Racing Curragh – Part 2
"Ladies and Gentlemen,” Vanessa said as she looked round the table, “I am delighted to announce that we are tonight staging a table stakes limit poker game in which the delightful Miss Prudence Stratton will play for the house with all her winnings going to charity...”
“Now of you all know that Pru as well as being a
renowned model is also one of the world’s top poker players, who among you is
eager to challenge her?" Nessa smiled.
"Come on boys, who wants to take me...on?" Prudence laughed.
“I’ll give it a try,” Curt said, as Jo looked at him.
“Curt, darling, you know that line about a fool and his money…”
“It will be worth it for the charity,” Curt said, “and the second most beautiful woman in the…”
The chorus of catcalls made Curt duck as Jo laughed out loud.
“Kids,” Heather said, “get your sunhats this afternoon. We’re all going down the beach.”
“Jeanne, Janice, an hour – outfits are in my room,” Sandy said as she stood up.
“John, I wonder if I can borrow you for something,” Clint said as he wiped his chin and stood up. “I’ll be back in a little while Susan.”
“That’s all right Clint – I wonder if Susan can join Juliette and me out on the patio,” Shirley said as she stood up, “I think I shall enjoy my tea more with their company.”
“Will you excuse me George,” Allison said as she stood up, “I need to visit the little girls room.”
"Sigi can I ask a favor?" Sandy smiled,
"My George obviously has a talent for croquet to the point the other
children have stopped playing with him. I hear you know something about
swinging a mallet, do you think you'd play him?"
"Well it's been a while, but yes I'd like that,” Sigi
"He cheats." Little Sandy pouted.
"I'll referee the game and make sure he
doesn't." Janice looked over, “and you and Katy can be my assistants
"Better make it later as a game guys, after we
have taken Peggy for a spin." Sandy said in anticipation.
"I hear Roy has something special in his garage
he's bringing over." remarked Diana.
"He has a 1926 Delage." Valeria spoke.
"WOW! The Bugatti and the Delage that was a classic battle in its time." Jeanne spoke. "My father has a slightly later model at home."
“Then we have a contest on our hands,” Jeanne said as she stood up. “In an hour ladies?”
"Has anyone else noticed that it's the ladies who
are talking about cars and motor racing?" Guy asked with a twinkle in his
"I had," Tom Callaghan laughed.
"Well the fact that the '26 Delage had a Lory
designed supercharger and was a straight eight with twincams and a top speed of
130 mph would be lost on you Tom." Janice grinned.
"Umm what was all that?" Tom asked, "I
fell to sleep."
"And that's why we don't talk cars to you
"Believe me horses are simpler Tom." Guy looked
"By the way...Thank You Sir for the chance to
work at the stud." Jack Fitzstuart spoke up.
"Lucky Bastard." his sister looked daggers
"Oh yes I'm lucky, while you jet round the world modeling,
I'll be up to my neck in manure dearest sister."
"I'll swap." Angel offered.
“I have an idea,” Mandy said as she wiped her chin, “I’m going to get you together with Marnie. Get you with her horse and…”
“THANK YOU,” Angel said with a sigh.
“So why did you bring us out here,” Juliette said as she sat down with Susan and Shirley.
“Because what I want to say is for your ears only,” Shirley said as she sipped her tea, and then looked round. “I can tell you some of the secrets of that painting, if you are interested.”
“The one with my great aunt and Sandy’s?”
“The very same,” Shirley said as she set her teacup down. “I am not sure Vanessa would appreciate knowing the Richmond emeralds were indeed stolen.”
“What,” Susan said as she looked round.
“Susan, how familiar are you with the history of the BA,” Shirley said as Penny joined them.
“You’re talking about the BA? Why?”
“Penny, do you recall the Netterton project?”
“Of course I do – a very special case, but why?”
Penny threw her head back and laughed. “You have got to be kidding me,” she finally said, “you mean the pair in that picture knew him and – him?”
“Care to let me in on the secret,” Juliette said with a smile.
“Sorry, Juliette – I have a book I shall show you when you visit me in London – a memoir if you will, of a young man in the twenties who one day met not only your great aunt, but my great grandmother. Actually, it was him and his manservant – I suspect if you look in Vanessa’s guest book, you will find their names.”
“Hang on,” Susan said, “you mean the man called Jayes?”
“Okay – can I ask who you are talking about?”
“Jayes and Barty were two of the most famous cat burglars in England in their day. Barty was a man about town – the sort of man who appeared to live in clubs – including the Tontom club, where my great grandmother worked. It was there she would select people to visit as a cat burglar commonly called the Ghost. One night she met an American couple – two women – who she helped to steal a set of emeralds.”
Juliette looked at her, and then burst out laughing. “Oh boy – Vanessa would have a heart attack if you told her.”
“Then I shall not tell her – but isn’t it curious how these things tend to run in families?”
“So what did you want to show us, Clint,” Adam said as Clint led him, Tom and John down the passage from the chapel.
“When I came across the girls,” Clint said as he shone the torch down the passage, “they were in an open chamber – here.” He led them into the chamber, John looking round as he said “So what is it you want to show us?”
“This,” Clint said as he walked over to the door. “I’ve looked inside, but I stopped the girls. You’ll understand why when I open the door.”
Taking hold of the handle, he twisted it and pulled the door open, the other three men looking in.
“Dear god,” Tom said quietly, “is that three skeletons in there?”
“It looks like it,” John said as he looked inside, and started to take pictures with his camera.
“Hmmm – I’ll give you the copies and negatives,” John said as looked at them. “How long do you think they’ve been down here?”
“Decades,” Tom said as he looked at the clothing. “Adam, you’ve read up on the place. What do you think?”
“Impossible to tell – but the fact there are three of them would suggest the mystery of what happened to the Flaherty brothers may just have been solved.”
“Do we tell Vanessa and Alex?”
The other three men turned and looked at Tom. “We close the door, and we go back. Some secrets are probably best left as secrets.”
“You sure Tom?”
“I’m not going to show my thanks for this weekend by dredging this up. Give them time, but not this weekend.”
The other three nodded as Clint pushed the door to.
“What about Black Jack?”
“Disappeared into the night possibly. Come on – let’s get back before we’re missed.”
Caroline and George had joined both Vanessa and Alex in the drawing room, as they sat round a low table.
"Are we set up for all the additional guests
coming in for tonight Caroline?" Father Alex asked.
"My people are screening them as they arrive Alex, hopefully all will go off completely smoothly."
“Naturally – we will use wands, and we have eyes
"Well it's nice - we are going to have about 350 people here, we
just don't need any damage or trouble."
"I know, George and I will watch and
"And I do hope you can have a little fun yourself
as well Caroline?" Vanessa said as she came into the room.
"I'm going to try Vanessa, I'm thinking of
matching myself against Pru at the poker table."
"A battle of female titans eh?" Alex laughed.
“In a way – it is a long time since I have played serious poker. Let us see what happens.”
“Caroline – Shirley was wondering if she could see you and George for a moment?”
“Of course,” Caroline said as she and George stood up, “if you will excuse us?”
As they walked outside, they found Shirley with Lily, Penny and Susan.
“Ah there you are,” Shirley said. “I was asking Lily and Penny if they would act as an unofficial backup for you tonight. Susan and I will be with Clint and John, but I am sure the extra eyes would not go unnoticed.”
“I agree – and thank you for the offer. If you two can roam the gaming room, that would be wonderful.”
“Of course,” Lily said as Clint came back out with John. “And just where did you two go off to?”
“I’ll tell you another time,” John said as he kissed Shirley. “So where is everyone else?”
“Gone off to do their own things – although I believe the race is going to start at the front entrance soon.”
“Excuse me a moment,” Clint said as he saw Natasha walk past with Marie-Louise, “a small matter I need to deal with.”
He walked over to the young couple and said "Natasha may I have a word a moment please?"
"Certainly Clint,” Natasha said as she stopped and smiled, “what may I do for you?"
"You sit on a staff advisory committee don't
"I do...why, is there a problem?"
"My department is overstretched, I've been
working two shifts a day often, we need more people doing my job."
"The training scheme..."
"Isn't producing enough drivers to cover the
losses, the pay is so much better doing exactly the same job in private
security, most of our best get tempted away."
"Hmmm that's just the sort of thing we should
talk about on my committee....Okay I'll raise it when we meet this week."
"Thank you Natasha, I just won't be able to work
like this when the baby comes, and I love the job, I'd hate to quit."
"I'll see what I can do. How is Susan?"
“Wishing it was over,” Clint said as she looked at Susan walking with Penny and Lily.
“The Barn House? You really think the mysterious stash of alcohol is somewhere in the Barn House?”
“I do,” Doc, said as she sat with Nikki, Becca and Pepsi, “the question is, how do we get in there?”
“Well, if you’re going to do it, now’s the time – the Callaghan’s and the von Manschen’s are outside watching the car race.”
“Come on then,” Doc said, “let’s go and have a look round.”
“What about the others?”
“Ama and Maisha have gone to watch Helen rehearse, Kylie and Marina are with Shirley, and the older girls wanted some time to themselves. It’s us I’m afraid – so let’s do this.”
The three girls walked off as Jo came round the corner with Abby, Carina, Bobbi and Judy.
“What a difference a year makes, doesn’t it,” Bobbi said as they sat round a table.
“Tell me about it – this time last year I had found out Judith was coming, and trying to figure out how to deal with Yale. Jeannie had just been discovered, Abby was still able to walk down the street, and we were looking forward to leaving.”
“And now look at us,” Bobbi said, “Dad’s about to start as a Congressman, and we’ve finished our first year. Jo’s off to William Smith in August, Carina’s a mom, Abby is a multimillionaire…”
“On paper – trust me, the taxman is getting his share, and it’s all locked up for investments,” Abby said with a smile.
“So, Joanne Smith, what is the word on who the new head girls are going to be?”
“Sorry, I’m sworn to secrecy,” Jo said as she looked at Judy, “but I will tell you one thing. It won’t be Abby.”
“No – Jo and Tennant talked to me, and they feel I’m more important as the face of the Kirkham scholarship fund. Besides, there are a couple of other things – the modeling, and the fact she’s agreed to me doing the season next year as well.”
“Well done that girl,” Bobbi said as she punched Abby’s arm. “Any word on where yet?”
“Apart from the Debs ball? The International, apparently, with Angel, and also both Paris and Vienna.”
“Nice – and cosmopolitan as well,” Judy said with a smile.
“Actually, I think that’s a good move as well – and I’m sure you will put forward good names.”
“Tennant seemed satisfied at any rate,” Jo said as she sat back.
The three women walked down the stairs, adjusting the fastening on their racing suits as they looked at each other.
“These really are form fitting,” Janice said as she looked at the other two.
“Funny – fashion mattered even for female drivers,” Sandy said as she swung a pair of racing goggles in her hand, and then heard a vehicle pull up outside.
“Miss Richmond,” she heard Roy shout through the open door, “I think you should come out here.”
“Let’s go and see,” Janice said as they joined the small group outside.
"Oh Goddess she's beautiful." Sandy looked
admiringly as the Delage was taken off her trailer.
"Any idea of her history Roy?" Asked
"She raced at Indianapolis in 1927, she was
brought over specially for that, then sold to a Hollywood executive who raced
her a little, but eventually she was put in mothballs and became a collectors
car, eventually ending up with me buying her."
"Can we look under the hood?" Clint asked.
"She's 95% factory original Clint." Roy spoke.
"I saw things like the shocks had been
changed." Clint looked hard. "I presume that was so she could run on
the rough racetracks over here."
"That was my guess." Roy nodded.
"How does she compare to Peggy?" Sandy asked
as the blue Bugatti was wheeled out.
"Well on the track they'd have been evenly
matched probably." Janice stood back slightly admiring both vehicles.
"I rang my father, he wished he was here to see
these." Jeanne spoke. "I asked him that question, and he reckoned the
Bugatti would have cornered better, but the Delage's greater straight line
speed would probably have prevailed as it did at the 1926 French Grand
"True but in most other races that summer the
Bugatti was superior, at Monza, at Brooklands, at the European GP." Sandy
"Well we can maybe decide ourselves this
afternoon." Janice walked backwards and forwards, "Why don't we fuel
these bad girls up and give 'em a spin?"
"It's what we are here for." Roy grinned.
Allison walked slowly across the upper hallway, looking at the crowd gathering in the door, and smiled to herself as she opened the door to Vanessa’s bedroom. She ran her hand over the bedclothes, and then started to search through the drawers, smiling as she found her personal papers in a file.
As she flipped through, she smiled to herself. So Vanessa was a trustee of the hospital she had to stay in? She took her phone out and dialed.
“This is Allison Graham – did you find anything out for me?
“Did she now? Can you have them couriered to me here please? Thank you so much…”
"What's all that noise?" Vanessa looked
round as the engines roared.
"My guess is they have the two motor cars
started." Shirley stood up to look out the window.
"That's my cue ladies." John picked up his
camera bag, "I want to photograph these."
"We'll wander out with you John." Vanessa
picked up her coffee cup as the trio went to the front porch.
"Well Clint what do you think?" Roy asked as the motors were turned off.
"They both sound pretty good, both cars have been
"I saw you tinkering with both slightly."
"Yeah the timing was a fraction off, but nothing
"It's nice to have a first-class mechanic
"Well I grew up in Southern California, surfing
and fast cars even now are part of the culture."
"Not going to drive her yourself Roy?" Shirley asked.
"I'd love to, but the girls are both far better
drivers then me, so I'll leave it to Sandy and Janice."
"Well John is enjoying himself photographing them
and the cars."
"He seems to be enjoying himself IMMENSELY."
"Roy, can we sit down soon and work out a plan to
support the girls racing efforts?"
"I agree Shirley, I think they, and we, can have a lot of fun this doing some of the endurance races."
"Shall we do a few laps of the estate roads
"Why not Sandy?" Janice laughed in response.
"Remember girls these things are near
priceless." Clint looked serious.
"Well these first few laps we are only working
out a route and learning it Clint...Don't worry." Sandy settled into the
"Why is it when she says Don't worry do I start
to worry more." Clint shook his head.
"Okay?" Sandy shouted and waved her arm to
get Jan to follow her.
The group watched as they moved off and drove round for a few laps, and then suddenly sped off in a serious race.
“Dear God, they are serious,” Roy said as he looked at them disappearing down the drive.
“Oh yeah – that I can see,” Clint nodded in agreement.
"Alright ladies, impressions please?" Roy asked as Jan and Sandy climbed out of the cars.
"The steering takes some getting used to."
Janice said as she sat drinking some water.
"They handle very sluggishly compared to a modern
car." Sandy sat down next to her.
"When those superchargers kick in though, that is
still a major rush."
"Jan is right about that...we both opened them up
down the Oak Avenue and damn was that thrilling."
"I saw you race those last 8 or 9 laps."
Clint looked up from inspecting the Bugatti's engine.
"Yeah we thought we'd try and see if we could
settle which is better." Janice grinned.
"And the answer is?" Roy asked.
"We couldn't decide."
"Jan is right, they are very evenly
matched." Sandy nodded.
"Can I detect from this..." Clint pulled some
foliage out from under both cars, "you didn't keep 100% on the
"We may have used the grass edges in a couple of
places." Janice looked amused.
"Don't worry we brought them both home safe and sound." Sandy beamed.
Clint shook his head as he looked at Roy. “Don’t you have a croquet match to referee, Jan?”
“Yeah I do – let me wash up and I’ll come out to the lawn.”
“Hey Jan,” George said as she came into the house, “you haven’t seen Allison anywhere have you?”
“You mean the Allison coming down the stairs,” Jan said as George turned to watch her coming down, beaming from ear to ear.
“You look happy – what happened?”
“I’ll tell you later George,” Allison said as she stroked his cheek with her gloved hand, “when I find out the truth about a few things.”
He watched her walk across the marble hallway, and shook his head as he took his phone out.
The Barn House
“We can’t see anything on the outside,” Pepsi said as she and Becca came back in.
“Nothing upstairs either, although Gale has a wonderful dress,” Nikki said as she came down.”
“I was so sure – so sure there was something here,” Doc said as she looked round. “I wonder…”
“So this used to be owned by one of Al Capone’s ginrunners,” Bobbi said as she ran her head along the wall. “If only these immaculately restored walls could talk…”
Doc suddenly looked round. “Maybe they can,” she mumbled as she went and stood against the window, and then walked in a straight line to the rear of the building. She then went outside, and walked along the side of the house, and then the front, making notes as she did so.
Coming back in, she paced the length of the ground floor, and then went upstairs, the girls listening as she paced the floor, and then gave a cry of “YES!”
“What is it,” Pepsi called up.
“The corridor upstairs is shorter than the hall downstairs.” Doc called back. “There’s a hidden door up here somewhere.”
“Is there now?”
The three girls turned to see Dieter standing there with Tom.
“Er, Doc? You may wish to come down,” Pepsi called up.
“Why? Didn’t you hear me, I said…? Oh – hello Mr. Callaghan.”
“Anna,” Tom said, “What were you calling down about?”
“Well – it turns out this barn was owned by one of Capone’s ginrunners, and the upstairs corridor is shorter than the first floor, and…”
“What is it with this place and secret passages,” Tom said as he looked at Dieter. “All right, Miss Carlton – show me.”
Tom went upstairs, and looked at the wall with Doc. Tapping lightly with his ear against the panel, he said “Well, it sounds hollow, but we have no time to deal with this now. Go to the house – your hosts are waiting to take you back to change.”
“Yes, Mr. Callaghan,” Doc said as she turned.
“Oh, and Anna?”
“Well figured out,” Tom said with a smile.
“Welcome,” Caroline said as she and George stood in the drawing room, the security staff standing in front of them. “This is a very important and special occasion, for the home owner and for the family, and I expect you to be at the very best of your abilities for tonight and until the event is finished.
“Your first task today is to help with supervision of those who are setting up today. George?”
“You were each allocated to teams for this first stage,” George said as he looked at the sheet. “Team one – report to the kitchens, ensure there are no issues there. Team two – the ballroom, the band and the tables. Team three, the setup for the casino. Team four - check the approach from the gates to the house – make sure the lighting is clear and in place.”
“It is three fifteen now,” Caroline said as she looked at her watch. “I want us all back here in two hours for progress reports, and then to change for the main event. Those responsible for gate security I want here at five, so that you can change and be in position on time.”
“That’s it folks – let’s do a job so good we’re not needed,” George said as the teams split off.
“Nicely put George – we’ll make an honest man of you yet,” Caroline said with a smile.
"Jeanne do you want to do a few laps?" Clint
said as he supervised the refueling.
"Please." Jeanne was beaming as she strapped on her leather helmet.
"I'll try the Bugatti." Jan spoke.
"That sounds like a plan to me." Sandy said
as she put her bottle down, and helped each of them to get comfortable.
"Right fire them up." Clint signaled. He smiled as the engines roared into life, calling out “Good – you can go now!”
"Follow me Jeanne, I'll show you the course." Janice shouted.
"Damn this is fun." Sandy said as she
watched the other two women drive away.
"Talking of fun." Shirley and Roy said as
they approached Sandy. "Roy and I want to be backers for Richmond-Carter
"Are you sure?" Sandy looked up.
"Yeah, I love racing be it horses or
cars..." Roy spoke.
"And I'm a bit of a petrol head myself."
"Well I think we can find room for you in the
team." Sandy also smiled.
"I heard you are buying a two year old BMW Z4
GTE." Roy spoke.
"I think it's about mine and Jan's speed."
"Well I'd like to offer some sponsorship from
Xavier International." Shirley offered.
"And I'll match that sponsorship." Roy
shouted as the racecars passed by.
"Wow, well I'll have to run that past Jan, but yeah I think we'd love to have you both involved."
“Got ideas for your first race?”
“Local first I think – I’ll let you know,” Sandy shouted as they roared past again.
She smiled again as she watched. This was the life she loved – the cars, the friends, the excitement, the adrenaline. She looked round to see George leaning on the columns of the entrance porch, smiling as the cars lapped again.
“Enjoying yourself,” she said as she walked back.
“I am actually – the kids are fine, Allison is calm, and I’m the most relaxed I have been in a long time.”
“Good – Jennifer needs loving and caring parents around her – and so do the other kids.” Sandy kissed George on the cheek before she walked in, passing Allison as she came out.
“What is that racket,” she said as the two cars came to a stop outside the house.
“Those,” George said as Jeanne and Jan jumped out, talking to each other as Katherine came over.
“There you are – something about a croquet match, my dear?”
“Oh yeah – come on, lead me to the Battle Royale,” Jan said as she walked off.
As she approached the lawn, she saw the two combatants ready. George was wearing a brown tweed jacket and plus fours, with long socks and brown shoes, while Sigi had on a short-sleeved chiffon dress with a wide brimmed hat. Katy and little Sandy were standing to the side, wearing light blue sundresses with wide sashes and straw hats.
"Okay we are playing nine-wicket croquet lady and
gentleman, down one side of the double diamond hitting the stakes at both
ends." Janice glanced at the two players as she said this.
"Slightly different from how we play in Germany
but I get the idea." Sigi smiled.
"Katy and little Sandy will make sure the rules are observed and that no one cheats...George." Janice looked sternly in the young boy’s direction.
“I keep telling you, I don’t cheat – I’m just better!”
“Sigi, you will play the red ball, George the blue one – and may the best player win.”
“After you,” George said as he stood to one side, allowing Sigi to take the first shot, using the mallet from the side and sending the ball through the first two wickets. George followed her, Janice keeping an eye on everything.
“He’s taking this very seriously, isn’t he,” Susan whispered to Heather as they watched.
“He does,” Heather whispered as George sent the ball through another hoop,” he’s like Sandy in that respect, and his father as well.”
“Do you think he is cheating,” Jane Molloy said as she watched.
“I don’t think he thinks he is – but he’s a sportsman. He’s not above the odd dirty trick at times.”
Sigi smiled as she sent her ball into George’s knocking it to the side of the centre hoop before she sent her own through.
“Good shot,” Klaus said as he clapped, Ingrid and Carina doing likewise as Juliette watched. He then applauded George as well as he sent his own ball through from a tricky angle.
"George isn't bad at all is he?" George
senior remarked about his son. "He has a good eye and he clearly thinks
his tactics out."
"He's giving Sigi a good match." Sandy
smiled at her ex.
"Everyone’s coming to watch as well I see."
George smiled as the boy knocked Sigi's ball off the court then took a
"Are you sure that's the replacement place?"
George asked as his sister replaced Sigi's ball a yard in from the edge.
"I'm sure." little Sandy smiled sweetly.
“I agree,” Jan said, “Sigi may take her shot from there.”
“Thank you,” Sigi said as she lined her mallet up, and took her shot.
"Oh good shot Sigi," everyone clapped as she
put her replaced ball through the next hoop.
Off to the edge Allison was looking through slit eyes at her husband and his ex standing together and enjoying the game so much. Words could not express what feelings she had. One thought above all was running through her mind – how can I hurt them – all of them?
As they both hit the peg at the far side and turned round, Adam walked over and sat with the men watching.
"Are you running a book Guy?"
"Now would I do that dear boy?" Guy smiled at Adam. “This is an innocent game, after all.”
"Yes you would and I'll have ten bucks on young George."
“So noted,” Guy said as they made their way down the other side of the double diamond.
Sigi then watched as George sent the ball gently rolling.
"George that was a push, not a clean shot." Janice adjudicated.
"See we said he cheated." Katy spoke up.
"That wasn't cheating, I just mishit the ball" George spoke for himself.
“Still, however accidental, it was an illegal
shot. Penalty in favour of Sigi.”
George scowled a little as Sigi took her shot, and then played his ball clean through the tenth hoop.
"I think half the men are here to watch my wife lean over in that short skirt." Dieter smiled, laughing heartily as she watched her bend over to take a shot.
"Some might call it a deliberate tactic to put
young George off Dieter." Karen smiled.
"Oh come on Young George he's what 10 years
"And you think that's too young." Ken smiled down at his wife as he spoke.
“No – but he seems to be concentrating on the game rather than my wife’s admittedly beautiful body.”
As they sent their balls through the last but one hoop, the two looked at each other and nodded, Sigi heading through first as the ball rolled past the stake by about two foot.
George looked at his ball, and at the line through the
hoop, and stood behind, swinging the mallet gently for a few moments before he
connected and the ball went through, travelling and clipping the stake at the
"Well played George." Sigi said as she kissed the young boy, leaving her lipstick on his cheek.
"Nicely pegged out George.,” his mother laughed,
as he looked embarrassed trying to wipe away the lipstick.
"Well done young man." his father
As everyone applauded, Vanessa called out “I think we should consider retiring to get dressed soon – I will see everyone later.”
George walked into the ballroom, dressed in formal white tie and tails, and clapped his hands. “All right people, front and centre,” he said as Caroline came in, her blonde hair falling over a gold beaded dress with capped sleeves, and matching opera gloves.
“All right, ladies and gentlemen,” she said as she looked round the room, “you all have your assignments for tonight. Remember, the key to good security is nobody knowing you are there, so be polite but firm. Any issues, report to George and he will feed to me if necessary. Susan Walker, Penny Harker and Lilly Harmer will be walking the floor as well, so look out for them.
“People will start arriving in an hour – final checks, and then positions. And good luck to you all.”
“Nice speech,” George said as he looked round, “shall we?”
He took Caroline’s hand and escorted her to the studio, which had been converted into the casino for the evening. She walked the tables, checking all was in place before going back in and chatting briefly to the band.
“Everything in place?”
“I think so, Father,” George said as he looked at Alex, resplendent in his tails. “The torches along the avenue will be lit shortly, ready for the guests to arrive. The caterers and extra staff are in place, and all is in readiness.”
“Good – I shall call on Vanessa, make sure she is ready. It looks amazing”
“It does indeed,” Caroline said quietly, “it does indeed.”
Alex smiled as he climbed the marble staircase, meeting Sandy and Heather at the top as they came out of their room. Both women were wearing grey evening dresses with long gloves, and tiaras.
“Have you seen your mother, Sandy,” Alex said with a smile.
“I think she’s still getting ready,” Heather said as they walked down the stairs, Alex stopping and knocking on the bedroom door.
“Vanessa? It’s Alex – can I come in?”
Alex opened the door to see his sister sitting at her dressing table, looking at a letter.
“Ness? Are you all right?”
She turned and looked at her brother, before saying “strangely, yes. Someone pushed this under my door?”
She handed it to Alex, who took it and saw it was a copy of a psychiatric report from 1965.
“Who on earth got ahold of this,” he said quietly.
“Doesn’t matter,” Vanessa said as she stood up, “what it shows me is how much I have changed, grown stronger. Come, Alex – we have a party to host.”
If you could have seen from above, it would have looked like ribbons of light heading across the landscape, all snaking their way with a common purpose like sunlight in reverse – instead of radiating out, they were radiating inwards towards the estate.
As they entered the gates one by one, the vehicles made their way up the long avenue, burning braziers on either side lighting their way as they approached the brightly lit marble entrance. There, a group of young men waited, either to direct the chauffeurs to the car park and a small tent set aside for them, where John was holding court, or else to take their car to an area some way off, allowing the guests to walk up the entrance to Curragh Park.
Upon their arrival and entrance, their coats, cloaks and travelling garments were taken by footmen, while a butler took their card and announced their arrival. The women dazzled with their dresses and jewellery, while the men stood with pride, or lust, or a mixture of both by their sides.
In the ballroom, the band was playing, the younger generation dancing while the older ones sat and talked.
John came out from the ballroom, adjusting the sleeves of his red mess jacket, and then stared at the vision that appeared at the top of the staircase. Shirley was wearing a grey velvet dress with long gloves, the skirt moving with a soft grace and ease as she walked down. She wore some amazing jewellery as well - On her hair was a diadem of pure gold, studded with emeralds and a large diamond in the centre that sparkled in the light. Her ears were adorned with a pair of light gold earrings, with two small pearls set into the metal. Around her neck hung a necklace made of 21 carat gold, with pearls hanging from the front of the necklace before reaching a large cross, with four small rubies set into the four parts and a large blood-red ruby in the centre. Finally, on the middle finger of each hand was a gold ring with a large diamond set into the centre.
“Shirley darling you look amazing." John smiled
as she descended the main staircase.
“Thank you – the jewels are an old family heirloom,
but I felt the occasion demanded them. I
have something else to show you darling." Shirley quickly lifted the edge
of her skirt to show a small jeweled gun tucked in her garter.
"Your Faberge derringer - what a marvelous
accessory." John smiled.
"I adore you in your mess uniform Major."
Shirley adjusted his tie.
"I know one thing that hasn't changed since the
"John you are going to put every man in the room
to shame in your uniform." Sigi laughed as she gave her cloak to a
"Who indeed can compete with a man in a scarlet jacket?" Dieter laughed.
“A man in a royal sash, I think,” John said as Klaus walked down the stairs, Juliette on his arm, Carina, Annie and Ingrid bringing up the rear. John bowed formally while Shirley gave a low curtsey as they passed.
“Oh come on,” Klaus said quietly, “enough ceremony. Let us go and enjoy ourselves.”
"The Dolly Sisters...How marvelous?" Guy
kissed Carina and Ingrid as they made an entrance dressed in long silver lame
backless evening gowns with beading dropping off the dress, the diamonds and
pearls they wore reflecting the lights of the chandeliers, their blonde hair
hidden under black bob styled wigs, their arms covered with white evening gloves.
"Did you know them Guy..."
"Ingrid my dear, I'm not quite that old you
"Just nearly that old." Carina giggled.
"The heights...how...?" Guy looked puzzled.
"I'm wearing the biggest heels I ever wore."
Carina lifted the edge of her gown.
"And I'm wearing flats."
"Aha I understand the trick then."
"Lover you look amazing." Annie said as she
walked over and kissed Carina.
"You don't look so bad yourself Monster
"Like it?" Annie twirled in her fringed navy
blue flapper dress, each tier of fringe lifting and twirling as she spun.
"So what are some of the others wearing?"
"Some lovely things...so much thought has gone
into the costumes." Annie paused. "I think the most fun outfit though
is Puss and Frieda's they've also got Blair doing it."
"Doing what?" asked Carina.
"Oh sorry all three are wearing men’s white tie
and tails, hair slicked back...even monocles."
"I can't wait to see." Ingrid giggled.
At the bar, Jeannie was sitting on a high stool, her hair covered by a black wig in the style of Clara Bow, her red flapper dress hugging her body as she adjusted her long black gloves. A gold necklace hung round her neck, and she had a diamond bracelet on her right wrist.
“Hey,” Kylie said as she sat next to her in her white dress, “waiting for someone?”
“Yes – him,” Jeannie said as she smiled, looking at the tall man who had just walked in with Curt. He was wearing a grey double breasted suit with a fedora in the same colour, a blue shirt, white tie and highly polished shoes, and walked over to the bar as Helen nodded to the band.
“Watch this,” Catherine whispered to Barbara and John as Winston walked up to Jeannie and offered her his hand. As she smiled and accepted it, he swept her off the seat and dipped her, the skirt of her dress splitting to reveal her legs as he leaned over and kissed her, then lifted her, Jeannie putting her arms round his neck as he danced her across the floor, the crowds parting to allow them room to move.
The music was an Argentinean tango, and as they moved Winston held Jeannie gently, both of them turning their heads as they moved across the floor, Winston dipping and lifting Jeannie with ease as the audience clapped and cheered.
Eventually he lifted her in his arms and carried her back to her chair, gently placing her on the stool and doffing his cap before he turned and walked off, smiling as the band ended the tune.
“Wow – he is a wonder,” Kylie said as Jeannie sighed.
“Oh yeah, he is,” she said as she saw Abby walk over.
“Thank you,” she said as she kissed House, “you’re the perfect man for her.”
He smiled and kissed her cheek as Tony brought her over a drink.
“How are you Winston,” he said as he shook the young man’s hand.
“Happy – how’s the college hunt coming?”
“I have my exams coming up, and I won’t know until August.”
“Well, good luck,” Winston said as he walked back over to Jeannie.
"Why is it good football players seem to
inevitably be such good dancers Alex?" asked Alice.
"Just think Emmitt Smith, Hines Ward, Warren
Sapp, Jerry Rice, and so many others have all gone on that show Dancing with
the Stars, and despite size and bulk shown they are fantastic dancers."
Ken Boyd sounded a trifle envious.
"I think part of it is that to play football well
you have to learn to repeat the same thing over and over, but I also think even
where Winston plays, and I played, on the line, you have to be able to move
your feet very quickly and very precisely." Alex sipped his wine.
"And that in many ways is dancing." Alice
"Oh, is that why a tall uncoordinated body like
mine could never play sports..."
"And can't dance either." Karen interrupted
"Surely you aren't that bad Ken?" Alex
"Oh he is." Karen and Alice answered
"They have the bruises on their feet to prove
it." Ken laughed.
"Enjoying yourself guys?" Juliette walked
"We are Pelican." Karen replied.
"Well do you mind me borrowing Alex for the next
dance, he's my favorite dancing partner in the room."
"Better not tell Klaus that." Alice giggled.
"Klaus isn't in the room unfortunately, he's
wandered in to try his hand in the casino room."
"Poor you Juliette." Alex smiled, "I
guess you are left with me to dance with then."
"Thank you Alex."
"At the risk of injury can I say you almost have
better legs then your wife Will?" Adam looked at Will's kilt.
"It's the Fitzstuart tartan, I thought it might
help me standout a bit Adam."
"And he does think he has shapelier legs then I
do." Mandy laughed.
"I see the boys opted for conventional white tie
"I know." Will shook his head, "no sense of adventure this younger generation."
“There you two are,” Pepsi and Becca said as they dragged the oldest and youngest boys away. “Come on – we want to dance!”
"How many of you are coming to Aqueduct on
Tuesday?" Grant asked.
"Oh that's right your 'Saintz and Sinnerz' is
making his debut isn't he?" Diana remembered.
"That he is."
"Should we be investing on him?" asked
"Small wagers maybe." Grant answered, "In
many ways he's still a baby, but the trainer told me and the guys he wanted to
try him in a race, and that particular field looks beatable in my eyes."
"Meaning what?" Natasha asked her
"Meaning we think he's a near certainty."
"There's no such thing in racing." Grant
"Well I watched him work on Thursday."
George spoke, "And yes I think he's still a bit of a baby, but he did a
time for three furlongs that was pretty bloody good."
"I'm saying first time out, let's not be over optimistic. We will know more after the race." Grant cautioned.
“Could I have your attention please,” Vanessa said into the microphone as she stood by the conductor of the band, dressed in a dark grey dress with a high collar, and a silver tiara on her grey hair.
"Ladies and Gentlemen tonight we can offer you a
rather special treat." Vanessa smiled as she looked round. "Miss
Helen York has kindly offered to dance for us in the style of Isadora Duncan to
the music of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade."
Helen walked out barefoot into the centre of the room to the sound of applause, a small figure in a grey coloured Greek classically inspired tunic. Posing momentarily she nodded to the servant cueing up her music.
As the music started Helen raised her hands above her head and began to move, her arms twisting and turning to the rhythm of the music, stopping at the pauses and then slowly turning, her body bending and shaping as if to the notes as they played.
She moved across the floor in a smooth dance,
mesmerizing the audience with the beauty of her interpretation of the music.
"Helen is amazing." Marina whispered in Catherine's ear. “Her movements just seem so natural.”
"She could have danced professionally had she wished to." Catherine whispered back. “Her mother certainly would have supported her, if she were still alive.”
"I can see why. Was she a dancer as well?"
“A great one – but life chose a different path for her, Marina. This is one of the lessons you are learning already – that whatever life deals, you take it and make it work for you.”
Marina nodded, then gasped and applauded as she did a leap across the floor, falling to her knees and then rising again with the music.
"I am just so envious." Marie-Louise
whispered to Diana, "I do dance outside school, and I work hard at it, but
I'll never be able to dance like that."
"Well she only does it for fun and exercise cherie." Diana spoke softly. "I'm sure she'd tell you that the pleasure in dance is simply in doing it, if you enjoy it then it matters not quite how high your standard is."
“Indeed,” Natasha said, “even the greatest of artists, be they musical, dancers or other, will all say if they did not enjoy it, they would not do it.”
As the music built to a climax, Helen started spinning, her arms gracefully going up and extending out until she fell to her knees and onto the floor, stopping with the exact beat of the last bar of the music.
The room was silent for a moment, and then a huge round of applause broke out as Helen got up, bowed and walked quietly out of the room.
“She will be back in ten minutes, changed and fresh as the morning daisy,” Cathy said as she sipped her drink.
"You know, given the time constraints Helen has
pulled off a miracle." Paulie van Roon said as she sipped her champagne.
"I know - teaching dances, rehearsing her own
solo, organising that tango, she has been wonderful." Nessa smiled.
"And she's Catherine's main assistant you
"Yes, I think Catherine, and for that matter
Juliette are blessed to have her."
"They are." Shirley said as she joined them,
"And they are both taking young Marina in hand for me."
“Oh? I envy
people who can speak so many languages." Paulie looked content as she
stood by the dance floor.
"Well I learned French living in Paris, that's
why I'm sending Marina to Hong Kong so she can learn the language in situ so to
"Cultural immersion as they used to call
it." Nessa laughed.
"Or rather that's what Professor Herries said
would be the only way you'd learn decent French while we were at Smith
"And did you?" enquired Shirley.
"I lived there with my husband for a year, and yes that's how I did finally learn."
In the studio, the guests were enjoying the casino, George and Lily walking the floor as other security staff looked on discretely. The money raised was for the Richmond Foundation, and a good amount had already been raised.
At the far end of the room was the poker table, where Pru Stratton was taking her seat, wearing a white pearl beaded sleeveless dress with an ostrich headband.
“All right then, shall we begin ladies and gentlemen,” she said, looking round the table as Caroline returned the nod. “The game is Texas Hold ‘Em, the minimum bet is one hundred dollars, we play until the last man or woman is standing. Let’s play.”
A small crowd gathered and watched as Will and Roy sat at the Blackjack table.
“A little,” Will said as he looked at the main poker table. “They seem to be enjoying the game anyway.”
“A good poker game will always attract interest,” Roy said, “and Pru is one of the best players in the world.”
"Who is the guy with the glasses Roy?" Will
Roy looked over at the table. “The guy next to Ed Mitchell? That’s Jerry Levin...he's with Levin, Ford
"That means nothing to me I'm afraid."
"They are forex traders."
"Sorry...foreign exchange traders, he makes huge
bets each day on currencies going either up or down in value." Roy smiled
as Caroline won a pot.
"So you mean he gambles with other peoples
money?" asked Will.
"You can call it that, but he's very good at it,
probably nearly the best on Wall St in his own niche."
"Ah that explains his poker playing skills."
Will looked at the pile of chips in the mans stack. "Looks likely to me
that he, Caroline and Pru could be at this a long time."
"Yeah the rest aren't in their league quite."
"Helen that was a wonderful dance." Gus van
Roon congratulated her as she rejoined the ball.
"Thank you," she blushed.
"Your mother would have been impressed."
Shirley kissed her on the cheek.
"Was your mother a dancer," asked Paulie.
"Helen is Elena Sharamatova's daughter."
Cathy said proudly.
"Well your mother was certainly a dancer," Paulie shook her head, "Seeing her dance The Firebird with the Kirov was one of the great occasions in my life."
"I knew your step-father Helen." Gus spoke slowly, "It was such a tragedy he died that way, especially so soon after your mother's death. Tell me were Bruce's killers ever identified?"
"No. I can
only hope they have met justice somehow." Helen did not reveal how she had
tracked down the three men and slit each one’s throat while just aged 13.
"A friend of my father took her in and raised her
after Bruce's death." Cathy looked downwards.
"Well they'd both be proud that you have turned
out to become such an outstanding young woman." Paulie smiled.
"I know Bruce would be proud of you as well." Gus agreed.
"Why did I guess I'd find all three of you playing
roulette?" Missy laughed as she sat down.
"Well I took a look at the other games, all a bit
rich for my blood." Katherine greeted her friend.
"Yes at roulette you can lose your money a little
slower." Mary kissed Missy welcome.
"My husband is in the poker game." Anna
grimaced, "At least if he loses here to Pru it's going to a great
"Did you get a chance to look round yet?"
"A little, Vanessa has done a marvelous job, and
so many people entering into the spirit of it all." Missy nodded.
"I know." Mary smiled.
"I need to go out for a smoke." Anna swigged
back her drink. "See you all shortly."
"All not well again in the Mitchell
household?" Missy asked.
"No." Mary paused, "She thinks Ed is
having another affair."
"And is he?"
"Probably." Mary shook her head.
"I never did overly like him." Missy
"So she's smoking more, drinking more."
"We better all keep an eye on her...Did you tell Juliette Mary?"
"Yes." As she looked round, she saw George talking to one of the croupiers.
“Hold my seat for a minute, will you Katherine,” Mary said as she got up and walked over.
"George a word please."
"Yes what can I do for you Mary?"
"Anna Mitchell our editor, she and her husband
are on the outs with each other, I'm not sure if it will amount to anything,
but she's drinking heavily, you might want to keep an eye open."
"I'll tell Caroline."
"Please, on past form she's not above causing a
"Gotcha...so some background?"
"Ed her husband is a philandering SOB, normally
I'd say he deserves everything she throws, but why ruin such a lovely
As Mary went back to the table, George whispered to one of the security staff, who nodded and then walked over to whisper in Caroline’s ear.
"May I enquire how you knew Bruce York, Gus?" asked Cathy.
"His bank handled our business in the Far East. He was a first-rate chap."
"He and Elena were friends of my father."
"I think I met your father once...” Gus then looked again at Cathy and said “come
to think of it didn't I meet you as well, a scrawny little thing with
"That was in Honolulu at the Pan-Pacific Banking
Summit...and I'm honoured you remember me." Cathy smiled. "My Father
and Bruce were in a meeting with you, and when they came out I was angry since
he had promised to take me to Waikiki."
"I remember." Gus chuckled, "You told
"I'd forgotten your name, but I'll never forget
the incident, my father told me off severely for being rude."
"You were what? Seven? I don't think that was rude. If I'd have promised to take my girls to the beach I'd have got far worse I promise you."
Cathy laughed as she said, “We all grow and mature, Gus but we must always remember the child in us.”
“You are his daughter – as inscrutable as he ever was,” Gus said with admiration.
"Okay George what's so urgent?" Caroline stood up as the game took a break.
"His wife is getting very drunk." George
said as he nodded at Ed Mitchell. "Mary thinks she might cause a
"Knowing Anna she just might..." Caroline
thought for a moment. "Go and see if Susan can quieten her down, and thank
Mary for the heads up."
"So are you winning?"
"A bit," Caroline smiled, "We are getting the small fry out of the game, from here on in this should be absolutely thrilling to play.”
Back in the ballroom, guests were still arriving. The dance floor was full, old and young alike doing the jitterbug or a waltz or another dance of the time.
There was still time to create an impression, however – and as Carina and Annie looked to the doorway, two old friends managed to do just that.
"Oh Dear Goddess trust those two." Juliette exclaimed as Nell and Ally made a grand entrance on the arms of the Lodge boys swathed in huge pink died fox furs with matching pink satin dresses underneath, matching gloves and shoes. Diamond studded chokers and a headband gave the whole thing a wonderful faux twenties look.
"WOW!" Claire Morse looked a little in shock as the twins and their escorts stood bathing in all the attention.
"My daughters making an impression?" asked Kelly Rocherman.
"Darling you know they are." Juliette looked impressed. "Who made those up for them."
"Carla...they are derived from..."
"Singin' in the Rain...the Beautiful Girls number." Claire interrupted.
“Absolutely wonderful,” Pussy said as she came over with Frieda. “Do you think we should introduce ourselves, dear?”
“No – I would hate to ruin such young hearts,” Frieda said as she held her cigarette holder in her gloved hand, watching as they joined in the dance.
"Pepsi looks totally content dancing with
Jack." Janice said as she chatted with April at the side.
"Our daughter is now a lovely young woman."
"She is." Janice smiled proudly.
"She knows you know."
"I know,” Jan said as she looked at April. “She came and saw me a few weeks back...She
was rather better discussing the whole thing then I was."
"She told me what she'd learned about her
conception Jan...It must have been a terrible trauma."
"It wasn't fun...” Janice looked pained for a moment, before she
said “and at 14 I could never have raised her myself. I'm just glad she went to
such a marvelous family."
"I've not told her father, best we keep it a
secret among us three girls." April sipped her champagne.
"I think that's for the best, Grant is a great man, but I'm not sure he's ready to wrap his head round the idea of me being Pepsi's birth mom."
Jan nodded as Vanessa came over to join them.
"April may I have a word please?"
"I'm hearing glowing reports on your garden
"People are too kind." April blushed.
"Well I think that's false modesty dear, anyway
what I wanted to ask was would you like to design me a formal garden to
compliment the lawn?"
"Oh Vanessa, are you sure? I've never done a
project that large."
"Well it's about time you started then."
"We have, or rather had, an Italian garden at
Eaglemount April, could I maybe also persuade you to come over some time and
give me an opinion on restoring it?" Paulie asked as she joined them as
"Oh Wow!" April looked a trifle shocked.
"Is that a yes?" asked Nessa.
"It's a yes if you like what I suggest
ladies." April tried to marshal her thoughts. "How about I come out
here towards the end of next week, take some photos, do some drawings, and THEN
you tell me honestly if you like the ideas?"
"That sounds like a plan to me." Paulie
"It sounds like a very good plan." Nessa smiled.
Allison closed the door on the nursery and stood, her
eyes closed. Bad enough the likes of the florist were being feted by
those she wanted to be in a party with, but Jennifer was in there with the
bastard daughter of Carina Huntingdown.
Sorry, Allison growled, PRINCESS Carina. She had never really liked the Huntingdown’s, but to discover she was the daughter of a real prince, and now had that title? She had heard her play it down, but if it had been her, she would have shouted it from the rooftops.
And the best friend of George's daughter, the daughter
of a FBI agent? Nothing against Janice
Carter or her mother, or her partner, but Alexandra deserved so much more. With the way her mother and her lover behaved
around them, it was a wonder she was such a sweet child.
She had to do something, but what?
It was bad enough that such clearly inferior people
were at this event, but what made it worse was that her George seemed quite
happy mixing with everybody. Had he no standards either?
The thought chilled Allison, someone had to protect her husband and daughter from this inversion of nature and if that responsibility fell upon her shoulders...so be it.
She walked slowly down the stairs and entered the ballroom, the band playing, everyone laughing and dancing. Could they not see how much she wanted to be one of them, to be on the inside, And yet she felt excluded, and for what reason?
Scandals and secrets, the Saints and Sinners protected
their own from the prying eyes of the public. Allison looked round the room
with their intimate conversations and whispered gossip - they all knew very
well what was going on, Allison yearned to be an insider to be privy to that
closeness and friendship, but she felt herself unfairly frozen out.
Sex was usually a good way to bring someone’s reputation crashing down to earth, but in this modern world these people and their associates openly flaunted almost their sexual behavior. Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Promiscuous, Kinky, these people took it all as perfectly acceptable.
So what else – what other dark secrets? She had already uncovered Vanessa’s secret – how she had been attacked, and the attack led to a spell in the same hospital she had spent time in.
But what other secrets were there? Alex Richmond, the soldier priest – what violence had he done in the name of his country? Diana de Ros and her family – there is a shadow there, she was sure of it.
And what of the others? The Rochermann’s, the Morse’s – all of them, and their daughters…
"Oh that is wonderful" George clapped as the
Rocherman twins and the two princesses finished a rather spirited rendition of
the shimmy to the music of Birth of the Blues.
"They looked like four strippers out there."
Allison looked peeved.
"Oh no that's an authentic twenties dance."
George laughed as the girls did a brief encore.
"They looked like four whores..."
"Oh I take it you didn't approve my love."
George turned to face his wife. "Not enjoying yourself?"
"Oh I suppose I am...just about."
"Well the dance after this is a waltz, let's say
we try a spin round the floor eh?"
"That would be nice George." Allison smiled outwardly while the flames inside her got higher.
At the poker table, another player folded his hand and stood up, smiling at the others as he left the table.
“Well,” Pru said as she looked at the others, “It would appear we are the only four left. I propose it is time to move to the next level.”
“What do you have in mind,” Caroline said as she sipped her drink.
“Let’s raise the minimum to five hundred.”
“Fine by me – Mister Levin, Mister Mitchell?”
“I have no problem with that,” Jerry Levin said. “Ed?”
Ed Mitchell looked to see if his wife was around, and then said “let’s do it.”
“Susan is talking to her now,” George whispered in Caroline’s ear, watching as she nodded and then walked away.
"Well I never expected that." Jo said as she
sat down on a bar stool next to Curt.
"Expected what? What did Alice want to ask
"She wants me to do a photo shoot for her,” Jo
said quietly, “not Cari, not Abby, but me..."
"Wearing jumpers, believe it or not. She is importing woolens from Scotland, that
were found by Mandy on an estate Will inherited."
"But why ask you to model Jo? She's a model
herself, for that matter so are Mandy and Angel."
"I asked her that very question, she said someone
who looks fresh-faced, outdoorsy and natural..."
"Well that description does rather fit you my
love." Curt smiled.
"I guess so, I think I'm a bit in shock, the fee
she's offering will certainly help."
"Pay for your prom dress, etc?"
"And some left over..."
"So are you going to do it?"
"I said I'd think about it."
"Jo Smith what's there to think about? You need
extra cash and that's a nice way to earn some."
"I just don't want to think she offered it to me
"Sometimes I give up with you." Curt smiled
again, "My father said never look a gift horse in the mouth."
"I know...I think I'll just have a word with Abby and see what she says."
“As you wish, but if I was you I’d say yes.”
“And that’s what I love about you Curt,” Jo said as she stood up, and kissed his cheek, “you keep me grounded. Back in a minute.”
She walked along the dance floor, looking for Abby and then walking beside her.
"Hi Abby, Hi Mandy, having a good time?" Jo
asked the two models as they stood watching the dancing.
"Very much so." Mandy drawled slowly.
"That's nice...look I'll come straight out with this, Alice has asked me to be the model in the campaign to sell the woolens she's importing from Scotland."
"Well are you happy with that choice?"
"It was her decision darling."
"So you are unhappy?" Jo looked worried.
"Not at all." Mandy smiled. "Let me be
honest I knew Alice was going to ask you..."
"She consulted me as well." Abby smiled.
"Alice was looking for a face that suggested,
normal, pretty, country living, and wholesome." Mandy continued.
"But I live in the city?"
"Irrelevant darling, you have that tanned
athletic look that no doubt comes from all the running you do."
"And she remembered your calendar picture."
"She asked a few of us and we all agreed you'd be
perfect as the face for selling the woolens." Mandy smiled.
"So let me get this straight,” Jo said. “You've all been talking about me behind my
"Yes darling." Mandy nodded.
"And this wasn't an act of charity to help poor
Jo out financially?"
"Nope." Abby laughed, "Honestly Jo it
was all based on you looking just right for this particular set of
"Okay." Jo paused, "I guess I better
"I guess you better had darling." Mandy laughed aloud.
On the walkway that ran along the ballroom and faced the lawn, two women sat. One was very heavily pregnant, her gown straining over her bump. The older woman was very angry, and very drunk.
"No good son of a bitch." Anna blew smoke as
she stood outside smoking a cigarette in her long ebony holder.
"Who is?" Susan asked.
"That no good piece of shit I'm married to."
"What has Ed done this time?"
"He got back today supposedly from a business
trip to Denver, only thing was he didn't know that I actually saw his ticket
and that he was in Miami instead."
"Oh crap." Susan looked heavenwards.
"Does he know you know?"
"Not yet...but a few more martini's and I intend
to let him have it full blast."
"Anna, try and avoid a scene please."
The older woman turned slowly and looked intently at
the younger woman. "Did Caroline
send you out to talk to me Susan?"
"Mary was worried about you, and yes Caroline
told me to come and talk."
"What's wrong with me Susan? He’s done this to me
time after damn time, just as my two exes did."
"There's nothing wrong with you Anna, he's just
one of these absolute bastards."
"The problem is I still love the bastard."
"Oh," Susan paused, "that makes it even worse."
Anna nodded as she said “Well, this may just be the last straw. I need to stop doing this to myself.”
"So do you know who the other woman was?"
"Some low-life hooker he got through an agency called
Angelic Escorts, he's been seeing her since just after New Years."
"Fuck!" Susan murmured to herself.
"If I ever catch the bitch..."
"Anna,” Susan said as she stood up, holding her
back, “promise you'll do nothing for now...I'll be back shortly, there is
someone I need go see."
"Alright Susan, but don't be too long." Anna snagged a glass of champagne from a passing waiter.
"Well I bet Megan Markham would never have been
considered wholesome." Abby laughed as she and Joanne stood in the corner.
"I agree, Megan was far more into short skirts
and heavy makeup." Jo smiled at her friend.
"Well, it's a good thing that she wasn't the one
then who got the offer to model for Alice then?"
"What are you talking about girls?" Tony
asked as he and Curt brought over fresh drinks and food for their dates.
"Oh about a girl I once knew." Jo sighed,
"She died nearly two years ago."
"That's sad." Curt shook his head.
"Not really she wasn't much of a person, she was
never really happy."
"Still, death is always sad."
"Well Curt darling this is Easter we are
remembering death and rebirth...isn't that right?"
"I guess so."
“Well, let’s not dwell on the past,” Tony said as he and Abby watched Winston taking food and drink to Jeannie, “let’s drink to the future.”
Anna was quietly drinking her champagne, watching as Pepsi and Jack danced, when she felt an arm pulling her to one side.
“Hey – what the…”
"Doc we need to talk - like urgently." Susan
said as she pushed Anna into an alcove.
"Hey I haven't even danced with Clint!"
"It's not that...this is Angelic Escort
business," Susan hissed.
"Hey I did what I was told and closed everything
"I know, but I think one of your former girls has
continued on seeing at least one client."
"Sorry Susan we never had a client of that name."
"Him." Susan pointed to the man shaking his
head as he walked out of the studio.
"Oh you mean Mr. Warren."
“Figures – well, Mr. Warren is Anna Mitchell’s husband.”
“Juliette’s boss? Goddamit.”
“And other similar words – who was it?”
“Nobody here – it was one of the Nuns, and no – not Nell. I’ll ask her if she knows anything about this. Does she know?”
“She knows he’s seeing someone, and he met her through the agency. Find Nell, find out and find me – quickly. We need to try and stop a scene.”
“I’m on it,” Anna said as she walked quickly off, looking for Nell as Susan grabbed another glass of ginger ale.
“What’s happening,” Clint said as he came over.
“Clint, find George – tell him to keep an eye on Ed Mitchell. Trouble’s brewing.”
“Nell, I wonder if I can pick your brains on something,” Anna said as she approached the twins, who were standing with their parents.
“My brains? Are you sure you don’t mean my sister?”
“Nope – you are definitely the person I need to talk to,” Anna said as she took Nell over to one side.
“Okay, Doc, what’s the problem?”
“Do you see that guy over there at the bar?”
Nell looked at Ed Mitchell as he stood at the bar.
“What, Warren? What about him?”
“It was Kerry who was his main contact, right?”
“As far as I know – why?”
“Do you know if she’s been seeing anyone since?”
Nell stood for a moment, and then said “yeah, she’s been seeing someone, but – oh. OH!”
“While you’re thinking that over, add this – his name is actually Ed Mitchell, and his wife is not only Juliette’s boss, she knows he’s seeing someone associated with Angelic Escorts.”
“Oh crap,” Nell whispered. “I’ll call Kerry in the morning – but what about tonight?”
“Keep out of her way – and thanks.”
Doc walked quickly over to where Susan was standing with Caroline.
“How is the poker game going,” she asked as she joined them.
“Should be over soon – Pru is exceptional, and so is Levin. We have raised an incredible amount of money for the foundation, but the endgame is coming.”
“It was Kerry, one of the nuns. Nell knows she is seeing someone, so it is possible. She’s not here, so no chance of that particularly messy thing happening, but…”
Caroline nodded. “You did good, Doc. Susan, stay with Anna. I’ll get George to keep an eye on Ed, and I’ll also let Juliette and Mary know.”
“You might want to let Vanessa or Alex know as well.”
“I’ll find Alex. You let the other girls know to keep out of the way if anything happens.”
Caroline walked over and whispered in George’s ear, the older man nodding as she then entered the studio. Susan walked outside to find Anna.
"I accepted Alice's offer to model your father's
woolens." Jo said as she and Curt stood chatting with David and Judy.
"She was worried about it being offered to her as
"No it wasn't at all," David replied,
"they discussed several girls..."
"Including would you believe me?" Judy
"...and they kept coming back to you as being
disgustingly fit and athletic looking, and having a natural look just right for
a natural product."
"I think that's complimentary...Isn't it?"
"Just about Jo darling...Just about." Curt
"Changing topics, any hints on this years senior
prank Jo?" Judy asked.
"No, nor on our nominees for head girls. Just
know McNally we have had to wrack our brains trying to think of something to
top what you guys did."
"Can I help?"
"Judy I love you, but you do have a tendency to
blurt things out." Jo smiled.
"Hey I kept the kidnapping of Miss T a
"Only I bet because Cari and Bobbi threatened
dire retribution if you did spill."
"Alright, that I can agree on." Judy
grinned. "Just tell me will it get the police involved, and will it make
"Like I said....NO COMMENT" Jo laughed.
“Juliette, a moment of your time,” Susan said as she took her friend by the arm.
“Of course, Susan – what’s wrong?”
“Anna – she wasn’t outside when I went to see her. I did find something out though – her husband has been seeing someone.”
“Damn – any idea where she could be?”
“No – but it gets worse, Ju. He’s seeing one of THE girls.”
Juliette looked at Susan for a moment, and then waved Mary and Mandy over.
“Problem, Juliette darling,” Mandy purred.
“Big one – we need to find Anna Mitchell before she finds her husband. The mother of all rows might be about to…”
“Too late,” Juliette said as she looked at Mary, “come on.”
They walked to the bar where Anna was standing in front of Ed, a vacant look on his faces as he said “Anna, why are you shouting?”
“So that I can have your complete and absolute attention, you ungrateful bastard,” Anna growled. “How much did you lose tonight?”
“Not much – not really. A couple of thousand – but it was for charity.”
“Well, that’s just fine isn’t it,” Anna said with a bitter laugh, “and you business trip to Denver? You haven’t told me much about it?”
“Of course not – it was business, and we don’t discuss business.” Ed stood up and walked over to Anna. “Why are you so mad at me darling?”
“Why am I so mad at you, Ed DARLING? Could it be because you’re a two timing cheating bastard who can’t tell me the truth?”
“Take your hands off me,” Anna said as she slapped her husband’s arm down. “You weren’t in Denver, were you?”
Juliette and Mary made their way to the front of the crowd that was forming, while Alex and Vanessa approached from the other side. Shirley, Lily and Penny stood by the doorway.
“If I wasn’t in Denver,” Ed Mitchell said, shaking slightly, “then where was I?”
“Miami, you bastard, with Kelly or whatever her name is, your latest little bit of skirt. I saw the plane tickets, I’ve seen the payments – what can a whore give you that I can’t?”
“A good time,” Ed said quietly, “without having my ear bent by a shrill little shrew who cannot even realize when she is in the wrong.”
“Ed,” Juliette said as she stepped forward, “I think you need to consider what it is you are saying.”
“It’s all right, Ju,” Anna said quietly, “I think Ed just made his position perfectly clear.” She walked up to him, stared straight into his eyes, and said quietly “you can collect your things in the morning. And if I ever, ever set eyes on you again, I will be the last thing you see.”
“I don’t think you’ve got the guts,” Ed whispered, then groaned as Anna’s knee connected with him between his legs. As he sank to the floor, Mary and Juliette took Anna by the arms and led her out of the room, while Alex came forward and knelt next to the stricken man. He signaled to George, who slipped one arm under Ed to help him up.
“YOU LITTLE PRICK!!!”
George barely had time to turn before Anna came running back in, tearing at her husband’s face with her fingernails as he tried to protect himself. It took Juliette, Mary and Shirley to pull her off him, while John and Alex took him to safety.
“I think you’ve had enough tonight, Anna,” Mary said quietly, “come on – some fresh air and coffee for you, I think. You can stay at the beach shack with me tonight.”
“Vanessa, I’m sorry…”
“Don’t be Ju,” Vanessa said with a smile, “I don’t think there’s ever been a party in this place without some form of violent argument.”
"Well, well, well." Allison chuckled to herself - all is not well after all within the Saints and Sinners. Inwardly she began to quake as she noticed little knots of people gathered to discuss the scene that had just happened. Again they were leaving her out, again she was disregarded, and it wasn't fair. IT JUST WASN'T FAIR!
“YES!!! WHAT IS IT!!!” Allison whirled round to snarl at whoever had spoken, only to stop herself when she saw it was Alex Richmond.
“Sorry, Alex,” she said as she struggled to control herself, “what can I do for you?”
“I came to ask you if you wanted to dance – I noticed you had not been on that often tonight. If I may have the honor?”
“Of course – forgive me,” Allison said as she allowed herself to be taken to the dance floor, Alex holding as the foxtrot started.
“I haven’t seen that much of you recently – how are you keeping?”
“I – I cope, thank you Alex. I know I haven’t been the most open of people, but you understand why?”
“People react to violent things in different ways, Allison – I understand what happened had a profound effect on you. I’m glad you are over it though.”
“Thank you,” Allison said with a smile. “Quite a show there, wasn’t it?”
“Well, from what Sandy said, it may have been brewing for some time. But it would not be a party at this house without someone threatening someone else.”
“Alex, can I ask what happened to make Vanessa want to close such a wonderful house?”
“Well, it was our mother’s decision, not Vanessa’s or mine – it just held too many painful memories for our mother I guess.”
“Oh – do tell…”
“Well played Caroline – you gave us both a good run.”
“The pleasure was all mine,” Caroline said as she stood up and turned, leaving to a round of applause. She spoke briefly to George, and then headed for the main ballroom.
"Well?" Tonia and Roy said as they called
"Well,” Caroline said as she looked back to see
Jerry and Pru shake hands, “I'm an exceedingly good poker player, but they are
better. The good news is they've both agreed that all winnings tonight go to
"That's good of Jerry." nodded Tonia.
"I think they are both enjoying themselves an
awful lot, two superlative players and I'm still not sure who is ahead."
"How much did Ed lose?" Roy asked quietly.
"About Forty Grand,"
"He told Anna a couple." Tonia shook her head. "He really is a lying son of a bitch."
“I heard there was an altercation –where are they?”
“Anna went with Ju and Mary, Ed skulked off somewhere.”
“Forgive me, Tonia, Roy – I must go and see how she is, and then liaise with my security staff,” Caroline said as she walked off.
"So any clues as to who the girl is?" Kelly
asked as she stood with some of the others.
"A very slinky and statuesque redhead."
"And you know that how Tom Morse? Claire asked
her spouse as she looked at him.
"I saw them once at a Rangers game, she was
dressed to the nines and looking bored out of her skull."
"How old was she?” asked Rachel.
"Not very old, you know Ed, he likes his girls
young and hot."
"What a bastard." Kelly shook her head.
“Question is where he found this girl – and how many others does Anna know about?”
“Let her come to terms with tonight,” Clare said, “and then we can think about how to help her.”
“Here,” Mary said as she handed Anna a cup of coffee in the drawing room, “you’ll feel better getting that into you.”
“Thanks,” Anna said as she took the mug and drank. “Did you spike this?”
“A little – but that’s it for tonight,” Anna said with a sigh. “I guess I really burnt my bridges, didn’t I?”
“Is that such a bad thing,” Juliette said as she put her hand on Anna’s knee. “Honestly, have you really been happy these last few months?”
“No – no, I guess not. So what happens now?”
“The house is in your name – get someone to change the locks tonight, and tell your housekeeper to refuse him admittance. You can stay here tomorrow – we’ll find you some clothes to wear.”
“Thanks – you’re good friends. Both of you.”
“So where did he go?”
It occurred to Allison as she looked round that while
she would get nothing from the lips of the Saints and Sinners, Ed must right
now be feeling really isolated and looking for a shoulder to cry on.
"Why not?" she asked herself as she stood up and started looking for him.
In one of the washrooms, there was a war council in place, based on one family.
"I just need to ask one question of you girls,”
Kelly Rochermann said, “It isn't either of your having an affair with Ed
"Oh come on Mom the guys a total creep."
Ally fixed her makeup.
"What about you Nell?" Kelly turned on her
"No it's not me...but..."
"But what Nell?" Her mother looked
"I think I know who the girl is."
"You do?" Ally turned round slowly.
“Yeah – I think it’s one of my classmates, based on the description I heard some of your friends talking about. Mom, I swear to God it’s not me.”
“I believe you – for one thing you’re not redheads,” Kelly said, “but this friend of yours could be in real trouble. If Anna catches her – either physically or legally…”
“Can we get a message to her?”
“I’ll send her a text, get her to meet me first thing Monday.”
“Good – I’ll try and get Ju to hold her back, but no promises.”
"So Katherine with all the excitement how have
you been making out?" Gale Callaghan asked.
"Well dear,” the older woman said, as she turned
round, ”believe it or not I'm actually ahead by about $80."
"Hey good for you Katherine." Adam
"I brought $200 intending to play till that ran
out, but at the moment I'm actually having fun."
"Well done Katherine…" Gale smiled.
"Your Mom is winning darling." Adam said as
she took a drink from a tray carried by Janice.
"Well done Mom." Janice grinned. "I'm
not doing so badly either."
"Oh?" asked Adam.
"Both Roy Razinski and Shirley Xavier want to
help sponsor the car."
"That will help."
"Yes it means it won't all be Sandy's money, we
will have some extra cash to help out."
"Well good for you guys." Gale hugged Jan.
"Hey that's another $20 profit." Katherine
took her winnings from the croupier.
"Leave Katherine here long enough maybe she can raise the cash." Adam smiled broadly.
“So are all the parties you girls attend this exciting?”
Pepsi looked across the table at Kylie and said “Nah, this is one of the quieter ones.”
“She is joking,” Ama said quietly, “this is actually one of the more lively events – very like the spirit of the parties of the time.”
“You’ve been reading up on it, haven’t you?”
“Of course, I wanted to be sure my sister and I knew the culture,” Ama said as Maisha joined them.
“We’ve had quite a day anyway,” Nikki said. “Secret passageways, hidden rooms, and a chance we may have found a long hidden cache of illegal liquor.”
“When you put it that way, it has been an interesting day,” Maisha said as Marina joined them.
“Hey kiddo,” she said as she put her arm round Kylie, “how are you doing?”
“Not bad,” Kylie said with a smile. “How’s the party going?”
“I hear there’s a firework display to end the night,” Doc said as she joined them. “Should be fun.”
"Jane can I ask....?"
"Don't worry Nessa, I write news, not gossip,
this makes the papers it will not be via me."
"Thank you dear."
Ed Mitchell looked up from his seat to see Allison standing over him, a glass of whisky in her hand.
“Come to gloat as well,” he said as he looked at her.
“No, I haven’t,” Allison said quietly as she sat down, “I wanted to make sure you’re all right.” She looked at his cheek and said “quite a scratch your wife gave you.”
“My ex-wife,” Ed said as he took the glass. “I don’t think there’s any coming back from this one.”
“I have to admit, I think you’re right,” Allison said as she sat next to him. “IS there really another woman – this Kelly?”
“Her name’s Kerry,” Ed said as he looked at Allison, “and there’s no point denying this one. I know Tom Morse has seen her, and he won’t be the only one.”
“Where did you meet her?”
“I needed a partner to attend a trade function, and Anna was busy at the market. I had heard of this agency that provided escorts, and – well, I hired her.”
“And she still acts as an escort?”
“No – she told me a couple of months ago the agency had folded, but by then – well, I was in love with her, and her with me.”
“So this is real, is it?”
“I think so, yes.”
Ed sipped his drink, and said “I’ve hurt her, I know that. I’ll try and make the divorce quick and painless.”
“Then you are a better man than many,” Allison said. “Out of curiosity, what was the name of the agency?”
“Angelic Escorts – apparently the madam, Angel, disappeared one night and was never seen again.”
“How interesting – and I suppose you will see her soon?”
“Kerry? I hope so – we have a lot of things to discuss…”
"Tom, Adam, may I have a word in private
please?" Gus invited the two FBI men into the billiard room, closing the
door behind them.
"Okay Gus what can we do?" Tom spoke.
"Can you two try and keep a lid on things that
happened this weekend getting blown too much out of proportion."
"You mean that little scrap?" asked Adam. “It’s a domestic – Vanessa has already asked Jane not to report it in the press.”
"There is more." Gus paused. "Adam, you were aware of Nessa's problems back at her deb ball?"
"I was. The files were pretty complete on what happened that night."
"Well after losing the baby she spent months in a Psychiatric Hospital."
"I'm sorry to hear that but it's relevant
how?" asked Tom.
"Earlier tonight someone slipped a copy of her
hospital file from back then under her door."
"Crap...that's something more real." Adam
"How did she take it Gus?" asked Tom.
"She's trying hard to laugh it off, but how would
you react if such a thing happened to you?"
“Not very well,” Tom said quietly. “How could they have obtained them?”
"Anything more happened?" Adam enquired.
"Not really anything concrete, but this is still only Saturday night, and it's still a long way to Monday evening."
“Well, we can make some discrete enquiries, see if anyone has asked for the records,” Tom said. “Gus, there’s something else we need to tell you about – two things, actually.”
“First up – the secret passage from the Widow’s Cottage to the Chapel has a room halfway along. Clint took me, Adam and John to it today – we found three skeletons.”
“Three…” Gus sat down and rubbed his head. “The Flaherty boys?”
“Could be – we haven’t told Alex or Vanessa yet, but we will need to sooner rather than later.”
“The other thing?”
“Do you know the legend of Capone’s liquor?”
“Alex told me of it once – what about it?”
“The girls may have found a secret room in the Barn House.”
“Oh this weekend just gets better and better,” Gus said with a smile, “what’s going to happen next?”
“Hey Juliette – how is Anna?”
“Sleeping – Mary has bedded her down for the night,” Juliette said as she came in.
“Good,” Shirley said quietly, “she deserves better.”
"I agree - Cathy, Heather, can I have a word please?”
The two women nodded as they followed Juliette onto the garden path.
“Can you two do some research for me please?"
Juliette asked as she looked round.
"Certainly Juliette, may I ask what please?"
"Cathy, if Ed dropped 40 grand at the poker table
tonight, he's skimming money off from somewhere. His company maybe, but I'm
more afraid he's into Anna's private fortune, and they have a pre-nup says that
money is entirely hers."
"If the redhead isn't being paid directly for her
services you can be assured she must be getting expensive gifts to keep her
happy with a scumbag like Ed." Heather noted.
"Just my thoughts Heather." Juliette paused,
"Can you run his financials? Cathy can you work the business grapevine and
see what's being said?"
"I can Juliette."
"Just give me time to get to my computer." Heather nodded.
“I will place some calls immediately,” Cathy said as she gave a low bow, and the two women headed off.
“Ladies and gentlemen, can I invite you all to come outside and view the fireworks display,” Vanessa said, the security staff opening the large windows to allow the guests to come out onto the lawn. They watched in anticipation as Allison walked to the car with Ed.
“I wonder if we can meet for a drink tomorrow afternoon, Ed,” she said as she held the door open for him, “I’d love to hear some more of your stories.”
“Won’t your husband have something to say about that?”
“Oh he can have some special time with Jennifer,” Allison whispered, “I think you’re much more important just now.”
Ed smiled and said “All right – there’s a good bar at the Long Island hotel. I’ll be there at two tomorrow.”
Allison smiled as she closed the car door – she felt there was much more Ed could tell her. She walked back round as the fireworks started, great plumes of coloured lights illuminating the night sky as the guests watched.
“Where did you get to,” George said as he put his arm round his wife.
“I was just walking round, but I would not miss these fireworks for the world,” Allison said as she looked up into the night sky.
“There you are,” Alex said as the two remaining poker players came out, “who won?”
“Pru by about a hundred dollars,” Jerry said, “but the important thing is we raised over two hundred thousand dollars for the Foundation.”
“Thank you,” Alex said with a smile. “And as for you two?”
“Honours even – but we may team up for an upcoming pairs tournament,” Pru said with a smile.
“Yeah – we’d be unbeatable,” Jerry said with a smile.
“An amazing party, mother,” Sandy said as she joined Vanessa and Paulie to watch the fireworks. “And I hope it has put some ghosts to rest.”
“Some,” Vanessa said with a smile, “but I’m glad so many people enjoyed it.”
“Of course we did, Vanessa,” Shirley said as she and Caroline joined them. “With one or two little exceptions, the evening has been a fantastic success. You should be very proud of yourselves – both of you.”
“We are,” Alex said as he and Gus came over. “Very proud indeed.”
As the display continued, John put his arm round Shirley’s waist, as Allison looked along. The female couples with their arms round each other just filled her with such strong emotion – a mixture of hatred, incomprehension and jealousy.
A blast of white light illuminated all the faces, as they cheered and clapped, from the youngsters at the upstairs window to the teenagers in a group, their partners with them or sitting in a group, up through the teenagers and the generations. Allison had never felt so alone – and so determined to make them all feel the same way.
As the last firework went off, the party clapped and cheered, and then went in, a buffet laid out for them before they all headed home.
Slowly, the ribbons of light started to emanate from the centre that was Curragh Park, spreading out across the roads and the homes as if it was spreading a feeling of peace and joy across the Hamptons. In the main home, Vanessa and Alex said goodbye to each and everyone, whether they were travelling by car or walking to the various homes in the park itself, until only the residents of the main house were left.
“Well, that’s it,” John said as the door closed. “Would anyone like a nightcap?”
“No thank you,” Vanessa said, “I need to get some sleep or I will be falling asleep during Alex’s sermon tomorrow.”
“We cannot have that,” Alex said as she allowed him to take her arm, “come I shall escort you to your slumber.”
“Coming,” Shirley said as she took John’s hand, the pair following each other up the stairs.
“Well, I guess if our hostess is going to bed, so should we,” Carina said as she stood with Annie.
“What are you doing here,” Jo said as she watched Caroline and George come in.
“Security only ends when the staff have finished and gone home,” Caroline said. “We’ll be with you in the morning – sleep well, all of you.”
Sunday 5th April
“Morning,” Pussy said as she and Frieda came into the dining room, Pussy giving her mother a kiss before she went to the side table.
“Well, you look refreshed,” Gus said as she buttered his crumpet, “any sign of Blair yet?”
“I think she was stirring,” Linda said as she and Sam came in. “Some party, wasn’t it?”
“It was – we’re expected for Mass at eleven, so we all have time to get ready,” Paulie said as she sipped her coffee.
“Mum, can I ask something?”
“What happened to Anna Mitchell last night?”
“I think Mary took her to the Beach Lodge and had her sleep on their couch,” Gus said as he looked at his daughter. “Just be gentle with her if you see her today.”
“Hey, I’m on her side – Ed Mitchell is not exactly the nicest of guys,” Sam said as the boys came in. “And where did you two boys get to last night,” Linda said as they helped themselves to breakfast.
“We went for a walk with Ally and Nell – and just a walk,” Peter said. “Nell was a bit upset by something, and we just talked.”
“Kelly’s daughters just wanted to talk? That’s a first…”
“You just talked?”
“Yes, hard as that may to be believe Mother, we just talked,” Nell said as she bit into her toast.
“Miracles do happen,” Daniel Rochermann said as he poured himself a coffee, nodding to Tom as he and the family came in.
“Where do miracles happen,” Bobbi said as she sat down.
“Around here, by the sound of things,” Kelly said as Doc came in with her parents. “How are you three this morning?”
“Awake, surprisingly enough,” Emma said as they sat down. Doc walked over to the breakfast table, where she was joined by Nell and Becca.
“Spread the word,” Doc whispered, “I need to see everyone in the group here after lunch at the main house today. They need to know what might be about to happen.”
“What’s about to happen,” Becca whispered back.
“Hopefully nothing, but we’ll spread the word.”
“Thanks,” Doc said as they turned and walked back to the table.
The Beach Shack
Anna slowly opened her eyes and saw two tall young men standing over her.
“Good morning Miss Mitchell,” Curt said as he took one of her hands, Winston taking the other, “we’re having breakfast out by the pool. Would you like to join us?”
“I could use some coffee,” Anna said as she rubbed her head.
“Outside it is then,” Winston said as they escorted her out, the morning sun blinding her for a moment.
“Good morning Anna,” Mary said as her boss sat down, handing her a steaming mug of coffee as she did so. “Bacon and pancakes on the way.”
“Hey,” Caroline said as she sat down beside her, “how are you feeling this morning?”
“Slightly humiliated, and very embarrassed. Will the Richmonds ever forgive me?”
“I wouldn’t worry about them,” Caroline said, “they are worried about you. We all were. But you are invited to Mass and lunch, so please, come with us.”
Anna smiled and nodded as she sipped her coffee. “What happened to him?”
“No idea – and don’t worry about him. Time you thought about yourself, Anna,” Caroline said as Pru completed another lap of the pool.
Shirley walked out of the dining room and sat on the patio, smiling as she looked out over the immaculately laid lawn.
“Truly a beautiful place,” Cathy said as she came and sat beside herm wearing a grey dress with a subtle lace slip over the top.
“Indeed,” Shirley said as she placed her coffee cup down. “Where is Helen?”
“She invited young Kylie and Marina to join her for a session first thing – I believe she is getting changed at the moment.”
“Starting the way you will be going on then?”
“Oh yes,” Cathy said, “when we return this week, Marina will work alongside me and Juliette in our meetings, before they come with me on Saturday to Hong Kong.”
“Good,” Shirley said as she looked to the side, “I think they will be most productive in your care. Good morning Juliette.”
“Good morning,” the tall blonde said as she came and sat down. “I’ve asked Heather to join us in a few minutes.”
“Ah yes – poor Anna,” Shirley said quietly as Heather stepped out, wearing the Dior trouser suit. “How can we best support her?”
“By being there – but in other ways as well,” Juliette said as she looked round. “What did you find out?”
“That there are times I really wish I had a printer here,” Heather said quietly. “Ed has indeed been buying some very expensive gifts suitable for a woman – do you know he bid for one of the Dior gowns from the retrospective?”
“You’re joking – I hope he didn’t succeed.”
“I can find out from Mary,” Juliette said quietly, “but what about Anna’s accounts?”
“Bad news on that one, I’m afraid. I’ve sent what I found to Jan, so that she can follow up.”
“Good – I want to ensure we recover as much as possible. What about from your side Cathy?”
“Apart from a general dislike and lack of trust for the gentleman?”
“Apart from that,” Juliette said with a smile.
“There were rumours his business was in financial difficulties, but he somehow found the cash to get over those various humps. Am I right to presume the two are linked?”
“Could be – all right, let’s table this for now and look after Anna today.”
“So this is where you are all hiding,” Sandy said as she looked outside. “Would you come in please? We were beginning to think we were missing something.”
“I’ll tell her later,” Heather whispered as they went back inside, and joined the group at the breakfast table.
“By the way, George and I have arranged a special treat for the kids after lunch,” Allison said as she fed Jennifer, “an Easter egg hunt.”
“What a wonderful idea,” Carina said as little George and Sandy high fived each other.
“Well,” Alex said as he wiped his chin, “I must go and make preparations. I shall see you all in a little while.”
Kylie and Marina looked at the small white stone chapel as they walked up with Susan, Clint, Adam and the Carters.
“It looks like a village church, Susan,” Kylie said as she adjusted the white gloves she had been given to wear.
“I think that’s the idea,” Susan said, “Sandy told me it’s modeled after a church in the ancestral lands of the Richmonds on the Curragh.”
As they walked through the doors, Kylie could see that Susan was telling the truth.
With its beamed wooden roof and whitewashed stone walls, the Richmond family chapel was a slightly smaller version of Straffan parish church back in their native County Kildare. The stained glass had been the creation of a pair of young enthusiasts for the revival of the skills back in the twenties, the pews were made from timber harvested in Vermont and especially chosen.
They formed two sets of rows on either side of the transept, the floor inlaid with tiles forming a square mosaic pattern, while small bunches of white flowers were on each end of the wooden seats. Some of the other guests had already arrived, Doc turning and smiling as they took their seats behind them.
All were dressed in their period Sunday best – the men in suits with shirts and ties, the women in dresses or jackets and skirts. John was dressed in a dark suit and shirt with a blue tie, while Shirley had a long blue coat on with a hat perched on her auburn hair.
Sandy and Heather were among the last to arrive, bringing little Sandy and George with them. As the children sat with Alice’s children, George and Allison came in and sat with Juliette and Carina, the two babies reaching out to each other in their dresses.
“All it would need is the organ music,” Susan whispered to Penny, then rolled her eyes as organ music started to be played by Judy. “Ask and ye shall receive,” Lily whispered as Vanessa came in, taking her seat next to Sandy.
Alex came out, turning and blessing the sacrament, before he turned to the congregation.
“Welcome,” he said as Judy stopped playing, “welcome to our Easter celebration. Let us start by singing the hymn There is a Green Hill…”
“Remind me why we’re here,” Becca whispered to her sister, “after all, we’re Jewish.”
“So was Jesus,” Claire whispered, “and we are here supporting our friends, so stop whispering.”
After the hymn had finished, Sandy came to the front of the church and read from Luke’s gospel. When she had finished and sat down, Alex stood at the lectern in the chapel, looking at the rows of friends and family seated there, Vanessa, Sandy, Heather and the children in the front row.
"I asked myself,” he eventually said as he started his sermon, “how does one celebrate Easter Mass with a congregation drawn from several denominations, and from both the Christian and Jewish faiths. We have in the room Catholic and Methodist, Anglican and Baptist, Jew and Gentile.
“The answer is that I decided to focus on what I believe is the core message of the story of Jesus's martyrdom and resurrection, rather than on the dogma. As an old friend of mine used to say, nothing divides Christians more than an argument about how to observe the most holy of days, so let’s set all that aside for one moment."
He leaned on the lectern and looked round.
"The story of Easter, at its heart, is a story of rebirth, regeneration, and hope for the future. Very appropriate ideas on a weekend when we have gathered as friends to celebrate the rebirth of this lovely old house, to admire its regeneration and to hope that it will have a long future ahead of it as a place of laughter and entertainment.
"The themes of Easter though are also to be found in our own everyday personal lives. In this I'm thinking of the bright new futures facing some of the younger people here that, a year before, they may never have dreamed possible. Young Anna Carlton, for example, as a scholar with the chance to help others in later life; Marina and Kylie starting new lives in Hong Kong; but above all Ama and Maisha, both released from the depths of misery and now enjoying a bright and hopeful future."
At this point most in the chapel looked round at the girls and smiled.
“But there are other ways in which our lives have changed over the last year. For some of us, we have welcomed new lives into our own. For others, the miracle of conception and birth is underway even as we speak, awaiting the arrival of something wonderful and new and exciting.”
Karen reached over and grabbed Ken’s hand as Clint hugged Susan. Carina smiled as she held Judith on her lap. Even Allison felt her heart ease for a moment as Jennifer cuddled into her mother.
“Or perhaps it is a new life in the sense of a personal rebirth, a discovery of a new life, a discovery of peace at last over past hurts, a forgiveness that can only come when we accept the lessons they choose to teach us.”
Caroline looked over at Shirley, sitting so proudly at John’s side, and nodded to herself. She caught the eye of both Penny and Susan, who nodded as well to show they felt the same way.
“I also reflect on the fact that, in the midst of joy, part of the story of Easter is also about pain, about loss, but it is also about the fact that from the pain, from the loss, comes salvation, comes redemption, if we only choose to allow that to break through. It is a story of love – total, complete, and absolute love, of one man for his fellow man, and the price we pay for that love. As it says in the epistle to the Corinthians, love is patient and kind and forgives.”
Klaus reached over and gently squeezed Juliette’s hand as Alex said that, as Annie looked at Carina.
“All of us have faced some degree of change, some personal challenge, over this last year, but as we gather on this blessed morning, I invite you to give thanks, in any way you desire, for the good things that have come your way, and to ask for help to cope with those things that have irritated or irked us.
“And to all of you, I say this – embrace each other in the love of God, for in him, all things are made whole. Let us pray.”
The congregation bowed their heads, each with their own thoughts, their own thanks, and their own prayers.
Eventually, Alex said “we come now to the act of sacrament of communion. If you wish to remain in your seats, feel free to do so. This is an open table, where all who wish to can partake of the blood and of the wine, so come when you are ready to do so.”
As he held up the plate of wafers, he said “this is the body of Christ, given for the forgiveness of all. Take and eat in remembrance of him.” He then held up the chalice, and said “His blood, spilt on that day so that we may know the forgiveness of our god. Drink, and know his forgiveness in your hearts.”
Vanessa, Sandy, Gus and Paulie stood up and came forward, kneeling and accepting the sacrament as Alex handed it out. As they returned, Heather brought the children as George, Allison and Carina came forward, all kneeling as Alex blessed the children and fed the others.
They came forward in small groups after that – Jo and Curt coming with Abby, Tony, Natasha and Will, the other members of the de Ros and the du Grechy families following. Mary, Anna and Katherine came together, kneeling as Mary winked at Alex. Jeannie came to the steps and stood with Barbara, Winston and John as Alex came to them.
As the McKinnon family returned to their pews, Alex turned and smiled, before he said “All of us gathered here today are family in some way, so let us celebrate that in our next song, One Faith, One Hope, One Lord. Judy?”
As the service ended, Judy started to play Day by Day as Alex walked down the transept, and then stood at the door, greeting everyone as they came out.
“Thank you, Alex,” Tom Morse said as he shook his hand, “for making us welcome.”
“One God – just a different way of talking to him,” Alex said with a smile as he kissed Clare and the girls.
“So what are we all having for lunch,” Anna said as she looked at Mary.
“We’re all invited to the main house,” Mary said as she pulled her gloves back on, “you as well. No way you’re going home without us this weekend.”
“Mary’s right,” Juliette said as she walked alongside them. “You need to be sure Ed is completely out of your life. Did you change the locks?”
“Emma has the workman round this morning. Was I really that violent last night?”
“Oh yes – and he deserved it,” Juliette said as Shirley walked a short way behind with Catherine and Helen.
“So what do you think of our two young charges, Helen?”
“They seem eager to learn, if a little – difficult to understand?”
“No more difficult than you were when we first met, I suspect.”
Helen smiled as she said “True, Mistress Catherine – but I take them on gladly as students. They have a great deal of potential.”
“Well, set your target appropriately – Kylie is still young, and I can already see Marina’s potential in planning and organization as well as the more practical areas.”
“As always, I bow to your judgment, Mistress Catherine. I thank the Honoured Father for assigning me to be your protector.”
“As do I, Helen, as do I. Which is why I wish you and they to assist the children with the Easter egg hunt this afternoon. I will be safe with Shirley, and it will help teach them the importance of being constantly vigilant.”
“As you wish,” Helen said as she bowed her head.
The party slowly walked up the avenue to the house, entering and handing their coats to the servants as they made their way into the drawing room for pre-lunch drinks.
“We’re going to take a turn down to the shore before lunch,” Winston said as he pushed Jeannie to the side of the building, Curt and Jo following them along with Tony and Abby.
“Be back by two,” Sandy called after them as she watched from the windows.
“Does anyone want to come out to the garden with me,” Doc said as she looked out. She opened the door and headed out, Pepsi, Nikki, Ally and Nell following as Becca closed the door behind them.
“Well, who wishes a drink,” Vanessa said as she went to the table.
“All right Doc, why drag us all out here?”
“Because I need to visit past history – and I know Ally and Pepsi both know all about this,” Doc said as they sat in a gazebo. “You all saw the row last night between Mister and Mrs. Mitchell?”
“Saw and heard it,” Becca said. “I heard Mum and Dad talking to your parents about it last night, Nell. They said it was a young redhead.”
“It is – a young redhead called Kerry.”
Nikki and Becca looked at each other, before they said “Are you sure?”
“Ninety nine per cent certain. We’ll know tomorrow when we talk to her, but for now if the subject comes up, you don’t know her.”
“Mom knows,” Nell said, “but she won’t say anything. We hope we can persuade her to run for cover, but if she doesn’t, we’ll let you know.”
“She’s not going to resurrect trouble, is she?”
“Not if I can help it,” Doc said quietly.
“So she’s coming back one last time,” Pepsi said.
“Yeah – and then please, let her stay buried.”
“So Madame Angel is making an appearance.”
Doc nodded as they all left the gazebo, and walked back up to the house.
Allison looked after them. She had caught only the tail end of the conversation, but that had been enough for her. Those girls knew who this Angel was – and they could be made to talk more easily than their parents.
She was going to slip out to see Ed later. Maybe he would help as well…
“Bless this food to us O lord, on this your holy day.”
“Amen,” the room said as they raised their heads, and the roast dinner was served to all of them.
The conversation ranged over all forms of subjects. Carina, Alice, Allison, Karen and Susan discussed motherhood, while the children sat round a smaller table, the exceptions been Jennifer, Suzanne and Judith who sat in high chairs with their mothers.
Guy and Valeria were discussing with Gus and Alex the findings from the wine cellar – the inventory Valeria and Guy had taken had proved revealing in terms of vintages and choices.
Judy, Bobbi and Carina were encouraging Jo, Ally and Nell with tales of college life, while at the same time trying to find out what they had planned for the end of year. The former was welcomed, the latter met with a stony silence, while Abby and Tony talked with the other younger boys and girls.
The rest of the table talked amongst themselves about Tom’s search for an apartment in Washington, to the upcoming race meeting, to Ingrid’s upcoming arrival at university.
As the pudding plates were cleared away, Vanessa said “We will take coffee in the drawing room.”
“Kids,” George said, “if you can be out on the lawn in half an hour, Helen, Marina and Kylie will be helping you all with the Easter Egg hunt.”
The cheer made George smile as they went outside, while the adults headed into the drawing room.
“Father Alex, may we have a word before you go through?”
Alex stopped to see Caroline and Ama standing behind him.
“Of course,” he said with a smile, “what may I do for you ladies?”
"Father we have something to ask you."
Caroline spoke as she and Ama stood there. "I'm a lapsed Anglican, but Ama
would like to be baptized as a Catholic."
"You would Ama?"
"Very much so Father Alexander,” Ama said as she
looked at him, “your words today were inspiring, a religion that can produce
men who can say words just so perfect, I'd like to join."
Ama looked at Alex as he appeared thoughtful. "I'm not too old am I?"
"Ama dear, no,” Alex said with a smile, “you are the perfect age, and I'm just honored that you chose to be inspired by me. I will ask one thing of you though.”
“And that is?”
“Attend some other churches, go look and listen, and
if you still wish to become a Catholic after that, I will with extreme joy start
the process that ends with me baptizing you into the faith."
"That seems fair." Ama smiled, "But I
think it will be very hard to convince me to change my mind."
"Well listen carefully to what others say, just do this with an open mind Ama, and if your still feel God in your heart telling you that Catholicism is right for you, as I say I'll be more than happy to baptize you."
“I ask no more than that,” Ama said as she walked into the drawing room.
“Wise words Father.”
“She is still a young woman, Caroline, and has to know something of the differences between us and others. Once she has that, I can teach her.”
“Apologies, Alex, I wonder if we can borrow you for a few minutes – and you Nessa.”
“I will talk with you later, Caroline,” Alex said as Gus took him off into the far side of the drawing room with Vanessa and Paulie.
“So what is it you need to say to us,” Alex said quietly.
“When the egg hunt has started, I’d like you to meet me in the chapel with Tom and Adam,” Gus said quietly, “there is something we need to show you.”
“In the chapel,” Alex said, “what?”
“Well, under the chapel – all will be explained then.”
“Any hints,” Vanessa whispered.
“We may have a chance to find out what happened to Black Jack.”
Tom led the way down the passageway, with Adam following behind Alex and Vanessa.
“Watch your head,” Adam said as he looked back, Ken Boyd having to continually duck to avoid hitting his head.
“I’ll try, but why have you asked ‘em to come down… Good grief, what is this place,” he said as they emerged in the hidden room,
“You say this leads to the Widow’s Cottage, Tom?”
“That’s what Clint said – what was there before your mother built the cottage, Adam?”
“A boathouse – would lead credence to the theory Black Jack Richmond fled. What happened to the Flaherty brothers?”
“You had better not look, Nessa,” Gus said as Tom took Alex to the door, and opened it for him.
“Ah,” Alex said as he crossed himself, “that would possibly answer that question.”
“My apologies for not telling you before, Alex, but – well, how do you explain this?”
“I understand Tom – we will afford them a decent removal and burial when you say so.”
“Burial – the Flaherty brothers?”
“We think so,” Adam said, “but we can’t be certain without tests. At least to see what might have killed them, or what happened.”
“Which explains why you asked me down here,” Ken said as he looked in. “May I?”
“John took some photos when Clint brought us down yesterday. Can you go in and have a look round?”
“It’s my duty,” Ken said as he put his bag down on the floor and looked round.
“If it is them,” Vanessa whispered, “they have been here for over eight decades.”
"Well Ken?" Adam asked as the very tall
doctor bent over and examined the scene.
"I think you are right about this being for from
modern guys. These bones look like they've been here about 80 years."
"Which does suggest that these were indeed the
Flaherty Brothers." Tom nodded
"Those are some pretty nasty toothpicks they were
carrying." Adam looked at the large knives each man had obviously been
"Someone broke the rules though." Ken slipped a pair of latex gloves on. "A couple of these cuts to the bone say yeah it was a knife fight...but who was it broke the code and brought a gun to a knife fight?" he asked as he removed a small metal object from the cranium of one of the skeletons.
“Intriguing – any idea what the bullet is from?”
“Not without some tests,” Ken said as he stood up. “Can we get some samples of what’s left of their clothing? If we have a lab available, we can run a few tests, determine the age…”
“You need a laboratory? I think I can help you with that,” Vanessa said, “but it means breaking an old family wish.”
“In what way,” Tom asked.
“The last will and testament of Doctor Jane Huntingdown.” Vanessa said as Alex blessed the bodies.
“Come, let them rest for now. You’re right Nessa – it’s time to open the lab.”
As the group emerged from the chapel, they saw John and Shirley walking by.
“And what have you been up to,” Shirley said as Alex closed the door.
“I think I know,” John said, “you took them down, didn’t you?”
“I did,” Tom said. “And, to use the cliché, we have a murder to solve, if we can.”
“Come with us please John – and Shirley, do you know where Janice is?”
“I believe she was talking to Juliette and Cathy – I shall see if I can find her,” Shirley said as they walked back to the house.
“As you know, the wills of both Great Aunt Annabel and Jane Richmond called for their personal papers to be destroyed,” Vanessa said as she led the way along the upper floor, “but there was one particular requests that applied to this house. Jane maintained a research laboratory here, in Curragh Park.”
“A private research lab?” Ken looked at the locked door and said “Why did she want it sealed?”
“I have no idea,” Vanessa said as she produced a key, “but the will stipulated it was to be sealed and only opened in a dire emergency.”
“I think this qualifies as one,” Adam said as Karen joined them.
“What are you boys playing at?”
“Work, I’m afraid darling – I’ll be back shortly.”
“Well, if I can help?”
“You can – I’ll be down in a few minutes to explain how,” Tom said as Vanessa unlocked the door.
"This may not exactly be state of the art today,
but it was pretty high tech back in the fifties when Dr. Huntingdown used
it." Vanessa opened the doors of the sealed laboratory.
Adam opened the door and climbed the staircase inside,
looking round. "As you say it's not
totally up to date Vanessa, but I think Ken and I can find a few things out in
here...Can a couple of you guys help us up please?"
"John would you mind continuing on as the
"Not at all dear chap...Our very own long
unsolved killings, you try stopping me from being involved."
"Let's treat this as far as possible just as we would a modern homicide." Tom spoke from the police perspective. “Collect and catalog, and log all findings.”
“Tom, can you get the other side of the evidence gathering going?”
“I’ll be back in a few minutes,” Tom said as he descended to the drawing room with Vanessa.
“Alex,” he said as he came in, “do you have it?”
“I do,” Alex said as he handed the guest book to Tom.
“Three bodies in a hidden room? What’s the story Tom?”
“That’s what we’re going to find out – Janice, do you
want to sit down with the Guest Book and try and work out a list of who was
here that night?" Tom asked.
"It won't include the servants though Tom."
"The Stewards book will though, it will record
who sat down to eat in the Servants Hall that weekend." Vanessa spoke.
"Who'd of thunk it? Our very own Country House
Murder Mystery." Paulie smiled at her friend.
"Well we have all the players, detectives, doctors, amateur sleuths, this might be fun Paulie." Nessa smiled as she hadn't in many years.
“All right – let’s have a look at the relevant pages of both books,”
"Curt,” Tom said as he and Jo walked in, “we'd
like your help in this. You are as close as damn to being a criminal profiler
and you are an expert criminologist, we'd like your insights please."
“The mystery of the three skeletons,” Vanessa said with a smile.
“I’ll get Adam to bring you a file about the night in question – see if you two can see anything of interest.”
"Sure Tom,” Curt said, “I'll do what I can to help – want to help Jo?"
“Of course I will – give me a chance to see you at work,” Jo said as she looked at her boyfriend.
“I’ll get Adam to come down and let you have the file,” Tom said as he walked back out.
As Janice looked at the pages of the book, she paused and then said “Well well well…”
She looked up to see Shirley looking at her.
"Shirley I have something to show
you...look" Jan pointed to some entries in the large, leather-bound
"Oh, I see Barty Rhymaes and Gladys were here
that weekend...as was a Mrs. Xavier!" Shirley for once in her life was
"Your ancestor Shirley?"
"I'm guessing so, I never knew she'd been in the
"Well didn't you say old Barty was an avid
"Yes he was...oh?
"I'll ring home now and get them to fax over the relevant pages. I’ll also ask Sandra to check the BA Archives – before they formed, they were the Agency, and it may be there is more in the records if his man was here as well. Jan, is there a Jayes in the Steward’s Book for that time."
“There is indeed.”
“Well, two calls then.”
"Thanks Shirley." Jan smiled. "He may be our only eye witness to what happened that weekend."
"Girls would you like to help Dieter and I
investigate this Capone Booze mystery further?" Sigi asked.
"Well it doesn't look like we can be of much help with the skeletons." Pepsi looked up, "So yeah, why not?" The group, as well as Maisha, followed Sigi and Dieter to the Barn House…
“Now then,” Sigi said as she led the girls upstairs, “explain to me what you were thinking, Anna.”
“I paced out the wall length and the corridor length,” Anna said quietly, “and this corridor is about ten paces short – so there must be something hidden at this end of the corridor and not the other end.”
“Why this end?”
“The chimney stack is at the other end,” Doc said, “and that is where Tom tapped yesterday.”
Sigi tapped on the wall, and said “Fair enough – the question is, is there a secret door?”
“Not sure – let’s all feel along the wall, see if we can find a bump or a crack.”
The group of girls took up various positions along the wall, using their hands to feel over as much as they could, trying to find a crack or a button, but there didn’t seem to be anything.
“Intriguing,” Sigi eventually said, “there is something behind there, but nothing obvious as to – hold on…”
She went into one bedroom at the side, and then the other, before saying “give me a hand in here please girls.” As they entered the bedroom on the left hand side, they saw the room extended a little further, and a wardrobe was sitting next to the door.
Opening the wardrobe doors, Sigi handed some boxes to the girls, and then tapped on the back of the wardrobe.
“Oldest trick in the book,” she said with a smile, “can one of you go down to the utility room and see if they have a crowbar or a hammer?”
“I’ll go,” Pepsi said as she left the room, returning with a crowbar.
“Stand back girls,” Sigi said as she felt along the joint of the back with the side, and then eased the end of the crowbar in. Taking several deep breaths, she tugged on the metal, letting out a scream as the back panel came away, moving to the right as she used her hands to push it along.
“My goodness – what is behind there,” Maisha said as she looked up.
“A staircase, but there’s a lot of old wood and rubble on it,” Sigi said as she looked up. “Ama, would you please go to the beach shack and see if either Winston or Curt is there please?”
“Of course,” Ama said as she left the room.
“Fetch me the torch that is in the kitchen, please Nikki?”
As Nikki left the room, Doc and Maisha tried to peer past.
“Is it possible to get up there,” Maisha asked.
“For a small person, yes – and I hate to say it, but I think you’re all too tall, and I don’t know if it is safe.”
“Here you go,” Nikki said as she handed Sigi the torch. “Right – stay here, and if I call for help, go and fetch it,” she said as she climbed up over the planks that ay across the first stone step, and slowly made her way up, clambering over wood and old books that had fallen down.
“Are you all right Sigi,” Doc called up as she saw the small adult climb more of the steps.
“So far, but – oh. Oh my?”
“What is it?”
“Someone call for help?”
Doc turned to see House standing there with Pepsi.
“Yeah – can you clear some of these things away from the staircase? Sigi is half way up.”
“Another hidden room?” Winston ducked as he looked in the wardrobe and said “Are you all right up there, Lady von Manschen?”
“I am fine, Winston, but can you do as the girls ask please? The stairs are sound, just cluttered, and I don’t think you would fit up here.”
“As you wish,” he said as he started to pick up the pieces of wood, laying them carefully on the floor of the room as the girls stood to the side. As he cleared the steps, he slowly made his way up, crouching as he finally came alongside Sigi. She was looking through a grill in a door.
“Looks to me like the legends might be true,” Sigi said as she looked at House. “Do you think you can break this door down?”
Nodding, House looked at the door, and then pushed himself back against the outer wall, using his foot to kick at the lock until it cracked and the door swung inwards. Sigi walked in and shone the torch round.
Winston looked in after her, seeing the barrels as the torch light shone over them.
“Oh my,” he said quietly, “the Capone whisky?”
“Could be,” Sigi said. Going to the door, she called down “go and fetch my husband please girls.”
“What’s this,” Winston said as he walked to one side of the room, and picked up an old envelope. Opening it, he glanced down the contents, and then sat down.
“What is it?”
He handed the sheets of paper to Sigi, who sat and read them. “Oh my,” she said quietly, “oh my…”