Road Trip – Part 3
8.15 pm GMT
As Kit pulled up at the bottom of the hill, the three girls could hear noises in the near distance.
“Who’s up at the Hanging Tree,” Eve said as she got out of the car.
“I’m not sure,” Jo said, “but I want you two girls to stay down here.”
“Not a chance,” Kit said, Eve nodding in agreement.
“All right,” Jo said, “but we go up quietly, from the other side of the hill – and not a word until we know what is going on.”
“This way,” Eve said as they walked to the far side of the hill, behind the chapel, and then started to make their way slowly up the hill. As they got closer, they heard music and laughter.
“Come on, Your Lordship,” one male voice said, “down in one.
“Down in one, Down in one, Down in one...”
“What the... Is that John?”
Eve nodded as they watched from the shadows, while John drank a pint of what looked like Guinness in one go, some of the local boys egging him on.
“There now, John – doesn’t that feel so much better?”
“The little bitch,” Kit snarled as she saw Arabella, standing leaning on the tree as she looked at John.
“I... I thought we were going to meet alone,” John gasped as he looked at her.
“Oh you don’t mind some of my friends been here, do you,” she said in her deep voice. “They didn’t want to pass on the opportunity of finally meeting the Marquess of Eventon, the Lord of the manor.”
“I’m not... And this... I said I’d meet you here because of what this place means to my family.”
“Oh we know what this place means to the Gaunts,” one of the local boys said, “the place you hung our ancestors.”
“No – not that...”
“Oh relax,” Arabella said as she walked forward and looked at John, “now, what did you want to say to me?”
“Please – can we talk alone...”
“No,” she said quietly, “tell me now!”
“I... I wanted to say... That I loved you...”
“Of course you do,” Arabella purred, “all of my boys do. And I thank them for that – as well as love them all the same.”
“But I really...”
“Give the boy another drink,” another of the locals said, “make him a real man.”
“Here – drink.”
John took the bottle that was handed to him, and took a long drink – before he dropped to his knees and threw up onto the grass.
“Oh what a little baby,” the boy laughed, and as John looked up he saw Arabella laughing as well.
“Come on,” the boys said as they moved off, Arabella laughing as she walked away with them and left John kneeling on the grass.
“Shit,” Eve said as she started to walk over, Kit and Jo walking with her as she approached her brother. “John? John, are you all right...”
“They dared – they dared desecrate here,” her brother said quietly as he tried to stand up, “I should kill them right here, right now...”
“That,” Jo said as she caught his unsteady body, “is the drink talking. Come on – you go back with Kit and me, and Eve can drive the jeep back.”
“Come on – lean on me,” Christine said as she helped John up, the two of them walking slowly down the hill.
“I’ll kill her for this,” Eve whispered.
“No – let’s get you all home, get him into his bed,” Jo said, “and then we can talk about how you may have your revenge...”
“Susan can I have a word for a second please?” Madame asked as she walked into the lobby.
“I think I’m free…” Susan looked round and said “so yes. What is on your mind?”
“Look I just got a text message from Maisha,” Shirley said, “and I wanted to bounce her idea off you.”
“Now that sounds intriguing, what did Maisha write?”
“She thinks that the Sisterhood ought to have its own medals as recognition of outstanding service.”
“I heard Charlotte once propose that. She wondered what it would involve, however.”
“What she has in mind is a Meritorious Service Medal, a Distinguished Service Medal, and a Cross of Valor.”
“Well Shirley I think it’s a great idea.”
“Good – we can consult with Charlotte when we see her. I can think of some worthy recipients already.”
“Indeed,” Susan said as Tanera came over. “Everything is in readiness for tonight, Madame,” she said with a smile.
“Excellent – now we can relax for the evening.”
In the garage, House was wheeling Jeannie in, now dressed in a leather jacket, jeans and boots.
"Now it's all
quieter she and Jeff can shoot the pictures for the advertising," Barbara said
as she stood talking to Denice, while Winston carefully lifted Jeannie into the
"Can I have that
million dollar smile Jeannie," the photographer asked.
"Like this?" Jeannie leaned forward and rested her chin on
her hands as she smiled.
"Perfect." Jeff started to take the pictures as he
"How does she do
this, I know she must be tired as hell from the press launch, and yet she looks
so amazing?" asked Denice.
professionalism I suppose, but they ask and she delivers...Sometimes my
daughter amazes even me."
"Well I am very
"Winston, can we
have her reclining on the front of the car?"
"Coming up," House said as he lifted Jeannie out and helped position her for the next photographs.
9.30 pm GMT
As Tom walked into the hallway, he was surprised to see Eve and Jo walking in, supporting John between them as Christine closed the main door.
“What the... what happened to John?”
“He’s fine Dad – he just drank something that disagreed with him. Let Jo and me get him to bed, and then I’ll tell you what happened.”
“Okay – but I want you to come and tell me,” Tom said as he watched the three of them walk John up the stairs.
“I loved her – I really loved her,” he mumbled as they walked into his bedroom, Jo sitting him on the bed and holding him as Eve removed his shoes, socks and trousers.
“Can you get his shirt off,” she said, Jo nodding as she removed his top while she pulled the covers back, and they made sure she was lying on his side before they covered him over.
“I’ll stay and keep an eye on him,” Kit said as she removed his glasses, folding the legs and putting them on his bedside table before she covered him over. As Jo watched, she stroked his cheek with the back of her hand and then gently kissed his forehead.
“Come on,” Eve said, “we’d better go and tell Dad what happened.”
Jo nodded as they left the room and closed the door, before walking quietly down the stairs and into the front room.
“Your mother is reading a bedtime story to Clodagh,” Tom said as they found him sitting with Caroline, “Mandy, Will and Alice are reviewing the photos in the library, and Ama and Nikki have gone with Aileen to make some cocoa.”
“Which left me talking to Tom about security,” Caroline said, “but he said you brought John back somewhat worse for wear. What happened?”
“If I tell you Dad,” Eve said, “you must promise not to be mad at him.”
“It wasn’t his fault, was it?”
“Yes – and no. Aileen told us he had arranged to meet someone by the Hanging Tree. Jo and I went with Kit, because we were worried about him.”
Eve looked at Jo, who took her glasses off and rubbed her eyes. “When we got there, we saw a group of teenagers at the tree – they all had some drink in them and with them, and John was being encouraged to drink a Guinness in one go. Something told me it was not the first drink he’s been encouraged to have in one tonight.”
“Let me guess,” Tom said with a sigh, “Arabella Sutton?”
“I’m afraid so Dad,” Eve said, “he was drunk, and wanted to talk to her on her own, but she insisted he said what he had to say in front of the local boys – and made fun of him as he did it.”
“So his state?”
“May have something to do with the fact they made him drink a lot of Bushmills – he threw up and they went off laughing,” Jo said with a sigh. “He just needs to sleep it off – Christine is keeping an eye on him for now.”
“Okay then,” Tom said quietly, “I won’t say anything to him unless he talks to me, but the fact they were drinking there...”
“Let me talk to Arabella about that father,” Eve said quietly, “that is my job.”
“There you are,” Ama said as she brought in a tray of mugs, “would you like to take one?”
“Thank you Ama – I do feel a bit cold,” Jo said as she looked at Caroline. “This is just what the doctor ordered.”
“Thank you – Mom, Alice was wondering if she could have a word.”
“Sure – what are you two going to do?”
“Aileen has offered to show us a comedy program she says I will appreciate – Father Ted?”
Caroline looked at Tom, who just shook his head. “Tell her to show the Eurovision one – and no other.”
“Of course,” Ama said as she walked out.
“I’m missing something, aren’t I?”
“I’ll show you later,” Tom said as he and Caroline left Jo with Eve.
“Okay,” Jo said, “let me say something, and don’t shoot the messenger.”
“OH – what’s that?”
“Act in anger, repent at leisure. I understand you want to get your own back, but sleep on it first.”
“Oh I intend to – and so does Kit...”
A short while later, Paula came and joined both Tom and Caroline in the main room.
“So – do you like what I am suggesting?” Caroline said as she sat forward.
“It’s a thorough report...”
"Well if you act on
my ideas Tom, then I think that a lot of your fears can be put to bed."
"I agree Caroline,”
Tom said, “and thank you for doing this."
Caroline smiled as she
said "Thank me AFTER you see my bill."
the Irish duke laughed, “going to be steep eh?"
contractors I have in mind to do the upgrades don't come cheap,” Caroline said,
“but they are the very best, and I guarantee them to be totally secure in their
handling of your data."
"We will give the
local Garda, and the security firm that handles the existing security a brief
outline, but what we do for the personal quarters will be monitored from London
by true experts."
"I am glad I asked
you to do this..."
"So am I." Paula said as she handed them a nightcap. "I knew your mother Caroline, she'd be so impressed at you making such a success of two careers."
“I like to think she would be – my grandfather certainly is.”
“So if we proceed?”
is in place, I will ask a couple of friends - both South African intelligence
agents - to test the system and see if they can spot any weaknesses. If they
can't then I know things are as good as I can get them."
"Well you are thorough Caroline...I am so impressed," Tom Lardarn smiled.
“And with that, we have the shoot tomorrow.”
Sebring Hospitality Suite
“Well, here we go again – I am so looking forward to my bed tonight,” Jeannie said as House wheeled her into the large room. He was wearing a fitted suit, white shirt and tie, while Jeannie wore a black cocktail dress and dark tights with high heels.
“Well, say the word if you need to leave early...”
“Ah Jeannie – you are ready to dazzle us all?”
“I hope so Giorgio,” she said as he leaned down and kissed her.
“I knew this would be a long weekend,” Jeannie said as she looked to the door.
“Come on Dad,” Barbara said as they came in, “it’s not going to be that bad...”
"I wish I knew the words to express how much I hate these affairs," John said as he stood, nervously fingering his collar.
"I know Dad,” Barbara said, “you'd be far happier hanging out with the drivers, but this is obligatory for Jeannie to attend, and we need be here with her."
"I know love, but
"Granddad try to
smile please," Jeannie said as she wheeled herself over.
darling." Barbara kissed her daughter.
"How are you
holding up Winston?" John shook hands.
"Oh I'll survive the night, but this is all a bit tedious."
“Well, at least we made it,” Sandy said as she and Heather came in, both women wearing blue cocktail dresses. Sands followed with George, the young girl wearing a blue dress and George the regulation suit, shirt and tie.
“Welcome to the party,” Jeannie said as she came over, “I promise you, it won’t be too painful. Boring possible, but not too painful.”
“Oh it should still be fun,” Nessa said as she came in wearing a black sheath dress.
“Let me guess, a drink?”
“OH yes,” Jeannie said with a smile as the waiter passed by, and Sandy grabbed two glasses.
“Can I try one?”
“Well, if you want to,” Heather said as she took two glasses as well.
"A not so virginal
cocktail for you Jeans." Sandy passed her the drink.
helps," Jeannie smiled as she sipped it.
"Well mine tastes
awful," Sands shook her head.
"Well you wanted
to try it."
“I know,” Sands said as
Heather took the glass, "but I think I'll stick to drinking Coke
girl." Heather nodded.
"Can I say how smashing all you Richmond ladies look tonight?" Winston spoke.
“Why thank you,” Nessa said, “We do come out of the wash rather well, don’t we?”
“So remember,” Jan said as she came in with Katherine, Katy and Bev, all wearing part dresses, “we stay and talk to a few people, and then slip quietly away.”
“It helps all of us need to be up early in the morning,” Jan said as she took two drinks from a tray.
remember Katy," Katherine spoke.
"I know the rules
Gran." Katy grinned, "but I'd rather like a small glass of wine later
with my meal."
"Well that I might
allow," Jan smiled.
"And me Aunt
Jan?" Bev laughed.
"Oh if you are
good,” Jan said, “you are only 13 remember."
"I know," Bev rolled her eyes, "oh do I know!"
“Catherine – have you had a good day,” Juliette said as Catherine came in with Helen.
“We have – Marina and Kylie will be along shortly,” Catherine said as Helen saw Penny smile from the other side of the room.
“If you will excuse me?”
“Of course,” Catherine said as Helen made her way over to the other side of the room.
“Catherine – we haven’t really had the chance to talk,” Shirley said as she walked over.
“I’m afraid not – you have had a hectic day. How is John?”
“He should be here shortly,” Shirley said, “he was meeting Henri and Jeanne first.”
“Alan – I did not know you had been invited here as well?”
“Hello Juan,” Alan Kennedy said as he shook Juan’s hand. “It came as a shock to me as well, but we were all invited as the guests of Xavier International.”
“So the children are here as well?”
“Oh yes,” Alan said as he looked at Sharon, who was standing with Andrew and Dawn as they talked to Abby. Sharon was wearing a short cocktail dress, while Andrew wore a suit and Dawn a party dress.
“So I hear you are handling the defence against the AMININCO bid?”
“Indeed – but I believe they are here as well. If nothing else, Shirley Xavier is even handed.”
“So has David...”
“Juan – Alan – may I bend your ears for a few moments?”
“I was surprised to see you here Sharon – but then I remembered your father is working for our friend Shirley. So this is a work trip?”
“Not if I can help it,” Sharon said as she put her arm round Andrew’s shoulders. “I want the kids and Dad to have some fun as well.”
“Sharon – you’ve made it here as well?”
“Ally, Nell – who else is here?”
“Well, Carina is around here somewhere...”
“Look – why don’t we get together for breakfast tomorrow, before the race starts.”
“Sounds good – let me introduce you to some of my friends. Doc, Pepsi, Becca – this is Sharon Kennedy, one of the debutantes this year. Sharon, meet Anna Carlton, Nikki Broadhurst and Becca Morse.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you all,” Sharon said as she shook their hands, looking into Doc’s eyes as they did so.
“I’m sorry – have we met?”
“Sharon, can we get a drink?”
“Of course – come on you two,” Sharon said, “I hope I get a chance to talk to you all over the weekend.”
“Are you all right, Doc,” Abby said.
“I’m not sure – where’s Carina?”
"Can someone go
rescue my husband please," Amelia Murchardo said as she came over, “That
old bore has Alan Kennedy and him totally trapped talking about the long term
future for interest rates."
"Oh dear, not fun." Shirley smiled, "I'll do the duties, I need to chat with Alan anyway."
"Thank you Shirley."
"I hate people who talk business at cocktail parties as well." Shirley put down her drink and walked slowly over.
“Alan, Juan,” she said in her deep voice, “forgive me, sir, but I need to borrow these two fine gentlemen for a few minutes.”
“Of course Miss Xavier,” the older man said as she took both men by their arms and walked them away.
“Thank you,” Juan said as his wife came over.
“My pleasure – Alan, having dragged you from one business thing, I regret I must ask you a business related question.”
“John and I would like your family to join us for breakfast tomorrow – we can talk then. For now, you must introduce me to the rest of your family...”
“Miss Stone – I am so glad you were able to make it,” Giorgio said as he and Giovanna welcomed Cassandra and Rick.
"It was nice of
you to invite us Giorgio," Cassie accepted a drink.
"Well a major
movie star like yourself cannot but help make our little cocktail party
"And anyway we have a lot of friends here as well." Rick snagged drinks from a passing waiter.
“Indeed – Diana, may I say Abby looks more beautiful every time I see her?”
“You may, and I accept the compliment,” Diana said as she kissed her friend. “Caroline would want me to say hello is she was here.”
“Oh yes – I heard from Mum and Dad they are having an amazing shoot over there. I envy them in a way – I love spending time with Uncle Tom and the family.”
“Jack – how is the assignment going,” Juliette said as she saw Jack Linklater walking round the room.
“Oh I am enjoying myself again,” Jack said with a smile, “you should see the photo I got of the van Roons round the pool earlier...”
“Did you tell Giorgio what you were doing?”
“Now Juliette – would I have my camera out here if that was not the case?”
He then smiled as he took a picture of Jeannie and Sandra talking together.
“That, and he said if I got that one he wanted a copy...”
“There you are,” Paulie said as Pussy came in. “Have a drink.”
“Thanks,” Pussy said as
she saw Jan whisper to Giorgio and then Henri, before the four Carter family
member slipped out.
"So have you been in contact with your Uncle Alex Pat?" Paulie asked.
"I have,” Pussy said as she took another drink, “we have set a date for the baptism, and Frieda's parents are happy at our deal that Pauline will be a van Roon by name, but raised as a Catholic in her mothers faith."
"Well it was a logical compromise," Gus intervened.
"So are you a
little less tense darling?"
"These drinks help
Mom...we had everything so perfectly planned for New York..."
"Well babies don't
always know what is scheduled." Gus laughed gently.
"I guess not dad." Pussy shook her head. “And she is so beautiful as well.”
yourselves?" Juliette asked Janine and Henri as she walked over.
"I am, he's
not." Janine replied. "He's fretting being away from the car."
Henri nodded as he
looked round. "There are things I
could be doing..."
Janine said quietly, “it's now in the hands of Clint and the boys, if it isn't
right now, then it never will be."
"I know Janine
darling," he kissed her, "but I have always worried this close to
"Is it true James
Hunt used to get smashed at affairs like this Henri?" Ju asked.
"He did, James was
a one of a kind though, most of us, including I'm happy to say the girls
tonight have always abstained before races, just like Nikki over there always
"Without being too
horrid I'm not sure whose injuries make them more unusually attractive?"
Janine mused, "yours or his."
"I hope mine," Henri kissed Janine again. “But that is what John’s book is exploring in a way.”
"Well have you
enjoyed yourself so far Toni?" Sandy asked Antoinette as she walked over.
"I have, but ask
me again after the race please... If I
get that shit hairpin right all the time then my happiness will be
"I have my own least
favourite bends as well."
"I think if you
ask every driver who has ever driven this circuit, then he will admit that he has
a pet hate," Mario Andretti came over and joined the conversation.
"Like Toni here, my bête noir was that hairpin,” Mario said quietly, “it looks so much easier than it actually is. I know they have changed it to make it easier..."
“Well yes – you should have seen it when I was starting...”
“Anna Darling – are you having a fun evening,” Kylie drawled as Doc came over to join her and Carina.
“I am actually – but I need your expert opinions on something.”
“Oh really – what?”
“Cari,” Doc said, “you’ve met Sharon Kennedy haven’t you? Socially?”
“Yeah I have,” Cari said quietly, “why?”
“Because I look at her,” Doc whispered, “and I see her in a skin tight catsuit and thousand dollar leather boots.”
“Am I missing something,” Kylie said as Cari looked over.
“No – no you’re not wrong,” Cari said, “but do nothing for now. We’ll talk tomorrow...”
"Tanera you have done fabulously," Giorgio kissed the Indian girl. "THANK YOU!"
"Thank you Mr Mancini," she blushed.
“So how many cars do we have in tomorrow’s race?”
"There are 51 entries," Sandy smiled at Peter Barrons who headed Lerrabella US, “as we told your boss, we will just be happy finishing the 12 hours."
“Oh I am sure you will
do extremely well...”
“The party really seems to be going well,” Tonia said as she and Roy came in, “sorry we’re late Sandy – something that we had to deal with first.”
“No problem – got everything memorized for tomorrow?”
“Indeed – and my crib sheets ready. Where’s Jan?”
“Having a quiet night with the family...”
Don Jose Mexican Restaurant
4731 Lakeview Drive, Sebring
“Now this is better,” Jan said with a smile as she sipped her drink, “a nice quiet night with the family.”
“Interesting place,” Bev said as the waiter cleared the plates away, “Good sharer platter as well.”
“Well some nachos, some poppers, and we’re set up for our main courses,” Katherine said. “Are you sure you don’t want a small glass of wine Jan?”
“I’d better not Mom – None of the others are, but the girls can get away with it for tonight.”
Katherine nodded as she poured some wine into the three glasses.
“So what are the schedules like for race day?” Bev asked as the waiter moved away towards the kitchen.
“We talk the tactics over, we do last minute changes, but basically we try and rest because we are hopefully going to be up till quite late at night.” Jan replied
“But it’s early nights all round tonight so we can be can be at the track early,” Katherine sipped her drink, “and EVERYTHING must be in place by start time at 10.40.”
“On the plus side,” Katy said, “a good night’s sleep after, and a party on Sunday afternoon.”
“Well, that does make up for it – what will we be wearing?”
“The RCM coveralls – you’ll see them in the morning,” Katy said with a grin.
“Here we are ladies – Salmon Don Jose?”
“That will be for me,” Jan said as the plate was put in front of her.
“Chicken San Antonio?”
“I’ll have that,” Katy said with a smile.
“For me,” Bev said with a smile.
“Which means the Chicken Arizona is for you,” the waiter said as the last plate was put in front of Katherine. “Enjoy the meal ladies.”
“Thank you,” Katherine said as the waiter went off. “Well, I suggest we all dig in.”
“You do not have to tell me twice,” Bev said as she cut into her steak and started to eat, smiling as she chewed. “Now this is good...”
“It’s been a tough week so far,” Jan said, “but I think we’re ready now, touch wood.”
“I’m sure you’re going to be fantastic Aunt Jan – it’s been a real eye-opener to be here all week.”
“Do you know what my nightmare is?” Jan said quietly.
“No Mom,” Katy spoke.
“That somehow I crash on Lap One…”
“Don’t even think it darling,” Katherine patted her daughter’s hand.
“All that time, work, effort, and money would have been wasted.”
“Well just be careful then.” Bev smiled.
“Oh I will be – I’ll let Antoinette go first...”
The laughter was real as they kept eating, talking about what they wanted to do in the morning.
Suddenly, Katy stopped eating and looked up.
“What is it darling?”
“I’ve heard Abby talk about this, but... Someone’s taking photos of us Mom.”
Bev immediately looked round, and then saw someone duck out of the dining area.
“Stay here,” she said quietly as she wiped her mouth, put her napkin down and walked towards the rest rooms – and then quickly moved to the entrance area.
“Can I help you Miss?”
“Oh I’m sorry – I thought I saw a man I knew pass through here a minute ago. My uncle?”
“Oh yes – he said he was going to give you a message, but he just left. Shall I get someone to call him back?”
“No – no it’s fine. I’m sure he will meet us later,” Bev said as she went back to the table.
“Whoever it was did a runner – let’s finish our meal and then get that early night.”
Sebring Hospitality Suite
“I look forward to seeing you tomorrow,” Shirley said as she shook the hands of the guests, and they headed from the room.
“People are slipping away Mr Mancini, can I get the staff to start cleaning up and putting things in place for the morning?” Tanera asked.
“Please do Tanera, and Thank You so much for managing such a great event for us.”
“It was my pleasure,” Tanera said with a smile, “and I just hope that people enjoy themselves as well tomorrow.”
“I think we had better go as well Giorgio.” Barbara smiled, “Jeannie needs her beauty sleep.”
“I understand,” the Italian smiled.
“And she does mean sleep,” Jeannie said as she let him kiss her, “Winston doesn’t get to give me my birthday present at least until after the race.”
“Oh!” Giorgio laughed as he got the double-meaning. “Well, sleep well, and I will see you here tomorrow.”
“Time for you girls to be in bed.” Henri said as he tapped his watch.
“We know,” Toni and Sandy replied together.
“We will make sure she gets a good eight hours solid sleep won’t we guys?” Heather asked.
“We will,” George laughed, “even if Sands and I have to slip her a sleeping pill.”
“Well she needs be alert in time for the drivers meeting.” Henri laughed as well, “Just remember that.”
“Are you ready to go as well darling?” Janine whispered in Henri’s ear.
“Janine, remember my father can’t be tired either,” Jeanne spoke. “He gets less rest on race day then anyone.”
“Spoilsport,” Janine joined the laughter.
"What time do you need the girls on duty Augie?" Pippa asked as she and Grace herded a very tired Poppy towards the exit.
“If they can be here for eight thirty, that will be wonderful,” Augie said. “You heard that, Anna and Sarah?”
“We did – see you tomorrow,” the two girls said as they walked out.
“Come on,” John said as he put his arm round Shirley, “you need your sleep as well.”
“If you insist...”
“Tomorrow will be a good day,” Giorgio said as Tanera organised the collection of glasses and plates, and others began to set up tables.
Saturday 19th March
9 am GMT
“Good morning,” Alice said as she came into the dining room, “and how is everyone today?”
“Well, we’re fine,” Paula said as she sat with Tom. “I haven’t seen Eve or John yet, but I think they had a late night. Good morning, both of you.”
“Good morning,” Ama said as she came in with Nikki, “Mom will be down in a little while.”
“No problem – help yourselves to some fruit juice and cereal,” Paula said as they heard the front door open and close.
“That sounds like an early riser coming in,” Alice said with a smile.
“I owe you one Alice MacKinnon!” Jo sighed as she slumped into a chair at the breakfast table. “What is this thing you have about me walking huge dogs?”
“Did you get some good pictures?”
“Well Kevin is in raptures,” Jo said as Aileen came in and sat down as well.
“Then,” Alice said quietly, “that is all that matters Greyhound.”
“Oh? It doesn’t matter that I was up at the butt crack of dawn? In hair and makeup at six thirty, and then had those two miniature ponies that pass for dogs practically pull my arms out of the sockets?”
“As I said Jo,” Alice said with the sweetest of smiles, “as long as the final pictures are great…”
“I just looked at Kevin’s computer and you will love them,” Caroline slipped into a chair at the table. “But I’m glad it wasn’t me walking them.”
“Count yourself VERY lucky Face,” Jo shook her head.
“I don’t know what the problem is, they are really just big puppies still,” Aileen laughed.
“Yes, but the word you need to emphasise is BIG,” Jo said as she bit into a pastry.
“Good morning,” Tom said as Mandy and Will came in, Eve and Stephen coming behind them.
“Jo Darling I just saw the Wolfhound pictures,” Mandy smiled.
“Even I was impressed,” Will spoke as he poured coffee.
“Well thank you…”
“She’s been complaining a lot about them.” Clodagh looked up.
“Well as a former model I can understand why darling,” her mother said as she looked over.
“Never work with children and animals.” Eve Stone laughed as she took a coffee mug from Will.
“Golden rule for acting AND modeling.” Mandy laughed.
“Good morning everyone,” John said as he walked in with Eve, “could I have some water please?”
“How are you feeling Son,” Tom said quietly.
“I have felt better – I’m sorry if I upset anyone last night.”
“Forget it,” Paula said, “have a drink, eat some breakfast, and you’ll feel better.”
“How is he,” Jo whispered to Eve.
“He’ll be fine – but Kit and I are keeping him away from a certain brunette if she shows up today.”
“And if she does?”
“Just stay out of our way...”
Sebring – the Pit Lane
“Gentlemen,” Henri said as he came into the garage, “what is our situation?”
“Car’s ready to run boss,” Clint said, “and we’ve got everything arranged.”
“Good – and fuel?”
“I heard that Henri Marais,” Katherine called out from the Winnebago, “Bev and I are hard at work.”
“The bacon smells divine,” Henri said with a smile as he looked at the crew. They were in their new coveralls – pale blue, with “RCM Racing 2016” in gold on the back, and the logos of their sponsors on the front and arms.
“Here we go,” Katherine said as she and Bev brought out the trays, both also wearing their coveralls. Unlike those of the pit crew, the neckline of theirs was more open, as Bev put the sandwiches down and Katherine handed round the bacon sandwiches.
“The perfect start to a good day,” Henri said with a smile. “So, we eat, and the others should be arriving soon. Gentlemen, enjoy the feast, and then preliminary checks.”
Eventon, The Hanging Tree
“That looks wonderful girls,” Kevin said as he took pictures of Jo and Caroline, standing under the tree as they looked into the camera.
“Hey – how are you feeling this morning?”
John turned round to see Christine standing there, wearing a green gillet over her jumper and jeans.
“Oh – hi Kit,” he said quietly, “I...”
“Honestly, John, how are you feeling?”
“Embarrassed, and my head still throbs – but Eve and Jo told me what you did last night. Thanks.”
As she smiled, Kit took his hand and said “I would not anyone to hurt you – you know that don’t you?”
“I guess I do now,” John said. “Kit, did I make a complete arse of myself last night.”
“Yes – but I don’t mind. Look – let’s go and have a drink.”
As they walked to the side, Eve smiled – and then frowned as she saw Arabella approaching. She was about to walk over when she felt Caroline’s shoulder on her hand.
“No – let Jo handle this.”
Eve watched as Jo made her way over to Arabella, and took her by the arm to the side.
“I want to talk to you about last night,” she whispered as she looked over the brunette’s shoulder.
“What – I had some fun with some friends, and...”
“We watched, young lady – we know exactly what happened, so I’m giving you a choice. Apologise to John and Eve, not just for what you did to him, but what you did to this place, and you can stay. Or you leave, right now, and stay out of the way. Your choice.”
Arabella glared at Jo, before she said, “you may be some high faluting model, but I...”
“Are apologising or leaving – decide, before I ask Alice over there to call security.”
Arabella looked again at John talking to Christine, before she said “they deserve each other” and turned, walking away in a haughty manner.
“I still want my revenge,” Eve said.
“That is between you and her,” Caroline said quietly.
“Shower’s free,” Poppy said as she came into the room.
“Great – who’s next,” Pippa said as Grace was laying out what she needed.
All the girls turned as the door was opened, and an unexpected visitor called in.
"Girls - can I shoot some pictures of you when you are dressed?"
"UNCLE JACK!" Poppy screamed as she grabbed a towel to cover her chest.
"Oh don't worry
I've photographed you in the nude before Poppy darling."
"Yes - when I was FIVE MONTHS OLD!"
"OUT JACK," Grace shouted as she pushed the photographer out the door, closing it as he turned and grinned.
"HOW does he
always manage to walk in while girls are changing?" she said as she shook
long?" Jack shouted from outside.
"Give them thirty minutes," Pippa shouted back.
“Who was that,” Sarah said as she looked out of another room.
“A pest – grab some breakfast while we look round.”
“Ah there you are,” Clint said as Sandy, Jan and Antoinette came in. “I trust the driver briefing went well?”
“It did – I guess we need to go and get changed,” Jan said as they headed for the Winnebago, Bev looking out as Katy, Sands and George came over as well.
“This is a ridiculous hour to get started,” George said as he came in.
“Relax – suits are over there, and then we need to stock up the fridges and snack areas,” Bev said as she sipped on her coffee.
The RMC Racing Hospitality Suite
Shirley smiled as she walked around the tables, and then out of the long windows.
"So when would
Tanera and the catering staff have got here?" John asked Shirley as he
"About five this
"After clearing up
after the cocktail party late last night?"
Shirley nodded as she cast an eye round the hospitality suite.
checked," Augie spoke from behind her, "Your Tanera hasn't missed a
trick I think."
"Well I still
thought I needed to check..."
"As obviously you
did as well Augie," John laughed.
"And so did
we," Giorgio and Roy said as they emerged from the kitchen.
Tanera," Shirley said as she kissed her employee. "You've done a
"Thank you, and
now if all of you can just relax, the staff and I can finish getting ready and
have our own breakfasts before we start serving."
"Point taken, I'll
drag all the nervous ones away," John laughed lightly.
"THANK YOU, Sir John, please get them out of our hair." Tanera broke into a large smile as John ushered the others out.
“Come on – we can join the others for breakfast ourselves...”
“Good morning,” Heather said as Denice came in, fastening the front of her coveralls.
"Well is the
telemetry still working?" Denice asked as she eased into the seat next to
said as she checked the screen, “whatever that glitch was I fixed it."
"Let's see... Oil pressure, tire pressure, temperature
"Are all-fine, but
please do the double-check," Heather smiled.
"No, not really
Denice,” Heather said, “but I get VERY nervous this close to a race, so pardon
"But if you think
I'm nervous wait till you see Tonia," Heather’s smile became a laugh,
"I swear she has a dozen lucky charms on her."
"I heard that Heather,” Tonia said into the headset, “and I'm not nervous just a trifle superstitious."
“Weather check please Tonia,” Henri said as he walked over.
“Dry, slightly overcast at the moment. The sky should clear by race start, but we have continuous weather reports up here.”
“Very well then – Antoinette, let’s start the warmup session...”
1 pm GMT
“This I need,” Jo said as she bit into a sandwich. “Where did Ama and Nikki go today?”
“Aileen and Clodagh offered to show them round the hall, so they stayed there,” Eve said as John and Christine came over, holding hands. “Well now – have we finally talked things over?”
“We have,” John said with a shy smile, “and I know now I was wrong to think Arabella was the one for me. I think I need a friend as well as a girl to go out with.”
“Quite right,” Jo said with a smile. “A friend will always be there for you.”
“Well, he sees that now,” Kit said as she kissed him on the cheek. “Now, how about you get me a drink?”
As John went off, Kit said “right – how do we get back at her?”
“I’ll talk to you later...”
"I never thought
I'd ever have Aunt Grace doing my hair, and Abigail de Ros do my makeup,"
Poppy said as she stared at the mirror in the room they had turned into an
impromptu dressing room.
"Well just sit
still and I can get this perfect," Abby crouched down so she could check
as she applied mascara.
"How do I
look?" Pepsi asked as she pirouetted on the tall stilettos, a vision of business-like
sexiness in her deep red suit and white blouse, her hair up, the faux nerd
glasses, and the Taylor Swift red lips.
dolls." Becca smiled as she slipped her own shoes on.
"Well I don't
think we look so shabby either," Doc preened herself in her white slip
dress with the matching white high heels they had all bought.
"Just remember a
tip from someone who has done this before," Pippa spoke as she did last
minute checks on the girls, "get off your feet whenever you can, those
5" heels are going to kill you by days end."
Sarah nodded. "Well do I look fine as well?"
Abby looked over, "you just need add the Torware sash."
Jeannie?" asked Becca.
"Our STAR gets her own dressing room."
“Oh don’t knock it,” Abby said, “trust me, she’s going to be working just as hard as you girls today.”
"So where is
Annie run an impromptu crèche,” Abby said as she stood up, “so various Mummy's
and Daddy's can enjoy themselves today."
"Jess is helping
as well." Poppy added.
"Well I'm sure the parents will appreciate it."
“Right – jackets on girls, and let’s head over.”
“So this is the centre of operations,” Giorgio said as he and Giovanna came into the garage.
“Indeed,” Shirley said as Sands and Katy walked round collecting plates and coffee cups – Katy with the top of her suit open, and wearing three inch heel ankle boots. “As you can see, the car is out at the moment on a warm-up lap – Heather, who is driving just now?”
“Sandy’s out there at the moment,” Heather said as she looked up. “Mister Mancini, welcome to the hub of RCM Racing.”
“So how are the tasks divided,” Giovanna said as she watched Janine coming in from the pit wall.
“Well, Henri is team chief, and Clint is our chief mechanic along with Rob and Alan over there. Katherine, Jan’s mother, owns the Winnebago, and with the help of Sands, George and Katy, as well as Bev today, keeps us fed and watered. Denice and I provide the technical knowhow, while Roy’s wife Tonia is our spotter.”
“Jan, nicely taken on the hairpin,” Denice said as the printer started, “I think you’ve got the hang of it now.”
“For the moment, yes,” Jan said over the headset, “but later?”
“Faith, Jan – you are doing well,” Sandy said as she came over. “Giorgio – I’m glad you could both come down.”
“It’s amazing how you all mesh as a team,” Giorgio said, “and look so wonderful doing it.”
“Heather, got the latest set of results,” Janine asked as she came over.
"And are you a
model too?" Giorgio asked Janine.
"No,” Janine said
with a smile, “I'm Juliette Huntingdown's PA, and I date Henri Marais."
"Well the prince
is a lucky man," Giovanna smiled.
"I always try and
look good when I'm in the pits, and I help out fetching and carrying."
"It was why we
sent Janine a gift," Pietro, Giorgio's assistant, spoke.
"And yes I need to
thank you so much for that."
"Janine I need
those printouts from Heather..."
"Coming Henri...My master calls so I had better run," Janine smiled, "it is so nice to meet you."
“And you,” Giorgio said as the car came in.
“Well, I think it is best if we leave them to it now – Tanera has arranged a live link to the garage as well as the race in our room.”
“Well, this is the calm before the storm, right?” Sarah said as she adjusted her sash.
“Oh yes – the first people should arrive soon, and then we start to work,” Doc said as she looked at Poppy.
Across the room, Pepsi and Becca were talking to Susan and Penny.
“It’s fairly simple – make sure all the guests get an information pack each, and if they want more details send them towards me or Penny. You are the representatives of both companies here today, so make us proud.”
“Got it boss,” Becca said with a smile, as Jeannie was wheeled in by House and Barbara. The young model was wearing a pale blue jacket and skirt, with a white camisole underneath.
“Well, I see I have tough competition today,” she said as she looked at the others.
“Hey – we’re a team, right?”
“Besides,” Susan said, “all the people you represent are here to represent the sponsors, so do us all proud.”
The RMC garage
“Look girls,” Jeanne
said as she say with the three drivers, we are not really here to win anything,
but to prove to ourselves that we have what it takes to finish a race like this
without disgracing ourselves.”
"That means that
above all we are here to enjoy ourselves and just see how good drivers we
really are." Sandy spoke.
"So no suicidal
moves, listen to Papa, and basically just see how it develops."
Jeanne," Janice nodded.
"We get to about
the 10 hour mark, and we are still running, maybe then we see what we can
win?" Toni smiled.
"Okay, but just
remember finishing is our first goal, an awful lot of teams won't
remember." Jeanne put her hand out. "Now..."
"GO TEAM!" all four women touched hands and called out.
“All right Jeanne darling – time you weren’t here,” Henri said as a grey haired man came in. “Derek – what brings you here?”
"Henri,” the new
arrival said as they embraced, “do you mind if I wish your team the best of
"Not at all Derek, it's so nice to see you again."
"Well I don't always get to the States as often as I should. But the UK channel asked me, and here I am."
said as they walked over, “this is Derek Bell, a very dear old friend."
"Well I know
Jeanne and Toni of course," he shook his head, "Jeanne love, you look
as though motherhood will totally agree with you."
Derek," she blushed as he kissed her.
"This is Sandy
Richmond, and Jan Carter Derek."
"Nice to meet you both, the Englishman shook her hands, I have heard you were very impressive in winning your regional title last year."
“Well, we did our best – but this is so different...”
“Like I heard you say – just enjoy the day.”
“All right girls,” Henri said, “Antoinette, last checks before you get in...
2.30 pm GMT
“I don’t know – we’re missing something for this last set of shots,” Kevin said as he looked at the two models.
“I agree – but what?”
As they both looked round, they saw Will standing next to Mandy – and both started to smile. Will looked over and said “what?”
"Can Will pose in
the photos with the girls?" Kevin asked. "I think this would be a
better composition with a man added."
"I can see your
point," Alice mused.
drawled with a smile, “that is your cue..."
"But Mandy you
know I've always HATED modeling myself...That is YOUR gig, me PIG
"It's only for
this setup, and all you need add is the Hebridean sweater to what you have on
Will." Alice looked him over, “otherwise the cap, the brown corduroy
trousers and the boots look perfect."
"They do actually
darling,” Mandy said as she looked at her husband.
"Why did I ever
start hanging round with models?" Will shook his head as they quickly
applied a tiny bit of makeup.
"Because like me you fell in love with one Will," Tom smiled.
“Oh yeah – that’s why. Okay, but make it quick – I have three sons who are going to mock me like crazy over this...”
Sebring – the RMC Hospitality suite
“Come and play,” Jennifer said as she took Judith by the hand, leading her over to where some play bricks had been laid out. One or two other toddlers were there, while some of the slightly older children watched a DVD.
“Well, so far so good,” Erica said as she and Jess were taking drinks round, smiling as the door opened.
“Hey – can you take a new born for a couple of hours?”
“Frieda! How are you?”
“Not too bed,” the German said as she and Pussy brought in a baby basket. “Everything was in New York, so we had to buy this yesterday.”
“Is this your baby,” Judith asked as she came over to have a look.
“Yes – this is little Pauline,” Pussy said, “but she is very tired, so let her sleep with Annie, all right?”
“We’ll come and find you if she wakes up,” Erica said with a smile as Pauline wriggled about. “You go next door – I think the race will start soon.”
As Pussy and Frieda came into the room, Shirley saw them and started to applaud, the other people in there joining in as Frieda blushed.
“Welcome,” Tanera said as she handed them each a gift pack, “breakfast is being served over there, and feel free to have as much food and drink as you like.”
“Come over here,” Gus said as he took their arms and directed them to the table where the families were sitting.
Antoinette brought the car to a stop in the grid position, Clint going over and making a last check.
“All good folks,” he said as he stood back.
"Please stop what
you are doing team," Henri spoke into his mike, "and join me in
“Notre Père qui es aux Cieux,
Que Ton nom soit sanctifié,
Que Ton règne vienne,
Que Ta volonté soit faite,
sur la Terre comme au Ciel.
Donne-nous aujourd'hui notre pain de ce jour,
Pardonne-nous nos offenses,
comme nous pardonnons à ceux qui nous ont offensés.
Et ne nous soumets pas à la tentation,
Mais délivre-nous du Mal.
Car c'est à Toi qu'appartiennent
le règne, la puissance et la gloire
pour les siècles des siècles.”
"Amen" everyone whispered at the end.
“Okay – let us count down the start.”
“And the cars move off on the warm-up lap,” the announcer said as the three groups of cars went off – the prototypes first, then a minute later the Prototype Challenge, the GT Le Mans class, and then the Daytona GT, Antoinette moving off with them.
“Telemetry good,” Heather said into her microphone as Katy, Bev, Sands and George came out to the pit wall, standing by Henri and Janine.
“Once the lead car passes the pits again,” Shirley said into the microphone n the hospitality, “each group of cars gets the green flag, and the race is on.”
The people watched the screen, as Tonia said “all good...”
“And the Prototype are approaching the pit lane... The lead car peels off... And we ARE GO!”
“And the race is underway,” Shirley said. “Here come the Prototype Challenge...”
The second phalanx of cars sped up and passed the green flag, followed by the Le Mans class, as Shirley said “and finally, the Daytona GT class – remember, RCM Racing are number 59 today.”
The room watched the screen as the last group went past the green flag.
“And we are go, we are go,” Denice said, “nice steady start Toni.”
“Remember the plan Toni – keep position for the first two laps, and we see what happens after that?”
“Roger that,” Toni said as the youngsters came in.
“You have two Mommies?” one of the little girls asked Judith.
“Yes,” Judith said, “Momma Annie, and Momma Rina.”
“Well I have two Daddy’s,” another little girl spoke, “but one doesn’t live with us.”
“Where do you live?”
Annie smiled from where she sat listening as Judith rattled off both her New Haven and New York addresses, just like they had taught her.
“We live in Philadelphia,” a little boy spoke, “My Daddy’s work there.”
“You have two daddy’s?”
“Where does your Mommy live?”
“I don’t have a Mommy, My Daddy says that is because they are gay.”
“Oh…” Judith knitted her brow as she tried to understand.
“Children…who wants more drinks?” Annie felt it better to intervene then let that topic continue.
“We are having a princess party for my birthday,” a little girl told Judith as they sat on the floor.
“Well I’m a real princess.” Judith smiled.
“You are not…”
“Ouch,” Annie distracted the girls, that topic was no better at the moment.
“Right then,” Jess said, “who wants to have a sing-song?”
“Thank you,” Annie whispered as she gathered the children around herself.
"Well hopefully we quickly settle into a routine," Heather spoke to Denice as Tonia came on the phones.
"Let him go by Toni."
"Yeah he's taking risks already, give him PLENTY of room."
"So we settle into the middle of the pack in our class, and just see what happens?"
"That's the best we can do Denice, we've never raced a 12 hour event so we will learn a lot about ourselves I suspect." Heather nodded.
“Good tactics – we had a good few first laps,” Henri said quietly.
“David! You’re late?”
“I know and I’m sorry – the flight was delayed,” David McIlroy said as he and a small group came in. As he kissed Nessa, he said, “so what have we missed?”
Deborah Winters smiled as she accepted the gift bag, and then looked round. “I see all the sponsors are here?”
“Oh yes – come and have some brunch, and then you can have a wander round...”
"So you are both a
model and a student Anna?" a female executive from Lerrabella asked.
"Have you done anything I might have seen?"
"Well maybe my
feet if you shop in Saks," Anna smiled.
"Yes in running
shoes,” Anna said, “that's one of the few things I've posed for so far that is
understand," the woman laughed, "well young models take whatever work
you can get I suspect."
"We do." Anna
"I've always liked
the quality of Torware products,” she said as she looked at the brochure, “but
aren't they a little pricey?"
"Well it depends
how you view it I suppose,” Anna said, “but they are outstanding designs made
to the highest standards, so you will end up using them for a very long
true," the woman looked thoughtful as she moved away.
"Well done Doc," Blair joined her, "that was perfect."
“Happy to help...”
“Shirley, may I bend your ear for a moment?”
“Of course,” Shirley said as she saw Susan approach with a tall well-dressed man.
"Anderson, can I
introduce my boss Shirley Xavier?
Shirley, this is Anderson Lowe."
the tall bald headed man said as he kissed Madame's hand. "Can I in return
thank you both for the invitation."
"Well, Susan had heard
that you enjoy sports events."
"I do...and I do
enjoy watching people who want my business try to impress me."
"Now what makes
you think we wish to impress you?" Shirley said as she handed him a drink.
said, “I am guessing like every other major art insurance company you have
heard of my intention to house my things in a gallery open to the public."
"Yes of course we
have, but it's not the sole reason to invite you," Shirley shook her
auburn hair and smiled a dazzling smile, "you are of course an old friend
of John Hammond my partner aren't you?"
"We do know each
"And you know the
Razinski's and van Roon's of course."
"Yes I do,"
despite himself the art collector let a little smile escape his lips.
"So yes whilst we
might like your business some day, at least for today I hope you'll view this
just as a day to enjoy yourself?"
"Put that way Shirley, I just think I might."
“Excellent – please, try some more of the food,” Shirley said as she looked round the room.
“Alan – I wonder if I would see you here.”
“Hello David,” Alan Kennedy said as he greeted his friend, “you were invited as well?”
“A shrewd move on the part of Miss Xavier I think.”
“Today is about family and fun, not business David,” Alan said as Sharon walked over. “I checked the others – they’re happy in the next room Dad.”
“Good – Sharon, this is David McIlroy of AMININCO. David, my daughter Sharon.”
“Of course – I remember you from the ball. My assistant, Deborah Winters.”
“Pleasure,” Deborah said as she shook Sharon’s hand, Sharon smiling as she looked forward to meeting her again.
“Look at her eyes, the way she is looking Miss Winters up and down,” Carina said quietly as she, Juliette and Diana watched. “What do you both think?”
"Who was it said
she saw something in Sharon the way she whipped her step-mother that
time?" Juliette whispered to Carina and Diana. "Because if Doc is
right, and I think she is, then we have a big decision to make again."
"Well I like
"I know you do
Carina dearest, but can we really accommodate her within our group?" Diana
"On the other
hand, I could go Beast on her...friend or not."
"No that shouldn't be necessary." Juliette looked across the large room. “I wonder if we need to take another approach – let me talk to Shirley...”
5.30 pm GMT
"So how are they
running?" Caroline asked as she put her head round the door of the TV
"They are 38th
overall," Nikki said as she looked away from the screen for a moment.
terribly good...Is it?" Aileen asked as she came in with snacks.
slightly better than they hoped." Caroline sat down, "It puts them
about halfway in their class, which when I spoke to Sandy she said they would
consider a success."
"It's not how you are doing overall that matters so much in this," Tom spoke, "It's all about how you are doing in your class of car."
"Their car it's like my little old Fiat, trying to race Dad's BMW," John spoke, "the Prototype cars go considerably faster."
"Well I learn
something each day."
"So do I
Aileen." Ama reached for a can of fizz. "Racing cars isn't really my
"Well tomorrow we
can go watch soccer if you like Ama," John offered, "Athletic are
playing Finn Harps tomorrow in a cup match, it's both a local derby and rather
a grudge match."
good." Ama looked thrilled.
"Yes, it's a One O’clock
"I think I'll join you for that," Will spoke.
Athletic are our team in Eventon." Tom spoke. "We are a division below
the Harps, so everyone here sees this as a chance to humble them a bit."
"I support the Red
Bulls in New York," Ama said, "our big rivalry is with New York
"As ours is with
Sheffield United..." Will started.
"And next time you
and Sean get to arguing about it I swear I will desert you both darling."
Mandy looked heavenwards.
"Is that Sean Bean
you are talking about?" asked Eve.
"Sean will just not see he supports the wrong club." Will laughed.
“Hang on,” Nikki said, “red flags are out.”
“It’s raining – heavily.”
Sebring Hospitality Suite
“How is it going
Susan?" Shirley asked.
"VERY WELL. Despite the race stopping, everyone is
enjoying themselves, and it’s going like clockwork."
"The girls are
doing a first rate job, and I have already tentatively booked at least three
visits for Caroline to do security inspections with a view to us giving a
quote, and Penny I think has a couple."
"Well that is
good, but don't push too hard."
"So how are our
political friends enjoying themselves?"
Pepsi the Senator has wandering hands and eyes, but the three congressmen all
seem to be really nice."
"Yes I had thought
that," Shirley paused, "do you think I should tell the Senator how
young she is?"
"No I think Pepsi can deal with an old goat like him in her sleep."
“I need a rest,” Sarah said as she sat down with Becca.
“Me too – Jeannie doesn’t know how lucky she is in her chair.”
“Grace was right about these heels,” Sarah said as she massaged her feet, and looked at H talking to Chet and Stephen.
“Hey there you two,” Chet said as she came over, “you’re both doing a great job.”
“Thanks,” Sarah said as H kissed her.
“Well, at least we came off in a good position,” Clint said as they looked at the rain lashing down on the pit lane.
“Hey Angel – have you seen the latest photos from Ireland,” Abby said as her friend came in.
“Nope – what can you show me?”
“I think you’ll like this one,” Abby said with a smile as she showed Angel one particular picture.
“What the... How did they persuade Dad to do that? And do my brothers know yet?”
“No idea, and no idea.”
“What are you... OH my goodness, is that your dad Angel,” Pepsi said as she looked over their shoulders.
“Yup – I wonder how he managed to get pulled into this?”
“Can I tell Jack?”
“Oh no – this is my joy...”
"So how is it
going my love?" Carina looked in at the children.
"I'm having to
have eyes in the back of my head, and listen to every conversation."
"Yes Cari, don't
let anyone EVER tell you children aren't aware of what their parents do."
Carina hugged Annie.
"Well at least the girls are helping - Erica has most of them listening to her read at the moment.”
“Good – we’ll bring some food in in a little while, and we have a special surprise for them...”
“OF course Xavier International would be able to answer your needs,” Pepsi said, “if you give me your business card, I’ll pass it on to one of the directors.”
“Not as easy as it looks, is it,” Jeannie said as Pepsi turned round.
“Tell me about it – break?”
The two girls made their way over to where the lunch buffet was laid out, Jeannie balancing a plate on her lap as they took some of the sandwiches and nibbles, and then found a table.
“I believe you will appreciate these,” House said as he brought two drinks over. “Your mother is talking to some of the Lerrabella people.”
“House, you are a marvel,” Pepsi said as she sipped her drink. “So, morning down, afternoon and night to go – how do you cope?”
“Same way I cope when on a shoot – coffee and patience,” Jeannie said with a smile.
“So looking forward to tomorrow?”
“Oh yes – Shirley has promised this place will be cleared out, but Mum and Granddad are telling me nothing. Have you heard anything?”
“If I had,” Pepsi said with a smile, “would I tell you?”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, the support crew for RCM Racing have come in for a visit.”
“Well, given the race is suspended, we got the chance to come up,” Katherine said as George, Sands, Katy and Bev went to talk to the others.
“How are things downstairs,” Pepsi asked.
“Hectic – but fun,” Katy said as she took a soft drink.
As she talked with the others, Juliette walked over and joined Shirley
“We have a gatecrasher in the room Shirley.” Juliette whispered in her friends’ ear.
“Do we?” Shirley glanced round, “how the hell did he or she slip in?”
“I don’t know, I thought our security was tight, but it’s definitely a he, I keep catching glances out of the corner of my eye of someone who is just dressed all wrong.”
“Are sure you aren’t seeing ghosts again?”
“Yes,” Juliette said quietly, “I think this is Katy’s stalker, and whoever he is he at least knows that keeping on the move is the best way not to be spotted in a crowded room.”
“So how do you know it’s an outsider Ju darling?”
“Well first I don’t know the face, and I certainly already knew at least by sight everyone who was invited, but most importantly he looks wrong…”
“There is a right way to look at a function like this?”
“Shirley don’t be naïve,” Juliette said, “you know very well there is.”
“Alright, well let’s consult with the best pair of eyes in the room…Jack do you have a moment?”
“For you Shirley…Always.”
“Juliette thinks we have a gatecrasher who might be Katy’s stalker. Have you seen anybody who doesn’t belong?”
“Other then a certain over-sexed Senator?”
“Yes other than him.” Shirley half-laughed.
“Well there is one man, and he’s dressed all wrong for an occasion like this…”
“That is him,” Juliette interrupted.
“How wrong?” Shirley asked.
“Jeans and an event T shirt, I’d assumed maybe he was either staff that had wandered where he shouldn’t be, or security.”
“Did you get a picture Jack?”
“No,” Jack said as he shook his head, “he wasn’t in your brief Ju darling, and he wasn’t good-looking enough to personally interest me.”
“Well if you do see him again PLEASE snap away, we really do need find out who this menace is.”
“Certainly boss,” Jack grinned as he started circulating again.
“You are wrong David darling,” Nessa shook her head, “fashion as I was taught it died in the mid sixties.”
“And I say that is just pure snobbery,” her partner replied with an amused look on his face.
“Paulie back me up please,” Nessa said as the rain fell, “didn’t the rot set in with the growth of the celebrity culture in the mid sixties?”
“Oh you and I have argued this too often for me to get involved,” Paulie laughed lightly, “and don’t bully poor David on this issue Nessa Richmond.”
“Would I bully anyone?”
“Oh, as if you need to ask Gran?” Sands giggled.
“Look all I’m saying is that with the coming of popular youth culture driven by the media and celebrities, TRUE fashion died.”
“What you mean is that fashion that was tailored to the tastes of upper-class women such as yourself died out Nessa,” David spoke again, “fashion simply became more democratic, and the snob in you hates that fact.”
“David I am not a snob, and I’m simply saying is that when women beyond their youth started following trends created by the young, then fashion as such stopped.”
“I’ll bite and ask for an explanation Mrs Richmond,” Sharon spoke for the first time.
“Look all I’m saying is that before the mid sixties you can very closely date any image by the clothes and hair of women in any image. But that now I can show you two pictures of girls in shirts and jeans, separated by a space of 50 years, and you tell me which one is from the sixties and which one is 2016.”
“But I can tell a lot of other era’s from women’s clothing darling?” David looked studious, “just think of the huge padded shoulders of the early 80’s…think of things worn by the likes of Madonna…”
“All of which have been repeated so often that even an expert like Juliette I bet has trouble differentiating.”
“Hey don’t bring me into this argument. Juliette smiled. “I simply want a word with Katy.”
“Oh is something wrong?” Katy asked.
“Let’s go and talk over here,” Juliette said as Bev glanced round, and then walked slowly over to where George was standing with Diana.
“George, a word please,” she said quietly.
“Of course – forgive me Diana,” George said as they slipped off.
“The stalker – he’s in the room. He keeps moving out of sight, but I saw him yesterday and again last night.”
George looked round, and said, “all right Lass – let me look as well.”
“My view, as I have always said, is that most of our little group fall outside the conventional 5 class structure.” Winston spoke softly, “from what I have learned at Stanford most Saints and Sinners belong to what some sociologists have dubbed X class.”
“Which is what?” Barbara asked.
“Artistic, intellectual, and other so-called creative types who defy categorization in what others consider ‘normal’ terms.”
“So what you are saying is that I’m no longer working class?”
“Precisely Barbara, because of your involvement with Jeannie’s career your tastes and attitudes have shifted.”
“He has you there love.” John smiled.
“Well you are the same John, you freely mingle now with people you would have once deferred to…”
“And he has YOU there Dad,” Barbara laughed.
“Alright if we accept that argument, and I’m not saying I do, am I X class as well?” Ally Rochermann asked.
“No,” Winston smiled, “definitely still upper class, but the classlessness of X allows you to befriend them.”
“And politicians like Tom Morse?” asked Nell.
“Upper middle class, but married into the Jewish upper class, and trying very hard to appear as a man of the people.”
“He has to appear to be democratic?” Ally asked.
“Yes, but again the classlessness of so-many of us makes it far easier to befriend them.”
“I’ve been learning some of this at Harvard, but I’m still not…”
“Just think closely about all our friends Ally,” House interrupted, “and at least to me it makes sense.”
“And I always thought America thought of itself as classless.”
“Oh give me a break John,” Winston grinned, “you dig and we are just as preoccupied with class as you Brits.”
“Andy, Dawn – are you both having fun in here?”
“Yeah, Sis,” Andy Kennedy said as he looked over. “This is Jess – her dad is a broker in the city as well.”
“You most be Juan Merchado’s daughter – it’s a pleasure to meet you,” Sharon said as she looked over. “I hope they’re behaving themselves.”
“Oh they’re fine – Dawn is helping with some of the older toddlers as well. Annie is in charge really, not us.”
“Well, thank you as well,” Sharon said as she looked at Annie, and smiled at Carina.
“Well, it keeps me busy – Erica, Jess, let’s get the kids into a line and we can take them through to get some lunch.”
7.30 pm GMT
“So I presume you are happy,” Caroline said as they sat at the dining table.
“Very much so, I think this has been a great shoot,” Alice said as she looked over. “A rest day tomorrow, and then the late flight back to New York.”
“Well, some football ends the holiday on a high,” Ama said with a smile.
“Excuse me a minute,” Eve said as her cell phone went off.
“Eve, you know the rules...”
“I know – sorry Dad,” she said as she slipped out.
“Hey Kit – what’s up?
“Oh has she now? Are you planning on going?
“Yeah, I’ll be there – nine o’clock. See you then.”
“Something up,” John said as Eve came back in.
“No – I need to run into town later Mum. I shouldn’t be long.”
“Oh, where are you going?”
“I need to take something down to the church for tomorrow – I won’t be long.”
Jo looked at Eve as she said that, reading her body pose, her words, the way she was sweating lightly, and she knew one thing.
Eve was lying about something.
"So thinking of
church do you...?" Caroline's voice trailed off.
"Not as often as
we should," Tom smiled a little, "We are Church of Ireland of course,
and St Brigid's in town is our parish church, but I rarely go to
"I take the
children occasionally," Paula added, "but we will be here for Easter,
and we do go on days like that."
"So you have never
reverted to Catholicism?" Ama asked.
"My daughter was
recently received into the Roman Catholic church," Caroline explained.
"No," Tom smiled again, "young Kit is the senior Roman Catholic Gaunt."
"If you want to go
to Mass in the morning Ama, I can arrange for Paddy to drive you?" Paula
"Well if it's not
too much trouble."
"Not at all," Paula answered.
Jo watched Eve carefully.
“Are you allowed to drive a car Eve?”
“Well... Technically not until I’m seventeen, but I learned on the estate, and the local Garda know me.”
"Tell me about the
soccer ground John?" Ama asked.
"Well it hardly
compares to the Bernabeu," John laughed, "pack it to the rafters you
can get about four and a half thousand people into Clamman Park, and most of
them are standing on a grassy bank."
sounds...intimate..." Nikki ventured.
"That it is,” John
said, “the Athletic only average three or four hundred fans for league games,
but for the derby games with Harps it can get quite full..."
noisy," Tom chuckled slightly.
"Well local pride
is at stake, what do you expect," Will looked away from what he was
travel, just as ours crowd into Ballybofey when we play them there." John
"Well it sounds
fun." Ama concluded. "Mass and soccer, is there a better way to spend
"Just remember that long flight home young lady," Caroline reminded her daughter.
“Of course Mom!”
“Right – I’ll just run that stuff down to the church,” Eve said as she walked off.
“Caroline, a word,” Jo whispered as she took her friend into the kitchen.
“I think Eve and Kit may be thinking of doing something stupid – can you borrow a car so that we can follow them?”
"What colours do your team wear John?" Ama asked, "and can I buy a scarf and a replica shirt tomorrow?"
"The answer to the last question is yes," John smiled, "and our colour is St Patrick's blue shirts and white shorts."
"What is St Patrick's blue?" Nikki asked.
"Well it is a dark, light blue, and slightly metallic looking..."
"How can it be a dark LIGHT blue?"
"I know it sounds odd...John paused, "wait till I get my scarf."
The girls waited two minutes till he returned.
"Oh I get it," Ama looked closely, it's darker then Manchester City's blue, but lighter then say a royal blue?"
“Anderson – come and join us for lunch...”
"Well you are
clearly doing something right," Nessa Richmond spoke to Shirley, "I
haven't seen Anderson so happy away from his beloved art in years."
"Well I think we laid down some good ground rules,” Shirley said, “he knows we want his business, but I also told him that was something to talk about another day."
"Ah the ultra-soft sell...well thought out Shirley."
"Well I wish I
could claim credit, but it's largely Susan's work."
"You are lucky to
have a woman of her talents you know."
"Indeed, I am very
lucky to have her."
"Talking of talent,” Nessa said, “I must say that Tanera is excellent as well"
"Isn't she just? We were lucky again that Susan found her."
"I will need to
consider if I should borrow her when I organize events."
"Oh like YOU need help in that regard Nessa." Shirley smiled.
“Well good afternoon ladies.”
“David,” Nessa said as she kissed him, “I hope you and your colleagues are enjoying the race so far?”
“Oh we are – and I wanted to thank you for inviting us Miss Xavier. I must say, it came as a bit of a surprise.”
“Well, we may be in a bit of a heated business discussion right now,” Shirley said with a smile, “but this is a day for enjoyment – and besides, Xavier International are not the only sponsors of RCM Racing.”
“Indeed – may I ask where Caroline Jameson is today?”
“She’s in Ireland – combining a modelling shoot with advising the Earl of Lardarn on security for his town and country homes. She may be a director of our company, but she is first and foremost a security expert, after all.”
“Very true – would you object if I took Nessa to get some lunch?”
“Of course not,” Shirley said with a smile as the couple came over, and Susan joined her.
“Nicely handled – I know he wants to talk business, but not here.”
“Indeed – although I would like to see what Alan is going to talk to him about...”
“We got the word – re-start in five minutes. Jan, strap in.”
“And here we go again,” Jan said with a smile as she got into the seat, and then drove off.
“Well, at least we had the opportunity to re-tune and make everything good,” Henri said.
“We’re working on slicks – watch the temperature gauge,” Heather said as she looked at Denice. “Tonia – weather report?”
“No more rain expected today – but it’s going to be cool for a while, so the track may take a while to dry out.”
“And that’s the green flag,” Clint said, “we’re back in business...”
“Jan heads up – number 10 has spun off. “
“On Collier Curve – approach with caution, traffic slowing.”
“Copy that,” Jan said as Henri looked over.
“One of the better places for an accident – tyre wear?”
“Getting to the edge,” Denice said, “Temperature on left rear a little high.”
“Noted – will advise if any slippage.”
“George, we need some more snacks out here.”
“On it,” George said, but as he went to the Winnebago Katy pulled him to one side and kissed him.
“Wow – what was that for?”
“For being you – now get the men their snacks.”
“Well, she’s still not backward about coming forward,” Bev said as she and Sands shook their heads.
9.30 pm GMT
“Okay,” Caroline said as she and Jo sat in Tom’s SUV, “so let’s recap. Sitting on the other side of the road from us are Eve Gaunt and Christine Mahan-Gaunt, two very angry young women.”
“Indeed – both were upset at the way John was treated last night,” Jo said, “and they have the Gaunt blood in both of them.”
“And you are worried that they may go and do something stupid?”
“No – I’m afraid they may go and do something incredibly clever – there’s young Miss Sutton now.”
Caroline looked over as Arabella came out from a bar, smiling as she waved to two men and then walked towards the two cars.
“So what do you think they’re planning?”
“Let’s see,” Jo said quietly, “two Irish boarding school girls want revenge on a third one. I think they’ll pull the classic hood surprise.”
“The grab and snatch? That was old when I saw it in some comics my mum – oh good grief!”
As they watched, Kit got out of the car and threw an old potato sack over Arabella’s head from behind, before she pushed her into the back of the car and Eve drove off.
“Oh great,” Caroline said as she started the car, “let’s hope they don’t do anything stupid.”
“I guarantee they will,” Jo said, “so let’s make sure there are no unintended consequences.”
“Dammit,” Jo said, “I should have realised they’d bring her here.”
“The Hanging Tree? Is this where...”
“Oh yes – and look.”
They could see three figures walking up the hill, but it was clear one of them had her hands pinned behind her back.
“What do you want to do?”
“What I did last night – up this way.”
“Who the fuck are you,” Arabella called out as Kit forced her to stand with her back to the tree, while Eve used rope to lash her to the trunk.
“I said, who the fuck are...”
Kit and Eve looked at each other, before Kit secured her ankles together, and then they both pulled balaclavas down over their heads.
“Okay, they got her lashed to the tree,” Jo said quietly as she and Caroline watched from the other side, “now if they do what I think they’re going to do...”
As the hood was pulled off her eyes, Arabella blinked and looked at the two masked figures in front of her.
“Let me guess – disgruntled girlfriends? When I get free frommmmmhhhtthsss.”
“Sticking plaster,” Kit said in a disguised Irish voice as she pressed the brown fabric over Arabella’s mouth, “you stay nice and quiet while we go about our business.”
“You hurt our men,” Eve said in a deeper voice than usual, also affecting an Irish accent, “so we get to hurt you back.”
“Actually,” Kit said as she opened a plastic bag, and took out a clear smaller bag, “we got them fresh today from the butcher.”
“Oh nasty,” Caroline whispered as the first bag hit Arabella squarely on the chest, the red entrails bursting over her. Several more bags were hurled at her by the two girls, guts, entrails and manure covering Arabella’s head and chest.
“No you won’t,” Kit said quietly, “maybe we should get the hounds out now – or perhaps leave her for the night.”
“Or we could show her why the Hanging Tree got its name.”
“Oh lord,” Caroline whispered as she started to get up - and then she saw Jo’s face. “What is it?”
“Caroline – who is that?”
“Yeah – maybe we should leave the slut dangling for...” Eve stopped as she saw the fear in Arabella’s eyes, and she slowly turned round.
The man looked like an older version of her father. And he was pale – deathly pale, almost translucent as he looked at the two girls.
“Now what do we have here – Eve, you got big. And is that Christine?”
The ghost smiled as he looked at them. “Come on – take those bloody stupid masks off.”
As the two girls removed the balaclavas, Arabella said “URRDDWMNN”
“And who do we have here? Any particular reason you did this?”
“She... She’s Arabella Sutton, and she humiliated John last night.”
“Sutton? Is her mother Lenora Sutton?”
“Yeah – why?”
“Then I am glad John is Tom’s boy – because it means he has the courage to get over that. When Lenora did it to me...”
“Oh no,” Eve said as she looked at Arabella, then at her uncle. “Please, don’t tell me...”
“You have had your revenge, Lady Eve, Kit of the Red Hand – but leave it at that. Life is too short to hold grudges – and too precious to waste on things like this, or people like this.”
He looked right at Arabella, who was shaking as she looked at him.
“As for you young lady – do not make the same mistakes your mother made. Learn from this. Now, you two – go home, and say no more about this.”
Kit and Eve looked at each other, before they slowly walked down the hill.
“You,” Martin said as he walked towards her, “consider your sins.”
The two girls heard her screams as Martin walked through her, and the tree, disappearing into the cold dark air as both Jo and Caroline watched.
“Should we free her?”
“You know, I think it’s better she stay there – after I have a word with her.”
Arabella was shaking as Jo walked up behind her, and said in her Louisiana accent “Well now sugah, you sure look as if you’ve had an eventful night.”
“Well, my friends call me Miss Bobcat, but tonight dahlin you can call me the voice of conscience. Ah heard what you did to that poor young man, so ah came to tell you something real truthful like.
“If ah hear anything coming back to hurt those pretty young ladies, then some friends of mine and I may come acalling at your house one night, and introduce ourselves. You may have heard of them – we call ourselves Pussycats sugah.”
Jo smiled as she heard the trickle of water.
“So, as the man there said, consider your sins and pray for forgiveness – and forgive those who trespass against you, as the good book says.
“Because if my friends and I call, Sugah, you will never need to repent again. Y’all have a nice night.”
Jo slowly backed away, joining Caroline as Arabella cried out into the night.
“Halfway mark ladies – Sandy, bring her in and have a rest. Antoinette, suit up.”
“Got it Henri,” Antoinette as she fastened the neck of her suit, putting on the driving helmet and watching as Sandy brought the car into the pits and jumped out.
“As the pit crew refuelled and changed the seat, Heather heard Tonia say “looks like most other teams are coming in. Going to get busy.”
“Then it is as well we changed now,” Sandy said as she removed her helmet, and Antoinette set off. “Tonia, places lost?”
“Only one, she’s merging nicely back into the flow.”
“Excellent – thanks Princess,” Sandy said with a smile as she took a bottle of water from her daughter.
“Sandy – some chicken salad in a few minutes?”
“Sounds good Katherine,” Sandy called back as she looked at the computer screens. “How’s the car holding up lover?”
“So far so good – the planned stops are doing the job in keeping things well, but the fun is still to come.”
“Okay guys – have you enjoyed having me with you this afternoon?”
“YES MISTER JOLLY,” the kids shouted as the clown grinned.
“Well, may I say you have been the most well behaved party I have ever, EVER had the pleasure of leading, and as a big reward, I’m told there is a lovely pizza and pasta tea waiting for you in the next room. So go, eat, have fun, and don’t forget to take your presents with you when your parents come to collect you.”
As the kids ran out, Annie watched and then turned to the clown.
“Danny I cannot thank you enough for coming and doing this today.”
“Hey, it’s a pleasure Annie – and it’s good to see you too, blooming as well.”
“How is the party entertainment business going anyway? Got to admit, the last thing I saw you doing when we did Advanced Algebra at Brown was something like this.”
“Hey, to each their own. So who’s the lucky guy?”
“Not a guy – you heard of Carina Huntingdown?”
“The model? Nice one Annie.”
“Yeah – and you?”
“Grant works for the media centre here. On which note, I need to clean up, change and meet him.”
“Hey - drop by the RCM lounge later. I’ll introduce you.”
“Sounds good,” Danny said as he started to remove the greasepaint, and Annie went through to find Pussy and Frieda with their baby.
“She needed her feed,” Frieda said as Pauline sucked on her breast.
“No problem – want something here or are you going to wait for later.”
“We’ll wait here for a while – and Orlanda has said she will pop in, so the three of you,” Pussy said as she looked at Erica and Jess, “go and join the others for a while.”
“Thank you for coming, enjoy the race,” Pepsi said as she handed out another pack, smiling as Doc walked over.
"I can't believe
that people are still just arriving," Pepsi whispered to Doc as she came
"Well there is
still nearly half the race to go yet, so I guess I get their logic," Doc
smiled as another new arrival took a hospitality pack.
"Did you speak to your Mom?" Pepsi asked Erica as she came back from the toilets.
"I did,” Erica said with a smile, “and she sounds like she's in seventh heaven down there."
"I'm glad for her. How are they holding up?"
“They have the super secret sauce to keep them going.”
“What – Katy open another button on her suit.”
“Nope – her mother’s infamous coffee and cake combo.”
“Hey,” Poppy said as she came over, “Have you seen Blair anywhere? Giovanna Mancini wants to talk to her about some goods.”
“Her pop’s around here somewhere,” Doc said, “I’ll find him and send him over.”
“Well, Miss Broadhurst – may I ask you some more questions?”
Pepsi rolled her eyes before she turned and said “Senator – how may I help you now...”
"I shouldn't have
invited that old bastard." Tom Morse watched as the Senator made another
attempt to corner Pepsi, "but we need his vote if we are to make
progress on my bill."
"I had a word with Pepsi, actually she's quite amused having such a famous politician chasing after her," his wife replied. “I think she can handle herself.”
"Can you believe that he stands on so-called 'family values' each time he gets re-elected?" Tom shook his head.
"I'm just glad you
aren't a hypocrite darling." Claire kissed her husband, just as Jack took
"Sorry I couldn't
resist," he chuckled, "it has such rarity, a politician actually
kissing his own wife."
"I know," Tom
chuckled back, "and let me have a print of that Jack."
"Will do," Jack laughed again as he moved off in search of fresh prey.
“This is a good day,” Tom said as he watched Becca walking round and talking to the guests, “it’s just a pity Bobbi couldn’t be here.”
“Exams darling – and she couldn’t get time off for this and Munich.”
“True – and with Simon accompanying her there, it could be a very good time.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Susan said into the microphone, “we just want to let you know that the evening buffet is now available, and the band will start playing for your entertainment at eight o’clock.”
As she left the stage, Nessa walked over to where Anderson Lowe was standing.
“Anderson darling – I feel I’ve neglected you today,” she said as she handed him a glass.
“Not at all Vanessa – we’re both guests here, and I have to admit it has been a most relaxing and entertaining day.”
“So you’ve enjoyed yourself?”
“Very much so – and all the better that our hostess made it clear she was not prepared to talk business today.”
“Well, Shirley is a very considerate and intelligent woman,” Vanessa said as Pepsi and Doc welcomed some new arrivals.
The man was tall, in his late fifties, with short blonde hair, wearing a Saville Row suit with a white shirt underneath. The shoes were Italian and handmade. Standing with him was a thin blonde in her late forties, wearing a peach coloured jacket and pleated knee length skirt, her long hair carefully coiffure and her body evidence of hard work somewhere.
There were two girls there as well, both with long blonde hair and stunning figures. The older was wearing a pair of skintight black leggings and four-inch heel sandals, with a white Grecian style top, while the younger was wearing a white blazer with dark blue trim, over a blue shift dress, and black heels.
“HAAKON! My dear chap, it is so good to see you.”
“And you, my dear Roy – it was good of you to invite us to come tonight.”
“Of course – may I introduce you to Shirley Xavier, the CEO of Xavier International and my co-sponsor. Shirley, may I introduce you to Haakon Olaffson, his wife Agnetha, and their daughters, Bente and Tonje.”
“A pleasure,” Shirley said as Haakon kissed her hand, “so you are the owner of Olaffson Explorations?”
“I am indeed – and it is a pleasure to meet a woman of your standing as well Miss Xavier.”
“My partner, Major John Hammond,” Shirley said as the two men shook hands, “please, help yourself to food and drink, and feel free to mingle.”
"Now that is a man
I envy Vanessa," Anderson looked as Haakon Olafsson and his party made their
"Because of his
wife? I can tell you that most of that is due to the skill of her plastic
bald man interrupted, "I envy him because of those two great paintings by
Edvard Munch he owns."
Nessa shook her head, "well from what I heard Anderson dear, he has
turned you down flat each time you have tried to buy them."
"Yes it seems that there are paintings even my money cannot buy."
“Well, remember the lesson of Robert the Bruce.”
In the garage, Henri looked out at the slightly darkening sky, and walked over.
“Well?" Henri said
as he looked over the girls’ shoulders.
starting to deteriorate just as you said they would Henri," Denice said as
she looked at the temperature readouts.”
"Well keep an eye
open for those indicator levels I told you to watch for Heather."
"Did you hear that
to nurse her, if we are going to do anything late on, we need get safely past
this phase of the race."
"Watch out Sandy,
crash ahead - #3 and #911 have hit the tyre wall at turn 1," Tonia
"It’s a bad one –
both cars damaged, warning flags out."
"I can see it
Tonia, I'll just be careful going past there till it disperses."
"How does the weather look from up there Tonia?" Henri asked.
“Still dry, and the track looks to be drying out, but forecast says air temperature cooling rapidly over the next hour.”
“Okay – lights should come on soon. Feel free to switch to infra red when ready.”
“Copy that Henri.”
"Are you enjoying yourself Kylie?" Juliette sat down next to where the youngster was sketching.
"Watching the cars? Well not particularly them darling...but watching all these people has triggered a few ideas in my brain."
"May I see?"
darling." Kylie passed her sketchpad and reached for her drink.
excellent you know?"
"Well I'm pleased
with them,” Kylie said, “the test though is what Alice thinks."
"Alice or not, I
might just ask Catherine to make this shift dress just for me," Juliette
pointed to a design.
"What might I be
able to have made?" Catherine joined them.
"This." Juliette pointed.
“Hmm – very elegant, and why do I think you may need it for an upcoming trip?”
“Well, I trust to you to do it, my dear friend.”
“Mamma,” Tonje Olaffson said with a smile, “I’d like to introduce you to Ally and Nell Rochermann. They are in my house at Harvard. Nell, Ally, this is my mother Agnetha and my sister Bente.”
“Pleasure to meet you both,” Ally said as they shook hands.
“Do you know many of the people here,” Bente asked.
“The vast majority are personal or family friends,” Ally said.
"In that case, who
is the young girl sitting in the corner with the sketchpad?" Agnetha
Olafsson asked the twins.
Mitchell." Nell smiled.
"Kylie Mitchell... I know the name from somewhere..."
"Have a glance at the label of your jacket," Ally replied.
"My jacket? Oh dear God now I understand, she's Kylie Mitchell the designer," the Norwegian woman looked intently "You know she's far younger than I expected."
“She’s only just turned sixteen,” Ally said, “and she’s coming to live in New York and study at my old school later this year.”
“Wow – to be so young and so talented...”
“So ready for the end of year finals, Tonje?”
“I hope so – not much time left now...”
“Ah you’ll ace them,” Nell said with a smile.
Jaguar is on the move Sandy." Tonia spoke.
"I can see him in
my rear mirrors Ton."
"How do you want
to play this?" Henri asked.
"Well he clearly
has newer tires then I do, so I guess I'd better let him past."
"That would be
sensible Sandy," Heather called out, "you are due in in ten
"I know, but you
know I'd really like to race him."
Henri called out, "there is still 25% of the race to go, so just be
"Roger that Henri," Sandy gritted her teeth as the Jag passed her, "next time it won't be so easy Stev," she whispered to herself.
“Well done – always remember, this is a marathon Sandy.”
“Well, we are now into the last quarter,” Sandy said as she sipped her water, “and it’s dark. At least the track dried out a little.”
“True – but it is cooling as well,” Henri said. “How are the tyre temperatures holding up, ladies?”
“So far so good – but we adjusted the alert levels as per your instructions,” Denice said as Bev handed her a mug of coffee. “Thanks – this is just what the doctor ordered.”
“Always glad to oblige,” she said as Katy collected the other mugs up. Whoever had snuck into the hospitality room had disappeared once they stated looking for him, and the security in the pits area was watertight – unless he wanted to cross the race track in full view of the cameras and the headlights.
“Okay Antoinette,” Henri said, “Tonia, you are watching?”
“Roger that Henri, we are good to go.”
“Excellent – you are clear to move when safe to do so.”
“Roger that – and thank you Uncle,” Antoinette said as Heather watched the speed increase.
“Ladies and Gentlemen.”
The room turned and looked as Shirley stood at the microphone.
“On behalf of LerraBella, Torware, Xavier International and Razinsky Financial I wanted to say thank you for coming today, and for spending time with us. The band will now entertain you for the rest of the evening, but can I also take a moment to thank the girls who have been representing our respective companies here today, and hope you will forgive them if they all take a very, VERY well earned break.”
The room applauded as Pepsi, Becca, Doc, Sarah, Poppy and Jeannie all smiled, and then made their way over to a table which had been reserved for them.
“Well done, all of you,” Gus said as he and Ray came over, “now relax – your job is done.”
“THANK you,” Poppy said as she stretched her legs out, Tanera smiling as she approached them.
“You deserve a small reward for today – all of you have some special packs prepared by the sponsors, but first, we have a meal for you,” she said as the waiters and waitresses brought plates out and laid them in front of the six girls, then poured wine into glasses for all of them.
“I don’t know about you lot,” Jeannie said with a smile, “but I am bushed. I need this down time.”
“How you managed it I have no idea,” Becca said with a smile.
“Professionalism and practice,” Jeannie said with a grin. “Now this Fettuccini Alfredo smells fantastic.”
“It does actually,” Doc said. “Tastes good too. So how is the race going?”
“Well, they’ve stayed in the middle of the field, but now...”
“Okay Toni – tyre temperatures are looking good. How’s the grip?”
“Holding firm – looks as if the decision to stay on softs was the right one.”
“Good – come in on the next pass Antoinette, and Jan can take over for her last stint.”
“Roger that,” Henri’s niece said as Janice fastened her suit.
“How many places have we made up?”
“Three – keep up the good work, and stay alert,” Denice said as the car was brought in, Antoinette jumping out as the seats were changed, and Jan strapped herself in.
“Take it steady Jan – the plan is paying off. Tonia, are we clear to go?”
Jan waved as she drove off, Antoinette removing her helmet before she hugged everyone.
“That was an experience – thank you for the opportunity,” she said as she took some water.
“Good – now rest. All we can do is make sure the others do a good job. Sandy, you may have the honour of the last hour.”
“Thanks,” Sandy said as she watched from the pit wall.
“Shirley – with deep regret, I must go, but i wanted to thank you for a truly relaxing and exceptional day.”
“I also should thank you for coming Anderson,” Shirley said as she and Susan stood by the doorway. “And I am glad you have enjoyed yourself. At the risk of spoiling it, however...”
“I will make an appointment to come and see you next week,” Anderson Lowe said with a smile. “It may be that we can come to some arrangement, and that way we are not mixing business with pleasure. Vanessa – I will see you at the board meeting next week?”
“I look forward to it,” Nessa said as she kissed Anderson on the cheek, smiling as he left the room.
“I think that went rather well,” Shirley said as she looked at Susan, “and i am sure we can come to some agreements. When he calls, coordinate with Caroline to ensure she is available if required?”
“Jan, we have a blow-out at turn 10 – approach with caution.”
“Seen and avoided Tonia – what’s the position Henri?”
“You have made it into the top third of the field, my dear,” Henri said, “and have performed admirably. Steady progress is what we need.”
“Roger that – overtaking 32 now.”
“Noted – nice movement.”
“Jan,” Sandy said into her microphone, “any closer to Stev?”
“I can’t see him – Tonia?”
“Tracking about half a lap ahead of you at the moment.”
“Good – he’s mine...”
“Hey – all the kiddies safely back with respective parents?”
“With this exception,” Annie said as she handed the Moses basket back to Pussy, Pauline sleeping peacefully inside as the band played quietly in the background.
“She seems to have a quiet day anyway,” Frieda said as Annie joined her, Pussy and Carina, Judith sitting on her mother’s lap.
“So how does it taste,” Annie said as Frieda sipped her Chardonnay.
“Wonderful – but I am limited to one glass for the moment. I think it has been a very profitable day however.”
“And the team?”
“Slowly making their way through the field – I think they stand a real good chance of being in the top five private teams.”
“One hour and ten to go,” Heather said as Denice looked at the readouts.
“Jan – bring her in. We need to swap out the rear tyres and Sandy’s ready.”
“Okay – next lap,” Jan said as Henri looked at the screen.
“the pressure and temperature are certainly a cause for concern – Clint, prepare for a quick change.”
“Ready and waiting,” Clint said as Bev and Katy brought fresh mugs of coffee round, while Sands and George sat with their mother.
“You’re going to do finish this, Mom,” George said with a smile.
“Oh yes – and I have a little personal score to settle as well,” Sandy said as she put her helmet on.
“Go,” Clint said as the car came to a stop, Jan getting out as the chair and tyres were swapped. Sandy smiled as she got into her seat, and waited for the all clear from Janine before she headed off.
“Sandy Stev’s car is coming in for a tyre change as well, and he’s doing the last lap.”
“Forty five minutes to go,” Ray said as he and Shirley looked at the race on the large screen.
“How are they doing,” John Hammond said as he came over.
“I think they are firmly in top five private,” Ray said, “and barring accident, will have proven their...”
“SANDY! Spinout on the last but one turn – 32 has left the track, gravel on road.”
“Roger that – everyone else braking?”
“Looks like it – why?”
“Just interested,” Sandy said as she shifted down two gears, took a wide line round the bend, and then accelerated quickly out, overtaking two more cars as she did so.
“Hello Stev,” she said to herself as she approached the next car, “I hope you’re ready...”
“Is it my imagination,” Gus said as he came to the screen, “or is that or car in a little race of its own.”
“It is,” Ray said, “that’s Stev Clayton’s car in front of her.”
“Oh boy,” Cassie said as she joined them, “they were joking a day or two ago, but this is serious now.”
“Keep it steady, lover,” Heather said into her microphone, “tyres are holding up well, and we’ve got thirty minutes to go. Let’s end this on a high note.”
“Oh I intend to,” she heard Sandy say with a laugh, “Tonia, road ahead?”
“Get round the hairpin, you both have the road to yourselves for the straight.”
“Right – wish me luck.”
“What’s Sandy playing at,” Ray said as the two cars came round the bend.
“I think she’s getting ready to – yeah, there she goes!”
As they watched, Sandy moved out and accelerated past the car in front, speeding on down the road as they clapped.
“Okay Sandy – you did it,” Henri said, “now keep that position. This has been a good day if you finish there.”
“Oh it’s been a good day already,” Sandy said, “but I take the meaning Boss.”
Slowly, the room gathered round the screens as the minutes counted down.
“Five minutes Sandy – next lap will probably be your last one.”
Katherine left the Winnebago, going with Katy, Sands, George and Bev to watch from the pit wall with Janine and Henri.
“Come on,” Antoinette said as she and Jan came out as well, Clint standing and looking at the monitors with Denice and Heather.
“Come on MOM!”
“And... Time! Time Jan – bring it in.”
The team walked back to the entrance to the garage, applauding Sandy as she brought the car in and stopped.
“So, how did we do,” she said as she got out and removed her helmet.
“Well, you’ve beaten me,” stev said as he came over, hugging Sandy and kissing her.
“One moment,” he said as he talked to the steward, and then walked over.
“Fourth in the private owner’s class, and second in the All Female team race. Ladies, I call that an excellent debut at Sebring.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Ray said into the microphone, “please join me in congratulating the RCM team on doing so well this year!”
As the room applauded, Ray said “and thank you for spending today with us. We hope you had a good day, and wish you a very good night.”
“Bed please momma.”
“All right, little one,” Carina said as she held Judith, “let’s get you to your bed.”
“Well, I think this calls for a celebration,” Katherine said as she went back into the Winnebago, Bev following before they returned with several bottles of champagne and a set of glasses.
“Water first,” Sandy said as she grabbed a bottle and drained it, before she took one of the bottles, shook it and sprayed it over the pit crew.
“HEY!” Bev was drenched in the drink, shaking her head as Katy laughed.
“Let’s celebrate,” Jan said, “once we have things locked away!”
Sunday 20th March
7 am GMT
“Good morning,” Caroline said as Ama and Nikki came in, “I trust you both slept well?”
“We did Mom,” Ama said, “and we have our bags packed as well for later. That smells good – is it kedgeree?”
“It is indeed,” Aileen said with a smile, “help yourselves.”
“Good morning everyone,” Eve said as she came in with Jo, stretching and yawning.
“Took me a while to get off to sleep,” she said as she poured some fruit juice, and then sat down.
“Are you all right, Eve,” Paula said as she came in, “you look as if you saw a ghost.”
Jo and Caroline looked at Eve, who went pale for a second.
“Eve – did you happen to see Arabella Sutton in town when you went down last night?”
“No – why?”
Tom took a seat and sipped his coffee. “I just got a call from the Garda – a couple walking their dog found her tied to the Hanging Tree, with sticking plaster over her mouth.”
“Found who like that?”
“Arabella,” his father said to John, “looks like someone took some sort of revenge on her. She had been pelted with offal, but she also had been really scared by something. When the officers released her, she just said she wanted to go home, and didn’t know who had done it to her.”
“Oh dear – I must pray for her this morning,” Ama said before she ate some of the rice and fish.
9 am GMT
“So this is where Christine resides,” Ama said as she and Nikki sat in the rear of the car.
“Indeed Miss,” Paddy said, “Eventon is a lovely little town, but this is a real Irish country village.”
“It certainly is picturesque,” Nikki said as they passed a number of small farms, and then drove down past a series of low stone cottages.
“Why are none of the stores open?”
“It’s Sunday morning Miss – here they stay closed until the afternoon. This is the church up ahead.”
He pulled up at the arched gateway to the small church, where Kit was waiting, wearing a light blue linen jacket over a knee length dress, and black shoes. She smiled as Paddy opened the car, Ama getting out as the skirt of her white dress fell to cover her legs to her knees. She was wearing a dark blue jacket, and blue heels. Nikki was wearing a grey jersey dress, dark tights and black heels, with a black leather jacket.
“Welcome,” she said, “thank you Paddy – I’ll drive them back after the service.”
“Of course, Miss,” Paddy said as Ama put her bag over her shoulder.
“Come away in,” Kit said as they made their way up to the church entrance.
"It was nice of
you to come with us Kit." Nikki whispered as they entered the church.
"Well Ama said she
wanted to come to mass, and The Gaunt's would cause a major sensation if one of
them entered a Catholic church willingly."
"I just don't
understand such bigotry," Ama shook her head.
"Well you aren't
Irish Ama." Kit smiled. "Anyway St Helen's is our parish church for
my estate, and I think you'll find this friendlier then going into town."
"It's such a
pretty church," Ama looked round.
"Thank you, we had
it restored a few years ago."
"I mean we in the
sense of the Mahan-Gaunt's, our donations helped with the new roof, etc."
"Do you own most
of the village Kit?"
"Pretty much Ama,
most people are tenants, or they work on the estate."
"Well I notice how
polite they are to you."
"Good morning Father." Kit held out her hand as the priest approached, "can I present two new friends of mine. Girls meet Father Casey our parish priest here at Ballysatten."
“A pleasure – I take it you are visiting the big house?”
“He means Lardarn House – but yes, Ama and Nikki are accompanying Ama’s mother, Caroline Jameson.”
“Well, welcome,” Father Casey said with a smile. “Be seated – we will begin shortly.”
11 am GMT
"So how was mass
girls?" Paula Lardarn asked as the three girls entered the blue drawing
lovely," Ama sighed.
"Well I'm glad you enjoyed it,” Paula said, “an early lunch is being served in the dining room, but if you want to bring it in here to eat you can."
"Will we make it in time for kick-off?" Ama said as she looked at her watch.
"Yes we have 90
minutes, and its only a 15 minute drive," the Duke looked up from an
armchair where he was reading the Sunday papers.
"I do want to get
some souvenirs though,” Ama said, “so we must go to the club shop please."
"We will have
plenty of time to shop," John grinned as he came in wearing an Athletic
team shirt and jeans.
"I have to change, but my clothes are in my bag." Kit came back in with a large coffee. “I’ll only need a few minutes.”
"I laid out your jeans upstairs," Caroline called from the dining room.
"Thanks mom," Ama shouted back. “If you will excuse us for a few minutes, we will change and then eat.”
“Then we’ll also be ready for the flight,” Nikki said as they disappeared upstairs.
“Was that the other three,” Jo said as she sat down.
“It was darling,” Mandy said, “now, let us show you both the pictures...”
“And he actually said the big house,” John repeated with a smile.
"Well it's not as
though Ballysatten itself is a SMALL house," Paula laughed, "people
call this place the big house, but Ballysatten runs it pretty close."
"It's far too big
for mother and me," Kit smiled, "it's why we live in the Dower House,
and Ballysatten is open to the public."
"Kit you better
put your football clothes on," Aileen wandered in, "we don't have too
"Oh and don't you look cute," Caroline smiled as Clodagh came in dressed for going to the game.
“Thank you,” Clodagh said as Kit ran out, and Ama and Nikki finished their meal.
12.10 pm GMT
Home ground of St Brigid’s Athletic
“Nice little shop,” Nikki said as they stood to the side of the small portacabin, waiting until Caroline finished her purchases and walked over.
"Okay that's three
replica shirts, three scarves, assorted programmes, other little bits, and a copy
of the club history for you darling." Caroline smiled at Ama. "That
used up most of the Euros that I have left."
somewhere we can change John?" Nikki asked.
"Dad asked if you
could borrow the little Directors room in the grandstand, and the club chairman
Ama smiled. "But how did he do that?"
"Well if you haven't noticed before, being a Duke still brings certain privileges...even in the Irish Republic. Follow me."
Ten minutes later, the party emerged in their shirts and scarves, and walked down the steps.
"Wow this is tiny," Ama looked round as they took their seats.
"Well I said it
wasn't the Bernabeu." John smiled.
"Who are all the
people talking to Kit and your sisters?"
"Local friends, being away at school in England, and living mainly in Dublin when we are in Ireland, we don't see a lot of them."
“Well, the teams are coming out,” Nikki said as a round of applause went round the ground, and Kit came back over with the girls.
“And we’re underway,” John said as the referee blew the whistle, and the game began.
As the game progressed, Ama watched with rapt attention, scrutinising every move and every pass as she became more and more involved. She screamed as loudly as the rest of the family when St Brigid’s opened the scoring with a shot from twenty yards.
"Who is the tall
red-headed boy playing up front John?" Ama asked, "He's good."
McDonald our star, and you are right he is very good. Tottenham have had him
over twice for trials, and the word is he will be transferred in the off-season."
"It doesn't surprise me,” Ama said, “he'd be an excellent backup for their current stars."
“Oh no – get in there, stop him,” Tom shouted out as the Finn Harps striker made a run down the left side, and then clapped as one of the defenders took the ball off him.
“Well done,” Caroline called out as the ball was thrown in – only to groan as the Harps striker took the ball back, dribbled to the edge of the box and scored.
“And that’s the half time whistle,” John said, “time for the Bovril and the pies.”