay, let’s not panic.” Sigi whispered as the four girls sat in the back of the car. “I’m sure Caroline and the others had a backup plan if the action switched elsewhere.”
“I hope they did.” Liz looked at Peverell checking them out in the driving mirror and shivered.
“Look we have a huge advantage,” Katy spoke softly, “there are four of us and only one of him.”
“Plus as professionals that he is paying, he will expect us to take the lead in the nights activities.”
“You say that almost as though you have experience Sigi.” Shawnee giggled.
“Let’s just say I know we have to keep him occupied till Caroline and her surveillance crew catch up.”
“So we play at being hookers?”
“Yes we do Katy.” Sigrid closed her eyes and prayed. “We do as little as we can to preserve our cover and still maintain some virtue.”
“Not going to be easy.” Liz smiled back as she caught Peverell checking her out in the mirror.
“You girls all right back there?”
“Oh don’t worry – we’re just discussing what we can do for you,” Sigi said for a smile as Katy looked at Shawnee.
“Hey – relax,” she whispered as she took her hand, “we’ll be all right.”
4th Avenue, the Ashley apartment
As Amelia Ashley flipped through a magazine, Pippa picked up her telephone and dialled a number.
“Denise? It’s Pippa here. Can I talk to Poppy please? I just want to know when she’s planning to head back.”
As Amelia looked up, she saw her daughter go pale as she looked over.
“You’re sure? All right then, sorry to have bothered you Denise, I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Fuck!” Philippa spoke as she looked at her phone…”FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!”
“Language darling,” Amelia said quietly, “I know that neither me nor Wycombe Abbey brought you up to swear like that.”
“It’s Poppy, I just phoned to see how she was and she isn’t there…”
Putting the magazine down, Amelia looked at her daughter as she slowly stood up. “You mean?”
“Yes I damn well do mean mother, the little bitch lied to us.”
“Now why would she do that?”
“Oh come on Mother…Use your brains…” Running her hand through her hair, she said “She’s out there trying to do something about Martin all on her own.”
“FUCKIN’ CRAP!” the words slipped out of Lady Ashley’s voice with a strong Leeds accent.
“Eeee Mother you don’t sound like a lady now.” Pippa couldn’t resist the crack, even under the circumstances.
“I just hope she hasn’t got something stupid in mind.” Philippa returned to the main topic in hand.
“What can we do?”
“Phone Caroline, find out what’s happening.”
Pressing a button in her car, Caroline said out loud “this is Caroline Jameson.”
“Caroline, it’s Pippa. Have you seen Poppy tonight?”
Looking over at Brooke, Caroline whispered “Damn” and then replied “she followed you to the Altama. I told her to get into a cab and go home – is this where you tell me she’s not there?”
“Damn right she didn’t come back. Where is Peverell?”
“En route to his hotel with the girls.”
“Calm down Pippa – Brooke and I are following, and we will make sure the girls come to no harm. Please, trust me on this.”
“I’m coming over.”
The line went dead as Caroline cursed. “Poppy Ashley, you and I need to have a talk...”
“He’s not going to ruin another life,” Brooke said as they approached the hotel.
“Brooke is there something you’d like to share with me?”
“Did you ever think why with my ranking on graduation from Harvard Law, my having been on the Harvard Law Review, etc, I never opted for a safe, secure life as a corporate lawyer on Wall Street, but instead opted to specialize in Family Law?”
“I did it because I was a victim of a sexual predator myself, and I have made it my lifetimes work to protect the rights and innocence of the young.”
“Is that why you are a lesbian, if I can ask bluntly?”
“Yes…because his hands being all over me like that, I vowed no man would ever make me feel cheap and dirty again.”
“I’m aware there are others like Heather who were in just the same position yes.” Brooke nodded. “This is how I deal with it.”
The four girls came out of the lift and walked behind Peverell as he went to the reception desk.
“Just remember he thinks we are sexy girls out for a good time.” Katy smiled as she sashayed her way through the hotel lobby.
“He certainly thinks you are a whole lot older then just 13.” Sigi whispered. “So remember to act as mature as you look?”
“Does that mean we take drinks if he offers?”
“Yes it does Liz.” Sigi nodded, suddenly feeling very much like a mother hen.
“So do all the things that would horrify both your nannies, and your parents.” Katy giggled.
“So, shall we go to my room,” Martin said as he smiled, showing them the lift. As they stepped in, Poppy Ashley came in the front door, taking a seat at the side and waiting.
"That lass of
yours Philippa has far too much of my brother Jim about her." Lady Ashley
shook her head as she grabbed her coat.
"I know, Uncle Jim
had many faults, and recklessness was the major one."
"Devotion to his
family was one of his qualities though. Did you ever hear of the beating-up he
arranged for Martin in prison?"
smiled as she grabbed a coat.
"Yes a couple of those rough mates of his knew a couple of men who were inside. A message got firmly delivered that you didn't mess with Jim's sister or niece."
“I miss him you know.”
“So does Maggie at times,” Amelia said with a smile, “but right now, we need to find and stop Poppy. Where’s he staying?”
“Come in girls,” he said as he held the door open for them, “make yourselves at home.”
As they walked in, Martin loosened his tie and smiled. This was going to be a very special evening.
"Darling I hate to
sound impatient, but before we do anything, there's the little matter of our
money?" Sigi smiled.
apiece." Martin pulled the cash from his wallet and counted the notes into
each girl’s hand. "Can I ask what the boys were paying..."
"Not really any of
your business lover," Katy said as she made a play of taking her coat off,
lifting up her skirt as she sat on the edge of the bed. "Let's just say
their daddy's will expect us to give them a freebie next time."
"Can I offer you
stronger then we were being served while with those children I hope?"
Shawnee smiled as well.
"Oh I think I can arrange that babe." Walking to a cabinet, he took out a bottle of champagne and some glasses. He looked at the quartet, their long nails red as blood, and imagined them stroking down his chest, his back, his legs...
“Here we go,” he said as he opened the bottle and poured champagne into four glasses. “Let’s start this party, hmm?”
“Why not,” Katy said as she walked over, and stroked the palm of her hand down her cheek. “So, what can we do for you, sir?”
“Well now,” Martin said as he sipped his champagne, “how would you start?”
“Why don’t we have some music on,” Liz said as she turned on a music centre, and started dancing.
“Good idea,” Sigi said as she walked over to Martin, “want to dance with me, big boy?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” Martin said as he took her arms, Shawnee and Katy dancing together as Liz moved around the room, sipping on her champagne.
He smiled as Sigi stroked down his back, and then placed her hands on his bottom, gently squeezing as he sighed. “You’re stronger than you look,” she purred.
“I work out – and I party hard,” Martin said with a smile as he put his hands on Sigi’s bottom, and then leaned over, kissing her neck.
"Darling he thinks
we are whores, we had better start behaving like them..." Shawnee smiled
reassuringly at Liz.
"Yes but for how
long?" Liz interrupted.
"Till the cavalry
arrives I suppose."
"Damn I hope
that's soon." Liz knocked back her glass of champagne.
dear?" Peverell asked.
"I don't mind if I do." Liz smiled at him as he refilled her glass.
“I will as well,” Shawnee said as she held her glass out, while Katy and Sigi looked over.
“Kiss me,” Katy whispered into Shawnee’s ear, the young girl nodding as they gently locked lips.
“I have something to make this party really go with a bang,” Martin said, “wait there.”
“How do we find out his room,” Brooke said as she and Caroline walked quickly into the hotel lobby.
“Susan,” Caroline said into her cell phone, “exact location please.
“Room 421 – many thanks.”
Poppy looked over from where she was sitting, listening to what was been said. Now she knew his room – but she also knew the girls had to be got out first.
They could not see.
“Here we go,” Martin said as he came back in, holding a pouch with white powder.
cocaine." Sigi whispered in shock. "Have any of you?"
"I've never even
puffed a cigarette." Shawnee looked shocked...You?"
"Nope." Sigi shook her head, then glanced at her watch. "Where the hell was Caroline?"
“Problem, ladies,” Martin said as he tipped some of the white powder onto the table top, and used a card to make three lines.
“No – just none of us are users,” Sigi said. “We find we are better with our heads and our bodies clear, isn’t that right girls?”
The other three nodded as Martin smiled. “Your loss,” he said as he took a thin tube, and snorted one line up his nose, and a second one up the other nostril.
“We’re going to the toilet,” Katy said as she looked at Sigi, “watch your backs.”
As they went off, Martin raised his head. “Ah,” he said as he looked at Liz and Shawnee, “that’s so much better. Are you sure you don’t want to try it?”
“Go on then,” Liz said as she knelt at the table, “I’ll try a little. What about you darling?”
Shawnee nervously knelt down as he handed them both a tube, and they copied what he did, looking at each other as they suddenly felt their minds go fuzzy.
“Now, who wants to strip first...”
Liz reached behind her back and unfastened her dress, letting it fall to the floor as Shawnee copied her, and they sat either side of him, kissing his neck as they stroked their mails down his chest.
“I see you started without us,” Sigi said as she and Katy came back in.
“Don’t worry – you can join in...”
“Time,” Poppy said as she headed for the lift, stepping as the doors closed behind her and her mother and grandmother came in.
“Martin Peverell,” Lady Ashley said as she came in, “which room?”
The desk clerk looked at the terminal, and said “Room 421, why?”
“Thanks,” Pippa said as she walked to the lifts, Amelia following her.
“Oh come on,” Martin said as he walked over and grabbed Katy, looking at her, “I know you want it.”
“Now, sir,” Sigi said as she placed her hand on his arm, “perhaps you would prefer someone more – experienced?”
“Oh all of you will have your turn,” Martin said with a grin, one that made both Liz and Shawnee giggle while Sigi looked at them. She saw the shortened lines, and said a silent curse as she turned to look at Peverell and Katy.
“You’re hurting me, sir,” Katy said, knowing she could not show the others what she knew.
The banging on the room door made Martin look round as Sigi ran over and opened it. “Oh thank god,” she said as Caroline and Brooke came in.
“Let go of that minor,” Brooke growled as she looked at Martin.
“Thirteen – they all are,” Caroline said as she grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back. “Brooke, get the girls out of here.”
“My pleasure,” she said as she ushered the four girls out, Liz and Shawnee grabbing their dresses and waving at the man.
“What the hell happened in there,” Brooke whispered into Sigi’s ear.
“You arrived not a moment too soon – let them get their dresses on and we can go down.”
“Now then, Martin,” Caroline whispered as she produced a stiletto and pressed it to his neck, “you and I need to have a little chat.”
“Who the hell... I saw you in the hotel restaurant. What is this, a sting?”
“Hardly, Martin,” Caroline whispered, “this is your first, last and only warning.”
“Who are you?”
“You might have heard my name whispered while you were inside Martin.” Caroline stood behind him, her knife to his throat as she pulled his arm further up his back. “They call me Dominique…”
“Who…Oh Fuck!” It suddenly came to Martin’s brain - he had heard that name whispered with reverence amongst his fellow inmates. The enforcer of one of the biggest crime bosses, and a known killer.
“From that I can safely take it you know both who I am, and what I do.” Caroline chuckled evilly. “And you know I have a particular dislike of sleazebags who use to drugs to help them have girls.”
“Look, can we talk about this...”
“No, you can listen. You have twenty four hours to leave the country, and never return or bother any of the Ashley family again.”
“Or I forget my promise to be nice. I’ll be watching you Martin – do, please, disappoint me. I would so love to chastise you.”
As the lift doors opened, Lady Ashley and Pippa were surprised to see Brooke come out with the girls.
“Oh thank god – what happened to these two,” Pippa said as she looked at Liz and Shawnee.
“Long story – and not now.”
“Have you seen Poppy?”
“No – has she come here?”
“We think so – where’s Caroline?”
“Talking to Peverell – look – one of you stay here, the other come back up with me.”
“I’m coming with you,” Pippa said as she went back in with Brooke, Lady Ashley taking the girls over to a set of couches. “Wait there,” she said as she went to the stairs.
“Thank god they turned up in time,” Liz said as she slumped into a chair. “Next time, let’s double date at the movies, agreed?”
Martin watched Caroline as she left the room, rubbing his neck. He was frightened now, and wondered if he should not get out now.
He was also three thousand dollars down, but he had twenty four hours – enough time to get his revenge on the Ashley bitches.
The knock on the door made him turn and walk over, opening it and saying “oh – this is unexpected. Come in, what can I...”
He heard the soft pop, and looked down at his chest, before he dropped to his knees, his mouth making a small O before he fell to his side.
“Mom – what are you doing here?”
“Looking for you,” Pippa said as she walked over, “what are you doing here?”
“Looking for him.”
“He’s not worth it,” Pippa said as she hugged her daughter, “come on. Let’s get you home.”
“Where’s Brooke,” Caroline said as she joined the girls in the lobby.
“She followed you up... No, there she is now.”
“We must have crossed in the lifts,” Brooke said as she came over, and Lady Ashley stepped out of the lift.
“What are you girls doing here – Sigi?”
“All right,” Caroline said as Pippa walked over with Poppy and looked at her. “Back to Pippa’s house, and then I’ll run the girls home. I think we got what we wanted.”
The de Ros Mansion
As she came into the bedroom, Abby could see Fiona was upset about something, as she sat on the bed, her knees under her chin, looking at her.
“Okay, what’s wrong,” she said as she sat next to her.
“Nothing... Everything... I just missed you today, knowing you were with – him...”
“Him? My boyfriend?”
Fiona nodded as she looked at Abby.
“Are you jealous of Tony Fi?”
“Yeah then I’ll admit I’m as jealous as hell Abs. For nearly a week I’ve shared your bed and your love, and now he comes along and its like I’m booted aside.”
“Fiona you knew all along that he was my boyfriend and that I love him.”
“Yes,” Fiona said, “but I’ve also heard you whisper those same words of love in my ear, darling.”
“Stop it Fi, you knew this was only an affair.”
“Is that all I am to you Abigail? Just an affair to keep yourself amused while Tony is away?”
“No…Yes…NO…Look Fi I’m sexually drawn both ways, I want you in my life, but you have to accept Tony is the man I love.”
“And what if I don’t accept that?”
“Meaning what?” Abby narrowed her eyes as she looked at her.
“Meaning what would you do if I told him precisely what we have been doing?”
“Other then losing all love and respect I have for you Fi?”
“I’d probably end up hurting you pretty badly.”
“Don’t you realize how much you are hurting me Abby?” Fiona looked into the taller woman’s eyes.
“Look, I know it’s not easy, but honestly you knew the situation going into this Fi…”
“Well I didn’t count on my falling for you so hard.” The Englishwoman pouted. “I’ve fallen head over heels in love with you Abigail de Ros.”
“Shit!” Abby looked upwards, “Is this going to get VERY messy!”
“It need not, if...”
“Fi, we’re both tired – let’s just get to sleep. You have a long flight back tomorrow, and need all the sleep you can get.”
As she turned the light off, however, Abby lay with her eyes open. Cari had warned her of what might happen – and now she might need her help after all...
Sunday 13th December
West Central Park
“Good morning,” Jan said as Katy walked into the kitchen, wearing an old t-shirt and joggers. “How are you feeling this morning?”
“Relieved – it could have gone south very quickly last night, but Sigi really held it together.”
“Well, hopefully that is the last we will hear of Martin Peverell,” Jan said as she put a plate of pancakes down in front of her daughter.
“There was one thing – Poppy turned up. I don’t know why, but she did.”
“Oh,” Jan said quietly, “does Pippa know?”
“Yeah – I think there may be a discussion at chez Thomas this morning on the subject.”
Mary Thomas’ Apartment
“I’ll get it,” Mary said as she walked to her door, opening it to find Pippa and Poppy standing outside.
“Ai, I expected you two would be dropping by,” she said as she stood back and let them in. “We’re just having some breakfast – will you join us?”
“We’ve already eaten, but I wouldn’t say no to some coffee,” Pippa said as they took their coats off, and came into the kitchen. Erica looked up from her stool and said “ah – hi Poppy.”
“Hey – Mom wants to talk to your mom, but I’m sorry if i dropped you in it,” Poppy said quietly.
“I don’t think dropped her in it is quite the right word,” Denise said as she appeared from her bedroom, “but if you’re going to cover for someone, it helps if you answer the phone first.”
“I brought my darling daughter round to apologise for any trouble she may have caused,” Pippa said as she took a mug of coffee from Mary.
“I am sorry, Mrs Burton, Miss Thomas,” Poppy said as she stood with her eyes down, “it won’t happen again.”
“Look, I’m not angry,” Denise said, “it’s not like I didn’t cover for a few girlfriends in my time, but can you tell us why?”
“I just needed to go and see someone – and now that’s done, it won’t happen again,” Poppy said with a smile.
“Right – now that’s settled, young Miss Ashley, why don’t you, me and Denise go and talk in the front room.”
As the older woman walked off, Erica whispered “did you find him?”
“Yeah – I found him.”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Hey,” Juliette said as Sigi came in, wearing a blouse and slacks, “recovered from last night?”
“Just about – it got very close there, but Caroline and Brooke managed to follow us, and the girls got out all right. I think my teenage years can stay way back in the past again now.”
“Here,” Juliette said as she passed Sigi a mug of coffee, “and thanks for doing that. I think he might get the message now.”
“Adam,” Juliette said as Ingrid came in “he might just remember to get the message about the girls today.”
“That’s why I’m going to remind him they’re just human beings,” she said as she grabbed a pastry, and headed for the door, “wish me luck.”
“Good luck,” Sigi said as she watched her niece run out. “So, want to go shopping today?”
“Sounds like you made it just in time,” Annie said as she handed Dom a mug of coffee, while Ama was working on her English assignment.
“I think so – a minute more and I may have really gone to town on him, if he’d made them snort that powder. I think Jan would have been next in line after me, and Brooke...”
“Judge Hatton? What about her?”
“Nothing you need to worry about,” Dom said as she drank from her cup, looking at the telephone as Ama went to answer it.
“Oh, good morning Mrs Brand. Do you need to talk to Annie or Caroline?”
As they looked at Ama, Caroline could tell something was wrong as she said “Mom, you need to turn the television on, Channel 7.”
“ABC? What’s going on,” Annie said as Dom turned on the television, and she recognised the hotel they had visited the previous night.
“Police are not releasing any details, but we understand a cleaner discovered the body about half an hour ago. Although he has not been formally identified, the hotel confirms the room was occupied by Martin Peverell, a visitor to the city from...”
Annie and Ama looked at Dom, as she said “let me speak to Grace Ama.
“Grace? I’ve just seen it. Any idea where Pippa is?
“Okay – if she’s not at home, I can guess where she might be. Do you know where her mother is staying?
“Good – find her, and then call me. I need to see what I can find out, and call a few people. Talk to you later.”
Ending the call, Dom looked at the other two. “Annie, can you call Juliette, tell her to tune in. Ama – call Doc, tell her I need to come here this afternoon.”
“Where will you be Mom,” Ama asked.
“Finding Pippa and Poppy. If Shirley calls, tell her I’ll call her when I know more.”