The Great Race – Part 2







Sunday 30th October

2 pm

The Richmond Mansion


“It was very good of you to invite us all to join you for lunch,” Donald said as they made their way through to the front room of the house, “it was a lovely meal as well.”


“All compliments duly received,” Sandy said as she sat down, “but it was actually my mother’s idea.  I suspect she has words of wisdom to impart.”


“Not this time…  Alright, I asked my daughter to ask you all round so we can talk costumes for the Halloween party,” Vanessa smiled as she looked round the crowded room. “Who is set, and who needs help or suggestions?”


“We actually have a cache of outfits that the family somehow accumulated over the years,” Sandy spoke as she served everyone drinks.


“Suitable for all ages, and all sizes,” Heather added.


“Including both sexes?” Father Alex smiled as well, “I’m not sure I quite have the looks to come in drag.”


“As my brother said,” Vanessa laughed, “both genders as well.”


“Well I think we adults are fine,” Agnes smiled, “but my daughters after hearing what some of the other girls are wearing were making noises about trying to find something else.”


“If they want to look then I can show them,” young Sandy volunteered as she stood up.


“May we?” Miley asked as she looked at Laura.


“If you wish darling,” Donald sipped his drink as she heard Sands say “we’ll go and have a look in a little while.”


“What about you Francesca?” Vanessa asked as she looked over.


“I’ve actually had something shipped over from my home in Rome for me and Carlotta Vanessa.”


“Something special?” Sandy said as she leaned back.


“Ah - telling would spoil the surprise.”


“Yes she won’t even tell me,” Charlotte looked up from showing Laura her baby.


“And I have absolutely no idea what they have planned for me to wear,” Piet grinned.


“How about you, John, and Maisha Shirley?”


“John and I are happy with what we’ve chosen,” Shirley said with a smile, “but Maisha, like the girls, I think might like to have a look in case there is something she prefers over what her mother picked for her.”


“Mum I’m happy with whatever you give me,” Maisha blushed.


“Yes darling but you know you are competing with the other teenage girls,” John smiled indulgently, “looking to see if there is something you prefer can do no harm.”


Maisha shook her head as she smiled and said “very well then, but it will have to be an extraordinary costume for me to do that…”


“I did hear that Cassandra is outfitting the Gaunts as well as your sister,” Shirley said as she looked at Agnes.


“Sadly true – I think they just could not make their mind up, so they entrusted it to the one person who could probably surprise all of them.”


“Right then,” Sands said as she stood up, “those who want to view the collection, come with me…”




“It sounds as if they are having fun,” Agnes said as she and Sandy walked up the stairs, “and I have to say, to hear them both laugh after this summer…”


“How bad was that day,” Sandy said as she looked at the redhead.


“Not quite the worst day of my life, but it was close,” Agnes said as she looked sad for a moment, “but, as I keep having to tell people and myself, that is in the past – I need to look forward, not back.”


“So you will be dressed as Mrs. Harker from the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen I’m told Agnes?”


“I will be Sandy,” Agnes smiled as she watched the girls pulling outfits out of the old closet.  “Donald will be Allan Quartermain, Will as Dr Jekyll, and Charlie will be the Invisible Man.”


“And who gets to be Nemo?”


“Archie, believe it or not…”


Sandy laughed as she said “well, getting back to you – a costume complete with vampire fangs?”


“Yes,” Agnes’s smile turned to laughter, “and you know there was a time when people would have thought me dressing as a blood sucking vampire was highly appropriate.”


“At least you are able to laugh about it now,” Sandy said as they looked into the room.  “So, have you found anything that you might like to wear?”




“I wanted to say, by the way, that we accept your invitation to your wedding,” Nessa said as she sat with Shirley.  “How are the preparations going?”


“Well, now that Alex has agreed to conduct the ceremony, John needs to sort out his supporters,” Shirley said as she looked across the room.


“You know, this is going to be an amazing party for all the age groups – and it is wonderful to see everyone so relaxed.”


“I agree,” Shirley said quietly, “especially given the journey some of us have taken over the last year, and the freedom they have discovered.”


“What makes you say that Shirley?”


“The simple fact,” Shirley said as she leaned forward, “that both Francesca and Agnes put themselves in prisons far worse than any human society can create, and it took something akin to a miracle for both of them to be freed from those shackles.”


“But didn’t Agnes go to prison for real?”


“She did, but compared to the punishment she imposed on herself, three months in Holloway was like a stay at a resort hotel.”


“I don’t understand.”


“In places like Italy and Britain,” Shirley said as she looked at Nessa, “they don’t torture you in prisons, but in the prisons they devised for themselves in their minds both of them tortured themselves remorselessly.”


“That’s terrible Shirley.”


“I know,” Madame shook her auburn hair as she sat back. “I had more than my own share of problems, but while I hid myself away I never deliberately tried to hurt myself, and I fought back against those who had hurt me…They didn’t.”


“They both pronounced themselves guilty and sentenced themselves to a lifetime of torment,” Alex Richmond said as he joined the conversation. “In her way my sister did the same thing.”


“Deprived of their families by what they both saw as bad decisions they had made, each found a way to try fill the holes in their hearts. Francesca did it by sleeping with virtually every man she met, while…”


“Mum did it by giving everything she could to help children like us,” Laura spoke as she came in.


“As you say dear,” Shirley smiled, “Aggie found the way to stop her own hurt, at least a little, was to give her life over to the one group of people who never criticized her for being Lady D’eath, and who accepted her care and love without condition.”


“London’s homeless runaway children.”


“Exactly Nessa...”



10 am PT

San Francisco International Airport


“Enjoying your freedom,” Vicky said to Allison as they each poured themselves a coke.


“So far – but I bet Tommy has been put on watching me,” the older sister said as she looked where her younger brothers were sitting.


“Don’t worry – you’ll be among friends this week…”


“Are you sure you should be paying for us to fly First Class Poppit," Dave said as he looked round, feeling out of place in the lounge as they awaited their boarding call.

"I actually booked us to fly business class Pops, but the airline gave us an upgrade when they recognized my name," Mary finished her coffee.

"And I don't mind having the extra leg room," Suzie said as she looked up at the departure boards, "when you are as tall as me and Mary Pops, that extra leg room really is a blessing."

"Well I understand that for you two,” Dave said as he put his cup down, “but really to save money the rest of us could have flown economy."

"Pops I'm as concerned about money as you are," Mary smiled, "but just for once I think we can afford to splurge a little. From what everybody says this is always a great party, so let’s all just relax and enjoy ourselves."

"Hear hear," Trina smiled as she too finished her coffee, “and I agree with Mary that extra leg room is a blessing for most models."

"Not to mention when you are as big as I am," Winston said as he sat down, David and Sally joining the others, "and apologies for cutting it fine."

"Jeans would kill us if you weren't there for this party," Suzie laughed.


“I know – but at least we’re heading over now.  And just remember – everyone else is coming the other way next week…”



5 pm

Park Avenue


As Anouska and Selena walked into the lobby, the concierge looked up at them – the older woman in a fur coat, a grey coat dress underneath with black boots, and the other younger woman, in a red trouser suit with a white jumper underneath.


“Good afternoon,” Selena said, “Madame Anouska Kalinikov to see Miss Xavier?”


The two of them looked round the lobby as he checked his screen.  “Ah yes – Miss Xavier is expecting you,” he said with a smile, “please take the elevator to the penthouse – I will inform her you are on your way up.”


“Thank you,” Anouska said as they stepped into the elevator, waiting until the doors closed before she said “why have we been asked to visit today?”


“We return to the UK tomorrow, and I think Madame and others wish to speak to you first,” Selena said as the doors opened, and they walked to the end of the corridor.  As Selena knocked on the door, they both smiled as Shirley opened the door.


“Thank you both for coming,” she said as she took their coats.  “Please, come into the drawing room.”


As they went in, Anouska saw the redhead sitting there, a baby in her arms, and dropped to one knee as she said “Little Mother – I see you are well.”


“We are – and get up Anouska,” Charlotte said with a smile.  “This is not a formal meeting, but our way of saying thank you.  Come – sit with me.”


As Anouska walked over, Shirley indicated a seat for Selena, and sat herself down.  “I know you leave tomorrow for London, and then for you to return home Anouska, but we wanted to thank you for all you did in the recent operation.”


“I serve the Heart and the Strength,” Anouska said quietly, “although it will be sad to leave.”


“Well, you take all you have with you, and we have arranged a new home for you in your home town,” Shirley said.  “In return, we have an assignment for you.”


“And that is?”


“Be our lead representative in your homeland,” Charlotte said as she winded Frances.  “More of your sisters are coming to us, and we need someone to oversee their welfare.  I think you are well placed for this work.”


As Anouska nodded, the door opened and Maisha came in.  “Anouska, my sister,” she said as she embraced her fellow teammate, “would you come with me please?  I wish you to meet someone.”


“Of course,” Anouska said as they left, while Shirley said “Serena, on your return…”


“So who is it you wish me to meet,” the Ukranian woman said as they went into the kitchen.


“This woman – Anouska, I would like you to meet Ama Jameson – The Heart.”


“I greet you as a sister,” Ama said, taking Anouska by surprise as she hugged her, “come, sit, let us talk…”


Monday 31st October

8 am

The Astoria-Waldorf


“Something seems to have caught your eye,” Donald said as the family sat in the restaurant, before he took a sip of his coffee.


"I can't believe they make such a big thing out of Halloween Mum," Laura put the newspaper down as she sat at the breakfast table, “there is half a page just devoted to gossip as to who will be at the party tonight.”

"I'm not so sure it's just about Halloween darling,” Aggie said as she shook her head, “given who will be there, and how famous the groups parties are, I think it would attract huge publicity on any day of the year."

"Is there anything similar back home in London?" Miley asked.

"I can't think of many private parties that would create this level of interest darling," Agnes buttered her toast, "but yes there a few social events on par."

"I'm just amazed that none of the people we know are even in the least bit snobbish," Laura sipped her coffee. 

"Well that's because it's the type of group where what matters is who you are as a person darling, and not how much money you have, or where you live."

"I know Mom, the girls all have such interesting life stories."

"Well so do you darling," Aggie smiled at her eldest daughter.

"I know, most of them know what I used to have to do and they never say anything bad," Laura looked serious.

"Well as with Sue and I, they know you did to survive Laura darling."

"Talking of Aunt Sue," Miley asked as she wiped some jam from her face, "when do she and Uncle Colin arrive?"


“They should be here for two,” Donald said as Will and Mandy walked in.  “We were just talking about the party tonight – it does seem to have garnered a lot of interest in the press.”


“So what will everybody eb doing today,” Laura said as she put her cup down.


“Well, most of the girls will be at school,” Agnes said, “but those of us who have come over?  We’re going to go to have a walk round Central Park…”





Park Avenue


As Shirley sat in her den, reading through a report, she looked up to see John standing in the doorway, looking at her.


“Something on your mind,” she said with a smile as she closed the file she was reading.


“No, nothing in particular – Maisha has gone to spend some time with Mandy and Aggie’s family, and Olivia is taking her brood to the Metropolitan.  Which leaves us alone in the apartment for a little while.”


“Well, I suppose it does,” Shirley said as she stood up and walked over to the doorway, “and how do you propose we pass the time, hmm?”


“Oh I’m sure we can think of a way…”




Central Park


“Well, this is certainly a nice way to spend a couple of days away,” Sally said as she and David walked arm in arm down the pathway.


“Yeah – it may be cooler, but at least we’re together,” David said as he leaned over to kiss his girlfriend.




“You eon’t be saying that soon,” David said as he looked back at Tommy and Bobby, the two boys giggling as they walked behind them.  “You could have gone with your sisters you know.”


“NO WAY!”  Tommy shook his head as he said “go to see Mary and Suzie visit a college?”



“Well, it is for a good reason…”


Cooper Ross


“It would appear the rest of my family have descended on the city,” Blair van Roon said as she looked at her phone.  She was sitting in the photographic studio, wearing a Cooper Ross hoodie and jeans, watching Abby as she worked with the Clarke girls.


They were wearing summer dresses, Allison and Vicky smiling as they sat on the stools, Mary and Suzie behind them, as Abby checked the lighting and then adjusted the screens.


“So how does this help you out again Stick,” Mary asked as she watched Abby pick up her camera.


“It’s part of an assignment – produce a family shot that emphasises the idea of family – and as your pop is busy, and the boys ran a mile, it’s you four,” Abby said with a smile.  “Right then – give me your best smiles, and let’s see what we can do…”


“I hope I’m not interrupting?  I was told it would be all right for me to come in.”


Blair turned and looked at the burnette, before she said “it should be all right.  You are?”


“Oh sorry – my name’s Rhenia, I’m the office manager at NorStar,” she said as she held her hand out.  “I need a quick word with Abby when she is done.”


1 pm

The De Ros Mansion


“Thank you Edith,” Diana said, “you are going to visit your sister now?”


“Indeed, Madame – will you be all right with the arrangements from here on in?”


“Don’t worry Edith – I’ll help out,” Heather said, the housekeeper nodding as she left the room while the four women started to eat.


“I’m glad you’re looking back to normal Diana,” Juliette said as she cut into the escalope, “and where have the others gone?”


“Alain is treating Father and Valeria to lunch with him and Claude,” Diana said with a smile, “they will return to France after the race, now that I have been given – how do you say – the all clear?”


“Did I just hear Diana, Countess de Ros, use an Americanism,” Heather said as she looked round the table.  Sandy and Juliette looked at Diana, who wiped her lips and said “what?”


“I just think you’ve started to unwind a little,” Juliette said quietly, “but does that mean Miss Leopard does not want to come out and play?”


“I did not say that,” Diana replied with a smile, “depending on what you are thinking of?”


“Well,” Juliette said with a smile, “tell them, Heather?”


As she looked round the table, Heather smiled and said “if I said we were going to hit another casino, you would say?”


“Oh mon dieu, not Atlantic City again…”


“No – the Mississsippi Belle, which is going to be docked off Ellis Island for a week in November…”



7.30 pm

The Rochermann Apartment


Ally made her way down the staircase, smiling as she looked at the catering staff making the final preparations.  Her face was covered in white make up, and she had a black and red harlequin costume on, a matching hat on her head and a black diamond mask over her eyes.  In her hand was a large baseball bat, “Hello Pumpkin” written on it.


“Well now, do I need to bust you already?”


“You could try, Pops,” Ally said as she looked at Daniel in his Batman costume, “but my friends may have something to say on the matter.”


Daniel smiled as he looked to the staircase, watching as Nell and Kelly came down.  Nell was wearing a green body stocking, vines wrapped round it, and a red wig, while Kelly was in a black leather cat suit, with thigh high boots and a mask over her head complete with cat ears.


“The Gotham City Girls, eh?  I’ll have my eye on you all night…”


7.30 pm

The Astoria-Waldorf


"Why are there far more Sinners then Saints do you think Mom?" Miley asked as Agnes inspected both her daughters.

"I don't have a clue darling," Agnes brushed some lint off her daughters costume, "it's either just a fluke of coincidence, or something genetic, but I can't tell you which, it's beyond my knowledge."  She stepped back and looked at the girls – both of them has decided to wear the costumes they had brought with them, Laura dressed as Lara Croft, while Miley had chosen a costume that made her look like an angel.

"Girls you just witnessed a rare moment," Donald smiled as he adjusted his leather waistcoat, "your Mother actually admitting she doesn't know something."

"There is a lot I don't know," Agnes too smiled as she checked her own appearance in the mirror, "and I'm not egocentric enough to not admit that."

"Mum you know more than anyone I ever met," Laura brushed something off Aggie's deep maroon velvet, Victorian style dress, "and changing subjects, you look amazing."

"Thank you darling, and so do you."




"You know Marianne I can't thank you enough for getting Peter and I invitations to this party tonight," Alexandra Green-Hope said as she kissed her old friend on the cheek.

"Well Francesca helped as well."

"I know, I'll have to thank her," Alex paused to inspect John and Marianne's costumes, "I just hope mine and Peter's costumes are up to standard."

"Oh I don't think you need worry," John smiled, "I think we all look pretty good."

"That's something I'll decide when I see what Francesca is wearing," Marianne looked at herself in a mirror.

"Meaning what?" Peter looked confused.

"Meaning that my wife along with a lot of the women who will be at this party tonight will judge themselves in comparison with the Marchesa," John smiled again.

"Damn straight we will," Marianne smiled as well, "and we all know beforehand that as good as we look, she will look much better."

"I remember that about her from the old days in Pretoria," Alex said as she pulled her gloves on, "all that stuff in the newspapers and magazines talking about her amazing style."

"Yes," her husband nodded, "who'd of thought all that glamour was hiding a spy?"


“Enough – final checks,” they said as Marianne looked at John dressed as a Boer scout, Marianne as Annie Oakley, and Alex and Peter as Nick and Nora Charles.  “Let’s go…”



8 pm

The Rochermann Apartment


“I see the party has indeed started without us,” Alex said as he handed his coat to the maid, then smiled as he saw Nessa coming in with David.


“Well, no prizes for why you came dressed in that,” Nessa said as she saw Alex in his college rugby kit. 


“And why should I not come as one of the Four,” Alex said with a smile, “and you appear to have revisited our past as well.  The red wig suggests our esteemed great grandmother, true?”


“True,” Nessa said as she twirled round in her silver flapper dress.  “We appear to have a good turnout so far, Kelly.”


“And you David – who have you come as?”


“Babe Ruth, of course,” David said as he looked round.  “I must say, we have a good selection of costumes here.”


“Indeed – although…”  Kelly suddenly looked at the latest arrivals.


“Oh my Goddess those are MAGNIFICENT!" Alex Richmond shook his head as Francesca and Charlotte made their entrance.

"And they are authentic as well," Piet said as she shook his head.

"They are?" Kelly asked disbelievingly.

"They are indeed," Francesca smiled, "this dress was one actually worn by Caterina Sforza..."

"The She Wolf herself?"

"Yes," Charlotte laughed, "while mine was worn by my ancestor Francesca, Marchesa di Sentova..."

"The Marchesa who defended Sentua against Cesare Borgia," Shirley shook her head.

"You know a little of our family history," Francesca smiled again. "These dresses hang in my little family museum in Rome normally, but I thought for an occasion like tonight..."

"You'd blow us all out of the room and wear them," Alex shook his head again.

"So is your outfit authentic Piet?" Heather asked, "you all look as though you stepped out of a Renaissance picture."

"No this is a copy," the big man laughed, "but I think I can pass just about as Cesare Borgia."




“I’m glad we decided to come as a family group,” Sands said as the came into the apartment.


"Indeed – and just for once we aren't the first to arrive," Curt looked round as he took Jo's coat off her.

"Not by a long shot it seems." Heather said as she passed her wrap to the maid.

"I'm glad we made up a party for this," George Graham helped Orlagh out of her coat.

"Well Mother came with David and Uncle Alex, not us," Sandy smiled happily.

"And Katy is coming with her family," young George looked round to see if his girlfriend had arrived yet.

"But the rest of us can come as one big family," Sands looked to see if Holly had arrived yet.

"There are some amazing outfits here already," Jo said as she looked round as well.  Sandy was wearing a nineteen twenties white dress, while Heather wore a blue jump suit, the legs tucked into white boots.  Jo was wearing a matching outfit in red and black, while Sands was wearing a tennis outfit, her hair under a short black wig.


“Billie Jean King?”


“Got it in one Bestie,” Sands said as she hugged Katy.  “What about you?”


“Well, if Mom and Uncle Adam can go Wild West, so can I – as Annie Oakley…”



“Is that a hint of jealousy in your voice,” Juliette said as she stood with Tonia and Roy.


“Well, I still say it’s very unfair," Tonia shook her head, "how can we mere Americans compete with European aristocrats who own actual costumes worn by historical figures?”

"We can't," Roy laughed as he handed his wife a glass of champagne, "we can however just relax and enjoy the show.

"I'm don't feel outshone," Juliette sipped her drink.

"Nor should you Ju," Mary Thomas inspected her old friend, "coming as your Aunt Jane was an inspired choice."

"Well I had this old evening dress of hers, and writing this book has proved to me at least that she was a genuine heroine, and with Sandy coming as her Great Aunt Annabelle, it just seemed right."

"I'm very much looking forward to reading it," Roy smiled.

"But again Ju, you had access to something wonderfully historic," Tonia complained.


“True – but…  Oh come on, only you would do this Pru?”


“Do what, Pelican darling?”


“Come as Barbarella…”


“Oh come on, what else was she going to do,” Jerry said with a smile as he stood in an old lab coat, Pru smiling in her silver bikini and high boots.




"Now is Francesca here as a heroine or a villain?" Claire Morse asked as she looked across the room. 

"Oh most definitely as a villain," Carina looked across the room at the sumptuously dressed Marchesa.  She had come dressed as a New York cop, while Annie was wearing a running outfit.

"Caterina Sforza was a true product of her times," Alexander spoke as he loooked over, "there were many Italian princes and nobles who were just as amoral as she was..."

"But she is better remembered because she was a woman, and women weren't, and aren't supposed to act that way...Are we?" Carina interrupted.

"As you say, women are held to different standards," Alex nodded.

"A fact that we are all too well aware of in our family," Ingrid spoke, "the notoriety of both Birgitte von Furstenheim and the Blood Princess is I'm sure boosted by the fact of their gender."

"Well from what I know of the crimes of both I might slightly disagree," Alex smiled, "but yes I agree in part you do have an argument."

"That all got very serious, rather quickly," Claire sipped her champagne, "all from a little question about Francesca's costume."

"I know and I apologise Claire," Alex lightly chuckled. "The theme for tonight does though focus one’s mind on the blurred lines often between who is a hero and who is a villain."


Carina said nothing, as she sipped her drink and looked round the room.  She could tell a few tales, if they really wanted to know…


“By the way, how is the election looking?”


“As far as Tom goes, he thinks he’ll be returned.  Our fear is the main event – he has a horrible feeling that e-mail thing may be the last straw for Hilary…”





"You know House you almost sound like him as well," Tony McNally said as he stood chatting with Abby, Jeannie, and Winston.

"His voice isn't quite as deep as James Earl Jones," Jeans said as she looked up happily at her man, in her white dress, "but it's not bad."

"I'm trying," Winston laughed as he took the black helmet off.

"And succeeding," Abigail said with a smile as she passed him a drink, "you and Jeans together look incredible."

"Wait till you see some of the others in their Star Wars outfits," Jeannie sipped her champagne.


“such as?”


“Well, the Burton’s for one,” Jeannie said as Erica came in with her mother, both of them wearing Padma dresses…


“Wow – this is amazing,” Mel said as she rubbed her arm.


“It is,” Poppy said as she joined Erica and Mel, wearing a Roman dress.  Mel, by contrast, was in a white lab coat and a blue blouse with a string tie.


“Doc Brown?”


“Just a little bit…”



“Never fear, the Heroes are here!”


The room turned and applauded as Cassandra and her family came in, dressed as The Incredibles, while behind them two Scooby Gangs appeared, Mary and Vicky playing Daphne while Suzie and Allison were Velma, then Dave as Fred and Tommy and Bobby as Shaggy.


“Any mysteries to solve,” David said as he looked round, wearing a moose costume while Sally giggled in her racoon suit..


“Just the snacks,” the younger boys said as they went to the buffet…


“All right, go have fun,” Mary said, “and Allison…”


“I know, I know,” Allison said as she went off.



"Not drinking tonight Bobs?" Judy McNally asked as she noticed her friend drinking soda.

"I've had a slightly upset stomach, I thought it was maybe best I stuck to something like this," Bobbi said quietly, hoping she sounded convincing.

"Well you are missing out on some wonderful champagne."

"I know, but what is best, especially at the moment,” Bobbi said quietly, “drinking and then throwing up over this costume, or abstaining?"

"You have a point Bobbi," David Fitzstuart said as he put his arm round Judy.

"She's looking after herself," Simon quickly smiled at his girlfriend as he said “and I’m joining her in the purgatory as well…”


“Must be true love,” David said as he shook his head, “to join her in that.”


“What is,” Tony said as he came over with Abby.


“Having soft drinks with Bobbi because she has an upset stomach.”


Tony looked at Simon, who just shook his head and smiled…








"Did Mary read you the riot act like my Mom did to me?" Capricorn whispered to Allison Clarke.

"Yeah,” Allison said as she fiddled with her glasses, “I think if I even look at boys tonight, I'm in trouble."

"Tell me about it – Mom has made her views VERY clear on the subject."

"It's so unfair," Allison watched as Richard, in costume as William Tell, kissed Miley on the cheek. "All we did was play a little game to stop getting bored at the race."

"Anyone would think we raped him from all the fuss," Capricorn giggled.

"I know."


“So who are those kids anyway?”


“The British contingent I think – want to go talk to them?”


“All right then – what say we go and…”

“And what?”


“Oh come on Suzie,” Allison said in an exasperated voice as she turned round, “don’t tell me you are going to play hardball as well.”


“When it comes to the lads from Britain, yes,” Suzie said quietly, “see the two girls there with the redhead?”


As Allison and Capricorn nodded, Suzie said “that’s Laura and Miley McAdam – their foster mother is the redhead, Agnes McAdam.  I do not want you doing anything that might upset them – got it?”




"Well I warned her, she's on her best behavior or else," Cassandra spoke quietly to Dave Clarke.

"And Mary did the same," Dave looked at the two young girls laughing and giggling, "but why do I think we are still going to need eyes in the backs of our heads to watch out for them?"

"I know," Cassie sighed, "I know they see what their slightly older friends do and want to do the same things, but I wish they had waited a year or two more before becoming sexually active."


“That much is true – but we can only try…”





"Oh that takes me back a few years," Mary Thomas shook her head, "Seeing young Mick and the others dressed as The Who."  She looked over to where Billy Fitzstuart, Charlie and Mick Treharran, and Richard Babbage were standing talking to some of the girls.

"Did you know them when they looked like that Mary?" Harriet asked.

"No that's a sixties look,” Mary said with a smile, “I knew Pete, Roger and the others in the seventies."

"When they weren't still Mods?"

"Yes.  Actually, fun fact – look in the commune scenes in Tommy – you may recognise me and Fiona in the background…"

"I wonder what made them choose those costumes?" Sarah asked as she stood with them.

"That I know the answer to," Grace smiled as she arrived with a tray of food. "Roger Daltrey is an old friend of the Treharran family, and Olivia told me that it was he who largely inspired Mick to try a career in music."

"Ah that explains it," Sarah took a bite.

"So do you think we will see more people coming as music industry heroes Mary?"

"I'm not sure Harriet, I'm not sure," Mary smiled to herself, “but if you will excuse me, I need to see a man about a song.”


“What’s she up to now,” Harriet said as Mary walked over and whispered into Kelly’s ear, the hostess raising an eyebrow before she nodded.









"Can you even speculate what it might cost to photograph all of them?" Adam Cabot asked as he stood chatting with Gio, while they watched the large group of models gather round Grace.

"More than any magazine I ever worked for would ever pay mate." Gio smiled as he sipped from his glass.

"Wot are they talkin' 'bout anyway?" Kerry asked.

"The arrangements for Fiona's funeral and memorial service darlings," Kylie drawled slowly, "Grace Brand just got back from Scotland."

"Gotcha," Gio looked saddened.

"Are you going?" Adam asked.

"To the service at St Paul's? Yeah I am...You?"

"Probably, I think much of the fashion industry is going to try and be there."





“So we’re clear girls,” Grace said as she looked at the group, “unless you are specifically asked, come to the service at St Paul’s, and if you want to say something, or have a message, pass it through Mary.”


“How’s the tribute issue coming along,” Christine asked.


“Mary has got some amazing things together, but you’re better asking him – excuse me, someone I need to catch,” Grace said as she walked away, the tight black skirt moving with her bottom as she walked to where Juliette was standing.


“Grace – how are you feeling,” Juliette said as she came over.


“Tired – look, got a minute?”


“Of course – what’s up?”


“You’re one of the people who need to come to a meeting the morning of the memorial service – I’ll let you have the details be letter,” Grace said quietly as Juliette nodded.




"What was I saying about needing to see Francesca first?" Marianne shook her head as she looked over.

"That dress is truly magnificent," Shirley looked across the room at the Marchesa.

"Agreed," the South African lady sighed, "anyway Shirley Xavier please meet Alexandra Green-Hope."

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Shirley shook hands.

"Alex is a very old friend from Pretoria."

"Oh do you know the Marchesa as well from there?"

"Not really,” Alex said with a smile, “we might have met at a couple of parties, but neither of us can really remember if we did."

"Okay, I just wondered," Shirley wondered why Alex's eyes had suddenly, and very briefly darted back and forth. Hadn't she once been told that was a sign someone was telling a lie?


“Eleanor, come, join us.”


“Of course,” Eleanor said as she walked over in her dress uniform.  “Another friend, Marianne?”


“Yeah – Alexandra Hope-Green, this is Eleanor Ball, a fellow South African.  Eleanor is one of the New York sinners.”


“Have we met before,” Alex said as she and Eleanor shook hands.


“I’m not sure – South Africa is not a country I can say I have visited,” Eleanor said with a smile as Marianne looked at her.  “Excuse me – I need to go and talk to some others.”


As she walked over, Caroline watched in her Valkyrie outfit, and then she looked at Shirley.  Eleanor had recognised the other woman – why?





As Rachel McNally looked round the room, she smiled and admired the costumes – and then she noticed Tamsin, standing quietly, wearing a grey cardigan and skirt with a blue blouse, her hair under a grey wig, glasses perched on her nose.


“Who has she come as,” she asked Paula Gaunt as she passed in her Irish rugby shirt.


“Go and ask her,” Paula said with a smile, as she looked at Rachel and George dressed in Revolutionary War outfits.  The couple nodded as she walked over, and said “Who are you dressed as Tamsin?”


“My personal heroine Rachel,” Tamsin said with a smile.


“And who is that?” George asked with a smile.


“My sister Agnes,” Tamsin said quietly, and with more than a hint of emotion in her voice.


“Your sister?  I don’t understand – I mean, I know she’s a big brain, but…”


“Well, it may have taken me a long time to see it,” Tamsin said quietly, “but if the definition of a hero is someone who does everything for others, and not think of themselves, then she fits the bill.”


Rachel and George sat down with Tamsin as she said “you know our father died when Agnes was starting her degree in London, and I was at Benenden.  Well, what neither of us knew was just how much our father had built up in debts after our mother died – but Agnes found out when she talked to our family lawyers.  At the same time, our beloved Inland Revenue slapped a huge bill on us for death duties – Inheritance taxes and other things.”


“Is that why she did what she did?”


Tamsin nodded as she took a sip from her glass.  “Once she had paid off those bastards at the Treasury for inheritance taxes, and also started to pay off my Fathers huge gambling debts, she knew she needed to do something fairly desperate to keep us afloat financially.  So she looked for a job – and the rest, as they say, is history.”


“Why didn’t she just economize?”


“Because of me,” Tamsin choked back a tear. “I asked her just that question when I went to see her for the first time in all those years before we all went to the birthday party in France.”


“And what was her answer?”


“That it wouldn’t have been fair otherwise,” Tam tried to smile. “She wanted me to have everything she had, so that I was the same as her – and in doing so, my sister ruined her own life to give me all the advantages that she had had.”


“Oh my God…really?”


“She sacrificed so much just for me,” Tam took a sip of drink to steady herself as she realised others had joined them.


“Well I for one can see why you came dressed as her,” Pussy van Roon said quietly.  “I may jest and jibe with Liz, but I’d like to think I would do anything if she needed my help.


“In a world where too often we look out just for ourselves ,it’s nice to remember there are people like Agnes still,” Frieda spoke softly as well.


“And we aren’t even touching on her work with young homeless people,” Margaret Harker added.  “I mean, look at her girls – they are so happy with her in their lives as their mother now.”


“Anyway that’s why after much thought I decided to come tonight as Aggie,” Tamsin took another sip of drink, “She’s a real life heroine.”




“Is your mum all right,” Erica said as she and Simon stood with Kit.  She was in a 17th century man’s outfit, as the original Red Hand.


“Mum?”  Kit looked over and nodded.  “She’s fine, just thanking the lord we’re a family again…”





"Something isn't quite ringing true," Judy whispered to herself as she watched Bobbi talking to Carina and Ingrid, "since when does anything, even a stomach upset, ever prevent Bobbi from being the life and soul of the party?"

"Penny for them," she suddenly heard an English voice.

"What?" Judy suddenly looked round and saw David, Jack, and Pepsi looking at her.

"You looked like you were a million miles away," Pepsi sipped her champagne.

"Did I?"  Judy looked over as she said “I guess I was…”

"You did," David smiled, "so what was so distracting?"

"Oh nothing really," Judy smiled back and took a little drink from her glass.

"So it wasn't anything my parents said?" Jack asked.

"No...Why?" Jude looked puzzled, "why might Will and Mandy have said something?"

"Well not necessarily Dad," David glanced at his parents dancing, "but my Mother keeps mentioning that now Jack and Peps are engaged, are we going to announce an engagement as well?"

“Oh – that…”


"She asked me about it."

David and Judy looked at their friend, before David said "And what did you tell her Peps?"

"That I had no clue what you were thinking, and that short of you getting pregnant there was no way I thought it would happen before you both graduate from Yale."

"I agreed," Jack smiled this time, "I told Mum that you were safely on the pill and that she'd have to wait for both me and David to get married.”

"I think we all saw how giving birth to Judith changed Carina's life," Judy took another sip, "I think all of us are determined that we won't get pregnant before at least we finish school."  Suddenly, she held her glass in mid-air, and then slowly turned to look at Bobbi again.


“Jude?  You’ve gone into your own little world again?”


“Sorry,” Judy said quietly, “I just realised something…”





“Your highness – I am so glad you and your friends were able to come,” Kelly said as she greeted the three African women.


“Well, it was good of you to allow Charlotte to extend the invitation to us,” Itzy said as they stood in their Charlie’s Angels outfits.  “We have a meeting tomorrow for the charity she runs, so she felt we could blend in here.”


“Well, you know most of the others, so please feel free to circulate, I just need to check if our entertainment has arrived,” Kelly said as she walked off, Liz and Itzy trunign and looking at Karen.


“Okay, I know that look – what is troubling you,” Liz said quietly as Karen Kumalo looked round the room.


“There are tensions in this room that even I am having trouble comprehending,” Karen said as she took a sip of her wine, “and that isn’t something that happens very often.”


“There are?” Liz looked round before she said, “virtually everybody seems to be totally enjoying themselves. It’s what Poison would call ‘a bonzer pissup’.”


“Yes it is,” Karen said quietly, “but I can sense undercurrents and I think that before this night is over secrets will emerge, and lives will be changed.”


“Umlimo, I know better than to challenge your powers,” Itsy whispered, “but are you sure?”


“I am Leader,” the voice of the Umlimo came out of Karen’s mouth, “we all need be both on our guard, and prepared to help.”


“Well, this is a nice surprise.”


The three girls turned to see Agnes in her red dress.  “I heard you might drop in – let me walk you round…”





“Hey,” Judy said as she walked up to Bobbi, “I hear you’re unwell?”


“Just a stomach upset, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone,” Bobbi said as she looked round, then was surprised as Judy walked her into a corner.


“All right, Bestie,” she said quietly, “we need to talk.”


“About what?  You’re voting for Dad aren’t you?”


“Not that,” Judy whispered, “is there something you want to tell me about you and Simon?”


She saw Bobbi blush slightly, as she whispered “oh my god – you’re not are you?”


“Yeah – but please, don’t say anything to anyone else.  Apart from Cari and Annie, only the family know – and Becky is on a very short leash for this one…”


“Got it – but what are you going to do?”


“Plan – very carefully…”





“So how is life in the web offices,” Marina said as she stood with Janine and Alexis.


“It’s a new challenge – and just what I needed,” Janine said with a smile, “how’s Trace working out Alexis.”


“I’m not sure if I was like her when I first started, but she seems to be doing fine – gotta say, I wasn’t expecting to get an invite here tonight.”


“I think Juliette swung it – anyway, got some news for you girls.”


“Oh – and that is?”


“Henri has asked me to marry him,” Janine smiled as she dropped the words into the conversation.


“WHAT?” Marina practically choked herself.


“He’s asked me to marry him,” the Californian smiled.


“And your answer was?”


“What do you think?” Janine laughed, “I said yes of course.”


“Oh CONGRATULATIONS!” Marina said as she threw her arms round her friend.


“Thank you,” Janine smiled again.


“Hey you aren’t?.”


“No I’m not knocked up Marina.”


“Whose preggers?” Sami asked as she arrived with her daughter and a tray of food.


“No one,” Marina laughed as well, “Henri asked Janine to marry him, and in a break from Sinnerz tradition she’s not got a baby growing.”


“Oh huge congrats darling,” Kylie kissed her friend.  “Another wedding to look forward to – any idea on dates yet?”


“No rush – and Henri has to do something first instead…”




“Tell me that again, Papa,” Jeanne said as she stood with Henri.


“I have asked Janine to marry me, and she has accepted – so, my child, your mother is going to be younger than you are.”


Janine just stood still for a moment, before a grin grew on her face.


“We obviously missed something,” Adam said as he and Jan saw her embrace her father.  “Wonder what…”






“Alright how did anyone talk Ed into putting on a costume and come to another New York society party?” Veronica asked Eleanor as they saw the Admiral in a Roman Gladiator costume.


“That I don’t know,” Eleanor looked at the Admiral standing chatting with Tom Morse, “and it certainly wasn’t me he asked to get him an invitation.”


“I thought our operation up here was being wound down?”


“So did I,” Eleanor tried to think, “with the election so close I thought it had been agreed we ceased and desisted.”


“Except someone forgot to tell the FBI,” Veronica shook her head, “that revelation about them still looking at Mrs. Clinton might just cost the election.”


“It might,” Eleanor sighed.  “We are living in strange times V, strange times…”



“John – a word,” Alex said as she dragged him into a corner.


“You look like a woman with a mission – go on,” he said with a smile.


“Okay John why are there several faces here of people who I know just what they do, and who know just who me and my husband are?” Alex whispered urgently.


“Are there?” John said with an amused smile.


“Yes, and you bloody damn well know there are John.  Heads current and past of UK, US, Italian and other agencies – and one or two others I suspect.”


“Okay,” John laughed, “certain people here may, or may not, have ties into the intelligence game. However as far as I’m aware no body is here in their official capacity, and truthfully I can tell you to relax and enjoy the party.”


“I hope so,” Alex whispered quietly, “I hope so…”




In another corner, the Juniors of St Angela’s Academy for Young Ladies had a serious matter to discuss…


“You seem distracted Becs?” Nikki asked as she looked at Rebecca Morse, “anything wrong? Have you go this same stomach complaint as Bobbi?”


“NO!” for a second Rebecca giggled as she blushed and realised how loud she had shouted.


“And what caused that reaction?” Doc looked quizzical.  Rebecca looked innocently at her and said “What reaction?”


“That very un-you giggle when Nik asked if you had a stomach problem.  Velly Interestink…”


“Your entire family is acting just a trifle strange,” Ama commented.


“As are the Leventhal’s,” Pepsi added.


“Which makes me for one very suspicious,” Doc said as she looked straight at her friend.

“Indeed, something is going on and you are keeping secrets from your best friends,” Ama said quietly as she sipped her lemonade, looking at Bobbi and Simon.


“And I thought we’d promised not to do that?” Jeannie asked as Kylie pushed her over to join the conversation.  “So come on, Ms Morse – tell all…”


“Look it’s a family thing and I’m sworn to secrecy,” Rebecca sighed as she rolled her eyes, “but I’m busting to tell someone…”


“No those you keep secret,” Ama suddenly looked very serious as she spoke, “even we don’t need to know that kind of thing…it will come out when others need to know.”


“When others?” Doc turned and looked at her black friend, “you’ve worked it out haven’t you?”


“Yes,” Ama laughed, “and unlike Becca I find it easy keeping important secrets.”


“You know Ama Jameson you can be an enigmatic bitch,” Doc looked intently in her friend’s face for clues.


“That may be, but I think Kylie knows a secret she can now tell us,” Ama smiled as she looked to where people were congratulating Henri and Janine.


“I do indeed darlings,” Kylie sipped her champagne, “Henri and Janine are getting married.”


“They ARE?” 


“Indeed – another cause for celebration…”




“What is the main difference between a rhinoceros and a lawyer like you?” Mercy Kinman asked Sigi.


“Not a clue,” the German woman eventually said after she thought for a few seconds.


“You charge more,” Roy Razinski laughed as he got in the punch line before Mercy could.


“Uggghhh that’s worse than the jokes my children tell,” Sigi laughed as she shook her head.


“Well if I’m being honest Letty told it to me,” Mercy laughed as well.


“One of the guys on our trading desks told me,” Roy said with a smile as he topped up the ladies glasses with champagne.


“So what is happening now?” Sigi asked as Mary started to help a couple of the others clear a space round the piano.


“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Daniel Rochermann said as he stood by the piano, “as you know, part of our parties is always the best we can find in entertainment – and I want to thank Tom and Claire for calling in a small favour with the man we have asked to entertain you tonight.  Ladies and Gentlemen, for one night and unplugged – Billy Joel.”


“Oh my GOD,” Mick Harran said as the man sat at the piano, smiled and then started to  play the intro to New York State of Mind, “someone find Nessa, we need to meet this man…”



"So are all the bedrooms safely locked Kelly?" Liz asked as she and Tonia stood with their old friend watching the partygoers circulating round the downstairs area.

"Yes, and I've checked them recently to make sure."

"So no repeats of last year then?"

"I hope not Ton," Kelly looked heavenwards, "God I hope not."

"It helps that Caroline this year only brought one date..."

"And that my girls at least to have settled down Liz," Kelly interrupted.

"They may have," Tonia smiled, "but have you noticed the abundance of potential replacements for the New York Sluts darling?"

"I have, and I'm thankful at least they aren't my daughters," Kelly looked at Capricorn and Allison.


“You mean the young West Coasters?  Someone said they did a stadium visit of their own with one boy – only to be caught out.”


“At their age?”


Kelly nodded as Tonia let out a soft whistle.  “Well, maybe Ally and Nell should talk to them…”




“Okay you two – spill.”


The two California girls turned round to see Katy and Sands standing behind them.


“Spill?  But we’d have to clear the drinks up…”


“That’s not what we meant,” Sands laughed.  “Did you or did you not get a certain young man bound and gagged at the race a few weeks ago?”


“Oh – that,” Allison said quietly, “did your grandmother tell you?”


“She had other things on her mind,” Katy grinned, “but we heard about it after.  I mean, we can’t judge, but – how bad is it?”


“It was amazing,” Capricorn grinned, “but my mother and her sister…  They’re behind us now, aren’t they?”


Sands nodded as she looked at Cassandra and Mary, the other two nodding as they walked off and the adults looked at Sands and Katy.


“Like I said – we can’t judge,” Katy said as they went in the other direction, Cassie saying “now what did they mean by that?”





"Okay with the Breeders Cup approaching fast why for once aren't all the men clustered together talking racing?" 

"Because, darling, several wives I think laid down the law that tonight at least all thoughts of the coming race should be banished," Nessa relied as she smiled at Paulie.

"Oh - is that how April has got Grant dancing?"

"So I heard," Vanessa smiled again, "and look even George has relaxed enough to dance."  She smiled as she saw the bearded Englishman twirl Maddie across the floor.

"Miracles do happen," Paulie laughed.

"It seems so."

"What was it I saw you discussing so intently with Gio darling?"

"Oh we were setting a date for him to photograph me and the girls for the cover of our Nessa and the Monsters album."

"I'd forgotten about that, how has it gone?"

"Well we are pretty happy with it, and so is the record company. I got Mick to listen to a rough copy and he liked it."

"So another hit record Nessa darling?'


“Possibly – Mick, what has got you excited?”


“Have you not heard the pianist, Nessa?”  He stopped as Nessa listened for a moment, and then whispered “No…”


“Yes – come on, I’ve got an idea…”



“Well, this is a meeting of minds,” Ed Preminger said as he joined Francesca and Eleanor.  “I must say, it is a most unusual gathering.”


“And your presence makes it unusual,” Eleanor whispered quietly, “just tell me we’re not getting into another melee…”


“No, no – I’m taking the opportunity to convey quiet thanks to others who have helped, as well as yourselves, and assure you every scrap of information you have given us will be used – one way or another.”


“So we did some good.”


“Ultimately, Admiral, you did – our fear now is it may be too little too late.  Only time will…”  Ed looked across the room, and whispered quietly, “am I seeing things, or is that Alexandra and Peter Green-Hope over there?”


“It is indeed – they are old friends of John and Marianne Vosloo,” Francesca said with a smile, as Eleanor looked at her.  “I was not aware you knew them?”


“Peter more than her – for obvious reasons – but I do need to have a word with them.  If you will excuse me ladies…”


As he walked across the room, Eleanor turned and whispered to Francesca “I know you’re not going to confirm or deny, but the way you are watching over her – she was one of yours, wasn’t she?”


“You’re right, I can’t,” Francesca said quietly.





“Is Roberta feeling all right,” Juliette said as she stood with Claire, “she doesn’t seem to be completely enjoying herself.”


“It’s just an upset stomach,” Claire said quietly as Yvonne came to join them, “she should be all right come the morning.”


“Claire, I know you’re a politician’s wife – and Yvonne is the wife of a very well respected banker – but I have to say, neither of you make very good liars.”  Both women looked at Juliette as she continued “how far on is she?”


“We’re…  We’re not certain, but please, Ju, keep it quiet for a little while,” Claire whispered, “this will sound awful, but we need to keep it quiet for a few more weeks.”


“Oh don’t worry – but congratulations – and welcome to the Grandmother branch of the Sinners.  Nessa will collect dues from you later…”





"So are there any current members of the diet coke club here tonight?" Gale Callaghan asked a group of her friends.

"If that is a way of enquiring if anyone has any news about babies on the way darling," Mandy drawled, "then I have to plead ignorance, I've been too busy helping with the arrangements regarding the funeral and memorial service to have even heard a fraction of the current gossip."

"She can give you chapter and verse though regarding my Marigold's current pregnancy though," Will laughed.

"Who is Marigold?" Denice knitted her brow, "is she one of the European Sinners?"

"No darling, merely one of my husband’s favourite sows," Mandy sighed as she rolled her eyes, "and yes I know far too much about Marigold and her current pregnancy."

"It's the perils of you being a farmer’s wife Tufty," Alice sipped some champagne.  “The real question is, are you going to be involved in the happy event?”


“Not if I can help it,” Mandy laughed as she sipped from her glass…




“Ray, do you have a moment for a quick word?”


“If this is anything to do with racing or cars, Jerry,” Ray said as he stood with Jerry Levine.


“Neither – over here,” Jerry said as he pointed to a quiet corner, Ray raising an eyebrow as they walked over together.


“Okay – what’s the problem,” Ray said quietly as they stood there.


“I had a call from a – representative of a well know local financier,” Jerry said quietly, “and no – not him.”


“But by the look on your face, someone equally repugnant?”


Jerry nodded as he said “Mister Epstein wanted to do some business with our brokerage – I politely declined, but they may try you next.”


“And I would refuse as well,” Ray said quietly.  “When that Ukrainian gangster was killed a few months ago, and there were those arrests for trafficking, I was amazed his name did not appear on the list?”


“Knowing him, he was, and he slipped through the net – again,” Jerry said as he looked at Pru, who was laughing as she talked to some of the other models.  “But – well, I have another reason to be more careful about that sort of thing now.”


“Oh?  And that is – OH!  Are congratulations in order?”


Jerry merely nodded as he said “Pru will let the others know in good time…”


As they talked, Karen Kumalo quietly slipped away from where she had been sitting, heading to talk to Liz and Itzy…





"Enjoying yourselves girls?" Donald said as he sat down on a couch next to his daughters.

"Immensely," Laura smiled.  “This has to be the most amazing party we’ve been to yet.”

"Then how come you aren't dancing?"

"We are having a pit stop, as the American girls call it," Miley laughed as Sean and Richard fought their way through the throng carrying drinks and food.

"Ah," Donald smiled as well as they came over.

"Even we can't dance all night without refueling Dad," Miley said with a smile as she took a glass of coke from Richard.

"Well as long as you are having a good time darling."

"And before you ask Dad, this is a non alcoholic cider," Laura pointed to her drink, "I'll have my second glass of champagne that you and Mummy said I could have later."





"Did I just overhear Laura refer to you as Mummy sister dear?" Tamsin enquired as she and Charlie Winmouth stood chatting with Agnes and several other friends.

"You might have," Agnes looked happy, "one side effect of my adopting them seems to be they are acquiring by osmosis a different accent and language..."

"Or in other words they are starting to sound posh," Kay Cornwall laughed. "It's what happened to me at Oxford when I started hanging out with you and Sherry Aggie.  I somehow lost any trace of Norfolk in my voice."

"Well Colin says he occasionally likes too hear moi old accent com out," Sue giggled as she spoke.

"I think most of us learn to use the language in different ways according to where we are, and what the situation is," Charlie looked serious, "I know for one when I'm with the lads I try and speak in a way they will understand me."

"I think most officers do that nowadays Charlie," John Hammond looked serious for a second, "the old ideas of the remote gentleman office don't work today...even in the Grenadiers."


“By the way, before I forget Agnes, we need to have a chat when we get back to the UK about something,” Sue said as she sipped her drink.


“Oh – what about?”


“My benefits over the next few months…”


Tamsin looked at Sue, and said quietly “no – don’t tell me…”


“All right,” Sue laughed as Agnes hugged her, “I won’t…”





"So Mrs Babbage I know your husband is a police officer, what do you do?" Peter Hope asked as he made small talk.

"Nothing exciting I can assure you," the Englishwoman replied as she nibbled on a canapé, "I'm a full-time mother and housewife, and please call me Sherry."

"She's not quite telling you the truth Peter," Kay Cornwall laughed gently.

"How so?"

"My dear old friend has a little hobby, she creates fiendishly difficult crossword puzzles for the newspapers."

"You do?" the South African looked and sounded interested.

"Yes, but those are my recreation, not work really." Sherry blushed slightly.

"Well I can think of worse things to do in your spare time," Peter paused for a second and wondered to himself whether such an obviously intelligent woman who was friendly with a very senior British Intelligence officer maybe also had another role in life.


“Well, this is a gathering of minds.”


Peter looked at the teenager that had joined them, as he said “I’m sorry – are you the daughter of one of the others here?”


Kay and Sherry looked at each other as the young woman stood, wearing a black catsuit with cat ears on her head, before she said “allow me to introduce myself – I am the Baroness Sigrid van Manschenn.  And you are?”


“Very embarrassed,” Peter said as the other two women shook their heads, “Peter Hope.  I am a friend of the Vosloo’s.”


“Ah – our growing African branch,” Sigi said with a smile.  “May I borrow these two for a few minutes…”





“Good evening, Admiral.”


Ed Preminger smiled as he saw Liz and Itzy standing next to him.


“Your Highness – and Thinker, or would you prefer Liz here?”


“Liz would be fine,” the dark skinned woman said with a smile, “we wanted to thank you for the information forwarded to the Sisters.  Be assured we are taking an interest.”


“I thought you might be – for whatever reason, we cannot move on the situation here, but we knew it would be of interest to you.”


“Indeed,” Itzy said softly, “be assured, we are watching him and others, and if we see true evidence, we will move…”






"So is there any truth in the rumours that Mrs May might go for a quick election to give herself a bigger majority, and a fresh mandate, for Brexit Colin?" Tom Morse asked, "and be assured, I'm asking completely off the record."

Colin looked at Tom for a few minutes, obviously choosing his words carefully.  "You might be better off asking Dame Margaret Congressman, she's far higher placed then I am," the Englishman eventually replied slowly.

"Well on that I'd certainly disagree," Tom smiled, "party staffers like yourself tend to know these things long before the elected politicians do."

"It's why I frequently ask junior officers and enlisted personnel what is going on really," Ed Preminger looked thoughtful as he joined them, "they tend to be far better informed.  Forgive me – I could not help but overhear the question."

"Well in this case Admiral,” Colin said as he sipped his drink, “all I can say is that there are office rumours, but how real the stories are I have no way of knowing."

"Especially as Colin has been working hard on behalf of my little sub-committee preparing a paper on child abuse for internal discussion," Margaret said as she sipped her drink, "he's worked hard."

"Knowing a little of your wife's like story, I can understand that," Ed nodded.

"I just wish I could talk my party into taking it seriously, our election platform was very week on the subject.  But the PM’s focus seems to be entirely on Brexit, and trying to get it through with minimal interference."


“You mean she wishes to keep it away from your parliament?”


“She can try,” Margaret said with a smile, “but I assure you, she will not succeed.  We tend to be very protective of the role of the Commons in this sort of decision making…”





"Kylie can I make arrangements for you to come and see me this week please?" Shirley asked as she walked over to where the young blonde was sitting with her friends.

"Certainly Mad... " the young woman paused, "I mean certainly Shirley."

"Good, shall we say Tuesday evening?"

"I think I can make that darling, is this something I should worry about?" Kylie discreetly scratched her nose.

"No, I just have finally made up my mind which of your ideas for my wedding dress I like most and I want to talk to you about it."

"Aha," Kylie relaxed.  “In that case, I will be more than happy to discuss with you…”





"So will you wear white for your wedding Janine?" Penny asked.

"I refuse to answer that on the grounds it might incriminate me," the Californian laughed, "and besides I know already that Sandy Richmond has started a book on wedding dresses for upcoming nuptials, so I'm not giving out inside information."

"Spoilsport," Penny laughed gently.  “I know Shirley is talking to Kylie, but she is not thinking white.”

"I know one wedding dress that no one will bet on Penny," Susan said as she looked across the room, "everyone agrees that Agnes has both the right to, and will, wear white."

"That's a certainty," Penny said with a smile.



“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Nessa said as a crowd gathered round the piano, “with the kind permission of our musician for the night, Mick and I are going to try something as an acapella.  If you are both ready?”


“Let us begin,” Billy said as he stood up and started to clock his fingers, all three starting as they harmonized.


Woah, oh, oh, oh
For the longest time
Woah, oh, oh
For the longest

Mick then nodded as he sang


If you said goodbye to me tonight
There would still be music left to write
What else could I do
I'm so inspired by you
That hasn't happened for the longest time

Nessa smiled as she took over.


Once I thought my innocence was gone
Now I know that happiness goes on
That's where you found me
When you put your arms around me
I haven't been there for the longest time

All three then joined in

Woah, oh, oh, oh
For the longest time
Woah, oh, oh
For the longest

Before Billy Joel sang


I'm that voice you're hearing in the hall
And the greatest miracle of all
Is how I need you
And how you needed me too
That hasn't happened for the longest time

Maybe this won't last very long
But you feel so right
And I could be wrong
Maybe I've been hoping too hard
But I've gone this far
And it's more than I hoped for

Who knows how much further we'll go on
Maybe I'll be sorry when you're gone
I'll take my chances
I forgot how nice romance is
I haven't been there for the longest time

Mick then sang as he took over


I had second thoughts at the start
I said to myself
Hold on to your heart
Now I know the woman that you are
You're wonderful so far
And it's more than I hoped for

Before Nessa continued

I don't care what consequence it brings
I have been a fool for lesser things
I want you so bad
I think you ought to know
That I intend to hold you for the longest time

The crowd clapped and cheered as they continued to harmonize on the closing lines.

Woah, oh, oh, oh
For the longest time
Woah, oh, oh
For the longest time
Woah, oh, oh
For the longest time
Woah, oh, oh
For the longest time
Woah, oh, oh
For the longest time... 



“Have you seen the latest report,” Maddie said as she stood with some of the others, “the ‘pussygrab’ tape?”


“Don’t remind me,” Emma said as she stood with Cassandra, “that should have killed his chances off – and instead, they’re claiming it is just locker room banter?”


“What amazes me,” Cassie said, “is that he is getting away with it.  What is wrong with people?”


“I have a theory,” Rick said quietly, “he is sinking to the lowest common denominator, and people therefore think of him as one of them – and it seems to be working….”



"Well Cherie I'm hearing a lot of rumours and gossip mainly centring on the topics of weddings and babies," Diana said with a smile as she stood talking with Juliette, "life seems to be reverting pretty much to normal."

"Perhaps," Juliette looked doubtful for a few seconds as she looked around the room.

"Meaning what darling?" Sandy asked.

"Meaning that I'm beginning to worry that life for everyone is about to be changed, and not for the better necessarily."

"Are you talking about the elections? I'm sure that even if 'he' does somehow win that others will ensure that things run as normally as ever," Diana smiled as she watched her daughter dancing with Tony.

"Hopefully, but I have this nagging thought in the back of my head that somehow the world as we've always assumed it would be is coming to an end, that 'others' are going to start dictating the terms of life."

"What a depressing thought," Sandy shook her head, "I thought 'we' did what we do to control our own destinies?"

"Just my thoughts darling," Diana added.

"I guess so," Juliette gave herself a mental shaking, "But I still think that people are rapidly dividing into two opposite camps, each convinced they are totally right and good, and that some kind of struggle to the death is approaching..."

"Ju darling, how many glasses of champagne have you had to drink?  That is so

pessimistic." Diana interrupted.

"Not enough to be morbidly drunk girls, but just enough to listen to what others are saying and to worry."


“Well, for tonight, stop worrying,” Sandy said with a smile as Alex took her onto the dance floor, “and have fun…”




“Colonel Vosloo – enjoying your retirement?”


“Very much so, Admiral,” John said as he was joined by Ed Preminger.


“See much of Hennie now?”


“We keep in touch, but my work now is with Xavier’s, amongst others.  They keep me busy.”


“I can imagine – a fascinating woman, Shirley Xavier, with a very interesting family history,” Ed said as he looked over.  “But she’s not the only one.  Don't I remember that Peter Hope has roots in Stratcom in the bad old days John?" Ed stood by the bar nursing a glass of bourbon and chatting with John.

"Ja,” John said as he sipped his drink, “he was part of so-called Strategic Communications."

"The dirty tricks squad..."

"Ja the nasty buggers," John shook his head, "the crap they were pulling revolted even someone like me."

"De Klerk's goons as I once heard them referred to."

"They were," John quietly nodded as he took a sip of wine.

"Still like so many people from that era he prospered after majority rule?"

"Yeah - we were too good at our jobs to throw out, and being career guys we kept our noses out of politics and kept on working."

"Our political masters come and go, but we are permanent," Ed smiled. 

"And Peter has always played the game better than most."

"What about his wife?"

"Alex?" John smiled, "she doesn't play games, she's a straight by the book type who has got on simply by being amazing at her jobs."


“A strange combination then?  But life is full of such things,” Ed said with a smile.


“Enigmatic, much?”


“John, we both know there is a lot more below the surface of this group,” Ed said with a smile, “almost a Sisterhood, you might say.”


“I cannot confirm or deny anything…”


“Still, she has done well for herself, given where she came from.”


John raised an eyebrow as he said “what do you mean, where she came from?  She’s born South African.”


“True – but according to her files, her parents emigrated there in the sixties.”


“Where from?”


“Italy – Guiseppe and Antonia Verdi.  She was born Alessandra.”


John stared at the couple across the room as Ed said “so Alessandra Verdi became Alexandra Green."

"I wasn't aware of that Ed," John paused to think, "I didn't know she had changed her name."

"From what I read, when she was about 18 months old her family Anglicized their names and Verdi became Green."

"So Alex is ethnic Italian according to your records?" Jon Vosloo thought hard before he said, "I wonder why I never knew that?"

"It's not in her records?"

"Not that I remember, and she certainly never told me that detail."

"Well perhaps our files are wrong?"

"Ja maybe they are…"




“Emma – I’m glad I bumped into you,” Cassie said as she and Rick found Maddie and Emma, “we need to get you and the girls together – the first cut is almost ready.”


“Really?  Well, they’re coming to LA next week, and to the race – we could talk then?”


“Sounds good…  So are we in the same league as your last film?”


“Completely different feel…”






As John watched Alex, one thought was still uppermost in his mind.  What was it Francesca had once told him, that all her people were either of Italian descent, or had deep Italian roots?

"So what are you trying to tell yourself John?" he asked himself, "that Alex may have been the legendary 'Mouse'? That she was Francesca's mole in our intelligence services?"

Oh no that was too ridiculous for words, just because her father may, or may not, have changed the family surname was he jumping to conclusions that couldn't be supported?

No, Alex's record and career in the service of her country had been impeccable.

"Still she did spend time at the Italian Naval Academy at Livorno, just like Francesca did," the thought rushed into his mind as he looked round.  The old instincts were kicking in…




“Mamma,” Charlotte said as she came over to Charlotte, “are you all right?”


“I think so,” Francesca said as she looked at Alex with Peter, talking to some of the others.  “Tell me, Charlotte, if I was to ask Liz about Alex Hope-Green, what would she say?”


“Not a lot I suspect – but if you are thinking what I am thinking, we can always discuss it with her.  Why?”


“Something tells me we may need ot offer her protection.”


“Now why would we…”  Charlotte suddenly looked at her mother and said in a whisper “she’s Mouse?”


As Francesca nodded, Charlotte said “then I need to talk to Itzy, not Liz…”




“Your highness – this is an unexpected pleasure.”


“Here, I am just Itzy, Madame Hope-Green – but it is a pleasure to see you as well.  What brings you to this country?”


“Oh a surprise trip – and you?”


“Business – I support a number of charities and work with Marianne Vosloo as well as Charlotte Gordon.”  As Itzy sipped her drink, she said “may I introduce you to Karen Kumalo?”


“It’s a pleasure as well,” Alex said as she shook hands with the other woman, “you work with Itzy?”


“And others – but I have a word for you.”


“A word?”


“As the Umlimo – prepare yourself.  I fear the truth will be out.”


Itzy looked at Karen, then at Alex, before she said “are you all right?”


“I… I think so…”







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