Senses and Sensibility – part 1
Sunday 13th December
The Huntingdown Apartment
Juliette watched as the news reader looked out from the television.
“Our main item – police were called to the Holiday Inn hotel this morning when the body of a sixty year old man was found in a hotel room. Martin Peverell, a British citizen, was found on the floor of his room, with multiple gunshot wounds. Police are examining the scene of the crime, and have made no further comment...”
“Shit,” she whispered under her breath as she picked up her telephone.
“Ju – you watching the news?”
“Yeah – where are you?”
“On my way to where I think Pippa and Poppy are. Has Sigi seen this yet?”
“No – she’s upstairs. But the police are giving it their full attention.”
Caroline cursed over the phone, "the damn cops will now put EVERYTHING and
EVERYBODY under the microscope. Juliette, we need an urgent meeting at you
Ashley's and Grace?"
"Goddess I don't know. I guess so, certainly get Brooke there. I’ll call when I’m on my way.”
“Oh my – why is HIS picture on the news?”
“Talk to you later, Caroline,” Ju said as she looked at Sigi.
The Richmond Mansion
“Heather,” Sandy called out, “Ju’s on the phone.”
“Thanks – hey Ju, what’s...
“You’re kidding me.” Putting her hand over the mouthpiece, she called out “Put the news on lover.”
“On it – oh. OH.”
“What time? Okay, I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“I take it you’re missing church this morning.”
“Looks like it,” Heather said as she finished her coffee. “I’ll be back for dinner.”
“This is not good,” Sandy said as Heather ran out, “not good at all.”
The Waldorf Hotel
“Grace – what brings you here,” Amelia Ashley said as she opened the room door.
“You need to get your coat and come with me, Amelia.”
“Why? What’s happened?”
“I’ll tell you in the car,” Grace said as she took her cell phone out.
“Caroline? Mary’s place – we’re on our way.”
“Mary Thomas,” Grace said as Lady Ashley closed the door. “Pippa and Poppy are there – and I need you to meet Caroline there. Something’s happened...”
West Central Park
“I’ve got it,” Jan said as she picked up the phone, watching Katy as she walked to her room.
“No – when did it...”
“Sure – you want us both there?”
“Okay – but I need to ask her. You understand, don’t you? I’ll be there in a little while.”
Putting the telephone down, she went into Katy’s room.
“Katy, when Caroline and Brooke came into the room, were you separate from Sigi, Liz or Shawnee at any time?”
“No – we stayed together in the lobby. Sigi can confirm it. Why?”
“Because someone shot Martin Peverell last night – he’s dead.”
“Mom, I swear, it wasn’t one of us.”
“I believe you – but stay in today, all right? I’ll be back later.”
Katy nodded as she watched her mom head out. One thought crossed her mind – where did Brooke go?
Mary Thomas’ Home
“Is it true,” Amelia said as they met her outside Mary’s house.
“It is – I called a contact and got the name confirmed. Grace, can you take the lead please?”
Grace nodded as Caroline knocked on the door.
“Well, this is a surprise,” Mary said as she opened the door, “what brings you to my humble abode, Grace?”
“I wish it was a visit for a nice reason, Mary – do you know Pippa’s mother?”
“Pleasure,” Mary said as she let them come in. “What’s going on?”
“Grace? Mum? Caroline? What are you doing here?”
“Pippa,” Grace said, “where’s Poppy?”
“In the kitchen with Erica, discussing math. Why?”
“Go and get her will you Pip,” Lady Ashley said, “we have something to tell both of you.”
Pippa looked at both of them, as Mary said “You’d better come in here then.”
“Grace,” Denice said as she stood up, “what’s going on?”
“I’ll tell you in a minute,” Grace said as Pippa brought Poppy in, Erica following with Mary.
“There is no easy way to say this,” Grace said quietly, “so forgive me if I am blunt.”
“He’s dead,” Lady Ashley said. “Someone shot Martin last night.”
Pippa and Poppy looked at the other women, before Caroline said “I’m sorry Pip.”
“It’s... It’s all right Grey – what happened?”
“I don’t know – but I’m trying to find out,” Caroline said quietly.
“I’ll get some coffee,” Mary said as she headed for the kitchen.
“We’ll help,” Denice said as she and Erica followed them out.
“He’s dead,” Poppy said, “so he can’t hurt us again?”
“He still might,” Grace said quietly. “We need to meet at Juliette’s house – everyone from last night.”
“Lunchtime – can you both come?”
The two women nodded before Pippa sat down.
“Mary – something strong in that coffee, I think,” Caroline shouted as her friend started crying, Poppy holding her hands as Amelia sat next to her.
West Side Studios
“No, NO NO!!! Look at me and smile, not the picture behind me!”
“Okay I can see what Missy meant about one having to take direction from Adam.” Trina nodded towards the sound coming from inside the studio as the photographer shouted at Charly.
“It’s all right for you – I’m next in line,” Briggy said as she looked over from the makeup chair.
“Yeah, he’s like my boss at the hotel, we make beds precisely how she trained us to do it or she fires you.” Mary sipped from a water bottle as she sat in her robe.
“Is that my boyfriend shouting?” Ingrid asked as she helped lay out the food.
“Yes, he sounds pretty angry Princess.” Mary looked over.
“It’s Ingy remember, and all of you should just remember that it’s not anger just his rotten nature.”
“Does he do that to you?”
“One day I’ll sit down and tell you the story of the first time Cari and I worked for him Trina…It was DAMN AWFUL!”
“Oh lord – is Adam in one of his moods,” Missy said as she came in.
“MISTER Cabot, if you do not lower your voice and change your tone, I will forget I am royalty, and remember I am descended from the Visigoths. Are you ready for a verbal and possibly physical evisceration?”
“On the other hand,” Ingy said, “he may have just met his match...”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Come in,” Juliette said as she let Caroline in, Grace and Amelia accompanying Pippa and Poppy.
“How are you,” Sigi said as they came into the drawing room.
“Is it wrong to say I’m relieved and shocked at the same time?”
“Not really, no,” Caroline said as they sat down. “Who are we waiting on?”
“Jan and Heather are in the kitchen, sorting out some drinks. Brooke is on her way.”
“Heather? Why Heather?”
“I helped Doc with the security enhancements on the school website,” Heather said as she came in, “I have some skills in that area, but it’s strictly a hobby for me, and I’d like it kept quiet if possible.”
“We’ll need to lay down some ground rules, when Brooke gets here,” Caroline said as she rubbed her eyes, “because it may be we have to do something we don’t publicised too much.”
“That will be her now,” Juliette said, as she walked to the door, returning with Brooke Hutton. “I heard on the car radio – what happened?”
“All we know so far is that someone shot Martin Peverell last night, in his hotel room, and killed him. A couple of my contacts are trying to find out more, but there is a good chance they will find out about what happened last night with the girls – and I think I speak for all of us when I say I don’t want that to be public.”
"Are you here as the Judge, or as our friend Brooke?" Philippa asked straight out.
"I'm here as a friend," the judge said as she took a deep breath, "though I think Caroline rather thinks I'm a suspect."
"Oh why?" Juliette’s head shot up.
“You don’t have to say anything Brooke...”
“No – better we know where we all stand. One, because I was there last night with Caroline – when we found him, she told me to get the girls out of there while she talked to him. And second...” Brooke looked over at Heather before he said “I had a very personal reason for wanting to stop him hurting them.”
“If I’m being honest,” Caroline said as Heather looked at Brooke, “all of us who were there last night are possible suspects – with four exceptions. Sigi?”
“We all stayed together in the lobby until you came back down Caroline – I’ll vouch for that.”
“Katy already told me the same thing – first thing I asked. Can we keep Liz and Shawnee out of this?”
“Agreed – all right, here’s the deal. Pippa, you and your family are the ones who had most to gain from Peverell disappearing – and now he’s been killed, it won’t take long for the police to come calling on you.”
Pippa, Poppy and Lady Ashley looked at each other as Caroline said “on top of that, Brooke and I were there last night as well, so we may get pulled in.”
“Are you saying someone in this room killed him,” Juliette said.
“I think that’s the way it’s going to shake down. Look - with Jan on the inside we can get access to both information and investigative techniques, but it would make protecting who did this a whole lot easier if someone confessed?" Caroline looked at faces. "We aren't going to give up the killer, as friends, and people who know exactly what Peverell was we are just here to help."
There was a silence as everybody looked at each other. “Whoever did it,” Sigi said eventually, “I think he deserved to die for what he tried to force us to do.”
“Which means if one of us did it, and doesn’t want to admit it here, we need to take other steps,” Jan said quietly, “and anything from this point on that gets said involves all of us.”
"So, if anyone is not comfortable in engaging in a criminal conspiracy to help protect the killer of Martin Peverell, can they please leave now?" Caroline asked.
Everyone stayed where they were, Lady Ashley nodding grimly.
"Nobody leaving...Good." Janice stood up. "I am going to do this by the book, first to determine which of you did this, who knows more than they are saying, and then creating alibi's and maybe even a false trail of clues away from the killer."
"Heather, can we
use your particular genius?"
"My laptop is already booted up Caroline."
"Now who among you
owns or possesses a gun?" Jan asked.
"Do we know the calibre
of the murder weapon yet?" Caroline asked.
“I'm on it Jan.”
"Everybody needs be totally honest, including the younger members, like you Poppy."
"Yes, I have a gun."
“You what?” Pippa looked at her daughter as Lady Ashley stood up, while Poppy opened her purse.
“No – Juliette, have you got a pair of tongs and a plastic bag?”
“Poppy, how did you manage to get a gun,” Grace whispered.
“It’s easy if you know how – I...”
“No – say nothing Poppy, not at this stage.” As Juliette returned, she handed the tongs to Caroline, who used them to lift the gun out of Poppy’s bag, and then placed it in the clear bag, sealing it and handing it to Jan.
“For your own safety, we’re taking possession of it now,” Caroline said. “I’m guessing you got it to protect yourself if you were stopped, correct?”
Poppy nodded as Pippa said “I don’t have one, and Mum’s visiting, so she won’t.”
“Same here, Grace said.”
“I do – I’ll get the licence over to Jan later,” Brooke said as she looked round the room.
“So do I, but it’s in a locked cabinet at home,” Caroline said.
“Let me have the details later,” Jan said as she stood up. “Ju, can I use your dining room? I’ll talk to each of you in turn, get your version of what happened last night. Sigi, can you come first please?”
“I’ll go down to the deli, get some stuff for lunch,” Juliette said as she got her coat.
“I’ll come with you,” Grace said as she got her coat. As they went to the lift, Grace said “Is it possible – could one of the Ashley’s have been driven that far?”
“Who knows – we’ve all had our crosses to bear Grace,” Juliette said as the lift doors opened. “After all, you were with Pippa and him last night. Did she get angry?”
“Oh yes – he deliberately...”
“No – better I tell Jan when I talk to her.”
“I’ll run you home,” Ju said as she looked at Pippa, “all three of you.”
“I’d better call Maggie, tell her the news – she’ll want to come over,” Ashley said as they left with Juliette, while Heather motioned to Caroline and Jan.
"Alright who are
the main suspects?" Heather asked as the three women gathered by the desk.
"Well each of the
Ashley's for starters, and if she was in New York, Margaret as well."
"Don't rule her
out...she could have always commissioned a hit." Jan looked up from the
pad she was making notes in.
"That's true, she's
not poor, and as I found out in London, there are plenty of cut-rate hit-men
"That's true Heather. You better add her to your suspect list Jan."
"I'm surprised Brooke is on our list." Heather re-booted her computer.
"The Judge has a
very personal reason to dislike men with a thing for young girls."
Caroline looked over Jan's shoulder. "And I suppose I had better be added
to the list since I certainly am not an angel, and I did have
"I already had you
down." Janice laughed lightly.
"So who else?" Heather asked as she tapped on her keyboard.
“I think the ones we can safely eliminate are Sigi and the girls – I’ll talk to Katy when I get home, but all their statements tie in with them being in the lobby after you got them out.”
“What about Grace?”
“Unlikely but put her down – we can check when she got home.”
19th Precinct House
“All right,” the captain said as he looked at the two detectives, “what have you got for me?”
Detective Barton was in his early thirties, tall, muscular with brown hair. He wore a brown leather jacket, blue shirt and jeans. The senior detective was Detective Knight, a coloured man in his forties, his hair and marked face showing the effects of twenty years on the force.
“Our victim is one Martin Peverell, 58, British citizen. He flew in two weeks ago, and has been staying in the hotel since then.”
“The coroner says he died from a single gunshot wound to the head,” Barton said as he looked at the notes, “but whoever did it didn’t shoot there first. He also had gunshot wounds to the chest and groin.”
“Ouch – got the calibre yet?”
“.45,” Knight said, “So we’ve got a little bit of a hunt on our hands. We found cocaine in the room, and evidence of other people there – empty champagne bottle and five glasses. CSI are looking for any possible DNA traces.”
“Any other clues in the room?”
“We’re looking, but don’t hold your breath. The hotel is sending over the security camera, see if we can see or recognise anyone on the night.”
“Approximate time of death?”
“Between ten and midnight last night.”
“Okay – any relatives of Peverell in the city?”
“He was married, but divorced, to a Margaret Harker. A niece of hers lives in New York however – Pippa Ashley.”
“I’ve heard the name – works for a fashion magazine or something. Go see her, see if she has heard from him.”
“Okay chief – what about the ex-wife?”
“See if UK police can find her and talk to her.”
“We did – turns out she’s flying into the US tomorrow. We’ll meet her at the airport.”
“They told her?”
“They did,” Barton said, “her reaction was, and I quote, ‘So the bastard is dead.’”
“Okay then – talk to her and his niece, see what you can find out. Let me know when you have the CCTV.”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“We better question Sigi before she has to fly back to Europe.” Caroline spoke as she came back in.
“Why the urgency?” Jan asked.
“The trial date on a case she is helping the team with got moved up to Tuesday, and the European Court won’t I believe grant a delay for us.”
“Well that I understand. I think she’s very much in the clear anyway. I’ll talk to her before she leaves.”
“I’ve looked at the security videos the police have.” Heather interrupted. “Luckily with all the makeup on the girls are pretty unrecognizable, but Caroline you and the Judge will need to alibi yourselves for the cops I’m sure.”
“SHIT!” Caroline exclaimed.
“Well if I’d known in advance I could have been playing with the video feed.”
“I know Heather, I know, but we couldn’t predict what actually happened last night.”
“Shit happens – you both need a reason to be there last night that does not involve Peverell.”
“What about the weapon?”
“Bad news on that one – it was a .45. So Poppy is in the frame in that sense.”
“Am I the only one thinking she’s not telling us everything?”
“No – but we need Pippa and the other Ashley women to work through this before we say anything.”
“Well, we have another to talk to,” Heather said, “Maggie’s on her way in.”
“Right,” Jan said, “Heather, forward what you have to me. I need to go talk to Katy, and look things over.”
“Okay – I’ll talk to Sigi in the morning. I got a feeling the Ashley’s will have other visitors in the morning.”
“Agreed,” Juliette said as she came in. “I don’t think there’s anything else we can do tonight anyway. Caroline, Ama rang – she’s cooking.”
“Okay – I need to talk to her about tomorrow anyway. Give you a lift Jan?”
“Thanks,” Jan said as she walked out.
“What are you going to tell the others?”
“Nothing unless they ask,” Juliette said as she looked at Heather. “We need to find out the truth – preferably before the police do.”
“If I know her, she’s going to talk it over with Katy – right now, get Doc on the line. We need to talk to her.”
Monday 14th December
“It was good of Grace to agree you could stay at home today,” Pippa said as she handed her daughter a drink, her mother sitting opposite her. “How are you feeling?”
“I don’t know Mom – I’m glad he’s dead, and can’t hurt us anymore, but still...”
“Sooner or later, the police are going to call to talk to us,” Pippa said as she sat down, “what are we going to tell them?”
“The truth,” Amelia said, “but perhaps we shouldn’t mention we knew you were at the hotel, Poppy.”
“Thanks – if they ask, I’ll say I heard you talking, and wondered if it was...”
There was a ring on the doorbell, and Pippa walked to the door, opening it as a familiar voice said “Well – is it true? Did someone do us all a favour and kill him?”
“Margaret,” Lady Ashley said as she stood up and hugged her sister, then Maggie hugged Poppy.
“I am so sorry it came to this – for all of us,” she said as she sat down. “Any chance of a coffee – even that stuff you call coffee?”
“Coming up, Aunt Maggie,” Poppy said as she went to the kitchen.
“Have the police talked to you yet?”
“No – you?”
“Only my local CID – I told them I’d catch the first fight here and see you after I checked in, so I imagine they’ll come knocking on the door soon. The question I need to ask first is, who did it?”
“We’ll explain later,” Pippa said as she went to the door.
“Philippa Ashley? Detectives Knight and Barton, 19th Precinct. May we come in?”
“I guess this is about Martin Peverell,” she said as the two officers came in. “This is my mother Amelia, and my Aunt Margaret. The young girl in the kitchen is my daughter Poppy.”
“Mrs Harker,” Detective Knight said, “we hoped to catch you at the airport.”
“I got an earlier flight, but we are more than willing to talk to your officers,” Margaret said as she sat down, “may we get you some coffee?”
“Thank you, no,” Barton said as they sat down, “we need to talk to each of you individually, but perhaps we can start by you explaining why Mister Peverell was in this country?”
Xavier International, NY Office
“Come in,” Shirley said as Jan and Caroline came in with Susan. “Please, pour yourself some coffee and be seated. You can then bring me up to speed as to what happened.”
“I’ve briefed Madame already on the death of Martin Peverell,” Susan said, “but nothing more than that.”
“Well, without going into the details,” Caroline said as she sat down, “a plan to scare him off threatening the Ashley family went south, and in the confusion he was shot. As a result, the Ashley’s are all in the frame, as is Brooke Hutton – and me.”
“No – I was sore tempted, and did threaten him, but he was shot, and I did not have my gun with me.”
“But you have your suspicions?”
“I do – but for now, I must keep them to myself. Jan talked to all the relevant parties yesterday.”
“I talked to Katy last night, who was also there, and we went over the statements together. The good news is she corroborated the rest of the group who were asked to assist with the operation against Peverell, so all four of them are clear. CCTV footage from the hotel also does not show them clearly, although it does show them arriving with Peverell.”
“So we can hopefully not have to worry about them?”
“Indeed,” Caroline said, “but what of the others?”
“Not good there – Poppy, Pippa and Amelia Ashley were all in the hotel as well, and I was in the restaurant before where Pippa and Grace Brand were meeting Peverell – as was Brooke Hutton. We also cannot rule out Margaret Harker – two detectives are talking to them now at Pippa’s apartment now.”
“Are they prime suspects?”
Caroline nodded as Jan said “worse – Poppy admitted she had illegally bought a .45, and we have it, but it was a .45 that killed him. Caroline and Brooke both have licences for one.”
“Well, we have not been idle either. Thanks to some tame cops within the Metropolitan Police, the NYPD is getting hints that Peverell had enemies back in the UK that might have had reason to see him dead." Shirley smiled.
"Well that will help muddy the waters a bit." Jan acknowledged.
"Yes it seems that
he might have crossed up a certain Madame X," Shirley almost giggled.
"We also forwarded
evidence that a former cellmate in prison might have had a grudge." Susan
spoke, "and that wasn't a false lead, it seems Peverell grassed on
something this bloke had told him and got the guy a lot of extra bird."
"Susan also forwarded the details to me." Caroline spoke. "I'm trying to chase it down myself."
“In addition, my forensic accountants are looking discretely at his accounts – they have been frozen, but we managed to get the information we needed beforehand. With luck, we can track down the move he stole from Pippa’s family.”
“Well, our immediate concern is to protect the Ashley’s and Brooke,” Caroline said. “Susan, we need to find out if Margaret ordered a hit.”
“Lily’s on it,” Susan replied, “with Natalya’s help.”
“Good – now, we need to find a way to protect the others at this end. I am open to suggestions...”
“Okay Poppy,” Detective Barton said as she sat opposite her, Pippa sitting by her daughter, “it must have come as a shock to learn this man was your father.”
“It was, yes – I can understand why Mom didn’t tell me until she absolutely had to, however. I mean, my uncle is my father?”
“Yeah, it does sound a bit like a bad Lifetime movie,” Barton said. “So you went to the hotel to see what he was like?”
“I knew what he was like – he had been following me for some time, and my mom had spoken to the school about it, as well as asking advice from Miss Jameson.”
“Caroline Jameson, the security consultant?”
“That’s right,” Poppy said as she looked at her mother. “She told me to alert anyone if I saw him, which I did.”
“Okay,” Barton said with a smile, “did he ever talk to you, or you to him?”
“Only once – I didn’t know who he was then, but he was leaving the apartment when I came home one time.”
“Okay, that’s all for now,” Barton said as he closed his book. “We’ll leave you alone now – I’m sure you have arrangements to make.”
“Thank you – thank you both,” Pippa said as she showed the two detectives out, and closed the door behind them as her mother and aunt looked at her.
“All right,” Maggie said, “what didn’t you tell them?”
“Whatever do you mean, Margaret darling,” Amelia said with a smile.
“Come on – I noticed you and Pip were very careful when he asked about your movements that night. What happened?”
“Well – we were all at his hotel last night,” Pippa said. “After Grace and I left him at the restaurant, we thought Poppy was visiting a friend – but she had followed us, and then followed him to the hotel. By the time we found out and caught up with her, she was going to his room.”
“Poppy? Why did you do that?”
“Because I wanted to stop him hurting us,” Poppy said quietly.
“Lord above,” Maggie said as she rubbed her eyes, “don’t tell me you have Jim’s attitude in you.”
“Uncle Jim? You don’t talk much about him, Mum.”
“Well, he was – a character,” Maggie said, “and the way you talked just then... All right, so you may get questioned again. Let’s see what we can sort out.”
“That’s a shock about Poppy- have you talked to her Erica?”
“I spoke to her on the phone this morning,” Erica said as he sat with Dawn and the other girls, “but she should be back tomorrow. Look on the bright side, though – Christmas vacation starts on Friday!”
“So what does your Christmas Vacation look like Jeans?” Ama asked.
“BUSY!” the model said as she shook her head. “All the fun things here, plus at least three photo shoots, all sandwiched round a lightning trip to London to do a chat show and a presentation on the new range of lip colours for Lerrabella.”
“So getting back to school will be your holiday.” Dawn smiled.
“Well, I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t love it,” Jeannie said, “and it means meeting Graham again.”
“Well we are going home to Spain for Christmas.” Jess said as she stretched her arms up. “With my Grandmother that means mass at least 4 times on Christmas Day.”
“Rather you then me.” Pepsi grinned. “My plans for Christmas mainly feature Jack and my bed…”
“SLUT!” Becca dug her in the ribs.
“And like you aren’t planning the same with Billy?”
“No comment!” Becca laughed along as all the girls giggled.
“Talking of fun,” Jeannie spoke again, “Doc we have still not had any news regarding a certain 16th birthday party?”
“Oh yeah – that’s because all my mom is saying is to give you lot these,” Doc said as she handed some cards out, “and come dressed for a party.”
“That’s all she says?”
“That’s it,” Doc said, “apparently I am going to be as surprised as you will be.”
“Hey,” Letty said as she sat next to Abby, “you look worried.”
“Hmm – oh, sorry, it’s just an upcoming shoot,” Abby said as she looked up. “Looking forward to the weekend?”
“A chance to spend the weekend in a log cabin before the holidays, and NOT feel as if I have to ski? Of course I am,” Letty said with a smile. “You?”
“Looking forward to seeing Jo and Cari again – there’s a few things I need to discuss with them,” Abby said as she looked round.
FBI Field Office, New York
“It is,” Jan said as she looked at the limp excuse for a salad.
"So they have a
lot of suspects, but few with opportunity." Jeanne looked over the lunch
table at Janice.
right. Question is, will they worry
about me doing some looking?"
"Well if you
explain you are FBI and that some of their suspects are friends?"
"Then I'll get a swift memo telling me to get Janice miles away," Tom sat down, "You know the rules as well as I do Jan."
“I do,” Jan said, “an agent must excuse themselves from any investigation where they are a friend or relation to a possible suspect.”
“Good – that’s the official word,” Tom said. “Unofficially, if you can help, do, but if they say so, you’re off limits. Understand?”
“Got it,” Jan said with a smile. “So how far can I go?”
“Go where,” Tom said as he looked at the sandwich. “Seriously, why am I eating here?”
“How is Gale?”
“Blooming and looking after Allen with great joy. I just need less night shifts. Come on – find Adam, I’ll stand us all somewhere decent.”
“Grace, do you have a minute?”
“Of course, Wilhelmina,” Grace said as she saw Miss Tennant in her doorway, “I guess this is about Poppy, right?”
“It is,” Miss Tennant said as she closed the door, “have you talked to her again today?”
“I’m going to go round and see them after school – I have to say, when we met him for dinner on Saturday, this was not what I expected to happen next.”
“I can imagine – how are you?”
“Me? Shocked, but I’ll cope. I’m sure she’ll be back tomorrow, but I’ve asked Letty to be there if she needs someone to talk to.”
“Good – so what are your plans for the vacation?”
“Well, we’ve invited a couple of our former colleagues to come and join us for the Christmas holidays, so that should be interesting. Apart from that, we have an invitation to the New Year’s Eve party that Diana is hosting this year.”
“Yes – I have one as well. From what I hear of these parties, it should be a most entertaining event.”
“And we have the staff party after school on Friday of course.”
“We spoke to the Ashley family this morning,” Barton said as he sat with Knight opposite their superior, “turns out he is the biological father of Phillipa Ashley’s daughter, Poppy. Apparently she was the victim of what now would be date rape – but the day after, Peverell was charged with fraud and spent most of the last fifteen years in prison.”
“Yeah,” the chief said as he passed a sheaf of papers over, “the local UK force to his given home address sent his file over. Embezzled a large chunk of money from the company run by his father in law, and was sentenced to twenty five years. He made parole earlier this year.”
“So how the hell did he get into the US?”
“That’s a question for Homeland Security – but according to the Metropolitan Police, Peverell had some fairly serious enemies in the UK criminal fraternity.”
“Major league – one of their top criminal heads, a woman known as Madame X, apparently had accused him of interfering in her work with the fraud he was convicted of, and there’s at least one other gang head he crossed in prison. You need to review that thoroughly.”
Knight skimmed through the file and whistled. “So it could have been a contract hit from any of them?”
“Possibly – he was also on their Sex Offenders watch list. Seems he likes – sorry, liked young girls.”
“Charming man – can I be there when ICE explain this one,” Barton said with a smile.
“Okay – the CCTV showed Peverell arriving Saturday night with four young women. We can’t get any useful identification off the film, but they look young.”
“We’re checking the rest of the film,” Knight said, “and checking at the restaurant Phillipa Ashley said she had dinner on Saturday night with him at. We’re going to see the other person at the meal – Grace Brand – later tonight.”
“Any other faces from the tapes?”
“We’ll let you know – forensics came up with butkiss in terms of DNA and fingerprints except for Peverell himself.”
“Okay then – keep digging, and put the feelers out amongst the known contacts. We want to know if a contract was put out on him.”
“Might be easier if he was,” Knight said as he put the file down. “Miss Ashley thought he was going to blackmail them to keep the fact he was her daughter’s father a secret.”
“Chief,” the uniformed sergeant said as he looked in, “there’s a couple of visitors here to see Barton and Knight.”
“Who is it?”
“Judge Brooke Hutton and Caroline Jameson?”
“Really? Jameson was advising Ashley on personal security. We done here chief?”
“Go,” he said as they left the office.
“I put them in interview room one,” the sergeant said as the two detectives walked into the room.
“Your honour, Miss Jameson,” Knight said as Barton closed the door, “what can we do for you?”
“I hope this isn’t an inconvenient time detectives,” Brooke said as she looked at them, “but I understand you are investigating the shooting of the British man, Martin Peverell?”
“That’s correct your honour – why do you ask?”
“Well,” Caroline said, “it may be that Judge Hutton and I come up in your investigations – we were having drinks in the hotel on Saturday night, and when Judge Hutton saw the picture in the early editions she called me and reminded me we had seen him having dinner with Pippa Ashley and Grace Brand in the restaurant.”
“More to the point,” Brooke said as she looked at the detectives, “we had some business in the hotel he was shot in later that night, so we both felt it would be better if we were up front and told you why we were there.”
FBI Field Office
Janice and Jeanne looked on as their supervisor hummed to himself.
"So this Peverell
wasn't exactly the kind of guy will be missed?" Tom Callaghan scanned
"Not really. What I’ve been able to dig up certainly puts
him in a different light – I can understand why Pippa Ashley and her family
didn’t want anything to do with him."
"You know,” Tom said “some of this crap needs following up by our people."
"Oh what?" Janice looked up as he said this.
fraud, that's a federal not a local matter."
"Well you better inform
Langley then and see what they want to do..."
"We have a stake
in investigating him as well." Jeanne interrupted.
"Us as in this
task force?" Tom asked.
"No sorry, us as
in Interpol, we would be very interested in both tracing the proceeds of his
crimes, and how he laundered it."
"Those are very valid concerns."
“So, I call Brookes, see what he has to say about the immigration angle.”
Tom nodded. “Jeanne, talk to your contacts in the European banking world. Find out what you can – and pass anything you find out on to the 19th.”
“Got it,” Jeanne said as she and Janice stood up.
“Adam,” Jan said as she came back to her desk, “you got plans for next week yet?”
“Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that – Eve and the family are coming over to see Harry’s sister. I was hoping we would get together.”
“Sounds good – let me know what you want to do,” Janice said with a smile as she picked up her phone. “This is Janice Carter, FBI Field Office New York. I need to speak to Albert Brooks please...”
“Hey,” Pippa said as she opened the door and let Janice in, “how are things going?”
“The police talked to you today – have they asked about you at the hotel?”
“I don’t think they’ve found out yet.”
“Where’s your mother?”
“She took Aunt Maggie out for a meal – she had to formally identify the body this afternoon, so she’s had a rough day.”
“Yeah – I can imagine. Anyway, it’s Poppy I need to talk to – with you present of course.”
“As a friend?”
“Very much so – the wheels are in motion to divert attention away from you lot, just please don’t ask me how it’s been done.”
“I don’t want to know – I’m just grateful you are doing this for us,” Pippa said as they walked into the drawing room. Poppy looked up, and turned off the television as she said “Hello Aunt Jan.”
“Hello Poppy,” Jan said, “I need to ask you a couple of questions – just so that I can figure out who did what in my mind last Saturday, all right?”
“Sure – but I already told you...”
“Poppy, I know Caroline saw you in the restaurant and told you to come straight home. I also know you lied to your mother and said you were going to see Erica at Mary Thomas’ house.”
“I already apologised for that,” Poppy said quietly.
“I know,” Jan said quietly, “but tell me again why you followed your mother to the hotel.”
“I wanted to see what he would say and do – to make sure he didn’t hurt Mom,” Poppy said as she looked at Jan.
“I can understand that – and that ties with what Caroline told me,” Jan said, “but then we have the fact Caroline told you to go straight home, and you didn’t. So what did you do?”
“I waited outside,” Poppy said as she sat forward, her arms together, “and then I saw Mom and Mrs Brand leave. A few minutes later, I saw him leave with four girls – they got into a car that was brought round, and then I jumped into a car and told him to follow them.”
“Why? Surely you saw your Mum and Mrs Brand leave as well?”
“I did – but I just felt so angry that he was going to hurt Mom, I wanted to tell him how much I hated him. I guess that anger got the better of me.”
“Okay – so you followed them to the hotel. Then what?”
“I sat in the lobby for ages, and then went to his room.”
“How did you know the room number?”
“I watched Aunt Caroline and Judge Hutton – they came in and asked for his room number, and I heard the receptionist tell her.”
Jane looked at her sheet, and said “okay – so you went to the lift. What did you do between going into the lift and your mom finding you?”
“I tried to find his room – I got lost in the corridors, and then Mom found me and brought me down. We saw Aunt Caroline and Judge Hutton with the girls and Granny – that’s when I recognised them.”
“Okay – Poppy, will you tell me where you bought your gun please?" Janice asked.
"Aunt Janice I hate saying this, but I can't."
"Oh,” Janice said
as she sat back, “why?"
"Because I don't
want to get someone else deep in trouble alongside me."
"Poppy you know
how important it is that we know all the answers if we are going to help?"
"I know," the
schoolgirl wrung her hands in her lap. "But I promised on my life I'd
never reveal who helped me get it."
"Poppy this is too serious for schoolgirl promises to mean anything," her mother intervened. "How did you get the gun?"
Taking a deep breath, Poppy said “I knew Doc had a gun, so I asked her how she got it. She did everything she could to avoid telling me, and told me it was a really stupid idea, but in the end she told me the pawn shop she bought it in.”
“Did she accompany you to purchase the gun?”
“No – in fact, when she found out I had it, she told me to get rid of it.” Poppy looked at Janice and said “I haven’t got her into trouble have I?”
“No – I’ll talk to her, and confiscate her gun,” Jan said, “there’s enough stuff flying around without adding this to the mix. Poppy, I’m going to ask a serious question – did you kill him?”
“No,” Poppy said as she looked into Janice’s eyes.
“All right – thanks Poppy. I need to talk to your mother for a minute.”
“Why don’t you go and make some coffee,” Pippa said as she put her hand on her daughter’s knee, then watched as she got up and walked off.
“Janice, do you think she did do it?”
“Honestly – I don’t know. I have to consider if any of you could do it.”
“I’ll answer that – yes, any of us could do it, but I didn’t do it,” Pippa said quietly.
“I know, but I needed to hear you say that,” Jan said quietly.
The de Ros Mansion
“Four more days and then total freedom,” Abby said as she looked at her screen.
“And boy do I need this break,” Cari said as Judith sat on her knee, “two more exams, and I’ll be back for Dinner on Friday night.”
“It’s going to be so good to get the gang back together again,” Abby said with a big grin.
"So are we on for
our traditional events on the 26th?" Carina asked.
eating at the Calabria you mean?" Abigail replied.
"Duh! What else do
we usually do that day?"
"Sorry Cari, I'm
being thick." Abby gave herself a mental shaking. "Yes, me, you, Jo,
Heather and Ingy, all going out together.”
know how much I'm looking forward to doing something normal."
"Oh? As in Carina
normal or 'her' normal?"
"As in both, the
Beast has been rather deprived of action recently, she needs unleashing
"Did you tell your Mom that?" Abby stared at the screen her own problems forgotten for a few seconds.
“Yeah – she says she may have something in mind for before we need to be back. I guess I’ll find out when you do. Anyway – what’s happening about Doc’s Sweet Sixteen?”
“Oh yeah – here’s the real deal...”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“This has to be the most unusual fitting I have ever had to attend.”
"Well, I have to share that sentiment - I never expected I'd be making military uniforms for you, that were kosher to use an old Chinese term," Catherine smiled as she made a note.
"Yes who would have guessed that my husband-to-be had his own little private army." Juliette stood still as Catherine did the measurements again.
"Well that precise
shade of dark green in the dress uniform is very much you."
Cathy said with a smile, “we have known each other far too long for you to play
modest with me, you know very well how much it suits you."
"Yes,” Juliette said as she grinned, “but it is still nice to be told so."
"So what does Carina wish for Christmas?"
"What she most
wants,” Juliette said as she stepped off the box and walked to the kitchen,
starting a fresh pot of coffee, “is a very large copy of Turgot's famous plan
of Paris to hang in her room at Yale."
"Well that is
French history under the Sun King next semester and she thinks it might inspire
"Well its refreshing
that a girl who can almost literally get anything she wants is looking for
something so relatively ordinary I suppose."
"I thought so when she told me." Juliette smiled as Cathy held a swatch of green material against her.
“Yes, I think I have all I need,” Cathy said as she replaced it, “I will have these ready in the usual time for inspection by Klaus.”
“Why don’t we sit down,” Juliette said as she carried two mugs of coffee into the main room.
“You must be glad to have the family back this weekend, home for the holidays?”
“You have no idea – I always feel better when they are all here,” Juliette said quietly.
"You know Juliette,”
Cathy said quietly, “Helen will tell you that there is only one person on this
earth who genuinely frightens her, and that it is neither her Master or
frightens even someone like Helen."
"I would rather
think that if you totted up their victim total..."
"It's not her
total that frightens Helen Ju,” Cathy said, “it's that pure, uncontrollable,
sadistic, and yes even by our standards, evil streak, within Carina."
"Well knowing it's
there, we do at least manage it."
Catherine sipped her coffee, "One day..."
"One day, if it ever comes, we will all deal with it." Juliette closed her eyes. “I just pray to the goddess that day never comes.”
Tuesday 15th December
Letty was standing by the gates as she watched Poppy get out of Caroline’s car, along with Erica, Ama and Pepsi.
“Hey there,” she said as they walked in, “how are you feeling Poppy?”
“Not too bad – I mean, I’m upset at what happened, but I never really knew him. I just want to catch up on what I missed now.”
“Well, you know where to find me if you need to talk?”
“I do – and thanks,” she said as she joined Lynn, Jess and Dawn on their way to the main hall.
“That is one tough little girl,” Doc said as she walked in after them with Becca and Nikki. Taking out her cell phone, she looked at the text she had received and frowned.
“Nah – just need to go somewhere lunchtime. Can you cover for me?”
Vanessa Richmond’s Apartment
“It was good of you to invite us all to coffee,” Pussy said as she sat with Frieda.
“Well, it makes a change from lunch, especially this close to the holidays,” Claire Morse said as she sipped her drink. “The shops are as close to hell as they can get at the moment as well.”
“And this weekend, the families all return and school is out,” Kelly Rochermann said. “Let the holidays begin.”
"So what do we all
have going on this Christmas?" asked Nessa.
"This Hanukah to put it correctly," Clare Morse answered with a smile, "we have my daughter’s boyfriend’s family visiting for the first time."
"Who would have thought that Bobbi would fall for a younger boy?" Paulie asked.
"Well I did
Mother," Liz smiled.
"Sam is younger
then you by all of two days Liz," Pussy shook her head as she looked over.
"Well,” Liz said
as she picked up a cake, “he's still a younger man."
might be 18 months younger then Bobs," her mother continued, "but
he's a good Jewish young man, and at least my nightmares about who Bobbi might
hook up with are now over..."
"And you just have
to worry about Becca now." Rachel McNally laughed.
"Can I expect all
of you at my place on Christmas Eve?" Nessa asked the three van Roon
"Well barring emergencies Frieda and I certainly will be." Pussy nodded as she ate.
“Augie Jr is talking of coming down as well for the holidays – so you may have them as well.”
“Which will please a certain Anna Carlton,” Pussy said with a smile.
“So the rematch at Diana’s on New Year’s Eve will be on?”
“Oh yes,” Rachel said, “Mandy is coming over especially for it. She flies back with the family, Shirley and John after the holidays.”
“So when does Shirley fly out?”
“Saturday – so she misses the skiing weekend this time.”
Anna looked out of the school gates, and walked quickly over, getting into the back of Janice’s car and nodding to Caroline as she sat in the back.
“Thanks for slipping out Doc,” Caroline said, “we need to ask you about Poppy Ashley. Specifically, guns.”
“Oh boy,” Doc said as she ran her hand through her hair, “what did she tell you?”
“That she asked you where you got her gun, and you tried to warn her off.”
“That’s about the size of it,” Doc said, “but in the end, I told her where I bought it from. Why – oh shit, don’t tell me she bought it?”
“She did – and she had it with her on Saturday night, at the hotel Martin Peverell was killed in. Worse, he was killed with a .45, and she had a .45.”
“Oh god,” Doc said, “I told her not to, that it was the worst possible thing she could do...”
"Doc can you
account for your movements Saturday night?" Caroline asked.
"Do I have
"Yes I'm afraid
you do Anna," Jan intervened. "Poppy said you told her how to get a
gun, and as we all very well know you do have more than one, and tend to carry
at all times."
"But why would I shoot
Caroline said, “while you are a completely cold-blooded murderess Doc, you also
care deeply about all of your friends..."
"And don't forget
she has a strong protective streak as well Caroline."
"That is also true Jan..." Caroline paused, "so where were you Doc?"
“You know, for once I can say with absolute certainty it wasn’t me – I was with Nikki and Kylie on Saturday night, at a screening of Throne of Blood at the Bijou. You can ask them, and I’ve still got the tickets.”
“Throne of... English Lit homework,” Caroline said with a laugh.
“Yeah – but I got a question now. Do you think she did it?”
“Honestly,” Caroline said, “I don’t know. Go get your lunch Doc – Juliette wants to see us all tonight.”
“Who was that on the phone darling?” John asked as Shirley came into the kitchen.
“Mandy,” Shirley said as she sat down, “she was checking that we are okay to spend a couple of days up at Ordford just before Christmas.”
“What did you say?”
“I said we would of course be there. I have heard of their legendary Christmas party, and wish to see it for myself.”
“Will probably wants me to take some pictures of his best pigs.” John smiled as a memory crossed his mind. “Did I ever tell you that the very first pictures I ever got paid for taking were of animals?”
“No,” Shirley poured herself a coffee. “Pray tell.”
“It was one Easter, I was home from Eton, and old Jack McDonald wanted some pictures taken of his best cows and his prize bull. He heard I was interested in photography and asked me to do them, I got paid the princely sum of One Pound.”
“You worked cheap in those days,” Shirley hugged her man.
“I was only sixteen! My father was indignant that I’d even taken that pound, he made me put it in the collection plate at church.” John smiled. “Jack was one of our best tenants, and in Father’s opinion as a gentleman I should never have taken any money for what he considered my hobby.”
“Well, if he saw you now, he would have to change his mind,” Shirley said. “So ready to head back?”
“I am – it will be good to spend the holidays in London.”
FBI Field Office
“Okay I just found out something very, very interesting,” Jeanne called out as she hung up her phone.
“I’ll bite…what was interesting?” Janice swung round in her office chair.
“Turns out Peverell’s first cell mate after he was sentenced was a small time crook called John Stevens.”
“Really,” Janice said with a smile, “now that is interesting!”
“I wonder,” Jeanne said as she turned in her chair, “if our late, so much lamented, art expert, was the person who advised Peverell on how to store his ill-gotten gains?”
“It’s an idea worth looking at.” Janice admitted. “We never traced half of what Stevens’ records showed he made from his art frauds.”
“That is what occurred to me.” Jeanne inspected her manicure. “If nothing else this gives me an excuse to go back over that case and take a fresh look.”
“You know I think it’s time we introduced ourselves to the detectives investigating the case Jeanne?”
“I agree totally Janice. The links to Stevens’ murder bring us firmly into the picture.”
“We maybe need to involve Heather as well. IF - and it’s a huge IF - Peverell hid his cash by buying some art objects and then liberated his ill-gotten gains by recently selling some, then Heather is expert enough that she might be able to track down those sales.”
“Well it’s a good idea. Art is a great way to dispose of wealth until you need it. Far less obvious then cash, and harder to trace.” Jeanne nodded.
“My thoughts exactly,” Janice said as she picked up the phone. “Get me the 19th Precinct – chief of detectives.”
“No – no I can’t tonight. I’ll call you.”
“A problem Dom?” Susan asked as her friend hung up the phone. “Nothing to do with…?”
“No,” Dominique shook her head. “This is my continuing problem with Dominic.”
“I thought you were dumping him because he was getting too kinky and deep into the whole bondage thing?”
“I tried,” Dom sighed, “but he begged for another chance and things were great at first, but now he wants me to abuse him even more then ever.”
“Rather you then me…”
“Oh like you don’t have your own domination fantasies Susan…I heard from Annie how you beat the crap out of that jeweller who wouldn’t pay.” Dom interrupted.
“That was work. Doing that for fun, no not really me, and can you imagine Clint letting me abuse him?”
“So what are you going to do about Dominic? It’s not like you don’t also have Dan to go out with.”
“I don’t know…I really don’t.”
“How much fun do you get from playing dominatrix is the key question?”
“Not much – no, I need to end this. The question is, how?”
The Richmond Mansion
“Andrew, I am amazed by what you did – can I arrange delivery for next week?
“Great – let me have the date and I’ll make sure she’s out of the building. See you then.”
Putting the telephone down, Heather hummed to herself as she sat back at the table, and then answered the Skype call.
“And to what do I owe this phone call Little Sis?” Heather looked at her screen.
“Can’t I just call and check everything’s good for this weekend?”
“Yes – and what else?”
“Well, I was just looking at my schedule,” Joanne laughed, “Did you see I have the Central Park Cross Country one day, and the next I’m modelling evening dresses for Vogue.”
“I was laughing at the contrast, the high fashion versus the mud of the race.”
“Yeah, it illustrates the two halves of your life.”
“By the way I got my grades?”
“And?” Heather tensed.
“5 A’s and an A minus.”
“Let me guess, the A Minus for Math?”
“Yes,” Jo paused, “still it was better than I thought it might have been.”
“The required courses in subjects you don’t like are always the one with potential to drag down your GPA.” Heather nodded understandingly. “But that not withstanding, I am so proud of you – is Curt happy?”
“Very much so – A pity he can’t come down for Christmas, but New Year is a go.”
“Might be a blessing in disguise – I’ll explain later.” As the telephone rang, Heather said “I need to see who that is – talk to you later.”
The older man looked up at the two women standing by her desk, tall, thin, and incredibly well dressed. The taller one was in a grey trouser suit and silk blouse, the other in a blue jersey dress and grey fabric boots.
“I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure.”
“Agent Janice Carter, Federal Bureau of Investigation. This is Inspector Jeanne Marais of Interpol, attached to our office. We understand you and your partner are looking into the murder of Martin Peverell?”
“Ladies – this is Detective Barton,” he said as his partner came back over. “Why the interest?”
“We found a potential link to an unsolved murder,” Janice said as she smiled, “my boss felt it would be beneficial if we compared notes?”
“Really? This case gets better and better,” Knight said as he stood up, “let’s grab some really bad coffee and find a room.”
Ten minutes and several curses of a vending machine here, the four law officers were sitting round a table.
“So, Martin Peverell,” Barton said. “What have you got on him?”
“Well, I presume you have seen something of his prison record?”
“We’ve had the pleasure,” Knight said, “seems to have made a few enemies in the past. So how did he cross your path?”
“Well,” Janice said, “according to his record, one of his first cellmates was a guy called Steve Johnson, low level scum.”
“Remember the robbery at the Arabian last November?”
“The big art job? That was the Pussycat bitches, right?”
“Hence why I got involved – I am one of the Pussycat Gang task force,” Jan said. “Well, Lloyds sent over an art ‘expert’ called StJohn Stevens.”
“I remember him – someone did a real number on him just after the New Year.”
“Well,” Jeanne said, “StJohn Stevens was Steve Johnson.”
The two officers looked at each other. “Change of name?”
“But not of habit – he was responsible for a multi-million dollar art fraud, but someone got to him before us. We’ve never been able to find out who all his backers were, and we know Peverell carried out a very large fraud on his father in law – the money for which has never been fully recovered.”
“So you think Peverell and this Stevens character may have worked together?”
“It’s something we’re looking into,” Janice said.
"So what you are telling us, Agent Carter, is that you believe our victim is linked to an unsolved homicide from a year ago?" the detective asked.
"It's tenuous I know, but the fact he and Peverell had been cell mates at least makes it worth a look."
"And that both
came to New York and died violently..."
"I get your point Agent Marais."
“So can we cooperate? Perhaps together we can get a few things put to bed.”
“Suits us – full and open cooperation?”
“Sounds good,” Janice said as they shook hands. “So, any interesting leads from your end.”
“More something we need to clear up – the Ashley family were seen in the hotel at the time he was killed. We need to have another chat with them and find out why they were there...”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“So Klaus flies back tomorrow,” Diana asked as she hung her coat up, Abby going over to talk to Doc and Katy.
“Indeed – so tonight is the only chance we have to give some consideration to what I wish to do.”
“So how goes the investigation,” Sandy said as she joined Caroline and Janice.
“Officially – they’re looking strongly at the UK angle.”
“And on our side?”
“We know a bit more who didn’t do it,” Caroline said, “but there are still some questions, and our priority is still protecting Pippa and Poppy.”
“So who do you think did it?”
“No comment yet,” Janice said quietly.
"Well I will admit
that Jeanne finding that link to Stevens is a goddess-send." Caroline
sipped her white wine, and then saw the look on Juliette's face. "Sorry
Juliette I was insensitive talking about him in front of you."
"It's okay Dom, I
really had mentally buried him though."
"Well when you
guys called, my lover started burying her head in her damn computer."
Sandy complained. "It's why she's not here with us tonight."
"Has she anything?" Janice asked.
“She says to tell you she’ll meet you tomorrow at O’Malley’s, and bring your new friends...”
“So come on,” Anna said as she sipped from her glass, “what are you thinking Juliette?”
"Well... I've been musing on the Securitas robbery in England back in 2006." Juliette smiled, "Other than that supposed One Billion stolen early in the Iraq War, it's the biggest cash robbery in history."
"£53,116,760 if I remember correctly." Caroline nodded.
“Or at current exchange rates nearly $86 million." Diana did the sum quickly.
"Well it's a record that I think we Pussycats maybe need to hold."
"Juliette I know that look." Susan laughed. "Tell us where such a sum can be found?"
"The Armorcure Security Center in Newburgh, two days after Christmas..."
"Two days after damn Christmas." Caroline looked heavenwards, "Thanks for the ample advance warning Ju."
"She's right darling, it does seem rather close." Diana looked up from the papers Juliette was handing round.
“I know it seems close – but when you read what I have here, I think you will find it is achievable...”
Wednesday 16th December
The de Ros Mansion
“Good morning New York, it’s seven in the morning...”
Abby awoke and by
instinct reached for her cellphone. Half asleep she looked at the screen, and noticed
she'd been bombarded with messages and calls from Fiona. Yawning she sat up, at
least she wasn't directly involved in the Peverell thing, but Fiona was rapidly
becoming a pain just where she sat.
calling me so regularly," Abby, typed the message in.
"Oh what a tangled web..." Abby mused to herself. "If I knew she'd get clingy like this I'd never have started an affair with her."
“Only three more days,” Annie said as she sipped her coffee, and then a nice holiday. I’m looking forward to the weekend especially.”
“Yeah – we could all do with a break up in Stowe,” Caroline said as she bit into her toast.
"So while Janice muddies
the water for the NYPD, are you any closer to finding the real killer
Mom?" Ama asked.
"No." Dominique shook her head. “I can at least rule Doc out – she was indeed at the cinema last Saturday.”
"Well I wish I could offer a suggestion." Annie said as she finished the last brownie.
"Hey that was
"Remember I'm eating
for two Dom,” Annie grinned as she wiped some crumbs away.
"Still, I was
looking forward to that."
"Mom focus please,
the murder, do you have no ideas?"
"Oh I have plenty of ideas darling, just no evidence."
“Still not sure,” Caroline said as she drained her cup. “Okay – wagons roll people.”
O’Malley’s, W 47th Street
“Nice place,” Barton said as he and Knight sat opposite Jan and Jeanne, “come here often?”
“I like the wings,” Jan said, “but it has one other advantage. It allows us to meet with someone who is a valuable, if strictly off the books ally.”
“Sounds intriguing,” Knight said as the waitress brought the drinks and two bowls of wings over. “Who is this person?”
“Someone who would rather be anywhere else but here.”
The two officers turned and looked at the tall woman who was standing next to them, the collar of her embroidered leather jacket pulled up and zipped to her chin. She was wearing a pair of impossibly tight satin pants under a tight black leather micro skirt, and over the knee black leather boots with four inch stiletto heels. She wore a beret on her short dark hair, but the veil that came down and under the collar of her leather jacket obscured everything except her ruby red lips.
“Thank you for coming – we appreciate it,” Jan said as she and Jeanne moved to the side, allowing her to sit as the barman brought over a Long Island Iced Tea.
“You remembered Agent Carter – most thoughtful. And who are these two men who grace our presence?”
“These are detectives Barton and Knight, 19th Precinct,” Jan said as the woman sipped on her straw through the veil. “Gentlemen – meet the Hidden Hand.”
“Yer kidding,” Knight said as he looked at her again.
“Perceptive, is he not,” the Hand said with a raised eyebrow.
“You do know who you’re dealing with here?”
“Let me say Detectives that I am far from happy with being asked to meet you,” the veiled woman spoke as she looked at them.
“Well we aint exactly happy meeting one of the world’s most notorious criminals and not slappin’ the cuffs on you lady.” Knight growled back.
“Criminal – moi? Oh I don’t think you will find any outstanding warrants here in the United States for me” she said as the smile came and vanished under the veil.
“How come?” Barton asked.
“Let me just say that the government and I came to an arrangement,” the voice was as smooth as silk. “Now, Agent Carter has asked me here, and I believe you wish to consult me on a certain fraudster who recently met his end?”
“Yeah, we keep coming up against the fact he wasn’t very well liked.”
“I think that may be an understatement according to some of my sources Detective Knight. At Agent Carter and Inspector Marais’ request I ran a check, and I can confirm there was certainly chatter about a professional hit on your victim.”
“Coming from where?”
“That I cannot say without compromising my sources, but you can safely assume that the request originated in London.”
“From this Madame X broad?”
“Detective didn’t you hear just what I said,” The Hand laughed gently, “anyway I will let these two ladies see my intelligence and they can show it to you. Goodbye and I wish I could say it was a pleasure meeting you.”
Slowly Heather stood up and walked from the bar, her hips swinging and the tight skirt rippling over her ass.
“Once again she avoided paying for drinks.” Janice looked over to the barman and signalled for another round.
Jeanne smiled as she looked at the two detectives. “Yes, she has that effect one everyone the first time,” she said as he picked up a chicken wing.
“But will she come through?”
“Oh yes – if you want information ferreted out, we only go to the very best,” she said with a smile as the drinks came over.
“Well Detectives I think that at least to me it looks like we are dealing with a professional killing.” Jan said as she sipped her drink.
“Yeah the evidence is certainly pointing that way.” Knight shook his head.
“Local or imported killer though?” Barton asked.
“We may never know, but if this was indeed the work of Madame X then you can be assured it wasn’t arranged in a few days.” Jeanne spoke. “Her organization is renowned for its careful planning.”
“So can the NYPD ask a favor of the FBI - that you investigate movements of known hit men?”
“Oh I think we can accommodate that request.” Janice finished her drink. “In the meantime, can you assist us? We need to see the CSI report, if possible. See if the weapons traces match anything on our files.”
“You got it - we pay next time,” Knight said as they walked from the bar, leaving money on the table.
“If this was a hit organised in the UK,” Jeanne said, “there must be a trail somewhere.”
“I know,” Jan said, “let’s see what we can find out...”
10 am GMT
The few men who were sitting in the bar looked round as the doors opened and the tall blonde walked in, her fur coat closed to keep out the grey December air. She looked round and then walked up to the bar, having a quiet word with the grey haired man behind it before he passed her a glass with vodka in it, and she moved into the small bar at the back.
“I’m looking for Big Dan Carlston,” she said, her voice tinged with the faintest of Russian accents, as she looked at the four men playing cards in the back.
One of them, a well built man with greying black hair, looked up and said “who’s looking for me?”
“My name in Natalya Kosolov,” she said as she opened her coat, revealing the white cashmere sweater, tight pants and knee length laced leather boots. “I come at the request of my employer, Madame X.”
Looking at her, he said “you play?”
“I can play a few hands,” Natalya said as she sat down, waiting to be dealt in.
“So, what does Madame want from me?”
“Some years ago,” Natalya said as she looked at her hand, and threw two in. “You spent some time in a cell with a man called Martin Peverell.”
“Mar the Perv? Yeah – he earned me an extension on my stay by telling the screws of my trade inside,” Dan said as he looked at his hand, “what about him?”
“He’s dead – someone shot him in New York last Saturday.”
“Did they now,” Dan said as he smiled and nodded. “Let me know who it was and I’ll buy him a drink.”
“Well, that is where it gets interesting,” Natalya said as she threw a tenner into the pot, “you see, the police are looking into two possibilities. One is that Peverell may have been one of those people financing a massive art fraud last year, one that it is known a London crook took a hit order out to cover up.”
“And the other possibility?”
“Is that someone in the UK ordered the hit, possibly Madame X. Only it wasn’t, so they are looking elsewhere – including at you, Big Dan. Two pairs, kings over tens.”
The other threw their hands in as Dan looked at her. “If – and mind, I say If – I did have a hit out on Perv, I would have made damn sure he never got on a plane anywhere.”
“I believe you,” Natalya said, “but it would be in the best interests of Madame and some associates of hers if the notion of a UK ordered hit was made a distinct possibility. She appreciates it would cause some pain and discomfort, and would offer suitable compensation.”
Dan looked at her as she dealt the cards, before he said “I can put the word out, see if there is someone willing to do the dirty. How do I contact you?”
“I shall return in twenty four hours to discover your results,” Natalya said as she dealt more cards. Looking at his hand, Dan turned it over and said “Royal Flush.”
“May you be as fortunate over the next twenty four hours,” Natalya said as she stood up. “Madame thanks you in advance.”
As she went to leave, Dan said “Hey – what happened to Dominique?”
“She is US based now – I am Madame’s representative in the UK now,” Natalya said with a smile as she walked out. Dan sat for a moment, and then said, “spread the word – I want a suitable line of action by tonight.”
“You’re not afraid of her, are you Dan?”
“Damn straight I am – Kosolov was big league when he was alive. If that’s his daughter, and Madame X has employed her, you should be too.”
FBI Field Office
“Hmm – now that’s interesting,” Jan said as she looked at the report from the ME on Peverell’s body.
“What is,” Jeanne said as she looked up from the screen.
“Take a look at the photos,” Janice said as she handed them over, “anything strike you as funny about the entry wounds?”
Jeanne picked up a magnifying glass and looked closely, and then looked again.
“Is it my imagination,” she said as she looked at Jeanne, “or are there two overlapping entry wounds?”
“It’s more than that,” Jan said as she looked at the notes, “according to the ME, the wounds were not made at the same time. In fact, you can see the gunpowder burns around the wound, but according to him, the bullet that entered his heart came from a particular angle. I’d put good money that the one close up was done later.”
“Are you saying there were two shooters?”
“I think there may have been,” Jan said as she sat back, “I’ll let Barton and Knight know. That puts a new wrinkle on things...”
“Two shooters?” Caroline looked at Jan as she sat with her at the table.
“Yeah – someone killed him, and then someone shot him.”
“Sheesh – actually...”
“Let’s walk through the night – Peverell takes the girls in. Brooke and I arrive, and go up to his room.”
Jan looked through her notes and said “By this time, Poppy had arrived – she heard you find out which room he was in, and watched you get into the lift.”
“Right – we went into the room, Brooke took the girls out, I stayed back and had a word with Peverell, and at some point about then Poppy came up in the lift.”
“That tallies,” Jan said. “Brooke took the girls down, found Pippa and her mother, and they asked where Poppy was. Pippa came back up in the lift to the floor of Peverell’s room, and went in different directions. Lady Ashley took the girls to the couches, and then went to the stairs.”
“I came back down to find them, then Brooke and Lady Ashley appeared in the lifts.”
“Yes,” Jan said, “while Pippa found Poppy and brought her down, and we went from there.”
Caroline sat back and looked at Jan. “I left him alive – so in those five to ten minutes, two different people shot Peverell? One cleanly, but from a distance, the other up close.”
Jan nodded as she said “I’m beginning to see what might have happened – and why certain people are saying what they said.”
“Yeah – Jan, we need to touch base with Shirley tonight. I think we need to get the UK angle firmed up – because if we’re thinking the same thing, we need to divert eyes away from the US.”
The Carlton Home
Doc was working on her final assignment for the semester when her cell phone went off.
“Hey Nell – ready for the weekend?”
“Oh yeah – the end is nigh for this semester,” her friend said from her room in Harvard. Listen - Did you hear the news from Texas Doc?"
"From Texas? Oh dear Goddess I'd forgotten about the trial." Anna gulped a breath down, "so what is the news?"
"The bastard pled guilty, he will be sentenced after New Years."
"Well at least
that kept things from getting too public. What is he likely to get?"
"According to the lawyer representing the Hull family they will be arguing for the death penalty. He is after all a cold-blooded killer."
“And they have that down there,” Doc said quietly. “I don’t know – somehow it seems too easy for him.”
“I know – but at least this means Kerry can rest in peace now,” Nell said quietly. “So – ready for your Sweet Sixteen?”
“If I had any idea what was happening – do you know?”
There was a silence, before she heard Ally say “So sorry – your call has been disconnected.”
“Hmm,” Doc said as the line went dead, “I smell a mystery...”
The de Ros Mansion
“Well a couple of days and we will all be home.” Abby looked at the screen.
“I can’t wait,” Carina smiled, “this year my little one understands a little what is happening.”
“You mean she knows now what presents are?” Jo asked.
“EXACTLY! She’s been asking me for a week what she is getting.”
“So any news on other friends?”
“Well David is flying home, and not totally happy…”
“Why Cari?” Abs asked.
“Judes has accepted an offer to perform with the New York Mediaeval Music group at the end of January.”
“Oh Oh!” Jo rolled her eyes. “Her rehearsal time will be eating into ‘his’ social life.”
“Yeah, just as you say Jo.”
“It’s the perils of his being in love with a musician.” Abigail shrugged her shoulders.
“That’s what I told him.” Carina smiled once more.
“And since he loves her so much…?”
“He’s going to suck it up Abs.”
“It’s like Curt accepting that I have training and races on top of my normal student life.”
“Just right Jo,” Cari nodded, “our love lives need to fit in with all our activities.”
“Talking of which,” Jo said as she drank from her cup, “is the Beast happy with your Mom’s plans?”
“Oh I think she approves Jo.”
“Well it will give her a chance to express herself shall we say.”
“Indeed – what about you Abs. Tea parties go well?”
“Not bad – but I need to talk to both of you about something. I’d hoped Angel would be around, but...”
“Well, they’ll all be over for the New Year’s Eve party at your place.”
“True – it can wait until then, I guess.”
“You sure Abby?”
Cari looked at her old friend as Abby said “Yeah – we’ll talk about it when you get back.”
Thursday 17th December
The Richmond Mansion
“All right you two,” Heather said as she looked at Sands and George, “it’s Christmas party day today, so don’t forget to take your change of clothes with you.”
“We won’t,” George said as he and his sister ran out of the kitchen, Sandy coming in.
“How did the work go last night?”
“Well,” Heather said, “Jeanne was right. I traced Peverell’s financial records, and he bought several large paintings which are held in a Swiss bank vault. I’m sending her the details, as well as documents proving the link between him and StJohn.”
“And from the UK side?”
“Shirley thinks she’ll have that in place today – which leaves the unanswered question.”
“Who really did it?”
Heather nodded as Sandy poured herself some coffee.
“So did Ju talk to you?”
“About a little job two days after Christmas.”
Sandy nodded. “I’ll have something for her today – it’s not easy, and we need to get Tommy on it pronto.”
“All right,” Annie said as she looked across the classroom, “I know we only have two more days before the holiday, but we still need to complete these assessments today. So pens out, and take a deep breath.”
Erica looked over at Poppy, who was sitting quietly, looking down at her paper as she chewed on the end of her pen.
“And – begin,” Annie said, the girls turning over their paper as they looked down the list of questions, and then started writing. Erica made her way through, smiling as she answered the questions and glanced around as she did so.
As she looked at poppy, she saw her friend was still looking at the sheet, her pen in her mouth, not moving, not writing. She glanced up at Annie, who was also looking at Poppy, and then went back to her sheet.
It was the sound of sobbing that made her look again, as Poppy seemed to be staring into space. Slowly, the pen dropped from her hand, as Jess looked over as well.
Annie slowly stood up and walked over to Poppy, the young girl looking up at her silently as tears ran down her face. “Erica,” she said as she looked over, “would you go and fetch Mrs Brand please.”
“Of course Miss Kelly,” Erica said as she stood up and walked to the door, opening it as Abby walked past.
“Abigail – are you free at the moment?”
“Of course Miss Kelly?”
“Please supervise the class,” she said as Abby came in, and she helped Poppy to stand up, walking her slowly to the door as Abby sat at the front.
Shirley looked up and said “come in” as she heard the knock on the door. She smiled as Dominique came in, the heels of her long boots slicking on the floor.
“What can I do for you, Dominique?”
“Madame I think that I need ask for your help.” Dominique came in and stood in front of the desk.
“Oh why?” Madame indicated for her subordinate to sit down.
“Because,” Dom said as she took a seat, “the more I investigate this case, the more I see another hand present beyond merely someone seeking revenge here against Peverell.”
“So your device of muddying the waters by implying an outside hit, might actually turn out to have been by coincidence the real truth?”
“It looks that way,” Dom shook her head, “oh certainly one of our friends did shoot him, but my view is he was already dead. Jan showed me the ME report – there’s definitely two wounds in the same place.”
“That’s interesting.” Shirley took off her glasses and paused deep in thought as she cleaned them.
“I wanted to ask if you could maybe make a few personal phone calls to some of your acquaintances back in the UK…”
“And you cannot do that Dominique?” Shirley interrupted.
“I think you are more likely than I am to elicit the truth from these people Madame. Heather has proved the link between Peverell and StJohn Stevens, and Jan tells me Jeanne is working with her Swiss colleagues on that.”
“Well I can certainly try.”
“That’s all I ask.”
“Now,” Shirley said as she smiled, “on a more personal level, now we have that out of the way - how are your Christmas preparations going?”
“Slowly,” Dom sighed. “It’s so hard finding Ama a present that no one else is likely to think to give her.”
“I’m having the same problems with Maisha.” Shirley half smiled.
“I’d buy her a car, but I think that would make a better birthday present, and while she wears jewellery sometimes, her taste is more flea-market eclectic then Tiffany’s.”
“Again her taste is very personal,” Dom said with a sigh, “and I’m not sure beyond a few items that I’ve picked up for her, what else to buy for her.”
“What is Annie giving her?”
“Sarah got a friend on the US team to get a poster signed by all the members of the US Women’s World Cup winning team, and in return for a charity donation passed it on to Annie.”
“Well I know Ama will love that.” Shirley smiled. “Let me ask a question, how are her lessons going with Alex?”
“Very well, I think his plan is to baptize her and for her to have her first communion the Sunday after New Year…Why?”
“Well what did your Mother do for your first communion?”
“I was Anglican, Madame, but I remember friends when they had their first communion, all in their new dresses… A new…” suddenly the penny dropped. “Oh now I see where you are going…that might just be right Madame.”
“Well you know it will mean an awful lot to her?”
“That is true, her religion means an awful lot to my daughter.”
“Good – now,” Shirley said as Dom’s cell phone went off.
“It’s Grace – may I?”
“Shirley nodded as she answered the call, and said “Grace – is there a problem with Ama?
“Oh. OH. Right – I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“Poppy – she suddenly started crying, Annie took her to see Grace, and now she wants to talk to me.”
“Go – I’ll make some calls,” Shirley said as Dominique quickly made her way out.
The Richmond Mansion
Sandy looked at the drawing board as Juliette handed her a mug of coffee.
“So Sigi and family will be spending Christmas at her in-laws?”
“Yes,” Juliette replied. “Klaus though is determined that we have what he calls ‘a real family Christmas’ here in New York.”
“So who else in the family is coming?”
“Just really Natalya and her husband.”
“Well Diana has her father and Valeria coming.” Sandy looked down at her sketch, “and I already have most of my important family right here. So looks like we all have family Christmases this year.”
“It does.” Juliette paused, “so any more thoughts on my idea?”
“Only that I wish we had more time, and that also how the hell do we both prep both for the holidays and for this?”
“By being methodical and organized. Heather has already worked out a lot of things.” Juliette closed her eyes.
“And I see your computer is working as well Ju.” Sandy laughed.
Ju opened one eye and stared at her friend. “I thought that joke was dead and buried?”
“Far from it.” Sandy kept laughing. “as long as you keep looking like that, the joke will still work.”
“Anyway,” Juliette tried to change the topic, “what are your plans?”
“Other then throwing my home open as usual on Christmas Eve?”
“Well I have a lovely surprise for Heather.”
“You’ll need to go some to beat her Van Gogh drawings from last year.”
“Oh I think I may have managed it,” Sandy said with a smile. “And as for Jo – well, she’s really going to love hers.”
“Thanks for coming over Caroline,” Grace said as they met in the entrance hall, her long grey cardigan hanging over her blue dress.
“So what happened?”
“I have no real idea – Annie brought her to me in tears, and the only thing she has said since then is she wants to talk to you.”
“Have you called her mother yet?”
“No – something tells me it will be better if you talk to her first. I’m very afraid...”
“Don’t say it,” Caroline said quietly. “Where is she?”
“My office,” Grace said as she opened the door, where Poppy was sitting with Erica.
“Thank you Erica,” Caroline said as she came in, “I wonder if you would leave me and Poppy alone for a few minutes? I promise you, I’m not going to try and upset her.”
Nodding Erica went out as Grace closed the door, leaving the two of them together. Caroline sat down next to Poppy, taking a hankie from her bad and handing it to her.
“Thanks,” Poppy said as she dried her eyes, looking at Caroline. “I don’t know what happened today.”
“Well, I think I do,” Caroline said, “You’ve been carrying something very private around for the last few days, haven’t you Poppy?”
The young girl looked up at Caroline and slowly nodded.
“Let me tell you a story,” Caroline said as she put her arm round the young girl’s shoulders. “I think, Poppy, that ever since you found out the truth about this man, and what he did to your mother, you have had one thought on your mind – that you would not let her hurt him again. Am I right?”
Poppy slowly nodded as Caroline smiled. “That’s why you bought the gun – not to protect yourself, but to hurt him. That’s why you followed your mom on Saturday night – to make sure he didn’t hurt her. And that’s why you followed him back to his hotel after I told you to go home – because you recognised one of the girls.”
“Katy,” Poppy said quietly, “I didn’t know why she was there with Sigi and the other two, but I knew he wasn’t going to take them home.”
“Okay,” Caroline said as she looked at Poppy, “so you sat in the lobby, and you waited, and eventually you felt you had to go and find him, so you got in the lift and you got to his floor. Then you wondered around for a while, until you found his room. Was the door open?”
Poppy slowly nodded as Caroline said “I think you saw him lying on the floor, not moving, and all that anger, all the rage, just boiled over. You had the gun in your bag, but as you took it out, you saw a little red hole, just over where his heart should be. But there was almost a red mist over your eyes, so you took the gun, you put it over the hole, and you pulled the trigger. It felt so good, to finally let him know how it felt, didn’t it Poppy?”
Caroline watched as Poppy slowly turned her head and nodded, and then buried her head in the older woman’s chest as the tears came freely again. Caroline just held her, trying to fight back her own tears as memories of a sixteen year old girl fighting off a drunk and violent man came back.
“I killed him,” Poppy eventually said.
“No, you didn’t,” Caroline said, “he was already dead. Someone shot him before you did, but believe me, I can understand why you did it Poppy.”
“I... I didn’t kill him?”
“No – I want you to tell Janice Carter what happened – what really happened, and you need to tell the rest of your family, but I promise you, nobody else will ever know what you did. Just let it all out – and then I’ll ask Grace to call your mother, all right?”
Poppy nodded as Caroline brushed her hair away from her red eyes. “Come on, let’s make those calls, and then you can start to put all this behind you.”
As they stood up, Caroline said “Poppy, did you see anyone come from his room as you walked to it.”
“Yeah – yeah I did.”
“Well, she may be a wanted criminal, but she keeps her word,” Detective Knight said as he looked at the files, “It does appear as if there was a contract out on Peverell in the UK. Guess someone got a pay day.”
“I have colleagues chasing down the person in the UK,” Janice said, “but the evidence points that way. Jeanne?”
“We now know Peverell paid StJohn Stevens for stolen art, as his investment fund. The records supplied by the Hidden Hand confirm the money trail, and my colleagues in the Swiss police have seized the assets. If one good thing comes out of this, it is that these paintings will be returned, and the Ashley family will be compensated.”
Detective Barton looked at Jan, and said “what else did you determine from the ME’s report?”
“There were two wounds, one on top of the other – I’d think the assassin shot him once, watched him drop, and then shot him at close range to make sure.”
Knight nodded, before he said “so your guy – when he was found?”
“Not a pretty sight – whoever took him tortured him before they killed him. They even cut his dick off and stuffed it up his arse.”
Jan smiled as she watched the two detectives squirmed uncomfortably in their seats.
“Well, I think we have the picture of what happened now,” Barton said as he yawned. “We’ll take it to the chief – did you get anywhere with known hitmen?”
“None with this MO in the area, but we’ll keep checking,” Jan said as she and Jeanne stood up. “Let us know if you need any further help, detectives.”
“Likewise agents,” Barton and Knight said as they shook hands, and Jeanne followed Jan out of the precinct.
“Well, I call that a win,” Jeanne said, “which is nice in this line of work.”
“Indeed – what did they find?”
“A couple of Turners, a Constable and a Liechtenstein. All very nice.”
Jan nodded as she felt a buzz in her purse, and looked at her phone. “Can you report back to Tom for both of us Jeanne – something I have to do.”
4th Avenue, The Ashley Apartment
“Hello Jan,” Margaret said as she opened the door, “did Caroline ask for you to come round as well?”
“Yeah – she said Poppy wanted to tell em something,” Jan said as she came in, joining Pippa and Amelia in the drawing room.
“Poppet,” Pippa said as Poppy appeared with Caroline, “what’s the matter?”
“Why don’t we all sit down,” Caroline said as she took her coat off, “Poppy has something she needs to tell all of you. Go ahead, Poppy – nothing bad is going to happen.”
“Aunt Maggie, Grandma, Mom,” Poppy said as she sat down, “I need to tell you what I did last Saturday...”
“I’m sorry, Mom,” Poppy eventually said, “so sorry if I hurt you, or Grandma, or Aunt Maggie, but I was too scared to say anything...”
“It’s all right,” Pippa said as she hugged her daughter, tears rolling down her face. “But we need to tell the police now...”
“No – no we don’t.”
“We’ve got evidence someone in the UK commissioned a hit on Martin – and he was shot twice in the same place. So, as far as the police are concerned, the same person shot him – once at distance, once at close range.”
“Justice, in this case,” Caroline said, “is best served by maintaining that. No one outside this room knows what Poppy did – let’s keep it that way.”
Poppy sat nervously as her mother looked at Amelia and Margaret.
“It think it’s long past time we put this behind us – agreed Amy?”
“Agreed Maggie – he’s gone, let’s move on.”
As they hugged each other, Jan and Caroline went to the kitchen.
“So who did kill him?”
“I may have an answer soon – can you come to Shirley’s office with me?”
“Coffee first,” Jan said as she found some mugs, “we still need to make sure she’s all right.”
“Jan, Caroline,” Pippa said as they came back in, “I cannot thank you enough for what you’ve done for all of us.”
“Well, there’s more – we may have tracked down his funds. It may be you’re going to get something back from what he took,” Jan said as they all sat down.
said quietly, “I hope that if you've learned one lesson from this, it's to leave
justice and guns to other people."
"I have Caroline,”
Poppy said quietly, “I was just so angry and determined he'd not hurt my family
"However good your
motives, just remember there but by the grace of God..."
"I would have been
a murderer," the teenager let out a long breath.
"And you also need
thank the dear Lord for someone wonderful like Caroline and Janice being
there." Pippa hugged her daughter.
"Well as I said
once before...we look after our friends."
"And if I
had...you know...actually killed him."
"Poppy I'd still have helped, you are too young and too good a girl to have your life ruined by trying to protect your family from a thief and a pervert. But you didn’t."
“So who did?”
“Good question – very good question...”