The Great Race – Part 4







Tuesday 1st November

8.30 am

St Angela’s Academy


“So how is your sister now,” Jeannie asked as she wheeled herself along with Nikki and Becca.


“Still in a bit of shock the way it came out – but it only needs to remain among us for a week or so.  How is everyone else?”


“Very good question,” Jeannie said as she saw Doc get out of her car, carrying her books with her.  “Doc – how are things?”


“Well, I made my choice, but I did not expect…”  She stopped as Ama pulled up, getting out from behind the driver’s wheel as Pepsi and Kylie got out from the passenger seats.


“Good morning darlings,” Kylie drawled as she walked over, “a beautiful Autumn day, isn’t it?”


“Well, it’s dry, and that’s a start,” Jeannie said as they looked at each other, and then at Doc.  Kylie sighed and said “look – what happened happened, but I hope, I pray, it does not destroy our friendship.”  As she looked at Anna, she continued “especially ours – how are you Anna?”


“I don’t think my parents know quite what to do yet – but I’m all right.  You?”


“I grow, I survive – and out of the fire comes new life.”


“A Chinese proverb?”


“No – a Wizard saying.  Come – we should head in…”


As they walked through the gate, Grace and Sarah watched.


“How on earth do they do it,” Sarah said quietly.


“Do what?”


“Keep going?”


“Because they’re Angels at heart…”


8.40 am

Bishop Walden’s


“Thanks Heather,” Sands said as she and Katy got out of the car, then walked through the school gates.


"Did you get much sleep?" Katy asked as they headed for the main hall.

"No, not really Katy," Sandy sighed, "I was just so worried about Holly."

"I understand.  I hope George was not a big lug about this?"


“George?  Gracious no – he’s offered to box the ears of anyone who says anything to him,” Sands laughed.  "So - did those big ears of yours overhear what Aunt Janice and Uncle Adam were saying about me and Holly?"

"Not really, it's almost like they knew I might be listening and hearing things I shouldn't."

"Now from where might your Mom get the idea that you eavesdrop?" Despite herself Sands couldn't resist laughing slightly.

"I have no clue," Katy laughed as well.

"So did you get any idea what they were saying?"


“I think they were debating how not to do anything, if truth be told – although I suspect they will talk more in the office today…”



10 am

St Angela’s


As Kylie walked to the lockers, she was taken by surprise as she was pulled into a classroom, the door closing behind her.


“Anna,” she said quietly, “What the hell…”


“I needed to talk to you – alone,” Doc said as she stood by the door.  “We didn’t get a chance last night, before the excrement started flying, and this morning the others were there.”


“Okay, so what do you want to say,” Kylie whispered as she sat against a desk.


"Kittycat,” Doc said quietly, “you know we will always have a special bond that was created that night at Diana's farm?"

"I know Kitten." Kylie smiled.

"And that I will always love you."

"If you say so darling."

"I do say so,” Doc whispered as she put her hand on Kylie’s cheek, “and look… I'm sorry I didn't talk it out with you before it happened like that, but I'd already decided that, maybe, we needed to cool things."

"Can I ask why?" Kylie said as she looked directly at Anna, fighting hard to control her feelings.

Doc took a deep breath at looked at the young blonde.  "Because I could see a time coming when our romance might cause problems in our secret lives Kittycat, and it's far less complicated if my romantic life is with someone who doesn't share the secrets that we share."

"Okay I guess I can see some logic in that. It's lousy logic though."


“I know – it’s appalling, but it is true.  I meant it when I said we could stay friends, though.”


“The three of us need to talk,” Kylie said as the bell rang for the next lesson, and she got up.  “I go to the UK next week for Fiona’s funeral.  Let’s set it up for after that.”


She walked to the door and left Doc, alone with her thoughts.


The Van Roon Townhouse




Gus looked up as the housekeeper came in, and saw Tommy standing behind her in the doorway.  “Ah – come in Tommy, come in.  Mary, could you bring coffee for two please?”


“Of course sir – this way,” she said as she let Tommy come in, Gus pointing to two armchairs as he sat in one, waiting for Tommy to sit in the other.


"Thank you for seeing me at such short notice Mr van Roon," Tommy said as the coffee was brought in.

"Tommy,” Gus said as he looked at the young man, “you've always called me Uncle Gus, so please don't change now."

"I know I have Sir, but this is so..."

"I know son, you thought you needed be formal," Gus smiled, "I heard a bit about last night, can I safely presume that's what you've come to see me about?"

"Yes," Tommy nodded as he accepted a cup, "I used to go see Grandfather with problems I had no solution to and he was always able to help me."

"Your Grandfather was a great listener."

"Well you were one of his best friends and I was sort of hoping you might be able to tell me what you think he'd have told me to do?"


"Well I know he'd have certainly said don't go off half-cocked Tommy. Don't let the anger you are feeling currently guide your actions."

"I guess so sir.  But I don’t know what I should do next."

Gus smiled as he said “Well, that’s natural.  Tell me, what is the thing that is making you most angry?"

Tommy sat and thought for a moment, before he said "That I feel like she betrayed me.”

"Betrayed you… how?"

Gus could see the tears in Tommy’s eyes as he said "by telling me she loved me."

"You don't think she did...and does?"

"How can she if she's also in love with Sands?"


“I grant you, that’s a difficult one,” Gus said quietly, “but I can see something else.  You are still in love with her, young man, or you would have told her differently last night.  Am I wrong?”


Tommy shook his head as Gus leaned forward.  “Then you need time to think things through, and then you need to talk to her.  Just do nothing at this time to make her hurt more – as I am sure others have told you.”


Tommy nodded as he said “I won’t – not until I have talked to her and Sands, and others.  I know she’s going this weekend, but I can’t.”


“Then use that time to talk to others,” Gus said, “please…”


The Astoria-Waldorf


"So while all the American girls are in school we get to play tourist," Kits smiled as the posse of young women gathered in the hotel lobby.

"Well at least for today we do," Eve looked up from her phone, "but we should have guessed Missy would find some work for me and Aileen to do while we are in New York."

"It's only tomorrow, not like it’s all week," Lizzie smiled.

"So you get to at least spend some time with the gang," Laura glanced at all the other girls to check that she and Miley were dressed correctly.  All of them were wearing jumpers or hoodies, jeans and trainers, so she felt happier.

"What do you all want to go see?" Eve Stone asked all the youngsters as she joined them.

"How about Rockefeller Centre and the Top of the Rock?" Fiona Treharran asked, "I was telling Eddie, Clo, and Miley about it."

"I've seen pictures of the skating rink, I'd like to try it Aunt Eve," Clodagh spoke.

"Well as long as you don't want to get me on skates it sounds like a good place to start ladies.  Let’s move out.”


As they walked out, Aggie watched from the coffee shop with Kay and Sherry.


“Well, they look happy – where’s Donald today?”


“Sir Charles asked if he would visit – given the election this week.  Mike?”


“Visiting the FBI offices, and Cat has gone to see Shirley at her offices.  So what are we going to do?”


“Visit the ladies room first,” Sherry said as she walked off, Kay looking at Agnes.




“I had a fascinating talk with Shirley and Francesca last night, while the fracas was going on.”


“About what,” Aggie said as she sipped her coffee.


“Sisterhood – and who Shirley is.”


Agnes raised an eyebrow as she put her cup down.  “Sherry knows nothing, and needs to know nothing.”


“And she will not, but you need to know I have accepted the invitation to join the sisterhood…”




11 am

St Martha’s


As Alex came out into the chapel, he noticed a small blonde kneeling in one of the pews, her eyes closed as she prayed. 



Smiling, he walked over and sat in the pew next to her, sitting quietly, not saying anything until she straightened up, opened her eyes, looked at him, and said “oh.”


“Hello Holly,” Alex said quietly, “I tried to have a word with you last night, but I was – well, kept away if truth be told.  But I’m glad you’re here now.”


“Well, I was always taught if a storm hits, be honest and ask for help,” Holly said quietly, “but – I was afraid of what you might say.  We are talking about your great niece, after all.”


Alex nodded as he said “yes we are – but from what I can gather, you have both tried all you can not to hurt others.  But secrets, Holly, have a habit of coming out in the worst way possible.”


“You must want to condemn me…”




As Holly looked up, Alex said “I’m in no position to pass judgement on you Holly – and besides, as you said, it is my great niece we are talking about here.  Love takes many forms – and causes many people to suffer.


"Holly, would you like me to take your confession?"

Holly looked up and nodded.  "Will you please?"

"It will be my pleasure."

"You know I have a lot to confess, are you sure you have the time?"

"For you Holly I'll make the time," Alex smiled. "Now do you want to do it the old fashioned way in the box, or do you want to come to my office and we can do your confession in a little comfort."

"Whichever is best for you Father."


“Coffee in my office then – come along…”




The Morse Apartment


"So who was that Yvonne?" Bobbi asked as the English woman came back in.

"My brother, he's just finishing getting the horses he's bringing over for the Breeders Cup on to the plane."

"Any hints as to how Acadaria is looking?"

"I didn't ask Sandy," the Englishwoman laughed as she looked over, "and I'm not sure if it’s ethical to pass on inside information to a bookmaker even if I did know something."

"Spoilsport," Sandy giggled.

"You have a foot in each camp so to speak Yvonne," Claire looked up from making the coffee, “being both William Hyde-Andrews sister, but also a sinner."

"I guess I do," Yvonne went to the fridge and got the cream out.

"So how did the appointment with Helen Reichmann go Bobbi?"

"Pretty well Heather."

"All that fuss late on in the party I'm not sure a lot of people even remembered my daughters little bombshell that she was pregnant." Claire smiled slightly.

"How is Sands doing?" Bobbi asked.


“She’s tired, but more worried about Holly – as we all are…”


1 pm



"Why did you invite me here Cari?" Tommy said as they sat down.

"I remembered you love great Italian food."

"I meant,” Tommy said as he looked at the menu, “why did you really invite me to lunch?"

"Because I think talking to me might help both you and Holly."

Tommy was surprised, as he said "Why are you concerned about helping Holly, you always hated her guts?"

"I'm concerned because we are nowadays friends, we aren't jealous rivals any more, and I want to try and help you both get past this without causing major damage to lives."

"I went and saw Uncle Gus this morning."

"And what did he tell you?"


“To take time and think things over, and don’t do anything that hurts anyone else – but I just don’t understand how she could do that to me.”


“Love you and Sands?”


As Tommy nodded, Cari said “she’s bi, Tommy – is that part of the problem as well?”


“No, of course it’s not,” Tommy said as he looked at Carina.


“So you would be as angry if it was another man?”


Tommy looked at the petite blonde, before he said “I think I’d be angrier, but somehow I’d understand it more.”


“So you’re not as angry as you could have been, but you’re still pissed off at her because you think she betrayed you with another woman.”


“A girl, Cari – a young girl…”


Carina swallowed her linguini, patted her lips, and then said “come on Tommy – you still love her don’t you?”


“You’re the second person to say that to me today,” Tommy said quietly, “what on earth makes you think I do?”


“Because if you didn’t this would not hurt half as much?”


Tommy stopped and looked at Cari, before he said “suppose you found out Annie was seeing a man behind your back – wouldn’t you be angry?”


“I would – but she isn’t.  Tommy, have you even considered the reason she didn’t tell you was because she was afraid you would not understand – and, if you ask me, that seems to be justified right now.”


“Look,” Tommy said as he put his knife and fork down, “you and Annie have complete trust in each other.  I thought I had that in Holly, and her in me – but she didn’t.  If she had just said something…”


“So let her – Tommy, don’t make me angry with you.  You really would not like me when I’m angry.”


“Why not?”  Tommy looked at Carina, and for a moment she seemed to change – very subtly, but definitely change as she whispered “I would not be above making sure you two talked, and you could not run away from it.”


“And how would you do that?”


“Tommy – do you really want to find out?”


He looked into her eyes, saw the clarity, heard the voice – and heard something else, as he whispered “no – no I don’t.  And you’re right – I do need to talk to her, but I don’t want to talk to her yet.  But I’ll tell you what I told others – I’m not going to hurt her or Sands.


“On which subject – how the hell did they start to get together anyway?”


“You’ll need to ask them,” Carina said with a smile, “I had absolutely no idea…”


Shaking his head, Tommy said “the thing is, Cari, I don’t know if I can ever trust her again after this…”


1 pm

The Astoria-Waldorf


“Well, here goes nothing,” Allison said as she and Capricorn came out of the lift, and walked over to the coffee shop where Cassandra and Mary were sitting.


“Hey, Mom,” Capricorn said as they stood next to the table, “Well, you summoned us, and we have come.”


“And we are grateful – sit down, both of you.”


As they took a seat, Mary looked at her sister, and said “So what have you been up to this morning?”


“Doing my assignments,” Allison said quietly as she sat down.


"Alright girls, I've had a chance to cool off a bit, Mary has had a chance to think as well, and now it's time just the four of us talked all this out." Cassandra looked at faces as she served lunch in the coffee shop to her three guests.



Mary nodded and then said "It's pretty obvious that neither us grounding you or laying down new rules has worked, and frankly…  Well, both Cassandra and I are totally disappointed in both of you."

"You are Mary?" for once Allison looked repentant as she looked at her sister.

"I am, and it pains me to say it Allison, but I have to be honest with you and Capricorn."

"We both realise that a lot of what you've been doing is because you see the slightly older girls doing things and that you can't see why you shouldn't as well," Cassie took a deep breath, "and believe it or not both Mary and I do understand a little what it feels like to see others having fun and not being allowed to participate."

"Mom we know that we can get pregnant,” Capricorn said quietly, “and you've made sure we are not going to get pregnant..."

"And we know to take precautions so as not to get diseases," Allison interrupted Capricorn.

"We know," Mary smiled, "and for that at least we are thankful, but you are both very barely 13 years old and…”  She stopped for a moment and then said “if I'm being frank you've been behaving like a pair of little nympho sluts."

"I was no angel," Cassie sipped her coffee and took a bite of her food, "but you both shock you get that girls?  I'm shocked that you've been doing this...and I guess I'm a little ashamed at myself that somehow I seem to have almost let you get away with this."


Allison and Capricorn looked at each other, feeling for perhaps the first time just how much they had hurt their families…


"I have to ask,” Cassie continued, “was last night real between you, or were you simply acting up because we'd told you no boys?"

Looking down, Capricorn whispered "I guess it was us being stupid Mom."

"So you aren't really lesbian or bi?" Mary looked intensely in her sister’s face.

"Not really I suppose," Allison looked straight back, "I love Caps, but no it was really more about us trying to shock you I guess."

"You said no boys, so we thought we'd try two girls instead," Capricorn tried smiling then stopped when she saw the look on her Mothers face.


“You do know quite a few secrets came out last night,” Mary said quietly, “about our friends – and at the moment you two were doing that, two couples in particular were hurt a great deal?”


“No, I didn’t,” Allison said, “but we weren’t responsible for that, were we?”


“No,” Cassie said, “but both of us realise now we need to try a different approach.  First, however, you need to make some apologies to some people – so eat up.  We’re taking a car ride.”




4 pm

The Richmond Mansion


As Sands and Katy came in, they could hear Sandy talking to someone with a Scottish accent.


“Well,” Nessa said as they looked in the front room, “the Richmond Trust can certainly – oh hello girls, good day at school?”


“So so, Gran,” Sands said, “hello Aunt Agnes.”


“Hello girls,” Agnes said with a smile, “Laura and Miley are in the kitchen with Heather if you want to see them.”


“Yeah – take my mind off things,” Sands said as they went in, Laura looking up and saying “hey – done for the day?”


“yeah – what have you two been doing?”


“Seeing the sights, watch Edwina try to skate – not think about things.  You?”


“School provided the distraction,” Sands said as she opened the fridge and took two bottles of coke out.  Heather smiled and said “go up to your room for now – George will be back soon, and any assignments can wait.”


“Come on,” Katy said as they made their way upstairs, Sands closing the door as Miley and Laura sat on the bed.


“How are you really feeling,” Laura asked as Sands took off her jacket and hung it in the wardrobe.


“Drained, scared for Holly – I know she could be in very real trouble.  I’m not sure if you can understand…”


“The sex with a minor bit?  Yeah, I can understand that,” Laura said quietly as she took a drink from the bottle, “how much do you know about us?”


“Apart from the fact you attended the school Agnes runs, not a lot,” Katy said, Sands nodding in agreement.


“So you know we were street kids?”  As they nodded, Laura took a deep breath and said “I was selling myself to provide a roof over our heads, and some money so we could both eat.  So yeah, I do know a little bit about what it means – and while I’m not saying you did that, I do know how it can feel to be in that position.”


Katy stared at her, as Miley said “it’s true – it’s why we consider ourselves so lucky to be adopted by Mum and Dad.”


“Yeah – yeah, I can see that,” Sands said with a smile.  “It’s not quite the same thing, but you do understand…”



“Mary, Cassie,” Heather said as she opened the door, to see the quartet outside, “what brings you here this afternoon?”


“To see you,” Cassandra said, “but more importantly, these two need to talk to young Sands, and apologise.”


“Oh yeah,” Heather said as she looked at the two teenagers, “with everything else going on, I forgot about them last night.”


“Mary,” Sandy said as she looked out of the drawing room, and then at Allison and Capricorn.  “Right – you and Cassie come in and have some coffee.  Will you take them to the bedroom, Heather?”


“Come on you two,” she said as she walked them to the stairs, “bad things are always best out of the way quickly…”




All four girls stopped as there was a knock on the door, and Heather looked in.


“Got two more visitors for you,” she said as she showed Capricorn and Allison in, Sands and Katy looking at each other as she closed the door again.


“Err – hi,” Allison finally said, “we – we both need to apologise for what we did last night.”


Katy and Sands exchanged a look, before Sands said “and what exactly is it you are apologising for?”


“The fact we upset so many people by dancing together,” Capricorn said, “we honestly did not think it would cause so much trouble…”


“I don’t think you did cause any trouble,” Katy said, “shocked a few people, but some of us had other things on our mind.  I never twigged the pair of you to be lesbians though.”


“We’re not,” Capricorn said with her head lowered.


“So are you bi,” Laura said as she stared at them.


“No – we wanted to show my sister and her mom how stupid their limits on us having sex with boys were…”


“What did you just say?”


Allison looked at Laura, who was standing with her arms folded, as she said “we were grounded, unable to go out with any boys, and so…”


“You mean that was a cheap stunt,” Sands almost shouted at them.


Capricorn and Allison could only stare as Laura said “how old are you both – 13?”  As they nodded, she looked straight at them.  “When I was 13, I started working the streets in London in order to survive – what’s your excuse?”


“You what?”  Allison was genuinely shocked as Laura looked at them.


“Miley and me were runaways – escaping people who thought they had the God given right to do whatever they wanted with us, and they did – anything they wanted.  I had no real choice, until we were adopted by Mum – but I did it not just to survive, but to stop Miley having to do the same thing, because it was tough enough for me.”


Katy looked at Miley, who nodded quietly.


“My childhood never really happened until recently, because of that…  My god - don't you two idiots get it?" Laura looked ready to breathe fire, "sex at our age isn't something to take lightly."

"We aren't selling..." Allison stopped as she saw the expression on Laura's face.

"No from what I heard, you are just giving it away you stupid bitch...Do you honestly think I enjoyed letting men do those things to me?"

"Laura’s right.  She did it so she could make sure that we both had a roof over our heads, and a bed to sleep in," Miley looked angry as well. "Both Laura and me were my case by my father figure."

"I'm sorry Miley, I didn't know," Capricorn looked shame faced.

"And you both treat sex as though it's some huge joke," Laura glared again.

"I've slept with precisely two men," Katy finally spoke softly, "and yes I was like you both at first, but I soon learned this isn't all just some huge game."

"I did some stupid things as well," Sands spoke very softly, "and I paid a price for them, and now the girl I truly love might be going to prison because I guess I never thought through the consequences of what having sex at our ages might be."



“What’s going on,” Mary said as the door opened.


"I listened at the door to the bedroom," Heather joined the other adults in the drawing room, "your girls are explaining a few things to them Aggie..."

"And are they listening?" Cassie interrupted.

"It sounded like they were."

"Good.  This might be the shock therapy they both needed."

"Laura and Miley have very different perspectives on sex," Agnes sipped her coffee, "they both know what it is to be exposed to the dark side of life, that sex isn't just something you do for fun and games."

"I guess I should have tried to talk about that to my sisters," Mary looked saddened, "but I guess I was sort of happy for them that they were popular with boys in the way I never was."


“Don’t beat yourself up about it Mary,” Sandy said as she leaned forward, “wanting them to have the things you never had is a good thing – and there are three of them.  You can’t keep an eye on them all the time.”


“At least Tracy hasn’t tried anything,” Mary said as she held her cup, “and Suzie has her head screwed on straight.”


“Well, hopefully, those two will now as well.”




“You've all met Sean Cornwall haven't you?" Laura asked as she looked round the room.

"Yes," the girls nodded.

"Well I like him...I like him a lot.  He’s one of the first boys outside the school I’ve really felt comfortable with but…"

"But she's scared as well," Miley spoke quietly.

"Scared why?" Capricorn asked.

"Because if I let him too close then I'm going to have to tell him about myself, and what's worse I'll have to talk to him one day about sex."

"Ouch," Katy looked upwards, "I can see the problem."

"What is he going to say if he knows how many men I've had to have sex with so Miley and I didn't starve to death?"


“But surely, if you explained the reasons why…”


“I can only hope he does understand – I think he might just – but if he does, he is a true prince among men,” Laura said quietly.  “Mum is only now slowly shaking off the reputation she had from her past activities.”


“What about you and Richard Babbage,” Sands said as she looked at Miley, who was sitting with her hands together.


"Richard likes to cuddle, and I'll admit I like him cuddling me as well," Miley took a deep breath, "but each time he does it, somewhere in the corner of my brain I feel my Dad's hands holding me."

"You do?" Allison asked.

"Yes I do," Miley choked back a tear..."and a couple of times I've almost screamed at him not to touch me."

"Sands’ relationship with Holly is about love, and from what I've heard it’s not just about sex," Laura said as she sat down and put her arm round her sister, "and that's the way things should be. But with you two, it seems to be just all about sex because you think it makes you all grown-up...and no having sex doesn't make you an adult."


“I can only give one piece of advice,” Katy said as she looked at them, “learn from this.  I think we inadvertently caused this anyway when we formed HOTS.”




Katy nodded when she looked at Laura and Miley.  “Yeah – it’s caused more problems than it’s worth, looking back.  When we meet this weekend, perhaps we need to find a different focus.”


“Laura, Miley,” Allison said quietly, “I need to thank you.  You’ve given both of us a lot to think about.”


“Just promise me one thing,” Laura said quietly, “give yourselves both time to think this over.  We can talk later in the week if you want.”






7.30 pm

Park Avenue


“Good evening, Kylie,” Maisha said as she let the blonde in, “come through, Mum is expecting you.”


“Thank you Darling,” Kylie said as she looked at Maisha, in her jeans and hoodie.  “I must say, it is a delight to hear you talk like that.”


“It is indeed,” Maisha said as she took Kylie’s leather jacket, leaving her in her pants and blouse, “she’s in her den, if you would like to make your way through?”


“Thank you,” Kylie said as she walked down the corridor, her sketch pad under one arm, and knocked on the door.




As she walked in, Shirley put down the book of Lowry sketches and stood up.  “Thank you for coming tonight Kylie,” she said as the blonde closed the door, “I know time is short for making some decisions.”


“Well, I have some suggestions, and I am sure you have some ideas of your own,” Kylie said as she sat down, and opened her pad.


“Before we begin, however – how are you?”


Kylie looked at Shirley, thought for a moment, and then said “A little sad at the way things turned out between myself and Anna, but happy that she is choosing Chet.  Besides, that was not the largest or most delicate issue that came into the light last night.”



"No it wasn't," Shirley shook her head.  “And you are right – some people were hurt far more than you were.”

"Are you able to help with that Madame?" Kylie said as she sat down and opened her portfolio.

"We are trying. It helps that Tommy I don't think wants to punish Holly for what happened, and that others have decided that it perhaps serves no purpose to take news of Holly and Sands public."

"Some will say that is wrong, that their friends are aiding and abetting darling."

"I know," Shirley shook her head, "if I thought that in any way Sandy had been forced, or coerced, into having a relationship with an adult while she is so very underage then I'd be the first to be bringing all the forces of the law down on Holly."

"But we all know that it was in fact Sands who initiated things,” Kylie said as she looked through some sketches, “and that Holly resisted before she was more or less forced to admit she was in love."

"Correct." Shirley picked up one of the drawings that Kylie had put on the desk. "This is amazing."


“I am glad you like that one – I knew traditional white was, well, not the right for you, but that design in a pale coral pink perhaps?”


Shirley nodded as she said “oh yes – oh yes indeed, and the veil?”


“I understand Emma at her wedding had a hat with a veil.  I think that would be appropriate for you – perhaps like this?”




"I'd stay out of there Dad," Maisha smiled as she looked up from the book she was reading as John looked to the door to the den.

"Oh,” John said with a wry smile, “why?"

"Mum and Kylie are looking at wedding dress designs."

"Ah, I understand," John smiled as well. "My presence I suspect is neither needed, nor wanted."

"You'll get to see what Mum decides to wear when she walks down the aisle."

"Yes I will. So what are you up to?"

"I'm reading Aunt Agnes's book," Maisha said as she held up a book in a white cover.

"It's not out already is it?" John knitted his brow.

"No, it's a proof copy that the publishers sent her and I asked if I could read it."

"Are you understanding it?"

"Not totally,” Maisha said as she looked at one page, “a lot of this is very technical, but I think I get the thrust of her arguments."

"I'll maybe borrow it when you are finished."


"Now who might that be?" John looked up as the doorbell rang.

"It's probably Aunt Cat, Mom said she was coming over to give her opinions on the dress designs."

"I'd better go let her in then."


John made his way to the front door, looking through the spyhole and smiling as he opened it.


“Catriona – Maisha said you might be coming round tonight.  Come away in.”


“Thank you John,” the lawyer said as she removed her coat, “where is Shirley?”


“In conference with Kylie – you’ll find them in the den,” John said as Cat walked past, Maisha smiling as she knocked and walked in.


“So you’re hiding in here,” Cat said as she looked at them, “what have I got to look at?”


"Well before we show you what we have looked at already Cat darling,” Shirley said as she stood up, “can I offer you a drink?"

"A small whiskey would go down very well," Catriona sighed as she took off her coat and scarf, "I've had a long day."

"Doing what,” Shirley said as she went to the drinks cabinet, and poured some Glenmorangie into a glass, “or shouldn't I ask?"

"Oh it's safe to ask," Catriona sat down and took the offered glass, "Francesca and I have been going over a number of things that she needed my opinions on as a barrister."

"Pending cases darling?"

"Some are Kylie,” Catriona said as she took a sip from her glass, “others were matters she wanted my opinion on regarding the chances of results in court if certain matters were ever brought to trial."

"That all sounds way above my intellectual level," Kylie laughed gently.

"Was any of it to do with recent events Cat?"

"Define recent Shirl?" Catriona smiled as she put her glass down.

"Well,” Shirley said as she sat back and crossed her legs, “shall we start with Holly and Sands?"

"We discussed a couple of options, and I told Francesca a couple of things your friend Brooke the judge told me, but basically we decided that for everyone’s sake it is for the best if everyone tries to forget, and that it hopefully goes away."

"And all the intelligence related stuff?"

"I'll tell you in private one day," Cat laughed lightly.

"Well on that note shall we turn attention back to these?" Kylie indicated the dress sketches.


Catriona picked up the sketch Shirley had seen earlier, smiled and said “you went for this, didn’t you?”


“Oh you know me too well,” Shirley said with a smile.


“For you, Madeline and Sandra,” Kylie said as she pulled another sketch out, “I was wondering what you thought of this?”


Catriona looked at the sketch, and whistled as she said “my god, that is beautiful.  But Maisha…”


“I am considering a sleeveless version for her, with long gloves, but essentially the same body shape.”


Nodding, Shirley said “yes indeed – so when can we arrange initial fittings?”


“I understand Sandra is coming over to visit Madeline this weekend.  If we can find a little time then?”


8 pm

West Central Park


“Gotta say, I never saw a pizza night in the job description,” Tricia said as she sat with Janine, Alexis and Marina, “but when the pizza is as good as this?”


“Well, it means we get to talk out of the office,” Alexis said as she brushed a crumb off her pants, “and share the gossip.  So, where is Kylie tonight Marina?"

"She's over at Shirley Xavier's tonight talking wedding dresses Janine."

"Something you need to start thinking about as well," Alexis said as she took another slice of pizza.

Janine laughed and rolled her eyes, before she said "We haven't even set a date yet you know?"

"It's still never too soon to start thinking about dresses though," Tricia laughed as she took a sip of wine.

"That's what my Mom has been saying.  Janine, I know you work for a fashion magazine, but you need to find your own choice in this!"

"So what does your family think about Henri?" Marina brushed a couple of crumbs from her lips.

"At first I think they got a bit hung up on his burns, and that he's older than me,” Janine said with a smile, “but now I think they've seen we are in love and I think they are happy for us both."

"That's good," Marina smiled.  “And the fact Jeanne is older than you?”


“May have not come up in conversation – yet…” Janine laughed.

"So how are things going between you and James Marina?" Alexis asked.

"Not bad," the Englishwoman laughed, "but we aren't at the introductions to family stage yet."

"And how are things with the 'wicked bitch'?"

"Anita is as big as big a pain in my rear end as always.  The fact she’s working with Anna on Fiona’s memorial service at least means she’s out of earshot most of the day."


“I keep hearing stories of Anita – is she as bad as you all say?”


“YES!”  All three responded as they laughed.


"Returning to your family Janine, are you staying with your folks while we all go to the races?" Tricia asked.

"Yup - Henri, Jeanne, Alain, and I are indeed.  My worry is I do a Curt and become the Valley girl again."

"I have to say that's one thing different about working for CS compared to working for the Apple," Tricia laughed, "There you don't get free trips to California, nor the chance to borrow outfits to wear."

"It's a bonus I agree," Marina finished her wine. "So have you been in to see Merlin yet about borrowing some bits?"

"I was going to try getting in there at lunch tomorrow." Alexis spoke.


“Mind if I come with you, see what we can find together?”


“Fine by me,” Alexis said with a smile.



8.30 pm

Park Avenue


"All finished?" John asked as Kylie and Catriona came out of the den into the drawing room.

"She made some decisions John," Cat smiled broadly as she sat down, "and she's just contacting Maddie and Sandra to show them what we are looking at, so give her a few minutes."

"Alright, while we wait did she offer you drinks? Can I offer you anything?"

"I'll take a coke please," Kylie sighed, "I have school in the morning."

"I fancy one as well," Maisha put her book down, "I'll go grab a couple for us Kyles."

“Thank you darling,” Kylie said as she sat down.


"And while she does that, whiskey or something else Cat...or is that a silly question?"


Cat merely raised an eyebrow as John poured two glasses, and handed one to her.  “While she’s out of the room – any plans for a ladies’ weekend away?”


“No comment, John, no comment…” 


Maisha smiled as she handed Kylie a bottle, and then they all saw Shirley walk in.


“Proceed as planned, Kylie – so, what shall we talk about?”


The de Ros Mansion


"So how did it all go with Catriona today Mama?" Charlotte said as she sat feeding Frances.

"Very much as I expected,” Francesca said with a smile, “though in a couple of cases she pointed out things that I hadn't even thought of."

"She out thought you Francesca?"

"I'm not infallible Piet," the Italian laughed, "it's why we lawyers routinely consult with other lawyers before offering clients an opinion, we often miss little details that other minds see."

"Well it's what yours and Sigi's business basically is Mama, a place where lawyers can go and ask questions and get answers regarding points of law."

"This is true my darling."  Francesca sat down, before saying "and how was your day?"

"Well 'he' spent most of it going over the next round of stories on African migration with Jane,” Charlotte said as she looked at Piet and smiled, “while I had lunch and went shopping with Aunt Marianne and her friend Alex."

"How were they both?"

"Oh Aunt Marianne was her normal bubbly self, but Alex it was like she was worried about something."

"Did she say what?"

"No Mama.  Why – you look worried now as well."



9.30 pm

West Central Park


"I better head to bed," Katy stood up as the closing titles ran on the television.

"Are you all set for that math test tomorrow?"

"As ready as I'm ever going to be Uncle Adam.”  Katy stretched her arms up as Adam looked at her, “I've studied hard and I either know it now or I don't."

"You've certainly applied yourself darling." Janice smiled as she looked over.

"Like she always does when she wants to succeed," Katherine stood up and put her arm round her granddaughter.

"From her modelling, to her shooting, to her school work," Adam finished his milk drink, "Katy always gives everything she tries 110% on."

"I don't have the huge brains of someone like Doc, or even Peps,” Katy said with a smile, “but I do my best."

"And your best is very good indeed," Jan looked at her daughter as Katy blushed slightly.

"Well I think I'll head for bed as well," Katherine looked at her watch, "I have that political meeting early in the morning and I had better be sharp for that I guess."

"Night both," Adam waved as the two headed to their bedrooms.


“You seem to be in a good mood tonight?”


"Had a good day.  Well, it looks like the fuss regarding Sands and Holly may just quietly go away," Adam put his arm round Jan and pulled her close as they cuddled on the sofa.

"I know,” Janice said as she leaned her head on his chest, “but for a while there I thought that it was going to blow up in everyone’s face."

"Yeah, it would have been bad for Holly, very bad..."

"And not so good for us if it came out that FBI agents knew all about what is by law a crime being committed and we did nothing about it," Janice interrupted.

Adam nodded his head, a faraway look in his eyes as he whispered "I guess so."

"The girls were talking about it at lunch, that perhaps we have all gone too far in turning blind eyes to what some of the kids, the girls especially, have been getting up to.  Cassandra and Mary were going to read the riot act to Capricorn and Allison apparently."

Adam gently stroked Janice’s hair as he said "Are you thinking of Katy? I think the fact that George is only a year older than her in effect shields them both Jan."

"Actually I was thinking about Katy," Janice took a deep breath, "and you darling."

"What about me?"


“Adam, there’s something I need to tell you – something I probably should have told you a long time ago, and somehow I never had the courage to, but with everything that happened…”


“I made love to Katy one night, as well as you, didn’t I?”


Janice suddenly sat up and looked at Adam for a moment, before she said “how…”


“When Katy was kidnapped,” Adam said as he sat forward, “and we were here, praying for her safe return, I was exhausted – I had been troubled with bad dreams for some time.  Then, when I finally managed to get some sleep that night, I had the most vivid memory of you and Katy making love to me.  It was too real, too vivid to have been just a dream…  When was it?”


“That night after thanksgiving – when you were ill.  Adam, I’m sorry – she used you…”


Shaking his head, Adam said quietly “you’re not asking the question, Jan.”


Nodding, she said quietly “if you knew, why didn’t you say anything?”


“Because I love you, Janice Carter,” Adam said quietly, “and I wanted to see if you would ever tell me.  And now, you have.”


“So,” Janice said quietly, “where do we go from here?”  She looked at Adam as he turned his head and smiled.


“Well, I think we need to take this to the next step, now that I know we can truly trust each other, that we have no secrets from each other.


“Janice Carter – will you marry me?”



Wednesday 2nd November

8.30 am

The Astoria-Waldorf


“I’d better get going,” Suzie said as she looked at her watch, “they want me at the CS office to review some pictures.”


“I’ll meet you there,” Mary said as she looked to the lift doors, and saw two young teenagers walk out, wearing hoodies and jeans as well as very sombre expressions.


"Mom,” Capricorn said as they sat opposite Mary and Cassandra, “we’ve been sitting up most of the night, talking, and – can we talk to you and Mary please?"

"Of course darling."  Cassandra looked at Mary, who nodded as she said "What do you girls want to say?"

"That we have been a pair of stupid little kids Mary," Allison looked shamefaced. "Listening to Laura and Miley yesterday taught us a couple of things."

"Oh?  And what did you learn?" Cassandra smiled as she looked at her daughter.

"Yeah,” Allison continued, “I guess hearing what they had to say made us both realize that we'd been doing things we shouldn't have done...right Caps?"

"Yeah," Capricorn looked downwards, "can you ever forgive us Mom?"

"Daring I'm your Mom, what do you think?" Cassandra smiled.

"What about me Mary, am I forgiven?"

"Of course you are," Mary put her arms round her sister, "but I need to hear you say just what you've learned from all this."


“That we need to stop being silly girls, who think sex is the be all and end all,” Allison said, “and that we need to remember there are – consequences to what we do.”


"Did you know that both Laura and Miley were raped Mom? They both were attacked."

"I'd heard rumours, yes,” Cassandra said quietly.

"And that Laura for a while was a prostitute?"

"Dame Margaret hinted that." Cassie replied as she saw a tear appear in her daughter’s eyes.

"She was forced to have sex with all those men because she had to so as to survive Mary."

"I know Allison."

"We were treating it as a game, as fun, but listening to Laura tell us just what she had to do brought it home, sex isn't a game is it?"

"No it isn't," Mary smiled, “and that’s the lesson I wanted to hear you had learned.”

"Especially at your age," Cassie looked each girl in the eye. "Look - we don't want you to develop a phobia and start to think that all sex is bad. But it is perhaps time for you both to consider that you need to slow down, and start to think why you do something like have sex with a boy."

"I'd sort of worked that out," Capricorn smiled a little.

"We can't magically give you both back your virginity, but both of you please promise that before you next have sex to ask yourself why am I doing this?"


Both girls nodded as the lift doors opened, and Laura came out with Miley, Edwina and the boys.


“Hey you two – we’re going for a walk in the park.  Want to join us?”


“Go on – we’ll meet you all at the café for lunch,” Cassandra said as the girls smiled and joined the others.  “Lesson learned, I think.”





10 am

Xavier International


"So what changes do you have in mind for the London office Penny,” Susan said as they sat in her office, drinking coffee, “now you are taking on more of Madame's old responsibilities."

"At this moment not a lot Susan,” Penny said with a smile, “things appear to be running smoothly, and profits are up nicely from both the legal and illegal businesses."

"I know,” Susan said as she put her cup down, “but as my professor at NYU keeps saying, the business that rests on its laurels and isn't thinking about the future is on the path to failure."

"Susan quoting business school jargon, who'd of thunk it?" Penny laughed.

"I've come a long way with Xavier's...aint I?" Susan used her old cockney accent.

"Yeah you have,” Penny said as she shook her head, “Madame thought there was something good in you, it's why we sent you to LA in the first place."

"I guessed that.  So how is Lily taking on her latest promotion?"


“Like a duck to water.  Pamela?”


“Still trying to get it into her brain I think,” Susan said with a smile.  "Anyway - returning to the subject of changes to the business I do have a few ideas I'd like to try out."

"Like what?"

"Well on the legitimate side I think with all the uncertainties I can see coming due to Britain leaving the EEC, and maybe other things, that we need to expand the range of wealth management services we offer."

"I was discussing that with Maddie,” Penny said. “With all the expertise we have amassed managing our own ill gotten, we are pretty well qualified to advise clients."

"I also want to start thinking about offering investment counseling, especially in developing markets."

"Using the expertise that both Agnes and John bring as directors to the company."

"Yes.  And it gives cover for some – less than open activities if required. I think all three major branches need perhaps be adding some of that to the services we offer."

"Agreed," Penny nodded.

"So what about our not so legal activities?"


Penny put her cup down and picked up a folder.  "I was looking at your reports on the profits being generated by us having control of the food handlers union, as well as the uptick in returns from our protection operation, and trying to think how applicable what you are doing here might be in the UK."

"And did you come to any conclusions Penny?"

"Only that the difference in circumstances make our London market very different to your New York one,"

"We can buy a degree of political protection here that you can't back home."

"Exactly," Penny sipped her coffee, "we can't pull stunts like that night club operation to deliver a message."

"It was messy I'll agree, but we made our point and it certainly helped persuade a lot of club owners that paying us to look after them was in the end more profitable then refusing our protection."

"On that we agree," Penny put her cup down, "I want to launch a pilot scheme aimed at shaking down certain Easter European elements in Britain."

"Both legal, and illegal people and businesses?"

"That was my thought. They come from cultures usually where corruption is endemic and paying people off is a normal business expense. I think we can exploit that."

"It sounds like a plan to me." Susan thought for a few seconds. "So when are you starting?"

"Should be starting already," Penny looked at her watch, "Lily and her team are supposed to have lifted a couple of Rumanian girls and sent a message to their father's already."


“Sounds good – so we brief Madame when she comes in this afternoon?”


“Where is she this morning?”


“Going to see the Leventhals and the Morses…”


"So what other plans do you have Susan?" Penny asked as she sat back and crossed her legs.

"Oh I have a few ideas brewing,” Susan said with a smile, “as well as a few decisions I want to announce."

"Oh?" Penny looked curious.

"Well for starters the summer has proved the quality of Eleanor Ball's work..."

"Both as a Sister, and as a criminal," Penny interrupted.

"Yep, and I have been thinking hard how we can best utilise her various talents..."

"And her amazing personal contacts," Penny broke in again.

"Exactly," Susan grinned, "and what I decided to do was to offer her the chance to pick herself out a small team from amongst Xavier's current staff."

"And what would this team be doing?"

"I was going to leave that up to Eleanor to decide herself. Given the fact that the world seems to be changing as we talk I had thought that given her political/military/intelligence background she might well see opportunities that most of can't see."

"So we supply personnel, logistics, etc, and take a cut of the profits in return?"

"Those were my thoughts Penny."


11 am

The Morse Apartment


"And to what do we owe the pleasure of your company Shirley," Claire Morse asked as she served coffee.

"I was in the area and I just thought I'd drop in and see how things are going Claire?"

"It's CHAOS!" Yvonne Leventhal said with a smile as she sat down.

"Yes,” Clare said as she sat down as well, “the kids’ little bombshell, added to the election, and I'm amazed any of us has slept a wink."

Smiling, Shirley said "I read that Tom is leading in the polls."

"Yes, it's not going to be nearly as close as the special election was thank God. The party nationally might be in for some unpleasant things, but at least here in New York my husband should win handily."

"I'll admit I do look each morning at the updates on Nate Silver's site, and his figures seem to suggest Tom will win nicely."

"He's more worried about Mrs Clinton then he is for himself," Yvonne spoke. "He's hearing that things might not be going to plan."

"So I hear myself," Shirley took a sip of coffee. "Anyway on more pleasant topics have the kids decided anything?"

"Well," Claire took a deep breath, "Bobs should give birth next summer while school is out, so we think she finishes this year while pregnant, then does what Carina has done and combine being student and Mom her senior year."

"Can she do that at Amherst?"

"She can.  She spoke to her tutor, and they can provide cover as well for medical needs."

"And in the meantime,” Yvonne said, “my son will finish his degree at Cambridge and pile up the air miles trying to spend as much time with Bobbi over here as he can."

"It's not perfect, but it’s probably the best thing they can do," Shirley nodded. "So wedding plans?"


“Too early to say anything,” Clare said, “ask after we speak to the rabbi.”


“So how are the preparations for your wedding progressing,” Lady Yvonne said as she looked across at Shirley.


“Well, Nessa has confirmed the arrangements for the wedding breakfast,” Shirley said with a smile, “and I approved the designs last night with Kylie.”


“So do we get a hint?”


“Nope,” Shirley said with a smile, “and John has met up with his attendants.  All I need to do now is meet with my maids of honour over the weekend.”


“Ah yes – and we get to see your brother again,” Clare said, “while we answer the burning question.”


“Who has the better horse?”


“Precisely – going out Bobbi?”


“Yeah – Cari and Jude have invited us up to Yale for the afternoon,” Bobbi said as she and Simon stood in the doorway.  “See you all later tonight?”


As they went out, Clare heard Bobbi say “Janice – do you want to see Mom?”


“Actually, it’s Yvonne I want to see – is she here?”


“Sure – go on in,” Bobbi said, all three standing up as Janice came in, wearing a designer trouser suit with a red jumper underneath.


“Jan – coffee?”


“Yeah – yeah please,” Jan said as she sat down and looked at Yvonne, the smile broadening on her face.  Shirley looked at Jan, then at Yvonne, before she said “no – did he?”


As Jan slowly nodded, Yvonne stood, walked over and hugged her.


“Did who wha…  Oh no, Adam popped the question?”


“He did, last night,” Jan said quietly, “we haven’t told anyone yet, not even Mom or Katy, never mind Eleanor…”


“I suspect,” Yvonne said with a smile, “she will not be as bad as you thought when you first met her.”




1 pm

The Inn in the Park


To people passing, they were two older women enjoying a lunch – Eleanor Ball in her grey trouser suit and blue blouse, and Katherine Carter in a floral dress with a grey coat over the back of her chair.


"So is Veronica joining us in California Eleanor?" the Irish woman asked as she sipped her water.

"She's hoping to be able to make it Katherine,” Eleanor said with a smile, “but it all depends on work."

"That I understand, I feel a little guilty about taking a long weekend off from helping on Tom's campaign this close to the election, but he convinced me that I'd earned this trip away."

"Adam told me how hard you'd been working."

"I am enjoying it,” Katherine said with a smile, “he's a good man and I like feeling I'm contributing to something worthwhile, even if I am an 'old lady'."

Raising an eyebrow, Eleanor chuckled as she said "Who said you were old?"

"Oh a couple of college students blurted it out when I was canvassing," Katherine looked amused, "and I guess to them I am."

"Well if you are, then I certainly am," Eleanor laughed gently.

"Have you ladies decided yet?" the server asked as she walked over.

"No, can we delay until the other two arrive please?"

"Certainly," the girl smiled then walked away.

"Ah there they are," Katherine spotted Janice and Adam arriving, and then looked closely as they approached hand in hand.


“Sorry we’re late,” Adam said as he sat down, “we had to stop off and pick something up.”


“From the office,” Eleanor asked as Adam looked at the menu.


“No – not quite,” Jan giggled as she poured some water into a glass.


“Do you remember, Mother,” Adam said as he looked over, “what I said would happen if Janice agreed to marry me?”


“Please, do not remind me,” Eleanor said with a sigh, “you said you’d tell me right after Janice, Katy, Katherine and Eve.”


“True,” Adam said as he put the menu down and looked at his mother.  “Well, I need to apologise for that.”


“It was said in the heat of the moment,” Eleanor said as she looked across, “nothing to…  Katherine?”


She looked at her friend, then followed her line of sight to look at Janice’s left hand.


“I’m afraid you are the fourth and fifth to be told – sorry Mom,” Janice said as they both looked at the diamond ring, “but I went to see Yvonne, and Clare and Shirley were there.”


“What…  When… How…”


“I asked Janice, last night after Katy and Katherine went to bed, and I did not get down on one knee,” Adam said, “but she said yes, and we’ll tell Tom and Jeanne when we go back to the office.”


“So,” Janice said, “do you have any objections to being Katy’s grandmother in name as well as in custom, Eleanor?”


Katherine smiled as she looked at Eleanor, while Adam said “we achieved the impossible, Jan darling – we silenced my mother…”


1.30 pm

Complete Style


"Is Jack happy with the assignment Ju?" Pippa asked as she looked across the table of the office.

"Yes, he enjoyed Sebring so he's quite happy shooting the pictures for a 'Hollywood goes to the races' spread.

"I guessed he might be," Anna said as she looked down at her papers.

"He gets a kick out of playing photo-journalist again."

"Well it's how he started out," Ian Ziermann from the art department spoke.

"True," Pippa spoke again, "now how are plans going for this shoot with the Clarke sisters coming along?"

"Adam Cabot is muttering about my choice of locations," Mary Thomas took off her glasses, "so I was going to get him to spend a day with me while we are in LA looking at places he prefers."

"Given Adam's temperament that might be for the best," Pippa nodded. 

"If nothing else it will spare Mary and Suzie from his moodiness."

"Agreed Juliette," Anna nodded. "Now did you all see Marina's paper on the reactions to the 'international' content in the various editions?"

"Young Marina I thought did an excellent job," Mary smiled, "but I was surprised that there had been some negative reactions in certain countries."

"Have we miscalculated regarding what our readers want?" Helen O'Brian asked, "Do they really just want content focussed on their home countries?"

"I think it's too early to say," Juliette paused to think, "but I certainly think there is a geopolitical move towards nationalism, how that's going to affect fashion magazines like CS I don't know, but we do need keep our eyes and ears open."


“Agreed – I’ll spread the word round the other editors,” Anna said as she took her glasses off.  “Last item – next week.  We all fly out on Tuesday and then up to Scotland for the Wednesday night.”


“Jeannie and Caroline will join us with Barbara and Kylie at the airport,” Mary said as she looked across the table.  “Means we don’t find out the election result until the next morning, but hey – one shock at a time, ai?”


“Ai – I mean yes,” Juliette said with a smile.  “The hotel bookings?”


“All made for the Wednesday in Aberdeen, and the Thursday and Friday in London,” Anna said.  “We’ll all be at the Savoy.”


“The order of service for the memorial,” Mary said as she passed sheets of paper round, “with the speakers pencilled in.”


Anna looked down the sheet and nodded, before she said “right – let’s get back to work ladies…”


As Juliette and Mary walked to Ju’s office, Tricia and Alexis looked up.


“You’ve got a message from the Countess,” Alexis said, “but it’s a bit cryptic.”


“Diana – cryptic?  What’s the message?”


“He Got Carter?”


“He…  Oh my,” Juliette said with a grin, “another wedding to attend.”


2 pm

Xavier International


"I approve," Shirley said as she finished reading the briefing documents, "I get the feeling my presence might soon become superfluous."

"Never Madame," Susan spoke.  “You are, and continue to be, the backbone and inspiration for all of us.”

"You know very well that we will always need and value your wishes Madame," Penny smiled.

"When do you plan to talk with Eleanor Susan?"

"I thought maybe that when we are in LA might be best."

"Agreed, especially as I know she might have something on her plate for the next couple of days."

"Work?" Penny asked.

"No a family matter," Shirley smiled, "and as I'm sworn to silence I can say no more. You'll probably hear something later today."


"Now when is Francesca dropping in to see me?"


“At three – she said she had a matter she wished to discuss with you.”


“Very well then – Penny, Sandra arrives tomorrow at ten.  Make sure she is met and brought straight here…”



3 pm

Xavier International


“It is true John,” Shirley said as she saw the door open, and waved Francesca in, “they got engaged last night, and I discovered by chance this morning.  No word yet on the dates or what sort of ceremony it is going to be.


“I agree – we can talk about that later over dinner.  I should not be too late back.  Until then.”


Putting the phone down, Shirley smiled as she said “so, ready to head home after the races?”


“Indeed – Hannah has already headed back, and she called me this morning to inform me she and Peri are now back in situ at Lancaster Square.  I must admit, at least I will be away from the chill I feel in the air.”


“Literally or metaphorically?”


“Both,” Francesca said as the door opened, and Pamela brought tea in for two.


“So, what can I do for you this afternoon,” Shirley asked as she poured the hot liquid into two cups.


"Shirley you know in the short time I've known you that I've come to respect your judgment immensely."

"I didn't Francesca, but thank you for that," Shirley said as she handed a cup over.  "Now what can I do to help?"

"I have something I need to talk out, and I need a detached, honest, opinion, regarding what I should do."

"Alright,” Shirley said as she took a sip, “but why ask me?"

"Because you have real life experience of what it is to live behind a cover and with regard to protecting your sources of information."

"I do, and can I take it from that this is espionage related?"

"Si," the tall Italian blonde shook her head.

"Does it relate to your recent work may I ask?"

"No this reaches back into my days in South Africa."


“I see – and with John and Marianne here, you cannot confide in them.”


“I cannot – for to do so may answer a question I know still bothers John, but would place another in great peril.”


Nodding, Shirley said “so, this is a past contact of yours, one of your agents?”


“Indeed - I cannot give their name, but the codename was Mouse, while mine was Bruin.  They were very effective and dedicated, and their identity has never been uncovered – but I fear, I greatly fear, they are about to be unmasked.”


“But how would you know this to be the case, unless – you have watched from afar, no?”


As Francesca nodded, Shirley leaned forward and saying “without betraying confidences, has this person seen or been with you recently?”  Francesca nodded again, as Shirley sat back.  “I see – and the question in your mind?”


“How do I make sure she is safe without compromising her identity?”


“You wish an honest answer?”  As Francesca nodded, Shirley said “I’m afraid the answer is you cannot – your reputation, particular with most of the South African authorities, is such that if you made any move in support of this person, questions would be asked.  In effect, if you try to help them…”


“They are uncovered.  That was what I thought as well which in my mind leaves me with one other option.”


“The nuclear one – which can only be implemented if that person finds themselves in a mortally dangerous situation.”  Shirley nodded as she said “tell me, should that become necessary, would this person be an asset to the Sisters.”


“Yes, but it would have to be a hidden role, because if we had to implement that option…”


“They would have to disappear.  Francesca, make your plans for that contingency, but my advice for the moment is do nothing beyond that – and pray it is not needed.”




3.15 pm

Bishop Walden School


“And another day in paradise comes to an end,” Shawnee said as the six girls made their way out of the door.  “Hold on – that is not your usual ride home, is it?”


"No, it’s not.  Hey Mom, Hey Uncle Adam," Katy grinned as she and her friends came out of the school gates, "what are you guys doing here?"

"It's nothing to do with me and Holly is it?" Sands went pale as they came over.

"No it isn't," Adam put his arm round the girl and hugged her.  “Trust me, we’re not here about that.”

"Well if it isn't to do with that, why are you here Uncle Adam?" Katy looked perplexed, "you don't normally help Mom with the school pickup."

"No he doesn't, Janice smiled, "but we both have some news for you darling."


“Oh – and it’s so important that…”  Katy then looked at her mother’s left hand, before she suddenly hugged her, and then Adam.


“When…  When did you decide?”


“Last night – your grans both know,” Adam said with a smile, “so we’re all going out tonight.”


“Right after we drop you off,” Jan said as she looked at Sands, “but before that, we need to tell someone else…”



3.45 pm

St Angela’s Academy


"So what is the big news?" Doc asked as Jeannie looked at her phone, before she started smiling.

"Only that Adam finally got around to proposing to Janice, and that she said yes."

"Well it's about damn time," Doc said as she put some books into her locker.

"My Mom says just that," Ama put her phone in her bag.

"I think a lot of people will be saying it," Pepsi checked that she had everything out of her locker she wanted to take home, and then locked the door. 

"It's the season for weddings," Becca smiled broadly, "my family is trying to work out a date with the Leventhal's for Bobs to get married."

"All the available dates are getting filled quickly," Doc looked at her device.

"Did you know already Peps?"

"I think I'm about to be officially told," Pepsi smiled as well as she spotted Janice and Adam standing outside the school gates with Katy and her friends.


“So we see – let us know what happens,” Doc said as they watched Pepsi walk to the group.


“You’ve been told, haven’t you,” Adam said with a smile as Pepsi hugged her mother.


“Yeah – I’m so happy for both of you,” Pepsi said with a smile, “so tell me all about what happened…”


7.30 pm

The de Ros Mansion


"I've approved a block booking for a lot of the people coming to London at the Imperial Forum Mama." Charlotte smiled as she looked up from the laptop.

"Good," Francesca said as she poured herself a small drink, "I know most of the CS people are staying at the Savoy, but it’s convenient that a lot of the others can be accommodated at one of our hotels darling."

"I've never asked Francesca,” Piet said as he held the sleeping Frances, “but why do you never stay at your own hotels?"

"Because Piet my darling, if I do they try and put on a big show for the 'boss', and I'd rather not disrupt the normal running of the establishments."

"Okay I understand that..." Piet paused as he stood up, "pardon me ladies while I answer a call of nature please."

"Certainly," Francesca smiled as she sat on the sofa next to her daughter and took Frances.

"So how did your meeting with Madame go Mama?" Charlotte whispered.


“She helped me clarify a couple of things – Charlotte, we may need to offer sanctuary to Mouse if the worst happens, and she has to disappear.  Would that be possible?”


“I’ll talk to Liz and others – discretely…”







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