The Flag of Freedom – part 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Ah, here is our table,” Guy said as he took his seat with Valeria, Diana sitting to one side as Will and Mandy sat to the other.

 

“So they come in and join us for the meal, and then the fathers lead off the dance.”

 

“And who has the honour?”

 

“Guy, it is good to see you again.”

 

“Your Royal Highness,” Guy said as he bowed to the distinguished looking man in the black suit, “it has been a long time.  May I present my companion Valeria and my daughter Diana, both Countess de Ros, as well as the Marquess and Marchioness of Ordford.  Ladies, Your Lordship, I have the honour to present King Rudolf VII of Ruritania.”

 

All stood, Will bowing and the ladies curtseying, before Rudolf said “Please, this is not the place for formality.  Tonight we are all the proud parents and supporters.”

 

“And you must be the proudest of all,” Guy said.

 

“Well, so will you be,” Rudolf said, “I have been asked to lead off the first dance, and I would be honoured if you and your granddaughter will join me and Charlotte.”

 

“The honour is ours,” Guy said as he bowed again.

 

“Excellent – I will see you later,” Rudolf said as he made his way back to his table.

 

“Well, that is an honour,” Valeria said with a smile.

 

“More than you realise,” Guy said, “I led off with Diana in her day.”

 

“I remember the photographs of that,” a soft Scottish voice said from the next table.

 

Diana and Valeria stiffened slightly as Guy turned and said “Archibald – it is good to see you, and you Victoria.”

 

“Good evening Guy,” Victoria said before looking at the others.  “Diana, Valeria.”

 

“Victoria,” Valeria said as she turned and smiled, “I look forward to us talking later.”

 

As she nodded, Valeria turned and looked at her daughter in law, her eyebrow raised in a significant manner.

 

The hum in the room was steadily increasing as the time came for the debutantes to enter, before the master of ceremonies said “Your Highnesses, my lords, ladies and ladies and gentlemen, pray silence for Stephane Bern!”

 

The writer stood to applause as the doors were opened to the side of the stage, smiling as he said “Welcome to le Bal 2015.  I ask you now to join me in welcoming the true stars of the evening – the debutantes of 2015 and their cavaliers.”

 

As the applause died down, Stephane looked at his cards and said “Leading the group this year, this young woman is a member of the Zulu royal family, and a leading light in the fight for education amongst the poorer people of her home country.  A current student at Oxford University, she is dressed tonight in a gown designed by Stella McCartney – ladies and gentlemen, welcome Princess Victoria Buthelezi!”

 

The dark skinned woman walked out on the arm of her cavalier, wearing an off the shoulder green gown with yellow trim.  She smiled as she came in, wearing a diamond tiara and bracelets on her long gloves, as they took up a position at one end of the stage.

 

At a table, a group of men and women in traditional dress clapped and cheered as Stephane said “Next, a young lady who comes from a dynasty of Australian acting.  She has chosen a different career path, working currently as an intern at the Melbourne Post, but her reports on the issues with the indigenous people are both informative and also a reflection of her own family history.  Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome Miss Belinda Croft!”

 

The red headed writer came in, dressed in a black fitted gown with a halter neck and a bare back, and took up her position.

 

“This young lady is the heiress to one of the finest jewel mines in American history.  A freshman student at Stanford, she is also a leading light in the PAC 12, and is studying to become a mining engineer.  Please welcome Mss Trina Culver!”

 

Clint and Trina smiled as they walked in, the young woman in a silver dress with a single shoulder strap and a knee length skirt, before joining the other two.

 

“I wonder if she and Charlotte would get on,” Diana thought to herself as two more girls were introduced.

 

“I now wish to introduce a true English rose.  Known both in the equestrian and the modelling world, her father is the Marquess of Ordford, and her mother the model Mandy Carrow, the darling of Alastair McQueen.  Currently spending a year out before she decides where to study, and wearing a gown designed by Alice McKinnon for APCO, we are honoured to welcome Lady Angelica Fitzstuart!”

 

As Harry led Angel out, Mandy and Diana smiled and clapped as she passed and took her place, Will blowing her a kiss.

 

“From Russia, the son of the Minister for Internal Affairs, and an Olympic competitor in the Luge, she is a student of International Politics at St Petersburg, and a voice for animal rights.  Please welcome, in a dress designed by Igor Chapurin, Olga Glatzova!”

 

Olga walked out in a sleeveless gown of different colours, the black body broken up by crimson and gold, smiling as she took her place in the line.

 

“From Scotland, the daughter of Lord Archibald and Lady Victoria Gordon, she is the voice of the recent series of Highland Travelogues on YouTube, and is currently studying Law at St Andrew’s University.  Wearing Christian Dior, please welcome Lady Samantha Gordon!”

 

Valeria and Diana both clapped politely as Samantha came out, and more of the debutantes followed, Brigitte smiling at Valeria as she walked past.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, if you will forgive the digression for a moment, we are blessed tonight to have here a number of past debutantes at le Bal.  We are also truly blessed to have the daughter of one of those women amongst this year’s ladies.  The face of Memories, she combines her modelling career with her final year at school, where she is one of two patrons of a scholarship program.  Ladies and Gentlemen, in a gown designed by Alice McKinnon for APCO, please welcome Abigail, Countess de Ros.”

 

Guy was the loudest in his applause as Tony led Abigail out, her diamonds shining in the lights as she smiled at the tables, before standing in the line.

 

“Studying Economics at Munich University, she has been one of the faces of European Royalty since her baby photos appeared in Hello! Magazine.  Despite this start, she has become the most well known face of her generation in Germany.  Please welcome, in a gown designed by Yves St Laurent, Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Ruritania.”

 

Charly was wearing white – but a brilliant white gown with a flowing train from the shoulders, and a set of brilliant diamonds around her neck and on her glove covered wrists.  Her cavalier was an army officer, the only one not dressed in tails as his dress uniform made him stand out.

 

Taking her place and smiling, Stephane continued “Our next young lady comes from an old and renowned family in England, and is a champion of a number of charities that raise awareness of blindness and the search for cures.  She is currently in the first year of a degree in art at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, where her speciality is in tactile art.  Please welcome Lady Fiona Treharran!”

 

Diana smiled as she watched Olivia and Charles applaud, while Mike escorted his sister into the room, her light green gown moving like waves of chiffon as she took her place.

 

As the last two girls, including Sophia, were introduced, Stephane looked out and said “Please, for one last time welcome our ladies and their cavaliers as they are escorted to their tables.”

 

The room filled with applause as the girls made their way across the room, Guy standing with Will and holding the chairs for both Abby and Angel as they sat down.

 

“And relax, darlings,” Mandy said quietly, “that is the first part of the evening over.”

 

“Thank the goddess,” Abby said as she sipped some champagne, “the dance with you, grandpa, and then...”

 

“Ah – I should tell you something about that, my dear...”

 

“What?”

 

The question remained hanging in the air as the foie gras confit charlotte was placed in front of them, the servers working with military precision.

 

“Is it true the meal only takes an hour,” Angel said as she looked at Guy.

 

“Oh yes,” Diana said as she sipped her wine, “the idea is to progress as smoothly as possible to the dance.”

 

“This is exquisite, darling,” Mandy said, “what is that flavour?”

 

“Apple essence,” Will said, “very subtle.”

 

The plates were soon cleared as the servers returned with plates hidden under cloches.  They were placed in front  of each of them in turn, before with a nod the covers were removed, revealing the Lemon Sole fillet lacquered Saint-Maure and vegetables.

 

“Well, at least it is a light meal,” Valeria said as they started to eat.

 

“So I guess it would be young Treharran who was the major draw in the side room,” Diana said as she looked at Tony.

 

“He’s actually a good bloke,” Tony said, “even if all the girls bar one were mooning over OW!”

 

He looked over at Abby, who was smiling sweetly as Angel shook her head.

 

“You are all beautiful tonight,” Guy said, “even if I believe you to be the most beautiful my dear.”

 

“Truly exquisite,” Harry said, “who prepares this food?”

 

“They use the head chef from the Crillion, Christopher Hache,” Diana said as she finished her fish.  “He considers it an honour to do this each year.”

 

The plates and cutlery were cleared away, and the servers returned with a chocolate torte topped with passion fruit, and a red berry jus.

 

“So I presume the formal dances come first,” Angel said as she looked at her father.

 

“Indeed – although the good news for you, my dear, is you do not have to lead off this dance with me.”

 

“Well, we have practiced,” Angel said as Abby looked at her grandfather.

 

“Grandpapa, what was it you were going to tell me...”

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the compere said, “may we ask the fathers to escort their daughters to the dance floor?”

 

“Just follow my lead,” Guy said as they stood, taking Abby’s hand as Will led Angel out.  They formed two lines on the dance floor, fathers on one side, daughters on the other in the same order they entered the room in.

 

King Rudolf stepped forward and bowed, Charlotte making a little curtsey as they took each other’s hand and walked onto the dance floor as the others applauded.

 

“Joining their Royal Highnesses to start the dance tonight, Guy, Duc du Grechy and Abigail, Countess de Ros.”

 

“What?”  Abigail looked round as the other girls applauded, Guy stepping forward and bowing before he offered his granddaughter his hand.  Shaking her head, she curtseyed and took his hand, the room applauding as Rudolf and Charlotte turned to face them.

 

“I am going to kill you later,” Abby whispered from the corner of her mouth as the band started to play Shostakovich’s Waltz Number 2.  She turned and took her grandfather’s hand, the fathers and daughters applauding as they traversed the dance floor, and then joining in one at a time.

 

“Enjoying yourself?”

 

“Immensely,” Abby said as she looked at her grandfather.  “I hope the other balls are as special.”

 

“They are much more formal – especially the Opernball,” Guy said, “but you will be fine.  For now, I am pleased to say the younger generation takes over.”

 

As the music stopped, the male partners bowed, and passed their daughters and granddaughters to the cavaliers, the ladies smiling as a more modern waltz started to play.

 

“Guy, you and I will be on the cover of every paper and magazine now,” Rudolf said as he walked Guy back to the table.

 

“Only because of who we danced with,” Guy said as he bowed and then took his seat.

 

 

10 pm CET

 

“Well that was some start,” Abigail whispered in Charly’s ear as they stood together, watching as Guy danced with Valeria and Will with Diana.

 

“I know,” Charly said, “they certainly gave us all a big build-up.”

 

“I think there are a loud of very proud Papa’s here tonight.”

 

“Not to mention at least one proud Grandpapa.”

 

“He’s VERY proud,” Abby laughed as Tony brought her over a glass of champagne.

 

“So who is that gorgeous man accompanying you Charly?”

 

“Victor de Savoie.”

 

“As in Prince Victor of the old Italian royal family?”

 

“You know your royalty Tony.” Charly smiled. “But he just prefers to be Victor, and he represents a compromise with my father.”

 

“Oh?” asked Abby.

 

“Daddy insisted on someone royal, I wanted anyone but a royal, but we both settled on Victor since he’s safely engaged to my cousin Margaret.”

 

“That way the gossip papers have nothing to say?”

 

“Exactly my thoughts Tony.

“Champagne Charly,” her escort said as he handed her a glass.

 

“Charly has just been telling us about you your Royal Highness.” Abby went down into her court curtsey as Tony bowed.

 

“Enough bowing…PLEASE!” the Prince laughed, “please just call me Victor.”

 

“Victor,” Charly said, “this is Tony, and the lovely…”

 

“Abigail de Ros.” The prince interrupted Charly. “A face known round the world.”

 

“Oh I wouldn’t say that.” Abby blushed.

 

“So I hear you are making our escape plans tonight Abby?”

 

“Well my Aunt Jeanne says she can buy us time.”

 

“For non inhabitants of Abbyworld, that’s Jeanne Beckmann, the fashion journalist.” Tony smiled.

 

“I let her get some exclusive interviews and helping is the quid pro quo.”

 

“Has Charly told you she wants to go to Le Coq d’or in Montmartre?”

 

“She has Victor.”

 

“It’s a great place,” Victor sipped his drink. “If we can get some privacy from the press.”

 

“That is where Aunt Jeanne comes in,” Abby said.  “We give her the nod, she lays the false trail...”

 

 

 

4.30 pm

Central Park West

 

“To make things appear more normal in the restaurant,” Janice said as she looked at Katy in her dressing gown, “you can call me Jan darling, just for this one special night only.”

 

“And you can call me Kat.” Katy smiled, as she looked at her inch long acrylic fingernails that her mother had painted a deep blood red.

 

“Now let me do yours Jan.” she smiled at her use of the name as she took her mother’s hand and started to apply the polish to her long elegant nails

 

"Remember Katy, I'll only let this proceed if you maintain complete maturity throughout dinner."

"I guessed that Mom."

"I will help, guide and abet." Jan inwardly shook at what she was saying, "but you are ultimately be the one seduces him so he wants sex with you."

"I know." Katy grinned as she stood up, removed her robe and painted her nipples with lipstick before putting her breasts in her black, strapless, half-cup bra. "That's just a little surprise for him when I get undressed," she winked.


"How much do you know EXACTLY about sex darling?"

"Only what I read in those bodice ripper novels of Grans." Katy laughed.

 

“Oh lord above – this is going to be an education, isn’t it...”

 

“Yeah – we need to start getting ready don’t we?”

 

“Yeah – yeah, we do...”

 

11.30 pm CET

Palais de Chaillot

 

“So what was that?” Fiona asked as Abigail and Angel burst into laughter after looking at their telephones.

 

“A very rude comment from Carina von Furstenheim on our waltzing ability.” Angel laughed. “She’s watching the TV feed in New York.”

 

“She’s like me isn’t she?”

 

“If you mean she’s a lesbian FI, then yes, but she is safely partnered up and her partner Annie is expecting a baby.” Abby replied.

 

“Why are the good ones already taken?” Fi exchanged a quick glance with Abigail.

 

 

 

“Victoria.”

 

The tall woman turned to see Diana and Valeria standing behind her at the bar.

 

“Diana – I must say Abigail looked radiant when she led off the dance tonight.”

 

“Thank you – you remember Valeria?”

 

“I do,” Victoria said quietly. 

 

“Look – can we find a quiet corner for a few minutes,” Diana said in a low whisper, “there is something I think we should talk about.”

 

Looking round, Victoria said “Of course – let’s head into the outer room for a few minutes.”

 

The three women walked quietly out, smiling at others as they passed the tables, and then sat in a group of chairs, Diana next to Victoria as Valeria sat opposite her.

 

“How are you,” she finally said after a few minutes.

 

“How am I?  Well, I am immensely proud of Samantha tonight.  Archie looked fantastic with her on the dance floor.  I...”

 

“I’m sorry Victoria.”

 

Looking over at the older woman, Victoria blinked and said “What are you sorry for Valeria?  It wasn’t you who did anything to me.”

 

“Perhaps, but if I had known what had happened, I could have done something about it.”

 

“No,” Victoria said quietly, “I do not think there was anything either of you could have done about it.  If anything, I am the one who should apologise if I caused any pain to either of you.  I decided to retire and accept the love of a good man, and put it behind me.”

 

The other two women looked at each other, before Diana said “You have been very fortunate, Vicky, and Samantha is a true credit to both of you.”

 

“As Abigail is to you,” Victoria said with a smile.  “Valeria, there is no need for an apology.  What happened happened, and yes it hurt for a long time, in many ways – but it is in the past.  Let it stay there.”

 

“Good,” Valeria said as she stood up, Diana and Victoria watching as she joined Guy.

 

“I wasn’t the last, was I?”

 

“Nor the first,” Diana said quietly.  “I too am truly sorry I said nothing at the time – I think it is shame more than anything that stopped me saying anything before.”

 

“You truly have nothing to be ashamed of,” Victoria said with a smile.  “I do have one question, however?”

 

“And that is?”

 

“Was it you?  Was it you who killed him?”

 

Turning her back to the room, Diana whispered “if it was, would that satisfy your thirst for vengeance?”

 

“Only if I can still imagine myself doing it.”

 

Diana smiled and said “I would encourage that.  Come – perhaps Archibald would favour me with a dance?”

 

 

 

“There you are,” Sam said as they came back in, “Abby and I were looking for you.  Apparently Abby is also to be presented in Vienna.  We should arrange to get together there.”

 

“We’ll see what we can do,” Diana said as Archibald approached.  “May I have the honour of this dance,” he said as he bowed to Diana, smiling as she took his hand.

 

12.30 am CET

 

“Are you guys having a good time?” Clint asked as a group of the escorts gathered at the bar.

 

“Just about,” Mick shook his head, “if having a good time means dancing with your Lesbian sister while she looks at every other woman in the room.”

 

“You drew the short straw didn’t you Mike old thing.” Tony said as he put an arm round the singers shoulder.

 

“What about you Victor?” Clint asked.

 

“Just like you,” the young Italian officer said, “it is meaningless. I am in love with Margaret, escorting Charly tonight was simply a favour for my beloved.”

 

“So many beautiful girls,” Tony said as he looked round and shook his head, “but so many of them have neither steady boyfriends, or even acquaintances to ask to something like this, so they fall back on family, and friends of family.”

 

“Well we can’t all be lucky enough to be dating Abigail de Ros Runt.” Mick smiled using Tony’s school nickname. “Now I’d be perfectly happy to swap my sister for her, and I’m sure a few of these other chaps would also willingly swap with you.”

 

“Errr no thanks.” Tony laughed.  “She is strictly off limits to all of you.”

 

He looked over to where Abby was standing with Sam Gordon, talking quietly.

 

Abby turned to her new friend and whispered “what is this tension between your Mother and my family Samantha?”

 

“I’m really not sure,” Samantha said quietly, “I keep trying to pick Mummy’s brain, but she clams up on me.”

 

“I wonder if it has anything to do with my Papa?”

 

“Oh - why?”

 

“Because,” Abby said, “in New York jargon he was a philandering no good son of a bitch, who couldn’t resist anything wearing panties.”

 

“You think he and my Mother?”

 

“Think about it logically Sam, it makes sense. If she was one of his many conquests and my family knew, it would explain all the tension.”

 

“I suppose it would.” Samantha sipped her drink. “Was he really that bad?”

 

“Far worse then my Grandfather by all accounts, and I’m sure you’ve heard a few tales growing up about the ‘Wicked Duc’.”

 

“A few,” Samantha giggled.

 

“What is it with men they can never seem to be totally faithful.” Abigail crossed her fingers at her own hypocrisy in saying that, knowing that she was probably starting an affair with Fiona.

 

“I’m not sure, but I’m even more unsure why we forgive them.”

 

“So who is your date?”

 

“Andrew Wemyss, he’s my brother’s best friend, they are both at Oxford now, and before that at Eton.”

 

“So no steady boyfriend at the moment?”

 

“Abby – you are the exception rather than the rule here tonight,” Sam said with a smile as Angel made her way to the ladies boudoir.  As she went in, she saw Fi come out of a stall and head to the washstand.

 

“Enjoying yourself Ange?”

 

“I’m having a good time,” Angel said as she checked the stalls, and then stood looking at Fi, her arms folded.

 

“Okay, I know that silence.  What’s wrong?”

 

“Fi,” Angel said as she cornered her friend, “keep those claws of yours out of Abby please.”

 

“What the hell are you talking about Ange?”

 

“Look,” Angel said as she came over and stood next to her, “I know the signs of how you operate, and I also know that by repute Abs is bi. But just because she swings both ways doesn’t mean you need try your luck with her.”

 

“Ange you have a feverish imagination?” Fiona said as she started to fix her makeup.

 

“Well if I do then that’s fine,” Angel said as she looked at her friend, “but if I hear that Tony gets hurt in any way by your actions, then I’m coming to claw your eyes out.”

 

“Come on, Ange.  Why would Abigail de Ros the supermodel ever look at me?”

 

“Because your denials to the contrary you know as well as I do that you are gorgeous Fi.” Angel checked her own face in the mirror. “Look just be discrete, please.  I don’t ever want to have to lie again like I did to the Head that time to give you an alibi for not being the girl seen in bed with Miss duBois.”

 

“Alright point taken Ange.  If anything does happen, we will be careful.”

 

 

 

 

 

“I have to say, this has brought back a lot of good memories,” Olivia Treharran said as she sat with Diana and Mandy.

 

“You were never formally presented, were you Bandit?”

 

“No – unlike you, Tufty, I never had that pleasure, but some of the balls Charlie and I used to attend...”

 

“How long is it since you have been in London, Olivia?”

 

“Apart from coming over here, or to see my specialist?  A few years.”

 

“Well, when you join us in January, we are going to have a real reunion together,” Diana said, “Juliette will be delighted to see you, and Eve is likely to be in town as well.”

 

“You may get to see Grace as well, but we can get Karen and Alice to come down and support the girls,” Diana said.  “It also may give you a chance to meet Caroline.”

 

“Stella’s daughter?  In that case, we’ll make a week of it and have a grand night out,” Olivia said with a smile.

 

“Shall we ask Mary to join us,” Diana said, “you know she still has a picture of you in her office Olivia?”

 

“Does she Diana?”

 

“She still holds you up to be the epitome of perfection walking.”

 

“She does?”  Olivia shook her head.  “Well I never. Are she and Stephanie still fighting over Stephanie’s walk?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Oh some things never change.” Olivia laughed. “Things that do change though, I was sorry to hear about Fiona?”

 

“She’s fighting hard, but I’m sure she’d appreciate a phone call from you Olivia darling.”

 

“Diana is right,” Mandy said, “you know she really would.”

 

“I’ll ring her when I get home…Promise.”

 

“She’ll like that Bandit.” Mandy nodded.

 

“Are Abby and Angel PTA members?”

 

“Yes.” Diana nodded.

 

“You must be so proud of them?”

 

“Of course we are darling.” Mandy smiled. “Just as you are of Fi I’m sure.”

 

“Is Fi going to model?”

 

“She’d like to Diana,” Olivia said, “but with her eyes will any agency take the risk?”

 

“Is there nothing that can be done darling?”

 

“No more than they could with my eyes, she’s doomed to these.” Olivia pointed to her thick-lensed glasses. “And to being legally blind.”

 

“I don’t know,” Diana said, “if Jeannie Brewster can be a success with her handicap, there has to be a way...”

 

"Did you see High Society in the West End darling?"

 

"Jerry rang and invited me, but I said no." Olivia shook her head.

 

"Why ever not go?" Diana asked.

 

"As the Countess said why didn't you go darling?"

 

"Because Tufty I probably wouldn't have been able to see half of it."

 

"You don't go to a musical to watch, you go to listen to the wonderful songs." Mandy looked pained.

 

"If I went Jerry would have made a fuss, I just prefer my quiet little life."

 

"Bandit darling you are killing me."

 

"Are you sure you will come up for our reunion in London?"

 

"Yes that I do promise Diana?

 

"GOOD!" both her friends said together.

 

"So what was the show like? And how was Jerry in it?"

 

 

7.30 pm

Eleven, Madison Park

 

“So where are the two ladies we are dining with,” Harry said as he stood with his uncle outside the restaurant door.

 

“They’ll be here, don’t worry,” Adam said as he blew into his hands, trying to warm them in the late November chill.  “How’s your mother today?”

 

“Better – especially now we have Ellie back with us.  I don’t know if we can ever thank you for what you did, Uncle Adam.”

 

“Well, she may be your stepsister,” Adam said, “but what those men...  Let’s just say I’m glad I could do something right by your mother at last.”

 

“She’s never going to be the same, is she?”

 

“I don’t know, Harry – the only thing you and your family can do is be there for her and...”

 

Both men stared as Jan and Katy got out of the cab, fur coats wrapped around their bodies as their gloved hands appeared from the sleeves.

 

“Adam, Harry,” Jan said as the cab went off, “thank you for the invitation tonight.”

 

“Thank you both for coming,” Adam said as he took Janice’s arm, Harry offering his to Katy, “shall we?”

 

The maitre d’ smiled as they approached his desk.

 

“Monsieur Ball – this way please,” he said as he escorted the party to their table, people looking at the two women as they walked past, their black satin elbow gloves complimenting their topless dresses.  Both Adam and Harry held the chairs out for them, smiling at each other as they sat down.

 

“Well,” Harry said, “it’s a real pleasure to see you again Janice, and this is?”

 

“Kat,” the younger woman purred, “and it is a real pleasure to meet you.”

 

“Well, shall we order,” Adam said as he looked at both of them...

 

1.30 am CET

Palais de Chaillot

 

“Can you imagine The Pussycats taking Le Bal Mama?” Abigail giggled as she whispered in Diana’s ears.

 

“I think the level of security might even defeat them darling.” Diana smiled.

 

“Still,” Abby said, “it’s a dream.”

 

“A dream I’ll have to share with Juliette?”

 

“Maybe.” Abby giggled again as King Rudolf walked over.

 

“May I have this dance Countess?”

 

“You may your Majesty,” Diana replied as she bobbed into a deep curtsey.

 

“Knock it off Diana,” the King laughed, “I’ve known you since we were babies, and you know you don’t have to do that.”

 

“You’ve know each other that long?”

 

“Our nannies were best friends,” Rudolf said with a smile, “and used to walk us in the Luxembourg Gardens and the Bois de Boulogne together.”

 

“That they did.” Diana laughed. “And how is Miss Sargeant?”

 

“84 years old, and she still treats me like I’m an infant.”

 

“They always do, to them we are always their babies.”

 

“Miss Kendall was my nanny up to her death.” Abigail smiled. “I swear she was tougher then a Marine Gunny.”

 

“Most old school nannies are.” The King smiled and laughed. “Anyway do I get this dance Diana?”

 

“Oh alright, I give in.” Diana laughed aloud as he led her onto the dance floor.

 

“So I understand there may be a wedding in my calendar for April,” Rudolf said as they danced across the floor.

 

“Indeed,” Diana said, “The first weekend in April, in Munich.  I am sure you will be invited, and both Klaus and Juliette would be delighted to see you.”

 

“I look forward immensely to it,” Rudolf said quietly, “I attended Klaus and Renate’s wedding, and I am sure this one will be as happy.”

 

“I am sure it will be – I know Alice is already thinking hard of the gowns.”

 

 

 

“Alexander?”

 

The grey haired man turned and smiled as he saw Guy standing behind him. 

 

“Guy – how does it fell to have the belle of Le Bal in the family?”

 

“I would not know, given the presence of Brigitte,” Guy said as he sat down, placing a single malt in front of Alexander.

 

“Hmm – why am I worried that Guy, Duc du Grechy, has brought me a fifteen year old malt?”

 

“It is still your drink of preference, non?”

 

“It is,” Alexander said as he looked at Guy, “so what shall we talk about?”

 

“Well we could talk of Abigail, and of Diana?”

 

“But then you would control the conversation, true?”

 

“True,” Diana said as Rudolf kissed her hand, and she sat down, “so let us talk of Brigitte.  She has grown into an extremely beautiful woman, Alexander.”

 

“So Katerina tells me,” Alexander said as she looked at her daughter dancing with Harry, “but to me she will always be the little girl I walked on the banks of the Seine with.”

 

“I understand,” Diana said, “but have you talked with her of the future?”

 

“She enters the Sorbonne in the autumn,” Alexander said, “Abigail?”

 

“She has applied to a specialist college in New York, and Cambridge, but plans to spend time in Paris as well.”  Diana took Alexander’s hand, and said “Alex, my darling, an old friend of mine wishes to talk to Brigitte about the possibility of doing some modelling...”

 

“Hmm – you know I have never wanted her to be part of that life?”

 

“I know and understand,” Guy said, “Diana and Valeria both had the same misgivings about Abigail, and now look at her.”

 

Alexander looked at Abby dancing with Tony, before he said, “is it truly what Brigitte wants?”

 

“I believe so,” Diana said, “but our friend looks after Abigail as well as Amanda, and other friends.  I assure you, she would do nothing without consulting you and Katerina as well.”

 

“She is very beautiful, isn’t she?”

 

Diana and Guy nodded as Alexander finished his drink.  “Very well – this friend, tell her Katerina and I would wish to speak with her first, but Brigitte will talk to nobody else.  Then she and we will decide.”

 

“I think that is fair – I will have her call you tomorrow,” Diana said as Katerina came over.

 

“And what are you talking of?”

 

“The future,” Alexander said as he took her hand.

 

 

 

 

 

“When do all you Cinderella’s change back?” Jeannie asked Abigail at her table.

 

“In a bit.” Abby glanced at her watch. “So was this dress a hit?”

 

“Very much so, Bats made you look even more amazing then normal.”

 

“Thanks.” Abby grinned “Are you all set to divert your colleagues while we all slip away?”

 

“Yes, I’ll keep my half of the bargain.  Just give me the nod.”

 

“Good – I had better see how the family are doing,” she said as she started to walk to her table, swaying slightly as she did so.

 

“There you all are,” she said as she grabbed Tony and kissed him.  “It’s been a fabulous night, hasn’t it?”

 

“Where are you all going on to?” Guy asked his Granddaughter.

 

“That’s a secret,” Abby smiled, “the press might capture you and torture the information out of you.”

 

“Alright Tony, there is no way you let her drive.” Valeria issued a warning. “She has had far too much champagne.”

 

“I know, and I’ll make sure we just use cabs.”

 

“Good boy.” Guy nodded his approval.

 

“Well it has been a marvellous ball.” Valeria declared, “I’ve met some interesting new people.”

 

“I saw you chatting with the Russian parents and the South African ones Mama.” Diana said as she looked over the table.

 

“The minister invited Guy and I to come to St Petersburg, and then to Moscow.”

 

“Will you take him up on it?”

 

“Probably dear daughter, you know I do adore St Petersburg, and Guy has never visited.”

 

“Why do the Zulu royals not acknowledge that they have a daughter called Itsy? I know very well she exists, I met her in New York.” Abigail asked as she sat down.

 

“Hush darling,” Diana hissed, “sometimes it is not done to pry into other families scandals.”

 

“Like my Papa bonking Lady Victoria?” Abby grabbed another glass of champagne.

 

“Exactly!” Valeria looked daggers at her granddaughter.

 

Tony glanced over at Angel, who was waving with her hand, as he said, “I think the time has come for us to quietly slip away.  I will ensure she is at the hotel in time for breakfast.”

 

“Thank you, Tony,” Valeria said as he escorted Abby to the changing area, the other girls and cavaliers heading in the same direction as the press looked on.

 

“Ladies, Gentlemen,” Jeannie said as she walked up to them, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

“Not following them?”

 

“No – meetings at eight.  Toodles.”

 

As she walked out, the press corps followed her, Diana grinning as they did so.

 

 

 

"Well it seems Papa will talk to Missy Auerbach on my behalf." Brigitte confided to Abby as they changed out of their ball dresses.

"I thought he might.  Mamma and Grandpapa were talking to him a short while ago."

"And what about you Miss Culver?" Angel asked the red-haired American.

"Everyone is recommending I sign with her." Trina nodded. "Supposedly interest from her guarantees that I will have some kind of future as a model?"

"She doesn't sign girls she can't find work for Trina?" Abby nodded.  “All of us agree on that.”


"Well I think our designers did amazingly tonight." Samantha climbed out of her dress, "and I know we raised a lot of money for those poor children."

"Good," Fiona smiled, "that is the real purpose of this event."

"Yes it is." Victoria Buthelezi, looked up from changing her shoes. "By the way Abigail, if you do see Itsy again, can you tell my sister I miss her so much."

 

Abby looked over, and then said “I’m sorry if I have upset your parents when I asked about her.”

 

“They will not talk about it,” Victoria said as she looked forward, “all I know is something happened, she and father had a terrible row, and then the next morning she had gone.  When did you meet her?”

 

“She was visiting with a friend of mine in New York – she is a very impressive woman.  Look – I’ll get your message to her somehow.”

 

“Thanks – I pray one day we will talk again,” Victoria said as she stood up and smoothed her skirt down.  “But tonight, I wish to dance.”

 

“Good,” Charly said, “the nightclub is expecting us and we have the place to ourselves.”

 

“Then let’s Par-TAY,” Angel said, “come on!”

 

 

 

 

9.30 pm

Eleven

 

“Would you care to dance?”

 

“I would love to,” Katy said as she took Harry’s hand, Adam and Jan watching from the table.

 

“Jan, you’re not trying to pair Katy with my nephew, are you?”

 

“No Adam,” Jan purred, “not unless he wanted to.”

 

“Jan...”

 

“I’m joking,” Jan said as they came back, “come on, let’s dance.”

 

“Excuse me a moment,” Harry said as he left Katy to head to the restroom, the young girl looking in her purse for something before she topped up the glasses...

 

“This is fun,” she said as Jan and Adam came back, and Adam took a sip of his drink, “we should do this more often.”

 

“I don’t know Jan,” Adam said as he took another sip, “she shouldn’t even...”

 

“Shh,” Jan said as she leaned over and kissed him.  “Why don’t you take her on the dance floor next, see how she is?”

 

Adam nodded slowly as he watched Katy and Harry, and then blinked a couple of times.

 

“Something wrong Adam?”

 

“No,” he said as Harry came back, and he stood up.  “Dance, Kat?”

 

“I would love to,” Katy purred as Adam led her out onto the dance floor, smiling as they started to move to the music.  It seemed to overwhelm him, as he looked at the young woman, her smile drawing him in as his eyes moved downwards.

 

"Well for a man who says he isn't interested you sure are inspecting the goods?" Katy laughed as she caught Adam looking down her cleavage while they danced.

"I'm sorry I don't know what's coming over me...Sorry." Adam shook his head.

"Well I don't mind you looking Adam, it's rather nice actually." Kat purred.

"That dress is just so...so...tight."

"Isn't it just darling, and think but for your so-called principles you could have everything underneath."

 

Adam shook his head as he felt Katy’s hand moving slowly down his back, and gently squeeze his bottom.  Reaching back, he moved her hand back up, smiling as they moved across the floor.

 

“Thank you,” Katy eventually said as they returned to the table, sitting down either side of Adam as Harry watched.

 

“Your next course,” the waiter said as he placed the plates down, and then smiled at the party.

 

"We have decided that you are going to have the pleasure of fucking us both tonight?” Jan whispered into Adam’s ear as the waiter walked away.

"Says who?" Adam sounded amused at the thought, much to his surprise.

"Says us," as under the table Katy caressed his crotch area.  Adam, much to Jan’s surprise, didn’t protest, but merely smiled as they started to eat the dessert.

 

 

10 pm

 

“Were you joking, Jan?”

 

"This isn't about love darling." Jan smiled as she and Adam danced close, "this is purely about lust, about getting sex out of the way so that Kat's life can return to equilibrium."

"EQUILIBRIUM! After the two of you have had sex with the same man?"

"Hey - I never said this was a perfect plan."

"Janice you know this is wrong?"

"Adam I know it’s what she wants and needs. You fuck her, then me, then we all forget tonight ever happened..."

"You think?" Adam interrupted.  “I might not be able to...”

 

“Something wrong Adam?”

 

“No – actually, no,” Adam said quietly, “let’s just enjoy this dance shall we?”

 

“Is Uncle Adam all right,” Harry said to Katy as they sat watching.

 

“I think so – he’s just relaxing for the first time in weeks.  Whatever this family business was, it took a lot out of him.”

 

“Yes, it did,” Harry said quietly, “an awful lot...”

 

 

11 pm

Central Park West

 

“Are you sure Harry will get back safely,” Katy said as she opened the door, Adam grinning as he walked in with Jan.

 

“Oh he’s a big boy, he’ll be fine,” Adam said as the girls removed their fur coats.  “Where is Katherine tonight?”

 

“Visiting a friend, she won’t be back until the morning,” Janice said quietly as she looked at Katy.

 

“Here,” her daughter said as she slipped off Adam’s jacket, “let me take that off for you.  You seem a little flushed.”

 

“I do feel a bit warm,” Adam said quietly as Katy untied his bow tie and pulled it round his neck, before giving him a little kiss on the cheek.

 

“What did I do to deserve that,” Adam said with a smile as Katy led him to the bedroom, Jan following.

 

“Hush, Adam,” Katy said quietly as she put her gloved finger to her lips, and then started to pull his jacket down his arms, and then unbutton his shirt, planting little kisses on his chest as she did so.

 

“Jan...  What are you...”

 

Jan merely moved behind Adam and removed his jacket and shirt, while Katy moved her lips back up and then placed them on his mouth.  “Why don’t you make yourself comfortable,” she purred as she looked at him, “I have something very special planned for you, my big FBI agent.”

 

Adam was surprised to find himself nodding as he lay with his head on the pillow, watching Jan remove his shoes and socks, not realising Katy had taken two of her mother’s silk scarves and tied one end of each round his wrists, before spreading them above his head and tying the other ends of the scarves to the headboard.

 

“Kinky,” Adam said with a grin as Katy unfastened his trousers and started to pull them down, the soft satin touch of her fingers on his legs making him squirm as well.  “Katy, what are you...”

 

“Call me Kat,” Katy purred as she saw the bulge already in his pants, the trousers falling to the floor as she pulled his boxers down, and then used two more scarves to secure his ankles, his legs spread wide as she tied them to the foot of the bed.

 

“Comfy,” Jan said, but before he could reply she leaned over and kissed him, stroking his chest as she did so.

 

“Hmmm,” Adam nodded slowly as Katy looked down at him.

 

"This feels like we are almost going to rape him Jan"

"Well Kat,” Jan said as she walked round and stood behind her, “if anyone questions what we are doing, at least he can say he was used against his will."

 

“What are you going to do,” Adam said as he pulled on the silk bindings.

"Do you like us in these stockings and heels darling?" Katy ran a gloved hand over her captive’s chest.  She smiled as he slowly nodded, and then watched as they looked at each other.

 

“Oh you are going to be an incredibly lucky boy tonight,” Katy whispered as she turned and started to stroke Jan’s back.  Adam lay back amazed, feeling confused, but aroused, as mother and daughter embraced.

 

“Here Kat,” Jan purred as she pulled her daughter in close for a passionate, incestuous kiss, her tongue slipping into the young girls mouth.

 

“Oh good God!” Kat moaned at her mother’s kisses and touches, as she caressed the visible tops of her breasts with her black-gloved hand.

 

“This is turning him on.” Jan whispered as Adam’s cock roused to its full 9 inches.

 

“It’s turning HIM on?” Kat panted as she put her tongue in her mother’s mouth for the first time.

 

“Oh fuck - Unzip me Kat.” Jan all but screamed.  Kat obliged as she pulled the fastening down her mother’s back, the dress slipping to the floor to reveal her thong, garter belt and stockings.

 

“Oh sweet god,” Adam moaned as he watched the women intertwine, “What’s going on...”  He could not deny the sight was arousing him, but he wondered why he couldn’t think clearly, tell them to stop as Kat’s dress slipped to the ground...

 

"When did you start shaving..."

"This morning," Katy giggled as her mother’s gloved hand found the inner parts of upper thigh above her stocking tops. "I decided this was far sexier."

"Mmmm," her mother purred as she caressed her own daughter’s crotch area.


"OH CHRIST!" Katy threw her head back in pleasure. "Jan you are so much better at this then any boy I've met so far."

 

“The wisdom of experience,” Jan said as she looked at Adam and smiled, “and you’re enjoying this as well, aren’t you?”

 

"Jan,” Adam said as he looked on, “I can't believe you are aiding and abetting her in this."

"Adam have you ever tried stopping my daughter getting what she wants?"

 

“Yes...  No... Oh Christ what is going on?”

 

“We told you,” Jan said, “we want you to have both of us.”

 

“But...”

 

"Well do you want to kiss me darling?" Katy said as she leaned over and pressed her body against Adam.

"I don't..."

"Just shut up Adam," Katy leaned in and started a deep, long kiss, inserting her tongue into his mouth, and using it to explore, Adam only able to moan as he found himself kissing her back.

 

"Now isn't that fun?" she asked as she broke contact.

"Katy,” Adam whispered, “you are only just thirteen..."

"But do girls that age kiss like this?”  She started kissing him again, working her tongue round her mouth as she reached down and stroked his cock with her gloved hands.  She could feel the throbbing, as she lifted her head and smiled again.

 

“Oh Christ, do you know what you’re doing to me?”

 

“I have a fairly good idea,” Katy said as she gently squeezed her hand, “but what I’m really interested in is what you are going to do to me.”

 

“Kat...”

 

“Hush, Adam,” Katy said as she removed her stockings and panties, while Jan slipped some extra protection over Adam’s cock.  Kneeling between his legs, she started to work her way up, Jan leaning in and kissing him as her own lips caressed the inside of his thighs, slowly working his way up his body before she kissed and licked his firm, erect cock.

 

"God I really do hope you know what to with that monster." Katy smiled and looked at him as she positioned herself about Adam's throbbing erection.

"Well I've never had cause to complain." Jan smiled salaciously as she guided him into her daughter’s entrance.

"Here goes nothing." Katy screamed for a second as she let herself onto his shaft, feeling his cock rip her hymen away.  As he penetrated her, she felt for the first time the sensation inside, the throbbing that sent electric shocks running to and fro inside her, and how she wanted to grip him tighter.

 

"You made me a woman, a real woman Adam." Katy purred as she adjusted to the sensation of having her vagina filled with his throbbing manhood."

"God that's tight Kat," Adam screamed back as he fought with all his might not to empty himself straight away. "I've never been in one so tight!"

"Well let me try this." Katy lifted herself until she practically pulled off, then let her weight sink her again, closing her eyes as the feelings buzzed in her young body.  Adam groaned and closed his eyes, fighting for control as he started to feel the pressure build.  Katy moaned out loud as the sensation ran through her.

 

“Oh Goddess,” Kat said, “I never knew, never dreamed...”

 

"Just a hint darling,” Jan whispered into her ear, “guys like it when a girl talks dirty to them, so tell him just what you want him to do, and don't be afraid to use bad words."

"Okay...FUCK ME HARDER!" Katy yelled as she lowered herself again.  Adam nodded as he thrust himself up, holding control as Katy gripped him and started to move up and down, the sensations running through her now making her burn between her legs, wondering how much longer she could take it before...

 

“Oh god,” Adam whimpered, “this is so...  So....  SHIT!”

 

“YESSSSSSS,” Kat screamed as she felt him give, and she arched her own back, the intense wave of pleasure overwhelming her as the orgasm started.  She knew his seed was trapped, but it was still like nothing she had ever experienced as the pulsing on the walls of her passage made her scream as well.

 

Jan felt between her own legs, feeling the dampness as Katy slowly panted and came off, then removed the condom.

 

"You are a paedophile Uncle Adam...MY PAEDOPHILE!" Katy panted as she started coming down from her high. "You broke every law in the book you know?"

"That you did my love." Jan smiled as she started to clean Adam with her tongue, "and don't think you've finished, you have me to satisfy yet."

 

“All...  All right,” Adam said weakly as he looked up, feeling himself starting to grow again thanks to her gentle attention.  Katy looked at him and gently kissed his lips again, before she collected her clothes, and made her way back to her own room, listening to the moans of Adam and her mother as she did so.

 

 

Sunday 29th November

1 am

Central Park West

 

Katy looked up as Jan came into the kitchen, wrapping her robe around her.

 

“He’s asleep – I untied the scarves, and managed to change the sheets under him,” she said as she poured herself some water.  “How do you feel?”

 

“Amazing – and I can’t thank you enough Mom.”

 

“We’re going to have to deal with the fallout you know?”

 

“Maybe,” Katy said, “maybe not.  I may have put something in his drink.”

 

“What?”

 

“A pill I got from Doc – she called it a ruffie or something...”

 

“You really do scare me at times,” Jan said quietly.  “So he wakes up and thinks it was all a bad dream?”

 

“I won’t tell if you won’t,” Katy said as she got up.  “The sheets?”

 

“In the washing machine with your bath towel.”

 

“Okay – ‘night mom.”

 

“Night Katy,” Jan said as her daughter went back to bed, shaking her head and praying the others would forgive her if they found out...

 

 

10 am CET

Hotel Raphael

 

“Good morning, Diana,” Guy said as she came into the breakfast room, “did you manage to get a few hours sleep?”

 

“I did – good morning mamma.”

 

“Good morning,” Valeria said as she sat down.  Both she and Diana were wearing sweaters and slacks, while Guy was in a shirt and trousers.  “And how do you both feel this morning?”

 

“A little tired, if truth be told, but I wished to be awake for the return of the party makers.  Have you seen them yet?”

 

“I understand they finally returned an hour or so ago,” Guy said, “and headed straight for their rooms.”  Sipping his coffee, he looked at both of them and said “I trust that young Abigail’s unfortunate comments last night will be forgiven?”

 

“Of course,” Valeria said, “although I do wish she had shown a little more discretion.”

 

“The innocence of youth, Mama,” Diana said quietly, “and at least we and Tony were the only ones to hear.”

 

“And Tony?”

 

“Is the soul of discretion,” Guy said as he looked over, and then stood up.  “and how do you feel this morning my dear?”

 

“Is it possible to be exhausted and wide awake at the same time,” Abby said as she came in, wearing a long sleeved blouse, jeans and heels.

 

“At this moment in time, yes,” Tony said as he waited for Abby to sit down, and then took a seat.

 

“Mama, Grandmamma,” Abby said quietly as she rubbed her head, “please forgive me if I overstepped the mark last night...”

 

“It is forgotten,” Valeria said quietly, “and in the past.  Have some orange juice and coffee, my dear – I suspect you need it until you leave for the plane home.”

 

“Have you seen any of the others,” Abby said as she sipped her orange juice, and as if on cue Angel came in with Will and Mandy.

 

“Now that is the way to spend a night,” Angel said as she sat down, “Doing a conga round the dance floor with Fi leading off was a sight to behold!”

 

“Fiona Treharran, leading a conga?  Now how in the name of all that is holy did she manage that,” Will asked.

 

“She had a seeing eye – Mike told her when to turn left or right,” Harry said with a laugh.

 

“I don’t suppose anyone got a film of it,” Diana asked with an evil smile.

 

“We banned all equipment so no blackmail material,” Tony said as more of the girls and their partners started to drift in, in various stages of waking.  Looking at her mobile phone, she then groaned as she said “Well, the reviews are in from New York – can you read this Mama, my eyes are too tired.”

 

“Allow me,” Diana said as she took her daughter’s cell phone and read through the messages.  “Well, they all are fairly positive,” she said quietly as Victoria Buthelezi passed, “although Annie does say something about how she can buy that gown?”

 

“Talk to Alice, if she isn’t too busy darling,” Mandy said as she looked round.  “So when do you fly back?”

 

“At about one today – even if she does not wish to think about it, it is a school day for Abigail tomorrow.”

 

“She does not want to think about it,” Abby said quietly as she drank some coffee, “not for the moment at any rate.”

 

“Good morning – do you mind if we join you,” Victoria said as she, Archibald and Samantha came in.

 

“Be our guests,” Guy said as they sat down.

 

“So what glamorous and exciting modelling assignments do you two have coming up?” Sam asked Abby and Angel as she looked over.

 

“I’m off to Auckland in New Zealand to shoot beachwear.” Angel replied.

 

“Nice!”

 

“While I return to school,” Abby said, “and my usual round of shoots in and near NYC.”

 

“You make it sound boring and routine,” Samantha shook her head.

 

“It can get that way,” Abby acknowledged. “It makes you treasure the really good things even more though.”

 

“And what are the good things?”

 

“In my case,” Abby said, “A weekend in Rio de Janeiro soon where I’m booked to walk a show featuring South America’s hottest designers.”

 

“Okay now that I think I’d love.” Samantha smiled. “Where are you off to Louise?”

 

“Hmmm let me see?” the French model said as she turned and opened her diary. “Cairo, Nairobi, and then I’m walking a couple of shows in Berlin.”

 

“And before you go Wow! Sam,” Angel broke in, “by the time she finishes she will totally jet-lagged and her poor feet will be dying to wear anything other then heels.”

 

“That’s true.” Louise nodded. “It may sound fun, but it’s actually damn hard work.”

 

“Will you excuse me a moment,” Abby said as she stood up and walked to the restroom, steeping into a stall and emerging a few minutes later, walking to the washbasin and splashing some water in her face.

 

“Hey.”

 

She turned and smiled as she saw Fiona standing there, wearing a sweater and leather pants.

 

“Good Morning gorgeous lady.” Fiona smiled as she and Abby embraced. “How are you feeling this lovely morning.”

 

“Tired, but very happy…and you?”

 

“Excited, I have the feeling this will be a wonderful year.”

 

“Well you don’t have school to look forward to Monday morning.” Abby smiled.

 

“Are you still interested in me?” Fi whispered in the tall models ear.

 

“You know damn well I am Fiona, you excite the hell out of me, and I was longing to ask you to dance last night.”

 

“Ditto.”

 

“So what are we going to do about it?”

 

“Well in about 10 days I am flying to New York to go see some model agencies. You could show me what’s worth seeing in New York while I’m there.”

 

“Oh I think I can arrange that.” Abby giggled a trifle excitedly. “Tony will be up in Ithaca, and if we are careful then no one need be the wiser.”

 

“That sounds like an idea to me darling.”

 

“I want to kiss you so much Fi.”

 

“I know, and I want to kiss you, but we need be careful. The sight of us kissing open mouthed might just start some tongues wagging.”

 

“There you are,” Diana said as they came back to the table, “Please, join us Fiona.”

 

“Thank you,” Fi said as Abby say with her, Diana taking her phone out as she heard the message tone.

 

“Who is the message from darling,” Mandy said as she looked over.

 

“Ju,” Diana said as she looked up, “she and Jeannie are at the airport waiting to catch the early flight to Dallas.”

 

“Dear Goddess Diana darling, it must be some unearthly hour in New York?”

 

“It is, but they are both walking the big Dallas Day of Fashion Show, then flying back tonight.”

 

“Rather them then me. I long since lost the stamina to do one day gigs with that much flying.” Mandy said as she shook her head.

 

“She says Grace echoes your sentiments and can’t understand how she let Missy talk her into the show.”

 

“Pass on my condolences to them darling.”

 

“To whom may I ask?” Olivia asked as she and Charlie sat down.

 

“Pelican, Palomino, and BS, they are at the airport in New York waiting to fly out for a one day show in Dallas.”

 

“Ouch Tufty,” Olivia said, “I used to HATE doing things like that.”

 

“Didn’t we all darling.”

 

“By the way,” she said as she poured herself coffee, “who is BS?”

 

“Baby Supermodel…Jeannie Brewster to you civilians.” Mandy smiled at Charlie.

 

“Oh how did that poor child get lumbered with that name?” Olivia laughed.

 

“One day when I have a lot of time I’ll explain darling.”

 

“So are you working soon Tufty?” Olivia asked.

 

“I’m going up to Scotland to talk with my knitters, then stopping off in the borders to do a Burberry advertisement series.”

 

“Very nice.” Charlie looked up from his cup of tea.

 

“Bats has made a fortune selling the knitwear you found.” Diana looked up from her phone.

 

“Well Will and I haven’t exactly been ripped off by her…”

 

“Yes the woollens made a nice tidy sum.” Will sipped coffee. “Which I’m mainly investing back into the estate.”

 

“Good for you Will.” Charlie looked up again.

 

“Alice always has done right by her friends and suppliers,” Diana said quietly as she looked at the call.  “Abby, Carina apparently wants to hear everything when we get back.”

 

“If I’m awake,” Abby said with a yawn.

 

The sound of her own cell phone going off made Abby look at the incoming message.

 

“Hmm – interesting.”

 

"Oh what is that?" Diana asked.

"A heads up from Lily,” Abby said, “they might be making a third St Trinian's movie, and she's heard they may ask me to play the geek role, similar to the one Lily played in the first movie."

"Do you want to do a movie Cherie?" her Grandmother asked.

"I've not considered it really. Given my difficulties with speaking and lines I'd probably never get the part anyway."

"Well until you get a formal invite to audition via your agent, it is all speculation."

"True Grand’Mere."

"Doesn't your Memories contract forbid you doing films?" Guy asked.

"Yes,” Abby said, “but my contract expires in the spring."

"Next time if they renew that clause must come out. It is tres restrictive." Diana nodded.

"So what are you telling your friend?"

"Just what we just said, until I get something formal, I'm not going to worry."

 

“Maybe you should talk to Cassandra as well darling,” Mandy said.

 

“No harm in that,” Abby said with a grin.

 

10 am Local Time

The Training Camp for the Sisters of Maisha

On the South Africa/Botswana Border

 

 

“So you ready for your little country walk today, Liz,” Sunburst said as she looked into Liz Egwegwe’s shelter.

 

“As ready as I ever will be,” the former intelligence officer said.  “It’s important I do this so that I can be truly one of you – and how did you get out of it anyway?”

 

“Who says I did – took me a little longer, that’s all,” Sunburst said as she grinned.

 

“Liz, you got a minute?”

 

“Of course Teacher,” Liz said as she walked out, looking at the blonde leader of the compound.

 

“This way,” she said as they went into the radio room, Liz smiling as she saw Leader sitting there.

 

“Liz,” she said with a smile, “so why have you dragged us in here Teacher?”

 

“To show you something – Little Mother forwarded it to me today,” Helga said as she handed Leader a photograph.  She stared at the photo for a few minutes, before touching it and saying “she looks beautiful.”

 

“Who is it,” Liz said as she looked at the photo, and then made a small sound like “oh.”

 

“She was at the debutante’s ball in Paris,” Teacher said, “as was Abigail de Ros, who I believe you met during your visit Leader.  She’s said she wants to meet you, if at all possible, when Abby said very quietly she had met you.”

 

“I am not ready to meet my family yet,” Leader said quietly, “but still...”

 

“Liz, can you help with this?”

 

“I think so, let me see what I can do,” Liz said as she put her hand on Leader’s shoulder, “it’s the least I can do.”

 

“Thank you,” Leader said quietly before she sat for a moment.  “For now, however, you have a task to complete, Liz.  We meet in the compound in one hour for transport for your team.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9.30 am

Central Park West

 

“You can’t always get what you want, you can’t always get what you want.

But if you try somehow, you might find, you get what you need...”

 

The Stones song was playing on the radio as Jan stood by the hob, the coffee machine bubbling away as she heard footsteps behind her.

 

“How are you feeling this morning darling?” Janice asked as Katy came into the kitchen, looking very young and wearing a tee shirt, a rather shapeless pair of jeans, and running shoes.

 

“More content then I’ve felt in weeks Mom,” Katy said as she sat down, stretched and then smiled.

 

“No makeup, and your hair in a ponytail. What gives?”

 

“Oh I just thought that I’d be the old me for a while again.”

 

“Well,” Jan said, “I can’t say it makes me unhappy.”

 

“Yeah,” Katy said as she accepted a glass of juice, “I think I’ll only be Kat on special occasions now, not always. Last night got rid of a whole lot of issues I was having.”

 

“Do you want to talk about them?”

 

“Maybe in a couple of days when everything is totally straight in my head.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“I do want to do this though,” Katy gave her mother a huge hug. “Thank you Mom for everything!”

 

“Well I’m glad I could help.”

 

“You did maybe more then you know Mom.”

 

“Hey,” Adam said as he came in, “is that fresh coffee?”

 

“It is,” Jan said as she poured him a mug, “how are you feeling?  You fell asleep very quickly last night?”

 

“I did?”

 

“As soon as we got back here – I had to be content with just cuddling you,” Jan said as she handed the mug over.

 

“Must have been something I ate,” Adam said as he rubbed his head, “I had the craziest of dreams last night.”  Looking at Katy, he smiled and said “I guess dressing up last night got the need to be an adult out of your system?”

 

“Yeah Uncle Adam – thanks,” Katy said with a smile.

 

“How does bacon and eggs sound?”

 

“Sounds good – I need to call Harry later,” Adam said as he drank his coffee.  “Lord that tastes good – did you change the blend?”

 

“Nope,” Jan said as she felt his forehead.  “Well, you seem to have cooled down anyway.  Let me cook breakfast, and then we’ll see what happens.”

 

10.30 am

The Village

 

“Hey,” Jo said as she came up the stairs into the apartment, “is that fresh coffee I smell?”

 

“It most certainly is,” Annie said as she looked up from the seat.  “Want some?”

 

“Oh yes – we’ve got a lengthy drive ahead of us this afternoon,” Jo said as she sat down, crossing her legs as she did so.  “Did your friend and her family get away all right Ama?”

 

“Yes thank you,” Ama said as she brought a mug of coffee through, “and Grandfather flies back tonight.”

 

“So, before I take him and Ama out for a farewell meal,” Dominique said, “we need to set down the rules for next weekend.  Are you both ready?”

 

“Okay, let’s set the parameters,” Jo said as they sat round the coffee table.

 

“First, the basic premise of the Apartment Challenge,” Dom said as she spread a map on the table.  “Two apartment blocks have been selected, next to each other and with identical apartments, on 3rd Avenue.  Your challenge is, between the hours of midnight and 6 am next Saturday night, to attempt to rob every apartment in your building.  At the end of the evening, the winner will be determined by a combination of the total gained in the evening, and points which will be awarded or deducted for certain actions.”

 

“Okay – who gets to decide that,” Annie said as she sipped from her mug.

 

"You'll each have an umpire accompany you who will do nothing but observe and tally points," Dominique explained.

"Also though as cover if everything goes pear shaped?" Annie asked.

"Obviously."

"Alright so who is going to umpire, they need to be experienced burglars themselves to appreciate the degree of difficulty in each apartment." Jo looked up at the others.

"Agreed." Dominique nodded, "and I do have a couple of unbiased professionals in mind."

"Oh who?" Heather asked.

"My little secret, I want no umpire tampering by friends."

 

“As if we would,” Jo said with a shocked expression.

 

“Yes you would,” Dom said with a raised eyebrow.  “So, here’s how the points will be allocated.  As far as the total take on the night is concerned, it will be assessed by an independent expert of my choosing, the one with the largest total is awarded 200 points, the other 100 points.”

 

“Sounds fair, so how are other points are awarded?”

 

“Well, let’s take it in stages.  Entry – 50 for an entry without disturbing anyone, 50 points if any alarm is disabled within two minutes, on a sliding scale down the longer you take.”

 

“Okay – if there is no alarm?”

 

“I have checked the building plans for both sets of apartments, they all apparently have an alarm system,” Dom said with a smile.

 

“Nice to be forewarned,” Jo said with a smile.

 

“I should also say that you will be both issued with identical rucksacks and supplies to begin with – but you are at liberty to replenish supplies or, if appropriate, use anything you find at the target sites for the purposes of the challenge.”

 

Jo and Annie nodded as Caroline passed them a list of the contents.

 

“Now, on entry, points will also be awarded for the speed of ensuring full cooperation of any residents.  50 points for each person secured, again with points deducted for unnecessary delays.”

 

“What if...”

 

“Fifty points deducted for any fatalities – the point of the challenge is to do so with minimal alarm, and a gunshot ruins that.”

 

“Style points?”

 

“At the discretion of the umpire,” Dom said with a smile.  “As far as we are aware, all residents will be adult, but remember you have a limited time to visit all apartments.”

 

“Okay – so when we have time to look around?”

 

“Twenty five points for each safe you have to open, fifteen for any strongbox.  Any other thoughts?”

 

Noon

4th Avenue – the Ashley Apartment

 

Pippa was sitting in her drawing room, enjoying the peace and quiet as she looked at the St Angela’s Calendar.    She smiled as she looked again at the picture for January, Poppy looking amazing in Luke’s re-styled print.

 

“You are going to be a real beauty, my dear,” she said quietly as she took the calendar into her office, and hung it on the wall next to her desk.  Walking back to the kitchen, she started to make a fresh pot of coffee when she heard the apartment doorbell.

 

“Now who on earth could that be,” she said to herself as she walked to the door, opening it to be confronted by the last two people she expected to see together on her doorstep.

 

“Mother?  Aunt Maggie?”

 

“Philippa darling,” Amelia Ashley said as she walked in, removing her black leather gloves, “did we catch you at a bad time.”

 

Pippa looked at her mother, who was wearing a tailored jacket and skirt, and then at her own old sweatshirt and jeans, before she said “no Mother, you caught me on a day off.  Come in, both of you, I’ve got some fresh coffee brewing.”

 

“I’ll give you a hand, Pips,” her Aunt Maggie said as she came into the kitchen, taking off her jacket and putting it over a stool at the breakfast bar.

 

“Okay,” Pippa whispered, “why are you both here without warning?”

 

“Well, my sister is here to deliver surprise Christmas presents,” Maggie whispered, “and I’m here because he is.”

 

“Peverell?  I thought he had gone?”

 

Before Maggie could say anything, there was another ring on the doorbell.  Walking to it, Pippa opened the door and then stared at the man standing there.  He was certainly older, and what hair he had left was greying, but he smiled as he said “Hello Pippa.”

 

“What the hell are you doing here,” Pippa said quietly as she looked at him.  “I thought there were laws about convicted felons been granted entrance to the US?”

 

“I’ve served my time,” the man said as he looked at her, “and have paid my dues.  May I come in?”

 

A smile played on Pippa’s lips as she said “You may, but you may not like it.”  Standing to one side, she kept the door open as he came in, and then saw both Amelia and Margaret standing there.

 

“Ah – good afternoon,” he said with a smile, “and how are you both?”

 

“Martin,” Amelia said in a way that Pippa felt was cold, even for her.  Maggie just stared at him, before she said “Pips, you’re the US citizen – what’s the penalty for manslaughter?”

 

“Premeditated?  Thirty to life.”

 

“Hmm,” Maggie said as she walked forward, “too high a price to pay for you.  What do you want Martin?”

 

“Can’t I pay a visit on my fam...?”

 

“Former family,” Maggie said as she folded her arms.  “And that’s up to Pippa, not us.”

 

“I agree,” Amelia said as she stood with her sister, “Philippa, you have the right to ask him to leave.”

 

“Which is what I was about to do,” she said as she held the door open.

 

“Well, I would like to talk with you, and I will be in touch,” Martin said as he left, just as Poppy came in.

 

“Hey Mom – Grandma?  Aunt Maggie?  Is it Christmas already?”

 

“Goodbye, Martin,” Pippa said as he pushed her out, Poppy hugging her other relatives before she said “who was that?”

 

“A blast from the past,” Pippa said quietly.  “How was Erica?”

 

“Great – Miss Thomas has an amazing place, Mom.”

 

“I’m sure she does – why don’t you go and sit with your grandmother and aunt, while I sort some drinks out?”

 

As he left the lobby, Martin looked at his notebook, and wrote something in before taking his phone out.

 

“Yeah, this is Martin Peverell – can you get me a birth certificate? 

 

“The name?  Poppy Ashley, sometime around 2000, London...”

 

6 pm Local Time

South Africa

 

“All right,” Leader said as the four women got out.  “You know the rules – you will be checked in at each of the two locations, and all four of you must visit both and return to base to succeed.”

 

The girls checked their pack, before Liz took the map out and took a reading.  “We need to find some shelter,” she said as she looked round.  “Ready?”

 

The other three nodded as they headed to a nearby group of trees, Leader smiling as she drove off.

 

 

6 pm

The de Ros Mansion

 

“Welcome home, Madame,” Edith said as she opened the door, standing back as Diana walked in, followed by a very heavy eyed Abby.

 

“Edith,” Tony said as he carried the bags in, “I think Abby would appreciate some coffee.”

 

“Do some for all of us please Edith,” Diana said, “but especially Miss Abigail.”

 

“Of course, Madame,” Edith said as she made her way to the kitchen, Abby walking into the drawing room and falling into a seat.

 

“How’s the head?”

 

“Throbbing,” Abby said quietly, “just tell me if I did anything stupid last night.”

 

“Well, there was the report of the Paris Gendarmerie looking for a blonde haired young woman who defaced the Memories poster...”

 

Abby looked up in horror, as Tony laughed and said “I’m joking, I’m joking.”

 

“Do not do that to me Tony, I am in a delicate and nervous mood,” Abby said quietly as Diana shook her head.

 

“Your coffee, Madame,” Edith said as she brought the tray in, “I shall take the bags upstairs.”

 

“I always meant to ask,” Tony said, “how long has Edith worked for you?”

 

“Ever since our return to New York,” Abby said, “at least as long as I can remember.”

 

Diana poured a cup and handed it to Abby, who took a drink and said “Ah, that’s better.  Some supper, and an early night, and I should be ready for tomorrow.”

 

“You are welcome to stay the night Tony,” Diana said with a smile.

 

“Tempting as it is,” Tony said, “I have an eight o’clock lecture tomorrow, so I need to head back tonight.  I have a few hours to spare, however...”

 

“No,” Abby said as she stood up, “I am going to retire early, and I would rather you got back before it gets too late.  I have had a fantastic week Tony – thank you for being the man for me.”

 

“My pleasure,” Tony said as they kissed, Diana shaking her head as she stood up and went to the kitchen.

 

“Will you require supper tonight, Madame,” Edith said as she appeared in the doorway.

 

“Perhaps a light snack later.  I trust there were no problems while we were away.”

 

“No Madame.  Mrs McKinnon has left several messages, as has Miss Auerbach, but nothing of an urgent nature.”

 

“Excellent – thank you Edith.”

 

“No – thank you Madame,” Edith said as she smiled.

 

10 pm

 

“Well, if it isn’t La Belle of Le Bal,” Carina said as she looked out of the computer screen.  “How are you feeling?”

 

“Tired, elated and slightly hung over,” Abby said as she sat in her pyjamas.  “What I really need is a long sleep.”

 

“I can imagine – so who impressed you?”

 

“A lot of them did – I may even have done a favour for a friend.  You remember the tall South African I bumped into with Charlotte last month?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Her sister was there – seems Itsy had a bit of a family falling out.”

 

“You know, if she was with Charlotte, there’s a good chance she’s one of those ladies?”

 

“I know – but I promised I’d see if I could get them together.”

 

“Leave it with Charlotte Abs – just in case.”

 

“Copy that.”

 

“So what else?”

 

“Deep dark family secrets spilled – It may be my late unlamented papa was responsible for the bad blood between Victoria Gordon and both Mama and Grandmamma.”

 

“You’re kidding?  How bad?”

 

“I’m not sure, but I will find out.  Did Jo get back safely?”

 

“She did, but Sandy has opened a book on the big game next Saturday night?”

 

“The Apartment Challenge?  Should be interesting.  I’ll ask Sandy the odds when I see her next.”

 

“So I talked to Angel earlier,” Cari said as she leaned forward, “spill it Abby.”

 

“What, my drink?”

 

“No – Fiona Treharran.”

 

Abby blushed as she said “Well, she is different – direct, open, honest...”

 

“And apparently, according to Angel, ready to lead you astray.”

 

“Maybe,” Abby giggled.

 

“Oh Goddess,” Carina said, “is she that different?”

 

“It feels that way.  She’s coming over in a couple of weeks, and we’ll see.”

 

"Don't ever let Tony know Abs." Carina shook her head and leaned back. "If having little flings with other girls helps you then fine, but you know just how deeply Tony loves you."

"I know Cari, but Fiona is new and fresh, and she excites something inside me."

"It also sounds to me though that she's a trifle reckless and dangerous."

"Now look who is calling the kettle black?"

"I have never cheated on Annie...That threesome we both had with you was a complete one off."

"And you aren't tempted? More to the point is 'she' never tempted?"

"Why? It's not like Annie doesn't satisfy both of us."

"I guess that's true." Abby yawned, "but I really do want this affair with Fi."

"Well like a good friend I've warned you. Just please be careful Abigail."

 

“I always am,” Abby said, “but I need to sleep.  Talk to you tomorrow?”

 

“Count on it,” Cari said, “get to bed Abby.”

 

Monday 30th November

8 am

The Brewster Brownstone

 

“Well, I’m not sure who is more tired this morning,” Barbara said as she saw Abby at the door, “You or Jeannie.”

 

“Yeah – how was Dallas?”

 

“Long, boring and dry,” Jeannie called out from the dining room.  “The one consolation was seeing Juliette and Grace suffer as much as me.”

 

“Well, I can cheer you up,” Abby said as she looked in, to see Jeannie eating her breakfast.

 

“Oh – how?”

 

“Two words – Love Bandit.”

 

Jeannie turned and looked at Abby, before she said “Olivia Savage?”

 

“Lady Olivia Treharran now – and she’s coming to visit soon.”

 

Grinning, Jeannie said “Well, that does make my day – let me grab my stuff and we can get going.”

 

“So back to normal for three weeks.”

 

“Hmm,” Abby said, “and then Christmas.”

 

“Yeah – and before that Anna’s party.  Any idea what she has planned?”

 

“Not one – I’ll try and find out today,” Abby said as Jeannie wheeled herself in.

 

“Hey – new haircut?”

 

“They did it yesterday – like it?”

 

“Not sure the page boy suits you, but...”

 

The conversation was interrupted by a knock on the door.  “I’ve got it,” John said as Abby pushed Jeannie out.

 

“What is it Dad?”

 

“A book,” John said as he opened the package, showing Barbara the picture of Jeannie’s back on the dust jacket.

 

8.40 am

St Angela’s

 

“So,” Letty said as she stood with Brook, watching the girls walk in, “who do you think is going to be the most tired today?”

 

“I think the main competitors are coming in now,” Brook said as Jeannie wheeled herself in, followed by Abby.

 

“How long do you give them?”

 

“Until lunchtime...”

 

 

 

“So how was the show in Dallas?” Becca asked Jeannie as they headed towards Miss Nightingale’s room after the morning assembly.

 

“Big, Flashy, an audience full of bleached blonde Texans just like you see on the reality shows.”

 

“You don’t sound over impressed?”

 

Jeannie grunted as they made their way down the corridor.  “The clothes were just too over the top. I guess Texas designers know what their clientele want, but to me it all seemed too showy…”

 

“Vulgar is the word you are looking for Jeans.” Doc interrupted.

 

“I guess it is…Yeah it was all rather vulgar, I prefer things that are more understated.  I mean, Dallas was one thing, but you would have thought they had outgrown the padded shoulders by now...”

 

“This from the woman who has done some of the most way out shows ever put on?” Nikki asked.

 

“There is a difference between funky, and out there on the fringe,” Jeannie said as they approached the door.  “They may look stupid, but they are rarely vulgar.”

 

“I get what she’s saying even if you don’t.” Becca smiled as she helped Jeannie to her desk.

 

“My Mom was talking about it with Mrs. Brand this morning.” Ama spoke. “Mrs. Brand agrees with Jeannie.”

 

“Good taste doesn’t require exaggeration. Most of the clothes yesterday were overdone.” Jeannie pulled her file from her bag. “Oh and I also got my advance copy of THE book if you are interested?”

 

“Are we…” The enquiries were stifled as the girls stood for the teacher.

 

“Good Morning Miss Nightingale.”

 

“Good Morning Girls,” Sarah said as she sat down.  “Now, let’s have your thoughts on how Macbeth went from hero to villain...”

 

 

 

10.30 am

Complete Style Magazine

 

“It sounds more like a reunion than a ball,” Juliette said as she sat at her desk, “but the pictures I’ve seen, Abby and the others look spectacular.”

 

“She does, doesn’t she,” Diana said.  She was fully recovered, and wearing a dark roll neck sweater under her grey jacket, her skirt coming to her knees.  Juliette had on a pair of black slacks and a silk blouse, her jacket over the back of her chair.

 

“Yes – it was just a little unfortunate that she blurted out the truth of what happened with Victoria Gordon.  At least nobody outside the immediate family and Tony heard.”

 

“How was she?”

 

“Surprisingly open – I believe she will be over in January, and we will meet then.”

 

“I hope you can build bridges – and I hope she doesn’t feel uncomfortable here.  She hasn’t been back in America since then, has she?”

 

Diana shook her head before she said "Olivia Treharran asked to be remembered to you Juliette."

"Oh,” Juliette said as she put her pen down, “was Bandit there?"


"Her daughter Fiona was one of the debs."

"How is Olivia?"

"Still rather withdrawn,” Diana said as she rubbed her eyes, “poor Fiona has the same eye disease as well."

"It is such a shame, she really was among the all-time greats."

"Well she's promised to be in London with everyone next year, and she's coming over with Fiona next week, while Fiona does some look-sees at the agencies."

"I look forward to seeing them both." Juliette paused, "so is Fiona a model?"

"If looks and desire count...then yes. But without her glasses on the poor child walks into everyone and everything."

"That will count against her."

"The other girls who Missy was interested in though will all be seeing her. I overcame Brigitte's fathers’ resistance and he will let Missy talk to her. The Culver girl is very interested, and I think even Charly Elphberg is leaning towards Norstar."

"Well as one of the owners of the agency I can say that sounds promising."

 

A knock on the door made both girls look round as Mary Thomas looked in.

 

“Hello Diana,” she said, “how was Paris?”

 

“Great fun, if a little tiring.  I hear you had a visitor last week?”

 

“Hmm – oh you mean Aled Jones?  He wanted to do a piece for a BBC show, and when he turned up with Chris, it would have been churlish not to have tea and chat.”

 

“Mary,” Diana said, “when are you free next week?”

 

“Not sure – why?”

 

“Bandit will be in town?”

 

“Olivia?  Well, let me know and I’ll make the time!”

 

“We’ll get her in the office anyway,” Juliette said.   “But I’m going to invite Alice, Karen and Caroline to a meal as well – can you come?

 

“I’d be delighted,” Mary said, “you have just made my week...”

 

11 am

St Angela’s

 

“So how was your Monday morning class Sarah?” Grace said as she passed her colleague a coffee.

 

“Interesting.”

 

“That sounds intriguing.”

 

Sarah sat back and took a sip, before she said “Ama Jameson had some takes on Macbeth that I’ve never heard of before.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“Yes,” Sarah said as she put her mug down, “things from her African background, and her experiences as a slave, that put a totally new light to me on the story.”

 

“Now you have me interested Sarah.”

 

“She had a lot to say about how ambition and power can warp morality.”

 

“Well she has direct experience as you say. I suspect that every penny-ante African dictator has started out believing inside that they wanted to do good, but the possession and use of power corrupted them. Similarly the experience of owning another human being…”

 

“That is just what Ama was saying, that Macbeth’s flaws develop as much from his pursuit, and then use of authority, then from what was already a disturbed personality.”

 

“She hasn’t found the Orson Welles version of Macbeth, has she?”

 

“Nope – I did wonder about the Roman Polanski one, but no.”

 

“I don’t know about the kids Sarah,” Grace said as she sat down, “but it sounds like you are getting a lot out of this class as well.”

 

“I guess I am. It’s just refreshing having so many animated, and interested minds together in the same room three times a week.”

 

“I know – it’s certainly rejuvenating!”

 

“Right,” Sarah said as she finished her coffee and stood up, “time to discuss Harper Lee and Truman Capote with the Juniors...”

 

 

12.45 pm

The Refectory

 

Abby put her tray down on the table and stared at the food, wondering why her brain could not convince her hand to pick up a fork and use it.

 

“You look wiped out Abs,” Letty said as she slipped in besides her friend.

 

“Wiped out is putting it mildly.  I can hardly get up the energy to eat!”

 

“Was the ball worth it?”

 

“Oh Yes.” Abby grinned, “but I’m glad that I’m basically just here in New York until New Years.”

 

“Keeping your feet on the ground?”

 

“Yes.” Abby yawned. “You know I have a Yearbook meeting after school, I’m not sure I will survive.”

 

“Oh you will.” Letty grinned. “Just think you could be me and have weight training tonight.”

 

“Ouch! No I’ll settle for Yearbook.” Abigail giggled.  “But I have to get though it somehow.”

 

“You need a couple of good nights sleep.”

 

“Yeah I think I do.  Problem is, I need to start planning something else tonight.”

 

“Oh – what?”

 

“A tea party.”

 

“A...  A tea party?”

 

“Part of the activities for next January – guess who gets to go first?”

 

 

 

 

At another table, Jess and Poppy were asking Erica questions of import.

 

“So come on, how is life downtown?”

 

“Oh so different.” Erica looked at Jessica. “Mary has so much that is fascinating in her life.”

 

“Meaning?”

 

“I could spend a year just reading all her books.” Erica put some food in her mouth, “and the people she knows…well…do you know some of the people who just drop in to just have a cup of tea and chat?” Erica shook her head.

 

“No – do tell?”

 

“Well, I was doing my assignment Sunday afternoon when the doorbell rang.  I looked out of my room, to see her talking to this dark haired woman.  I wondered who it was until she walked in, and then my jaw literally hit the floor when I saw who was with her.”

 

“Who was it?”

 

“Hank Pym.”

 

Jess and Poppy looked at each other as Dawn sat down with Lynne. 

 

“Hank Pym?”

 

“Michael Douglas – the dark haired woman was Catherine Zeta Jones.  I sat with them as they talked about films, and Mister Douglas told me some tales of his father.”

 

 “It sounds like an enriching experience.”

 

“Oh Jess if you only knew.”

 

“I guess I grew up thinking things like the current King of Spain dropping in unannounced were normal events in any house. I always forget that some of our lives are the exception, not the rule.”

 

“Exactly, and even just a brief experience while our new apartment is being got ready means so much to me.”

 

 

“All right,” Jeannie said as she joined the other girls, “Anna Carlton, why have we heard nothing of your plans for the 23rd?”

 

“Well, I had planned to finish my Christmas shopping, maybe have an early night...”

 

“You know what we mean Doc,” Nikki said as she slapped the back of his head, “you’re next up, so what are you doing for your sixteenth birthday?”

 

“Oh, THAT,” Doc said with a smile, “You will find out at the end of the week, right after I know.  Mom’s keeping this one close to her chest.”

 

 

2.30 pm

Complete Style Magazine

 

“Missy Auerbach for you Juliette,” Alexis said as she showed the agent in.

 

“Hello Missy,” Juliette said as they kissed, “recovered from Paris?”

 

“It gets harder every time, but yes,” Missy said as she sat down.

 

“So when are you flying out to San Francisco Missy?” Juliette asked.

 

“Tomorrow,” Missy said as she crossed her legs, “I’m seeing Trina Culver and some other girls.”

 

“Other than Trina, is there anyone else has caught your eye?”

 

“A couple,” Missy passed her friend a couple of amateur photos.

 

“Hmmmm decent legs…What is she?”

 

“Five Eleven.”

 

“Well see how she looks in person…This is a great face.” Ju looked at another print.

 

“I know but she’s only five six.”

 

“Well my daughter has overcome the height thing.”

 

“I know,” Missy said, “so I will give her a good look.”

 

“What about the others?”

 

“I see Charly Elphberg, and Brigitte on Friday here in New York,” Missy said as she looked at her iPad, “and then as a kindness to Olivia I’m seeing her daughter next Tuesday.”

 

“I looked at her ball pictures. Fiona is a beautiful girl, she’s tall she is graceful…”

 

“But she is all but blind.” Missy interrupted.

 

“Well you took a chance on Jeannie, maybe there is room now for a blind model?”

 

“It will take a lot to convince me of that.” Missy shook her head.

 

“Oh it will?” Mary interrupted from the doorway.

 

“Mary Thomas, I know that voice.” Missy looked up.

 

“Miss Auerbach, I will make a bet with you,” Mary said.  “In six months, both Fiona and Olivia will do press shoots, and I know the very man to do it.”

 

“Who, Mary?”

 

“Never you mind – I talked Olivia into retirement, I’ll talk her out of it,” Mary said as she folded her arms.

 

“This is going to be interesting,” Juliette said as she shook her head...

 

 

4.30 pm

Xavier International

 

“Madame, may I have a moment?”

 

“Of course, Susan,” Shirley said as she looked up, “what can I do for you?”

 

“I have the itinerary for the weekend for you,” Susan said as she handed her boss the sheet, “Diana requests you arrive on Friday night for a pre-course briefing.”

 

“Naturally – with John in Florida at the shoot, at least I can slip in and out easily.  What else?”

 

“Dominique requested two hotel bookings for this weekend – Thursday to Tuesday.  I have made them, but wanted to check you were aware both Penny and Helen would be in town for that time?”

 

“Are they now?  I think I know who Dominique has selected for the other event this weekend as well,” Shirley said with a smile.  “Please, ensure it is handled with due discretion.”

 

Looking to the window, Shirley said, “by the way, when will Marina and Kylie be arriving?”

 

“Saturday – I read the latest reports, and I know I am looking forward to seeing them.”

 

“I can understand that – I will be in London for Christmas, but after that...”

 

“Well, they are here for four weeks, Madame.”

 

“Then I hope to see them before they leave – does that not mean they are here for young Anna’s birthday as well?”

 

“Indeed – I must remember to tell her mother.”

 

 

 

7 pm

Mary Thomas’ Apartment

 

“Ai David my love – I’ll be sure to pass on your good wishes to Fiona when I see her.  You take care now.”

 

“Pleasure to see you again Mary – and to meet you young lady,” the young Scots actor said as Mary showed him to the door, Erica shaking her head as she returned to her book.

 

“So who can we expect to drop in next? Tom Jones?” Denice asked as Mary returned to the kitchen, and they started to prepare supper.

 

“With Thomas you never know.” Mary said as she looked up from the sink, “but if he’s anywhere nearby I usually get a visit.”

 

“Is he that good a friend of yours?” Denice looked incredulous.

 

“He has been for many years.” Mary smiled. “He had cousins lived in our village and he knew me as a little girl. That was back when he was still Tom Woodward.”

 

“Dad always said South Wales was one huge village and everybody knew everybody else.”

 

“Did your dad know Shirley Bassey Denice?”

 

“Only slightly,” Denice said as she seasoned the meat, “my grandparents knew her family.”

 

“Shirley is one person will not visit, we haven’t spoken for years since Andrew told me about her phoning him in London from Australia to do something about changing her hotel room there and then.”

 

“It’s a bit difficult from London.”

 

“That’s what I told her…we had a fight and we haven’t spoken since.”

 

“Damn!”

 

“I called her a Prima Donna and a few worse things.”

 

“You, telling her off – I mean, I’ve heard tales from the ladies of how you...”

 

She looked at Mary, who was looking at her, and said “which I am sure are not true in any way shape or form...”

 

“Oh they are – I believe if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing right.  But I do it to get the best from them – it breaks my heart when I have to tell someone they need to stop.”

 

“Have you ever had to?”

 

“One – but there was a good reason.  She’s visiting next week, so you may meet her then...”

 

8 pm

The de Ros Mansion

 

“Miss Carter, Madame,” Edith said as she opened the door and let the FBI Agent in.

 

“Hi Diana,” Janice said as she took off her wet coat and handed it to Edith, “Is Katy here?”

 

“She is. I let her go down and use the gun range.”

 

“Unsupervised?”

 

“No, not exactly,” Diana said as they went into the kitchen, and she poured some coffee.  “Shirley is with her.”

 

“Oh in that case I’m not worried.” Janice shook her hair. “You know this weather has really turned nasty.”

 

“I have seen it. Abby said the roads were bad when she drove home from school tonight after her yearbook meeting.”

 

“I saw a couple of fender benders as I drove over.”

 

“Oh dear,” Diana shook her head.  “I do hope young Pepsi is not practising in this storm.”

 

“So how was Paris?”

 

“Paris was as it usually is…Wonderful!” Diana smiled. “The girls of this year’s debutante class seem a very nice set.”

 

“So I can take it Abigail enjoyed herself?”

 

“She enjoyed the ball,” Diana said as Jan sipped her coffee, “but not the travel. She had some supper early tonight and she’s already headed to bed.”

 

“Needs to catch up on her sleep eh?”

 

“Exactly Janice.”

 

“Well how did she do Shirley?” Janice looked up as Katy and Madame came in from the rear of the house.

 

“She did wonderfully,” Shirley said as she lowered the umbrella.  “I think your daughter has a natural talent Janice.”

 

“I wouldn’t say that,” Katy blushed.

 

“Well either that, or you have learned very quickly the basics of target pistol shooting.”

 

“Do you mean the exercises to control her breathing and heart rate as she shoots?”

 

“I do Janice.”

 

“Well,” Jan said, “both Diana and I have been working with her on that.”

 

“In which case, kudos to you both.” Madame walked with them into the drawing room, and accepted a sherry from Diana.

 

“Oh I think Katy gets the credit, she has been practicing hard.” Janice took a glass.

 

“Well I’m pretty useless at most sports, but St Angela’s has a shooting team, and I might try out when I get there.” Katy sipped a coke.

 

“You should,” Shirley nodded, “the air pistol as a sporting discipline might be your forte.”

 

Katy smiled as Edith appeared and said “is there anything else Madame?”

 

“No I think we have nothing else tonight Edith.  You may retire for the evening.”

 

“Thank you Madame,” Edith said as she walked out.

 

“So, what about the other aspects of her shooting Shirley?” Jan whispered when Edith was safely out of earshot.

 

“We didn’t do a lot, but Katy looks like she is learning those fast as well. To be honest we really did concentrate on pure target shooting.”

 

The three women looked at each other, Katy wondering what was not being said.

 

9.30 pm

Central Park West

 

“Hey, how did it go over at Diana’s?” Adam said as he looked up from watching the Knicks game on TV.

 

“Aunt Shirley thinks that maybe pistol shooting might be my sport as well.” Katy took off her soaked coat and hung it up.

 

“I’ll have to come and see you shoot myself.”

 

“Oh if you would Uncle Adam. That would mean an awful lot.” Katy spoke enthusiastically.

 

“Well I’ll try.”

 

“You look like a drowned rat.” Katherine spoke as Janice came in.

 

“This was just from parking the car to the lobby. The rain is really coming down hard.” Janice hung her coat to dry. “Be glad you aren’t going out tonight Mom.”

 

“So I was saying to Katy, I need go see her shoot.”

 

“You should darling, for a couple of weeks of lessons she is pretty amazingly good.” Jan kissed her boyfriend. “With this rain you’d better stay the night,” she purred in his ear.

 

“I might just do that,” he whispered back.

 

“Hey remember you guys - 13 year old sex pot here,” Katy giggled. “I don’t need reminding you two do it.”

 

“You think we do,” Adam smiled even though a faint memory of Katy riding him hard surfaced then vanished in his mind.

 

“Hot drink, and then bed young lady,” Katherine said, “school tomorrow.”

 

11 pm

 

"Was Katy serious about sport shooting?" Adam said as he hugged Jan closely in bed.

"I think so,” Jan said as she rested her head on his shoulder, “it's the first sport she's ever tried that she's really liked, and Diana is encouraging her heavily."

"Now why would Diana do that?"

"Oh I thought you knew? Diana is a fully qualified shooting coach. She acts as the assistant coach for the St Angela's team. She’s always on the lookout for girls going to the school she thinks might have the mental discipline to shoot."

"No that I didn't know.”  Adam nodded as he said, “well if she thinks Katy has talent, then I'm all for it. For all Pepsi’s urging Katy will never be a soccer player."

"I know, and besides it might help you and she bond, after all you aren't a bad shot yourself. I know not with the air pistol, but..."

"I think I can still teach Katy a little."

"And I know she'd benefit from your experience."

Again strange images bounced in Adam's mind, but he as quickly forgot them as he felt Jan kiss him.

"And I'm sure we can talk Jimmy into letting her do some practice on the FBI range." Jan continued.

 

“One step at a time Jan,” Adam said as he kissed her forehead, “one step at a time...”

 

 

Tuesday 1st December

10 am local time

South Africa

 

The woman smiled as she saw the group of four approaching, waiting until they cam closer until she looked at them.

 

“Excellent,” she said as Liz and the others joined her, “your first checkpoint achieved.”

 

“Thanks,” Liz said as she opened her pack, and handed the flat breads round.

 

“Not standard rations – where did you get that?”

 

“We came across a farmer and his wife trying to bring some goats under control,” one of the other women said.  “We helped them, and in return they gave us bread and water.”

 

The woman nodded as she made a note.  “Well, press on – and good luck sisters.”

 

“and to you,” Liz said as she looked at the map, and the quartet headed off in the right direction.

 

11 am

Bishop Walden School

 

The girls looked out of the windows, sighing as they had to take their morning break inside.

 

"Aunt Diana thinks that I might one day be good enough to compete for St Angela's" Katy looked up from sipping her drink as she and her friends looked down at the rain still falling.

"I didn't know they even did Inter-School Shooting?" Shawnee slurped her drink.

"Oh yes, the Angels team is not only locally successful, they are nationally ranked, and have won several national titles over the years."

"Well I live and learn," Sandy remarked.

"You know I'm probably going to Sacred Heart don't you?" Shawnee asked.

"We do," Liz grinned, "and for four years we officially will not be friends."

"It's gonna suck." Sands grimaced. "Four of us Angels, Two of us Nuns."

"I know, but we will survive it." Shawnee hugged Sandy. "we will always be friends, all six of us. despite which school we are at."

 

“I really hope so,” Liz said.  “So what are your plans for the weekend?”

 

“Come on Liz – it’s only Tuesday,” Sandy said with a sigh.  “Besides, tonight is the designated go shopping for George’s Christmas Present night with Heather – and that always takes my thoughts up.  What are you getting him Katy?”

 

Katy knew what she really wanted to give him, but she smiled and said “No idea yet – I’ll think about that over the weekend.”

 

 

 

 

11 am

St Angela’s Academy

 

“Alex,” Grace said as she looked up to see Father Alex Richmond standing in the doorway of her office, “What brings you down here?”

 

“Introducing a friend,” he said as he came in, accompanied by a younger priest with short black hair.  “Grace Brand, may I introduce Father Patrick Flynn, the assistant priest at Holy Father?  I have persuaded him to take on the position of school chaplain, and we just had a meeting with Wilhelmina.  I wanted him to meet you next.”

 

“Welcome,” Grace said as they shook hands, “please, have a seat.”

 

“Thank you,” Father Flynn said as they took a seat.  “Father Alex tells me you run a fine academic institution here?”

 

“Well, we try our best to give the young women who come here a good grounding in life,” Grace said as he looked at her.  “I hope you will support us on the more spiritual side as well.”

 

“Well, I shall try my best, but I understand you are not totally catholic?”

 

“While we are technically a Roman Catholic school, we are catholic in our acceptance of any girl who wishes to come.  I believe the Lord told us not to discriminate against children?”

 

Alex chuckled as he said “First lesson here, Pat – learn to adapt.”

 

“I’ll take that lesson on,” Father Flynn said with a smile.  “So what will my first official duty be?”

 

Looking at her calendar, Grace said “next Tuesday – Mass for the Immaculate Conception?”

 

“Of course – I’ll let you have my music choices by the end of the week,” Patrick said as he and Alex stood up.  “I look forward to seeing you then.”

 

“He’ll be all right – give him time to settle in,” Alex said as the two priests left Grace’s office, the Dean looking after them and wondering if he knew what he had let himself in for.

 

She then looked at the note on her desk, before she walked down to the Principal’s Office and knocked on the door.

 

“Wilhelmina,” she said as she looked in, “can I have a second please?”

 

“Certainly Grace, what can I do for you?”

 

“Well,” Grace said as she closed the door, “I think we have a problem.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“You know I got Anna Carlton to add some bells and whistles to the school’s cyber security system?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Well according to Anna someone has been trying to hack into our computers.”

 

“Do you know what they are looking for?”

 

“Anna says whoever it is has been trying to look at Poppy Ashley’s files.”

 

“Does she have clues to who the hacker might be Grace?”

 

“She does. Look Wilhelmina I’d like to set up a meeting tonight between us, and Anna, and both Poppy and her mother to discuss this. I think it’s important that we share information.”

 

“Well if you recommend it. Can everyone be here for 4.15?” Miss Tennant looked at her schedule.

 

“I’ll check.”

 

Heading back to her office, she picked up the phone and dialled a number.

 

“Pip?  It’s Gray.  Can you come round to St Angela’s for 4.15?  It may be time to tell a few secrets...”

 

 

7 pm GMT

Magdalen College, Oxford

 

“Miss Buthelezi?”

 

Victoria turned and smiled as she saw the porter coming out of the college lodge.  “What can I do for you, Stimpson,” she said with a smile, “I was just going to my rooms.”

 

“Urgent message for you, Miss, delivered by hand.”  The elderly uniformed man handed the dark skinned woman an envelope, Victoria smiling as she took it and walked across the courtyard.

 

A coal fire was already burning in her rooms as she walked in, her roommate really toasting crumpets in front of it.

 

“I thought they only did that in films, Cathy,” Liz said as she took off her coat, revealing her thick jumper, jeans and knee length boots.

 

“And they only dance in fancy dresses at balls in films as well Vicky,” the blonde said as she looked over, “want one.”

 

“No thank you - it will spoil my appetite,” she said as she opened the envelope and looked at the message inside.

 

“Vicky?”

 

“Cathy,” Liz said as she put her coat on, “can you cover for me please if anyone calls?  Tell them I am working late in the library or something?”

 

“Sure – what’s happened?”

 

“Thanks,” was all she said as she put her coat on and walked back out of the room.

 

The clocks were striking eight as Victoria walked outside the Bodleian, the collar of her coat drawn up to help keep the chill off her body.  She looked round, unsure of what was happening when a small, older woman wearing a great coat and fur boots approached her.

 

“Miss Buthelezi?”

 

“That’s me – did you send me the note?”

 

“I did – are you alone?”

 

Vicky nodded as the woman said “follow me please,” taking the young student into a bar, and then upstairs to a private room.  Knocking on the door, she opened it and said “Leader, I have her.”

 

“Show her in.”

 

Victoria’s heart leapt as she was shown into the room, a fire burning in the fireplace and Itsy Buthelezi standing there, wearing a grey blouse, trousers and ankle boots, and smiling as she said “My sister...”

 

The two embraced as Itsy looked over and said “Thank you, Little Teacher – wait for us downstairs please.”

 

“Itsy,” Victoria said as she stroked her sister’s cheek, “is it truly you?  You look different.”

 

“It is me – please, take your coat off, let us eat and drink.”

 

“But where have you been, what have you been doing...”

 

“I will tell you what I can, but I cannot tell you everything,” Itsy said as Victoria removed her coat.  “Sit down, warm yourself, and let me start with why I left home.  I do not think you have been told everything...”

 

8 pm Local Time

South Africa

 

“Here let me give you a hand,” Liz pulled one of the others up over the edge of the steep incline.

 

“Thank You.”  The four of them stood on the plateau and looked round.

 

“Alright Teacher and Sunburst are determined not to make this easy for us.” Liz squatted and looked at her compass. “The next check-in is on that next kopje,” she pointed, “but in-between here and there is a tricky descent and then another bad ascent.”

 

“Ayeee!” one of the girls let out.

 

“Can you all make it?” Liz asked.

 

“We are running low on water,” another girl said, “and we need some food.”

 

“I know,” Liz assessed the others. “Let’s camp here. We will scout for any water, and I will try to get us some meat.”

 

“I can hear some water over there,” the fourth woman said as she looked at a cliff face a short distance away.

 

“Okay – you two set up a shelter and scout some wood, I’m going to see if I can trap something.”

 

4 pm

The Richmond Mansion

 

“Hi Sandy,” Jan said as she came in, “What’s this I hear about a book on Saturday?”

 

“Want a piece of the action?”

 

“I’ll take a hundred on Annie.”

 

“Oh – as you wish,” Sandy said as she took a little notebook out of her pocket, and made a note.  “So how’s work today?”

 

“Strange – Adam’s holding back on something about what he’s been up to.  We’re going round to Tom and Gale’s for dinner tomorrow night, so maybe he’ll open up a bit then.”

 

“Hey Mom,” Katy said as she came out of the front room.  “Have I got time to finish this assignment with Sands?”

 

“Of course you have,” Jan said as Heather looked out.  “Fresh coffee in here,” she said as they all walked in.

 

4.15 pm

St Angela’s

 

Grace looked up as the door was opened, and Pippa came in.

 

“Hey mom,” Poppy said as she turned round, “what’s going on?”

 

“That’s what I want to know,” Pippa said as she looked at Grace, “what’s happened?”

 

“It’s going to be easier if we go down to Miss Tennant’s office,” Grace said as she stood up.

 

“I’m not in trouble am I?”

 

“No you’re not Poppy,” Grace said with a smile, “come on.”

 

Poppy looked at her mother as they walked down to Miss Tennant’s office, walking in to find Doc sitting with her.

 

“Ah – come and sit down please,” Miss Tennant said as she stood up.  “Thank you for calling in at short notice.”

 

“Is there a problem Miss Tennant?”

 

“I’m not sure.  Anna, would you like to begin by telling us what you have uncovered?”

 

“Well,” Doc said as she looked at Poppy, “Mrs Brand asked me, as an additional project, to beef up the cyber security of the school computers, to support the recent city wide campaign to promote safe surfing and also against unwanted intrusion.

 

“Well, as part of the additional measures I put in, I added some programs that send an alert when an unauthorized attempt is made to access the system.”

 

“A hacking alarm,” Pippa said as she sat back.

 

“Precisely.  Well, I set the system to go live over the weekend, and Mrs Brand asked me to review the logs each morning.  When I did so, I found an alert that someone had tried to access a permanent record.”

 

“Whose?”

 

“Poppy’s” Grace said as she looked at her mother.  “They didn’t get access, but they certainly tried.”

 

“Mine?  Why would anyone want to look at my permanent record?”

 

Pippa rubbed her eyes, before she said “any idea who it was, Grace?”

 

“Yes.”

 

He looked at Doc, as the young girl continued “part of the program records the ISP of the person trying to get access.  A lot of times it’s a dummy, especially for a professional hacker, but this was an amateur, and he left a trail to follow.”

 

“Shouldn’t we report this to the authorities,” Pippa said as she looked at Wilhelmina and Grace.

 

“I agree we should, but you need to know who did it.  Anna?”

 

“The ISP led to a hotel in the city.  I’d rather you didn’t ask how,” Doc said, “but I was able to find out which room and who is currently resident in the room.”  Looking at Pippa, Doc said quietly “does the name Martin Peverell mean anything to you, Miss Ashley?”

 

“Mom?”  Poppy looked on as Pippa’s face blanched.

 

“Anna,” Grace said, “I wonder if you and Poppy would step outside for a moment?”

 

“Sure – come on,” Doc said as she and Poppy left the room.

 

“Pippa, may I offer you a sherry, or something stronger?”

 

“How much stronger have you got?”

 

“Ten year old whisky?”

 

“Make it three,” Grace said, “you may need it.”

 

Wilhelmina poured three glasses and handed them round, Pippa taking a drink before she said “Martine Peverell is Poppy’s biological father.”

 

“Why would he...”

 

“Because he has no part in Poppy’s life, never mind mine.”  Pippa closed her eyes and said “Gray knows the full story, but it boils down to this – he took advantage of me one night, and is a convicted fraudster.  How he got in the country I have no idea, but I think he suspects he is Poppy’s father.”

 

“Is this a matter for the police then?”

 

“I don’t know – there is another complicating matter.  Martin Peverell is, or rather was, my uncle.”

 

Wilhelmina looked at both of them, and took a drink herself.  “Then I have to ask if you wish to deal with this matter yourself, or if you wish us to pass this information to the authorities.”

 

“Whatever your decision, Pip,” Grace said as she put her hand on her arm, “I’ll support you.”

 

Nodding, Pippa said “Let me think about it overnight – but if he tries again, report him.”

 

“As you wish – let Grace know and I’ll act accordingly.”

 

4.30 pm

Xavier International

 

“Hey Caroline,” Susan said as she walked past her office, “got time for a coffee with the boss before you head off?”

 

“Is that a request or an idea?”

 

“Yes,” Susan said as she took the blonde by the arm and led her to Shirley’s office.

 

“Ah – come in both of you,” Shirley said as she looked up from her desk.

 

“Madame,” Caroline said as Susan closed the door, “what can I do for you?”  She say down and looked closely at her boss.

 

“Dominique would it make you think any the less of me if I said that I feel ‘that’ need inside.” Madame asked seriously.

 

“The need to kill again?”  Dominique crossed her legs and looked at her.

 

“Either it’s painted on my face,” Shirley said, “or you are reading my mind.”

 

“It’s neither, but it is something I foresaw happening.”

 

“How?”

 

“Experience,” Dominique said, “and close listening to what you said after the Princeton job. I was sure one day you’d say you would need to feel the high again.”

 

“I know I have.” Susan nodded in agreement.

 

“So what should I do about it?”

 

“I can probably find you a bank to hit next week. You can take the same crew you used for Princeton…”

 

“Oh yes Kylie will be here won’t she?”

 

“Just don’t tell George you have an underlying motive.” Susan looked up from the file she was reading.

 

“It’s not logical, it goes against everything I’ve ever preached to others, about the sanctity of life.”

 

“Well I’m not able to say anything,” Susan said, “my body count is going up steadily.”

 

“And like Susan, I’ve hardly led a saintly existence.”

 

“Can you girls set it up while I do the training weekend?”

 

“I’m busy, but I am sure Susan and Clint between them?”

 

“You can safely leave it in our hands Madame.”

 

“Excellent – so how is Pamela feeling about this weekend?”

 

“I don’t think she knows what’s going to hit her,” Susan said with a smile.

 

7 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment

 

“All set for the holidays dear,” Juliette said as she looked at Cari on the screen.

 

“Can I get through the exams first please,” Carina said with a groan.

 

“Fair point,” Juliette said with a smile.

 

“So the trainers for the weekend are Mom?”

 

“Sandy, Diana and Shirley.”

 

“The trainees will get no mercy then.”

 

“No darling.” Juliette smiled at her daughter on the computer screen. “And they will all be masked and have Heather’s voice gizmos.”

 

“Well if you and I lift Katy from her mother’s at 4 in the morning Saturday, we will have plenty of time to deliver her.”

 

“I know, the others will be ‘picking up’ the rest of this weekend’s training squad, so we can start their training at around daybreak.”

 

“I made up a nice set of discs to ‘entertain’ them Saturday night.” Carina giggled. “Lots of Black Sabbath.”

 

“Is that all?”

 

“Well, I may have put a little fun in there as well,” Carina said with a smile.

 

7 pm

The Richmond Mansion

 

“Visitor for you,” George said as he showed Anna into the kitchen.

 

“Hey Doc – mind if we talk while I load the dishwasher,” Heather said as she looked up.

 

"No problem – I just wanted to thank you for letting me incorporate some of your tracking software into the school system Heather."


"Okay I know you didn't come over just to say that Doc." Heather looked hard at the younger woman. "What has happened?"

"Someone spent half the weekend trying to get into the schools computers to look at Poppy Ashley's permanent record."

"Do you have a name and location," Heather said as she stood up and reached for a notepad.

"I do, and I know a bit more then I let Mrs. Brand and the others know I knew."

"Spill it."

"The guy’s name is Martin Peverell."

"Okay,” Heather said, “and anything else?"

"I ran a background..."

"Revealing what?"

"That he used to be married to Miss Ashley's aunt.  That he's a convicted fraudster who embezzled a fortune from Poppy's grandfathers companies - Most of which has never been recovered. Also though that he somehow got a legit US visa, and I have no clue how."

"I can maybe trace how." Heather looked up from taking notes. "Anything else?"

Doc shook her head, before saying "just this nagging feeling that there are Ashley family secrets that Mrs. Brand and Miss Ashley know, and which they are not telling Poppy."

"That sounds both logical and true." Heather paused. "But deep dark family scandal is none of our business."

"No,” Doc said as she looked at Heather, “but the security and well-being of our friends is. Haven't we just proved that with Erica and her Mom."

"You are right in that...Okay I'll look into this with my unique resources."

"Thanks Heather.  While I’m here," Doc said, “how’s Katy?”

 

“She seems to be a lot happier this week – why?”

 

“Just wondered,” Doc said as she stood up.

 

Heather looked at the young woman, before saying “Okay then – can you be around when she gets back?”

 

“Oh – is it this weekend?”

 

“It is – big weekend all round...”

 

 

 

8 pm

Central Park West

 

“Mom,” Katy said as she looked up, “do you have any ideas what I should give George for his birthday?”

 

“I thought you…”

 

“Other then me…” Katy stood up, hands on hips, “what do you buy a boy who is rich enough to buy anything he wants for himself?”

 

“I know, it’s not easy.”

 

“Yes he gets to have sex with me,” Katy said, “but I want to give him something else special.”

 

“I have an idea?”

 

“Oh? Please spill it Mom?”

 

“Why don’t I arrange with Jack Linklater to take some pictures of you, and you buy him a nice silver frame, then give him the framed picture.”

 

“Actually that is not a bad idea at all Mom. In fact it’s pretty Dolls.” Katy paused, “do we have time though?”

 

“If I phone Jack right now, and see if he can fit you in tomorrow or Thursday night?”

 

“Well please, and plead with Uncle Jack if you need to.”

 

“I’ll try.” Janice found a number in her phones memory and rang it.  ”Jack?  Jan Carter – can you do me an extra special favour...”

 

 

6 pm Pacific Time

Hilton San Francisco Union Square

 

“It’s been a pleasure to meet you Miss Auerbach.”

 

“I’ll let you know what I decide,” Missy said as she ushered the last girl out and closed the room door.

 

Turning, Missy went to the hotel room’s bar and poured herself a whiskey, thinking over her meetings so far.

 

Frankly, other then Trina Culver she wasn’t sure about any of the other girls she had seen. Trina was certainly a girl she could find work for, and before she flew home she would make arrangements for her to be photographed by some of the West Coast’s best photographers to start building her book.

 

The others though, she thought as she swirled her drink around.  All had at least one strike against them - they were either too short, a little too heavy, or just plain lacked any charisma. Missy knew that if a girl didn’t have enough to project herself at first viewing, then chances are she’d never have the magic to be a Norstar Girl.

 

The girl with the interesting face had terrible posture and would need a lot of work. The great legs were attached to maybe the dumbest girl she’d ever interviewed. No, other than Trina, this trip had been something of a washout.

 

A knock at the door disturbed Missy’s train of thought.  Walking over, she said “Yes?”

 

“Room service, Ma’am – can I turn the covers down?”

 

“Sure,” Missy said as she opened the door, not looking round as she went to the bathroom.  As she came out, drying her face, she saw the back of the maid at the bed, her long legs straight as she bent over and turned the covers down.

 

Missy continued to watch as the maid stood up, and turned round.  Her blonde hair was pulled back and held in place by a scarf, but as Missy looked at her tall, thin body, her honest face, her clear blue eyes, Missy started to have that feeling she knew so well.

 

“Forgive me,” she finally said, “but what is your name?”

 

“My name?  Mary Clarke – why do you ask?”

 

“Tell me Mary,” Missy said, “have you always worked here?”

 

“Yes, Ma’am.  Why?”

 

“When do you finish your shift?”

 

“At nine – why?”

 

“My card,” Missy said as she took one from her purse and handed it over, “can I buy you a drink when you finish?  I may have an offer for a new job...”

 

9.15 pm Pacific Time

 

Missy looked up from the chair as Mary came over to her, now wearing a pair of jeans and a fleece.

 

“Thanks for joining me,” she said as the tall girl sat down, “what can I get you?”

 

“Water will be fine thanks,” she said as she looked round.  Missy waved to the waitress, and said “Some water for Mary, and I’ll have another glass of wine please.”

 

As the young girl walked off, Mary said, “forgive me, Miss Auerbach, but why did you ask to meet me?”

 

"You know what I do?" Missy asked as she sat back.

"I talked to a friend who works on the front desk,” Mary said as the drinks arrived, “she says you are a famous model agent."

"Well I'm not going to pretend modesty,” Missy said, “that is indeed what I am."

"So, going back to my question, why did you want to talk to me?"

"Well Mary,” Missy said as she put her glass down and sat forward, “of all the girls I've seen today you are only the second I have met who might make it in my business?"

"Me model? I couldn't even get a date to prom because I was the kid everyone called Lanky."

"I have known an awful lot of famous models who tell similar stories, such as Abigail de Ros,” Missy said, “but believe me, with that height and your face, you have a chance to be a very good working model."

"Even if I believed you Ma'am I know my Dad never would, and anyway he needs me helping him to bring the others up."

"Your mother is...?"

"She died when I was 13. Ma'am I have 6 brothers and sisters I can't take off on no crazy dream. They need me and my wages."

 

“I understand,” Missy said as she picked her glass up, “and I am not saying I am going to whisk you away from here.  Look – I’m in town for two more days.  Do you have any free time tomorrow?”

 

“I have tomorrow off, but I’m watching my youngest sister – why?”

 

“Come with me to a studio – no obligation, I’ll meet you and your sister here, just come and see what’s involved.  If nothing else, you get to see a bit of my world.  Deal?”

 

“All right – what time tomorrow?”

 

“I’ll meet you in the lobby at ten, if that’s all right?”

 

“All right – I’ll see you then Miss Auerbach,” Mary said as she stood and walked off, Missy smiling as she did so.

 

Wednesday 2nd December

8 am

The Carlton Home

 

"So any news that I can pass on?" Anna said as she drank her coffee and looked at her screen.

"Not a lot." Heather looked at something. "I'll get more chance to look when I've run the kids to school."

"Well he made another attempt to crash the school system last night."

"I noticed."

"Oh?"

"Yeah I patched into your alarm alert Doc."

"One day Heather you'll need show me how the hell you can do all that." Anna shook her head.

"Look George and Sands need their ride. I'll talk later."

 

“Okay,” Anna said as her mother called up “Anna, Letty’s here.”

 

“Coming mom,” Anna said as she shut her laptop, and grabbed her bag.

 

1 pm GMT

Leazes Terrace Student Flats, Newcastle upon Tyne

 

Fiona Treharran was sitting in her room, looking out over Leazes Park when there was a sound from her computer, indicating her call had been answered.

 

"Hey you!" Fiona smiled as Abigail's face appeared on the screen.


"Hey back...and before you say anything yes I always do look this messy first thing in the morning." Abby brushed her hair.

"You aren't a morning person?"

"NO!" Abby laughed. "I'm pretty much a give me two hours and a few cups of coffee person."

"I'll need to remember that." Fi laughed as well. "Did you get my message about Mummy and I being in New York?"

"Yes,” Abby said as she gulped some coffee down, “and I can at least show you a few things each evening while you are here."

"I'm hoping it’s more than a few things."


"Well you might be lucky." Abby laughed again. "Till then that selfie will have to do."

"I kissed it as I went to sleep last night, and then I dreamed of you."

"I've dreamed of you too darling."

"You know our first time together will be very special."

"I know it will be Fiona." Abby looked at her watch. "Darling I dream of your kisses, but I'm sorry I am late for school."

"Okay you go, but just think when this is real." Fi kissed her computer screen.

 

Abby blushed as she ended the call, while Fi sat at her room window, and looked out over the parkland through the rain...

 

10 am

The Ashley Apartment

 

“He’s tried to look at her school records?”  Alicia shook her head as she held her coffee mug, as Maggie and Pippa sat opposite her.  “Why on earth would he do that?”

 

Putting her mug down, she looked at her sister and daughter, and then said “all right – what do you two know that I don’t?”

 

“Mum,” Pippa said quietly, “I think it’s time we told you something that you really are not going to like.”

 

“Really?  And what makes you think I will not like it?”

 

“Oh I don’t know,” Maggie said, “given your past...”

 

“Aunt Maggie,” Pippa said, “not the time, not the place.”  Taking a deep breath, she looked at her mother and said “Mum, what do you remember of the night before Dad sacked Martin and he was arrested?”

 

Shifting uneasily, Alicia said “Pippa, given my recent – changes of view, do you really wish to go there again?”

 

“Not particularly, but we need to Mum.”

 

“Well, Martin said he was going down to see how the launch of the new plant was going.  Your father was a little unhappy about it, and when I saw him that lunchtime he was not in the best of moods.  When I left the office, he was calling you Maggie.”

 

“That’s right,” Pippa said as Maggie nodded.  “Well, Maggie followed him down to Devizes, and next morning came back with me – after Martin had been arrested.  A few weeks later, I found out I was pregnant, and – well, we all know what happened next.  Like I say, I don’t want to go over what you did then – but there is one fact you still need to know.”

 

Alicia looked at both of them, and then went very quiet and pale.  “Oh god...  Oh no...  He didn’t...”

 

“He did,” Maggie said quietly, “and I was the one who found them.   Pippa was completely out of it – so don’t blame her.  The only other person who knew was the person I turned to for help that night – Grace.  She’s kept this secret ever since.”

 

Alicia looked at her daughter, and said “Oh my poor daughter – and Poppy, does she know?”

 

“No, but we’ve got two problems now,” Maggie said, “why is Martin trying to find out about her, and how did he get into the US in the first place?”

 

“I need to talk to him, find out what he...”

 

“No – trust us on this Alicia, we need to stand together on this one.”

 

“To do what – kill him?”

 

“Tempting,” Pippa said, “but no.  To protect Poppy – can we agree on that?”

 

All three nod in agreement as Pippa stood up.  “So, do I call Grace and get her to call the police, or do we handle this ourselves?”

 

 

12.30 pm

Complete Style

 

“Missy Auerbach on line 2 for you Juliette,” Alexis said as she looked in the door.

 

“Thank you,” Juliette said as she picked up her phone.  “Missy – how’s the Golden Gate looking?”

 

“Hidden in fog, Ju.”

 

“So how’s the trip?”

 

“Well – a big yes to Trina, but the others I won’t pursue.”

 

“I hear a but Missy?”

 

“Well – there is one girl I saw, who I think would be perfect, but she needs kid glove handling.  So I’m taking her with me today while I book Trina for some shoots.  I want them to see her and see if they can offer support.”

 

“Sounds a plan – let me know what happens.  When do you see Maddie?”

 

“I go there tomorrow, then back Friday.  How’s your week?”

 

“Old friends returning.  I’ll talk to you soon Missy.”

 

2 pm

Xavier International

 

"Alright take me through the details on the other trainees for this weekend?" Diana said as she accepted the coffee from Susan.

"I'll let Susan tell you." Madame smiled.

"Well you already know Katy Diana."

"As I said, it’s the others I need background on if I'm going to tweak things especially. Katy I know is a stone cold killer, but what about the rest?"

 

“Well, let’s go to the other extreme – Pamela.”

 

“Your PA?”

 

Susan nodded as she said “don’t get me wrong – she has skills, and she did manage to get here after escaping jail in New Zealand, but I don’t think she’s ever killed.”

 

Diana nodded as she said “so it’s a question of testing her limits?”

 

“Indeed,” Susan said.  “The overnight stress test is going to prove crucial for her.”

 

“Okay – and the other two?”

 

“Recent recruits to our insurance department,” Susan said as she pushed two files across the table.  Diana looked at them, and said, “What do you think of them?”

 

“In terms of their job?  They’re competent, but I’m not convinced yet they are ready to move into the back room departments, despite their past experience.  Dom agrees – she thinks they need a real test.”

 

“Well, we can certainly do that.  I know Ju and Carina are collecting Katy – the others?”

 

“In hand – so we go down to the farm Friday?”

 

“That is the idea,” Shirley said, “and we can review then.”

 

12.30 pm Pacific Time

Maple Drive Photographic Studio

 

The girls could not have been more opposite. Trina the daughter of wealth and privilege, and Mary the kid working her ass off to help support her family, but they were united by the common thread of having something special about them in Missy's eyes.

"This isn't going to cost me anything is it Miss Auerbach?" Mary looked round the studio anxiously.  She was wearing a pair of jeans, sneakers and a blue blouse over a white t-shirt.  Her twelve year old sister was sitting at a table, reading a book as she listened to her MP3 player.

"No, this is being paid for by Norstar Mary,” Missy said as she looked at her.  “I just want to see if the camera loves you as much as I think it will."

"Hi I'm Trina," the redhead said as she offered her hand.

"And I'm Mary Miss." the blonde looked at the other young woman in her designer outfit.

"Just call me Trina please."

 

“Sorry Miss – I mean Trina,” Mary said.  “Alison, do you want something to drink?”

 

“Have they got any coca cola?”

 

“Of course I do, dear,” Dave Bowland said as he checked his equipment.  “Look in the fridge over there.  Now, girls, I just want to take some headshots and a couple of full body.  Missy, any make up?”

 

“Not today Dave – let’s go natural.”

 

“You first then, Mary,” Dave said as he looked at the blonde, “Just sit on the stool for me, then and then follow the camera as I walk round.”

 

Alison sat and sipped on her drink as Mary nervously sat down, and then looked on as the photographer walked round her.

 

After a minute, he stepped back and said “Alison, how would you make your sister laugh?”

 

“She doesn’t laugh much, unless we tell her jokes.”

 

“All right then – tell her jokes, the older the better.”

 

“All right then – what yellow and dangerous?”

 

“I don’t know Alison what’s yellow and dangerous?”

 

“Shark infested custard.”

 

Mary started to laugh as her sister kept talking, Dave walking round and taking pictures.  As he did this, Missy nodded and watched, while Trina sipped on some water.

 

“She’s a beautiful young lady – where did you find her?”

 

“Tell you some other time,” Missy said as Dave called Alison over, and got her to pose with Mary while he took some long shots.

 

“Right then – you two go and have a seat, and let Trina have a go now, got it?”

 

 

Eventually, Dave said “great – can you girls step outside for a minute while I talk to Missy?”

 

As they went out with his assistant, Dave said “You’ve done it again Missy – where did you find the tall blonde anyway?”

 

“You would not believe me if I told you.  Do me a favour Dave – send them to Juliette Huntingdown for me?  I need to call her later.”

 

 

 

4 pm

Jack Linklater’s Studio

 

As they walked in, Jan and Katy were greeted by the sight of the model at work.

 

"Hey Jan, Hi Katy" Pru Stratton yelled out as she posed for Jack.

"Hey Pru...you modelling again?" Janice asked.

"I know, tiresome isn't it?”  Pru laughed as she held her chest and said “but the bra company is my bread and butter, and when they call the girls and I have to go and work."

"The ‘Girls' are nearly coming out of that bra Prudence darling."

"Sorry Jack." Pru giggled as she adjusted her breasts.

"He'll be with you soon Katy," Luke brought coffee in from the back area.  “and this is a good idea Katy – a photo lasts forever.”

"Is this another bra model?" the lady from the lingerie company asked as she walked round and saw Katy.

"No this is my 13 year old daughter." Jan gritted her teeth in exasperation.

"You'll have to wait till she's older Rosemary." Pru changed bras letting everyone see her famous breasts. "Till then you are stuck with me."

"Does your husband to be know you change in the open like that Pru?" Jan laughed at the sight.

"Hey if there was a straight man here, then I might worry, till then why bother?"

"Because I'm an impressionable child." Katy giggled.

"And the last thing she needs is you putting ideas in her head Prudence darling." Jack spoke as he started to take pictures again.

 

“Anyway, Katy – a portrait photo for the man of your life?”

 

“That’s the idea Uncle Jack – any thoughts?”

 

“I presume the uniform is a no-no?  Jan, did you bring something?”

 

“I have a couple of dresses for her to try.”

 

“Good – Pru, dear, you’re not at the table now, so pose, not distract!”

 

“Damn,” Pru said with a laugh as Katy giggled.

 

6 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment

 

"Well Ju?"

Juliette looked at her screen, and nodded before she said "They both have more then something Missy."

"I know, signing Trina will be no problem I have her lawyers looking at a contract right now."


"Good."


"Mary might be more of a problem."

"Why Missy?"

"I get the impression her father is the suspicious type and might just not believe what I tell him about the future Mary can have. She helps support and look after her family. I get the impression clearly that life is pretty hard for them all."

"With her bone structure there are no worries." Juliette glanced at a print.

"I know that. You know that. It's her and her father I need convince."

"Maybe I need to fly out and add my weight to the argument...If I run I can catch a late flight tonight?"

"No commitments at home Ju?"

"Nothing that I can't leave till I get home late tomorrow."

"Well I must admit I'd feel better if we tackled the father together."

 

“Good –book me a room, I’ll call when I get there.”

 

3.15 pm Pacific Time

Hilton San Francisco Union Square

 

As Missy ended her call, she heard a knock on the door, and opened it to find Mary standing outside.

 

“I wanted to thank you for today, before I start work,” she said as she came in, “it was different.”

 

“The question is, Mary, do you think you could do it as a model?”

 

“I don’t know...”

 

“Look at yourself,” Missy said as she showed Mary the shot of her and Alison, the two of them smiling.

 

“Oh,” she said quietly, “she looks lovely...”

 

“So do you – look, I’d like to come and see you at home tomorrow if that’s possible.  My partner in the business is flying over tonight, and we can both talk to you and your father then.”

 

 “I don’t know...”

 

“At least allow us to being a framed print of this for your family,” Missy said.  “Shall we say at ten thirty?”

 

8 pm

Tom and Gale Callaghan’s Apartment

 

As they sat round the table, Jan said “So how’s junior coming along Gale?”

 

“I cannot wait for them to arrive,” Gale said as she stood up, and held her back, “Helen’s been seeing me every week, and she just says we need to give it time.  I’ll bring dessert through in a minute.”

 

“I guess it’s hard on you as well Tom?”

 

“A bit – which is why I’m glad the Pussycats have laid low around here recently.”  Looking at Jan, Tom said “have you told her yet?”

 

“I was going to now – and I’m really sorry you’ve been kept in the dark about this Jan.  I just wanted to keep you out of family business.”

 

“I can understand that, Adam, but you’ve not been yourself for a few weeks.  Please, tell me what’s going on?”

 

Putting his napkin down, Adam said “You’ve met Harry and Eve, haven’t you?”

 

“Yeah – well, in passing anyway.”

 

Nodding, Adam said “Well, Harry has a younger sister – step-sister if you want to be pedantic.  Her name’s Milly – and a few months ago, she feel in with a bad sort at her high school.  Oh she graduated – and then a week later she disappeared with them.  Eve and her husband looked everywhere they could think of in Seattle, with no luck.

 

Then in September, they got a note from her, asking for help.  No address, but a NY frank on the envelope.  Eve came to see Harry, and – well, you were there when they came to see me.”

 

“So you offered to help?”

 

Adam nodded as he rubbed his eyes.  “The group she had thrown in with were involved in some dodgy dealings – I found them easily enough, but not her.  It turned out they had – oh god...”

 

“Adam?  Adam what happened,” Jan said as she put her hand on her partner’s arm.

 

“She was in a brothel in Harlem – against her will, and when I finally found her she was hooked on some sort of smack.  Right now, she’s in a secure detox facility, but I had to get her out of where she was.  I told Tom I was doing it, and he helped me out.”

 

“Trust me Jan,” Tom said, “you did not want to go there, but we’re going to need your help now.  She’s going to need someone to talk to, to sit in on her sessions.  I know it’s asking a lot, but...”

 

“Will it bring whoever did this to her to justice?” 

 

Both Adam and Tom nodded, as Jan said “Well, if I can...”

 

“TOM!”

 

Both Adam and Jan watched as Tom jumped up and ran to the kitchen.  Coming back in, he said “Guys, we need to postpone this discussion – I need to get Gale to hospital.  It’s time...”

 

Thursday 3rd December

9 am

FBI Field Office

 

As Jeanne walked into the office, she was struck by how quiet everything was – a silence that spoke volumes.

 

“Hey Jeanne,” Phil Majewski said as he came in, his beard trimmed for once, “where is everyone else?”

 

“That is an excellent question Phil,” Jeanne said as she put her jacket over the back of her chair, “Have you any idea where they are?  Has there been an incident during the night?”

 

“If there has, it’s the quietest Pussycat hit of all time – we’ve had zilch,” Phil said as he sat in Adam’s chair. 

 

“What brings you up here anyway?”

 

“Meeting her,” Phil said as Cassandra Stone came in.  “You must be Phil,” she said as she shook his hand, “thank you for agreeing to meet with me today.”

 

“How’s the filming going Cassandra,” Jeanne said as she looked over.

 

“Progressing well – and how are you?  I heard the news.”

 

“Morning sickness isn’t too bad so far,” Jeanne said as the door opened and Janice came in, wearing the same clothes as last night.

 

“Jan?  Have you been home at all?”

 

“I’m heading there now – Adam and Tom should be once they’ve gone back to his place and he’s driven Tom back to Temple Hill,” Jan said as she looked at them.  “Gale gave birth an hour and a half ago.”

 

“Oh how wonderful – and the baby is doing well?”

 

“He’s fine – no name yet, but mum and baby well.  They can take visitors later,” Jan said as she looked at them and picked up her laptop.  “See you all later.”

 

“Hey Jan – see you at the Calabria at eleven?”

 

“Got it,” Jan said as she waved and walked off.

 

 

11 am

The Altama Hotel

 

The barmaid shook her head as Jan came in and joined Cassandra behind the cameras.

 

“Hey,” Cassandra said, “how’s the new dad?”

 

“On his third wind,” Jan said with a smile as she looked round with interest.  “So what are you filming this morning Cassie?”

 

“It’s JD’s scene where she tries to pick-up the guy at the hotel bar.”

 

“Okay.  That’s before the guy beats her up when goes upstairs with him?”

 

“Yes,” Cassandra said, “establishing Miss Bobcat’s motivation for turning to violent crime after being abused one too many times whilst hooking.”

 

“You know Jo will be amused don’t you?” Janice whispered in her friend’s ear.

 

“Well it’s a plausible plot, but yeah knowing the real girl it’s a long way from the truth.” Cassie whispered back.

 

“Jo would never have taken the shit, she’d have just killed the guy then and there.”

 

“So what are you two whispering about?” JD came onto the set dressed in a figure hugging deep green cocktail dress that emphasized her already considerable feminine charms.

 

“Not a lot, and damn you look sexy in that JD?” Janice smiled.

 

“Do I?  Make up and costume are a wonderful thing,” JD said as she walked past.

 

“Can we have a rehearsal please,” Mike Babbage called out.

 

“I’m here.” JD strutted up to the bar of the scene as the crew watched.

 

“Whoa I’d pay you for real,” the actor playing the small part as the john laughed,

 

“Drop dead Creep.” JD looked daggers at her fellow actor as she sat at the bar.

 

“I’m just saying…”

 

“Mike, do I have to put up with this crap?”

 

“Gerry some professionalism please.”

 

“Whatever you say Mike!”

 

“Alright let’s go for a rehearsal.”

 

JD took a deep breath, and then said in a soft Louisiana accent “Bourbon on the rocks, sugah.”

 

“You’re not from around these parts, are you?”

 

JD looked to her side, smiling as she said “No dahlin, just an honest girl trying to make an honest living.”

 

“Really?  Can I buy an honest girl a drink?”

 

Smiling, JD said “Well ah won’t refuse.  What’s your name, sir?”

 

“Are names really that important?”

 

“Not if you prefer something else,” she said with a smile.

 

Gerry smiled back as he placed his hand on her thigh, and said “Well, if the price is right?”

 

“Cut – that’s looking good both of you.”

 

“Do me a favour,” JD said quietly, “wash the sweat off your hands before we go for a take.”

 

 

11 am

Xavier International

 

“So any progress finding me a bank Susan?” Madame asked.

 

“Between us,” Susan said as she sat down, “Dominique and I think we have found a suitable candidate?”

 

“Oh?” Shirley lifted an eyebrow. “Pray tell me more.”

 

“It’s the branch of Hudson Empire Bank in White Plains, and next Wednesday they will be holding 1.2 million dollars in cash designated to go to a Chinese customer who likes his payment in cash.”

 

“That sounds interesting,” Shirley said, “I take it the intelligence came from Hong Kong?”

 

“Yes both Catherine and the Honoured Master will have no problems if you deny this rival of theirs of his cash.  Apparently it came up in conversation when Dominique was finalising arrangements with Helen.”

 

“Ah – well, that explains why Penny is visiting.  I think we have the two umpires for Saturday night.”  Closing her eyes, Shirley said “well it sounds like I’m going to like this…a lot.”

 

“Only problem is George is nervous at just the sound of you going on a bank job Madame.”

 

“Well I suppose I can understand that,” Shirley sighed, “Any suggestions?”

 

“I’ll come along instead of George.”

 

Madame looked at her employee closely. “Any particular reason?”

 

“I’m still a bit antsy. I think another job will help me get it out of my system.  I’m sure Marina can watch April for the day, and work from the apartment.”

 

“Alright I can understand that.” Shirley glanced at Susan’s briefing document. “What is this by the way, you think we need a fifth gun in the bank?”

 

“I do, and don’t bite my head off, but I know Katy has the day off school. If you are impressed this weekend, I’d recommend we take her as the fifth gun.”

 

“Janice will not like it.” Shirley lifted an eyebrow.

 

“I know – but I’ll pitch it as a training exercise.”

 

“Very well then – but if we do this, we allow her time off for the holidays...”

 

 

8 am Pacific Time

Hilton San Francisco Union Square

 

“Welcome to the city,” Missy said as Juliette joined her at the breakfast table.  “How was the flight?”

 

“Long – but I think it will be worth it,” she said as she ordered some coffee.  “So this girl – she certainly has something, so how do you want to approach it?”

 

“Slowly and carefully – as I said on the phone, she and her father are going to need some reassurances and guarantees.”

 

“Just how much reassurance?”

 

“She’s helped bring her family up since her mother died when she was thirteen – I watched her yesterday with her sister, and she made sure she had what she wanted before looking to herself.  Something tells me she’s not doing that just because she has to.”

 

Juliette looked at the photographs again, and said “Okay – we’ll see what we can do Missy.  Where do they live?”

 

“Oakland Hills – we’ll get a cab out there when you’re ready...”

 

 

 

Noon

The Altama Hotel

 

“Gerry creeps me out as much as if he was a real john.” JD shook her head. “Playing up to him like this, I’m starting to admire the acting skills of real prostitutes.”

 

“Look - he’s the cousin of one of the executive producers. He got promised a part in the movie, and we got persuaded to take him.” Cassie tried to sooth down her fellow actress.

 

“Well I know he wasn’t cast for his charm, and I have to do the bedroom and sex scene with him this afternoon…Goddess help me.”

 

“I know, just put up with it JD it’s his only day on the movie, you’ll probably never ever work with him again.”

 

“Never again can’t come soon enough.” JD closed her eyes to compose herself.

 

“Okay let’s go for another take,” the director called out.

 

“Alright, he’s a john, he’s a creep, but you are a whore.” JD whispered under her breath. “Coming Mike.”

 

 

11 am Pacific Time

Oakland Hills

 

As Missy and Juliette looked out of the cab window, Ju said “Interesting place – like the Heights with a different mix.”

 

“And that west coast vibe,” Miss said as they stopped outside a three storey house.

 

“This is the place ladies,” the cabbie said as Juliette paid him, “take a card to call for a cab back.”

 

“Thanks,” Missy said as she got out, carrying a package and her bag.  Both women were wearing leather blouson jackets and trousers, looking round as they walked up to the main door and pressed the button.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Mary?  It’s Missy Auerbach.  I have my business partner with me – could we come in please?”

 

“Sure,” Juliette heard the female voice say, as the door opened for them.  The made their way up a set of stairs, paint peeling on the walls, and knocked on the apartment door.

 

The man who opened the door looked to be in his fifties, with greying hair that was receding fast.  His open necked shirt had a vest underneath, while his trousers were showing signs of wear and tear.

 

“Daddy,” Mary said as she appeared behind him, “this is Missy Auerbach, the woman Alison and I spent the morning with yesterday.  And you...  Are you Juliette Huntingdown?”

 

“Guilty as charged,” Juliette said, “may we come in?”

 

“Dad?”

 

“Sorry,” he said as he stood back, “please, come in.  Alison told me she really enjoyed yesterday – especially when her photo was taken.”

 

“Well, that was one of the reasons I asked Juliette to come with me today,” Missy said as they came into the apartment.  “Are these the other kids?”

 

“Yeah,” Mr Clarke said, “the others are at school at the moment – Alison had a Teacher’s Day yesterday.”

 

“They’re good kids,” Mary said with a smile, “if a little bit of a handful at times.”

 

“All kids are – I speak as a mother and grandmother,” Juliette said.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry – would you like some coffee?”

 

“Please,” Missy said as she and Juliette sat down.

 

“Mary told me about yesterday,” her father said as he sat down, “I wanted to say thank you for doing that, but...”

 

“Before you say anything, Mr Clarke,” Missy said as she handed over the wrapped parcel she was carrying, “I’d like you to accept this, as a thank you for letting her come with me yesterday.”

 

Taking the parcel, Mr Clarke opened it and looked at the picture of his daughters, smiling as she ran her finger over Mary’s face.

 

“She looks so much like her mother these days,” he said with a little smile.

 

“This may be too personal a question, Mr Clarke, but...”

 

“Breast cancer – by the time we found out, it was too late.  Alison was only two at the time.”

 

“I’m sorry – I’ve lost friends to that as well,” Missy said quietly.

 

“When it happened, I was laid off by the truck company – I got by doing three or four jobs for a few years, and then when Mary was old enough she got part time jobs.  Between us, we manage to keep this place going, keep the kids fed and clothed.”

 

“It can’t have been easy,” Juliette said as Mary brought four mugs of coffee through, and sat down.

 

“Is this the photo,” Mary said as she looked at it, and her father saw a tear at the side of her eye.

 

“So, Miss Auerbach...”

 

“Please, call me Missy.”

 

“Miss Auerbach, you will understand if I am a little sceptical of what you told Mary here.  I’ve heard too many – no, seen too many friends get taken in by promises of fame and money.”

 

“I can understand that, Mr Clarke, but I promise you my interest in Mary taking up a career as a model is genuine.  I spoke with Dave, the photographer, after the shoot yesterday, and he told me Mary had a true natural beauty, something that is very rare in this world.”

 

“I know that – even if she doesn’t,” he said as Mary looked at him.  “But I am not in a position to put my trust and hers in something with no guarantees.  I’ve read some of the stories, some of the things that happen.”

 

“There have been unfortunate incidents, true,” Missy said, “and I have personally known some of the girls involved.  But I have testimonies from some of my girls that I think you and Mary should read.”

 

As she handed them over, Juliette said "Mr. Clarke, I didn't fly all the way from New York because I want to pull a con-trick on you and Mary."  Looking round the shabby apartment, she said "I flew out here because I think Mary can have a bright future as a model."

"Well she has a good job at the moment,” Mr Clarke said as Mary read the papers, “and her shifts and mine work so one of us is always here to look after the kids."

"And I'm not suggesting she gives up her job...yet." Missy said as she sipped on a cup of coffee.

"So what are you suggesting lady?"

"What I'm suggesting Mr. Clarke is that if you give your approval of Mary signing a contract with Norstar, then we will pay for her to get photos taken in her spare time, and I'm sure as busy as she is Mary has a little of that. Then when work comes in for her we schedule it round her job, until her income from modelling gives you BOTH the security of mind that she can quit and go full-time."


"We might even write a signing bonus into the contract so Mary can buy a few things for you all." Juliette added to what Missy had said.

 

“What do you think Dad?”

 

Mister Clarke sat back and looked at Mary.   “I can’t deny, I want Mary to be happy, but I don’t want her to get hurt either.”

 

“Dad, you know I’d never do anything to hurt you or the kids.”

 

Juliette watched as she put her hand on his, and finished her cup.  “Listen – I think we should allow the two of you to talk and then come to a decision.  I saw a cafe across the road – why don’t we go and wait there, and then one or both of you can come and talk to us?”

 

Mary nodded as she and Missy stood up, her father showing them out and closing the door behind them.  They walked quietly out of the building and crossed over, entering the cafe and sitting down.

 

“Ladies?”

 

“Just some coca cola,” Missy said, Juliette nodding in agreement.

 

"Well Ju?"

Juliette shook her head, "I don't think there is exactly a lot of spare money in that household."

"And what there is they spend on the kids rather then themselves.  I saw the new coats and neat bookshelves, despite their own clothing."

"He's the type who has taken so many knocks in his life, that the thought of something good happening he can never believe."

"Those were my thoughts Ju."  Missy nodded as she sipped her drink, and then saw Mary cross the road and come in.

 

“Miss Auerbach, Miss Huntingdown...”

 

“We honestly do not mind if you use our first names, Mary.”

 

“I know, but I was told to be polite with my bosses.”

 

The two women looked at each other, before Missy said “Does that mean you are willing to give it a try?”

 

“If we can make it work the way you said – only in my spare time, and we see how it goes.”

 

“I think we can do that,” Juliette said with a smile.  “We’ll have some papers drawn up and with you by the end of today.  Look them over with your father, sign them, and then we can begin.”

 

“Forgive me if I seem mercenary, but...”

 

Juliette wrote a figure on a piece of paper, showed it to Missy and then to Mary, her eyes widening as she said “That... that is too generous...”

 

“A sign of the faith I have in you and Missy’s judgement – I look forward to seeing you again Mary.  Would you like a drink?”

 

“No – Dad has to get to work, but thank you – both of you,” she said as she left the cafe.”

 

“You know,” the waitress said, “I don’t know what you did, but she looks as happy as when her brothers and sisters do well.”

 

“Good – hopefully she’ll feel it more,” Missy said as she sipped her drink.  “I’ll call for that cab, and then we can lunch before we catch our flights.”

 

“Say hi to Maddie for me,” Juliette said as she watched Mary run back across the road.

 

2 pm

JFK Airport

 

Dominique had known Penny for many years, both professionally and as a good friend, and never once had she seen the redhead like this.  She was sitting in the arrivals hall, sitting at the bar having cleared customs half an hour earlier, nervously pulling up her black fabric boots and adjusting her red leather skirt.

 

“Will Helen like me in this?” Penny asked nervously as she looked round, pulling on her sweater.

 

“Penelope you have asked me that question, or a variant upon it 20 times at least since you landed.” Dominique sipped her drink. “You could be wearing nothing and Helen would be…”

 

“Duhhh that is pretty obvious.” Penny interrupted and giggled.

 

“Okay I put that badly,” Dom said as she shook her head, “but you get what I mean. Helen loves you for being who you are, not just because you are stunningly attractive.”

 

“Okay it’s just she should be through customs any time.” Penny checked her makeup in her mirror. “It’s been a while since she saw me.”

 

“And you think she’s forgotten how you look?”

 

“No…well I hope not…”

 

“Penelope you worry so much.” Dominique laughed as the doors slid open.

 

“There she is!” Penny jumped up and started waving at the blonde who walked through.

 

“I can see.” Dom said as she shook her head. “Honestly it’s like chaperoning someone on their first ever date.”

 

“Hey!” Helen walked over and planted a long lingering kiss on her girlfriend’s lips. “Did you miss me?”

 

“I might of…just a little.”

 

“Oy!” Dominique rolled her eyes. “She’s been like a nervous cat since she landed Helen.”

 

“Hey Caroline.” Helen kissed Dominique. “Thank you for picking us both up.”

 

“Well thank you both for agreeing to umpire the game this weekend.”

 

“It sounds like it might be fun.”

 

“Just what I told her darling.” Penny smiled.

 

“And besides seeing this lovely lady, I needed to do the advance work for Catherine, Marina, and Kylie coming into town.”

 

“Of course.  Well I got a suite at the Plaza for you two to share.”

 

“Thank you Caroline.” Helen nodded. “I will book Catherine in at the Waldorf when I’ve refreshed myself.”

 

“My car is in the parking structure,” Caroline said as she stood up, “so the quicker I drive you into Manhattan, the quicker you can both clean up.”

 

“That sounds like a plan to me.” Penny said as she and Helen wheeled their suitcases after Dominique towards the elevators.

 

 

4 pm

The Plaza Hotel

 

“Have you ever undertaken this challenge,” Helen said as she pulled on her blouse.

 

“A version of it, a long time ago, as a dare with some friends,” Penny said.  “I was in London at the time, and we hit a block of six flats in the west end.  It’s an intriguing premise to work from.”

 

“So we will not get much sleep Saturday night?”

 

“No – but if we were not doing this, I could think of ways to keep each other awake as well...”

 

“Business first,” Helen said as she stood up, turned and out her arms round Penny’s neck, “pleasure later.  I need to go and conduct business at the Waldorf.  You?”

 

“Going to see a friend who just gave birth.”

 

 

 

5.30 pm

Temple Hill Hospital

 

“Hey – is it all right if I come in?”

 

“Penny,” Gale said as she looked over from the hospital bed, “what are you doing in town?”

 

 

“Taking care of a few business things – but Caroline gave me the good news, so I thought I’d bring these,” she said as she held up some flowers and a stuffed bear.

 

“They’re lovely,” Gale said as she accepted the gift, while Penny looked at the baby boy in his crib.

 

“Tom must be over the moon – have you thought of a name yet?”

 

“We haven’t talked of anything but – in the end, I agreed to go with his father’s name if I picked the middle name.”

 

“And the result is?”

 

“This,” Gale said with a smile, “is Allan Edgar Callaghan.”

 

“Interesting,” Penny said, “and Tom agreed without realising?”

 

“Oh he does – he’s from Baltimore, remember?”

 

“Oh, is that where Poe was based?  Well, hello Allan,” Penny said.

 

“Hello.”

 

Smiling, Penny turned and looked at Gale.  “And how are you?”

 

“Proud, sated – we have a child to look after now.  Will you tell my cousins?”

 

“I will – and as far as you are concerned?”

 

“For now, I have my focus.  I am sure my cousin will watch as well?”

 

“I’m sure she will.”

 

 

Friday 4th December

9 am

Complete Style

 

“Hey,” Juliette said as she came in, “I need you two for five minutes.”

 

“Coming boss,” Janine said as she and Alexis followed her into her office.

 

“Right – first things first.  Marina arrives with Catherine in NY Saturday, so expect her to be around for the next couple of weeks.  Make her welcome Alexis.”

 

“Will do Boss,” Alexis said as she made a note.

 

“So how did your quick dash out to the West Coast go Ju?” Janine asked.

 

“Very successfully. I think young Mary will have a good career in the business.”

 

“Well from the pictures you sent, I will agree with that.” Merlin spoke from the office door. “The girl looks fabulous even with no makeup on.”

 

“Well I’m glad you approve Mary.” Juliette smiled.  “Alexis, any chance of some coffee?”

 

“On it boss,” she said as she left and Mary came in.

 

“I have some other pictures to show you.” Mary waved some prints.

 

“Oh?” Juliette sat forward as she said “Let me see please.”

 

“Jack sent them over for me,” Mary said as she handed them over, “he thought I’d be interested.”

 

“These are Katy Carter aren’t they?”  Juliette looked through them, as her eyes widened and she said “OH MY!”

 

“Exactly what both of us said.”

 

“Why? OH DEAR GOD!” Janine looked over Juliette’s shoulder.

 

“I can’t believe that.” Juliette held a print up and looked at it through a magnifying glass.

 

“Are you going to tell Janice, or should I?”

 

“Mary,” Juliette said as she as she put the print and the magnifying glass down, “on top of everything else with Katy…do you think we dare?”

 

“Well if we don’t, someone else will tell her.”

 

“Wasn’t this just meant to be a straight portrait for Young George to have?”

 

“Well,” Mary said, “Jack admits he may have got carried away Ju, he’d been working with Pru, and Janice had to leave so Katy was left in his charge.”

 

“She look so mature for her age.” Janine shook her head.

 

“Ai she does.”

 

“Mary we have to tell Janice as soon as possible. If I know Jack he can’t keep his mouth shut.”

 

“Do you know where she is this morning?”

 

“At the Altama, watching Cassie filming.”

 

“I’ll head over there and break the news then.”

 

“She’s not going to like it Merlin.” Janine shook her head.

 

“Well better she hears it from us.” Juliette again looked at a print.

 

“Ai,” Mary said as she headed for the door, “I better go tell her that Katy is a model.”

 

 

11 am

The Altama Hotel

 

“You know what,” Jan said as she stood with Cassandra, “this has to be one of the strangest things I have ever seen.”

 

“Try it from JD’s perspective,” Cassie said as she put on the thin leather gloves, and fixed the scarf round her neck, “this was her audition piece.”

 

“Cassie, you ready?”

 

“Coming Mike,” she called out as Jan turned to see Mary at the door.

 

“Hey Mary,” she said as she walked over, “what brings you down here?”

 

“You,” Mary said with a smile, “you got time for a coffee?”

 

“I can make time,” Jan said as Mike said “action!”

 

“So tonight – little George is taking Katy out for his birthday.  I hear Jack agreed to do a studio pose for you?”

 

“He did – he should be dropping it round in an hour or so.”

 

“Good – then I got in first,” Mary said as she and Janice went into the coffee bar.

 

“You got in first – now why do those four words coming from you worry me?”

 

“Worry you?  There’s nothing for you to worry about – not with us,”

 

“Okay,” Jan said as she ordered two coffees, “what are you not telling me Mary?”

 

“Well, first off, remember I am a friend, and Jack is a friend too.”

 

“Okay – so noted.  What are you not telling me, Mary?”

 

Mary said nothing, but instead took the photos from her slipcase and placed them in front of Jan.  She watched as Jan looked at them, her eyes widening as she whispered “Oh my god...”

 

“Jan, there is no easy way to say this, so let me say this...”

 

“Don’t bother,” Jan said quietly, “I know what’s coming, but come on Mary – she’s thirteen!”

 

“Ai, I know,” Mary said, “but she has it.  Look, let me talk this over with both of you after the weekend.  One thing is certain – if she wants to, she can do this, but the laws need to be followed.”

 

“Jan darling,” Jack said as he came in, “have I got something to...  Mary – you’re spoiling my fun, aren’t you?”

 

“It’s all right Jack,” Mary said, “I think Jan is still in shock.”

 

“Jack, I could kill you.  Mary, I could kiss you.”  Jan shook her head as she said “Look, table this until after the weekend please.  I have enough to cope with this weekend...”

 

11 am Pacific Time

Xavier International, LA

 

“Missy, a pleasure to see you again,” Maddie said as Missy came into her office.  “You know Kathy of course?”

 

“Good to see you again Kathy,” Missy said as they shook hands.  “Thanks for seeing me today.”

 

“Well, we knew you were in the area,” Kathy said, “and it is good to touch base from time to time.  So how was San Francisco?”

 

“Intriguing – I found two possible finds, but I may need your assistance with one Kathy, as a local rep for Norstar.”

 

“Oh?  On what basis?”

 

“We found this girl – true natural talent, but has family commitments which mean we have to ease her in gently.  Local gigs only, spare time, as we build her confidence and profile.”

 

“Intriguing – but of course I will do what I can under your guidance.”

 

“Good,” Maddie said, “because Juliette sent me a photo, and she asked me to show it to both of you.”  She took the prints out of a folder and placed them in front of the two women.

 

“Oh dear lord,” Missy said, “is that Katy Carter?”

 

“Apparently –you see the dilemma?”

 

“I do – let’s talk...”

 

 

4 pm

West Central Park

 

“Hi Gran,” Katy said as she came into the apartment, only to see Adam and her mother sitting in the armchairs.

 

“Good day at school, Katy,” Jan said as she looked over.

 

“Yeah – where’s Gran?”

 

“She just nipped out for a few minutes – Adam, do you mind if Katy and I have a quick chat?  Privately?”

 

“I’ll go and make some fresh coffee,” Adam said as he headed to the kitchen, Katy sitting next to her mother.

 

“Jack Linklater called on me with your present for George,” Jan said as she placed a white box on the coffee table, a blue ribbon tied neatly round it.

 

“Wow – that’s great Mom.”

 

“Funnily enough, Mary Thomas called on me just before then as well,” Jan said.  “Katy, after i left you at the studio the other night, how many pictures did Jack take of you?”

 

“A few – we tried on all the outfits, did a few poses, he encouraged me to show myself as i wanted to be....”

 

“I know,” Jan said as she took the black folder from the sideof her seat, “Mary showed me them.  Would you like to see them?”

 

“All of them?”

 

“All of them,” Jan said as she put the album on the coffee table, and Katy leafed through the pages.

 

“Oh my...  Oh MY...  Mom, I swear, I didn’t realise...”

 

“Well, here’s the thing Katy,” Jan said as she sat back and looked at her daughter, “Mary thinks, if you wanted to, you have some potential as a model, but there are laws about what you can and cannot do as a minor.  I also think you should think very hard about it over the Christmas holidays.”

 

“And if i say yes?”

 

“If that, then we talk to a few people.  Let me say one thing though.”

 

“What’s that?”

 

“Don’t let Uncle Adam see these for now, all right?  Now, go and get something to drink.  You need to start getting ready soon.”

 

“All right Mom,” Katy said as she went off, Adam coming in with two mugs of coffee.

 

“Just what is in those photos?”

 

“Adam,” Jan said, “you’ve seen Taxi Driver, right?”

 

“Yeah  oh god you don’t mean...”

 

“No I don’t – except for one thing.  The way she looks in these, is like Jodie Foster in terms of her age and look in that...”

 

"So is George coming from his mother's to pick Katy up tonight?" Adam changed the subject.

 

"No he's at his father's this weekend. Sandy is working out of town all weekend, and I understand Heather is going to see the restorer about Sandy's Christmas present."

 

"So they get the weekend off and for once George gets all the worry."

 

"Maybe," Jan smiled, "but I know Little Sands loves spending time with her baby sister."

 

"Not such a baby anymore." Adam listened as the sounds of Katy singing in the shower started. "Talking of not babes any more, is Katy going out alone with George tonight?"

 

"No they are doubling with Shawnee and her boyfriend."

 

"Two hormonally challenged boys out with two girls who can both pass as a lot older than they actually are...that sounds like a recipe for trouble Jan."

 

"Which is why William, you know George's driver, has been given VERY careful instructions on what is and isn't allowed tonight."

 

"Do the kids know that?"

 

"No, but William knows what he can and cannot tolerate."

 

"Oh I might like to be a fly on the wall later."

 

"You probably wouldn't." Jan remembered silently that William had been briefed to allow at least Katy and George to have sex if things developed.

 

"So did you say you had to go collect Pepsi and your Mom?"

 

"Oh damn Adam,” Jan said as she looked at her watch, “yeah I need to go and pick them up. Can you keep an eye on Katy?"

 

"Yeah I'm sure she will still be getting ready when you get back, knowing the women of your family."

 

Jan smiled and patted Adam’s cheek as she put her coat on.

 

 

7 pm

 

“Oh hi Uncle Adam – Mum not back yet?”

 

“Whoa Momma!” Adam’s jaw dropped as Katy wiggled into the living room wearing the black, sequinned, evening dress she’d worn for Pepsi’s Sweet Sixteen.

 

“George has already seen me in this, but I think he will like it.” Katy said as she checked her reflection in the mirror.

 

“Now he’s only 14, where the hell is he taking you that ranks a gown like that?”

 

“The NoMad,” Katy said with a giggle, “George has the use of his fathers limo and chauffeur for the night, and from what I read about the place, then this is just the right style.”

 

“Little Sister you lose these and I’ll be coming after you.” Pepsi came in with a secured bag. “The earrings are mine, but the necklace and bracelets are Aunt Diana’s, and all this is REAL!”

 

“Well as long as it goes with the dress?”

 

“Oh dear Goddess Katy!” Janice spoke as she and Katherine followed Pepsi into the apartment.

 

“Talk about pulling out all the stops,” Katherine shook her head.

 

“He knows he has to have you home for 10.30 young lady?”

 

“Oh Mother,” Katy said as she put the earrings on, “I thought we agreed One O’clock?”

 

“No you agreed it. How about 11?”

 

“How about Midnight?”

 

“11.30 and that’s my final offer young lady,” Janice laughed inwardly at the thought that come Sunday night, Katy might thank her for every moment of time in her own bed tonight.

 

“It’s a deal…I suppose.” Katy glared.

 

“Promise me?”

 

“I promise Mom,” Katy sighed as Pepsi fixed the bracelets over her black gloves. “I’ll be in bed by eleven thirty.”

 

“I think she means your own bed Little Sis.” Pepsi giggled as she put the earrings in her sister’s ears.

 

“Can George stay the night?”

 

“NO!” Adam, Katherine, and Jan replied in unison.

 

“He’s on his way over?” Katy glanced at her phone, “do I look good?”

 

“You look sensational Kat.” Jan applied a final coat of red lipstick to her daughter’s lips, as Pepsi fixed the necklace.

 

“I’ll walk you down to the lobby,” Pepsi said as she helped Katy to put on a black fur coat. 

 

“Have fun,” Jan said as they went out of the apartment, Pepsi nodding as she closed the door.

 

“Make sure he has protection is all I’m saying,” Pepsi said as theywalked into the lobby, the black limousine waiting outside as George stood in his great coat.

 

“Wow,” he said as Katy walked out, “you look fantastic.”

 

“So do you,” Katy said as she handed over the box.  “Happy Birthday George.”

 

He opened the box and looked in, saying “thank you” as the driver opened the door.

 

“Hey,” Shawnee said as Katy got in.  “You know Kevin?”

 

“Hi,” the fair headed boy said as George got in, “let’s go.”

 

 

7.45 pm

The NoMad

 

“Allow me,” Kevin said as he removed Shawnee’s brown fur coat to reveal the sleeveless mermaid dress.  The dress was made of a sequinned black fabric, the skirt flowing out in chiffon from her thighs, and matching elbow length gloves.  A diamond pendant hung from her neck, with matching bracelets and earrings.

 

“Good evening sir,” the maitre d’ said as he looked at the quartet.  “How may i help you?”

 

“I have a reservation – George Graham?”

 

Looking at the book, he said “ah yes, a table for four.  This way, if you please.”

 

“This feels amazing,” Shawnee whispered as they walked across the restaurant, “and you look fantastic.”

 

“So do you,” Katy whispered before they were sat at a table, and handed the menus.

 

“Would I be correct in thinking water is the drink of choice, sir?”

 

“It would be – and thank you,” George said as he bowed and walked off.

 

 

At another table, Grace almost choked as she saw the quartet sit down.

 

“Pip,” she said quietly, “is that George and little Katy over there?”

 

Pippa glanced over and smiled as she turned back.  “I do believe it is – amazing how much they’re growing up, isn’t it?”

 

“Yeah – so where’s Poppy tonight?”

 

“Visiting Erica,” Pippa said as she sipped her wine, “I understand Mary has offered to tell them some tales of her youth.”

 

“Something tells me you wish you were there as well,” Grace said as she glanced to the restaurant entrance.  “He’s here.”

 

“All right,” Pippa said as Martin Peverell walked over, wearing a smart grey suit, blue shirt and grey tie.  “Pippa – and Grace,” he said as he looked at them both, “how long has it been?”

 

“Martin – thank you for meeting us here,” Pippa said in a quiet voice, “take a seat.”

 

As he sat down, Martin said “I must admit, I was surprised to see you here Grace.  I thought you worked near Harlow in the UK?”

 

“I did,” Grace said quietly, “but I and two friends relocated to New York over the summer.  In fact, if you want the truth, I insisted I came to support Pippa at this meeting.”

 

“Oh?  I thought you two hated each other’s guts?”

 

“Cut the crap, Martin,” Pippa said angrily, “what the hell are you doing here?  Actually, how the hell DID you get in here?”

 

“Well, i took a cab, walked in the front door...”

 

“You know what I mean,” Pippa hissed as the waiter came to take their order.

 

 

 

“Will you excuse us a moment,” Katy said as she and Shawnee stood up, George and Kevin doing so as well before they started to walk to the restroom.

 

"Did you catch every man in the place checking us out." Shawnee whispered to Katy.

"I did, and why shouldn't they? We both look hotter then a pair of smoking pistols."

 

“That we do,” Shawnee said as Katy made eye contact with a man accompanying a couple of women in dark glasses.

 

"Did your Mom give you any crap about dressing up?"

"Nope she even leant me these shoes," Shawnee stuck out an elegant stockinged foot in a 5" stilettos heeled shoe.

"Snap." Katy grinned showing her fantastic new black pumps with the extreme heels.

 

“So what’s your plan with George?”

 

Katy waited until they went into the washroom, and checked nobody was in, before she said “I want to give him a very special night.  What about you and Kevin?”

 

“Who knows?  But I intend to have as much fun as I can tonight.”

 

“That’s my girl,” Katy said with a smile as she looked in the mirror, “shall we go back?”

 

 

 

"Check out the hot stuff." Martin Peverell wolf-whistled low as the two young women in the sensational evening dresses took their seats at a table.

"They are too young even for a bastard like you Martin." Grace hissed.

"You think so?" Martin exchanged glances with one of the young women.

"Yeah they are both strictly jailbait Martin." Pippa smiled wickedly as she picked up her wine glass.

"And how would you know that darling niece? Or are you just jealous?"

"No I happen to know that girl,” Pippa said as she looked at the one in the black cocktail dress, “and she only just had her 13th birthday."

"She what?" Martin lost his composure for a few seconds.

"So go on make a move on her Martin." Grace laughed, "They throw away the key here in New York a man your age touches a kid like her."

 

“Save us a lot of bother,” Grace said as the waiter brought their starters.

 

“So getting back to the matter in hand,” Pippa said as she looked at her salad, “What the hell are you doing in the country, Martin?”

 

“Taking care of some unfinished business,” Martin said as he looked at Grace, “such as finding out how you have made a success of yourself.”

 

“Which you could do in any half-decent prison library,” Grace said with a smile.

 

“I am afraid fashion magazines are not on the order list of any library I have had the pleasure to use until recently,” Martin said, “although I am pleased to see that you have not only prospered, but renewed old friendships.”

 

“Martin,” Grace said quietly, “why are you trying to hack into the records of the school I am on the management board of?”

 

“I’m sorry,” Martin said as he put some of his Strawberry Salad in his mouth.  “What have i been doing?”

 

“Our computer system has a very efficient firewall,” Grace said, “and we managed to discover the location of the person who has made several attempts to access certain records on our system.”

 

“And that person,” Pippa said, “would be you, you bastard – so what the hell are you doing trying to find out about my daughter?”

 

Martin wiped his chin, looked at both women and said “because she’s my daughter, isn’t she?  I did the maths, Pippa – I worked it out.  I’m just amazed your mother didn’t.”

 

“She didn’t know the full story about what happened – not until earlier this week.  But you’re not her father, Martin,” Pippa hissed, “she doesn’t have a father, and if I have my way she’ll never know.”

 

“Now that would be – unfortunate,” Martin said with a smile as the main courses arrived.  “I have rights as her biological father.”

 

“You lost those rights when you robbed my family blind,” Pippa said, “the only reason I cannot have you arrested now is you did your time.”

 

“Indeed – and I am sure you want to find out where that money went, don’t you?”

 

Grace looked at both of them as they stared at each other, before she said “don’t do it Pip – he’s not worth it.”

 

 

 

 

 

“Isn’t that Grace Gresham, the model, at the other table,” Kevin said as he looked over.

 

“I think so,” Shawnee said as she slid her foot up and down her boyfriend’s leg.  “You  know her better than I do Katy?”

 

“It’s her all right – and that’s Pippa Ashley, the fashion editor.  Wonder who the man is?”

 

“Who cares,” George said as he looked at Katy, “you’re easily the best looking woman in the place tonight.”

 

“You’re only saying that because it’s true,” Katy said with a smile, “this chicken is amazing by the way.”

 

“I thought you’d like it,” George said as he leaned over and gently kissed her on the lips, Shawnee and Kevin doing likewise.

 

 

 

 

“Whether you like it or not, dearest niece...”

 

“Aunt Maggie divorced you, so drop that for a start.”

 

“Whether you like it or not, dearest Pippa,” Martin said, “Poppy is my daughter, and I will be talking to her and getting to know her.”

 

“Over my dead body,” Pippa growled.

 

“Martin,” Grace said quietly, “get the hell out of here before I do you some serious harm – or call the police to have you arrested for trying to access records on underage children.”

 

“You’ve hardened Grace – I like this new you,” Martin said as he looked at her. 

 

“I had to – now, either you get out of here, and never try to contact Poppy or any of us again, or I call the authorities.”

 

Martin just smiled and stood up.  “Thanks for the meal ladies – I’ll see you around,” he said as he walked out, Pippa staring after him as Grace held her hand.

 

 

 

 

“Well, at least he’s gone,” Kevin said quietly, “I didn’t like the way he kept looking over here at you two.”

 

“Yeah – it was creepy,” George said as he stood up.  “I’ll be back in a minute Katy.”

 

“Me too,” Kevin said as he followed George to the men’s room.

 

“Oh god,” he said as he closed the door behind him, “is Katy getting you as hot as Shawnee is me?”

 

“Yeah,” George said quietly as he went to wash his hands.  “Oh god yeah – I was talking to Dad before coming to pick you up tonight, asking him about what to do.”

 

“What did he say?”

 

“To go with where your heart tells you to go, and – to be prepared.”

 

“George, would you...”

 

“Kev, honestly, I have no idea...”

 

 

 

 

“Well hello ladies.”

 

Katy smiled at the two men who came and sat at their table.  They were in their late thirties, and smartly dressed.

 

“Well, hello,” she said quietly, “and what can we do for you?”

 

“Well,” the other man said as he looked at Shawnee, “we were wondering if you fine looking young ladies were interested in going somewhere else?”

 

“Sorry, gentlemen,” Shawnee said with a smile, “but we’re here with our dates.  I don’t think it would be fair to them to abandon them.”

 

“Well, we’re far more experienced than they are,” the first man said as he took Katy’s hand, “and I’m sure I could show you a real good time.  How much?”

 

“I’m sorry,” Katy said, “what did you just say?”

 

“I think you heard me – how much?”

 

“You think – you think we’re call girls?”

 

Shawnee looked at the two men, before saying “I think you’d better...”

 

“Gentlemen.”

 

She looked over to see Grace and Pippa standing behind them, the two men staring at both of them as Grace said “Why don’t we buy you a drink – I think these ladies are already taken for the night.”

 

As they escorted the two men out, George and Kevin came back.

 

“Who were they?”

 

“Not important,” Katy said as she kissed George.   “Are you ready to go?”

 

“Just let me pay the bill,” George said as he signalled to the waiter.

 

 

 

 

10 pm

 

“Are you sure you want to be dropped off now, Shawnee, Kevin?”

 

“Yes thanks,” Kevin said, “i’ll make sure Shawnee gets home safely.”

 

“Thanks for a great night,” Shawnee said as William closed the door and got behind the wheel.

 

“Where to, Master George?”

 

“When do you have to be home Katy?”

 

“11.30.  Why?”

 

“Can you drive round for a while William?”

 

“Of course, Master George,” the driver said as he moved off, looking in the rear view mirror as George started to kiss Katy, her arms going round his head as she moved her leg between his.  Pressing a button, he waited as the divider went up, before starting a circuit of Manhattan, turning on the radio as he heard the sound from the rear of the limousine...

 

 

 

 

11.20 pm

 

As George finished putting his trousers back on, Katy looked at him and said “Thank you for a wonderful evening.”

 

“No – thank you,” he said as they kissed, before William escorted her to the apartment block, and he sat back in the car, a big goofy smile on his face.

 

Jan answered the door as William touched his cap and said “Good evening Miss Carter.  I trust I find you well?”

 

“You do – and thank you for making sure Katy got home safely,” Jan said as she allowed Katy to come in, closing the door as she looked at him.

 

“Good night?”

 

Katy nodded as she said “can you help me put this all safely back Mom – I need a good night’s sleep.”

 

“Come on, let’s get you into bed,” Jan said, “you have got a busy day tomorrow...”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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