The Best Laid Plans – part 3







1 pm Local Time

Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, Copacabana, Rio


“Wonderful,” Rick said as Jessica posed on the steps down to the boats, now wearing a one piece halter neck costume that barely held her chest in.  “We can move on now – is Jeannie ready?”


“Just coming,” Essie said as John wheeled her out, wearing a red swimsuit and trainers.  Youse ready for this, lass?”


"And here was I happily anticipating getting photographed lying on the beach, and all the shoots have turned into action ones, Jeannie sighed.

"Now don't worry out there on the water Jeannie," Rick smiled, "Roberto will sail the boat, you just listen to him and let him lift you into pose spots."

"Rick I'm pretty dubious about this," Barbara looked worried. "What if she falls out?"

Jeannie rolled her eyes as she said "Don't worry Mum."

"I've heard those words before Jeannie Brewster,” Barbara said, “usually just before you give me a heart attack."

"Roberto knows what he's doing, in an emergency I'm a good swimmer, and just look at all the safety boats, etc."

"I know, but I'm your Mum, I'm supposed to get worried." Barbara looked as Roberto lifted Jeans onto the deck of the Nacra 17 racing boat.  “And besides – this is the Atlantic Ocean!”




“We’ll be in the boat as well,” Rick said as the yacht set off, a second boat towing behind it the single shell as they made their way out into towed after it as Roberto started to row out, Jeannie waving as they made their way to the waterway.


“She’ll get to lie on the beach later,” Essie said as John and Barbara watched, “the idea is to show you can still be active even when disabled.”


As they reached the course, the yacht was brought to a stop as the shell moved alongside, Roberto stopping and gently lifting Jeannie into the seat of the single scull.  He then placed the rows into the oarlocks and showed Jeannie how to hold and use the blades, after he had placed her feet into the rests.


“What the…  Is Roberto giving Jeannie the oars,” Jessica said as the tow boat then moved slowly off, Jeannie pretending to use the oars, and Rick starting to take pictures from the yacht…



"Lift Jeannie out of the boat and let’s try her in the green and yellow one-piece." Essie shouted at the wardrobe girl as they finally returned to the shore.

"Granddad,” Jeannie called out, “can you lift me in my chair and take me to the tent please?"

"Her hair and makeup needs a retouch," Rick yelled as he looked at the previous pictures of Jeannie out in the single scull. "You know once we airbrush out the tow rope Essie these will look incredible."

"I tink so." Essie looked over his shoulder as John lifted her into the chair, and wheeled her to the tent.  “Now for the two gals on the next part.  Roberto?”


“We have the crew ready,” Roberto said, “and the catamaran as well.”


“Catamaran?”  Barbara looked at the racing yacht that was approaching, and went “oh my god…”




1 pm

The de Ros Mansion


“Welcome back, Madame, Miss Abigail,” Edith said as she opened the door, “may I add my own congratulations on today, Miss Abigail?”


“Thank you Edith,” Abby said with a smile as Mercy and Letty came in.  “Is everything ready?”


“Indeed – I have food and drink ready in the dining room, and more in preparation.”


“Thank you, Edith,” Diana said as she looked to the door.  “I see you have a visitor today as well.”


“Indeed – I hope you do not mind that Coleen joined me today?”


“Of course not – I am very glad you were able to come,” Abby said as she stooped and kissed Edith’s sister on both cheeks.  “After all, in a way you are part of the family as well.”


“I do not know about that,” Coleen replied, “but thank you for making me welcome.”


“If you would all like to make your way through,” Edith said, “I will greet the guests.”


“Why don’t you come with us Coleen,” Diana said as she pushed her into the drawing room, “and you can join us as our guest for a while.”


“Thank you,” the older woman said as Jo came in with Carina.


“Welcome, your highness, Miss Joanne,” Edith said, “you will find Miss Abigail and the others in the drawing room.”


“Thanks you Edith,” Jo said as she went through, and hugged both Abby and Letty.  “That’s it, you are free women now,” Cari said with a smile as she came over.


“And don’t it feel good!”


Abby smiled as Marnie Paget came in with Brooke, and Ally with Nell and their mothers.  “Thanks for coming – and where were you Nell?”


“Paying my respects at the Nunnery,” Nell said.  “But I hear it was a fantastic ceremony.”


“It certainly was,” Letty said as she hugged them.  “So what have you two got planned for the summer?”


“Apart from France?”


“Yes, apart from France, Countess,” Ally said, “actually we’re going to be splitting – I’m going to the Hamptons after your party.”


“And I’m joining Mick at his place for a couple of weeks.”


“Well, I for one am looking forward to a summer based here,” Marnie said, “with the far too occasional side trip courtesy of Missy.”


“Including Sydney?”


“I think that’s a three-line whip, as Aunt Maggie would say,” Pippa said as she came in.  “Congratulations, both of you.”


“Thanks – where’s Poppy?”


“Gone swimming with the other girls – except for Jess.  She’s preparing for her afternoon with Ama at my place,” Caroline said as she came in.


“Well now this is a gathering of minds.”


“Hey Jude,” Abby said as she hugged Judy McNally, “did Tony enjoy the morning?”


“I did, lover,” Tony said as he gently kissed Abby on her lips, “a very moving experience, and far better than my last day at Harrow.”


“Oh?  And what happened that day,” Jo said with a smile.


“No comment – but the uniform was disposed of appropriately…”




“So did you enjoy the ceremony,” Letty asked Sands as she came in with Sandy and Heather.


“It was different,” Sands said as she took a drink, “but I did like the way it was done.”


“And in just over a year’s time you’ll be at St Angela’s” Jo said.


"Well we graduate from Bishop Walden next year..."

"Which is a nice ceremony itself Sands," Abby smiled.

"I know,” Sands said, “but not as impressive as today was."

"Oh I agree,” Judy said, “the school really does put on a good show."

"Mrs Brand was very pleased," Diana said as she passed round some drinks.

"Talking of Grace, and now I'm a graduate I can safely call her that, when will she be here?"

"Once she's finished at the Botanical Garden darling, she said she would drop in." Diana answered her daughter.

"Oh Good."


“Hey there lover,” Annie said as she came in and kissed Carina, “that was something else again.”


“Oh I know,” Carina said, “I saw you trying not to cry, Monster Momma.”


“Difficult – especially with this lot…”


“Hey Annie – aren’t there a couple of people we should be seeing,” Maggie Fife said as she came over with Marnie.


“You’ll have to wait, I’m afraid – they are meeting the other babies at the moment,” Carina said, “but we’re here until next Saturday, so call round any time.”


“By the way,” Caroline said as she held up a heavy red envelope, “this arrived this morning – one for you, one for me.”


Taking the envelope, Carina said “is this what I think it is?”


“Yup – we got ours this morning as well,” Sandy said as Carina opened the envelope and removed the engraved card.


“Francesca, Marchesa di Cambrello requests the pleasure of your company at the marriage of her daughter Charlotte di Cambrello Gordon to Pietre van der Byl.  Thursday 21st July, 2.30 pm, Basilica Santa Chiara, Naples, and afterwards at the Palazzo Sentova.  RSVP.”


“Does it really say that,” Annie said as she looked at it.  “I have a feeling Char is about to find out how you felt last October.”


“Amplified,” Caroline said, “I dispatched Tracy and Bev already.”


"So where is the Graduate?" Klaus called out as he entered, "we have gifts..."

"I'm over here Uncle Klaus."

"So you are,” he said as he walked over, “here - this is from Juliette, myself, and the family."

"WOW!" Abby's eyes nearly popped out as she saw the double string of pearls.


“Holly!  I haven’t seen you around for a few days,” Letty said as the blonde came into the room.  “Have you been all right?”


“Yeah,” Holly said with a smile, “I had to sort a few things out.”  As she spoke, she looked round the room, as if she was looking for someone.


Sands felt herself shrinking back into the corner of the room and trying to hide. She hadn't see Holly since Monday night when there had been a very unpleasant scene at the apartment while Sandy explained what had really been happening.  Tears had been cried, insults hurled, and Holly had eventually stormed out threatening to return all her 'presents' despite Sands protestations that she should keep them.

Since Monday they hadn't spoken, though Sands had received the keys to the MG through the post, along with a note saying that all Holly's other things had been left at the apartment.

Sands had been too chicken to ask Abigail if she had invited Holly today, but she had more than half expected to see her. Forewarned or not she still had no idea as to what she would say.  So as Holly walked over, she took a deep breath and wondered what was going to happen.


“Hello Sands,” Holly said as she got closer, “how are you?”


“Honestly?  Scared,” Sands whispered, “I have no idea how you must feel about me…”


“How I feel about you?”  Holly looked round, and then whispered "Sands… I would not have minded nearly as much if you had told me beforehand, but I feel like you used and abused the love I felt for you..."

"Felt for me," Sands interrupted.

"After what you did to me you think I could still love you?”  Shaking her head, Holly said “Come on - you aren't that young and naive Alexandra."

"Holly you were never meant to be involved,” Sands said as she put her head down, “but when you broke in on us at Churchill Downs, then I...and well you..."

"I know very well what happened, and I now know I will regret it for the rest of my life." Holly breathed deeply, "you made me a whore Alexandra, and what's worse is you made yourself one as well."

"If you don't love me why should that worry you?" Sands pouted.

"It worries me because no child should become a whore, and did you hear that word? CHILD!”  Holly stared at her as she breathed “you acted and behaved like a stupid little kid."

"I know," Sands looked downwards, "but honestly what I feel for you is genuine Holly darling."

"Alexandra I'm not sure you'd know what real love was if it hit you with a baseball bat," Holly looked like she was about to breath fire, "now go away little girl and let the adults have their fun."


“Holly…”  Sands looked at the blonde girl, and then nodded as she walked off quietly.  At the side of the room, Heather whispered to Sandy and then left the room.


"Oh dear Lord," Holly whispered as she felt her knees shake. That had been hard, but it was what she had told herself she needed to do. Inside her heart was breaking at hurting Alexandra in that way, she had loved her before the terrible scene on Monday, and she loved her still.


She thought of the birthday present that could now never be given sitting at home in her bureau, and inwardly she started crying.

"Oh why Sands?" Just why didn't you tell me?" she repeated some of the questions that she'd been asking in her mind since she had found out…




As she looked round, she saw Sandy standing beside her.  “You…  You must think I’m a horrible person Sandy,” she whispered.


“No – I think you have been very badly hurt,” Sandy said, “and I can understand why you are so angry.  Believe me, I was not too pleased when I heard either…”  Handing her a drink, she said “have you talked to Fergus?”


“Yeah – and I apologised for anything I did.  He took it with much more grace than I deserved.  And…”


“She did what she did because she wanted justice for her friend,” Sandy said quietly, “and although I think she did something incredibly stupid, she did it for good reasons.  All I ask is you give it time, and give her time.”


“You know she and I…”


Sandy nodded as she said “don’t worry – I’m saying nothing and judging nothing.  But if you ever want to talk, you know where I am – and I won’t tell anyone else.”





Sands sat herself down in a quiet corner, and put her face in her hands, allowing the tears to come quietly.  She had done something incredibly stupid, she knew it, but what she felt…


"Penny for them Bestie?"


As she looked up, she saw Katy Carter standing in front of her, a plate of food in her hand.  As she sat next to her friend, she said “I thought you might be hungry – and need an ear.”

"I just had another big scene with Holly." Sandy choked back her tears. "She says she doesn't love me any more Katy..."

"Give her time."

"I'm not sure I have it,” Sands sobbed, “she called me a little girl."

"Well I guess we are, both of us...Remember you are JUST thirteen Sands."

"I know, but what i feel inside for Holly isn't a little girls crush."

"I know it isn't,” Katy said, “but you just think of the upset all this has caused in Holly's life?"

"Yeah I know..."

"Somehow,” Katy said quietly, “she must keep Tommy from ever hearing about it, she has to deal with the fact that at least in her own mind she fell in love with an underage girl, that she seduced and blackmailed an older man..."

"I know...I KNOW!"

"You can't expect her to feel just as she did before you told her the truth," Katy put an arm round her friend.


“I know – but the look of hatred in her eyes…”


“Don’t blame her for that, Sands – she is hurting as much as you are, and trust me – people do strange things when they get hurt.”


“I know – I keep thinking though, if I had done nothing, he would still be getting those drugs into the country, and Laura would not be the last…”





"Your Grandparents are on the phone Cherie," Diana called out over the noise of the party.

"I'll take it in the kitchen Mama..."

"Alright," Diana waited until she heard heard the click and hung up.


“Am I late?”


“Not at all Grace,” Diana said as Edith took her coat, “has everything finished at the gardens?”


“As far as my involvement goes, yes,” Grace said as she accepted a drink.  “So how are things going?”


“Well everyone seems to be enjoying themselves,” Diana said as they looked in the room.  “Look at that – three consecutive head girls.”


Grace nodded as she looked at Judy, Jo and Letty.  “And so the wheel turns again…”


“Have you heard from Jeannie?”


“I have – she has done her first shoot, and Rick behaved himself.  I suspect Essie had words with him all night beforehand…”





"How is your Grandmother?"

"Oh she's great Cari," Abigail smiled as she came back in, "She and Grandfather have brought me all the extra lenses I wanted for my camera."

"That was thoughtful of them."

"I know...means that when we go to Munich I can really play with effects, etc."


“You’re really looking forward to this now, aren’t you?”


“Oh yes…”



Holly looked over and sighed as Heather made her way towards her.


“I need to talk to you,” she said as she took her by the arm and guided her to the library, “in private.”


"Oh wonderful…  Do I get the lecture from you as well Heather?" Holly frowned as she drank her champagne.

"No,” Heather said quietly as she closed the door, “Sandy told me what she said to you."

"You aren't angry?"

"Oh I'm angry with both of you,” Heather said as she sat down, and indicated the seat opposite, “but I understand what went on."

"Then why did you bring me in here in private."

"I brought you here Holly,” Heather said as she leaned forward, “to tell you a secret, and perhaps why I understand what too early exposure to the grown-up world means."


"This goes no further Holly, but my father was abusing me from the time I was 12 until he died."

"Oh Dear God Heather," Holly put her hand to her mouth.

"From a very early age I knew just what sex was..."

"And Jo?"

"No…  It was why she went to live with our relatives."

"I'm so sorry Heather," Holly shook her head

"She loves you, Holly, and I think it’s for real."

"I know...and I love her the same way."

"I thought you did," Heather smiled.  “Otherwise you would not be hurting so much…”

"But it can't be, and I have to be the grownup and stop it."

"Probably you do Holly."

"And,” Holly said quietly, “I also love Tommy."

"Which is a further complication." Heather nodded.  "Like I couldn't go back to before my Father raped me for the first time, neither you nor Sands can put the genie back in the bottle."

"So what do I do in your opinion Heather?"

"You try to avoid hurting her,” Heather said quietly, “you take back the car and the clothes, and the jewellery."

"But it’s different her giving them to me..."

"Then it was when you thought you were blackmailing Fergus?"

"Yes," Holly looked downwards.

"Just take them please Holly."

"And if I did, she'd know I still love her...but that must stop." Holly shook herself.

"Just think about it...Please Holly?"

"I'll try Heather."


“That’s all I ask,” Heather said as she stood up, “and in the meantime, remember she’s hurting as well.”




8 pm BST

Trafalgar Square, London


“That was good,” Charlotte said as she and Piet walked out of the Prince Charles Cinema, “so where do you fancy eating tonight?”


“Well, we are in Chinatown,” Piet said as he looked round, “let’s find a place round here and get some food.”


As they walked along the busy street, Charlotte took hold of Piet’s arm and smiled as they looked round the restaurants.  Finally, Piet said “let’s go in here,” and they entered Imperial China.


“Good evening,” the waitress said as she looked up – and then looked again, a strange look on her face.


“Good evening,” Piet said, “table for two please.”


“Of course,” she said as she picked up two menus, “this way please.”  She walked them across the floor to a quiet corner, and said “if you will take your seats, your waiter will be with you shortly.”


“This is nice,” Charlotte said as she looked round, the waitress going to talk to one or two of the other staff.  “It’s busy, yet quiet at the same time.”


“Yeah – I like it,” Piet said as a waiter came over with two glasses, and a second waiter brought over a silver wine bucket with a bottle of champagne.


“With the compliments of the management – we heard of your engagement, Miss Gordon,” he said as he opened the bottle, and poured the drink into two glasses.


“Thank you – I think,” Charlotte said as she looked at Piet, seeing his raised eyebrow.


“If you are ready to order?”


“Set meal two please,” Piet said, Charlotte nodding as the waiter nodded and went off.


“I didn’t know our engagement had got into the court pages,” Piet said as he sipped the champagne.


“It didn’t – did your mum and dad put anything in the Jo’Burg Star?”


“Nope – and even if they did, how would they…”


Piet and Charlotte looked at each other, before Charlotte took her phone out.


“Mother?  Is there something we need to know?”


“I think so,” she heard Francesca say, “Jack has already told me certain members of the press have already been asking if I can be contacted for an interview.  Carlotta, my dear, I think the cat has escaped from the hessian.”


“Yeah,” Charlotte said as she looked round, “we’re in Chinatown now.  Any thoughts?”


“Enjoy your meal, and call Beverley.  We’ll talk in the morning.”


As the dim sum was brought over, Piet looked at his phone.  “The boss – apparently it broke on Italian television tonight.”


“The management have asked me to ensure you of your privacy tonight,” the waiter said, “and the services of our rear exit when the time comes.”


“Well,” Charlotte said as she picked up a spring roll, “we’re not in Kansas now…”


9 pm BST

The Savoy


“All right Elia,” Francesca said as she looked out of the window onto the street below, “we knew this was coming.  I trust you to shield me as much as possible – I have other resources at play here.


“Scan and send me the headlines when you have them – I meet with them tomorrow.  And good luck.”


As she ended the call, she saw the blinking light on her laptop and accepted the Skype call.


“Marianne – how are things on the veldt?”


Marianne Vosloo smiled as she said "hectic.  Francesca, the news just broke down here about you and Roo...  It's all over the television."

"It's broke here as well Marianne,” Francesca said with a half smile, “so I guessed SA wouldn't be far behind."

"As yet they haven't linked John and I to this,” Marianne said, “but Piet's Mom says they are just starting to get calls in Johannesburg."

"Oh great..."

"She can't reach him by phone."

"He's turned it off,” Francesca said, “tell her to use the number that Shirley set up, that's not a known number."

"Will do." Marianne paused, "this is going to get insane isn't it?"

"Yes, I'm afraid it will darling. We are all going to have to endure weeks of complete chaos in our lives. Rather like..."

"Rather like what Francesca?"

"Oh nothing."

"Francesca I know you too well. What were you going to say?"

"I was comparing it in my mind to the disastrous way I reacted when I got home from Pretoria...and after James's letter."

"You mean when you had your first breakdown?"


"I've not dared asked before Francesca,” Marianne said, “but how bad were the mental hospitals?"

"Pretty grim darling...Pretty grim. At first they thought I was unlikely ever to recover, that my sanity would never return."

"Oh Christ...Francesca..."

"Eventually the drugs started bringing me round...and well you know the decision I made as I was being prepared for discharge from the hospital?"

"I do."


“So – we start to leak I have finally recovered, and take it from there…”


“Well – call if you need us?”


“I will, and thank you Mari,” Francesca said as she ended the call.



10.15 pm Local Time




"Did you reach Francesca?" John Vosloo asked his wife as she came into the office.

"Yes,” Marianne said as she took the drink, “she said it's broken there as well."

"Our press here at home is going to be as nothing compared to the Italian media."

"I know dearest..." Marianne's voice trailed off.

"What's worrying you? We will survive the media, I assure you."

"It's not that John," Marianne paused a few seconds. "I asked Francesca about the mental hospitals.

“Did you know at first they thought she was insane, and likely to stay that way?"

"No, but it doesn't surprise me,” John said as he sat down, nursing the glass in his hands.  “Having her life ripped apart like that, and James not forgiving her, she'd have had to be truly exceptional not to be affected."

"I know she says you caught her fairly, but still I cannot quite forgive myself for phoning you that day."

"You have to Marianne darling, sooner or later she would have slipped up and I'd have got evidence of her spying."

"But later rather than sooner she and James would have at least had some time together as a family with Charlotte."

"I'm sure wherever he is James is happy as to how this has turned out." John put his arm round his wife.

"I hope so.  So, what about Roo and Piet?"


“If I know Shirley,” John said, “she has things well in hand.”


Marianne nodded as the phone rang.  They both listened as the answering machine kicked in, but when Marianne heard “Mari, it’s Dana” she stood up and picked up the receiver.




“Oh thank God – you’ve started screening your calls?”


“We have - I spoke to Francesca, Piet and Roos are fine, and know what’s going on.  She says to use the special number for the time being.”


“What must they be going through?”


“I’m not sure – but I have the feeling it’s going to be worse for them…”




10 pm BST

Chinatown, London


“Well, that was an amazing meal,” Piet said as he wiped his chin, “but we need to get out of here now.”


Charlotte nodded as she took out her mobile phone, and answered the call.


“Bev?  Imperial China, in Chinatown.  They said they had a rear exit.”


She waved the waiter over, and whispered “someone is coming to pick us up, where do they need to go?”


“May I?”  He took the phone and talked to Bev for a few minutes, before returning the device.


“Ten minutes?  Gotcha.”


“I will tell you when she arrives,” the waiter said as Charlotte ended the call.


“In the meantime, we need to pay the bill,” Piet said, the waiter nodding as he walked off.  He then said quietly “we need to talk to your mother.”


“Agreed – we’ll meet her for breakfast tomorrow at the Savoy,” Charlotte said as she looked round.  “I wonder just how bad it can get…”


6 pm

The de Ros Mansion


“That was a wonderful party,” Abby said as she sat down and sipped her coffee.  Edith had taken her sister back to her home, and Diana was alone with her daughter for a few minutes.


Abby looked over at her mother, who was sitting looking at her, and said “what’s wrong?”


“Nothing,” Diana said with a smile, “just wondering when you became such a capable young woman.”


“Well, I had the best of teachers,” Abby said as the telephone rang.  “I’ll see who it is,” she said as she walked into the hallway and picked up the handset.


“This is Abigail de Ros?”


“Hey Stick – how did it go today?”


“I’m glad – and sad it’s over.  Never mind me though - How is it going Jeannie?" Abigail asked.

"Great,” she heard Jeannie say “me in all kinds of sporty poses, but it's maybe the most tiring shoot I've ever done."

"Has Rick behaved himself?"

"Yes, he's used a stand-in as much as possible, and he's been working fast because Essie has so much she wants him to try."

"What's been the worst?"

"Trying to look beautiful in a sculling boat while balancing myself and sitting upright."

"That can be hard even for able-bodied girls."

"Tell me about it.  But tomorrow, he promises me, the beach shots."


“Well, enjoy the rest tonight.  Any plans?”


“Essie has found a place along the beach, so we’re heading there now.  You?”


“Nice quiet night in…”




Sunday 29th May

2 am BST


As she sat on the terrace of the Palazzo di Cambrello, looking out over the buildings of Rome, Francesca smiled.  Life was good, everything was perfect…




“Thank you,” she said as she accepted the glass of wine, and smiled as he sat down next to her.  “So everything is in place now.”


“Indeed – she turned out all right, in spite of everything, didn’t she?”


“Oh yes – and we will be there when she is married in the special chapel.”


Francesca nodded as she sipped her wine, and smiled as she turned and looked at his handsome face.


"Francesca my darling we can be very proud of our daughter," James said as he turned to his wife and kissed her.

"I know we can darling," Francesca let him slip his arm round her.  “She is a beautiful and talented young woman.”

"She and Piet,” James said with a smile, “will have a long and happy marriage."

"I know,” Francesca said with a smile, “just like us my love."

"I love you Francesca Gordon."

"And I love you James..."

Suddenly Francesca woke up, sitting up and looking round the dark room.

"Merda!" she cursed.   "Why am I having that recurring dream?"


It was a question she asked herself again as she went to her suite's fridge and got some milk. "Why am I tormenting myself with thoughts that James is here to share this?" 


Sitting in an armchair, she turned on the television – only to be confronted by George Lazenby driving in the Alps with Diana Rigg.


“Okay, I give up,” Francesca said as she sat back, “if you’re going to do it to me, do it to me now!”


She looked at the clock, before sipping her milk.  “I wish you were here though,” she whispered quietly, “you would have been so proud of her…”



6 am BST


Francesca woke with a start, and looked round as the advert for the exercise video played on the television.


“Well, no point in putting it off any longer,” she said to herself as she started the coffee machine, and then headed to the shower.  Twenty minutes later, she sat at the table, a fresh cup of coffee to her side as she pulled the gown around herself, and switched on her laptop.  Taking a sip from the cup, she looked at the first site.


"’London woman revealed as secret heiress to Di Cambrello fortune.’  Well, at least the 'Corriere della Sera' has played it pretty straight,” Francesca thought as she scanned the Milan newspapers online edition.


"What about La Stampa?" she then said as she switched to their site.  "’La Bionda Idiota has Secret Daughter’," she said with a small laugh.  “Well, I guessed they would not be able to resist.  But at least they are not seeking to make fun of her.”  Looking at the screen, she took another drink from her coffee, and then took a deep breath.  She typed Il Mattino into the search bar, and then sat back as the headline appeared.


“Who is Carlotta di Cambrello? London woman revealed as daughter of Marchesa di Cambrello and heir to family fortune.”


“Okay,” Francesca said quietly, “fairly respectful as well – but they have a few choice things to say,” as she scanned down the text.  “But that’s the good side – how bad are the magazines?”


Steeling herself, she opened the online version of Oggi



“La Bionda Idiota shock!  Wedding invitation reveals she has a daughter in London!  Who is the father?”  As Francesca scanned down, she started to frown at the speculation.


“Okay,” she said as she made a not on a pad, “that’s one to scotch the rumours on right away.  Now for the other fun part…”  She moved on to look at Chi, and then grimaced as she closed the laptop.


“And that’s the early editions…”


7 am CET



The tram had only a few people on it, one of whom was a tall, slim blonde haired woman in a brown bomber jacket, tight leggings and knee length boots.  She was just looking round, having spent the night elsewhere and was heading home.


As the tram stopped, she smiled at the older woman, obviously on her way to work, and then something caught her attention.


"Oh dear I had better ring Francesca later," Natalya Buchenwald glanced at the copy of Bild am Sonntag that the person opposite her on the tram was reading. "Secret di Cambrello Heiress!" the headline screamed.


"Oh Crap." Natalya shook her blonde wigged hair, and stared hard through the dark glasses. "Well at least it might keep my activities of the previous night off the front page this time."


She stood up and waited for the tram to stop, and then made her way back through the alleyways to the rear of her apartment.  Letting herself in through the back door, she walked quietly up the rear stairs and looked in on Willy, still sleeping.  Smiling, she went to the toilet, emerging a short while later in a dressing gown, taking a bag as she headed downstairs.


“Good morning Madame,” her housekeeper said as she came into the front room, “the papers.”


“Thank you – I will take some coffee in the drawing room,” she said as she sat down, and began to read the papers for any further information.





8 am BST

Knightsbridge – Charlotte and Piet’s flat


“Here we go,” Piet said as he carried the tray into the bedroom, mugs of coffee and toast on it as Charlotte sat up and watched him put the tray over her legs.


“Thanks,” she said as she picked up the mug, and heard the car horns outside.


"How bad is it outside Piet?"

"You don't want to know Roo," the big man shook his head as he climbed back into bed.

"That bad eh?"

"Bloedige media nie hulle iets beter om te doen op 'n Sondag oggend het?"

"You know damn well they don't...And while I'm trying to think clearly Piet van der Byl, do not go switching languages on me."

"Sorry Babe."  He took a slice of toast and munched on it as Charlotte looked at her phone.


“Well, there were only one or two outside when Bev dropped us off,” she finally said, “but by the sound of things…  Just how bad are the papers?”


“Well…  Francesca called.  She wants to see us at ten - and Bev has called to say she’ll be out the back at nine thirty.  She said to tell you they’re keeping the rear clear – though how they’re managing that…”


“Oh they’ll find a way,” Charlotte said as she looked at her husband to be.  “So how bad are they?”


“As I predicted – Times and my paper have a little it on the inside.  But…  Look, have your coffee and toast, and then get ready.  I’ll get the shower first.”



9 am BST

The Savoy


Francesca picked up the telephone and said “Marchesa di Cambrello?


“Ah yes – I am expecting this call.  Please put it through,” she said as she sat and looked out of the window.


“Good morning Marchesa,” the Italian accent said, “how do I find you today?”


“A trifle frazzled,” Francesca said with a smile.


“I can imagine,” her press manager said.


"So how bad is it in Milan Elia?" Francesca asked. "The Savoy have had to bring people in on their Sunday off work to keep the press outside."

"It's pretty gruesome, but I do have a press release for you and Carlotta to okay. I'll send it right now."

"Alright, she and Piet are coming here for ten.  We will both read it and then you can put it out the meantime though anything else you advise?"

"Just all keep your heads down and stay inside today. Let me do what I do, and just maybe I can turn the heat down a little."

"Let them have the formal pictures that John Hammond took please."

"Alright.  You need to consider doing some sort of joint interview as well."


“Carlotta hates the press,” Francesca said quietly, “but I will talk it over with her.”


“She’s marrying a journalist, isn’t she?”


“You know what I mean,” Francesca said with a smile, “I will talk to you later.”


10 am Local Time

The Training Camp for the Sisters of Maisha


“We have both been invited, and I want you to come with me,” Razzie said across the table, “and I will be upset if you do not come, never mind Little Mother.”


“All right, All RIGHT!  I’ll come!”


“Good – that’s settled then,” Razzie said as he stood up, Helga shaking her head as Liz and Poison came in.  “The latest groups dropped off?”


“Oh yes,” Liz said as she sat down, and Poison poured some coffee, “but we also have news of Little Mother.  The bubble, as they say, has burst.”


“Oh great – someone sold on the wedding invite?”


“Yup,” Poison said, “did the girls get over there?”


“They did – I’m sure they will be on alert now…”


9.30 am BST



Piet smiled as he opened the kitchen door, to see Bev standing there.


Wotcher Boss – want a lift to the ‘otel?”


“Well, since you asked so nicely,” Charlotte said as she put her jacket on, “any press out there?”


“Nope – nice and quiet,” Bev said as Charlotte and Piet slipped out and into the car.  As she got into the car and drove off, they did not see the two photographers, asleep on a perch – or the two dark skinned women who slipped into their flat…


10 am

The Savoy


As Jack looked at the approach to the hotel entrance, he smiled as the car was allowed through the temporary cordon by staff, and drove up to the front door.


“Good morning Miss Gordon, Mister van der Byl,” he said as he opened the doors to the car, “I suggest a swift entrance and you progress to the dining room?”


“Thanks,” Piet said as he guided Charlotte in, Bev taking the car to the underground park as Jack closed the door.


“Good morning,” Francesca said as they came in and over to her table, “I take it you have some unwelcome visitors?”


“You could say that,” Charlotte said, “so what have the lower ranks of the British press been saying?”


“Well, I think this is my personal favourite,” Francesca said as she held up the front page of the Sunday Sun.


“Shocking secret of the Blonde Bimbo Admiral?  Well, I guess that is to be expected of that rag – what about the Sunday Mirror?”


“The Richest Girl in London,” Pier said as he showed Charlotte the front page picture of her.  “That’s not the worst one though.”


“What is?”


Francesca held up the Mail on Sunday.  “The Admiral and the Secret Love Child?  Oh I am going to kill someone…”


“Coffee first,” Francesca said as Piet took out his cell phone.  “Back in a minute Babe,” he said as he went to the corner, and Charlotte sat down.


“Okay – so what are the Italians saying?”


“Enough for my Press Secretary to draft this up,” Francesca said as she showed Charlotte a sheet of paper…



5.15 am

The Village


Caroline came out of her room to see Annie sitting on the couch, looking at the laptop as it sat on the coffee table.


"You are up early Annie?" Caroline said as she wandered into the kitchen.

"The babies demanded feeding," Annie sighed, "and Cari kicked me out of bed literally to do it."

"OUCH!" Caroline smiled. "So what are you reading?"

"Some of the online coverage of Charlotte's reveal and upcoming wedding."

"How bad is it?" Caroline asked as she poured herself a coffee.

"Well,” Annie said, “it’s inside page stuff here in New York, but Goddess you should see the European newspapers and magazines."

"I can see," Caroline looked over the new mother's shoulder.

"Oh Hello is quite tame compared to what I can make of the Italian magazines."

Nodding, Caroline said "I’d better ring Bev and Tracey and check on the security arrangements."


“Bev called – she’s taken them to the Savoy and will stay on there for now.”


“Good,” Caroline said, “so, how long before they start to bother us?”



10.30 am BST

The Savoy


"Who was that Piet?"

"It was Jane Molloy ringing from New York,” Piet said as he sat down, “the TV over there figured out that the way maybe to get us to talk was to ask via her seeing we have shared so many bylines."

"And you said?"

"Give us 24 hours to regain our balance Jane, then we will think about it."

"Good...But in the meantime Elia sent through this press release, she wants our okay...What do you think Darling?"


“Let’s have a look,” Piet said as he glanced down the sheet.





Admiral the Marchesa Francesca di Cambrello and her daughter, Miss Charlotte Gordon, wish to issue the following statement.


We are aware of reports in the newspapers today about both of us, and speculating on what may have happened, and on the nature of the relationship between both of them.  We wish to take this opportunity to set the record straight on certain facts.


Miss Gordon was brought up in South Africa by her father, the late Doctor James Gordon, in whose care she was raised following her parents’ separation and divorce, and has only recently been reunited with her mother.  They met again for the first time several months ago, and have spent that time working through the process of getting to know each other again.  As a result of their reconciliation, Miss Gordon and her fiancé Pieter van der Byl have agreed to their upcoming wedding taking place in Naples, and the invitations have been recently sent.

Miss Gordon attended Roedean School in Johannesburg, and graduated with a degree in Mining Engineering from the University of the Witwatersrand.  She works as an IT controller for a large London company, and was unaware until reconciled with her mother that she was an heiress to the di Cambrello fortune.

Mr. van der Byl was educated at Diocesan College, Rondebosch, and the University of the Witwatersrand, and achieved some fame as a rugby player. He is a well-known and respected journalist, covering African Affairs for a prominent London newspaper.

The couple have known each other since childhood.


Both the Marchesa and Miss Gordon regret the fact that the news of their relationship has been released in this way, and would ask the press to allow them time to make the preparations for the upcoming wedding in private.  They further request that the press do not approach any of their friends or relations at this time.  Any requests for interviews should be directed to…


“Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera,” Piet said as he nodded.  “Well, it’s a perfect press release – but it won’t stop the worst.”


“That’s where security comes in, but so long as we get a breathing space…”


“Elia has suggested lying low for today,” Francesca said, “which is sound advice.  For now, let’s have some brunch, and discuss things…”


“I need a stiff drink,” Piet said as he rubbed the back of his head, and then heard another phone ring.


“Is that the secure one from the office,” he said as Charlotte answered it.


“Hello?  Dana,” she said as she smiled at Piet, “yes he’s here – let me put him on.”


Noon Local Time

The Training Camp


Poison looked out from the Mess Tent as a familiar face came into the eating area, looking at a cream card with gold and red on it.


"What's the problem darlin'?" Poison asked as the rather harassed younger woman sat down.

"Little Mother has invited me to her wedding." Leader looked up, not her usual confident self.

"Well she's invited a few of us, should be a bonzer piss-up," the Aboriginal ex-soldier laughed."

"You don't get it,” Leader said, “she's invited me as Itsy Buthelezi. what happens if my family find out?"

Sitting down, Poison said quietly "Don't you speak now to yer sister?"

"Yes Victoria and I speak now,” Leader said, “but to the rest of my family I'm still someone to be ashamed of."

"You know I'll never bloody understand why? Sheesh girl you were raped, you were the bloody victim."

"I know," Itsy looked heavenwards, "but it still means that I'm not a virgin and no man they would approve of will marry me."

"Well if you ask me it's a whole lotta wombat shit."


“Very good for the growth of plants I’m told,” Leader laughed.


“Look lass,” Poison said kindly, “I think it’s time you stopped been a soldier for a few days, and became a woman again.  You’ll be there amongst friends, and we’ll all be looking out for each other – it may be the biggest gathering of the Sisters for some time.  My advice – we all go and enjoy ourselves, and pray nothing happens while we’re away.”


“And my parents? My family?”


“Your family is right here,” Poison said as she stood up, “we’re as much your family as your relatives – more so, because we know you and accept you as you are, hurts and all.  Now, get up and give me a hand - we may have four groups on walkabout, but we still need to feed the others.”


“As always, you show great insight Poison,” Leader said as she stood up.  “I will be delighted to give you a hand.”



9 am

The Richmond Mansion


“Hey,” Jo said as Diana and Abby came in, “joining us for breakfast this morning?”


“We were invited,” Diana said, “I think Sandy believes we may wish to review the papers together.”


“Why?”  Jo looked at both of them for a moment before she said, “What’s happened?”


Abby looked at her phone and said “Missy is fielding calls already – and giving a no comment.”


“The secret is out about Charlotte, right?”


Heather nodded as she passed over the inside pages of the New York Times.  Jo looked at the gossip column and read.


“Landing on the mats and in the postboxes of the Saints and Sinners over the weekend has been the latest wedding invitation – but the bigger shock to the general public has been the revelation of one of the best kept secrets of the last thirty years. 


“And that secret?  That the woman known to the Italian press as ‘The Blonde Idiot’ and to more measured minds as Francesca, Marchesa di Cambrello and one of the richest women in the world, has a daughter – and that daughter is an IT executive working for leading Sinner Shirley Xavier.


“Charlotte Gordon is best known as one of the leading faces of the Mazengwean Rehabilitation Fund, the charity that was set up to support the girls freed in the New York chid slavery scandal two years ago, and now provides support to other women who find themselves the victim of criminal exploitation – but she has now been revealed as the heiress to the di Cambrello fortune.


“With the invitations arriving to her wedding to award winning journalist Pieter van der Byl, the question is, will this wedding eclipse that of Klaus and Juliette von Furstenheim?”



2 pm BST

The Savoy


Charlotte and Piet looked over as Francesca picked up the telephone.


“Yes?  Yes, you may put the Baroness through,” she said as she put the speaker phone on and replaced the handset.


“Francesca,” all three heard Natalya Buchenwald say, “how are you?”


“In hiding for the day,” Francesca said with a smile, “Piet and Carlotta are with me.”


“Hey Natalya,” Charlotte called out, “how bad is the German press?”


“The usual suspects – how about with you?”


“British as expected, but the Italians are…”


“I understand Piet,” Natalya said with a laugh, “you must endure.”


“We’ll go and see if we can get a table for lunch,” Charlotte said as she and Piet stood up, leaving Francesca alone.


“How are they taking it?”


“Likes foxes caught in the headlights.  Listen – Natty, I could use your advice.  How do we leak out about me having mental problems?"

"You don't say a thing Francesca,” Natalya said decisively, “you leave it to your friends to casually drop it into the public discourse."

"Do you think so?"

"Well among your problems, they diagnosed postpartum depression didn't they?"


"Well I might just accidentally drop that information to a journalist I know who works for Stern."

"That might work."

"I might also leak that you've been undergoing psychiatric treatment for many years."

"Well it’s not a lie...Is it?"

"Regrettably Francesca,” Natalya said, “no it isn't."

"Alright I'll leave you to do this Natty..."

"And just see what develops." 

"Natty will I then be facing a barrage of questions about my mental state?"

"Yes, but darling it’s the only way to explain the demise of the idiota."

"I get that...but what if there is a real investigation of why I left South Africa?"

"We discussed that Francesca,” Natalya said, “John Vosloo will bury the information down there, and your friends at La Citadella have long since buried it up here...Besides they will be far more interested in your illness to go chasing the shadows that show you were a spy."


“Again, sadly true.”


“Oh, and before I forget – Willy and I accept your kind invitation.  We will reply formally in due course.”


“Thank you Natty – we will talk soon.”  As she hung up on the call, Francesca whispered to herself, "Oh James, why couldn't you have just followed me to Italy? Everything would be so much simpler."

"Because I was a proud idiot."


Francesca started, it was just like she had really heard James voice.

"Oh my God," she shook herself, "please don't let me be cracking up again and hearing voices in my head."

"We have all the time in the world..." the song came on the radio.

"James we didn't have all that time," Francesca talked aloud, "and why the hell is this song seemingly following me?"


She turned the radio off, and then heard a female voice saying “well, this is interesting.”  She turned slowly to see a small, grey haired woman in the room, wearing metal rimmed spectacles perched on the end of her nose, and dressed in a white blouse and grey skirt.


“Okay – I am cracking up,” Francesca whispered to herself.


“No you’re not,” the woman said, “it’s a real pleasure to meet you Marchesa.  Allow me to introduce myself – I am Alexandra Malverino.  I believe you have met my family – especially little Natalya.”


“Alexandra…”  Francesca stared at her as she said “Princess Lexa?  But you’re…”


“Dead?  I guess I am – but as my darling granddaughter Carina will tell you, I do drop by from time to time, and today I wanted to pass on a message to you.  Well, two actually.”


“Assuming I am not losing my mind…  What are the messages?”


“Well, the first is that your mother asks you to forgive her.”




“She cannot be here to say it in person, so she asked me to tell you.  The second is this – he is with you, in your heart and in Charlotte’s, every step of the way, and he is very proud of both of you.  That’s why you keep hearing him, and your song – it is his way of letting you know.”


Lexa smiled as she said “take it from me, Francesca – they all forgive you, now you must forgive yourself.  Oh – and you may want to call security about the photographer outside the window.”


Francesca turned suddenly and walked to the window, the photographer staring at her before an arm pulled him back.  Turning, she saw she was alone in the room again – and shaking her head, she headed out to join Charlotte and Piet.



2 pm BST

Claridges Hotel, Brook Street


The black limousine pulled up outside the entrance, the commissionaire stepping forward and opening the door as two tall Japanese men stepped out, followed by a smaller man in a Saville Row suit.  The uniformed doorman saluted as he opened the door, the three men walking in and towards the lifts.  As the doors opened, the men stood back to let the smaller of the three in first, standing in front of him as the lift doors closed.


As the doors opened, the two men stepped out and bowed to the man waiting there, dressed in a black suit, white shirt, black tie and shoes.  He bowed in turn, and then to the third man, before he indicated he should follow him.  As they walked along the corridor, the smaller man glanced at the men standing in the corridor, not looking round, but alert, ready.


They stopped at a set of double doors, the man knocking and then bowing as the doors opened inwards.  As the visitor walked in, he saw a woman, dressed as the men were in a black jacket, trousers and blouse, bowing low as she said “Miss Tanaka is expecting you.  Will you come this way?”


She bowed and then walked to an inner door, knocking and then waiting as she heard Tamiko Tanaka say “come.”  Opening the door, she bowed and then waited as the visitor walked in.


Tamiko was standing by the window, looking out onto the street, but as the man came in she turned and bowed formally.


“Master Ambassador,” she said with her head bowed, “you honour me with your presence today.”


“The honour is mine,” the ambassador said as he bowed in response, both straightening at some time.  “To have you in London is a great honour.”


“May I offer you some tea,” Tamiko said, the ambassador nodding as they sat at a low table.  Tamiko nodded to her assistant, who bowed and left the room. 


“So have you managed to recover from the journey,” he said as he smiled.


“I have – I always manage to travel well, but something about this city I find invigorating.”


The assistant returned, opening the door as a maid came in and laid the tray down.  She bowed to both of them, and then left the room, the assistant closing the door behind herself.


“So,” Tamiko said as she poured the tea, “I would imagine my father has already spoken to you?”


“He has – he informs me you are here on a matter of family honour, and that I am to offer all assistance I can.”


“That is correct,” Tamiko said with a smile as she passed a cup over, “it is my most sincere wish that we are able to do this in a quiet and unobtrusive way.  It may be necessary, however, to ensure certain actions are – well, unnoticed.”


“I will offer as much protection as is necessary,” the ambassador said, “although you will be aware this is one of the most observed cities in the western world.”


“No more so than Tokyo,” Tamiko said with a smile, “and their eyes seem to be on gossip.”  Picking up the paper, she said “this report on the Marchesa di Cambrello – I wonder what they would say if they knew who she really was?”


“It is not my place to speculate, Madame Tanaka,” the ambassador said with a smile, “but I suspect they would laugh a little less.  Do you know her?”


“By reputation – and her daughter in the same way,” Tamiko said.  “So, what tles can you tell me of this city at present?”


10 am

The Village – Greenwich Florists


“So who was it that called,” April asked as she prepared some coffee.


"That was Jack Mom," Pepsi walked into the kitchen. "He wanted to tell me how his exams have been going. I said I can't wait to see him when we do this schools thing."

"You will be busy from the sound of things?"

"It looks that way."  She poured herself a drink of milk, before she said “but it’s got time for fun as well.”

"So what do you have planned for today?"

"Nothing really.”  Pepsi sat at the table and took a drink.  “Doc will be in Chicago till later this afternoon, Jeannie is in Rio...Lucky Bitch, Becca has conned Nikki into playing tennis, and Ama is babysitting."

"What about Jan and your Grandmother?"

"Mom Jan is working, and Gran has drawn the short straw chaperoning Katy's photo shoot."

"It sounds like everyone is busy."

"Pretty much,” Pepsi said, “but I might just slob round the house."

"Well I won't be here, I want to drive out to Curragh and check out how the garden is coming."

"Maybe I'll see if Sands wants to do anything,” the teenager said as she held her mug, “she seemed pretty upset yesterday."

"It would stop you getting bored on your own."

"I'll phone Heather in a minute and see if she's free."


“Good – I need to go and get ready.  Remember to lock up when you leave?”


“Do I ever forget?”



11 am Local Time

Copacabana Beach


“That’s it – looking good,” Rick said as Jessica and Jeannie posed in their black swimsuits, Essie watching as they worked.


“I needed this,” John said as he sat back in the chair, his eyes closed, “a few days away from work.”


“True,” Barbara said as she looked at her tablet, and then said ‘Ah.”




“Not for us,” she said as she passed her father the tablet.


“I see – so the secret is out.  Well, this could get very interesting.”


“How bad can it get?”


“Over here?  I think Jane and others will control it.  It’s Charlotte and Piet I feel sorry for – the Paparazzi are going to try and find out all they can…”






11 am

The Huntingdown Apartment


“Momma – Teddy wants a drink as well.”


“Okay then,” Annie said as she sat with Judith, Klaus and Juliette watching as the telephone rang.


“I’ll get it,” Carina said as she went and picked up the telephone.  “This is Carina von Furstenheim, who is calling please?”




“Francesca,” Carina said with a smile.  “I imagine you are having an interesting day.”


“All three of us are,” she heard the Italian say, “but I need to ask you a question – and promise me you will not laugh when you hear it.”


“Okay,” Carina said as she raised an eyebrow, “the question is?”


"Carina…  Carina, do you see ghosts?"

"I do Francesca...Why?"

"Because I saw the spirit of an ancestor of yours earlier..."

Carina sat down as she whispered "Grandma Lexa?"

"Oh my God,” Francesca said, “how did you know?"

"Because as she probably told you she appears to me as well, as well as my Mother, AND my daughter."

"So I'm not going crazy again?"

"Well if you are then I'm insane as well," Carina crossed her fingers at the lie she had told.  “Grandma Lexa has a habit of turning up at the most – opportune moments.”

"I never believed in ghosts."

"Nor did I till she appeared to me in Germany last year...Just ask Aunt Natalya, and Aunt Sigi what happened."


“I saw the reports,” Francesca said quietly.


“So what did she say to you?”


“That Mama wanted me to forgive her, and that James is with me and Charlotte all the time.”


“That does sound like Grandma Lexa,” Carina said quietly.  “Do me a favour – tell Charlotte.”


“Okay,” Francesca said quietly, “I guess I am still sane.”


“I think so,” Carina said, “I’d expect more visits in the future, but I will tell you one thing – if Grandma Lexa gave that message, it is true.”


There was a moment’s silence, and then Francesca said “I hope so – thank you Carina.”


“What did Francesca want,” Juliette said quietly as Carina put the phone down.


“Ghost stories,” Carina said with a smile, “and good news…”



11.30 am

The Richmond Mansion


“Hey Pepsi,” Heather said as she opened the door, “come on in, we’re just having some more coffee.  Want some?”


“Thanks,” Pepsi said as she came into the front room, “sorry, am I interrupting?”


“Nope,” Abby said as she looked over, “we were discussing the revelations in the paper around Charlotte.”


“Oh yeah – Jack and Mom told me about that.”  Pepsi then smiled as Sands came in.


“Hey – want to go grab a soda somewhere?”


“Yeah…  Yeah, that would be nice,” Sands said as she went out, and then returned with a long coat covering her jeans and jumper.  “Come on – I need some fresh air.”


“Is she all right,” Pepsi whispered to Heather, and as she nodded the two girls went out of the mansion, and then headed into Central Park.


“It’s a nice day,” Pepsi said as they headed along the path, “what do you think Sands?”


“Is it,” the young girl said as she looked up, “I hadn’t really noticed.”


“Okay,” Pepsi said, “what’s on your mind kiddo?”


Sands walked quietly for a few minutes, before she said "Peps, when did you know you were really in love with Jack?"

“How did I know?”  Pepsi smiled and said "I guess when I found myself counting the days till the next time I saw him, and knowing that it couldn't come too soon...Why?"

"Oh, I was just interested."

"Well 'His Lordship' at times can be a royal pain in my ass,” Pepsi said, “but it makes my day even just to talk to him."

"Heather told me pretty much the same about Mom."

"Sandy,” Pepsi said as she stopped and looked at her, “is there a boy you have fallen for?"

"Nope, I still have my young baron as Mom calls him."

"Yes, but you two are just friends...who is this serious guy?"

"I don't have a guy...Honest."

"Alright..." Pepsi paused, "Hold on, given family history is it a girl? It's not me is it?"

"No its not you,” Sands said with a sigh. “and yes it was a girl, but we broke up."

"Oh that sucks Sands. Want to tell me about it?"


“I wish I could – I did something very stupid, and she hates me.”


“Kiddo,” Pepsi said, “if she really loves you, then she will eventually come round – you need to give her time, whatever it is you did.”


Nodding, Sands said “I hope so.”


“What did you do that was stupid?”


“Made her feel used…”


“Yeah – but did you mean to?”


“Not really no,” Sands said quietly.


“Then fair enough – give it time, and if it is meant to be, it will be.  And if not, and you meet someone else, then you know what not to do that time.”


Sands nodded as Pepsi said “right – let’s get that soda…”



6 pm CET

Stern Magazine, Hamburg


Reaching over and hitting the speaker button, the bearded man said without paying much attention “Bruner.”


“Good evening Thomas – how are you?”


“Baroness Buchenwald,” he said with a smile, “and what can I do for you this fine day?”


"Thomas,” he heard Natalya say, “I owe you a favour don't I?"

"I'd have said a couple or more," the journalist replied as he sat back.

"Well I'm going to give you a worldwide scoop..."

"Oh Baroness,” he said as he looked round, “and what might that be?"

"I take it you are as interested as anyone in the di Cambrello thing?"

"Do dogs scratch? Why?"

"I've known Francesca since she was a child almost...I know the real story behind La Bionda Idiota..."

"YOU DO?" the journalist shouted as he waved some colleagues over.

"I do,” Natalya said over the line as Thomas started a recorder, and other reporters gathered round “and Francesca has said I can release the details."

"Go on..." He scrabbled for a pad and pen as the others listened.

"Francesca left her husband and child suffering from post-partum depression. She was subsequently admitted to a military mental hospital in Italy, and she has been under treatment ever since for various mental disorders that resulted from the separation from her child, and her late husband taking the attitude that she had deserted both him and Charlotte."

"And all this is true Baroness?"

"Absolutely Thomas.  You have seen the statement they released?”


“Indeed – they really met by accident a few months ago?”


“That is correct – so, Thomas, you have questions.  Ask them…”



Monday 30th May

8 am BST

The Savoy


Francesca slipped on her jacket as she looked out onto the street, the press still waiting at the end of the street.  As her telephone rang, she picked up the handset and said “hello?  Ah good – put her through.


“Good morning Elia, how are things today?”


“Interesting,” her press secretary said.


“I like interesting – tell me more.”


"Well the Italian papers are mad as hell that Stern scooped them on your mental health history Francesca, but it was a good way to put the reality out there."

"Natty owed them a few favours for suppressing a little family gossip and scandal."

"I understand,” the Italian woman said, “but you will need issue another statement through me confirming or denying the reports."

"Go ahead Elia please and confirm,” Francesca said, “Natty just told Stern the truth really. I have had a handful of mental breakdowns. I did suffer severe depression after being parted from James and Carlotta, and I am now busy recovering a lot of my life."

"So the fact that as a very old friend I know that most of La biomba Idiota was merely you playing to the crowds..."

"Just say that my family and friends have noticed a marked change in my behaviour please." Francesca interrupted.

"So changing the subject, will you be able to get to work today?"

“You do know it is a Bank Holiday in the UK today, Elia?”  Francesca said with a smile, “but in three weeks this country may do something nobody is expecting, and we need to be ready.  Besides, the law only respects High Days – and I know Shirley’s executive team are all in today.”


“So will you get into work?”


"Shirley is sending a car for both Carlotta and myself. Peri my PA just phoned and said she was hassled getting into the building, and so have other Xavier employees."

"Well we anticipated this, but at least once in the building you are secure."

"Thanks to Shirley's people...then yes."


She looked over as there was a knock on the door, and Charlotte looked round.


“Childe Rolande to the Dark Tower come,” Francesca said with a smile, “talk to you later Elia.”




9 am BST

Xavier International


"Alright girls,” Francesca said as she took her jacket off, and sat at her desk, “despite what is happening outside this suite of offices, within them we practice law...Alright?"

"Yes," Hannah and Peri replied together.

"So let’s get on with a standard Monday morning briefing shall we?"

"Okay," Peri sat down, crossed her legs, and started reading from her pad. “Frankfurt want to know our opinions on the status of Scotland if Brexit occurs?"

"I've started work on that," Hannah looked at her own notes. "I'd never realised how Scottish law can differ so much from the law in other parts of the UK. I'm having lunch with Professor Woodward from Kings College to pick his brains."

"Good," Francesca cleaned her glasses. "Next?"

"Mrs Olafsson's lawyers want an opinion on division of assets if she pursues her divorce."

"That one I better take myself,” Francesca said, “I know them both personally and I also know something of their businesses. Tell Agnetha's lawyers it should take me about 10 days."

"Okay," Peri scribbled a note.


Francesca relaxed - at least here everything was going to be routine.


“The builder wishes to speak to you today – he should be completed with the renovations ahead of schedule.”


“Excellent – I love these offices, but the sooner I establish my own, independent place the better.”






Charlotte looked up to see Penny standing in the doorway.


“Hey yourself,” she said with a smile, “what’s up?”


“Madame wants a senior staff meeting at eleven, but that can wait – how are you?”


“You read the papers yesterday?”


“Oh yes – Helen tells me the HK press are being respectful, but the fact you’re still in the gossip pages today?”


“We had to stay at the Savoy yesterday – did Tracy get into our flat?”


“The situation is in hand, is all she would tell me.  How was Bev as the driver?”


“Good – that advanced driving class seems to have worked.  Right – can we discuss how we are checking internal calls…”


11 am BST

Xavier International


"Well?" Shirley said as she looked over Charlotte's shoulder.

"Yes, some people have been trying to get into our systems Madame," Charlotte said as she looked at the information on the monitor.

"Did they get in?"

"Only to Heather's never ending system of layers of spam. Their own computers are probably bunged up with useless information by now."

"Good," Shirley smiled.

"Is there much more Olivia?" Charlotte asked the IT tech.

"Not really Charlotte,” the brunette said, “as you said our fire walls held up, but we are close to seeing our 'routine' front page go down it's so swamped with traffic."

"Alright, ring New York, LA, and the branch offices and see what their volumes have been like." Charlotte nodded.  “We can get extra bandwidth set up in the short term.”


“On it Charlotte,” Olivia said as she stood up.  “Madame, Penny, Lily.”


“Thank you Olivia,” Shirley said as she sat down.  “Angela?”

"We have been swamped with requests to come see us." Angela looked down at her pad. "Most I think are totally bogus, journalists and Paparazzi just trying to get in the building."

"Well screen them out and alert security, but make sure that we do see legitimate customers still."

"Alright Madame."


“What about your homes?”


“They’d have to find me first,” Penny said, “but so far so good.”


“They’ve been outside my place,” Lily said, “but seem friendly enough so far.”


“Give it time,” Charlotte said quietly.  “Tracy is house sitting for me, and in touch with Natalya 24/7.”


“Good – so, on to other matters…”


8 am

The Huntingdown Apartment


“Bye bye Mommy,” Judith said as she waved to Carina.  She was wearing a pair of leggings and short leather boots, with a blue jumper, while Ingrid was wearing a white jumper, tight britches and flat soled black riding boots.


“Have fun,” she said as they went to the lift, and Carina closed the door, looking up to see her mother coming down the stairs.


"Where have Ingy and Judith gone this early darling?" Juliette said as they walked to the kitchen.

"To buy Judith a riding hard hat, and then to drive out to Belmont Park to look at Mr. Todd's stable."

"Who got them that invite?"

"Marnie,” Carina said as she accepted a coffee, “she and Angel are surreptitiously riding work for Mr Todd."

"Well I pity them if Missy finds out." Juliette shook her head.

"So do I," Carina said with a smile, “but they are both keener horsewomen even then they are models.”

"Agreed." Juliette poured herself a coffee. "Well I have a routine Monday at work, your father has business meetings all day, what are you and Annie doing?" 

"The babies have a checkup with Helen, then we are going to take them to see Father Alex and we want to discuss the christening."

"Sounds like we are all having a busy day."

"Not as bad though as Francesca and Charlotte...just look at this." Cari put the BBC coverage on her computer to play.

"Goddess and I thought I was harassed when my wedding was announced," Juliette shook her head.  “This is ridiculous.”


“I know – but I’m sure they have it in hand…”






The Inn in the Park


"Hey girls," Susan smiled as she slipped into the booth, "the weather is starting to get nice out there."

"Yes it is," Jan looked out the restaurant window.

"It might even tempt me into some sun bathing." Caroline smiled as well.

"I thought models weren't allowed to get a tan?"

"Strictly we aren't Jan, but I've never looked this pale in my life. I do want at least want a little colour."

"So sorry I'm late," an unusually flustered Heather said as she rushed in.

"What got at you?" Caroline looked at her squarely.

"The di Cambrello announcement. I've been working at home checking that all systems we do not need snoopers looking at are holding secure."

"Charlotte said you were," Susan nodded.

"And are they?" asked Jan.

"Yes, but Xavier's routine, ordinary, computers are close to going down from all the traffic."

"Good thing most of the staff have today off." Caroline looked concerned. "Do I need to put my security on trying to trace who exactly is hacking us?"

"If you look when you get back to your office, I sent you a list."

"As efficient as ever Heather," Caroline laughed lightly.

"Alright girls now no more business, what looks good to eat?" Jan opened her menu.


“So – the trial starts tomorrow?”


“The trial starts tomorrow,” Jan said, “and it cannot come too soon.”




12.30 pm

Complete Style


“Yes Janine,” Juliette said as she pressed the speaker on her phone.


"It's an Elia Scaraponi on Line 4 for you Juliette. She says she is an old friend."

"That she is Janine, she and I were at the Sorbonne together." Juliette pressed a button and smiled as she sat back. "Elia darling, long time no see."

"Hey Ju,” the Italian voice said, “and it has been a long time since those days in the Sorbonne.  How is Diana?”


“She is well – Abby will be eighteen in a month.”


“Ouch – now I do feel old,” Elia laughed.


“So what can I do for you?”


“Well, you know I have my own press and public relations company?"

"Yes, I do."

"Well I'm handling the PR for the di Cambrello wedding."

"At which I will be a guest,” Juliette replied.

"Oh of course,” Elia said, “I forgot you would be Princess..."

"And I will forgive you missing MY wedding, eight and a half months pregnant with baby number seven, is a great excuse."

"Well she stretched it another month till she at last deigned to come out."

"Early or late, why are babies rarely on time?"

“Says the grandmother of three.”


“Hey – Rudi and Mags arrived when I was in Hong Kong on business!”


"I don't know,” Elia laughed, “but anyway Ju, why I'm calling, obviously the fashion press will be interested in the wedding."

"Of course we are..."

"Well how do I divide up the press releases without offending friends such as yourself?"


“Hmm – well, for our wedding the Cathedral and Frau Strecher handled all that.  I presume they are not going for a deal with Hello or one of those rags?”


“Nope – we want to keep this in the business.”


“Well – I suggest you contact the two Annas for our side.”


“I hear Anna takes over as Worldwide Editor in August?”


“Yeah, but the transition has begun.  I’d also suggest talking to Jeanne Beckmann – she can advise on the television side.”


“All good advice – and if we offer some rights to you?”


“That’s why you need to talk to Anna.  If it was just us, I’d say Pippa Ashley, but it’s above her level.”


“Good advice – I’ll be in touch again Ju.  Something tells me we will be working together on this.”




1 pm

City Clerk’s Office

141 Worth Street


The Clerk looked up as the door opened, and the young couple walked in, pushing a baby buggy each.


“Good afternoon, ladies,” he said, “how can I help you?”


“We completed the Marriage License application online yesterday,” the smaller of the two women said, “and wish to collect the licence.”


“Of course,” the clerk said, “may I ask what name the application is under?”


“von Furstenheim.”


He looked on the screen and then at the two women.  “My apologies, your highness,” he said to the small blonde, “can you confirm that you are Carina Diana Huntingdown von Furstenheim?”


“I can,” Carina said as she handed her passport to the clerk.


“And can you confirm you are Annie Kelly?”


Annie nodded as she handed her passport over.


“Neither of you have been married before?”


Both women shook their heads as he said “good.  One moment please.”


He typed on the keyboard, and then went to a printer, returning with a form.  “please check this is correct and accurate, and if so you both need to sign in my presence.  I remind you, this takes the form of a signed and legally binding affidavit.”


Annie and Cari looked at the form, then both picked up the pens and signed where indicated.  The clerk took the form, signed and witnessed it, and then went back to the printer, returning with a form.


“It gives me great pleasure to present to you your wedding licence,” he said as Carina took the form, “will you be returning tomorrow for the ceremony?”


“A friend of ours who is a judge will conduct the ceremony, but thank you anyway,” Annie said as they took hold of the buggies, and walked back out.  As they left the building, she said “your mum and dad will kill us you know?”


“Probably – but we do this our way,” Cari said as she took her phone out.  “Brooke?  We have the licence – tomorrow at three still good?”


7.30 pm BST

The Savoy


“When I said we needed a night out Babe,” Piet said as he walked down the corridor with Charlotte and Francesca, “I was thinking of leaving the hotel.”


“I know – but the press is clamouring for us now that Elia has confirmed the news of my past problems,” Francesca said, “so we spend another night here – but at least we managed to secure this.”


“In here ladies,” Jack said as he opened the door, and they took their seats in the box.  “I hope you enjoy the show – refreshments will be brought later.”


“So what are they presenting,” Francesca asked as Piet looked at the program.


“Funny Girl.”


“Well, I try to be, Pieter, but…  Oh, sorry – the musical…”



4 pm

JFK Airport


"That is the best way to clear customs and immigration I ever experienced," John smiled as they emerged on the concourse.

“Well, I don’t know if you could walk very far after the drinks on the plane,”  Barbara said as she looked round.


“Nah - the airlines do their best so that the disabled girl gets through the airport easily," Jeannie said as she looked round.

"I think it has more to do with you being a superstar model with your picture on adverts everywhere in this building." Barbara laughed.

"Well whichever it is girls,” Joh said with a smile, “I could stand more of that VIP treatment."

"It's nice,” Jeannie said, “but it also means I dodge any press and autograph seekers.  Mind you, we have to?"


“Miss Brewster?”


The three of them looked at the uniformed driver, a cap pulled down over their eyes.

"Can I take your bags please," the uniformed driver enquired in a distinctly female voice.

"Thank you." Barbara smiled as she watched the driver lean down.

"Hold on… I smell a rat," Jeannie put her arm up and removed the cap as the driver bent to pick up a case..."Busted."

"OK you caught me," the woman shook her hair out.

"BOSS!" John's draw dropped as she saw Nessa Richmond standing there.


"Here Madame,” she said, “let me take your case."  They watched as she put it into the back of the car, and said "I thought I'd play chauffeur for once. A thank you to John for all the times he has done this for me.



“Well, if you insist…”


“John, you are still on holiday – if you can get Jeannie inside, I can get the rest of the cases.”


“Come on Dad,” Barbara said, “you’re not back at work until tomorrow.”


“Okay, okay,” John said with a smile as he lifted Jeannie in, then folded the chair and placed it in the back of the car.  He then sat in as Nessa got behind the wheel of the car, and drove off.


“How was Rio?”


Magical,  but hard work,” Jeannie said with a smile.  "How was Commencement Nessa?"

"I haven't got a clue Jeannie,” Nessa said as she looked in the mirror, “I never bother to go."

"Not ever?"

"The only one I ever attended was Sandy's,” Nessa said, “and even that I nearly skipped out on."

"Why?" asked Barbara.

"I guess it is some kind of protest against my parents still, for not letting me leave the facility they had me in to attend my own Commencement. I'm not sure what arrangements were made for my parchment, but I've certainly never ever seen it."

"Two questions?" Jeannie asked, "They were real parchment back then, and why didn't you ask Father Alex?"

"First answer, yes they were genuine parchment, and secondly Alex wanted to do it, but our parents forbade him."

"OH God that SUCKS!"

"Couldn't Paulie have got it?"

"She tried, but somehow it just disappeared." Nessa sniffed, "and that is why I hate Commencement."

"That is so sad Madame." John nodded in the car mirror.


“Still, in a few years it will be Sands, and perhaps I will go then.  As for Saturday, Sands went with her mother, and she seemed to enjoy it, although something has been upsetting her the last few days.”




“Well, don’t worry about it,” Nessa said, “your holiday has started now…”



Tuesday 31st May

10.30 am

New York County Criminal Court

100 Centre Street


Rhoda Perez and Walter Sipowicz were at their desks, watching as the jury were sworn in, and then the court usher called out “All Stand – the Honorable Walter Markovic presiding.  Court is now in session.”


The grey haired judge walked in and took his seat, as from a side door Daniel Morganstern was brought out, wearing a dark suit, and sat next to Rhoda Perez.


“Docket number 259816 – The People vs Daniel Morgenstern.”


“Is the state ready to proceed,” Judge Markovic said to the table on the other side of the room.


“We are ready, your honour,” Walter Sipowicz said as he stood.


“Miss Perez?”


“We are ready, your honour?”


“Very well then – before we begin, may I remind all in this court that any outbursts or other displays will be most severely dealt with.  I trust I make myself very clear?”


As he looked round, he said “very well – read the charges.”


The Court Usher stood up and said “Daniel Morganstern, you have been charged with, on the 6th of April 2016, you did abduct Katherine Janice Carter and hold her against her will.  You are also charged with stalking the said Katherine Janice Carter prior to the 6th of April, and further that you did, on Friday 8th April, break into the apartment of Janice Carter and discharge a firearm, with the intention to wound or kill.  How do you plead?”


“My client pleads not guilty your honour,” Rhoda Perez said as she stood up, “on the grounds of emotional stress and imbalance.”


“So noted,” Judge Markowicz said.  “Is the State ready to make their opening arguments?”


“We are your honour,” the DA said as he stood up and walked in front of the jury.  “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the case we are asking you to deliberate on is one which, the state will demonstrate, is clear cut in terms of what happened between the 6th and the 8th of April this year.  Katherine Janice Carter – we will refer to her as Katy Carter, the name by which she is known – is one of a small group of young women in this city who has found fame as a model.  She gained – if you will forgive the phrase – a certain degree on notoriety when she appeared in a fashion show for charity, wearing the outfit worn by Sue Lyons in the Stanley Kubrick adaptation of Lolita.


“Since then, she had appeared in a number of fashion articles and shows, and has also been a bridesmaid at what the papers reported at the time as ‘the wedding of the decade’ – that of Prince Klaus von Furstenheim and Juliette Huntingdown in Munich.  All these – her appearances as a model and as a bridesmaid – are a matter of public record, and she has been in the limelight.


“In that respect, she like all other models has to accept a certain level of public interest in her, and a certain level of, again to use a common phrase, fan worship.  That is only to be expected – in that, she is no different from her contemporaries.”


He paused to let the jury finish laughing, before he said “but the case before you here today is about what happens when that form of worship crosses the line into obsession.  The State will put before you evidence that, for some months prior to the events of April 6th, Katy Carter felt she was been followed – and we will provide the evidence to show that was the case.  She was being followed – by the defendant, Daniel Morganstern.”


He looked over to the other table, where Daniel was sitting quietly, Rhoda Perez making notes on a pad as the DA continued.  “The facts of what happened to Katy Carter on the 6th and 7th of April are not in dispute here – she was snatched from her school, and a day later was discovered in the house of Daniel Morgenstern, escaping from her captivity in the cellar.  It is the State’s contention that Daniel Morgenstern planned and executed the abduction of Katy Carter, in the mistaken belief he was rescuing her from those he thought responsible for forcing her to be a model – her family, and especially her mother Janice Carter.


“In itself, that is a heinous crime – to seek to remove at heart a thirteen year old girl from her family.  But it went deeper than that – whatever he may have felt for her, however he in his mind rationalised his action as those of one who loved her, it was an obsession – and when she escaped, it turned into hatred.  A hatred that consumed him so much, he tried to kill her in her own bed.


“By good fortune, she was not there – or he would be facing a murder trial here.  As we present our case, we hope to demonstrate to you that this man, Daniel Morgenstern, was obsessed to the degree that it turned him into a kidnapper, and then when he could not get what he wanted, into someone prepared to kill Katy Carter to ensure nobody could have her.


“We will call witnesses, from those who provided Katy with security cover, and from the authorities, as well as our own psychiatric experts, but it boils down to this – Daniel Morganstern was a man so consumed with obsession, which he believed was love, he deliberately and with malice aforethought sought to make Katy Carter his possession, and when he could not have her, he sought to deny the world her presence. 


“I ask you to listen to the evidence, and to weigh it in your own minds, whatever your views on teenage models, or the fashion world in general, and view this as a case of a young girl, barely a teenager, who somehow became the subject of an obsessive who would stop at nothing to take her and make her his own.  And we ask you to make sure he is no longer a threat to society, to Katy and her family, by finding him guilty.


“We thank you for your time, and your attention.”  The DA turned and nodded to the bench, before he sat down. 



“Miss Perez?”


Rhoda Perez stood up, and walked slowly over, her heels clicking on the floor as she stood in front of the twelve men and women.


“Good morning,” she finally said, “and thank you for acting as the jury in this case.  The DA has laid out the bare facts of the case – and has argued that he will provide sufficient evidence to show my client did this out of an obsessive, almost psychotic feeling for the young lady.


“My role in this trial is to show you that the prosecution is wrong – yes, my client did take Katy Carter without prior knowledge, but he did so because he genuinely believed he was rescuing her from a mother who was pushing her into this career for her own reasons.  Daniel did not want to hurt her – he wanted to save Katy Carter, and preserve her purity from the effects of what the modelling world were asking her to do.


“Why did he come to that conclusion?  I will show you why, and that as a result of this desire to save her, Daniel went too far – and is deserving not of our wrath, but of our pity.


“We will show how Katy was presented as an object of desire, and it was a wish to stop that which drove Daniel to do what he did in kidnapping Katy.


“As for the shooting – we will show how that was born of grief, not of a murderous intent.  Daniel, my client, is not a violent or dangerous man – but one deserving of our pity, especially given the treatment meted out to him prior to his arrest.


“Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to listen with an open mind, and to look at Daniel as you do so, and ask one question – was he the victim as well?”


Nodding, she turned and sat down as the judge looked round the room.


“We’ll recess for lunch, and reconvene at two for the State to present their first witness.”



11 am

The Richmond Mansion


“Hey,” Katy said as she came into Sands’ room, “mind if I join you?”


“Sure – what brings you here today?”


“The holidays?  No – the trial proper starts today, and Mom wants me out of the way for the first day.”


“Well, here’s as good a place as any,” Sands said with a smile.


“Anyway – how are you?”


“Not so bad,” Sands said, “I heard from Holly yesterday – she at least is taking her share of what was bought for us, but she’s still mad at me.”


“Well, it’s a start,” Katy said with a smile.


“So when are you likely to give evidence?”


“Tomorrow afternoon or Thursday – they’re not sure yet.  Gran Ball is sitting in the court today, and she’ll tell us what happened later.”


1 pm

The Waldorf-Astoria


“Okay – they said they would meet us in the restaurant,” Ingrid said as she came into the lobby with Adam Cabot.  “Although why they asked us to be smart I’m not quite sure.”


“Probably because of where we’re eating,” Adam said.  He was wearing a smart blue suit, with a white shirt and dark tie, while Ingrid was wearing a blue dress with a white jacket.


“True – well, let’s find them,” Ingrid said as she and Adam went into the restaurant.


“Ah there you are sis,” Carina said as she waved them over to her table.  She was wearing a grey jacket and skirt over a white top, and heels, while Annie was wearing a black trouser suit with a white jumper underneath.  “Come on, sit down.”


“So what’s the occasion,” Adam said as they took their seats.  “and who’s watching the children?”


“Mom and Pops are taking them to the park today,” Carina said as she looked at them, “and so we thought we would meet up for lunch.”


“And when we have eaten,” Annie said, “Cari and I were hopig you would come with us.  We have an appointment at three, and we need your help there.”


“Oh,” Ingrid said, “as what?”


“Witnesses – to our wedding.”


Adam and Ingrid stared at both of them as they said “shall we order?”


“Your – wedding?  Pops will have a fit!" Ingrid exclaimed.

"And Juliette might need smelling salts," Adam added.

"Look,” Carina said, “I know all about the big high society lesbian wedding, but having been to Puss and Frieda's I'd rather not experience that."

"And Carina speaks for me too," Annie crossed her arms. "This is just us, you guys, and the children, and to be completely rude Klaus can go take a hike. I don't want a cathedral, all those guests, bridesmaids, etc. Something this quiet is just perfect."

"Well that is right, but at least let me take pictures?" Adam begged.

"And I'd get down on my knees if I was in trousers...”  Ingrid looked determines as she said “GO ring Moms and Pops...they truly would never forgive you."


Carina looked at Annie, and then stood up, walking into the lobby as she took her cell phone out.


“Mom?  How are the little ones?


“Good – listen, slight change of plan.  Can you and Pops possibly bring the three of them and meet us somewhere at quarter to three?”


Carina listened for a moment, before she said “well, 500 Pearl Street.  Annie and I have to do something, and we want you both to come with Judith, Rudi and Mags.


“Well…  Annie and I have asked Brooke to do something for us.


“Yes, Brooke Hutton – Mom, we’re getting married, but we want to do it quietly.”


She held the phone away for a moment as she heard the shout, and then said “seriously, Mom, this is the way we want to do it, and we don’t want anyone else to know until we do it.


“Okay – we’ll see you then.  And thanks Mom.”


Walking back, she said “Okay – they’ll meet us there.”


“Thank you,” Ingy said, “now we just need to wait for the protests from Aunt Sigi…”



2 pm

New York County Criminal Court

100 Centre Street


“Mister Sipowicz,” Judge Markovic said, “you may call your first witness.”


“Thank you your honour – the state calls Detective Lieutenant Alberto Moletti.”


Eleanor watched as Moletti walked to the stand, wearing a dark suit, shirt and tie, and stood as he took the oath.


“Lieutenant,” the DA said as Moletti sat down, “can you take us through the events of Wednesday 6th April.  First, can you tell us how you were first informed of the disappearance of Katy Carter?”


“Certainly,” he said as he looked at the courtroom, “at approximately 4,20 that afternoon, I was taking a break with my partner, Detective Robert Morgan, when we were approached by a young lady named Sharon Kennedy.”


“And Miss Kennedy’s profession?”


“She is working as an intern for Caroline Jameson at Jameson Security.  She had been asked to inform us that Agent Adam Ball of the FBI was at Bishop Walden School, and that Katy Carter had disappeared.”


“And you called this in?”


“We did – I believe the station log will show that.”


“People’s exhibit A1, your honour – the call log for the precinct house, which shows you attending a possible 207.”  Sipowicz showed it Moletti, who nodded and said “a 207 is a kidnapping.  We called it as a possible, pending further investigation.”


“When did you and Detective Morgan arrive at Bishop Walden School?”


“At 4.40 pm.  We met Agent Ball, who told us Katy had disappeared when one of her friends went back inside to collect a book.  Her bag had been discovered behind a bush, so we instructed Agent Ball to go and inform her mother.”


“For the record, Lieutenant, why was Agent Ball called?”


Shifting in his chair, Moletti said “Agent Ball’s partner is Janice Carter, Katy Carter’s mother.  He was contacted by Heather Smith, the nanny to Katy’s friend.”


“Thank you – so you and Morgan arrived at 4.40 pm?”


“We did – He had already asked for a forensics team to come, and as Detective Morgan went to look at CCTV for the school, I instructed Agent Ball to go and tell Agent Carter what had happened.”


“What do the security camera at the school show?”


“It showed Katy Carter been approached at 3.50 pm by a man in a dark suit, and then her collapsing in his arms.  He carried her to a car, and then drove off.”


“Was it possible to identify the man?”


“No – so we left the forensics team to do their work, and went to see Janice Carter at her home.”


“Who else was present when you arrived?”


“Apart from Janice Carter, Adam Ball and Katherine Carter, Katy’s grandmother, there was Caroline Jameson, and a family friend, Nicola Broadhurst.”


Eleanor cast a glance at Perez as she made a note, before Sipowicz said “what steps were taken?”


“We took statements from Agents Ball and Carter, as well as Mrs Carter, before we were joined by Agent Erin Corben and Inspector Jeanne Marais.  At that point, we left to interview the friend – Alexandra Richmond Junior – and her nanny, Heather Smith.”


Nodding, Sipowicz said “when you returned to the Carter apartment, were all other parties still there?”


“They were – it was at that point we learned Jameson Security had been approached to provide a bodyguard some weeks previously, and Miss Jameson provided her full records.”


“Did she say why they were approached in this way?”


“Katy had felt as if she was being followed for some weeks beforehand – and wanted to be sure she was safe.  As a result, we focused on the possibility she had been kidnapped not for ransom, but by a fan or someone obsessed with her – the evidence supplied by Miss Jameson was complete and persuasive.”


“I direct the court’s attention to People’s Exhibits B1 through 10,” Sipowicz said, the judge nodding.  “What steps were then taken?”


“Miss Jameson had been in contact with Missy Auerbach, Katy Carter’s agent, and she gave permission for us to examine the fan mail received by the agency.  We also started a search of our records for known possible suspects in the area, while the FBI offered the services of a handwriting expert.”


“What other help was given?”


Shifting in his chair, Moletti said “We were also offered the assistance of Agent Ball’s mother, Eleanor Ball.  She has experience in intelligence assessment.”


“Very well – So the night was spent in information gathering and appraisal.  What happened the next morning?”


“As no ransom note had been received, we were fairly sure we were dealing with an obsessed fan.  Miss Jameson, at my request, went to talk to the DJ, Tom Julian, and we obtained from him recordings of his show.  We also obtained photographs from various events Katy Carter had been seen at in recent months, and the techs at the FBI compared it to some documents Jameson Security had found while they were watching Katy.”


“Can you tell us what happened on the morning of 7th April?”


“We were reviewing what we had discovered at the FBI offices.  The evidence strongly suggested the perpetrator was a young man who had somehow decided he was her protector – but at that point, we had no name.  Captain Ball had also been making enquiries, and was sharing her findings, while Phil Majewski was showing us the evidence of the same person appearing in the crowd where Katy Carter was over the previous few weeks.  That person also matched the photograph on the identity documents supplied by Jameson Security.”


“And is that person in the court today?”


Moletti looked over at the other table, and said “the accused – Daniel Morgenstern.”



2.50 pm

United States District Court

500 Pearl Street, New York


“Well, here they are,” Annie said as a car pulled up, and Juliette got out, holding Judith’s hand as they walked down the stone steps to meet them.


“Are you sure this is the way you want to do this,” Klaus said as he got out of the car, and started to unbuckle the car seats.”


“Honestly, Pops, it is,” Carina said, “I don’t want a flashy affair.”


“Well, I am delighted that you are taking this step,” he said with a smile.  “So how does this work?”


“Come with us,” Carina said as they walked up the stairs, and into the front lobby.  She spoke to the guard, who directed them to the lifts, and then they walked along a corridor to a set of doors with “The Honourable Brooke Hatton” printed on the front.  As Carina knocked on the door, it was opened by a young clerk.


“Hello – we have an appointment for three o’clock,” Annie said, before they heard Brooke call out “Come on in Carina – I see you brought the family too.”


“Hello Brooke,” Juliette said as she kissed the judge on both cheeks, “I guess I should say thank you.”


“Let me guess – they tried to do this on the quiet, and got busted?”


“True,” Klaus said, “but I am glad we are here for this.  Although my sister may have words on this later today.”


“Well then, come through,” Brooke said.  She was wearing a grey jersey dress and three inch heels, but as they went in she put on her robes of office.


“Close the door please,” she said to her clerk, as Klaus and Juliette sat with Judith and the bables.


“So – we are here today to formally join in matrimony these two ladies here.  Do you have the Marriage Licence?”


“I do,” Carina said as she handed the document to Brooke, who nodded as she read it.


“Your witnesses?”


“Myself and Adam,” Ingrid said, “do you object if Adam takes some photographs as well?”


“Not at all,” Brooke said with a smile.  “Well, the paperwork is in order, and the fees paid.  I am required to ask, by law, if anyone knows of any legal reason why this ceremony may not continue?  Anyone?”


She smiled as she said “Good – face each other, and if you wish to say anything, now is the time to do it.”


Carina smiled as she took Annie’s hand.  “Annie…  You are my soulmate, my other, the jigsaw piece that completes the picture of my life, of Judith’s life, and now as the mother of our other children.  I want the world to know this, and that we are one, united and stronger for it, now and forever.”


Annie smiled as she said “Carina, I always knew something was missing from my life, and then I found you.  You fill me, you give me purpose, and you make me much more than proud – you make me total.  I want to be there for you whatever may happen, and I want the world to know that as well.”


“Okay – Carina Diana Huntingdown von Furstenheim, do you take Annie Kelly to be your lawfully wedded wife?”


“I do,” Carina said with a smile.


“And do you, Annie Kelly, take Carina Diana Huntingdown von Furstenheim do be your lawfully wedded wife?”


“I do,” Annie said as Juliette wiped a tear away.




Carina and Annie each reached into their jacket pockets, taking out a simple gold ring as they placed them on the third finger of the left hands of each other.


“Well then,” Brooke said with a smile, “by the authority invested in me by the state of New York, I declare you to be wife and wife.  You may kiss if you wish, Mrs and Mrs von Furstenheim.”


Judith clapped as Carina and Annie kissed, Klaus and Juliette joining in as well.  “Well, they are a couple now,” Juliette said as she kissed Klaus.


“I need you to sign here,” Brooke said as Ingrid and Adams signed the licence, “and you will receive the wedding notice in due course.  Right now, go and celebrate.”



10 pm CET



“Well,” Sigi said as she stretched and yawned, “time for…”


The telephone ringing made both and Dieter look round, as he said “now who can that be?”


They heard the housekeeper say “von Mannschen residence, how can I help you?”  She then came into the room and said “a telephone call from the US for you, Madame.”


“The US?  I’d better go and see who it is,” Sigi said as she left the room, Dieter returning to his book as she picked up the handset.


“This is Sigi van Mannschen, how can I help you?”


"Aunt Sigi,” Cari said down the line, “sorry to ring and disturb you this late at night but Judith has something she needs to tell you?" Sigi could hear the barely suppressed laughter on the line.


“All right then, put her on,” Sigi said as she shook her head.


“Hello Aunty Sigi, I have to tell you sumfink.”

"And what do you need to tell me Judith?"

"My Mommies got married today," Judith said her line, Sigi staring at the phone as she heard laughter.

"THEY WHAT!"  Dieter came out as he heard his wife screaming, looking at the phone.

"My Goddess that was even louder than I expected," She heard Juliette laugh aloud before she heard Cari say “We decided to get married Aunt Sigi."


"Without me being there?"

"Annie and I didn't want any fuss, so it was just she and I, Ingy and Adam, Mom and Pops, and the children...  At first we weren't even inviting Mom and Pops."


“What’s wrong,” Dieter said.


“I…  I…  I don’t know what to say, except congratulations…”


“Thanks – we’ll see you at the end of the week,” Cari said as Sigi put the phone down.




“It appears we have a new member of the family,” Sigi said quietly, “Cari and Annie have married each other…”


“They have?”  Sigi stared at Dieter as he started laughing.  “Without telling you?  Or Frau Strecher?  This weekend is going to be fun…”


4 pm

Complete Style


“Janine,” Alexis said as she looked up, “Boss on line 2.”


“Hey Boss,” Janine said as she spoke into her headset, “what can I do for you?”


"Janine,” she heard Juliette say, “can I ask you to put out a press release on my behalf please?"

"Sure,” Janine said, “is this under Huntingdown's or Complete Style's letterhead?"

"No it's under my personal name."

"Alright,” she said as she brought up the correct template on her computer, “what do you want to say to the world Ju?"

"Okay - Their Serene Highnesses the Prince and Princess von Furstenheim wish to announce the marriage of their daughter the Princess Carina Diana to Miss Annie Kelly, on the afternoon of 31st May in New York."


“Serene Highnesses…  Marriage…  Carina….


“Annie…  THE FUCKIN' WHAT?" Janine screamed as Alexis looked over.

"Janine you heard,” Juliette said as Alexis came round and looked, “I'll fill you in later with the details, but send out to all usual media outlets, and those people on my friends file that you have."

"Will do Boss, but can I tell people here in the building myself?"


"Especially her..."

"Go for it Janine." Ju laughed again.


“They did it?”


“They did it,” Janine said as she printed a copy off, and then sent out the announcement.  “Can you man the phones for a few minutes?”


“Sure,” Alexis said as Janine headed for the wonders of Merlin’s Cave.


“Mary?  You around somewhere?”


“Through here,” she heard the Welsh voice say as she found Merlin talking to Casey by some new deliveries.


“Okay, I’ll get them stored,” the young girl said as Mary looked at Janine.  “And what’s got your grinning, Janine?”


“Read,” Janine said as she handed Mary the sheet of paper.  She scanned down – and then sat down as she said “Ai, typical…”



5 pm

The de Ros Mansion


"Cari you are a Rat Fink," Abigail spoke loudly into the phone, "you got married without inviting Mama and me?"

"I know, I know,” she heard Carina say, “but if the reporters had seen you at the courthouse they might have sniffed us out."

"Well I can understand that, but..."

"We only had the children, Adam and Ingy, and my parents there."

"Well I can forgive you,” Abby said, “but will my Mama, and your Aunt Sigi?"

"Didn't you hear the explosion from Frankfurt?" Cari giggled.  “and Diana will understand.”

"I'm going to pout you know,” Abby said, “you and I have been best friends all our lives."

"I know Abs, but I'll make it up to you...I promise. We will have some sort of little ceremony in Germany as well, and you can get to play bridesmaid then."

"Well I suppose that's better than nothing..."

"For now though just be happy I made an honest woman of Annie."


“I am – believe me…”



11 pm BST

The Savoy


Charlotte had barely got to sleep when she heard the text alert on her phone.  Grumbling, she put the bedside lamp on and looked at her phone, then turned and shook Piet by the shoulder.


"Carina and Annie got married Piet," Charlotte said as she shook him awake.

"Annie en Carina het gedoen wat Roo?" Piet said as he turned over and looked at her.

"Hulle is getroud jy groot bees."

"Oh, good for them," Piet said as he rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.

"Stick to one language you big lummox," Charlotte dug him in the ribs. "Don't you hear what I said? THEY got married."

"I heard you Roo,” Piet said, “but what is the big surprise, they have three children, it was bound to happen."

"Grrr,” Charlotte exclaimed, “you don't have a gossipy bone in your body."

"I know," Piet smiled, "but just think of the fun you and the girls at work will have dissecting this news."

"BASTARD!" Charlotte pounded him lightly with her little fists while she laughed.



6.30 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment


“May I offer my own congratulations,” Ama said as she took Mags from Carina, “it must have been a very special occasion.”


“It was,” Juliette said as she looked at Carina.  “How are you doing Klaus darling.”


"Just getting through,” he said as the voice on the other end of the line said “Daniels.”


“May I speak to Charles please?  Charles, it is Klaus von Furstenheim.  I know it is extremely short notice, but is it possible to get a private dining room for tonight?”


"Well we are a little crowded your Highness," the Frenchman replied as he heard the sound of pages turning.

"If you can just help us, my daughter got married this afternoon, and we are having a tiny family celebration."

"The Princess Carina got married?"

"She did indeed."

"Well for such a special occasion,” the Maitre d’ said, “I will make sure that we have a room."

"Thank you Charles, we will be there in 30 minutes."

"We will be prepared your Highness."

"Well we have a dining room booked." Klaus said as he hung up the phone.

"Ama and Annie are just putting the children to bed." Juliette smiled. "Cari is fielding phone calls, but we should all be ready to go very shortly."


“It was good of Ama to agree to babysit tonight,” Klaus said.


“Well, Annie apparently silenced both her and Caroline when she told them…”


6.30 pm

Central Park West


“Carina and Annie are married?  Well, that one came out of left field,” April said as they sat at the dinner table.


"Well they kept it a tight secret, even the FBI didn't know, or at least my daughter didn't." Katherine served dinner.

"Well, with all the fuss at other weddings I can understand why they kept it secret." Grant passed the potatoes.

"So what will we have to call her next year?" Pepsi asked. "Mrs. von Furstenheim?"

"I'm guessing it will either be Mrs. Huntingdown, or she will stick to just plain Miss Kelly." Adam took some vegetables.

"Well I think it was a bit unfair to their friends who would have loved to have been there." Jan sipped her wine as she looked round the table.

"But I guess that was the point...they have so many friends where would they have drawn the line?" April asked.

"Moms right you know," Pepsi looked round the table, "it would have had to be held in the cathedral to fit everyone in."

"Even Abs wasn't invited." Katy said as she started to eat.  “Changing subject – what happened today at the court?”


Moletti gave evidence – Perez didn’t dispute anything he said, but did ask what happened about the assault on Morgenstern.”


“And he said,” Adam said as he took a sip from his glass.


“The police investigation did not throw up any leads.  Of course, the investigation may not have been that thorough…”



7.10 pm


“Now who is it this time,” Annie said as the dulcet tones of Black Sabbath sounded.


"This one I've been expecting," Carina looked at the screen of her phone as she rode in the back of the car. "Hey Jude..."

"Don't Hey Jude me Carina Diana Huntingdown von Furstenheim...What the hell happened?"

"We decided to get married," Carina said as she held Annie’s hand.

"Without me being there?"

"How could you be,” Cari said as she rolled her eyes, “you are in Seattle with the university orchestra."

"Technicalities roommate, technicalities..."

Carina smiled as she said "Does David know?"

"Of course he does, he's right here next to me trying to grab the phone away."

"Congratulations Carina," she heard an English voice shouting.


“When you get back from Germany, you two and I are going out, got it?”


“Got it – have fun Jude…”




7.30 pm

The Village


“I have no idea how they did it,” Caroline said as she looked across the room, “but they kept it a complete secret from both of us.”


“So when did you find out,” Grace said as she passed Caroline a coffee.


“Five thirty tonight – when Annie rang and asked if Ama could come over and babysit.  When she asked why, I swear, she just sat down and looked at me, and then handed me the phone.”


“So somehow, they managed to keep it from the two sharpest and most observant people I know?”


“Yeah – they did,” Caroline said as she looked at Sarah, “I think I need a holiday.”


“So how do you feel about it?”


“I’m happy for both of them – it was going to be a tough couple of years for them anyway, this provides some security.”


“True,” Harriet said.


“So, the journey home?”


“You’ll get the final schedules end of the week – I’ve let Missy see an advance copy, so hopefully no conflicts,” Grace said.  “A nice, simple two week trip, with a birthday party at the end.  What could possibly go wrong?”




7.30 pm

The Richmond Mansion


“I don’t believe it,” Nessa said as she shook her head.


“Well it’s true – I rang Brooke and she confirmed it.  They are officially married,” Sandy said as Heather came in. 


“Good for her,” Jo said, “I mean, I’d like to have been there.”


“We all would have been,” Sandy said.


“But – no way could they have a church wedding.  No offence Alex.”


“None taken Jo,” Alex said with a smile, “I agree – and I know Carina hates fuss.  This was neat, simple and tidy.”


“And a refreshing change – we’ve had Klaus and Juliette, and we’ve got Charlotte and Piet in a few weeks.  This is the right thing for them to do.”


“So what are we going to get them for a present?”



8 pm



“Forgive me, your highness…”


“Yes Charles,” Klaus said as he looked over.


“A delivery for the Princess Carina and her wife,” he said, as one of the waiters came in.


“A delivery?  Who from?”


"Alright I don't know how she knew we'd be here," Carina shook her head as the waiter brought the small parcel to the table and she looked at the card, "but it's from Missy."

"Don't even wonder my darling, I'm just surprised that with her personal intelligence service she wasn't at the actual ceremony." Juliette laughed lightly.

"You open it darling," Cari passed the gift to Annie.

"Alright...Let's see...WOW!"

"Trust Missy," Juliette shook her head.

"Always just the right thing," Klaus smiled.

"Let me look?" asked Ingy.  “Oh wow…”

"That woman is the eighth wonder of the world," Adam grinned.


Carina smiled as she looked at the framed photograph of Carina and Annie with Judith, the pictures of Rudi and Mags on either side, and “Carina, Annie and Family, May 2017” printed underneath…


“I’ve been thinking,” Adam said as he picked up his glass.


“Always a dangerous thing,” Ingrid said with a smile.


"You know Princess Annie just somehow doesn't sound right," Adam smiled as he drank some of his wine. "It lacks the regal touch."

"Well that I can't help," Annie smiled, "my parents didn't name me Anne, they didn't name me Anna, just plain Annie."

"And our European relatives will just have get used to that." Carina nodded.

"Well I think Princess Annie sounds perfect," Klaus smiled, "and at this very moment I would like to make a toast to Carina and Annie..."

"Carina and Annie," the family clinked glasses.

"I suppose I ought to get my passport changed into my new name?"

"Well you won't have time to get it done before this next trip to Germany Annie, but I'd start the paper work." Juliette answered.


“Fair enough,” Annie said as she looked at her phone.  “We are all ‘invited’ to coffee tomorrow at Sandy’s house for 11 am.”


“In other words, they want words of import with us,” Carina said with a laugh.


“Fair enough – we can take it on the chin from all of them then…”


Wednesday 1st June

7.30 am Local Time

Hong Kong


“Good morning mistress,” Kylie said as she came to the breakfast bar, and looked at Cathy.  She was staring at the morning paper, her coffee cup in her hand.




“Oh – my apologies Kylie,” Catherine said as she looked over and smiled, “where are Helen and Marina?”


“On their way – is something wrong mistress?”


“Only in the sense of a complete surprise,” Cathy said as she passed the paper over.  Kylie glanced down through her glasses, and then smiled.


“Well, I cannot think of a happier event – and done with a minimum of fuss as well Darlings.  Very clever.”



7 am BST

Ordford Castle


“Good morning Mummy, Daddy,” Angel said as she sat down, “where are the boys today?”


“They’re doing the mucking out,” Will said as he looked over, “all sorted for Ascot?”


“I am indeed,” Angel said as she took some coffee, while Mandy was reading the Times.  She stopped at the Court page, and said quietly “what the…”




“Oh – my apologies darlings,” Mandy drawled, “but I think you should see this?”


She handed the paper to Will, who looked at it and then handed it to Angel.


“Oh my…  Well, that came out of left field,” Angel said with a smile.  “We should send them something.”


“They will be in Germany at the weekend – we’ll call then…”



9 am BST

Xavier International


“No, Bev,” Charlotte said as they got out of the lift, “I need to go back to the flat today.  Let Tracy know, will you?”


“Okay Boss,” Bev said as she went to Natalya’s office, and Charlotte went into hers.


“Hey,” Lily said, “have you seen the paper?”


“I got told last night – if nothing else, it got us off the front pages of the redtops for a day,” Charlotte said as she sat down.


“There is that – anyway, I sent my acceptance off,” Lily said as she sat down.  “What are you going to do when Bev heads over to HK?”


“We’ve delayed her departure – she’ll head there from Naples,” Charlotte said as she looked at the printouts.  “Okay – looks like traffic is dying down a little.  How about other attempts to get into the building?”


“George and Natalya have been very thorough in vetting prior to fixing appointments – and a couple of people have tried to get into your flat.”


“They have,” Charlotte said as she looked up, “what happened?”


“According to Tracey, they were found two streets down, unconscious – as have a number of photographers.  One would almost think someone was stopping them inside your flat – any thoughts?”


“None whatsoever,” Charlotte said with a smile.  “So – Carina and Annie?”


“I know,” Lily said as Charlotte stood up, “but we have Senior Staff.”


“True,” Charlotte said as she followed Lily into the conference room, where Natalya and Penny were talking.


“Hey – Shirley on her way?”


“She’s just talking to Cathy – Barb has confirmed she will be here this afternoon to update on the latest test results.”


“Great – so, you heard?”


“You haven’t seen The Times, have you?”  Natalya passed the paper to Lily and Charlotte, who read the announcement.


“Oh well – that makes it all the more official,” Lily said as Shirley came in.


“My apologies ladies – right, coffee is on the way, so before we begin, a question.


“What do we send as a wedding present?”




8 am

W 68th Street



"Her Serene Highness the Princess Annie Huntingdown von Furstenheim," Wilhelmina Tennant laughed as she read the New York Times whilst she ate breakfast. "That is some mouthful...Still I'm glad she and Carina made it official."


Taking a sip from her coffee, she read through the rest of the paper – she had the next two weeks as holiday, and she was going to enjoy every second of it…







Return to the Pussycat Gang index


Return to the main index