Memories – Part 3
Sunday 2nd October
The de Ros Mansion
Diana looked over from her bed as the door opened, and Judith walked in, saying “Hello Aunty Dwiana – are you better now?”
“Well, I always feel better when I see you little one,” Diana said with a smile as Carina followed her daughter in, “come over and sit on the bed with me.”
She watched as Judith walked over, wearing a pair of denim dungarees with a green top underneath, and looked at Diana from the side of the bed.
“You can put her up beside me Carina – on that side, I am fine,” Diana said as Carina lifted Judith up onto the bed. “So, what have you been doing at Nursery, Judith?”
“We’ve been drawing pictures – I drew one for you,” Judith said as Carina handed her an envelope, which she passed to Diana. As she put her glasses down and looked at the picture of birds, she smiled and said “this is a wonderful picture Judith. May I keep it with these cards by my bed?”
As she smiled, Judith said “mama says you need to stay in bed for a few days.”
“That’s right – I hurt a little bit, and I need to rest, but I promise you, I will be much better when it comes time for Thanksgiving.”
“Good,” Judith said as she nodded, “Suzie was ill, and it was not the same until she came back to nursery.”
“I understand,” Diana said as she kissed Judith’s forehead. “Why don’t you go and ask Auntie Abigail or Edith if you can have some milk?”
“Shall I ask Momma to bring Mags and Rudi up?”
“In a few minutes,” Carina said as Judith walked off, and she looked at Diana. “How bad is it?”
“Well, I suspect the Beast would enjoy it,” Diana said quietly, “but, compared to the pain before, it is manageable – and the painkillers do work. How are you after last Friday?”
“She’s quiet – and it was a fun night,” Carina said quietly. “Hopefully, you will have recovered enough to join us next time.”
“We shall see my dear – is Ingrid here as well?”
The Bijou Cinema
“So where’s Tommy today,” Sands said as she sat next to Holly, her arm around the smaller girl’s shoulder. Her blonde hair was pulled back under a red bandana, and she was wearing a red short sleeved blouse over a long sleeved white top, Shalmar jeans and a pair of knee length red boots.
“He’s visiting his grandparents with his family – he won’t be back until late,” Holly said as she looked up at Sands. Her blonde hair was covered by a brunette wig, and she wore a black waistcoat over a Laura Ashley style dress, with short white boots on her feet.
“So we have the whole afternoon to ourselves?”
“When did you tell Heather you would be back?”
“I said I’d be back by eight – it’s a school day tomorrow,” Sands whispered as she elaned over and gently kissed Holly. On the large screen, the two women were kissing as well.
“Listen – want to skip the end and go somewhere more – private?”
Holly nodded as they stood up and made their way along the aisle, both of them apologising as they passed one man. He watched them walk out, and then stood, following them out of the theatre as they paused in the foyer to kiss each other, their arms holding them close together.
As they walked out, he followed them, walking arms around each other as Holly gently squeezed Sands on the bottom and she giggled. He was intrigued, as they entered the front of a brownstone, and he looked at the names on the bellpush.
“Alexandra Richmond – Junior,” he whispered to himself as he stepped back and looked up. This was indeed an unusual find – and a most promising one, if handled correctly. As he turned and walked down the street, Andre Kannenikov allowed himself a smile. Who should he approach with the news of what he had discovered? Mother and Grandmother were both very influential, and then of course there was Father Richmond. Yes this could work out quite well…
As he walked off, he was unaware of the woman watching him as she went to the door, and took out her cell phone.
“Caroline – I need to report Dancer may have seen something – and someone is not going to be very happy…”
“Okay – keep monitoring, and I’ll put contingencies into place,” Caroline said as she came into the conference room, the other senior staff looking at her as she sat down.
“Problem,” Eleanor said as she looked over.
“I hope not – anyway, apologies for the delay, shall we begin?”
nodded as she said "Is the safe house set for our 'guest' to come visit
Admiral," the blonde nodded.
"And your people know that we are just bringing him in for a 'friendly' chat?"
"I've told them to use the minimum of force needed."
"I will be
there with Captain Ball, and together we will lay out the various 'options'
that he has," Francesca smiled slightly, "we of course hope that he
will chose the correct one."
a reason I'm being kept at arm’s length on this?" Veronica asked.
it's because one day when you return to your regular duties it might be better
if you haven't directly participated in kidnapping, extortion, and
blackmail," Hannah looked up.
laughed as she looked round the table. "With
all the other laws and rules I'm breaking, you think I'm worried about
still probably for the best Veronica," Eleanor spoke quietly.
"If he does co-operate and act as a double agent on our behalf, who will handle his case and communications?" Charlotte spoke for the first time.
Eleanor sat back, her fingers under her chin. "We need someone with no obvious ties back to us as a cut-out."
Captain," Francesca smiled her little smile again. "I've been doing
some thinking on it and really there is but one logical candidate..."
is that?" Eleanor interrupted.
Eleanor suddenly sat up and leaned forward as she whispered "Janice?"
"Think on it Captain,” Eleanor said as she looked back over. “She's an experienced law enforcement agent, used to running informants, and the fact she works for the FBI obscures her ties to both the Sisters, and to us."
“It's actually a good idea," Caroline said as she chewed on the end of her pen.
"It's actually a lousy idea."
"Eleanor darling," everyone noted round the table that Francesca had used her friend’s name rather than rank, "are you saying that with your head or your heart? Is your objection simply that she's 'family'?"
“It’s partly that,” Eleanor said, “but you hit the real point on the head – she is an experienced and currently serving law enforcement agent. You and I are retired, Francesca. Caroline and Charlotte are experts, Veronica is here in a semi-officially approved status. But Janice would be going against her vows of service – do we have the right to do that to her?”
“I appreciate and share your concerns,” Francesca said quietly, “but I think Ed will cover her in that hopefully unlikely contingency. He already knows she has a contact with the Sisters and through me.”
Nodding, Eleanor said “okay – but I think it’s a huge risk you are taking.”
“Let’s take her out to lunch tomorrow and discuss it. Now – what’s next?”
Monday 3rd October
The de Ros Mansion
"I'm lucky having so many wonderful friends," Diana whispered to herself as she lay in the dark. "I really don't deserve them..."
"No you don't bitch," a male voice replied out of the gloom.
"Who's there?" Diana eased herself up and turned the light on. The voice was distant – but sounded so familiar…
"Just me...my love," the voice laughed.
Diana looked at the cloud in front of her, and whispered "No, No....You are dead..."
"Of course I am," the apparition of Jacques slowly started to appear, "you fucking murdered me bitch,"
Goddess," Diana tried to pinch herself, "am I dreaming?"
know...Are you?" the vision of her late husband mocked her. "I would
have thought with all the people you have gone on to kill by now the visits of
ghosts haunting you would be quite common."
"Bastard!" she spat the word out.
The vision walked round the bed, looking at Diana in the way she always feared. "I have to say that while your utter disregard for human life doesn't surprise me after what you did to me, I'm more than a little shocked that you let our daughter grow up to be a cold-blooded killer."
daughter is a fine woman Jacques..."
homicidal thief," Diana heard that same mocking laugh that she remembered
me lose all my faith in the human race with what you did to me you
monster," Diana gritted her teeth, "is it any wonder that I changed
so much, and that my daughter learned never to be the victim that I had once
you have my Mother entangled with that philandering father of yours," the
ghost ignored what she had said.
"Valeria found the love she needed at last. The love she needed but never got from your father – and most certainly never got from you."
“I loved my mother,” Jacques whispered as he looked into Diana’s eyes, “unlike you, you cock sucking daughter of a whore.”
“That’s what you thought all women were, Jacques,” Diana said in a dangerous whisper, “and you were wrong. But you cannot hurt me now – I am only confined to this bed because of you, but I will not let you hurt me again.”
“Oh I’ll always be there, Diana, always at the back of your mind, whispering, taunting you. What would Mama say if she knew the truth – maybe I should tell her…”
“Do you want to kill her?”
Diana looked behind Jacques, staring at the woman who was now standing there. She looked so much like an older Carina, as she whispered “mon dieu – Princess Alexa?”
Jacques turned suddenly as he saw her there, and whispered “who are you?”
“Me? Oh, think of me as a guardian angel,” Lexa said as she looked round the room, “but I am something else this time. I’ve come with a message for you.”
“Oh,” Jacques sneered, “and what is that?”
Diana could not believe her eyes as Jacques opened his mouth, a silent scream emerging as he seemed to be sucked down into the floor, Lexa waving as he disappeared.
“He has been running for so very long – on which note, a pleasure to meet you, Countess de Ros. I have two messages for you. The first is your mother says she hopes you fully recover, and that she is so proud of you and Abigail.”
“Mamma…” Diana wiped a tear away and said “and the second message?”
“Your friends will need you very soon – so rest and heal, Diana. Your heart will be needed…”
Diana looked as the vision faded, and called out “Wait – what did you…”
Diana looked to the door as Abigail came in.
“You called out,” she said as Valeria appeared with her, “are you all right?”
“Yes – yes, I think I am…”
“How’s the turbot,” Eleanor said as she looked at Jan.
“Delicious – but, as lovely it is to have lunch somewhere I've never eaten before, why did you invite me to join you all today...Really?" Janice looked round the table.
"A direct question. Good that makes this easier," Francesca sipped her wine. "Janice your services are needed."
"As an FBI agent?"
"No as a Sister," the Italian whispered, "your employers must never know what you are doing."
Janice looked round as she said "I am here to serve for the Heart and the Strength."
"Excellent," Francesca put her glass down.
always back out Jan," Eleanor spoke, "this is potentially fatal to
your career if it ever came out what you are doing."
virtually everything we do as a Sister?" Jan smiled at her lovers mother,
"what do you need me to do?"
of course that we are running a counter-intelligence operation?"
Admiral," Jan nodded.
are trying to 'turn' a Russian Mafia figure and get him to work solely for
someone to act as his case agent, to be his visible point of contact, and to basically
run him on our behalf."
Admiral, I can understand that, but may i ask why
as a Fed you have run informers before Jan," Eleanor spoke.
"Will he need to know who I am, or is it a masked job?"
"I actually think he needs to know," Francesca took another sip of wine, "but I'm open to arguments for how we can keep your identity secret Janice."
"Okay, and the other big question, is when does all this start, and what do I need be doing?"
“Tonight – he is been invited to meet with us now…”
He looked up at the door of the building again, wondering if she was still there. He knew it had been a limited engagement, but still…
He turned to see a brunette standing there.
“Is this where I may find Madame Blaze?”
He looked at her, stuttering as he said “I… I’m… I’m afraid I would not know.”
“Really? You look familiar,” she said as a car drew up behind them, “if I said Princess Penelope to you?”
He looked round, small beads of sweat on his forehead as he said “who?”
“Oh never mind – I’ve seen the tape.”
“The…” He stared at her before he felt the pin prick, and then slumped into Caroline’s arms as she half walked, half dragged him to the car.
“Nice distraction – now get in, they’re waiting…
Helen drummed her fingers on the desk as she waited for the Skype call to connect. Something was not been revealed to her, and that bothered her – and with her love going as quickly as she had come, she needed answers.
“Well, this is a surprise,” Penny said as she appeared in her kitchen on the screen. “I was just thinking of you, my love.”
“And I you… Penny, what is going on that I'm not being told?" Helen said quietly as she looked at the computer screen.
Penny smiled as she looked at Helen. "What makes you think anything is?"
"Oh little things - like you paying a flying visit to New York that I know was about a lot more than just wanting to come and spend time with me."
"I can't do that?" Penny pouted as she looked at the screen.
course you can my love," Helen smiled fondly, "but it’s also this - why
am I cooling my heels here in New York, and why hasn't my Mistress requested
this ones return to Hong Kong."
you overseeing some important work for Huntingdown's?"
yes. It's basically just the same sort
of stuff i routinely handle from HK."
not aware of anything out of the ordinary..."
darling,” Helen said quietly, “you are lying to me."
would i do that?"
Madame and the others have something going on that they don't want me in on. Do
I have to fly to London and torture you to get a simple yes or no answer on
– but no," Penny said as she took a deep breath, "Yes there is
something under way and because you may have potential conflicts of interest,
the decision was taken not to involve you unless, or until, it became
you. Was that so hard?" Helen smiled, "so I am basically in a holding
"Yes my darling, but please don't ask a lot of questions. You may not like these answers."
6 pm BST
As she opened the door to her flat, Agnes could hear Miley and Laura talking to someone, so she closed the door and put her bag down as she heard Laura say “well, you know more boys than we do.”
“I’m not sure of that, but I may be able to get Charlie Treharran to come along…”
“Is that Christine’s voice I can hear?” Agnes asked as she took her coat off and hung it up.
“It is,” Miley said as she came out of the room and hugged her mother; “we have her on speaker phone while we talk about the party arrangements.”
“Hey Aunt Aggie,” a familiar voice floated out of the air as Agnes walked into the drawing room.
“Hello Kits darling,” Agnes said as she sat down, “how is school?”
“Don’t ask,” the voice said with a giggle.
“That good eh?” Aggie laughed.
“Benenden never changes. Well, apart from the fact we’re in the sixth, so Aileen, Clodagh and Edwina tend to do something apart from us…”
“How have Edwina and Clodagh settled in,” Laura asked.
“Both looking forward to our next home weekend I think,” Kit laughed.
“So,” Agnes said as Tippy Toes climbed onto her lap, “What were you talking about?”
“Boys,” all three girls said together, and then burst into laughter.
“Should I ask why?” Agnes sipped the mug of coffee that Laura gave her. “Or shouldn’t I ask three girls your age?”
“We were talking about how to ensure there will be lots of boys at the party,” Laura answered.
“Okay now I understand,” Aggie said as she sat back in her armchair.
“We are racking our brains trying to make a list of boys we can invite,” Christine spoke, “the problem is a lot of them won’t be able to get out of school.”
“Will John be able to come up from Eton darling?”
“He’s asked Aunt Aggie, and I’m keeping fingers crossed.”
“Richard will certainly be there,” Miley looked very happy as she sat cross-legged on the floor.
“And we were telling Kit about the two Cornwall boys…”
“One of whom Laura made sound very interesting…”
“Well he’s nice,” Laura blushed.
“Can I make a suggestion?”
“Please Aunt Aggie.”
“Ask each boy you are definitely asking to bring three of his friends from his school.”
“You know that is a definite idea,” Christine said slowly.
“But what about Maisha?”
“I’m sure she can invite some boys from the Tennis club,” Agnes said with a smile.
"Have you talked to Aunt Shirley about how grown-up a party it can be?" Kits asked.
"Meaning what?" Agnes looked perplexed as she sat up.
be able to have alcohol, and how closely will things be chaperoned?"
understand....No I haven't talked to Shirley yet."
will be a range of ages from Miley's friends, to Maisha's, you and she need to lay
down the ground rules so I know what I'm doing as I organise things."
"Alright - I will ring Shirley later."
"Thank you Aunt Aggie."
take-charge attitude of yours will stand you in good stead when you become
"So Mummy says. John just says I'm naturally bossy."
“Well, that too…” Laura laughed as she looked round the room.
As Hannah walked into the reception area, she talked quietly to the woman behind the desk, and then walked to where the brown haired woman was sitting. She was casually dressed, in a blue denim jacket and jeans, a white top and black trainers, but as she saw the taller woman approaching she stood up.
“Mrs Kalinikov? I understand you have a query regarding work permit clearance. Perhaps I can be of assistance?”
“The offer is well meant – any assistance you can give would be most useful,” she said as Hannah nodded.
“Good – Miss Jameson is expecting you. If you will follow me?”
The two women walked past the desk, and into Hannah’s office, the new arrival waiting as Hannah closed the door. “Now that we are alone,” she said as she held her hands out, “I greet you in the name of The Heart and The Strength.”
“Thank you,” Anouska said as she gripped Hannah’s hands.
“I understand you recently completed the course?”
“I did – and then I was asked to come here after a stop in London.”
“Do you know why you have been asked to come?”
“Only that you have need of someone like me – and I serve the Sisters where I am needed.”
Hannah nodded as she said “excellent – come with me, those in charge here can brief you on what is required…”
“Good – if we gather at the safe house for five?”
“We can watch him until then,” Caroline said as she sat with Francesca, then picked up the telephone as it rang.
“Hannah? Ah good – bring her in please.”
“She has arrived?”
Caroline nodded as the door was opened and Hannah showed Anouska in. “Admiral, Caroline, this is Anouska Kalinikov. She has recently become a sister, but has been sent to us because she has the skills and motivation you need for this work.”
“Thank you Hannah,” Francesca said as she came round the table. “Would you ask Charlotte to join us when she is free please?”
“Of course,” Hannah said as Francesca took Anouska’s hands. “Welcome – I too greet you in the Name of the Heart and the Strength. I am Francesca di Cambrello, and this is Caroline Jameson, the owner of Jameson Security, under which cover this operation is running. May I offer you a drink?”
“Not for now, but thank you,” Anouska said as Caroline offered her a seat. “How may I be of service?”
“We can brief you fully later,” Caroline said, “but in essence, we are investigating a systematic attempt by those in charge in Russia to influence the Presidential Election here. I understand you have some experience of how those forces operate to influence people?”
“Sadly, yes,” Anouska said quietly. “And I am needed to play a part in this work?”
“Indeed,” Francesca said. “Tell me, have you heard of Andre Kannenikov?”
“I remember his name from the papers – he was a famous dancer?”
“Indeed,” Caroline said, “he is currently an artistic director at the Metropolitan Ballet here. He is also one of the main controllers for this campaign in New York.”
“We need someone to get close to him and report on what he is doing,” Francesca said, “someone he will trust?”
“If he is what you say he is, he will only truly trust – ah,” Anouska said, “I see what you require now.”
one simple question Anouska and that is do you believe that despite being
Ukrainian can you convincingly pass as Russian?" Francesca looked the
woman straight in the eye looking for doubts.
Russian with a strong South Russian accent Admiral, but yes I can pass as
Russian I'm pretty sure."
"Well a regional accent is not a disqualifier,” Francesca said with a smile, “but we need you to pass totally as a fervent Russian nationalist, and as a supporter of the Putin government."
"I can do that."
"Good," Francesca looked the woman up and down again, she would need to quickly absorb a lot of information to be able to support her cover, but the reports from Botswana were full of praise for her ability to learn quickly.
realise that we are asking you to do something that goes beyond the merely
military training you received in Africa Anouska?" Caroline asked.
do," Anouska nodded, "but I knew that when I took the oath as a
sister that my services could be required in a variety of situations. I'm not
sure I quite expected this, but I'm at your command."
"Yes," Caroline said to herself as she assessed this woman, she had an air of determination of quiet confidence, and an obvious lot of determination. Yes she might well be the perfect fit for what they needed.
“Excellent – we will spend the rest of today giving you the background briefing you need. You are a – shall we say, a widow of a recently deceased oligarch who is here for the season, so you will be dressed and accommodated accordingly.”
As Anouska nodded, the door opened and Charlotte came in. “Excellent timing – Anouska, this is Little Mother.”
“An honour,” Anouska said as she stood and bowed, “to meet our founder.”
“Enough of that – welcome Anouska. Teacher and Leader have spoken of your skill and talent – as has Blessing. Come – let me tell you what you need to know…”
8 pm BST
"I hope I'm not intruding Agnes?" Shirley looked round as Agnes ushered her into the drawing room.
"No,” Agnes said as Shirley unfastened her coat “the girls are doing their homework, and I was going to ring you anyway."
wants to know what we will allow, and what we won't at the girls party."
"Okay,” Shirley said as she sat down, “can I think on that a few minutes?"
"Sure,” Agnes said as she walked to the cabinet, “and in the meantime, can I offer you a drink?"
"Just a tiny one please."
did you want to talk about then?" Aggie asked as she poured them both
glasses of whiskey.
"The Galway golf project.” Shirley took her glass and waited for her friend to sit down. “I went over what you sent me and then rang the Americans, they are so desperate to cut their losses that they are basically prepared to let it go for a song."
"It's cost them a lot of money over the years," Agnes said as she held her glass.
"I could see that from the balance statements," Shirley took a sip, "well to cut a long story short when I had the full facts I rang Tom Lardarn and told him what I'd discovered."
did Tom say?"
that price it's basically too a good a bargain to resist. He wants in on the
investment as well."
this isn't...?" Aggie touched her nose.
the auburn haired beauty laughed, "this will be a perfectly clean and
straight investment....I do own a few legitimate businesses you know?"
it's just when you said Tom's partnering I'd have to remind you he's an
extremely good, and honest, businessman. He'd have a fit if he saw anything
one is completely clean," Shirley finished her whiskey, "and having
thought about the party I suppose if we are careful we can allow the kids some
and latitude, isn't that an oxymoron?"
"I suppose, but the older kids will want to party one way, while the younger kids need to be watched in case they overdo it. So I think if we can devise a safe compromise, tell Kits that we will allow some drinking, and the grownups will sometimes turn a blind eye. I may talk to our American friends, see how they managed it for the parties last year.”
“I understand they were fun – or at least the one Kit attended was.”
Shirley smiled as she said “Ama’s certainly was. Well, I have to get back, we have a busy day tomorrow. We’re meeting with Cat to discuss the adoption papers.”
He slowly opened his eyes, wondering what had happened. The last thing he remembered was outside Madame Blaze’s business, the girl who had talked to her – and then she had said something, and he had fallen asleep…
He lay there for a few minutes as the fog cleared from his eyes and his mind, before he sat up and looked round. He was on a cot bed in a room, the windows high in the walls, and a table with three chairs to one side. Rubbing his head, he called out “hey – is there anyone out there? Someone answer me!”
He had not heard the door open, but it has, as three women walked in - a tall blonde amazon, a smaller brunette, and – a face he recognised from the magazines he had seen his secretary reading…
The three women sat at the table, as a fourth woman wheeled in a trolley with a portable DVD player on it. She then handed him a bottle of water, as the blonde he recognised said “drink – it will help you to recover.”
“Why… Why have you kidnapped me? Why have you brought me here? I’m a businessman, if it is your intention to…”
“Drink,” the Amazon said as she stood up and walked round to the player, turning it on as he watched – and then fell with a thud on the cot bed as he saw himself with the dominatrix.
“O Bozhe moy” he whispered as he saw the scene pay out, “Yesli ona kogda-nibud' uvidit eto ... Kto ty? Zachem ty eto sdelal?”
“For the benefit of my friends,” the one he knew said, “he wants to know who we are, and why we have done this. Allow me to answer the second question first – we are doing to you what so many of those in power in your country have done to others.”
“And as to the first question,” the Amazon continued, “we know of you business interests, your contacts, we know you are a man who receives and sends on information – and from now on, you will send it to us as well.”
He paled as he said “they will kill me?”
“So you refuse? Well then, I will watch with interest as your wife receives a copy of this – she may find it illuminating, even revealing.”
He saw as he was taken from behind, and shivered as he said “you would not dare…”
“Care to try me on that? Your government is doing their best to influence our democracy, and I will take any steps necessary to stop that. You, little man, for better or worse, are now part of our plans – because if you do not, not only will your wife see this, we may just put it up on YouTube – or perhaps a more, adult site?”
He looked at all three of them, before he said “what… What do you want?”
“This lady will be your contact,” the Amazon said as she looked at the brunette. “You will be given a drop site, safe words, meeting places and times. Tell us all you find out about your government’s work, and especially how the local taxi and Uber drivers are involved. I think you understand what happens if you fail to do so.”
As he slowly nodded, the three women stood up. “I will be in touch – we will talk in the next 24 hours,” the brunette said as they left the room, the man feeling his sweat as he took a drink from the bottle – and then felt the pinprick again before he passed out…
The de Ros Mansion
“I am grateful that you and Claude could visit for a while,” Diana said as her brother looked at the flowers by her bed.
“And why would we not? Roger is busy, and Willy has a gorgeous wife and son to look after – so naturally, I am here to support you,” Alain said with a smile. Both he and Claude were in suits and open necked shirts.
“We met a friend of yours when we went for dinner with your father last night,” Claude said, “a Jack Linklater?”
“Ah Jack – what did you think of him?”
“A most complex man – but his partner is a gentleman. So - how permanent is the fix Diana?” Alain asked as he sat on the edge of his sisters’ bed.
Diana looked at him through her glasses, and said “the fix?”
“Is that not the right word in English? Do I need ask in French?”
“No it’s fine, I understand what you mean,” Diana laughed. “According to Helen as long as I don’t do anything really stupid like falling off a mountain, then I should hopefully never require more surgery.”
“Hopefully is not a definite word Diana,” Alain smiled affectionately at his sibling. “I presume you will be able to ski as well as before.”
“I truly hope so…” Diana took her glasses off, folded the legs and put them on the small table. “She’s going to keep a close watch, and I’m to be honest with her about any pains I get, oh yes nothing is definite, but I’m a lot happier and confident now then I was.”
“Good.” Claude and Alain took one of her hands each and gave them a gentle squeeze.”
“Now if we know you can look forward to many more years of life darling sister, isn’t it time you finally put Jacques totally behind you and allow yourself the chance of happiness again?”
“Alain,” Diana said with a smile as she gripped his hand, “I am very happy, I have Abigail, I have Papa and Valeria, I have my family, I have my friends…”
“Diana you know very well what we are talking about,” for once Alaine looked totally serious, “isn’t it time that you allowed someone inside your defences to give you that love you so need?”
“He’s right you know Diana,” Claude nodded, “It’s finally time to try and resurrect something of the old you Alain talks about, that carefree, happy, wonderful girl…”
“With more men chasing her then anyone could count,” Alain laughed.
“He always was envious of that,” Claude laughed.
“Darlings I’m not sure I even have it in me to be intimate with anyone again,” Diana said slowly.
“It doesn’t need to mean intimacy, but Diana you need someone who is going to allow you to be a woman again.”
Nodding, Diana said “perhaps – but do not rush me, Alain, allow me to recover physically first.”
“Of course – but we will talk of this again,” Alain said as Edith came in.
“The Duchess de Ros,” she said as Natasha came in. “Diana – how are you?”
“We will talk later,” Alain said as he kissed his sister in law, and then left them to talk, Claude following…
“Thank you,” Caroline said as they entered the main room. She was wearing a grey jacket and skirt with a white blouse, while Anouska had transformed herself – now wearing a grey coat over a tight jersey dress, with mid-calf matching boots. With them was a brunette in a dark trouser suit and top, who paid the porter before she closed the door.
"Okay, we have rented this suite for you Anouska to be your base while we establish your new identity," Caroline said as she handed the Ukrainian the keys.
"This must be amazingly expensive?" Anouska shook her head as she looked round.
worry about that please, for this mission it's essential that they believe that
you can afford the very very best."
"Alright. So how will this work?"
"Selena,” Caroline said as she looked at the third woman, “will act as your secretary and aide, and basically help you with the learning curve you need to climb."
Selena smiled as she said "Zdravstvuyte, i mne ochen' priyatno s vami poznakomit'sya."
"I vstretit'sya s vami."
works in the London offices of one of our people, you can trust her
completely," Caroline said as she produced a huge folder from her bag.
"This is your homework for tonight Anouska, try and absorb as much as you
can, what you don't understand please ask Selena."
"Okay. I imagine I will be eating in the room
have the proposed schedule for tomorrow?" Caroline looked at Selena.
do," the Russian nodded.
"Do I take her shopping?"
"No,” Caroline said, “someone will be here at nine o'clock to help with that. We need her to be seen in certain places, and we need you here for the inevitable enquiries."
“What enquiries,” Anouska said as she looked up from the folder.
“The idea is by this time tomorrow, word gets out you are here – and your mark is ready to pay attention when you visit the ballet tomorrow night.”
Anouska looked at the photo of Andre and smiled. “It will be a pleasure…”
Tuesday 4th October
Looking out over the Park, Anouska shook her head as she sipped her coffee. This was never how she envisaged serving the Sisters, but if it struck a blow against those who had hurt so many of her sisters, then it was worth it.
The knock on the door made her turn, and put her cup down on the table as she walked to see who was there. Through the spyhole, she saw a young woman with styled red-brown hair, wearing a black leather jacket over a brown sweater and pants. Taking a breath she opened the door and said “Can I help you?”
I'm Marina Sowkowski," the Londoner extended her
hand, "I've been asked to take you shopping."
"Sowkowski? Are you Polish?"
was, my father was from Kiev."
as she let the young woman in, closing the door behind them as she looked at
her. "So you are Ukrainian as
think of myself as being British," Marina laughed," but I guess you
can say I'm half Ukrainian."
is your job, or am I being rude?"
all. I work as a personal assistant to the Global Editor of Complete Style
is why you've been sent to help me with clothes, you are an expert?"
totally," Marina laughed again, "but I know a woman who is, and we
will be going to see her later."
also a Sister?"
you'll need to practice your cover story with her."
course. What is her name?"
is Mary Thomas, she's the style director at CS, and we'd better be getting
underway, she's meeting us at a store called APCO in 20 minutes."
"Okay," Anouska took a deep breath, "do I look alright?"
Marian looked at her, in her grey blouse and skirt, and said “for a woman who has not been acknowledged as even existing, you look just fine. So, put your coat on, and let’s go – we can’t keep the Wizard waiting.”
“The Wizard? Is she a practitioner of Magic?”
“In a way…”
APCO, 5th Avenue
As they entered the store, Anouska looked round, Marina shaking her head as they approached the two women at the rear. Anouska looked at them – the tall brunette, wearing a black dress coat, and the smaller woman in a jumper and skirt, a waistcoat over the jumper.
“Hello Marina – and this is the woman you called about?”
“It is indeed – Anouska, this is Betsy, the manager of this store, and the other woman smiling at you is Mary Thomas. Ladies, meet Anouska Kalinikov.”
“Welcome,” Betsy said. “Alice – will you Madame Kalinikov into a booth, and take her measurements, while Marina and Mary discuss possible outfits?”
“This way please,” the assistant said as she took Anouska into the changing rooms.
me up to speed again please Marina?"
Marina smiled at the Welshwoman, "she's the widow of a seriously rich
Russian businessman who kept her pretty much chained to the kitchen sink whilst
he had a string of mistresses. Now he's gone, she's free to enjoy spending some
of his ill-gotten, and Shirley Xavier asked if I might be able to help her gain
a whole new wardrobe for starters."
she's a friend of Shirley's that's enough recommendation for me." Mary
nodded, "and why her husband was fooling around on her I don't know, a
little bit of polish and camouflage and she will scrub up to be a beauty
"We just need convince her of that. So we take her size, and then start with a selection of everyday and special outfits. Shirley particularly mentioned she is attending an event tonight she will need a gown for."
“Ai – well, let’s see what we can do…”
“Well, Alice,” Betsy asked as the young assistant came out, and she looked at the pad, then showed it to Mary.
“Right – Marina, you look for that dress for tonight, and we start her with everyday outfits and dresses…”
Marina, Mary and Betsy looked at Anouska as she turned from side to side. She was wearing a purple silk dress, with long sleeves that were split from shoulder to elbow, and a skirt that came to knee height at the front and to the floor at the back. Betsy had found a pair of three inch heels for her to wear with them.
"This is a beautiful dress," Anouska said as she looked in the mirror and sighed, "but not the sort of thing my husband would have ever let me wear." She saw the way the front clinged to her chest as she twisted once more.
"Well he isn't here is he?" Mary smiled, "and it looks wonderful on you."
"I think it does as well," Marina stood with Betsy the manageress who nodded in agreement.
"I think I take it then," Anouska smiled while inside she wondered just what all this must be costing - and whether she might be allowed to keep some of it after the mission was complete.
“Right,” Mary said as she counted on her fingers, “suits, skirts, dresses, a couple of Fitzstuart jumpers… Marina, did you find it?”
“Oh yes,” Marina said as she took Anouska by the arm. “Come with me and we try this on…”
"So are we still going to launch her onto New York's Russian elite at the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce event Caroline?"
"It seems the best place Captain."
cover stand up to examination if they start to put her under the microscope
do,” Charlotte said as she looked at the file, “we've taken the rumours that he
did actually have a wife hidden in the background, and used them to our
"Do we need to know just how all this is being done?"
"Not really Commander,” Caroline said, “just let's say Natalya called in several favours that were owed to her late father, and used elements of his organisation that survive to make sure if people go sniffing, then her story as the mysterious former wife will hold up safely."
some of my own contacts to boost her story," Francesca nodded as she sat
at the head of the table.
"And of course the Hidden Hand has tampered with all the records so they support her story," Charlotte added.
“And she is ready?”
“I believe so…”
"All these beautiful things," Anouska couldn't resist running her hand down the silk dress as she and Selena emptied the bags and hung everything up. "I never realised that people really could wear things like this, I thought it was only on the television shows."
"Well according to Marina,” Selena said as she hung a skirt up, “you look beautiful in them."
"I think I
looked pretty," Anouska said as she sniffed back a tear or two, "I
just wish that somehow I could have had my husband and family see me in
something so wonderful."
the first time you've talked about them since we met…"
"I try not
to think," Anouska took a deep breath, "If I try I can sometimes
almost believe that it never happened, and that they are waiting for me to come
to the side and poured two coffees, before she said "Will you ever
one day," Anouska took a moment to pull herself together, "I need to go
to their graves and tell my Lev and the children just what has happened since I
left, what I have become."
Selena said as she handed Anouska a cup, “you are a pretty incredible woman
really,” the Ukranian said as she sat down, “just
someone who misses the most important people in her life more then she can say. Someone who now has a purpose to carry on, a
reason to honour their name."
make me want to ring my Mother and Father in a bit, and just tell them I love
place called Carshalton near London, my Father is a bank manager, my Mother
works as a secretary for a lawyer..."
say so," Selena said with a smile, “I'm actually of Cossack descent."
Anouska put her
cup down, and said quietly "You are what?"
Cossack," Selena half-smiled, “and I know that to a lot of Ukrainians my
ancestors were viewed as the bad guys."
taught in the school that Cossacks raped and pillaged, and preyed upon
bit of that did go on," Selena looked serious, "I descend on both
sides from Cossacks who fought on the White side in the Civil War against the
Bolsheviks, and who escaped later to the west."
“So your parents still talk Russian?"
"And practice the old religion. I grew up being taught to be proud of being British, and a Cossack."
"So how did you become a Sister?"
Selena smiled as she said “Well, in my case, it was when someone from your government decided to try and make an example of a friend. Have you heard of Georgi Markov?” When Anouska shook her head, Selena said “he was a Bulgarian dissident, who was murdered in London when someone stabbed his leg with an umbrella, and injected him with ricin.”
“Standard KGB trick I suspect?”
“Indeed – in the case of my friend, it was a poison tipped spring in a toy sent to his little girl. But it wasn’t her who opened the toy – it was an au pair, and she died in front of the girl. She was traumatized – and I vowed to fight those who would do that to an innocent. So my employer took me on, and through her I became a Sister.”
“Well, I for one am glad you have forgiven us,” Sir Charles Gresham-Fox said as he and Roberta sat with Grace. “I do not want to lose you again, even over something like that.”
“It was just a shock, that’s all – but I talked to Mum and Dad and sorted it out,” Grace said with a smile. “So what brings you both into town?”
“Business meetings,” Charles said, “and Roberta wants to take in a show. The school is keeping you busy?”
“As always – we have a couple of girls interested in Oxford next year, so I was talking to them today.”
know Agnes McAdam at Oxford Grace?" her aunt asked.
entered the year I left," Grace paused a second, "I knew several
people who knew her of course, but we hadn't met till she arrived at Rosville for Abigail's birthday party."
she have several similarities you know?"
so Uncle Charles?" Grace said in surprise.
"Oh I know
so, and I don't mean just that you both hid yourself away from your family and
friends for many years."
chose to,” Grace said as she shook her head, “I don't think society gave her a
lot of choice."
what I was referring to has more to do with the open and giving nature of your
of you holds grudges about what happened in the past," Bobbie finished.
said "I'm not sure Pippa would have agreed with you."
more a case of her holding a grudge against you Grace dear, and you have
forgiven both she, and her mother for the harm they caused you."
Aggie holds no grudges against those who excluded and snubbed her."
Charles smiled a second.
point I suppose," she laughed, before the expression on Grace's face
suddenly changed, "though there is still one person I remain completely
might that be?" Bobbie asked.
Grace pointed to the door, "my no good ex husband."
is him is it?" Charles looked the man up and down. "I know he was
Colin's house master for a while, but I can't say I remember him."
"There's not a lot worth remembering," Grace scowled as Bruce spotted them and walked over. “I thought you were leaving, Bruce?”
“Not yet – I wondered if I could have a word,” he slurred as he looked over the table. “I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure.”
“I don’t think it is a pleasure – Sir Charles Gresham-Fox, my wife Roberta.”
“Gresham-Fox – you’re Colin’s parents? Fine boy – bit of an idiot, but fine boy.” He grinned at his own joke as Grace put her napkin down.
“I’ll deal with this,” she said as she grabbed him by the arm and walked him out.
“So, Gracie,” Bruce said with a grin as they stepped outside, “what are you going to do for me?”
“Allow you to walk away now – and don’t come anywhere me and my family again.”
“Oh dear,” Bruce said in a mocking tone, “and what are you going to do about it if I do?”
“Don’t try me, Bruce – I’m not the meek little woman you remember.”
“Is there a problem Miss?”
“No – this gentleman was just leaving,” Grace said as Bruce took two steps, turned and blew her a kiss, before he walked off. Grace shook her head and walked back in, as Charles said “I wonder what Colin may have to say about him?”
“Good question – I’ll call him tomorrow…”
West Central Park
"Good evening, Katy darling," Kylie said as she opened the apartment door, wiping her face with a towel, "what can I do for you this evening?"
"Oh sorry," Katy said as she stood in her jumper and jeans, "was I interrupting a workout?"
"No, I was just finishing.” Katy looked at her friend in her leotard as she said “come and have a drink, and you can tell me what you wanted"
"Well, I was hoping when you had showered and changed, you'd come with me to visit Diana - I have something to show her."
"Oh? And that is," Kylie asked as she handed Katy a bottle of water.
"This," Katy said as she took a trophy out of her bag. "I won my division shoot tonight."
"Well that is cause for celebration! Allow me to shower and change, and we will go together..."
Park Terrace Hotel
Selena smiled as she looked at Anouska next to her. The Ukranian woman looked amazing in her silver dress, the sable fur over her shoulders. For her part, Selena was wearing a smart trouser suit and silk blouse.
“Remember that nothing is probably exactly as it seems,” Selena reminded Anouska as their cab pulled up outside the hotel where the reception was being held, “it’s like I said earlier - most of these people are like nesting dolls, inside the outer shell may be several different other faces and personalities.”
“I understand,” Anouska said as she looked out of the window.
“Anyway you’ve done your homework and if you hit trouble just remember I’ll be there by your side.”
“I know, and it’s knowing that which is the only thing currently preventing me from getting out and running and hiding.”
“You can do this, just relax and remember this is as much as anything just about letting people see you.”
“Will there be anyone other then you in there who is on ‘our’ side?”
“There will be some,” Selena smiled, “but I can’t tell you just who they are in case it blows both your cover, and theirs.”
“Alright,” the Ukrainian woman took two deep breaths as the cab pulled up and the hotel doorman opened the taxi door. “Time to do this.”
The de Ros Mansion
Diana looked over as there was a knock on the door, and Edith came in.
“Forgive the interruption, Madame, but Miss Katy and Miss Kylie are here to see you.”
“Show them in,” Diana said with a smile, “is Abbie back yet?”
“She called to say she would be later – this way girls,” Edith said as she showed the girls in.
“How are you, darling,” Kylie said as she came over and kissed Diana on both cheeks.
“I am well – and getting stronger every day. Helen says I may be able to go downstairs tomorrow. But to what do I owe this visit?”
“I wanted you to see this,” Katy said as she took the trophy from the bag and showed it to Diana.
“Ah excellent – I had forgotten it was today, but I am pleased you did well,” Diana said as Abby came in. “My apologies for my late arrival Mama – I had to go to Missy’s office.”
“Oh – why?”
“She was taken to the Emergency room today…”
“So any news from the reception Hannah?”
“Only that everything seems to be going far better then we even anticipated,” the South African sat down as Francesca passed her a drink.
“In what way?”
“Anouska is fitting right in…”
Park Terrace Hotel
“What was he asking about?” Selena whispered in Anouska’s ear as the large gentleman walked off.
“That did I want to go to bed with him?” the Ukrainian laughed gently. “I think he’s one of these men who think they are irresistible to all women. We had one back in my home town.”
“So what did you reply?”
“I told him no, that this was my ‘time of the month’.”
“Understood,” Selena laughed, “the prospect of a woman’s period can drive away even the most avid skirt chaser.”
“So are you enjoying yourself?”
“Not really,” Anouska said in a quiet voice as she turned her back, “I’m still worried they will see through all these clothes and other beautiful things and work out just who I am.”
“Has anyone said anything?”
“No,” Anouska nodded thoughtfully, “I think initially a lot were checking me out, but I think the judgment is that I’m not a serious player in their games, and that I don’t constitute a threat.”
“That’s not bad from our point of view. The money and power that we have you representing will mean that they can’t ignore you, and if they underestimate you then that may work to our advantage.”
“But how do we turn that to our advantage now?”
As Selena looked round, she smiled as she said "follow my lead" as an older woman walked towards them, accompanied by a younger woman. Both were wearing evening dresses, as Selena said "forgive me, but are you Anna Mitchell?"
"I am, and you are?"
"Please, forgive my forward manner, but I wished to introduce my employer to you. Miss Anna Mitchell, allow me to present Madame Anouska Kalinikov. Madame Kalinikov has recently taken control of her husband's business interests, including a stake in your publisher's Russian interests. Miss Mitchell is the Global Editor of Complete Style Magazine."
"Ah, then you are someone I do need to meet. I have very much enjoyed your recent editions"
"Madame Kalinikov was complementing the Russian editions, and is very glad to meet you," the younger woman said.
"My assistant, Marina Sowkowsky. I speak very little Russian I am afraid. But if you are staying in the city, perhaps you will visit our offices as an investor?"
"I accept on Madame Kalinikov's behalf" Selena said as Marina handed her a business card.
“Excellent, I look forward to seeing you,” Anna said as she walked off.
"She speaks Russian? I hope, I pray..."
"Relax," Selena said with a smile, "We just further established your cover, by getting you invited to visit one of the major new figures in Russian Media. You did well there..."
"I will get a full profile of her in the morning," Marina said as she walked with Anna.
"Good. It's important we make good working relationships a priority. Make sure Pippa, Juliette and Merlin are free when she comes as well..."
The Huntingdown Furstenheim Apartment
“I see,” Juliette said as Klaus looked over, “well, I’ll pass on the news. Thanks Merlin.”
“So what has happened to Missy,” Klaus said as she put the telephone down, and then sat down before picking up her glass.
“She collapsed in the office – they think it’s just exhaustion, but she’s been kept in overnight. I will let the office know she will be off for a day or two.”
“Well, she has been flying to and fro for the last three weeks. I guess it gets to you in the end…”
Park Terrace Hotel
“Can we help you,” Selena said as she looked at the large gentleman in the ill fitting suit.
“I need to speak to Madame Kalinikov – on a matter of finance.”
“I do not know you,” she said quietly.
“Please, state your business,” Selena said quietly.
“Now you control your late husband’s bank, what will you be doing about my loans?” the American asked with an extremely worried look on his face.
“What would you have me do with them?” Anouska stalled, as she was taken completely unaware by the question.
“Just give me more time please,” the man practically pleaded. “I’m doing all I can to fulfill the requests your late husband made, and in the meantime if you give me a few more months I’m sure I can raise what I owe you.”
“Alright,” Anouska thought quickly, “it’s clear in this that he thinks I have the upper hand.”
“What you ask,” Selena said, “may not be…”
“Give me six months…six damn months, that gets us past the election, and if ‘our friend’ does win then you know he will cover my damn ass…PLEASE MADAME!”
“I will think on it,” Anouska glanced at Selena who was clearly taking mental notes. “This isn’t the time or place to truly talk about this, ring my assistant here for an appointment and I will see you in a few days.”
“Thank you,” the relief in the man’s voice was palpable as he walked off.
"How very interesting," Selena said as she looked at the business card he had hurriedly pressed into her hand, "I'll have Little Mother prepare a profile in... AH!"
"Your target," Selena said quietly as Andre came in, wearing a smart suit and talking to the hosts.
“So that is Andre Kanninikov? Very well then – let us circulate towards him…”
“Ah Andre – this is the woman I wanted you to especially meet. Andre Kannenikov, this is Madame Anouska Kalinikov. Her husband passed away recently, and she has inherited his business and other interests.”
“Ah yes – he was a supporter of our government,” Andre said as he kissed Anouska’s gloved hand. “And I have seen reports of your recent activities in support of our cultural and social heritage.”
“Ah – so word has reached even here?”
"I have heard that you are interested in setting up a scholarship scheme for young dancers to study and travel internationally, a most commendable idea," the dancer smiled.
"Well I grew up with the interest in your art, but not the talent I'm afraid," Anouska smiled shyly. "Now that I have control of my late husband's fortune it is one of several causes I'm interested in getting involved in."
"Are you?" Andre assessed the woman. She wasn't unattractive, and though she was clearly very provincial and a little lacking in culture and sophistication, her desire to get involved in the world of dance seemed very genuine, and God knows dancers could always do with the money to create further opportunities to practice and learn more.
“Perhaps we can discuss this another time – over dinner?”
“I would like that very much – if I wished to?”
“Selena, make an appointment – we will talk then,” Anouska said as she walked off, another guest making a call.
"Okay the chance of getting some money to support his pet scheme seems to have him hooked Mama," Charlotte said as she hung up her telephone.
"I rather thought it might," Francesca smiled again, "he may be a spy, but I suspect he thinks his personal legacy in history will rest solely on his dancing, and his contribution to the ballet. I guessed the idea of funding on such a scale might cause him to bite the bait."
Rubbing her eyes she put the file she was reading down, and said “I’m wondering - do I need stop looking at all this through Italian eyes darling.”
“Meaning what Mama?”
“Am I driving myself crazy here looking for hidden meanings in everything that actually aren’t there?”
“I don’t understand,” Charlotte shook her head.
“No Carlotta my darling and I don’t expect you to. Your entire way of looking at the world is based in concepts where facts and truth are absolutes, it’s part of that Scottish/South African upbringing of yours. But I’m Italian and in Italy we are taught all our lives that nothing is as it seems and that all events are open to multiple interpretations.”
“Didn’t I read recently that Italians rarely believe there is such a thing as ascertainable truth?”
“You may well have done,” Francesca sighed, “our intelligence services…”
“Correct,” Francesca paused, “we’ve often driven our partner agencies insane because too often in our reports we can espouse completely opposite points of view and not be able to totally commit to a single set of facts and a definitive explanation.”
“That can’t make working partnerships always easy?”
“It doesn’t,” Francesca paused again, “In Italian we have a word ‘dietrologia’, it translates properly as behind-ism, and it’s the way most of us learn to think.”
“Okay I’ll bite Mama, what are you getting at?”
“Well if most Italians knew of the money that I’ve been giving to postpartum research, almost all of them would immediately claim that I’m doing so solely because I also happen to own a drug company that is trying to develop new drugs to help sufferers.”
“So they wouldn’t believe that your charity is altruistic?”
“Precisely,” the Admiral shook her head. “Everyone and everything is corrupt, even when it’s proven not to be.”
“And it’s looking at things even unconsciously that has you questioning if you need somehow drop your Italian mindset?”
“Yes dearest.” Francesca poured herself a glass of wine. “I’ve taught myself the discipline of trying to think like a Northern European, and it’s how I try and practice law, but I can feel myself over analyzing what I’m looking at and trying to find meanings and motives that aren’t there.”
“Mama I think you maybe need a good night’s sleep, and then come back to all this fresh in the morning.”
“You may be right darling…I probably do.”
Wednesday 5th October
9 am BST
always thought Missy was indestructible," Olivia said as she looked at the
computer screen through her thick glasses.
She was sat in her bedroom, cup of tea to hand.
we all darling," Mandy spoke from Ordford
Castle, "but this proves that even she has to finally acknowledge that
maybe its time she slowed down a bit."
to Ju she's going to have to at least for a while trust her staff to run
Norstar for her while she recuperates," Paula added from Ireland.
do that though?"
going to have to Bandit, or she's going to end up killing herself," Mandy
looked serious as she shook her head.
spoke to Juliette she said that she hadn't realised just how much of the day to
day administration Missy had taken on since they bought the company, all in
addition to the work she's always done as a booker. Ju's going to insist that
Missy at least lets her bring in someone to run the business operation so Missy
can largely concentrate on being purely an agent."
makes sense to me Paula darling," Mandy drawled.
the subject Tufty did we catch you doing something? That outfit is hardly very
"Bandit you know very well that I'm basically a farmer’s wife," Mandy laughed as she adjusted her old jumper, "and yes you caught me before I was going out to feed the pigs."
“Well, don’t let us delay you – and if you talk to Aggie Paula, tell her Charlie and Edwina will be delighted to come to the party.”
6 pm BST
“Is that you John,” Shirley said as she heard the door close.
heard him call back as she came out from the kitchen. "Did you hear about Missy Auerbach
John," Shirley kissed him after he removed his coat. "Several people
rang me to tell me."
"Good,” John said as she stretched, “for all people moan and complain about Missy she is one of the most beloved people in the fashion industry."
"Caroline used those exact words."
said as he walked into the main room, “I phoned Jack and he said a couple of people
he knew had told her she was overdoing it, that she was basically doing two
jobs since the Norstar takeover."
realised she'd taken on so much responsibility," Madame shook her head.
think most of us did." John took the glass of drink Shirley had poured for
him. "It has made me think, however, that maybe you need look long and
hard if you are overdoing things Shirley my love..."
surprised as she sat down, and said "Who me?"
"Yes you darling,” John said as he sat back, “you work an indescribably long week, and far too often bring work home with you, which maybe was fine when you were alone. But now we are getting married, and adopting Maisha, isn't it maybe time to consider easing back and delegating more to younger women like Penelope?"
“Actually, I have been thinking about that very thing,” Shirley said with a smile. “I hope to make some announcements soon. And talking of announcements, these arrived today.” She handed John a card with gold writing.
Major Sir John
Hammond and Miss Shirley Xavier
Invite you to join them for their wedding
11 am, Saturday
13th December 2016
St Martha’s Church, New York
And afterwards at the Astoria Waldorf
“Do you like them, Dad,” Maisha said as she looked over John’s shoulder.
them immensely darling," John kissed his daughter. "and how was your
lessons most of the day,” Maisha said with a smile, “but I also got to go to
the club and do my practice session."
father what you told me darling," Shirley smiled.
some of the guys doing the academy course if they'd like to come to the party,
and they said yes."
you'll have some people there who you know?"
I also invited Shannon Weldmann and she's coming as
her that, and it's nice she's bringing friends of her own so it won't just be
people she's never met," Shirley led the way into the kitchen.
"So what is for dinner?"
“A lamb casserole – it will be ready soon…”
The Huntingdown Apartment
"Penny for them my Love?" Klaus said as he caught his wife in deep contemplation.
"Oh I'm just thinking about Missy, and Norstar," Juliette sighed, "it's obvious we need find someone who can step in and lighten Missy's workload considerably."
any candidates within Norstar itself who might be able to step up and take on
who comes obviously to mind. When S & S sold up to us the two people who
knew most about running the business side of Norstar left."
then, if there is no one within the company do you know of any suitable
I'm trying to think about."
maybe a fresh coffee will help?" Klaus passed his wife a mug.
"It can't hurt," Juliette smiled as she took it.
“I understand last night has had some unintended consequences,” Eleanor said as she sat round the table.
"Indeed. So who was the anxious man who approached
Anouska like that Charlotte?"
is Jack Harding, and while he was on our list of those with possible
Russian contacts, he wasn't someone we had targeted as a priority
"And do we
"Oh boy do
we," Veronica giggled, "I had my analysts put him under the microscope
straight away and what we learned puts him very near the top of the hit
please Commander," Francesca spoke quietly.
once a relatively small time New York property developer, but a few years ago
he tried to go up in the world and go international."
guess, he couldn't find the financing from US or major European banks and was
forced to look elsewhere for money?"
Admiral, he went to the Russians, the Ukrainians, and the Arabs, who all
because of his ties to certain New York state politicians from both parties,
were actually eager to become his friends."
"He has a
couple of relatives, one in each party, in the state legislature."
you dig very deeply it looks like he has 'family' ties as well."
he Commander? And how did we miss him in our first scans?"
looking for Washington connections Admiral, we forgot that the Russians might
find heavy use for influence at city and state level."
and from how he acted he is deep debt and thinks Anouska can squeeze him?"
"Correct," Eleanor nodded, "and knowing that we need to discuss how we might use such leverage? Without tipping the wink to what we are up to?"
St Angela’s Academy
"So how is the introduction of Italian into the curriculum going Gray?"
"Not badly at all,” Grace said as she looked “I'm enjoying teaching it again and as it's an option unlike Spanish, the class sizes are very manageable."
don't push yourself too hard,” Pippa said as she sipped her tea, “combining
teaching and modeling can't be easy?"
obviously heard about Missy then?" Grace looked at her old friend.
Pippa nodded, "it's made me think about just how much stress I'm putting
myself under as well."
you are right to say to me about all I do, I've been thinking am I over-doing
answer to that question is Gray?"
honestly don't know. Modeling is actually as much my
relaxation as a job, but I think I may try cut back a little."
work to take home each night is almost an inherent part of the job, I'm not
sure if I can do less."
"And at least you do get nice long vacations?"
“You think,” Grace said as she raised an eyebrow. “Anyway – coming to the race on Sunday?”
“Yeah – Poppy and I will need the day off after Saturday?”
“The calendar shoot…”
Aunt Diana has to have a serious operation and take time to get better, now Aunt
Missy is unwell, things aren't going very well currently," Sands shook her
head as they walked down the street.
could be better," Katy glanced again at the newsstand not quite believing
that her own face was staring back at her from the covers of three different
least things are quiet at school."
bringing my brother to the Winter Formal?"
course," Katy smiled, "and who will you be bringing...Not Holly I
love to be able to, but far too many people would have a fit."
Eric's in Germany."
someone," Sandy spoke softly as they continued their walk down the street.
"Well you better start looking soon Bestie." Sands nodded as she looked at her phone and smiled. “Speaking of Holly, she wants to see me tonight…”
West Central Park
“Any news,” Eleanor asked as she looked at Janice.
is being told by his masters to tell the surrogates he talks directly with that
the Russians will be expecting tangible results for all the time, effort, and
money, they are putting into all this," Janice whispered quietly as they
stood in the kitchen.
specific?" Eleanor asked.
a shopping list of actions taken by the current government they'd like
reversed, or at least downgraded he says."
"And is he
getting commitments to do just that back from these people?"
that information to Francesca, and then we need talk it all out with Ed. Have
you made a record of what he's told you Jan?"
written it out by hand yes."
"Let me have your notes later and I'll take them with me."
The de Ros Mansion
“I guess it’s further proof that nothing stays the same forever,” Carina said before she looked away from the computer and smiled at Judith, who was playing with her dolls on the floor.
“Well, coming so close on Mamma having to go into hospital, it shocked me,” Abigail sighed as she played with her glasses. “I owe Missy so much along with Aunt Mary for helping to give me the modelling career that I love.”
“She certainly played a major part in getting mine started,” Jo said as she shook her head on the other half of the screen.
“Girls! You are talking as though she’s dead!” Judy’s voice was heard off screen. “She’s had a sever scare, that’s all, she looks after herself a little better and she will be fine for years yet.”
“You make her sound like a reliable old car,” Abby laughed.
“I suppose you are right Jude,” Jo replied, “but I think she put a scare into all of us.”
“How do you think she feels?” Judy looked over Carina’s shoulder at the screen.
“I get your point,” Abby sighed. “It’s just I’m so used to her being… Well, Missy. The bundle of energy that we all know.”
“Well, my mom is going to make sure that she cuts back and doesn’t work as hard,” Carina said as she took the coffee from Judy.
“Well, Aunt Ju is one of the very few people who can do that,” Abby said as she smiled slightly.
“Mary Thomas being another,” Jo added. “Oh to be a fly on the wall for that conversation…”
Temple Hill Hospital
The nurse checked the monitor readings and then made a note on the pad, before she left the room, Missy staring up at the ceiling and wondering how she had ended up in this completely new position.
“Ai, this is truly a sight for the picture album.”
Slowly turning her head, she smiled as she saw Mary Thomas, her cardigan over her blouse and her skirt blowing slightly in the breeze, and Juliette in her trouser suit and blouse.
“Okay, okay,” Missy said as she slowly sat herself up, “I’ll give you the customary sixty seconds to get the ‘I told you so’ out of the way.”
“Okay,” Juliette said as they came in and stood by the bed, Mary taking Missy’s hand, “but we’re not going to say that. I am going to say, however, that I am so glad this is just a scare.
“It is just a scare, right?”
“Oh I hope so,” Missy said quietly, “Believe me, one moment I was in a meeting, the next I was here.”
“So what exactly happened,” Mary said with a smile.
“Literal exhaustion,” Missy said quietly, “the doctors say I’ll be all right in a few days, but they have warned me I can’t keep doing what I was doing.”
“No you can’t,” Juliette said with a smile, “and Klaus and I are not going to let you. You’re still going to be in charge at NorStar, but you need a business manager. The only trouble is, I can’t think of who would be able to do the job effectively for you.”
Nodding, Missy said “I do have one idea, given I know someone with a working knowledge of both the fashion industry and of contract law, as well as HR expertise.”
“And where is this paragon of skills to be found?”
“In Los Angeles – she works for Maddie Moore, as her PA’s assistant…”
“Rehnia? She’s still fairly junior Missy…”
“True – but she acts as a liaison between me and Maddie, and she does know how to run an office. Perhaps she would enjoy the challenge…”
“It’s worth a thought lass,” Mary said as she rubbed her chin.
“All right – let me talk to Maddie and we’ll see what we can do…”
6 pm PT
Maddie and Emma’s Apartment
“Rehnia? Have you talked to Shirley about this Juliette?”
“I had a call with her and Shirley before I called you – this business with Missy has given us all a shock. I think even Shirley is wondering if she needs to cut back a bit on her workload.”
“Wouldn’t surprise me,” Maddie said as she sat in the front room of her apartment, Emma singing in the kitchen. “I think we may be seeing some changes soon.”
opinion please Maddie?"
hate to see Rhenia go Ju,” Maddie said as she sat
back, “but yes she would be an excellent fit. She has an undergraduate degree
in Business Administration, and she has worked her way up in the administrative
side of my companies by being exceedingly good at whatever jobs we've set
want to come to New York?"
opportunity like this with a company like Norstar,” Maddie laughed, “she will
be an idiot if she doesn't, and Rhenia's not an
about her family?"
is based in London nowadays, and she has two other sisters to keep an eye on
their mother...Anyway New York to LA is not the hardest flight in the
true Maddie," Juliette took a breath, "can I via you ask her to come
to New York to interview for the position?"
"I'll phone her as soon as i hang up with you."
“Thanks Maddie – I’ll hear from you tomorrow.”
“What was that about,” Emma said as Maddie ended the call.
“You heard about Missy Auerbach?”
“Yeah – sounds like she needs to delegate more work.”
“That’s what Ju was calling about – how long until dinner is ready?”
“Another hour – why?”
“Time to make someone think very hard,” Maddie said as she picked up the telephone. “Rhenia? Maddie – I need to ask you to consider something, and I want you to sit down before I tell you…”
Thursday 6th October
8 am BST
“If you do not at least go for this, I will personally come over and kick your butt – is that clear enough?”
Lily looked up from her coffee as Louise walked in.
“Good – I’ll talk to you later, darling,” she said as she ended the call, put her phone down and poured herself a coffee.
was that on the phone Lou?"
"Hmm? Oh - It was my sister Rhenia,
she wanted some advice believe it or not."
Lily sounded curious.
Louise sat down
and took a sip. "She's being
offered the chance to interview for a position as Comptroller with Norstar
Models and she was asking me if she should take the chance."
you told her yes in no uncertain terms?"
Louise said with a smile, “but she was worried that Madame and Maddie might see
it as disloyalty on her part to be leaving the organization that she and I both
owe so much to."
needn't worry, I'll bet you anything you like that Juliette Huntingdown
had this all sorted with Madame long before Rhenia
"And given the business ties Maddie has into Norstar she's not truly leaving us even if she does get the job."
“True – and Susan is a real darling when she is not a bitch – I am sure she will find something to do there as well if she has spare time. Well, we shall see what happens…”
The von Furstenheim Apartment
you met this woman darling?" Klaus asked as Juliette checked her mail.
passing,” she said as she put some papers into her bag, “but she comes highly
recommended and I did due diligence checking with both Shirley, and with Susan,
before I approached Maddie."
did Shirley say?"
poaching one of her rising stars, but she agrees that it's a fabulous
opportunity for Rhenia and that she won't stand in
her fly in early next week and for us both to talk to her, and for her to have
a little chat with Missy as well, if Missy is up to it."
"A get to
know her session?"
"Exactly, but I'm not anticipating any problems. Anyway – I shouldn’t be late tonight. What are you doing?"
“A business meeting with Jack – a serious talk with serious men.”
“John’s bachelor event?”
“No comment,” Klaus said with a smile.
“All right,” Juliette said as she looked over her desk, “I’ll deal with the correspondence in a half hour.”
“Thanks,” Alexis said as she walked out, Juliette looking down – and then looking up to see Janine standing there, in her white jumper and pants, black waistcoat and black boots.
“Janine? Is something wrong?”
"Can i ask a question please Juliette?" Janine asked.
"Sure," Juliette looked up from the photos she was looking through a magnifying glass at.
"Was I even considered for the job at Norstar?"
you asking? Are you interested?" Juliette felt a little shocked at the
question, and looked at her PA.
"In a way...Yes...No..."
Janine slumped into a chair.
we need a talk don't we?" Juliette said as she stood, went to her coffee
pot and poured them both drinks.
that I'm unhappy working as your Personal Assistant,” Janine said as she took
the cup, “it's an amazing and interesting job and I've learned so much doing
have dreams and ambitions?" Juliette interrupted.
"Well yes," Janine took a sip from her cup, "I'd like to be doing more writing for sure, and I think I'm ready to take on additional responsibilities, and I..."
"I understand," Juliette said as she sat back and thought very hard for a few seconds. "I don't want to lose you Janine, but I totally understand that you want to get on with your career."
don't think I'm being disloyal Juliette?"
don't," Juliette paused again, "look let me do some serious thinking
over the next couple of days, and talk to some people, but yes basically we do
need to do something to help your career, you've earned that, and you totally
really want to leave you or CS."
"Understood," Juliette smiled, "let's see what we can offer you that keeps you in the family so to speak shall we?"
“Thanks Juliette – I’ll get those Huntingdown figures for you now.”
As Janine left the room, Juliette shook her head and picked up the phone. “Pippa? Can you arrange for you, me and Mary to meet with Anna later today? I need to discuss career advancement…”
“Good morning, Anna,” Anita said as Anna Mitchell sat down for her morning meeting with her assistants.
“All right everyone – we had a productive night last night, and some interesting contacts were made – including a Russian investor. One Madame Anouska Kalinikov.”
just who is she Marina?" Anna said as she sat down opposite her assistant.
"Well from what I can find out this quickly, she's a woman that we might find it useful to get to know on several levels."
"You've spent all morning so far on the phone just to say that?" Marina could hear the sarcasm in Anita's voice.
Marina has a lot more to tell me," Anna said quietly, wishing there was
just some way to defuse this tension in her personal office. “Go ahead Marina.”
the childhood sweetheart, then bride, of a South Russian businessman who used
his acumen and contacts to amass a huge fortune, all while leaving her at home
safely tucked out of the way as he had a string of affairs."
reasonably familiar story," Anna sighed, "so go on please?"
dropped dead two months ago cavorting with two paid escorts in a Moscow hotel
room, and suddenly she's more than just a little rich."
taken the money so to speak and is running with it?"
"That's what MY contacts are saying," Anita smiled cattily at Marina as she spoke, "and I didn't need speak Russian to find that out."
“Not in the way you mean it, Anita,” Marina sighed. “She is using the money, but seems to be interested in investing in educational and artistic programs. I understand she has already approached Andre Kannenikov about funding educational programs in dance. I suspect she wants to discuss ways CS in Moscow could also support that – I took the liberty of checking with the Moscow office, and they are open to the idea.”
“Good, Marina – anything else?”
“I also believe she is genuinely wishing to us the money to help others – as I say, a useful contact.”
“Good – contact her PA and see if she can visit tomorrow. What’s next?”
“Pippa called to ask if she can get some time today with you, Juliette and Mary to discuss – career advancement?”
“Well, it won’t be Pippa – that suggests Janine to me. She did some good work for the last Fashion week – I’m not surprised Juliette is looking at options. See if we can do that today. Anita – the flowers to Missy Auerbach?”
“Flowers?” Anita looked at Anna, before Marina said “they were delivered this morning – the receipt is on Anita’s desk.”
“Right – to work ladies…”
10 am PT
Maddie looked up as the door opened, Tracey showing Rhenia in. While Tracey wore a pair of black leather trousers and a jumper, Rhenia was in a grey waistcoat and leather skirt, with a white jumper.
“Come in Rhenia – sit down,” Maddie said as she moved from her desk to the chairs, the other two sitting with her. “So, how are you feeling?”
“Shocked, nervous,” the young blonde said. “Juliette has really asked if I would be interested?”
“Apparently, it was Missy who put your name forward – I know she spoke to Madame and Susan before me,” Maddie said, “and it is a genuine request to apply for the position.”
“But I mean… its one heck of a step up from here, Maddie.”
“True,” Tracey said with a smile, “but we both think you’re capable of doing this. It is, after all, the administrative head rather than the talent spotting.”
“Hey,” Pippa said as she came into the conference room, “sorry I’m late, I had a conversation with Jack Linklater about something you don’t need to know about.
“Yet – so, career advancement,” she said as she sat down, and Mary handed her a mug of coffee, “who are we talking about?”
“Janine,” Juliette said, “you know we’ve been thinking about who to get to help Missy?”
“How is she, by the way?”
“Recovering – but anyway, we’ve got one of Shirley’s LA team coming over next week for an interview. When I told her and Alexis this morning, Janine asked if she was considered for it.”
“I didn’t think Janine’s skills lay in that sort of administration,” Anna said as she tapped the table with her pen.
“Oh she’s a skilled organiser, but we need someone with a qualification to do this work – and the person we’ve got coming next week has. But she said she would like to have been considered, and wondered what opportunities there were for her to take on some new, more senior responsibilities.”
“Ai, should have seen that one coming,” Mary said with a smile, “after the Fashion Week blog posts, she made a name for herself there?”
“True,” Anna said quietly. “She has some skill as a writer, and knows how to put a piece together. She’s also very good at managing assignments. And, it had to be said, she has taught Alexis a lot as well.”
“Did she give any hints as to what she may have in mid, Ju?”
Juliette looked at her pad, and said “as I said, more writing and seniority.”
“Let me ask a different question,” Mary said quietly, “do you think if Janine took a new position, Alexis is in a position to step up?”
“I think so – but she would need some help for a while. Why?”
“I was talking to young Casey – she’s certainly interested in the Fashion industry, and wants to get some experience elsewhere. I know she’s still at St Angela’s, but she doesn’t think college is for her. How would her interring one day a week work?”
“In the short term fine – if that’s what’s needed. But it needs someone full time…”
“I may have someone, a recent journalism graduate who was looking for new work in the publishing world. Something to do with the terms of a scholarship she was awarded.” Looking at Juliette, Pippa said “I think we can arrange things so both Alexis and Casey get the help she needs, but that works only if we find something for Janine to sink her teeth into. And I think I know just what that should be – Anna, remember I was talking to you about the next step for the CS website?”
“I do indeed – appointing a… Ah.
“AH – now that is something she might fit into. Ju, if she was offered the chance to be an Associate Editor for the on-line presence?”
“Responsibility, fine – the writing side?”
“I need someone who can do a monthly column on street fashion – if she hasn’t learned how to do that under your tutelage Ju, then you’ve been slipping.”
Juliette grinned as she made a note. “Okay then – so we put the proposal to her, and then see if the other pieces fall into place?” She looked round the table, seeing the nods as she said “great – it’s change all round, isn’t it?”
“Ai,” Mary said as she looked at her phone, and frowned slightly.
“Nothing for you to worry about, Ju lass…”
Sunday 9th October
“It was very kind of you to invite me to join you for Dinner, Uncle Andre,” Helen said as she sat at the table, smiling as she looked at the dancer.
“Well, I do feel as if we have not spent much time just meeting and talking – and I found myself free tonight,” Andre said as he looked at the young woman, wearing a gold tunic and pants. “Besides, everyone deserves a night off – and I am told this is a very popular restaurant.” He looked round at the tables – so many of New York’s finest, and one or two familiar faces.
“Forgive me my child. So tell me, how serious is your relationship with Penelope Yelena?”
“I love her,” Helen said quietly as she glanced at the menu, “and she loves me, and we want to spend the rest of our lives together Uncle Andre.”
“Good,” Andre said with a smile as he touched her hand, “I’m glad you’ve found a partner, and I know ‘she’ would be as well.”
“I hope she would,” Helen found herself in the unfamiliar act of blushing.
“She would,” Andre smiled, “but why if you are so very much in love are you here in New York whilst she is in London?”
“It’s complicated Uncle,” Helen said as she sat back, and sipped her water, “just let me say that we have careers and obligations to others that determine we can’t be together all the time…”
“But being apart makes the times that you can be together all the more special?”
“So can you see anything on the menu to tempt you?” the dancer changer conversation themes.
“So much,” Helen sighed, “the appreciation of great food was one of the things that my step-father taught me.”
“From what you’ve said he sounds an extraordinary man.”
“He was. Mother and I were lucky to have him in our lives, even if it was for such a relatively short period.”
“You both needed a lot of love,” Andre said as he looked over the table, “her especially.” Unbidden, the sight of her looking back as he held her husband at gunpoint before she fled with Yelena in her arms came to him…
“He gave us both a lot,” Helen sighed.
“So just how bad for you was it when they both died?”
“At the time,” Helen said as she looked down, “it felt like my life had come to an end.”
“I was lucky that various friends of Bruce’s were there to take care of me. They made sure I survived…”
“And thrived if I might say so?”
“I did – I became the woman I am now,” Helen said as the waiter came over. “I think I will have…”
As Helen ordered, Andre looked round the restaurant again. Something… Something was bothering him, and he wasn’t sure what it was. It was that feeling, that feeling...
“What was that American comic book thing he’d heard?” Andre looked round the dining room… Spider sense, that was it, his spider sense was tingling and he wasn’t quite sure why.
“Alright what here is not as it seems?” he asked himself one of the questions he’d been taught to ask back in the days when he’d undergone KGB training. “What am I seeing that isn’t right?”
Well Madame Kalinikova and her assistant eating dinner with Anna Mitchell and one of her personal assistants from Complete Style magazine wasn’t surprising, given that he’d heard that the magazine was ‘courting’ her he’d heard. In a few minutes he’d need go over and talk himself, the widow’s fortune, and what might be done usefully with some of it, was an intriguing thought, but it wasn’t the sort of thing to trigger his defences like this.
“So who else is in this room?” he asked himself as he casually glanced at people.
“Is that Andre Kannenikov at the table over there,” Anouska said as she wiped her mouth. Marina looked over, and said “It is – the woman with her is Helen York, the PA to one of the directors of Huntingdown Silks. I believe they have known each other since she was a baby.”
“Oh,” Selena said, “in what way?”
“Her mother was Elena Sharamtova, the Prima Donna with the Bolshoi.”
“Ah – I did see them dance together once on a television,” Anouska said quietly. “Such a couple they made, before she defected…”
“Okay,” Andre said after he had given his order, “who else… Some politicians, actors, the two young women at the table over…”
Turning away, he thought for a few moments. He was sure he had seen those women before – in several places – but was that just coincidence? The spy in him knew to be safe rather than sorry, as he took his cell phone out.
“A problem,” Helen said as she looked at him.
“No – a call that can wait,” Andre said with a smile as he took photos quickly of several tables, including the one with the two women.
“Excuse me a moment,” Helen said as she stood up, Andre nodding and smiling as she went to the restroom, followed by the redhead who was sitting with Anna Mitchell. Looking at his phone, he quickly composed an e-mail, attached the photos and sent it off…
“Enjoying the evening,” Marina said as Helen came to the wash basin.
“In a way,” she said as the door closed. “So are you here on CS business, or other business Mongoose?” Helen asked as they checked they were alone in the powder room.
“Just work, the women we are with are a rich Russian widow, and her assistant, who we are trying to tempt into doing some things with the Russian edition of the magazine.” Marina took a quick glance to see if Helen was buying her cover story.
“The things we have to do eh?” Helen smiled.
“And you are here with ‘Uncle Andre’? How are things going?”
“We are talking a lot about my Mother, and what happened to us after we fled to the west,” Helen sighed.
“It sounds more interesting then what I’m doing anyway.”
“I guess so,” Helen said as she looked in the mirror, “but it’s also depressing in many ways.”
‘I can understand, there are a lot of sad memories in there,” Marina put an arm round her friend.
“Still, as I told you when we first met, we take what we are dealt, and we do our best with it, correct?”
“Correct – but you know if you need to talk, we are there?”
“I do – and I thank you for that. We had better both get back…”
As Helen returned to the table, the redhead said “So what did the office have to say?”
“Try and keep the cost of the bill down,” the blonde laughed.
“Hey if he chooses to eat at expensive places we can’t just sit here and split a burger between us…Can we?”
“I know that…you know that…but good luck convincing the accounts staff when we submit our expenses.”
“Agreed,” the woman cast a glance across the dining room, “so what do you think they are talking about?”
“I’d think precious little that interests us, given that he’s known her since she was a baby let me guess that it’s mostly about the ‘old days’.”
“Probably,” she paused, “he keeps looking round though as if he’s maybe made us, do we need be worried?”
“We’ve been following him for days and he hasn’t spotted us yet…You are getting paranoid.”
“Maybe – but I haven’t worked for Madame for five years without getting cautious. Perhaps we should leave early, get someone outside to follow him home?”
“Possibly – let me ask them…”
Missy Auerbach’s apartment
“Well, this is a nice surprise,” Missy said as she let Juliette and Mary into her apartment. The agent was wearing a blue silk robe, with leggings on as well. “Can I get you something to drink?”
“Will you allow me to make you some coffee,” Mary said, Missy nodding as he headed to the kitchen, and Juliette followed her into the main room, looking at all the pictures on the wall, and the cards and flowers.
are you really feeling?" Juliette asked with true concern as they sat in
her leather chairs.
head, Missy smiled as she said "A trifle stupid for letting it get that
bad, but better physically."
everyone more than just a little scare, Missy..."
know," Missy smiled as she looked round the room, "I can't believe
all the messages and gifts."
"It just shows how much people appreciate you, you stupid thing," Mary Thomas said as she put the coffee tray on the low table, and then sat down.
"Since when do people appreciate agents?" Missy laughed very softly, "and are you sure you aren't both here just to avoid watching the presidential debate on TV?"
“Well, that’s an added bonus,” Mary said with a smile, “but we wanted to see you.”
“And to make sure I’m not working? Don’t worry – I’m off for another two weeks on Doctor’s orders. But I will be able to see Rheina on Tuesday – she’s flying in tomorrow, correct?”
“She is – Klaus and I will see her first, then I’ll bring her to meet you.”
“Talking of changes – I heard on the grapevine about Janine. Is she happy with the promotion?”
“She is – and Alexis is interviewing a possible candidate to be her assistant next week as well…”
The Richmond Mansion
is George tonight?" Holly asked as she came in, Sands smiling as she
saw her in her jumper and jeans.
"Just the two
of them?" Holly smiled as Heather put a mug of coffee down in front of
exactly," Sandy smiled as she pushed her glasses up on top of her head,
"there's an entire photographic crew, and Katherine there as well."
he's watching Katy work?"
Sands sat down next to her girlfriend on the sofa.
was so urgent that you needed to talk to us all Holly?" Heather asked as
she sat down opposite in an armchair.
"Indeed - What's
the problem?" Sandy also said as she sat down on the arm of the chair.
you think there is a problem?"
your hand is shaking as you hold that cup," Heather pointed out.
Holly looked downwards then took a deep breath as she put her cup down, "I
think Buffy McGeorge might be trying to blackmail me again..."
CRAP!" Sands spluttered.
makes you think that Holly?" Heather asked slowly.
"Because I got this today," the petite woman reached into her handbag and pulled out an envelope. She handed it to Heather, who opened it and took out a sheet of paper, and two photos.
“You and Sands coming out of the apartment?”
“Read the note.”
Heather put her glasses on, and said “If you don’t want the news of your lover to be public knowledge, meet me on Tuesday at noon, at the Metropolitan. I have a proposal for you, which will ensure these remain the only copies.”
“Buffy never believed I was not the one who robbed her after – a certain weekend,” Holly said, “but this…”
“I can’t believe she would do it,” Sands said. “From what I know of Buffy, she would have said it to your face.”
“Then who is it, lover,” Holly said as she looked into Sands’ face.
“Whoever it is, they have made a big mistake,” Sands said quietly, “I’ll talk to Buffy myself, and…”
“No – I will,” Heather said quietly. “Holly, we’re going to stop this.”
“Yes, we are,” Sandy said as she stood up. “Go to the meeting, find out who and what they want – and we’ll be watching as well…”
Monday 10th October
10 am BST
to the children with all their optimism and hopes and I wonder what in the
human nature makes us all eventually become both jaded and cynical?" Kay
asked as they sat in the kitchen of Aggie's flat and listened to the children
laughing as they talked and plotted in the drawing room.
"I know,” Agnes said as she poured the coffee, “even most of the children at my school despite all they've experienced generally still retain a sense that hopefully one day things will get better."
"Well you've certainly given both Laura and Miley the chance to dream dreams again," Sherry smiled.
"They've given just the same gift back to me and Donald you know. The party on Saturday is going to be a real pleasure for them and for Maisha – and a chance for some of the girls at the school to meet their new friends as well."
"That is true," Sherry extended her hand to touch her old friend.
do the two of you want to talk about first?" Kay took a sip, "matters
of national security, or social matters?"
"Am I the
only person who finds humour in that question?" Agnes burst into laughter.
"No," Sherry smiled, "they are in deep contrast."
laughed, “better get the serious stuff out of the way first. So, have you been having fun with your new
if I'd call it fun,” Sherry said with a serious look, “but I'm starting to be
able to put together a provable pattern of illegal cash flows via those banks
you are interested in Kay."
"Anything yet that I can show some of the other interested parties in all this?"
"No, give me a few more days before you do that please."
Mike said anything about all this time you are suddenly spending on the
computer darling?" Agnes asked.
up to his neck in his own work."
Murder Squad has been called in to investigate a couple of the particularly
grizzly ones, so Mike and his team have had a few long days in a row."
you've had this then to keep your mind occupied while he's at work then."
"I have Kay, but I sort of hate when our routine gets disrupted. That crime-wave earlier this year meant I barely saw my husband some days."
Agnes shook her head as she said “he’s the career policeman Sherry. As for me – I asked around a few friends, and I have to say Kay, there are indications our American friends are not the only ones they may have influenced.”
“Seems a lifetime ago,” Agnes said with a smile, “but yes – certain business dealings, if I can be a bit more circumspect.”
Kay nodded, before saying “I had my suspicions, but nothing to build on. We shall see what happens next…”
2 pm BST
“Hello Agnes,” Sue said as Agnes came into the office, “your correspondence is on your desk.”
you,” Agnes said as she hung her coat up.
“Are you still up for flying up to Ardray on
Wednesday morning Sue?"
"I love that place almost as much as you do Agnes, even if you hadn't got these meetings arranged it wouldn't take a lot of persuasion to get me to come along."
"The girls are going to spend the day at Sherry's so they will be fine while me, you, and Catriona go and do this."
printed off those proposals already."
Sue held up some folders as Agnes took them and glanced over the
will give Cat and I some firm ideas to present to people, and for them to
consider." Agnes took a long drink from her coffee, "If i'm considered expert enough to advise on economic
development plans in various parts of the world, I'm hoping that I have at
least come up with some ideas to help my own little corner of my home
to Colin about what you are proposing and he says you may run up against both
some planning regulations, and most people innate conservatism."
"I know Sue, but when I looked at the economic realities of Ardray while my estate is doing fine, far too many people are having to leave the area because they can't make a living. I want to change that."
“Just how bad can it be?”
Sitting down, Agnes said “let’s take a recent example – Fitzstuart woollens. Thanks to Will’s uncle’s foresight, a spark was lit that has re-ignited the knitting industry, and also encouraged the sheep farmers to sell their wool locally as well. A traditional industry revitalized by the local community.
“The lairds – and my ancestors are probably as guilty of this as others – felt they alone knew what was best, so they resisted the necessary changes to farming, and with tourism. Now the young people move to the cities, and there is no growth naturally in the community.”
“So what are you proposing,” Sue asked.
“Well, one idea is to set up a local cooperative to share resources and costs. Charlotte’s charity offers small loans – a cooperative can do the same thing, to help each other. Also trying to get a decent broadband link to Ardray – believe me, that will help immensely.”
“Well, you want it, Catriona wants it – where are the possible blocks?”
“Edinburgh, Glasgow – you’ll see…”
“The moment he said ‘because you would be in jail,’ I was amazed she didn’t turn round and smack him one.”
Pepsi looked at Becca, who nodded as she said “Dad almost threw something at the television. The thing is, even I could see he was breaking every rule in the book…”
“And yet, he is still winning in some polls,” Doc said as Jeannie and Ama came over with Nicky. “He looked like a vulture over her shoulder as she walked around.”
“I know,” Jeannie said as she put her try on the table, “makes me afraid for us all – and I’m not a citizen.”
“Not tempted to become one,” Pepsi said.
“Too scared to – what about you Ama?”
“Because of Mom adopting me, I have a British passport,” Ama said, “and I am personally glad of that.”
“Well, we have a rally tonight,” Becca said, “and we’ll see what Dad says then…”
Andre walked into the diner, smiling as he walked to where she was sitting.
“So, what do you have for me,” he said as he sat opposite.
“Nothing too serious,” she said as she looked at him, “the only two that stood out were the blonde and redhead – they work for Jameson Security.”
“Really? I am sure I have seen them in several places I have been – but what would that firm want with me?”
“Unclear – so we are monitoring their entrance today – just to be safe…”
6 pm BST
called for me Sir?" Kay said as she closed the door, sat down and looked
across the desk at the Director-General.
"I did Kay," the older man shuffled the papers in front of him before taking a deep breath. "Look we can waste ten minutes with chit-chat, or I can come straight to the point. Given that it's getting towards late afternoon I think personally I'd rather get what is on my mind out there."
"Please do so," Kate crossed her legs as she wondered just what was coming her way.
simply that work you've been doing for Ed Preminger and others seems to have
stirred up a few people."
as discreet as possible Sir, just like we discussed."
"I know, and I hate to think what the stink out there might be if you weren't doing this in such a fashion."
"Am I being warned off Sir?"
"No, but I
thought it politic to warn you that some very well connected and powerful
people in several different places are wondering what you are up to."
want a progress report?"
I'd better take one," he leant back in his chair.
outside expert who I've had looking into whether there is clear evidence of the
transfer of funds from the Russians to various groups and people in the west,
is sure that she has it."
"And its traveling via German, Swiss, and other banks?"
Rubbing his eyes, he asked "are the banks conspiring with the Russians?"
"Some might be, I don't know for sure, but most are simply turning a blind eye, just as they have been for several years."
oligarch chaps have laundered their ill-gotten?"
I be talking to our political masters?"
your decision Sir, but I think you may best wait till we know a little
"And what should I be telling those people who are enquiring just what you are up to?"
“To be patient – in forty eight hours, we will have what we needed – and tell them something else. My expert thinks there are links to those who supported the Exit campaign earlier this year?”
He looked across the table at Kay, and said “damn – we always wondered…”
“I require those two days sir – in the meantime, I will continue to work quietly.”
Nodding, he said “very well – we talk in two days, Kay.”
“Sir,” she said as she stood up, smiling as she left his office.
State University of New York
W 42nd Street
As Buffy McGeorge left the campus entrance, she pulled her black leather jacket around herself, covering the cowl necked red jumper she was wearing, and looked round.
She turned suddenly to look at the tall woman standing behind her, wearing a long grey coat, jeans and brown Ugg boots, and said quietly “Well – you are probably the last person I ever thought would come and see me. What can I do for you, Heather?”
“Have a coffee with me – I need to talk to you about Sands.”
“Hmm – makes sense it would be you who came rather than her mother.”
“Oh – were you expecting us to contact you?”
“No – but you are her nanny after all. There’s a coffee bar over there – we can talk inside,” she said as she walked off, the heels of her over the knee grey boots clicking on the flagstones as Heather followed her.
“So, why do we need to talk,” Buffy said as she held her mug.
“Do you want the honest truth?”
As Buffy nodded, Heather leaned forward and said “because someone is trying to blackmail Holly, using her relationship with Sands as the hook – and to be blunt, Buffy, you have previous in that department.”
“True,” Buffy said quietly, “but there’s a reason I have not spoken to either of them since the summer. Someone mugged me…”
“So Holly told me, and I have to say, if I had known what you were doing…”
“Well, whoever did it warned me off, and I know better than to ignore that sort of warning.” Putting her cup down, Buffy said “whatever you may think of me, Heather, I can assure you this is not me. If I wanted to ask them to do something, I would have just asked them.”
accepting that you didn't do this yourself Buffy, did you tell anyone about
Sands and Holly who might not have your fears and scruples?”
Buffy halted for a second, "look Heather I may be a lot of things, and yes
I can be a very nasty and manipulative bitch when I want to get something, but
what profit is there in me telling anyone about those two?"
Buffy I see that, where's the profit in you sharing that information is what
you are saying?"
wouldn't have told someone inadvertently?"
I'm keeping it secret from my parents that I'm a whore, I can't afford to make
mistakes and blab things, even by mistake."
get that as well."
Heather I blackmailed Holly to get something I wanted and needed, but it wasn't
personal, and it wasn't done to deliberately harm her..."
"No." Buffy took a deep breath, "look I'll keep my eyes and ears open and if I hear anything I'll contact you. That okay?"
Nodding, Heather said “I believe you – but stay away from both of them for the while Buffy. Trust me, you do not want to cross me on this.”
Heather smiled as she stood up, Buffy watching as she walked away…
"I think we may have spooked the Russians somehow Admiral," Eleanor said as she put her folders on the conference table.
Francesca looked round the senior staff, and said "We have?"
"Yes - our Russian 'fixer' friend just had a meeting this morning with Jan and told her that he'd been ordered to contact other fixers and put out the word that his bosses wanted everything anyone knew about Jameson Security, and they wanted the information basically yesterday."
"We were worried this might happen," Hannah glanced round the table.
why from the very start we have had a contingency plan in case of this
eventuality," Francesca played with her glasses.
something I wasn't told?" Veronica looked shocked.
terms,” Francesca said with a smile, “then yes Commander."
"Okay - I presume I'm being told now, what is the plan?"
"The plan is that anyone digging will find out that my company acts for a wide variety of people, with very different interests," Caroline smiled.
Commander,” Francesca said as she laughed, “that thanks to the Sisters, and
other friends, the Russians investigating us will find we have possible links
to any number of people they may not wish to tangle with."
themselves," Charlotte laughed.
That makes no sense," Veronica looked bemused.
'It does when you know that in Russia the left hand often has no clue as to what the right hand is doing." Francesca sat back in her chair. "Let them investigate Jameson's and they will find a labyrinth of links that I defy even them not to give themselves major headaches trying to work out just who we are supposedly acting on behalf of."
“Oh,” Veronica said quietly, “and what sort of things might they uncover?”
“Well, let’s take our individual fields,” Caroline said with a smile. “It appears the good Admiral here is interested in setting up a base here in New York, and I have been in extensive consultations with her about the security at her new home.”
“And as for Charlotte,” Francesca said quietly, “she is seeking advice on personal security for when she visits her charities in Africa, after her birth.”
“Our records will show that we have advised a number of Russian ex-pats on security for their homes – which we have done in some cases, particularly those they can talk to, through Xavier International.”
“And we have also worked with a number of senators – of whom Tom Morse is one – on home security.”
“Neat – and in the meantime?”
The Richmond Mansion
As Sands walked past the drawing room, she head her mum call out “Sands, can you come in for a few minutes please?”
“Sure, Mom,” she said as she came in, seeing Sandy and Heather on the couch. “Is this about the weekend?”
“Not really – close the door please,” Heather said with a smile.”
darling we need to have a talk," her Mother patted the sofa next to her
for her daughter to sit down.
to do with me and Holly?" Sands asked as she sat down.
"Mom we are being very careful."
"We know you are darling,” Sandy said quietly, “but – well, what Holly told us yesterday may be a problem.”
to Buffy McGeorge today,” Heather said, “and I don’t think it’s her, but your
mom and I both think someone has evidence about you and Holly, and it’s
becoming clear whoever it is is trying to blackmail
"FUCK!" Alexandra went pale as she interrupted.
“One way of putting it certainly.”
it’s not Buffy, who is it then?"
"We don't know yet,” Sandy said as she leaned forward, “but we are going to find out and deal with it."
"Mom I love Holly, she's done nothing wrong, it was me started all this...they can't put her in prison..."
"Darling I can promise you it won't come to that," Sandy said with a smile as she came over and put her arm round her daughter.
"We will make sure that whoever is doing this doesn't get the chance to tell anyone...Promise." Heather smiled.
Sands looked in shock.
be we will..."
them?" the daughter looked into her Mother's eyes.
"Hopefully it won't come to that darling, but yes in a final resort there will always be that option."
Sands nodded as she said “I hope it doesn’t come to that – but I would do anything to protect Holly, even…”
“No – you will not do that,” Sandy said quietly, “but I want you to leave this now with me and Heather. Holly will go to talk to whoever is doing this tomorrow – and we will be watching. Then we’ll make a decision about how to deal with it.”
“Your job, Sands,” Heather said quietly, “is to say nothing to Holly or anyone else – especially Katy.”
“Because if she finds out, I don’t think either of us – any of us, even her mother – could stop her, and we do not want that to happen. All right?”
“All right Mom, Heather – I won’t say anything, and thank you,” Sands said with a smile.
“Good – now, we need to talk about tomorrow, and what you are not going to do when Jan visits your class…”
Tuesday 11th October
Bishop Walden School
“Why on earth did I agree to this,” Jan said quietly as she sat in the entrance lobby, nervously twisting her hands. She had, for once, chosen to dress in regulation style – although it was an Armani trouser suit and a white silk blouse she was wearing, with black heels.
“Miss Carter – thank you for coming today,” Katy’s teacher said as she came over, her hand extended, “I promise you, it’s a painless event.”
“Usually – come with me,” she said with a smile as they walked down the corridor, hearing the sounds from the other classrooms before she opened the door. As they walked in, the girls stood at their desks, Katy smiling as she sat next to Sands.
“Be seated girls,” their teacher said as she closed the door, “for the next in our series of talks by parents about what they do for a living, we are pleased to welcome Katy’s mother, Janice Carter. Please welcome her.”
“Good morning Miss Carter,” they replied as one – well, almost one as Katy just stood there and grinned.
“Good morning girls,” Janice said as she stood in front of the room, “and I guess I should thank you for allowing me to come and talk to you today. As I understand it, I am going to speak to you for a few minutes about what I do, and then I get to answer your questions, right?”
As they nodded, Janice relaxed a little, and said “well, let me say one thing right away – for various reasons, I’m not allowed to tell you about any specific details about any case I may have worked on, or am working on, but I can talk to you generally about what being a FBI agent entails, and the sort of things we do. To make up for that, I’ll also tell you a bit about what it means to be part of a racing team, all right?”
As the girls nodded, Janice said “right – well, I joined the FBI after doing my degree…”
The von Furstenheim Apartment
The concierge looked up to as the main doors to the apartment block opened, and he saw a blonde haired woman walking in, wearing a grey leather jacket and skirt with a cream roll neck sweater, and grey heels.
“Can I help you,” he asked as the woman walked over, clutching her slip case.
“I hope so – I am meeting with Klaus and Juliette von Furstenheim this morning – Rhenia Tripp?”
As he looked down on the desk, he smiled and said “will you take a seat please,” Rhenia nodding and looking round while he picked up the telephone.
“I have a Miss Rhenia Tripp in the lobby for you?
“Thank you, I will let her know,” he said as he replaced the phone, and said “the princess will be down shortly.”
“Great,” Rhenia whispered quietly as she watched the elevator car descend, and then Juliette step out, wearing a grey trouser suit and a white blouse.
“Rhenia – thank you for coming here today,” she said as Rhenia stood up, curtsied and said “it is an honour to accept your invitation, your highness.”
“Okay – first rule, it’s Juliette and Klaus,” the older woman said as she hugged Rhenia, “come on up, we have fresh coffee brewed.”
“Well, if you insist…”
“I do – one, we both really don’t like the formality unless it cannot be avoided, and secondly if you do come and work for us, it’s going to be a burden to keep doing that,” Juliette said as the car doors closed, and then they walked to her apartment. “Come in, sit down, relax.”
“Ah – welcome Rhenia,” Klaus said as he carried the coffee pot and mugs in on a tray, “please, take a seat.”
“Thank you you… Klaus,” Rhenia said as she sat down, “and thank you for arranging the hotel booking for me. I must admit, I usually stay in less glamorous places.”
“Well, we did arrange this at very short notice,” Juliette said as she handed Rhenia a mug. “But we are grateful that you could come. I presume you have talked with Maddie and Shirley about what we wish to offer?”
“I have – and I have to say I am surprised you would consider me for this position. I would have thought there were far more qualified people out there.”
“I would not know,” Klaus said with a smile, “but for this position we consulted with those who would know – and Missy was the one who mentioned your name. She holds the work you have done liaising between her and Kathy Huan on day to day matters in very high regard.”
“Indeed – and I have to say, you do have an impressive resume,” Juliette said as she glanced at a sheet. “Your qualifications are first rate, and the feedback we have had from the likes of Maddie and Susan testify to your ability to be flexible and deal with fast moving situations.”
“But beyond Kathy, I know little about the fashion world.”
“Well, what we need here is a business manager, not a fashion expert,” Klaus said as he sat back, “so let me ask you a couple of questions about possible situations, and then we can discuss other matters, try to answer any questions you may have…”
“Okay – I’m ready,” Rhenia said with a smile, as Juliette said “very well then…”
“Miss Holly Berryman?”
Sandy and Heather looked over from a nearby table as the tall, bearded man sat opposite Holly in the café. The petite blonde was wearing a denim jacket, jumper and jeans, as she looked up and said “who are you?”
He smiled and said in a Westernized Russian accent “that’s not really that important – what is important is that you got my letter, and you came.”
“Only to find out what you want,” Holly said quietly, “although if it’s money you are after, you’re out of luck. We don’t really have that much…”
“Oh I don’t want money,” he said with a smile, “so rest easy on that one. No, I think you would be more worried about what your boyfriend, Tommy, or your parents would have to say about your relationship with young Alexandra Richmond, Junior.”
He smiled as he saw the red appear in Holly’s face – the red of anger if she said “if you are going to use me to harm her or her family…”
“Now did I say that? No no no – that is not my intention,” he said as he sipped his coffee. “No, I want you to be like a bridge between me and them – you tell me what they are doing – your young friend, her mother, and her equally talented grandmother and great uncle – and, from time to time, I may ask you to suggest an idea or two to them.”
“What sort of idea?”
“Well, unless I know you are going to help me, best I don’t say – but if you desire to weather the storm of public and legal opinion, I will not bother you any longer.” He started to stand up, but as Holly said “wait,” he sat down and smiled again.
“Do you promise me this is nothing that can harm Sands or her family?”
“I promise – I seek only to let them consider some things. The price for my silence on other things, however, is your cooperation on this.”
He sat back and smiled as Holly looked round, and then said “all right – I’ll do it for them.”
“Good – I will be in touch as to when we meet again,” the man said as he stood up and walked away, speaking into his cell phone as he passed Heather and Sandy.
“This is Dancer – we have a new in.
“Okay – thirty minutes, usual place,” he said as he walked away, Holly holding her cup as Sandy walked over.
“Sandy? Didn’t recognise you with the wig.”
“So what did he want?”
“I think it’s you and Nessa he really wants – I’m just the easy target.”
“Okay then – just play along, and leave the rest to us,” Sandy said as she walked back over, hearing Heather say “what? Yeah, we need to talk,” as she put her phone down.
“Caroline’s team caught it all on camera and sound – but we need to go and see her now. Did you recognise him?”
“No – should I have?”
“Oh yes – come on, time you found out what’s really going on.”
As he walked into the diner, Andre Kannenikov saw his handler sitting in a side table, smiling a she sat and said “so, what have we discovered?”
“That when it comes to Jameson Security, there are some – complications, relating to some of their clients,” she said with a frown.
“Complications? What sort of complications?”
“They have clients who are highly placed in US government circles – and in our own groups,” she said quietly, “the sort of clients who would not take too kindly to finding out we may be looking into their business.”
“So we are quieter than usual…”
“There are other things – the company has strong ties with Xavier International, and one of their directors seems to be working at least part time out of their building.” She slipped a photograph over to Andre, his face paling as he said “her?”
“The Marchesa di Cambrello, she and Caroline Jameson sit on the board of directors, the Marchesa as their legal advisor. We believe she is advising Miss Caroline Jameson on certain legal matters as well.”
“But surely this is a red flag to our masters!”
“She is retired, Dancer – and there are good business reasons for them to meet. Look – for all we know, those two employees were there to monitor anyone in that restaurant. Our masters say there is no risk – what else do you have to report?”
Andre nodded before saying “the route I mentioned for influencing a prominent family has proved fruitful – I will provide my report later.”
“Excellent – we will talk soon, but be calm Dancer – we do not believe this is more than an unfortunate series of coincidences.” She stood and left, Andre shaking his head as he took his phone out.
“Are you outside her apartment? Good – keep me posted,” he said before he stood and left.
Missy Auerbach’s Apartment
As Missy opened the door, Juliette smiled as she said “you look even better today Missy.”
“Another good night’s sleep – you must be Rhenia – please, come in?”
“Thank you,” Rhenia said as they came in, Missy closing the door as they walked into her drawing room.
“If you’ll let me use your kitchen Missy?”
“Go on – have a seat Rhenia, Let’s have a chat.”
As Rhenia sat down, Missy sat and crossed her legs, looking across the table.
“So,” she eventually said, “how was your meeting with Klaus and Juliette this morning?”
“A bit scary – but I think I answered their questions,” Rhenia said quietly. “Can I also say how glad I am you are looking so well?”
“Thank you, but it was a wake up call for me. In basic terms, I guess I underestimated just how much work running Norstar as a business is Rhenia."
"I understand Miss Auerbach."
"Darling, PLEASE, call me Missy."
"Okay I understand Missy." Rhenia smiled.
bookers and I can look after the talent spotting and management, but I'm forced
to admit we badly need someone to oversee the management side of things."
Missy took a breath, "I don't know if Klaus and Juliette said this but we basically
need someone to run all the non glamorous bits of
Norstar – the administration, contract processing, payments – things like that."
of worked that out," Rhenia smiled. "I know
very little about the modeling industry, but I do
think I can run a business whatever its product."
"You sound as if you are just what we need. Your current position is as assistant to Madeline Moore’s PA, correct?"
“Yes, but it is a wide ranging brief, and includes some team management issues as well.”
Nodding, Missy looked over as Juliette brought a tray through, “I saw the doctor’s note, Missy – I hope tea is all right for all of you.”
“Damn – and I was so missing my caffeine fix,” Missy said as she took a cup, “but Fiona swears by this stuff, and she survives.” Taking a sip she sighed and said “so, Rhenia, I think I would like to offer you the position, on Juliette’s nod.”
“I approve, as does Klaus,” Juliette said as she took an envelope from her Jameson bag and handed it to Rhenia. “This is the package offer – basic salary, expenses and allowances, and we’ll help with any removal coasts from the west to the east coast. I want you to take it and consider the offer, but the sooner you can start, the better for all of us.”
As Rhenia looked over the document, her eyebrow raised up, and then she said “I accept – but I need to work out a transition timetable with Maddie.”
“Agreed,” Juliette said as she and Missy shook her hand. “I have an appointment for you with Susan at three – but before that, let me buy you lunch…”
“Oh my goddess,” Sandy said quietly, “and now he thinks he can use Holly as an in to influence us?”
“It looks that way,” Caroline said as she sat at the other side of the table, “Heather has been doing some off the books work for us, but we never considered he might discover and use Sands’ relationship with Holly in this way.”
“I know you feel left out of this Lover,” Heather said quietly, “but there was a good reason.”
“I see that now,” Sandy said quietly, “but you need to know, Caroline, we will do anything we feel necessary to stop this threat to our family.”
“Well,” Caroline said quietly, “I have one piece of advice – tell Alex and Nessa as well. They need to be aware of what is going on, if not necessarily anything you are thinking of doing. Tell them others are seeking to stop the worst happening – very well placed others.”
Nodding, Sandy said “you’re right – I’ll talk to Mother tonight, and then see if we should tell Alex together. Caroline, thank you.”
“Go – I’ll call you later,” Caroline said as she showed them out, Jan saying hello as she came in.
“Can I talk to you and Francesca,” she said, Caroline nodding as they headed to her office.
“Jan,” Francesca said as she looked up, “what can I do for you?”
news. My man is telling me that his
masters aren't liking what they are finding out about Jameson's Caroline."
hoped they wouldn't," Caroline said as Francesca nodded.
they are driving themselves crazy trying to work out whose interests you are
maybe we need give them some ideas."
"Given the tensions between them,” Caroline said as she looked at Francesca, “it might be time to raise the Italians as possibly being interested in what the Russians are doing?"
"Mmmmm,” Francesca said, “that might grab some attention. Let me make a few calls – thank you Jan."
“So – why was Sandy here with Heather?”
“Nothing for you to worry about Jan – yet…”
Nessa Richmond’s apartment
“Miss Alexandra is here, Madame.”
“Sandy,” Nessa said as she stood up, “this is an unexpected pleasure. Is everything all right?”
“Good question,” Sandy said as she sat down, crossing her legs as her skirt fell open. Nessa looked at her, and said “would a drink help” as she went to the drinks cabinet.
“I’ll have a brandy and you’d better pour yourself one,” Sandy said quietly, “I think you’re going to need it.”
“Oh my – do not tell me you and Heather are…”
“NO – no, it’s not that,” Sandy said as Nessa handed her a glass, and then sat down next to her. “I need to tell you something, and then you can tell me what you think.”
“Okay – so what’s the problem,” Nessa said quietly.
Sandy took a deep breath, and then said “Well, first thing – Sands a few months ago told us that she felt she was also a lesbian.” She looked at her mother, unsure of what Nessa’s reaction was going to be, but then Nessa said something that truly shocked her.
“Good – I wondered, but I am glad she felt she could be more open with you than – well, than you were with me at first.”
“So you’re not upset?”
“Sandy,” Nessa said as she held her daughter’s hand, “of course I’m not upset. As I said when we met at George’s place, I’m not that bad a woman. But surely she is a little young to be in a full relationship.”
Nessa looked at Sandy as she lowered her head, and said “ah – I don’t want to know the name, but I’m going to assume they are – discrete.”
“Very much so,” Sandy said quietly, “but that brings me to the other thing I need to tell you about. Someone had found out, and that someone is blackmailing the other person.”
She could see a cloud over Nessa’s face, before she said “and what is this person been blackmailed into doing?”
“From what we have been told – and no, I won’t say how – he wants her to try and pass on ideas and information to us, to further their agenda. Mother… Mom, that includes you and Uncle Alex. I need you to know I am not going to allow that to happen.”
Looking at her daughter, Nessa said quietly “you are prepared to do anything to protect the family?”
“I am – and yes, I do mean anything. But I was also counselled to tell you first.” Looking at her mother, Sandy said quietly “what do you think?”
Nessa took Sandy’s hand and squeezed it as she said “I understand – I also would do anything to protect you, Heather, Jo, the kids – and that has not changed. In fact…” She fell silent for a moment as Sandy said “Mom?”
“Sandy,” she said quietly, “I just said I would do anything to protect the family – there is something I need to tell you, something that only one other person knows. I have protected the family – and I did what had to be done to do it.”
Sandy looked at her mother, and saw a look in her eyes – one that surprised her, because she had seen it in her own mirror. “Mom,” she said quietly, “what did you do?”
Taking a deep breath, Nessa said quietly “I killed Allyson.”
“You… You did what?”
“Last year, in Curragh Park, on the Monday after Easter. I knew something was badly wrong, from the way I heard some of you talking – and I heard enough to know Allyson was behind whatever was happening. I wasn’t ready to let go of what I had just become, or to see any of you hurt, so I invited her down to the wine cellar. I knew about the gun – Graham had told me – and I had seen the handle in her open bag. So we went down, I drew the gun, and we had our last chat. Did you… Did you know she was his granddaughter?”
“Freddie Hewson? I found out later – but she was dead by then. Mom, what actually happened?”
“I confronted her, and she admitted she had hired a detective to try and dig up my past. She then told me who she was, and tried to rush me – and that was when I fired. I was calm, I was clear headed – I had to protect the family as Shelagh had when Black Jack disappeared…”
Sandy looked at Nessa, and then put her arms round her as she started crying again. After a while, Nessa looked at her and said “Shirley found me – she is the only other person, apart from you and me, who knows what really happened.” There was real fear in her voice as she said “I guess you must hate me now…”
“Mom,” Sandy said with a little smile, “if you knew how many times I had imagined blowing her brains out…” The memory of the robbery at the Graham home came back to her, as she said “thank you for protecting us. And I won’t say anything – I’m not ready to lose my mother yet.
“Although perhaps we had better not tell Uncle Alex.”
“How can you be so understanding,” Nessa said as she looked at her daughter.
“Like I said – I think I may have done the same thing.”
“Well,” Nessa said, “with regards to young Sands, she is a beautiful young woman, and I will always love her and George, no matter what. Whoever is behind this attempt to use us, however – let me know what I can do.”
“Okay – but I have also been told to tell you plans are afoot to stop this person through other channels.”
“Still – just remember, I have done it before, I could do it again to protect all of you…”
“I know – and thank you,” Sandy said as she hugged Nessa. “So when are you and David coming to Pocono?”
“We’ll be there for Sunday, do not worry about that,” Nessa said with a smile.
The de Ros Mansion
“Miss Alexandra, Madame – I have to remind you the doctor said you must be asleep by eleven.”
“Worry not, Edith, this will be a short visit,” Diana said as Sandy came in, looking round as she said “good – you’re all here. Have you told them yet Heather?”
“The basics – ah, thank you Edith,” Heather said as she took the tray from the housekeeper.
“I will come and see you before I retire,” Abby said, “have Grandma and Grandpapa returned from the show yet?”
“Not yet Miss Abigail – I will let you know when they do,” Edith said as she closed the door.
“How was Nessa?”
“Remarkably calm,” Sandy said as she took her cup, “I told her everything.”
“And Sands? She will be all right with that?”
“Well, I said she is seeing someone, and that someone is been blackmailed – and she said if she can do anything, she would.”
“But who is it is blackmailing Holly,” Abby asked quietly. Heather looked round the room as she said “Andre Kannenikov.”
“Mon dieu,” Diana said quietly, “so your suspicions were correct Juliette?”
so. Alright one of the main things that
we have done from the day we started The Pussycats was to care for and nurture
'our own'," Juliette in turn looked at each of the women gathered round
know that we are in fact part of something far bigger currently, but a threat
against Sands can't be just ignored and we have to at least put in place a plan
for dealing with this ourselves if all else fails."
Cherie," Diana eased herself up, "but just what do you have in
need remember that like it or not there are several other interested parties in
all this," Sandy sipped her tea.
that Jo and Carina will go along with whatever you decide, I know I will,"
Abigail sat on the bed next to her Mother.
"So what decisions can we make?" Heather asked.
“We offer to deal with him when the time comes – in the meantime, we make sure the others are safe. And I will talk to Shirley. Heather, you will inform Francesca?”
As Heather nodded, Diana sighed. “Forgive me ladies, but…”
“Of course – we’ll talk tomorrow,” Juliette said as she went off.
The Astoria Waldorf
"A lot of
ordinary people if they hear that much of what is going on is simply the
sharing of data and information are simply going to shrug their shoulders and
ask what all the fuss is about Admiral," Ed Preminger said as he sat back
in his chair and sipped his wine. "They are going to ask quite rightly
isn't this what politicians do all the time."
Sir," Francesca almost by reflex played with her glasses, "but it is
what is being done with that information by hostile parties, and certainly the
corrupt methods for paying for said information that even the general public
will realise is not right, nor normal."
here in the US," Eleanor added quietly.
with both of you, but I'm just outlining some of the difficulties that may lay
just asked us to collect intelligence and monitor some of those involved in
operations Admiral," Francesca replaced her glasses, "that is what we
have been doing."
it very well I have to say. Together with what Kay Cornwall is putting together
on how the money is flowing and what institutions are being corrupted it all
makes for I think a compelling case that something truly does stink."
do you wish us to do Ed?"
"Keep doing what you are doing Eleanor, and keep me regularly briefed please."