Should Auld Acquaintance… - Part 2
“Now I feel inadequate,” Penny said as she stood with Barbara, Janice and Heather, “a genuine Bavarian Prince and Princess in the room.”
“Even Guy is showing deference to him,” Heather said as Guy gave a small bow and shook Klaus’ hand, before he introduced him to Valeria.
“Countess de Ros,” Klaus said as she kissed her hand, “I believe I met your late son a few times. Whatever happened to his charming wife?”
“She is standing behind you,” Valeria said as Klaus turned and met the piercing eyes of Diana.
“Diana, it has been far too long,” he said as he bowed and kissed her hand.
“Indeed,” Diana said with a raised eyebrow as she saw Juliette leave the room for a moment. “I heard you were in town for the season to present Ingrid – where is she?”
“Being introduced by Carina to her friends,” he said as he glanced over, and saw the tall blonde. “Is that…”
“That is my daughter, Abigail,” Diana said with more than a hint of pride in her voice. “I hope to present her next year.”
“I can see where she takes her beauty from,” Klaus said as he looked round the room.
“Come and meet my mother and uncle,” Sandy said as she walked off with Klaus, both Guy and Valeria turning and looking at Diana.
“There is some history,” she said, and then she saw Juliette walk in on the arm of StJohn Stevens, dressed in a formal dinner jacket.
“A pleasure to meet all of you,” Ingrid said as she shook Ama’s hand, “You in particular, Fraulein Ama. We heard the dreadful news in Germany, and you deserve every blessing this Christmas.”
“Thank you,” Ama blushed.
“I do follow the fashion world, and I have seen the work of both you and Jeannie, Abigail.”
“Have you any plans to follow in your mother’s footsteps?”
“No – I have a different path in mind, although as I look here and see both Juliette, and Caroline Jameson as well as the three of you…”
“Which leaves me out – I’ll sit it out with you Ama,” Jo said as she hugged her friend, and then looked to the door.
Carina looked over and saw Juliette and StJohn talking to Vanessa.
“Don’t say anything,” Abby whispered into her friend’s ear.
“So long as he says nothing in return,” Carina whispered.
“Hmm,” the priest said as he turned and say Guillemme and Adam looking at him.
“You look perplexed, my friend,” the Frenchman said.
“Yes - I need to make many confessions for the thoughts in my mind.”
Adam followed his line of sight and nodded.
“Ah yes – him. I cannot say I like him too much.”
“Join the club.”
“Mon dieu, what is he doing back early?”
Jeanne looked at StJohn as Janice and Heather stood with her.
“Maybe he heard about a visit we made?”
“Maybe he wanted to make sure I was still here?”
“Maybe,” Jo said as she came over, “We should play nice for Ju and Christmas?”
“Juliette,” Klaus said with a low bow as he and Sandy came over, “a pleasure to see you as always.”
“And you Klaus,” Juliette said, “May I introduce my very good friend Doctor StJohn Stevens.”
“An honour, Your Highness.”
The two men shook hands and looked each other in the eye, taking an instant dislike to each other as intelligent men do.
“Miss Richmond, I owe you an apology for disappearing when we last met – it was unseemly of me.”
“Not a problem, Mister Stevens,” Sandy said coldly.
“Let me introduce you to some of the others,” Juliette said as he led StJohn off.
“I take it you do not like him,” Klaus said.
“I am not certain of him,” Sandy said as they walked on.
“My father does not seem to like the man with Juliette,” Ingrid said as she stood with Carina.
“What makes you say that,” Carina asked.
“He became more stiff, more formal. He tends only to do that with those he disapproves of. He is still polite and charming, but I can tell.”
“He impresses me even more,” Carina said with a smile.
“So that is Stevens,” Shirley said as she stood with Caroline and Penny.
“Indeed – he reminds me of a serpent in the way his eyes dart round,” Caroline said as she watched him closely.
“Indeed – I suspect many tears are going to be shed,” Shirley said as she watched Juliette come over.
“May I introduce my good friends, Shirley Xavier, Penelope Harker and Caroline Jameson. Ladies, this is StJohn Stevens.”
“A pleasure,” he said as he shook their hands and quickly assessed them. They impressed him as strong, confident women, but something in their eyes as they looked at him also told him they were dangerous women, women of strong character and purpose. He resolved there and then to keep them at arm’s length.
“Excuse me, your highness…”
“Please, my dear, call me Klaus. There is no reason for such formality.”
“In which case, forgive me Klaus, but I am neglecting my other guests,” Sandy said as she round.
"A Prince, a princess, a duke, assorted countesses," Penny shook her head, “if my Mother could see me now."
"Mine can," Janice smiled at her Mother chatting with Guy and Valeria. "And by the way you are wrong - there are two princesses here."
"No, only one."
Penny shook her head.
"Go ask Jeanne what her full name is."
Janice giggled. "Jeanne Marais is just her name but she's also the
Princess de Aucigny…that's right isn't it Your Grace?"
Jan smiled at Guy who had detached himself from the older ladies.
"I'm afraid so, it's A Napoleonic title though."
“Oh – so not the same as yours?”
“Not of the same vintage no – but it is still a title. Mademoiselle Marais merely chooses not to use the title in public, much as Abigail does.”
“No animosity on your part then?”
“I am a libertarian, my dear Janice – I respect all regardless.”
Sandy looked at the way Juliette kept glancing over at Klaus and Ingrid, and the way Diana was watching him, and decided to get to the bottom of what was happening.”
“You know,” she said as she walked over, “much as we may not like him, I thought Juliette was falling for Stevens.”
“She is,” Diana said as she looked at her friend. “And there will be pain later. We need to be ready.”
Sandy nodded as Juliette talked to Shirley. “So why is she keeping a close eye on the Prince?”
“Is she? I had not noticed.”
“Oh yes you have Diana – you’re watching her and both of them as well.” Sandy sipped her champagne and then turned her back to the others.
“I once heard a very drunk Juliette talking about the
one that she gave up….It was HIM wasn't it?" Sandy whispered in Diana's
Diana nodded as Sandy turned back round to look at him. "Klaus was the first, and only truly real love of Ju's life. They met when she was at the Sorbonne, and believe me when I say it was love at first sight.”
“Really? That deep?”
“I was one of the few who knew – you have never seen her as happy as she was when she was with him. In fact, he told me he was thinking of proposing to her.”
“So what happened?”
“His family made him give her
up since she was neither European, or an aristocrat."
Sandy turned, and looked at Diana. "But if they loved each other, then
"Klaus caved to his father’s wishes…and broke Juliette's heart." Diana brushed away a tear. "You know they were the PERFECT couple, I really thought they'd make it."
"So his wife?" Sandy asked.
"He's a widower now." Diana replied.
"So might they?"
"Not in a million years you old romantic."
Diana smiled, "There was too much hurt, and too much water has passed
under the bridge since then. She's not the sunny, happy go lucky girl she once
"Are you saying she hates him?"
"No,” Diana said as she sipped her champagne, “she's scared of him, he hurt her in some ways worse than the rapist."
Diana looked intently at her friend - Juliette's smile
was fixed but not natural, she was being polite, but she could see the tension
"Does Carina know?"
"No - and don't tell her under pain of death at
my hands Sandy. Who knows what The Beast might do if she found out."
"You know,” Diana paused, "Until that
horrible night in the hospital I was sure he was Carina's father."
"Well the blood typing proved otherwise." Sandy smiled.
“True – let us hope she remembers that,” Diana said as she watched Klaus make his way over to Juliette as StJohn went to collect a drink.
"Did you?" Janice whispered to Heather as
they stood to one side.
"Yes,” Heather said quietly, “I used UPS."
"Oh good - I hope she likes it."
"I'm sure she will
Janice smiled and looked at the other guests.
"I could give you the name and address if you
"No,” Jan said to Heather, “I'm not sure I'm
quite ready for that yet…I'm afraid of ruining her life, you said she was very
"She seems to be." Heather smiled.
"She doesn't need her real mother spoiling
"Well when you are ready Janice."
"I know…Thank you so much Heather." She
kissed her friend on the cheek. "I know this can't be easy for you
"No, to be honest there are days I wish you'd just ask me to spill my guts."
“Juliette, may I have a word please – in private?”
“Of course Klaus – forgive me Caroline,” Juliette said as they walked to a quiet corner. “Now, what can I do for you?”
"There is a question I need ask Juliette – a
question that has been on my mind since I met you and your charming daughter
the other day."
"Okay,” Juliette said calmly, “go ahead."
Klaus took a deep breath, and then said "Is
Carina my daughter?"
Juliette shook her head, "No Klaus, if that's
pricking your conscience put it aside, I wasn't
pregnant when you walked away."
"Well, from the date of her birth you must have
fled straight away from the wedding into the arms of another lover then."
Juliette looked straight into his eyes. "Would it have mattered if I had?"
"May I pray ask why Klaus?” Juliette was struggling to stay calm as she
said “you made your choice of wife abundantly clear."
"You know very well I was forced to marry
Renate." Klaus's voice rose.
"Well did you expect me to enter a convent? Hide myself from the world and pine the rest of my life away?"
"I didn't expect you to go jump in bed with the
very next man you met."
She looked hard at him. "Well at least he gave something to
remember me by." Juliette half screamed as she stormed off.
“Mom,” Carina said as she started to walk after her, only to be stopped by StJohn.
“Carina, I was hoping we could start again? I think we got off on the wrong foot.”
She looked over at Jo and Heather, who shook their heads.
“All right,” she said quietly, “let’s try again.”
“A word, Klaus,” Diana said as she dragged Klaus into
the kitchen and stood looking at him.
"Klaus,” she said calmly, slowly, “you know I
don't overly like you because of what you did to Ju."
"I know Diana," he cast his eyes downward,
"I never deliberately tried to hurt her you know."
"Well Goddess alone knows what you would have
done if you had really tried."
“That was uncalled for, Countess.”
“Forgive me Your Highness,” Diana said quietly, “but when it comes to my friends, I care deeply for them.”
“No, I should ask forgiveness – I know she was deeply
hurt by me. Still, for her to run
straight to another man…"
"Is that what you think… Mon Dieu!"
Diana cried as she rolled her eyes.
"What else am I supposed given when Carina was born."
Diana breathed deeply. "Klaus, do you solemnly
promise me that you'll never tell her what I'm about
to tell you?"
"I suppose so…"
"YES." he said back loudly.
“Good,” Diana said as she calmed herself. "You know Ju
left the wedding breakfast early?"
"Yes she was working in LA the next day."
"That's right, and after work she went back to
her hotel room…"
"And met her lover?"
"No you stupid bastard,” Diana said in a low
whisper, “she was surprised by an armed man wearing a mask."
"Oh my God." Klaus went pale
seeing where this was going.
"He raped her, violated her, left
her for dead…"
"Oh God…so Carina…"
"Carina would become the one good thing to emerge from that whole lousy weekend….You know between you and the rapist you altered her whole character back then….I just hope you are happy knowing that?"
“I… I did not know. It appears there is much I did not know of those days.”
“Why did my father visit Juliette before I broke it off with her?”
“He did? I did not know that.”
“Then we both need to learn something new,” Klaus said. “I think it may be best if Ingrid and I left now. I will make our apologies to Sandy.”
“It may be best,” Diana said as she looked into his haunted eyes. “Klaus?”
“Call on me next week – I think we should talk.”
Klaus straightened and nodded as he left the kitchen, Diana calming herself before she went in.
"Ingrid we have a mystery to solve." Carina
thought she sounded just like Nancy Drew.
"I have seen it,” Ingrid said quietly, “your
mother and my father, everyone is talking about them…"
"And not telling us a God damn thing."
Carina gritted her teeth.
"They obviously knew each other a long while
"Yeah that we can safely say."
Carina sipped her champagne.
"They seem to have a past…"
"Oh yeah, I'd ask Aunt Diana but if I know her
she'll lie through her teeth."
"I might ring my Aunt, she might know
"That sounds like an idea." Carina nodded. “Excuse me, I must go and see if I can find my mom.”
“Mom? Are you in there?”
Carina opened the door to see her mother sitting on the bed, dabbing her eyes.
“Did he upset you,” she said as she sat with her.
“Not too badly, Carina – some old memories came to the fore, and I spoke out of turn. We both did, if truth be told.”
“No,” Juliette said as she stood up, “come, we need to rejoin the party.”
“StJohn says he is coming tomorrow for lunch after all – a real family Christmas for Judith, eh?”
Juliette nodded as she pressed Carina’s hand. “For Judith,” she said as they left the room.
“There you are darling,” Sandy said as Juliette and Cari came down, “Klaus and Ingrid had to leave, but they asked me to wish you a Merry Christmas.”
“Are you all right,” StJohn said as he took Juliette’s hand.
“I am – it was just an old friend telling me some bad news,” Juliette said with a smile.
"Sandy would you like a horse’s head in your
bed?" Diana threatened as she walked over.
Sandy looked over and said “What did I do now?"
"Did you, or did you not, start a conversation
between Klaus, Valeria, Papa and Jeanne as to the possibility that they all
inter relate in some way?"
"I did… A mistake?"
"A HUGE one, don't you know Valeria is a walking
almanac of family trees? She will have them there talking for an hour or
"Oh no should I break it up?" Sandy giggled.
“Not yet – let them have their fun,” Diana said, “but you have to stop them before they try to relate Ingrid to Little Sandy…”
“So when do I get my Christmas present.” Jan whispered in Adam’s ear as he carried the sleeping Katy to the car.
“If you behave, in about 45 minutes.” Adam smiled back.
“Will I like it?”
“Well you’ve never complained before…”
“Ooh so it’s something long and thick eh?”
“It will be by then.”
Janice giggled. Love making with Adam was fun, it was exhilarating, but above all it was the symbol of their real love for each other.
Thursday 25th December
The Richmond Mansion
The party had finished just after midnight, and the maids cleared up within the hour, so the only light on was from the Christmas tree as the door to the drawing room opened, and George crept in, signaling to Little Sandy to follow.
“I’m still tired,” Sandy said as she rubbed her eyes.
“But look – all the presents under the tree,” George said as they walked in and looked at them.
“Wow – lots this year,” Sandy said with a nod.
“Do you think we can open just one?”
“I don’t know George – Mummy is very strict about that.”
“Oh come on, she won’t know…”
“But I will.”
The children turned to see Jo standing in the doorway, in her dressing gown, her arms folded.
“You know the rules kids – the sack in your room, and that is it until later.”
“Go on – amscray,” she said as the two of them went back upstairs, then went to the kitchen to make some coffee. Curt had surprised her by calling to say he was in the city, and he was going to be joining them for Christmas Lunch. She was quietly excited at the idea.
“Merry Christmas Sleepy Head,” April said as Pepsi walked into the front room of the apartment, and looked at the presents arranged under the trees.
“Merry Christmas Mom,” the fourteen year old said as she hugged April, and then went over to look under the tree.
“I’m amazed you managed to stop yourself from opening any of the presents from your friends,” she said as she poured herself a coffee.
“We made a pact this year – nobody would open anybody else’s until this morning,” Pepsi said as she accepted a glass of orange juice from her mother. “Is Dad up yet?”
“Not yet – he didn’t get in until after midnight, so let him sleep a little longer,” April said as she sat down. “But I’ll let you open one present now.”
“All right then,” she said as she looked under the tree, and then selected a long thin box wrapped in gold paper, with a ribbon round it.
“There’s no label,” she said as she looked at it and then at her mom.
“No – that one came yesterday, I had to sign for it in the shop. It didn’t have an accompanying letter or return address – just this card.”
She handed Pepsi a small white card which said “To Pepsi – Happy Christmas.”
“I wonder who it’s from,” she said as she unwrapped it and opened it, taking out a gold chain that had a light blue gem hanging from one end.
“That’s beautiful,” April said as she looked at it, “truly beautiful. Is it from one of your friends?”
“If it is, I didn’t see them buy it,” Pepsi said. “It will go nicely with my dress for next week though, won’t it Mom?”
“Do you know, I think it will,” April said as Grant came in, stretching and yawning.
“Present time already,” he said as he looked over.
“Just the one,” Pepsi said as she showed her dad the pendant.
“Nice – so breakfast, then the others?”
Annie came through into the main part of the apartment and headed to the kitchen, only to stop and look back at Ama, who was looking at the tree by the window.
“Are you all right, Ama,” she said as she came and sat with her, then followed her line of sight to the collection of brightly wrapped parcels arranged under the tree.
“It… I did not wrap that many parcels, did I,” she said as she looked at Annie.
“Well, no – but there are gifts there from Dom and I, as well as the others – and I do believe Lily brought some others round yesterday as well.” She saw that Ama was starting to cry, so she put her arm round the young girl’s shoulders and said “hey – what’s wrong?”
“I do not deserve so much, Annie – you have all been so kind to me these last few months, and then to see this…”
“Ama,” Dom said as she put her arms round her daughter, “you deserve everything you get. Merry Christmas.”
“She’s right – Merry Christmas Ama,” Annie said as she hugged the young girl as well. “So which present shall we open first?”
Ama looked at the pile, then picked a flat oblong one up and looked at the tag. “For you,” she said as she handed it to Annie, while Dom came and knelt on the floor next to the tree.
Annie looked at the tag, and then opened it and held up the Pashmina shawl. “Thank you, Ama, it’s wonderful,” she said as she hugged the girl, and then selected another parcel.
“It’s from Shirley,” she said as she handed the tube to Dom, who opened it and drew out a bottle of twenty year old malt.
“For special occasions,” she said as she picked up a box, and handed it to Ama. The two women watched as she opened it, and drew out an iPhone 6.
“We already have the plan set up,” Dom said as she looked at it, “but be warned – exceed the limits and you will work off the difference.”
“Thank you – now I feel I am really one of the girls,” Ama said as she hugged Dom and Annie. “May I take it to show Pepsi later?”
“I think you should – I can never work those things,” Annie said with a smile. “So who gets a gift next?”
“Oh dear God is that what I think it is?” April clasped her hand to her mouth as Pepsi shook the fur out.
“It’s from Miss Thomas,” Pepsi said as she looked at the beautiful mink.
“What does the note say?”
“Oh.” Pepsi laughed. “Tell April these were just cluttering up space in the wardrobe and I’ve given one each to my four sexy young friends.”
“Oh she is so generous.” April shook her head.
“Well put it on.” Grant urged.
“Oh sweet Jesus,” Pepsi felt the luxury of the three quarter length coat as she slipped it on. “This is amazing.”
“I’ll have to borrow it.” Her Mom smiled.
“I’ll wear it for New Years Eve…I wonder what the other girls coats look like?”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Hey Mom,” Carina said as she looked up from the breakfast bar, where she was feeding Judith some mashed apple, “Feeling better?”
“Much, thank you,” Juliette said with a smile, “when did he go?”
“About half an hour ago – I just brought Baby down when he was heading out.” Feeding Judith another spoonful, she looked at her mother as she poured some coffee.
“Well, we get the place to ourselves for a while,” Carina said as Juliette sat down and tickled her granddaughter’s chin. “And it’s your first Christmas baby – wait until you see all the presents your aunts have bought for you!”
“Which reminds me,” Ju said as she passed over a long black box, “Merry Christmas Carina.”
Cari looked at the box, then put the spoon down and opened it.
“But – these are Grandma’s pearls,” she said as she looked up, “I can’t take these.”
“They’re yours for the balls,” Ju said, “and after as well. For now, just say you’ll wear them for the ball.”
“Of course I will,” Cari said, walking round and hugging her mother before she felt something cold on the back of her neck.
“What the,” she said as she felt and then looked at the apple, before turning and seeing Judith move the spoon through the bowl.
“Oh dear lord she’s trying to feed herself,” Ju laughed as Judith tried to get some food on the spoon, but flipped it.
“Come on baby,” Cari said as she took the spoon and slipped some apple into Judith’s mouth, “present time soon…”
The Richmond Mansion
As Sandy and George went up to get washed and dressed for Mass, Jo, Sandy and Heather sat amongst the wrappings and papers.
“Six o’clock? Well, at least it was a little later this year,” Heather said as Jo stretched and yawned.
“Just,” Vanessa said as she brought in fresh mugs of coffee. “So drink up, get changed, and we are at the church for eleven.”
“Will Curt be joining us at the church, Jo?”
“That’s the plan,” Jo said as she sipped her coffee. “Then he’ll come back with us.”
“Well, at least this year Alex will not be the only man at the dinner table,” Vanessa said with a smile.
”Sandy really loved the doll’s clothes you got for her Jo – and the baseball mitt fits George like a…”
“Don’t say it, lover,” Sandy said as she looked at Heather, “or you are on sole cooking duty with me later today!”
“All right, all right,” Heather said as Sandy picked up another present.
“Listen – I wanted you give you this while the kids were out. Merry Christmas, Heather.”
“What is this?” Jo watched as Heather tore off the gold paper and then looked at the frame, mouthing “Oh my goddess…”
“What is it,” Jo said as she got up and looked over her sister’s shoulder, at the pencil sketch and the accompanying letters under the glass cover.
“This can’t be real,” Heather said, “and yet it is, isn’t it?”
“It had better be, at that price,” Sandy said as she looked at it.
“But this went for over three quarters – oh thank you, thank you, THANK YOU,” Heather said as she handed the frame to Jo and kissed Sandy.
“I think she likes it,” Jo said with a smile.
West Central Park
“Somebody has been a very lucky girl,” Katherine said as she looked at the small pile of games, books and other items next to Katy on the floor.
“I really like this,” she said as she looked at the My Little Pony set Adam had given her, “and this,” as she looked at the gymnastics outfit from her grandmother, “and this too” as she looked at the dress Jan had bought her.
As Katy happily showed Adam and her grandmother her presents, Janice reached for another to open herself. It was a small jewelry box and inside was a lovely heart shaped gold locket.
“Who’s that from?” Katherine asked.
“It’s from Heather,” Janice read the words on the card, “Open this and you’ll know the secret.”
Suddenly Janice’s knees were trembling under her nightgown.
“Does it open?” Adam asked.
“No I tried.” Janice lied.
“Pity but it still looks beautiful.”
“Yes – yes it does. Excuse me a moment, nature calls.”
She stood up and made her way to the bathroom, locking the door and then looking again at the locket in the palm of her hand. Looking at herself in the mirror, she stared hard for a minute, and then sat on the toilet.
Dare she look? Did she really want to look? Slowly she used her long nails to unclip the two halves of the heart. Closing her eyes, she counted to ten slowly, and then opened her eyes.
On one side a lovely picture of Katy, smiling at the camera. Jan smiled, and then her eyes slowly moved to the other side, to the young blonde teenager smiling back.
“Oh goddess,” Janice said as she began to weep silent tears, and then closed the locket again. Heather had been right – she was happy, she had good friends, and she was loved.
“Jan, are you all right,” she heard Adam say from the other side of the door.
“Yeah – yeah I am,” she called out as she flushed the toilet, and hung the locket round her neck, close to her heart…
“I will thank Pepsi for this later,” Ama said as she spun the new soccer ball in her hands.
“Just be careful with that in here – please,” Dom said as Ama threw the ball in the air, then caught in on her foot.
“What are these,” Dom said as she picked up two identical parcels, and handed one to Annie.
“They’re from Catherine,” Annie said as they unwrapped two large shoulder bags, identically made in black leather.
“They’re beautiful,” Dom said as she looked at her bag, while Ama opened a slim envelope.
“Oh Annie, thank you,” she screamed as she hugged the young teacher, waving the Red Bulls season tickets in the air. “I will have to decide who will come with me.”
“I wonder who he will be,” Dom said quietly.
“He? It might be Pepsi.”
“We will see,” Annie said, “we will see…”
“It is a wonderful dress – thank you Aunt Shirley,” Maisha said as she held up the black velvet evening dress to her body, and then the pendant to her neck, the opal glistening.
“You had best hang it in your room now,” Shirley said as the young girl walked off, while Lily and Penny handed her a large box wrapped in silver paper.
“A gift from us, as well as Charlotte and Susan,” Penny said, as Shirley unwrapped the paper and opened the box. She took out the red leather book, and opened it to reveal a collection of Lowry sketches.
“We thought you would appreciate it, and enjoy the opportunity to share it with others – all legitimate,” Penny said as Shirley carefully looked through the pages.
“It is beautiful – thank you,” Shirley said as she placed the book back into the box, and closed the lid. She then looked at a small red box, with a card that said “from the ladies.”
Opening it, she gasped as she took out what looked like a small pistol, but made of jewels.
“My goodness,” Penny said, “is that a Faberge Derringer?”
“It is,” Shirley whispered, “the certificate is inside. A truly magnificent gift…”
The de Ros Mansion
“Thank you grandmamma,” Abby said as she hugged the silk nightdress, “it is a beautiful gift.”
“I think it will be even more beautiful on you,” Valeria said as they sat round the drawing room, their presents next to them.
Abby picked up another present. “It’s from Carina,” she said with a smile as she opened it, looked inside and quickly wrapped the paper round it.”
“What is it,” Diana said as she looked over.
“An item of clothing,” Abby said quickly, trying not to blush.
“Come,” Natasha said, “surely you can show us?”
“Perhaps Mama can be the judge of that,” she said as she handed Diana the parcel. She looked at Abby, and then examined the crotchless panties in the paper. She glanced at her daughter, as the front door bell rang.
“Perhaps another time,” she said as she laid them to one side, as Edith came in.
“Winston Brewster the Fourth,” she said as she showed The House in.
“Oh forgive me if I am interrupting,” the young man mountain said, “I just wished to give Abigail her present.”
“Perfect timing,” Abby said as she stood up and kissed him, “come with me…”
The Brewster home
The national anthem played as John stood up and turned the television off.
“Another tradition done and dusted,” Barbara said, “and before morning coffee as well.”
“Which is nice,” Jeannie said with a smile, “because we can open our presents now!”
She wheeled herself into the front room and picked up the first present from the coffee table, handing it to John.
“And what is this,” he said as he opened it, and took out a new great coat.
“Honestly, Dad, that old one of yours has seen better days,” Barbara said with a smile.
“I guess so,” John said, “so this will be a good idea as well.” He handed Barbara a small box, and as she opened it she found a set of car keys.
“You are kidding me,” she said as John took her to the window, and showed her the SUV parked outside.
“I think you’ll like it,” he said quietly, “both of you. Merry Christmas, Babs.”
The Huntingdown Mansion
Cari was pulling on her red dress when her cell phone rang, the quiet strains of Iron Maiden quickly quelled as she looked at the caller id and answered it.
"Merry Christmas Ingrid."
"Merry Christmas Carina, I hope I'm not
"You're not, I was just
getting changed for lunch."
"Well I have news from Aunt Sigrid."
"It seems your Mother and my Father were a couple before he married my Mother. Aunt Sigi seems to think my grandfather broke them up
because he wanted Father to marry my Mother."
"Well that would account for the tension." Cari sat on the bed
and said “What else?”
"Aunt Sigi has also
always thought that maybe my father is yours as well."
"No, that I know differently." Carina said
as she thought of Maroni.
"When I got pregnant I had a little mishap, my
OBGYN tested and showed my father had a rare blood and genetic thing going on,
so Mom figured out who my Dad was."
"Well we have also a rare blood typing." Ingrid said, "How certain was your doctor?"
Carina thought for a moment. “Ingrid, can we meet earlier tomorrow? I’m going to call my doctor, and there is someone I want you to meet.”
Juliette sat in her room, looking at herself in the mirror as her mind went back nearly twenty years…
They has spent a day like no other, Klaus so handsome in his open necked shirt, grey slacks and blue blazer, and her in a flowing chiffon dress that caressed her body, and a large white hat. They had spent the day on the left bank, laughing, talking, and then he had gone to change for dinner, and she had met with Diana. The two of them had laughed as she changed into a blue dress in a fifties style, with a wide white collar and belt, and white stilettos, and then she had met him in the lobby of Diana’s apartment block.
He wore a smart suit, dark blue shirt and tie, and had taken her to a restaurant off the Champs Elysee, the two talking of nothing and everything as they ate, and then he took her to a jazz club, where the music had been sublime. She remembered Courtney Pine had been one of the musicians, his saxophone slow, alluring, beautiful as they danced and held each other.
They walked back to his apartment through the streets, and there he had started to kiss her, his lips pressing gently against hers, his hands stroking down her back as she held him. She smiled as she removed his jacket, and his tie, then started to unbutton his shirt, kissing his chest as each one came undone.
The scent of his chest came back unbidden to her memory as she remembered his hands stroking her body, removing the belt and then unbuttoning her dress, allowing it to fall to the floor as his lips caressed her neck, and she had returned the greeting, gently nibbling on his ear as they stripped each other.
She felt again the breeze of the night air as they lay naked on the bed, playing with each other, his lips on her chest, her hand on his manhood, as they brought each other to a point where they looked at each other, and knew they were ready.
She felt him kiss her there, the feeling she had not felt after that night until StJohn had loved her, and that made her smile as she remembered watching him protect them both, and then he had entered her, the feeling so perfect and natural and right that she lost herself in him, the two becoming one as they moved together, aroused each other, enticed and groaned as one, before she sank into the ocean of sensation as she experienced the perfect orgasm.
She knew he had reached a peak as well, as she felt him pulse and give all that he had, safe in the knowledge that she was protected from that possibility. In her dreams, though, she knew that had it not been there, they would have been blessed with a charming and beautiful child – but she knew that was only a dream.
They held each other until the morning, and then he had left to meet with his father. He had promised he would tell him today, and she waited for his return, and the word.
But then he had come back, and broken her heart when he said he had chosen Renate. And after that…
She turned to see StJohn in the door, looking at her and smiling.
“Carina sent me to fetch you – lunch is ready.”
“I’m coming,” she said as she stood up, and accompanied him down.
The sight was one Penny had never thought she would live to see – and she was not sure which was the most surprising. Was it the fact they were all sitting round the table, having eaten a wonderful lunch? Or that Shirley was laughing and sharing some of the things she had done in the past, during her years in Paris?
Perhaps it was Maisha, a teenager sharing the Christmas meal with them, laughing with them at what they were talking about. From the girl Madame had brought home those months ago, had emerged this young, beautiful and deadly woman, slowly growing in confidence and in her skill levels.
No, she said to herself, the most surprising thing was that she was having fun. Christmas for Penny had memories she preferred to keep down, but amongst her friends, she felt relaxed, and the past was just that – in the past.
And then there was Lily. She reminded Penny a lot of herself, but from a different background. She’d met her mother, and then there was her Uncle George – a true character.
“Sorry, Shirley,” Penny said quietly, “A million miles away.”
“Well I know what will cure that,” Lily said, “a game of Monopoly!!”
The knock on the door came as a surprise as Shirley stood up, and left the room, returning with Dominique.
“Saved by the visitors,” Penny said with a smile as Dom said “Ama and Annie went to see Pepsi and her parents, so I thought I’d drop in.” Looking at the presents, she smiled and said “I see you and Penny got a gift from Cathy as well.”
“We did indeed – I suspect we all did,” Shirley said as they stood up and made their way to the front room.
“Actually, I’m glad you’re here Dom – if you don’t mind talking business for a few minutes,” Lily said as they sat down, and then she looked at Maisha.
“She is one of us Lily, you can talk in front of her,” Shirley said.
“When Uncle George was here last night, he said he had found a bank that he felt would be ripe to make an unscheduled withdrawal from tomorrow.”
Shirley looked at Lily, and then laughed. “The old rogue still has some ambition, I see. I trust you informed him things were a trifle different over here?”
“I did, but you know him – once he sets his mind to it, and he asked me to help him. I said I’d think about it – but what do you think?”
She handed Dom the plans George had left with her, and she looked them over.
“Well, it is a good plan, but it would have to be done tomorrow,” she finally said. “And you’ve never done an assignment over here, have you?”
Lily shook her head as Dom looked at Shirley and Penny.
“Mind if I borrow Penny for an hour or two tomorrow?”
“Of course – but I suggest Lily acts as driver on this instance.”
“All right – Lily, tell George the trio will meet him an hour beforehand – and tell him to be very, very careful. All of you.”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“That was wonderful, thanks Mom.”
“Yes, thank you Juliette,” StJohn said as he patted his lips, and they walked through to the main room with their coffee, him carrying Judith in her white dress.
StJohn couldn't put his finger on it, but
somehow his relationship with Juliette had changed while he was away. Yes she
was still attentive and mode all the right noises, but somehow the sparkle he
had been seeing in her eyes when he was around had vanished.
He'd ask Carina what had happened if he could, but he
knew she was less than a friend to him.
The Christmas lunch was excellent and the three women all charming and beautiful, but it wasn't what he had been hoping for. There was no way Juliette would be open to any kind of pumping, the story of the robbery in Brooklyn would stay unsolved.
Friday 26th December
Dr Reichmann’s Office.
Helen Reichmann looked at the two young women sitting opposite her, and said “It is a tad unusual, Carina. Is there a specific reason you wish me to do this?”
“I know it is, Helen,” Carina said as she looked at Ingrid, “and I wish I could say more, but you have to trust me on this – it’s something we both want to be done.”
“All right, you are my patient,” she said as she walked round. “If you both give me a blood sample, I’ll let you have the results in about ten minutes.”
“Thank you Helen,” Carina said as she pulled up the sleeve of her jumper, and allowed Helen to take the sample, before she did the same to Ingrid.
“Why don’t you wait here while I get the tests run,” Helen said as she walked off, the two of them looking at each other.
“You know there is the chance it will come out negative,” Carina said as she looked at Ingrid.
“Of course – but better to know then to always have the nagging doubt in our minds,” she said as she stood up and looked over the street.
“Oh yeah,” Carina said as a thought occurred to her. If this was true… If Maroni was not her father… Then where had the Beast come from?
They paced around the room before Helen came in and sat down.
“Well,” Carina said as she sat next to Ingrid.
“I need to have the results confirmed,” Helen said, “but…”
She looked at them, and then handed over a copy of the results. They looked at them, then at each other.
“You share a close blood relative – as in one generation – and given you both have different mothers…”
“We must have the same father,” Ingrid completed the sentence.
“When can this be confirmed?”
“I’ll get the full workup Monday, but it’s fairly conclusive. What do you two want to do now?”
“Think about it – thanks Helen,” Carina said as she and Ingrid left her office.
“One year ago today I found out I was going to be a cover girl.” Abigail smiled as she did her skates up.
“Cari must be running late at the doctors.” Heather glanced at her watch.
“Let’s just hope and pray she isn’t…” Jo looked round.
“I know she hasn’t been with a man in months.” Abby checked her skate boots were laced tightly before she stood up.
“Yeah who’d have thought that?” Jo pulled her St Angela’s hoodie on and checked her own laces.
“Well college and a baby can change your priorities.” Heather spoke quietly.
“Before I forget, Ama called and apologized – she and Maisha have decided to go with Shirley to a show instead,” Jo said as she looked up.
“Hey sorry I’m late ladies.” Carina came running in. “Oh and do you mind if Ingrid joins us?”
“Only if she doesn’t get in arguments and get my car egged.” Heather laughed.
“Don’t worry Ingrid it’s a long story.” Jo rolled her eyes.
“I hope those rental skates will be okay?” Carina asked Ingrid.
“Well I will try them and see.”
“So what delayed you?” Abby asked.
“Helen had to run some tests, I’ll tell you later over lunch at the Calabria.”
“Oh so that’s going to become traditional as well?” Abby laughed.
“Well after last year….”
“This is a tradition Carina?” Ingrid asked.
“Yeah, ever since we were small children Abby and I have come here on the day after Christmas to skate.”
“Oh that is lovely.”
“So Ingrid, do you have a top to keep you warm?” Heather asked as she pulled her old Yale hoodie on.
“Will this do?” Ingrid pulled out a Black fleecy top with Deutschland in gold letters on the back from her bag.
“Looks perfect to me.”
“Oh not another Yale hoody?” Jo groaned as she saw Cari pull one on.
“To forget the old school so quickly.” Abby shook her head.
“We’ll see you on the ice.” Heather, Jo and Abby called as they started to leave the locker room.
“We’ll be about five minutes.” Carina looked up from tying her skates.
“Shall we tell them later?” Ingrid asked.
“Yes at lunch, I think they may need stiff drinks.” Cari smiled happily.
The two young women laced up their boots, locked their belongings away and made their way out, the cold air hitting their faces as they stepped onto the ice and pushed away.
“Come on,” Abby shouted over as they made their way round, “you need to catch up with us.”
Cari and Ingrid looked at each other, and sped up, chasing the other three round the rink.
The New Calabria Club
Annie Morgan was starting to develop a nice bump and Tommy had insisted that he did occasional shifts behind the bar so she could get her rest in. With her smock top covering both a long sleeved undershirt and her leggings, she looked every bit the expectant mother.
She sat in one of the booths remembering yesterday, their last Christmas without baby, and the fun they had had putting some of the new things in the baby’s room. Next year there would be a third person in the Morgan household, and to be honest neither she nor Tommy could be happier about that. They had bought each other some nice presents as well, but the joint present of the cot and mobile had been the best of all.
As she looked round, five young women came through the door and shook the snow off themselves. They were happy and laughing, it was nice to see people having fun; so many bad things had happened in the past year. This time last year she had been running the old bar, but then there was the business with Maroni, and the old place had disappeared in fire and dust. Then they had met the most dangerous and the most generous women in New York, and now she and Tommy owned this place, and she could feel the new life inside her. It was nice the year was ending on such a happy note.
One of the women went up to Tommy and said “Five coffees please.”
“What kind?” Tommy asked her.
“Just regular please.”
“I’ll bring it to the booth.”
Annie waddled slightly back behind the bar where Tommy was pouring the coffees. “Aint they der same kids wuz in here this day last year Tom?”
“I think they are.” Tommy smiled having recognized most of the girls. He poured the coffee into five mugs, and carried it over, along with a plate of cinnamon cookies.
“Here gals compliments of the season.” Tommy smiled as he delivered the hot mugs.
“Oh thank you.” The very tall blonde replied.
“You are welcome Miss Tigress.” Tommy whispered under his breath as he walked away.
“Are you serving hot food today,” the other taller girl asked, in a European accent.
“So long as you don’t minds chicken soup and home baked bread, yeah,” Annie called over.
“Sounds good,” the oldest said.
“Five coming up,” Annie said as she made her way into the back.
“Oh by the Goddess I needed that,” Heather said as she sipped the coffee, “it is freezing out there.”
“Well you might need something stronger in a minute,” Cari said.
Jo and Abby looked at her, and then said “Oh no way…”
“No I’m not,” Cari said as she looked at Abby. “No, I went to see Helen today about something else. You know that Ingrid and I were born on the same day?”
“Yeah – don’t need that many people for that to be likely,” Abby said with a smile.
“Well, we got talking – did you notice how Mom reacted when Ingrid’s father arrived on Wednesday night?”
“I saw how Diana reacted,” Heather said, “you would almost think they knew each other years ago.”
“They did,” Ingrid said, “according to my Aunt, at one time my father was going to marry Juliette.”
“So you two could have been sisters,” Jo said with a smile, and then she saw the way they looked at each other.
“Soup, ladies,” Tommy said as he laid five bowls out, and then a platter of freshly baked bread.
“Why did you go to see Dr Reichmann today, Carina?” Jo asked quietly.
“To get her to do a blood test on me and Ingrid, and see if we had anything in common.”
Ingrid leaned forward and said “the results show we do have a parent in common – and it can’t be our mothers. We have the same blood group, the same genetic markers in the same proportion.”
Heather paused, the spoon of soup in the air, and then laid it back in the bowl. “You do both have the same father,” she said quietly as she looked at the others.
“It looks that way – we can’t be certain unless my father has a test as well,” Ingrid said as she sipped her soup.
"Does the fact that you were born on the same day
make you twins?" Abby asked thoughtfully.
"Well I was early, and she was late." Ingrid
smiled, "But by being so we set up that marvelous coincidence."
"So how do you think your parents will take your little bombshell? Heather asked.
“A very good question – I have sent a message to my father asking him to meet me at Carina’s apartment later today, and we will tell them both then. And hopefully get his agreement to a test.”
“And Mom’s” Carina said, “I don’t want her to be left out of this.”
“What about you know who?”
“What about him? None of his business,” Carina said as she ate her soup.
The black car sat outside the bank building, the four occupants looking inside.
“See,” George said, “one guard at the door, who has seen better days, none inside. Quick, simple, easy. Should be a walk in the park for you Lily darling.”
“Well, as long as you’re sure George,” Penny said as Dom flexed her gloved hands on the steering wheel. All four were wearing black jumpers, trousers and gloves, George wearing flat shoes and the women army boots.
“All right then,” Dominique said, “This is George’s plan, so follow it through. Ready?”
Susan and Lily checked the guns they had, and put them into their pockets as they pulled up the collars on their jackets, and checked the woolen hats on their heads.
“Let’s do this,” George said as the three of them got out, Dom keeping the engine ticking over as she watched them walk up to the entrance of the building.
Walking in, Lily and Penny looked round. There were a couple of customers in, and three tellers working behind the counter, as well as the one security guard – a grey haired man with a slight paunch.
The three nodded to each other, and reached up, pulling the balaclavas down and producing the guns from inside their jackets.
“Good Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,” George said as he looked round, “this is a robbery – kindly drop to the floor and put your hands behind your heads.”
“You heard what the man said,” Susan shouted out as she fired a shot, smashing the lens of the security camera, “on the floor, like nice little people, or someone gets hurt.”
“Oh fuck,” the guard said as he reached for the gun at his waist, only to stop as he felt the gun at his own back and heard Lily say “Do yourself a favour, mate – let me take the gun, and you join the others.”
He nodded slowly as he knelt with the customers, while Lily closed and locked the door.
“Right,” George said as he and Penny walked to the counter, “open the door like good little girls, please, and then put all the money in the bag my friend here will hold for you. All of you, keep your hands where we can see them as well – no silent alarms, all right.”
Trembling, one of the girls stood up and opened the door. The three wore blue blouses, v-necked sweaters and long skirts – regulation clothing, Penny thought as they walked in.
“Now, you get to open the safe,” George said as he took the girl who opened the door to one side, while Penny looked at the other two.
“You heard the man,” she said, “money into the sack, now!”
The two tellers started to open the drawers and put the money in, while the third girl opened the safe, George smiling as he saw the money neatly stacked and arranged inside.
“In the sack please,” he said as he held it open, the girl putting bundle after bundle in.
As this was going on, Lily was watching the customers, kneeling on the floor as they kept their heads down. She didn’t notice one of the women as she slowly pulled her bag towards her, and reached inside.
“There – that wasn’t so painful was it,” George said with a grin as the woman placed the last of the bundles of money in the safe. He then saw the glitter of light on the trays inside, and smiled even more as he said “Those as well please.”
“Right – you two, join the others out there,” Penny said, as she herded the two tellers into the front of the branch and made them kneel next to the customers. As she did so, she saw the woman slip a small gun out of the depths of her purse, and aim it at Lily.
“Don’t even dream of it, mother fucker,” she growled as she pointed her gun at the woman, “or it will be the last move you ever make.”
Lily spun round to look at the woman – which the guard took as an opportunity to try and run for the door. He took two steps before Penny shot him in the leg, making him collapse as George brought the third teller out.
“Shit,” he said as he saw the guard lying there, and then looked at Penny. “He’ll live,” she said as she looked at him, and then yelled, “Any other fuckers want to try something? No? Good – stay there for ten minutes.”
The three of them walked out, pulling their masks off and hurrying to where Dom was waiting, putting the bags in the trunk of the car before they drove off.
“For fuck’s sake, Penny, what was that all about,” Lily said as she looked at her friend. “First that business at the farm, now this?”
“We have a lot to explain, Lily,” Dom said, “once I have you three somewhere safe and I’ve ditched this car…”
Shirley looked round as the party of four came in.
“George – how lovely to see you again,” she said as she embraced the man, “I trust it went well today?”
“Apart from Penny here shooting a guard to stop him raising the alarm, yeah,” he said with a smile. “Can I trust to you to handle the arrangements?”
“Penny, place those in the den for the moment – we will deal with them presently,” she said as Penny took the bags to another room. As she left, Shirley turned to Dom and said “Shot to wound or shot to kill?”
“To wound, but she was upset. Is everything all right with her?”
“I am not entirely sure,” she said as Lily sat down.
“I see you have been looking at the Stevens file, Shirley.”
“Yes – I was hoping to find something in there to help Juliette see what he is truly like, but there is nothing that would convince her of that.”
George came over and looked at the picture at the top of the file. “Who did you say this was,” he mumbled as he picked the picture up.
“Doctor StJohn Stevens, an investigator for Lloyds of London – but we suspect he is involved in some way in a multinational art forgery affair.”
“StJohn Stevens? Is that what he’s calling himself now?”
“Yeah,” Lily said as she looked up, “why?”
“Well, he looks smarter and older, but the guy I knew who looked like this was a two-bit hoodlum called Steve Johnson – I met him the last time I was enjoying a stay at Her Majesty’s Pleasure down White City way.”
“The Scrubs? Uncle George are you serious?”
“I never forget a face, Lily my love – ask Grayson and Wayne next time you see them. I knew he had an interest in art, but he’s moved up in the world if this is him.”
“George,” Shirley said, “tell me all you know, and I’ll get you on a first class flight back to Basel with your takings from today, with no questions asked at either end. What you know may tip the balance.”
“I don’t know that much – he’s from the south side of London, bit of a knob, bad attitude towards women – likes them younger, if you know what I mean.”
“How much younger?”
George looked over at Penny, and said “Barely legit in UK terms as a rule. How old is this Juliette?”
“Forty three – so something else is definitely going on. George, will you take a drink? I think we should discuss this further.”
The Huntingdown Apartment
Juliette opened the apartment door, expecting to see StJohn, and was taken aback to see Klaus standing there, in a great coat.
“Klaus,” she said quietly, “what brings you here?”
“My apologies Juliette,” Klaus said as she looked at her, in her jeans and sweatshirt, “I had a message from Ingrid asking me to meet her here.”
“Well, they haven’t returned yet,” Juliette said as she rubbed her arm, then stepped back. “Won’t you come in and wait?”
“Thank you,” Klaus said as he came in and removed his coat, revealing his suit, shirt and tie. “A beautiful apartment – you have done well.”
“Thank you,” Juliette said quietly, “won’t you sit down?”
As Klaus sat, he said “Juliette, I must apologize for my words and my behavior on Christmas Eve. It was not my intention to hurt or upset you.”
“Sadly, Klaus,” Juliette said with a sigh, “it was not the first time.”
“No – no it was not, but this time at least, I get to apologize – if you will accept it.”
“Apology accepted,” Juliette said as she went and fetched some coffee. “I need to apologize as well, Klaus – it had been so long since we had seen each other that I may not have been the most gracious of women.”
“Ah, but you always are – but I accept the apology,” Klaus said as he took the cup. “Renate always said you were a friend she regretted losing touch with.”
As she sat down Juliette nodded and said “so did I – but it was too painful. I’m sorry, I just could not face it – then Cari arrived, and my career took off in another direction.”
“I understand – but Renate and I watched with interest,” Klaus said. “She spoke of you in the last days, you know.”
“She did? In what way?”
“Fondly – it was she who said Ingrid should spend the season here, in the hope we would meet. I think it was her hope we would heal the hurts of the past.”
“Well, perhaps we can,” Juliette said. “I would like that.”
Klaus smiled as he said “I know I cannot make up for the mistakes I made, but I do hope we can at least be friends.”
“Friends – I’d like that as well,” Juliette said as the door opened and Carina came in with Ingrid.
“Ah good, you’re both here,” Carina said, “where’s baby?”
“Still sleeping – she’ll need her feed soon though,” Juliette said as she started to stand up.
“No – she can wait a minute, we need to talk first, all four of us,” Ingrid said. “Papa, I know about you and Juliette.”
“You do? How – Sigrid,” Klaus said with a smile. “My sister told you, did she not?”
“Only because I asked her, papa. You see, we saw on Wednesday how you and Juliette talked and acted. It was obvious there was some history between you.”
“The way Aunt Diana reacted spoke volumes as well,” Carina said. “Which meant it had to be when you were in Paris.”
“It would appear our dark secret is uncovered,” Klaus said with a smile. “What shall we do now, Juliette?”
“Kill them before they tell anyone else,” Juliette said with a smile. “Yes, Klaus and I had a relationship, but he chose your mother over me, Ingrid.”
“According to Aunt Sigi, my grandfather made the choice for him,” Ingrid said as she looked at Klaus.
“A topic for another day,” Klaus said, “but why are you mentioning this now?”
“Mom,” Carina said, “Ingrid and I have the same birthday, and you and Ingrid’s father were close just before the wedding, true?”
“You could say we were close, but the choice was made,” Juliette said.
“Well, it turns out we also have the same blood type – AB positive.”
Klaus put his mug down and looked at the two girls.
“This morning, I asked Dr Reichmann to do a test on me and Ingrid, and see if we had anything else in common with our blood.”
“No,” Klaus whispered as he stood up.
“Cari, what are you saying?”
“Mom, the tests suggest Ingrid and I have a common parent,” Carina said as she looked at Klaus.
Juliette stood slowly up as she looked at them, her face as if she had just had a shock.
"But that can't be true? What about what Helen told us before?"
"She said it was only likely remember."
"But he wore a condom…"
“I did – I remember clearly to this day,” Klaus said.
“You as well?”
"They occasionally fail you know." Ingrid
"You were never on the pill Mom."
"But, even so…"
"Face it Mom this is strong proof of who my father is….and this is very special for me to say," Carina hugged Ingrid, "That I have a sister."
“Oh my Goddess,” Juliette whispered as Klaus looked at her.
“Is it possible? Could it be true?”
“There is only one way to know,” Ingrid said, “a paternity test.”
“How could we have been so wrong,” Juliette whispered as she sat down.
“Of course I will take the test,” Klaus said, “May I have the details of your doctor?”
“If this is true,” Juliette said, “then you have a granddaughter Klaus – would you like to meet her?”
“I would be honoured,” Klaus said as Carina left, bringing Judith through with her.
“We will know soon,” Klaus said as he tickled Judith’s chin. “And then, we will talk…”
“Oh – am I interrupting something,” StJohn said as he came in.
“No – merely visiting an old friend,” Klaus said as he looked at the new arrival, Carina hearing the chill in his voice.
“Perhaps we should go,” Ingrid said as Juliette handed them the details for Helen.
“I will see you soon, Juliette, Carina,” Klaus said as he put on his coat.
“See you tomorrow at Bobbi’s,” Ingrid said as she kissed Carina, and then left with her father.
Saturday 27th December
The Altama Hotel
Anna smiled as she and Nell entered the bar at the Altama, swathed in glamorous fur coats, dressed in short and very tight dresses, walking on ultra high heels they exuded pure raw sex appeal. Every head in the room turned as they made their entrance, every eye tracked them as they made their way to the actual bar.
“Good evening Tricia,” Angel smiled as she got onto a bar stool making sure every man in the place got a look at the goods for sale.
“Hey Angel, haven’t seen you for a few days, Merry Christmas.”
“And Merry Christmas to you Tricia…My usual please.”
“One Martini coming up, and for you?”
“The name is Annabelle.” Nell held out her elegant manicured hand, “and mine is a Scotch and Water please.”
Angel put a bank note down on the bar while Tricia did the drinks, then started to look round. She caught several men still looking at them and made eye contact, it looked like the johns were plentiful tonight, she wondered if she maybe should ring Becca and get her little ass over here.
“Here ya go ladies.” Tricia put the drinks in front of the two.
The two hookers turned and crossed their legs, each slowly sipping her drink while they weighed up the prospects.
“Guy over there, the silver haired banker type looks interested.” Nell whispered.
“There are several look interested, but which fish will bite?” Anna giggled slightly.
“He looks promising,” Nell said as she looked at the tall, thin man with the wire rimmed glasses.
"Thanks for springing me tonight by the
way." Angel whispered, "Spared me a boring night with my
"Well despite what we promised Caroline I knew
there was no way you'd be stopping, and I LOVE the thrill of taking a guys
money instead of merely letting him fuck me as I used, it is such a kick when I
take the money."
"I know just what you are saying Annabelle darling." Angel smiled at a man sitting at the other end of the bar.
StJohn cast his eye again over the two hookers, both looked young under their makeup, but of course you could never tell, but both certainly had bodies, and each was certainly advertising she was for sale. They wouldn’t be cheap though, the furs they wore were even to his inexpert eyes obviously very expensive, these two whores were obviously carriage trade.
It was their lucky night, they were selling, he was buying, and who knows - the whore might even appreciate what he had in mind to do with her.
The appearance of this German had cut him out totally
with Juliette, and he'd never got anywhere with the bitch daughter. Instinct
told him that Juliette either was a Pussycat, or knew who was and was merely
their front woman. Either way he knew all about the huge amount of money her
little front company in Hong Kong handled.
Yes this blonde would do nicely, nice big breasts, but a look in her eye that told him as long as he paid enough he could probably work out his frustrations on her.
Stevens knew this type, by day she was probably some
clean cut college girl, at night though she went on the prowl. That Billie
Piper TV show had done a lot to get these girls into prostitution, the
character of Belle de Nuit, had made whoring look
almost totally respectable, in a very sexy way.
The blonde caught his eye again, she was definitely available, now what approach should he use?
“Darling I think I have a fish," she whispered as he started to approach.
“Good evening,” StJohn said as he came over, “I was wondering if you would like to come and see my etchings?”
Angel looked at him and said “well, that has to be one of the oldest chat up lies in the business darling.”
“I wasn’t joking, Miss…”
“Angel,” she said as he took her hand, “and what’s your name sweetheart.”
“StJohn – StJohn Stevens. I really do have some etchings in my room – Hogarth prints, very old, very dirty.”
“Oh an art lover,” Angel cooed, “and what makes you think I would like to see them?”
“Oh, I think you will – interested?”
She looked at him – smooth, well spoken – and smiled. “And is that all you are interested in – just the etchings?”
“Perhaps we can discuss that – privately,” he said as he offered her his hand, Angel smiling as she left with him.
“Perhaps we can discuss terms,” Angel whispered as she waited with him by the lift.
“What are yours?”
“$500 for a straight fuck, and more for more.”
“I see,” StJohn said with a smile as the lift doors opened, “so if I said I prefer to play a little rougher, what would you say?”
“I’d say you pay more for the privilege – how rough?”
“Have you ever been taken anally?”
Angel looked at him for a moment, and said “No.”
“You have a beautiful ass,” StJohn purred as he put his hand on it, “and I want to fuck it – hard.”
“I don’t know…”
“You do what I ask – blow me, then pretend you have been a bad girl who needs to be punished – and I’ll pay a grand.”
For a moment, she considered refusing, but she said “All right – money up front and you use protection.”
StJohn smiled as he walked her to his room, and then let them in.
“Wait here,” he said as he went to the bedroom.
Angel looked round the room slightly nervously, she knew eventually she'd find a john who wanted more than a straight fuck, but though he'd paid to take her anal virginity, and paid big money at that, she wasn't looking forward to feeling his cock in there.
He walked back in, naked and said “Take your clothes off.”
“Once we have payment,” Angel said, watching as he
peeled ten hundred dollar bills from a roll and handed them to her. Tucking them into her purse, Angel slowly removed
her fur and dress, and stood there in her panties, stockings and heels. StJohn smiled – she
was younger than he had thought, which pleased him as he growled "Get me
Angel smiled, she didn't like his tone, but she knew how to excite a man orally. Slowly knelt in front of him as she licked, kissed, touched and took his penis deep down her throat. She could feel him respond, growing big and erect in her mouth as she rolled her tongue round it.
"Oh that is a professional cocksucking," he moaned as she squeezed his ball sack, feeling him get ready to unload.
“Okay it's going to taste different” she warned herself mentally as the fruits of her talents were just about to pay off, suddenly she felt his hips buck and then a stream of hot baby batter filled her throat.
"Yes you little slut, just like that," he pumped himself in her mouth feeling the pleasure of the whore taking his sperm, but as he came he grabbed her hair and pulled it.
Angel’s eyes opened wide but she was in no position to
say anything, as the flow continued and she had to swallow more and more,
Eventually, he let go as she released him, licking her
lips as she said "Darling I know you said we might play a little rough but
watch it please."
"Oh if you think this is rough you just wait." he thought to himself. Prison had made him a different man, a VERY different man, and just occasionally he had to release what he otherwise kept well hidden under the suave exterior.
“You are good, lady,” he said as Angel stood up. "Now, what we discussed."
Angel started to play the role, as she put her finger to her lips and her head to one side. "Daddy I've been an awful bad girl you know?" she said in a baby voice.
"Well bad girls need spanking…bend over and hold
Angel smiled sexily as she complied with his request.
"Bad, Bad girl." he started with a couple of very light slaps, Angel purring, but the third stung and she jerked.
“Hey, that OW” she shouted as he hit her hard again, and then pulled her panties down, he hand pressing down hard on her bottom.
“Now take your punishment,” he growled as he slapped her again and again, and the grabbed her from behind, his fingers digging into her chest as without warning he penetrated her, Angel gasping as his already hard and firm cock pushed between her butt cheeks.
He pushed hard from behind, and gripped hard in front, the waves of pain from both sides making her swoon even as she felt him fire off again. It was mercifully quick, but she felt his fingers pressing so hard she felt her breasts were going to explode, and there was no gentleness, no softness in this approach.
As he let go, she slowly straightened up, and then dressed again as he walked off without a word. Pulling her fur on, she noticed the used condom, and said a quiet word of thanks as she left the room.
"How was he?" Nell asked as Anna gingerly
took her seat back at the bar.
"A true fucking bastard…he hurt me for real, I'll
have the bruises to prove it."
"You should call the…"
"Oh and I'm sure they are going to come out
because a hooker got roughed up by one of her johns. Besides what we do isn't strictly legal,
they'll arrest us before they do anything about bastards like him."
"Did he pay?"
"Oh at least I made sure of that." Angel
smiled, " Another Martini please Tricia” she ordered.
"I couldn't but over hear should I warn the other
working girls about him?"
"You should Tricia, he's a very nasty piece of work."
“This one’s on the house,” Tricia said as Annabelle looked at her.
“You wanna call it a night?” Annabelle asked.
“How many for you?”
“One so far.”
“No – I just need to recover,” she said as she sipped her drink and looked straight ahead.
"Well did you hear the gossip girls?"
Shirley said as she wandered into the living room.
Madame gossiping… Penny and Lily exchanged glances as
they contemplated this move.
"Turns out that bastard Maroni was probably not
Carina's father, it seems Juliette's prince gave her something other than a
broken heart when he left her."
"Oh my God." Penny looked in
amazement, "So the Beast?"
"Doesn't come from her father, though I hear her
paternal grandfather was somewhat of a bastard."
"And this means?"
"Well from what I hear, if the paternity test
confirms things, he wants to formally adopt Carina." Shirley smiled.
"I think if we remove a certain fly from the
ointment, then given time maybe they can rebuild their love."
"It sounds too romantic for words." Lily
"Listen to Miss Mills and Boon." Penny
“Nothing wrong with a little love in this world,” Lily said, “even if it is separated by years.”
"So when do we move against this bastard."
"We ask Juliette to invite StJohn to my party, and I will invite the Prince and his daughter, as well as George. We will let him come face to face with George and see what happens."
“Seems fair – I won’t warn Uncle George either.”
“Good – then let us do that. I may have some other surprises lined up for him as well.”
The Huntingdown Apartment
Juliette lay nude in bed, as was her custom, but
instead of dropping off to sleep as usual with the comfortable feel of her
satin sheets against her body her mind was troubled and she tossed and turned.
"If Klaus was Carina's father what did it
She smiled as she thought of him. He had not changed that much – aged yes, a little
more careworn, and fiercely protective of Ingrid. A little greyer, not as
slim, but still…
"Did his wish to adopt Carina change
She had to acknowledge that somewhere in her heart she was still in love with the Klaus she had known back then, but they had both changed some much in the intervening years. Until StJohn she had been celibate for years, crime had been her substitute for sex, her friendships were her relationships.
Was there room for a man, how could she keep hidden her criminal career from a man whose smile had always been enough to open her heart completely. How would he react to knowing that she was a murderous armed robber? Only Artemis knew how he might react to The Beast.
The telephone ringing made her curse as she looked at the receiver. "Who could be phoning this time of night,” she said as she sat up - if it was Fiona she swore she'd be on the first flight to London to throttle her.
Juliette glanced at the caller id and then answered it,
"Diana why are you ringing so late darling?"
"Because I figured just about now you'd have
thought long enough that you needed someone to talk to."
Juliette sat up and drew he knees to her chin. "Did you hear he's probably Cari's father?"
"Abigail told me."
“How could we have got it so wrong – Maroni fitted the bill completely.”
“Well, I for one am glad we rid the city of him.”
Juliette threw her head back, sighed and said "What
do I do Diana?"
"Are you still in love with him?"
"Darling after all these years…"
"That's not an answer Cherie…Are you still in
love with Klaus?"
"Yes…No…Oh I don't know Diana it's been nearly 20
years. He’s changed, I'm certainly no longer the ingénue
he said he loved."
“And he’s not the dashing sportsman – is it StJohn that gives you pause for thought?”
“That too – I should talk to him, explain what happened…”
“What is it you once told me? Cross your bridges when
you get to them?"
"Trust you to remember that Diana." Juliette laughed.
“Listen, you know you can talk to me any time, right?”
“I know – and thanks,” Juliette said as she ended the call. She then dialed a second number and waited.
“StJohn? It’s Juliette. I know it’s late but – could you come round please? We need to talk.”
She put the phone down and stood up, waiting until she heard a soft knock on the door and opened it, StJohn coming up and kissing her gently.
“So, Ju,” he said with a smile, “what’s happened?”
“You’d better sit down,” Ju said as she took his hand, “I need to explain something that’s happened tonight. You see – well, as you know, Carina’s father has never really been part of our lives.”
“I know,” he said quietly, “but what’s happened – has eh come back?”
“Yes – and no,” Ju said with a smile, “you see, the man I thought as her father wasn’t, and now I know who her father really is.”
“Well that’s wonderful,” he said quietly, “who is it?”
“It’s Klaus – years ago we had a relationship, but he broke it off and married someone else. Today, Carina and his daughter Ingrid found out they were blood relations – which means he’s her father.”
There was something cold in StJohn’s reply as Juliette stood up. “StJohn, I don’t want this to come between us. Yes, I need to let him be part of our lives, but what he had died a long time ago.”
“It did not look that way the other day,” he said as he stood up as well. “It looked to me as if you wanted nothing more than him back in your life.”
“How can you say that – I cried when he insulted me…”
“Yeah, but you love that don’t you – someone making you cry. Would you like me to make you cry? What was I Juliette - some casual fling while you waited for Prince Charming to return?"
StJohn smacked her face hard, while she stood there in amazement and shock, wondering why he had done that.
“Well I know how to treat women like you,” he said as he pulled her gown off, and grabbed her arm, dragging her to her bedroom, “I know what you want, and I’m more than happy to give it to you.”
“What are you doing,” she called out as he pulled her into the room, and stared at her.
“What you want, you little slut,” he growled. There was no love as he threw her head first onto the bed, pushed open her legs and took his dripping, hard penis from his trousers. In a second he repeated the treatment he'd meted out to the whore earlier, filling her ass, pumping in and out, making her feel the pain, forcing her to remember the shame of the last time she'd been raped.
"No, No, Not again." Juliette forced the words out between her sobs, as St John merged with Maroni in her mind, the two rapes appearing in her mind to become one and the same.
“I may not be your fancy fucking prince, but you are nothing but a fucking cheap whore." he growled the insult at her. "An old PATHETIC whore."
Juliette cried again from the pain as he yanked on her hair. "You know I thought you were one of the Pussycats, but you’re nothing better than a pathetic little piece of shit…WHAT ARE YOU?"
"I'm pathetic." Juliette hoped agreeing with him might stop this.
"NO," he again yanked her hair. "The full thing."
"I'm a pathetic…piece."
Again he jerked her head back by the hair.
"I'm a pathetic little piece of shit." she
"That's right." He said triumphantly as he squirted inside her.
She buried her head into the pillow, too ashamed of what was happening, as mercifully he came out and climbed off the bed. “Go back to your prince, see f he takes you know,” he growled as he walked out, and she moved slowly to the shower, standing under the hot running water as she tried to process what had just happened.
Juliette finally climbed back into bed feeling, dirty
and ashamed. How had she been so wrong about StJohn?
But had she been so wrong? She had led him on pretty heavily, and then suddenly
stopped when Klaus re-entered her life. He had a right to be angry with her,
she had not behaved well.
At the same time though the sensible part of her brain was trying to assert itself with the message he had just raped her. Good sense though was currently losing the battle against her guilt as she fell asleep.
Saturday 27th December
The Huntingdown Apartment
Carina looked round as she put Judith into her chair, and then looked again.
"Oh my Goddess what happened Mom?" Carina looked at the bruises on her mother's arms.
"Oh I had a fall last night in my bedroom, it's nothing really darling." Juliette fell back on the time honored excuse battered women have given for generations.
"Well as long as you are alright…" Carina looked suspicious. Those were not bruises from a fall – someone had held her, and she could see the slight shadow that the makeup could not hide around her mother’s left eye.
The de Ros Mansion
"Darling I think we need find you a really good
tax lawyer." Diana came into the drawing room looking at a piece of paper
and shaking her head.
"Even I wasn't aware you'd earned this
"How much Mom?"
"Here look." Diana passed her daughter the
"I earned THAT MUCH…LEGALLY?"
"Yes only The Goddess knows what your tax
liability would be if we had to declare Miss Tigresses income as well."
"I knew I'd been busy, but whoa, I earned nearly 7 million dollars?"
“At least it is secured away – but we need to limit your tax as much as possible, I will make enquiries on your behalf.”
“Thanks mom,” she said as he cell phone rang. “Oh Hi Cari – yeah she’s here.”
She handed her phone to her mother, who said “Yes, Carina?
“Of course – I’ll be there.”
Saks of 5th Avenue
“So what happened last night Doc?” Becca asked as she changed into her swimsuit.
“What do you mean what happened?” Anna looked round as she flipped through the racks.
“Look,” Becca said as she looked at her friend, “Nell told Ally, and Ally rang me.”
“Some girls have big mouths.” Doc muttered.
“And sometimes they just care about their friends.”
“Look, a john got a bit playful, that’s all.”
“I heard it was worse than that Doc. And by the way what happened to your promise to Caroline?”
“I broke it…Okay?” Anna put her hands on her hips. “Hooking is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my…”
“Even when you get hurt?” Becca interrupted.
“I got one bad john, that’s all, and for a thousand dollars I guess I can put up with a few bruises.”
“All I’m saying Anna is be careful…please.”
“I know.” Anna hugged her friend.
“So why are we here?” Anna looked round the dress department.
“To use that bastards money to buy me the evening gown to beat all other gowns New Years Eve.”
“Oh.” Becca laughed, “Just trust you.”
“Hey I hear there will be some new guys there.”
“They won’t pay.” Becca warned.
“THEY don’t have to.”
“I still don’t believe it,” Lily said as she put her mug down and shook her head, “you have a cop on your side?”
Ama had gone to the cinema with Pepsi, allowing Dom and Annie to introduce Janice to Lily, alongside Penny. The five were sitting round the coffee table, dressed in jumpers, jeans and boots, as if it was a normal coffee morning. The conversation had turned to the girls, their pre-Christmas mission, and their career paths.
“All I’m saying is that a large number of girls who get into our kind of crime eventually, start out as whores.” Dominique glanced at the other four.
“Well I certainly didn’t.” Lily shook her head.
'You're the exception,' Penny said, 'you had family connections.'
“I’m not sure if anyone would pay for me anyway.” Annie looked down at her slim, runner’s body. “I think men want a few more curves if they are buying it.”
“Don’t assume that – tastes do vary,” Dominique said,
“but yeah, you’re another one.”
“Well that’s two of us who never sold their bodies Dom.” Lily said triumphantly, “and there is no way either Penny or Janice ever did.”
“Who said that?” Jan asked quietly.
“Oh come on, from what the others said you were Miss straight and narrow FBI agent.” Lily laughed.
“I still turned some tricks in college.” Jan spoke slowly, “my roommate and I would come into the city for weekends and book a hotel room, and it helped pay the tuition. Winnings from racing only covered so much after the fees and costs.”
The girls looked at her, before she said “but it was only once or twice – like I said, a lot of girls did.”
“Well, no way a lady like Penny did.” Lily couldn’t
quite believe Janice’s confession.
“As Jan said, who said that?” Penny whispered.
“Now I know this is a windup.” Lily laughed.
“Lily, I was on the game for over four years, after I… well that’s another story.”
“On the game?” Annie asked Dom.
“British term for being a hooker.” Dom looked hard at Penny. There were still a huge amount of secrets hidden behind Penny’s careful exterior. “How Pen?”
“I was like you I guess, alone in London, trying to keep low.”
“I’d killed a man though.” Dom whispered, “I had little choice as to jobs.”
“Nor did I if I was to stay hidden.”
“How?” a stunned Lily asked.
“A tart who let me sleep on the floor in her hallway, let me borrow some of her things, she did my makeup and took me out to work with her.” Penny’s voice cracked slightly, “My first client took my virginity, I can only remember feeling panicked about why I was bleeding like that. When I got back to the tart she told me what had happened, that was my first sex education lesson.”
Dom looked at the others, before she said “Dear God, Penelope, why have you…”
“I don’t want to know this I think," Jan
said," but how old were you Penny?”
“Can I decline to answer please?” Penny tried to re-gather her dignity and wipe away a couple of tears.
“Oh Dear God. Does Madame know?” Lily asked as she held her friends hand.
“No, I guess one day I’ll tell her, but till then I rely on your discretion.”
"Of course," Annie said. "But it does help to talk."
“I’m not ready for that – yet,” Penny said with a smile, “but thank you.”
"I’ll admit I'm rather taken with the idea of
being publicly known as a sinner." Shirley's eyes twinkled as she sat in
her drawing room.
"Well Pussy appointed herself as a one woman
committee to find us some more Saints." Juliette smiled, "Though the
idea of Pussy finding men for a group is a little ridiculous."
"Oh tell me why?"
"Oh that's right you haven't met. Well Patricia
van Roon, that's her real name is socially acceptable
"She's seem ideal
"Except she's an open lesbian."
"Oh!" Shirley laughed heartily.
"It was Frieda her partner by the way did the
chemical analysis on the paint samples to prove the forgery. They are both
Physicists, but Frieda had a chemistry background."
"Well did she know what she was doing?"
"No, Heather was at Yale with Pussy, she asked
simply as an art expert needing to give an opinion, so Frieda borrowed a lab at
"They both sound interesting girls to know."
"Very much so."
"But getting back to Saints and Sinners, why did
you ask me if I could meet you?"
"Pussy has a list of about 15 men of various ages
she wants to ask if she can go ahead and invite to your party…She calculates
that should balance numbers."
"Tell her to go ahead." Shirley smiled, “I'll
be interested to see the kind of men she has dug up for bachelorettes such as myself."
"It will take a lot of pressure off Jan and Susan
"Oh that I agree, we know a lot of predatory cats darling." Shirley laughed some more. “Talking of which, Tom Morse has said he has arranged for some police to watch outside on the night – is he that worried about Security?”
“Right now he’s worried about anything – but yeah, when you realize who you’ve asked along, he felt it necessary.”
Juliette nervously lifted her cup as Shirley watched.
“Juliette, are you all right?”
“Yes – of course.”
“Will you be inviting StJohn? I would very much like to meet him.”
“If… If you want me to,” Juliette said.
“I would,” Shirley said with a smile, “I would.”
The de Ros Mansion
"Aunt Di, Aunt Mary, I need your help."
The two women sat and looked at Cari as she held Judith.
"You are the only two who knew mom before in Paris and after I was conceived."
"Ay," Mary said, "what of it lass?"
Carina swallowed and said "I think someone has hurt her again and she won't talk to me. Can you two ask her?"
"And if someone has?"
"Just tell me Aunt Diana - that's all I ask."
Sunday 28th December
Inn on the Green
“Well, now, what cataclysmic event has happened to have you two sitting together in the same place,” Juliette said as she walked over to the booth, brushing the snow off her great coat.
“Oh come now lass,” Mary said as she looked up, “can’t two old friends invite another old friend to have a drink with them?”
“Yes of course they can,” Juliette said as she sat down, “but you two? This means you want to talk about Klaus?”
“In part,” Diana said as the waiter took Juliette’s order, “but we haven’t seen much of you since Christmas Eve, so we wanted to be sure you were all right. Especially after we talked on Friday.”
“So is it true then – is Klaus Carina’s father?”
“It looks that way – certainly she and Ingrid have a common parent, but Klaus is seeing Helen tomorrow morning, and we’ll know by Wednesday.”
“I always regretted the fact you two never got together, if truth be told,” Mary said as she sipped her whisky, “things might have been a lot easier for you over these last few years.”
“Oh I’m not complaining,” Juliette smiled, “and there is no point in speculating on what might have been. Cari is a fantastic daughter, and I have a fantastic granddaughter – let’s drink to that.”
The three raised their glasses and toasted each other before Diana said “So long as you are all right, and nobody has hurt you again.”
She saw the flinch in Juliette’s face, as her friend said “Klaus would not hurt me again – he was as astonished as I was, but no. He wants to do the right thing – after all these years, I’m not going to stop him.”
“Are you all right, Ju – you looked frightened for a minute there. I haven’t seen that look on you for a long time.”
Juliette smiled and rubbed her arm. “Yeah – I just knocked my arm yesterday, and it hurts a little bit that’s all.”
“And this StJohn Stevens – he’s not upset about Klaus being back on the scene?”
“No – why should he be?”
“No reason – no reason at all,” Juliette said quietly.
“Good – because if he did hurt you, you’d tell us, wouldn’t you?”
She nodded, but Diana was not convinced.
Monday 29th December
“Thanks for allowing us to meet here, Shirley,” Carina said as she came in, smiling at Ama and Maisha. “Going out girls?”
“We wish to buy something for our ears on Wednesday,” Maisha said as she put on her duffel coat.
“Do not worry, I found a store that is very reasonable, and is not called Tiffany,” Ama said as they headed out.
“We’ll talk in my den,” Shirley said as she came out, Carina following her to where Sandy and Janice were already sitting.
“Thanks, girls,” Carina said as she sat down, “Mom took Judith to spend some time with Ingrid and Klaus. It gives us a chance to discuss our mutual problem.”
“StJohn Stevens,” Janice said with a scowl. “He was lording it over all of us this morning.”
“Well, he hurt Mom the other night, which means he has not just crossed the line, he has invaded and sent up the red flag. Problem is that means The Beast wants to talk to him.”
“Get in line,” Sandy mumbled.
“This is now very personal,” Shirley said quietly, “and I think you need to talk about Doctor Stevens as he really is.” She passed a file over to Jan, who flipped through it.
“You have got to be kidding me,” she said as she looked at Shirley, “Jeanne is right?”
“She is, but he has friends in high places, which is why nothing has been done in the UK. What we need to do is deal with him here, on terms mutually acceptable to all.”
“What do you think he will do?”
“You think he suspects you and your mother?”
Cari nodded as Shirley sat back. “Then we need to force his hand. Make him very uncomfortable. He will be coming on Wednesday, and we have various people coming to make him feel very welcome, not just Dominique.”
“Oh? Who do you have in mind?”
“I have Lily’s uncle coming. You will not have heard of him, but he is very knowledgeable on the London underworld, and identified Stevens right away. The key thing is to get him into a state where he makes a rash move, and threatens to expose Juliette.”
“Risky – what if he goes to Adam or Jeanne?”
“He won’t – he prefers to use women, so if Diana and the others keep Jeanne busy, he’ll come to me. I arrange to meet him to get the information.”
“And then,” Cari said as she looked at Janice.
“Triple whammy,” she said as she passed the file to Shirley. “I trust you have this electronically?” She smiled as Shirley nodded. “Good – I give the nod, Heather sends it to Jeanne.”
Looking at Sandy, she said “then you and Jo meet me in the car, subdue him, take him to the farm, let Cari and friends take care of StJohn. Before that, though, you,” she said as she looked at Shirley, “and Diana tell Juliette the truth, and that it is being taken care of.”
“And in the end?”
“Spread the word – whoever wants to express their feelings, come to the farm.”
Cari looked at Jan and smiled. “I like it – can we do it Shirley?”
“Consider it done,” Shirley said with a smile, “Consider it done.”
“I’ll get Annie to come as well – she’ll enjoy it.”
Wednesday 31st December
Shirley looked round, the caterers whom Janice had recommended were really first rate, everything was just as it should be and should any guest arrive early they wouldn't be taken by surprise.
The policemen who had drawn the short straw of having to do security tonight were in the kitchen enjoying their meal before going on duty. It was a useful tip from Adam to invite them in and entertain them, though it seemed strange her actually asking the cops into her home. Working New Years Eve can't be fun, and standing outside an apartment building on Park Avenue in the snow made it worse, but given the guest list she had understood when Tom Morse had told her he was organizing security.
“A lovely gown, Shirley,” Penny said as she came in, wearing a high collared red velvet dress with a long flowing skirt. Shirley smiled as she looked at her grey silk gown.
“It seemed appropriate for the occasion – and I think Maisha holds the younger end of the market up well.”
They looked at the young African woman as she came in, wearing a black evening dress with stockings and three inch heels. Lily followed her, in an electric blue dress, and then George in a dinner suit, looking very uncomfortable.
“Well, people should be arriving soon,” Shirley said with a smile. “So, enjoy the evening, be alert – and be prepared.
The Huntingdown Apartment
"Mom the Bostonians are here." Cari called from the door.
Juliette came out of the drawing room and for a moment was taken aback by the sight of the man on whose arm Karen was.
"Juliette this is Ken my husband."
Juliette had the rare sensation in her life of having to actually look up at a man. Ken Boyd was nearly seven feet tall and thin as a garden rake, he had blonde hair and wore small circular glasses.
"It's my pleasure Ken." Juliette smiled as
he stooped down to kiss her.
"Hey Duncan, Hey Alice,” she then said as she kissed the other two. Duncan had been Alice's one and only practically from the time she had started modeling, they were usually held up as the fashion industry’s ideal couple.
"You must be Carina." Ken practically had to bend double to get down to kiss her on the cheek.
“So where is Judith tonight,” Karen said as she looked at the young woman, in her dark blue gown.
“At Sandy’s place – they have a special night for the kids there,” Carina said as she slipped on her fur.
“Why don’t you go down,” Ken said as he waited for Juliette, who had gone to fetch her coat, “we won’t be long.”
As the others went down, he waited patiently until Juliette came back, adjusting her opera gloves before she put her fur on.
“May I ask a personal question?”
“But we’ve only just met,” Juliette said with a smile.
"Who hurt you Juliette?" Ken Boyd asked.
"Over the years…"
"I mean recently."
She looked up at the man, and said "What do you
"Juliette a doctor can recognize the signs when a
woman has recently been abused….some bastard hit you recently."
"Oh it wasn't that, I just had a…."
"You say you had a fall and I'll slap you."
"Don't worry Ken,” Juliette said quietly, “he'll
never have the chance to do it again."
"Is that a promise?"
"Good it will stop my wife worrying about you as well." He offered his arm as they left the apartment.
The McNally Apartment
"Okay gang the limo is here." Rachel McNally called out.
"Who is it says it’s the women who are late?" Judy asked as she and Angel descended the stairs.
"We still haven't rounded up my Mother yet?"
Angel reminded her.
"Darling I'm already here." Lady Ordford came through from the kitchen. "I was looking
outside at the snow, I'm glad we listened and bought fur coats over with
"Yes tonight both stylish, AND practical." Rachel looked slightly enviously at Mandy's sleek black full length sable coat.
“Jack will join us there – Pussy asked if he would collect a guest on the way there,” Will said as he came out with Billy, David and George.
“Well let’s go then – don’t want to keep the hostess waiting,” Rachel said as she led the way out.
“Coming,” Tony said as he ran down the stairs and joined the party.
The Richmond Mansion
"Okay you guys all have fun and do as Babs tells you." Sandy reminded the children.
“We will mom,” Little Sandy said as she hugged her mother, and went off into the front room with Katy and the others.
"It was a good idea you putting on a kids New Year’s party here Sandy." Janice smiled at Katy dancing."
"Well it means the parents can enjoy themselves
and not feel they have to run away from the party like Cinderella to get home
for the children. It's not like we don't have plenty of beds here."
"Well I think it was inspired." Adam helped Janice back into her fur coat.
“Right then – this should be an evening to remember,” Jo said as she held the door open for the others to exit, Curt waiting with her.
"Ama are you ready
Annie emerged from her room, fixing her earrings in place as Caroline checked the shoulder strap on her gown.
"Do I look all right in this?"
Caroline and Annie looked at the young girl in her gold silk gown and both nodded.
"You look fantastic," Caroline said as she held the dark fur coat. "Come on the taxi is waiting."
They stepped out to meet Pepsi, April and Grant outside, the six climbing in before the cars drove off.
“Welcome Juliette,” Shirley said as she kissed her friend on both cheeks, “Come in, come in. The maid will take your coats for you.”
“Thank you for inviting us all,” Juliette said as the others handed their coats in.
"Oh my Goddess who is that bean pole
Juliette?" Shirley giggled in her friend’s ear.
"That is Dr. Ken Boyd, Karen's husband."
"And you say she's pregnant?"
"With those genes their child will have to be
either an extremely tall model or a basketball player…I'm just glad we have
high ceilings here, the poor man must have to stoop normally."
"He's a nice man, and oh with his Boston accent does he remind me of growing up. He sounds like half my family did."
“A pleasure to meet you Shirley,” Ken said as he stooped and kissed her.
“The pleasure is mine,” she purred, “please, come and have a drink.”
She turned as Caroline came in with Annie and Ama, Pepsi and her parents following them in.
“Grant, Nikki, this is Shirley Xavier. Shirley, my husband and daughter.”
“Thank you for inviting us,” Grant said as he kissed Shirley’s hand.
“My pleasure – please, come and have some food and drink,” she said as Penny showed them into the main room.
“Hello Tom, Holly,” Carina said as they joined her at the buffet table, Holly in a green silk gown with matching opera gloves.
“Your mother asked me if I would do a Dior show in February,” Holly said with a smile, “I think it will be fun, don’t you?”
“It should be, and a welcome relief after the balls,” Carina said with a smile.
"Hello Alex I didn't hear you arrive."
Juliette kissed the priest.
"I slipped in."
"Did you meet the husbands, you know the wives of
course." Juliette smiled.
"I did, we were just discussing what I love about
all this snow…"
"Which is?" Juliette questioned.
Alexander laughed. "It's just so nice of you to give me a lift in your
"Well even Priests can't get away with drinking
and driving, and besides I heard Shirley has something rather special she wants
your opinion on."
"Oh?" Alexander lit up.
"I better explain that in addition to everything
else Alexander is an absolute wine expert, and he's going to be writing a
regular wine column for CS starting in the New Year. Every hostess in town has
to be at the top of her game when he's a guest."
"Well she has to impress Valeria as well."
“Good evening Tom, I believe we have a common
"Yes we were roommates at Georgetown together
before he quit the seminary. He was right to, medicine rather than the
priesthood was always his true vocation."
"He's an inspiring teacher." Tom nodded.
Diana smiled as she arrived with Abby, Guy and Valeria, all three women dressed in black gowns while Guy wore a traditional morning suit.
“So glad you could come,” Penny said as she handed them a drink, “and a pleasure to meet you as well, Countess de Ros. Shirley has asked me to invite you to join her later for a private drink.”
“I would be honoured,” Valeria said as they made their way into the main room and joined the growing throng.
“A good gathering so far, Shirley, and it is still early,” Diana said as she greeted their host.
"Ingrid and Klaus are coming on from the event at
the German Consulate, Natasha has to come on from the
UN, and the Morse's from City Hall." Juliette told Shirley.
"I hear Tom is running for congress?"
"Yes, and so it's important he shows face at
events like that"
"Politics." Shirley moaned
"Oh come and meet these girls." Juliette
dragged Shirley towards the door.
"Oh Hi Juliette." one of the guests kissed
"Shirley can I introduce Dr. Patricia van Roon, and her partner Frieda."
"I hear if I call you anything other than Pussy I'm putting my life in danger," Shirley giggled as she greeted her guests.
"I may forgive you for tonight. Shirley, can I introduce Captains Mike Angus, and Perry Kolocic from the
Physics department at West Point."
"Hello." Shirley appraised the two handsome
officers in their dress greens.
"For their sins they both teach Physics as well,
but you can get them to talk on other subjects if you try."
"So how do you two gentleman
"We were at grad school with her at Yale."
"Well thank you for coming to my little
"It's our pleasure," Perry smiled.
"Well for a few minutes I can keep you safe but
after that you are on your own." Shirley glanced round the room.
"Safe from what?"
"Oh you'll find out." Shirley giggled.
As she spoke, the door opened and Barbara pushed Jeannie in, the young model in a long red dress while Barbara wore a short sleeved white dress with opera gloves. John followed them in with Vanessa, Sandy and the others right behind them.
“Hey,” Jeannie said as John lifted her onto a couch, and Ama walked over with Maisha.
“Maisha, this is my friend Jeannie. Jeannie, this is Maisha.”
“A pleasure – so you are Shirley’s ward?”
“That is right – and you are a famous young woman,” Maisha said with a smile.
“Welcome Mandy,” Shirley said as she embraced and kissed Mandy and Will.
“Oh my – you have done well with this place,” Mandy said as the maid took her coat. “I like it, I like it a lot.”
“So do I,” Shirley said with a smile as David and the others kissed her in greeting. “Please, make yourselves at home.”
“Forgive me,” a deep English voice said, “do I have the honour of addressing Shirley Xavier.”
“You do sir,” Shirley said as she turned round.
"I was told I ought to say hello, I'm John
"Yes." he blushed slightly.
Shirley quickly appraised the man, she knew that he
was a former Major in the Irish Guards, and from his clipped moustache, to his
polished manners, to his upright bearing; he breathed the image of the
gentleman former soldier.
"It was nice to be invited to such a
gathering." he kissed her hand.
"Well you know so many people…" Shirley
mentally kicked herself that was so weak.
"All but the most important…My Hostess."
"Did you have a good Christmas?" Shirley
couldn't think why she was coming out with such banalities.
"I did thank you." John looked over the room, and said “Shirley I'm afraid I'm being signaled for - can we chat some more later please?"
"I'd be delighted." Shirley practically purred as he walked towards Mandy and Will.
"Oh my God he must think I'm a complete
idiot." Shirley grabbed a glass of champagne from Penny.
"Him." Madame pointed.
"Oh my Goddess I think it finally happened."
"What happened?" Caroline turned.
"A man penetrated Madame's armour
over her heart."
"Him." Penny pointed,
"Who is he?"
"That's John Hammond," Caroline smiled,
"gentleman, former soldier, and photographer."
"And tell me for her sake he's straight?"
"He is, he's a widower, unattached, and one of
the nicest men I ever met." Caroline remembered. "He gave me my first
sip of wine one day when he was shooting Mum."
"Do you think he…?"
"Well that's the third time he's glanced in her direction."
“You are right – this is a momentous occasion,” Caroline said with a smile.
“There you are,” Jeannie said as Doc and Nikki joined her, Ama and Maisha. “This is Ama’s friend Maisha.”
“Hello,” the young girl said as she shook their hands, “Ama has told me a lot about you.”
“Maisha lives with Shirley,” Ama said.
“Our hostess? She is a very sophisticated lady.”
“She has been very kind to me.”
“So has she adopted you as Caroline adopted Ama?”
“No – I believe the term is I am her ward, and she is my guardian until such time as we can find out if my own family is still alive.”
“Oh my,” Jeannie said, “look who just arrived…”
"You must be Miranda?" Shirley shook the
hand of the tall black girl in the long skirted elegant dress uniform of a
female West Point cadet.
"Thank you for the invite." Miranda smiled,
"The boys and I had been thinking Times Square for tonight, but this is
"Well I think you know a lot of people already,
just introduce the boys as you circulate, and yes I've squared it with the
Captains to look the other way should you partake of a little champagne."
"Thank you." Miranda smiled.
"Hello hello," Doc smiled, "West Point Cadets."
"Yeah I forgot to tell you, Pussy rang Bobbi, who
rang Miranda, to see if she round up some boys who couldn't get home to their
families for new years."
"Well good for Miranda," Doc practically purred at the young men in uniform.
The young men looked round the crowded room, eyes and mouths open.
"Okay Miranda you got us here under false pretences,"
Ian Tang spoke. "You told us it would just be high society types, you sort of forgot the supermodels."
"You mean there are supermodels here?"
"Abigail de Ros,
Jeannie Brewster, Caroline Jameson, the Huntingdown's,
mother and daughter…"
"Oh you are missing a few." Miranda giggled,
"Let me see, there's Mandy Carrow, that's Alice
McKinnon, Dr.Boyd used to model as Charity Ross. That
looks like Pru Stratton just arriving…should I go
"You’d have got half the corps here if you'd told
them." Peter DiMaggio looked round checking out the beautiful women.
"Ah but I was asked only to bring a handful." Miranda laughed again. "You boys were the lucky ones."
“Then we thank you,” Peter said as Doc walked over. “Well hello boys – come and say hello to my friends…”
“A fine gathering,” Winston said as he stood next to Abigail, “and it is nice to see so many of your old school friends as well.”
“How is Stanford, House,” Miranda said as she walked over.
“Not as dangerous as West Point, I’d imagine, but we’re doing well in the league,” he said as Abby went to talk to Mandy.
“I’m amazed you and Abby stay together, especially after Halloween.”
“What do you mean Judy?”
“Oh – well, better if…”
Tony watched as House listened to his cousin, and then looked across the room at him, eyes blazing.
"Carina why are those two young men glaring at
"Who?" Carina adjusted
"The enormous young man over there,
and the nice young man who came with the McNally's."
"Well for once it's not my mess Shirley." Cari smiled. "The big young Man,
or House as we call him has officially been Abigail's boyfriend for a long
while. Tony, the Englishman, we met in London and he and Abby hit it off. At
Halloween Abby slept with Tony, and I think House has finally heard the
"Oh dear I hope they won't cause trouble, the
party is going so well." Shirley looked concerned.
"I'll tell Abby to make sure it doesn't." Carina nodded.
“Courtney! I see young Jack managed to get you here in one piece!”
“Pussy, it’s a real pleasure to see you as always,” the tall blonde said as she took her arm from that of Jack Fitzstuart and kissed her friend on both cheeks. “So where is the divine hostess?”
“Shirley,” Pussy said as she beckoned her over, “May I introduce you to Courtney Act? She is an old friend, and is one of the models for the Dior retrospective Juliette and Mary are putting together.”
“Charmed,” Courtney said as she kissed Shirley on both cheeks.
“So glad you could join us – please, help yourselves and mingle,” she said as Jack looked round the room.
His smile grew wider as he saw Pepsi walk over, her white strapless dress moving with her.
"Good evening Jack darling." Pepsi purred the words. "Thank you for the messages, and I LOVED my Christmas present." Pepsi looked deep into his eyes. "I have just the way to say Thank You."
“Oh really – and what would that be Nikki?”
“Why don’t you guess?”
Jack smiled as he pulled her close and gave her a deep passionate kiss.
From different points of the room her two mothers both looked on in concern.
“Grant, would you excuse me a moment,” April said as she walked off, only to be surprised to see Janice excuse herself from Adam and Alex and walk over as well.
They exchanged a look as Jack left Pepsi to fetch a drink.
“Nicola, can I have a word please,” April said as she and Janice took the young girl to one side.
“Sure mom, Jan, what’s wrong?”
“That was quite some kiss,” Jan said.
“Yeah,” Pepsi said as she closed her eyes, and then opened them again. “Oh you’re not going to play the heavy handed parent, are you Mom?”
"Nicola darling, just try not be
as flagrant in showing your affection for Jack." April looked troubled.
"It could cause trouble his being that much older then you."
"Mom he's four and a half years older then me. Dad is nine years older then you."
"At your age those years are important from a
legal point of view Pepsi." Janice said in a whisper, "You could get
him into a lot of trouble."
"It's hardly like I'm unwilling."
"We know Darling, but can you be a bit less
obvious about it?" April asked quietly.
"Listen to your Mother, and if you don't, listen
to me as an FBI agent." Janice threatened.
"Okay we will be more discreet." Pepsi
"Jack's a nice boy." April smiled, "but
just tell him to be careful, I'd hate to see him break
your heart, or worse."
"Mom he's not going to get me pregnant, and most
of the time all we do is chat online."
"Just cool it a bit Pepsi." Janice warned as
her daughter walked away.
“My god, were we ever like that,” April said as she shook her head.
“No comment, but between us I hope we got the message
across April." Janice shook her head.
"Yeah OUR daughter is becoming a handful."
Jan’s eyes widened as she looked over at the young
woman. "You KNOW?"
"I didn't till right now, but I'd sort of guessed
at Christmas with the present. Heather dropped a hint it was from you."
"Oh My Goddess,” Jan said as she turned to hide
her red face from the others. “April, I
apologize if I crossed a line..."
"Why? Jan I know you reasonably well by now, you aren't going to break up my family, and it's nice to know someone else is watching over her.”
“No – and that’s something Grant and I have discussed. How did you find out anyway?”
“I hired a private detective, and he managed to get into the records somehow. Will you tell her?”
“Not unless she asks, but I will tell Grant. Don’t worry – your secret is safe.”
April walked away leaving Janice in shock as Adam came over.
“Everything all right Jan?”
“Yes,” she said as she wiped away a tear, “everything’s fine.”