Racing Curragh – part 1
Monday 30th March
Upper West Side, Susan’s Apartment
“What time do you call this to be getting home Miss?” Susan smiled as Marina let herself into the apartment quietly.
“Oh, I didn’t disturb you did I?” The young woman looked at Susan, curled up on the couch, her grey top barely covering the bump in her stomach.
“No - Clint got called in because they were short of drivers tonight, he should be home in a bit.”
Just over a week in New York was already having a transforming effect on Marina. From her new stylish short coiffure, to the suede boots her skintight jeans were tucked into, she had changed herself radically.
“So how was the double date?”
“It was brilliant Sooz…. sorry I will get this right…Susan. “
“Where did they take you?”
“A pub over in Brooklyn called The Keg and Lantern…we watched the ice hockey game on TV, we ate, we drank beer…it was great.”
“Still can’t believe you are double dating with Caroline and Dan?”
“I got used to it, even the idea of going out with Madame’s enforcer as a blonde - and Jeff was fun to be with…not like boys back home, only interested in one bloody thing…he actually listened when I talked.”
“That’s always good.” Susan smiled.
“Plus being from New Zealand he knows as little about ice hockey as I do.” Marina laughed lightly.
“Hey you got back you dirty stopout.” Kylie laughed as she came out of the bedroom in her nightgown.
“I didn’t wake you up did I?”
“Nah I was readin’.”
“Who thought we’d ever have heard her say that back in England Marina?” Susan grinned.
“Why dident ya ever tell me ya ‘ead ‘urt like that when you were readin’ Kyl?” Marina shook her head.
“I fort evryones did.” Kylie smiled.
“Well I’m just glad Juliette suggested we got your eyes tested.” Susan smiled proudly at Kylie looking so happy in her new glasses.
“Anyway what are you reading?” Marina asked as she hung up her jacket.
“Pride and Prejudice…Jeannie recommended it.”
“Mr. Darcy…Colin Firth!” Marina and Susan laughed as they spoke in sync.
“Eh?” asked Kylie.
“Are we getting old?” Susan laughed as she shook her head and looked at Marina.
“I guess we must be.”
“You all still up?” Clint spoke tiredly as he let himself in.
“We were waiting for you.” Susan stood up and kissed her husband. “Marina just got in. Kylie was reading, and I was watching TV.”
“Have fun Marina?” Clint asked.
“Loads…you look knackered though.”
“If that means what I think it does, yeah I am, two damn shifts I worked today.”
“Not fun.” Kylie brought the cocoas in.
“We need more drivers at my security level…I told Mike today that once the baby comes no way I’ll be able to work these hours.”
“And he said?” Susan sipped her bedtime drink.
“He said the training program just isn’t covering the retirements.”
“Natasha is on that permanent staff committee thing isn’t she?”
“You ought to get her to raise it, before you become another person to leave.”
“I will do – and now, you get to bed. You know who’s flying in tomorrow from LA.”
“Oh,” Marina said, “who’s that?”
“The boss – Penny and Lily fly in Wednesday with Maisha, and Cathy arrives with Helen the day after. Should be a fun weekend.”
Tuesday 31st March
The Richmond Mansion
Abby was sitting at the breakfast bar, looking at Heather and Sandy as they stood by the coffee machine.
“This is almost as hard as last year,” she said as she sipped her mug.
“Tell me about it – if anything, I feel worse,” Heather said as she looked towards the door.
“I said I’d call her as soon as we knew. Mom as well. Ju asked if you would phone her.”
Heather nodded slowly as Joanne came in the door, looking at all of them.
She managed to hold the serious face for about ten seconds before she broke into the widest smile possible and said “Sorry, sis – I’m moving to the north later this year.”
“YES!” Heather came over and embraced Jo as Sandy and Abby watched. “Well done my clever, clever girl.”
“Have you heard from the others?”
“Not yet – but we need to get a move on and pick girls up.”
“We’ll celebrate later,” Heather said as Jo grabbed her car keys, and the two girls went out of the mansion.
“Hey Letty,” Jo said as she and Abby sat next to the young athlete, “how are things going?”
“Better,” she said with a small smile. “Talking to the person you suggested is helping, and – well, he hasn’t turned up for over a week now.”
“Any idea what happened to him?”
“Nope – and I don’t want to know. I told mom what had happened – we cried. A lot.”
“I can believe that,” Jo said quietly. “The main thing is, for whatever reason, it’s over now. How’s Tess?”
“Fine – we haven’t told her what went on, but at least we can go out and about a bit more now.”
Abby smiled, and then looked to the doors as a half dozen girls in wheelchairs made their way to the food counter.
“How are they getting on this week,” she said to Jo.
“Varying degrees of coping, I think,” Jo said as she glanced over to Jeannie, who was shaking her head as she tried not to look.
“Welcome back to New York,” Susan said as Shirley descended from the private plane, “how was your time with Maddie?”
“Very productive – Emma has asked me to say hello as well,” Shirley said as they got into the waiting car, Clint closing the door before he helped with the luggage.
“And your house guests?”
“You will hardly recognize them,” Susan said as she closed her door. “Marina has transformed herself, and Kylie is discovering the joys of self education.”
“Well, Cathy arrives in two days time, so they can meet over the weekend.”
“Straight to the apartment, Madame,” Clint said as he got behind the wheel.
“Please. So, any problems with Marina and Kylie’s cover stories?” Shirley asked as they drove into the city.
“None at all…the essence of a good cover story is they should be almost totally true.” Susan replied. “That Marina is going to add another language and do some training in a company we have close ties with is right, also that she’s an old friend of mine and is going to watch out for Kylie while she crams at the school is also true.”
“I truly cannot believe that the English educational system never realized that Kylie’s main problem was as simple as that her eyes were bad like that.”
“I know Madame.” Susan shook her head, “She fell through the cracks, I’m just glad we’ve been able to do something.”
“How is the office functioning?”
“Very well, though it’s becoming obvious we may need to think about recruiting some new staff.”
“We need at least two or three more appraisers, Cassidy is working all the hours the Lord sends, and her assistants are snowed under as well.”
“That’s a sign of success Susan.”
“I know, but we may be losing business at the moment because of it.”
“I’ll discuss it with Penny and get her opinion as well.”
“Thank You - the deal with Norstar seems to be working to their satisfaction.”
“Yes Maddie told me in LA, she’s very happy as well.”
“The ladies are looking at a target in Philadelphia that I’m sure Juliette will tell you about…. Hmmm what else?” Susan looked through her papers.
“That counterfeiting ring?”
“We are doing some support work for the FBI on tracing them. Janice reports that progress is being made.”
“Getting paid with that stuff was trying my patience too far.”
“We realized that Madame. With luck, the problem will be dealt with in a satisfactory manner.”
“So anything else that is urgent Susan?”
“Nothing that can’t wait till the morning briefing.”
“Good,” Shirley said as she looked at the approaching skyline. “It’s nice to be here, it’s becoming almost like coming home each time I’m in New York now.”
“Oh before I forget, Juliette and Klaus have invited you and Maisha to dinner tomorrow night. She is due to arrive at midday with Penny, so I accepted on your behalf.”
“That’s fine – it will give us a chance to catch up,” she said as Clint pulled up on Park Avenue.
“Welcome back Miss Xavier,” the doorman said as Shirley came into the lobby with Susan, “Mrs. Broadhurst is doing some work on your garden at the moment.”
“Not a problem,” Shirley said as they walked to the elevator, and rode up to the penthouse. As they entered the house, they could hear music playing on the patio.
Walking into the drawing room, Shirley looked out to see April planting some small flowers on the border of the garden.
“Oh – hi there,” she said as she looked round, “I’ll be done in a few minutes.”
“Don’t worry, April,” Shirley said with a smile. “Take your time. I’ll have some coffee brewing.”
“Thanks,” April said as Shirley and Susan went to the kitchen.
“How about the UK home?”
“We have a bid in at the Chelsea house,” Shirley said, “but you know what it’s like over there. It seems to take forever. Perhaps John will have some good news when he returns on Thursday.”
“So any plans for the rest of today?”
“I’ll relax today I think – give my body a chance to recover. Perhaps drop in unexpectedly on someone…”
“That smells good – can I be rude and ask for a cup?”
“Nothing rude about it – I was going to pour you one anyway.”
“How long now Susan,” April said as she looked at the heavily pregnant young woman.”
“About 4-6 weeks – but who knows these days?”
April laughed as Shirley poured the cups and handed them round.
“So what is on my schedule socially?” She said as she relaxed.
“Well the big thing for Easter is Vanessa is opening up her place in Southampton for the first time in years.”
Shirley raised an eyebrow as she said “The legendary Curragh Park?”
“Exactly,” April said, “and she’s invited a host of the Saints and Sinners down for an extended weekend.”
“Well Susan it sounds fun, I hope you accepted on everyone’s behalf.”
“I did,” Susan said, “but the only problem is it’s supposed to be roaring twenties fancy dress all weekend Shirley.”
“Well I’m sure I can assemble a wardrobe even at this short notice.” Shirley smiled. “It will be fun going back in time to one of the houses that supposedly features in The Great Gatsby.”
“Is that right?”
“It is – apparently F Scott Fitzgerald was a friend of the family.”
“That makes it even more intriguing,” April said with a smile.
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Hey – anybody home?”
“Oh my,” Klaus said as he stood up and greeted Carina, “she has grown so much since last I saw her.”
He took Judith in his arms and gave her a cuddle as Carina hugged Ingrid.
“On the phone – Missy.”
“Oh lord – have I time to sneak out,” Carina said as Juliette came in.
"Girls that was Missy on the phone, she has a
last minute assignment if you are both interested in it?"
"Sounds Intriguing Juliette?"
"Have you heard of Adam Cabot Ingrid?"
"Well a piece he shot for Visage got rejected, he needs to re-shoot it before Easter and Missy put you two up for it."
"Me doing editorial with Adam Cabot? That’s a
class above my usual commercial stuff." Carina smiled at the thought.
"Well it sounds interesting...."
"It should be Ingrid."
"What's the shoot for?" Cari asked as she
sat Judith on her lap.
"Designer tops...from what Missy said it's the
fact he made it too artsy last time, they want girls in jeans photographed in
the city doing normal things."
"Why do I think he will not be happy having been
asked to redo it?" Ingrid looked concerned.
"He might not be, but it will be a good solid
piece of work for both of you for your portfolios."
"I'm game mom." Cari grinned.
"I guess I'm in as well." Ingrid answered softly.
“Good – it will be Thursday, so we don’t need to delay going to Vanessa’s place.”
“I understand Aunt Sigi is bringing some clothes with her on Friday?”
“Indeed – and I have arranged for some to be delivered here as well. It should be quite an event.”
Wednesday 1st April
They made a contrasting pair – Janine, the Valley girl, with her long blonde hair, white sleeveless blouse and knee length red leather skirt, and Marina, the visitor from the UK offices with her short red hair, blue blouse over a brown jumper, and brown pants.
Over the last week or so, however, they had become good friends, so when Juliette arrived they both stood without a word and followed her into her office.
“Good Morning Janine, Good Morning Marina.” Juliette ushered both girls to sit while she hung up her coat.
“How was your commute Juliette?” Janine asked.
“Not the best I’ve ever had…. Now,” Juliette paused as she sat behind her desk, “What is on deck?”
“You have an editorial meeting in an hour.” Janine looked at the calendar.
“Before that though Miss MacKinnon hopes you can give her 30 minutes on the advertising for the Huntingdown’s products?” Marina looked at her notes.
“The proofs from the advertising agency….”
“Arrived earlier, that’s them on your desk Juliette.”
“Good Marina…Can Mary see me now?” she asked Janine.
“She should be here any second.”
“Okay I’ll see her, then ring Alice, then we can do the correspondence.”
“Okay Juliette.” Both younger women got up and left.
As they went out of the office, Mary knocked on the door and came in, closing it behind her.
“I see young Marina is back helping for a few days Juliette?”
“Yeah,” Juliette said as she sat back, “I thought a few days in my office before she joins Cathy might help. Give her a taste for the way the fashion world works.”
“Well she’s a keen young thing,” Mary said as she sat down, adjusting her brown suede skirt as she did so, “and I know Janine likes having her to share the workload.”
“I know, as things mount up, I suspect I need to think about getting Janine an assistant.”
“So, are you all set for Easter?” the Welsh Wizard smiled.
“Far from it…”
“Drop in the wardrobe later, I’ve put together a weekends worth of outfits for you and Cari. I sort of found them when I was selecting a few things for myself.”
“Oh? I didn’t know you’d been invited?”
“Shall we say I am going as a consultant?”
“Thanks Darling,” Juliette said with a smile, “that should save a lot of time this week.”
“Happy to help.”
“Okay - ahead of the meeting, are we both agreed we double-team Anna and try to insist she lets us do this piece on Today’s Hot Young Photographers?”
“We are Ju. “
“It’s more than past time we did a feature on guys like Justin Adams, and Erich Bettermann…”
“Not forgetting Ashley Soon.”
“I hadn’t forgotten her Mary,” Juliette smiled. “Well anyway today we insist Anna listens?”
“Great – now for the next part of my day. See you at the meeting.”
Mary nodded and got up as Juliette picked up the phone. “Janine? Get Alice on the line, will you?”
Shirley looked up from her armchair in her den as she heard the bell at the front door ring. Putting down her paperwork, she walked down and looked through the viewer, smiling as she opened the door.
“Welcome, all of you,” she said as she hugged Maisha, and then let Lily and Penny follow her into the apartment.
“Thank you Aunt Shirley,” Maisha said as she removed her jacket, and hung it on the coat stand, “it is good to see you again, and to be back here.”
“Good flight over as well for once – a lot to be said for catching the early plane,” Penny said as she placed the cases by the wall.
“Did you get the message from Susan?”
“We did – we brought some things, especially for Maisha, and Cathy informed us that a delivery will be made later today.”
“Well, come through to the kitchen – I had a delivery from the deli this morning, so we can have some lunch while you bring me up to speed on matters in the UK.”
“Well still enjoying yourself Marina?” Janine brought over their food as they sat at the window counter so they could watch the Hustle and Bustle of Times Square.
“Very much so, it’s all making me wonder just what Hong Kong will be like.”
“From what I hear even busier, even noisier,”
“Yeah I ‘eard that.” Marina laughed, “I think one day it will be nice to get back to the peace and quiet of head office.”
“Well I envy you the chance to travel, I just wish my language skills were better…I’m doing a course to learn better French.” Janine shook her head a second, “I can’t even think how hard it will be for you learning Cantonese.”
“Well you quickly pick things up, my family was multi-lingual, so I learned just listening, I hope I’ll do the same for the next year.”
“Well I’ve met Catherine, she’s going to an interesting boss to work for.”
“So everyone tells me Janine. What do you know of her?”
“Very classy, very well dressed, and very close friends with Juliette. She’s a hard-nosed businesswoman as well, apparently, but rewards those who do good work for her. Apparently her new PA is coming over with her to meet the US contacts.”
“Oh – any idea who that is?”
“All I know is her name is Helen…”
The Richmond Mansion
"Heather if I've not said this before can I put
it on record that you've been indispensable in getting Easter Weekend
organized?" Vanessa smiled as she looked across the table at the young
"Tell me that when everyone is there and has a
bed to sleep in Vanessa...until then I'm still keeping everything I have
"Have we forgotten to invite anyone...anyone at
all?" Sandy asked as she slumped into a chair.
"No – I think we covered all bases. Susan reminded me of her two houseguests, so
they are in the plans as well. We even
invited George and Allison..."
"Well Heather dear we had to, they had us for Easter last year." Vanessa looked up as Sandy and Heather exchanged glances.
“I know – how is Allison at the moment anyway?”
“Calm I believe – perhaps this weekend will help her to be more relaxed, and Jennifer can play with Judith as well.”
"It's just good that various clans get along so well." Heather smiled, "So the McNally's will naturally host the Fitzstuart's at Shamrock Point."
“The Rochermann's will take in the Morse's and
Carlton's at Deepvale,” Sandy said as she rubbed her eyes. “The Razinsky's take the Colman’s and the
Broadsmith’s at Jupiter Cottage. Assorted van Roon’s and friends will be at
Eaglemount, Singles like Jane Molloy will no doubt enjoy our Beach Hut. Adam and Janice will be with Susan and Clint
at the Widow’s Cottage as well. Which
leaves Tom and Gale to keep Dieter and Sigrid company at the Barn House.”
"So we should have enough beds?" Vanessa
"As I said fingers crossed." Heather grinned.
“All primed and arriving Friday, and the staff I have hired are already in situ. And I have a special surprise for you, Alexandra?”
“Oh joy – what?”
“I retrieved Peggy from the museum – she is in full working order, and will be there when you arrive.”
Sandy suddenly sat up and said “Peggy? Really?”
“Oh yes – so long as you and Janice promise to only spend a little while looking at it.”
“Peggy? Who or what is Peggy?”
“Great Aunt Annabel’s Racing Bugatti,” Sandy said, “I am in heaven already…”
Marina looked at the reflection on the opposite side of the subway car. It wasn't too many days since such a well-dressed office worker on the way home might well have been a target. Marina weighed up the merits of just snatching the woman's handbag, or following her home and in a dark spot holding a knife to her throat. Yeah either way she'd have probably got away with it. Only difference now was the reflection was herself and she was dying to get back to Susan's and have her supper.
She had changed so much since leaving Tottenham – first with Lily in the house alongside Kylie, and then coming over here. Somehow the move had revitalized her, and she had to admit she was enjoying every second of the stay. Kylie had changed so much as well – perhaps this was the break they both deserved.
Susan had talked long into the night with her and Kylie, about what was going to happen next and what to expect. To Marina, this was still a little bit of a foreign world, but seeing how well Susan played her role, she hoped she would be as good.
The short walk from the subway station to the apartment block allowed her to put the day behind her, as she made her way up and opened the front door.
“Hey Susan, I’m back,” she called out as she closed the door and slipped her jacket off.
“We’re in the front room,” Susan called back, “come and join us. We have company.”
Shaking her head, Marina walked in to see Susan, still in her top and skirt, and Kylie sitting in her jeans and top, but it was the tall, auburn haired woman sitting with them that drew her attention.
“Hello Marina,” Shirley said as she stood up, “I was merely calling to see how you and Kylie were enjoying your time in New York.”
“Very much so Madame,” Marina said quietly, “this is certainly a unique opportunity.”
“Good – I also came to invite all of you to join me for dinner tomorrow. Catherine and Helen will have arrived by then, and it will give you a chance to finally meet each other quietly, before the weekend takes over.”
“Thank you,” Susan said quietly, “on behalf of all of us.”
“Have you managed to secure the clothing for the weekend?”
“We have – I am not sure how Kylie is going to like her outfits, but there will be enough girls there of her age that she should not feel too awkward. Please thank Catherine on my behalf when you see her.”
“Actually, if I may be open, she sees it as an investment. This particular style of party is becoming more common in Hong Kong and the outlying districts, so it allows her to open a new market.”
Marina nodded – even with her short experience she was beginning to see that Catherine was a very accomplished woman.
“Oh, by the way Marina, Jeff called – he’ll be here in fifteen minutes to take you out.”
“Oh lord I’d forgotten – forgive me Ma…”
“Here, you may call me Shirley – indeed, you will need to all weekend.”
“Then forgive me, Shirley, but I need to change,” she said as she headed to the bedroom. Shirley watched her before she said “a most remarkable transformation in a short time – both of you, if I may say so.”
Kylie smiled as Shirley picked up her bag. “I need to go and have a word with Caroline. I’ll be in the office tomorrow Susan – Catherine is heading straight there from the airport.”
Thursday 2nd April
Cathedral Parkway MTA station
“NO, NO, NO, NO! How many times do I have to tell you girls, perfectly still so the long exposure blurs the motion of the train and the commuters…It’s like working with amateurs.”
“I told you he’d be foul tempered.” Ingrid whispered as they waited for another train to pull into the station.
“Well let’s just do our work.” Carina murmured as the rumble announced another train. They stood looking to the side as he held the camera, the people departing and totally ignoring the setup for the shoot.
“Okay that doesn’t stink.” Adam Cabot checked the images on his camera.
“Can we move now Adam?” Ingrid asked.
“Yeah, please do girls.”
“Good, I was getting stiff.”
“Can we see please?” Carina asked.
“Here,” one of the assistants said as she held up a tablet for them to look at.
“Is it right for me to say I like these?” Ingrid asked.
“Yes, but don’t tell him that,” the girl assistant smiled.
“Alright back to the surface and into the bus everyone…Next Location.” Adam yelled out.
“Jo – a moment please.”
“Sure coach – what’s up,” Joanne said as she stopped to talk to Annie.
“Lisa Waterman said to give you her congratulations, and that she looks forward to really stretching you come August.”
“Thanks, Annie,” Jo said with a smile. “It’s suddenly becoming a reality, isn’t it?”
“It is, Miss Smith – well done.”
Staten Island Ferry Terminal
“So tell me about Curragh Park Cari?” Ingrid asked while the makeup girl did their faces.
“Well,” Carina said as she looked in the mirror, “it might not be as historic as Furstenheim, but by Long Island standards it’s a great old mansion. Vanessa has been having it restored to the splendor of the twenties for several years now.”
“It sounds pretty special.”
“Well if half the stories of rum running by the Capone Mob, wild orgies, illegal motor races, even a couple of unsolved murders are true, then it must have been a helluva place back then.”
“Plus the Fitzgerald connection.”
“As you say plus that.”
“Okay girls, you look beautiful.” The makeup artist stood back and admired her work.
“Girls he wants you up on the deck with the city skyline behind you.” Adam’s principal assistant came to fetch them.
“Coming.” Ingrid yelled out.
“Glad you could join me,” Adam said as he tapped his foot impatiently. “Okay you know the scenario princesses, commuters on the Staten Island Ferry.”
“We know Adam.” Cari smiled and started to pose.
“Now there’s something you don’t see every day, even in this city,” Janine said as she and Marina headed for the diner.
“Oh – what?”
“Two princesses eating street food. Hey Carina, Hi Ingrid.” Janine smiled at the two models greedily eating a couple of hotdogs.
“Hi.” Carina grinned as she wiped her chin with a napkin, “sorry but we are having to eat on the run.”
“The Adam Cabot shoot.” Janine nodded.
“Yeah, I thought slavery was abolished in the United States.” Ingrid grumbled.
“Lincoln liberated the slaves, NOT the models.” Janine laughed. “By the way have you met Marina?”
“Not yet…Hi Marina, I’m Carina.” She held out a hand for Marina to shake.
“Yeah, and this is Ingrid my half-twin.”
“Hi.” Ingrid gobbled down a third hot dog.
“Okay girls he wants to shoot,” an assistant came over.
“But my food?” Ingrid moaned.
“He wants to shoot now…”
“He’s a bastard.” Ingrid took two more bites.
“It’s been a pleasure girls.” Carina ran across Times Square.
“We will hopefully see you soon.” Ingrid walked after her.
“Come on – let’s grab a seat and see what happens next.”
Ten minutes later, from their lunch-counter perch
Marina and Janine watched the two princesses work.
"Rather them then me." Marina shook her head
as she watched the photographer pose both of them.
"People think modeling is just so
glamorous...they don't think about all the standing round, the bad tempered
photographers, having to smile when you are hungry, or your feet hurt."
"I can see that,” Marina said quietly. “No I think I'm happy working in an
"So how did your date go last night?"
"He took me to a movie, then we had a late
supper, we kissed a bit in the cab, and he dropped me home."
"Sounds nice." Janine smiled.
"It was, just a pity he's going back home, and
I'm off to Hong Kong."
"Well you have all next week."
"True." Marina smiled
Putting her sandwich down, Janine wiped her chin and said, “Can I give you some advice Marina?”
"If you get the chance to spend time with
Catherine do so Marina. If I've learned
one thing with Juliette it's the importance of understanding your boss."
Janine drank her coffee.
"Well with Juliette I'm basically working for
three different bosses, the fashion writer and editor, the boss of
Huntingdown's, and the model. In addition she's a mother, grandmother, and
socialite. I have to make sure she gets time for everything."
"I've seen that."
"Most girls would quit, but I'm getting a first
hand education in the fashion world courtesy of a boss who I genuinely like, so
I work hard."
"What did you mean 'understand' your boss?"
"Well with Juliette I learned to realize that her
personal life is important and that I often have to schedule her around
it." Janine smiled. "I know who gets to talk to her straightaway and
who gets to be asked to phone back. Similarly I know who gets let straight in
her office, who waits outside."
"You are there to make her life easier and save
"Exactly Marina...You'll need to learn those same
"So when the Countess de Ros phoned I did right
putting 'er straight through."
"Exactly, she's Juliette's best friend."
"I envy your invite to The Hampton's for
Easter...I'm still not that much of an insider." Janine looked wistful.
"I only got invited because I'm staying at
Susan's and she definitely is an insider."
"I know, I shouldn't complain, I got a trip to
Paris last year and a Christening Invite..."
"I could have a word with Susan you know?"
"No, better not, things are going well, I'm not
going to rock the boat."
"Well I did offer Janine."
“And I appreciate it, but that’s the other bit of advice I can give – a good assistant is never seen unless she has to be.”
The Richmond Mansion
Valeria was in her element, looking over papers and other pieces of information.
“Come on ladies – let me know what’s happening!”
"Okay Mother - the orchestra confirmed for the ball on Saturday night." Sandy hung up. "One less thing to worry about."
"And the staff and dealers for our little charity casino?"
"Also confirmed Mother."
"You did warn your FBI friends?"
"I did and being for such a great cause they will
turn a blind eye."
"Local Police have been alerted and Caroline's
security people will be in place."
"Good we don't want a visit from those horrid
"No Vanessa." Heather hid a tiny smile.
“We should raise a large amount for the Richmond Foundation that night,” Sandy said with a smile, as the front door bell rang. “Excuse me a moment,” she said as she went to the door, returning with the three visitors.
“Hello Shirley – and Catherine. I heard you were coming to stay for the weekend.”
“It was good of you to invite me, Vanessa,” Catherine said with a smile. “I wanted to give you the opportunity to meet my new personal assistant, Helen York. Helen, this is Vanessa and Alexandra Richmond, and Heather Smith.”
“Call me Sandy.”
“It is a pleasure to meet both of you,” Helen said as she stood in her blouse, skirt and jacket, “and I wanted to offer my own small talents to help provide the entertainment on Saturday night.”
“That’s not necessary – but what were you thinking of?”
“I understand the theme for the weekend is the Roaring Twenties, correct?”
“That’s right, Helen.”
“Well, my mother was a ballet dancer, and she taught me some routines that were performed by Madame Duncan. It would be my honour to perform one of those routines for you this weekend.”
"Are you sure Helen?" Sandy asked
"It will be fun Sandy, I haven't done the routine
for a while, but I can rehearse Friday and Saturday."
"Well I must admit having a dancer do one of
Isadora Duncan's dances will add something special." Vanessa beamed.
"Helen has so many talents even I forget some of
them." Catherine smiled contentedly.
"Look at it is as being my Thank You for an
invite to such a great event." Helen smiled.
"It's just amazing of you to offer Helen." Sandy beamed.
“Then it is settled,” Shirley said, “and you must excuse me – we have to be back at my apartment before John arrives. We will see you tomorrow Vanessa.”
“I look forward to it,” Vanessa said as Sandy showed them out, returning and saying “Wow – you do know who her mother was?”
“No – who was she?”
“Oh my,” Vanessa said quietly, “this could prove to be a very special evening.”
“Was that Shirley,” Alex said as he came in.
“It was – she wanted to introduce us to Catherine’s new assistant.”
“Really? She looks a pleasant enough young lady.”
"Well Alex?" Vanessa asked.
"The Bishop re-consecrated the chapel, I'll be
able to hold Mass there on Sunday."
"Well it means we don't need to go off the estate
"I know, I explained to Charlie that getting the
chapel ready for use meant a lot to you."
"It does." Vanessa smiled.
"Thanks for stepping in at the last minute
girls." Wendy Fischer the fashion editor from Visage whispered as she kissed
them both. "I know he's been a pain in the rear end to work with, but my
bosses will love the pictures this time."
"He's a great photographer, but a lousy human
being." Ingrid cast a look of hatred at the photographer as he sat looking
at a screen.
"Normally he's fine to work with," Wendy
sighed, "He just doesn't deal well with being told something’s not
"Well as you say I think we nailed it
today." Cari smiled.
"We are going to need Easter to recover." Ingrid grimaced.
“Come on – let’s head back to the apartment. I need a long bath and a rest.”
“Welcome,” Penny said as she opened the door, allowing Susan and the others to come in. She was wearing a red jersey dress and heels, and smiled as she took their coats. “The rest of Shirley’s guests are in the drawing room – if you would come this way.”
“How much did this place cost,” Kylie said as she looked round, rubbing the sleeve of her white blouse.
“You really don’t want to know,” Clint said as Penny opened the door and showed them in.
“My goodness – you two really have changed since you came over,” Lily said as she stood up. “I like the hair Marina – and those glasses really suit you Kylie.”
“Thanks,” Marina said as she looked round. “I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere this posh?”
“Just wait until tomorrow,” Susan said. “We’re sharing the Widow’s Cottage at Curragh with Janice, Adam and the girls.”
“Oh yes you haven’t met her yet – Janice and her partner Adam are FBI agents.”
Both Kylie and Marina stared at Susan as Lily laughed. “Don’t worry – they’re still nice guys.”
“Susan my dear you are positively blooming.”
“Why, thank you George,” Susan said as he kissed her on both cheeks, “this is Kylie Mitchell and Marina Sowkowski. Girls, allow me to introduce you to George Simpson.”
“Not THE George Simpson,” Marina said quietly.
“Is there more than one? Just think of me as Lily’s uncle, and you’ll be just fine. Welcome to a whole new world,” George said as the door opened.
“Ah good, you have arrived. Kylie, Marina, I would like you to meet Catherine Lo and Helen York. Ladies, these are the two new charges I am sending your way.”
“Eto priyatno vstretit'sya s vami oboimi.”
“I vstretit'sya s vami - ya s neterpeniyem zhdu nashikh urokov.”
Helen nodded as she embraced Marina, and then Kylie, the young girl letting out a soft gasp of surprise at her strength.
“It’s all right little one,” Cathy said with a smile, “we will use English when we are together in my humble home.
“To begin with at least.”
“Well now, and who do we have here?”
“John, this is Catherine, Helen, Kylie and Marina. Ladies, meet John Hammond.”
“A pleasure,” John said as he bowed to them. “So we’re all going to be part of the party this weekend? At least a dinner suit is a dinner suit. I do not envy you ladies one little bit.”
“Ah, but we will have to wear a collar and tie most of the weekend John,” George said.
“Unless you fancy a bit of tennis on Saturday afternoon?”
“I will leave that to the younger ones,” George said with a smile as a maid appeared at the door and nodded.
“Dinner is ready, I think – shall we all go in?”
Friday 3rd April
The Richmond Mansion
“Right – everyone in the car,” Heather called out, “time to hit the road. Your grandmother is expecting you to be there by one for lunch.”
“Coming,” George said as he ran out, while little Sandy followed with her backpack.
“Does Katy have to wear the funny clothes as well?”
“Yes, but not until we get there,” Heather said as Jo carried the cases out.
“You all right carrying all them in your jeep, little sis?”
“Yeah – I’ll follow you all the way.” She stopped and looked at Heather, before whispering “at least this is not like last year.”
“Don’t remind me,” Heather said as Sandy appeared down the stairs.
“Right – everything in.”
“I think so – including those Chanel trouser suits in the case.”
“Excellent – then tally ho and let’s go!”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Where is your father,” Juliette said as she looked at her watch, “he went out this morning and not a word has been said.”
“Relax mom – I’m sure he’ll be back soon enough,” Carina said as she sat back on the couch. Suddenly Juliette’s cell phone rang
“Klaus? Where are you?
“All right – we’ll come down,” she said as she ended the call.
“Yes, Ingrid – he wants us to meet him at the entrance. Something he wants to show us.”
The three women went down to the lobby, to see the doorman talking with Klaus.
“Ah there you are – come, come,” he said as he led them out to the sidewalk.
“Oh my goddess,” Carina whispered as she held Judith in her arms, “that is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.”
“Poppa, you have excelled yourself today,” Ingrid said as she stroked the black metal.
"Okay Klaus darling, I'm not sure how you found it to borrow, but this is amazing." Juliette looked at the 1927 Pontiac Roadster.
"It belongs to a friend of a friend, and I thought that it would be very appropriate this weekend."
"So that's where you've been Poppa..."
"Yes learning to drive it."
"Girls I think we better shoot in and get changed, so we arrive properly dressed."
“Then come – let us do so. I have arranged for the luggage to follow us later, with the kind help of the concierge here.”
An hour later, the party came down, the one concession to modern times the car seat that Judith was strapped into, the bonnet on her blonde hair as she waved her hands around. The other women were wearing long coats and bonnets tied over their heads with scarves, while Klaus was wearing a long coat, cap and goggles.
“In we go,” she said as Carina and Ingrid sat in the back, Judith between them, while Juliette sat in the front and Klaus started the engine.
“And so to the country,” he said as he released the handbrake and moved into the traffic, people stopping and watching as they set off.
“Oh my Goddess,” Heather said as she drove up the long tree lined avenue. “Did you ever spend time out here?”
“I came out here once, with Grandmamma just before she died,” Sandy said, “but I have never, ever seen it as it was meant to be.”
“Then… My, it’s almost as breathtaking as Valeria’s place,” Heather said as the trees parted and they approached a huge mansion, sitting to the rear of a vast grass lawn with a drive up to it. As they stopped in front of the house, Vanessa came out to meet them, wearing a black and gold dress with a high collar.
“Welcome,” she said as they got out, “Where is your luggage?”
“Coming behind us with Jo,” Heather said as Jo pulled up, climbing out of the jeep and looking at the front of the house.
“Take Miss Richmond and Miss Smith Senior’s things to the Blue Room, Miss Smith Junior’s to the Brown Room, and the children’s things to the nursery,” Vanessa said as two liveried men came out and started to unload the cases.
“So who else is here?”
“You’re the first for the main house,” Vanessa said “apart from Alex of course. I know Juliette and the girls are on their way with Klaus, and I understand one or two of those staying in the Beach Shack have already arrived. They are heading straight there.”
“Coming up the driveway now,” Vanessa said as the children watched their father arrive. He was wearing a double-breasted suit, shirt and tie, and smiled as he stepped out of the car.
“Thank you for inviting us Vanessa,” he said as he kissed her on both cheeks, and hugged the children. “Not in costume yet?”
“We’re going to get changed now. Hello Allison.”
“Hello Sandy,” Allison said as she walked over, carrying young Jennifer in her arms. She was wearing a peach coloured slip dress with matching heels, and a long scarf tied over her forehead to hold her hair back. Jennifer was wearing a white dress, and waved to little Sandy and George.
“Why don’t we all come in and have some lunch,” Vanessa said, “you must be hungry after the long journey.”
The Beach Shack, Curragh Park.
Caroline stopped her rented SUV and looked at the large log cabin, the waters of the Hudson lapping on the beach to the side.
“Are you sure this is the right place,” George said as he got out and helped Lily.
“This is it, according to the map – and we’re not the first here,” Penny said as she looked at the sports car parked outside.
“So who’s here already,” Caroline said as she opened the back of the vehicle, and looked round.
“We’ll go and have a look,” Lily said as she and Penny took George by his arms.
"This is a Beach Shack?" George asked as they walked round the back and found Pru Stratton already in residence in the floodlit swimming pool.
"Hey Guys." Pru called out, "Come on in the water's heated."
"In a few Pru." Caroline smiled as she brought the bags round. “We need to get settled in first.”
"I'll repeat myself,” George said as he looked at the rear of the building, “This is a shack?"
"It is compared to the main house." Pru
"Wow, this is a small mansion in its own right." Lily shook her head.
“Hello there,” Winston said as he stepped out, filling the doorway as Ama looked up at him. “Let me take those for you.” He took the bags from Caroline and carried them in as the others stared at him.
“Good afternoon everyone,” Mary said as she walked round, Curt carrying their bags. Looking round, she said “if this is the slumming stop, what is happening at the main house?”
“Who knows,” Caroline said as Winston re-appeared, lifting Mary off the floor as he hugged her.
"Hi Curt." Winston shook the other young
"Hello Winston...This is some place, when I heard
we were staying in the shack, I envisaged hammocks or bunk beds."
"I did too."
"I can only think they call it a shack because we
have to cater to ourselves....no hired help." Penny laughed.
"I know it's going to be so tough roughing it like this." Curt said before his mouth broke into a grin.
“Welcome,” Vanessa said as she came down the stairs towards the car, smiling as Shirley stepped out in her long cream dress. “Welcome to Curragh Park.”
“Thank you for inviting us,” Shirley said as they kissed each other on the cheek, while John helped Catherine and Helen out. The last to get out of the car was Maisha, who was wearing a light blue dress with a matching jacket.
“Maisha, my dear, Jeannie is already here. Would you like to join her in the drawing room until some of the others join us later?”
“Thank you, I would like that very much,” Maisha said as the servants came out to collect the bags. Vanessa turned to a maid and said “Would you show Miss Xavier to the drawing room, where Miss Brewster currently is?”
“This way miss,” the girl said as Maisha followed her, and the party moved into the large entrance hall.
“Spectacular,” John said as he looked round, “you must allow me to take some photographs this weekend Vanessa.”
“I was hoping you would offer, John,” Vanessa said as she watched Shirley trace her gloved finger around some indentations in a wall.
"Are these bullet holes Vanessa?" Shirley
"They are, according to the stories Zelda
Fitzgerald tried to shoot Scott during one of their drunken arguments...I
thought leaving them just as they are was the right thing to do."
"Well they certainly provide a conversation
"Helen you might be interested to know she used
to rehearse in the Studio."
"I read once that more than anything she wanted to be a dancer."
"She was a tragic figure in so many ways, neither of them was I really think cut out for marriage." Vanessa sighed. "This house you know appears in short stories written by both of them."
"Well I can understand why you've spent so much time restoring it Vanessa." Shirley looked round approvingly. "It is magnificent."
“Thank you – come, let me show you to your rooms.”
The Widow’s Cottage
“Oh my,” Katherine said as she looked out of the car window, “I never knew this place would be so big.”
“I knew Sandy and Vanessa were rich, but this is ridiculous,” Adam said as they pulled up outside the cottage – in reality a five bedroomed house with a veranda running around the second floor – from which a heavily pregnant young woman in a cream cardigan and a long dress was waving.
"Welcome to Widows Cottage Jan." Susan came
down from the verandah to greet the new arrivals.
"Wow Susan,” Jan said as she closed the car door,
“this place is lovely."
"I know...I've been sitting just looking at the
view out over the ocean."
"Hey Adam." Clint came out and shook hands.
"How was the traffic?"
"Not bad...I needed the map though to find this
"It's quiet and tucked away." Susan smiled,
"I can understand why old Mrs. Richmond had it built here, it's a perfect
place to just come and be quiet."
"Hello Kylie." Jan smiled as the two English
girls came outside. "You've met Adam and my Mother, this is my daughter
"It's nice to meet you Katy...This is my friend
"Hello Marina." Katy smiled.
"I'm just cooking lunch, so I hope you are all
hungry?" Clint asked.
"I'm starving Uncle Clint."
"You always are darling...It's why I cook an
extra big portion for you."
"Can you get your own bags in guys?" Susan
"Just show us our bedrooms." Adam grabbed up
"Kylie can you show them please."
"Will do Susan."
"Vanessa is expecting us at the big house for
afternoon tea, so you better get changed into period clothes."
"This is going to be fun." Janice smiled as they walked in.
The Barn House
"So why aren't your children with you
Baroness...sorry I mean Sigrid?" Gale Callaghan asked as they made coffee.
"Measles...they are still contagious."
"At least all three got it at once."
"Yes, that at least was a blessing." Sigrid
smiled, "So they are staying at Dieter's parents for Easter..."
"And probably being spoiled rotten."
"As you say Gale, spoiled ROTTEN." Sigi
laughed out loud. "Their grandmother thinks ice cream is the perfect thing
to recuperate on."
"Well Guys had a good look round?" Gale
asked as Dieter and Tom came into the kitchen.
"We have Gale, this is a fascinating
building." Dieter looked like he was enjoying himself.
"Vanessa, or her architects have done a beautiful
job of converting this old barn." Tom sat on a stool. "This is a cozy
"I wonder if the stories that the mob used it for
storing booze during your prohibition years are true?" Sigi asked.
"Well with that little dock out there it would
have been a great place to bring booze in by small boat from a larger ship out
beyond the limit." Tom looked out of the kitchen window where the water
was lapping on the jetty.
"Didn't you say there is a legend of a cache of
vintage whisky and brandy being hidden somewhere nearby Tom." Gale asked.
"So Adam says."
"Oh?" Dieter asked.
"Yeah Adam hauled out some of the old files on
the estate, he can tell you more then I can."
"Wow buried treasure." Sigi laughed, “I think I'll talk to Adam about that.”
“They’re here,” Judy shouted as she walked out of the front door of the house, the cars stopping to allow Mandy and Will along with Angel to get out of the first car, and David’s brothers from the second car – along with one other person.
“Hey Tony,” Judy said as she hugged her cousin, “ready for a week’s holiday?”
“I have exams to cram for you know,” Tony McNally said with a smile. “But the break will do me good. A Twenties weekend in one of the most iconic areas of the world? How could I refuse?”
“That and a certain Countess de Ros present, as well?”
“Well, come away in,” Rachel said as she hugged Mandy and Will, “we’re just going to have lunch and then get changed. We’re expected for afternoon tea at four.”
“How delightful,” Angel said, “complete with cucumber sandwiches?”
“I have no idea – but your clothes are already here.”
“You do realize, O beloved sister, that we won’t get to the bar this weekend?”
“Ah yes, O sister of mine, but consider the company we shall be keeping…”
“All right you two,” Kelly said as she looked at her daughters, “cut that out. Plenty of time for playacting later – we have guests to attend to.”
“Yes, Mater,” Ally said as she stuck her tongue out at her mother, and then walked into the front room with Nell.
“I love your dresses,” Bobbi Morse said as she hugged both of them. She was wearing a pleated pale green skirt and a matching V-necked jumper, while the girls wore flapper style dresses.
“They get all the luck,” Becca said to Anna as they adjusted the sleeves of their linen jackets.
“Wait until you see the dresses for tomorrow night though,” Anna said, “they are to die for.”
“You’re sure this is the place? Jupiter Cottage?”
April looked out of the window of their car at the two storeys, white fronted building, and then smiled as she saw Roy and Tonia come out.
“Just out of interest,” she said as she got out, “What is a house to you Tonia?”
“Not my doing – the previous owner built this on the site of a burnt out cottage, and kept the name. Come away in, Elaine, Bradley and Nikki are out the back. We’ll have some lunch, get changed, and then Roy and I will drive you up to the house.”
Eaglemount – the Guest Cottage
“Hello? Anyone here yet?”
“Hey Pussy,” Karen said as he came down, her fitted gown covering the bump, “thanks for allowing us to stay here.”
“Hey, Heather asked nicely, and we have the room – even for the McKinnon clan.”
Alice came in, carrying Suzanne in her arms, followed by Duncan and their other three children – thirteen-year-old Gareth, ten-year-old Carol and six year old Robert.
“Right you three,” Pussy said, “come with me and I’ll show you where you’ll be sleeping.”
“Hey there,” Ken said as he walked through from the kitchen, resplendent in his tweed suit. “Come and have some coffee – we’re expected for tea at four.”
The Barn House
"Sigrid I am so jealous." Gale Callaghan
stood open mouthed as the petite German came down stairs, the pleated skirt of
her dress moving as she walked over.
"It's the one advantage of being small."
Sigrid laughed as she checked her reflection in the mirror. “The designs for the older teenager of the
time were almost as good, and I fit them well.”
"You look beyond cute my love." Dieter said
as he kissed his wife.
"I really do think I need to check your passport
to see if you are above age." Tom smiled.
"Do you think Vanessa will make me go with the teenagers
"She ought to purely on looks Sigi my love."
"What about now?" Sigi slipped the cloche
hat on and the small round glasses.
"No you still look impossibly young." Gale
"Dieter I think we are going to be lucky enough to take two of the most beautiful women to the tea party." Tom spoke happily.
“Indeed – shall we?”
"It's not the most comfortable wheelchair in the
world, but at least its period." Jeannie sat conversing with Shirley and
Helen in the drawing room, looking out onto the lawn.
"I was saying to your Mother how elegant she
looks Jeannie." Shirley nodded in Barbara's direction.
"She does...I'm just amazed Catherine was able to
get so many period outfits made."
"My boss, when she gets a job, goes all
out." Helen observed.
"Well she kept the best for herself."
Shirley said with more than a touch of envy.
"I know." Jeannie sighed, “that pale pink day dress is out of this world.”
"I have a secret," Helen smiled, "that is not a reproduction, that belonged to Catherine's great grandmother."
"Oh that makes it even more special." Jeannie looked closely.
“Good afternoon – I hope we’re not interrupting,” Winston said as he and Curt appeared, wearing blazers and slacks with cravats round their necks.
“Of course not, House,” Jeannie said as he leaned over to kiss her.
“Hey, you look fantastic,” Jo said as she walked into the room.
“So do you,” Curt said as he looked at Jo in her grey knee length dress.
“So where are the others?”
“Coming now,” Winston said as the Beach Shack party came in, Jane Molloy and Jeanne Marais bringing up the rear.
“Welcome all of you,” Vanessa said as Ama and Maisha embraced. “We have lawn games set out for the younger contingent, and tea will be served in a short while.”
“Come,” Maisha said to Ama, “I believe some of the others are coming from the other places now.” As they walked out, Klaus heard the sound of cars coming up the drive, and went out to see who was coming.
"Guy you BASTARD!" Klaus shook his head as
the Duke climbed out of the while and black 1927 Rolls Royce Phantom.
"You think you were the only one who thought
about vintage cars dear Prince." Guy's eyes sparkled.
"There are vintage cars, then there are
THESE!" Klaus looked dazed as Diana parked the Phantom convertible.
"Where did you get them from?"
"The sedan is Valeria's own, she flew it over
"It is a beauty." Klaus looked admiringly.
"The convertible is Roy's."
"So we might get to see even better when he
"Ah dear Klaus just wait and see."
“Hey there,” Abby said as she hugged Carina, “so this is the international House of Mystery?”
“Yeah – come on, we can have a look together – coming Marie-Louise?”
The young French girl nodded as she walked off with them, while Janice and Susan walked round with their groups.
As they greeted each other, they then turned and watched as two more cars approached – a Lancia Lambda and a Cadillac V16
“All right, we’re trumped,” Klaus said as he and Guy shook hands, watching as Roy and their guests came out.
“So now all we need to make the scene complete are…”
Alex came out with Vanessa and waved as a large 30’s bus pulled up, depositing the guests from Eaglemount.
“My goodness, the old place looks as good as new,” Gus said as he and Pauline got out.
“We’re just glad you could be here as well,” Alex said as he shook Gus’ hand.
“Alex, Vanessa, we would not have missed this for the world,” Pauline said as the Boyd’s and the McNally’s came out as well.
“Come through – the others are gathering in the drawing room and the lawn.”
“Karen, Alice,” Juliette said as they came in, “so glad you could come as well.”
“Oh come on – to live like Gatsby and Daisy, it sounds magnificent.”
“Doc! Pepsi! Nikki!”
“Hey Jeans,” the girls said as they came over, “so who else is here?”
“Apart from Ama and Maisha? Susan’s British niece is here with her older friend.”
“Kylie? Excellent,” Doc said with a smile.
“So many people in one place – and have you heard the plans for tomorrow?”
“An open day and a gala ball with a charity raising casino?”
“For the grown ups – the casino anyway,” Jeans said with a smile. “Have you heard some of the stories about this place?”
“Yeah – I wonder if any of them are true.”
“Why don’t we find out?”
“Well hello lover,” Abby said as she put her arms round Tony’s neck, “I’m glad you’re over for the holidays.”
“Does the House have a problem?”
“What do you think,” Abby said as she looked over at Winston sitting with Jeannie.
From the side Allison was watching, making small talk with Gus and Roy. She was glad they had accepted the invitation, but she still felt certain some of the guests should not have been there. Even though her name was mentioned in society, April Broadhurst was still just a gardener. Jennifer was playing with the other babies, and she looked happy, but this last year had been like a living hell for her.
What she wanted was revenge – revenge on those she felt had hurt her the most, and top of the list was that bitch Sandy Richmond and her extended family. If only she could find the chink in their armour.
The sound of children laughing and running on the lawn made Vanessa smile as she sat with the others on the patio.
"Do you remember the last time this old house was
this busy Alex?" Gus van Roon stood with Father Richmond watching the
"Vanessa's coming out dance...Dear God that's
going back a few years now." Alex shook his head.
"How do you remember it...as a disaster, or as a
"As both." Alex nodded his head solemnly.
"I remember the blood mainly where that bastard hit Nessa and hurt her so
"I know." Gus grimaced. "I really
thought that had damaged her permanently."
"It's why she always thinks of Sandy as the
miracle child. She thought she was incapable of having a baby, then at age 39
along came Sandy."
"Does she ever talk about it?"
"No her mother has never told her what happened
"Well Pauline has never raised it with her, and
I'll never talk unless she says it's okay."
"I don't think any of her real friends want to
ever mention it."
"I'm just amazed she's put so much effort into
restoring the place." Gus shook his head.
"Well I think she wanted to put it back to the
way it was before, to erase that night almost."
"Maybe Alex that just might be."
So the holier then thou Vanessa Richmond had a sordid secret. Allison chuckled to herself as she sat hidden behind the pillar. It was going to be payback time, and her revenge was going to be sweet.
For an afternoon, no for an extended weekend, it was
like a time warp had opened up on that small eastern piece of Long Island. The
sound of laughter as children and young adults explored the mysteries of the
game of croquet on the lawn. The sounds of balls coming off the strings of
tennis rackets on the adjacent tennis courts as women in white dresses and
young men in white shirts and long flannel trousers played their game happily.
The clink of bone china as the older people sat in deck chairs or on benches
sipped their tea.
John Hammond was completely in his element taking pictures with the antique Leica camera, he and Shirley were totally relaxed. Sights like young Katy Carter sticking her tongue out in disgust as little George made a wonderful shot on the croquet lawn he'd captured forever. THE shot though was one of Shirley with the Atlantic behind her trying to hold on to everything as a gust of wind tried to remove her hat and lift her dress simultaneously. It was pure unrehearsed magic and John knew it was a photograph to treasure immediately he took it.
Shirley looked over and smiled at John. A year before, she would never have dreamed she would have been so happy, never mind coming out of her self imposed exile to such a degree. It was almost as if meeting Juliette and the other ladies had stirred something inside of her she never knew existed. Her natural curiosity made her wonder what it was. Perhaps Maddie was right – it was long past time for her to be happy.
“Quite a sight, isn’t it Mom?”
“Yes it is,” Vanessa said with a smile, “It is so long since this place has had so many people in it, never mind so much laughter.”
“I know – I think you only ever brought me here once to visit grandmamma, at the Widow’s Cottage.”
“What do you remember of her?”
“Not much really – thin, white hair, and scary as anything. I do remember she always seemed to put you on edge – a but like Diana felt about Valeria at one time.”
“My mother was a - controlling woman, and she had a lot of influence on me,” Vanessa said quietly.
“Mom, is everything all right?”
“Yes, everything’s fine,” Vanessa said as she looked at Alex and Gus.
"I remember my Grandfather's smile when I told
him you were coming Gus,” Alex said, “that after all those years a van Roon
would actually be crossing the threshold at Curragh Park."
"I know," Gus shook his head, "From the
21st century the bigotry against Catholics, and especially Irish Catholics
seems so strange and wrong."
"Well what the old gentlemen would say today I
don't know. Van Roon's and Richmond's mixing freely."
"And what is more Alex, openly lesbian women in
"We have come a long way Gus."
"And it's so good seeing young Maisha and Ama
here, I can imagine most of our ancestors are turning in their graves at the
thought of black girls as guests."
"They probably are Gus, but damn them for their
"I agree Damn them Alex."
"Do you remember the fuss when you told your
father you were going out with a girl from Nymphomania High School." Alex
"Oh God that's a term I haven't heard in
years." Gus laughed loudly. "He threatened to cut me off when we sent
"What are you two talking about?" Vanessa
and Pauline wandered over, drinks in hand.
"Dating girls from Nymphomania High." Gus
"I never did like that term for St.
Angela's." Vanessa shook her head.
"Nessa just remember in our day every privately
educated boy within a 7 state radius called it that." Pauline van Roon
"And certain girls made it seem VERY appropriate
my love." Gus gave Pauline a kiss on the cheek.
"Are you implying I was loose Augustus van
"No just easy." Gus smiled at his wife.
“So I take it the twenties was when this place was at the most lively?”
"I think that, by the standards of the time, the
fact we were seen as being Irish Nouveau Riche certainly plays a part in the
story." Sandy reflected. "With due deference to Puss's ancestors but
it was a time when the Richmond's would not have been welcomed in the drawing
rooms of New York's elite."
"It seems strange to think there was a time when
the Richmond's were outsiders." Blair reflected.
"Well not as big outsiders as say the Boston
Kennedy's with all the insinuation that old Joe Kennedy was fronting for
mobsters, but we weren't yet established in our respectability."
"Can I add in at this point that my family,
though still protestant at the time, were always good friends with the
Richmond's" Juliette spoke.
"Yes but as very provincial, small town notables
they didn't exactly bring much influence to the matter in New York." Sandy
"True." Juliette nodded.
"Anyway when Great Aunt Annabel, and her friend
Jane Huntingdown returned home from a social triumph of a summer in London, we
began to be harder for Old New York to ignore, what with Lord This being
entertained at Fifth Avenue, and Lady That spending weekends at Curragh Park.”
"Old New York began holding its nose and to
accept the Richmond's." Vanessa smiled, "So they too could meet the
"But what about the murders?" Blair asked.
"If there were murders?" Vanessa reminded
"No bodies were ever found, but old 'Black Jack'
Richmond, and the Flaherty brothers do just vanish from all records.
"Black Jack was?" asked Frieda.
"My Great Grandfathers younger brother."
"A Richmond with a true Irish temper." Alex
smiled. "And more than a taste for the spirit of life."
"The story is he got one of the Flaherty girls
into trouble." Sandy continued the tale.
"Her brothers supposedly came to the house and demanded he marry the girl.” Alex interrupted.
"Well Black Jack was a middle aged bachelor, but
well they embarrassed the family by barging in on the engagement ball for his
"The one who had been in London Sandy?"
"Yes, well it was the first time a large segment
of New York High Society had consented to come to Curragh Park."
"Our newly won respectability." Alex nodded.
"Any way no one knows the story of what happened that night, it's the stuff of family legend." Sandy looked round the room. “All that is known for certain is that they all disappeared that night.”
“Maybe there is something in the files Adam said he looked at?”
“Files? What files?”
“Apparently the FBI have files about this house – surely you knew that.”
“Of course, Will you excuse me,” Vanessa said as she left through the open doors, and went out onto the lawn, approaching Adam as he stood watching Katy with the McKinnon children.
“Ah – thank you for inviting us, Vanessa.”
"My pleasure. I heard that you had a look at some of the files relating to the history of Curragh Park Adam?"
"I did Vanessa...This house has had a most
"Did you get as far as the early sixties?"
Adam looked round and then whispered "I
"Vanessa it is none of my business, I'm not
proposing to talk to anyone about what I read."
"Thank you Adam." Vanessa reached out and
lightly touched his arm. "That was a whole other time, and involved a
woman who I have made sure doesn't exist any more."
"So what are you two talking about?" Heather walked up the lawn from where the younger children were playing.
“Some of the history of this place – do you believe Capone used it as a staging post?”
“I don’t know,” Vanessa said as she looked at Alex.
"Are they kissing each other?" Marina asked a little in shock as she watched Carina and Annie.
"Yes." Kylie smiled, "They are lesbians, there are a couple of other couples as well."
"Oh my God Kyles!"
"Don't worry they aren't going to try and seduce you Marina." Jeannie laughed.
"It's not something you see every day in our part
of North London." Kylie sipped her tea.
"I guess." Marina shook her head. “So who?”
“Sandy and Heather, Miss van Roon and Frieda for two.”
Marina nodded as she looked at the two couples talking at another table. She then glanced to the side, and said “I don’t think she likes them very much though. Who is she?”
“Not sure,” Kylie said as she stopped Susan. “Sooz, who’s that young woman looking at Sandy?”
“Hmmm – I think that’s the wife of Sandy’s ex-husband. Why?”
“I recognize the look in her eyes,” Marina said, “she’s jealous. Think we need to keep an eye on her?”
“No – but I’ll tell Diana and Juliette. They know her better than me.”
"This lawn was sown with grass seeds brought over
from the actual Curragh in County Kildare." Alex smiled proudly.
"So it is actually the real auld sod."
"Yes it is, just over two acres of real Irish
"Your great great grandfather had an eye for his
landscape when he chose this site Father."
"Yes it's beautiful, in those days the estate was
just windswept beachfront pasture, he planted the trees knowing he'd never see
them as we see them now, picked the locations for the buildings, and turned a
semi-wilderness into a little bit of heaven."
"That he did."
Alex looked round and smiled at Vanessa, who smiled back in return as she closed her eyes.
“Those were stolen from us years ago – give them back!”
“Freddie – what are you…”
For a second Vanessa had a flashback to the awful
night of her ball, the rage in Old Mr. Hughson's eyes, the violence with which
Freddie Hughson had hit her as he tried to grab the emeralds off of her.
"No!" she chastised herself severely, "you put that all behind you years ago Nessa."
"Are you alright Nessa?" Paulie van Roon
"Yes...I think so."
Vanessa nodded her head.
"I thought so...”
Paulie walked her to a table and sat down next to her. “One day, if you ever need me I'm here for
you to talk to you know."
"I know...Did I ever thank you by the way for
going to the hospital with me in the ambulance that night?"
"You wanted to put everything behind you, even
your best friend, you started to keep your distance from me after that
"I think in a way I blamed you for introducing me
"Nessa, no more then I blamed myself...Freddie
Hughson was as bitter and twisted as his grandfather...He just kept it hidden
"I fell for him hook, line and sinker."
"I know you did darling." Paulie hugged Vanessa, "you gave him your virginity, and you were going to have his baby."
“Look at them – Katy is having the time of her life,” Adam said as Alex came to stand next to him.
“That is what I love to see the most – children bringing
this old place truly back to life.” Alex
smiled and then said quietly "I understand you read the police files
"I did Alex."
Father Richmond nodded before saying "Don't judge
us as a family Adam."
"It's not my place to Alex."
"Did you read between the lines?"
"I think I did."
"Nessa's reputation was ruined that night. Girls
of her type didn't get embroiled in such messes back then...At least enough for
it to become public knowledge...”
Turning to look at Adam, he said “She's spent a lifetime trying to erase
what she saw as her sins."
"Is that why she married your cousin?"
"Yes," Alex nodded, "He'd always loved
her, and well she was 'damaged goods' as the saying went. My father got the
Archbishop to grant a dispensation allowing them to get married."
"So Miss Richmond became Mrs. Richmond."
Alex nodded as Andy looked at Katy with Sandy and
George. "I read the medical
report...she was pregnant wasn't she?"
"Sadly yes...she miscarried after him hitting her like that."
“I think that’s the true tragedy – but he served his time, and then disappeared. Did you ever hear from him again?”
Alex shook his head as he looked round. “Thank you for your discretion Adam.”
“I have no wish to rake over that past event, Alex – now some of the other stories…”
“A cache of illicit booze?”
“That’s the legend,” Doc said as she sat with the other teenagers, “and I think we should try and find it. Be like a twenties Nancy Drew.”
“So where do we start?”
“We need to get a look at one of Adam’s files. Who’s up for a little walk to the shore?”
“I’ll come with you,” Kylie said as she stood up. “I need to stretch my legs anyway. Anyone else?”
“No – I’m going to enjoy this countryside,” Pepsi said as she sat with Ama and Maisha.
“So down to the Widow’s Cottage?”
“Yeah – a little look round, nothing serious…”
“Look at them – just look at them.”
Janice and Sandy were looking round the cars parked out front with Jeanne and Clint. “These are all true works of art,” Jeanne said as she stroked the Cadillac.
“Ah, but none of them can hold a torch to Peggy?”
“Oh,” Pussy said as she joined them, “and who is Peggy?”
“Come with me,” Sandy said as they walked to the garage, and opened the door.
“Oh my goodness – is that a Bugatti,” Janice said as she looked at the racing car.
“As driven by great aunt Annabel – I’m going to take it for a spin tomorrow. Who else is up for it?”
“This is a magnificent building,” George said as he walked round with Caroline and Susan. “We need to take especial care tomorrow.”
“Indeed – the team will arrive tomorrow afternoon and be ready, suitably dressed, at seven. Thoughts on placement?”
George looked round the ballroom. “One at the door there, two at the windows, one at the servant’s entrance, the rest roaming?”
“I agree,” Caroline said. “Susan, ask the office to send four extra people please. We’ll need them for the casino room.”
“I’ll do it when I get back to the cottage,” Susan said as she made a mental note, and then held her back.
“I swear Susan, if that kid doesn’t give Ama a run for her money playing football…”
"In those tragic events I lost the best friend I
ever had." Paulie let a couple of tears run down her cheek as she held
"Nessa you know very well I did."
"Well at Smith we were still friends."
"After a fashion,” Paulie said, “but not the
inseparables any more as we'd been at St. Angela's."
"Well you and Gus were..."
"Gus and I dated while we were at St. Angela's,
it didn't seem to bother you then."
Vanessa looked to the side and said "I think I
knew I needed to grow up."
"Bullshit...that's Vanessa Richmond talking not
the real Nessa."
"I don't think that Nessa exists anymore
Paulie looked straight into Vanessa’s eyes. "You know till you came over to
Eaglemount last year at Easter I'd seen you…
What, three times in the previous twenty years?"
"Well if you will bury yourself out here..."
"Nessa, most of those years we were still in New
"You damn well know we were,” Paulie said with a
smile, “and I know you kept in touch with how we were because people would
always say that you'd asked closely after Me, Gus, and the girls."
"Well WHAT? Nessa you avoided me like the plague,
you even got Alex and Gus to withdraw their friendship from each other. Neither
of us saw Alex for years either. You
withdrew into a shell Ness Richmond and I'd just like to know the full reasons
"Paulie,” Vanessa said quietly, “I was 18, I was
pregnant, and you were the only other person in the world who knew. You
remember my parents? How do you think they'd have reacted if I'd told
"It couldn't have been worse then the doctor
telling them at the hospital you'd lost the baby."
Vanessa looked away for a moment.
“Well Daddy and Mummy tore me apart when I eventually got home, I was
told who I was going to marry, that I must be a good dutiful wife, that I must
behave impeccably at all times, and that I should give up my old friends."
Paulie threw her hands in the air and said, "Why
didn't they just put you in a convent?"
"That was their original idea."
"Oh God Nessa." Paulie hugged her friend again in sympathy.
"They blamed the whole thing on me, I'd brought disgrace to the Richmond name and I should never forget that fact...I haven't, I've tried ever since to lead a model life, I even regretted and chastised myself for that one puff on a funny cigarette at college."
"How were you to blame...he knocked you up, he
assaulted you, he put you in the hospital and that damn psychiatric unit."
Pauline shook her head.
"When Daddy died, Mummy built the Widows Cottage,
this house passed into disrepair. I wanted it to go back to how it was..."
"Before that night?"
“Well, I would like that,” she said as Alex came to sit with them.
“Am I intruding?”
“No – we were talking about my coming out party.”
“I could have cheerfully killed them, both of them,” Alex said with a grim face.
“Why on earth did he go so crazy over the stones anyway?”
“His grandfather had this crazy belief that Aunt
Annabel had stolen the Richmond emeralds from him back in the 1920's" Alex
nodded a she sat with them.
"Freddie believed it just as much as that horrid old man." Vanessa looked strained, "when I danced with him and he saw them he just went berserk."
“Ness, remember last year when Sandy came out, you asked if you were a bad mother?”
“I try not to remember my reaction then.”
“Well, you are not a bad woman – you never were. This weekend, I want you to be yourself, not the picture our mother and father forced on you. I don’t think Robert would want you to suffer any more either.”
“He would have been proud of Sandy, wouldn’t he?”
“Yes he would – now come on, you have guests to greet.”
"So Roy. So many beautiful cars...I thought your
passion was racehorses?" Valeria smiled as she spoke.
"He has a thing for vintage horsepower as
well." laughed Tonia.
"I go to the Barrett Jackson auctions firmly
determined just to sit on my hands and look, but I always seem to find
something I like." Roy grinned proudly.
"Your Rolls is a thing of beauty itself
Valeria." Tonia looked over at the car.
"It belonged to my Great Grandfather, he used it
to drive from his villa to the casino at Monte Carlo each night. He used to say,
I believe, that the car knew its own way home, that he just fell asleep and
would wake up in his own bed."
"From what I've read about him that has the ring
of truth." Tonia laughed out loud.
"He certainly had most of the Romanov
vices." Valeria shook her head.
"Did I hear you talking about your ancestor
Valeria?" Vanessa asked.
"We were, I was telling the story of him and the
"Well I've got something to show you
"And what might that be Vanessa darling?"
"Did you know he visited the house when he was a
very old man? I found his signature and comments in the guest book when I was
looking one day."
"Oh yes please show me that Vanessa, I'll get
John to photograph it as well."
"From the entry I'm not sure what impressed him
most, the house, the emeralds, or the beauty of Aunt Annabel."
"Probably the emeralds, he supposedly used to say a woman's beauty can fade, a great house may fall in ashes, but wonderful jewels last forever."
“Heather, if it’s all right with you we older girls are going to head down and join the others at the Beach Shack.”
“I see – the lure of the pool and a barbecue greater than a cold buffet here?”
“Well, since you ask…”
“Actually,” Carina said, “it’s to celebrate Jo getting in to William Smith.”
“All right, on you go – I’ll tell Vanessa, but don’t be late back,” Heather said, watching as they walked after Curt and the others.
“Where are they going?”
“Beach party, I think.”
Sandy put her arm round Heather as they watched them disappear down the lawn.
“Come on you lot,” they heard Alice call out, “come in, have some supper, and then get ready for bed.”
“I’ll get Judith,” Heather said as she walked over to join Alice, Allison heading from a different direction to fetch Jennifer.
“Allison – how are you today? We haven’t had much of a chance to talk yet.”
“I am fine, thank you Heather,” Allison said as she picked up her daughter. “The therapy sessions and tablets help.” She looked round and said “Such a beautiful house, and so much history. If only these walls could speak…”
“Then what a tale they could tell,” Heather said as she looked at Judith. “But then your mom is studying history, isn’t she little one?”
“How is Carina coping?”
“Very well – Jude McNally and Tony Fitzstuart are a great help.” Heather looked at Allison, and said “Shall we go in?”
“Yes we will,” Alice said as she picked up Suzanne, “before it gets too cold.”
The Beach Shack
“JOANNE!” the cheer went up as they toasted Jo, the champagne flowing as they gave three cheers.
“You know what you need to do now,” Abby said as she took up position on one side of Jo, Carina on the other.
“SWIM” they said as they picked the young girl up between them and threw her into the pool, Ally and Nell cheering as they did so.
“Hey, that’s my girlfriend,” Curt said as he appeared, wearing an authentic swimming costume as he leant over to try to help her out – and then ended up beside her in the pool as she pulled him in.
"Okay Boys and Girls I have the barbecue alight
and some steaks and sausages cooking, anyone want to help me?" Mary
"I will Mary, I think these youngsters want to
try that pool."
"Thank You George, do you ever get the feeling we
are supposed to play parent to this group?"
"The thought had crossed my mind Mary."
"Okay Champagne, barbecued food, and a nice crowd, I think I'm set for the weekend." Penny laughed.
“Couldn’t ask for a nicer night,” Marina said as she looked out over the water at the lights.
As the guests went into the drawing room, Alex took Sandy and Heather to one side.
“Listen, can you two spare a few minutes?”
“Of course we can, Alex – what’s wrong?”
“Stay back a few minutes – there’s something we need to talk to you about.”
“Alex, what’s going on,” Sandy said as he closed the door, leaving them with Vanessa, Gus and Paulie.
“Sandy – there’s something we need to tell you about – something that happened fifty years ago,”
“Fifty… You would have been eighteen, mother.”
“Oh yes – eighteen and coming out into society. Can you picture the scene? It was a beautiful late April evening in 1964. I'd spent weeks with Paulie trying to find the right dress."
"She looked beautiful." Paulie breathed. “That dress would look magnificent even today.”
“Well I had intended to keep it.”
“I know you did Ness.”
"Well, as events turned out, the blood stains
would never have come out anyway."
Sandy looked at Vanessa. "Blood? What are you trying to tell me
"She's trying to tell you the story of the
pivotal moment in her life sweetie." Paulie held Vanessa's hand. "I
just want you to get a mental picture of your mother back then."
"She was the most beautiful girl in New York
City...barring Paulie of course." Gus chuckled at his wife's glare.
"Your mother believe it or not was an absolute
trendsetter." Paulie smiled at the memory. "She was the first of us
to discover the Beatles..."
"Oh God do you remember the Lanin Band trying to
play a Beatles Melody that night?" Vanessa interrupted with a chuckle.
"She was the first to start drinking, to smoke,
"Sex." Vanessa shook her head.
"While I was dating Gus, she was seeing this
English boy called Freddie Hughson."
"Remember that name it's important." Alex
"Please go on Paulie." Sandy felt the need to hold Heather's hand.
“Hughson was in New York attending a local boy’s school – he was living with his grandfather at the time. Old Man Hughson had come to the US during the war, and made his money in munitions. There were some rumours that followed him around – how he had the worst temper this side of Joe McCarthy, and had rather old fashioned views about the place of women in society.”
“Namely,” Gus said as Alex nodded “as bearers of children and servants – nothing else.”
“Freddie seemed the complete opposite of his grandfather – funny, caring, accepting – and then came that party. The day before, Paulie and I went to see our doctor – my… Well, I had missed a period.”
“Oh my goddess,” Sandy whispered, “you were pregnant?”
“About ten weeks they reckoned – anyway, I hadn’t told anyone, but instead I came up here, and prepared for the best night of my life. I was in love, and I was ready to give my life to him. My mother, with great pride, allowed me to wear the Richmond Emeralds – the green in that light against my gown…”
“I was sixteen,” Alex said, “but I was awestruck with how beautiful she was that night, walking down and into the hall in Father’s arms, me accompanying our mother. It was a perfect evening, those who came were clapping and cheering – these two most of all.”
“Hey – we were best friends,” Paulie said.
“I have a horrible feeling I’m not going to like this,” Sandy said, “what happened?”
“The Lanin Band started to play, and I danced with Father, and then with Freddie. I was mildly aware of a commotion at the side of the room, but it was only when we stopped that I realised it was Old Man Hughson. He was screaming and pointing at me, but it took me a while to figure out what he was saying.”
“What he was saying – and I clean it up slightly – was that our great aunt Annabel had stolen the Richmond emeralds from him. He was also ordering Freddie to snatch them back from her neck.”
Sandy looked at her mother and uncle, and said “you’re joking? I mean, I know the old stories, but surely not…”
“We don’t know, to tell the honest truth,” Vanessa said as she gripped Paulie’s hand. “What I remember was looking at Freddie, and seeing a look of pure hatred in his eyes. ‘You,’ he whispered, ‘your family ruined mine, forced my grandfather out here. I’m taking back what’s ours!’ That was when he tried to pull them off my neck. I grabbed them and pulled back – and that…”
Vanessa took a deep breath and said “that was when he drove his fist into my abdomen, throwing punch after punch until he made me fall to the floor. I screamed, and I remember seeing Alex hold him back, and then staring at me. That was when I looked down, and saw the scarlet stain on the white silk…”
“Oh no,” Sandy whispered as she stood up, walked over and held her mother.
“We got her to the hospital as quickly as we could,” Paulie said, “but it was too late. She lost the baby – and then lost herself. Ness Richmond started to disappear that night – first her parents threatened to disown her, and then she had a mental breakdown. She spent a year in Kirby, and came out a very different woman.”
“I had to change – I didn’t want to be hurt again,” Vanessa said quietly. “Your father, God rest his soul, knew everything when he married me, and eventually we became close enough for a miracle to come along – you, darling.”
"Neither of us was blessed with fertility Sandy. Your Mother was in her late thirties when she had you, and I was in my mid 30's and 40’s when thanks to technology I finally was able to have the girls." Paulie smiled.
"It was worth it though, all the waiting, because we were both blessed with amazing daughters, and then wonderful grandchildren." Vanessa's eyes sparkled.
The Beach House
“Look at ‘em, ‘Rina,” Kylie said as she and Marina looked across the water, the lights twinkling on the horizon, “ever see anyfink so beautiful?”
“Gotta agree with you, Kyles,” Marina said as she sipped her champagne, “I never thought anything like this would ever be in my life.”
“I hear a rumour you’re heading to Hong Kong.”
The two girls turned to see Anna standing with them, looking out over the water as well. “Life changing, isn’t it?”
“It is – Marina this is Anna Carlton, Anna my friend Marina.” Kylie took a sip from her glass, and then said “Anna here was the other girl on the weekend with me.”
“Oh?” Marina looked the teenager up and down, before she said, “Who do you work with?”
“I believe Madame refers to us as the American Associates. But you’re right – certainly a year ago I never expected this to happen. I’d only just learned then I got the Kirkham scholarship to St Angela’s.”
The other two nodded as Kylie picked a stone up and sent it skimming over the water.
“It is truly beautiful, is it not?”
“It is Ama,” Doc said as the two young African girls joined them. “I was just saying a year ago I would never have dreamed I would be here – but compared to both of you, I had it lucky.”
“Aunt Shirley and I have talked a lot about this,” Maisha said, “and she told me something profound. She said the past is the past, and it cannot be changed – what matters is what you make of it for your future. Indeed, she has changed a lot in the time I have known her as well.”
“True,” Ama said as she turned with the others, looking at the lights in the windows of the main house. “All of us have changed from where we were a year ago, and taken on new lives.”
“You are the quiet, wise one, aren’t you Ama,” Doc said as she looked at her.
“Not wise, no – but I am quiet, and I watch, and I see. And what I see now is Mom coming towards us.”
“So this is where you lot wondered off to,” Caroline said as she came over. “Kylie, Susan is looking for you and Marina. Clint and her are heading back to the Widow’s Cottage.”
“We should head back too,” Marina said, “Helen wants me and Kylie to help her rehearse early tomorrow morning.”
“We should all head back – it will soon be bedtime, and we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow.”
Saturday 4th April
“Good morning,” Jo said as she looked up from the breakfast table to see Curt and Winston walk in. Both young men were wearing striped blazers, open necked shirts and light linen trousers, while Jo was wearing a cream coloured day dress.
“Good morning – forgiven me yet?”
“For almost ruining my dress? Let’s just say I’m glad it wasn’t the dress I’m planning to wear tonight,” Jo said before Curt leaned over and kissed her.
“Hey you,” Jeannie said as she came in, and reached up to kiss Winston. “The rest of your party on their way up?”
“I think so – Mary was saying she was looking forward to some old fashioned kedgeree.”
“Well, help yourself to breakfast – it’s all on the table over there,” Jo said as Carina came in, sitting Judith in a high chair and fastening a large bib over her before she went to the buffet.
“Good morning everyone,” Alex said as he came in, “it is a truly beautiful day.”
“It is indeed,” John said as he came in with Shirley. “So any plans for today?”
“You are free to explore and spend time wherever you want – the others will be here by mid morning, and lunch will be available from one.”
“Great,” Heather said as she came in, “Sigi and I are going to take the younger kids for a walk in the grounds.”
“What are the older teenagers up to?”
“Apart from Sigi,” Carina said with a mischievous grin.
“Abby called me earlier – Doc asked if she could take her to somewhere this morning, but she promised they would be back for lunch.”
“Any idea where?”
“Nope – but this is Anna Carlton we’re talking about.”
“True,” Jeannie said with a smile, “she probably wants to identify a flower or something she saw.”
“Good morning everyone,” Sandy said as she and Heather walked in, both wearing trouser suits and open necked blouses.
“Good morning,” the table said back as the room slowly filled up with those staying on the estate.
The buffet was refilled as necessary, as the younger children sat and talked about what they wanted to do. Curt walked back over to the buffet table, and then returned, but Jo noticed his attention was taken by a picture on the wall.
"Is that a picture of you and Juliette
"No," Sandy laughed lightly as she looked over, "Go read the plate."
Curt stood up and looked at the small plate on the bottom of the picture, reading out loud "Mrs. Annabel Rockland and Dr. Jane Huntingdown."
"My great great aunt,” Sandy said as she sat back, “and Juliette's as well."
"They were best friends." Carina said as she
came over and looked closely, placing her glasses on top of the scarf holding
her hair back.
"Jane Huntingdown, Jane Huntingdown... Where do I know that name from?" Curt
looked confused as he stepped back.
"Did you ever read much about the use of blood
samples in forensics Curt?"
"Oh my God,” Curt said as he suddenly realized,
“she was THAT Jane Huntingdown!"
"The same." Carina smiled. "In most
ways she's probably the most distinguished member of my family."
"Aunt Annabel was her main supporter, it was her
money that allowed Jane to travel to do her researches all over the
world." Sandy said with some pride.
"They must have been an amazing pair to
know." Curt looked closely at the painting. "Can I ask why the artist
painted them holding hands?"
"No one is quite sure." Sandy looked at the
painting herself again. "I often wonder if..."
"We will never know for sure." Carina looked at Sandy with a bit of devilry in her eye. "My grandmother burned all Aunt Jane's personal papers, as per her will."
"And Rocky burned all of Annabel's on her
death." Vanessa said as she came into the room.
"So I guess the hand holding will always remain a
mystery." Sandy spoke quietly.
"Why is there an empty safe on the wall?"
"Again no one knows, there has never been a safe
on that wall in Fifth Avenue." Sandy looked at that detail.
"Is that the emeralds she's wearing?" Carina
"It is." Vanessa looked up at the famous
jewels in the painting.
"The Tontom Club." Curt read the words on
the paper painted on the table in the side of the picture. "Where was
"Again no one knows...it's another of the
paintings mysteries." Sandy shook her head. "There was never as far
as we can trace a club of that name in New York."
"I've never understood the tiny ghost figure in the corner either." Vanessa shook her head.
"Is that a police whistle hanging round Jane's
neck?" Curt spotted another detail.
"It looks like one, you know I never noticed that before." Sandy shook her head.
“What has taken the attention of all of you,” Shirley said as she and John walked over.
“This picture – it fascinates us all.”
Shirley looked closely at the picture, and smiled. “A very unusual portrait, I grant you,” she said as she looked at Sandy and Juliette. “Who was the artist?”
“I believe it was a mutual friend – I can find out if you wish?”
“I’d love to know,” Heather said quietly. As Shirley walked past Juliette, she heard her friend whisper “What are you not telling us Shirley?”
“Later my dear – later…”
“Before I forget,” Vanessa said as she looked at the table, “Helen has offered to teach you some dances of the time. We’re asking those interested to gather at eleven in the studio.”
“A dance lesson? Sounds fun.”
“I think it will be fun,” Catherine said as she helped herself to some food, “but not necessarily in the way you think…”
“How are you feeling today Nessa,” Paulie van Roon said as she embraced her friend. The light was streaming through the windows, making the white marble glisten with a light like nothing else. Gus and Alex stood by them as Vanessa said “A lot better thanks – it was good to get that off my chest, as it were.”
From the top of the staircase, Allison looked down, a real menace in her eyes.
“What are you doing?”
She suddenly turned and looked at George, smiling as she said “I was just looking down – they really are old friends aren’t they? Did you meet them when you were married to Sandy?”
“Not really – I only really met Patricia for the first time last year, and her sister yesterday. They certainly knew each other when they were younger, but apart from that, I don’t know anything.”
“This really is a beautiful old house,” Allison said changing the subject, “I bet it can tell all sorts of tales.”
“Well, according to the gossip last night, it certainly houses some secrets. This is one of the houses in the Great Gatsby after all.
“Anyway, come on – Jennifer and Judith are in their prams, and Carina has offered to go on a walk with us.”
The young couple walked down the stairs, and smiled at Vanessa as Guy and Valeria came in.
“The rest of our party have split – Marie has gone with Willy and Natasha to join the younger generation. So what do you propose for this morning?”
Vanessa then smiled, and said "Alexander I've not even opened up the wine cellar."
"You mean it's as it was down there?" Alex's jaw dropped at the thought.
"I thought that might surprise you."
"Valeria, Guy, Gus,” Alex said as a gleam appeared in his eye, “are you all up to coming down and looking if there are any forgotten treasures down there?"
"Father might have had it cleared you know?"
"I know darling, but he equally might have left it, and you know mother she wouldn't have touched it."
“I know – she never really understood the idea as an investment. Wait here and I will fetch the keys.”
“Are we truly dressed for a dusty room?”
“It won’t be dusty,” Alex said, “There’s a natural cave under the house, so it should be relatively clean. Just a bit musty after been closed for over twenty years.”
“Here we go,” Vanessa said as she handed Alex a set of keys. “Try not to get lost down there?”
"Okay the Rogers Memorial Library is on Coopers
Farm Road Abby." Doc read from her notes as she sat in the front of the
"Tell me again why I'm spending Easter Saturday
morning going to a library please?"
"Because I want to look at old reports and maps
to see if there are any clues about the famous Capone liquor stash."
"It's a reason I suppose." Abigail shook her head as they pulled up outside the old building. The library users looked at the two girls as they got out of the car, the taller one wearing a short sleeved light green dress with a knee length pleated skirt and a straw hat, the younger girl wearing a long grey cardigan over a white blouse and a linen skirt.
As they walked into the reception area, the woman at the desk looked up, and then looked again.
“Good morning,” Anna said, “I wonder if I can access the local newspaper files for the period from 1928 to 1935 please?”
“I’m sorry, but aren’t you…”
“Doing a history project? Why yes, yes we are,” Abby said quietly, “so can you help my young friend, please?”
“Of course – this way please…” She took the two girls through the library to a microfiche reader, and said “The files you want can be located using the search engine on the laptop. Type in the terms, and it will tell you which file to look up.”
“I read about these in books,” Anna said as she sat down and typed in “Curragh Park Prohibition.”
Curragh Park, The Studio.
The assembled group looked on as Helen came in with Vanessa. The young blonde was wearing a light blue body stocking with a chiffon scarf tied around her waist.
“It's good of you to teach these kids a couple of
twenties dances Helen." Vanessa smiled. "I'll leave them in your
As she walked out, Helen turned and smiled.
"Alright guys, we are going to try and learn the
Black Bottom and the Charleston." Helen looked round the studio.
"Jeannie can you handle the music?"
"It's what I'm here for Helen."
"Now I'll just show you how the Black Bottom was
originally danced as a solo dance...Music please Jeannie."
As Jeannie cued up Varsity Drag on the gramophone, the
When it started Helen began to gyrate her hips swinging her arms and legs.
"Wow." Gale whispered to her husband,
"She really is a dancer." The
others watched as she moved her arms and legs in a strangely angular, yet
“Okay ladies want to try that?" Helen smiled as Carina, Annie, Judy, Gale, Sigi, Ingrid, Marie-Louise, Bobbi, Becca, Pepsi, Blair, Angel, Mandy, Lily, Penny and Pru all stood up.
"What are we letting ourselves in for?" Judy
whispered to Cari.
"I'm not sure, but it looks fun." Cari
“This is going to be amusing,” Tom whispered to Dieter.
"You wait till it's your turn boys." Helen laughed at the looks on the men’s faces as the women tried some of the steps.
“All right,” she said as she turned to the girls. “The good news is this is really a couple’s dance – but the key is to do the mirror image. So pick a partner and try with each other.”
“There,” Alex said as he unlocked the old wooden door, “I wonder what exactly we’re going to find down here?”
“When did you last come down?”
“I’d just returned from Vietnam – Father brought me down here, and showed me some of his purchases. He never said what he was going to do with them, and he died soon after.”
Slowly opening the door out, Alex said “if I remember rightly, there’s a light switch for the – ah here it is.” The light showed a staircase heading down, the four of them descending as Alex led the way.
The stairs led to a large cellar, and as Alex found and turned on an overhead light Valeria gasped in amazement. There was a cool breeze blowing through it, but her amazement was at the rack that covered the far wall, with bottles of wine sitting as far as the eye could see.
“My lord,” Guy said as he very carefully picked up a bottle and looked at it, “this is a Rothschild 1818. This is priceless.”
Valeria walked over and looked closely. “I see half a dozen bottles here – also the 1917 and the 1932 vintages. What have you found Gus?”
“Chateau Latour ’54 – at least a dozen bottles I think. Alex, do you know what you are sitting on here?”
“A history lesson in the making,” Alex whispered as he opened a crate. “There is wine in here from between the wars, never unpacked as far as I can tell. We could spend months down here and not even begin to catalogue everything.”
“Alex, come over here a minute will you?”
The three walked over to where Gus was standing in front of a small stack of crates.
“Do you see this door here? Any idea where it leads to?”
“Let’s see if I have a key that unlocks it – Guy, can you and Gus help me move these crates?”
“Gently,” Valeria said as she looked at the label. “These are Croizet 1906 Bonaparte Champagne Cognac. A bottle sells for nearly 1500 Euros.”
The three men nodded as they very carefully moved the crates, before Alex tried one of the keys in the door. “Funny,” he said as it opened noiselessly, and they looked into a passage that led into the distance. “I didn’t know this was down here?”
“Where do you think it leads?”
“I have no idea,” Alex said quietly, “but I want to find out. Coming?”
“You two may go ahead,” Guy said as he looked at Valeria, “I have no wish to disturb her rapturous contemplation of this room.”
“See you later then,” Gus said as he and Alex took a torch and walked down the corridor.
“Father? Are you down there?”
“Come down Diana my dear,” Guy called up the stairs, “you will find this fascinating…”
The Widow’s Cottage
“So this is where you’re escaping from the dancing?”
Kylie opened one eye to see Ama and Pepsi looking at her. “Hey there – and what’s your excuse?”
“Oh I tried it,” Pepsi said, “but soon discovered you need more co-ordination than I have. Ama cried off though.”
“Purely because Mom asked me to walk through something with her,” Ama said as Maisha came round the corner. “Where’s Marina?”
“She went for a walk with Cathy – I think they’re discussing her duties when we go to Hong Kong,” Kylie said as she stood up. “Can I get you ladies something to drink?”
“I would not say no,” Maisha said as they went into the kitchen of the house, passing Susan who was having a nap on the couch in the main room.
“When is lunch up at the big house again?”
“Between one and two,” Pepsi said as the sat in the kitchen, Ama handing them some soft drinks from the fridge. All four girls were wearing gymslip dresses with blouses underneath.
“No sign of Doc getting back then?”
“No – I believe Anna is still with Abigail at the library, checking the local records,” Ama said before she took a drink.
“So have you had a chance to look around this house,” Pepsi said.
“A little – nothing too much out of the ordinary, as far as I can tell.”
“What no hidden passages or anything?”
“Oh come on,” Kylie said as she stood up and walked towards the old fireplace at one side of the room, “it’s only in Scooby Doo that someone like Danger Prone Daphne would walk up to a wall, lean on the candlestick sticking out, and the wall panel slide back to reveal…”
She was stunned into silence when she heard a soft click on pressing down on the candleholder, and the wooden panel at the side of the fireplace opened out. “What the f…”
“Oh my goodness,” Pepsi said as she walked over, “have you got a torch in here?”
Kylie walked over to a wooden unit and looked in the drawers, before she came back with two large torches. Shining one into the opening, she saw a set of steps leading down.
“What do you think,” she said as she turned and looked at the other girls, “want to have an explore?”
“You are joking, right?” Pepsi looked at Ama and Maisha, before shrugging her shoulders and saying “All right – but if this leads to a dead end, we come straight back, got it?”
“Got it,” Kylie said as she led the way, Maisha carrying the torch as she brought up the rear.
The stairs led in a gentle descent to a stone lined passage, the four girls walking slowly along as the torch lit up the walls.
“It looks damp down here,” Pepsi said as she put her hand to the cold stone.
“Yeah – I don’t think we’re heading out to sea though,” Kylie said, “the direction hasn’t changed, and we were heading towards the house, not the water.”
“Do you think this leads all the way to the house?”
“Who knows,” Kylie whispered as they walked along, before Ama called out “BOO!!”
“AMA!!! Don’ do that, girl!”
“My apologies Kylie – but I could not resist the opportunity,” Ama said, the grin evident as they emerged in a room, the tunnel continuing from the other side.
“Looks like this was a meeting room of some kind,” Pepsi said as she looked round, “there’s a table and a few chairs over there.”
“There’s also a bottle of something on the table,” Maisha said as she walked over and picked up the bottle, sniffing at the open top. “It smells like something Aunt Shirley would drink.”
“What are you girls up to?”
Pepsi screamed as the torches were shone in the direction the voice came from.
The Rogers Memorial Library
Abigail looked up from her book as Doc said “Velly Interestink.”
"The Coast Guard at the time reported that
Capone's contact was one Jimmy Vecchio, a local tomato grower who shipped his
prize tomatoes all over the North-East and as far away as Chicago."
"Right to Capone's doorstep," Abigail said
as she came round and looked at Doc’s notes.
"So this one night the story goes that Capone found out that the authorities were on to Vecchio and ordered him rubbed out. Somehow Vecchio came to know this and when he unloaded the last shipment he handled he hid it, then turned himself in, hoping to use the hidden booze as a bargaining chip I guess.”
“From what I have read of Capone, it would not surprise me.”
Doc nodded, and then said “Unfortunately the Capone
people shot him before he could be fully questioned. Here’s his obituary in the paper three days
"So that booze was hidden, but never found?"
"Who knows, but legend has it it's hidden
somewhere close by to here."
"WOW! Any clues where?"
“Well, his business is long gone, but his storage barns were bought by Old Man Richmond, and now…”
“You’re kidding – The Barn House?”
“On da nose, Miss de Ros, on the nose. Wonder if Adam read about that in his researches?”
“We appear to have reached a stone wall, Father Richmond.”
Alex looked back at Gus, and smiled as he said “never let an apparent obstacle get you down, my friend.” He shone the torch along the wall, and then pressed on an indentation in the stone, smiling as a panel swung out.
“Saint David preserve us!!”
The two men emerged into the main room in the Beach Shack, Mary Thomas staring at them from her seat on the couch as George came in from the kitchen.
“Nobody expects the Inquisition,” Alex said with a smile as he and Gus came in, closing the panel behind them so that the fireplace appeared to be in one place again. “Sorry about the scare, Mary.”
“Scare? You two appear out of a solid brick wall and you think it is just a scare? Alex Richmond, if you were ten years younger…”
“You’d still not get me over your knee,” Alex said as Gus and George looked at the stone wall. “All right, so that answers one question of discussion last night,” George said with a smile. “Where did it start?”
“The wine cellar at the main house,” Gus said, “on which note, may we accompany you up for lunch?”
“Just let me get me blazer,” George said as he went upstairs, leaving Mary to ask “and who is at the other end?”
“Hmm – perhaps I should make a quick call…”
“Well, I think you’ve had enough practice – we’ll see how you all manage tonight. Thank you everyone.”
As the others filed out, some of them rubbing their bruised limbs, Helen and Winston went over to the gramophone.
"Thanks for helping Jeannie." Helen shook
the models hand.
"It was my pleasure...I just wish I could dance
"Well on that I might be able to help...Winston
can you give me a few minutes."
"Okay Helen...I think I can."
"Winston I noticed you are an excellent
"Thank you." Winston grinned, "All
those years of lessons paid off I guess."
"Can you do a tango?"
"Just about...I think...why?"
"I want you and Jeannie to do a tango."
"Ummm Helen useless legs." Jeannie pointed
"In what I have in mind all you need do Jeannie
is hang in his arms and round his neck looking sexy."
"Oh sexy she can do." Winston laughed.
"Shut up." Jeannie laughed as she swatted
"Here let me show you what I have in mind..."
“Uncle Clint! You scared the life out of me!”
“I scared the life out of you? Didn’t you hear Susan’s screams when she woke up, went into the kitchen, and saw a hole in the wall where there wasn’t one before?”
He swept the open room with his large torch, and then saw a door with a metal grill in it to the side. Walking over, he shone the light in, and then turned round.
“All right – you have a choice to make. Come back with me, or continue to the end of the passage.”
“Or you could come with us the rest of the way,” Kylie said with a big grin. Clint looked at the four girls, and then said “All right – I got Susan to close the entrance behind me anyway before anyone else stumbled down, so we may as well press on.”
“What’s in that room anyway,” Pepsi said as she looked at the door.
“Nothing,” Clint said quietly as they pressed on down the corridor, reaching eventually another set of stairs, which headed up – this time to what looked like a dead end in the ceiling.
“Allow me,” Clint said as he came to the front, and pressed along the edge, eventually raising a panel as the party emerged in the chapel.
“Right – Kylie, can you phone Susan, let her know we came out in the Chapel, and ask her to join us for lunch,” Clint said as Adam and Janice came in.
“What are you lot doing here,” Janice said as she looked at them.
“We found a secret tunnel,” Kylie said, “from the Beach Shack to here.”
“Adam, a word please,” Clint said as he took the FBI agent outside. “I need you and Tom to come with me after lunch.”
“Oh – why?”
“I have something to show you – but not with the girls. Just both of you.”
“There you are,” Susan said as she came into the dining room, “do not do that to me again!”
“What happened,” Marina said when she came in with Catherine.
“We found a secret passage from the Widow’s Cottage to the chapel,” Ama said quietly.
“Really,” Clint said as he held a chair back for Susan. “I need you girls to stay out of it however – I think it’s a private thing for Vanessa and Alex.”
“What is,” Vanessa said as she came in, while Guy carried in several bottles.
“Valeria asked em to bring these up,” he said quietly, “bottles of ’57 champagne.”
“The ’57 – that’s what they served…”
“An excellent choice,” Paulie said as she held Vanessa’s hand, Allison noticing the little squeeze as well.
“So Momma really left everything as it was?”
“She did,” Alex said quietly, “Although I knew nothing about the passage to the Beach Shack.”
Everyone looked at Pepsi as she blushed, while Doc and Abby came in.
“Hey everyone,” Anna said as she joined her parents, “what did we miss?”
“Let us see,” Diana said quietly, “we found two secret passages, a fortune in wine, scared Mary half to death – and oh yes, half of us are still shaking from Helen’s dance lesson.”
“Normal day in paradise then,” Abby said as she sat next to Tony.
“That’s it, Countess de Ros – on the tennis court, two thirty, bring your best game.”
“I’d watch,” Jeanne said, “but Miss Richmond, Miss Carter and I have a different idea of how to spend the afternoon.”
“Would this involve Peggy,” Jo said, smiling as they all nodded their heads.
"So how did things go with Catherine Rina?"
Kylie asked as she cut into her meat.
"Pretty well...I 'ope...I think...she just told
me so much I think my heads spinning."
"It don't sound like it'll be a holiday."
"No I fink I'll be werkin me socks off just ter keep
up at first."
"Lots of study and lots of office time as well as
the time with Helen."
"You can do it Rina."
"I bluddy well 'ope I can. This really is the
opportunity of a lifetime...for both of us Kyl."
"Yeah it is, aint it?" Kylie smiled.
"Have I heard that Xavier International has placed you with Huntingdown's in Hong Kong for a year to learn Cantonese Marina?" Natasha asked as she sat opposite.
Marina swallowed her salad before she replied "They have Natasha...that sounds so wrong calling a duchess by her Christian name."
“Care to say the same to the three Countess de Ros, or the three princesses?”
Marina giggled as she said “Fair point.”
"How many languages do you speak already?"
"Four just about, my Russian is not as good as it
might be, but I'm fluent in Polish and Ukrainian."
"Well you should learn quickly then...speaking as
one linguist to another, the difficulty will be reading it, not speaking
"Oh do you speak a lot of languages?"
"Seven," Natasha smiled, "It's why I
work at the UN?"
"Is Cantonese one of them?"
"For my sins no, but I do speak and read both
Russian and Arabic."
"Nice!" Marina grinned. "So what do you
do at the UN?"
"Basically an upgraded version of what you do. I
work in the French delegation preparing documents, liaising with my opposite
numbers in other delegations, keeping my bosses happy and up to date with
what's going on."
"That sounds familiar." Marina laughed, "It's pretty much much exactly what Catherine told me this afternoon I'd be doing for her."
“Hard work, but very rewarding – and if you must learn a language, how better than living and immersing yourself in the culture.”
"What's your school uniform going to be like
Kylie?" Jeannie asked.
"Impossible to keep clean." Kylie rolled her
eyes. "White blouse, white skirt, green blazer, white hat with a green
hatband, long green socks."
"I take it you've seen pictures?"
"No Catherine brought an example over, she's
having them made to measure."
"As you say all that white will be the problem,
but at least if Catherine's having them made, you should get a clean one each
"I 'ope so."
“Look on the bright side though – one of the most vibrant cities outside New York, and holidays here with your aunt.”
“There is that,” Kylie said with a smile, “there is that.”