Senses and Sensibility – Part 3
“Come on George,” Katy said as she grabbed her boyfriend’s hand and dragged him onto the dance floor, “let’s have our own fun.”
"Now who taught my
daughter to dance like that?" Jan shook her head as Katy ground her body
"Umm...Guilty." Pepsi put her hand up. “I guess I went a little far?”
“Oh I don’t mind – at
least she is behaving herself in a way...”
"Can you teach
me?" Sands asked quietly as she looked on.
"You want to learn
to dance like that Sands?" Doc asked in disbelief.
"Well it might be
useful to know," the young girl blushed.
"Who'd of thunk it?" Ally whispered in Nell's ear to the side.
"Yeah I think little Sandy is starting to grow up." Nell whispered back.
“Shall we tell Jo?”
“Or Heather,” they said in unison before laughing.
“So, anyone here catch your eye,” Annie said as she looked at Grace.
“Oh those days are well behind me,” Grace said with a smile.
“I hear Ju used to say that as well...”
"Well Sarah and
Jean-Claude appear to be hitting it off." Grace glanced over at her friend
dancing with the handsome ski-instructor.
just." Annie smiled. "She and Mr. French Canadian Muscles have been
chatting and dancing all night."
"I say good for Sarah, her last boyfriend was a guy none of us liked. Bit of a sleaze bag really.”
“I think I understand the term,” Annie said, “we’ve met our fair share of those men.”
“How did you deal with them?”
“Scared them off...”
“Jean-Claude,” Susan said as they came over, “you know Annie, but this is my housemate Grace.”
“A pleasure ladies – may I buy you a drink?”
“Yeah, I think that’s a good idea...”
Kylie walked slowly over to where the two girls were talking, carrying a tray of drinks.
“What were you and Erica chatting about darling?” She asked as she put the tray down.
“She’s going to go to the second-hand book store with me tomorrow Kylie.” Jeannie said as she looked upwards from her chair. “I want to see if they have anything I don’t have in my collection.”
“I might tag along if it’s at lunchtime, if that is all right with you both.”
“Okay,” Erica said, “after our morning runs we will do it.”
“So what does the term ‘your collection’ mean?” Kylie said as she sat down.
“Basically old fashion magazines and books devoted to the industry.”
“I don’t buy things,” Kylie said as she sipped her drink, “but I do keep a scrap book of things I have seen in the papers or magazines that I think might trigger ideas.”
“Well everyone agrees you’ll be an important designer one day.”
“Oh I doubt it.” Kylie blushed.
“Girls can we beg a dance?” the taller of two blonde boys asked with a strong Eastern European accent.
“I will, but my friend here is disabled.”
“Go, I can watch the drinks,” Jeannie said with a smile as they walked off.
“So what was he like Pips?”
“He’s one to avoid,” Pippa scowled as she came back to her friends, “all hands.”
“Yuck - I loathe guys who think they can get a free touch if they dance with you.” Kelly shook her head.
“Do I need to have a word with him Pippa?” Clint looked at her with concern.
“No thanks Clint…I spiked him with my heel. I think he got the message.”
“Well that guy I danced with was a saint.” Denice smiled as she sipped her drink.
“He should be darling, he’s gay, that’s his boyfriend over there.” Kelly pointed.
“Oh is that why?” Denice giggled.
“Gay guys are ideal partners to dance with sometimes.” Ingrid spoke up, “they usually look after themselves and look good, most of them can dance well, and they are all gentlemen round women.”
“Do you all know many gay men?”
“Denice most of us work in the fashion industry…what do you think?” Pippa smiled broadly.
“I guess it comes with the territory.”
“Talking of the fashion industry, did you notice how many different magazines are represented in this room Pippa?”
“I had. I think there’s at least one senior staff member from every fashion magazine in New York here, if not the US.”
“And how many supermodels there are?” Pepsi grunted, “its making finding dance partners hard for mere mortals such as me.”
“Come on,” George said as Katy nodded, “I’ll try to do my best...”
"So who in here
should I know? And who shouldn't I?" Denice said
as she sat down next to Sandy and Heather.
what?" Heather enquired.
"I guess meaning
who is famous and who isn't?"
Sandy pondered as she looked round the room. "There is yourself of course..."
famous!" Denice looked shocked.
"You are a Sinner Denice, that
does bring a certain amount of fame." Heather smiled.
accepted, who apart from our, and notice I did say our, group is here?"
"Let me see,"
Sandy looked round, "well, I can see at least three Olympic gold
medallists, sundry other personalities from the sports world..."
"Not all with
their wives by the way," Heather interrupted.
"A few one-hit
wonders from the music world," Sandy continued, "one or two excellent
not with their spouses."
"This place is a
hotbed of infidelity," Denice laughed as well.
"One with the
boyfriend his wife doesn't know he has..."
lover," Sandy now started to laugh, "oh and sundry society types, as
well though as masses of regular skiers, instructors, etc."
"How the hell do
you know all those people by sight?"
"That's what I asked at first Denice," Heather ate a nacho, "but you soon learn to recognise them."
“You may have heard that when people know you’re a Sinner,” Sandy said, “there can be a certain – jealousy. But it’s as simple as this – we’re all really good friends.”
“I thought the people Mary knew were amazing,” Denice said, “but this – is that Justin Bieber dancing with Erica and Poppy?”
“It might be,” Heather said with a smile as they watched.
“What’s happening,” Barbara said as she came over to join them.
“Denice is just wondering who’s who.”
“You remember when we first met in Saks, Barbara, and you told me some of the things that might happen?”
“Of course I do, why?”
“It’s taken me four months, but I think I’ve just realised you weren’t joking, or telling me everything...”
“So Monster Momma,” Cari said as she danced with Annie, “How do you want to spend tonight?”
“Oh I can think of a few ways,” Annie said with a smile, “but most of them involve getting you naked, and it’s a little bit crowded here.”
“Well, we could...”
“Oh no you don’t,” Holly said as she walked by, “you stay for a while. Ju already said she is looking after Judith tonight.”
“All right – but nobody said we couldn’t take a walk in the moonlight...”
“Excuse me, are you Jeannie Brewster?”
Jeannie looked over to see a young man standing beside her, with short blonde hair.
“Guilty as charged,” she said with a smile, “what can I do for you?”
“I was asked to pass this message to you,” he said as he handed her a sheet of paper. Reading it, she looked round and then wheeled herself across the floor.
“Well now, fancy meeting you here,” she said with a smile as Winston reached down and lifted her out of the chair. “I thought you weren’t able to get up this weekend.”
“Change of plans – I was able to come and join the family early. At which point, they said they were coming here for a few days, so I tagged along.”
“Hi,” she said as she looked at Winston’s parents. His father, Winston Brewster the Second, was as tall as House, but thin as a rake, while his mother was about her own mother’s height, with her brown hair cut short.
“Mother, Father, would you object if I stayed with Jeannie for a while, and came back to the hotel later?”
“Of course not,” his mother said, “we’ll see you and your mother tomorrow, Jeannie.”
“You are a very good dancer,” Jean-Claude said as he sat at the bar with Sarah, “is this your first time in the resort?”
“Yeah, it is – I only moved to the US last August.”
“Ah – what do you do for a living?”
“I teach English Literature – some of my pupils are in the group I’m here with.”
Jean-Claude looked over, before he said “so you teach Miss Burton and Miss Carter?”
“Not Katy, but the others – most of them go to St Angela’s.”
“AH – so you know Jeannie and her group as well?”
“Indeed – I share an apartment with Grace and another teacher.”
“Then you are a fortunate woman, to have such good friends,” he said with a smile. “So, do you like what you find here?”
“I do actually – it’s a trip with friends rather than school trip, so I get to relax, ski the way I want to, and have a little fun as well.”
“Will you return to England for the holidays?”
“No – I’ve been invited to Christmas Dinner with friends here, and then I have some work to prepare. But now I have visited here, I am sure I’ll be spending more time here over the winter.”
“Ah good – so you have discovered something here you like?”
“I may have,” Sarah said quietly as she looked at him.
“Come on,” Ally said as she and Nell grabbed Jo and took her onto the dance floor, “you need to be helped to forget Doctor Curt for a few minutes.”
“Yeah – it’s a damn shame he had to spend Christmas with his folks,” Jo said as they started to move to the music.
“Is it just me,” Nell said, “or are more people than usual watching us?”
“I’m trying not to notice,” Jo said quietly, “I want to unwind this weekend, not tense up.”
“Okay sis – signal Letty will you? We need a crowd dance.”
Nell nodded as she signalled to the tall girl, who was standing next to Doc and Pepsi.
“We’re needed on the dance floor girls,” Letty said as she looked over, “gather the troops.”
Jo smiled as from each direction the girls gathered, providing both the support and the comfort she needed as they started to hide her from prying eyes.
“Why are the girls gathering,” Heather said as she looked over.
“To dance together, obviously,” Diana said as she looked on.
“Hello Grace, Pippa.”
“Christian,” Pippa said as she greeted her friend, “I didn’t know you were coming up here?”
“I joined my sister and her family for a few days – so are all the Sinnerz and Saints here?”
“Those who could get away,” Grace said. “We decided to start the holidays with style.”
“So, no regrets about coming over then?”
“None whatsoever,” Grace said as she looked at Pippa. “It gave me the chance to put the past behind me and start again, and make things right between us.”
“Good – because I have an idea to put to both of you, if Pippa wants to get in front of the camera again for a one off...”
Denice turned to see Clint standing beside her, smiling,
“I am actually – sit down Clint.”
“I need to,” he said as he eased himself down, “and not just because I wanted to talk to you anyway.”
“To me? Has Susan been that bad?”
“No,” Clint said with a smile as he handed the young mother a drink, “but we haven’t really had much of a chance to talk, have we?”
“I guess not. Truth to tell, I hardly know Susan either – but she’s a wonderful woman.”
“Yeah she is – but I’m biased,” Clint said as he looked over at Susan talking to Annie and Abby. “Listen – Denice, did you ever hear of a guy called Ian Nelson?
"Sorry Clint, but that name means nothing to me, if he's a New York socialite..."
not," Clint broke in, "he's a man I used to work for out East, but he’s
based in New York now. His hobby is
racing high-performance sportscars, his business however is testing prototypes and components
for virtually every car company in the world."
"Wow!” Denice shook her
head as she said “Now that is someone I'd like to meet."
"Well then,” Clint
said as he sat back, “how about tomorrow?"
"You are being
serious aren't you Clint?" Denice looked a
"Well to cut to
the chase the ladies have been doing some job hunting for you..."
"I knew something
was going on," Denice shook her head.
"Well anyway, I
was talking to Ian earlier and he needs someone with an engineering background
to handle data loading and analysis at his office downtown..."
"He DOES? Oh God it sounds wonderful"
"Well before you go overboard,” Clint said, “the salary - though a decent improvement on what you earn currently - is not huge, but there are chances of advancement, and Ian would pay for you to finish your studies part time. I explained you had a background in engineering, and how you helped out at finals day, as well as the fact you’ll be joining RCM Racing next year. So - do you still want to meet with him?"
“Yeah – but how do I get back to New York?”
“You don’t – he’s up here this weekend as well, and will see you in the lodge here at noon tomorrow. Don’t worry- he doesn’t mind if you have snow bumps...”
“Clint, I don’t know what to say – thank you.”
“Well, don’t thank me yet,” Clint said as Erica came over.
“Hey Mom – I agreed to go with Jeannie to the bookstore after lessons tomorrow.”
“What – oh, that’s fine,” Denice said quietly.
“I also agreed to streak across the nursery slopes.”
“Make sure you get pictures,” Denice said, and then she looked at Erica.
“Okay – what did Mister Walker say that got you looking like that?”
“Well...” Erica sat down and listened as Denice told her about the job offer.
"The way Clint
explained it,” she finally said, “it will be similar in ways to what I already
do Erica darling, but I'll be expected to also look for anomalies and to
understand what I'm entering up as data and if I spot something I think needs
looking at to red flag it."
"Holy shit Mom,”
Erica said with the biggest of smiles, “it sounds like a great job for
"Well I'd still be
a glorified data-entry clerk, but Clint says there are opportunities for
advancement, and that they will pay for me to finish my last three semesters of
my degree part-time."
"Mom you dare let this opportunity slip and we are NEVER speaking again." Erica hugged her mother.
“Okay, okay, I’ll talk to him,” Denice said, “now someone’s trying to get your attention...”
“Oh who,” Erica said, looking round before she saw Poppy wave her over to join her and two boys.
“Have you realised what time it is,” Heather said as she danced with Sandy.
“Nope – what time?”
“Doesn’t matter – it’s just good to see everyone enjoying themselves, even Sands,” Heather said as she saw the youngest girls dancing with George.
“Yeah – I see that. Guess my talk with her is coming soon as well....
Sunday 20th December
The Huntingdown Lodges
Sarah quietly closed the door and slipped her boots off, smiling as she made her way into the central area, hoping not to wake anyone up.
“There you are – coffee?”
“Dammit,” she said quietly, then grinned as she went to join Grace in the kitchen, “when did you get back?”
“At about one, but I saw you slip out with that instructor, so I didn’t raise the alarm. As it is, you’re not the last one back.”
“I’m not – who else has...”
“Only joking – you’re it...”
“There you are,” Carina said as she came in with Annie and Judith, “and where did you get to?”
“Never mind,” Sarah said, “but I had real fun...”
“That was some party last night.” Letty said as she climbed down off the top of the bunk bed she was sharing with Holly.
“It was not bad at all.” Jeannie grinned from where Doc was helping her dress.
“Well Winston just arriving out of the blue made you happy Jeans.” Doc smiled as she helped her friend carefully into the ski suit.
“That is true.”
“So did anyone meet anybody cute?” Nell called out.
“There were a couple of guys,” Pepsi shouted, “and it was sorta fun dancing with Bieber, but personally I think he has a swollen head.”
“Yeah he thinks he only needs to smile at a girl to get her,” Nikki said as she came out of the bathroom.”
“That’s the music industry for you.” Abby shook her head.
“Well for Nell and me it was a totally sexless night,” Ally said as she pulled her nightgown off, “but I’m not sure when I enjoyed dancing more.”
“Yeah I saw you giving your all with Trevor and Leo.” Letty stood doing some stretching and bending as she looked round.
“If they were straight they’d be perfect,” Nell said as she eased herself out of bed.
“Well purely as dance partners they did look perfect.” Erica started getting her boots on. “You all made me jealous how well you were doing out there. Don’t y’all know white chicks ainst sposed to be able ta dance?” she laughed.
“Well dem chickies can.” Pepsi smiled as she tried to imitate the streets of New York accent.
“Are they talking about us,” Katy said as she and Sands zipped up their suits.
“Can’t deny it for you Katy Carter,” Jo said, “but Sands was making some smooth moves out there as well.”
“You are a fast learner,” Pepsi said as Poppy came out. “And you’re not the only one – did you check out young Miss Ashley here?”
“What? What did I do?”
“Never mind Poppy – we have the pictures,” Nikki said. “Come on – I smell breakfast...”
“Okay then,” Juliette said as she looked round the breakfast table, “we grown-ups are heading to the Fondue restaurant tonight. Can I trust you older girls to make sure the others get fed?”
“Can do,” Jo said as she looked at Abby and Letty. “Leave it with us.”
“Just try to be back by midnight – if possible. I know it was later this morning, but you were all having so much fun...”
“What about you Ama, did you have fun dancing with that guy you met on the slope yesterday afternoon?” her mother asked.
“A bit, but his religion is all wrong.”
“Oh?” Caroline raised an eyebrow.
“Yes he’s a fanatical Barcelona fan.” Ama shook her head. “Most of the time he was talking out of his ass. Very very sad...”
“Whoops!” Caroline and Sarah said in unison.
“Oh I remember those days,” Sarah laughed as she continued. “My father wouldn’t even let me bring one boy in the house because he was an Arsenal supporter.”
“And I bet as a lifelong Spurs fan he creeped you out a bit anyway?” Caroline joined in the laughing.
“You might say that.”
“So Klaus who do you support?” Sarah asked. “Bayern I suppose.”
“No for my sins I have a lifelong passion for Munich’s OTHER club…TSV 1860.”
“Ouch!” Sarah looked up, a bit of food poised on her food. “That’s certainly unfashionable.”
“We know,” Ingrid joined in, “but at least cheering for a second division team teaches you humility.”
“So your lessons are booked again for this morning,” Juliette said, “but as requested, you have the long lunch sorted out.”
“Great – thanks,” Denice said as she sipped her coffee.
“Mum, House is going to join us for lunch if that’s all right?”
“Of course dear – listen, girls, if we’re going to eat out as a group tonight, who fancies going ice skating later?”
The group raised their hands in agreement as Diana looked round.
“Excellent – then let us clean up, and make a start.”
“I hope you’ve picked an easy route for us Heather,” Abby said.
“Oh yeah – you lot accepted Heather’s challenge, didn’t you?”
“Yeah – if we’re not back for Lunch, send the dogs out Klaus...”
“So are you having fun darling?” Klaus asked Judith as she sat on his lap.
“Yes Grappy,” the child beamed, “I like snow.”
“Do you want some milk?”
“Come on let’s go get you some.” Klaus held his granddaughter’s hand as they headed to the kitchen.
“Can I have some milk please Gramma?”
“Of course you can.” Juliette turned from loading up the dishwasher.
“So while I’m being silly enough to go try some cross-country skiing, what do you have in mind to amuse yourself?” Juliette asked Klaus as he kissed her.
“I was thinking of taking the little one here on a sleigh ride with Clint and April.”
“Oh she’d adore that Pops.” Carina joined the conversation as she walked into the kitchen.
“I thought she might.”
“Okay – I think we can talk safely here,” Juliette said as the group of seven women came into a clearing. “Jo, want to break out the flasks?”
“With pleasure,” Jo said as she slipped her rucksack off, “and you call this an easy run?”
“Well it is – relatively speaking,” Heather said as she handed out some cups, and Jo poured the hot coffee into them. “All right Juliette, you have the floor.”
“Okay – first up, this is an old school plan. Just the seven of us, if for no other reason that nobody else is available.”
“Understood,” Abby said as she sipped her drink. “So what do we have?”
“Right,” Juliette said, “The Armorcure Security Center, South Street, Newburgh. A single storey building, containing a bonded warehouse which is used as a depository for local businesses. But, from the 24th to the 28th of December, it serves a very different purpose.”
“And that purpose is, mon cherie,” Diana said as she sipped her coffee.
“It stores all the banknotes that are due to be issued in the New York area in the New Year. Last year, that was about eighty million dollars – my researches indicate this year it will be over ninety million.”
“Mon dieu – and why is this fact not so well known?”
“For that precise reason – it’s one of the best kept secrets in the banking world. And by pure chance, because they like to keep it a secret, there is no additional visible security.”
“There’s that word,” Jo said, “visible security. What about the invisible variety?”
“I’ve got the schematics here,” Heather said as she took out a palm tablet and handed it to Jo. “Security staff consists of six guards on any shift, and a manager for them, under the general manager.”
Jo looked at the schematics, before saying “Not impossible. So the general manager?”
“Allow me,” Heather said, “to introduce Simon Bolivar.”
“You are kidding me,” Carina said.
“Nope – forty two, married to the delightful Elaine, forty one, works as a hairdresser. They have two daughters and a son. Bernadette is twenty, Simon Jr eighteen, and Lynsey eighteen. Oldest girl is a sophomore at Brown, but home for the holidays to Belknap Street to the west of the town. Very nice home surrounded by trees.”
“So I can see,” Sandy said as she looked at the pictures on Google Map. “So what does the general plan look like?”
“As I said,” Juliette said quietly, “our window of opportunity comes on Sunday the 27th of December. As it is a long holiday weekend, security is at the bare minimum. So we go classic Pussycat style. We take over the Bolivar home at nine on the Saturday night, and make sure they understand what is going down.
“According to the duty rosters I dug out, poor Bolivar has to do the 6 to 2 shift on the Sunday – so we’re taking that as our opportunity to go in. Sandy, Heather, we’re going to need a panel van or something similar.”
“We’ll see what can be procured,” Sandy said quietly.
“To make it simple, I want us in and out in three hours. I would like to be home in time for dinner that night. We only need Bolivar for entry to the facility – his family are collateral and persuasive material.”
The six women nodded as they looked at each other.
“I have sent packages to your laptops with biography and plans. So, do we go or not?”
All nodded as she said “Right – Jo, security systems. Heather, Sandy, transportation. Cari, Abby, Diana, study the family. With luck, this time next week, we will have made history.”
“Order already placed – we collect Tuesday. Diana, join me for that?”
Diana nodded as Abby shook her head.
“Can even Madame and Catherine launder that much cash all at once?” Sandy asked.
“They assure me they can – and Shirley flies back over that day.”
“Well Juliette Cherie I have to say as usual you seem to have thought of everything.” Diana stood and looked up at the pale sun in the clear blue sky.
“It will be nice doing this with just the original team.” Heather glanced at the hand-held device she’d brought out with her.
“Means the beast doesn’t have to play nice so as not to hurt feelings…”
“Though I’m sure she will hurt something Cari,” Jo laughed.
“Hey, it’s what she is.” Carina shrugged her shoulders.
“All right – we’ll talk again after we get back tomorrow. Right now,” Juliette said as she shook her cup out, “we need to get back for lunch.
“Assuming Heather knows the way?”
Spruce Peak Base Lodge
Ian looked up from his papers and saw Denice standing in front of him, her hands in front of her as she stood in her ski suit and jumper.
“You must be Denice Burton,” he said as he stood up and shook her hand, “and how was the lesson this morning?”
“I enjoyed it,” she said as she took a seat opposite him, “but I have to admit, this is more nerve wracking than launching myself down a hill.”
“Well, I’ll try and put you at ease,” Ian said as a waitress brought some coffee now. “So, I gather Clint talked to you last night?”
“He did – he said you run a firm that tests new car components and prototypes.”
“Well, in the simplest form, that’s right,” Ian said as he poured a cup of coffee and handed it over, “so why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself – your experience, how you came to be Denice Burton?”
“Not much to tell – my father was a merchant seaman, then when he met and married my mother he settled here and worked the Staten Island ferries.”
“Which means there’s engineering in your blood in a way. So how come you ended up working as a data entry clerk at Columbia?”
“Well, my dad died when I was twelve, but I was lucky enough to get a place studying mechanical engineering at Columbia, while looking after my mother. But then – well...”
“Your daughter Erica?”
Denice nodded as she said “I met the wrong guy, he got me pregnant and ran, and then my mother died soon after she was born. I had to earn money to live, so I had to leave my course and get a job. The position I held was there, and I took it – and that was that.”
“So how far did you get on your course?”
“Mum passed away January in my junior year – so it will be fourteen years ago in four weeks.”
“I was on an A- for the first semester of that year.”
“Okay – so if I show you this set of test results, for a new braking system, what can you tell me about it?”
Ian handed Denice a sheet of data, and waited as she looked at the outputs and plots.
“Looks as if there is a differential between the two sides,” she said as she looked closely, “fractional, but I can see it now. Suggestive of the braking system misaligned, or a leak somewhere.”
Ian nodded as he took the sheet back, and said “well then, Clint told me of what you had done with the race team. Any other practical experience?”
“Recently, no, but as I said my father worked the ferries, and I used to go along with him.”
“Ever wished to go back and finish your degree?”
“Always – but the opportunity has never really arisen.”
Nodding Ian said “well, Clint and Henri have certainly spoken highly of you, and you spotted the flaw with very little problem. I also have some excellent character references already from Sandy and Jan.”
“Well, it helps when I have friends like that. And I have to admit, the package Clint mentioned was very tempting. So what’s the downside?”
spoke hesitantly, "since you ask, I guess we had better deal now with the
biggest obvious problem..."
"What, that I'm
Black?" Denise felt her hackles rise as she said that. “Or that I’m a single
"Oh no, worse than that," Ian sighed, "I meant the fact that you are a woman.”
He saw Denice’s eyebrows shoot up before he said “let me explain, please. My front office is virtually entirely female with ladies of most ethnic backgrounds. On the other hand, my workshops and Test division are virtually all male, and again ethnically mixed. The problem,” he said with a smile, “is that you, Denice, will be neither fish nor fowl, neither dirty, or clean, hands as we call them in the company."
Relaxing, Denice smiled as she said, "oh I think I understand, I'd straddle the two halves of the operation...Gotcha." She paused and sipped her coffee before saying, "well Ian at least with the workshops, my father was taking me with him into boat engine rooms literally before I could walk. I can swear like a man in five languages, I know how to use tools, and I ain't afraid of getting my hands dirty.”
Ian nodded as she continued
“as for the office, my years at Columbia have taught me that is
a harder thing for me to cope with, I'd rather yell and scream at an engineer
any day, then deal with some bitchy PA.
But I think I've coped enough in both environments to make it work."
"That was sort of what I was hoping to hear." Ian smiled, "and the package?”
He handed Denice a sheet of paper, as he said “how does it look to you?”
“Very generous, I have to say.”
“Well then,” Ian said as he sat back, “I have one last question for you, Denice?”
“And that is,” Denice asked nervously.
“How much notice do Columbia require for you to quit?"
"You mean I'm hired?"
“If you want the job, it’s yours.”
“Well, they need a month, but I have some holiday due and I move in the middle of January – if I said I could start 1st February?”
“Deal – I’ll get that paperwork to you next week,” Ian said as he shook hands with Denice. “Welcome to the team.”
“Thank you,” Denice said quietly as Ian put his papers away. “Enjoy the rest of the day – I’ll be in touch,” he said as he walked off, Denice sitting back down as Barbara walked over.
“Hey – coming in for lunch?”
“In a minute,” Denice said as she looked up. “Would you mind sitting with me for a moment?”
“Sure – why?”
“I need to tell myself what just happened really happened, that’s all...”
“Mom? What happened?”
Denice looked up to see Erica standing there, before she smiled and said “I got the job. I’ll need to go in Tuesday and hand in my notice.”
“That’s fantastic,” Erica said as she sat down. “When do you start?”
“I suggested February – I need to give a month’s notice, and then we move, so it works out all right from that point.”
“So what will the job entail Mom?” Erica asked keenly.
“Well initially I’ll just be loading in the test data so the reports can then be prepared for the client, but I’ll be expected to understand what the data indicates and liaise with the engineers down in the workshops.”
“Eventually though I’ll get the chance to move into the test facilities full time and work just as an engineer testing products, and devising and maintaining test facilities and equipment.” Denice smiled happily. “It will be a dream come true really darling.”
“I’m so happy for you Mom.” Erica embraced her mother.
“Well, we need to celebrate – any sign of the cross country party?”
“You called,” Heather said as she came in with Sandy. “The others are talking to the sled driver – Judith had a fun morning there. So?”
“So – I got the job.”
“Great! Now – we celebrate!”
boss," Clint whispered to Ian at the doorway.
"I should be
thanking you Clint,” Ian said as he looked over, “not everyday
I get someone so well motivated and if I don't miss my guess, talented as
"Well you still did me a favor in seeing her...So Thank You."
Spruce Peak Stores
“Found anything of interest Jeans?” Erica asked as she found the model in a corner, going through piles of old magazines set up on a low table.
“A few.” She indicated the pile on her chair, and then said “how about you?”
“I found a couple of books that will come in useful at school,” Erica said as she held them up, “and a lovely book on the Victorian Theatre that I think Aunt Mary will love for Christmas.”
“Well that’s a win then.” Jeannie grinned as she gathered up the stack of magazines she was going to buy. “What about you Kylie?”
“Oh I found a couple of books on England in the early 19th century that are background for Jane Austen, and an American 19th century book on Hong Kong that will make a lovely present for Catherine.”
“Did you find anything for Helen like you hoped?”
“Oh yes I forgot darling,” Kylie said as she checked, “a book of photos of the original Ballet Russe from 1914. Here, have a look”
“Wow, be glad you found this before I did,” Jeannie said as she looked at a couple of pages, “these costumes are incredible.”
“I have a second copy of that if you are interested?” the bookseller interrupted.
“Oh you bet I am.”
“Right – do you mind if we go into APCO when we are done here, darlings,” Kylie said as she paid for her purchases, “I need to find something for Marina.”
The trip made their way out into the new store, Erica and Kylie holding the doors open as Jeannie wheeled herself in.
“Oh lord,” she said as she looked round, “no wonder Jo backed out of here quickly. She really is all over the place.”
“Now what do we have here?”
“Bats,” Jeannie said as Alice came over, “I thought you were in Aspen?”
“I was – and now I am here, and joining your elders and betters for dinner tonight, but don’t tell them. And as for you, Miss Mitchell, I have something for you as well?”
“You do, darling?”
“I do,” Alice said as she went to the counter, and returned with an envelope. “First payment for your designs – do not spend it all in one place.”
Kylie opened the envelope and looked inside, raising an eyebrow before she said “darling is this right?”
“You know, you really do sound like Tufty when you do that,” Alice said with a smile. “But yes, it is correct – and I have forwarded the tax documents to Catherine. Anyway, what can we do for you in here today?”
“I wish to get a jumper for Marina.”
“Right – this way then...”
“So how was the cross-country this morning,” Letty said as she stood with Jo, Cari and Abby at the top of the slope.
“Tiring – so this is the relaxation part,” Abby said as she looked down, and then to the side. “So what happened this morning?”
“Apart from Jeannie going down the intermediate slope?”
“Well – yeah, apart from that, and good for her,” Jo said.
“We all had fun basically – so last one down buys the cocoa, right?”
“Right,” Abby said as they set off, laughing as they began their descent.
“I have to admit it,” Helen said as she stood with Susan, watching Marina as she came down the slope, “She is as good as you.”
“Well, for starters she is fitter than me,” Susan said as Marina came to a stop by them, “and second – she always was better than me at this sort of thing. I’m just more practiced – and it is one of those things I am better at than Clint.”
Helen nodded as she said “You know that Penny is coming over for Christmas?”
“Yup – but she is coming on holiday, rather than to visit the office. I have no idea how she is going to spend her time.”
“Oh I am sure she will find ways to amuse herself,” Helen said with a smile.
The Huntingdown Lodges
“We’re back,” Abby said as she led the group into the main room.
“Cocoa’s just been made,” Clint called through as they left their ski’s and removed their boots.
“Well, you’re still not the last,” Annie said as she looked up.
“Nice quiet afternoon then,” Jo said as she went through to the dorm.
"So how was the
cross country skiing darling?" Annie reached up and kissed Carina before
she sat down.
boring, I honestly don't see what Heather and Jo see
in it. I think from now on I'll stick to downhill." Carina paused for a
second, "and how are you now Monster Mama?"
overdone it if that's what you mean, me and baby are both fine."
"We may have a
problem with our eldest though,” Annie said as she looked to the table, “after
the horse drawn sleigh ride with her Grappy she's
wondering when she can have the same to ride in at home."
"Oh dear," Cari laughed, "Mom says I wanted a pony after the
first time she took me to a horse show. We will just have to tell her that we
don't have a stable to keep the horses in."
"And hope she gets distracted by something else, she's sitting with your Mom and Klaus trying to draw horses and sleighs as we speak."
“We could always do a sleigh ride in Central Park over the holidays – let’s see what happens,” Cari said as Susan brought through a tray of steaming mugs.
“The babysitter is booked – she’ll arrive at seven,” she said as she handed the mugs round.
“So while you go and indulge your strange desire for dipping things into broth and cheese,” Abby said as she sat with her mother, “the rest of us will head back to the base camp, eat in the cafe there, and then hit the ice before the nightclub.”
“That sounds like a plan, Cherie,” Diana said as she watched Erica and Denice come in with Jan and Katy.
“Now there is a happy mom and daughter.”
“Indeed – which reminds me,” Sandy said as she took her cell phone out, and walked outside.
“Okay you lot,” they heard Jo call out, “get cleaned up and changed...”
"I hear that my
little Angel has a new love Mom?" Cari lifted
her head as Juliette came in.
Juliette smiled, "she's as bad as you were at the same age about getting a
"I'm thinking of
telling her that Santa needs all the various sleighs for his helpers till
Christmas so he can deliver all her presents."
"Mmmm that's not bad." Sandy walked in, "It's certainly
better then the excuse I had for Sands with regards to why she couldn't have a
"That George and I
couldn't cope with picking up the poop. Her answer was to toddle out to the
kitchen and go get the dustpan and brush and say she could do it."
"Oh I'd have paid to see that, it sounds adorable." Annie laughed.
“Paid to see what,” Sands said as she came in with Pepsi and Ama.
“We were talking about your wish to look after a reindeer,” her mum said as Sands shook her head.
“I thought that was there with the baby photos...”
"So how has your
skiing been going Mercy?" Susan asked as she came in.
"Not as well as I’d
hoped,” Mercy said as she held her back.
“Having not done this in a while, I'm both out of practice, AND using
muscles that haven't been exercised in a while. So I'm both bruised and
hurting... Other than that though,” she
grinned, “I'm having a fabulous time."
Heather said, “a few more weekends up here and I'm sure it will all come back
"We can but
hope," Mercy said as she sprawled in an armchair. "Letty is having a wonderful time though,
it's just so good seeing her with the other girls. For a long time she got so
"She's a popular
young lady." Grace spoke as she came in looking for coffee. "I didn't
know her before this year, but I have been totally impressed with her at school."
"Where is she
looking to go to college?" Susan asked.
"Well she has in
mind eventually doing neurology, and she's looking at pre-med majors. I'm not
sure her college fund will stretch to her going away to school, but we might
just manage Columbia or NYU."
"Has she applied
for any scholarships?" Grace took a coffee from Susan and sat down next to
"A few, but she's
not sure she'd qualify."
"Maybe I can drop
over and see you both after Christmas, I think I may
have read about some programs that might help her."
"Well I'll admit that might be a big help Grace."
"It's a date then."
“What’s the word on Abby Diana?”
“Well, the more she looks into it, the more the idea of studying photography appeals to her. John and Jack have offered to help her in putting together a portfolio for submission, but she has a back up plan for Stanford just in case.”
“Now why doesn’t that surprise me,” Heather said with a grin.
“Who’s next for the shower,” Holly said as she came out.
“Make way,” Ally said as she ran in, while Sands pulled her top over her head.
“So what do you think?”
“What do I think? I think your Mom will have a fit." Little Sandy shook her head as Katy zipped up her high heeled boots over the black leather pants she had somehow squeezed her curvy ass into.
"Now let me see,” Sandy said as she counted the reasons off on her fingers, “the pants are outrageous, that red sequined top exposes most of your boobies, far too much makeup on...Do I need go on?"
Sands shook her head as
Katy twisted round.
"Well I think I
look ultra-hot, and I can slip a parka on over this when I skate."
"You look hotter
than I do." Ally looked askance as she emerged from the bathroom.
"Really?" Katy asked with a proud smile on her
"And Sands is
right, your mom will never approve that look." Holly weighed in with her
opinion as she pulled her own boots on.
"Going to sound
strange from me, but Berryman is right," Ally said as she stood, hands on her
hips, "we need tone you down at least a little bit."
"Because none of us want your FBI agent Mom mad at us for encouraging you." Holly said as she started to wipe some of Katy's makeup off.
Swiss Fondue by Heinz
S Main Street, Stowe
“Now this is the way to unwind,” Diana said as she sat with Sarah, the ladies taking over two of the booths, “good wine and good food.”
A selection of pots of chicken broth and the cheese, kirsch and wine mixture were bubbling away in small stoves, as the women used their forks to spear bread, meat or shrimp and place them in to cook.
“I trust all is in order, Countess De Ros,” the owner said as he came over.
“Exquisite as always,” Diana said as she took her shrimp from the pot, and put it in her mouth.
“So we will be celebrating your new job as well as the new home,” Juliette said as she looked at Denice.
“I know – it’s a dream come true,” Erica said, “I still can’t quite believe it – I get to work and finally fulfil my dream.”
“Oh – how is that possible?”
"He wants me to
register for classes at Columbia in the new semester, and they will pay for me
to complete my degree." Denise shook her head. "To be honest I still
can't believe it...Oh and he's prepared to also give me time off for racing
commitments...Can you believe that?"
"Well its great news Denice, but
concentrate on your fondue." Sandy smiled.
"Oh I know, I'm just still so high..." She put a piece of bread in her mouth and
"She practically floated
this afternoon rather than skied." Barb butted in.
"Well it's not often you get a dream job with a sympathetic employer...at least not in my world." Denise could not stop grinning.
“On other matters,” Juliette said, “you will all get two invites in the next week. The formal invitation to the wedding, and the invitation to my bridal party.”
“And which will be the most fun?”
“I know which will be the most relaxed,” Sandy said with a smile, “because this is the part Diana and I will play.”
“The part in what?”
“ALICE!” Juliette stood and embraced her old friend, before saying “when did you get into town?”
“Earlier today – so, got an extra place?”
“Of course,” Sandy said as she made room. “So how are the design thoughts going?”
“For which event?”
“Any of them!”
“Oh, the gowns for the New York Deb’s Ball and the Opernball are in progress, and I have some sketches to show Ju for April,” Alice said as she accepted a drink, “But as of now, I am off the clock until after the holdays.”
“So big family meal planned, Bats?”
“Isn’t it always? But yeah – I’ll head back to Boston tomorrow and get the house ready.”
“Have you heard from Tom and Clare?”
“I spoke to them yesterday – they are finding Simon’s parents most – entertaining.”
“Old meets new you mean?”
“Quite – but I understand Rebecca has impressed them.”
“So what are the splits for the holidays?”
“I’ve invited Catherine and Helen to join us on Friday,” Susan said, “as well as Penny.”
“She arrives tomorrow?”
Susan nodded as Denice said “All Mary would tell us was, and I quote, ‘you took care of Thanksgiving, I will take care of Christmas.’”
“Then I suspect you are in for a treat,” Juliette said. “We have the family, and Sandy?”
“The usual gathering – and I expect as many of you as possible on Thursday night.”
“Which reminds me,” Grace said, “What exactly is going to happen to Anna on Wednesday?”
Heather smiled and said “if you all swear yourselves to secrecy, I can tell you something?”
“Oh – a mystery,” Barbara said, “go on.”
“Well, it involves a mystery hunt, which is going to start that morning...”
Spruce Peak Ice Rink
The music was loud and seasonal, as the skaters made their way round the rink. From the side, some of the older girls were watching, and discussing the hot topic of the night.
"And you say that
you toned her look down?" Letty asked in
amazement as they watched Katy skate with George.
"Oh yes. Ally and I removed a lot of her makeup, got
her to change her top." Holly shook her head, "but she still looks
Nell shook her head.
"Listen to us
clucking about the follies of youth today...Just like our Mom's." Letty smiled.
"I know, I know,
it makes us sound such hypocrites, but be honest - would you have dared to look
like that when you were just 13?" asked Holly.
"Nope." Nell shook her head, "and I'm
amazed Janice let her out."
"Aren't we all?" Ally spoke as she skated over to the girls.
“Okay Abs,” Jo said as she and Cari steered their friend quietly into the far corner, “what is going on with you? You’ve jumped every time your cell phone has gone off.”
“Well, I’ve been nervous about a shoot, and...”
“Abby,” Carina said, “I love you dearly, but I know when you’re lying, and you’re lying now. What’s going on?”
Sighing, Abby said “not a word to anyone else, all right?”
“You remember me telling you about Fiona Treharran?”
“Oh goddess,” Carina said, “I thought you said you were keeping that under control?”
“Keeping what under control,” Jo said as she looked at both of them.
“It was just meant to be a little fling, but she never stops phoning or sending texts... It’s only about now I get any peace.”
“Have you talked to Angel yet?”
“I was going to call tomorrow morning, if I can find a place of calm against the maelstrom.”
“What time does she normally wake up?”
“Angel? Usually about six – why?”
“We’re going to call her then – this needs to be nipped in the bud, and she’s the best placed to do it.”
"So Cari has gone and joined the girls on the ice, while you
are here with us Annie?" Dominique asked, "i'd have thought you'd have gone with them."
"I thought about it, but I decided that the mature conversation of you ladies was more my speed."
“Oh – and it’s not because if you went anywhere near a pair of skates, Cari would have words on the matter?”
“Of course not,” Annie said as she sipped her Diet Coke, “I had some say in the matter...”
"Where is Sarah by the way?" asked Mercy.
"She has an
assignation with a ski instructor." Grace laughed.
"Doesn't she know
that those guys have more women then even Elvis did?"
"She does Mercy,”
Grace said, “but according to my friend, and I quote, 'the size and breadth of
his thing are something to behold'."
"Oh so she sounds
like she knows what she wants?"
Caroline." Grace put some food into her mouth.
men," Sandy changed the topic, "have you finally dumped your slave
Mercy all but spilt her drink.
"Haven't you heard
Mercy? One of Caroline's boyfriends is tres
kinky." Kelly laughed, "he likes her doing
such undignified things to her."
"And how the hell
did you hear about it Kelly?"
"Darling do you think a tasty piece of gossip like that could stay a secret long?"
just what does Caroline's boyfriend like her to do?" Mercy whispered to Kelly.
"Well I heard that he likes her to dress in form sitting leather, and then lash him down to the bed – cuffs, chains the works, after he;s stripped down. Then comes a large ball gag, and then...”
“Enough,” Caroline said, “there are children within earshot Kelly. Besides, compared to some of the stories I heard about you, Ally and Nell a year ago...”
The women looked at Kelly, as she said “well, we don’t deny it.”
“Well,” Caroline said with a blush, “Kelly’s telling the truth. He gets off on being chained up and gagged, and me treating him like a puppy – and if truth be told, that’s not me. I don’t know how to get rid of him however.”
“You could turn him over to the twins for a night...”
“I think they’re the ones who started this in the first place – the Halloween party?”
“Oh – oh yeah,” Barbara said, “they may have had something to do with that.”
“You could just play the total Dom and tell him to go away.”
“I tried, Kelly – he literally begged to stay!”
“Tricky – but I may know a way. I’ll tell you later...”
Spruce Peak Nightclub
"We are going to
be TOTALLY WRECKED come the morning." Pepsi laughed as she danced with
Ama, Nikki, and Doc.
"I know, and isn't
it fabulous." Nikki laughed back.
"Jack will have a
fit at me, going out like this without him."
"He has to trust
you, in the same way as you trust him with all those English girls at his
parents Christmas party?" Ama spoke.
"Who says she
trusts him?" asked Doc, "I heard her on the phone to Lady Ordford
telling her she wanted to know if his lordship even looked at another
"Of course I did -
Jack has to remember who is in charge in our relationship." Pepsi grinned.
"So what are we
going to do about you Nik?" Doc asked, "you are virtually the only girl I know without a steady
"I've been out
with a few guys,” Nikki said, “it's not like I'm pining away..."
"Yes, but how many
of those guys have you given a second date to?" Ama asked seriously.
you know the answer is none, but I've seen all the guys you are with and so far
no one measures up."
"We are going to
have to do the looking for you." Pepsi decided.
"Hey I can find my
own Mr. Perfect."
"Well you better
get hurrying before they are all gone."
"So says the lady
who owns the heart of a van Roon." Nikki
"So what is your ideal man?" Ama asked.
“I don’t know – someone who knows how to treat me without crowding me, appreciates I need my space but is there when I need him. He’s gotta be cute, not thin and not too fat...”
“Have two eyes, two ears and a mouth?”
“Har de har har,” Nikki said as she looked at Doc. “I just want a guy who makes me feel good, all right?”
“Well, looks we have a holiday project,” Pepsi said as the music stopped.
Swiss Fondue by Heinz
“Hey,” Caroline said as Kelly came out of the stall, and joined her at the wash basins.
"Caroline, can I
apologize please?" Kelly whispered as they washed their hands.
"Well for both
running my big mouth off, and for the activities of my oh
so darling daughters."
"It's okay,” Caroline whispered back, “and like most things
the masochism in Dominic was just laying there dormant, the girls just released
"I know – and yet,
they still have something of the protector about them.” Kelly shook her hands before she said “would
you believe that Ally was fussing over Katy Carter earlier for playing the wild
"Oh were they,”
Caroline said as she dried her hands.
“That might explain why a red top of mine that I think Katy 'borrowed'
"That girl is going to cause Janice even more headaches then my two have combined."
“I guess she has to find her own way, but yes, I think we will have to watch her,” Caroline said, “and let Jan know without her thinking we’re interfering.”
“Standard Operating Procedure then,” Kelly said with a smile as they went back in.
Spruce Park Nightclub
“Hey – enjoying yourself,” Doc said as she joined Katy at the bar.
“Oh yeah – listen, can I ask you a question?”
“Sure – what is it?”
“Doc - what is it like?”
“If you mean sex Katy, I think you already know,” Anna whispered back, “And if it’s anything else I think you’ve done most of those things as well.”
“Well, yes. I haven’t tried prostitution though…”
“Katy!” Doc hissed.
“Well I’ve been mistaken for a whore a couple of times,” Katy said as Doc took her into a corner, “I was sort of wondering what it was really like, and you seem the obvious person to ask.”
“Dear Goddess!” Anna rolled her eyes. “It’s not a thing I feel comfortable talking to you about Katy.”
“So murder and armed robbery we can talk about, but you selling your body is verboten?”
“And I thought I’d heard you loved it?”
“Katy,” Doc said as she removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes, “I got beaten up, I got blackmailed, I was asked and paid to do nasty degrading things…”
“But you still enjoyed it didn’t you?”
“How do I answer that?” Anna looked skyward for inspiration.
“Yes,” Doc finally said, “at times it was thrilling picking men up, taking their money, and having sex with them…Is that what you wanted to hear Katy?”
“Yes,” the young girl giggled.
“Now have we got this over and done with?”
“Just one more question?”
“What?” Doc said as she stood, hands on hips.
“When are you going to take me out hooking?”
“I’m not – I made a solemn promise to Juliette and the others, and I am NOT going back on that promise. Look – Katy, please, take my advice. What you are suggesting is not a path you want to start down on.”
“Okay – I just wondered,” Katy said as she went off and joined Sands. Doc watched her as she moved off, and then looked round.
"Carina can I have
a quiet word please?" Doc asked as she walked over.
"Sure Anna, what can I do for you?"
“Over here,” she said as she took the young woman into a corner.
“Okay – this is beginning to look serious.”
"Well I'm speaking to you as one of 'us'."
"Alright," Cari looked intently at the younger woman.
"Katy,” Doc said
before she took a deep breath, “has got it into her brain that she wants me to
take her out hooking..."
"Keep it down
"Sorry, but she
wants to become a whore?"
"You know Katy,
she wants to experience everything."
"And what did you tell her?"
“I said no – come on, your mother would kill me, and there would be a line behind her – and then Jan would have words with me.”
I've never wanted to become a whore" Cari shook
her head, "it's just so..."
said quietly, “please remember I am technically, and will be forever a whore
"Sorry I didn't
mean to make a moral judgment."
"Well somebody has
to talk to Katy and get her mind off selling her body."
"You know Janice
"I know, and that
will probably be her damn argument, but Cari - Janice
was a college girl, not a 13 year old looking for thrills."
"Point taken." Cari paused a second. "Let me have a quick word with Jo okay?'
“Okay – she managed to get me back on the relatively straight and narrow. Perhaps she can help now as well...”
The Huntingdown Lodges
“All right, I’ll admit it, that chocolate fondue is to die for,” Pippa said as she took off her coat and sat down. “I could not eat another thing.”
“Agreed,” Juliette said as she looked at her watch, “but at least we got back safely. Some of us need to be awake enough to drive cars tomorrow.”
“Well, we need to be by noon, but point taken,” Barbara said as she sat down, “Oyah – that Schnapps was strong stuff.”
“But good for the heart and the soul,” Klaus said with a laugh. “Come now – we menfolk made sure you all get home safely.”
“And so you shall have your reward. Who is for a nightcap?" Juliette asked.
"I better had, then I won't worry about that drive back to the city in the morning." Barbara said as she raised her hand.
"Well, as you'll
remember Barb, it's worse when we have to do it Sunday
night to be at work Monday morning."
“How bad can it get,” Grace asked.
“You’ve done the M11 and M25 on an evening, especially a Friday?”
“I have – ah. Right. Say no more.”
"Let's just pretend
New York City and all our outside problems do not exist." Janice took a
drink from her hostess.
"Remember Lover we
have a speeding ticket to pay on our way out of town." Heather reminded.
"I think several of us do Cherie." Diana drawled.
“Oh I’ll pitch in with Holly on them – she probably had other things on her mind...”
“The girls are fast asleep,” Susan said as she came in, and accepted a glass.
“Gentlemen,” Clint said, “a whisky?”
“Good stuff,” Adam said as he sipped it, “where is it from?”
“The Curragh Park collection – so it’s a nearly eighty year old malt...”
“So when do the girls get back?”
“The club closes at one – they’ll come back after that,” Heather said, “so a later breakfast tomorrow before we set off.”
“On which note,” Pippa said, “I am going to bed. See you all in the morning.”
“So, Back to Mary’s tomorrow,” Denice said as she put her washbag back on the table, and then lay on the bed, pulling the duvet over herself.
“When will you go into Columbia?”
is so luxurious," Denice sighed as she stretched
under the covers. "I think I might get quite used to it."
"Well of all the things we do as a group it's my favorite." Barb smiled as she pulled her nightgown on. “Still, gome tomorrow, and then I need to wrap the presents.”
“Me too – that’s a job for Tuesday afternoon,” Denice said quietly, “once I have some more free time.”
“Hell of a weekend though?”
“Oh yeah – wouldn’t have missed it for the world...”
"So Klaus and
Ingrid are flying home literally for three days starting on the 27th, and will
be back for New Years Eve?" Diana asked as they both changed for bed.
"Yes,” Juliette said as she removed her make up, “with the work we have to do it works out quite perfectly, I don't have to create an alibi for myself to explain my absence. Annie is going to look after Judith, so that’s handled as well.”
"Well if it all goes to plan he will fly home to find his wife-to-be a very happy and contented lady." Diana for a second looked hard at her friend. "What though are your plans for Miss Panther after you are married?"
"I wish I knew," Juliette shrugged, "I have a whole, hideously bloody life of crime Klaus doesn't and must never know about."
"So you are thinking of retiring?"
“No – I just haen’t really had a chance to think it through. Cari suggested I could retire quite happily, but – I’d miss the challenge, the excitement...”
“The feeling of total control?”
Ju nodded as Diana put on her robe. “I’ve got time to think about it- let’s get this week out of the way first.”
Monday 21st December
“I could have danced all night, I could have danced all night, and still have danced some more...”
“I think Sands has enjoyed herself tonight,” George said as he put his arm round Katy.
“Yeah – she’s really coming out of her shell now,” Katy said as the group made their way back to the lodges, Abby and Cari taking the lead as Jo and Doc came up the rear.
“Now this was the way to start a holiday,” Jo said as she looked ahead.
“Yeah – Jo...”
“I heard – what do you think i can do, Doc?”
“I don’t know. I mean I refused to do what she wanted, but she has a stubborn streak that makes me look like Ama.”
“And you think Ama does not have a stubborn side to her?”
“You know what I
mean. Jo, you need talk some sense into
Katy, it's like she's determined to try every single thrill before she even
Doc. Quite a three pipe problem, as
Conan Doyle said."
"Well I certainly
hope you can do something to help her."
"It took me a
while to make my point to you remember." Jo smiled, "but I remember
and this is public concern number one for now."
"I ought to talk
to Jan,” Jo said, “but I think I'll do that after I've talked to Katy first. I
also maybe need talk to George, he seems like he has some influence."
"Sands has a little too."
“True, but anyway I'm going to try and convince her that the path she's on leads to nowhere nice."
“Sounds good to me. So now...”
“Now we get back and get a couple of hours sleep. There’s a few things we need to sort out before we leave tomorrow – as well as the drive back.”
“And what time did they finally go to sleep,” Carina said as she saw Jo and Abby come into the room.
“Who says some of them went to sleep,” Abby said as she stretched and yawned.
“Let’s just say some of them may catch up on their sleep on the way back,” Jo said as she went to make some coffee.
"Have you made
that phone call to Angel yet?" Carina asked as she sat down besides
Abigail at the breakfast table.
"Look Abs do I
need make it for you?"
"No, but I'm just dreading doing it."
“I can understand – but how many messages have you had today already?”
“All right, all right – where can we do this?”
“Hey – nobody else up and about yet” Annie said as she came in.
“There’s the window of opportunity – come on.”
Cari and Abby headed for their bedroom as Annie looked at Jo.
“Don’t ask – better you don’t know,” Jo said as she poured two mugs of coffee.
“All right, here goes nothing,” Abby said as she took a deep breath, and pressed the number on her cell phone.
“Abby? How are things in the snow?”
“Can’t complain Angel – How are things chez Ordford?”
“Putting up the last of the decorations for the Christmas party, if you want to know.” In the background, both Abby and Cari could hear Mandy calling out “Boys, you know what happens if you leave the mistletoe there...”
“Listen, Angel – any chance you can take your phone somewhere quiet?”
“Oh – this the sort of call you don’t want anyone else listening in on?”
“Yeah – that a problem?”
“Nope – give me a minute, it’s your dime.”
Cari held Abby’s hand as they heard movement, and then a door opening and closing.
“Okay – is this professional or personal?”
“The latter – listen, Angel, I don’t know if you know this, but...”
“How did you...”
“Don’t worry – I figured it out in Paris, from the way you and Fi were acting. Given you’re also head over heels with young McNally that seemed the obvious conclusion.”
“Okay,” Abby said as she took a deep breath, “well, it’s Fi I need to talk to you about.”
There was a moment’s silence, before Angel said “yeah, not the first time someone’s asked me to help with Fi. So what happened?”
“Well, when she was over, we had a very special time, but I said from the start my heart was with Tony.”
“Oy,” Angel said, “I warned her not to pull her tricks on you Abby. I love her to bits, but she can go a little over the top about things.”
“Well, over the top is a good description. Angel, I know it’s probably asking a lot, but is there anything you can advise me to do?”
“Just how bad has it got?”
“She’s threatened to tell Tony about what we did...”
“Who’s there with you?”
“I’m here Angel,” Cari said, “Jo knows as well.”
“Right – the secret to talking Fi down is Mick. I can talk to him without mentioning your name, say Fi’s got another fixation. But after that Abs, you’re going to have to talk to her, tell her how you feel.”
“Yeah, I know – the Ball is going to be fun then.”
“I’ll get mum to talk to Olivia, see if we can get over earlier. Above all, Abby, just remember – you’re not the first.”
“Hey - who you are is your own business. I still count you amongst my bestest friends.”
“Thanks Angel – let me know what happens?”
“You too – And hey. If we don’t talk before, Merry Christmas.”
“And you Angel. Enjoy the party.”
“Not sure about that – mum’s delegated the oldest man in the village to me this year. Talk to you later.”
“Better,” Cari said as Abby finished the call.
“Better – let’s eat.”
As they came in, they saw the other girls shuffling through, bleary eyed and talking quietly to each other as they looked round.
“Now that’s the look I remember from last year,” Barbara said as she came in with Denice, “the walking dead, to coin a phrase.”
“I feel like one of them as well,” Erica said as she sat down.
“But you have enjoyed every second, haven’t you darling?”
“Oh yeah,” Erica said as she looked at Kylie, “you bet I have.”
“That’s my girl,” Denice said as the door to the lodge opened.
"And what kind of
example is this to set to our students Miss Nightingale?" Grace asked as
Sarah walked slowly into the room, dropping her coat on the floor.
think it's a great example." Pepsi giggled, "I can use it with Mom to
justify my staying out all night with Jack."
"COFFEE!" Sarah collapsed in a chair and held her
"Have we ever
looked like that in the morning?" the twins enquired of Kelly.
"Tommy has sent me
home looking like that occasionally."
"Is that true? or are you just boasting Holly?" Letty smiled slyly.
“All right, get it out of your system,” Sarah said as she looked over, “just remember, the vast majority of you pass through my classroom, and I could always suggest studying Beowulf – in Old English!”
"Okay before I start to serve breakfast we must organise who is traveling with who in which car." Diana spoke.
“Well, she’s coming with me,” Grace said as Sarah sipped some black coffee. “Pip – you and Poppy want to come with me?”
“Sounds good,” Pippa said.
"Katy, do you want
to ride back with me in the jeep?" Jo tried to sound casual.
"I'd rather go in
"No if you go with
Jo, I'll at least know you are safe." Janice shook her head.
"Doc, are you
coming in the jeep as well?"
"I can do."
"And so your Mom
can discuss you safely, Ama do you want to make it four?"
"Okay." Ama looked at a few faces as though she was trying to divine what was going on.
“So Annie and Holly are with me – Ingy?”
“Adam wants to drive me back,” Ingrid said, “and you have a few stops to make on the way.”
“Yeah, I know,” Cari said as she shook her head.
“The others who came in the minivans go back in the minivans,” Juliette said, but you go with your mom and Heather, Sands and George.”
“Right then – we eat, and we clear up. I want to be on the road by midday,” Diana said as she went back into the kitchen, the smell of fresh food coming through.
“I can’t believe the weekend’s over already,” Jeannie said as she closed her bag.
“I know – it seems like only Friday we got here. So plans for today?”
“Get home, finish presents, sleep tonight. Anyone else planning anything different?”
“Well, I have to see Tommy, but apart from that – yup, same plan,” Holly said as she closed her bag.
"Alright what is
your little sister up to?" Sandy enquired as she and Heather packed their
"I'll tell you when we get home, but just let me say it's to do with Katy...alright?"
“Oy – are you sure we don’t have to worry?”
“Not if Jo is successful, no,” Heather said as she looked up. “Got the car keys?”
“You do not trust me?”
“I do – car keys, lover.”
Sandy smiled as she passed them over, and then took her bag outside.
“All right kids,” she said as she put the bags into the trunk, let’s move out!”
"I'd rather have
driven back with Jo." George complained as he climbed into the back seat
of his mothers car.
"So you and Katy
can make out in the backseat?" Little Sandy teased.
"No to avoid Mom's
"Well have your mind at rest, I'm driving home today." Heather climbed into the front left seat.
“Right then – let’s head back home,” Sandy said as they headed off.
“All buckled in?”
“Ready to roll,” Annie said as she sat with Judith. The little girl was holding on to the steering wheel attached to her chair, grinning as Carina got behind the wheel.
“Okay – where’s the first place I need to stop?”
“The local precinct house.”
“Fair enough, let’s get this show on the road,” she said as she drove off, while Sarah put her bag into Grace’s car.
“So, think you might make your way back up here in the New Year?”
“I think so – what time do they arrive?”
“about eight tonight – we’ve got plenty of time to get back,” Grace said as Pippa brought their bags out. “How are you two feeling?”
“Like I could do anything – I could even talk to Gran without losing my temper.”
“Great – well, let’s get going...”
“Everyone in the minivans who is getting in,” Caroline called out as she and Barbara stood by the doors.
“Hang on,” Erica said as she came out with Denice, and got in the van Caroline was standing by.
“Right – we’ll see you back in New York,” Jo said as she got into her jeep, Caroline nodding before they headed off.
“So what exactly has Mom got to talk to the other mothers about me for,” Ama said as they made their way out of Stowe.
“Not sure – might have something to do with your birthday in February,” Jo said.
“All right, i give in,” Doc said, “none of you are going to tell me what’s happening on Wednesday, are you?”
“Well, I intend to go for a training run, and enjoy the day,” Jo said, “what about you Katy?”
“Am I actually going to be awake before Wednesday?”
“Well, that is a fair point,” Jo said with a smile.
“I hate all of you,” Doc said as she looked out of the window.
“We’ll stop a ways down the road for a rest break,” Jo said as the road stretched out i front of them, “do we have a request for music?”
“Got any Mumford and Sons over there?”
“Can do,” Jo said as she passed a CD to Katy, who put it in the player.
“I would not worry, Anna, I am sure you will have a wonderful day on your birthday,” Ama said as she looked at her friend.
“I know – it’s just so frustrating not knowing...”
"Oh,” Jo said as
she glanced in the rear view mirror, “the discussions between your Mom and the
others might just have something to do with your Christmas present as well
"Oh in that case I understand," the African girl smiled. “So I have the pleasure of coming back with you.”
"And the other reason that I set this up,” Jo said quietly, “was so that the three of us could talk quietly with Katy about her latest little idea."
BLABBED?" Katy looked accusingly at Doc.
what?" Ama asked, "would someone kindly fill
me in please?"
"Katy has it in
her warped little mind that she'd like me to take her out for a night of
prostitution." Anna said quietly.
what?" Ama looked at Katy in disbelief.
"And I'm the adult here to tell her why she cannot do it." Jo passed a car in front.
“Doc, you promised...”
“I know – and I said no,” Doc said as she looked at her friend. “Ama, I swore I would never do that again...”
“You knew? YOU KNEW? Ama, what other secrets do you know?”
Ama looked at Katy, and said “What I know is my secret, Katy – but yes I know what Anna has done in the past, and I know what was needed to get her out of the situation she found herself in.”
“Ama is our conscience,” Jo said, “and a good friend, is you will allow her to be one for you Katy.” Moving back into lane, she then said “let’s start at the beginning – why?”
“Why do I want to do this?”
“Well – yes.”
Katy put her head back, and said “I’ve discovered so much about myself, experienced so many new things – I just want to experience more and more.”
“Fair enough, nothing wrong with that,” Jo said, “but it is important not to lose sight of your friends and family in all this – and how what we do affects them.”
“What do you mean?”
“Katy,” Doc said quietly, “When I was doing what you want to do, I got myself into a situation where I was been blackmailed into giving over names. I’m not going to go into the details,” she continued as Jo shot a warning glance at her, “but I was lucky.”
Back in Stowe, Holly stood by the car with Annie and Judith inside, watching the front of the courthouse as the doors opened.
"I ought to buy a
seasons speeding pass, and each state I drive in can just deduct the right
amount each time I get caught." Carina shook her head as she emerged from
the courthouse. "it is such a downer having to
pay the tickets like this."
"There is a solution,” Holly said as they got back into the car.”
“And that is?”
“Drive within the speed limit."
"And where would the fun be in that. You know while we are in Germany I am going on to one of those autobahns with no speed limit and driving just as fast as I please." Carina strapped herself in, "what is the point of owning a Maserati if I can't open her up occasionally...right?"
"Wite!" Judith nodded in agreement.
“Look – today,” Annie said, “I’m in the car, so go within the limit – please?”
“All right – because it’s you,” Carina said as she drove off, Judith copying her...
“When’s the first coffee stop?”
“Let’s get a little way down the road first,” Grace said, only to be answered by a groan from the passenger seat. Looking in the back, she noticed Pippa and Poppy dozing, the young girl’s head resting on her mother’s chest.
“Can I survive that long?”
"You know, Sarah,
a full winter ski season could kill you?" Grace chuckled at the sight of
her friend half passed-out in her seat.
"I know,” Sarah
said with a smile, “but dear God it will be so worth it!"
"Well as long as
you are fit and ready to teach the day school starts,” Grace said as she joined
the interstate, “then I have little room to say anything."
"Oh I'll be fit, sex is a great way to take off those seven excess
pounds I've put on since I quit playing."
you say so."
Grace chuckled again.
changing the subject did you enjoy the actual skiing Grace?"
"Actually I did,
it has literally been years since I was last on the slopes, but I really had
fun re-learning some of the skills."
"You looked like
you once knew what you were doing."
"Oh Yes, there was a time when I had a whole months winter break every year to go skiing, but on a teachers salary that was one of the things I had to give up."
“So do you think we can drag Helen up here?”
“Oh yes, I think so...”
“Okay,” Katy said quietly, “I just find what I do so exciting – all of it – that I want to experience it all. It’s as if there is this fire in me, and the only way I can put it out is t do things that satisfy that craving.”
"Just be sensible Katy," Jo tried again to reason with the
young hellion. "Prostitution is the crime too far,
it's really not worth the danger."
"It's true, the
chances of getting recognized, or your john turns out to be a cop, or..."
"I understand all
that Anna, but it's the thrill of discovering the unknown."
"Believe me,” Anna
said quietly, “there are things better left unlearned."
"Doc is very right
you know." Ama spoke carefully. "You already lead a dangerous life Katy, you do not need make it even more so."
"She's right you know." Jo said as she tried looking at signs. "Is anyone totally sure where we turn?"
“South at the next junction.”
“You sure Katy?”
“Yeah – I have a good memory for direction. There’s a Wendy’s a bit further down as well, can we take a rest stop?”
“Good idea,” Jo said as she moved onto the intersection.
"So was Katy okay
all weekend George?" Sandy asked as she turned to look at her children in
the back seat.
"I guess so,"
George said as he looked out of the window.
"You don't think
she was acting a little weird?"
Looking over, George
shook his head. "Not
especially. She was just over-excited
"I hear the older
girls had to get her to tone down the sexiness last night." Heather spoke.
"Yeah she over did
it more than just a little bit." Sands sighed. "I'm just glad that
I'm not like that."
"Well,” Sandy said with a smile, “both Heather and I thought you looked very cute darling."
"Yeah even I'll admit that." George nodded.
"Well thank Holly,
she was doing my makeup for me, and I learned a couple of lessons."
"Well Holly is a
great person to learn from and copy..."
right," Sandy joined in, "she's naturally beautiful like you are darling, and she never over does her makeup."
"I always think she looks wow." Sands looked outside.
“And you did as well,” Sandy said with real pride in her voice.
“All right,” Katy whispered to Doc as Jo and Ama went to buy some drinks, “why?”
“Why tell them or why say no?”
“Oh I know why you said no,” Katy hissed, “but why tell them?”
“We’re a family, Katy,” Doc whispered, “and family look out for each other. I’m worried you are going to do something that’s not only going to hurt you, and your mum, but everyone.”
“So you told Jo...”
“Because Jo looked out for me,” Doc said as they sat down. “Look – I get it I really do. But what you want to do is not the way to go about it.”
“Still, the way the idea makes me feel...”
“Katy, please – at least listen to what we’re saying to you, and think about it, all right?”
Looking at Doc, Katy said “all right, I’ll listen – but no promises, all right?”
“There you go,” Jo said as she handed Katy her hot chocolate. “Anyway, I don’t want you to be angry at Doc for telling us.”
“I’m not – not any more – but you have to understand how I feel, Jo.”
“I’m not sure I do – but i do know some people who will. I’d like you to talk to them Katy, get their stories, and then I want to talk to you again.”
“Okay,” Katy said, “anyone I know?”
“I think so – Ama certainly knows them,” Jo said as she sipped her coffee.
“An excellent idea, Jo – please, listen to them,” Ama said quietly.
“By the way Ama, did I hear Caroline say your baptism will be in a couple of weeks?”
“I need to see if Father Alex has confirmed it,” Ama said, “but I believe it will be on the 10th.
“Well, as soon as you know, let us all know - we’ll all want to be there,” Doc said, Jo and Katy nodding in agreement.
“So, young lady...”
“I was going to say – what do you want for Christmas this year?”
“I was thinking about that,” Katy said with a smile, “I thought a long coat and boots might be nice, to cover my party clothes...”
The de Ros Mansion
“Welcome back, Madame, Miss Abigail,” Edith said as Diana and Abby came back into the mansion. “I trust you had a pleasant weekend?”
“Very much so, thank you Edith,” Diana said as she put her bag down, and looked round. “Do I smell coffee?”
“You do – Your father and mother in law are here. They arrived earlier this afternoon.”
“Excellent – bring us some as well,” Diana said as they made their way into the drawing room.
“Ah there they are,” Guy said as he came over, kissing them both on the cheeks, “How do we find you?”
“Exhausted,” Abby said as she kissed Valeria, “we were at the lodges in Stowe for the weekend.”
“Ah – fresh air and exercise. Excellent,” Valeria said. “We will call on Natasha and Willy later – we have presents for young Alain.”
“Ah – thank you dear Edith,” Guy said as the housekeeper laid the tray on the table, “you are a miracle worker.”
Edith smiled as she said “When shall you eat Madame?”
“At seven I think,” Diana said, “Will you join us?”
“Thank you, but no – Natasha already has that honour,” Valeria said, “but we are looking forward to Thursday night and Friday...”
Mary Thomas’ Townhouse
“Mary,” Denice called out as she and Erica let themselves in, “we’re back.”
“Welcome back,” they heard Mary call down from the second floor, “I’ll be down in a few minutes.”
As they put their bags down in the hallway, Erica took her coat off and hung it up, and then walked into the room, standing in the doorway as she said “Mom – come and have a look at this...”
“What is it,” Denice said as she came to the doorway, and looked at Mary’s front room, the lights glittering on the large Christmas tree and the ceiling covered in paper chains and decorations.
They both turned and looked at Mary, who was beaming as she said “I always make a big show of decorating for his birthday – I hope I haven’t gone overboard”?
“Oh god,” Denice said quietly, “it’s just like when Mom and Dad did the apartment...”
“So I didn’t go too far?”
“It’s amazing,” Erica said as she walked in, “I love it...”
“Good – let me get some coffee started and you can tell me who made an idiot of themselves on the slopes...”
The Richmond Mansion
“Welcome home,” Nessa said as she and Pauly came out to welcome Sandy, the kids getting out and hugging them.
“You travelled in the same car as your mother while she was driving?”
“No – Heather drove,” George said as she and Sandy got out of the car.
“How are things here,” Sandy said as she came up, George giving Heather a hand with the bags.
“All quiet – we got the decorations up, and the arrnegments fixed for Thursday night. Come away in – and when will the others get back here?”
“Caroline and Barbara are doing the rounds, and dropping them off,” Heather said, “but Jo should not be too much longer...”
“I thought she was bringing Sands and George back with her,” Nessa said.
“Change of plan,” Sandy said, “she had to keep Ama and Doc in her car to talk about something.”
Upper West Side
Susan and Clint’s Apartment.
“Well, we’re back,” Clint said as he put the bags down, Marina carrying April in while Susan and Kylie put the bags down.
“I feel as if i could sleep for a walk darling,” Kylie said as she sat herself in a chair.
“I think we’ll order takeout tonight,” Clint said, “I need to start soaking the turkey for Friday tomorrow anyway. When does Penny arrive?”
“She might have already,” Susan said, “but I think we’ll let someone else find out first.”
The Astoria-Waldorf Hotel
“Will you be needing me again tonight, Mistress?”
“No,” Cathy said as she looked at Helen, “I think we have nothing else to conduct tonight. I presume you will be taking Marina and Kylie for their usual training session tomorrow, so I will see you at nine?”
“This humble one thanks you, and wishes you a pleasant evening,” Helen said as she bowed formally, and left Cathy’s suite, smiling as she walked along the corridor to her own room.
Letting herself in, she looked round and went to unpack her bag, before she heard a soft knock on the door. Walkign over, she checked the peep hole, adn then smiled as she opened the door.
“Did I call at a good time,” Penny said as she came in, wearing a white jumper and black leather leggings, the legs tucked into over the knee black suede boots.
“Your timing could nto be more perfect,” Helen said as they gently kissed each other, “let me finish sorting ym things from the weekend, and then we can head out.
“Oh yes – the ski trip. How good is Susan?”
“Very good – but I think given time Marina and Kylie could beat her.”
“Not something Hong Kong is known for – ski slopes and snowboard runs.”
“True - but never say it cannot be done,” Helen said as she put the last of her clothes away. “Now, what do you propose for tonight?”
“Oh – surprise me,” Penny said as she stood there, watching Helen as she came closer...
The Huntingdown Apartment
“You made it,” Klaus said as Carina came in with Judith, “how was the drive?”
“I could have done with fewer stops,” Carina said as she put Judith down, and watched her toddle over to Ingrid, “but we’re back now. Any word from the others?”
“They’re ready to come out tomorrow, and Annie is back safely in the village,” Juliette said. “So now we look forward to the holidays.”
“Great – now I can relax,” Cari said as she took her coat off. “Let me get unpacked, and then we can eat.”
Central Park West
“There you are – what happened,” Jan said as Jo showed Katy in.
“My fault, we took a wrong turn, so we stopped for a long lunch,” Jo said as Katy took her coat off. “Jan, do you mind if I come and take Katy out tomorrow? She wants my help with one last present.”
“Okay,” Jan said as her mother came out of the kitchen. “She looks tired.”
“I am Mom – do you mind if I go and get changed?”
“Sure,” Jan said as she and Katherine watched her daughter head for her room. “Is she all right Jo?”
“Yeah – I’ll see you guys tomorrow,” Jo said as she went back to her car.
“So, what now,” Ama said as she and Doc looked at Jo.
“I’ll take her to talk to Penny tomorrow – after that? I’m open to suggestions...”