Road Trip – part 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 11th March

1 pm

South of Savannah

 

“Here we go,” Katherine said as she put the plate of sandwiches down, “I’ll have the coffee out in a few minutes.”

 

“We seem to be making good time,” Tonia said as she grabbed one and started to eat it, “how are you two doing?”

 

“I’ll be glad when we get there,” Heather said as she stretched her arms up, “that thing is a monster to drive.”

 

“Well, we’re over two thirds of the way there,” Sandy said as Katherine passed her a mug of coffee, “Once we’re over the state border, it’s south all the way.”

 

“I’m just glad you can’t break the speed limit in that thing,” Heather said as she looked at the truck.  “I shudder to think...”

 

“Honestly lover,” Sandy said, “the fastest thing I am driving until I get home is the car in there.”

 

“So our estimated time of arrival?”

 

“Between six and seven I reckon.  We’ll park the vehicles in the compound, find our hotel, and crash out for the night.  Henri is flying down tomorrow, and will meet us there.”

 

“Good,” Heather said, “time for a leisurely lunch then...”

 

1 pm

The Refectory, St Angela’s

 

The buzz in the area was about the plans for Spring Break – or at least the first weekend, around one of the centre tables.

 

“A make-up party,” Letty said, “with a bunch of thirteen year olds?  Rather you than me, Pepsi.”

 

“It’s not as bad as it sounds – but with Katy’s gran heading south, Aunt Janice asked me to help out.”

 

"I'm surprised Katy didn't ask me to come demonstrate," Abby said as she munched her lunch.

"Now how could she have done that, Countess de Ros, when the entire continent knows you are appearing on SNL tomorrow, and hence will be rehearsing tonight." Pepsi asked.

"I can't believe they asked you to co-host and not me." Jeannie looked more than a little jealous, "and especially as you hate acting and being in front of the cameras."

"What can I say...?" Abby laughed.

Jeannie looked at her friend, and then said, "that you can remind Lorne Michaels that a certain disabled model is a huge fan."

"Honestly Jeans,” Abby said with a laugh, “I will try."

"I will be satisfied if you can get me a ticket for the actual show." Doc smiled.

"Well returning to makeup, Holly has said she will help." Pepsi ate a little of her salad and looked round.

"And we all know she does her own makeup beautifully." Becca reminded everyone.

 

“Well, I guess that is true.”

 

“So when does Boss Jo get back,” Doc asked.

 

“Later tonight – she was delayed in leaving, but she should be back by nine.”

 

 

"What do you think they are laughing about Grace?" Wilhelmina asked.

"I'm willing to bet it will be Abigail doing Saturday Night Live, co-hosting with Elly tomorrow."

"I suppose it is something of a feather in the cap for the school."

"If Abby doesn't have a fit of nerves," Grace reminded the Principal.

 

“True – I must remember to watch

 

“For once...”

 

 

“So who is going out with you to Spain Ama – I know it’s not Pepsi.”

 

“No,” Ama said as she sat down, “she is not free to do so, so I have asked Nikki.  I thought she would like the experience.”

 

“And I said yes,” Nikki said as she sat down, “I’ll suffer the football in return for the art.”

 

"Before we leave, however, we BOTH have to wish you Happy Birthday Jeans," Ama and Nikki said as they both hugged their friend.


"In many ways,” Ama said, “I'd rather be in Florida..."

"YOU LIAR," Jeannie giggled, "You know Ama that this is a dream of a lifetime for you."

"Well I'd like to be in both places," Nikki laughed, "but she needs someone keep her out of trouble."

"I know...I forgive you." Jeannie’s giggles turned to laughter, "but you both DARE not to ring on my birthday."

 

“Well, at least it is an hour closer in Dublin...”

 

6.30 pm

Sebring, FL

 

“Okay,” Sandy said as she saw the various groups of people milling round, “this is a race track, and no mistake.”

 

"I can't believe there are so many people here already," Heather shook her head, "and it's still a week to the actual race."

"Well with practice, some qualifying, chances are most of these people will be going flat out all week working hard." Sandy looked round.

"Well I have a lot of paperwork for us already," Tonia returned from the race office, "but at least I saw one friendly face, Mario is already here."

"Oh I better get the Espresso machine on then." Katherine laughed.

 

Sandy took out her cell phone and answered the incoming call, smiling as she said “Hey Princess.  You can tell Daddy and Grandma we all arrived safely.

 

“Oh you met Bev today?  Katherine told us about her last night – she sounds a lot like Katy, so I’m sure you’ll have fun.

 

“All right – have fun at Katy’s tonight, and tell them we’re here.  Talk to you tomorrow – bye...”

 

“So,” Katherine said as she looked at them, “to the hotel?”

 

“Oh yes,” Heather said, “and that early night you promised me, lover...”

 

7.45 pm

West Central Park

 

“Glad you could make it,” Katy said as Shawnee and Liz took their coats off, “come on through.”

 

As they came in, they saw Holly at the table, wearing a short-sleeved top and a pair of leggings, as she wiped Jan’s face with cotton wool pads.

 

“I have got to be out of my mind,” Jan said as the girls stood talking.

 

“I promise not to make you look bad,” Holly said with a smile.  “And all the cameras have been hidden.”

 

“And their cell phones?”

 

“No comment - Alright girls, gather round." Holly smiled as the youngsters sat on stools behind where they had Janice sitting, facing a huge mirror with her face scrubbed totally clean.


"Aunt Janice has volunteered to be our first model," Pepsi continue, "so we will demonstrate on her."

"But first though I have to say how jealous I am of Katy and Sands for getting these amazing boxes from Lerrabella." Holly added.

 

“We all are,” Laura said as Cassie giggled.

 

“Right – what shall we start with?”

 

“A drink for me?”

 

“Foundation,” Pepsi said as she took a tube out and squeezed some onto a pad, “here we go...”

 

8 pm

The de Ros Mansion

 

“Miss Joanne and Miss Carina, with Miss Judith, Madame,” Edith said as she held the door open, Diana and Juliette standing up as Cari carried her daughter in, and Jo brought the bags.

 

“You made it safely back,” Juliette said as she hugged her daughter and granddaughter.

 

“Yeah – business taken care of,” Carina said as she sat Judith in the seat, “did Pops arrive safely?”

 

“He did – he’s resting tonight before the wedding tomorrow.”

 

“Mom – I need a word,” Carina whispered into Juliette’s ear as Diana said “let me show you where you can sleep for the next few days Joanne.”

 

“What’s happened,” her mother said as Carina looked at Judith.

 

“While Penny and I were – busy tonight, Judith tried to help by preparing a drink for Aumont.”

 

“A drink?  Of what?”

 

“Her own urine – when Jo found her carrying the jug, she asked who had given Judith the idea.”

 

“And what did she sat,” Juliette said quietly.

 

Carina looked round, and said “she said Aunty Birgitte told her to do it.”

 

"I take it Aunt Birgitte is who I think it is?" Juliette asked quietly.

"It is." Carina looked skywards as Juliette shook her head.

"Does this mean she has the gene, like we feared?"

"Mom at the moment all it means is she sees ghosts, but since you do as well, HOPEFULLY, she is only taking after you."

 

“We must pray so – at so young an age,” Juliette said as Judith lay down and fell asleep.

 

8 pm

West Central Park

 

"Okay girls you can see what I’ve done can't you?" Holly said as she stepped backwards.

"I think so," Sandy looked closely at Jan's face.

"This is a good basic look for Miss Carter to wear to work," Holly continued, "she is lucky in having such a fabulous face anyway, but all I've done is basically use makeup for little highlights that just enhance what nature already gave her."

"The result is a look that is perfect for the office, and which you girls allowing for age difference might want to try for school." Pepsi continued.

"My lashes, I have difficulty making them appear anything, even with a lot of mascara," despite herself Bev was now very interested.

"I'd noticed Bev," Holly looked closely, "you know I hate to say this but a lot of the time in your life you'll have to resort to false eyelashes to frame those beautiful brown eyes."

"Really?"

"Yes, sorry, nature didn't help you out there, but that is the whole thing with makeup, it's all about rectifying, and enhancing Mother Nature's work."

"Now Laura," Pepsi said, "can you slip into the chair, I want to demonstrate what we can do to make that freckle faced celtic complexion of yours a little more even in tone."

 

“I’ll go and do some more pizzas,” Bev said as she made her way to the kitchen.  She liked these girls – they were a good bunch, but she was still a few years older than them, and somehow a beer sounded good to her right then.

 

“Nah – I’m underage, aint I,” she said to herself, putting some pizzas into the fridge and then getting a bottle of coke from the icebox.

 

She looked into the room and smiled as she saw the girls trying things out, and then turned as the timer went off.

 

“Okay, Pepperoni and Three Cheese on their way,” she said as she took them out, and used the wheel to cut them into slices.  It was the tiny, tiny creak of metal that caught her attention, as she turned and looked at the window.

 

Walking quickly over, she braced herself as she slowly moved the blinds, wondering if what she had heard was just the wind.  As she looked out, the fire escape was empty, so she went back – and then looked again.

 

“I’ll check that later,” she said to herself as she carried the pizza in...

 

"My cousins are going to be dragging me out sailing next week," Shawnee spoke.

"And they have a friend she's interested in," Liz interrupted.

"Well sort of...but what I wanted to know Holly was should I wear any makeup while we are basically messing about on boats?"

"At your age that's not easy...Hmmm," Holly played with her glasses. "Do your cousins wear makeup?"

"Yes."

"Are they older then you?"


"Yes."


"And how old is this boy?"

"He's 15," Shawnee blushed.

"Well let's put it this way, if I was you I'd wear a little, but not too much."

"Alright."

"Now if it was a party here in town that you were meeting him at, I'd advise a lot more, but going sailing, you just want to help pep up a natural sporty look."

"Like this," Pepsi ushered Shawnee into the chair and both girls started applying cosmetics.

 

“Having fun,” Katy said as she took a slice of pizza.

 

“Surprisingly, yes,” Bev said with a smile, “although I could do with a drink.”

 

“Endure – once they’ve gone I’m sure Mom will let you unwind.”

 

“So let me get this right –you all have another year, and then onto high school?”

 

“Yeah – I know Sands and I are on the list for St Angela’s and I think Shawnee is as well.  Not sure about the others yet.”

 

“Just as long as it’s not Sacred Heart?”

 

Katy looked at Bev as she sipped her drink.  “I do my homework,” she said with a smile, “and I know to avoid some of the older girls.”

 

“Don’t worry – they won’t give you away,” Katy said with a smile.

 

"Now who among you has to wear glasses?" Holly asked. "As you can see I do."

"And like Carina Huntingdown, Abigail de Ros, and several other people you might know, Holly uses some great makeup tricks to make sure that despite her glasses her face gets noticed." Pepsi smiled.

"A figure like she has helps." Katy laughed.

"Oh like YOU have to worry on that score,” Cassie laughed.

"Well sometimes it is nice when people notice your face and not just these," Holly looked downward, "so who has ideas as to what I do?"

"You use eyeliner and mascara..."

"And also eye shadow Sandy. But I try to keep from looking overdone, or trashy. Applying eye makeup is a fine art."

 

"Alright girls, it's break and pizza time." Janice called from the living room.

"Once we have had a break, we can try evening, and more adventurous looks." Holly relaxed, "but right now I could murder a 7Up."

"I know what you mean," Sandy took one last look in the mirror at her face.

"Just remember though girls, too much pizza can be bad for your skin." Janice reminded the kids.

 

“Point,” Katy said as they dug in.

 

 

 

9.30 pm

The de Ros Mansion

 

“I’m back,” Abby said as she closed the door, and put her car keys into the bowl.

 

“Good evening Miss Abigail,” Edith said as she appeared from the kitchen, “would you care for a snack?”

 

“I’m fine thanks – but if there is some cocoa going?”

 

“I was just going to make some for Miss Joanne – she is in the drawing room.”

 

“Thanks,” she said as she walked in, Jo looking up and saying “hey – is Generalissimo Francisco Franco still dead?”

 

“That is ancient,” Abby said as Jo stood up, the two old friends hugging.  “So how was the trip down?”

 

“I got diverted – but I’m here now,” Jo said with a smile.  Cari says she’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

“So what happened?”

 

“I’ll tell you tomorrow – I’m still processing a couple of things myself,” Jo said as Edith brought in two mugs of cocoa.

 

“Ah there you are dear,” Diana said as she came in, “I trust you had a good rehearsal?”

 

“If you mean I am still nervous, yes,” Abby said, “but Elly is great, and she made me feel really at ease.”

 

“So – tickets?”

 

“I got them – I’ll give Doc and Jeannie the good news in the morning.”

 

“Well they’ll have fun,” Jo said with a smile, “while Ama, Nikki and Caroline head east.”

 

“I think they’ll have more fun,” Abby said as she sat down.

 

“Sandy called – they’ve settled in and ready to get to work tomorrow,” Jo said as she looked over at Diana.

 

“Good – at least for once,” Diana said with a smile, “Sandy had no tickets.”

 

“Oh I didn’t say that – they got cited at their lunch stop today for stopping in an illegal spot...”

 

 

Saturday 12th March

First Presbyterian Church, 5th Avenue and 12th Street

11 am

 

The large stone edifice and tower rose up as the cars started to gather, the best of the fashion and finance world getting out and looking round.  It was a bright day, as Klaus and Juliette walked down the sidewalk.

 

“Three more weeks, and it will be our turn,” Klaus said as he looked at the old church.

 

“True – in a slightly bigger place,” Juliette said with a smile as Judith walked with Carina.  All three of the Huntingdown women were wearing blue dress coats, while Ingrid wore a red and blue dress, and Klaus a dark suit.

 

“Good morning, Juliette,” Luke said as they approached the front of the church.

 

“Juliette, darling,” Jack Linklater said as he looked over, “nice day for a wedding.”

 

“Oh no – what’s got him upset now,” Juliette said as she saw the photographer huffing.

 

“Jack is pouting because Pru didn’t ask him to be her bridesmaid,” Luke smiled as he poked fun at his boyfriend.

 

“Bitch!” Jack camped it up, “but after I saw the dresses…definitely NOT my colour.”

 

“Jack you get worse,” Juliette smiled.

 

“No, I just have more fun each and every day,” the photographer smiled, “what is life good for if it’s not to be enjoyed.”

 

“That is rather profound Jack…Well said.” Klaus nodded.

 

“Who is the official wedding photographer?” Ingrid asked as she held Judith’s hand, “with so many snappers here it’s hard to tell.”

 

“It’s Lance Hardy…and his getting asked is another reason Jack is pouting.”

 

“Well weddings are rather his specialty,” Carina looked round.

 

“It’s still no excuse, after all I’ve done for that girl…”

 

“Jack dear, what happened to life is to be enjoyed?” Luke reminded.

 

“On my own terms,” Jack said as Jerry and his supporters arrived, all wearing grey morning dress.

 

“So who else is coming?”

 

“Well, we made it,” Alice said as she and Duncan came over, joined by Karen and Ken.  “Caroline not coming today?”

 

“She needs to be at JFK for two,” Juliette said, “but she sent a present with me.  Diana darling.”

 

“Well, this is a good turnout,” Diana said as she arrived.

 

“So how is Abigail doing with SNL darling?” Juliette kissed Diana on the cheek.

 

“Well according to her latest message she is panicking Cherie.” Diana looked at the other guests arriving.

 

“Well I know Pru understands that being asked to host SNL is a career highlight.”

 

“She actually told me that she would have cancelled getting married today if she’d been asked darling,” Mandy waved to an acquaintance as she, Will, and Angel walked to join the crowd.

 

“Well very few models have ever been asked to do it,” Diana said as she kissed the Fitzstuarts.  “But with Elly there, she will be fine.”

 

“We saw John parking his car,” Will looked round at the crowd gathering, “he and Shirley should be here in a couple of minutes.”

 

“Adam said he was going to walk over and that he’d see me here,” Ingrid craned her neck looking for her boyfriend.

 

“Here he comes now,” Carina said as Adam walked quickly over.

 

“Sorry – I’m here now...”

 

 

 

“High Society today mingled with the world of fashion as Prudence Stratton married Wall Street broker Jerry Levin.” Jeanne rehearsed the words as she waited for her crew to set up.

 

“How comes someone called Levin is getting married in a Presbyterian church anyway?” her director asked.

 

“The Stratton’s insisted that Pru be married in church, and Jerry is rather more lapsed then really Jewish, so they worked it out.”

 

“We are going to need about five minutes more Jeanne…”

 

“Hurry up guys - we have to get across to 30 Rock remember to film the bit on Abigail remember.”

 

“We know Jeanne.”

 

“And I’d like to finish that in time to at least get to the end of Pru’s reception.”

 

 

“The cars are approaching,” Diana said, “we had better head in.”

 

The last of the guests made their way into the doors as the three stretch limousines drew up to the front steps.  From the first one-stepped Pru’s mother and her brother, her brother in the grey morning dress, her mother wearing a light blue coatdress and a black hat.

 

The four bridesmaids got out of the second limousine, wearing off the shoulder powder blue dresses with flowing skirts, and floral headdresses.  They stood; holding their posies in their lace gloved hands, as Mister Stratton got out, and then helped Prudence to get out.

 

She was wearing a white traditional wedding dress, the veil covering her head and face, the bodice as daring as she felt she could get away with, but she smiled as she took the bouquet, and walked up the stairs...

 

 

 

Noon

30 Rockefeller Plaza

 

“Okay, Rehearsal,” the director called out as Abby and Elly Mental stood by the stage.

 

“Relax, Abby,” Elly said as she saw the way the young model was shaking, “just imagine Fi Treharran’s sister is sitting at the front...”

 

“And – go.”

 

“Showtime,” Abby said as she walked slowly out, her arms raised as she said “I am the Angel of the city, and I come to bring good news.”

 

“Oh great,” Elly said as she sauntered onto the stage, “just what we wanted – blonde haired beauty to lead us on the right way.”

 

“Oh,” Abby said with a smile, “and what do you bring, my friend from the lower basement?”

 

“Oh I have the solution to all your problems,” Elly said as she walked round, while Abby stood with her hands together in prayer.  “With one move, one little move, this will remove your problems in one easy move.”

 

“I do not believe you,” Abby said with a smile, “it cannot be that simple.”

 

“Oh come on,” Elly drawled, “if my man wins, everything is over, so no more problems.”

 

“But if my woman wins, all will be sweetness and light.”

 

The two women looked at each other, before one of the cast came in and said “sorry ladies – Trump didn’t win enough, and Clinton is gonna just win.”

 

“Oh we’re not talking about the Presidential election,” Abby said with a smile.

 

“You’re not?  What are you talking about?”

 

“Who will win America’s Top Model Does American Idol...”

 

 

3 pm

The Waldorf Astoria

 

As the wedding party lined up to greet the guests, two old friends met at the far end.

 

“Something of a busman’s holiday for you Alex,” the Reverend Buchanan smiled as Nessa and her brother both shook the minister’s hand.

 

“Well my dear sister had no escort today, so what can I say?”

 

“I have to say that it’s a simpler ceremony then ours Archie.” Nessa smiled.

 

“Did you never explain Protestantism to her Alex?”

 

“I once tried,” Alex laughed.

 

“This I must say though is a pretty impressive reception.”

 

“Agreed Archie.” Alex nodded.

 

“So why could David not come,” Alex said as they went though.

 

“Work – this business with Xavier International...”

 

“Oh yes – I read of that in the papers,” Alex said as they joined Shirley and John.  “What is the latest news Shirley?”

 

“Well, we have rejected the bid, so they are trying to get individual approaches in – I fear they do not know my directors too well,” Shirley said with a sigh.

 

“Busy month for you ahead, John,” Nessa said.

 

“Indeed – but I am so looking forward to it...”

 

 

"Annie...Carina...can I present my parents," Pru made the introductions as they went through the reception line, "Mom, Dad, this is Carina Huntingdown von Furstenheim, and Anne Kelly her partner, while this delightful child is Judith."

"It's nice to meet you," Carina shook hands, "it was a lovely service."

 

“And to meet you,” Pru’s father said.  “And this must be your mother.”

 

“Thank you for inviting me,” Juliette said as they shook hands, “my fiancé Klaus von Furstenheim, and his daughter Ingrid.”

 

“Adam, you look dynamic today,” Pru said as Adam held her hands.

 

“You look truly radiant today, Pru.”

 

“Why thank you, you flatterer you...”

 

 

 

“Alan, thank you for coming today,” Jerry said as he shook Alan Kennedy’s hand, “and you look good, Sharon.  Glad the deb season is over?”

 

“Like you would not believe – thank you for allowing me to come,” Sharon said as Jerry kissed her on both cheeks, and she made her way down the line, looking at everyone and everything.

 

 

 

"May I say how lovely that dress is Mrs Stratton," Mary Thomas spoke to Pru's mother.

"Thank you, and you are? I'm sorry I am dreadful with names."

"Mom," Pru looked up, "this is Mary Thomas, the chief style guru at Complete Style magazine."

"Oh...well thank you for the compliment then," Mrs Stratton looked slightly flustered. "I always forget our Pru knows so many important people."

 

"Hi I'm Pippa Ashley, yet another fashion industry hack, and this is my daughter Poppy."

"Pip will be the next editor of the American edition of CS Dad," Pru smiled, as Jerry kissed the writer.

 

“Congratulations – so will you be using my daughter?”

 

“If the shoot is right,” Pippa said with a smile as she and Poppy went through.

 

“Wow – this is some place for a party,” Poppy said as she looked round.

 

“True – but this is where St Angela’s has their Senior Prom, so one day you’ll be stepping in here as well,” Pippa said as she walked over to join Grace at her table.

 

4 pm

JFK Airport

First Class Lounge

 

“Hello, Ama, Nikki.”

 

Maisha,” Caroline said as she stood up and hugged the young woman, “Shirley told me you would be joining us in the departure lounge before your flight.  How are you feeling about your visit?”

 

“Nervous, but it gives me time to study before they come over after the race,” Maisha said with a smile.  “You must be looking forward to your holiday as well, Ama.”

 

“Very much so,” Ama said with a smile.  “I am going for a drink – will you join me?”

 

“Leave your bag with us – we go first, but we can sit together until then,” Nikki said, Maisha putting her Jameson bag down as she and Ama walked to the drinks area.

 

“Please,” Ama whispered, “send my best wishes to those you meet during your journey.”

 

“Of course – and make sure you show the other players how good you are,” Maisha whispered as they both collected a bottle of Coca Cola, and walked back.

 

 

4 pm

30 Rockefeller Plaza

 

“This is Jeanne Beckman, reporting from the set of Saturday Night Live, where tonight a very rare and special occasion is happening – a model co-hosting the show, and that model is Abby de Ros, alongside Elly Mental.  Girls, thanks for taking time out to join us.”

 

“Thanks for dropping by to see us,” Abby said as she and Elly smiled.

 

Elly, this is the first time for you as well – so what is Lorne Michaels really like?”

 

“A big teddy bear from what I have seen of him,” Elly said with a smile, “he asked me to sign a CD.”

 

“Did he ask you to sign anything, Abby?”

 

“Well yes – but I couldn’t for legal reasons,” Abby said with a smile.

 

“So what can you tell us about tonight?  Nervous?”

 

“I’m always nervous in front of a camera,” Abby said, “so yeah.  I’m hoping my home girl here will bring me home.”

 

“Damn,” Elly said, “I need a plan B now...”

 

“Seriously,” Abby said, “the team have been more than welcoming, and very supportive.  So hopefully it will not be a total disaster tonight.”

 

“I’m sure it won’t – but good luck to both of you.”

 

“Thanks Jeanne,” Abby said as the cameras stopped rolling.

 

“Right – to the reception,” Jeanne said, “have fun next weekend Abby.”

 

“See you in Munich,” Abby said as the reporter hurried off, and then she looked at her cell phone, smiling as she did so.

 

"Who was that Stick?"

"My Mama Ginny," Abby looked up at the rapper, "She's at the reception."

"You know,” Ginny said as she sat down, “I remember you from your first day as an Angel..."

"You noticed a freshman? You a senior?"

"Hey you were so tall it was hard to miss you."

"But you were already becoming famous as Elly...Carina pointed you out especially to me."

 

“True – but I’m glad you got through those early days.  Some of those others were not the nicest to you.”

 

“All water under the bridge...  What song are you and your band doing Ginny?" Abby asked.

"It's called Pussycat...It's going to be the theme music for the new Cassandra Stone movie that comes out in the summer."

"Oh?" Abby clutched her handbag tightly. "I didn't know you'd been...?"

"Yeah she rang and asked me about six weeks ago."

"Well, I look forward to hearing it in a bit."

 

“I think they’ll like it,” Ginny said as she smiled.

 

5.30 pm

The Waldorf Astoria

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Pru’s father said as he picked up his glass, “please join me in toasting Jerry and Prudence.”

 

“Jerry and Prudence,” was the response as Jerry leaned over to kiss his new wife’s cheek, and then stood up.

 

“I just want to say a few words,” Jerry said with a smile, “first, of thanks to Pru’s father for his kind words, and for welcoming my family into his.

 

“Secondly, of thanks to the most beautiful woman in a room of beautiful women – Pru, for agreeing to be my wife.”

 

There was a round of applause at that as Pru smiled.

 

“We have something here for our mother’s as well – if the hotel would oblige?”

 

Their respective mothers looked on as two large bouquets were brought in, and handed to each of them to a round of applause.

 

“And finally, before I hand myself over for the traditional humiliation and vivisection,” Jerry said as he picked up his glass, “allow me to have my final drink, and use it to propose a toast – to the Bridesmaids.”

 

“The Bridesmaids!”

 

As Jerry sat down, the man next to him stood up and said “Afternoon everyone – I’ve been asked if I could read a few messages.

 

“First, Caroline and Ana Jameson regret they could not be here today, but wish you all the happiness in the world.

 

“Secondly – Fiona McKenzie sends her greetings, and her prayers for a long and happy marriage.

 

“And finally from this set, someone from Australia says hello and good luck.”

 

As the room applauded, Jack Yardley, Jerry’s best man, said, "before I go on to help Pru realize why she never should have married Jerry, there are thank-yous I ought to make."

"The first,” he said as he looked to the end of the table, “is to the Reverend Buchanan for conducting such a wonderful service." He paused for the applause.

"Secondly can I thank everyone here at the Waldorf Astoria for looking after us magnificently."

Again applause.

"And finally a big thank you to Mr and Mrs Stratton for inviting us all."

That remark was finished with loud applause.

"Now what should I tell Prudence about Jerry?" Jack paused again and looked at his phone, "well seeing he hasn't made a deposit in my bank account, I think I maybe should be honest."

Huge laughter broke out as Jerry shook his head.

"I met Jerry at Harvard Business School...I was a student...we think he was the janitor."

"Oh below the belt," Jerry led the laughter.

"Well whatever he was doing there, it didn't seem like he was studying.  I mean it – I asked our mutual friends, and none of us recall seeing him in lectures regularly.  Yet somehow, he managed to ace every exam, every time."

 

“Hard work and dedication,” Jerry said with a smile.

 

“Possibly – but we never found out how Jerry was at Harvard, whether he had a scholarship, or something like it, but I do know for a fact that indirectly the rest of us subsidized him via the money we lost to him playing poker."

 

“So that’s where you started,” Pru whispered into Jerry’s ear.

 

“So we graduated, and Jerry made his way to Wall Street – and somehow, he survived.  We suspect some sort of mutant power to ignore what may be going on elsewhere – or he was just single minded and focused.  We may never know.”

 

“And I am not saying,” Jerry replied with a smile.

 

"Jerry makes his living using his instincts to let him discern among all the information that is out there what is likely to sway the currency markets, and if they will go up or down. Now some of you think that he does so merely by sticking a pin in a board and doing what that says. Well if he is doing that I wish I had his luck."

Jack again paused.

"All joking asides Pru, and to reassure Mr and Mrs Stratton about their new son-in-law, Jerry is a legend on Wall Street for all the right reasons. He only really gambles with his own money, and it somehow now seems inevitable that he would meet his one and only over a stack of poker chips."

Nessa smiled as Jack said “It was last year, at a charity event on the Island, where Pru hosted a charity table with some high powered players.  I strongly suspect she did not know that night she would also meet a soul mate – but she did, and now the poker world quakes at the thought of both of them playing at the same time.”

 

"And I will tell you a simple truth.  I can honestly say he has never been happier since he met Pru.  And for that, he is grateful, we are grateful, and I ask you once again to toast the Bride and Groom – Jerry and Pru!"

 

“Jerry and Pru!”

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, please repair to the outer hall as we prepare the dance floor,” the MC said as people started to make their way out.

 

 

 

"So what do you make of Pru's family Jack?" Klaus asked as the photographer walked over.

"Eerily similar to my own," Jack said as he looked up from his drink, "a prosperous small businessman from the Mid-West, married to his high school sweetheart, not a debt in the world, pillar of both the Chamber of Commerce and his church, plays golf to relax and prides himself on above all how respectable his life has been."

“The American Dream come true, in other words,” Juliette said as Jack nodded.

 

"Only real difference in mine and Pru's background is she's from a small town in Iowa, I'm from a small town in Indiana."

 

"So you think Prudence...?"

"Came as a major shock that they have spent years coming to terms with."

"With what?" Annie joined the conversation.

"Pru's lifestyle here in New York and out in the world...Jack was saying it probably taken them a long while to adjust."

"Oh I agree with Jack."

"I just remember how long it took for my parents to accept both that I wanted to be a photographer, and particularly that I was gay. I'm not sure my Dad ever owned up to it with his friends at the country club."

 

 

 

"So my daughter has married the richest person in the room?" Mr Stratton said as he stood talking with Jerry.

"Oh I wish that were true Sir, but while I'm doing well, there is far greater wealth represented out there."

“Such as?”

 

"Well,” Jerry said as he looked round, “we have the Richmond's – it was their party we met at, and that is a New York real estate fortune. Van Roon is both property and industrial wealth, and well several others."

"Truly?" Mrs Stratton asked.

"Truly Mom." Pru answered, "and that is without even trying to consider what the von Furstenheim's wealth might truly be."

"You know I know it’s vulgar, but I suppose I had better remember all that to tell the folks back in Iowa," Mr Stratton shook his head.

"So after your honeymoon darling?"

Pru smiled at her mother, before she said "We fly to Munich for Klaus and Juliette's wedding...and that will really put our little shindig in perspective...last I heard at least 6 reigning kings will be there..."

"There will be what?" Mr Stratton for a second spluttered.

 

“Slight exaggeration,” Jerry said.  “It’s two kings, three queens, and Prince Charles...”

 

 

 

“Oh hello,” Carina said as she passed a table, “it’s Sharon isn’t it?  Sharon Kennedy?”

 

As Sharon looked up and saw Carina, with Judith holding her hand, she looked for a moment before she said “oh of course – you’re Carina Huntingdown.  We met last year when I visited my cousin.”

 

“That’s right – so is your father here?”

 

“Yeah – he and Jerry have known each other for years.  Is Abigail here?  I saw her mother.”

 

“I’m afraid not, no – she is one of the hosts of Saturday Night Live tonight, so she’s at 30 Rock all day doing rehearsals.  I saw some film of you at the New York ball – all of you looked radiant.”

 

“Well, thank you,” Sharon said with a smile as Alan came over with two glasses.  “Dad, this is Carina Huntingdown and – is this your daughter?”

 

“Yes, this is Judith.  Say hello to Sharon and Alan.”

 

“Hello,” Judith said as she waved and smiled.

 

“Well, I need to join the family.  It was nice to see you again.”

 

“And you,” Sharon said as Judith waved goodbye.  She watched them walking across the floor, wondering why she felt like she really knew them...

 

 

6 pm

Sebring

 

“Ah – somehow, I should have known that when I arrive, I would find you all sitting, drinking coffee and hosting friends.”

 

“Henri – good to see you,” Mario Andretti said as he hugged his old friend.  “How is Jeanne?”

 

“Blooming – she is travelling by train with some others in a few days,” Henri Marais said as he sat down, and accepted a cup of coffee from Katherine.  “So, we are registered?”

 

“We are indeed,” Jan said, “when does our replacement driver arrive?”

 

“Tomorrow I believe,” Henri said as he took a drink and sighed.  “Excellent as always Katherine.  The equipment?”

 

“All still in the truck,” Heather said, “and Tonia spent today marking the map from the spotter’s lair.”

 

“Good – well, it has been a long journey, so tonight will be my treat ladies.  Tomorrow, we begin work.”

 

7 pm

West Central Park

 

“All packed for tomorrow Jan?”

 

“Oh yes,” Jan said as she sat with Katy and Bev, “we’ll meet you at the airport for the 10 am flight, so we’re taping the show tonight.”

 

“Let me help you with those, Susan,” Bev said as she carried some of the dishes in, while Katy played with April.

 

“Just put them in the dishwasher,” Susan said, filling the coffee maker as Bev placed the dishes in.

 

"So Susan,” she said as she stood up, and her friend closed the door, “from my pictures what can you tell?"

"Sneakers...American mens size 11...broad fit...probably Reeboks from the sole pattern."

"Well then definitely someone out there was watching." Bev looked thoughtful.

"Yeah,” Susan said in a low voice, “it looks like Katy really does 'ave a stalker."

"I fort maybe she did, that aint a chick who panics."

"No, she's a pretty cool one is our Katy."

"Alright, so what do I do from 'ere on?"

"Stay close, and 'opefully ooerver it is won't foller us ter bloody Florida."

"Well fingers crossed."

"You dun good Bev,"

"Fanks Suze, cummin from you that means a lot."

 

“All right,” Susan said as she opened the door, “who wants coffee?”

 

 

11.20 pm

30 Rockefeller Plaza

 

“Well, she was as good as her word,” Jeannie said as she, Jo, Doc and Pepsi took their front row seats.

 

“She must be having kittens back there,” Jo said as they got settled.

 

“Okay ladies and gentlemen,” the floor manager said, “we’ll be ready to go in a few minutes, so enjoy the evening, and on behalf of the cast, thanks for coming.”

 

“So what do you think they’re going to do?”

 

“Well, we’ll find out in a few minutes,” Pepsi said as the music started to get quieter, and the floor director looked at the cameramen.

 

“Okay folks, we’re live in five... four...”

 

The lights focused on the opening set, as the band played a few chords.

 

“Miss Mental, Miss Elly Mental on stage please.”

 

As the young woman walked out, the audience applauded – only it wasn’t Elly Mental.  For one thing, she was tall and thin, but she was wearing a satin bomber jacket, tight jeans and short boots, and wore a baseball cap.

 

“Oh lord – Stick,” Jo whispered as Abby looked out, and said “Yo New York – I’m Elly Mental, and I want to tell you a few things about my city, the meanest, baddest place in our beloved United States.

 

“For one thing, a glacier started falling apart in Argentina – word is Bill de Blasio wanted some for his drinks cabinet.”

 

There was some laughter as Abby said “that’s not true – it was Kim and Kanye who wanted an ice sculpture, but the glacier was too small to fit into their house.

 

“There was a Solar Eclipse in Indonesia, a Total Eclipse of the Heart in Bonnie Tyler’s home town, and a shock when Donald Trump claimed he would stop it because it wasn’t quality!

 

“And the floods came to Louisiana again, but thank god New Orleans was saved – I play there next week, and I forgot my water wings!”

 

At this point, Elly Mental came out, dressed in a blonde wig, low cut dress and heels, coming alongside her and looking at Abby as she continued “And Hilary Clinton was in Florida – she dropped in on Jeb and thanked him for not being his brother.”

 

“Excuse me.”

 

Abby turned and looked Elly up and down before she said “And who are you meant to be?”

 

“I could ask you the same question – did we get the wrong dressing rooms?”

 

The two women looked at each other, before calling out “MICHAELS!”

 

“Live from New York - It’s Saturday Night!” one of the band then said, “with this week’s hosts, Elly Mental and Abby de Ros!”

 

 

 

Sebring

 

"Do not stay up too late watching Abigail ladies," Henri warned Heather and Sandy, "remember we have a free practice tomorrow morning, and I want to see how both the car responds, and how well you have learned the track Sandy."

"Okay," Sandy looked over her shoulder.

"Remember Jan will be here for afternoon practice, and so will Clint and most of the rest of the pit crew."

"I know," Sandy smiled as she turned her attention back to the TV.

 

New York

 

As Elly Mental prowled around the floor, the band playing behind her, she put the microphone to her mouth and started the song.

 

“When you hear them talk of crime it’s always the same,

A man does the deed and a woman plays a victim game,

But woman is strong, woman is tough,

And when a woman goes bad, bad is not enough...

 

“So if these women should ever come to call,

You better pray you live to see the dawn,

Because they want you to do whatever they want,

And man if they call, you’re the stupid...”

 

"This will be great in the movie," Jo whispered to Doc, as Elly's band pounded out the beat and she rapped about crime and female stereotyping.

"Well I think it will,” Doc whispered back, “not so sure it will appeal to someone like Juliette."

"Probably not.  Mind you, it could be worse, could be Tom Jones..."

 

 

 

 

“You know,” Kate McKinnon said as she stood on the stage, “they say your schooldays are the best days of your lives...  Of course, it is also when lifelong friendships are made – and lifelong rivalries.  And that is so true for Elly and Abby as well...”

 

"Oh no they aren't doing an Angels versus Nuns sketch?" Pepsi laughed, "I thought only people like us knew about it."

"After the basketball fight I think the world knows," Jo laughed as Abby and Elly tottered onto the set in micro skirted versions of the St Angela's uniform with high heels.

"We are young ladies from St Angela's Academy," Abby smiled at the camera.

"You aint nothing but skanky ho's," a voice spoke from offstage.

Both women looked off stage before turning back to the camera.  "We go to a school that teaches good manners and decorum," Elly spoke.

"Bullcrap," as suddenly to huge applause Lady Gaga appeared in her old Sacred Heart uniform.  “That was not the way I remember Nympho Central.”

 

“Of course,” Abby said with a smile to the camera, “for every place of class and distinction, then there must be an opposite.”

 

“I do so agree,” Lady Gaga said as she stood, her knees bent, her skirt rising up.

 

“And,” Elly said as she looked Lady Gaga up and down, “I think this is the perfect illustration of that.”

 

“Indeed.”

 

“Well,” Abby said, “whatever happens, we who have gone to St Angela’s are Friends for life.”

 

“Something for life,” Lady Gaga said, before Vanessa Bayer went by in a NYGS uniform, Leslie Jones in an Anselma outfit, and Cecily Strong in a third uniform.

 

The three of them looked at each other as the three posed, before they walked to the side, returned with a custard pie each, and pied the three interlopers in the face.

 

“On one thing we all agree however,” Lady Gaga said, “we are ladies of class and distinction.”

 

“Amen, sister,” Abby said as she and Elly linked arms with her, and they walked off the stage.

 

“Wow – nobody said you were coming,” Abby whispered once they were out of sight.

 

“My pleasure – and I like the new song Ginny.  Good luck with it.”

 

“Thanks Stef – see you around,” Elly said as they hugged, and all three walked off.

 

 

 

“Well, we’ve come to the end of the show,” Elly said, “and we hope you’ve enjoyed watching it as much as we’ve enjoyed doing it.”

 

“But we wanted to end with a bang,” Abby said, at which point there was a loud bang, and Lady Gaga came back on stage.

 

“So as native New Yorkers, we say goodnight with this,” Elly said as the band started, and she started rapping

 

“Grew up in a town that is famous as a place of movie scenes
Noise is always loud, there are sirens all around and the streets are mean
If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere, that's what they say
Seeing my face in lights or my name in marquees found down on Broadway

Even if it ain't all it seems, I got a pocketful of dreams
Baby I'm from New York!”

 

At this point, Lady Gaga started singing

 

“New York!
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothing you can't do
Now you're in New York!
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Hear it for New York, New York, New Yooork!”

 

The audience got up, and started dancing as Elly took over.

“On the avenue, there ain't never a curfew, ladies work so hard
Such a melting pot, on the corner selling rock, preachers pray to God
Hail a gypsy cab, takes me down from Harlem to the Brooklyn Bridge
Some will sleep tonight with a hunger for more than an empty fridge

I'ma make it by any means, I got a pocketful of dreams
Baby I'm from New York!”

 

She then joined Lady Gaga in singing

 

“New York!
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothing you can't do
Now you're in New York!
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Hear it for New York, New York, New Yooork!

One hand in the air for the big city
Street lights, big dreams, all looking pretty
No place in the world that can compare
Put your lighters in the air, everybody say
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

In New York!
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothing you can't do
Now you're in New York!
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let's hear it for New York, New York, New Yooork!”

 

“From New York, New York,” Abby called over the cheering and applause, “that was Saturday Night Live!  GOOD NIGHT!!”

 

“Now that was a show,” Jo said as she joined in the applause.  “We’ve all been invited backstage for the wind down...”

 

 

 

Sunday 13th March

9 am CET

Emperador Hotel, Madrid

 

“I trust the rooms are to your liking, Miss Jameson?”

 

“Oh very much so,” Caroline said as she looked round the suite.  She had booked a suite with three bedrooms and a lounge, to allow the three of them to be close to each other for the few days they would be there.

 

“Your pass keys,” the concierge said as he handed her the card wallets, “and thank you for gracing us with your presence.”

 

“Thanks for having everything ready for our arrival – I know it can be a pain when American tourists come over.”

 

“For such as you, we make the effort,” the man said as he bowed out, Ama and Nikki emerging from their rooms.

 

“This is amazing,” Nikki said, “how did you manage this Caroline?”

 

“I called in some favours – we get access to the club lounge for breakfast and the evening, but I suggest we shower and change, and then we can spend the rest of the day as tourists.”

 

“That is an idea I like Mom – I believe we visit the stadium tomorrow for training and then a match?”

 

“That’s right,” Caroline said with a smile, “so let’s enjoy today for what it is.  The sun is shining, and we have one of the most amazing cities in the world open to us.”

 

 

“So where should we go Mom?”

 

“To get changed first – nobody comes well off an overnight flight...”

 

10.30 am

Sebring

 

It may have been Sunday, but the circuit and pits were already a hive of activity with cars moving in and out.

 

"Damn these top teams are fast," Sandy stood at the pit wall and watched as cars flashed by.

"Well your own times haven't been at all bad Sandy." Henri stood beside her, "especially considering how little you know of the circuit."

"Really?"

"Yes, and remember we aren't here to compete with the big factory teams. Measure yourself against the other privately entered teams in your class, and you are doing better then even I hoped."

"I am?"

"Look at these times?" Henri passed her a clipboard.

"I'm as fast as him?" Sandy pointed at a name in amazement.

"I know...good isn't it," Heather joined the conversation from behind.

 

“So we need two more drivers...”

 

“Uncle Henri?”

 

The group turned to see a young woman standing there, with short cut black hair, wearing a pair of fawn trousers and a sweater.

 

“Antoinette my darling,” Henri said as he walked over and embraced her, “you made it.  Alexandra, Heather, allow me to introduce my niece, Antoinette Marais, our stand in driver for this week.”

 

“A pleasure,” Antoinette said as she shook Sandy’s hand.

 

“Thanks for coming – this is Heather, my partner and one of the technical team, and the smell reaching your nostrils is the morning coffee.”

 

“Come – we take a break now.  With luck, others will be here soon...”

 

11.15 am

Sebring

 

“Well, here we are,” Clint said as he pulled up, “our home for the next week.”

 

"Smell that air?" Janice got out of the car and stretched. "Isn't it wonderful?"

"Mom,” Katy said, “all I can smell is gas fumes and pollution."


"I know,” Janice said with a smile, “this is what real tracks should smell like."

"Eh?" Bev asked.

"Don't worry Bev, she isn't insane, she just gets stupid sometimes." Katy smiled.

 

“Okay – let’s see what’s going on,” Clint said as they walked into the pit area.

 

“Hey Clint,” one of the two mechanics said, “the boss is over there with Antoinette and Sandy.”

 

“We’ll go to the RV and see what Gran is up to,” Katy said as she and Bev made their way to the Winnebago.

 

“Ah Clint – welcome, welcome,” Henri said as he and Jan walked over.   “Antoinette, may I introduce the delightful Janice Carter, and our pit chief Clint Walker.  Clint, Janice, this is Antoinette, the replacement for Jeanne.”

 

“Pleasure,” Jan said as Sandy came over.

 

“Hey Jan – ready for a drive?”

 

“Let me get changed and I’m all yours...”

 

 

12.30 pm

The de Ros Mansion

 

“Thank you Edith,” Jo said as the housekeeper placed the food in front of her, and then said “good afternoon, Miss Abigail.”

 

"And what time do you call this young lady?" Diana looked up from the lunch table at her daughter, who was wearing a hoodie and jogging pants.

"I know, I know, but after the show they had a little party, so I didn't get home till 4 this morning." Abby stretched and sat down, "Edith let me in."

"I know,” Jo said, “she told me that.  I dropped the girls off and was still back by two."

“Thanks,” Abby said as Edith put her lunch in front of her.  "Did she stay up all night waiting for me?"

"I'm not sure, you should ask her." Diana smiled, "did Elly enjoy herself?"


"I think so...by the way what did you think of her song for the movie?"

"Not exactly my style,” Diana said, “but I suspect it will be a hit."

 

“Probably,” Jo said.  “Any idea if Ju saw the show?”

 

“I suspect,” Diana said quietly, “she had other things on her mind...”

 

 

1 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment

 

"Well the couple should have arrived at their honeymoon destination," Klaus said as he looked at his watch.

"Which is where?" Juliette smiled, "I never did find out."

"Russia, the Crimea, not a stone’s throw from the old Imperial Palace of Livadia, Jerry rented this dacha, engaged a local couple to look after them, it has a private beach, it's own stables, and from the photos he showed me amazing views out over the Black Sea."

"Mmmm sounds divine darling," Juliette said as she sat in Klaus' lap, "he has set the bar high then for you to beat then my love."

"What are you two doing" Ingy asked as she came in.

"Grappy was going to kiss Gramma," Judith smiled as she looked up from where she was playing on the floor.

 

“Oh, right – well, I’ll just head that way...”

 

 

2.30 pm

Sebring

 

"I'll be glad when Denice gets here tomorrow," Heather said as she looked up from her computer bank, "I know this data all means something, but she understands it better then I do."

"Well I can see one thing for sure, and that is we need to recalibrate our ideas on tire wear." Clint looked at a printout. "This compound...  When it starts to go off it goes quick."

"And we will need those shocks that Denice is bringing down with her," Rick Priest noted, "these that we thought would work just aren't up to the job over an extended period."

"Denice said they might not be."

"I know, I should have listened to her," Henri looked up from where he was sitting.  “But we have time to adapt and adjust.  So, a good day, and we have learned a lot.”

 

 

"Did you stay up and watch SNL Gran?" Katy asked as she collected a tray of coffees from the RV.

"I did, young Abigail did fine."

"Yeah, I laughed an awful lot at the schools sketch."

"So did Sandy...Alright ask the guys when they want to eat will you?"

"Okay."

 

As she carried the tray out, she smiled and said “coffee – and Gran wants to know when you want to eat.”

 

 

 

"You know in these crowds it's not going to be easy spotting a stalker Janice?" Bev spoke softly as she stood to one side with Janice.

"I know,” Jan said as she looked round, “but just hopefully whoever it is won't leave New York."

"Well,” Bev said as she looked at Katy, “we can 'ope."

"So what do you make of the track?"

"So much going on, If nuffin else I'm learnin' 'ow to make good coffee and food from your Mum."

"I know,” Jan said as Katy took out a tray of sandwiches, “she really is the most essential person on the team."

 

 

 

"You look harassed Tonia," Clint said as he passed her a BLT.

"Well yeah I'm doing double duty until Shirley's girl gets here tomorrow to help really start getting corporate hospitality started."

"Who is she sending?"

"Tanera Patel...do you know her?"

"Yes,” Clint said, “despite the name she's a fellow Los Angelino. Susan found her when she graduated from Cornell's hotel school...Nice girl, and VERY efficient."

"Well if she went to Cornell she should be perfect...anyway she can take setting up the hospitality off my plate so I can concentrate on the racing."

 

“So are you getting the lie of the land?”

 

“I think so – but still some things to clarify...

 

 

 

"So Antoinette what do you think?" Jan asked as the three drivers sat together.


"The track is a little flat and easy," the Frenchwoman said with a glint in her eye.

"You must be kidding!" Sandy nearly spilled her coffee.

"She is," Henri laughed, "track racing is not my niece’s usual thing - she prefers rally-cross, and she is amongst the world’s best women drivers at that."

"Oh I understand now," Sandy regained her cool.


"What is rally-cross?" asked Heather.

"It's a mixture of track and off road circuit racing lover."

"It can be a brutal form of motor sport, I've watched it on TV," Jan added.

"Well I enjoy the unpredictability of it," Antoinette smiled, "I like roughing it up."


"What she's not saying is that she has three times started and completed Le Mans, so she does know her way round an ordinary track as well." Henri looked proud.

 

“So this is easy in comparison?”

 

“To the Rally-Cross, oui,” Antoinette said.  “But it will still be an entertaining race.”

 

“So who comes in the next wave?”

 

Denice and Erica join us tomorrow, along with the support staff.  Then Jeanne, Annie and some others Tuesday.  For now, we go out again.”

 

 

6 pm

The de Ros Mansion

 

“Now this is strange,” Abby said, “me watching you pack for a modelling trip.”

 

“The irony is not lost on me,” Jo said as she closed her bag.  “John’s picking me up in half an hour.”

 

“Well, for once I can say – rather you than me,” Abby laughed.  “With this weekend, the wedding, and whatever happens with my applications, I need the down time.”

 

“Yeah – you’re right,” Jo said with a smile, “so I spend a few days in Dublin, then join up with Caroline for the rest of the weekend.  I’ll get some down time myself.”

 

Looking at Abby, Jo sat on the bed and said “so, I take it you and Tony will have some fun this week?”

 

“Until Thursday – then we have that shoot around the Sebring race.  The kids are going down with their dad before then, right?”

 

“Yup – they’re going to the water parks this time.”

 

“Well, say hi to everyone for me – and I’ll call with Caroline on Sunday.”

 

Monday 14th March

9 am CET

Ciudad Real Madrid

 

Ama looked round the outside of the white walled buildings, as Caroline paid the taxi driver.

 

“So this is what it is like to visit heaven,” she whispered to Nikki as the three of them looked round.

 

“Caroline – how long has it been?”

 

“Danny, you silver tongued devil – it is good to see you again,” Caroline said as she hugged the grey haired man who came over.  He wore the Real Madrid tracksuit, and smiled as he looked at the two younger girls.

 

“So this is Ama – and you must be her friend Nikki.  I’m Danny Baker – I help run La Fabrica here.”

 

“It is a real honour to meet you, Mister Baker,” Ama said as she shook his hand.

 

“Well, we have a full day for you young lady – but first, we need to get you kitted out.  Did you bring your boots?”

 

Ama held up her boot bag as Danny said “Well, right this way then.”

 

“So what will we be doing while Ama plays football,” Nikki said as they entered the building.

 

“Well, we can watch for a while, but Danny here has offered to take us on a tour of the facilities as well.”

 

“Right, Ama,” Danny said as they reached a door, where a sixteen year old girl was standing, “if you go with Julia here, she will get you kitted out.”

 

“I’m just going to the toilet,” Nikki said as she slipped into another door.

 

“Nice kid,” Danny said as he stood with Caroline, “and you look every inch the proud mother.”

 

“I am,” Caroline whispered back, “and you look every inch the successful coach.  How’s the other line of business?”

 

“I can’t complain.  You?”

 

“George sends his regards.”

 

Danny chuckled.  “How is the old reprobate?”

 

“Very happy and successful – he works for me now, and also assists Madame from time to time.”

 

“Good to see you anyway Dom.”

 

“You too Bake,” Caroline said with a smile.

 

 

9 am GMT

Dublin International Airport

 

“Well, at least I slept on the plane,” Jo said as she stretched her arms up.

 

"It's been a long while since I was here last." Alice looked round as they lined up to go through Immigration, "they've made a few changes."

"Well it's all brand new to me," Jo said as she looked around.  She was trying to take it all in, the sights, the smells...


"Did you really not expect Curt to be at the airport before we flew out?"

"No," Jo grinned, "I really thought we had said byes back at school."

"He really is a good one you know Jo."

"I know."

 

“You’re up,” Alice said as she reached the front of the queue, and approached the uniformed woman at the desk.

 

“Good morning,” Jo said as she handed her passport and paperwork over, the Immigration officer looking at the papers, and then at Jo.

 

“The purpose of your visit, Miss Smith?”

 

“I’m here for a modelling shoot, and hopefully some down time as well.”

 

“I see – are you travelling alone?”

 

“With a friend,” Jo said as the officer looked at her more closely.

 

“Oh yes – I’ve seen your face on posters,” she eventually said as she stamped the papers and her passport, “enjoy your stay Miss Smith.”

 

“Thank you,” Jo said as she made her way past, waiting for Alice before they went to collect their bags.

 

As they came through the arrival gates, Alice said, “now, there should be a taxi rank over there...”

 

“Excuse me.”

 

“Can I help you,” Jo said as she and Alice turned round.

"Would you be Mrs MacKinnon, and Miss Smith?" a tall, very thin, young man, with blonde hair and wire rimmed glasses asked.

"We would, and you are?" Alice answered.

"I'm John Gaunt,” the young man said, “Mother asked me to collect you and take you to our house."

"But I booked a hotel..."

"Mother insisted that you are staying with us,” John said, “and Aunt Eve said if you said no to tell you old friend or not she would never speak to you again."

"That sounds like Eve," Jo smiled.

"Well alright," Alice smiled as well, "but I hate imposing on Tom and Paula."

"Oh it's not them you should be apologising to,” John said with a smile, “she's had my sisters working all weekend making sure the house looks perfect for your arrival."

"Oh dear,” Alice giggled, “I had better apologize hadn't I."

"Lord Eventon Sir, I have the car outside," a uniformed man with a strong Irish accent spoke.

"Lord Eventon?" Jo inquired.

"For my sins I have the courtesy title of Marquess of Eventon, as Dad's heir."

"Oh like Jack Fitzstuart is Viscount Millingham?"

"Exactly.  This way, if you please?”

 

Alice and Jo followed them to a large black limousine, the driver putting their luggage on the boot as they headed into the back.  A few minutes later, they were heading south from the airport along the M50.

 

“So you drive on the left as well?”

 

“Indeed, Miss Smith...”

 

“Please – call me Jo.”

 

“Well, Jo, when you consider Northern Ireland is a separate country, it does make sense.”

 

“It’s a very rural setting,” Jo said as she looked at the fields they were passing.

 

“Well, Ireland is very much still an agricultural country,” Alice said, “perfect for our purposes.”

 

Suddenly, the road entered a long tunnel.

 

“Oh lord – I left Boston to avoid these,” Alice laughed.

 

“Sorry – a brilliant idea of our government.  It won’t be for too long,” John said.

 

Eventually, the road came back into the open air, as both Alice and Jo looked round the streets.

 

“That’s the Liffey,” John said as the car turned right, “and the large building there in the distance is the Guinness brewery.”

 

“I’m sure Caroline will head there,” Alice said with a smile.

 

"And that is Lardarn House, our ancestral pile here in Dublin," John pointed to the imposing building with the Corinthian colonnade on the front.

"You don't own it anymore?"

"No let's just say my Great Grandfather reached an understanding with the government a long while back now. It's nowadays one of the main buildings for the Civil Service here."

"Understanding?" Jo queried.

"You don't know the complexities of Irish history Miss Smith?"

"It's Jo, and no I've not really read any Irish history."

"Well you might be better off for the ignorance," John grinned as they crossed the river.

 

10 am local time

The Training Camp for the Sisters of Maisha

The South Africa/Botswana Border

 

“When Little Mother told me you were coming, I didn’t know what to expect,” Sunburst McRae said as they passed the two women, the older woman waving as she did so.

 

“I am just a sister, as you are,” Maisha said as she looked out of the window of the jeep.

 

“Ah ye’re more than that,” Poison said with a smile, and then she looked again at the younger woman.

 

"You look a long way away?" Sunburst spoke as she pulled the jeep up at the compound.

"Not really...It's just a million thoughts rushing into my head." Maisha hopped out of the vehicle and retrieved her kitbag.

"I get those thoughts whenever I get back home as well," the multi-decorated Australian smiled as she too hopped out as best she could on her prosthetic leg.

 

As she bent down and felt the warm ground, it felt strange to run her hand again through the dry red soil of Africa. In a way Maisha felt like she had returned home, except nowadays Africa was only part of her home, she had become a citizen of the world in the time since she had been kidnapped.

 

“Well I see you found our guest,” she heard a voice that was familiar to her say, and as she turned round she saw two women approaching.  One was the same height and build, while the other woman was blonde, fair skinned and taller.

 

“I sure did,” Sunburst said with a smile, “I believe you know Liz already, but this is Helga – she heads up the camp here.”

 

“It is an honour to welcome you,” Helga said as she shook Maisha’s hand.  “You come on a good day – our latest batch of trainees have completed their assignment, and someone wishes to ask if you will lead them in taking the oath.”

 

“I would be honoured,” Maisha said with a smile.

 

“Come – we have some coffee ready, and then we will show you round.”

 

As they made their way over, some of the girls who were working looked up from their chores, watching as Maisha looked around, and talking to each other in low whispers.

10.30 am GMT

Kildare Street

Dublin

 

“Here we are,” John said as the car stopped outside the old townhouse, holding the door for Alice and Jo to get out as the front door opened.  They saw Paula Lardarn come out, smiling as they walked up the stairs.

 

"Welcome Alice...Welcome Joanne," she said as she kissed her two guests on the cheek.

"It's lovely to be here Paula," Alice replied.

"Oh Paddy take the bags upstairs please," Paula spoke to the driver.

"It's nice to see you both again," Tom Lardarn said as he kissed the visitors.

"Thank you." Jo replied.

"The top floor Your Grace?"

"Yes Paddy," Paula answered the driver. "These by the way are my girls, Eve is the tall one, and Aileen is the middle one, and this is my little Clodagh," she hugged the smallest girl who looked about 10 years old.

"And you met John of course," Tom ushered them in the door, "I apologise for not coming myself, but I had an early meeting I'm afraid."

 

“Not a problem, Tom,” Alice said, “your son was very gracious.”

 

“Well, come in, come in,” Paula said as she opened the door to the front room, “and we’ll all have some tea.”

 

"So John, how old are you?" Jo asked as she sat down, "if I'm not being rude?"

"I'm 17 next month..."

"He's in his first year of taking his A levels at Eton," Eve explained. "I'm only just 16 and am doing my GCSE's at Benenden, Aileen is 14 and she's at Benenden as well, whilst Clodagh is 10 and she goes to a day school here in Dublin still."

"Well I'm in my first year at Hobart/William Smith in upstate New York,” Jo said as Paula passed her a cup of tea, “and before that I was at school in New York City."

"A boarding school?" Clodagh asked in a sweet little voice.

"No a day school called St Angela's."

"I've heard of it." John said as he served everyone else drinks.

"Well it is slightly...notorious," Jo grinned.

"And you are a model as well as a student?" Aileen asked, her clear light blue eyes looking through her glasses.

"Yes, it helps pay my bills."

 

“Is it true you know Abby de Ros?”

 

“Yes, we’re very good friends.”

 

“We saw her on the film of the Opernball,” Eve said, “Aunt Eve and Mamma wanted me to watch in case I was to do it.”

 

“She really enjoyed it – and Alice designed an amazing gown for her.”

 

“And talking of gowns...”

 

“No comment,” Alice said as Jo giggled.

 

“This is wonderful – especially after an overnight flight.”

 

"I agree Jo - I'd forgotten how good tea can be on this side of the pond Paula." Alice finished sipping from her cup.

"Well not quite as good as the coffee used to be in Paris while we were all young."

"Hey only if we got to be shown into the best places by either Eve, or Grace, the rest of us though were all struggling young models."

"Oh don't remind me," Paula laughed, "Eve's talk in New York last year brought back so many memories."

 

“You were a model as well?”

 

"I wasn't a well-known model like Alice Jo,” Paula said, “but I did work for 5 or 6 years."

"She modelled under the name Paula Priest." Alice said as she took some notes from her bag.

"I'm sort,” Jo said, “I don't really know much about Industry history, though I'm sure Jeannie knew exactly what you'd done."

"She did actually," Paula let a little smile escape, “my maiden surname was actually Addison-Priest."

"She was another double-barrelled aristocrat like Grace."

Paula nodded as she said "I met all the others working in Paris."

"Tell me Paula,” Jo said, “are even half the stories they all tell about Paris true?"

"Oh I long since was sworn to silence," Paula broke into a broad smile this time as she exchanged glances with Alice.

"And by the way Greyhound, you should call her Sister Virtue..."

"I should?"

 

“Indeed – a name I have not heard in a long time,” Paula said, “but like I said, not in Eve’s class.”

 

"Eve was already famous when I was born," Tom crossed his legs, "I was a distinct shock to my parents when I came along."

"Tom had two older brothers, but they both..." Paula's voice trailed off.

"You can say it darling," Tom patted her leg. "Johnnie died of a heroin overdose, and Martin committed suicide."

"Oh dear Lord, now that Eve never told me..." Alice looked uncomfortable.

"So I inherited as the baby brother when Father died."

"I have met your sister Cressida, I'm surprised she never mentioned it," Alice tried to make small talk on the horrid subject.

"Well Cress, rather pretends it never happened." Tom fidgeted.

"Given the Gaunt history, some people say all the tragedies have been Erin's revenge." Paula spoke softly.

 

 

11 am CET

Ciudad Real Madrid

 

Nikki and Caroline watched from the sidelines as Ama practised with the woman’s team, and then broke from the drills as they took on some water.

 

“Well, she seems to be enjoying herself,” Nikki said with a smile.

 

“Indeed,” Caroline said as Danny came over.

 

“She is good,” he said with a smile, “they’re going to play a game after this, but the coach is very impressed.  She said she plays with Jess Mercurio?”

 

“That’s right – you have heard of her?”

 

“Oh yes – Atletico were damned lucky to have her,” Danny said with a smile.  “So, now that you have seen the place, what do you think?”

 

“Interesting,” Nikki said, “but more Ama’s field than mine.”

 

“Hey, to each their own,” Caroline said, “once Ama is finished here, we’ll head for the Prado and let you indulge a little...”

 

“Oh I am sure Ama wants to see the paintings as well,” Nikki said as Ama lined up with the rest of her team, and the whistle was blown.

 

11.30 am Local Time

The Training Camp

 

“So let me see if I have this correct,” Maisha said, “you are known as Teacher, as you lead the training, you are Poison...”

 

“A name these yabbos need to seriously think of changing at some point,” Sunburst laughed.

 

“And you Liz?”

 

“I have no name like that – they call me Liz.  But Charlotte is Little Mother, and...”

 

“Ah – I apologise, I did not know we had a visitor.”

 

“That is all right Marigold – come.  Marigold is Little Teacher – she joined us after we liberated the mine, and now acts as a mentor for the younger sisters.  Marigold – meet Maisha.”

 

The small Mogolan woman looked at Maisha, then took her hands and said “thank you.”

 

“No – thank you.  Leader and the others spoke of your bravery, and I greet you as a fellow sister.”

 

“Do the other sisters know?”

 

“They will later,” Liz said, “for now, keep it a secret.”

 

1pm GMT

Kildare Street, Dublin

 

“Mrs Eve and Mister Stephen Stone,” the maid said as Alice and Jo stood up.

 

“Well, this is a nice sight,” Alice said as she kissed Eve, and then Eve kissed Jo.

 

“We thought we would join you for lunch,” Stephen said as he sat slowly down.

 

"So how are you settling in at my annoying baby brothers?" Eve asked.

"He was telling us about your brothers...all these years I've known you I never knew Eve."

"She sort of dislikes even thinking of it," Stephen nodded.

 

“Some hurts never quiet heal,” Eve said quietly as they sat down.

 

“Well, I was sorry to hear,” Jo said.  “Your nephew and nieces are nice.”

 

“Salt of the earth, all of them,” Stephen said as the maid came in, and said “Lady Ordford.”

 

“Bats, Greyhound, darlings,” Mandy said as she came in, removing her gloves and coat and handing them to the maid, “and Eve as well.  Well met by the waterside.”

 

“Hey Tufty,” Alice said with a smile, “did you bring them?”

 

“I have them stored at the hotel, ready for you to see tomorrow,” Mandy said, “and Will insists we buy you all dinner tonight.”

 

“Was that a dinner invite,” Tom said as he came in with Paula.  “Mandy, good to see you – and my darling sister as well.”

 

“Tom me boy,” Stephen said as they shook hands, “we gratefully accept for all of us.”

 

“Looks like we are going out for dinner,” Paula said with a smile.  “You’d better tell John he is in charge tonight.”

 

1 pm Local Time

The Training Compound

 

It was the quietest place in the compound – a fenced off area, with neat rows of markers, on each marker a name, and their ages.  Small flowers were laid in front of each marker, and there was an air of calm like that you would find in a church or a cathedral.

 

"It's so sad, but in a way I know they are proud of the sacrifice they made." Maisha stood head bowed in the little cemetery of the compound.

"We bring our dead home." Helga wept a little tear as she read the grave markers.  “All are honoured, all will be remembered.”


Maisha bent down to look at one of the names.  "You knew them all I suppose Helga?"

"I knew virtually all of them,” she said quietly, “but a couple pre-date even me joining the sisterhood."

"Who lays the flowers?"

"Xan...where he finds them I don't know, but somehow every few days he places fresh ones on the graves."

"My father always said that his people are the true owners of the secrets of this land. They were here before all the other people, they will be here when we are gone."

"That might just be true Maisha," Sunburst said as she walked over slowly.  Maisha read another marker, and looked up.

"This girl who died in Mogola, she was only 13?"

"Yeah,” Sunburst said, “she told us she was older, it was only after her death we found her papers and we found out."

"Sleep well Elizabeth," Maisha whispered as she reached down and laid a hand on the grave.

 

 

8 am

Sebring

 

“Now that is the way to start the day,” Jan said as she wiped her chin, “bacon sandwiches and hot coffee.”

 

“I’ll give you a hand with the washing up,” Bev said as she and Katy collected the plates and mugs on a tray.  She had borrowed one of Katie’s set of overalls for the day, as she looked at her charge walking round.

 

"So today we really start to get serious about our race set-up," Henri spoke as everyone crowded round the table.


"Denice and that crate of more parts we ordered should be here by late morning," Clint said as he wiped an already greasy hand on his overalls.

"Yes, we thought we'd anticipated everything, but once again experience has proved us fools." Henri sipped his coffee. "Ladies did you read that analysis of practice yesterday and my suggestions?"

"I did for one," Jan looked up, "It was like a teacher giving you crib notes before an exam."

"Well," Henri smiled, "I do know a bit about how to drive this circuit fast."

"I'm looking forward to trying out your suggestions Henri." Sandy spoke.

"Well later this morning, but for now let's just give the boys a chance to work, and we will take some mopeds out ladies and go round the course so I can show you what I say in my notes on the ground so to speak."

"Sounds like a plan to me." Jan finished her coffee.

 

“Excuse me.”

 

The group turned to see a smartly dressed young woman, looking round the pit room.  She had a slipcase under her arm, but her style of dress certainly did not fit.

 

“I’m looking for Tonia Razinski – I’m Tanera Patel, from Xavier International?”

 

“Great – you made it,” Tonia said as she came over, “come with me, I’ll get you up to speed and introduce you to the right people.”

 

9 am

The Huntingdown Apartment

 

“CARINA!”

 

“I know, I know...  Thanks for the coffee Mom...  You behave for Momma Annie little lady," Carina grabbed a slice of toast, pulled her coat on and rushed for the door.

"Bye Mommy," Juliette waved.

"Where is she going in such a hurry?" Klaus asked.

"She has a glasses commercial shoot, and she's already late," Annie said as she fed Judith.

"Talking of late, I should be in my office," Juliette looked at her watch.  “I’ll see you all later.”

 

“Have a good day,” Klaus said as he kissed Juliette, watching her leave the house before he put on his own jacket.

 

“I will see you later – I need to confirm something,” he said as he left, Annie smiling at Judith.

 

“There now – do you want a drink?”

 

“Yes please, Momma,” Judith said, and then as she turned her back Judith said “I can’t wait to meet my baby brother and sister.”

 

Annie slowly turned and looked at Judith, who grinned as she looked at Annie.

 

4 pm GMT

Dublin

 

 

“So,” Alice said as she sat back, “plans for tomorrow?”

 

"We will drive up to Lardarn in the morning Bats darling so we can all scout locations in and around Lardarn itself and round Eventon." Mandy drawled.

"Well John and Eve will drive up with you," Tom spoke, "they know most of the area just like the back of their hands."

"Good guides are always appreciated." Alice smiled.

"If we take father’s Range Rover, we can all crowd in," Eve suggested.

"That sounds like a plan." Alice agreed.

"So what exactly do you have in mind?" John asked.

"Locations that suggest if people buy these woollens, that they might actually be someone who lives in the picturesque and quaint old world John." Alice spoke again, "At the prices I charge we pitch to a certain snob appeal."

"I understand," the boy smiled.

"Also though darling, there is an inherent message that if they wear Fitzstuart Woollens they can look as good as Jo does."

"Well that according to my Sociology teacher is what all advertising does," Eve answered. "It's why you rarely see 'ordinary' looking people in advertising."

"And that is VERY true, Evie me darlin'" Stephen smiled at his niece.

 

“Excuse me,” Jo said, “ordinary sister of nanny sitting here.  I am not in the same league as any of you.”

 

“As Eve said,” Stephen said, “very rarely – you are exception, my dear.”

 

“Now I know how Mary Clarke feels at time,” Jo said as she shook her head.”

 

"So when will Kevin need to get here?" Stephen asked.


"I don't know...after breakfast I guess," Alice answered.

"Well Lardarn is about 80 minutes northwest of here," Paula poured second cups.

"So if we leave at Nine?" Jo suggested.

"We should be good darlings," Mandy nodded.

"It was good of you to get Kevin Ryan to shoot this for us Stephen," Alice took a fresh cup.

"Well I'd have dun it myself, but I really think young Kevin's career needs the boost."

"His work looked great to me." Jo took her cup.

"Yes he's talented, but Ireland is a small market, if he's to get the recognition he deserves he needs go international." Eve Stone spoke.

 

11 am

Sebring

 

“Hey – someone order a crate of parts.”

 

Heather smiled as Denise and Erica came into the pit area, two men wheeling a crate in behind them.

 

“Ah – excellent,” Clint said as he came over, “and you’re just in time for the next round of coffee.  Katy!”

 

“Hey Erica,” Katy said as she looked out from the Winnebago, “want to avoid getting bored while your mom talks business?”

 

“Why not – she’s into the groove already,” Erica said with a grin as she walked in.

 

“Bev, this is Erica – her mom’s one of the pit crew and helps Heather.  Erica, my cousin Bev.”

 

“Hey there,” Bev said as Katherine looked out.  “Oh hello Erica – I see you came dressed for the office.”

 

“At least it’s not the boiler suit,” she said as she looked at her jumper and jeans.

 

“Well, you can help the girls with the coffees, and then get a drink yourself...”

 

“Perfect – hopefully these will be better,” Clint said as he and Denice unpacked the new shocks, the other members of the pit crew taking them to fit in the car.

 

“Right – what have I missed?”

 

“Henri took the girls out on the track on mopeds,” Clint said as Katy and Erica brought the coffees out, “and should be in soon.  Apart from that – you were right about the shocks, but the tyre wear has some cause for concern.”

 

“Let’s see the readouts,” Erica said as she looked over Heather’s shoulder.

 

 

6 pm Local Time

The Training Compound

 

As the sisters gathered in the dining area, they saw a stranger standing with Poison, handing out the food as they passed by, while Liz stood to the side with Teacher.

As they took their seats, they talked with each other, while Liz turned to see Leader come in with Marigold.

 

“Is that...”

 

Marigold nodded as the four of them went forward, taking their meal and thanking the servers before they took their seats, Poison and Maisha coming to join them.

 

“They look as if they have had a good day,” Maisha said as the chatter grew.

 

“Indeed,” Leader said quietly, “I take it they do not know?”

 

“No,” Helga said, “I thought we’d tell them at the ceremony...”

 

7 pm CET

The Bernabeu

 

“There’s a large crowd here,” Nikki said as she and Ama sat in their seats.

 

“Well, the women’s team are very popular,” Caroline said, “and especially when they play Jess’s old team.”

 

“This should be good,” Ama said as she looked at her program, “and it was good of your friend to get us these seats Mom.”

 

10 pm Local Time

The Training Compound

 

As they sat round the fire, Sunburst and Liz sat either side of Maisha, watching as the group of women stood in the inner circle.

 

“So this is the ceremony I have heard so much of,” she whispered as they stood in the firelight.

 

“Indeed,” Liz said as Helga came through the circle of women sitting, and then moved to the fire, walking slowly round the circle and looking at each of the women in turn.

 

“All of you,” she eventually said as she walked round the group, “have learned from us, shared with us, and now you are ready to carry on the fight for us.  I could not be prouder of you – all of you – and of what you have become.  The time has now come for you to speak the oath, as all before you have done, and all who come after you will do.  As I have done, and as the first did.

 

“But tonight, sisters,” she said as she looked around the group, “tonight is a different and very special night.  I will not be the only one to ask you to take the oath, sisters – I wish to invite a guest who has helped here and served you today to join me.

 

Maisha.”

 

As she stood up and walked into the inner circle, there was a low mutter, which grew into a song, as the entire group started to sing the Song of Maisha.  Maisha heard, understood, and nodded as a tear appeared in her eye.

 

As the singing stopped, she said out loud “my sisters, I greet you tonight on behalf of myself and of The Heart, who sends her greetings to you as well.  It has been an honour and a pleasure to be with you and share with you, but tonight, I am one of you, and wish to join with you in welcoming these, your friends, fully into the sisterhood.  Teacher, you have the honour.”

 

Helga nodded as she said “When she addressed those who were freed, the Strength,” as she looked at Maisha, “told them that they would be supported by the women who freed them, and they should trust them.  Do you now swear to be supported by your sisters, to support each other, and to trust them and each other?”

 

“We do so swear,” the group said as one.

 

“She told them that the women who had freed her and The Heart from their bondage did this from a sense of natural justice, so do you now swear to show that same sense of natural justice?”

 

“We do so swear.”

 

“She also told them that she had slain the tyrant who had caused her to suffer, and told them to tell their daughters and their daughters’ daughters.  So do you swear to spread that message to your daughters, and their daughters and all those who need to hear?”

 

“We do so swear.”

 

Helga nodded to Maisha as she said “Will you swear to seek out those who will threaten the innocents, and bring them to the same justice the Strength demonstrated?”

 

“We do so swear.”

 

“And to you who watch,” she said as she looked outside the inner circle, “will you also follow in their footsteps?”

 

“WE WILL” the others called out together.

 

“Then,” Helga said, “in the name of The Heart and The Strength, I charge you to go forth, fight alongside your fellow sisters, and protect those who cannot fight back.  May you know success, and may you know peace as you do your work.”

 

There was a cheer as Maisha went round and hugged each one, before she returned to where Liz and Sunburst were sitting.

 

“You return now to your homes, and we charge you to remain vigilant and ready.  When we meet, greet each other in the name of the Sisterhood, and may the Goddess grant you victory in all you do.”

 

“And with that,” Sunburst said as she slowly stood up, “we party!”

 

 

7 pm

Xavier International

 

It was as she passed the door to Susan’s office that Shirley noticed the light on, and knocked before she opened it.

 

“You are working late Susan,” Madame said as she poked her head round the door.

 

“Well,” Susan said as she looked up, “with Clint in Florida, and with April evidently having the time of her life playing with Judith, I thought I’d make sure that everything was in place vis-à-vis all the invitations and the acceptances for our hospitality splurge at Sebring.”

 

Nodding, Shirley came in and closed the office door.  “Did Tanera arrive safely?”

 

“She did,” Susan said with a smile, “and she called to say she’s happy with the suite we have been given.”

 

“Well, just don’t work too late, and remember without Clint being there that you have to eat…”

 

“Oh don’t worry, he left me a weeks worth of pre-cooked meals in the freezer,” Susan laughed.

 

“Of course he did,” Shirley shook her head, “Clint is a treasure you know.”

 

“Yeah, I’m pretty lucky.”

 

“You are Susan.” Madame slipped into a chair, “so any last minute turn-downs?”

 

“No - pretty much everyone we asked along is coming.”

 

“Including the AMININCO people?”

 

“Yes and the Kennedy’s as well.”

 

“Good.  Such occasions provide the chance for both sides to meet on a social level.”

 

“Tom Morse is bringing family, and a couple of congressional colleagues who are racing fans.”

 

“Alright, we can never know enough politicians.”

 

“That was my thought Madame.”

 

“Anyone else we need provide extra attention to?”

 

“I’m cultivating Anderson Lowe…”

 

“…the art collector?” Shirley interrupted.

 

“Indeed.  He’s setting up a private museum to house all that modern art he owns and is shopping for insurance, we are easily talking a seven figure premium if we can get the work.”

 

“Well then,” Shirley said, “I ought to meet him as well I suppose.”

 

“I’m launching an all out charm offensive, but a warning, Nessa Richmond says he can be a bit prickly.”

 

“Okay then we wear kid gloves.”

 

“So, a true working weekend.  The announcement for Lerrabella?”

 

Consulting her diary, Susan said “3 o’clock on Friday.  We are timed to arrive at noon.”

 

“Well, I think everything is in place – good job as always Susan.”

 

“Thank you Madame.”

 

“Oh,” Shirley said as she stood up, “on the subject of Katy?”

 

“She does appear to have an unwanted fan – I have people going over CCTV of the apartment block, and recent places Katy was in public.”

 

“Bev is sticking close to her?”

 

“As close as she can.”

 

Nodding, Shirley stood up and walked to the office door.  “Forgive me – I want to be home with John tonight.  Maisha will call later.”

 

Tuesday 15th March

9.30 am GMT

Ireland

 

The early spring sun was shining down on the SUV as it was driven along the country roads.

 

“So does the Gaunt family trace itself from John of Gaunt?” asked Jo as she looked out of the window.

 

“Oh God no,” Eve smiled, “we were already Gaunt’s a century before him.”

 

“Okay, so how did the family become Gaunt?”

 

“Our ancestor was called Pierre le Gant,” John said, “which translated means Peter the Glove.”

 

“The Glove?”

 

“It was said it was his velvet glove that hid the iron fist of King Henry II,” John laughed as he played with his glasses, “though we personally think it was a pun because he seems to have wielded an iron gauntlet to pretty good effect himself.”

 

“Anyway,” Eve said as she drove along, “on Henry’s death, he and a band of followers, very much out of favour with Richard the Lionheart moved to Ireland to try their luck so to speak.”

 

“And he and his knights carved out what was effectively a kingdom for themselves.”

 

“Meaning we Gaunt’s have been here ever since.” Eve looked out the window. “Some even said that this land standing between Leinster, Ulster, and Connacht, once almost constituted a fifth Irish province just called Gauntland.”

 

“Wow!” the exclamation escaped Jo’s lips.

 

“I remember when Eve had her ‘night’ in New York, she talked about ancestors of yours called John the Slasher, Richard the Disembowler and Henry Blacktooth.” Alice joined the chat from where she and Kevin were sitting.

 

“Oh she only mentioned the ones who were nice chaps then?” John smiled.

 

“Nice…no seriously, were they as bad as their nicknames suggest.”

 

“Actually,” Eve spoke, “my brother is right…Those are the ‘Nice’ ones, there were a lot of early Gaunt’s worse then them.”

 

“Honestly?” asked Jo.

 

“Yes honestly,” John again smiled, “we do seem to have been over-blessed with particularly sadistic forefathers.”

 

“And not just men,” Eve took a turn smiling, “just ask people out this way about ‘Black Betty’. She was an Eighteenth Century wife of a Gaunt lordling from down towards Athlone.”

 

“And how was she bad?”

 

“She seems to have taken particular pleasure in torturing and killing local villagers. We’ve always called her Elizabeth the Hungarian within the family, since she was born a Hungarian countess.”

 

“Oh dear Goddess,” Jo thought to herself, “another relative of Cari’s?”

 

“So if you are of French descent, when did you convert?”

 

 "John the Third Earl of Lardarn,” Eve said, “sniffed the way the winds were blowing, and simply ordered that all Gaunt's convert to the Protestant faith at the time of Cromwell. Since then we have virtually all stayed within the Church of Ireland."

"He had that degree of power John?" Alice asked.

"Oh yes, as I said before THE Gaunt, the head of the family, ruled like a king, especially over his own extended family."

"You know the more I hear, the more I need read up on all this when I get back to college." Jo breathed the clean Irish country air.

 

“Well, we are now at the palace,” John said as they pulled up outside a large country house.  “Welcome to Lardarn Hall.”

 

“Or, as we like to call it, home,” Eve said as they opened the doors.

 

"This house is early 18th century," John stretched his lanky frame as they got out of the car.  In the distance, they could see a ruined castle standing on a hill.”

 

"That is the original castle away there,” Eve said, “over on top of what is called 'An cnoc Eagla'."

 

"That sounds a pretty name," Alice looked at the huge ruin away in the distance,

"What does it mean?"

 

"It means the 'Hill of Fear', Alice." Eve stretched as well.

 

“Nice place, atmospheric,” Kevin said as a second car pulled up, and Mandy and Will got out.

 

“Mrs Brown, the housekeeper,” John said as a grey haired woman in a grey coat dress came out, walking two Irish Wolfhounds with her.

 

“Welcome back both of ye,” she said as she came alongside John.

 

“Mrs Brown, this is Joanne Smith, one of the models who will be doing the shoot this weekend; Alice MacKinnon of APCO; and Lord and Lady Ordford.”

 

“Welcome, all o ye,” she said, “we weren’t expecting you before Friday.”

 

“That’s fine,” Eve said, “we’re just here to visit a few places, and scout some of the locations we will use.  Of course, if a late lunch could be arranged...”

 

“Would about three be fine?”

 

“Perfect, Mrs Brown,” John said.  “Right, Kevin – where do you want to start?”

 

“With your permission, we will start here...”

 

 

 

 

 

11.30 am GMT

Edenton

 

The locals nodded as Tom and Eve walked down the old high street, stopping at one of the small churches as Kevin took a few shots of Jo standing there.

 

“What’s that hill up there,” he said as he looked at a green hill rising at the back of the church, an old tree growing at the top.

 

“Ah,” John said as he took off his glasses, “that, my friends, is not the greatest place for a Gaunt to remember.  Around here, they call that tree The Hanging Tree.”

 

“The Hanging Tree?  Now why would they... Oh,” Mandy said quietly as she realized.

 

“Exactly,” Eve said, “apparently our ancestors used to dispense summary justice there, if a tenant fell out of line.  There’s an Irish Lament about it.”  She closed her eyes and started to sing

 

Upon the green clad hill you’ll find the hanging tree
The place my love and I swore our love was true
But now I stand and mourn the passing of my love

Who gave his life to make our dreams come true

He would not let those in need lack for food
And so he stole from those who would not give
Of their own lives the spoils of what they rook from us
For that he died here on the hanging tree

But one day soon we will rise up and show the lords
Who took his life the price they owe so true

And on that day I will plant sweet violets here
And no more will we mourn at the hanging tree
No more we mourn around the hanging tree

 

“That is beautiful,” Alice said, “but so sad...”

 

“I know Mum and Dad never go up there,” John said, “but I’ve never asked why.”

 

Kevin took a few photos of the tree, and then said “Right – can we visit the ruins of Lardarn Castle now?”

 

7.40 am

Outside Jasop, GA

The Silver Meteor

 

“Good morning,” Pussy said as she joined Ken and Karen Boyd in the dining car, “and did you sleep well?”

 

“Not really,” Ken said, “these sleeper cars are a bit cramped for me, so I ended up sleeping in the bar.  Karen got a good sleep though.  What about the others?”

 

“Frieda could sleep through a hurricane,” Pussy said as she sat down, her red hair falling in unruly waves over her jumper.  “Was this the only way of doing it?”

 

“All three of them are too far along to risk flying this distance,” Karen said, “but if you’re going to do it, do it in style.”

 

“True – the view from the windows as we ate last night...”

 

“Oh my BACK!”

 

“And a good morning to both of you,” Karen said with a smile as Jeanne and Annie came in, sitting down and sighing as the waiter brought them some coffee.

 

“Where are we,” Jeanne said as she looked outside.

 

“Near the Georgia Florida border,” Ken said as Frieda completed the party.  “We are due to arrive at about 2.50.”

 

“Thank god for Game of Thrones boxsets,” Annie said as she took a drink.  “Remind me to have some proper coffee when we get there.”

 

“Endure – the hotel has good beds, even ones Ken likes, and the food isn’t too bad.”

 

“Good,” Frieda said, “I could do with some quiet time...”

 

“Ladies, Sir – care to order?”

 

Karen and Ken looked at each other, before Ken said “two scrambled eggs, one with potatoes, one with grits, and keep the coffee coming.”

 

“Pancakes,” Karen said with a smile.

 

“We’ll both have the continental,” Pussy said as she looked at Frieda.

 

“Cereal or Oatmeal,” the waiter said.

 

“One oatmeal and cinnamon bread, one cereal and croissant.”

 

“And for you Madame?”

 

Jeanne looked over and said “Omelette, no cheese, and tell the chef to make sure it is fully cooked.  No sides.”

 

“Thank you,” he said as he went off.

 

“At least Cari and Judith are coming back with us,” Annie said as she sipped her fruit juice.

 

“Missing them already?”

 

“Sounds strange doesn’t it?”

 

“Not really,” Karen said, “I missed kissing John good night, but I spoke to him on the screen with the nanny instead.”

 

“Talking of which,” Pussy said, “I hear Orlanda is flying down with George and the kids today.”

 

“They’re not really kids any more,” Annie said.

 

“I know – but they are the youngsters really,” Pussy said as Jeannie took out her cell phone.

 

“Good morning Papa, how are things there today?

 

“So Antoinette is happy?  Good – we should be on time, and we’ll see you later this afternoon.  Keep safe until then Papa.”

 

“All good at the pits?”

 

“So far so good,” Jeanne said, “the team is together, and Antoinette has settled well.”

 

“Wish you were driving?”

 

“Of course,” Jeanne said with a smile, “but...  Well, even if I wanted to, I cannot fit into the car, so I must contend myself with being the model on Friday.”

 

 

 

3.30 pm GMT

Lardarn Hall

 

“That was a wonderful lunch darling,” Mandy said as she wiped her mouth.

 

“Would you like a tour of the hall, Jo,” Eve said as she and John stood up.

 

“Yes, thank you,” Jo said as the three youngsters left.

 

"So definite locations?" Alice said as she talked with Mandy, Will and Kevin Ryan.

"Well we must shoot against those ruins Darling...  SO perfect a location simply must be used."

"I agree with Lady Ordford,” Kevin said, “it looked fantastic in those test frames I shot of Jo."

"She will hate me for saying this, but I want Jo walking the two wolfhounds." Alice gave an opinion.

"DEFINITELY!" Will laughed.

"So where else?"

"Walking in the old part of Edenton, that part of the town is so old, and so really Irish darling."

"Agreed Mandy."

"No one will likely say it, but the Hanging Tree?" asked Kevin.

 

“Let me consult with Tom on that first,” Alice said, “and then I’ll let you know.”

 

"Another certainty is Jo and that incredible old Aston in front of the main house."

"We will have to shoot it either before the tourists arrive, or after they have left, Mrs MacKinnon," Kevin looked up from his device screen, “we don't want a horde of coaches and tourists in the shot."

"Agreed," Alice nodded.

 

“When does Caroline arrive?”

 

“Thursday afternoon –we’re having a massed dinner before we all come here on Friday for the weekend.”

 

 

 

"So when did the Earls become Dukes of Lardarn?" Jo asked as they walked through the long gallery.

"It was the bribe, that Thomas here," Eve pointed at a double life-sized portrait of a man in Regency clothing, "took in 1799 for ordering his MP's that he owned in the Dublin Parliament to vote for the 1801 Act of Union with the UK."

"He owned?"

"Well let's just say they were MP's he nominated and the few voters went along with his choice...always."

"How many did he control?"

"Six,” John said, “two for the county, two for Eventon, and two in other counties where he owned most of the land."

"DAMN!"

"Yes," Eve laughed, "well anyway his price for his votes was promotion from an Earldom to a Dukedom, following the example of the Fitzgerald's who went from being Earls of Kildare, to being Dukes of Leinster."

"Oh I DEFINITELY need to research all this," Jo whispered as she stood, her gaze fixed at the first Duke's portrait.

 

“You’d better set a lifetime by, then,” a young woman said as she joined them, “I’ve known them for years and I’m still learning.”

 

“And what brings you over here,” John said with a smile.

 

“I heard you were all visiting so I thought I’d drop over,” the redhead spoke.

 

“Don’t you see enough of me at school Kits?” Eve laughed.

 

“Well I did hear you had the famous Joanne Smith with you,” the girl extended a hand.

 

“Well I am Jo Smith,” Jo shook hands,

 

“And this is my distant cousin,” Eve said “the ‘Knight of the Red Knife’.”

 

“Or just Christine Mahan-Gaunt if you prefer,” she giggled.

 

“A female knight, I thought they were called ladies?”

 

“Oh no, Kits isn’t a lady,” both girls started giggling.

 

“Or a Sir…”

 

“Now you have me totally perplexed,” Jo looked from one to the other.

 

“You know I was telling you the 3rd Earl ordered a conversion to Protestantism?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Well one branch that didn’t was a particularly bloody sect of the family from up Enniskillen way back then. Their head held the honorific title of Knight of the Bloody…”

 

“Or Red Knife,” Christine broke in.

 

“Well like a lot of Catholics they ended up exiled to Connacht, but the head of the clan, so to speak, bears that title - and after the death of her father when she was a baby, Kits became THE Knight.”

 

“Even though I’m really more Mahan then Gaunt,” Christine said, “my Great Grandfather married the last true Gaunt of the Red Knife line, and the title passed from her to my Grandfather.”

 

“WHOA! I am learning SO MUCH!” Jo looked impressed.

 

“Well anyway we are in the same form at Benenden.” Eve put her arm round the smaller girl and hugged her…and Best friends..”

 

“Like forever,” Christine smiled as she spoke in a mock ‘Valley Girl’ accent.

 

Jo noticed the way the redhead was looking at John, and smiled as she said “we’d better join the others – we’ll need to head back soon.”

 

“True – we’ll be back for the weekend Kits.”

 

“I’ll drop by then,” she said as she smiled at John.

 

"Someone has a crush on your brother," Jo whispered in Eve's ear as they walked along.

"If you mean Kits, then she has had it since we were tiny," Eve whispered back, "he just pretends to ignore it."

"Is he nuts? She is lovely..."

"No."

"Oh don't tell me he is gay?"


"No."


"Well what then?"

"He has as bad a thing on another girl as she has on him."

"Ouch, that makes it hard."

"I keep telling him to tell Arabella how he feels about her, and then at least when he gets his heart broken Kits will get her chance."

"Would she break his heart?"

"If you knew Arabella Sutton you'd not ask that Jo," Eve rolled her eyes, "we call her conquests the Boyfriend of the Month club."

"Oh I've known girls like that in New York."

 

“Ah good,” Alice said as they joined the rest of the party.  “I think we have a schedule, and we’ll discuss it with Tom and Paula.”

 

“Well, we had better set off,” Eve said.  “Mrs Brown, we will see you on Friday.”

 

 

11 am

Sebring

 

“Okay Jan,” Denice said into her microphone, “bring her in.  I think we’ve fixed that problem with the shocks now.”

 

“Copy that,” Jan said as Heather nodded, and both women took off the headphones.

 

“Clint, Henri,” Heather said, “I think we have the car ready.”

 

“At this time, I agree,” Henri said, “so we spend the afternoon discussing tactics and possible scenarios.”

 

“Next round of coffees,” Katherine said as she looked out of the Winnebago, “whenever you’re ready.”

 

“Want some help with those?”

 

“Sands!  How was the flight,” Katy said as she came out and hugged her friend.  Bev looked out as well, smiling as Katy hugged and kissed George.

 

“You made it,” Sandy said as she came over to where George and Orlanda were standing with Jennifer.

 

“Well, I did promise the kids a couple of days at SeaWorld before the fun begins,” George said with a smile.  “Jan – would Katy and her cousin like to come as well?”

 

“If they want to – can you take Erica as well, give her a day away from here?”

 

“If they want to,” George said as Jennifer looked round.

 

“Well, Jeanne and the others will be here tomorrow as well, so I think we can give them all some down time,” Heather said as she took a mug of coffee.

 

“So how are things going,” George said as he looked round.

 

“Some problems at the start, but we’ve sorted them – fingers crossed,” Henri said with a smile.

 

4 pm Local Time

The Compound

 

Liz looked up as Maisha returned from the fields, talking to the other girls who had been planting that day, laughing and joking with them.

 

“Good day,” she said as they came back into the compound.

 

“Yes, thank you,” Maisha said, “I wanted them to know that when I say I am one of them I mean it - and what better way than to till the fields with them.  Besides, I needed the exercise.”

 

“Well, I think you have lifted the hearts of everyone with your visit,” Liz said as she put her arms round the young girl’s shoulders, “but tomorrow you need to return.”

 

“I know – I am I glad I had the chance to come and meet them however.”

 

“Well, I’ll be taking you back to the airport,” Liz said, “I need to go and see Uncle about something.”

 

“Uncle...  Ah yes, Colonel Vosloo.  I met him in New York – a man of great principle and integrity.”

 

“Don’t I know it,” Liz said with a smile.

 

 

1 pm

Sebring

 

"Well Tanera is the hospitality facility up and running?" Tonia asked as the young woman came into the Winnebago.

"It is,” she said as she sat down, “I can guarantee that all our guests will at least be wined and dined well and have a great view of the racing."

"You've remembered Lerrabella will be bringing people?"

"I have, and I have added the materials that their people have sent me to our hospitality packages."

"I thought I could smell VOV."

"I couldn't resist trying it, it's a gorgeous scent."

"Mmmm yes, I think I might just take a spare sample," Tonia smiled, "anyway remember men’s and ladies hospitality packs will be different."

"I know and I have them labelled for the people acting as hosts to make sure they give away the right thing.  I will also be supervising on the morning, while Susan and Penny do the hand pressing."

"Good,” Tonia said, “now about the Lerrabella cocktail party the night before the race."

"I've engaged the staff as they asked, and we should be fine.  I also received the new items today from Mrs MacKinnon – I genuinely think they will be surprised."

 

“Will we get a chance to see them beforehand?”

 

“Given the tailored outfits you will be asked to wear, yes – I have asked Henri to ensure you all have time Friday morning.”


"Are there any details you've overlooked Tanera?"

"Oh I hope not," she smiled.

"I suspect not, I heard you were a very efficient woman."

 

“So Miss Xavier and Susan believe,” Tanera said with a smile.

 

 7 pm CET

The Bernabeu

 

“Promise me tomorrow night is different,” Nikki said as she and Caroline were sat at the ground again, but this time in a director’s box.

 

“I have theatre tickets for tomorrow – but this is a Champions League quarter final, and the highlight of Ama’s day here today – so endure.  And enjoy the free food and drink, if nothing else.”

 

“Actually, all joking aside,” Nikki said, “this atmosphere is even better than watching the game at home.  I mean look at them.”  She looked at the rows of fans, cheering and singing as banners and flags were waved.

 

“Hang on,” she said as smoke started to rise in multi-coloured hues, “are they setting off flares?”

 

“Yes they are,” Ama said as she sat down, wearing her shirt. 

 

“And where have you been?”

 

“I was invited to listen to the pre-game talk by Mister Zidane – he also presented me with a signed program and gift pack for each of you.”

 

“That was good of him,” Caroline said as the teams came out, the crowds signing and cheering.

 

“Now I know how Jess must feel,” Nikki said with a smile.

 

 

8.45 pm

 

“Good game so far,” Ama said as the three of them went into the entertainment room behind their seats, and walked over to the bar to get some drinks.

 

“Caroline!  I didn’t expect I would run into you this week!”

 

As she turned round, Caroline smiled as she said “Dan – on business or pleasure?”

 

“As you well know, my dear Caroline, my business is my pleasure,” the young Rumanian said as he kissed her.  “I take it this is a trip more for Ama and her friend than you?”

 

“A Christmas present, believe it or not – Ama, you remember Dan don’t you?”

 

“Of course I do,” Ama said as Dan kissed her on the cheek, “this is my friend Nikki.”

 

“Pleasure,” Dan said as he kissed Nikki as well.

 

“Girls, do you mind if Dan and I have a talk,” Caroline said with a smile.

 

“Of course, Mom,” Ama said, “just don’t get too tied up in the conversation.”

 

Nikki smiled as she said “indeed – I’d hate to think you missed the game because something was holding you back.”

 

Dan look on bemused as Caroline simply raised an eyebrow, the two girls giggling as they went to get a drink.

 

“Are they all right?”

 

“Yeah – just a private joke,” Caroline said.  “So where have you been?”

 

“Oh working – I’ve spent the last month in France looking at the arrangements for the European Championships, and this is my first week off for three months.  So I decided to accept an invitation to come to the game – and I’m glad I did now.

 

“Would you like to go for a drink after the game?”

 

“Go on Mom,” Ama said as the two girls passed, “I won’t wait up for you.”

 

 

4 pm

Sebring

 

“Jeanne!”

 

“Antoinette,” Jeanne said as she came into the garage, her cousin running over and hugging her, “thank you for doing this.  You are looking well.”

 

“So are you,” Antoinette said, “blooming in fact.  I heard you travelled down by train.”

 

“With good friends, I assure you,” Henri said as he came over and embraced his daughter.   “So you survived the journey?”

 

“It was an experience, but I look forward to my bed tonight.  When will you finish here?”

 

“About nine I think – but I will see you at the hotel then.  Unless you are staying for a while?”

 

“It’s the closest I will get to the race day, papa – of course I am going to stay for a while.”

 

5 pm

The de Ros Mansion

 

“Hey,” Abby said as Jo appeared in the Skype window, “you look tired.”

 

“Long day,” Jo said with a sigh as she sipped from her mug.  “How are things back home?”

 

“Quiet – hey Cari.  Any news from Annie?”

 

“They all arrived safely,” Cari said as she appeared in a second screen, “even if Monster Momma had a fitful night’s sleep.  From what she said, she wasn’t alone.”

 

“Over 24 hours on a train – who can blame her,” Jo said with a laugh.

 

"So how did it go today?" Abby asked.

"Well everyone seemed very pleased with the locations we found," Jo replied, "and Kevin Ryan seems very talented to me."

"So the gossip on him suggests."

"I'm thinking we will have some fun shooting this, even at the Hanging Tree."

"Hanging Tree?" Carina asked.

"Yes, it was the local place of execution back when, and the spooky atmosphere wasn't helped by knowing that was where one of Tom and Eve's brothers hung himself."

"Ooooh sounds VERY Gothic."

"It is Cari...Oh and by the way I found another relative of yours lived here over 300 years ago."

"Oh?"

"Yeah the family call her the Hungarian, but the locals called her Black Betty."

"Ugggh that sounds like one of mine,” Cari said with a sigh, “you'll have to let me have the details."

"Changing the subject what are Tom and Paula's children like?" Abby asked.

"Really nice, John seems set to be like Dr. Ken, very tall and thin. Eve is prettyish and tall. Clodagh is cute, and Aileen has amazing blue eyes."

 

“Must take after their aunt,” Abby said with a smile. 

 

“So when are you guys heading down?”

 

“Tomorrow – we’re doing that shoot en masse while Jeannie does the Lerabella launch.”

 

“Well, have fun – I’ll talk to you all over the weekend.”

 

8 pm

Sebring

 

“DAMMIT!”

 

“All right Antoinette,” Denice said into the microphone, “just bring it back in.  At least you all got some night practice in.”

 

“What happened,” Clint said as he came over.

 

“That hairpin – she caught the barrier as she took the last part.”

 

The pit crew watched as Antoinette brought the car in, Jan and Sandy looking at Antoinette as the car stopped.

 

"So how bad is it?" Antoinette asked as she jumped out of the car.

"Nothing we can't fix." Clint looked at the dents in the car’s front wing. "We will need get this whole wheel assembly looked at though...Late night boys," he called to the mechanics.


"You remember what I said about this Sebring track killing cars?" Henri spoke.

Antoinette nodded as she removed her helmet.  "I made the minutest of mistakes..."

"You were a fraction fast coming into the corner." Heather looked serious as she passed round a printout, "you got away with it once, not that second time."

"Well we should all learn this lesson on how unforgiving the circuit can be..." Jan started.

"Especially at night," Sandy finished.

"Well just Thank God it was a minor accident...we have had them before. Now what do we do?" Henri smiled.

"We learn from our mistakes," the drivers chanted in unison.

"Bon," Henri's crooked smile broadened.  “I think we have enough for tonight.  Let us review the day.”

 

“Here we go,” Katherine said as she and Katy brought out the mugs on trays, “last coffee of the night.”

 

“As always, you anticipate our every need,” Henri said as he took a mug. 

 

"It's a very different track under the lights," Sandy drank her coffee as they looked out at the circuit.

"We could tell," Heather spoke, "once that track cools you were all producing very different readouts to that we were getting in daylight."

"How bad were we?" asked Jan.

"Actually,” Henri said, “compared to some of the other teams, not too bad, but still markedly different."

"I think we are going to have to work out changes we can make on the fly as track conditions change." Denice looked up from her charts.

"Well I guessed we would have to," Henri smiled, "this is why we practice team."

"We have all the data," Clint looked round the pit, "let's talk this all out and work out our final setups and tactics."

"Denice you go first," Henri invited.

 

“They’re going to be some time,” Katherine said to Katy and Bev, “let’s wash up and clear up for the night.”

 

Wednesday 16th March

8 am GMT

Dublin

 

“Ah there you are,” John said as he saw the two young women come into the kitchen, “and how was the city this fine morning?”

 

Aileen just stood with her head down, her hands on her legs, as Jo started to stretch out.  “Quiet – just the way I like it,” she said with a smile.

 

"Did you enjoy your run Jo?" Paula asked.

"I did,” Jo said as she opened a bottle of water, “and it was so good of Aileen to run with me."

"Well I tried to keep with you," Aileen said as she opened a bottle of Lucozade Sport, “but you were only jogging and I had to run hard."

"Hey don't put yourself down,” Jo said, “for your age group you aren't bad at all."

"It's what our PE teacher at school tells her," Eve said as she came in in her dressing gown, stifled a yawn, and poured herself a glass of orange juice.

"I know you could easily make the team at St Angela's Aileen."

"Could I? I really am not sure."

"Aileen sometimes lacks confidence in herself," her mother looked up from cooking.

 

“Well, confidence comes with practice, I guess,” Jo said, “so keep practicing.  So what are the plans for today?”

 

“Breakfast, a shower,” Aileen said, “and then we’ll see what the day brings.  But I suggest some sightseeing while you have the chance.”

 

11 am CET

Madrid

 

Nobody paid much attention to the trio as they walked past the stores – the tall blonde wearing designer jeans and a cashmere sweater, the dark skinned teenager in the knee length slip dress and sandals, and the blonde haired girl in a hoodie and leggings.

 

The crowds were seemingly only interested in two things – shopping, and talking.  Caroline, for one, was glad that was the case – it meant she could remain relaxed.

 

"And I thought people took sports seriously back home," Nikki shook her head as they walked round the Barrio de Salamanca, and saw even in this part of town people displaying team shirts and other emblems.

"I'm being distracted though by these stores," Ama smiled. "This is like Fifth Avenue PLUS!"

"I know - the Golden Mile has a well deserved reputation," Caroline stopped to look in a window, "And you needed to have a break from soccer Ama and let Nikki have some fun as well."

"I wish I'd had the chance to come here...before...I bought Jeans birthday present," Nikki looked in a shoe shop window. "these prices are a little better then what we pay at home."

 

“True – shall we go in?”

 

The store assistants turned as the door opened and the trio walked in, Ama and Nikki looking at some of the shoes as Caroline watched.  She slowly became aware of the hushed whispers, as she turned and removed her sunglasses.

 

“Excuse me,” she said with a smile, “my young friend here was looking at the pumps in cream leather.  What size are you Nikki?”

 

“A four?”

 

“That would be an American 4, so...  Do you have them in a 39?”

 

“I will go and look Madame,” the assistant said as Ama looked round.

 

“A very nice store – but have you noticed how they keep looking at you Mom?”

 

“Yeah – I had noticed,” Caroline said as Nikki sat down, and tried on the shoes.

 

“Oh yeah – I do like these,” she said as she stood up and walked round, “but I can’t really afford them...”

 

“I’ll get them – my way of thanking you for the last few days,” Caroline said.

 

“Well, I’m not going to say no,” Nikki said as the assistant took and boxed the shoes.

 

“What about you Ama?”

 

“No, thank you Mom,” Ama said, “I feel I have got all I need from this trip.”

 

“Thank you Miss Jameson,” the assistant said as she took Caroline’s card, “and may I say how honoured we are you called to shop here.”

 

“Thank you,” Caroline said as she handed the bag to Nikki, and they left.

 

“On the other hand,” Ama said as they looked in the next window, “that pair of pants...”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Return to the Pussycat Gang index

 

Return to the main index