Senses and Sensibility – Part 2
“So it was young Poppy who fired the second shot? In a way, I am glad she has been able to unburden herself. Will she and her mother be joining you over the weekend?”
“They will – so we can talk then as well,” Dominique said as she sat with Shirley and Susan.
“So, shall we,” Susan said as she turned on the laptop, Natalya and Lily appearing on the large screen.
“Natalya, Lillian,” Shirley said quietly, “what do you have for us?”
“Good news in a way Madame – a contract was indeed put out on Martin Peverell. Natalya?”
“I met with Big Dan as planned, and he informed me that rather than finding a suitable volunteer, he discovered someone had indeed hired a hitman to find and kill Peverell on his release?”
“That concurs with what I discovered from my contacts,” Shirley said, “but I was unable to get a name.”
“I was given the name – Derek Colman. Apparently, he recently inherited a sizable fortune on the death of his mother, and used some of that to pay the fee.”
“And what do we know of Derek Colman?”
“That’s where it gets interesting,” Lily said as she looked at something, “he was brought up single handed by his mother, Beatrice Colman, who worked as a translator until her recent death from cancer. Twenty two years old, no criminal record, no obvious motive.”
“Why do I suspect you have found the uncommon motive?”
“I traced where his mother worked. Until 1992, she was a secretary at a large industrial conglomerate based in the north east of London.”
“Let me take a wild guess,” Dominique said, “Ashley Industrial?”
“Got it in one – she got a large payoff when she left the company, which she used to set up her translation business. Second curious fact – Derek was born some seven months after she left Ashley Industrial.”
Lily nodded as Natalya said “I took the liberty of meeting Mr Colman tonight. I explained what we knew, and he admitted hiring a gunman – apparently, Peverell raped his mother as well, and she was... What is the expression Lillian?”
“Paid off,” Lily said. “He wanted revenge. Looks like he got it?”
“Well, yes – and no.”
“I’ll tell you what I haven’t told Jeanne or the detectives – I found the man who took on the contract here, with a little help from Tommy. He did go to the Holiday Inn to execute the contract – but someone beat him to it.”
Sitting back, Shirley said “Does this Colman know the hitman was late?”
“No – your decision on further action, Madame?”
“Inform him the hit was successful – I see no need to expose the Ashley family to any other distress,” Shirley finally said. “Lillian, Natalya, my thanks – I will see you on Monday morning.”
“Madame,” the other two said as the screen went blank, and Shirley looked at Dominique.
“Are you thinking what I am thinking?”
“I think so,” Dom said quietly. “Jan, leave this in my hands please – leave the situation with the police as it is. Justice has been served.”
“What are you not telling me Dom?”
“As I said, leave it with me – no more need be said about it until the weekend.”
“You know who killed him, don’t you?”
Dominique slowly nodded as she looked at the other two.
Friday 18th December
“How are you feeling this morning,” Erica said as she sat next to Poppy.
“Much better, thanks – and thanks for being there yesterday. I just had to let it all out.” Poppy looked round, and said “what happened about the Math test.”
“You need to see Miss Kelly second period – she’s cleared it with Miss Nightingale,” Erica said.
“All right girls – let’s have a discussion of the holiday season in different cultures...”
“Brooke,” Caroline said as she opened the door for the judge, “thank you for calling round today.”
“Well, I cannot stay for long,” Brooke said as she walked up the stairs, “I have to attend a press conference at City Hall at two.”
“Oh – so the block has been removed?”
“Thanks to a lot of representations from others, yes – they are announcing my candidacy for the circuit court this afternoon.”
“Well, I am delighted to hear that – but I asked you here today to tell you the police have determined Martin Peverell was the victim of a contract killer. Looks like the killer will never be caught.”
“And the Ashley’s?”
“Will not be bothered by him or the police again,” Caroline said as she handed Brooke a mug of coffee, “although young Poppy did shoot him.”
“So she killed him?”
“No,” Caroline said as she sat down, “he was already dead when she found his room. She just took her fear and anger out on him.”
“So it was a contract killer?”
“That’s what the police report will say – but I think something else happened. Want to hear my theory?”
“Go on,” Brooke said as she sat back.
“There are two people unaccounted for at some point that night in the hotel – you and Lady Ashley. I’ve had a chance last night to go over everyone’s report of their movements that night, especially now that Poppy has told us what she really did that night. She says – and I believe her, based on the medical notes and other testimonies – that she found Peverell already dead, took the gun she had bought, and shot him through the chest. Given nobody heard any gunshots, that means the first shot had to be made on a gun fitted with a silencer.”
“Such as one a professional killer would use,” Brooke said before she took a sip from her mug.
“Indeed. There is another possibility, however. It is possible someone had seen, or learnt, of what Peverell was capable of, and recognised girls who may not know better were at risk of getting hurt – or worse. It is equally possible that person may have come to the decision that he had to be stopped, and then be stopped from hurting any girl ever again. I don’t know why they would do that – perhaps it was because they too had been hurt in that way, and did not want it to happen to any other innocent because of his greed.”
“Certainly a possibility, if they had seen what he was doing, and were angry enough,” Brooke said as she put her mug down. “Of course, such a person would have had to have some sort of forewarning that might happen, and come prepared.”
“Quite – and I am sure if they were doing this, it was from a sense of natural justice, and possibly also to ease their own pain. Still, as I say, it is just a theory, and the one the police have followed makes as much sense.”
Brooke nodded as she looked at Caroline. “So it is at an end?”
“It is – can I just ask you one question Brooke?”
“Poppy saw you walking down the corridor when she was looking for Peverell’s room – alone. Where did you go after the girls came down?”
“I was looking for her – I guess I didn’t see her.”
“That’s what I thought,” Caroline said with a smile. “Well, as I say, it’s over now, so we can all rest easy. Good luck with the press conference today, and congratulations.”
She stood up and held her hand out, Brooke taking it and shaking it firmly before she said “thank you – for everything.”
“Make sure you stay safe – a lot of people will be looking to drag you down now.”
“Perhaps you can assist me with that?”
“It would be my great pleasure, if needed,” Caroline said before she hugged the judge. “Let me show you out.”
The Richmond Mansion
Heather heard the back door of the mansion open and close, and then Jo call out “Anyone else want a coffee?”
“Well, if you’re offering to make it,” Heather said as she came in, seeing Jo in her William Smith hoodie and jeans, “how can I refuse? The mothers and girls will start arriving soon anyway. Got a hug for your big sister?”
“Of course I do,” Jo said as she embraced Heather. “Have you been seeing Selma?”
“Regularly,” Heather said as Jo poured two mugs. “Don’t worry, Jo – I haven’t had any bad dreams for months now.”
“Good – so are they gathering here this afternoon?”
“That’s the plan – Heading up to Stowe from here.”
“Fair does – give me a chance to catch up with the girls.”
“So, how was the drive?”
“Cold – which is why this is SOOOO good,” Jo said as she looked at her cell phone. “That’s Nell and Ally back as well – any word on Cari?”
“Should be coming home any time now,” Heather said with a smile. “Come on – I’ll give you a hand with the bags before the others get back.”
The Huntingdown Apartment.
“Hey there,” Juliette said as Judith toddled over to her, “come and give your grandmother a great big kiss.”
“Am I the last one to arrive,” Carina said as she walked over and kissed her mother.
“Oh yes,” Juliette said, “but only just. Ingrid arrived a quarter of an hour ago, and Klaus this morning.”
“On which note – come here little one,” Klaus said as he came in.
“Grappy!” Judith held her arms out and cuddled into Klaus, as she yawned.
“How DOES he do that,” Carina said as she looked at them.
“Enough talk, unpack and then repack – we have a trip ahead of us.”
“School’s out for Winter!” Ingrid bastardised Alice Cooper’s lyrics as she and Cari packed for their skiing weekend.
“I am looking forward to this so much.” Cari looked up from putting Judith’s things in her case. “A long weekend on the slopes with my family and very best friends.”
“And not a working photographer in sight hopefully.”
“Amen to that sister.”
“So Annie will come up tomorrow?”
“With Grace and Sarah – they indicated by the time they got out of school, it would be too late to set off and reach Stowe tonight so they’ll head up to Springfield and stop there overnight.”
“They’ll miss the first ski session?”
“I know – but Annie is on nursery slopes only, Sarah apparently can ski already, and Grace is a definite social skier. I think tomorrow is about the newbies having a lesson, and we give little Judith a real taste of snow.”
“So – weddings in April.”
“Yes indeed – I understand Cathy is coming Tuesday to measure us up for one outfit, and Alice for another.”
“Ah there is our life in a nutshell, Cari – one fitting after another.”
“Could be worse – could be Abs.”
“Ah yes – poor girl,” Ingrid said as she closed her case. “we must discuss the matter with her this weekend.”
“But of course – come on, we need to meet the others.”
The Faculty Room
“Sherry or wine?” Wilhelmina asked as she held both bottles up.
“Oh a glass of white wine please Wilhelmina.” Sarah spoke back over the music, “I have to say this is rather more civilized then what we used to do in Harlow.”
“Which was what Sarah?”
“All go down the pub on the last day of school and get plastered.”
“If that means what I believe it means, then yes as you say we try and be a bit more formal.” Wilhelmina passed the English Lit teacher her drink. “By the way I’ve been meaning to have a private word of congratulations with you Sarah. Your English Literature class has been widely praised by your students.”
“Well I’m glad they are enjoying it. I will admit I’m enjoying engaging with such keen minds.”
“And of course,” Wilhelmina said as she picked up her glass, “the soccer team going unbeaten in its fall schedule for the first time ever…”
“Most of our tough games come in the spring, congratulate me if we are still unbeaten after that.”
“Well I’m still proud of what the girls have already done, and what you have achieved.”
“Thank you Wilhelmina.” Sarah smiled.
“Congratulations on an excellent term” Kate said as she stood chatting with Grace.
“Despite a few rocky moments, yes it did seem to go rather well.”
“Just speaking personally,” Kate said as she sipped her red wine, “it was a pleasure having a dean who knows her job, and who took all those responsibilities off mine and Wilhelmina’s shoulders.”
“I do enjoy the day to day interaction with the girls.” Grace looked round and smiled. “It’s stimulating trying to look after their welfare and other needs.”
“Well the head girls I know appreciate having you to go to.”
“And I like working with them. The three girls do a very good job themselves.”
“We were doubtful when Letty was nominated, but she has grown into the job.”
“Very much so, the younger girls in particular see her very much as someone they can approach with their problems and she will both listen and be helpful.”
“That is certainly true.” Kate looked at her empty glass. “I’m getting a refill, can I get you one?”
“Well you survived a full term Harriet.” George Rous the head of the Science department observed as he sat next to her.
“Yes - and that despite the challenge of a certain VERY bright young lady.”
“Is Anna Carlton truly that advanced?”
“Just wait till you have her in your AP class next academic year George.” Harriet laughed a couple of notes, “the girl really is a bona fide genius.”
“Something tells me I’ll need to spend most of my summer working on my lesson plans then.”
“But yes that’s not until next year,” Annie Kelly interrupted as she brought round a bottle of red wine, “and at least for a few days none of us has to think about teaching.”
“No I just have to think about packing up, and heading home for a few short days to see my family back home in the UK.”
“Well I’m sure you’ll be happy to see them all, and you will be back for New Years Eve.”
“That I will Annie.” Harriet smiled, “I hear the New Years Eve party is legendary?”
“That it is.” Annie giggled.
“Well you both move in higher social circles then I do.” George sipped his wine. “I’ll take your words for it.”
“So is Sarah ready to go skiing this weekend Harriet?”
“I think so, she used to take our school trips to France at Easter skiing, but I think she is looking forward far more to this then she ever did helping take 40 kids to Grenoble.”
“Well it’s always relaxing, and thanks to the generosity of Juliette and her company so cheap.”
“With a baby on the way just remember - no dare devilry on the slopes Miss Kelly.” George warned his colleague.
“I know, I know, Carina has already read out the riot act to me. Several times.”
“So when do you head north?”
“Tomorrow, first thing – the rest are heading up round about now...”
The Richmond Mansion
"So what are the accommodations like up in Stowe Barbara?" Denice asked as the Friday Afternoon Coffee Club assembled ready for the trip northwards.
"Well,” Barbara said as she checked her bags and put them in the minivan, “the moms share double rooms and they are really rather nice. The girls though are in what most closely resembles dormitories with bunk beds, but since it's the skiing and partying they are there for I've heard very few complaints from them."
"They spend as
little time as possible in bed as they can?"
"That seems to be the idea," Barbara said as she looked over at Jeannie, talking to the other girls.
"Hello Mercy," Barbara kissed Mrs. Kinman on the cheeks as she arrived, "Is that all yours and Letty's gear?"
"For those of us
who don't own our own skis by the way...?" Denice asked.
"There is a stock
of equipment laid on...Oh and by the way we talk about fashion briefly so that
Juliette can write it all off against tax as a working weekend." Barbara
"Oh no she
doesn't...does she?" Mercy asked unbelievingly.
"No, I'm just
kidding, but honestly virtually everything is taken care of by Huntingdown's so
we don't have to worry about anything other than our drinks, restaurant, and
personal shopping bills."
"Well that's a relief Barbara." Denice nodded.
"Miss Ashley gave
me a pair of Poppy's old ski boots that she's outgrown." Erica remarked as
she helped load one of the SUV's.
advantage of you having smaller feet then her," Doc said as she put
another bag in.
"I know, and
they've barely been worn, so I'm more than happy to take her
"Have you ever
skied before Bones?"
"No, but I'm
hoping that I'll learn to this winter."
classes with Jean-Claude are FUN!" Pepsi smiled.
"He is just so
good looking." Ama sighed.
Pepsi looked closely at
her friend. "Does your boyfriend
know you have a thing for a ski-instructor Am?"
black girl blushed.
"Mmmm sounds like this might be even better than I anticipated." Erica grinned.
“Tell me about it,” Poppy said as she arrived.
“Hey – get your stuff stowed,” Doc said as she hugged the young girl, “we need to move off.”
“All right people – get in,” Heather called out as Jo got the kids into her jeep. “We need to hit the road if we’re going to get there before it’s late.”
“Susan just called – they’ve arrived and are getting the cabins prepared,” Jan said as she came out.
"So what is the
real brief for the weekend girls?" Katy asked Carina and Holly Berryman.
"To spend as
little time as is humanly possible in bed." Cari smiled as she put Judith
in her car seat.
"Or at least your
own bed," Katy giggled.
"Not even that,
sex can cut into your skiing time." Holly said as she helped secure
"Wow I never
expected to hear that."
"Oh that's not to
say sex doesn't happen, Katy, but it really is incidental to both
skiing." Holly interrupted Carina.
"You take your
skiing that seriously?"
"You have to, the
ski instructors get keen on the best girls on the slopes." Holly laughed.
"Oh I knew sex had to come into this somewhere."
"Okay last person
to The Whip pays for dinner." Sandy shouted out to her fellow drivers.
"Most speeding tickets pays for the drinks." Janice shouted back.
“All right – WAGONS ROLL!”
Stowe VT, the Huntingdown Lodges
“So why does Clint get to look after April while we do this,” Kylie said as she helped Susan move the beds in one of the double bedrooms.
“He’s also preparing lunch,” Susan said, “which I am sure you eat with your usual grace and poise.”
"So when will
everyone else arrive darling?" Kylie drawled.
"Between 5.30 and
7.30. We all meet at The Whip." Susan answered.
“Local restaurant – very good. Juliette set up the booking before we set off.”
"This seems like it’s going to be a mega-fun weekend." Marina came in backwards, carrying sheets as she looked round.
"It usually is." Susan looked over her shoulder.
"Can I help you
with making up beds darling?" Kylie offered.
"Well get it done
early enough and we chalet maids can get some snow time in." Susan looked
at her watch.
"How well do you ski
Susan?" Helen came in carrying blankets and looked at the group.
"I don't...but I
"Oh how did you
get into that?"
said, “I skateboarded with the boys in London growing up, and I found I took to
doing similar things on snow quite easily when I moved to California."
"So with Kylie and I both having been better skateboarders even than Susan, we are hoping we can pick it quickly as well, she is going to give us lessons." Marina looked at her watch also, "So lets get these beds done and we can venture out.”
“Sounds good to me – let’s make this an exercise,” Helen said. “Clear your minds – and begin.”
“Look at her,” Cathy said as April cooed at the window, “she looks as if she cannot wait to get out there.”
“Well, I can,” Clint said with a smile. “Susan is the snow athlete in our family.”
“Indeed,” Cathy said with a smile, “Madeline told me of when she and Susan went into the mountains one weekend. Quite a revelation I’m told. So what will you do when they go skiing tomorrow?”
“Look after the kids – and Barbara wants me to make sure Jeannie is safe on the sledge as well.”
“Most impressive,” Cathy said, “you never fail to impress me, Clint.”
“Besides, someone has to make the cocoa...”
I89. Near Sharon
“It’s regular as clockwork,” Heather said, shaking her head as Sandy turned the engine off. “Good thing Jo has the kids.”
“An hour behind us,” Sandy said as she watched the officer get out of the car, the blue lights flashing on the top.
“Yeah – but safe.” Heather watched as the bearded officer walked over, smiling as he took his book out.
Sandy said as she took out her driving license and Insurance documents from
behind the visor.
"Hi Sandy," the Vermont state trooper said as he took his reflective sun glasses off. “Heather – your sister got the kids this time?”
“Yeah – so I get to be
the witness,” Heather said as she watched.
"So what did I do
"You broke your
own record...115 miles per hour."
"Mmmm that's not
bad in one of these things." Sandy smiled. "So usual procedure?"
"Yeah you can pay
for the ticket at the court house Monday morning on your way back to New
York." the Trooper smiled, "you know the procedure," he finished
writing out the ticket, "and by the way I saw you race a couple of times
in the summer, most of my colleagues were amazed I know you."
"We had a good
year George, we got invited to Sebring in the spring."
"I'll have to
watch on TV," the officer said as he gave Sandy the ticket, "I'd tell
you to lay off the speeding, but I know better."
grinned, "I'll see you next time I'm sure."
"Say Hi to George and Little Sandy for me.”
“She’s not so little this year George, and you say Merry Christmas to Sheila for us and thanks for the Christmas card.”
“Will do, now you guys have fun skiing," the cop waved and grinned as Sandy pulled off.
“Nice guy – hope they get our card,” Sandy said, “now let’s get there...”
“We’re making good time,” Cari said to Ingrid and Holly as they sat in the back, while Judith looked out of the window at the trees as they passed by.
"So who are the
best skiers Cari?"
"Probably my Pops and Ingy, living in Bavaria they both skied literally once they could walk. They can both ski the most difficult runs.”
“She does not tell a lie,” Ingy said as she passed Holly a drink.
“Sandy's not bad, and Heather believe it or not growing up in upstate New York she's a decent cross-country skier."
“What about Jo?”
“Not too bad – but then the girls are all reasonable beginners as...
“Not again,” Holly said as she looked back and saw the flashing blue light.
The Green Mountain Inn, Stowe
“Do not tell me we are the first to arrive,” Diana said as she and Abby came into the hotel lobby, Natasha and Willy following them with Alain in a carry seat.
“All right, I won’t,” Susan said as she greeted them. “We only got here ten minutes ago ourselves though – we spent a couple of hours on the snow.”
“It was exhilarating, darlings,” Kylie said as they joined her and Marina at the bar, “Susan showed us some basic moves on the snowboards. So how did you manage to arrive before the others?”
“By leaving two hours early,” Sandy said as she arrived with Heather, “which I think should be taken as a penalty.”
“Oh don’t worry,” Diana said with a smile as the waiter came over, “we have made it. Some chilled waters please?”
“Of course, Madame,” he said as he went off.
“It’s just as well we are on holiday, Jan, or I may have written you a ticket!”
“Sounds like the Carters have arrived,” Heather said as Jan, Katy and Adam came in, Katy taking off her fur lined jacket and looking round.
“Nice,” she said as she kissed Kylie, “so we’re not the first, and not the last.”
“Correct. Any tickets Jan?” Sandy asked.
“One Massachusetts County Mountie pulled us over, but a combination of my FBI id and Katy’s legs got us let off with only a warning.”
“George got me as always, and a new guy in Connecticut too.”
“Looks like the drinks at least will be on you.”
“Hey don’t be premature Jan, Carina isn’t here yet.”
S Main Street, Stowe
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so beautiful,” Erica said as she looked out of the car, the Little River to her left and the mountains rising on either side. “Where are the ski slopes?”
“The lodges are just beyond the place we’re having dinner,” Caroline said as they passed the timber homes, “quaint little town isn’t it?”
“Why do I think of Twin Peaks as I look out of the window,” Denice said with a smile.
“Similar setting – small town in the mountains – but as far as I am aware, no maniacal killer spirits called Bob or mystical lodges round here.”
“Although there are a couple of places that serve damn fine coffee – and hot,” April said with a smile. “Especially there,” she said as they passed the Green Goddess cafe.
“It’s beautiful,” Poppy whispered as the forest rose on the right side of the car, while Caroline followed the road round to the right.
“Good general store if you need anything... Heather’s little home away from home up here...”
Caroline smiled as April looked at Pippa and Denice. “Green Mountain Fine Art Gallery,” she said as Ama looked out, and said “we’re here Mom.”
“So we are,” Caroline said as she pulled into the right, the wheels of the SUV crunching the fresh snow as she found a parking space.
The group got out and walked round the side of the red brick building, the white balcony festooned with bright Christmas lights. Erica wrapped her coat around herself to keep out the cold night air as she and Poppy looked at it.
“Come on – let’s go in before we catch out death of cold,” Caroline said as they walked under the green snow covered canopy, and into the hotel entrance.
“This is an amazing place,” Erica said as she looked at the red furnishings, Denice nodding in mute agreement.
“I’ll say it again, wow – what a place,” Erica said as she looked once more round the lobby, while her mother and Poppy followed her in with Pippa, Caroline, Ama, Pepsi and April.
“We’re over here,” Katy said as she waved them to an alcove, Susan kissing the mothers as they came over.
“Welcome to the home away from the home away from home,” Sandy said, “peruse the cocktail menu and grab a drink.
“I need to drive to the chalet, so a St Clement’s for me,” Caroline said as she sat down, while Denice looked at the list with Pippa and April.
“I’ll try the Maple Manhattan,” Pippa eventually said.
“Martini,” April said as she looked at Denice, seeing her nod as she said “Make that two.”
“Where are Jo and the other girls?”
“They needed to take a pit stop, but they shouldn’t be too much longer. Cari?”
“We’re here,” Cari said, “and put the drinks bill on my tab.”
“Well, we made it,” Juliette said as she walked in with Klaus and the older girls, “so who pays for the drinks.
“Your charming and much ticketed daughter,” Sandy said as Abby sat with Cari and Holly.
“Wonderful – the most expensive cocktail on the menu.”
“Make that two,” Klaus said as Cari looked over, and said “now hang on a minute...”
“You made it…finally.” Sandy smiled as she greeted her children and Jo.
“At least driving with Jo I don’t have to hold onto the seat Mom.” George stretched. “It might take longer, but at the speed she drives I arrive feeling a whole lot more relaxed.”
“Amen to that,” Sands high-fived her brother.
“I’m not sure if I should be insulted or not?”
“We love you Mom, but yes you should be insulted.” Sands giggled.
“You wait till you both are driving, you have the need for speed in your genes.” Sandy laughed aloud.
“Goddess I hope not.” Jo smiled as she sat down and started looking at the menu.
“What is the soup today,” Heather said as the waiter came over.
“French Onion Soup, Madame, with a Gruyere crust.”
“Sounds good – I’ll have that and then the pork.”
The waiter took the orders from round the table, and then went off as glasses were filled with wine and soft drinks.
“A toast – to the holidays.”
“To The Holidays,” everyone shouted as they raised their glasses.
“So what is the local forecast, Susan,” Barbara said as she looked over.
“Some fresh snow tonight, but mainly dry and clear – perfect conditions,” Susan said with a smile, “and I guarantee the snow is perfect.”
“You’ve been out already, haven’t you,” Caroline said with a smile.
“Of course – Marina?”
“She showed us both a clean pair of heels – but we’ll soon catch her up, right Kylie?”
“Naturally Darling,” Kylie said with a smile as she stretched her arms up. “But April had fun in the snow, didn’t she Clint?”
“She most certainly did – and tomorrow she has Judith and Alain with her as well.”
“So, who is rooming with whom?” asked Barbara.
“Well Annie and I aren’t doing bunk beds this year,” Carina looked at everyone. “This year we get a double to ourselves and Judith.”
“Agreed,” a few heads nodded.
“I’ll share with Denice if no one minds.” Barbara added.
“You and I as always Cherie?” Diana asked Juliette.
“What about me?” Klaus asked.
“With so many impressionable young minds here my love, you’ll share with Adam.”
“A little celibacy never hurt anyone Papa.” Ingrid smiled.
“Looks like you and me,” April said as she looked at Pippa.
“Holly do you mind bunking with the kids?”
“As long as none of them snore Juliette.”
“George does, but he has his only little room.” Sands ratted her brother out.
“I would happily share with the girls…”
“NO!” Doc, Pepsi, and others answered in unison.
“Don’t worry, Jo and I get to play Nanna as well,” Jo said as her crab cakes arrived, “for now, let’s eat!”
“I think someone is getting tired,” Jo said as she caught George yawning and stretching.
“So it would appear,” Heather said. “Anyone else ready to head for the rooms?”
“Might as well,” Juliette said as she looked up. “Cheque please.”
“I will settle for tonight,” Cathy said, “as my treat, and even Joanne does not have that much in her account.”
“Well said,” Jo stood and bowed before she said “right everyone, back to the cars and five minutes drive.”
The party headed out and then followed Susan and Juliette to the three single storey lodges, linked by covered corridors between them.
“Okay,” Susan said as they all walked into the centre building, Erica and Denice looking at the large log fire burning in the fireplace, as Pippa and Poppy stared at the seats, “dorms are to the left, other rooms to the right.”
“Cocoa for those who want it in due course,” Clint said as he handed April to Susan, and went to the kitchen.
“This way girls,” Jeannie said as Doc pushed her to the left, Poppy and Erica following as they carried their bags into what was essentially a large dorm room, with sets of bunk beds along each wall, and a bathroom at the other end.
“What’s with the bunk beds?” asked Erica.
“They are strictly functional.” Doc threw her stuff up on the bed above the one Jeannie had chosen. “We spend as little time as we can in here. The girls taught me that last winter.”
“You get just enough sleep to refresh your body.” Pepsi took the bed over Becca’s, “all the rest of the time you are doing something.”
“And this is meant to be a mini-vacation?”
“Yeah it’s fun Erica, take my word for it.” Jeannie laughed as Doc helped her undress. “Even I can get out and do things like sled lying on my belly - as long as I have a companion who can help me into the ski-chair that I have and push me back up the slope.”
“Oh and who does that?”
“Usually Tatum,” Jeannie said as she slipped her nightdress over her head, “she’s one of the girls on staff. I pay her like she’s giving me an ordinary ski lesson, or rather Juliette usually does. She’s trained to work with disabled people and I have a lot of fun.”
“Wow that sounds good Jeans.” Erica smiled back.
“And of course all the guys offer to help as well simply because she’s a supermodel.” Becca said slightly venomously.
“Hey being famous has to have some good sides to it.” Jeannie laughed again as Doc took her boots off her legs.
“Come on,” Poppy said as she pulled Erica over, “top or bottom?”
“Top if that’s all right with you.”
“Suits me,” Poppy said as she dropped her bag, and then started to change.
“Right – the allure of hot cocoa is calling us. Come when you’re ready,” Jeannie said as Doc pushed her through.
“This is nice,” Denice said, looking round the bedroom as Barbara pulled in her suitcase.
“It’s owned by Huntingdown’s, can you honestly see Juliette having anything but the very best?”
“True.” Denice smiled as she sat on the bed and felt the coverlet. “You know, it’s hard to remember that only a few weeks ago I would have thought all this unimaginable. It was enough of a culture shock when we got the letter stating Erica had won the scholarship, but since then...”
“Yeah I was like that. After my husband died a vacation for Jeannie and me was a crowded and hired trailer at an old-fashioned English summer resort.” Barbara put some clothes into a drawer and said “skiing was one of those things ‘they’ did, the people who had money.”
“Erica and I have been the same.” Denice stood up and started to unpack her case. “We’ve only been on vacation only three times in her life, and each time I had to go into debt to afford to rent something down on the Jersey shore.”
“And I bet they were never even half as good as this, but all you could afford?”
“Exactly.” Denice said as she sat back on the bed. “You know it’s great in so many ways that you can relate to where I came from Barb.”
“Well, if my father hadn’t come over two years ago, and if Jeannie hadn’t caught Juliette and Fiona’s eye it would be where I am still. Living in a pokey two bedroom house in Harlow and scraping money together to buy Jeans her Christmas present.”
“Well I still have that problem at least. My salary still needs slicing up pretty thin.”
“You really ought start looking for a job more in line with your real talents you know?”
“I don’t know,” Denice said, “it’s been a while since I did serious engineering...”
“I heard how you helped on the last race day,” Barbara said, “and that you’ve joined their pit crew. Maybe someone like Henri can help advise you – or Clint. Have a word with him over the weekend.
“Right now, let’s go and join the others. A nightcap and a long chat in front of the fire is in order...”
"So where does
George sleep,” Poppy asked Sands as they finished changing.
"Did you see the
gable when we were coming in?"
"Well there's a
tiny little room up there that is all his."
cute." Poppy replied.
"And it gives him
privacy while he dreams of this body." Katy took her bra off.
"While he jacks
off." Sands giggled. "I sleep in the room next to his and I can hear
him do it a lot."
"Oh My God! He
"Usually morning and night." Katy giggled, "or so Sands tells me."
“All right, you three,” Erica said, “we’re missing out on the fun if we don’t go through.”
“And speaking of fun,” Katy said as they entered the central area, “guess who just arrived?”
“Oh to be so young and so cynical,” Ally Rochermann said as she put her bag on the floor.
“And yet so right,” Nell said with a smile. “Sorry we’re late – our classes didn’t finish until today.”
“You’re not the last one here,” Carina said as she sat with Judith, “Grace, Sarah and Annie won’t get here until tomorrow.”
“So we don’t have to pay for dinner?”
“Nope – but there is coffee tomorrow.”
“Sounds good,” Rachel said as she came in.
“Have you girls lost a little weight?” Diana asked the twins.
“Maybe a couple of pounds.” Ally sat down.
“But a couple of inches off our butts.” Nell joined her and sat back, letting out a deep sigh.
“And how did you manage that?”
“Burlesque classes.” Ally giggled.
“Yeah who’d of thunk that bumps and grinds could firm up your ass this much?”
“I had better take lessons then,” Barbara looked at her rear as she came in.
“And I know I ought to,” Denice smiled, “my tush can certainly do with firming up.”
“Well the teacher we learned from she has her studio on Canal St. We can give you the number to phone?
“That might be an idea. Thank You Nell.”
“Okay – so the plan for the weekend?”
“Ski, have fun, ski, eat, party, sleep repeat.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Ingrid said as she accepted a mug of cocoa. “So when do we start?”
“Usual time – I’m trusting you to get the youngsters up in time Jo.”
“Oh deep joy,” Jo said with a comedy sigh.
“So how are you, Pippa,” Caroline said as she sat on the bed.
“Better than I was at the start of the week – are you sure the shadow’s lifted?”
“It is,” Jan said as she stood by the door. “I heard from Knight and Barton before we left – they’re chalking it up to a contract hit.”
“Good,” Pippa said, “Caroline, Jan, I don’t think we can ever thank you for all you’ve done, especially for Poppy.”
“Well, she has a very bright future ahead of herself,” Jan said, “and who’s served by revealing what she did.”
“Mum and Aunt Maggie are going to stay over for Christmas – then she’ll take his ashes back to dispose of.”
"You and Poppa
safely unpacked?" Ingrid asked as she kissed her boyfriend.
"We are and we
should be nice and cozy up in that attic room." Adam replied, "Even
if it is above the girls dormitory...They won't keep us up all night chatting
they need all the sleep they can get to enjoy their day tomorrow. You’re more likely to be woken by George from
what the girls say."
"And the only
other problem is it being at the opposite end of the place from you..."
Adam kissed her back.
"Hey you two, if I
must be celibate because of the presence of young children, then you must be as
well." Klaus laughed as he came in.
Ingrid mouthed the word at her father.
"I must say its good to be back in the mountain air, it reminds me so much of home." Klaus breathed in deeply.
“Indeed – it makes up for not being home for Christmas.”
“You know you’re all invited to the Christmas Eve party, right?”
“Indeed – but as with last year, you must forgive us if we arrive a little late,” Klaus said. “I do need to show face at the German Consulate as well.”
"So where did you
learn to ski Pippa?" Ama asked as she sat next to the fashion writer.
"I do not know
this place. Where is that?"
it's very posh." Pippa laughed, "it was just the sort of place my mother
was sure that we'd meet ‘the right kind of people.’ What you tended to meet instead were C-list
European stars and hooray henrys."
"The more I hear
of your Mom the more terrible she sounds Pippa?" Susan said as she brought
in a fresh tray of hot drinks.
beginning to get better,” Pippa said as she picked up a mug, “but you just wait
till she hears that Aunt Maggie is the prospective Conservative party candidate
for Stortbourne-South Harlow."
"Will it be a good
reaction or a bad one Pippa?" asked Barbara. "I'll certainly vote for
her, and yes I'm still a registered voter back home."
"Well it will be
envy at first,” Pippa said as she sat back, “some jealousy, some little bit of
family pride, but if and when Maggie is elected, you wait to hear how much she
boasts about her sister the MP."
"Isn't Aunt Maggie
anything other than a conservative?' asked Poppy.
standards, God yes, over here they'd call her a red." Pippa sipped her
drink, "but back home she's a moderate. She's always sat on the council as
an Independent, and she'd be a very left wing Tory, but since Corbyn became
Labour Party leader the Tories have realised there are votes to be garnered in
the centre ground, and that's right where Maggie is."
"Well I wish her luck." Susan sat down. “She’ll need it.”
"You know I'm glad
I don't have a brother." Poppy shook her head as she sat on her bunk.
being an only child has its advantages," Jeannie yelled as Doc helped her
"Well being twins
is also cool." Nell threw her bag up on a top bunk. "Having Ally
means I can share all my problems."
"Like you share
"Hey low blow Abigail." Ally burst into laughter.
“All right – get some sleep folks, busy days ahead.”
“I’m too excited to go to sleep,” Erica said as she lay down, listening to the girls, determined not to miss anything...
Saturday 19th December
It was the noise that made Erica open her eyes – the excited and loud chatter, but it wasn’t in the room. She was the only person in there, as she slipped on a pair of slippers and went into the main room.
She could see the others, already dressed and preparing skis and snowboards. Jo looked over and said “Oh good – I was going to go and see where you were.”
“Six in the morning and everyone is up and working?” Erica looked through half shut eyes.
“Skis need to be waxed, and so do boards, etc.” Becca looked up from what she was doing.
“Then we can all get early breakfasts and hopefully be in line for the skilifts as they open.” Nikki grinned.
“I didn’t realize all this preparation had to be done?”
“It does.” Abby said as she looked at the black girl,, then walked over with a pair of skis. “These are an old pair of my skis that I learned on years ago Erica. You give me a few moments and we will fix the bindings and I’ll show you how to wax them.”
“Sounds good to me Abigail.”
“Breakfast in thirty minutes.” Diana shouted.
“We better get a hurry on then.” Abby stood up. “Go put your skisuit on and your boots and get back here quick please.”
“Will do.” Erica nodded as she walked off, grinning broadly.
When she returned ten minutes later, she saw her mother and Barbara walk through from their room.
"How did you sleep
darling?" Denice asked her daughter.
"Like a log,"
the youngster grinned. "I only woke when everyone started preparing their
equipment. Abby is giving me an old pair of her skis that are more for someone
my height and I am so looking forward to this."
"I must admit I am as well,” Denice said as she adjusted the collar on her jacket, “having Barbara alongside me will help so much."
“Many thanks Jean-Claude,” Juliette said into her cell phone, “we look forward to seeing you in a little while.”
“Ski instructor,” Heather said as they sat round the table, and started to put plates of food out.
"Okay Barb and
Denice,” Juliette said as she sat down, “your lessons are booked, and so are
"I'll keep you
company at the lesson Erica." Katy said as she looked up from her food.
"I need a refresher or two."
else know where they are heading?" Juliette asked.
slopes." Doc ate some bacon, "see if I remember what I'm doing from
"Adam is going to show me one of the advanced runs." Ingrid spoke. “Papa will escort as well.”
“I’ll be at the nursery slope as well, doing my best impression of a luge expert,” Jeannie said with a grin.
“Meanwhile, Marina, Helen and I hit the snowboard range.”
"Well you all know your level, just have fun and NO broken bones please." Juliette started pouring fresh cups of steaming coffee. “We go together to Spruce Peak, peel off from there, and meet for lunch at twelve thirty?”
“Is that bacon I smell,” Holly said as she came in, her make-up perfect, the top of her ski suit opened to show the white jumper that tightly covered her upper body.
"Holly you look like a pinup in one of the skiing magazines." Pippa smiled at the beautiful blonde.
"Well one tries." Holly sat down.
"Which took longer
Hol, your ski prep or your makeup?" asked Heather. "Even in a million
years I'd never get both done so quickly."
"Like you need to worry
Heather, you always look amazing."
"Coming from you
Holly that is a compliment."
"Bacon and eggs
Holly?" Diana shouted.
"So who is looking
after Judith and April today?" asked Marina as she ate her toast.
"Clint is." Susan shouted from where she was preparing more coffee. “He’ll be here when the stragglers arrive.”
“The ones who are buying lunch?”
“Probably,” Carina said as she gave Judith some porridge, “but don’t tell them that until it is too late.”
“Anyone else interested in joining me and Jo on the cross country trail?”
“I’ll join you,” Ally said, “never know who may be willing to come to my... I mean our rescue.”
“She was dreaming about it,” Nell said as she finished her coffee, “and talking in her sleep.”
“I thought that was Bobbi’s problem.” Pepsi said as she looked at Becca.
“It was – but this week may be different, with Simon’s parents arriving tomorrow with him. Hence the slight absence of the other Morse women this weekend.”
“You’ll just have to tell them all they missed,” Clint said as he came in. “Right – time you lot were getting together.”
“Indeed – get ready, equipment check, and then ho for the snow, crying Excelsior!”
Spruce Peak Base Camp
“Well, here we are,” Juliette said as they got out of the cars.
Denice looked at the collection of wooden buildings, the roofs covered in snow as the lights shone from the windows.
“On the left is the clubhouse – Huntingdown’s have invested in a corporate membership,” Cathy said, “and between the buildings you will see the ice rink and shops. Our first stop, however, will be here on the right, at the Base Lodge itself. Shall we, before it gets too busy?”
The group made their way in, as Juliette and Cathy made their way over to the desk.
“Miss Huntingdown, Miss Lu – a pleasure to see you and your group again,” the woman behind the desk said. “I have your passes for today all ready.”
“Excellent – and the extra two for this afternoon?”
“Will be ready for collection this lunchtime.”
“All right people,” Juliette said as the others came over, “Take your named pass each.”
“Jean-Claude,” Juliette said as she kissed the tall, tanned man, “a pleasure to see you again.”
“I look forward to seeing you throughout the season,” he said as he looked at the group, “so who are my new learners?”
“Denice, Erica, Katy, Barbara, your instructor,” Juliette said as the four of them looked at him.
“Excellent – shall we head outside and I will take you to the Meadows, to get your first experience on skis.”
“See you girls later,” Sandy said as the four of them headed off.
“Hello again Jeannie.”
“Tatum,” Jeannie said as the young woman leaned over and kissed her cheek. “My friends will go on the slope with me today, if that’s all right?”
“Of course – we shall take the gondola to the Forerunner Quad.”
“Snowboarders with me,” Susan said.
“Right – meet back here by twelve thirty – and everyone have fun!”
Denice looked up at the mountain slopes, her breath taken away by the snow covered slopes, the trees lining the runs as they disappeared up and back.
“Breathtaking, isn’t it,” Barbara said as she stood beside her friend. The two women were wearing blue padded jackets and pants, with a roll necked sweater, while Katy and Erica were wearing one piece ski suits.
Denice slowly nodded as she looked round.
“It is amazing,” Erica whispered.
"This is all just
so beautiful." Denice breathed deeply, her breath mist in the air.
"If there is a heaven this is what I hope it’s like."
"A lot of people
react like that when they come here for the first time." Jean-Claude
nodded. "Now Katy and Barbara have both had lessons, but I understand that
for you and Erica this is your first time."
"Well first thing
to accept is that at first you will fall a little, but with practice you will
"Oh I hope so, my
friends say skiing is almost as good as..."
"ERICA!" her mother looked shocked.
“I could not possibly comment,” Jean-Claude said as Katy giggled. “So you have been equipped with what look like the appropriate skis – do you know how to put them on?”
Denice and Erica nervously locked their boots onto the skis while Barbara and Katy watched.
“Excellent – so, the first thing you need to learn to do is walk...”
“All right then,” Tatum said as she lifted Jeannie out of the seat, and set her down onto the monoski, “everyone get ready.”
“This is really going to be fun,” Pepsi said as they looked down from the top of the Toll Road, “it looks fantastic.”
“Well, we do it as a group, and take our time, agreed,” Cari said as she looked at the others. They all nodded as they put their goggles down, and Tatum took hold of the safety lines.
“Very well,” Ama said. “On three, one...”
“Three,” Doc shouted as they set off, Ama shaking her head as she followed them.
“Now this does look like a challenge,” Adam said as he, Klaus, Ingrid and Sandy stood at the top of the Nose Dive.
“Indeed,” Sandy said with a smile, “ready?”
“Oh yes,” Ingrid said as they set off down the slope...
“Oh yes,” Susan said as she reached the bottom of the slope, Helen joining her as Kylie and Marina followed, “now this is the way to spend a Saturday morning.” She took off her rucksack and took out a large flask and some cups.
"What is in the
thermos Susan?" Helen asked as they all paused at the bottom of the slope.
"And what is
"It's what my
husband calls chicken soup," Susan chuckled. "Do you want some?"
"If she doesn't
then I do darling." Kylie removed her helmet and shook her hair out.
"I only rolled in the snow that one time, but I'd still like to warm
"That was my first
clear run without a fall." Marina whooped.
"Well then small cups of this restorative all round then." Susan said as she handed the cup to Helen.
Kylie looked at her watch, and said “the others should be arriving about now darling.”
“Yeah they should – hope they had a good run.”
“Hey,” Clint said as Judith threw a little snowball at him, giggling as she stood in her green snow suit, “that was underhand.”
“Sorree unca Clint,” Judith said as she giggled.
“April laughed too,” Clint said as he looked at his daughter, who was sitting in a seat as she moved some snow around on a little table. “Anyway, you are meant to be helping me make a snowman. Got the head ready?”
“Good,” Judith said as she pointed to a small ball of snow that she had rolled up.
“Okay then,” Clint said as he lifted it onto the larger mound he had made, and then wrapped an old scarf round where the two piles joined. “Can you get the hat for me?”
“Okay uncle clint,” Judith said as she walked to the front of the lodge, and slowly carried back a cloth cap. As she got closer, she looked to the left and said “car.”
“Is it,” Clint said as he looked over, and then smiled as Annie drew up, parking her next to the others before she got out, the bump starting to show under her jumper.
“We made it,” Grace said as she got out with Sarah. “Nice place – hello Judith.”
“Snow mamma,” the toddler said as she held up a handful for Annie.
“Yes it is,” Annie said as she picked her up and hugged her. “Any chance of a coffee Clint?”
“Sure,” he said as he picked April out of the chair, “come on in and warm up. They’re expecting you at lunchtime at the base camp.”
Spruce Peak Base Camp
“There you are,” Carina said as she gave Annie a kiss, “how did the party go yesterday?”
“Very civilised,” Annie said, but I’m glad we stopped on the way up.
“Mommy,” Judith said as she held her arms out, and Carina rubbed her cold nose on her daughter’s.
“Have you had fun with Uncle Clint today, little one?”
Judith nodded as Juliette welcomed Grace and Sarah.
“So, different from France?”
“Oh very much so,” Sarah said as she looked at the resort map. “I can see a couple of runs here that look fun.”
“Well, I’ve afternoon passes for you and Annie sorted out.”
“Easy runs only for me,” Annie said as the women looked at her.
“Good,” Klaus said as he came in with the others, “are none of the teenagers here yet?”
“Well, we are here darling,” Kylie said as she and Susan’s group came in, Susan kissing April and Clint.
“So who fell the most?”
“Not important,” Marina said, “by the time we finished, we all made it down in one piece.”
“Now THAT was fun,” Jeannie said as she wheeled herself in. “We’ll do a different run this afternoon!”
“Okay everyone, let’s go in and eat – the others will join us eventually, even Heather and the cross-country crew.”
As they took their seats at the tables, Erica, Denice, Barbara and Katy came in.
"So, how many
times did you end up on your ass?" Poppy asked as Katy and Erica joined
the girls at their table.
as many as Katy..."
"It's like I
forgot everything I even learned last winter." Katy interrupted with a
rueful look on her face.
"Well despite the
falls I'm looking forward to doing more this afternoon." Erica finished.
"How did your Mom
"Pretty good, but
Mom is very well co-ordinated and has a good sense of balance."
"Whereas Katy, as
anyone who has seen her trying to do gymnastics knows, has very little."
struck her tongue out at her best friend as George laughed.
"So I guess Biathlon
isn't going to be your sport Katy?" Poppy asked.
"I could do the shooting part,” Katy said as she looked at the menu, “but I'd guess cross-country skiing wouldn't mix with me either."
“Go out with Heather and see what you think.”
“What’s that? Katy wants to enjoy the experience of fresh air and healthy exercise.”
“I don’t know,” Doc said as Heather and her group sat down.
"Well falls or not I'm loving every moment." Erica smiled broadly.
"And you see what
we all say about Jean-Claude?" asked Sands.
"Oh God Yes, he is YUMMY!"
"Did I just hear
my daughter refer to a man as Yummy?" Denice asked at an adjacent table.
"She keeps using
words like that she will soon have no street credibility." Denice laughed.
"She's turning into an Upper East Side girl."
"Oh I think Erica
could still survive in the Heights." Caroline spoke.
"Not using words
like that she wouldn't." Denice laughed some more. "My princess is
turning into a real princess."
“Does that worry you?”
“Surprisingly, no,” Denice said. “I think we’re both putting that behind us at last.”
"Well I think
she's wonderful, I predict a big future for her at the school." Letty and
her mother took the available seats as they came in.
Annie said as she fed Judith in the high chair.
"She is getting so
big." Diana looked proudly at the youngster as she grinned.
"Well she has two stellar mommies..." For a second Denice realised what she had said. "Oh dear Lord I'm turning into one of you as well."
“One of us, one of us,” Kelly said in a sing song voice, as the other laughed out loud.
“I think I need to hit the stores this afternoon and do a bit of Christmas shopping.” Klaus said as he glanced round.
“Well, stay out of the new APCO branch…PLEASE,” Jo asked, “it’s full of pictures of me on the walls, and it is just so embarrassing.”
“Oh it did open on time then?” Juliette spoke as she put her knife and fork down. “Alice said they were running behind and might not make the opening of the ski season.”
“So what is the merchandise like?” asked Kelly.
“Well I only got a short look before my baby sister dragged me out of there,” Heather said, “but I saw some beautiful things. Just the sort of things a nanny can’t afford on her salary but that her wealthy friends might buy her…Hint, Hint.”
“Okay, I can take a hint so subtle - I better go look.” Diana laughed.
“Does anyone have any real clue what is THE gift for teenagers this year?” Caroline asked quietly, “I’m having so much trouble getting Ama a main present.”
“Well if you’d asked me in September I’d have said thigh-high boots.” Juliette mused, “but my sources say that they have been so oversold that to teens at least they have lost their chic.”
“Upper east side girls pride themselves on already having the next fashion, not the current one.” Kelly mused aloud.
“Well what will be the next fashion?” Caroline looked at Juliette.
“Why look at me, I’m just a fashion writer.” Juliette laughed.
“Which really means she has no clue at all.” Klaus draped an arm round his beloved.
“Well if she doesn’t know, how are we to?” Caroline asked.
“We aren’t…we are parents, according to my daughter that makes us OLD!” Pippa added to the conversation.
“Well Erica is easy, she has given me a list of books she wants a mile long.” Denice joined in.
“I’ve got Jeans several bits of fashion industry ephemera for her collection.” Barbara whispered, “Some signed vintage photographs, some old advertising.”
“Well Jeannie is easy she has a hobby.” Caroline once again spoke, “but I’ve already bought Ama some more movies for her collection, I want one truly magic present for her.”
“You really have no ideas Caroline?” asked Juliette.
“Well Gareth Bale of Real Madrid comes to my mind.” Sarah spoke for the first time, “she wears a replica shirt of his for practice.”
“His girlfriend Emma might object.” Grace laughed.
“True,” Caroline joined in, “but it does give me an idea…I need to ring someone in Madrid late tonight.”
“I’ll be back in a minute,” Pippa said as she headed for the ladies room, followed a few minutes later by Grace and Caroline.
“Hey,” she said as they stood by the wash basins, “what’s the word?”
“I spoke to Amelia and Maggie this morning – Detectives Barton and Knight called on them last night. They confirmed the conclusion that Martin was killed by a hitman, possibly related to an art forgery ring based in the UK. They also told me something else – Jeanne Moreau had called to see them.”
“Jan’s colleague? Why?”
“They’ve retrieved some artworks from a vault Peverell had in a Swiss bank. They also recovered a substantial amount of money. Seems some of the things he stole will be returned to you.”
“So who really killed him?”
“Do you really want to know Pippa?”
“I do – if only to know it really is over?”
“It was a hitman,” Caroline said, “hired by a man called Derek Colman. Derek’s mother, at one time, worked for Ashley Industries as a secretary...”
“Ah,” Pippa said, “I don’t need to know any more.”
“Put it this may, Pip,” Grace said quietly, “it really, truly is over now.”
Pippa nodded as she looked in the mirror. “Right, back to fun – shall we?”
As the three women walked back, the teenagers were engaged in a discussion of n upcoming event.
"Do you really
still have no clues?" Ally asked Doc.
"Not one,” Doc
said as she looked round, “my Mom has really done all the planning in a way
that even I haven't found out."
"And do you all
know how hard it is to keep a secret from Doc?" Pepsi smiled.
"Are you implying
I'm nosy Nicola?"
"Excuse me? Who was it who came up with the plan to bug
the Head Girls room to find out what stunts were being planned for graduation
she?" Poppy asked.
"Oh yes, our Miss
Carlton here is an international woman of mystery. If she wasn't going to be a doctor, I'm sure
the CIA would recruit her." Pepsi laughed.
"Well my Mom has
outwitted even me." Doc looked at her coke wondering if she should drink
happen." Abby shook her head.
"By the way Holly,
would you like to come. Abby and Carina will be." Doc looked as the
bespectacled blonde looked at herself in her hand mirror.
"Can I bring
"Sure the more the
"Talking of Tommy,
how are things going?" Carina looked up from cuddling Judith.
"So well, it's got
me sort of afraid."
"I'm sort of
thinking he might ask me to marry him..."
almost coughed up her Coca Cola.
"And you think you
are both still too young to make such a huge commitment?" Carina stared at
"Exactly. What is
your opinion Cari."
"Oh don't ask me Hol,” Cari said with a smile, “I'm the last person to comment, I have one daughter, another child on the way, and am with the woman I love and adore."
“Well, when you put it that way...”
“Seriously, if and when he does it, be honest with him. That’s what I would do.”
“Right then – plans for this afternoon.”
“I’m going to do the long safe slope, if anyone wants to join me,” Annie said, Carina nodding in agreement.
“Someone want to come up to this toll road with me?”
“So you’re definitely happier here then Grenoble?”
“After the mist incident? OH you bet I am,” Sarah said as she sat back.
“Back to the moguls, darlings,” Kylie said as she looked at Marina and Helen.
“I’ll pass – I get to look after the youngsters,” Susan said, “but don’t worry, I have someone lined up to look after you.”
“Excuse me Juliette – I was wondering if the ladies were ready for their afternoon lesson?”
“I think so Jean-Claude,” Juliette said, Grace glancing over at Sarah who had a far away look in her eyes.
“Oh – oh sorry. You must be one of the instructors – I’m Sarah. Sarah Nightingale.”
“Jean-Claude Givancy. Now, if you ladies are ready?”
The party split up again, Susan taking Judith and April to the playroom while the others made their way back onto the slopes.
“Now, about that shopping,” Klaus said.
“I may accompany you, if you are agreeable Klaus,” Diana said as she stood up, “I wish to see if there are some suitable gifts for Natasha and Willy.”
“Shall we then – Juliette?”
“Oh no – Grace and I have other plans for this afternoon,” Juliette said with a smile. “Go, have fun.”
Klaus and Diana made their way out of the restaurant and turned into the shopping area, looking round before they entered the newly opened APCO store.
“I can see why Jo is reluctant to come in here,” Diana said as she looked at the large posters advertising Fitzstuart Woolens, showing Jo sitting on rocks or looking out over the landscape in the jumpers. “Sandy tells me she cringes when she sees the advertisements on television.”
"Oh I can see what
Joanne meant." Klaus shook his head at all the advertising featuring her.
"Well I've seen
similar campaigns in which my daughter was featured." Diana smiled.
"Just wait till you see something like this featuring either Ingrid or
"I suppose I'd
need to get over the shock quickly, and just be proud of my daughters."
Klaus smiled. "Now what are you looking for?"
"Something for my
brother and my sister-in-law."
"Hmmm not easy -
both Tasha and Willy are very stylish people."
"I know, but I am
hoping that...and yes they are here." Diana strode towards a pile of
Isle? Are these from Mandy's
"No, Alice found other
hand knitters to buy both these and Arran from, and she's hoping to start
offering Cowichan sweaters from Canada's west coast as well soon."
"Well,” Klaus said
as he looked at the display, “I have to say these look wonderful."
"Indeed they do," Diana said as she attracted the attention of a salesman, "may I see these out of their bags please?” She pointed to two jumpers she had picked out.
“Of course, Madame,” the girl said as she opened the bag and laid them out.
“Yes – excellent, I shall take them?”
“Shall we gift wrap them, Madame?”
“If you would – now what of you Klaus?”
“Hey – who’s calling you up here?”
again," Carina looked as her best friend pulled out her mobile while they
rode up on the chair lift.
Abigail glanced at the text. "She is getting worse."
"So just tell me
what is going on Abs? You’ve been unusually elusive."
Sighing, Abby turned
her cell phone onto silent and put it away.
"I had a 'thing' with Fiona, at least that is what it was to me,
but to her I'm suddenly the great love of her life."
Abby adjusted her glasses. "I thought I'd made it very clear going in that
Tony was my man, that any lesbian interludes were temporary. But now she's
threatening that if I don't respond, she's going to tell Tony everything she
and I did."
shook her head, "Abs darling can I say that you can certainly pick
"I know, I
"So what are you
going to do about her?"
"How the hell do I know, I was planning to ask your advice this weekend, and I want Cari's advice...NOT the beast."
“Well, we can talk later,” Cari said, “but there’s someone else we should ask – and it might be best to book a call with her as well early tomorrow.”
“Oh – who?”
“Angel – she went to school with her after all.”
“But Angel doesn’t know I’m...”
“I think she does,” Cari said as they got off the chair, “but we can’t do anything about it now. Let’s take care of it after we get back down...”
As the girls gathered at the top of the run, Doc and Jo helped Jeannie to sit on a bench.
“Thanks – Tatum should be up in a minute with the seat. You girls get ready.”
"So just how do
you guide that thing Jeans?" Pepsi asked as she slipped her boots on.
"Just by shifting
my weight as a rule."
"And how do you
the English model smiled. "Most people just put their legs down and drag
their feet, but since I can't control my legs I use my arms to press down on
those two arm rests and they drag on the show, and then the friction slows me
"Well it's a damn
"It is, and it
allows me to enjoy my own winter sports fun, at least going downhill. The worst
part,” she said as she looked round, “is having to be helped off the sled and
back up. For a while though I get the freedom of just gliding over the
"And she's getting
good at it." Tatum the instructor smiled as she arrived with Jeannie's ski
mounted chair. "I'm thinking that this winter we maybe try something a bit
longer and a bit more difficult."
"Well I'm up for it, but please, please do not tell Mum Tatum, she'd just freak."
“Understood – what say we pencil it in for tomorrow? Right now, let’s try and beat
our time down this run.”
"Who was that
Juliette?" Kelly asked as her friend came into the bar.
"It was Alice
asking me for my impressions of the new APCO store here."
"Other than Joanne
panicking at seeing herself? Everyone
"Just a thought,”
Kelly said as she sipped her drink, “why isn't she here?"
"She's out in Aspen for the official opening of that store, and then she's flying on to Vancouver Island to negotiate the purchase of woollens I believe." Sitting down, she called the waiter over and ordered a drink.
"Well it's a good excuse, but I think we all miss her here."
"I think young
Kylie does, she saw Alice used a couple more of her designs, she's dying to
thank her in person for liking her stuff enough to produce it."
"Kylie will be
very famous one day...mark my words." Kelly nodded.
"Talking of Kylie," Juliette smiled as the twins entered wearing each one of the padded jackets Kylie had designed.
“Hey – we got these in APCO just now. Stylish and warm.”
“Well, congratulations,” Kelly said, “you’re the proud owners of a Kylie Mitchell original design.”
“Really? Maybe we should put these in storage,” Ally said with a grin.
“Put what in storage darlings,” Kylie said as she walked in, and then smiled. “So that is what they look like,” she said, “exquisite.”
"If we'd have know they were by you, we'd never have bought them." Nell teased with a smile on her face.
"As we said they definitely need to go into storage, we don't want to be seen wearing "your' designs."
"Girls! Stop picking on poor Kylie."
"Oh I know I'm going to hear the same from the other girls Mrs. Rochermann."
"Seriously though Kyles, these are pretty neat." Nell draped a hand round the English girl.
"They are darling?"
"Absolutely dolls!" Ally joined in the hug.
“Where did you get to,” Annie said as Caroline came out of the lodge, “I thought you weren’t going to make it!”
"I think I thought
of Ama's present at last." Caroline looked rather proud of herself as a
group stood in line to go back up the mountain for one last run of the day.
share." Annie spoke.
"Well you know I'm
buying her first communion dress, etc."
"In all of which
she should look amazing." Ingrid nodded.
"And that her car
will be her birthday present."
mumbled as she shuffled forward a place in the line.
"You know I was
going to ring Madrid later tonight,” Caroline said as she stepped forward, “but
I looked at my watch and thought why not try now. So to cut a long story short,
I rang an old friend who works in the administration of Real Madrid, and he is
arranging for Ama, me and one of her friends to spend Spring break at the club,
it includes tickets to two games, a chance to see the players train and meet
"And knowing Ama
collect autographs." Sarah joined in.
"Yes, and on top
of that she will get the chance to do a couple of training sessions with their
"Oh I know a young girl who will be in heaven." Annie grinned broadly. "That truly is a present she will never forget Caroline."
“Oh yes – I am sorted,” Caroline said as she took her seat, and they headed up again.
As they reached the top, another group reached the bottom of one of the longer runs.
"I'd forgotten how
much I feel like a stork when I'm on skis." Letty laughed as Abigail
stopped beside her at the bottom of the hill. "I haven't really skied
since Dad died and Mom took up with that sleaze. When Dad was alive we used to
come up here regularly, but well after his death we weren't as well
"I know," Abby put a hand on her friends arm. “But that’s in the past now, remember?”
"Still it's coming back easily enough," Letty said as she gave herself a mental shaking.
is," Holly came to a stop, "you were carving some beautiful turns up
"Yeah I could feel
it." the lanky girl grinned.
all winter and you'll be maybe able to try some of the advanced slopes."
"Uh Uh Abs," Letty shook her head, "remember the indoors come first, so I'm not trying any ski run that's likely to get me injured."
“Fair enough – it’s getting late. Want to call it a day there girls?”
“I think so – we’re gathering in the club house,” Carina said as she walked over.
“That was fantastic! Same time again tomorrow Tanya?”
“If you’re up for it,” the instructor said as Jeannie was lifted by Jo into her wheelchair, and the group made their way over, joining Erica and Katy at the entrance to the lodge house.
"Where is Aunt
Cassie by the way?" Katy asked. “I
thought she would be here?”
"She’s in Aspen
doing the formal opening of the APCO branch there."
invited?" asked Nikki.
"I was, but I
pleaded family commitments, and well Alice knows I'm a bit shy, so she let me
off. So Cassandra Stone gets all the publicity and I get to enjoy a 'quiet'
weekend with friends."
"I still don't
know, " Nikki shook her head, "Aspen, all this movie stars, all the
paparazzi." Joanne shivered, "no rather Cassie then me."
"Well I'm enjoying
myself here." Pepsi took off her helmet and shook her hair out. "I
may still only be on beginners slopes, but I am still getting such a rush from
"How does your
beloved ski?" Katy enquired of her sister.
"Like all the
Fitzstuart's do, with style..."
"Can you think of Mandy tolerating anything less?" Becca interrupted.
“True, very true...”
“Good – that’s the last of us,” Sandy said as they walked in, “we’ve got a private room booked at Harrison’s, complete with fire, at seven, so let’s head back and get into apparel more suitable for a night on the town.”
“Great,” Holly said, “I have a new pair of skintight leather pants and short boots to try out...”
“And the evening is off to a fantastic start,” Jo said with a laugh. “Come on – we’ll head back and get ready...”
“Well, can I get away with this Mom?”
“I guess you can,” Jan said as she looked at Katy, in her v-necked sweater, jeans and knee length patent boots, “given what I’m wearing.”
“True,” Katy said as she looked at her mother’s satin blouse and pants, “right, to the make-up...”
As she made her way back to the dorm, she stood and looked at Holly as she slipped on her white ankle boots.
Holly!" Katy exclaimed at the skin-tight leather trousers the blonde had
somehow eased herself into. "Those are simply incredible."
"Tommy hates them,”
Holly said as she stood up, “because every other man in a room looks at me when
I wear them."
"I can see
why." Katy shook her head. "As lenient as Mom can be in allowing me
to chose what I wear, I think she'd draw the line at those."
would," Holly agreed, "but maybe next winter?"
"We can but
hope," Katy giggled.
"Well I thought I
was daring," Letty said as she came in, wearing a halter topped jump suit
with a plunging neckline, "but compared to you Hol I look pretty
"At least you have
the height Letty to wear something like that, on me with my lack of inches it
would look ridiculous."
"And so the
eternal fashion debate goes on." Abby giggled from where she was sitting
doing her makeup, "is it better to be tall and leggy, or cute and
kidnapped the real Sands?" Katy gasped as her friend entered the powder
room in a tight midnight blue mini-dress.
"Oh no, I knew I'd
"Err No! That is
not the word I'd use." Katy guided the younger girl in front of a mirror.
"I think beautiful is far more appropriate."
"I guess I do look
kinda okay." Sandy tilted her head to one side.
"More then just kinda," Holly hugged her, "now you must let me do your makeup for you."
"So what do
respectable women our age wear for a night out in Stowe?" Denice asked
Barbara as they sat in their room.
"Meaning just what
"Just what I said,”
Barbara aid as she looked round, “anything you like. The only rule should be
that you like yourself in it."
"So what are you
"I have a forest
green cocktail dress, that comes to just above my knee, shows a little
cleavage, but which isn't too tight that I can't dance in it if I get the
"Now if I was you
Denice I'd wear those tight black jeans of yours, and borrow this from
me." Barbara held up a gold sequined boob tube. "This was in the
Fashion Kollektiv collection, they gave it to Jeans, who passed it on to me,
and now I think it would look best on you."
"That is lovely...but," Denice sighed, "isn't it a bit young and daring for me?"
"You won't know till you try it on. Besides, why should the youngsters have all the fun?"
“You make a good point,” Denice said as she pulled the top on and looked at herself. “Not bad at all for a single mom.”
“Neither of us are – even if one of us has a supermodel for a daughter, and the other a genius,” Barbara said with a smile. “Right – let’s go join the others. If I remember correctly, the cocktails in this place are to die for...”
“You girls got a few minutes,” Juliette said as she and Diana came into Sandy and Heather’s room.
“Sure – we want to talk to you anyway,” Sandy said, “along with the other girls about the job. We think it can be done, but we need to go back to basics and keep it to the seven of us – keep it simple and quick.”
“I agree,” Juliette said, “so tomorrow, all seven of us are going to ski together, apart from the others. One of your cross country trails Heather.”
“I know a little place we can talk quietly,” Heather said, “so let’s table it until then.”
"Okay even I know
that is a Mary Quant original Ama." Pepsi looked at the scarlet and dove
grey hooped mini-dress Ama wore. "Was that another of your finds at the
"No this one Mom
bought me, and it is kind of my favorite because of that."
"Well it is
"I think you have
to be as thin as me to wear it."
"Oh dear yes on most of us those hoops would make us look 10 pounds heavier."
“Well, I like your outfit,” Ama said as Pepsi stood up, smoothing down the skirt of her leather pinafore dress over a white jumper.
“Before I forget,” Ama said in a low whisper, “are you ready for Wednesday?”
“Oh yes – well...”
“Did someone mention Wednesday?”
“Indeed – shall we join the others,” Pepsi said as she looked at Doc.
“Oh come on,” Anna said with a note of desperation, “someone has to tell me something!”
“Not a chance,” Pepsi said as she clapped her hand on her friend’s back, “you’ll just have to find out on the day, like the rest of us...”
“Have I mentioned how much I hate you,” Doc said with a grin as Poppy came in, wearing a white blouse over a grey sweater, leggings and suede boots.
“Nice look Bones – what’s your mum wearing?”
“Something similar – so where are we going after the meal?”
“I’m told the club at the Base Lodge is fun, but we’ll follow the number one party goers lead.”
“Oh – you mean...”
“All right, Ladies,” Nell said as she and Ally came in, wearing silk dresses, “the New York Sluts are back for the season, and ready to PAR-TAY!”
“I am impressed,” Sarah said as she sat with Grace, “this is certainly several steps up from Grenoble. It even puts some of the training camps I used to go to into the shade.”
“Harriet called me by the way,” Grace said, “she’s arrived safely and looking forward to Christmas with her brother.”
“I saw you by the way,” Grace said with a smile, “looking at Denice’s ski instructor. Jean-Claude, wasn’t it?”
“Ah – you noticed,” Sarah said with a smile. “Well, he is cute in a tall, tanned and snowswept way...”
“Oh come on – you want him to buy you a drink, don’t you?”
“Just a drink?” Sarah giggled as she said “I may just go to the nightclub with Heather and the girls while you older and more steady people look after the babies...”
Harrison’s Restaurant and Bar
The patrons turned and watched as the party came in through the doors, wearing furs and looking round, the younger kids in padded jackets and a few toddlers in arms.
“Miss Huntingdown, welcome,” the owner said as he came over, “we have the private room ready for you upstairs, and a fire burning.”
“I’ll have a Sunset Martini if you’re ordering drinks,” Sandy said as she made her way across the floor to the restroom, nodding to the two older women as she went in.
Finding an empty booth, she sat in silence before the stalls next to her were flushed, and she heard the two older women coming out.
“Was that Juliette Huntingdown and the Sinners coming in?”
"It was indeed.”
“I see they have some new members.”
“I noticed that too. How does a group that is so selective, also manage to be so, well the word that comes to mind is democratic, in who it lets in?"
Sandy suppressed a
giggle as she sat in her stall whilst the two matrons outside washed their
"Well I know Diana
de Grechy,” the other one said, “we are on a couple of charity boards together,
but she has never once invited me to one of their functions."
"I know, I know
darling, it's so frustrating, I made a special point of telling my daughter to
get to know some of their younger girls, but though they are friendly, they
haven't taken her in."
"You know I'm not really a snob darling, but it's so terribly frustrating knowing that there is a social grouping that is beyond even the reach of someone like me..."
Sandy waited until they had left before she slipped out, and looked in the mirror.
“Diana? Don’t they know my own mom’s a member as well – and they sit on the Ball organizing committee with her...”
Washing her own hands, she made her way up the stairs to the private room, noticing the younger girls had congregated round the fire while the others were by the bar.
“There you go,” Juliette said as she handed her friend a cocktail.
"I just had the
most entertaining visit to the privy," Sandy barely suppressed her
Juliette raised an eyebrow.
"Oh listening to
two very typical Upper East Side bleached blonde trophy wives going on about
how frustrating it is that we have never invited them to become Sinners."
"Oh that old complaint?" Ju smiled. “Well, it’s their loss.”
“True – so what are people having...”
“We’ll be okay with the burgers, Mom,” George said as he looked at Katy and Sands, both of them nodding, “but can we get some cheese fries as a starter?”
“No problem – we can sort out some chicken strips and food for April and Judith as well.”
“Well, let’s get a portion or two of each of the starters and just stick them in the middle, let everyone get what they want,” Sandy said.
“Sounds good,” Denice said as she looked at Mercy, the other mother nodding in agreement.
“So, main courses?”
“Well,” Diana said, “I for one will be having the Lobster risotto. Abby?”
“The grilled salmon sounds divine,” Abby said as she looked at her cell phone, and deleted the message. “Anyone else looking at the fish?”
Barbara and Jeannie looked at each other, and said in tandem “Fish and Chips.”
“Now why doesn’t that surprise me,” Doc said as she shook her head.
As they went round the table, Adam looked up and said “am I the only one considering the sirloin?”
“No, I’ll join you in that,” Clint said as he looked up.
“You’re welcome to it,” Susan said quietly, “Apple cider chicken for me.”
“Steak tips for us,” Marina said as Kylie nodded in agreement.
“I have to confess, I am really hungry darlings,” Kylie said with a smile.
“We all are,” Helen said as the waiter came over, and they started to give their orders.
“So how does this compare to a ski trip at the old school, Miss,” Jeannie said as she looked at Sarah.
“We’re off the clock here Jeannie – if you girls can call Annie Annie, then it’s Sarah. But, to answer your question – it’s less stressful, much more fun, and I can relax rather than wondering what’s going to happen next to give me heartburn.”
“So just how bad could a school trip to Grenoble be?”
Sarah and Grace looked at each other, before Grace said “go on – tell them about it.”
“Not the 2011 school trip? That is the stuff of legends,” Jeannie said with a smile.
“Now that sounds like a story worth telling,” Carina said as she sat next to Annie.
“Well, you were at the sharp end,” Grace said as she looked at Sarah, “you begin.”
“Okay,” Sarah said as she took a deep breath. “Well, every year I and some of the other teachers would organise a ski trip to a resort in Grenoble. This particular year was almost exclusively years 10 and 11.”
“Freshmen and Sophomores – same as us,” Jeannie translated.
“Now, to truly appreciate what happened, we start at the beginning. We would take them by coach – Harlow to Dover, ferry to Calais, and then down the roads to Grenoble. It should take about twelve hours, including the ferry crossing. So, we prepare to set off this morning, and – well, we knew it was going to be one of THOSE trips when we got caught in a traffic jam on the M25.”
“That’s the motorway round London, isn’t it?”
“Yup,” Grace said, “the Chris Rea song Road to Hell? A hate song to driving on that road.”
“Then, when we finally get to the road to Dover, Operation Stack has kicked in, because of a problem in the Channel Tunnel, so we get diverted to Portsmouth – two hours along the coast. The net result is, we finally arrive in France six hours late, with a bus full of cranky youngsters. The drivers cannot continue, but the ferry company at least find a hotel we can stay in before pressing on.”
“Well, at least you got some rest.”
“You would think so,” Sarah said as she shook her head, “but remember – bus full of tetchy and tired kids. It took until about two in the morning to get them into their rooms, and be sure they were asleep – and we had to be up at five to make sure we were on the road in time.”
“Sounds painful,” Annie said as she handed Judith a piece of chicken.
“So, seven, very tired, only had a light breakfast, and we’re on the eight or nine hour drive to Grenoble, the trip only punctuated by sign alongs and the occasional bout of projectile vomiting. Eventually, we arrive at the hostel, get everyone off the bus, get them in their rooms, and let them loose for a couple of hours before dinner.”
“So, to recap,” Grace said, “delays on ferry over, bad night in temporary accommodation, long and weary bus drive, and a group of cranky 14 and 15 year olds. Can you guess what happens next?”
“That depends,” Diana said quietly, “on how close they are to a vendeur de vin...”
“And you win the star prize,” Sarah said as she smiled. “Some of the more adventurous and older looking pupils slipped out and purchased various bottles of alcohol, slipping them into the hostel and under cover while we had the evening meal, and our trip leader read the riot act on behaviour and decorum.
“So, they went off to their dorms, and we, the teachers, looked at each other. We actually ran a book on how long it would take for the first incident to happen.”
“Did you win?”
“Nah – I was optimistic. The book started at nine, and I thought it would be midnight. As it was, the first incident was after forty minutes – a group of boys managed to block one of the toilets with a sleeping bag.”
The women looked at each other as the girls burst out laughing. “Very old school,” Jo eventually said, “but at least they got to ski the next day.”
“Well, yes,” Sarah said, “and the forecast had been for glorious sunshine for the week we were there. So imagine the scene when we got to the slopes, and it was raining – a true Scotch mist...”
“So is that why you called it The Mist?”
“Oh no – we’ll get to that eventually. What it meant was we were wet, and the snow was slushy, but at least we managed to get some of the lessons in on that day. As a result, a bunch of tired kids, and the teachers – including me- got to have their first relaxing evening in three days.
“Which lasted until 2.30 in the morning, when someone set off the fire alarm, and we all had to troop outside. I think that was when I said before we went back in that if they should discover who set the alarm off, they should make them know how much they appreciated standing in the cold and dark.”
“Did they discover who?”
“Let’s just say two of the boys were walking with a limp for a couple of days after that. Anyway, the second day, it was cold, but at least it was dry, so another quiet day.
“And then the Mist descended. From the Wednesday to the Saturday there was a dense mist over the ski slopes, and nobody was getting up onto them. So we had, every morning, to try and find something to do with a bunch of kids who had come to go skiing, and to whom a day spent going round the local ruins was not an idea of fun.”
“I’ll tell you how bad it was,” Grace said as the others stopped laughing, “Thursday lunchtime, I got a call from Susan, saying there was a threat of open rebellion amongst the kids, and any chance of getting them back early. Well, there wasn’t, but I did offer to buy the drinks for all of them when they got back.”
“And then, on the Thursday night, one of the boys got rather drunk on the booze they had bought, and decided to see if he could jump safely out of a third storey window.”
“Oh my,” Katy said, “did he make it?”
“Well, he survived – he hit a snow drift which was rapidly turning into slush, and he was so drunk he just relaxed in it. He was, however, VERY lucky.”
“So what happened in the end?”
“We survived the week, set off – and the moment the coach started, the mist lifted and there was the most glorious sight.
“Through the rear window of the bus...”
Grace laughed as she said, “I almost had to buy the entire bar that night...”
“Okay,” Juliette said, “let’s eat, and then we’ll head to the lodge for the nightclub...
“Now this is more like it,” Holly said to Ally and Nell as they went on the dance floor, the group taking over several tables as they came and went. Klaus and Juliette had taken the toddlers and babies back to the lodges with them, allowing the rest of the group to relax...
“Gotta agree with them,” Nikki said as she danced with Pepsi and Ama, “good skiing, good food, and then party the night away...”
“And for those of us back from our colleges,” Jo said as she danced with Abby and Cari, “it’s just what we need to unwind for the holidays.”
“Training Tuesday, Jo!”
“Oh – wonderful...”
“All right, I admit it,” Denice said as she picked up her glass of wine, watching Denice with the girls, “this is easily the best weekend I have spent for a long, long time - and that’s with our current home in Mary Thomas’ townhouse and all that brings.”
“Damn right it is,” Mercy Kinman said as she saw Letty laughing with Anna, “it’s amazing how good this feels, especially with everything that has happened this year.”
“You know what I love about all this,” April said as she sipped her beer. “That it’s just a massive group of people who get on. A toast, ladies.”
“What to,” Barbara said.
“Look at them,” Diana said as she looked at Kylie and Marina, “it is amazing what they have become in the time since Easter.”
“Indeed – I am very proud of them, and I know Susan is as well,” Helen said as she looked at the girls.
“I understand you will visit London soon, Helen.”
“Indeed – although I still need to make the arrangements.”
"So what are the
things that the Saints and Sinners really prize Diana?" asked Catherine.
"Oh I think
knowledge, tolerance, friendship. Those are the links that bind us all."
"That sounds like
you've thought about it before?"
"I suppose I have," Diana paused a second to reflect. "We really just want to be friends with each other I guess."
“Which is the strongest bond a group could have,” Catherine said quietly.