Learning From the Others – part 2
Wednesday 29th July
“Good morning,” Nessa said as she came into the kitchen, to find Jo having her breakfast.
“Hey – coffee in the pot if you want some.”
“Thanks,” the older woman said as she poured a cup. She turned and looked at Jo, her blonde hair back in a ponytail as she was reading a book.
“When do you and Caroline do that Oddwear’s shoot with John Hammond?”
“Next week Nessa. We are going to drive to Maine from here each day and shoot on the locations John has scouted out.”
“Well I have always worn their things, ever since I was a child.”
“I guessed that, having seen you in the countryside.”
Nessa smiled as she drank her coffee. “They make sensible, everyday clothing that’s right for outdoors… I actually have been boasting to some of my friends that I know two of the models who will be in the next catalog.”
“Well I just hope it looks good…” She closed the book and looked up, before saying “to be honest Nessa I’m still not sure what people see in me as a model.”
“That is easy Jo,” Nessa patted the young woman’s hand, “health, vitality, and a rare kind of natural beauty.”
“So everyone says, but I guess I’m the last person who will ever see it.” Jo shrugged.
“Always the way – the person who it is never really knows.”
The Huntingdown Apartment
Grace Gresham sat at the coffee table, her blouse hanging loosely as she turned the pages.
“Hmmm,” she nodded as Juliette sat down.
“Eve Stone phoned me last night Pelican.” Grace looked up from the pictures she was inspecting. “She wants to hit the stores and update her wardrobe as she puts it.”
“Dublin’s not that much of a fashion backwater.” Juliette looked up from what she was reading.
“It’s a year behind New York though.”
“True,” Juliette said, “and Eve did always adore being a style leader.”
Grace sat back. “I know Stephen and Eve, and I remember Cassie as a little girl, but what are her husband and kids like?”
“Rick is devoted to her totally, and it helps that being a scriptwriter he can be at home while she’s away filming. Stevie, her oldest is a nice boy, he’d be getting on for 13 now…”
“That makes me feel so old having known his mother when she was that age.” Grace shook her head.
“Capricorn she’s 10, and I’m her godmother, while Leonora is 8 and Diana is hers.”
“Long story – ask her about it.”
“Anyone in here,” Anna said as she walked into Merlin’s Cave.
“Keep going,” she heard Kylie say in her slow drawl, “you’ll find me eventually.”
She made her way through, smiling as she saw her friend in her shorts and t-shirt.
“Hey.” Doc smiled as she approached Kylie, the young blonde hanging outfits in the back of the CS wardrobe.
“Hey to you too darling…” She hung the last dress up and said “How was the weekend away Kitten?”
“I’m sure one day my ears will recover.” Anna smiled.
“Helen does love bangs for sure,” Kylie giggled, “did you know she makes her own fireworks?”
“So she was telling me.”
“They are quite spectacular. Anyway, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company darling?”
“Well a couple of things. First and most importantly, I have an invite to deliver from Ama to a sleepover at her place…She hopes you can make it?”
“Sure, that sounds fun.”
“The second.” Doc dropped her voice to a whisper. “Madame wants to see us both privately this afternoon.”
“Are we in trouble?”
“She says not, she says it is work related though.”
“Hmmm sounds interesting.” Kylie played with her glasses. “What time?”
“Two – you done by then?”
“Today I am, darling, today I am.”
“Hey you two,” Susan said as Pamela showed them in “thanks for coming in at short notice.”
“Any idea what she wants to see us for,” Doc said as she looked at Susan.
“Nope – this is a personal project. Come on – I’ll take you in.”
She took them down the corridor and opened a door, saying “go on in.”
“Hello Madame,” both girls spoke respectfully as they were ushered into the conference room to join George, Clint, and Shirley.
“I’m sorry to have pulled you away from your vacation girls, but there is a certain delicate matter I wish to discuss with you and these gentlemen.”
“That’s alright Madame,” Kylie answered.
“It has been pointed out to me by someone that something important is missing from my resume.” Shirley looked serious as she cleaned her glasses.
“I find that very hard to believe, Madame.”
“Dominique has brought it to my attention that, in an organization that is adding teams specifically designed to handle violent armed robberies, I alone among senior management remain a non-killer.”
“And why is that a problem?” George asked, “Neither am I.”
“She pointed out, I suppose correctly, that if I’m going to give orders to others to kill, that I should have had that experience myself.”
“It’s a point I suppose.” George nodded. “Even so, I debate why you feel it necessary to actually do it.”
“George,” Shirley said quietly, “I want you to find a bank, nothing too big, nothing too difficult, that me you and the girls can take.”
“You WHAT Madame?”
“I believe you heard me George,” Madame’s voice became suddenly icy cold. “Find us a bank to rob please.”
“Yes Madame.” George looked stunned.
“I presume you want me to drive Madame?”
“Please Clint…and what about you girls?”
“We do as we are told Madame,” Kylie smiled.
“It will be an honour and a pleasure to work with you.” Anna nodded.
“Good – I will be in touch when the arrangements are in place.” Shirley looked at George and said “I know this is not what you want to do, George, but I promise you, the role you play will not compromise your morals.”
“Still, Madame – my rep was based on no real violence, only the implied variety.”
“And that need not change – trust me on this please.”
George nodded as he looked at Clint, the other man shrugging his shoulders as he stood up.
Thursday 30th July
“Come,” Shirley said as she heard the knock on the door, and looked up to see George come in, looking nervously round.
"Alright George what news do you have for me?" Madame sat behind her desk as George stood in front.
"Well, something I'd looked at before looks viable Madame."
me please," Shirley gestured for George to sit.
branch of the Garden State Central Bank in Princeton New Jersey. It’s near a
large park off state road, nice and quiet – but crucially on Fridays they hold
the cash that will be distributed to the automatics tellers at all that bank’s
that does sound interesting," Shirley said as she played with her glasses.
"Tell me more please?"
guard at the door, he's an older guy looking forward to his pension. Vault door
is kept closed, but the manager can unlock it, so the tellers have access
all the time."
15 in all, plus customers...even if an alarm gets triggered I worked out you
get maybe 8 minutes grace before the local PD can get there."
sounds ideal George, though that many staff, we need to herd them together in
order that just one guard can watch them."
thought it might, so shall we say in two or three weeks..."
"No - we
take it tomorrow."
"But Madame..." George looked appalled at the suggestion. “We need to recon again, ensure my information is up to date, make contingency…”
"Susan," Madame flipped a switch on her desk and spoke, "Can you get the girls to come in, say in about an hour’s time, also ask Clint please, and can you bring in the details on that person I asked you about?"
She looked over at George and said “Don’t worry – I am sure your information is accurate and up to date. Meet me in the conference room in an hour.”
“All right, Madame,” George said as he stood up, and left the office, meeting Susan outside with a manila file in her hand.
“Susan, what’s got into her? I’ve never seen her like this.”
“Don’t ask me George – ever since the weekend, something’s been eating at her. What did she say?”
“Essentially, get a coffee and see her in an hour.”
“Garden State bank in Princeton – she wants to go tomorrow. I think I need something stronger than coffee.”
Susan nodded. “I’d stick to that if I was you,” she said as she knocked on the door, and went in.
“What do you have for me Susan?”
“Well, we tracked her as you said, and your information, wherever it comes from, is correct – she is resident in the locality now.”
“I knew it,” Shirley mumbled under her breath, before she said “What have you discovered.”
"Okay, she calls herself Louise Pelletier nowadays Madame," Susan read from the file, "no husband, no boyfriend or significant other, no children. She sells real estate based in Trenton, and she is doing rather well for herself."
"It's a long way from Paris." Shirley said quietly as she smiled grimly.
"All right,” Shirley said, “use an untraceable phone and make an appointment for her to meet a customer in the Garden State Central Bank in Princeton at 10.30 in the morning please."
"But isn't that the bank you are..."
"You have your instructions Susan." Madame interrupted her frostily.
Madame." Susan picked up her papers and left.
As Susan walked out she swore she could have sworn she heard Madame quietly whistle The Marseillaise. Returning to her office, she logged into the secure area of her laptop, and smiled as she answered the video call.
“Hey Susan,” Maddie said in the little window, “just calling to let you know Tracey and the girls arrived safely.
Maddie," Susan smiled at the screen, "I’ve gotta say, it's nice not
to see a hostile face this morning."
not seen Madame in a mood like this in a long while."
did something happen with John?"
"Not that I've heard of, but she's got it into her mind to do a bank job herself tomorrow with George, Kylie and Anna...and strangely wants me to make sure this French woman who I know nothing about, is in the bank when they hit..."
"Oh Good Goddess," Maddie said as she visibly paled on the monitor, "Would this woman be in her mid 40's, dark, attractive, quite short?"
might fit her...why?"
will have to tell you herself Susan,” Maddie said quietly. “Dominique told me what she'd discussed with
Madame, and I guess Madame has decided to make her first kill mean
kill...what do you mean?" Susan all but screamed.
"Look Susan, this is from Shirley's past, let her sort it out, but I advise you to leave well alone for now. Anyway I need to run....see you all soon." Maddie abruptly broke the connection.
Susan looked at the blank screen, and then picked up the telephone.
“Pamela? Book a call with Sandra in the UK for tomorrow please, about ten – I want to pick her brains on something.”
“So that’s the info on the branch,” George said as he looked at the other four. “This is a real get in and out fast job, but I know we’re all capable of doing it.”
“Thank you George – so are we all in agreement?”
“It should be simple enough darling,” Kylie said, “and how shall we be dressed?”
"Alright - girls we will wear these deep red suits, with the short skirts, dark pantyhose..." Madame handed them both a picture to look at.
"Showing off those legs of yours Madame?" Kylie smiled.
guess," Shirley laughed, "we wear black gloves, heels, and identical
scarves, and dark glasses Anna."
be very stylish then.'" Kylie smiled again.
you and Clint smart suits, and you will both have bandana's to mask
Madame?" George asked.
George, you girls have both used them before...?"
Madame." Kylie nodded.
Two getaway cars, we change cars quickly after we leave, find an isolated spot
where we can change to our own vehicle."
put everything in place tonight." Clint nodded.
want everyone in that place terrified." Shirley looked in both their eyes.
"Kylie, you and George will get over the counters and herd the staff into
the central area. Anna you will guard them."
you and I hit the vault. Kylie, the tills."
"When we leave we take a hostage." Shirley allowed herself a smile. “Although we hope no alarms are pressed, we cannot be certain, so we move fast and we take insurance.”
“One of the bank staff?”
“I will decide at the time,” Madame said. “Report here at 8 tomorrow. That is all.”
“Come on,” Clint said as he stood up, “let’s leave her to her work.”
As they walked out, Shirley stood up and looked out of the window.
“Got you, finally,” she whispered to herself as she stood there, her face a mask.
Friday 31st July
look pretty nice darlings." Kylie stood admiring her reflection, as
Shirley and Anna finished their makeup.
"Well no one will be able to recognise us." Shirley applied a last lick of deep red lipstick, and holding her Hermes scarf over her nose tied a knot behind her head, pulling the scarf down so it hung round her neck as she tucked it into her suit jacket.
dark glasses and gloves on girls, let's get ready to go to work."
Each of them strode to the elevator, their asses flexing as they wiggled in the short tight skirts. The lift took them down to the car park, where George and Clint were waiting, suitable suited and booted.
“Very nice,” Madame said as she looked at the SUV, “and the other car?”
“Waiting at a rest stop three miles from the bank – it should be large enough to accommodate five. I presume the hostage will be left with this vehicle.”
“That is the intention,” Madame said as she checked the weapons. “Excellent – let’s go.”
Garden State Central Bank
“Weapons primed and ready?”
“Check,” Anna said as she looked at the shotgun in her lap, and then over at Doc.
“So what are we waiting for?”
“The appropriate moment George – you know that timing is everything,” Shirley purred as she watched the customers come and go, and then saw a gold Lincoln pull up in the parking lot. The woman who got out was small, with long dark hair, and wearing a grey jacket and skirt.
"And there she is." Shirley whispered to herself as the dark haired woman looked at her watch and entered the bank.
ladies and gentleman lets go." Shirley pulled the scarf up to just below
her eyes, and adjusted her sun glasses so they covered the scarf edge.
do this darlings." Kylie pulled her silk scarf up as well. "How do I
look? She asked.
Doc smiled as she too masked her face.
ladies, let’s do this." George took short sharp breaths as he prepared.
Clint shouted as he pulled up sharply outside the bank, the four of them
jumping out and moving as one unit.
Up the steps,
inside the doors, the guard was caught completely unawares as George rammed the
shotgun in his side.
a fucking robbery!" Shirley screamed as she fired a warning shot into the
Anna told George, as she took the guard’s handgun.
"All of you - do as you are fucking told and we won't kill you." Kylie yelled in an assumed American accent as she nimbly vaulted onto the nearest tellers cage, and stood there, legs slightly apart, her gun pointing at people, her eyes looking out for possible heroes.
"Outside, outside." George poked and prodded the staff out from behind their desks and office space into the marble floored central area.
of you face down on the fucking floor, arms by your fucking sides." Madame
pitched her voice in a menacing tone, as she made sure everyone did as they
were told. The staff mixed with the
customers, their heads to the sides, too terrified to move.
of you just do as you are fucking told and we won't have to hurt you."
Kylie commanded the room from her position on the desk, her gun sweeping the
room, her voice menacing in the extreme.
which of you motherfuckers is the manager?" Shirley walked round the
people flat on the floor. "Quick I haven't got all fucking day?" she
yelled in a more than passable New York accent.
him," one of the terrified women pointed to a man in a dark blue suit.
you. Now, if you want to see your wife
ever again you fucking asshole," Shirley pulled the man up by his hair and
held her gun against her head, "You'll open the fucking vault, so that
this gentleman and I can fucking rob you...Do you understand you pussychasing
son of a fucking whore?" Madame's voice got strident again.
the man whimpered, as Shirley pushed him at gunpoint towards the vault, George
Anna signaled to Kylie who very nimbly on her extreme high heels leapt down and
started emptying the contents of the tills into her carrier bag. She stood guard over the people on the floor,
walking round as she kept her gun leveled at them.
fucking well open it." Madame held her gun against the back of the manager’s
head as he opened the vault.
Quickly, trying not to fumble and drop them, the man used his keys and turned the locks, swinging the doors open.
"Now down on the fucking floor." Shirley used her gun to hit the manager with, bludgeoning him into unconsciousness as George went inside and started to load their bags with the money.
"Lady I'd shut the fucking hell up." Doc held her gun to the back of the head of one woman who was crying. "I will kill you, I enjoy killing stupid cocksucking whores like you."
She whimpered and nodded as Kylie brought her bag round, smiling under her scarf as she said “any trouble?”
“None whatsoever – they’re all good little fuckers, aren’t you?”
“My friend asked a question,” Kylie whispered as she stood next to one of the main tellers, “what do you say?”
“We’re all good little fuckers,” he said, then groaned as Kylie kicked him in the groin.
“Vault emptied,” George said as he walked out, carrying two bags.
“Right you bunch of piss poor cock suckers,” Madame growled, “nobody moves for fifteen minutes – somebody’s watching this place, and if we get word you’ve raised the alarm, she dies.”
The group looked at each other as Madame reached down and pulled a dark haired woman in a grey jacket and skirt to her feet. “Don’t for one fucking minute think we’re joking,” she said as she jammed the shotgun into the woman’s side, “you move, she dies.”
“Let’s go,” George shouted out as the four armed robbers moved out, dragging the woman with her as they headed outside. Clint had the doors of the SUV opened, George and Kylie throwing the bags in before they got inside, and pulled their hostage inside before Madame and Doc followed, Clint slamming the doors shut and moving off as fast as he could.
“Pass me that roll of tape,” Madame said, Kylie throwing it over as she pulled the hostage’s wrists behind her back, and taped them tightly together. “Don’t say a fucking word,” she growled as she pressed the shotgun into her side, the woman nodding as she felt the metal disc.
“Any sign of the cops?”
“Nothing so far,” Clint said as he listened to the radio, without looking round.
“Good – get us to the switch point.”
Clint pulled into the tree lined parking lot, next to a large black car.
“Load the bags into the trunk,” Madame said to the others, “I’ll take care of our hostage here.”
George looked at Madame who simply nodded as Clint opened the door. “Do it,” he said to Doc and Kylie, who started to pass bags out to him and Clint before they got out.
“So,” the woman finally said as she looked at Madame, “what happens to me? Left in this vehicle while you escape in the other?”
Madame said nothing, merely looking at the woman through her dark glasses.
“What’s the matter? Lost your voice.”
“No I have not, Louise – I was merely waiting for the right moment.”
The sound of the voice took the dark haired woman completely by surprise, and she stared at the masked voice, and then whispered “no… No it cannot be…”
“Ah, but it is,” Shirley said as she removed her glasses, and then pulled the scarf down, revealing her face. “It has been a long time, Louise.”
“I am surprised you recognized me – in fact, I am surprised you did not get in touch with me when I went more public last year. But then how long has it been – over twenty five years since we last saw each other?”
Louise looked to the door, but then saw Shirley pick up the shotgun. “No – no escaping this time. Twice you slipped away and left me in grave peril. I know it was you who hijacked the school bus that day – I learned as much from Jack when we talked years later. What I did not know at the time is how it was you who was Jack’s go to woman – how he fed everything back to him through you.”
“He was my master, Shirley, and yours – I was sworn to fealty to…”
“I broke that vow – Sandy broke it, Maddie broke it. Why didn’t you?”
“Because he was right, and you were wrong.”
“He was… He was a monster, who threatened innocent children for pure pleasure.”
“He was still my master!”
“Do you remember the night they took Robert?”
Louise looked at Shirley, and said “I wasn’t there…”
“YES YOU WERE!!!”
Louise physically shrank as Shirley stared at her.
“Jack told all – he did the physical, but you – you did the electric shocks, the more subtle torture. Robert could have survived a beating alone – and you pushed him over the edge. He died before we could get to him – and you, you drove a spike into my heart that has only recently started to ease.”
“I’ve seen the pictures,” Louise said, the smile on her lips cruel. “I wonder how your friends, your new man, would react if they knew the truth about Shirley Xavier.”
“Many of them do – John does not, and never will.”
“Oh, and what are you going to do? Kill me?”
The blast ripped her guts out, Shirley gasping as she saw the life drain from the other woman’s eyes. Slowly, she got out of the other side and brought the shotgun with her, smoke still twirling from the barrel.
“Dead – she tried to attack me, you may have heard the shouting. Let’s go.”
As they climbed in, and Clint drove off, Doc and Kylie looked at Madame, as she closed her eyes and let out a long, slow, mellow moan of pleasure.
“Oh Goddess,” she whispered, “You girls were right – it is one of the most amazing feelings in the world.”
“No – no, thank you, but I want to treasure this feeling as long as possible – and then, when John and I dine tonight, give it the full release it so richly deserves.”
“Thank you,” George said quietly, “mixed company you know.”
“Oh yeah – sorry,” Doc said sheepishly, “forgot for a minute there…”
“We’ll take the bags to distribution,” Clint said as he and George carried them one way, the three women sting in front of the mirror.
“Girls I’d like to thank you for your help.” Shirley smiled as she removed the blonde wig, and shook her own rich auburn hair out.
“It was our pleasure Madame.” Kylie smiled.
“That was your first bank wasn’t it Kylie?”
“It was Madame.”
“Well I have to say you handled yourself like a veteran.”
“Thank you darling…sorry I mean Madame.”
“Kylie the odd darling I will accept. That word is as much part of your personality now as it is Mandy’s,” Shirley laughed.
“I presume you’ll funnel our shares into our trust funds Madame?” Doc started to remove her makeup.
“Yes, it will take a couple of days, but there was a good amount in that vault, so yes you can both look forward to a nice top up of your accounts.”
“That’s what I like to hear darling.” Kylie sat down at the vanity unit and started to remove her makeup as well.
“So what are your plans for the rest of the day girls?” Shirley asked.
“Getting ready for a sleepover tonight.” Doc removed her wig and untied her own hair letting it drop to frame her face.
“I think we are all dying to know just exactly what Stephen Stone has in mind for photographing Jeannie.” Kylie added.
“Oh yes, that’s this weekend isn’t it?” Shirley wiped her lipstick off with a towelette. “I’ve been so bound up in this all week, that I’d forgotten.”
“It should be fun – and Caroline and Annie always leave us to get on with things as well.”
“I should have known we would come here,” Grace said as she got out of Abby’s car.
“Mecca for us this month,” Abby said as she walked into the busy store.
“When I was last here,” Grace said as she looked round, “it was a lot smaller.”
“And we were probably a lot younger,” Cherry said as she came over.
“Cherry meet The Palomino, Grace meet Cherry.” Abby made the introductions inside Canyon Beachwear.
“Well it’s been years since I shopped here.” Grace looked round.
“Palomino is going up to the North Shore with Pelican and her family Cherry…”
“And I need a couple of suits.”
“I think we can help.” Cherry smiled. “A bikini, and a more standard one piece?”
“A bikini…at my age?”
“Palomino, someone like me then maybe not, but with a figure like yours, I’m pretty sure you can still do a bikini.”
“And I’ll second that.” Abigail started pulling suits down for Grace to try.
“What about this one Stick?” Cherry held a bikini top up.
“Oh yes, she’d look amazing in that.”
“Girls,” Grace said, “I may have done some work since I got here, but my funds are still limited you know.”
“Palomino, if needs be this will be my treat.” Abby dragged the older woman towards the changing rooms. “Now get in there and try this on – that’s an order.”
“It’s at times like this we remember you’re the daughter of the Countess,” Cherry said as she stood with Abby.
“Oh? Did I come over aggressive for a moment there?”
“More of a gentle push in the right direction, dear.”
“Hey Flush?” Abby kissed her fellow model on both cheeks.
“Hi Stick…don’t you already own enough swimsuits?”
“I probably do, or at least my Mother thinks so.” Abby grinned, “But I’m not shopping, Palomino is.”
“Hey Grace.” Pru kissed the Englishwoman as she came out in a bikini. “Darling that looks dolls on you.”
“It does Flush?” Grace stood hands on hips looking at herself in a mirror, “you know I just see cellulite…”
“Somebody hold her down while I hit her please.” Cherry shook her head.
“Palomino she’s right you know, you do look incredible.” Abby stood next to Grace.
“Well three to one I guess I’m outvoted,” Grace said as she shook her head of glorious blonde hair.
“How do they merit the special treatment?” a customer asked one of Cherry’s assistants.
“By being three of the best known models in the world,” the girl replied.
“You know I’m a model too…”
“Sweetie, you are a wannabe model.” Cherry scooped up a couple more suits for Grace to try, “if and when you ever make the big time, then you’ll get this service.”
“I’d listen to the boss – she knows,” the assistant said as she bagged the young woman’s purchases. “Now, Cash or Credit?”
“Hey,” Susan said as she came into the distribution room, “how come you’re still here George?”
“Clint asked for me to hold on until this was collected,” George said as he sipped from his mug of coffee.
“You all right?”
“I’m not sure – Clint tell you what happened?”
“At the car switch, yeah – but what happened at the bank?”
“I’ve never seen, or heard, of Madame going as wild as that Susan.” George shook his head.
“How so George?”
“From the moment we entered the bank she was terrifying.” George stared at the bags of cash awaiting collection for laundering in Europe. “It doesn’t surprise me that the bank manager is in critical condition, to see her literally attack him like that.”
“And then to kill the hostage…”
“I know,” George had a vacant look in his eyes, “I know she said she thought she needed to kill, I just wasn’t sure that was how I expected her to do it.”
“Well, just be happy that your share will pay for Saintz and Sinnerz’s feed bills for a while.” Susan smiled, but it was a false smile as she tried to get a full handle on what had happened.
“I think maybe I’m getting a bit old for this line of business.” George shook his head again.
“Well, it does come to all of us eventually, I suppose – but I still think there’s a place for someone like you to ply his trade.”
“Ah, Susan, that’s what I like about you – always the optimist.” George finished his coffee, before he said “What was eating at her this week anyway?”
“I don’t know – but I intend to find out,” Susan said quietly.
The Huntingdown apartment
“I’ll get it,” Grace said as she went to the apartment door, opening it to see a thin, dark haired girl standing there. As she turned round, she gasped and said “Aunt Grace?”
“Cassandra? My goodness, how many years has it been?”
“Too many, darling,” Eve Stone said as she looked in, and then embraced Grace. “Is Pelican in?”
“Of course she is, come on in,” Grace said as she stood aside, “where’s everyone else?”
“Stephen went to catch up with some old friends, and Rick’s watching the kids – Pelican!”
“Hey there,” Juliette said as she embraced them, “welcome back to the city. Fancy some coffee?”
“Oh yes – thanks, Aunt Juliette,” Cassandra said as she sat down. “And as for you Aunt Grace, you look fantastic.”
“So they keep telling me – I’ll believe it one day.”
Grammercy Park S
“Good evening Mr. Stone it’s been a while since we have had the pleasure,” the barman at the National Arts Club greeted the Irishman, “is it still a straight Bushmills for you?”
“It is Barry.”
“You made it safely then Stephen?” John Hammond shook his old friends hand as he sat down on a stool.
“I did John me bhoy.”
“Stephen I heard you were in town,” Jack Linklater also pulled up a barstool.
“Two more of the same for my colleagues Barry.” Stephen smiled as the barman brought him his whiskey.
“Well maybe just a quick one,” John glanced at his watch, “I have a dinner date with Shirley for eight.”
“May your glass be ever full. May the roof over your head be always strong. And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you're dead.” Stephen made a toast.
“Amen.” Jack smiled.
“So are you prepped for the weekend Stephen?” John asked.
“I am, and thank you for the loan of your studio John.”
“It sounds like an interesting project, I look forward to seeing the book.” Jack for once dropped his act of total flamboyance.
“Well my subjects are all amazing women in their own right, and I’m happy that Juliette is writing the accompanying text.”
“I got the draperies and other things you requested.” John spoke.
“And I will have that diffuser light over at John’s first thing.” Jack nodded.
“Barry me bhoy, another round.” Stephen signaled. “We’ll drink these and I’ll go home to the Missus, while you two spend a sinful Friday night.” The Irishman’s eyes twinkled.
“Well, I know I will,” John said, “what about you Jack?”
“Oh I think I can find something to get up to…”
we can confirm that Mr. Charles Vale the branch manager, died this afternoon
following his savage beating at the hands of one of the robbers this
"Well, it seems I'm a double murderess."
Shirley turned the TV off, and looked in her closet.
what do I own that John will be absolutely unable to resist me in?"
For a second
she closed her eyes as she remembered hurting the manager, but in her memory it
wasn't his face she was hitting with her weapon - it was Master’s. The thought gave her a warm tingle of
satisfaction as she equated killing that sadistic bastard with killing the
manager, and the other killing? Well,
that had been just pure, undiluted, joy.
They said revenge was best served cold, and now she knew that was very true. At the same time, she knew she would have to explain it to the others – and hope that they understood.
Taking out the black silk dress, she held it against herself, and smiled. “Yes, this is perfect,” she said to herself, before she headed to the shower.
“Now this is more like it,” Pepsi said as she sat back, “pizza, drinks, bad films and great company.”
“Someone want to help me get settled in,” Jeannie said as she rolled her sleeping bag out.
“We’re on it,” Kylie and Doc said as they opened the sleeping bag out, and Jeannie moved herself inside.
“Satisfy my curiosity Jeannie,” Ama asked, “as to why what you are doing tomorrow is allowed?”
“Well as my Mum got the lawyers to explain it.” Jeannie spoke as Kylie and Doc zipped her into her sleeping bag, “the laws on nude photography are pretty complicated, but basically come down to parental consent, and the fact that no sexual act is being performed.”
“So that explains how Brooke Shields was photographed like that when she was so young?” Nikki asked.
“Exactly - and how we just about got away with some of the shots in the calendar last year. As John puts it, you titillate without displaying.”
“Didn’t you also once tell me that your friend Carmen was painted nude by Salvador Dali when she was underage?” Becca asked.
“Yes, and that painting is in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle. The rules were very different then, however.”
“Well it might be legal, but surely you must be totally nervous about doing it?” Pepsi asked.
“I was, but I borrowed a book of Stephen’s pictures from John Hammond, and they are so amazingly beautiful, I think it’s going to be an incredible shoot.”
“And woe betide Mr. Stone if he pushes the line too far with House and your Mom there.” Doc giggled.
“Not to mention Juliette and Mary Thomas as well…I think my virtue and honour will be pretty closely guarded.”
“I think so as well,” Doc said as a ringing sound made them all look round.
that?" Ama said as she looked at her watch. "Mom and Annie won't be
back from Susan's for ages yet?"
answer it," Nikki said as she sprang to her feet, and ran down the stairs. Looking through the peephole, she was surprised
to see Juliette standing outside.
Miss Huntingdown," she smiled as she opened the door, "what can we do
for..." Nikki stood there suddenly
in shock as she saw who the woman accompanying Juliette was.
the young lady I was telling you about Cassie." Juliette smiled as well.
"Oh my God...you're Cassandra Stone," Nikki said as she clamped her hand to her mouth.
“Yes, yes I am afraid I am,” Cassandra said as Ama looked down the stairs.
"Please come in Miss Huntingdown, Miss Stone." Ama welcomed the visitors.
just getting in our bags, and were going to watch some movies...can I offer you
both some cocoa?" Doc spoke. "Or coffee if you prefer?"
coffee might be better, I'm still running on Dublin time and I need keep
awake." Cassandra replied.
"Now I had
better do the introductions," Ama spoke as she hung up the visitors’
jackets. "I'm Ama, the girl in her bag is Jeannie, sitting on the floor is
Kylie, then there is Pepsi and Becca, it’s Anna getting the drinks, and of
course it was Nikki who answered the door."
nice to meet you all girls." Cassandra sat on the couch.
Nikki stood open mouthed, "I'm really in the same room as Cassandra
is your biggest fan." Jeannie smiled, as Kylie helped her to sit up.
yours Miss Brewster."
me?" Jeans grinned. "And my name is Jeannie."
"Well I'm Cassandra, and please all call me by name girls. Aunt Juliette told me all about all of you as we drove over."
“We’re in trouble,” Pepsi said as they burst out laughing.
“So Dad is going to take pictures of you Jeannie,” Cassandra said as she took the mug from Doc, and sat on the couch. “I’ve seen you in the magazines and papers of course, but may I say you look even more pretty in real life?”
“Aw shucks,” Jeannie said as she blushed.
safely say I'm the one woman in the world that father has never even considered
photographing in the nude." Cassie sipped her coffee, "Of course my
mother he has photographed on hundreds of occasions."
having last minute nerves till I borrowed a book of your fathers pictures, they
are so wonderful."
know enough of his other sitters to say that I think you'll enjoy the
experience Jeannie, they all did."
I'll have the guard there," Jeannie smiled at Juliette, "Won't I
Cassandra looked at each model.
short for Baby Supermodel, and I got it because I was only 13 when I
started." Jeannie rolled her eyes.
about Jeans, can we talk about you Miss...I mean Cassandra?" Nikki asked
"Sure, fire away please."
“How did you get into films?”
“Oh that – I was at school in Dublin when they were making a new version of David Copperfield. They were looking round the local colleges, and I was offered a bit part as one of the girls in some scenes.
“Well, that got me an Equity card, and also lit the fire in me, so I worked my way up through the ranks, and then there was the breakthrough role.”
“Barchester Towers – I loved that film.”
“So did I – if you see the old BBC version, Alan Rickman is the better Snape, but don’t tell Alan Cummings that.”
“And I agree,” Juliette said as she drank her coffee.
“We went to see your last film, darling,” Kylie drawled, Cassandra raising an eyebrow as she looked at Juliette, “and we were split on whether you are better in historical or modern roles.”
“Well, I hope I bring a little to both types of roles,” Cassandra said, “but this next role, you’re either going to love it or hate it – no two ways about it.”
“Oh,” Nikki said, “who are you playing?”
“Well,” Cassandra said as she put her mug down, “I’ve signed up to play the leader of the Pussycat Gang.”
There was a silence in the room, Doc and Kylie looking at each other, before Pepsi said, “Get… Out… Of… Town. That’s an incredibly different role for you.”
“To say the least – the script is being finalized, but I’m hoping to talk to some of the technical advisers while I’m here, try and start to get into the mind of someone like that.”
Juliette smiled as she said “I guess actresses have to stretch themselves.”
“Indeed – Brian is an amazing director, and Rick is offering to help with the script. The problem is how do you portray someone as ruthless as that without actually meeting them?”
“With great difficulty I would imagine darling,” Kylie said with a smile.
Upper West Side
“Clint, where the hell did you learn to cook anyway,” Annie said as they walked through to the main room, “that was amazing.”
“Oh, I picked it up along the way,” Clint said with a smile as he sat down. The three women were wearing shorts and sleeveless blouses, Marina wearing a pair of pedal pushers and a wrap round top, and Clint in his usual polo shirt and jeans.
“It must be a lot quieter with Rose and Maeve back in London,” Dominique said as she stretched her legs out.
“And even more so with Kylie out,” Marina said with a smile. “I haven’t seen her all day, actually – did she do that job for Shirley today?”
“I believe so yes,” Susan said, Dom raising an eyebrow as she heard the way her friend said it.
“She did the job,” Clint said quietly, “it’s what happened afterwards that made it – strange.”
“What happened,” Annie said. “I saw the news – who beat up the bank manager?”
“No idea – I was outside in the car, and when they came out they’d grabbed a hostage.”
“And that’s the woman they found dead,” Dominique said.
“It was – Madame picked her out of the customers at the bank, and told the four of us to load the money into the second car. Well, we did it, and then – boom.”
“So she killed the hostage – why?”
“She said she tried to get away – but she was in the car, alone, with her, and none of us heard what they said to each other.”
“What did this woman look like, lover,” Susan said as she curled up in her seat.
“Small, dark haired, business dress – in fact, she was the last customer to walk into the branch before we started.”
“Shit,” Susan said, “I was afraid of that.”
“Afraid of what,” Annie said.
“The bank raid – profitable, yes, but it was staged to make sure that woman was there. Madame made me run a background check on a woman who she said she knew in Paris – and the name that came up in the US was…”
“Dom,” Susan said as she looked at her, “do you have any idea what this is all about? Maddie said she’d talked to you, and then went silent. Sandra, when I talked to her today, paled visibly and then said she could not tell me. And George – George told me it was Shirley who beat up the bank manager.”
“Shirley,” Susan said as she looked at Clint. “Something got her really, really angry today and I get the feeling it was very personal.”
“Oh boy,” Dom said quietly. “I was talking to her on Sunday night – she came to the monitoring post while Tracey and the girls were doing their assignment.”
“That I guessed – you mentioned she had not killed.”
“Yeah – what I didn’t figure on was she had someone particular in mind.”
“Do you have any idea who this woman was, Dom?”
“You should really ask Shirley, you know.”
“And what would she tell me?”
Dom rubbed her head, and then said “Ask her anyway, but this woman – Louise Pelletier – if she is who I think she is, she’s putting the last thing to bed connected with fifteen years ago.”
“Fifteen… You mean Robert?”
“Yeah – as you know, Maddie killed the man who betrayed her and Robert on New Year’s Eve, 1999?”
“Yeah, she told me – but Madame refused to kill him.”
“She didn’t want his blood on her hands. Anyway, we always thought that was that, but in LA, at Maddie’s hen party, they got very drunk, and Maddie let slip a secret she’s kept for fifteen years.
“Jack was one of the ones who tortured Robert, but not the only one – an old associate of theirs from the days they were under His thrall was also in the room, and it was her who used the electric shocks to damage his heart.”
“Jesus,” Marina said quietly, “I heard the rumours, but to do that…”
“When we got back, she asked me to see if this woman was still alive, and I traced her in France, but lost her with evidence she had come to the US. She must have got you to complete the search, based on the information I had she was in the local area.”
Susan nodded as she said “then she got me to arrange for her to be at the bank, told you she would pick a hostage, and…”
The five of them looked at each other, before Dominique said “I have never, ever seen Madame mad. Angry, yes. Emotional, yes. But never outright rage. That poor man must have reminded her of Master, the man who started her on this path.”
“That’s why Maddie was upset – she must have realized from my description. Goddess…”
“My suggestion,” Annie said, “is do and say nothing. If that is the case, it’s really, truly over. It will never happen again.”
“I concur,” Dom said quietly, ”after all, I’ve been there.”
“All right – but I can guess one thing.”
“And that is?”
“John is in for one hell of a night.”
“That was an amazing meal,” Shirley said as she and John went into the drawing room.
“And you look amazing,” John said as he looked at Shirley, the black silk clinging to every curve of her body as she walked to the music centre, and put on a Benny Goodman record.
In her room, Maisha heard the music, and smiled as she shook her head.
“So tell me, Major Hammond,” Shirley said as she walked over, “what can I get for you, in thanks for such a wonderful evening?”
“No thanks necessary, ma’am,” John said as he took her in his arms, and they started to dance to the music, their lips locked together as they did so.
“Hmmm,” John said as they finally parted, “what has got into you tonight, Shirley Xavier?”
“I know what I want to get into me,” Shirley said with a smile, “if that is all right?”
“Have you had a good day?”
“You would not believe,” Shirley said as she wrapped her leg around John’s, “how good a day I have had. Now, are you going to take me to bed, or shall I strip you right here?”
“Shh,” Shirley said as she slowly unbuttoned his shirt, removing his tie and throwing it to the side, before she slipped his jacket and shirt down his arms, letting them fall to the floor before she started to kiss his neck, her hands squeezing his bottom.
“Ahhh,” he said as he reached round and pulled the zip down her back, pulling her dress down a it fell to the floor, Shirley unfastening his trousers and pulling them down as well.
“Come here,” Shirley purred as she pulled John towards the couch, her intentions clear – and John followed…
Maisha made her way to the kitchen, the gasping noises and the moaning as she passed the drawing room enough to tell her to stay out for some time. Returning to her room, she smiled again – Aunt Shirley was happy, and that made her happy…
Saturday 1st August
John Hammond’s Studio
“Come on Jeans,” Winston said as he wheeled Jeannie into the rear, “let’s see what they’re going to do to you today.”
“I think you’ll like it,” Jeannie said, Winston turning and shaking his head before they disappeared behind the curtains.
“Well, she has the tightest circle of minders I have ever see – starting with the man mountain who pushed her in,” Eve Stone said as she sat with Juliette and Grace.
“Winston? He’s a real gentleman – and a fierce player,” Juliette said with a smile. “No, we’re all friends, here to give her our support.”
“That’s what makes this scene so different from the old days – when so many friends come to support the youngsters.”
“And Barbara at the front, looking out for her daughter.”
“We all do,” Juliette said.
“I came into the business hearing about the disaster stories of so many of the top girls from the fifties.” Eve spoke. “There was no PTA back then to help. The girls who once they couldn’t find modeling jobs any more got spat out by the fashion industry and forgotten.”
“Poor Ivy Nicholson ending up as a bag lady on the streets of San Francisco being probably the worst example.” Juliette shook her head.
“Or even a true legend like Dovima and her downward spiral in life after modeling.” Eve mused sadly.
“It’s why I think Linda, Christy, Naomi, Cindy et al, founded PTA,” Grace spoke, “to minimalise the casualties.”
“People remember that crack of Linda’s that ‘we don’t wake up for less than $10,000’ but if they knew just how hard she has worked to better the lives of all models.”
“That she has Eve,” Grace nodded, “She’s really been such a help to me in my current difficulties.”
“Mother always was one of the good guys, looking after all her chicks.” Juliette smiled. “And I think if anyone other than your husband was doing this, she’d have had the lawyers, and us, putting a stop to it.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever had such a big audience fer one a me shoots.” Stephen smiled as he looked at the group sitting chatting at the back of the studio. “Or such a distinguished group of assistants,” he laughed as he watched John and Jack helping rig the lights.
“I see you still use that old Hasselblad of yours Stephen.” Jack looked admiringly at the vintage camera, “If that could talk I bet it could tell some interesting stories of what it has seen over the years.”
“Well far too much of my body Jack.” Eve called out.
“Haven’t we all seen far too much of your body Eve darling…”
“Jack… honestly… you’ll ruin your image if you admit you’ve looked at pictures of naked women.” Eve laughed as she replied.
“She’s got you there Jack me bhoy.” Stephen laughed along with his wife. “Anyway I’ve played with these digital cameras, but I know just what I’m doing with this old thing, and good honest to goodness film, that I can work with in the dark room.”
“Do you think she’ll really go ahead with it,” Doc whispered to Becca.
“Ten says she doesn’t?”
“I’ll take that,” Doc said as Mary Thomas worked on the set. A large brown green curtain had been draped over the back of the set, each fold and crevice placed with Mary’s expert eye. In front of the drapes had been placed an old Ottoman couch, the back towards the drapes, made of blue leather and dark mahogany.
“Why are they using green,” Nikki asked Eve.
“Because,” Eve said as she turned round, “if you are shooting on black and white film, green looks like black, and reflects the light in the right way for dearest hubby.”
“Oh – really?”
“Fun fact,” Doc said quietly, “Emma Peel’s black leather catsuit in the black and white Avengers was actually green suede.”
“The light from that thing is wonderful Jack, I think I’ll have to invest in one for meself.”
“I was thinking the same Stephen.” John looked through the camera. “I love the impression it creates like the sun just breaking through fog.”
“Well tell Zeiss just what you want and I’m sure they’ll make them for you guys as well.”
“Oh so this isn’t a commercial thing?” Stephen asked.
“No,” Jack said with a smile, “I was in Scandinavia shooting in winter light, and when I was in Jena shortly afterwards Zeiss told me they could make me a light with a lens that created the same effect.”
“And who says Jack knows nothing about photography.” Eve called out.
“Almost all of us,” Juliette said as Jack looked at her, and then blew her a kiss.
“Well do I look okay?” Jeannie smiled as Winston pushed her in from having her hair and makeup done, a silk robe round her body.
“Jeannie me darlin’ yer look amazin’” Stephen crouched down beside her chair, “Now darling,” he whispered, “I’ll suggest some things, you tell me what yer can and can’t do…okay?”
“Okay,” she whispered back.
“Winston me bhoy, I take it you are up to carrying and liftin’ this young lady.”
“I am.” Winston nodded.
“I am still not sure I like this,” Barbara shook her head.
“She will be fine.” Juliette touched the Englishwoman’s hand.
“And the FBI are here to make sure it’s all above board.” Jan called over from where she was chatting with Cassandra.
“I can’t thank you enough for agreeing to provide technical advice for this film,” Cassandra said quietly. “When Goldstein talked to the powers that be, they said you would be open to the idea from a career viewpoint.”
“Maybe,” Janice said, “but I think you’re on a very dangerous track. These women are the most ruthless bitches, Cassandra, and capable of doing anything. Are you truly ready to hear some of the details?”
“I have to be – my career is built on taking risks, and we Stones are tough as the Blarney stone,” Cassandra said. “I’ll be at your offices at ten on Monday to start work.”
“All right,” Jan said as she sipped her coffee.
“Mary me darlin’ thank yer fer helpin’ out.” Stephen kissed her on the cheek. “Do yer wanna pose Jeannie as we talked about please?”
“Winston can you lay Jeannie on the bed, propped on the pillows, her back to the camera please?”
“Can do Miss Thomas,” Winston looked grim as he carried Jeannie and put her in the right place.
“Still time to back out,” he whispered into his girlfriend’s ear.
“I know, but I’m doing this,” Jeannie whispered back before she kissed him.
“It’s time Jeannie.” Mary smiled as Winston stepped back, standing beside Barbara.
“Well here goes nothing.” Jeannie took some big breaths as Mary took her robe off.
“Oh my God, she’s really done it,” Becca’s whisper was heard by everyone in the silent room.
“Okay Jeannie me darlin’ look back over yer shoulder at the camera please, and that’s have that infectious smile of yers.”
“I’ll try, but John you have to get someone in, there aint arf a draft from somewhere.” Jeannie giggled as she slipped back into her local accent from Harlow.
“Well Barbara?” asked Juliette, “is that really too bad?”
“So far, so good,” she whispered as Stephen started to snap.
As people watched in silence the room echoed with Jeannie’s laughter as Stephen told her jokes, and she relaxed and began to forget she was in the nude and treat it as just another photo-shoot.
For an hour she and Stephen worked, changing poses, Stephen playing with the lighting effects to get the images he wanted.
“My goodness,” Eve said as Mary walked over, “I thought John pulled off a miracle with that calendar, but this – this puts that young lady in an entirely new life.”
“All right,” Stephen eventually said, “get her robe back on her, and let’s get the next scene set up.”
“There you go lass,” Mary said as she helped Jeannie to put the robe back on, and Winston gently lifted her off, placing her in the chair as the ottoman was removed.
“Can we get her in the baby doll next please – and please, John, can we get a heater in here?”
“I’m telling you, the Chelsea house does not have this problem,” John said as he and Jack changed the setting.
“I hear you have the joy of Caroline and young Joanne next week John?”
“Indeed – and it happens to be Jo’s eighteenth birthday on the shoot. I have a little surprise set up for her.”
“Are you all right, Jeans,” Winston said as he handed her a drink.
“Yeah – now it’s done, it’s done.”
“Jeannie, we need you in the baby doll.”
“Work calls,” the young model said as she was wheeled behind the curtains, Doc taking the money with a smile.
“Right, let’s get the seat there, and we’ll do the shots next.”
“Lovely,” Stephen said as Jeannie leaned over the arm of the chair, her head back as the sheer baby doll nightie covered the essentials, but left little to the imagination.
The others turned as a tall blonde, wearing a track suit, walked in.
“Am I too early?”
“Not at all.” Juliette said as she embraced the tall woman. “Stephen’s still shooting Jeannie, but it gives you time to eat a little and then do hair and makeup.”
“I thought this shoot was about disabled women?” Becca whispered to Doc, “what’s wrong with her?”
“That’s Jessica Long, the swimmer…and don’t be fooled. Under those pants are prosthetic legs, one of her real legs ends at the knee, the other even higher. She’s won 12 Gold Medals at the Paralympics, the first when she was just 12 years old.”
“And how the hell do you know that darling?” asked Kylie.
“I’d like to say I did know it, but no Juliette told me she was the other model today, and I googled her.”
“Cheat!” Nikki giggled.
“No – just used the resources available to me.”
“All right, Jeannie, can we get you sitting in the chair, legs tucked under you?”
Stephen turned and said “Jessica, a pleasure to see you. Grab a bite, I’ll be with ye in a wee while.”
He worked with Jeannie for a little while longer, before he said “I think we’re dunn, lass – many thanks.”
“All done Mum,” Jeannie said as Mary put the robe back on her, and Winston lifted her into the chair, smiling as he pushed her behind the curtains, and then came out.
“Got what you wanted Stephen?”
“Oh yes – that shot where she pushed herself off the chair, and stretched – I think that will be a winner. You’re going to have fun writing the text for this Ju.”
“That’s what you’re paying me for,” Juliette said, as she saw the slight shake in Stephen’s hand. “Are you…”
“I’ll be fine – let’s get ready people!”
Tuesday 4th August
Manchester Beach, MA
“All right you lot – who wants to go in the water?”
“You’re on, Dad,” Stevie said as she and Rick ran down to the shoreline, in their shorts, while George followed them.
“Who’s up for a swim,” Katy said as she stood up, Sandy joining her as Capricorn and Leonora were building a sandcastle.
“We’ll be down in a minute,” the eight year old said as Janice and Cassandra sat on deck chairs, watching the kids at play.
“You were right, Jan, a day out of the city is what we all needed,” Cassandra said as she took a drink.
“Well, Tom wants me working with you while you’re here, but he didn’t say it had to be in the office,” Jan said as she watched through her sunglasses.
“True – especially on a beautiful day like this. The kids are enjoying it as well.”
“I think they are all having fun.” Cassandra smiled as the children played with Rick in the sea.
“It’s just nice to see Katy, and Sandy’s children as well, getting on so well with yours.” Janice lifted her sunglasses to watch.
“It is nice,” Cassandra said, “and I think it’s good for my children not to just mix with other ‘Hollywood’ kids.”
“I was reading the script last night,” Janice said as she sat back, “It’s really not too bad.”
“I hear a but coming Jan.”
“Well I’m not sure the writers have really grasped how savagely bad these women really are.”
“You mean it’s not violent enough?”
Janice looked over at Cassandra. “What I mean is that we have always thought that these women get some kind of perverse sexual thrill from what they do.”
“That is just what I’ve said in some of our pre-production meetings… The writers need to incorporate just what I think these women get out of crime beyond just the money thing.”
“I think they would say it’s about being dominant, and…”
“I know and I would so love to really meet one of them to discuss all that.” Cassandra shook her head. “I’d so want to pick a Pussycats brain.”
“No – no I don’t think you would,” Janice said quietly. “Cassandra, it’s my job at times to think like they seem to – what may drive a woman to kill in such gruesome ways, cause so much hurt and carnage.”
“Can you give me an example of how they affect people when they strike?”
Jan sat still for a moment, and then said “You’ve met Jo, Heather’s sister, right?”
“The blonde heading out of the door when we arrived today?”
“That’s right – well, a year or so back, she was kidnapped by a man who was convinced she was her daughter, who had been taken by the Pussycats when they raided his bank the year before.”
“Oh my… What happened?”
“Adam and I tracked him down, we mounted a rescue – but he lost his mind, and had to be stopped from killing Jo.”
Janice nodded. “He created a perfect replica of his family home, took a mannequin and dressed it as his wife, who was killed by the Pussycats, and held her captive there for several days. This was a normal, peace loving man – and his experience at the hands of those bitches drove him mad.”
“Recovered, and now she’s off to William Smith to study psychology.”
Cassandra shook her head as she leaned back. “Look, Janice, I appreciate the concern, but if I could just spend some time with one of them…”
“Mom, come and join us!”
“Come on,” Cassandra said as she stood up, “come on down.”
“No thanks – I’m fine where I am, enjoying the sunshine,” Janice said, but Cassandra pulled her up.
“No excuses – come on.”
“All right,” Janice said as they both walked down to the water.
“Come,” Shirley called out as she looked up, and Susan came in. “So, what is the word, Susan?”
“We have a report from Africa,” Susan said as she came in.
“One of Charlotte’s scouting parties is in position at last Madame.” Susan reported, “the area is very hard to access, just one road in and out, and that’s heavily guarded.”
Shirley looked at Susan with concern. “That does not sound promising.”
“The scouts said its Orientals running the place, though some of the support is Black Africans. From what little they managed to see, it sounds as horrific as we guessed, and we could tell from the high surveillance pictures.”
“This is when I really wish we had our own spy satellites…”
“A bit much…even for us.” Susan smiled slightly.
“Could Heather maybe ‘borrow’ a satellite?”
“She probably could Madame, but while she’s on vacation and also undergoing therapy, do you really think this is the best time to ask her?”
“Probably not…” Shirley removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes. “We just have to do this the old fashioned way I suppose. Find out as much as we can and plan our attack.”
“Charlotte thinks her second party should get there tomorrow.”
“No way of helicoptering people in for us?”
“Charlotte thinks they have their own radar and surface to air missiles.” Susan looked down at her notes.
“Dammit – all right, tell her to keep in touch. In the meantime, Catherine is continuing to look into the connections from her end.”
“Very well, Madame,” Susan said as she stood up.
“I… I owe you an apology for last week. I had a matter I needed to deal with, and I let my focus on that cloud my interactions with everyone else. I’m sorry,”
“That’s all right Shirley – so long as it is behind you now. You know I’m here to talk if you need to.”
Shirley nodded as Susan stood up and walked out of the office, before she turned and looked out over the city.
Eventually, she stood up and collected her coat and handbag.
“Madame,” Pamela said as she walked past.
“Will you inform Susan I will be at the apartment if she needs me,” Shirley said as she got into the lift, and drove off.
The Richmond Holiday Home
“The food will be ready soon,” Heather said as she looked across the lawn, “so don’t go too far away.”
“We’re just taking the girls into the tree house,” Little Sandy said, as George and Stevie went inside. Cassandra and Rick were talking to Adam at the barbecue, as Jo and Caroline came round the corner.
“I thought I could smell food,” Jo said as she sat down, “Well, the first day is over.”
“How do you both feel?”
“Exhausted – John’s a great guy to work with, and we got a lot done, but I am toast for tonight.”
“Well, relax for tonight, all right? You need to be on your way early tomorrow.”
Jan smiled as she went to sit on a bench, taking a drink from her bottle – and then seeing Cassandra work purposefully over to her.
“Janice you’ve been holding out on me.” Cassie sat down next to her while Rick and Adam supervised the barbecuing.
“Adam told Rick, that you know how to contact people who at least know the Pussycats.”
“Adam - when he gets a couple of beers in him gets a big mouth.” Janice whispered as she gritted her teeth.
“Is it true?”
“It might be…”
“Is it true Jan?”
“Yes I know someone who works both sides of the fence so to speak, she’s a hacker, and has helped both us and them, she was a major source in the big slavery case.”
“Oh my God!” Cassie covered her mouth. “Would she talk to me, could she maybe arrange for me to meet them?”
“Cassie she is a strictly off the record contact, in theory I should arrest her…”
“But she’s too useful to do so.”
Shrugging, Janice said “I guess, but to be honest I don’t think she’d see you, let alone put you in touch one of them.”
“Janice PLEASE! Tell her who I am and how desperate I am for inside information to help me play my role…”
“Do you think that will worry her?” Janice broke in.
“Tell her I’ll meet her completely privately, no cops, nothing stupid, just plead with her please…PLEASE?”
“All right,” Jan said as she looked at Heather, “no promises, but I will see what I can do.”
Shirley sat in her den, the brandy swirling in the glass as she settled in her leather armchair, thinking of past regrets, when the indicator of an incoming video call caught her attention. It wasn’t on the secure network, but she was expecting it.
“Hello Sandra,” she said as she answered the call, and Sandra Kirk appeared on the screen from her London home, “how are you this evening?”
“Worried sick about you,” Sandra said, “Maddie and Susan both talked to me last week, but I wanted to give you time first.”
“Did you tell them anything?”
“No – but she’s a bright kid, she’ll figure it out, or get it out of Dominique.”
“I know – and that’s how I want her to find out. In fact, I think she already knows – she…”
Shirley stopped talking as an indicator came up of a second person joining the call. Shirley accepted the incoming, as Maddie appeared, sitting in the dark on the terrace of her honeymoon cottage.
“And what time do you call this,” she said with a smile, “I had to leave Emma sleeping in bed to talk to you two.”
“My apologies Maddie – but I needed to talk to both of you.”
“Good – because I wanted to talk to you. You found her, didn’t you?”
Shirley nodded as she looked at both of them. “Yes, I found her. I know you never meant to tell me, Maddie, but I’m glad you did.”
“Susan was almost apocalyptic when she talked to me,” Sandra said, “and I’m not surprised. I haven’t heard of you acting in that way – well, ever before.”
“I know,” Shirley said as she put her drink down, “but this was something I had to do. Dom was right in that I needed to prove I could do it, but she also said in my case, it was something that I had to do because only I could do it – and only you two knew the truth apart from me.”
“So,” Maddie said, “are you mad at us for not telling you?”
“Which part – that you killed Master, or about her?”
“Well - both I guess.”
“No,” Shirley said with a smile, “I’m not mad. I know you did it to keep me safe, and I love you both for that. But once the secret about Louise was out – it was something I had to do. To finally put an end to it.”
She watched as her oldest friends nodded. “Shirley, I know about the bank manager. What happened there?”
“You’ve talked to George, haven’t you?”
“He called me – he was seriously thinking of calling it a day after that, but I talked him down. I told him you, Susan and Dom all needed him for different reasons.”
“Good – I’ll apologise to him as well.” Shirley looked at them both and said “Honest to Goddess truth? When I looked at him, I saw Master, and a red mist came over my eyes. Her, I was ready to do – him, I regret.”
Looking at Maddie, Shirley said “Was it like that for you – the red anger?”
“Yeah, it was,” Maddie said as she sipped her drink. “All the hurt he had done to us, to those kids, to others – and then to Robert. I knew you wanted him humiliated, out of the picture – but I wanted more, and I got it.”
“What about you, Sandra? If it had been you with Master or Louise?”
“I don’t know,” Sandra said, “but I can see where you’re both coming from. I can imagine I may have done the same thing – but this is it. It’s over now – and you, Shirley?”
“I understand the ladies so well now – as well as Penny and the others. But no – only if the need absolutely arises. I will say one thing though.”
“Oh – and that is?”
“John and I made such wonderful love that night…”
“Juliette we need to talk and like urgently.” Jan said as she pulled her friend into a quiet corner of the garden.
“Damn straight its Cassandra, Adam let slip I have a contact with someone knows them, now Cassie is all over me to set up a meeting.”
“Damn, did you tell Adam he has a big mouth?”
“Not yet, but sure can be sure he won’t be sharing my bed tonight!”
“So what should we do Janice?”
“How the hell do I know…how do you tell her she’s known most of the gang for years?”
“You don’t.” Juliette paused for thought. “Look I know Cassie - she’s like a terrier, she will not let go of this…”
“Meaning that I think she will at least need to meet The Hand.”
“Oh joy,” Janice said as she looked round, “do you want me to tell Heather that right now Ju?”
“No - play for time, say it will be at least the end of the week before you get an answer, that will give us time to figure out an idea how we get Cassandra off our backs, and get us past Joanne’s birthday.”
“And smack into Judith’s?”
“Nah – we get a reply by the weekend, it’s at least Wednesday next week. I think we’re good.”
“You know Cassie and Rick decided they are staying up here?”
“I heard she arranged to rent a house.”
“Well – I could see if any witnesses would like to talk to her, get her off that way in the short term…”
Janice looked over at Adam, as he waved back.
“Ach – he can be with me tonight. He’s a lovable galumph – but I will have words with him about it later.”
“So did you get it?”
“Yes we got it – Mom’s keeping it hidden away. She’s going to love it.”
“Going to love what girls?”
“Oh – Judith’s present for the weekend,” Little Sandy said as she and Katy smiled sweetly, “Why?”
“Capricorn, Leonora, your parents are looking for you,” Jo said as the two girls ran past. “Have you two had enough to eat?”
“Yes thank you,” Katy said.
“Good – don’t be too long in here,” she said as she went outside, both girls breathing a sigh of relief.
“What have you got Judith anyway?”
“Here,” Caroline said as she passed Jo a bottle. “Alcohol free.”
“Damn this pre-season training – Coach Waterman is going to be worse than Annie for this.”
“But it’s worth it in the end, right?”
“So looking forward to tomorrow?”
“You know what I mean.”
“Yeah, I know,” Jo said with a smile. “I just want to see what happens.”
Wednesday 5th August
“Good morning,” Heather said as Jo came into the kitchen, “Want some coffee?”
“Yeah – and some pancakes, if you’ve got them,” Jo said as she sat at the breakfast bar, “the car’s going to pick me and Caroline up at nine.”
“Yeah, I can sort that out,” Heather said as she went to the icebox, “but fancy some fruit juice first?”
“Sorta,” Heather said as she produced a bottle of buck’s fizz, put it on the breakfast bar and found two glasses. “I thought you could have one glass of this to start your day.”
“I am working today, O wonderful big sister?”
“One glass of this is fine – isn’t that right Sandy?”
“Yes it is,” Sandy said from the doorway, “I’ll have one as well.”
“Make it four,” Caroline said as she came in. “You only turn eighteen once – so enjoy it.”
“Why not,” Jo said as Heather poured the drink into the glasses, “So long as I stay sober for the shoot today.”
“Coffee will help with that,” Heather said as she handed Jo a drink. “A toast – to my incredibly cute and clever kid sister, Joanne.”
The four friends clinked their glasses and drank the toast, before Heather said “right – while I prepare breakfast, I have something for you.”
“So where are you two off to today,” Sandy asked as they sat down.
“Believe it or not, outside Beverley – John has permission to film in a nearby park, so we’re going to do the coats shoot there.”
“How convenient,” Sandy said, as Jo thought she saw her wink at Heather.
“Anyway – here’s part of my present to you,” Heather said as she handed Jo a card.
“Oh – paid my accommodation for the year,” Jo said as she opened the envelope.
“Nope – but I am pre-paying flights home for you for the first year. We’ll both drive up come the time, but at least you won’t face the drive there and back every time.”
“Now that’s a practical gift,” Caroline said as Jo hugged her sister.
“You’ll get your presents from us with the others,” Sandy said, “but Heather? Hadn’t you better give her the rest of her present?”
“Hold on a minute,” Heather said as she brought a stack of pancakes over, and then went out, returning with a dress bag. Jo took it, and then the group went into the front room, watching as she took out a designer dress.
“This… This is a Dior classic. Heather, this is too much…”
“No it’s not – just tell others it’s a replica. I had it restored anyway with some help from Rose and Maeve.”
“Thank you it’s wonderful,” Jo said as she hugged her sister.
“Right – come on, have your breakfast, and then you two need to get ready.”
JC Philips Nature Reserve
“Ah, here they are,” John Hammond said as Caroline and Joanne stepped out of the car, “ready to get to work, ladies?”
“We most certainly are,” Jo said as she came over, “so where do you want us today?”
“In there,” John said as he pointed to the Winnebago, “make-up and hair are waiting in here.”
“Shall we,” Caroline said as she walked behind Jo, waiting for her to go inside before she followed her.
“And what are you three doing here,” Jo said as she saw Abby, Maggie and Marnie waiting for her.
“Make-up and hair,” Abby said with a smile, “I was just delivering John’s instructions for the day. I’m acting as his runner.”
“This is not going to be a typical work day, is it,” Jo said as she looked at Caroline.
“I think that is a fairly safe bet,” she said as she sat down. “All right, you two – do your worst.”
“Oh ye of little faith,” Maggie said with a smile as she put the cover over Jo, “trust us – we’re professionals.”
“That’s what worries me,” Jo said as she sat back.
“That’s good Jo – lean over that gate and look over to the hill there…”
John worked his way round Jo as she relaxed and smiled, while Abby helped Caroline to put on a padded coat.
“Okay, on a day like this, modeling can be almost as much fun as my other work,” she said as Jo walked over, taking off the scarf and padded jerkin she had been wearing.
“Caroline, we need you sitting on that bench,” John said as Abby walked Jo back to the changing area.
“Okay, so what’s next for me,” Jo said as she sat down and took a drink of water.
“We need to put you in this,” Maggie said as she held up a brown overcoat, “and a scarf for round your neck.”
“At the rate we’re going we’ll be done early,” Jo said. “You’d almost think something else was planned.”
“Don’t say that,” Abby said as she left the vehicle, “I’ll see when you’re needed.”
“Take your time,” Jo said as she sat back and closed her eyes.
“Hey – working hard or hardly working?”
Jo opened one eye and smiled as she saw the tall man standing in the doorway.
“Curt – I didn’t think you were coming until later.”
“Yeah – about that,” he said as he came in, “I’m here now, and John’s calling for you.”
“Well, let’s get this done, and then maybe it’s time for a lunch break,” Jo said as she walked out of the Winnebago, and over to where Caroline was standing with John.
“Right, Jo,” John said as she came over, “You and Caroline are going to walk across the field here, and I’ll take the photos. Caroline, we go the way we discussed, got it?”
“Got it – we start over here Jo,” Caroline said as she took the young girl by the arm, and they made their way to the end of a walking path. Both were wearing the long coats, as Caroline handed Jo a hat and she looked at the map she was holding.
“So we’re walking, I’m showing the way, and we’re talking, got it?”
“Got it,” Jo said as they walked along, Jo saying “Rhubarb Rhubarb?”
Caroline laughed, John saying, “keep it up” as Jo pointed to the map and pointed in one direction, Caroline nodding in agreement as they kept walking towards a gap in the trees.
“Rhubarb rhubarb rhu-BARB!”
“Rhubarb,” Caroline said, nodding as John went through the gap in the trees, Caroline and Jo following – as Jo saw the banner that said “HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOANNE” above the picnic table, which had a cake and bottles of champagne laid out on it.
“Happy Birthday Jo,” Missy Auerbach said as she came over with Mary and Juliette, “we couldn’t let this day pass without all of us marking it.”
“You knew didn’t you,” Jo said as he looked at Curt, who was standing with Abby, Marnie and Maggie.
“Seriously? No – I really am early. My meeting in NY got cancelled before I left, so I came here instead.”
“We knew though,” Abby said as Caroline took the coat and hat from Jo, “and it is lunch break, so come on – we’ll just have cake and champagne as well.”
“And we have some gifts for you,” Juliette said. “Apparently they arrived at CS yesterday.”
“Gifts? Who from?”
“Mandy and family,” Mary said, “they felt the occasion of your coming of age needed marking. In fact, they insisted it came by personal courier.”
“Oh? And who would – oh, now I see,” Jo said as she looked behind Abby.
“Eh? Am I missing something?”
“TONY!” She turned and kissed her boyfriend as the others clapped. “I didn’t know you were coming.”
“Ah, well – you see, I’ve been here for a week, sorting a few things out.”
“Sorting what out?”
“The accommodation for my freshman year – I got a place at Cornell.”
“You… When were you going to tell me you were coming over here to study?”
Tony blushed and said, “err… Now?”
“Well done,” Jo said as she hugged the young Englishman. “So what other surprises can we expect?”
“I have no idea,” John said, “none whatsoever. Lunch break people – and not too much of the bubbly. We have things to do this afternoon.”
“So what is this present,” Jo said as she looked at David.
“Well, all I know is it is in this envelope,” David said as he handed it over. Opening it, Jo looked inside, and then burst out laughing.
“What is it?”
“They named a pedigree pig after me, that’s what it is,” Jo said as she showed them the certificate.
“Good thing you’re not Jewish then,” Marnie said with a smile, as they went to grab some food.
“Seriously, they sent some other things – I’ll give them to you later wh…”
Tony’s words were swallowed as Abby suddenly grabbed and kissed him, while Maggie and Marnie led Jo away.
“Wow,” he eventually said, “Good to see you as well Abs, but…”
“She doesn’t know – you almost blew it.”
“Oh – right, fair enough then, I’ll keep stumm.”
As they sat at one of the benches, the five friends talked about the most important matter of the moment…
"You know football games this fall will be fun, I've got friends at Harvard, Yale, Brown, Princeton, Dartmouth, Columbia, and now Cornell. That's seven of the Ivy League's eight members."
Abby shook her head and said, "Who the hell should I root for?"
"Penn, that way you can offend all your friends at once," Mags giggled.
might have to be that way." Abby rolled her eyes.
“Bad enough Yale-Harvard has Jude and Carina against Ally and Nell,” Marnie said quietly.
still no thoughts on college for yourself Abs?" Marnie asked.
Cornell suddenly entered the picture in a big way." Abigail snuggled with
Tony. "But I think I have the grades to go most anywhere I want, and I
fell in love with Cambridge when I was doing that shoot..."
it you mean Cambridge in England, and not Cambridge, Massachusetts and
therefore Harvard?" Caroline asked.
mean the English one, but Mama and Aunt Tasha are both pitching the Sorbonne
hard as well, and it is a family tradition to go there."
"Well you have a little while to make up your mind." John passed some of the food around.
“Yeah – less time than I think though. Still, I’m not going to think about this right now – Three weeks before you head off after all, Jo.”
“And we have to start as well,” Mags said as she looked at Marnie.
“Oh I’ve also got stuff for Judith’s birthday – what’s happening for that?”
“Day after tomorrow – gathering at Juliette’s place for the afternoon. Do you know she’s talking now?”
“Is she, Miss Huntingdown?”
“Tony, I think you can call me Juliette now – but yes, she can say a few words, and is getting much better at walking. We’re having to watch her like a hawk at the moment.”
“Well, Jude and I will be there to celebrate with her,” Jack said as he raised his glass.
I forget, how was Tokyo Mags?"
I roomed with Angel..."
least it was someone you know." Juliette nodded.
were pretty amazing, pretty far out there stylistically."
Japanese designers often are." Missy smiled. "There were no problems
though, after all it was your first big unchaperoned modeling trip?"
was brilliant, limo service everywhere, time to shop...Oh girls," she
called out, "I bought myself the most amazing kimono."
will have to see." Abby shouted back.
face by the way is on everything Caroline..."
lipstick shoot you did."
didn't think that was that big a thing."
"It is over there."
“Well, we did get finished early anyway,” Jo said as she and Caroline got out of Curt’s car, and walked towards the house.
“Nice of John to let us bring the rest of the cake back for the others as well,” Caroline said as Sandy appeared at the door.
“Oh you brought cake – that’s nice. Come on through to the back.”
“Oh – why,” Jo said as she looked at the other two.
“Just come through,” Sandy said, so the group went to the garden, where Jan and Heather were sitting.
“All right, what’s going on here,” Jo said as Sandy took the cake.
“Sit down, sit down, the show’s about to start,” Heather said, as Caroline and Curt sat behind them.
As they watched, George came out, carrying a CD player which he set down on the table, and started a piece of music that Jo recognized.
“Isn’t that the school song?”
She then laughed out loud as Little Sandy and Katy came out, wearing old uniforms from the school, and started to sing to the tune – but it wasn’t the words to the school song. Instead, they sung about how wonderful Jo was, and how much they wanted to say thank you – George just shaking his head before he came up, hugged Jo and said “Happy birthday” before giving her a little kiss on her cheek.
“We got cake,” Sandy said when they had finished, and everyone applauded, “come and have some and a drink.”
“Whose uniforms did they use,” Jo whispered to Heather.
“Two of Cari’s old ones, by all accounts. How was the shoot?”
“Hard work, but I had good company.”
“So I heard – on which note, Ally and Nell called. They said, and I quote them, ‘tell Ms Smith to be ready by six thirty, no excuses.’”
“Oh dear – do I have anything to do before then?”
“Opening our presents,” Carina said as she appeared from the kitchen, holding Judith. “So are you coming through, or do I have to get Curt there to throw you over his shoulder and carry you through.”
“Tempting – but I’ll walk,” Jo said as she stood up.
As she went in, Jo was taken aback at the pile of wrapped presents that were waiting on the table.
“Oh come on,” she said as she looked round, “they can’t all be for me can they?”
“Actually,” Heather said as she put het hand on Jo’s shoulder, “yes they can. Go on – have a look.”
She picked up the top parcel, opening it to take out a pair of pearl earrings.
“Like them,” Janice said as she stood with Katy.
“Love them,” Jo said as she hugged and kissed both of them, before starting to open the next one.
“Oh wow,” she said as she held up the top that Abby and Diana had got her, “Curt’s gonna love this.”
“Oh yeah,” he said from the doorway before coming in, “he is going to love it.”
As Jo made her way through the presents, she thanked all of them, and then said “so what was that about the Rochermanns?”
“All they said was be ready at six thirty,” Heather said as Abby looked at her watch. “I need to run – see you later Jo!”
Abby said nothing as she ran off, Jo looking at her sister and Sandy.
“Come on – go and get changed and relax a while. How bad can it be?”
“Well hello Doctor Curt,” Ally said as she and Nell drew up in their jeep, “where is the birthday girl?”
“Just getting ready,” he said as he looked at the Rochermann twins, both wearing denim cut-offs and sleeveless blouses. “So where exactly is she going tonight?”
“Sorry, sworn to secrecy,” Nell said with a giggle, “but you’re to come with us as well.”
“Come on Smith,” Ally called out, “we haven’t got all night.”
“All right I’m coming,” Jo said as she walked down the stairs, putting in her earrings as she appeared in a pair of white shorts and a white top. “So where are we going?”
“Not telling you,” Nell said, “get in.”
“See you later,” Heather said as she waved them off, and then turned.
“Go – the kids are fine with me.”
“Lover, we need to move – NOW!”
“Coming,” Sandy said as she ran in, kissing Little Sandy and George and saying “behave for Aunty Jan” before she and Heather ran out.
“Where the heck are we,” Jo said as Ally pulled up in front of a large beach shack.
“Oh this? It’s a new bar we heard of – thought we’d get a drink before we headed off for some pizza.”
“Funny – I don’t remember hearing of a new place opening round here?”
“Don’t worry,” Nell said, “It’s one of those ultra modern pop-up places. Come in – I’ll buy a round, we have a drink, then we go on.”
“I get the distinct feeling I’m not going to like this,” Jo said as they walked in.
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY JO!!!”
The room exploded as the girls crowded round and embraced Jo, carrying her to the stage as the band started playing.
“All right,” Carina said as she, Judy and Bobbi hugged Jo, “welcome to your eighteenth birthday party.”
“Oh my goddess – I wondered where you were today,” Jo said as she looked round. “How did you do this without me knowing?”
“Well, I was under orders to distract you with small talk,” Caroline said as she came over. “Annie said she’s sorry she couldn’t be here – but she asked me to pass on her present for you.”
“How’s she doing?”
“Very tired by all accounts,” Caroline said with a smile. “Anyway, it’s over there with all the others.”
“Was John in on this as well?”
“A little – but he and the other older ones are staying away tonight. I’m one of the older ones here – apart from these four.”
“We were not going to miss this,” Heather said as she appeared with Sandy, Diana and Juliette, “but we’ll be the chaperones at the senior prom.”
“Nah – I want you to join in as well,” Jo said, “after all you’re family.”
She then waved at Marnie and Maggie, before going over to talk to the other girls.
“Hey,” Jack said as he arrived with Abby, “so we just getting started?”
“Oh you damn well bet we are,” Abby said as she looked at Carina, and then at the Rochermanns. “Ready?”
“Oh yeah,” Ally said, “let’s DO THIS!! Mister DJ, play that music!”
Fitzstuart walked over, having hugged and talked to Jo, and said to the
Rochermann twins "So did you find out which house you are in at
Ally shook her head, "they are asking for trouble, they gave us next door
lord." David laughed, "didn't anyone warn them to keep you well
least we are majoring in different subjects," Ally continued, "I'm
majoring in history, she's doing philosophy."
that means you won't share many classes then." Judy brought beers over for
though we can meet twice as many men." Nell smiled slyly.
"Only you two could look at it that way." Judy shook her head.
“On the other hand,” Ally said, “it makes it easier for Mom and Pops to move us in, and to visit when they wish to.”
“Or for us to scarper if we get word they’re coming,” Nell said as she raised her bottle. “Cheers!”
“They look as if they are looking forward to next year,” David said as he stood with Judy.
“Well, I just hope Harvard is ready for them,” Judy said as she stretched.
“You, Judy McNally, need a holiday.”
"Tell me about it. Well, if I don't know the Organ Concerto in F Major by now I never will." Judy looked content as she sipped her beer.
"She's certainly worked hard enough rehearsing it." David kissed her as Maggie joined them.
roomed with your sister in Tokyo David." Maggie spoke.
she e-mailed me all about it. Apparently
she suffered something of a culture shock…"
can't believe that she thinks Jack has the better job this summer grooming and
mucking out horses."
"That's my sister for you." David laughed. “The reluctant model.”
“She’s very good at it though – must be in the blood somehow.”
“Ask mum next time you see her…”
seems a little quiet?" Tony whispered to Abigail.
really are totally in love aren't they?"
think they are forever, just like me and you Englishman." Abby kissed her
you happy I'll be upstate in Ithaca?"
have to learn the drive."
I'll have to learn the route the other way." Tony kissed her back.
to be a busy year, I do hope I'm presuming nothing that you'll be my escort for
all my deb events?"
he smiled, "I'm even going to try and make Vienna and Paris."
"Good because they won't be the same without you being there."
“Hey,” Jo said as she sat with Carina, “Tempt you to a beer?”
“Thanks,” Cari said as she took the bottle, and they cheered each other.
“You look almost as worried as you were this time last year, but it’s not the chili this time, is it?”
“Let’s see – Tony is her with Abby, Curt’s here with me, Sis and Sandy, Jude and David.” Jo took a drink from her bottle and said “What’s missing from this picture?”
“Yeah – another week and a bit to go, but she’s driving up Friday for Judith’s party.”
“Only to drive back again that night?”
“Yeah – damned summer camps.”
“Never went on them myself – Megan’s mum and dad liked to keep an eye on her, and aunt and uncle kept me occupied all summer.”
“I never went either – travelling with mom.”
“Maybe Judith will do that with you?”
“Well, she’s going to be spending time in Germany as well as here, so she’s certainly going to get about,” Carina said with a smile.
“Hey – what are you two talking about?”
“Growing old,” Jo said as Marnie and the others came over.
Jeannie's shoot go?" Marnie asked.
to my Mom...brilliantly." Carina stood up. "She's expecting the photo
"I can just
imagine my Mom being cool about nudes, even if they are for Stephen
Stone," Maggie shook her head.
none of us ever accused BS of cowardice." Marnie laughed.
to my Mom he was telling her jokes all the time and she just forgot she had
helps also though that the proceeds from the book are going to charities for
the disabled." Abby joined the conversation.
true." Cari nodded.
that's what I like most about Jeannie," Maggie smiled, "she's so keen
to give back to others."
"Yes she's certainly not a girl who ever forgets that she got a lucky break." Abigail nodded as well.
“That’s what Mom said.” Carina looked round the room. “Oh come on – this is a celebration night – let’s dance.”
that we are to have the pleasure of some van Roon company up here on the North
Shore?" Nell questioned Abby as they stood by the buffet.
Chet and Blair are coming up with two of Chet's friends from school."
Carina smiled, "We of course offered to have Doc stay with us."
will appreciate that I know." Jo laughed. "So who are the
couple that Doc has met, Harry, and I think the girls name is Sarah."
I heard her mention them." Abby sipped her drink.
usually vacation on the Upper Peninsula, but they've taken a house here because
so many of the family are going to be nearby."
"Blair also wrote me that her father and John Jacobs have their eyes on an auction in Boston." Abby added.
“Funny – Nessa, Paulie and Katherine are heading over there, and John’s heading back over here?”
“Yup- should be fun…”
the only one making a trip. Pepsi
e-mailed me that from out of nowhere a return ticket to Paris arrived for her
in the post." Jo spoke.
wouldn't be courtesy of your brother would it?" Judy asked David.
far as I know." David looked perplexed.
"I think it came more likely from a certain FBI agent." Carina whispered to Abby.
“Will her parents let her go?”
“They’re thinking about it. April is for it, Grant I’m not so sure.”
Thursday 6th August
Beverley, the Huntingdown Home
Juliette looked at her laptop, the initial shots of Jeannie having arrived from Stephen, and let out a low whistle as she scanned through them.
“Stephen, you have outdone yourself,” she said quietly, before she started to type on a fresh document.
“For once dear reader I have to drop the impersonal stance of the journalist and admit that I played a role in the rise of Jeannie Brewster to international fame…”
“Are you working Mom?” Carina asked as she came in, holding Judith’s hand as she walked slowly in.
“Grammah!” Judith toddled over and held her arms out to be lifted up.
“I was just starting the text on Jeannie for Stephen’s book,” she smiled as she picked up and cuddled her granddaughter.
“Well don’t forget to include yourself in Jeans story.” Cari sat on the couch.
“That’s what I was going to start with – meeting this fresh faced thirteen year old in London, and inviting her to spend a day with us – and one thing led to another…”
“And so here we are,” Carina said with a smile.
“Klaus rang by the way darling,” Juliette said as she looked into Judith’s eyes, “he and the family are settled in at Rudelstein for their summer vacation.”
“Do you wish we were there Mom?”
“In a lot of ways, I miss your father and sister so much when they aren’t with us, and Annie too.”
“Well she was committed to doing this runners camp thing, and she couldn’t get out of it. And besides, we both have work commitments before I have to start thinking about going back to Yale.”
“I know, but it still seems strange without her or them here,” Juliette sighed.
“And Grace has flown home for her legal thing, so we are left rattling round on our own.”
“Well,” Juliette said, “we do have this one to keep us on our toes.”
“That’s true.” Carina smiled. “And tomorrow, little one, we are going to be celebrating your birthday. We’ll have cake and soft drinks – and one hundred per cent guaranteed, NO CHILI!!”
“Amen for that,” Juliette said as she put Judith down, and she waddled across the floor, sitting down as she picked up her Raggedy Ann doll.
“By the way Wilhelmina Tennant phoned me,” Carina said as she watched.
“She did? What was that about?”
“Grace - she wanted to know if things go badly for Grace in England, would she be open to becoming Dean of Students at St Angela’s?”
“And you said?”
Carina smiled as she replied, “I said I didn’t know, but she can always ask if things don’t work out.”
“Grace might like the job, even if its not running her own school any more.”
“I also said the problem might be that Grace still likes teaching, and being Dean is really an administrative job.”
“And Wilhelmina replied?”
“That to get Grace on staff she’d rewrite the job description.” Carina picked Judith up as she waddled back to her mother.
“She, Wilhelmina, and Kate Hardisty would actually make a very good team running the school.”
“I thought that, but fingers crossed Grace gets her own school back.”
“Indeed,” Juliette said as she turned back to her laptop.
“I first met her on a March day in London, when she joined us on a special day…”
The Brewster Brownstone
“Come on you lot,” Jeannie said as her mother put the drinks and snacks out, “let’s talk about what we’re going to do for the month.”
“Well, I don’t know about you lot,” Pepsi said, “but I’m going to visit someone in France for a few days.”
“So your mom’s agreed?”
“She was never the problem,” Pepsi said, “it was Dad, but Valeria has agreed to act as my host and chaperone, and apparently Natasha and family are going out on the same flight, so I’m getting the royal treatment.”
“Lucky so and so,” Doc said, “Kylie and I ware heading up to Beverley for a few days.”
“So that you can spend time with Chet?”
“Naturally,” Doc said with a smile, “but are you all coming to the party tomorrow night?”
“Yeah – Mum’s driving us all up,” Jeannie said as Barbara came in.
“Jeannie, do you have a moment?”
“Hold my place,” Jeannie said as she wheeled herself out, and went to the kitchen, where Missy was sitting with Mary Thomas.
“Uh oh – where’s my escape route,” Jeannie said as Barbara closed the door.
“We have the shots from your shoot last Saturday,” Missy said as she held up a file, “time to see what he did.”
“Want me to get House?”
“No,” Barbara said, “I want to see them first.”
“All right then,” Jeannie said with a sigh, “let’s have a… Oh. OH my…”
She and her mother watched as Missy leafed slowly through the file, Mary watching them both as well.
“I have some of the ones he has already taken of Danielle and the others.”
“One question,” Barbara said, “what about Lerabella?”
“I talked to them, and they have agreed this does not contravene the terms of the contract – especially as you used your own make-up on the shoot.”
“Who would have thought that gift they sent would come in so handy on the day,” Jeannie whispered as she looked at her mother. “Do you think Winston would like a framed print of that one?”
“Of which one,” Winston said as he came in, and looked at the picture. “Oh my,” he whispered as he looked round the table.
“So – approval?”
All three nodded silently as Missy closed the book. “Thank you – not a word to the others for now, all right?”
Friday 7th August
11 am BST
Harlow Town Hall
“Grace,” Sarah Nightingale said as she and Harriet Craig stood up, “how are you?”
“Better for the rest,” Grace said, “and I’ll let you have the money back that you loaned me Harriet – after this is all over.”
“Good morning Grace.”
The three women turned and looked at the tall fair haired man standing behind them. He looked every inch the lawyer, but as Harriet looked at him she could see by the way he carried himself he had a similar air to Grace about him.
“Grant – it’s good to see you again,” Grace said as he hugged her, “so what do you think of our chances today?”
“Let’s take it one stage at a time – we have three issues here. Let’s take the easy one first – not declaring the drunk driving charge back in the day.”
“I’ll hold my hands up on that one, and plead it was a one off.”
“Agreed,” Grant said as he looked at all three of them. “That one’s a no contest, I’m afraid. Next up, failing to declare your previous career as a model.”
“Technically correct, but I would like them to argue how that is relevant to my qualifications and experience as a teacher.”
“That will be my line as well – I have statements of support from Alice McKinnon, Juliette Huntingdown and others that have combined both a modeling and a business career. We also have your faultless record as a teacher, and that your training and work experience post dates your last appearance as Grace Gresham.”
“Which leaves the charge of bringing the school into disrepute,” Harriet said. “You have our statements.”
“I do,” Grant said, “as well as testimonials from other teachers. Grace, are you ready?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Grace said as she adjusted her jacket, and a door opened.
“Mrs Brand? You may come in now.”
“Good luck,” Sarah said as Grant and Grace walked into the room. Some tables had been arranged in a three sided figure, Grace and Grant sitting on one side as they looked at the two people sitting opposite.
“Mrs Brand,” the older of the two men said.
“Mister Dalton,” Grace said as she whispered to Grace “Chair of the Governors.”
The door at the rear to the room opened as five people walked in, two women and three men, all smartly dressed. A third woman came in and took up a position at a small desk facing everyone.
“Good morning,” one of the men said as he took his place at the centre of a row of five chairs. “I am George Steadman, chair of the education committee for Harlow Council. The rest of the panel will introduce themselves.”
As each of the panel gave their names, Grant took some notes.
“We are here to examine the charges brought against Grace Brand by the board of governors of Downwood School. Doctor Gerald Dalton is here to represent the board of governors.”
Dalton nodded as he said “I am accompanied by my legal advisor on this occasion.”
“Mrs Brand, you have a representative?”
“Grant Burton, of Burton, Holmes and Walker. I appear before you today as Mrs Brand’s counsel and legal representative.”
“So noted Mister Burton. Doctor Dalton, would you state the nature of the charges brought against Mrs Brand.”
“Mister Chairman,” Gerald Dalton said as he stood up, “the revelation of Mrs Brand’s previous career is a matter of public record, occurring as it did in front of a live television audience and a large crowd at a fashion awards show in London. As a result of the event, and the nature of her revelation, we felt we had no option after but to suspend Mrs Grace Brand as headmistress of Downwood School on three specific charges.
“Firstly, that she did knowingly conceal a conviction for drunk driving.
“Secondly, that she did not provide full details of her previous employment, and therefore provided an inaccurate curricula vitae, both on application to the school as a teacher and later as headmistress.
“Thirdly, that by the nature and manner of the revelation of her career under the name of Grace Gresham, that she brought the good name of Downwood School into disrepute and by doing so brought the reputation of the school into disrepute as well.”
As Dalton sat down, Grant Burton stood up.
“Mister Chairman, Mrs Brand has asked me to speak on her behalf until such time as she herself is asked questions by the panel.
“On the first charge, Mrs Brand accepts the charge as stated, but would ask the panel to note that the charge in question was in 1993, ten years before she started employment at the school. She also pleaded guilty at the time of the offence, and accepted the penalty laid down by the court. I present for your consideration a copy of the transcript from the court.”
As he handed over the document, Grant said “the omission from the initial application form was a regrettable oversight, but is a singular offence, and Mrs Brand had never been charged or convicted of any crime since that date.”
The chairman passed a copy of the transcript to Doctor Dalton’s legal adviser, who nodded as he looked over.
“So noted Mister Burton. Please continue.”
“On the second charge, that of not declaring her previous career when applying for her original post as a teacher at Downwood School, Mrs Brand is prepared to answer questions from the panel in due course, but would ask the panel to note that the last time she appeared as a model was in 1994. I present the tribunal now with written testimonies from Linda Evangelista, Karen Boyd and Naomi Campbell, all contemporaries of Mrs Brand at the time, detailing the events that led to her sudden retirement from her modeling career.”
Doctor Dalton glanced at the testimonials from the three supermodels, and then looked directly at Grace.
“The testimonials showed that Mrs Brand’s decision at the time was sudden, and unexpected. She did not begin her teacher training until 1996, two years after her retirement from modeling, and her subsequent career has been until this point without blemish. As such, she successfully started a new career, and while she did not mention her previous career in the application, that was because it had no bearing on her potential as a teacher.
“On the third charge, that the revelation of her previous career at the Complete Style Awards Show in June this year brought the school into disrepute, she utterly refutes that charge, and is wishes have the opportunity to face her accuser and answer his questions on that matter. I also wish to draw the panel’s attention to the numerous messages of support and depositions to Mrs Brand’s good character and standing with pupils and parents, as presented prior to this hearing.”
Sitting down, he held Grace’s hand as Mister Steadman looked at both of them.
“Mrs Brand, I would like to ask you a few questions. You are at liberty not to answer – this is not a court of law – but I would suggest you answer truthfully and honestly.”
“Of course,” Grace said as she looked across the room.
“Your full name is Grace Gresham-Fox Brand, correct?”
“That is correct. I modeled as Grace Gresham, but I applied for the post as Grace Brand. I had determined, when I left the modeling world, for my own sanity that I needed to make a complete break, so I have never used the name Gresham in any of my teaching work.”
“And why did you retire from modeling.”
“The reasons for Mrs Brand’s retirement are a matter of public record – I draw the panel’s attention to the transcript of an interview broadcast on the Beckmann Report, as well as the recent press coverage.”
“We note that Mister Burton,” the chairman said, “but I would like to hear it from Mrs Brand itself.”
Grant looked at Grace, who nodded as she said “I realized one morning I was no longer enjoying the modeling business, but also I was in danger of doing irreparable harm to myself. The testimony from Karen Boyd, who I was a friend of at the time, will speak to that, and the death of our friend Stella Jameson showed the very real danger. Under those circumstances, what I did I did to save myself – and it cost me real friendships and support at the time.”
The chair of the governors looked at Grace, and said “so you chose not to state it on your application simply because you did not wish to relive bad memories?”
“Mrs Brand has answered the question as put to her,” Grant said, “I believe she had already stated her reasons for not including that information – that it bore no relevance to her qualifications as a teacher.”
“And her previous character was not relevant?”
“The charge was she did not provide a complete curriculum vitae on application – but to be honest, mister chairman, a CV is taken as a list of skills and qualifications a person can bring to bear on application to a particular role or post. As such, we choose to emphasize those things which are relevant to the role – in the case of a teacher, qualifications and experience in a classroom. The fact she brought other, softer skills to the job is a bonus, but need not be explicitly stated in a CV unless asked for.”
Looking through his notes, Grant took out a cutting from a paper and said “I have here the original advertisement and job specification for the role of a languages teacher at Downwood School – the post which was filled by Mrs Brand. I ask the panel to examine them, and tell me if it asks either for full details of all past employment, or for details of relevant qualifications and experience.”
Doctor Dalton looked at Grant, not smiling as the lawyer continued. “I also present the application requirements, as advertised, for the post of headmistress that Mrs Brand was appointed to. Again, does it ask for full disclosure, or for relevant qualifications and experience?”
The panel looked at the papers, then the chairman said, “Doctor Dalton, Mister Burton does make a valid point.”
“As written out, he is correct, but there is also the spirit and the character…”
“Which I believe is not relevant to the specific nature of the charge laid before Mrs Brand.”
“May I make an observation at this point?”
Grant looked at Grace, who nodded as she said “I did not include my past as a model, because I wanted to stand or fail as a teacher. Also, at the time I was determined to keep that past behind me - and there was always the possibility that would not be possible if my full career was known. It is as simple, and profound, as that.”
“Very well,” Mister Steadman said, “to the third charge – of bringing the school into disrepute. Mrs Brand, will you tell us your recollection of the day you took a party to the O2 arena?”
“To do so, I need to backtrack to a few days before, and a surprise visitor to my office at the school.”
“And that would be?”
“Jeannie Brewster, a former pupil of mine, and as I am sure you are all aware, a top model now in her own right. She had called, with her boyfriend, to make an anonymous donation to the library restoration fund.”
“An anonymous donation?”
“That is correct – she wished to thank us for our support when she was a pupil there, but did not want to attract attention to it.”
“And the size of the donation?”
Grace looked hard at George Dalton, and said “a cheque for twenty five thousand pounds sterling.”
“I see – Doctor Dalton?”
“We did have notice of such a donation – but the source was not known to us.”
Nodding, Mister Steadman said “so it was Jeannie Brewster who arranged for the tickets and backstage passes for you, two teachers and the pupils to the show?”
“Correct – as Doctor Dalton will testify, we informed the governors the same day, and both selected the pupils and got permission from their parents over the next few days.”
“Very well – what happened when you got to the arena?”
Grace took a deep breath and took them through the arrival, going backstage, her eventual outing, and the invitation to lead the closing parade.
“And the other teachers – Miss Nightingale and Mrs Craig?”
“They supervised the pupils, with the help of Jeannie’s mother Barbara, and her boyfriend acted as chaperone as well. When they joined me backstage, I was open and honest with them – although Harriet – Mrs Craig – was present when Fiona McKenzie and Mary Thomas recognized me.”
The panel looked at a particular form, nodding as Grace continued “we contacted the parents to inform them that the girls would be staying overnight, and we got permission from all for that to happen, before returning to the school the next day.”
Mister Steadman nodded, as he said “Doctor Dalton?”
“The overnight stay – this was where?”
“At the Savoy Hotel, as guests of Complete Style magazine. The girls were allocated three to a room, on the same floor as myself and my fellow teachers, and were under our supervision for the entire trip.”
“I draw the panel’s attention,” Grant said, “to testimonies from the afore mentioned Miss Thomas and Miss McKenzie, as well as the hotel confirmation of the bookings.”
“So noted,” Mister Steadman said, “Doctor Dalton?”
“The girls also attended a private party at the hotel?”
“Yes – again under close adult supervision, by myself and others.”
“And you have returned to modeling?”
“On a part time basis, during my recent stay in the United States,” Grace said, “for which I had the necessary legal clearance in the US, and the money paid for my living expenses during this suspension.”
“Again, we have complete records should the panel…”
“Unnecessary, Mister Burton, but we appreciate the offer.”
“You have also given a number of interviews, as stated previously?”
“Indeed – but I said nothing about the school or any current pupils or staff, and merely stated I had been suspended pending this tribunal.”
“Do you not think having a model, even a former one, associated with the school is something which demeans the school?”
Grace smiled as she said “does that include Jeannie Brewster, Doctor Dalton?”
She turned and looked at Grant, who in turn looked at the chair and said “Unless there are any further questions?”
“We have none further at this time – Doctor Dalton?”
The chair of governors looked at his advisor, who was trying not to look at him as he checked papers.
“No further questions.”
“Very well then – we will ask both parties to step outside for a few minutes, while we consider our decision.”
“Thank you,” Grant said as he and Grace stepped back out.
“Well,” Saran said as she and Harriet stood up.
“We are in the hands of the panel, but you did well there Grace,” Grant said. “That comment about Jeannie was a master stroke at the end.”
“So what now?”
“I buy all three of you a coffee,” Grant said, “and we wait.”
2 pm BST
“They’re taking a hell of a long time,” Grace said as she sipped her third cup of coffee,” is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
“It’s an interesting thing,” Grant said as he looked at them, and then saw the chairman of the panel approach him.
“Mr. Burton, I wonder if we could have a word with you?”
“If it concerns Mrs Brand, then I will need to consult with her on whatever you say.”
“I understand, but may we talk in private first?”
“Naturally – wait here please,” Grant said as he followed the chairman out.
“Now what’s that all about?”
“No idea,” Sarah said as a girl in a black skirt and white blouse came over.
“May I take your c… Mrs Brand?”
Grace looked at the waitress and said “Sally-Anne? When did you get a job here?”
“A couple of months ago Mrs Brand – I decided it was time to grow up.” She looked at the three teachers, and said “it was really mean what the school did to you – not right.”
“Well, thank you for saying that,” Grace said with a smile as Grant came over.
“They’re ready to give their decision, if you’re ready to hear it – but we need to talk after that.”
“We’ll be here when you come back,” Harriet said as Grace walked off with Grant, and entered the room. Doctor Dalton refused to look at her as she sat down.
“Mrs Brand,” the chairman said, “the panel has considered all the evidence presented to us, and we have come to our decision.
“On the charge of failing to disclose a previous conviction, we accept your admittance, and also note it is a solitary incident in an otherwise charge free life.
“On the charge of not declaring your previous career on the application for the post of teacher, and later as headmistress, we find that while it was regrettable you did so, the reasons you have given are justifiable, and also note your career in teaching started some time after you left the modeling profession. Mr. Burton has argued to our satisfaction that your time as a model was not relevant to your time as a teacher, and therefore we find the charge is unfounded.”
Grace breathed a sigh of relief as she squeezed Grant’s hand.
“On the charge of bringing the name of the school into disrepute, it is undoubtedly true that your appearance at the show was a surprise, the testimonies submitted by Mr. Burton clearly demonstrates that it was as much a surprise for those organizing the show, and the other models present, as it was for you. Further, as we stated earlier, your former career had no immediate bearing on your teaching role, and your colleagues have also spoken of the fact you followed the correct procedures to ensure their parents were informed of the change of plans, and the safety of the students was taken into account.
“While Dr Dalton has very forcefully shared his view, and that of certain other members of the board of governors, these are more than balanced by the positive testimonies sent by pupils, both current and former, and other acquaintances in your second profession. We therefore do not find that you have brought the school into disrepute, and order the board of governors to reinstate you and recompense your lost salary.
“May I offer one word of advice?”
“Of course,” Grace said as she smiled.
“Whatever the future may bring, Mrs Brand,” the chairman said as she stood up, “be happy, and remember your responsibility to yourself and your charges.”
“Thank you,” Grace said as she stood up, and walked out with Grant.
“Reinstated and they’ve been ordered to pay my back wages.”
Sarah and Harriet smiled broadly as they hugged Grace, then all three watched as Doctor Dalton walked by without saying a word.
“This isn’t over yet, is it,” Grace said quietly.
“No – that’s why the chairman wanted a word with me,” Grant said as they sat down. “Grace, today you won, and it was my pleasure to help with that, but the man who made the accusations will not forget. I advise you to seriously consider your next step, and what path you follow – and take care of yourself.”
“Thanks again Grant – and thank Mother for me as well.”
“She’s going to call you later,” Grant said as he walked off.
“Hey Grant – ever tempted to hit the catwalk again?”
“Oh no Palomino,” Grant said with a smile, “being a lawyer is much less stressful.”
“So what are you going to do,” Harriet asked.
“Give you this first,” Grace said as she handed her friend an envelope, “then buy you both a meal. There’s something I need to talk over with both of you.”
Beverley – The Huntingdown House
The banner hanging in the dining room said all that had to be said – HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY JUDITH.
The girl herself was looking up at the decorations, wearing a new light blue birthday dress, a white band holding her blonde hair out of her eyes as she looked round, and toddled across the floor in her white shoes.
“Do you remember when she first arrived, mom,” Carina said as she watched her daughter, “with that shock of black hair?”
“Yes I do,” Juliette said as she stood with her mug of coffee, “and the relief on your face when it grew out blonde.”
“Mommy,” Judith said as she came over, waiting for Carina to pick her up.
“Annie – you made it,” Carina said as her lover hugged her and Judith.
“Well, they cut me loose for a few hours anyway,” Annie said as she looked at Judith. Would you like to see what I have for you?”
Judith nodded as Annie took out of a bag a large teddy bear, wearing a pair of running shorts and a singlet with “St Angela’s” printed on it. Reaching out, she took the bear and looked at it, before she hugged it and smiled.
“She’s definitely an Angel,” Carina said as she sat the two of them down on the couch. “Where did you get that anyway?”
“The bear? Build-A-Bear. I got Mary to run up the outfit for me.”
“I’ll thank her later,” Cari said as she kissed Annie. “So how is the camp?”
“Tiring – I’m going to need a holiday from the holiday after this.”
“It’s only for another week,” Juliette said as she handed Annie a mug of coffee, and then went to the door.
“Hey,” Jo said as she came in, “how’s the training coach?”
“Tiring – and yours?”
“Getting used to it,” Jo said with a smile as Sandy and George gave Judith a present, watching as she ripped the paper off and uncovered a play centre for her car seat.
“Hey,” Sandy said as she came in with Heather, “how’s the birthday girl?”
“Learning to drive,” Carina said as she watched Judith turn the wheel of the toy round.
“Oh Goddess – she’s taking after you,” Sandy said with a smile as Diana and Abby arrived, with Natasha, Willy and little Alain.
“Hey there,” Carina said, “we’re going to set up a play area in the parlor, to keep the youngsters safe.”
“We’re not youngsters,” George said, and then he blushed as Katy came in with Janice and Adam.
“Right – you three can go outside,” Juliette said as more people started arriving.
“How’s the birthday girl,” Janice said as she looked at a happy Judith.
“Blooming – come on, I’ll get you a drink.”
“In here Merlin,” Juliette called out from the kitchen as Mary Thomas came in, carrying a brightly wrapped parcel.
“Present for the little angel,” Mary said as she put it down on the table, “and I need to pick your brains for a few minutes.”
Mary nodded as she whispered into Juliette’s ear, as Judy and David handed a present to Carina and Judith.
“Well I personally think it’s a wonderful idea Mary,” Juliette said to her old friend. “Have you approached any photographers though?”
“I’ve had a quiet word with some, and yes they all love the idea.”
“I take it John is 100% with it?”
“Because he so admires vintage photography?” Mary asked rhetorically, “Yes he is totally wanting to be involved.”
“What about the various museums and private owners, are they willing to lend the clothes?”
“With a little Welsh arm-twisting, yes I’ve got the promise of the outfits I want.”
“And Anna is cool with it? After all giving over such a large section of the magazine to a tribute to the photographic greats of the past?”
“Whose work did after all appear in our pages, and yes Anna, and the company have Okayed it.”
“Well just tell me where you want me to be, and the date, and I’ll be there.” Juliette smiled, “I’m sure Cari will as well…”
“I’ll be where?” Carina asked as she followed her daughter into the kitchen.
“Juice.” Judith looked up at her grandmother.
“Juice please.” Juliette corrected her.
Juliette put some squash into Judith’s cup, put the lid on and handed it to he granddaughter.
“Fank ew,” Judith said as she toddled back out again.
“Where will I be Mom?”
“We are going to do a tribute to the great fashion photographers of the past, I volunteered both of us as models.”
“Oh yes, after the Dior definitely.”
“Well you have two models Mary.” Juliette passed Judith her cup.
“How is the birthday girl doing with so many people Carina?”
“Fine, Aunt Mary” Cari smiled, “this one loves being the centre of attention. I’ll get back in and see what’s happening.”
Carina came into the hallway to see Orlanda standing there, Jennifer holding her hand as she looked round.
"It's lovely of you to bring Jennifer Orlanda." Carina hugged the nanny. "We've put up a sort of playpen in the parlor so the little ones can run and play without getting in any trouble.”
"Trouble with this one is a constant danger," Orlanda smiled, "she's at the stage she thinks its fun to throw her toys."
"Oh I have that pleasure to come." Carina looked skyward. “Don’t worry – Heather is keeping an eye on them.”
"You put her in with the others and I'll serve you a grown-ups drink." Juliette smiled.
would be heaven Miss Huntingdown."
not a trouble, and you know my name is Juliette, Orlanda."
the young Irish woman said, “but in London we were trained not to be familiar
with our employers friends, I have to get myself out of the habit."
George collecting you both?"
Miss... Sorry I mean Sandy."
"Well then you can have more than one of my glasses of champagne." Juliette passed the younger woman her drink.
“You have a lovely house,” Orlanda said as she looked round.
“Have you been to George’s place in the Hamptons yet Orlanda,” Sandy asked.
“We went last week – I think it still holds some bad memories for him.”
“He needs time to work past some of these things,” Sandy said, “just work with him on that.”
“I know – he’s not as sad as he was a month or two back, but it’s still there sometimes when he plays with Jennifer.”
“Relax, Orlanda – you’re with friends here,” Sandy said as she took her into the kitchen.
“Hey – somebody told me there was a party here.”
“Hi Karen,” Carina said as Karen Boyd came in, carrying John in her arms.
grown so much Sweets." Abigail held the baby, as Alice came in with Suzanne.
has, we think his genes have kicked in early."
dear daughter was a tiny baby," Diana kissed the two Bostonians, "Who
would have guessed back then she'd shoot up like this?"
put John in with the others." Abby said as she carried the baby away.
"Yes Heather is having the time of her life with so many little ones." Jo said as she came over and kissed the two models.
"We have a present for you Jo, as well as for Judith." Alice said as she passed the young model an envelope.
present...Oh dear Artemis," Jo looked shocked.
it?" asked Diana.
check for five thousand dollars..." Jo stuttered.
part present, and part bonus for the phenomenal sales of the woolens Jo."
Alice said as she hugged her.
"But Bats...Alice....this is far too much."
“You won’t be saying that later this year – put it to the college fund,” Alice said. “Now, would you like to go and play with the others, Suzanne?”
“Yes please,” the little girl said as she followed Abby.
“Come on through,” Juliette said as Jo put the cheque away, “the older kids are outside, and the parents are invading the kitchen and back room.”
“Hey,” Carina said as she hugged and kissed Jeannie, “thanks for coming.”
“It’s our pleasure,” she said as Winston wheeled her in, while Doc, Becca, Nikki and Pepsi followed with Ama.
“Have you seen Mom,” Ama asked as she saw Jo.
“In the kitchen with Sandy,” Jo said, “where’s Marina and Kylie?”
“Coming with Cathy and Helen,” Ama said as she walked in.
“There you are,” Caroline said as she hugged Ama. “We were just talking about how tall Katy and little Sandy are getting, but I’d noticed you were getting a bit taller as well.”
“I am,” Ama said as she looked at Caroline.
“Oh yeah – you certainly are,” Sandy said, “guess who’s going to have to go shopping with Diana and others for a new uniform this year?”
“All of us probably,” Barbara said, “Jeannie has grown out a little as well, if not taller.
“I’ll worry about it at the end of the month – come on, let’s have a drink.”
“Hey,” Bobbi said as Becca came out, “am I taking you back home later?”
“If you could please – Doc has to stay out here for some reason, and we need to head back earlier anyway.”
“Party thing – Mom and Dad have to go to a reception at City Hall at nine tonight, and our presence is required as the family of the Congressman.”
“How is your dad anyway?”
“Tired and energized at the same time, if that’s possible.” Bobbi looked at Cari, and said, “honestly, it’s the best thing he’s ever done, even if it means he and Mom spend time apart now.”
“I know that feeling – although there’s a few thousand miles of ocean between me and my dad,” Cari said with a smile.
“Okay folks gather round please.”
The parents, friends and others gathered as Heather and Orlanda walked and carried the youngest guests in, Judith holding Jennifer’s hand.
“We’re here today to celebrate a very special young lady’s birthday,” Carina said as she knelt on the floor, “and who is that special young lady?”
“Why thank you dear,” Carina said with a smile, but whose birthday is it today?”
Judith pointed to herself as Carina said “that’s right, and we’re all here to sing a very special song to you. Would you like to hear it?”
Judith nodded as Carina said “all right everyone, after three. One, two, three…”
“Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear Judith,
Happy birthday to you…”
As everyone clapped and cheered, Judith clapped as well, beaming from ear to ear as Juliette brought through a birthday cake, with a single candle on it.
“Ready to blow out the candle, darling,” she said as she knelt as well, Judith nodding as she took a deep breath and then blew the candle out in one puff.
“That’s right, dear, and we’re all going to have some,” Carina said as the three generations got up, Carina lifting Judith in her arms as she spun her around.
“I like cake,” Jennifer said as she put her finger to her lips.
“Well, we’re all going to have some,” Orlanda said as she looked at all the youngsters, behaving impeccably.
“Hey there little man,” Natasha said as Karen sat down with John, “or maybe not so little?”
“Your Alain is growing as well you know – Susan, you made it!”
“Sorry – had a meeting to take before we came up,” she said as Clint carried April in. “Have we missed the candles?”
“I’m afraid so – but the kids are having fun, and you can always sit with us.”
“Sounds good – hello you two,” she said as she waved April’s hand at John and Alain.
“So how are you both?”
“Tired,” Natasha said, “I’m back at work now, and we have a day nanny coming in to watch Alain.”
“Well, at least you have the help.”
“Excuse me – two resident babysitters,” Karen said as she raised an eyebrow.
“I know, I know – but only until the end of the month. Kylie has to report back to her school on the 1st of September.”
“Well, enjoy them while they’re here,” Natasha said, “and then we organize our own coffee clutch. Deal?”
“Deal,” the other two said in unison.
did your father and Ingrid give Judith for her birthday Cari?" Nikki
"Give me five minutes to put it on her and I'll show you." Carina smiled as she picked Judith up and took her upstairs.
“Where did Carina go?”
“She went to change Judith into something her father sent.”
“Oh yeah,” Juliette said, “you’re going to love this.”
“Coming,” Juliette said as she came into the hallway.
“Grace – what happened?
“Yeah – yeah, well congratulations on that, so why do I hear a but coming?
“I can get you that – I take it you’ve heard from her?
“Really? Well, that’s an amazing show of solidarity. Here’s the number…
“Great – I’ll see you when you come back over, and very well done again.”
is adorable!" Jeannie smiled, as Carina brought her daughter back
downstairs in a frilly white blouse with short puff sleeves, a black neckband
and a blue dirndl dress over the blouse and a little yellow apron tied round
"It's a Bavarian national costume, in our family colors," Carina explained.
“And you look wonderful in it,” Pepsi said as she tickled Judith’s chin, watching her giggle and then walk to the other youngsters as Carina put her down.
“That was Grace,” Juliette said as she came in, “where’s Karen?”
“Outside I think – come with me,” Carina said as they went into the garden, where Karen was talking to Caroline.
“Hey there,” she said as they came over, “what’s the word?”
“Grace is coming back over next week.”
“She lost her case?”
“No, she won – but she’s seen which way the wind is blowing. So she’s coming to see Wilhelmina Tennant, to discuss a possible new job in New York.”
“At St. Angela’s?”
“Yup – and to see if there are vacancies for an English and a Science teacher…”